Friday, October 14, 2005

# Posted 5:36 PM by Patrick Belton  

FOGGY BOTTOM WATCH: From today's State Department Press Briefing.
QUESTION: Change the subject? There's a report in The Post today that there's a whole shipment of British MREs that's sort of languishing in a warehouse because of fears of mad cow and I think the State Department is supposed to be making some efforts to dispatch them. Can you describe to where?

DEPUTY DEPT SPOKESMAN ADAM ERELI: Well, let me -- again, in the interest of clarity, see if I can't make some points to help you look at this issue. First of all, fears of -- it's not an issue of fear of mad cow. It's an application of U.S. law. There are legal requirements that dictate how we treat this material. So we are bound by U.S. law governing British beef imports. And so that's point one. There's sort of an objective criteria here that we have a statutory obligation to follow. Now, in the wake of Katrina, there was a worldwide appeal for assistance, based on a request from the Foreign Emergency Management Agency, which we sent out. As you know, the response was overwhelming and very moving for the United States. Among the offers of aid were MREs from a number of countries, including Britain. The State Department's role was to coordinate the reception and handling of the foreign aid, which we did. We received these MREs, some of them based on needs that were communicated to us by FEMA, were distributed to people in need. Others, because of U.S. legal restrictions, were not distributed; they remain in a warehouse, and we would certainly hope that other countries in need or other needy populations would be able to make use of them. And we certainly invite any countries that see a need to contact us. Meanwhile we will do what we can to see if we can't find deserving recipients of this stuff.

QUESTION: But not recipients in this country?

MR. ERELI: I mean there's no need in this country. I mean, let me put it this way, the need for MREs, as a result of Hurricane Katrina, was met in the first few days. And unfortunately, supply exceeded demand in this regard. And now we have an excess of supply that we're going to try to dispose of in a responsible way, giving it to people who need it. But again, there are legal restrictions as to our ability to distribute it in the United States.

QUESTION: Can I have one?

MR. ERELI: Yeah, sure.
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