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State Department Briefing, June 24

24 June 2005

Statement on Intl Whaling Commission/Inter-American TropicalTuna Commission/Shark Fin Conservation, North Korea/South Korea, Iran, Criticism of Dept of State for Granting Agrment to the New Ambassador from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bisera Turkovic/Connections With Terrorism During Balkans Conflict, Sudan, Syria/Lebanon, Equatorial Guinea, Zimbabwe

State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli briefed the press June 24.

Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Friday, June 24, 2005
1:00 p.m. EDT

Briefer:  Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman

-- Statement on International Whaling Commission/Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission/Shark Fin Conservation

-- South Korean-North Korean Talks/Productive Engagement of North Korea/Return to Six-Party Talks
-- Query on Secretary Rice's Travel to Asia

-- Election's Unfair Representation of the Desires of Iranian People/Voting Extension

-- Criticism of Department of State for Granting Agrément to the New Ambassador from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bisera Turkovic/Connections With Terrorism During Balkans Conflict

-- Secretary Rice's Meeting with Sudanese Foreign Minister Ismail/Deputy Secretary Zoellick's Meeting
-- Need for Government of Sudan to Take Action to Promote Peace in Darfur/Security/Stability
-- Implementation of the North-South Agreement/Role in Ending Conflict
-- Continuation of Violence in Darfur/Militia/Rebel/Government Activity
-- Importance of the Abuja Peace Talks/the Expanded African Union Mission/Deployment of Over 7,000 Troops
-- Influence of John Garang
-- Continued Fighting in Eastern Sudan
-- Unique Local Circumstances Surrounding Conflicts in Sudan

-- Continued Presence of Intelligence Sources in Lebanon/Resolution 1559
-- Instability in Lebanon Marked by Numerous Political Assassinations
-- Syria's Role as the Main Destabilizing Agent in the Region/Iraq/Lebanon/Support of Terrorists in Israel
-- The International Community's Role in Dealing with Syria/UN

-- Deputy Secretary Zoellick's Discussion with President Obiang/New Social
Sector/Promotion of Democracy/Rule of Law

-- Condemnation of the Government of Zimbabwe's Continued Destruction


FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2005

(1:00 p.m. EDT)

MR. ERELI:  Welcome to our final briefing of the week.  I'd like to begin with an announcement on some important developments in the area of environmental policy.

There are two meetings concluded in the last couple of days:  one, the International Whaling Commission and; two, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission.  And at both annual meetings, the United States achieved, I think, important results that support our efforts to preserve the world's resources and to act in a more humane manner in fishing practices.  At the International Whaling Commission, the United States led opposition to a proposal by Japan to more than double the take of Minke Whales and to add two new species, Fin and Humpback whales, to its lethal whale research program in the Southern Ocean.  And we think defeat of this proposal is something very positive for the whaling industry and very positive for our efforts to protect the species.

QUESTION:  And the whales, themselves.

MR. ERELI:  Yes, the whales themselves, obviously.  And the only thing that came out of this meeting is that the United States looks forward to being the host of the 2007 annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Alaska.  And that will be, I think, an important statement of our support for the work of the Whaling Commission and we look forward to continuing our efforts to protect this species and to regulate whaling in a rational way that supports both the environment and the interests of the members of the Whaling Commission.

The second thing -- the second meeting that I wanted to draw your attention to was the annual meeting of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission.  And the important development there was that, again, with our leadership we passed a resolution for shark conservation -- shark fin conservation, that is.

This resolution provides a prohibition on shark finning in tuna fisheries and laboratory species fisheries in the Pacific.  And this prohibition mirrors a ban that was instituted last year in the Atlantic.  And what this resolution does is, it calls on or provides measures for fishermen to when they catch sharks, use the whole shark.

Right now, what they do is they catch a shark, they cut the fin off and they throw the rest of the shark back.  This is inhumane, wasteful and really just something that we feel very strongly should be prevented.  And so what this resolution does is it calls on catches to keep the whole shark and therefore limit the waste that's involved and preserve shark stocks throughout the world.  So that's an important development and one that we're very proud of and one we wanted to call your attention to.

QUESTION:  Adam, I'd like to ask you questions about that.  Can you give us the dates of the relative meetings that you're talking about?

MR. ERELI:  The International Whaling Commission, its annual meeting concluded today in Ulsan, Korea, and it took place this week.  The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission held its annual meeting in the Canary Islands in Spain.  And I believe it's meeting ended yesterday.

QUESTION:  Okay.  And then forgive my ignorance, but when a shark's fin is cut off and the shark is then put back in the water, does the shark die?

MR. ERELI:  Yes.


QUESTION:  Why would the Inter-American Commission meet in Spain?

MR. ERELI:  Why wouldn't it meet in Spain?

QUESTION:  Spain is not a country located in the Americas, for openers.

MR. ERELI:  It's the Canary Islands.

QUESTION:  It's the Canary Islands.  Sorry.

MR. ERELI:  Okay, with those headlines, we'll take your questions.

Sir.   Oh, wait.  I'm sorry.  We had a --

QUESTION:  I'm just still thinking it.

MR. ERELI:  You're digesting.

QUESTION:  I'm digesting.  (Laughter.)  I was going to ask about anchovies, the props of which have been destroyed our crew by evil Japanese fishermen, but that's -- I guess that's not part of your brief today.

MR. ERELI:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Question on the reports out of Italy that Italian judges have ordered 13 U.S. Government employees arrested for allegedly helping to seize and deport an imam there as part of the U.S. anti-terrorism effort.  What do you have to say about that?

MR. ERELI:  Very little.  I've seen the reports.  Don't have anything for you on it.  A matter with the Italian judiciary. I don't have any facts or comments for you about those reports.

QUESTION:  Is it not part of the ongoing Extraordinary Rendition Program that has been reported?

MR. ERELI:  Is what part of the --

QUESTION:  The taking of this -- allegedly taking of this imam to Egypt?

MR. ERELI:  I wouldn't have any information or be the right address for those kinds of questions.

QUESTION:  But have there been any arrests that we can confirm or of people from our Government?

MR. ERELI:  Not that I'm aware of.  But obviously, even if -- it's not something that would come up -- again, this would not be the address for that.  I don't have any information about matters pertaining to those issues.

QUESTION:  Has the -- have the Italian authorities been in touch with the U.S. Embassy in Rome about this, about the --

MR. ERELI:  I don't believe the Embassy in Rome has gotten any contacts about it.  I can check, though, for you.

QUESTION:  Great.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Can I ask about Korea?  You remember there was a request that you tried to determine the last time there was a meeting in the New York channel.

MR. ERELI:  Right.  And we looked at it and it was as we stated there has been no meeting subsequent to the one that we acknowledged or talked about a couple of weeks ago.

QUESTION:  Okay.  And I'm sure you all noticed the South Korean-North Korean talks.  Is there anything, any spin you want to put on it?  Anything in there that you find good or bad or helpful or not helpful?

MR. ERELI:  We spoke, I think, to it a couple of days ago.  Obviously, all efforts that have as their purpose engagement of North Korea in a productive way that can help facilitate its return to the talks, the six-party talks and serious engagement on the issues before us at the talks is welcomed and positive.  South Korea is, I think, doing its part and all of us are trying to achieve that objective, but there's nothing specific out of those talks that I would draw your attention to.


QUESTION:  I'm sorry if I missed it in the beginning.  The Nikkei in Japan, I guess, is reporting that Secretary Rice is going to China, Japan, North Korea next month?

QUESTION:  South Korea?

QUESTION:  I'm sorry.  Korea.  South Korea.

MR. ERELI:  I think all such reports are premature.  We don't have any travel decisions to announce and, as you know, covering these kinds of issues, things can change even after they're announced but certainly before the announcement.  So I would just say nothing at this time to announce in the way of travel.

QUESTION:  Has she looked at (inaudible) replacement?  And she travels a lot --

MR. ERELI:  Again, there -- Asia is an important -- we have important partners and issues in Asia.  It's a region that we pay -- that we're very involved with and have important relationships.  So obviously, it's a place that gets a lot of our attention.  But if you're asking me if and when she's going to travel there, I don't have any for you.

QUESTION:  How about a surprise trip to North Korea?  Is that something you might have up your sleeve?  Or she might have up her sleeve?

MR. ERELI:  It would be a surprise to me.

QUESTION:  It's been done.

MR. ERELI:  It's been done, but I haven't heard anything on it.

QUESTION:  It could make noise.

MR. ERELI:  I haven't heard anything like that.

QUESTION:  Getting the talks started is --

MR. ERELI:  It's pretty speculative.

QUESTION:  What about Vientiane, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting next month?  The Secretary of State, I think, over the last decade, every Secretary of State went for the meeting.  Will she be going next month?

MR. ERELI:  Don't have anything to announce for you on that.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION:  Change of subject?

MR. ERELI:  Yes.

QUESTION:  The Iranian election, again.  Still.  They say voting has been extended, so many people are lining up.  So I just wondered if this indicates at least the Iranian people feel like they have a choice since you have said that the United States doesn't think they do.

MR. ERELI:  Well, the United States thinks that the choice has been severely restricted, to the point that it doesn't represent -- to the extent that it's not a fair representation of the desires of the Iranian people.  But as far as comment on the voting process that's underway today, it's ongoing.  I don't have the latest facts and details.  And, you know, it's something that, before commenting on, we'd want to see what happens.

I think our views of the overall organization and conduct of these elections, though, we've been pretty outspoken about and you know very well.  It doesn't strike us as a very democratic choice that they've been given.


QUESTION:  You may have to take this.  A congressman a few days ago went to the House floor, Trent Franks, and delivered some very strong criticism of the State Department for granting agrément to the new Ambassador from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ms. Bisera Turkovic.  He alleged that during the Balkans conflict she had connections with terrorism and brought -- helped to facilitate Iranian arms coming in to Bosnia.  And there was some, like I said, very strong criticism of the State Department for doing this, and if you had any reaction to it.

MR. ERELI:  I'm not familiar with this particular issue.  Obviously, the principles that guide our decisions on agrément, I think, are fairly standard and consistent and that, in all cases those guidelines are applied.  But as far as the details of this specific case, I'll see if we have anything more to add.

QUESTION:  The Secretary is seeing the Sudanese Foreign Minister this afternoon.  It's a pretty important thing.  I'm not going to ask you, although you seem to be ready -- I'm not going to ask you about it in advance.  But reporters, I think, would like to know after the meeting a little bit about what happened.  I noticed it's closed to the press and I don't know if you have any plans to issue a statement or something, but whatever the plan is, the Iraqi Prime Minister is speaking this evening and some of us would like to keep our eye on that.

So what is the outlook for getting any information on that important Sudanese meeting?

MR. ERELI:  Well, as with any issue that you have an interest in, we will endeavor to be responsive and to provide you with all we can on it to help your reporting on the event.  I mean, it's not that we're trying to keep anything from you.  It is -- I think we spoke very extensively about the Deputy -- the Foreign Minister's meeting with Deputy Secretary Zoellick yesterday and we're very happy to speak about the meeting with the Secretary today.

I think what you can look forward to in hearing about the meeting is a reiteration of what is, by now, I think, a well known position, that we look to the Government of Sudan to take action in a number of areas to both help promote peace, security and stability in Darfur and to address the dire humanitarian situation there, as well as to move forward in concert with its partners from the South in implementing the North-South agreement, and that we are working both with the Government of Sudan in these areas as well as the international community in order to help facilitate process in what is an interconnected series of actions that has as its goal a Sudan and a region that is at peace and meeting the needs of its people in a way consistent with international standards.

QUESTION:  Well, if there were a joint appearance, we'd have a chance at asking the Sudanese Foreign Minister why it's so difficult for Sudan to meet these goals.  What's holding them up?  Why are they behaving the way they do?  We can't do this.

MR. ERELI:  I think you could ask the Foreign Minister that without necessarily having a joint press availability.

QUESTION:  Adam, there is a report that a second day of Sudanese Government planes once again bombing rebel groups in the East.  You're working with the Sudanese Government.  I would expect that will come up and that's not something you mentioned that did come up in the meetings yesterday.

MR. ERELI:  There is clearly violence that is continuing in Darfur.  We have been very outspoken about the fact that violence by no means has ended.  There continues to be rebel activity in Darfur.  There continues to be militia activity.  And there, as you say, are reports of government activity.

This raises a couple of issues.  Number one, we are engaged -- or the parties are engaged in Abuja in trying to reach an agreement on principles for settling the conflict in Darfur between the rebels and the government.  That is an important development.  It is a key part of this -- it is a key part of this overall effort to bring a political solution to the conflict in Darfur.  We have somebody who is at the talks in Abuja who is working with both the rebels and the government to come up with a set of principles for a political solution.

As far as inside Darfur, you're right, violence continues.  And that is why it is very important to continue supporting the work of the expanded AU mission, which has a critical role and has proven very successful to date in acting to help decrease and lower the violence both between militias and rebels as well as the violence being perpetrated against innocent civilians in that region, which, unfortunately, continues mostly -- or to a great extent -- around IDP camps.

So yeah, there's violence -- yes, there's violence going on in Darfur.  Yes, it is of concern to us.  Yes, we are focused on it through -- primarily through the African Union force as well as the Abuja peace talks.  And yes, we continue to make it clear to the government that they have an important responsibility in obviously not using their forces which -- to be involved in the conflict, which, until the reports yesterday, we hadn't -- we had seen very little, if any, of; but also to act decisively against the militia.  So that's how I'd answer the question.

QUESTION:  Well, I was going to mention that because the Deputy Secretary definitely said that they had seen a decrease in the government, you know, almost to nothing in the continuing government -- use of government planes and equipment.  And now you're inviting the Foreign Minister here and they've again started using federal property to kill villagers.

MR. ERELI:  I'm not sure that that -- I'm not sure that your characterization of it is exactly right.

QUESTION:  Which part?

MR. ERELI:  The reports said that government forces were attacking rebels, not civilians.  Let me check and see what we can say about that specific report.

QUESTION:  Adam, just so I understand, was the report about -- I thought Teri said in the East, not in the West.

MR. ERELI:  Oh, did you say in the East?


MR. ERELI:  Oh, in the -- okay.

QUESTION:  It's true that there is --

MR. ERELI:  There's a big difference.

QUESTION:  No, there is a big difference.

MR. ERELI:  And in -- let me talk about the East for just a second because you're right, the subject did come up yesterday with the Deputy Secretary and he made a couple of points to the Foreign Minister.  He said that the United States, for its part, is taking important steps to stop this violence.  He pointed out, number one, that we have had discussions with the Government of Eritrea through our Ambassador in Asmara to impress upon them the need to take action to prevent the violence.  Through our Embassy in Sudan, we are working to find out what we can and do what we can about reported taking of Sudanese soldiers as prisoners.  And he also said that we're working through John Garang to help calm the situation.

QUESTION:  Okay.  You didn't bring -- yesterday we didn't talk about the situation in the East, so therefore I didn't think it even came up in the meeting yesterday.

MR. ERELI:  It did.  It did.

QUESTION:  You just said, just so we're clear, are you aware of the report that Teri cited about the government planes bombing --

MR. ERELI:  In Darfur?

QUESTION:  In the East.  I haven't seen such a report.  I'm -- just for the sake of --

MR. ERELI:  I have seen the report.  I had seen the report.  I'm not familiar with the details of the engagement.  Obviously, there is -- we do know that there's fighting going on in the East.  We are concerned about it.  We are working to do what we can to stop it.  But I don't have that 100 percent visibility on that particular report.

QUESTION:  And have -- these reports say that, you know, that they are accusing Khartoum of pursuing a policy similar to that using it in Darfur, in the East and --

MR. ERELI:  Let me put it this way, it's important to look at the situation from a broader perspective.  We have in Sudan a country that is driven by conflict and it is a conflict borne of a number of causes:  economic, political, ethnic, and in a variety of regions, each with their different histories, each with their different motivations.

What we're trying to do, the United States is trying to do is to create a framework for dealing with the issues that feed these conflicts, issues of autonomy, issues of political participation, issues of access to resources, issues of local governance.  And we believe we have started on a path, we've engaged all the parties on a path that can lead to a positive resolution of these issues.  And that path, frankly, is the North-South peace agreement that provides a model for dealing with the kinds of issues that are common to many of these different conflicts.

And I think the North-South agreement which ends the longest running and most costly of these conflicts between the North and South you have national unity government, you have regional autonomy, you have division of resources, you have demobilization, you have a South-South dialogue, you have a mechanism to bring in parties and groups outside the political process that's into the political process, into the governing process.  And this agreement and it's implementation, because implementation is key, can serve as a model and an inspiration and a springboard for addressing these other conflicts.

And in fact, we've already begun to do that in Darfur through the Abuja process, through working with Dr. Garang to help make -- have some influence with the rebels, through pointing the rebels to what has happened in Darfur in saying -- happened through North-South and saying, hey, there is a way out of this cycle of violence.  But as Deputy Secretary says, I mean, this is a -- these are two aspects of a problem that are interconnected and can go up together or it can go down together because as the North-South Agreement is implemented and shown to be working, then it can have a positive impact on Darfur.  But if it fails or doesn't move forward, then it's going to have a negative impact on Darfur.  Similarly, Darfur, if the government continues to fail in its responsibilities to -- as a central government to care for its citizens and do what it can to protect its citizens, then that's going to impact negatively on its ability to follow through and its credibility in the North-South process.

So that's why, again, when we're looking at any one of these issues, you have to see them as interconnected and you have to -- and from our perspective, we have to work all aspects of the process simultaneously in concert so that one positively influences the other.

QUESTION:  In the talks with the Sudanese Foreign Minister was calling the compelling need for -- to end the -- to check the situation in the East or --

MR. ERELI:  I would say the talks with the Foreign Minister come in the context of a continuing and fairly intensive engagement with the Government of Sudan on -- in an effort to move forward on both these -- on both these tracks, Darfur and North-South.  I mean, remember, we have been going to Sudan regularly since 2004.  The Deputy, in the last eight weeks, Deputy Secretary Zoellick in the last eight weeks has made two trips to Sudan, has visited the Sudanese Government twice.  He also visited the President of Sudan in Rwanda.

He has -- you know, he, and with him the Administration -- and this is at the request of the President -- is, I would say, relentlessly working the issue.  And look at the visit of Sudanese Vice Foreign Minister Ismail in the context of this really full-court and constant press to make things work.  And, you know, that's the context in which this visit comes, not to deal with any particular specific crisis or to solve a particular problem, but rather to continue to work the problem in an integrated and comprehensive way.

QUESTION:  Can you answer the very narrow question of whether you're seeing the same kind of ethnic conflict in the East in Sudan that has been occurring for the past two years in the West of Sudan?

MR. ERELI:  That's a -- there are different -- (a) I don't know the ethnic details; (b) they're different ethnicities; (c) I would tell you that each conflict in Sudan has unique local circumstances.  Race, religion, tribal affiliation, class and political persuasion are all elements, but how they mix and how they play against each other is very unique to each one of them.

QUESTION:  Do you know whether the government is supporting local militias in Eastern Sudan?

MR. ERELI:  I do not.

QUESTION:  I'd like to ask you a question that came out of your readout yesterday on Deputy Secretary Zoellick's meeting.  You said that he had stressed the importance of removing obstacles to the deployment -- to the additional -- to the deployment of additional AU forces.  Has the Government of Sudan opposed that?

MR. ERELI:  No.  In fact, the Government of Sudan has been very public in accepting and welcoming the AU deployment.

QUESTION:  Great.  So are you speaking more generally the issues of deployment via NATO getting the planes, making sure that they can --

MR. ERELI:  Exactly.  Supporting and making it work.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Are they easing their restrictions?

MR. ERELI:  I did say that they discussed the support for the expansion of the AU peacekeeping force and removing impediments to it.  I did say that.

QUESTION:  So that implies that there's some resistance on the part of the government --

MR. ERELI:  No, it implies --

QUESTION:  Were you trying to say that?

MR. ERELI:  It implies that there are impediments and we need to remove those impediments.


MR. ERELI:  I'll put it this way.  The AU deployment is a complex and logistically challenging undertaking.  Let's remember, we've got -- we're talking about over 7,000 troops in some of the most remote and inhospitable regions of the world.  That's a challenge for anybody, never mind getting them from a variety of different countries with outside airlift.  It's not self-evident and I think it requires consistent efforts on the part of everybody to prevent or remove obstacles that might present themselves.

QUESTION:  A new topic?

MR. ERELI:  Well, let's go to a new topic.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Yesterday, some senior officials traveling with the Secretary told reporters that they're certain that Syrian intelligence agents continue to operate in Lebanon.  Can you discuss what information leads to that conclusion?

MR. ERELI:  What leads to that conclusion is that they withdrew their military forces but they haven't removed the intelligence forces; that intelligence assets, unlike the soldiers, didn't leave; and that that continued presence not only is contrary to Resolution 1559, and it's been noted by the Secretary General in his report on implementation of 1559, but it also contributes to a atmosphere of instability in Lebanon that is evidenced by continuing political assassinations.

And for that reason we are very categorical and very outspoken about the need for Syria to redress this wrong and remove its intelligence agents and operatives from Lebanon.

QUESTION:  So you have direct evidence that they are still actively engaged in creating instability --

MR. ERELI:  We have not seen Syrian intelligence agents leaving Lebanon, and that is contrary to 1559 and it is not in Lebanon's interests and it is something that the international community -- and I think the French Foreign Minister was very outspoken about this yesterday as well -- something the international community is resolved to see fixed.

QUESTION:  Some of the comments from yesterday, public and otherwise, would indicate that the United States now considers Syria to be, let's say, the main destabilizing agent in the region.  Is that an accurate assessment?

MR. ERELI:  They are a significant problem in Lebanon, they are a significant problem in Iraq and they are a significant problem with regard to supporting terrorists in Israel and the Palestinian Authority trying to blow up chances for peace.  So those are three pretty important strikes against Syria.

QUESTION:  And how do you deal with those strikes?

MR. ERELI:  You work with your partners in the international community to, I think, bring Syria to the inescapable conclusion that it is in its interests to act consistent with the desires of the international community.  You've got in Iraq 80 -- well, with the exception of Syria, 79 foreign ministers meeting in Brussels to endorse Iraq's vision for its future, to endorse a democratic Iraq, an Iraq that is rebuilt on the basis of free market and peaceful exchanges with other countries, and an Iraq that respects and applies the rule of law.  And you've got 79 foreign ministers who say way to go, Iraq, and then you've got one country who, according first and foremost to the Iraqis, is helping people in that country to kill Iraqis and block the kind of progress that the Government of Iraq and the vast majority of the people of Iraq want to see their country make.  So that's one way you do it.

Another way you do it is through the UN, through resolutions like 1559, that send a clear and unmistakable message of what the international community thinks and provides a mechanism for carrying through on short international objectives, i.e., the election or the selection of the government that represents the will of the Lebanese people and provides the conditions for that government, extending its sovereignty throughout the whole country.  And you do it, frankly, by -- in the case of the Israelis and Palestinians, working together with the Israelis and Palestinians to resolutely and systematically confront and defeat extremists who want to stand in the way of peaceful dialogue and use violence to achieve objectives that are contrary to the interests of all of us.

QUESTION:  Turn to Louie's questions about what the direct evidence is that Syrian intelligence remain -- agents remain.  Have they reoccupied the buildings that the UN have reported had been abandoned?  I mean, what -- people walking around with Syrian intelligence?

MR. ERELI:  Yeah, yeah.  I'm afraid I can't help you on that one.

QUESTION:  You referred to continuing political assassinations.  I'm aware of the one involving a journalist a few days ago.

MR. ERELI:  There was the journalist and the Communist Party and Rafik Hariri.

QUESTION:  Well, that's -- none of is still there?

QUESTION:  Who's next?

MR. ERELI:  Let's hope nobody.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR. ERELI:  Thank you.  I'm sorry.  Africa.

QUESTION:  The Deputy Secretary met with the distinguished President of Equatorial Guinea.

MR. ERELI:  Yes.

QUESTION:  I bet you that was interesting.

MR. ERELI:  I have readout for you.  The Deputy Secretary, Mr. Robert Zoellick met with President Obiang this morning.  They discussed Equatorial Guinea's new social sector and transparency initiatives.  Deputy Secretary Zoellick urged President Obiang to further promote democracy, the rule of law, and revenue transparency in the oil industry.

QUESTION:  Has corruption been a problem there?

MR. ERELI:  The issue of transparency and accountability is an important issue there, as with other countries that we deal with.

QUESTION:  Zimbabwe, there are reports now that the -- what -- clean-up trash -- or whatever they're calling the operation, is now being extended to rural areas, so it's not just urban anymore.  I mean, we've commented on it before, but it seems like it's getting worse, which was inconceivable.

MR. ERELI:  I've --

QUESTION:  What can be done?

MR. ERELI:  I think I've reached the limits of rhetorical outrage.  And I think we've seen comments by other countries that somehow condone this activity.  It's uncondoneable, inexcusable and we will continue to speak out and act diplomatically to achieve justice for those who have been so senselessly disadvantaged.

QUESTION:  What can you do and are you making any progress?  It doesn't sound like it if they're expanding the --

MR. ERELI:  I just don't have anything more to add than we've already said for the past three days running.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Just going back one last time to the Italian arrest warrant story.  You said you had no facts on this story.

MR. ERELI:  Well, no, there's about -- though the issue of renditions is --

QUESTION:  Do you have any information, then, about that one of these individuals, apparently working at the Consular Office in the --

MR. ERELI:  I don't.  I don't.

Thank you.

(This 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:

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