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01 March 2005

State Department Briefing, March 1

Department/International Narcotics Control Strategy Report postponed, Canada, Lebanon, Cyprus, Uruguay, Middle East, Taiwan, China

State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli briefed the media March 1.

Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Tuesday, March 1, 2005
1:00 p.m. EST

Briefer:  Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman

-- Release of 2005 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report Postponed

-- Scheduling a Meeting Between the Secretary and the Foreign Minister
-- Bilateral Relations

-- Joint Statement by the United States and France
-- Investigating the Murder of Prime Minister Hariri
-- Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559

-- No Transfer of U.S.-Made Weapons by Government of Turkey
-- U.S. Policy on Reunification
-- Annan Plan
-- U.S. Efforts to Ease Economic Isolation of Northern Cyprus

-- Inauguration of President Tabare Vazquez

-- Indigenous Pressure for Democratic Change
-- U.S. Support for Democratic Change

-- President Chen's Assurances on Unilateral Steps
-- Resolving Cross Strait Tension Through Dialogue

-- Reaction to Human Rights Report
-- Strength of the Bilateral Relationship
-- U.S. Concerns About China's Human Rights Record



1:00 p.m. EST

MR. ERELI:  Hello, everybody.  Let me begin with one housekeeping note.

As you've probably been made aware, we are pushing back the -- our briefing on the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report for a couple of days.  The reason for that is very simple.  As you know, the Secretary has been traveling a lot lately.  She's been abroad for -- she's made three trips in the past four weeks, been abroad for about 15 out of the last 30 days.

We want to make sure that she has -- this is a report that she feels very strongly about.  It's very important.  She wants to be able to have the opportunity to review it as thoroughly as possible before presenting it, before pushing it forward, before unveiling it publicly, and she will have a chance to do that once she comes back.  So that's what we're waiting for.  That's what caused the delay and we'll be rescheduling it soon.

QUESTION:  In the middle of the week sometime?

MR. ERELI:  Soon.  And with that, I'll be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION:  Well, I have something to ask you on that.  These reports are a long time in the making.  Well, why does she suddenly -- does something come up that needs review, that the Secretary of State needs to look at in the report?

MR. ERELI:  No, no, it's -- the report, if you'll notice when you see it, as you've seen in previous is two thick volumes.  It has her name on it.  She's responsible for it.  She wants to see -- have an opportunity to review it fully and see what's in it and see what -- be comfortable with putting it forward in the name of the State Department so that we can say we have done our due diligence before presenting something to the public.


QUESTION:  Not to beat this to the death, but it's a factual report.  Is there an overview statement that she wants to be -- either make, or, you know, oversee?  I don't understand why you need somebody to look at facts, the facts are there.

MR. ERELI:  It's more than facts.  It's facts and assessments and reporting on what progress has been made, what achievements are, what the challenges are, assessing a year's worth of activity on the -- and programs by the United States and relations with other countries.  It is an important report.  It is an substantive report.  It is more than just a fact -- a recitation of facts, and therefore it was felt that we want to be responsible and accountable and thorough about what we put forward in the name of the State Department.  And therefore we think it's fully appropriate that before it goes forward, we give it a careful and thorough look over by everybody, including the Secretary.

QUESTION:  Well, she -- she's away now.  Presuming she'll be back by the time that it's released, will she introduce the report, announce the report?  Is that the idea?

MR. ERELI:  That may or may not happen.  I think that's something we'll look at farther down the road.  It wasn't done in this case because, for one reason, she was on travel.  But we'll see what the circumstances are.

QUESTION:  Can you explain then the difference between this report and yesterday's report?  Because all of the reasons you're citing were valid for yesterday's report.  She'd been on the road.  She, presumably, therefore, didn't have as much time to be looking at the report.  The human rights report is even more voluminous.

MR. ERELI:  No, it's less.

QUESTION:  That's hard to believe.


MR. ERELI:  Yeah.


MR. ERELI:  Yes, it is.

QUESTION:  So is that the difference that this particular report is bigger?

MR. ERELI:  The human rights report got -- we're able to look at it, I think, had a chance to spend more time on it than on this report.

QUESTION:  Why?  Why is one given more time than another is?

MR. ERELI:  It's both.  I think the issues we're more familiar with.  The issues were more generally known and, you know, just basically the flow of paper.  I would put it down to that.

QUESTION:  So that doesn't add up, though.  The issues are more known?  You don't know as much about drugs as you know about human rights?

MR. ERELI:  No, what I'm saying is that when you're talking about -- many of the issues that were discussed in the human rights reports, raised in the human rights reports, are issues that we deal with everyday on a regular basis -- what's going on in different countries, and especially countries of concern so that there's a -- I would say, a broader familiarity with those issues.  The report that we're talking about, the INL report, is a lot more technical and it's a lot more -- I think just didn't have the chance to look at it and feel familiar and comfortable enough, as comfortable with the material, as the other one.

QUESTION:  Other stuff?

QUESTION:  The Secretary's travel was previous known and the report's date was also previously known.  Why did you wait until this morning to postpone it?

MR. ERELI:  It was decided that since this was being put out today and once that it would be -- it was decided that since this was going to be put out today and the realization that it was coming out today probably wasn't focused on it as much as otherwise.  It was, let's, before we roll it out publicly, let's make sure, you know, everybody who needs to has a full understanding of what's in it.

Not that there's anything -- you know, any bombshells or anything particularly controversial, but because it is an important report, because it represents the views of the State Department, the senior leadership at the State Department wanted to have that level of familiarity which they didn't have because of the extensive travel schedule, and therefore thought it was prudent and responsible to put it off for a couple of days.

QUESTION:  Was last year's report released on schedule?

MR. ERELI:  I believe so.

QUESTION:  I'll bet you the human rights report is longer.

MR. ERELI:  We'll check.

QUESTION:  China's --

QUESTION:  There are 150 pages on narcotics in China.

QUESTION:  You can put my money on that one.

QUESTION:  Ninety-nine pages on narcotics in Russia.

MR. ERELI:  I'll put it this way.  They are both extremely thorough and well-documented and well-articulated.

QUESTION:  The China section ran 63,000 words.

MR. ERELI:  Of which you've read all 6300.

QUESTION:  Can we submit the dates that we will be away so that you can arrange the release accordingly?

MR. ERELI:  It's very important that you cover this as fully as we prepare it.

QUESTION:  There are several reports this morning in the Canadian press about Secretary Rice postponing a trip to Canada.  It's interpreted as a sign of displeasure after Canada decided not to be part of the anti-ballistic missile shield defense.  And is this interpretation accurate?


QUESTION:  And also, are you working towards setting up a date, a new date for the trip to Canada for Secretary Rice?

MR. ERELI:  No and yes.  It's inaccurate and, I think, unwarranted to make a relationship between Secretary Rice meeting her Canadian counterpart in missile defense.  The fact of the matter is the United States and Canada have an important and meaningful and strong bilateral relationship.  It is a bilateral relationship to which we attach great importance and which we value highly.

Secretary Albright -- I'm sorry, where did that come from?  (Laughter.)  Put a big asterisk on that one.

Secretary Rice fully intends to meet with her Canadian counterpart and discussions about when a date that is mutually convenient have been going on and continue.  It's a question of logistics, finding a suitable date.

I would also note they're meeting in London today so that the point to take away from all this is that this is an important relationship to us.  We're going to have a meeting.  We're working to nail down the logistics for that meeting and the issue of missile defense is a separate issue.  It's one part of a much bigger, more complex relationship that -- and should be put in its proper context.  It was a decision that we've -- the Canadian Government made.  We've made clear what our views are, but as I said before, we have a broad and complex relationship that's going to go forward.

QUESTION:  In terms of dates, we were talking about mid-April.  Those were the dates that were being discussed. 

MR. ERELI:  Well --

QUESTION:  Can we expect it to be much later?

MR. ERELI:  I'm not going to feed the speculation of dates.  If you cover the Department of State and scheduling of the Secretary and senior officials, you will know that until there's an official announcement made, it's all in the realm of the hypothetical and planning.  And that's why we don't talk about dates until we make an announcement because we don't want to create facts before they're actually true, before they're actually decided.

And this is the case here.  A lot of people are presuming that there was a date set, a lot of people presuming that there was an agreement.  Until it's announced, it's not done yet.  And that's the nature of these kinds of discussions.  That's the nature of these kinds of arrangements.

QUESTION:  Narcotic reports are the exception --

QUESTION:  But you do accept, Adam, that there was some kind of groundwork being made for a trip?

MR. ERELI:  Oh, yeah.

QUESTION:  The groundwork shifted because of the --

MR. ERELI:  No, I don't accept that.  I accept -- I don't accept that link.

QUESTION:  I don't mean because of the missile defense.  I mean in terms of approximately when the trip would be.  You said, I'm working for, say, a mid-April trip, we were working for a late-April.

MR. ERELI:  Frankly, I think this is being over-analyzed.  Whenever you're dealing with two foreign ministers, you've got -- who keep as busy schedules as these two do, you've got windows that, you're -- a variety of different windows you're looking at.  And just because, you know, you might be looking at one and you don't need it and you shift to another, that's just the nature of way these things work, and then to throw in supposed causes and factors I think is over-analyzing the process.

QUESTION:  Can we move to the Lebanon situation?

MR. ERELI:  Sure.

QUESTION:  People are -- demonstrators are back on the streets.  You know, we heard you and the White House loud and clear yesterday.  Is there anything you want to add, anything further on Hariri's assassination, any heightened expectations that the Syrians will not only pull their troops out but respect Lebanese sovereignty?

MR. ERELI:  Well, the new development of today, obviously, is the joint statement by the United States and France on Lebanon, which was put out by the Spokesman traveling with the Secretary in London today.  The important points to, I think, underscore from that statement are, number one, our support for the people of Lebanon as they strive for an independent and democratic and sovereign country that is free of outside interference and intimidation, and we're certainly seeing an expression of those aspirations in the streets of Beirut over the past couple of days.

The statement also reiterated the international community's expectation and call for a full and credible and transparent investigation into the murder of Prime Minister Hariri.  It reiterated the call for a full and immediate implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, called for free and fair parliamentary elections this spring bolstered by an international observer presence.

And finally and importantly, the United States and France expressed their joint intention to continue coordinating efforts closely to ensure that -- or to follow up on these points and work together to see that the future is brighter for Lebanon than its difficult past has been.

QUESTION:  Has anybody detected any inclination on Syria's part to leave Lebanon and leave it politically as well as militarily?

MR. ERELI:  We certainly haven't seen the signs of that.  And I think what we're looking for, frankly, is a clear indication that Syria intends to comply with the terms of 1559.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION:  On Greece.  It was reported yesterday by a defense news publication that your government has not provided yet the permission, so some U.S. defense weapons manufactured in Germany under U.S. license, they weren't given to Greece despite the fact that the Greeks paid in full to purchase them.  And I was wondering why.

MR. ERELI:  Is this separate from the concerns we've had about arms transfers from Greece?

QUESTION:  That's a different --

MR. ERELI:  A different issue?

QUESTION:  We're talking about weapons, U.S. weapons which has been ordered by Greece, but has been manufactured in Germany under U.S. license.

MR. ERELI:  Yeah, I don't know this -- I'm not familiar with this issue or this story.  I don't know which weapons you're talking about.

QUESTION:  I'm talking about American weapons for Greece to be used by the Greeks.

MR. ERELI:  Right.  I don't know about this transaction.

QUESTION:  Can you take this question because it's a good story?

MR. ERELI:  Maybe if I can -- if you can -- I'll see -- not much information to go on there but --

QUESTION:  And as far from Cyprus, did you hear that (inaudible) confirm the transfer illegally by Turkey to Cyprus, U.S. weapons, namely 12 tanks, M/48, MAST/2M8 tanks, M113?

Last week when I raised the question, you stated, "We have not yet independent confirmation of these media reports."

MR. ERELI:  This is -- well, it was Mr. Boucher I think, you -- Ambassador Boucher did it.

QUESTION:  That's correct, it was.

MR. ERELI:  I'm not aware of any such transfers from Turkey to who?  I mean, there's --

QUESTION:  To Cyprus.

MR. ERELI:  To the Republic of Cyprus?

QUESTION:  That's exact -- to the occupied territory of Cyprus.

MR. ERELI:  Well, they're not --

QUESTION:  I wish they go through the Republic but --

MR. ERELI:  There's nothing to transfer to.  These are weapons that Turkey, that the Government of Turkey has, the Turkish Armed Forces have, and that to our knowledge there are no transfers that have taken place or provisions governing transfers that have been violated.  And nothing -- there have been no new developments that would lead me to -- lead us to conclude that something illegal or prohibited is taking place.

QUESTION:  How do you explain, then, the fact that they are sending additional forces?  We are talking about already a bunch of tanks.  U.S.-made.

MR. ERELI:  Right, being -- under custody of the Government of Turkey.

QUESTION:  That's correct.  This is right.

MR. ERELI:  Okay.  Then that's -- there's no transfer that's taken place. What transfer has taken place?

QUESTION:  Already I told you, there are so many tanks.

MR. ERELI:  There are tanks, but they're under the control of the Government of Turkey.

QUESTION:  So, in your opinion, how do you consider this kind?  Otherwise, the Turkish Government has the right to transfer as much as --

MR. ERELI:  They haven't transferred anything.  They haven't transferred anything.  If they have control over the weapons then they haven't transferred them, they've retained control of them.  The question that we deal with on these issues is, if a government has -- if a government has signed a deal to buy weapons and operate weapons and not to transfer those weapons to other governments and then goes ahead and transfers them, then the regulations on transfer of weapons has been violated.  If they've got the weapons and continue to maintain control over them and possession of them and don't transfer them to anybody, then the regulations regarding the transfer of weapons hasn't been violated.  And our understanding is that in the case of the Turkish tanks, the Turkish Government is still and continues to have authority and control over those weapons. 

QUESTION:  So to make the story short, Mr. Ereli, otherwise, it is not illegal in your opinion, this action?

MR. ERELI:  In our opinion, there's been no transfer that's taken place that violates -- that would cause concern with violation of statutes.

QUESTION:  Do you care?  Does the U.S. Government care if Turkish forces in Cyprus receive additional and more powerful weapons?

MR. ERELI:  Well, our position on that remains the same.  We are for the peaceful reunification of Cyprus, as provided for under the Annan Plan.  That is what we believe provides the best solution for the problems in Cyprus.  We think a historic opportunity was missed when that plan did not pass the referendum, and right now what we're looking at is ways to work to ease the economic isolation and the negative impact of the failure of that plan on northern Cyprus. 

QUESTION:  And you think -- do you think that the -- if there is an introduction of new weapons that will encourage Greek Cypriots to support the plan?

MR. ERELI:  I'm not aware of any -- I don't have the facts on any introduction and our position on that hasn't changed. 

QUESTION:  And the last question, Mr. Ereli, how do you respond to the fact, in connection with the recent visit to Cyprus by your commercial attaché that Turkish invasion of 1974 accomplished with illegal use of U.S. arms is in violation of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, Article 2, Section 4 of the UN Charter, in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?  The Turkish occupation violates several UN resolutions, such as 3212 of November 1st, 1974, 365 of December --

MR. ERELI:  Right, let me just stop you right here.  I don't have anything new. I don't -- Mr. Lambros, I don't have anything new to say about that.  So this is reviewing history.  It's interesting.  The United States' policy and position on this issue has been well-articulated in the three decades since that invasion took place.  Now is not the time to go back and revisit all that.  You asked about the transfer.  I answered the question about the transfer.  If you want to go into a historical discussion of Cyprus and Turkish actions and international reactions, let's do it at another time.

QUESTION:  Just a short question.  Otherwise, your commercial attaché does not take into consideration before the visit to the occupied territory of Cyprus --

MR. ERELI:  Our commercial attaché is working, as I said, to further our policy of easing the economic isolation of northern Cyprus.  That's the purpose of our engagement there.  And that, I think, is the context in which to view the commercial attaché's remarks.

QUESTION:  Uruguay has installed a new president that heads by one-third to the leftist contingent of leaders in South America.  Do you have any observations on what's happened?  First time, too, Uruguay.

MR. ERELI:  The United States congratulates President Tabare Vazquez on his inauguration as President of Uruguay.  We extend our best wishes to him and to his administration.  They are beginning important work in advancing Uruguay both politically and economically.  Our relations with Uruguay, obviously, are based on shared values and mutual respect and we consider Uruguay an important friend and partner and we look forward to working with President Vazquez and his government as they move forward to implement policies that serve the interests of the people of Uruguay and cooperation in the hemisphere.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION:  On the Middle East, the U.S. has a policy for encouraging democracy worldwide.  And as we're seeing, you know, outbursts of democracy in various parts of the Middle East, how much credit can the U.S. take for what we're seeing?

MR. ERELI:  Credit for democratic change has to first and foremost go to the people that are doing the work of reform and, frankly, taking the risks to work on behalf of bettering their societies.  So, let's be clear that the position of the United States is to encourage and work with and support and facilitate indigenous movements, movements that are homegrown and that seek to change their societies from within.

This is not a question -- the United States does not approach this issue from the point of view of imposing solutions or manufacturing movements.  So, I don't think it would be fair for the United States to -- for us to say, this is happening because we want it to happen, or because we're making it happen.  In fact, if that were the case, I think we'd see the opposite.  We'd see a backlash and we'd see resistance to our policy.  Rather, our policy is built on recognizing that people of the region aspire to freedom, the people of the region aspire to choice, the people of the region aspire to opportunity and they are taking actions on their own to achieve those aspirations.

I think what we can do is -- and what we are doing -- is stand shoulder to shoulder with them, help maximize their probability for success.  But, you know, you can't have -- you can't force change on people.  And that's not our approach. 

So if you looked at -- let's take, for example, the Palestinian Authority and the elections that took place there, if you look at Iraq and the elections that took place there, the people that are responsible for those successful elections are the people and public officials of those two societies that said, "This is what we want for our countries, this is what we want for our future and we are committed to making it happen and we are going to work with -- cooperate -- work with Israel, in the case of the Palestinians, we're going to work with the UN and the international community, in the case of Iraq, and we are, frankly, going to stand up to those such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad or the insurgents in Iraq who try to kill us for choosing the path of peace, for choosing the path of dialogue and for choosing the path of democracy." 

That's where the credit should go and the way the United States should be seen as one that comes in, with some expertise, with some money, certainly in the case of the Palestinians, but most importantly with, I think, political and international power.  That it puts behind -- or power that it exercises in the interest of peaceful change and democratic reform.

And that's where we bring, if you will, valued added; that the voice of President Bush when he speaks in his Inaugural Address or when he addresses a Joint Session of Congress in the State of the Union, that sets forth a vision for a better world and commits the United States to acting in support of that vision is a powerful force in the international community and I think is a powerful -- adds power and momentum to the process of change.  That's the way to look at it.

Yes ma'am.

QUESTION:  A question on Taiwan.  The Taiwanese leader in a videoconference today, tell Europeans that he doesn't plan and it's not possible to change the name of Taiwan during his term.  Do you have anything on that?

MR. ERELI:  Not specifically.  I've not seen -- we've not seen President Chen's comments.  He has certainly made assurances regarding unilateral steps in the past.  We have welcomed those assurances and we continue to put great store by them, but I don't have anything on these latest remarks. 

QUESTION:  Well, I think that the Taiwanese opposition party is sending a delegation to the mainland for more talks and do you have anything to say on that to --

MR. ERELI:  No, obviously, as you know, our view on Cross Straits tensions are clear.  It is something that should be resolved through dialogue and we oppose unilateral actions on any side -- either side -- and obviously to the extent that both sides are engaging in the kind of -- that kind of dialogue, then that's to be welcomed.


QUESTION:  Any reaction to the less than flattering words from the Chinese yesterday to the release of the human rights report?

MR. ERELI:  I hadn't seen their comments.  Obviously, we stand by our report.  We think it's well-researched, well-documented and well-substantiated.  And obviously, China's human rights record is a matter of concern for us.  It is a subject that we don't mince words about, neither with China nor with any other country.  I think in the press commentary, the reaction to the report that we've seen is noting that the United States calls it like it is, regardless of whether you're a friend or a foe. 

In the case of China, we have -- we are close, important partners.  We have a lot of areas where we've made important progress on and we're working together very closely on, but the mark of a strong relationship, the mark of a good relationship is that when you have issues that you disagree on, you can state them clearly and unequivocally and work to address them.  And that certainly is the case in human rights.

QUESTION:  A follow-up?

MR. ERELI:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Yesterday, Mr. Kozak told us that China is aware of our concern over its human rights issues as part of the overall relationship that we have with China.  If they know that so well, how could they react to the extent that they did?

MR. ERELI:  Well, I'm not going to react to their reaction.  I will tell you what our position is and what our approach to the issue is.  And obviously, bilateral dialogue on human rights is a very central element of our overall relationship.  It's something that we are engaged with them on continuously because it is so important to us and because we want to -- because we think it's important to raise and to seek to resolve.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION:  Still on human rights in China.  Yesterday, a report criticized the Chinese situation very well.  You (inaudible) remember in Geneva, we have a Human Rights Commission and this month or so on -- I think this month.

MR. ERELI:  Yeah, it meets the same time every year.


MR. ERELI:  I'm not sure when it's coming up.  It's probably soon, yeah.

QUESTION:  It will be going on one month or so on.

MR. ERELI:  Right, right.

QUESTION:  I'm wondering whether you have decided whether you bring some resolution to criticize the China (inaudible).

MR. ERELI:  Yeah, let me check and see where we are on that.  I don't think that any decisions have been made at this point, but let me see if I've got something more for you.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR. ERELI:  Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m.)

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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