State Department Daily Briefing, August 11
11 August 2005
Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, Iraq, Israel/Palestinians, Department, Cuba
State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli briefed reporters August 11.
Following is the State Department transcript:
Daily Press Briefing Index
Thursday, August 11, 2005
1:47 p.m. EDT
Briefer: Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
--Visa for Iranian President
--UN Resolution / Suspending of Uranium Conversion Activities / Support of EU Efforts / Possible Referral to UN Security Council / Concern of International Community / Board of Governors Discussions
--Common Goal of Denuclearization of Korean Peninsula / Ambassador Hill Remarks / Draft Agreement of Principles / Progress Being Made / Light Water Reactors /
--Threat from al-Qaida / Writing of Constitution
--Deputy National Security Advisor Abrams and General Ward in Area / Preparations / Moving Forward on Withdrawal
--Investigations of Security Clearances / Suspensions / Processing
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 139
THURSDAY, AUGUST 11, 2005
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
1:47 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Greetings, everyone. I don't have any announcements so we can go straight to your questions.
QUESTION: I have a question.
MR. ERELI: Peter has a question. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Excuse me, can you give the senior correspondent the first question, please.
MR. ERELI: A senior correspondent comes in at the -- under the bell, or the wire -- at the bell.
QUESTION: A two minute and 59 second wire.
MR. ERELI: What's on senior correspondent's mind today?
QUESTION: I see the President is indicating that the Iranian President might get his visa. I didn't watch the proceedings down there. Do you have anything on the status of the review of what happened in 1979?
MR. ERELI: Not really. Certainly nothing that would give you much more than what the President said, which is that we're still investigating those events and his involvement and the issue of the visa is under review.
QUESTION: He put it a little more clearly than that. He said he suspects that the president will be there at the UN.
MR. ERELI: I fully endorse those comments. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: But you can't say whether you know.
MR. ERELI: I do not know.
QUESTION: Not because of the Iranian President but because of the U.S. side. You're saying that you still haven't decided.
MR. ERELI: It's not my decision, but it's --
QUESTION: The State Department's.
MR. ERELI: The request is there. I'm not aware that a decision has been made.
QUESTION: Given that you've been changing your policies in South Asia recently, what do you think of Pakistan testing its nuclear-capable cruise missile?
MR. ERELI: What change in policy are you referring to?
QUESTION: Well, that's about India. I was just referring to this --
MR. ERELI: Well, that's an evolution of a close relationship. (Laughter.) And as far as the Pakistani missile test, I really don't have anything to add much in the way of comment. You know, it’s important to us that actions by states on the subcontinent are done in ways that aren't provocative, in ways that aren't threatening. I think that by all accounts that test met that criteria and I'd leave it at that.
QUESTION: Can you just explain how it met that criteria?
MR. ERELI: Well, that there was --
QUESTION: They didn't warn the Indians?
MR. ERELI: Well, my understanding was that it was done in a way that was not alarming and was not a surprise. But I'd leave it to the two parties to speak further to that since it involves them directly.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Iran?
QUESTION: Can we stay on this for just one --
MR. ERELI: Do we want to go back? Stay?
QUESTION: Could we stay on the missile test and then go back to Iran?
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that Pakistan got any foreign assistance for this missile, and perhaps from the Chinese?
MR. ERELI: Nothing that I have to share with you on that score.
QUESTION: Does -- do you have any concerns that the Chinese are supporting Pakistani missile or nuclear technology?
MR. ERELI: Let me see if we have an opinion to share on that.
QUESTION: Iran nuclear?
MR. ERELI: Is that what we want?
QUESTION: We now have the IAEA resolution there. Given the fact the United States has said repeatedly and insistently that it wants this issue to go before the UN Security Council now that there's a breach of the seals and resumption of nuclear activities, can you say -- and there is no indication of any UN mention in the resolution, can you say this falls short of U.S. expectations?
MR. ERELI: I can say that, first and foremost, we think that -- first and foremost, we welcome the adoption of this resolution. We think it's an important step forward. We think that the message from the international community to Iran is clear that Iran must suspend its uranium conversion activities at Isfahan, that it must comply with previous IAEA Board of Governors resolutions and that they must fully cooperate with the IAEA to answer all unanswered questions about its nuclear program.
I would also underscore that we continue to support the EU-3's efforts pursuant to the Paris Agreement. We would expect the Director General of the IAEA to report back to the Board of Governors about Iran's follow-up on this resolution. And if Iran doesn't take the steps described in the resolution, we would expect that the next step would be referral to the Security Council.
QUESTION: Isn't the message also clear to Iran that you don't have support in the Board of Governors to do -- to make a more rapid referral to the Security Council, that they have supporters on the Board as well, apparently.
MR. ERELI: I think the message should be that the international community doesn't like what it's seeing, that it goes contrary to six previous Board of Governor resolutions. And that they are being given an opportunity to make things right and then that's an opportunity they should seize.
QUESTION: Would you call it an ultimatum?
MR. ERELI: I would describe it the way I described it.
QUESTION: There aren't really necessarily any consequences in the resolution. I mean, even though the Director General is supposed to give a report to the IAEA Board of Governors, there's not any consequence spells out for what happens if Iran is still in compliance.
Do you think that this sends a message to Iran that there will be consequences?
MR. ERELI: I think, if you look at the resolution, we think the message is clear that the international community does not accept this kind of behavior, that it views this kind of behavior with serious concern and that it calls clearly and unequivocally for Iran to cease the uranium enrichment activity -- I'm sorry, the uranium conversion activity at Isfahan.
The other point I would make is one, frankly, the President, I think made very clearly just a few moments ago that the Iranians are hearing a common voice from the international community about our concerns on their nuclear weapons ambitions and that the international community is increasingly of one mind about the -- of one mind that Iran should not be able to develop and be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. And that's what we see, frankly, coming out of these kinds of meetings, that's what we see in the resolution. And we think that as we move forward in our diplomacy in concert with the EU-3 and others that this kind of consensus is going to bring about the kind of results we're looking for, which is, in the final analysis, an effective means of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Let's go to you, Joel.
QUESTION: Adam, just help us understand because we've gone through all these steps before and we've gone through what you said was Iran thumbing its nose at the EU-3 proposal, thumbing its nose at the international community. What gives you any confidence at all that the IAEA will take any more effective action on September 3rd when they get back?
MR. ERELI: Based on our discussions at the Board of Governors meetings this week, based on our close cooperation with the EU-3 and based, I think, on a -- as I said before, on a commonly shared determination to confront this threat.
QUESTION: So you think that there is an understanding, even if it wasn't put in writing, that come September 3, if there's no compliance, this thing's going to the UN?
MR. ERELI: I'll leave it where I -- at what I said earlier, which is that there is an opportunity here for Iran to heed the call of the international community, to consider this resolution and to take the steps called for in the resolution.
QUESTION: Similarly, in South Korea, their Unification Minister Chung Dong-young has told a South Korean internet website that North Korea should be allowed to have peaceful nuclear programs. And is that a big rift between the U.S. and South Korea now? Is that what led to the --
MR. ERELI: There's no rift between the United States and South Korea. We are close allies. We are close partners in a broad bilateral relationship and particularly in our common approach to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. And I think that kind of partnership was seen very clearly in 13 days of intensive negotiations in Beijing.
I don't have really much to add to this issue. I think Ambassador Hill has addressed the whole substance of the negotiations over the last three days, both in Beijing and here. You have his remarks on the record, which go to the points that you raised.
I would simply note that there's a good draft agreement of principles on the table. We look forward to coming back to the talks on the 29th and moving forward on that basis.
QUESTION: A follow-up on that, please? Adam, there is a direct conflict between what Ambassador Hill has been saying and what the Unification Minister is saying today, and you say everything is rosy-rosy with the South Koreans, and I just don't --
MR. ERELI: I said, frankly, that there's a negotiation going on, and in any negotiation you've got at least as many views as there are parties, sometimes more. The fact of the matter is we've made important progress. We've made good progress in Beijing. And we have a draft agreement of principles on the table that I think represents an emerging consensus. Certainly there's unity among the five on a number of issues in that statement of principles and the place for the discussion of this, of these issues, is in Beijing. It's not here. I think what you're seeing emerging from the 13 days of talks is a set of common goals, or an emerging set of common goals and common approaches. They're working through those. They needed to take a pause to refer some issues to capitals. That's where we are. They're going to come back on the 29th and continue their work. And that's where the negotiation is going to take place, not from here.
QUESTION: If I can just follow up on that, Adam. I'm sorry, from that podium, both yourself and both Tom, when we were asking about this question about North Korea's ability to use civilian nuclear capacity, you said it's not only the United States that's opposed to that, it's Japan and South Korea. We now have a statement by the Unification Minster of South Korea saying that's not true, so we're trying to get some clarity here.
MR. ERELI: I'm not going to speak for the South Korean Unification Minister.
QUESTION: He's spoken for himself.
MR. ERELI: I'll speak for the United States Government. And for the United States Government, our views on civilian nuclear use, our views on the issue of denuclearization, I think, are very well known and I don't have any elaboration to make on it.
QUESTION: But about your policy, you've told us that there was one view about the denuclearized Peninsula and you were of one mind with the South Koreans, with the Japanese. Now that you've seen the statements, you're saying, "Oh, there are many views among the parties," so --
MR. ERELI: Look, this is a complex negotiation. It's more than one issue; there are a number of issues out there. There's a common view, a common acceptance of the importance of and the criticality of and the centrality of denuclearization. On the issue of light-water reactors, which is what the statement of principle or the agreement of principles broke up over, Ambassador Hill has been very clear that there were five who agreed that that was a non-starter and one that didn't and that, because of that gap, it was determined that a recess was the best way to handle it to give North Korea time to go to its capital and talk it out among themselves. And that's where we are.
But as far as the whole statement of principle and everything -- the agreement of principles -- and everything that's in it, again, we're in a negotiation. We're in six-party talks. And that's a process where you get six parties around the table and you've got to come up with something that everybody agrees to and that's the dynamic we're in.
QUESTION: You said that --
MR. ERELI: And I'm not going to conduct those negotiations from here.
QUESTION: No, you're not -- I didn't realize you were negotiating with the South Koreans, but when you say, "That's where we are," are you saying you don't think the South Korean position has changed, even though you've seen these rumors?
MR. ERELI: I'm not going to characterize the South Korean position for you.
QUESTION: Can I just -- a point of information just to see if we're discussing the same terms. I'm wondering whether or not the question of whether or not they have light-water reactors is one question that is apart from their ability to maintain a civilian nuclear program because you said and Ambassador Hill said that they were -- everybody was against them having the light-water reactors, which would not exclude them keeping some other form of reactors. Is that what's happening?
MR. ERELI: Again, I will speak to our view and our view is, as Ambassador Hill has said, that we have a history here. We have a history of a country using -- quickly converting, on short notice, a civilian nuclear program for military use and that is an issue that needs to be addressed. It's an issue that needs to be taken to account when moving forward and dealing with this issue of broader nuclear denuclearization or comprehensive denuclearization. And I'll leave it at that.
QUESTION: Ambassador Hill held out the possibility of some bilaterals. Has anything been scheduled?
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware that, for certain, that anything's been scheduled. But if that changes, I'll let you know.
QUESTION: Is the Chinese Foreign Minister coming here next week?
MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of.
Anything that you hear, Tom?
MR. CASEY: (Off-mike.) No, sorry, and they haven't --
MR. ERELI: I'll check.
QUESTION: Yeah, because we heard that he may.
MR. ERELI: I'll check if the South Koreans are coming next week.
QUESTION: Change of subject, Adam. Tariq A. Hamdi, who has been the center of a three-year probe, has turned up in Turkey working for the Iraqi Embassy there. And he is possibly wanted here in Washington to settle this charities and terror link that he's had.
Also, there's another cleric --
MR. ERELI: Stop there. I'm not familiar with that case. I don't know if we're in a position to say anything about it, given that it's a law enforcement issue. But I'll check and if there's anything we have --
MR. CASEY: I actually did check and this is a law enforcement issue --
MR. ERELI: Law enforcement issue.
MR. CASEY: Refer you to the appropriate law enforcement --
MR. ERELI: Refer you to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.
Thank you, Adam. (Laughter). Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any --
MR. ERELI: Is your name Adam, too? (Laughter).
QUESTION: No. Do you have any reaction to a threat by al-Qaida now to kill anybody involved in drafting the constitution in Iraq?
MR. ERELI: I respond to that the way I'd respond to any threat from al-Qaida is that these are -- this is -- this shows how they operate, that anybody who does anything they don't like, they kill. And that's a pretty clear definition of "terrorism" in our view.
The fact of the matter is that despite threats by terrorists who want to deprive the Iraqi people of their democratic and sovereign future, the courageous people of Iraq are moving forward in, not only writing a constitution, but in taking steps that paint an ever clearer picture of where they stand versus where the terrorists stand.
QUESTION: Do you take any measure to protect the people working on this constitution?
MR. ERELI: I think we worked very closely -- the United States, the MNFI -- worked very closely with the Iraqi Government and Iraqi security forces to basically ensure that those who are committed to -- or those who threaten to fight progress in Iraq and to kill innocent Iraqis are denied the means and the ability to do that.
QUESTION: After these new threats, you don't plan any new protection?
MR. ERELI: Our efforts at protection and fighting the insurgency and cooperating with the Iraqis are intensive, are ongoing, and I think are taken in response to and being aware of what the threats out there are.
QUESTION: Can I switch to Gaza?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Can you update us on any travel plans by U.S. officials to the region in advance of the Gaza withdrawal next week?
MR. ERELI: I don't have anything definitive for you. I think, as you know, Deputy National Security Advisor Abrams has been out there. I'm not -- I'll have to check and see if he's still out there. Quartet Special -- General Ward is in the region. Quartet Special Envoy Wolfensohn has been very active in consulting with the parties and working with particularly with the Palestinians and the Israelis in getting -- making preparations not only for a withdrawal but also follow-on steps.
The Secretary, I would note, has spoken to both President Abbas and Deputy Prime Minister Olmert in the past 24 hours. I think things are moving in a positive direction. The parties, both parties, are taking steps to move forward on withdrawal, to support withdrawal and to take the follow-on steps to withdrawal necessary to make it a success.
Basically, everybody is doing their part to ensure that things go smoothly. This takes, I think, commitment and courage and determination, and that's what we're seeing from all sides and it's certainly evident in the kind of cooperation and positive response that Quartet Special Envoy Wolfensohn and General Ward are getting in their dealings with the parties.
QUESTION: Is Assistant Secretary Welch planning to go out for the --
MR. ERELI: I think there are plans to go out, but exactly when I haven't gotten the latest from and maybe we'll have an update for you tomorrow what the exact travel plans are.
QUESTION: Change of subject. A question about Diplomatic Security and security clearances.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: I understand there's a growing number of people who have had issues where they feel they've been accused of minor offenses and they've had their security clearance suspended, have not had the opportunity to appeal and are now approaching, in some cases, two or three years in this limbo. Can you comment on how the process is supposed to work --
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- and why it appears not to be working in some of these cases?
MR. ERELI: Sure. First of all, a point about perspective. There are, every year, 20,000 investigations and issuances of -- or investigations and decisions about granting security clearances. The number of revocations or suspensions, the number of proceedings with regard to revocations or suspensions of security clearances is, right now, 40. So I think that gives you an idea of kind of the relative scale of the issue.
As far as the process goes, first of all, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security is responsible for this process. Second of all, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security considers suspension or revocation of any security clearance a very serious matter. And third, they proceed on the basis of law and administrative regulation.
Those regulations basically involve the following. Let me see if I can give you the detail. When a set of facts calls into question an employee's continuing eligibility for a security clearance, then the security clearance may be suspended by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security pending an investigation into the those developments, those facts, whatever they are. That investigation takes place and the Diplomatic Security -- Bureau of Diplomatic Security endeavors to conduct those investigations in as timely a way as possible.
Now, sometimes the investigations are complicated. They involve activities overseas, they involve talking to people that are hard to find that take time to locate and whatever, or that new information comes. So it's not always as fast as everybody would like, but it's done in a way that I think is deliberate and careful and designed to move forward as quickly as they can.
When a security clearance is suspended and an investigation initiated, the employee is notified in writing and is, if the suspension of the security clearance affects his ability -- his or her ability to do the job, they're reassigned to something, to a post or duties that don't require a security clearance.
Then, once the investigation is concluded, you either decide to revoke or to maintain. If they decide to revoke the security clearance, then the employee is provided a written explanation and is given an opportunity to respond before the final revocation determination is made. Once the final revocation determination is made, the employee can appeal the decision, which is made by the Director of Diplomatic Security and is given that right of appeal.
So short -- to summarize, employees have a security based on the national interest and their eligibility for a security clearance. When that eligibility is called into question an investigation is determined to be necessary, the clearance is suspended pending completion of the investigation and a decision. Once a decision has been made, if it's made to revoke, then the employee has the right of appeal. This process can take time, but it's done in as thorough and efficient and fair a manner as possible by trained professional adjudicators.
QUESTION: Just to quickly follow up, you say this is done as efficiently as possible. And I understand the rules are that, ideally, it's supposed to be done within 90 days. How do you explain that some of these people have been left for approaching three years now?
MR. ERELI: Yeah, I'm not aware of the 90-day -- the 90-day rule. In fact, frankly, that doesn't sound right to me simply because, as I said before, there are circumstances which can draw these things out. I mean, first of all, not every case is the same. Not every case can be investigated fully and thoroughly in 90 days. Some are more complex, involve issues that need to be -- issues that need information from a variety of sources, different agencies, different countries, different people, whatever, and just take a long time.
There are, you know, there are -- relevant to these investigations are multiple layers of review, including legal review that can't be done in – that you can't put an artificial timeline on.
So that's why I said they're done in this -- as timely a way as possible, but you have to take into account the nature of the case and each case is different. And once again, we're talking about a, you know, a very limited number of cases. Now, of course these cases are important to the people involved and we respect that and we understand that and we sympathize with that and that's why there's a very, I think, thorough, professional and clear process governed by regulations -- administrative and legal -- that apply.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. ERELI: Sure. I've got more if you want to stick to this one. (Laughter).
QUESTION: Just trying to head it off. (Laughter). Just kidding. Fidel Castro turns 79 on Saturday and you guys usually have some --
MR. ERELI: On Saturday?
QUESTION: I think it is. Usually have some pithy birthday wishes for him.
QUESTION: Did you miss his birthday?
MR. ERELI: I will --
QUESTION: No, it's coming up. You've still got a day.
MR. ERELI: I will keep it pithier than you can possibly imagine.
QUESTION: But you don't brief tomorrow.
MR. ERELI: Which is --
QUESTION: So you'll have to give it to him today. (Laughter). Sorry, broadsided you.
MR. ERELI: The people of Cuba deserve a democratic leadership --
QUESTION: That is --
MR. ERELI: -- on every day of the year. (Laughter). I think I'm safe there. (Laughter).
Anything else? Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:20 p.m.)
# # #
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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