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State Department Briefing, July 19

19 July 2005

Lebanon, Cyprus, Iraq, Israel/Palestinians, Secretary Rice Travel, Japan, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, India

State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli briefed the press July 19.

Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
1:10 p.m. EDT

Briefer:  Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman

-- Proposed List of Cabinet Members
-- Policy Towards Hezbollah/Possible Inclusion in Cabinet
-- Border with Syria/Syrian Responsibilities Towards Lebanon/Border Traffic

-- Annan Plan
-- Ambassador to Cyprus

-- Need for Neighbors to Contribute to Positive Development
-- Terrorist Organization PKK/U.S. Coordination with Iraqi and Turkish Authorities
-- Members of Constitution Commission Killed/U.S. Condolences

-- Asst. Secretary Welch Travel to Region in Advance of Secretary Rice's Visit
-- Palestinian Authority Efforts Against Terrorist Organizations/Efforts by Israelis to Defend Themselves and Exercise Restraint

-- Secretary Rice Travel

-- Value of U.S.-Japan Relationship

-- Six-Party Talks Begin in Beijing July 26/U.S. Delegation Led by Asst. Secretary Hill
-- Goal of Substantive Engagement on Ending Nuclear Weapon Program
-- U.S. Proposal

-- Elections Important Step Towards Reform

-- Enhanced Civil Nuclear Cooperation/Important Development in U.S.-India Relationship
-- Other Components of Agreement/New Initiatives
-- Agreement Strengthens Mutual Nonproliferation Efforts
-- Recognition of Growing Influence of India in Region

-- Representative Tancredo Remarks/U.S. Government Respects Islam and Holy Sites


TUESDAY, JULY 19, 2005

1:10 p.m. EDT

MR. ERELI:  Well, let me give you a statement.  We're releasing a statement after the briefing today, welcoming the agreement between the President of Lebanon Emile Lahoud and the Prime Minister Designate of Lebanon Fuad Siniora on a proposed list of cabinet members for the next Government of Lebanon.  We believe that this is a positive and an important step forward that reflects and is responsive to the will and desires of the Lebanese people as expressed through historic elections.

This list of parliament needs to still be approved by parliament, but if and when it is approved, we certainly look forward to working with the new Government of Lebanon as it moves forward in responding to the Lebanese people's desire of full reform as it was expressed in the recent elections and as it moves to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1559.

Questions?  Yes.

QUESTION:  One of the innovations of this cabinet is a member of Hezbollah.  Does your welcome for this cabinet extend to that individual?  And will you be working with him?

MR. ERELI:  Yeah, I'm not aware that that's actually true, what you're saying.  The way that I would answer the question is to simply remind you that, as you know, we have a policy towards Hezbollah, it's clear, it hasn't changed and to the extent that there are active members of a foreign terrorist organization in a government, then our ability to interact and work with those individuals is circumscribed.

In the back.  Yeah.

QUESTION:  The Prime Minister confirmed that he's including Hezbollah in the cabinet today.

MR. ERELI:  Well, then my last answer -- we'll deal with that eventuality.

Okay.  Anything else on your mind today?

QUESTION:  Can you talk about -- I mean, what do you mean by your abilities would be -- what was the word?

MR. ERELI:  Look, again, let's be clear.  Nothing has changed.  Our policy towards Hezbollah hasn't changed and so to the extent that were members of Hezbollah, active members of a foreign terrorist organization that are present in the government, our ability to deal with those individuals is circumscribed by law.

QUESTION:  But if it's a cabinet minister, how can you deal with the government as a whole and somehow isolate that person?  How would you --

MR. ERELI:  I guess at this point, I think those are hypothetical questions.  I'm not aware that the circumstances that you describe actually obtain in the present case.  I know what people are reporting, but I can't speak to the facts and what is the status of each individual in this government.  They just announced it.  Give us time to check it out, give us time to figure out what the facts are and then we can talk about what we will do in those circumstances.


QUESTION:  Just so I understand, so have you seen a list of names?

MR. ERELI:  I've seen a list of names - actually, I have not seen a list of names.  We are aware of a list of names.


MR. ERELI:  But I do not know the exact affiliation and history of each of those individuals on that list.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So you're not saying that this person isn't on the list, you're just not aware that any --

MR. ERELI:  Well, I don't know what person you're talking about, but there are reports of somebody with Hezbollah connections on the list.  What are those connections?  What's the relationship?  All that sort of -- those are important details.  So before speaking to the specifics of your questions, I need to know the details.

QUESTION:  And you're saying that the presence of any active member of a terrorist organization will clearly be an impediment to your dealing with that person; you're not saying that --

MR. ERELI:  Right.

QUESTION:  It would be an impediment dealing with the entire government, is that correct?

MR. ERELI:  Right, right.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Can we stay on Lebanon and Syria?

MR. ERELI:  Sure.

QUESTION:  What do you make of the border situation between Syria and Lebanon now?  There are trucks being backed up and there seems to be a lot of tension.  But this is something that the U.S. has asked you to do -- asked Syria to do in terms of infiltrators, but I'm not sure that this is what you meant.

MR. ERELI:  Well, our position on Lebanon and on Syria is very clear.  Syria should act as a good neighbor to Lebanon.  That means not interfering in its internal affairs and support the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese people as they seek to exercise full sovereignty over their country.

As far as the situation on the border goes, this is obviously something for the Lebanese and the Syrians to work out between themselves.  We would look, again, for both sides to work in a spirit of good neighborliness and cooperation to support what is in the international community's interest, which is a sovereign and efficiently functioning Lebanese state.

QUESTION:  But you don't say it's between the two of them when you're telling Syria it needs to do more on the border?

MR. ERELI:  I'm not aware of what you're referring to.

QUESTION:  Well, you just said whatever is happening on the border is between Lebanon and Syria.  But --

MR. ERELI:  Well, in terms of border traffic between Lebanon and Syria, that's an issue between two sovereign countries to deal with.  If you ask me about, you know, Syrian interference or the presence of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon, you know what our position is.  But as far as controlling who goes between Syria and Lebanon, that's between the Syrian authorities and the Lebanese authorities to work out on the border in a way that respects the sovereignty and independence of both countries.

Yeah.  In the back.

QUESTION:  Cyprus.  Tomorrow is the 31st year of the Turkish invasion and occupation of Northern Cyprus.  I'm wondering, Mr. Ereli, if you have to offer any hope for a settlement since you are involved?

MR. ERELI:  The hope for settlement of the Cyprus issue is the Annan plan and we believe that it behooves all parties to engage with renewed commitment and vigor and energy and creativity on the basis of that plan to help resolve this long-standing issue.

QUESTION:  Do you consider the Turkish action in Cyprus as an invasion?

MR. ERELI:  I don't have anything new to add in terms of our historical comment on the incident.

QUESTION:  It was an invasion or not?

MR. ERELI:  I'm not going to go back 30 years.  I'm going to say what our focus now is and what our view of the future is and that's the Annan plan.  There is a solution at hand -- there was a solution at hand and, unfortunately, it was rejected.  It remains the basis for discussion.  It remains a basis for resolution and the United States continues to work actively in support of the plan and with all the parties to see if we can't find a way to move forward on the basis of --

QUESTION:  Mr. Ereli, have you heard of the plan to ask the White House to name a new Ambassador to Cyprus since the former one, Michael Klosson, left Cyprus a long time ago?

MR. ERELI:  Again, that's a decision the White House is going to make.  I leave it to -- an announcement that the White House is going to make and I don't have anything to give you in the way of timing.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) it was said that Ambassador Michael Klosson will be the new coordinator for Cyprus.  Do you have anything on that?

MR. ERELI:  I don't.

QUESTION:  Or on what he's planning to do?

MR. ERELI:  I don't.


QUESTION:  What do you make on the supported fact agreed between Iraq and its neighbor, among which Iran and Syria?

MR. ERELI:  I'm not aware of it.  I think I would echo what our spokesman said yesterday, which is that we would look to all of Iraq's neighbors to act or to develop relations with Iraq, that are supportive of Iraqi sovereignty, supportive of Iraqi stability and help develop that country's potential as a democratic and prosperous state.

Prime Minister Jaafari was in Iran, was working on, I think, understandings or moving relations in that direction, to the extent that Iran and Iraq's other neighbors act in ways that contribute to a democratic political process and a successful free market economy.  Those are all positive and welcome developments.

QUESTION:  Do you confirm that the U.S. asked for the -- ordered the capture of the PKK leadership in Iraq?

MR. ERELI:  I've seen those reports.  I don't have anything to -- any information to confirm.  I think, obviously, the United States' position is clear on the PKK.  We consider it a terrorist organization.  We work closely with Turkey and with Iraq in preventing the use of Iraqi territory by the PKK for its activities.  And we will continue to have, I think, good and close coordination with the authorities in both countries on what is a commonly shared problem.

QUESTION:  Can I follow up?

MR. ERELI:  Follow-up.

QUESTION:  Yes, a follow-up.  As you know, PUK (inaudible) organization was (inaudible) Talabani, he started a corporation with the PKK in north Iraq --

MR. ERELI:  I'm not -- I don't know if I subscribe to that at all.  Talabani and the PKK?


MR. ERELI:  That's an assertion that you're making that I don't endorse.


QUESTION:  Today, the PUK and PKK.

MR. ERELI:  The PUK and PKK.  He's saying there's a tie between the two.


MR. ERELI:  Yeah, and I'm not -- that's an assertion you're making that I'm not going to endorse.

QUESTION:  But what about the Turkish (inaudible) for them and (inaudible) stated today that the Turkish Government four top leaders in (inaudible) PKK operating north in Iraq and asked your government for help to arrest them.  Do you have anything on that?

MR. ERELI:  Nothing beyond what I just said, which is that we cooperate closely and as allies with Turkey in confronting the terrorist activities of the PKK.


QUESTION:  Today, the Deputy Chief of Staff of Turkey, General Ilker Basbug made a statement that he said that the United States administration made a direct order to arrest top leaders of PKK in northern Iraq.

MR. ERELI:  I don't have that information.  I refer you to -- as the State Department, I'm not aware that those orders were made.  You might want to ask Department of Defense since it deals with military issues.

QUESTION:  Why you don't take the question?  Are you're taking the question?

MR. ERELI:  I'll take the question and see if I've got anything to say on it.

Yes, Nick.

QUESTION:  I want to talk about the Secretary's trip to the Middle East, but can you update us on any contacts she might have had or the Deputy might have had in the past day or so with the Israeli or the Palestinian leadership?

And have you seen any movement to indicate that -- just the fact that she's going might have contributed somehow to, sort of, subsiding of some developments we've seen in the past few days?

MR. ERELI:  We spoke yesterday about the most recent contacts, which were over the weekend with the Secretary and Palestinian Authority President Abbas and senior Israeli officials.  I would note that NEA Assistant Secretary Welch is departing for the region this evening to have meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials in advance of the Secretary's visit.

I think we've seen a number of actions by both sides that are important and noteworthy.  Actions by the Palestinian Authorities to move against -- the Palestinian Authority to move against Palestinian militants and terrorist organizations who are trying to use violence to sabotage what is a historic opportunity for peace, efforts by the Israelis to both defend themselves and act with restraint.  This is a critical time.

We are on the verge of something, as I said, truly historic and a real step forward in advancing the roadmap.  I think in recognition of that and in recognition of what's at stake, the Secretary's going out to be -- to help work with the parties so both can undertake the kind of maximum effort and coordination needed to make this a success.  And it's basically something we are working consistently and tirelessly in view of the important moment we are at.


QUESTION:  Do you have anything on Secretary Rice's visit to Israel and the Palestinian territory, who does she meet?

MR. ERELI:  Well, I don't want to get ahead of things.  They're leaving today for the first stops on their trip, which are AGOA and Sudan.  They will be later this week in the territories.  I'd prefer not to get out ahead of their diplomacy.  And as they are on travel, I'll defer to the party to comment beyond what we've already said on specifics about who they're meeting and when they're meeting with him.

In the back. Yeah.

QUESTION:  Is there a possibility that she may visit another place in the Middle East?

MR. ERELI:  Nothing to -- I wouldn't encourage you in that line of thinking and nothing I have to announce, nothing that I'm -- no, I wouldn't -- not that I'm aware of.

Yes, ma'am.  Teri.

QUESTION:  Me -- oh, that's -- (Laughter).


QUESTION:  Ms. Schultz.

MR. ERELI:  Ms. Schultz.

QUESTION:  Can you confirm that the U.S.  Embassy in London has apologized to a Muslim scholar for revoking -- I'm not sure if they revoked his visa or just didn't allow him entrance to the U.S. -- Zaki Badawi?

MR. ERELI:  I'll check.  I hadn't heard that.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Just crossed the wires that the U.S. Embassy has apologized to him and given him a new visa.

MR. ERELI:  Let me see what I can find out for you on that.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Thank you.

MR. ERELI:  Let's go to someone who I haven't called on yet.  You, sir.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  I come from Japan, Okinawa.

MR. ERELI:  Hello.

QUESTION:  And in Okinawa, on 19th of July, there was a gathering to protest against U.S. Army exercise live fire.  And 10,000 people were gathering, including the Prefecture Governor Inamine.  In this situation, what do you think about this situation?  And what are you doing -- what are you going to do about this situation?

MR. ERELI:  Well, I'm not familiar with this specific incident that you describe.  I can tell you that as a general matter, we obviously value our relations with Japan greatly.  They're a key ally and a good friend.  And we're obviously sensitive to the concerns of Japanese officials regarding our military activities there, which are obviously covered under joint agreements.  As far as the specifics go, I would refer you to the authorities in Japan, our military authorities and consular officials, who are actually onsite in dealing with the issue as it evolves.


QUESTION:  Can you confirm the July 26th date that we're hearing out of Asia for the start of the six-party talks and confirm who the delegation is going to be?

MR. ERELI:  I can confirm that, yes, six-party talks will begin in Beijing on July 26th and that our delegation will be led by Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill.  The composition of the rest of our delegation is still being worked out.  It will include officials from the National Security Council, Department of Defense, and other State Department officials.

QUESTION:  Do you expect these talks -- would you like to see them go beyond the usual four-day format that we've seen over the last couple of --

MR. ERELI:  I would say that we're prepared to remain at the table as long as it proves useful.

QUESTION:  And what are the hopes that we hope to see from --

MR. ERELI:  The hopes are substantive engagement on the issue of denuclearizing, on ending North Korea's nuclear weapon program and serious discussion of, among other things, our proposal that we tabled many months ago.

QUESTION:  Are you comfortable that this will not just produce genuine exchanges, as opposed to set speeches written in capitals?

MR. ERELI:  We will be working towards, as I said before, a meaningful and substantive engagement on the issues for discussion, which are end to the North Korean nuclear program and how we can productively engage on a way forward in dealing with North Korea.

QUESTION:  What can you say about bilateral talks with the North Koreans on the markings of --

MR. ERELI:  I can say that in the context of the six-party talks, as in the past, there will be opportunities for discussions with the North Korean delegation.


QUESTION:  Switching subjects, if everybody is in agreement.

MR. ERELI:  Okay.

QUESTION:  On Iraq, do you have any guidance on the varying reports on the number of Iraqis on the constitution-drafting committee who were killed today?  Any comment on that?

MR. ERELI:  Two members of the Constitution Commission were killed today, along with their bodyguard, in Iraq.  The United States is greatly saddened by this terrible crime and we extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and, indeed, to all those who are working on the commission as their colleagues and others throughout Iraq working for a better, more democratic future for that country.

It reminds us that of really two things:  One is that Iraq is making progress.  That there are committed and dedicated Iraqis who want to create a better future for their country.  And it also reminds us that there are those who will resort to senseless and inhuman violence to prevent that from happening.  And we have no doubt that the courage and sacrifice that these three people represented will carry the day and vindicate all of our efforts.

QUESTION:  Is the U.S. -- just a follow-up -- concerned that some of the other members of the committee will be hesitant to join in the discussions now and will -- do you believe the August 15 deadline will still be reached?

MR. ERELI:  Well, this is not the first time that brave Iraqis have been senselessly attacked.  And what we continue to see, I think, is a testimony to the character and strength of the Iraqi people, that in spite of visible attempts to discourage progress, the Iraqis keep at it and, in fact, do it with greater gusto and in greater numbers than before.  And that's a sign, I think, of:  (a) their commitment to the future of their country; (b) the bankruptcy of the tactics of the insurgency.


QUESTION:  These contracts from Bolivia --

MR. ERELI:  Bolivia?

QUESTION:  Yes.  There have been reports that cocaine producers have been taking advantage of the instability to sort of expand their activities and even increase their influence in the capital.  They've been meeting with the new president and, obviously, much of what they produce comes north to the United States.  Do you have any concerns about -- that the instability might be a result --

MR. ERELI:  Yeah, I'm not, frankly, I don't have information to corroborate the report that cocaine producers are meeting with the government to expand their influence.  But let me take the question to see if I've got anything to add for you in the way of a response, not that we will.

Yeah, you can ask. You've been waiting for a while.

QUESTION:  Yes, on Saudi Arabia.  It has been four months since the last round of the Saudi elections, which are -- which has been touted by the Secretary and praised, particularly, and none of the councils have been formed.  You know, if you compare that to Iraq, where it's under attack and it took three months and everybody was criticizing that, for such limited elections.  What is the position of the administration on that situation four months after the elections?

MR. ERELI:  Well, I'm not familiar with the specific circumstances that you describe.  I think what our position is on the general issue of the elections and on the way forward for Saudi Arabia is that they are important steps.  They are clearly indicative of a process of reform, that is positive and is forward-looking, but they are just that.  They are a step.  There is, I think the Saudi people are looking for more.  And like in the rest of the region, the position of the United States is that the government, and we will work with the government, needs to be responsive to those expectations of the people.

Now, I don't know what Saudi law calls for in terms of a period between the elections and the formations of the local councils and taking office, so I really can't speak to that.  I would simply say that as a general proposition, what the United States is looking for is for -- and what we will work to support -- is for steps to be taken that are responsive to and fulfillment of a process of change that has begun and that reflects, frankly, popular expectations for expanded freedoms and expanded participation in public affairs.

QUESTION:  The woman who was prevented from participating, do you support the appointment to -- was there - (inaudible) will be appointed, so --

MR. ERELI:  No, the United States support full voting rights for all citizens, around the world, including Saudi Arabia.


QUESTION:  Mr. Ereli, two questions on Cyprus.  In a letter, Acting Assistant Secretary Matthew Reynolds, in a July letter to Congressman Robert Menendez stating --

MR. ERELI:  Assistant Secretary of what?

QUESTION:  Assistant Secretary Matthew Reynolds.

MR. ERELI:  Okay, yeah.

QUESTION:  Your Congressman Robert Menendez, is saying that direct flights to the occupied territory of Cyprus and the visit by American citizens and U.S. officials are promoting the solution to the Cyprus problem and I'm wondering how, since the (inaudible) are illegal, they're using the international law and now they are very detrimental to the integral territory of Cyprus.

MR. ERELI:  I'm not familiar with the letter that you're speaking to, but as you know --

QUESTION:  Mm-hmm.

MR. ERELI:  From listening to both myself and other colleagues, the United States supports steps, including visits, to the airport in the north that end -- that helped ease the isolation of northern Cyprus.

QUESTION:  And one more.  Since, in the same letter, the Acting Secretary Matthew Reynolds, for the first time -- I have to emphasize for the first time saying that the occupied territory of Cyprus "Administered by the Turkish Cypriot" under the guns of Kosovo, a powerful Turkish army.

MR. ERELI:  Is that one quote?

QUESTION:  I'm wondering -- I'm wondering if this analogy, "Administered by the Turkish Cypriots" means cessation from the Republic of Cyprus?

MR. ERELI:  Our position hasn't changed.


QUESTION:  Adam, can you give us some understanding of the India-U.S. nuclear deal yesterday, sort of the genesis of this?  Is the State Department fully on board?  I mean, given the level of tension between India and Pakistan, sort of giving them new nuclear technology, what it entails?

MR. ERELI:  Well, yes, the State Department is fully on board.  In fact, this is something that the Secretary has been, very, very actively involved in and represents an important step forward not only in our bilateral relationship, but I think in our strategic relationship in the region.

The announcement yesterday by the President and the Prime Minister of India, I think point to, frankly, a transformed relationship.  One that the Secretary in her remarks called a global partner and what we agreed to yesterday, I think, is testimony to that enhanced role that India plays in the region and how the United States sees India as a partner, both economically, politically and strategically.  Frankly, the agreement yesterday was a long time coming.  It's been on the basis of dialogue that we've engaged bilaterally for many, many years.

There's a lot of attention being focused, obviously, on the nuclear side of it, but I would point out that there are a number of things that were agreed to beyond India's peaceful nuclear program.  It includes, in the economy, launching a CEO Forum to enhance private sector energy and deepen the bilateral economic relationship.  It talks about modernization of India's infrastructure.  It talks about a U.S.-India knowledge initiative on agriculture.  There's also a democracy development side to the agreement where we had a global democracy initiative.  We talk about disaster relief initiatives, a U.S.-India defense relationship.  And we also signed a -- look forward to signing a science and technology framework agreement for joint research in space and civil space cooperation agreement.

So those are -- that gives you an idea of the expansiveness and breadth of what we're talking about.  As far as the specific issue on nuclear cooperation goes, I would underscore a couple of points.

Number one, that this is a significant achievement in that it addresses India's important energy security needs for the future.

And number two:  It strengthens our mutual nonproliferation efforts.  Specifically, the United States is -- as you know by looking at the agreement -- specifically, the United States agrees to work toward full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India, including cooperation and trade in the whole, throughout the whole aspect of the peaceful nuclear energy sector.  But India also agrees reciprocally to take a number of steps that are important to meeting control and nonproliferation concerns.  And that obviously are common to all countries that aspire to the same thing that India aspires to.

Specifically, these include identifying and separating civilian and military nuclear facilities, filing a declaration regarding its civilian facilities with the IAEA, voluntarily placing its civilian nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards, signing and adhering to an international -- I'm sorry -- to an additional protocol.  With respect to civilian nuclear facilities, continuing its unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, working with us to conclude a multilateral fissile material cut-off treaty, and refraining from the transfer of enrichment in new processing technologies to states that don't already have them.

So to sum up, expansive agreement over a broad range of issues:  Economic, defense, political, technological, scientific energy.  Recognition of India's important role and growing influence in the world and the region and a further strengthening of a very close and growing strategic relationship.

QUESTION:  The Secretary and others have said that it remains to be seen whether China will be a force for peace in the region in the future.  Are these agreements with India aimed at all at having a counterweight to China in the area?

MR. ERELI:  I really think that's reading -- that's missing the major point. The major point here is that you have a country which is the world's largest democracy, which is growing and becoming an increasingly influential player in the world scene in all aspects.  And that there are opportunities for engagement and there are opportunities to help marry India's ambitions and India's capabilities with the United States and mutual interests.  And that is what this agreement does.  And it's based on the reality that is India.  It's not based on, you know, other countries acting as push factors for something that really, for a dynamic that exists suigeneris, independent of these other considerations.

So I would not say, look, we signed this with India because, based on what we want to accomplish or how we want to influence China.  No.  We did this with India starting many, many years ago in recognition of the growing role that India, the growing influence of India, the growing power of India and the opportunity for working closely in developing a strategic partnership in ways that benefit both countries and frankly the international community as a whole.


QUESTION:  Adam, some talk radio comments by a Congressman a few days ago have generated some controversy in the Middle East.  The Congressman is Mr. Tancredo and he suggested that the U.S. might respond to an act of nuclear terrorism by attacking Muslim holy sites and I'm wondering if you'd care to weigh in to that one?

MR. ERELI:  I guess we periodically see, you know, remarks or comments that are insulting to Islam.  And such remarks, wherever they come from, are insulting and offensive to all of us.  Speaking on behalf of the United States Government, let me say that we respect Islam as a religion, we respect its holy sites, and we believe we share -- the United States is a country of religious diversity that our citizens, whether they be Muslim or Christian or Jew or whatever, respect the dignity and sanctity of other religions and believe we are part of one human family and that the enemy of that family are those who use the name of religion to pursue a violent and hateful ideology that really goes against the teachings that, I think, any person of faith believes in, no matter what that faith is.

QUESTION:  Is this something they've taken up with the Congressman?

MR. ERELI:  No.  The Congress -- I can speak for the U.S. Government, I can't speak for individual members of this country.


QUESTION:  Yeah, regarding American position on six-party talks, I wonder how flexible the United States will be to negotiate with North Korea at this time.  I understand United States is demanding a response from North Korea to the -- your proposal of last June, but what will happen after getting the response?

MR. ERELI:  Well, let me just take issue -- let me take issue with your question.  This is not the United States versus North Korea.  This is a six-party talks and the reason it's six-party talks is because there are -- all of North Korea's neighbors and the United States have a problem with its nuclear program.  And the reason we're in Beijing is to talk about that program as a common threat and to deal with it in a way that is mutually agreeable.

Now, our proposal is one set of ideas on the table.  We think it's a good set of ideas.  We think it addresses the major issues and it should be the basis for serious discussion and that's what we're going to the talks to do.


MR. ERELI:  But this isn't sort of like, the United States and North -- has to show flexibility vis-à-vis North Korea.  This is North Korea having a program that concerns five countries and the six-party process being a way to deal with those concerns in a way that brings peace and an end to a nuclear program that is destabilizing and, in the long run, is frankly, not in North Korea's interest to pursue.

QUESTION:  All right, but let me ask a very quick question.  Are you flexible on modifying your proposal of --

MR. ERELI:  We will talk about our proposal in Beijing and I'll leave it at that.


QUESTION:  One more, on Greece.  Today, Greek Minister Fani Palli-Petralia met with Under Secretary Nicholas Burns for a full hour.  I'm wondering if you have anything on that.

MR. ERELI:  I'll see if I can get you a readout.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR. ERELI:  Thank you.

(This briefing was concluded at 1:50 p.m.)

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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