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17 March 2005

State Department Briefing, March 17

Cuba/human rights, China, Pakistan, Cyprus, Lebanon/Syria, Israel/Palestinian Authority, Croatia, North Korea, Wolfowitz/Hughes appointments, Greece

State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli briefed the press March 17.

Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Thursday, March 17, 2005
12:55 p.m. EST

Briefer:  Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman

-- Human Rights Crackdown
-- UN Human Rights Commission Resolution

-- Progress in Human Rights/Release of Prisoners
-- U.S. Will Not Introduce Human Rights Resolution
-- Release of Rebiya Kadeer
-- Human Rights and Lifting of Arms Embargo

-- Bilateral Cooperation in A.Q. Khan Case
-- U.S. Knowledge of Proliferation Activity

-- U.S. Support for Reunification Plan

-- U.S. Support for UN Resolution 1559
-- Reports of Timetable for Syrian Troop Withdrawal
-- Response of International Community to UN Announcement
-- Phased Troop Withdrawal
-- Syria's Commitment Continues to be Questioned
-- Status of UN Envoy Roed-Larsen

-- Militants Announce Open-Ended Halt to Attacks

-- EU Postpones Accession Talks with Croatia

-- Update on Status of Movement Towards Six-Party Talks
-- Reported Remarks by Ambassador Chris Hill

-- Appointments of Paul Wolfowitz and Karen Hughes

-- Travel of Deputy Secretary Zoellick



12:55 p.m. EST

MR. ERELI:  Good afternoon, everyone.  I'll begin with a statement on the two-year anniversary of the crackdown on human rights activists in Cuba.  As you may know, or as you may remember, two years ago tomorrow, on March 19th, the Castro regime unleashed a sweeping crackdown on independent civil society, activists, condemning 75 to prison sentences averaging 20 years.

For almost 50 years now, the Cuban Government has steadfastly refused to allow any kind of political opening or accord Cubans those most basic human rights recognized by the universal declaration.  The United States and others in the international community will not allow these champions of human rights to be forgotten nor will we let their courageous action in pursuit of freedom be in vain.

We continue to seek a rapid and peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba and we support all Cubans who seek this outcome.  Two years after this terrible act of repression, we again call on the Castro regime to free all political prisoners.  The Cuban people deserve a government that is committed to democracy and the full observance of human rights.

QUESTION:  Follow-up?

MR. ERELI:  Please.

QUESTION:  The UN Human Rights Commission is underway in Geneva.  Are you going to introduce or keep a resolution there?

MR. ERELI:  I would expect us to introduce a resolution on Cuba this year as we have in past years.

QUESTION:  On a much larger stage, China, much, much, much larger than Cuba, just weeks after the State Department told Congress of human rights abuses in China, there were reports that the U.S. will not introduce a resolution at that conference in Geneva.  It's a headline here in the Christian Science Monitor about the new realism that Secretary Rice -- is this a new realism?  And if so, how about the idealism of going after people who violate human rights?

MR. ERELI:  Human rights is a central component of our bilateral relations with countries around the world.  China is no exception.  Every year we consider whether to introduce a resolution on human rights on China at the Commission for Human Rights in Geneva.  Every year we review China's actions on human rights to decide whether we should introduce a resolution or not.

In our consideration of this issue, we make our decisions depending on whether or not China takes concrete steps to improve human rights in the country.  Every year, over the past decade, and frankly, well before, we worked with the Chinese, we engaged with the Chinese to take steps that reform specific aspects of their system and that lead to reduction in the number of cases of people who are harassed or detained or otherwise persecuted for human rights concerns. 

During this year, in the past several months, President Bush, Secretary Rice, Secretary Powell and other senior officials in the State Department, both here and in Beijing, have been working with China, have been engaging China on its human rights record, on its human rights practices and pressing for the need for structural reform and prisoner releases.

In the last couple of months, last couple of weeks, we have seen some significant steps, some important steps that China has taken and agreed to take.  And as a result of those steps, we have decided not to introduce a resolution on China this year at the Human Rights Commission.  But I think it's important to point to what China has done and why we think that these results are important. 

They have taken steps that get at some of the structural issues concerning human rights in China that are noteworthy.  To give you an example, they have agreed to give prisoners convicted of political crimes the same rights to sentence reductions and paroles as are available to other prisoners, and as a result of this we've already seen some -- a number of prisoners released, a number of prisoners who have received sentence reductions and a number of prisoners who will be considered for early release.

China has also agreed to host a visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and agreed to host that visit on the Special Rapporteur's terms of reference.  China has put out a public policy statement clarifying that religious education of minors is consistent with Chinese law and policy.  They have announced the opening of an office of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Beijing by June 2005.  They have agreed to invite the Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance to visit.  They have also agreed to issue new regulations -- or I'm sorry -- they have already issued new regulations that provide for family churches where members worship at homes, provide for those churches not to be required to register.  They have invited the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to visit.  They have released the prisoner Rebiya Kadeer, which is something to be welcomed, and they have agreed on a date for a visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

So taken together, these are important steps that get at some of the structural issues concerning human rights in China as well as noteworthy steps in the reduction of the number of prisoners.  I would say this, the issue of whether to introduce a resolution is something we look at every year.  It's based on actions that they take.  This is what we decided to do this year.  Obviously, human rights is going to be a major component of our bilateral relationship, a major subject of continuing bilateral dialogue and we will be looking to build on some of what we've accomplished in the past year in the coming year.

QUESTION:  So you're sending someone there to talk to them about torture, and the fact that they're willing to at least listen to this person, isn't there some irony here that you would still have to have someone go there to talk about torture while you're celebrating the human rights achievements? 

MR. ERELI:  Let's --

QUESTION:  Or is it --

MR. ERELI:  Let's be clear, Barry.  I'm not saying -- we're not saying that everything is -- all problems are solved and human rights are no longer -- is no longer an issue and there aren't practices and conditions in China that cause us concern.  We are simply saying that there have been important steps taken and in recognition of those steps this year we will not be introducing a resolution.  I think you need to not draw grander or broader conclusions from that statement than are implicit in that statement. 

QUESTION:  Is this designed to make it more comfortable for Secretary Rice's visit to China?

MR. ERELI:  These are all issues that we have been engaged on China with intensively for a long period of time and it is related the meeting of the Human Rights Commission in Geneva. 

QUESTION:  You said that one of your indices for deciding whether or not to bring a resolution, was the numbers of cases brought against or harassment prosecution -- and I also think you used the word "persecution" of people -- what are the numbers?  Since that's one of your indices, how many cases were there last year, how many were there the previous year and what -- how much did it go down?

MR. ERELI:  It's not a numerical quantification.  It is an assessment.

QUESTION:  Well, (inaudible) numbers, they are numerical quantifications.

MR. ERELI:  I said, it is an assessment that what we are looking for is a reduction in the number of cases.  Now I'm not going to tell you -- I'm not going to tell you that -- I can't give you the number of political prisoners in China or what it was before we started this process, what it is now.  What I can tell you is that there were important steps taken to free political prisoners and to reduce the number of cases.

Are there still more than we'd like to see?  Yes.  Is there still more that needs to be done?  Yes.  But there are also actions taken that met the criteria of freeing people that were imprisoned and reducing the number of people who were harassed, detained or otherwise persecuted for political reasons.

There's not a -- I would not say there's an objective or a preset number that we're looking for; in other words, it has to decrease by 10 percent or it has to decrease by 25 percent.  It's not that kind of a calculation.  It's a calculation based on issues that we have been talking about, issues that we're concerned with and steps that we believe indicate a movement that we see as important and progressive.

QUESTION:  But Adam --

QUESTION:  Could I just follow up?

MR. ERELI:  Sure.

QUESTION:  Two things:  One, can you see if you can get us the number?  Because if you're talking about a reduction, it is a number, even if it's just an estimate, you ought to have that.  If you don't have a number or some kind of estimate then you can't claim to us that there was a reduction --

MR. ERELI:  Sure I can.  I can claim that Rebiya Kadeer is a reduction of one.  I can also tell you --

QUESTION:  And five other people could have been arrested yesterday.

MR. ERELI:  I can also tell you that --

QUESTION:  So that's not necessarily a reduction.

MR. ERELI:  I'm sorry.  I can also tell you that 20 political prisoners have been released as a result of reforming the rules on parole.  I can tell you that 33 prisoners have received sentence reductions since December 2003.  And I can tell you another five prisoners will be considered for early release or sentence reduction this year. 

QUESTION:  Well, Adam, besides the release of Ms. Kadeer, I mean, that was like on the eve of the -- of these considerations on whether to introduce a resolution or not and on the eve of the Secretary's trip.  You said you're going to -- intend -- working on a few of these issues and they've taken a lot of action in the last couple of weeks.  Do you think that this was calculated in an effort not to get that resolution and in advance of the Secretary's trip, or do you really see a commitment by the Chinese to improve their human rights?

MR. ERELI:  I think that, frankly, I don't want to speculate about the motives for the release.  The release, for whatever reason, is important, is welcome and I think gives us reason to press for further releases in the future.  Clearly, the way we look at this resolution is as an issue of leverage:  How can we use it to get progress that we want?  And in this case, we feel that the results we obtained by using the issue in the way that it's been used meets the objectives of helping to address the human rights problem in China.

QUESTION:  Did you know about Rebiya Kadeer's impending release before it was announced and was that actually a factor in the decision not to seek a resolution?

MR. ERELI:  I would say we've been working for the release of Rebiya Kadeer for some time and that that is a factor in our decision making but not the exclusive one.

QUESTION:  And do you know if you knew about it in advance -- even if you've been working on it, did you know in advance? 

MR. ERELI:  I'm not sure what I can say about that. 


MR. ERELI:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Your Human Rights Report worldwide issued about 18 days ago, the tone was much different from what you're saying now.  Are you saying that a lot of these advances have occurred since the end of 2004, suggesting that a lot of progress has been made since the deadline for those reports?

MR. ERELI:  You know, I don't want to overplay this and I don't want to try to communicate to you that somehow this situation has developed in a way that makes our concern or our overall assessment as contained in the Human Rights Report obsolete or out of date.  What I am pointing to you in giving these examples are some things that have happened before the Human Rights Report, some things that have happened after the Human Rights Report, taken together, are notable, important developments that lead us to decide that introducing a resolution on human rights this year is not something we're going to do but that there are persistent and remaining human rights concerns in China that will continue to be the subject of engagement with the government there.

But let's be clear about what it is and what it isn't.  It is -- there are positive, noteworthy steps, while at the same time, serious concerns and systemic issues remain that we will continue to be engaged on. 


QUESTION:  Adam, China's human rights record has been cited as one of the main criteria why of the U.S. opposes the lifting of the EU arms embargo against China.  Does this undercut your own argument or are you planning to change your position on the arms embargo?

MR. ERELI:  No, that's why I'm trying to put it in the perspective that I just put it -- put it in, is that, again, these are some welcome and noteworthy steps.  There are, as I said, persistent, systemic problems.  Large numbers of people continue to be detained and harassed that are a problem for us. 

And with specific reference to the arms embargo, let's recall what led to that arms embargo.  That was the repression of the Tiananmen demonstrators and there are hundreds of demonstrators that remain imprisoned and there is a complete unwillingness to revisit or examine that incident in a critical light.

So with regard to the conditions leading to the embargo, those have not changed at all, period. 


QUESTION:  Well, let's face it.  I mean, that's not really the main reason why you object to the arms embargo right now.  I mean, the Secretary and others have said that, I mean, in addition to the human rights concerns, which you agree are -- you just said are improving but there's still some --

MR. ERELI:  I said there have been improvements --

QUESTION:  Improvement.

MR. ERELI:  -- and certain steps taken, number one.  Number two, I would tell you that there is a world of difference between deciding not to introduce a resolution at the Commission of Human Rights and lifting an arms embargo.  I mean, come on, let's --

QUESTION:  Well, it's really about China's military capability --

MR. ERELI:  You know, you're talking about apples and oranges here.  This is -- not introducing a resolution at the annual UN Commission on Human Rights in recognition or in response to specific but limited number of steps versus changing a policy that has wide, far-reaching political and security implications when the circumstances leading to that arms embargo have not changed at all. 


QUESTION:  May I switch to another subject, if anyone want to pursue that?

QUESTION:  No, I'm fine.


QUESTION:  Somebody asked regarding with the Human Rights report recently.  But Human Rights report was issued just 10 days ago or two weeks ago or so on that -- okay -- and what I can remember, you said in that report, Chinese human rights situation is very poor.  Also, you might remember --

MR. ERELI:  I --

QUESTION:   -- we are very disappointed or something like that.  But on the other hand, you said past several months, Chinese taken significant step.  Today, you said they took a significant step and then just in 10 days or two weeks ago, you said, you know, we are very disappointed.  It is some sort of contradiction. 

MR. ERELI:  No, I think I answered -- I'll answer it the same way I answered the question the other way.  The overall assessment of China's human rights is -- the overall assessment of the status of human rights in China and the condition of human rights in China remains the same as it is in our Human Rights report.  At the same time, they have taken a number of steps which are noteworthy, and in recognition of those steps, we are not introducing a resolution.

I don't see any contradiction there.  And in subsequent years, we will decide whether to introduce a resolution or not based on concrete steps that China may, and we hope will, take to address the concerns that -- the very real concerns that we have that are expressed in the Human Rights report.

QUESTION:  Well, also is there any other reason for you to open this idea to introduce a resolution?  I mean, in the past, you have submitted this resolution many times since -- I don't remember -- within 10 years or 15 year, so long.

MR. ERELI:  Yes, but not every year. 

QUESTION:  Every year.

MR. ERELI:  Not every year. 

QUESTION:  Every year -- not every year.  But whenever you introduce this resolution, you failed, you failed, not successful. 

MR. ERELI:  Right.

QUESTION:  Every year, every time it was not possible. 

MR. ERELI:  Right.

QUESTION:  So are you afraid of that?  Are you --

MR. ERELI:  No.  That is not -- again, that is not why we decided not to introduce the resolution.  We introduce a resolution or not based on actions the Chinese take or do not take.  This year they took actions and as a result of those actions we made our decision.  Last year, they didn't take actions.  We introduced the resolution.  If they hadn't taken actions, we would've introduced the resolution this year.  It's not a question of whether it passes or it doesn't pass.  It's a question of whether we feel it is justified or -- justified or not. 

QUESTION:  I was going to ask something but you just answered it in the thing about the past resolutions -- have not been successful.  That is correct, isn't it?

MR. ERELI:  I'll have to check the record but I believe that's the case. 

QUESTION:  There's one (inaudible).

MR. ERELI:  There's the record for you.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible.)

MR. ERELI:  Thank you. 

QUESTION:  And George Gedda is --


MR. ERELI:  No, no.  Moonlighting as a human rights officer on the side.  (Laughter.)


QUESTION:  On Pakistan.  Has the U.S. abandoned its quest to question A.Q. Khan?

MR. ERELI:  I'd put it this way, we have had good cooperation with the Government of Pakistan on the issue of A.Q. Khan and proliferation of -- and his proliferation of activities.  We will be following up, we'll continue to follow up and work with the Pakistanis on efforts to completely dismantle that network and come to a full understanding of its scope and activities.  But in terms of details on how we're going to do that, I do not -- I'm not in a position to tell you.

QUESTION:  Is it the position of the United States Government that Khan's network operated without the knowledge of the United States Government?

MR. ERELI:  We've spoken to that, especially when the network was found out, was discovered, and I think we have a good understanding about how that network came about, how it operated and we certainly don't see any connection with the leadership of Pakistan.

QUESTION:  My question was, did this operation, this incredible supermarket or arms bazaar operate completely outside the knowledge of the U.S. Government?

MR. ERELI:  The U.S. Government? 


MR. ERELI:  A.Q. Khan's network, did it operate completely without the knowledge?  I think we had information or we had indications that there was proliferation activity.  I don't think we certainly didn't have an idea of the full scope or nature of this activity until the Pakistanis revealed what was going on. 

QUESTION:  The Pakistanis have said that A.Q. Khan very likely supplied nuclear technology to Iran.  And as you say that you're looking to get a full understanding, is there anything that you can learn from what Khan did give to Iran that's going to change your course in terms of your current policy in negotiating -- not negotiating, but these incentives for Iran?

MR. ERELI:  Well, obviously, the subject of Iran's nuclear weapons program is something that the United States, obviously, the EU-3 and the IAEA remain very seized with, remain very concerned about and I think remain committed to getting to the bottom of, and that includes Iran's relations and dealings with a variety of entities.

To the extent that there are indications that there were connections to A.Q. Kahn, obviously, we all want to get to the bottom of that.  And I think it's implicit in what I was saying about working with the Pakistanis to understand the full extent and scope of what that network involved.  It's an ongoing effort.

QUESTION:  As a part of which, are you intending to indicate that we have ceased to pursue the question of A.Q. Khan as a point in what we bring up with the Pakistanis?

MR. ERELI:  Oh, we discuss it.  No, I'm not saying we don't -- we cease to bring it up.  It's a subject of discussion. 

QUESTION:  And where do those discussions stand?

MR. ERELI:  The Secretary spoke to it in her press availability with Foreign Minister Kasuri today.  I'd refer you to that transcript. 

QUESTION:  If only it were available. 

MR. ERELI:  It's -- it will be available shortly.  I --

QUESTION:  It hasn't been mailed out to me.

MR. ERELI:  Yes.

QUESTION:  Cyprus?

MR. ERELI:  Yes.

QUESTION:  Can you clarify for us the U.S. position on the Annan plan, his famous Annan plan?

MR. ERELI:  Yes.  The United States supports the reunification of Cyprus on the basis of Secretary General Annan's settlement plan and in a manner that is acceptable to majorities on both sides of the island.  Secretary General Annan has called on the parties to reflect on last year's referenda outcome and to come up with suggestions on how to move forward.  We support that approach. 

QUESTION:  Revised or unrevised?

MR. ERELI:  As I said, look at what happened at -- look what happened to the referenda last year and come up with ideas on how to move forward.  I think the key notion here is that whatever they decide needs to be done in a manner that is acceptable to majorities on both sides of the island. 

QUESTION:  So if they're deciding changes, you are going to accept them?  If the two sides decides to change the Annan plan, you are going to accept it, correct?

MR. ERELI:  If it's acceptable to both sides and if it's acceptable to Annan -- you know, the goal is to have a reunification.  So, obviously, both sides need to buy into it. 

QUESTION:  Hezbollah insists on not disarming because its weapons are the best warranty for the Lebanese people and for Lebanon, as Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said.  Do you have any comment on that?

MR. ERELI:  The United States is, I think, of one mind with the United Nations, with the rest of the international community, to see Resolution 1559 implemented; and that means, broadly speaking, creating the conditions in Lebanon for the Lebanese people to freely choose their own government and for that government to exercise sovereignty over all of Lebanon.  That's the endeavor to which we are -- or the proposition to which we are dedicated.  That is the goal that we will be working with our international partners to accomplish.  And, frankly, we look to the people and Government of Lebanon to support those objectives.

I think there's a lot -- there are a lot of steps along the way.  It's going to be -- I think it's going to require cooperation and coordination and continued international support for Lebanon.  But 1559 is something that the international community believes in.  I think it's something that we will look to work with the Lebanese people, the Lebanese Government to support.


QUESTION:  Up in New York, Secretary General Annan's spokesman today said that Annan expects, based on his briefing from his Special Envoy Roed-Larsen, that he expects Syria to fully withdraw all troops and intelligence agents from Lebanon before the May elections.  Do you have any similar expectation?

MR. ERELI:  Yes, we would share those expectations.

QUESTION:  So you now expect that they will do that because you've been calling for it for an awful long time, but you don't seem to have said that you expect it.

MR. ERELI:  Yeah, I don't want to get into --

QUESTION:  Yeah.  I'm not trying to trap you.  I'm just trying to --

MR. ERELI:  I know, I know, I know, I know.  Here is our position, that 1559 calls for full and urgent withdrawal.  The elections in May, we want those elections to be free of foreign interference.  Can't imagine how that can happen if there are Syrian troops and intelligence operatives still in Lebanon.

So for two reasons, they need to be out by May.  One, because 1559 says, you know, let's get out now, and that was six months ago, so it's long overdue.  That's point one.  Point two is, Lebanese people need to be free to choose their own leaders and they can't do that with thousands of Syrian troops in the country.


MR. ERELI:  So it is a -- it is what we are all -- I'll put it this way -- it is what we are all -- I mean -- by "we all," I mean the international community.  Mr. Larsen, the United States, the French, the Security Council is what -- the other Arab states is what we are all working toward.

QUESTION:  Yes, but it sounds like it's more of a hope than an expectation in response to Arshad's question you said you expect it.

MR. ERELI:  I would say that it is a -- it is, I think, what the international community is calling for.

QUESTION:  Well, that's what happens.

QUESTION:  But what I don't understand is what -- I mean, Eckhard who weighs his words with great care has said that Annan expect this.  I'm happy to read you the whole quote if you want; he just came out just before the briefing.  On the basis of the briefing, the Secretary General said that he expects "the full withdrawal of all Syrian troops, including the intelligence apparatus and military assets, to take place before the Lebanese parliamentary elections," Eckhard told reporters.

And I'm -- what I don't get is what has changed to give them that expectation?  You used the word "expect".   I'm not sure if you wanted to.  But if you actually expect this to happen, that is a change.  Yesterday, you were telling us from the same podium when we asked about the Syrian intelligence agents leaving their headquarters in Beirut, you said, "to where, we don't know."

MR. ERELI:  Yeah.  What we -- let me be clear to dispel all the --

QUESTION:  Has something changed here?

MR. ERELI:  -- dispel all the speculation; 1559 says withdraw all of them and withdraw them now, and that was six months ago.  Our view is the withdrawal is long overdue, should've taken place before.  There's no excuse or reason for delay. 

QUESTION:  And you don't wish to address this specific question whether it is your expectation that this will occur by the elections?

MR. ERELI:  It should be now.

QUESTION:  Do you have any reason to believe that it will in fact happen, besides the fact that you're calling for it?

MR. ERELI:  We believe it will happen because it should happen and because it is the -- and because there is a strong international consensus that this is what Syria needs to do.

QUESTION:  But Adam, do you see the fact that the Syrians did complete their first phase of what they said would be their withdrawal and they completed what they said they would do, does that give you any reason to believe that they won't follow through on the rest of it?

MR. ERELI:  The only reason to believe that something is done is that it is done.  And I don't want to --

QUESTION:  Well, they've done what they said they would do.

MR. ERELI:  They haven't withdrawn --


MR. ERELI:  -- they have not clearly withdrawn all their troops, all of their intelligence operatives from the territory of Lebanon and --

QUESTION:  I understand that but they said they would do it in two phases and they already completed the first phase.

MR. ERELI:  I have not seen an unequivocal statement from Syria that all of Syrian's troops and intelligence people will be withdrawn from Lebanon into Syria.  You talk about a first phase, you talk about a second phase.  There are all --

QUESTION:  Yeah, but you --

MR. ERELI:  There are all -- excuse me -- there are all these suppositions and presumptions that Syrian troops have moved from point A to point B.  What's lacking, and what I said yesterday is lacking, is a clear commitment to do it and a clear timetable to do it by.  And what isn't ambiguous by contrast to what other people are saying about the intentions and their actions, what isn't ambiguous is 1559, 1559 says all foreign forces out of Lebanon.  And that degree of clarity and lack of equivocation has not been forthcoming from the other side.

QUESTION:  Okay.  But you talk about looking for a clear statement from them.  You stand from this podium many times and say, "We want to see actions not words."

MR. ERELI:  Right. 

QUESTION:  They took some -- I'm not saying that they have withdrawn completely from Lebanon but they have put out a plan.  I'm not making any judgment on whether -- I mean, obviously you don't find it an acceptable plan but they did put in a plan that said we will withdraw this way and they started to do that.  So why do they have to come out with a clear statement that says we'll do it, if they're already starting to do it?

MR. ERELI:  1559 says full and immediate withdrawal.  That's what we want to see.  We haven't seen it to date.  That's why neither we nor the international community are satisfied and we won't be satisfied until we see it.

QUESTION:  Have you heard anything from the Roed-Larsen after his last visit to Lebanon, to Syria?

MR. ERELI:  He's back in New York.  I'm not -- I don't have any readout to report to you about what we've discussed in terms of his visit.

QUESTION:  Well, can you say that you discussed the visit?

MR. ERELI:  I'll have to check and see what contacts we've had.  I presume we've had some discussions.  I just don't know.  I don't have details for you on whose spoken when. 

QUESTION:  Another topic?

MR. ERELI:  Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:  A number of Palestinian militant groups say that they have agreed to an open-ended halt to attacks on Israel provided that certain conditions are met.  There are a bunch of conditions.  They include -- I'm sure you've seen the reports -- things like prisoner releases and so on.  Is it a good thing, even this conditional temporary cessation of such attacks or a commitment to do so?

MR. ERELI:  What we're really looking for and what we think is important is an end to all violence.  And at the end of the day, that's what's going to make a difference, is a renunciation of violence, a dismantling of terrorist capabilities and a full and complete embrace of the notion of peaceful engagement and peaceful dialogue. 

The steps we're seeing today, the steps that have been underway for some time are, I guess, incremental progress toward that ultimate goal.  But I would stress the word "incremental" and I would call them very provisional and therefore not -- while certainly not negative, they don't go as far as we'd like.  And they don't -- you know, what's important is to get at the root causes of all this, which is the acceptance of violence as a means to solve a problem, terrorist violence as a means to solve a problem and the ability to wage -- to conduct terrorist activities.

You've had one, so we'll go with you.  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Yeah, on Croatia.  The European Union postponed yesterday accession talks with Croatia because it didn't succeed to arrest and transfer The Hague Tribunal indictee General Gotovina.  Does the U.S. support this decision?

MR. ERELI:  Between the EU and Croatia.  Don't have a comment for you.


QUESTION:  Six-party talks, and first of all, do you have any update?

MR. ERELI:  No update.

QUESTION:  Okay.  The day before yesterday -- or yesterday or day before yesterday, designated Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill -- Christopher Hill -- Ambassador Hill -- testified in the Senate and then he said, he mentioned that possibility of extension of six-party talk to be, like a (inaudible) system in the East Asia.  Not only Ambassador Hill but other high rank officials, like John Kerry and so on, mentioned in the past this kind of idea.  Do you have concrete idea, concrete blueprint?

MR. ERELI:  I don't.  I didn't see those remarks.  I really can't elaborate on them -- on them further.  Without getting too far ahead of things, I think, our -- really our focus right now is on -- is more limited and immediate and that is reconvening another round so that, frankly, we can begin discussing concrete proposals, concrete mechanisms for addressing this very serious problem.  And from -- I guess, that's where we're devoting our energies now.


QUESTION:  There seems to be much resentment to President Bush nominating Mr. Paul Wolfowitz for the World Bank, to be head of the World Bank.  How is the State Department dealing with this issue since it is contradicting the White House efforts through Madame Karen Hughes' personality to employ such fine people to better the image of the United States around the world, where the resentment in many quarters in the Middle East and other places is focusing on Mr. Wolfowitz as being an architect for war and not development and prosperity. 

MR. ERELI:  Well, the Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz is a fine person and is an excellent choice to put forward as president of the World Bank.  There has been, I think, strongly positive reaction to the -- to that announcement.  And there might be people that who agree or disagree with the decision on Iraq, but that was the policy of the United States and that was -- and there was a strong international coalition that, although not desirous of using force, understood the necessity to do so.

And I think if you look at the history of Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz's commitment to and experience in public service and work for development and for international cooperation, then it will soon become apparent to even those limited skeptics that this was an inspired choice.

QUESTION:  President Bush yesterday had talked about -- him talking with other leaders around the world about the nomination of Mr. Wolfowitz.  How are you dealing with this matter?  What kind of feedback are you getting?

MR. ERELI:  I'd refer you to the White House.  The President made the calls.  They can give you the feedback that he got.  From what I've heard, it's been very good, very positive.


QUESTION:  Adam, do you know when the Deputy Secretary Robert Zoellick will visit Athens?  Do you have any idea? 

MR. ERELI:  I don't have any dates or details to provide for you on his plans for travel.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

(This briefing was concluded at 1:33 p.m.)

(end transcript)

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