Rice: ‘Palestinian Authority Taking Right Steps’

(VOA) U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States will help the new Palestinian leadership as it implements security and democratic reforms.

Ms. Rice was speaking in the West Bank city of Ramallah after talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Monday. She said the United States is pleased to note that the Palestinian Authority is taking steps in the right direction.

She also announced that to improve the lives of the Palestinian people Washington will provide an immediate aid of $40 million, which is part of President Bush’s pledge of a total $360 million in aid.

Ms. Rice, who has been urging both Israel and the Palestinians to seize the current opportunity for peace, again mentioned that Israel has to make the hard decisions needed to promote peace and the emergence of a democratic Palestinian state. She also said the Palestinians must curtail extremist attacks against Israel.

Ms. Rice met in Jerusalem Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Mr. Sharon and Mr. Abbas are to meet in Egypt Tuesday in the first Israeli-Palestinian summit in four years.

Articles Related with the Secretary of State’s Visit to the Middle East:

** Interview of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice With Shireen Younes of Abu Dhabi TV
** PM Sharon: PA Must Do More to Stop Attacks

U.S. Could Train “Unified” Palestinian Security Forces
** Remarks by U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman, Adam Ereli

Interview of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice With Shireen Younes of Abu Dhabi TV

February 7, 2005

(JERUSALEM) QUESTION: Welcome to Abu Dhabi TV and to Al-Majal News Magazine. I will ask you first all about the Summit tomorrow. The United States of America is a major player in the solution of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Why wouldn’t an American senior official participate in this summit tomorrow?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we think it is a very positive development that the Israelis and Palestinians are going to Sharm el-Sheikh. We think it is an extremely positive development that Egypt has convened this summit and that Jordan will be there. Sometimes it is a very good thing that the parties themselves and the regional actors are able to move the process along and we are very supportive of that. I have talked with my Egyptian colleague and with my Jordanian colleague, and of course I have been here with Prime Minister Sharon and with President Abbas. So, the United States will be very involved, but it is also a very good thing, particularly when regional actors like Egypt and Jordan are leading it and involved.

Q UESTION: Madame Secretary, do you expect that this Summit will succeed even though we have the conflicts and positions between the Israelis and the Palestinians? The Israelis want to focus more on the security issues while the Palestinians will focus on their problems like fees, the checkpoints and the withdrawal from the Palestinian cities. Would you think that this will succeed?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we will encourage the parties and I am sure that they will come in the spirit of putting everything on the table. That is a concern to both parties. That is the role that we are now on. That is why there is some optimism, as both sides seem to understand that it is a time to try to make progress. Of course the security issues are critical, not just for Israelis but for Palestinians too. A better security environment will make it possible for Israelis to withdraw from Palestinian cities, it will make it possible for the Palestinians to resume a more normal life in terms of commerce, in terms of the freedom of movement, and a better security environment will, of course, then allow further progress toward the others goals of the parties. So, security environment is very important. So too are the issues that the Palestinians will bring about checkpoints and freedom of movement, about the route of the fence, but these are all related, and so ! it is a good thing that both parties bring their concerns so that they can be addressed at this summit.

QUESTION: On many occasions your Excellency has spoken about the important of the supporting a new Palestinian leadership. Which kind of support is the American administration planning to offer the Palestinians?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it is very important to support the new Palestinian leadership and also a democratic reform in the Palestinian territories, the Palestinian Authority. I will be speaking with President Abbas about some of the steps that we can take. The President announced in his State of the Union that we will make available to the Palestinians more assistance for humanitarian purposes and for reconstruction and development. We will also be working with others in the Quartet, in the EU in the World Bank to try and promote re-construction and development and assistance. The Palestinian people deserve a better life than they have had. I think you are seeing the international community rally around the Palestinian leadership. The Palestinian leadership will have to make some difficult choices, to do some hard things concerning security, but they will find very good partners in the international community, and the United States will be foremost among them. ! ar

QUESTION: Does the American administration consider the disengagement plan a part of the Roadmap? Don’t you think it shouldn’t be a dual plan with the Palestinians?

SECRETARY RICE: The disengagement plan is an historic opportunity for the Palestinians to have territory returned to them, that can then begin to be the foundation for a new state. It is of course not just for Gaza, but four settlements in the West Bank, so there is a link between the Gaza and the West Bank in the plan. It will help the parties get back unto the Roadmap which is a specific series of steps that must be taken. But it is a very positive development, and we really hope that the Palestinian leadership will take advantage of this opportunity to move forward.

QUESTION: Despite the Israelis’ commitment in the Roadmap to dismantle illegal settlements, a new report by Shalom Achshav, or Peace Now movement, shows that Israel hasn’t dismantled any of these illegal settlements. What is your position? Did you discuss this issue with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday?

SECRETARY RICE: Well we have been very clear that we do not think that settlement activity contributes to the prospects for peace. Indeed in the Roadmap there are obligations concerning a freeze on settlements. I would note that the withdrawal from the Gaza of course, will result in the dismantling of settlements as will the withdrawal from four settlements in the West Bank. So, we can see some potential progress there. I have talked with Prime Minister Sharon about the understandings that I had when I was National Security Advisor with his Special Advisor, Mr. Dubi Weisglass. And we have asked and said to the Israelis that it is important to make progress on all of those, and that includes for instance the dismantling of illegal outposts.

QUESTION: The prisoners’ issue is of great significance to the Palestinians, but Israel is not showing enough flexibility in the issue. Do you see a kind of any involvement, American involvement to solve this issue?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the prisoner issue is a very difficult one of course, and I would hope that some progress could be made on that issue. I think that progress will be made on that issue. I would not presume to try and tell the parties which prisoners should be released, this is a very difficult situation and difficult issue. But I do think that as a part of a larger package, in which not just the Israelis but the Palestinians make difficult choices as well, that they will make progress on this very difficult issue.

In the long run, the security of both Israelis and Palestinians will depend on the ability of both sides to fight terror. On the ability to have, as President Abbas has put it, one authority and one gun. So, the re-unification of the Palestinian security forces, the restruction of the security forces is something else that I think the United States will be able to be helpful with the Palestinians.

QUESTION: My last question, please. Which guarantees can the American administration grant to Chairman Abbas in order to achieve a cease-fire agreement with the opposition Islamic movements.

SECRETARY RICE: The very best thing that we can say – I think that the United States can say to President Abbas, is that we are working very, very hard with everyone to try and give this new Palestinian leadership a chance to make good decisions on behalf of the Palestinian people. That will include financial support. It will include political support. It will include training and security. It will include efforts with other parties to get them to be active. One thing that is very important is that the other parties in the region support this Palestinian leadership, and they can do that in two important ways. financial support: there are a number of states that have made pledges to support the Palestinians financially that have not been fulfilled. They need to be fulfilled. There is also the matter of telling those who would try and disrupt the process – that is the rejectionists, the terrorists – that they will get no support from states i! n the region, that they will get no support from the Europeans because in order to have peace, everyone will have to make difficult decisions, and that includes the Israelis, the Palestinians, the Arab neighbors, the Europeans, and the United States.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary of the United States, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, thank you very much for being with us.



PM Sharon: PA Must Do More to Stop Attacks

(IFM) Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Friday afternoon that the Palestinian Authority was not doing enough to curtail terror attacks against Israel, and that the recent deployment of security forces throughout the Gaza Strip, had not significantly contributed to reducing terrorism, reports the Jerusalem Post. Sharon emphasized that reviving the road map process would be possible only after the Palestinians halt terrorist activities, dismantle terrorist infrastructures and implement administrative reforms.

Sharon’s comments follow the Palestinians’ refusal of gestures made by Israel to ease the resumption of dialogue between the two parties. A Palestinian delegation walked out of a meeting with Sharon’s advisor Dov Weisglass owing to Israel’s decision to release "only" 900 security prisoners. The PA delegation, which included Minister Saeb Erekat and Mohammed Dahlan, demanded the release of some eight thousand Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israeli prisons, including detainees with "blood on their hands" whom Israel has explicitly refused to release at this stage.

This Tuesday a four-way summit is to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, hosted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and attended by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah.

U.S. Could Train “Unified” Palestinian Security Forces

(IFM) U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the United States was preparing to help train Palestinian security forces, which, she emphasized, had to be unified under one body, Ha’Aretz reported. "The Palestinian security forces need to be unified," Rice said at a press conference in London after meeting with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. "There needs to be, as the Palestinians themselves say, ‘one authority, one gun.’"

"And there will need to be some international effort, and the United States is prepared to play a major role in that, to help in the training of the Palestinian security forces and in making sure that they are security forces that are part of the solution, not part of the problem," she continued.

However, Rice also limited the role of the United States in Israeli-Palestinian talks, indicating she did not plan to attend next Tuesday’s Middle East summit meeting in Egypt. "Not every effort has to be an American effort," Rice said. "It is extremely important that the parties themselves are taking responsibility."

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State announced Friday that an attack on Iran over its nuclear program was "not on the agenda at this point."

Remarks by U.S. State Department
Deputy Spokesman, Adam Ereli

Washington, DC

Issues Covered

Independent Inquiry Committee’s Interim Report on UN Oil for Food Program Purpose for Establishing Oil for Food Program 2005 UN Commission on Human Rights Agenda

Arrest of Former Consular Associate on Charges of Bribery and Visa Fraud Appointment of State Department Senior Officials / Timing of Announcements Departure of Deputy Secretary Armitage

Finance Ministerial in London

Counterterrorism Conference in Saudi Arabia / US Inter-Agency Delegation to Attend / Congressional Criticism Regarding US Attendance Freedom House Report on Saudi Literature Promoting Hatred

Plane Crash in Afghanistan / Investigation Underway / Possible American Citizens on Board

Kidnapping of Italian Journalist in Iraq Timing for Trial of Saddam Hussein / Proceedings for Trial

Sharm el-Sheikh Summit / Israel, Palestinians, Egypt and Jordan to Participate Prospects for Secretary Rice Attending Sharm Summit Assistant Secretary Burns’ Travel to Region Secretary Rice’s Travel to the Region

Withdraws Offer to Disarm

Reported North Korean Threat Against US Bases in Asia

Planning for US-Japan 2+2 Ministerial Meetings

Elections in Thailand This Weekend

Secretary General’s Recommendation to Create Peacekeeping Mission

Tsunami Relief Efforts

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Remarks by U.S. State Department
Deputy Spokesman, Adam Ereli

February 4, 2005
12:50 p.m. EST

MR. ERELI: Well, in the spirit of Friday, I don’t have any — since it’s Friday, and we’re all TGIF-ing, I don’t have any announcements to make and we’ll go to your questions.

QUESTION: Well, we’re not going to be laid back today. You have a lot of ground to cover, including —

MR. ERELI: Oh, I’m not laid back.

QUESTION: No, no, I mean —

MR. ERELI: I just don’t have any announcements.


QUESTION: It’s not a half work day.

The scandal, the UN scandal, the Oil-for-Food scandal, initially, when this broke, the State Department’s position was, whoever administers this, whoever is in charge of this, is responsible if any wrongdoing is found. So you have disclosures now by Mr. Volcker, is that the end of it or do you think the UN Secretary General has brought some responsibility to bear?

MR. ERELI: Well, the Secretary General, I think has been very clear. He has said that, as chief administrative officer of the UN, he holds himself responsible and accountable for its management. He reiterated his commitment to take appropriate action against individuals and entities that have violated the rules. And he, himself, stated that measures need to be taken to remedy some of the defects.

This is important. I think this is a clear statement of concern and commitment and responsibility on the part of the leadership of the United Nations, and we note that and we welcome that. And let’s see what they do in terms of following up.

QUESTION: That sounds like mistakes were made. Obviously, you’d like to repair anything that went wrong. But has there been enough wrongdoing unearthed, uncovered that somebody who bears responsibility should step down?

MR. ERELI: A couple of points to make: One is, it’s an interim report. There is going to be another report looking at other aspects of the program. So, frankly, I don’t want to — I don’t think we’re in a position to come to any definitive conclusions until the full accounting is done.

There are other investigations out there that we continue to cooperate. There are congressional investigations. There are judicial investigations. So, likewise, it wouldn’t be appropriate, I think, to make final conclusions until we finish our cooperation and those investigations are completed.

Clearly, what we have as of today are serious charges regarding the conduct of certain UN officials and recognition of the need for broader management reforms and increased transparency. These are things that we have advocated for a long time. I think that when you take into account what the Committee has found and what the Secretary General himself has said, we share a common desire and a common commitment to full accounting and full accountability. And that’s what’s going to guide our actions and our policies throughout this process.

QUESTION: It sounds like you’re prepared to let people off the hook and just mop afterwards — have a better system.

MR. ERELI: There’s nothing I said that would lead anyone to conclude that.

QUESTION: But why are you so — I don’t mean you, Adam. I mean the State Department.

MR. ERELI: I’ll be clear. We believe in full accounting and full accountability. That is what has guided our actions from the very beginning: Supporting the creation of this Committee, cooperating with this Committee and cooperating with the numerous other investigations that are out there, and the long advocacy of management reforms and transparency throughout the UN.

So I don’t see how you can get from that statement and that policy and that position to the conclusion that we somehow want to let people off the hook.

QUESTION: Paul Volcker — his stature is unquestioned. I mean, he’s a man of integrity. Hasn’t he discerned, discovered enough for the State Department to conclude that something is rotten up at the UN, or is the State Department’s position is if anything’s rotten, well, it ought to be fixed? I hear things about repairing the UN. I don’t hear a thing — I don’t mean you, whoever writes, whoever takes the — takes these decisions at the State Department.

There’s no State Department investigation that I know of. Senator Coleman began this and you’re supporting that and you’re supporting other things, you say. The State Department is not a bystander in this Oil-for-Food program, you’re a participant. American money —

MR. ERELI: Well, let’s be clear. The Oil — I’m sorry. The Oil-for-Food program was administered by the United Nations —


MR. ERELI: — and by the office of — by offices of the United Nations. It was not administered by the United States Government or by the State Department.

QUESTION: Of course it wasn’t. We know that.

MR. ERELI: So the Security Council —

QUESTION: But the UN is —

MR. ERELI: Excuse me, excuse me. The Security Council — the Security Council — was responsible for oversight and there’s plenty of evidence, plenty of indications, that the United States, as a member of the Security Council, was very attentive to its oversight responsibilities and pushed the office responsible for this, for the 661 Committee to act in a responsible way.

I’ll give you a couple of examples: The report found that UN auditors lacked sufficient resources to effectively audit the Oil-for-Food program and that the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight reporting to the General Assembly on the activities of its internal audit division was inadequate. The United States, as a member of the United Nations, had long advocated additional resources and authorities for the Office of Internal Oversight Services, and we also supported a General Assembly resolution to bolster the offices’ transparency and independence that enabled member-states to request and to be provided with those offices’ reports.

So I think from the very beginning, our record is clear and our record is to be commended: calling for an investigation, and during the period of the Oil-for-Food Program, being consistent, being persistent in calling attention to problems with the Oil-for-Food Program, calling for corrective actions to be made and being very clear about things that were happening that troubled us.

So I don’t see how there is any basis for concluding that somehow we were either unaware or did not take action on problems that were happening. And now that there is a report, I think it’s very clear that we think that the report has provided a useful accounting, an important accounting of how a program was mismanaged, and how management controls were not in place, and that statements by the Secretary General are to be welcomed that accountability will be provided for.

QUESTION: I’ll let it go. But my question has been misunderstood, perhaps badly phrased on my part. I’m saying the UN isn’t — doesn’t exist on Mars. The UN is a creature of the United States, mostly —

MR. ERELI: Barry —

QUESTION: — and many, many countries around the world.

MR. ERELI: The United Nations is an international organization of —

QUESTION: When the Clinton Administration was displeased —

MR. ERELI: — over 100 member states.

QUESTION: — with the UN Secretary General at the time, Boutros-Gali, he was dead meat. He was gone. He was over. His career ended as the — now whether it was right or wrong, you had the clout to remove a Secretary General, besides asking for reform and watching investigations and contributing to them.

What I’m asking — and I know the answer — is: Have you heard enough that — for the United States to say, changes have to be made in personnel at the UN, or do you need to know more?

MR. ERELI: I think this is an investigation that is not complete. There are other investigations. We will continue to cooperate with those investigations. We urge others to do so. We think the findings to date are important, are noteworthy and call for management reform and other actions, and we will continue to work with the UN and others toward that goal.

QUESTION: While you did — while there is, you know, mention that the United States, as a member of the 661 Committee, and other countries on this 661 Committee did raise problems about some of the pricing of some contracts, there is also evidence that the 661 Committee let other contracts that turned out to be, you know, involved in this scandal, let other contracts go through.

So when you say that you’re looking for a full accountability and a full accounting, does that include your role and other countries’ role on the 661 Committee —

MR. ERELI: Sure.

QUESTION: — and how those contracts —

MR. ERELI: Sure. We welcome that inquiry and we think it’s important that people understand what was done to — done and not done to prevent cheating and — by Saddam through the Oil-for-Food Program.

QUESTION: So I mean, are you looking on your own role on the oversight of this committee?

MR. ERELI: Well, we’re not investigating ourselves.

QUESTION: Well, do you plan on it as a result of this report, on how you can make best practices?

MR. ERELI: No, I don’t — I think what we’re doing is cooperating with the Volcker committee, cooperating with the congressional committees who have — who are concerned that structures set up under the United Nations auspices were not properly administered and did not function consistent with their goals and consistent with acceptable practices. And to the extent that the 661 Committee in its actions and its decisions contributed to that malfunctioning, then we are — then we are — we think the light should be shone on that aspect of the issue.


QUESTION: Adam, there’s a second scandal involving the State Department. There’s a consular associate that’s under arrest here in Washington, denied bail for permitting bribes to take place in Armenia. And what are the rules and regulations concerning issuing visas? And, of course —

QUESTION: Can you tell him about the associates and —

MR. ERELI: The — I know, I know, I know. You want the rules of issuing visas? Well, that’s quite a mouthful because it’s governed by congressional legislation and depending on what the purpose for travel is and what — who the person is. So I couldn’t really get into that broad topic in the context of this briefing.

If you’re asking about the specific case, I can tell you something about that. A Mr. Piotr Parlej, who is a 45-year-old American citizen, he formerly worked as a consular associate in the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, was arrested yesterday on charges of bribery and visa fraud. He was arrested by Diplomatic Security agents and taken into custody at the Department of State. The gentleman is suspected of taking bribes in exchange for issuing fraudulent visas at our Embassy in Yerevan, and he will — he is scheduled to appear before a United States Magistrate Judge today.

It is, since it’s an ongoing investigation, I’d refer you to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for more information.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the UN oil program? There are all sorts of large estimates as to how much Saddam Hussein stole by virtue of this program. One of the networks yesterday — I think it was NBC, but I may be wrong — spoke of over a billion dollars. You know, again, was the U.S. watching?

But putting that aside for a moment, do you have any estimate of how much Saddam Hussein and his pals were able to get out of the thing? The people went hungry.

MR. ERELI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Children died.

MR. ERELI: Yeah.

QUESTION: This was a program the U.S. helped organize out of charity, out of grace, out of concern that the sanctions were hurting innocent people. So you set this thing up with the UN, or the UN sets it up with you, and as a result it’s corruption on one end and it’s corruption on the other end, and the people are the victims. What’s new? That always happens. But any — how much did he come off with? Do you have any idea?

MR. ERELI: I don’t have a specific figure available to share with you. In fact, I think it’s very difficult to get a really clear picture of how much he might have skimmed off because of the shadowy nature of the deals and the complex nature of the transactions. But I think there are a couple of important points to make because you talk about suffering of the Iraqi people and failure of the program. It’s important to remember a couple of things.

First of all, why was this program created? The reason the program was created was because Saddam Hussein refused to sell oil and refused to buy food and necessities for his own people. He was the one who was deliberately starving the Iraqi people in defiance of international — UN Security Council resolutions.

So the Security Council came up with this program, the Oil-for-Food program, that provided a mechanism for getting goods to the people of Iraq. And although it wasn’t perfect, although it was subject to manipulation by Saddam, it did accomplish — it did accomplish some significant and noteworthy things, particularly in, as I said before, providing food, providing medicine, and providing needed humanitarian items to the people of Iraq.

So I don’t think one should look at it solely in terms of — one should not let the corruption and the distortion of the program completely overshadow the fact that it did, to an important extent, serve the purposes for which it was designed. Was it perfect? Was it free of manipulation? No. But did it help? Yes.


QUESTION: Adam, there is a meeting in London, the G-8 International Financing Facility Summit, and Nelson Mandela has addressed the group. He’s saying there seems to be a chasm between the rich and the poor countries; and also, the UK seems to be at odds with what the United States wants to project. This is a dispute between grants versus loans. Do you have anything to say concerning that?

MR. ERELI: Not really. We look forward to joining our G-7 colleagues at this meeting early next week. We look forward to the opportunity to address this very important issue. And I think that we are working now to arrive at a consensus of views that I think will, you know, benefit everybody. But I don’t have, really, the details of those kinds of discussions to share with you now.


QUESTION: And also, a second meeting’s about to concur — or to develop tomorrow morning in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. They are hosting 50 nations, officials with a counterterrorism-type summit over four days.


QUESTION: To what extent will the United States take part?

MR. ERELI: The United States will have an important delegation there led by the President’s National Security — Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism, Dr. Townsend, Mrs. Townsend. And participating from the State Department will be our Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs, Anthony Wayne.

I think the strength of our delegation is a symbol or a signal of the importance we attach to this conference, the importance (a) that it’s in Saudi Arabia, and (b) that it involves such a large gathering of experts from around the world, and (c) the significance of the topic under discussion.

So we are going there in strength. We are going to be looking at ways that we can work with all of our partners in the international community to strengthen our efforts to fight the common threat of terror through the control of financial flows, the sharing of information between law enforcement intelligence agencies, the concerted effort by law enforcement to act on the basis of that information and other ways that, working together, we can get this problem under control.


MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Did you ever get an answer for the question that’s been hanging for several days about the Freedom House report?

MR. ERELI: I don’t have an update on that for you. The last time we talked about it, we said we’d be looking at the report. We also noted that the investigation into what activity — what materials were distributed to whom and what laws or regulations were violated was not a State Department investigation; it was an investigation that would be done by other agencies. We have not heard back. So I’m not in a position to tell you that the — what Freedom House reported is something that we have come to a conclusion that there’s been wrongdoing done by diplomatic establishments.

QUESTION: So you don’t have any opinion as yet on the merits of their conclusion that the Saudi Government participated in the propagation of hate propaganda in American mosques?

MR. ERELI: I do not.


QUESTION: New topic.


QUESTION: Can you say anything about the Americans that were killed in the plane crash in Afghanistan?

MR. ERELI: The first point to make, I think, is that Afghan and ISAF officials are still investigating; search and rescue operations, as far as I understand, are still underway.

QUESTION: Search and rescue or search and recovery?

MR. ERELI: Search and recovery. I think search and rescue is a generic term, but —

QUESTION: Okay, sorry.

MR. ERELI: But those activities associated with an airplane crash are underway. So I don’t have any definitive reports for you about what they found out. Our initial indications were that six American citizens were on board the plane at the time of the crash. We are in contact, obviously, with our Embassy in Kabul to be kept up to date. But we have not been able to identify remains or otherwise confirm those initial indications.

QUESTION: Have you been in touch with the families?


Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Do you have anything — please say something about the Italian journalist kidnapped this morning in Iraq. And I have another question about Iraq.

MR. ERELI: Okay. We’ve seen the same reports that you have. As is customary in these cases, we, to the extent that we’re requested, will cooperate fully with the governments concerned, both through the MNFI as well as whatever assistance we can provide through our embassy.

I can’t give you an update on the status of this case simply because we’re not the ones with all the information. But what I can tell you is that, obviously, when innocent people who are doing important work in Iraq are kidnapped, this is an experience that we certainly — and our citizens have certainly had to go through, unfortunately, and we both sympathize and cooperate, to the extent we can, with friendly nations who find themselves in similar situations.

QUESTION: And the other question is, could you, on a scale of one to ten — no, let’s make it zero to ten because this question might need a zero — is that level of satisfaction for the big victory of the Sistani list?

MR. ERELI: I would not even begin to offer comment on a process that is still very much underway and results are partial and preliminary, and therefore I think it’s certainly premature for us to begin commenting on what — on something that remains to be completed.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: Reporters Without Borders says that China, Cuba and Zimbabwe have been selected to a panel which will decide which cases the UN Human Rights Commission should take up when it convenes next month for their annual meeting. Do you have any observation on that?

MR. ERELI: I had not heard that. It sounds hard to swallow, but let me see what I can find out about what our understanding of who’s been chosen to be on such a panel and what our reaction might be.

QUESTION: What, at this point, will the U.S. representation, if any, be at the Sharm el-Sheikh talks?

MR. ERELI: My understanding is we’ll be represented by an official from our Embassy. I think it’s important to point out that we will not be a participant in the Sharm summit. The participants will be Israel, the Palestinians, Egypt and Jordan. This meeting was organized by the parties involved. And so they’ll be responsible for the details and the logistics and our presence at the summit will be, I think, marginal.

QUESTION: Can you, if you’re able to, go into the reasoning behind that a bit? Is it the feeling they’re doing pretty well on their own and they’re on a roll, or is there a feeling that this is a preliminary phase and doesn’t require or call for high-profile U.S. intervention?

You know, with the Secretary of State in the region, you know, I guess a lot of people might wonder, she’s a half hour away, or will be, why wouldn’t she just pop over because she said she wants to be personally engaged. Here we go. Here’s a chance.

MR. ERELI: Well, a number of points to make.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. ERELI: I wouldn’t construe the — I wouldn’t conclude from the American presence, or lack thereof, at this summit — I wouldn’t draw any conclusions about the degree of commitment and degree of involvement of the United States in helping Israelis and Palestinians resolve their differences.

Assistant Secretary Burns will be leaving today for visits to Egypt and Jordan in preparation for the Secretary’s visit. The Secretary will be visiting later this week. The Secretary will also be going to London, as she said today, to help work with the Europeans, work with the Palestinians in building Palestinian institutions capable of meeting their responsibilities to govern the Palestinian people.

We will also be working — we have been working closely — with the Egyptians, with the Jordanians and with the others in engaging them in ways that they can help support the Israelis and Palestinians as Israel withdraws from Gaza and parts of the West Bank and as the Palestinians develop the institutions and practices to exercise authority over land vacated.

This summit is part of that effort. This summit is an example of the parties themselves working together to support a goal that we all share, a goal that we’ve discussed with the parties. It’s a move that we’ve certainly supported. We’ve certainly, I think, been part of the thinking. But you don’t have to be at every gathering at the highest level to be a player and to be a part of the solution.

QUESTION: Minor thing, maybe, but is the U.S. picking up the check in any way —

MR. ERELI: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: — for these delegations?

MR. ERELI: Not that I’m aware of.


QUESTION: Can you provide any indication about when Saddam might go on trial?

MR. ERELI: No, I’d refer you to the Iraqi tribunal for that.

QUESTION: Can you say anything more about the process and what are the impediments? Is there anything going to happen in 2005? He’s been arrested for almost 14 months.

MR. ERELI: Well, a couple of points to make. First of all, this is a process that is in the hands of the Iraqi authorities. They are in a much better position than I am to answer questions about where they are in preparations for bringing Saddam Hussein, as well as others in custody, to trial for crimes committed.

We, as you know, primarily through the Department of Justice and through our Embassy, have been working with the Iraqis in helping to set up the tribunal and help developing the capacities to carry out a judicial action of this scope and this complexity. And we continue to do that; we continue to work with them. I don’t think that if you look at other proceedings, other such similar proceedings that 14 months is an overly long time, especially when you’re starting from scratch the way the Iraqis were.

So they’re moving forward. We’re supporting them. The international community as a whole is supporting them. There are others that are working with the Iraqis. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. It’s important that a couple of very key principles be respected, and that those principles are transparency. And you don’t want to rush through things, you don’t want to do things that can’t withstand the scrutiny of outside examination. So they’re deliberate. They’re purposeful. And we’re helping them. But as far as a timetable, you’ll have to talk to the Iraqis.

QUESTION: Would you assume it might be this year?

MR. ERELI: I’m not going to make any assumptions.



QUESTION: The IRA is balking again at disarming. Do you have any comment?

MR. ERELI: The Provisional Irish Republican Army stated on February 2nd that it is withdrawing its offer to disarm. We believe that this statement is unwelcome. We share the view of the British and Irish prime ministers that the continuation of paramilitarism and associated criminality remain the central obstacle to a lasting and durable peace in Northern Ireland. And we believe that all paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland should follow through on the Good Friday Agreement commitments to the decommissioning of all weapons.

QUESTION: Are they the only ones balking? Are they the only problem, if you happen to know?

MR. ERELI: I believe that they’re the biggest problem.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: About one week ago, I asked a question about the Chinese official Jia Qinglin’s policy speech on Taiwan, and the answer was that people here are studying it. Do you have any more on this?

MR. ERELI: No, I don’t. I don’t.

QUESTION: Okay. Did you see a report about North Korea threatening to attack U.S. bases in Asia?

MR. ERELI: No, I hadn’t seen that report.

QUESTION: So you’re —

MR. ERELI: I hadn’t.

QUESTION: Okay. We’ll try one more. I don’t know if — or maybe this is a little too far anyway. I don’t know if you can comment on a meeting between U.S. and Japan in about two weeks over here about U.S.-Japan security alliance.

MR. ERELI: I believe that plans are being drawn up for such a meeting. These are the "2+2" ministerials. I don’t have a final date to announce for you, but I think preparations are being made.

QUESTION: No more elaboration?

MR. ERELI: No more.

QUESTION: One last thing. Do you have a new Assistant Secretary for East Asia yet?

MR. ERELI: Nothing to announce.

QUESTION: Just to touch on that a little bit. This morning, I realized that maybe it’s not unprecedented, but we’re well into a new Administration but a lot of posts — in some cases we have parallel officials, in some cases —

MR. ERELI: Where do we have parallel officials?

QUESTION: Well, we’ve got — I mean, we have — we’ve got an incoming and an outgoing spokesman, for instance, traveling with the Secretary. Fair enough. More information for the press, right?

MR. ERELI: Yeah, there’s —

QUESTION: They can listen in on all the interviews with David Frost and tell us what happened. But here’s — you know, the point is there are people, presumably, lined up for some major jobs. There are people who have sent in their resignations several weeks ago. Do you know when there’s going to be that wholesale — we’re not rushing anybody out of here, but when does this happen?

MR. ERELI: This is a process that is common to every transition. This transition is no exception. You have officials who resign, and when you ask about those officials, if they’ve submitted their resignation, we tell you. They will be — those resignations that have been given will — some have already taken effect. Some will be taking effect in the coming weeks or months. As people leave, there are acting assistant secretaries or acting directors who are very capable of getting the job done until a successor is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Congress. That is — I can’t comment on that because that is a process that has to go through the, you know, required steps. And when those steps are complete, nominations are announced. And again, it has a momentum and a timing all its own, but something that we go through every four years and really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anybody who’s been around covering this as long as you have.

QUESTION: No, but I mean — well, and I can’t remember. This is Bush II. This isn’t like the Democrats are succeeding the Republicans or vice versa. This is the same President and he’s juggled his cabinet. The new cabinet officers are in and the ones that are leaving are gone.

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: We have some very nice people here, who, as far as I’m concerned, I wish would stay forever, but they’ve resigned and they’re still carrying on the job. And you have some nice people, competent people, who everybody knows is going to get their jobs and they’re in far distant posts right now and there’s no indication that they’re about to move their football helmets into their offices. So I’m just puzzled by it. I mean, I don’t think it’s unusual —

MR. ERELI: It will all take place in due course with minimum disruption.


MR. ERELI: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Thailand is holding elections on Sunday. There’s lots of violence there. Do you have any comment?

MR. ERELI: I’m afraid I don’t. I will ask our folks if they do have a comment and see if I can’t get you something.

QUESTION: All right. Since you couldn’t answer that one, is Secretary Armitage finished?


QUESTION: No follow-up paragraph to that yes?

MR. ERELI: Is he finished? He is no longer serving as Deputy Secretary of State, is my understanding.

QUESTION: Is Mr. Bolton still in service?

MR. ERELI: Mr. Bolton is still in service.

QUESTION: Who’s the acting Deputy? Marc Grossman?

MR. ERELI: There is none.


QUESTION: Is Marc Grossman still in —

MR. ERELI: Marc Grossman is still in the job.

QUESTION: So then he’s effectively running the building while the Secretary is away?

MR. ERELI: He is, I guess, the senior official in the building.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Adam, the UN has announced that they are sending 10,130 army-type troops into what was eastern Sudan with regard to the agreement that was signed months ago, and 755 civilian police. Under the circumstances with the fighting and potential genocide in western Darfur, should that be enlarged to encompass the west of the country as well? The Russians have already announced they’re going to deploy troops.

MR. ERELI: Yeah, I think you’re getting a little bit ahead of yourself. What the Secretary General has done, has recommended, he has recommended the creation of a UN mission in Sudan that would include peacekeeping under Chapter 6 of the UN Charter as well Chapter 7 authority for protection of civilians under imminent threat of violence. The purpose of this mission would be to monitor the implementation of the January 9th peace agreement. That includes monitoring the movement of armed groups, voluntary disarmament and liaising with the African Union.

The United States believes that a UN peacekeeping mission in support of the north-south ceasefire and the peace process in Sudan is justified and necessary. We will be working with the Secretary General and our other Security Council colleagues on a resolution to create such a mission.

As far as Darfur goes, as I said, the immediate mandate of this mission is the implementation of the January 9th peace agreement. Obviously, broader expansion of this mission into Darfur at the appropriate time and in coordination with the African Union is something that we think is important and necessary.

Thank you. Oh, I’m sorry. We have one question. Sorry. Luis.

QUESTION: Last question on the tsunami. Has there been an increase in the level of spending or commitment for the 350 million that was committed to aid and tsunami relief?

MR. ERELI: I’ll get back to you with the exact figures of what we have spent to date. As you know, we have obtained $350 million, budgeted $350 million, for tsunami relief and we have been drawing down on that amount as we deal with the crisis. I don’t have the exact figure of where we are today in terms of what — how much of that 350 million we’ve spent. It’s significant, but I’ll have to get you the exact figure. And obviously, we are looking ahead to the longer term and more expensive reconstruction and rehabilitation requirements, and I expect we’ll be coming forward with some assessments of what will be needed for that in the near future.

QUESTION: Will that be coming down in the budget request this week?

MR. ERELI: Pardon?

QUESTION: Will that be coming down in the budget request next week?

MR. ERELI: I don’t — I’m not sure. And taken question, yeah, we’ll post the amount spent.


QUESTION: Can I ask one last question? Adam, one last question?

MR. ERELI: Yes, sure.

QUESTION: Getting back to the terror conference. There’s been some criticism on Capitol Hill that the U.S. is participating in a conference that includes three countries that are on the State Department’s list of Sponsors of Terror —

MR. ERELI: Yeah.

QUESTION: — including, namely, Iran, Syria and Sudan. And I think Senator Lautenberg has sent a letter to President Bush saying that this just defies common sense.

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: What’s your reaction to that?

MR. ERELI: I’ve not seen that letter and I think that our participation in this conference will — it certainly is intended to, and I think, will strengthen counterterrorism cooperation, and certainly will not, in any way, lead to looking the other way or condoning or in other — in any other way sanctioning — or approving what countries who support terrorism do.

QUESTION: Thank you.

END 1:30 P.M.