State Department Briefing with Department Deputy Spokesperson Adam Ereli on P5+1 Conference Call with Javier Solana (Excerpts)

June 21, 2006

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QUESTION: On Iran, I guess. Iran and North Korea are the issues of the day. The Iranians will respond, they say, mid-August, a little slowly. Have you -- has the U.S. been getting any indications from intermediaries or others as to what the Iranian thinking is? The Italian Minister is supposed to meet, for instance, with the Iranian Foreign Minister. Are you getting any -- you know, anything being whispered in your ear that may be relevant to Iran's ultimate statement?

MR. ERELI: With respect to the reports from Iran about comments by the Iranian President, I would point you to what President Bush said earlier today in Vienna that it shouldn't really take the Iranians that long to analyze what is a reasonable offer. I would also note that the P-5+1 political directors have had a conference call. They discussed this latest development. They all agreed that the P-5+Germany has made a very good offer to Iran and we all urge Iran to accept that proposal. They reiterated the common view that we said on June 1st: We expect a response within weeks, not months. And that was reaffirmed today in the call.

And with regard to what we're hearing from Iran and what we're picking up from Iran, I would simply note that the conference call also reaffirmed the common position that our proposal was conveyed to the Iranians by Javier Solana, specifically to Mr. Larijani, and that we would expect their response to come through the same channel.


QUESTION: What prompted the call?

MR. ERELI: The statement by the Iranian President wanting to coordinate and remain on the same page as part of really a common effort to get a positive response to a very good proposal.

QUESTION: Well, there had been some indications that the Iranians knew an exact date as to when to respond, so is this sort of saying mid-August going in the face of that?

MR. ERELI: I'm not going to interpret Iranian statements. What I can tell you is what the commonly held view and common position of the P-5+1 is, and that is that this is that we've got a good proposal, that there's a positive way forward, that our common position is Iran should provide a positive response within weeks not months, and that's where we continue to be.


QUESTION: Was Mr. Solana on the call this morning and have you heard from Mr. Solana's office whether he has been given an indication one way or another when they will respond formally?

MR. ERELI: The call was with political directors and I believe the Secretary did meet with Mr. Solana yesterday. I don't have a readout of that, so I think it's safe to say that we continue to work closely at all levels to advance what is a good proposal.

QUESTION: It's only a minor point but it helps to phrase -- in phrasing things. Who initiated this conference call?

MR. ERELI: I'll have to check. I'll have to check.

QUESTION: Adam, you said it shouldn't take the Iranians that long. Does --

MR. ERELI: Actually, the President said that.

QUESTION: Okay. When you repeat the Administration position that it shouldn't take the Iranians that long, is State --

MR. ERELI: And he actually, said, I believe, "It seems like an awful long time for a reasonable answer."

QUESTION: Okay, I don't need you to repeat all that, but --

MR. ERELI: To be accurate.

QUESTION: Going back to the phrase "shouldn't take the Iranians that long," does that mean that you're rejecting outright their response that it would take them until mid-August? You're saying no, you cannot take that long?

MR. ERELI: Our view is that, again, that this should be a matter of weeks not months.

QUESTION: Are you rejecting the date of mid-August?

MR. ERELI: I would say we believe it should be a matter of weeks not months.

QUESTION: But weeks from now could be mid-August. It depends on how --

MR. ERELI: Well, we said that on June 1st.

QUESTION: Right. And in the phone call --

MR. ERELI: And that continues to be our position.

QUESTION: In the phone call you just went over all the things they already -- we already know. They agreed we made a good offer, we reaffirm our common position, blah, blah, blah. Why would they have a conference call if they're all just going to go, "We made a good offer," yeah, yeah, yeah? Did they do anything new?

MR. ERELI: Diplomacy is not static. It's dynamic. And when there are events and developments, it's important to consult, to share information and to maintain a united front. And that was the purpose of the call.

QUESTION: But you didn't tell us anything new that came out of that phone call.

MR. ERELI: I think the fact that -- I think it's noteworthy and newsworthy that our coordinated, consensual diplomacy remains firm and strong and that where we are -- the common approach that we have taken is still the basis for the diplomacy and there's no change in that. And that, when you've got new developments happening, is, I think, an important sign post for those who are following the issue.

QUESTION: This offer was formulated by the foreign ministers in Vienna. The next meeting of the same foreign ministers will be in Moscow the 29th of June. What do you plan to do if you don't have an answer by then, by there?

MR. ERELI: I certainly don't want to get ahead of the foreign ministers, so I'll say that this is an issue that, as you can see with today's call, that we are actively working. And our goal is a positive response from the Iranians and we will continue to do everything we can to bring about that result, and that's what will inform the deliberations of the foreign ministers when they meet in Moscow.


QUESTION: If it took the Iranians until mid-August, if your goal is a positive response and they said we need until mid-August to come back to you, if that would help you get a positive response, you've said in the past, oh, we think a couple more weeks is a good investment. If the Iranians say that's what they need to come to a decision, why would you now not be able to say that would be a good investment?

MR. ERELI: I will refrain from conducting that kind of diplomacy from the podium and simply reiterate what I said earlier, which is that the proposal was presented by Solana to Larijani. We look forward to hearing back from Larijani through -- to Solana in weeks not months about the response. We haven't -- that hasn't happened. That's what we're looking for.

QUESTION: So is your complaint more that it didn't go through the right channel or that it would be --

MR. ERELI: We haven't gotten those but -- we haven't gotten the response that was agreed -- in the channel that was agreed upon and that's where our diplomacy is being conducted and we've made that clear since the proposal was presented.

QUESTION: Adam, it isn't clear though why you're so -- the U.S. is so troubled by not getting a response for what, six, seven weeks, instead of three, four weeks.

MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Considering what's at stake, I mean, do you feel that in that period Iran's program may take some important steps forward? What is -- I mean, obviously you'd like to know their answer.

MR. ERELI: Well, I think --

QUESTION: But apart from impatience and curiosity, this is big, big stuff. So why does a couple of weeks make a difference?

MR. ERELI: (a) We've been talking about this for a while. I mean, the EU-3 -- this is -- the basis of these negotiations, the basis of this deal has been around for a while, number one. Number two, this shouldn't take that long. It's not that difficult an issue to address. Number three, I think that as the President has said, the moment is right now. Now is the time for Iran to accept this offer. It's not our patience isn't unlimited. I think there needs to be a -- we need to be clear about where we want to see things going and how long we think it should take, and that's what's behind the common position of the P-5+1.

QUESTION: But you're not suggesting, in any way, that the next few weeks are critical in Iran's enrichment program and other aspects of its weapons program? You're giving reasons why, you know, you'd like to get an answer and like to get it promptly. It ain't that complicated and you think it's a great offer and blah, blah, blah. But could it be that they're dragging their feet for some military purpose, for some development purpose?

MR. ERELI: Iran continues to engage in enrichment activity. That enrichment activity is of great concern to the international community. That concern has been expressed in numerous IAEA Board of Governors resolutions. It has been the subject of discussion and debate and statements in the Security Council. So I think that our -- what Iran is doing has been noted, the concerns have been noted, and on that basis there is a serious and attractive and effective proposal on the table to deal with it. It's time for Iran to respond to that proposal and we have made that position clear. I'm making it clear today. I made it clear on June 1st. Nothing has changed in that position.


QUESTION: You say that your patience is not unlimited. Is it possible that this offer could be taken off the table and was this discussed at the political directors' meeting?

MR. ERELI: I think we've been very clear that there are two pathways and it's up to Iran to choose which one it wants to take: The pathway of positive engagement through negotiations or the pathway of confrontation and further isolation. That was made clear when the proposal was presented. It has been made clear in all of our subsequent discussions on the matter. I don't really have anything new to add to that.

QUESTION: Is there any plan -- after the call today, is there any plan for a member of the P-5+1 or Solana to go back to the Iranians and say --

MR. ERELI: I don't believe so, no. That was -- to my knowledge not discussed in the call.

QUESTION: Is there another step for the P -- that you're aware of for the P-5+1? A tour maybe of capitals and meeting in person?

MR. ERELI: I had not heard that. I mean, I think that obviously, as I said before, our diplomacy is dynamic. It's not static. We will continue to work with members of the P-5+1. As you know, John Bolton has been having discussions, as we said yesterday, in New York. I'm sure there'll continue to be discussions between Under Secretary Burns and his colleagues and the Secretary and her counterparts as we move forward in dealing with this significant problem for the international community.

QUESTION: And you say you believe Rice saw Solana --


QUESTION: -- yesterday.


QUESTION: She got there in time.

MR. ERELI: Yeah. It was yesterday or today. It was while they were in Vienna.

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QUESTION: . . . Is it safe to say that the P-5+1 phone call also moved ahead into discussing the next steps that were already, to some degree, laid out in the first -- in the offer?

MR. ERELI: I didn't get that -- I didn't hear that in the readout I got. I'll see if there's anything more I have to say on that.


QUESTION: But for the U.S. it was Mr. Burns, right?

MR. ERELI: Yes, it was Mr. Burns.

QUESTION: And there will be no -- following up on Libby's question -- there will be no answer to the Iranians that this is not acceptable, except through public fora like this?

MR. ERELI: I don't know if there's going to be any specific response to the Iranians. I think, as I said before, the channel that we're using is Solana and Larijani. That's where the discussions are taking place and, you know, that's where our focus in terms of moving this proposal forward lies.

QUESTION: Would it be useful, in your view, to have Mr. Solana go back and speak to Mr. Larijani again?

MR. ERELI: Like I said, I'll leave the next steps in the diplomacy to those who are responsible for conducting them. I don't have anything new to report to you on next moves.

QUESTION: Do you have any indication through others that Iran wants some explanation, some elaboration? I mean, you know, what seems to be impalpable is that it's a straightforward proposal.

MR. ERELI: Right. Well, that's why I keep coming back to --

QUESTION: Maybe they need more --

MR. ERELI: Frankly, that's why I keep coming back to Mr. Larijani.


MR. ERELI: There's a channel for dealing with this issue.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

MR. ERELI: It's between Mr. Solana and Mr. Larijani. If there are concerns or issues or whatever, then let's hear them from Mr. Larijani. That's who the proposal was given to. That's who we're looking to hear from.

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