MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don't have any opening statements so we can get right into your questions. Whoever wants to start.
QUESTION: Have you seen the story about Venezuela planning to obtain air defense missiles to guard against strategic sites such as oil refineries and major bridges, et cetera?
MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen that, George.
QUESTION: All right. It makes for interesting reading.
MR. MCCORMACK: Who are they proposing to buy these from?
QUESTION: Well, surface-to-air missile systems from Russia. And I think they talked also about help from Iran.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Well, we'll take a look at it and see if there's -- see what we know about the sale. With Venezuelans we've talked about their -- what we believe to be an outsized military buildup for their particular needs. I can't -- I'll have to talk to our experts to see if this fills an apparent gap in their defensive military needs and we'll get back to you with an answer.
QUESTION: Also on Venezuela, President Chavez -- the congress is voting either -- I think it was meant to be today but I think it's now being postponed until tomorrow -- granting him more powers to nationalize various industries. I just wondered whether you had any further comment on this.
MR. MCCORMACK: It's a decision for Venezuelan legislators as well as President Chavez. They are the elected representatives of the Venezuelan people. I would just note, however, that this pathway of nationalization of various key industries is a well-worn pathway that really does not lead to, shall we say, positive economic returns. But if those are the decisions that the Venezuelan Government, the elected leaders of the Venezuelan Government, want to make on behalf of the Venezuelan people and what they consider to be in the best interest of the Venezuelan people, then those are decisions that they're going to take. If, in fact, there are any nationalizations of foreign-owned assets, we would fully expect that there be fair market compensation worked out according to the accepted norms of international legal regulation for just compensation.
QUESTION: Do you know how many companies would be affected by early nationalization?
MR. MCCORMACK: Don't know. I don't know. I can't say, Sue. I don't know if we have an early count. But regardless of the numbers, that overall principle certainly does apply.
QUESTION: What is the status of your ambassador in Venezuela? Is he staying or leaving?
MR. MCCORMACK: Doing a great job. He's still there, Bill Brownfield, and he's doing a terrific job on behalf of the Administration down there.
QUESTION: But he's staying? He's not --
MR. MCCORMACK: He is there. We all serve at the pleasure of the President.
QUESTION: Which president? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: In this case, President Bush.
QUESTION: Still same subject?
QUESTION: Tom Shannon has talked about the fact that the United States doesn't want to pay too much attention or be obsessed with Chavez just because he doesn't represent necessarily the majority of the region of Latin America. But would the fact that he's won -- he's helped his friends won -- win elections in other countries, how we've got Bolivia, now we have Nicaragua --
MR. MCCORMACK: He also lost an election for one of his friends in Peru.
QUESTION: Right. But -- and the fact that John Negroponte this morning talked about the region and he said that he would -- that will be one of his focuses when he comes here. Is the Department planning to sort of reenergize its efforts with Latin America? And I know that you wouldn't agree with perhaps some statements that --
MR. MCCORMACK: You're anticipating my first sentence.
QUESTION: Right. But that you haven't paid enough attention to the region. But since Bob Zoellick left, there haven't been very, very high-level visits down there.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, certainly visits aren't the only metric of energy devoted to a particular set of relationships. Secretary Rice, for example, sat down with President Calderon when he was up here prior to his election. And Nick Burns has made several trips down to the region, in particular to Colombia. I can go down the list in terms of visits that we have had, but we devote quite a bit of energy to our relationships in the hemisphere. They're very important to us. And I think that those efforts will only be built upon by John Negroponte. I think he has a vast amount of experience in the region. I expect that he will take a particular interest in those portfolios, and he as well as Secretary Rice are going to continue to be very engaged on issues related to the hemisphere.
QUESTION: Change of subject.
QUESTION: Just one more on Venezuela.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Are you concerned about the extent of Venezuela's military deals that it's trying to (inaudible) viewing it as a threat by Chavez to the stability of Latin America with the Russia story that was talked about but as well as relations with Iran to build unmanned aerial surveillance and border patrol?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I know that they have talked with the Iranians about various kinds of deals for various kinds of equipment. I don't know whether or not those will ever materialize or if that's just a lot of rhetoric. But we have talked about the fact that Venezuela has out-sized military purchasing plans for what, I think, are commonly accepted defensive needs within the region. We have made those concerns known, made them clear. In some cases we have denied permission for foreign governments to export proposed arms to Venezuela. Because they contained U.S. technology we didn't think it was appropriate to allow those sales to move forward. And we have previously expressed our concerns about the activities of the Chavez government with -- throughout the region engaging in, at times, some destabilizing behavior.
There we are -- the sound goes away.
So we have stated concerns about that in the past.
I'll have to look into the reports that George cited here at the beginning about the surface-to-air missiles. I can't tell you whether or not in our assessment those fit in with their defensive needs or whether or not this is just a provocative step that they have decided to take for whatever reason.
QUESTION: The fact that you said that it's the Administration's intention to provide the evidence of Iran's meddling in Iraq, is it still your intention to provide that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect on our own timetable we will make clear what it is that we know about Iran's meddling in Iraq. I don't think that there's any particular rush in this regard, not because there isn't a mountain of convincing evidence from a variety of different aspects, whether that's physical materials or other kinds of linkages. But we're going to go through this carefully. We're going to I'm sure talk about this topic in the weeks and months ahead. I don't think at this point there's any indication that it's going away, that Iran is changing its behavior. I wish that it were otherwise.
So in our own time, when we are able to go through all the information that we have, and when we are able to assure ourselves that in presenting that information in public, that we are not giving away sources and methods that might compromise our ability to collect more of that information, we'll do so.
QUESTION: Do you have any insight into that timeline?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't have any particular timeline for you.
QUESTION: Some reports have said that it could be as early as this week. Can you rule that out that there will not be any evidence --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't expect it to happen this week, no.
QUESTION: Also on Iran, Baker and Hamilton were on the Hill again today about a month and a half after their report came out, the Iraq Study Group. And they were critical of U.S. policy towards Iran and towards Syria and actually the diplomatic offensive that they called for as a whole. They were critical that it hasn't been enough as it relates to Iraq. That, you know, Secretary Rice has made modest efforts in bringing in regional allies but not enough and not urgently enough. So do you have a particular reaction to that?
MR. MCCORMACK: They have their own particular point of view. These are two very highly respected voices in the foreign policy establishment across party lines. They came up with a particular approach in the Baker-Hamilton report. We didn't necessarily agree with that approach -- not meant as a sign of disrespect to either of those gentlemen or the people on the panel -- but we've made very clear why we thought the suggestions that we engage Syria and Iran in the way that they have described at this point would be counterproductive.
QUESTION: Baker and --
MR. MCCORMACK: We have talked about and talked about that. I don't think I need to plow that ground again.
QUESTION: But Baker said specifically today that there was a real opportunity with Syria that he had had -- I know that's not exactly new. We've talked about that. But you know, he said that there is a chance that if we actually, if the U.S. sat down with Syria, that there could be potential to flip them maybe away from Iran, maybe not to the U.S. side, obviously, but just away from their marriage of convenience with Iran --
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, everybody -- I think there's no dispute over the desired end state that you would like in a perfect world to be able to change the behavior of the Syrian regime, vis-à-vis Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, as well as other areas throughout the region. I think everybody shares that goal. The question is how do you get there? Well, the Baker-Hamilton report have suggested one way to do that. We have suggested that that is not the best way to achieve that goal. There has been plenty of engagement with Syria. The Iraqis have engaged them. The Brits have sent an envoy there. You can go down -- you go down the list. A variety of other European states have sent envoys there in an effort and efforts about which we have been informed in efforts to try to get Syria to change its behavior and make it very clear to them that there is a different pathway available to them.
Well, the end result of that is that the Syrians have, thank you very much, pocketed the visits of these individuals said, look, these people are visiting, there's no problems with our -- in our relationships with the rest of the outside world. We see no reason why we need to change our behavior. Very interesting, the Foreign Minister in talking to a columnist in a column that was printed -- I think it was in the past month or two, something like that, again suggesting this idea of engagement with Syria, talked about, "Well, of course, in any sort of engagement, the outside world needs to take into account Syria's strategic interests."
Well, what do you think those strategic interests might be? I would suggest to you that those strategic interests mean letting, in some form, Syria back into Lebanon, something the international community worked very hard and diligently to get them out of after 20 years through the passage of Resolutions 1559, 1595. I would posit to you that they have an interest in not seeing the tribunal that is investigating into -- investigating who was responsible for the murder of former Prime Minister Hariri go forward.
Those are prices that we, as well as the international system, are not willing to pay. So Syria -- now when we get back to the topic of Iraq, the subject of the Baker-Hamilton report, if Syria wants to change its behavior, vis-à-vis Iraq, and play a positive role in Iraq, they will do so. They will see it in their strategic interests to do so regardless of what the outside world is doing for them or not doing for them.
So it is a not a matter of presenting the Syrian Government carrots in order to change its behavior. There have been plenty of those with this Administration way back in 2005 and they were prior to that and more recently by others who have visited the regime, no indication that they have any interest in changing their behavior. And very basically, they are going to do what is in their strategic interest, they're going to do it regardless of what we happen to be doing here in Washington or anybody else around the world.
And they have given no indication at this point that they are going to change their behavior. We wish it were otherwise and certainly, we would wish that the Syrian Government would want to play a constructive role in the region with their neighbors, but not seeing any indications of that.
QUESTION: May I follow up to my question?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yep.
QUESTION: Could you say to what --
MR. MCCORMACK: Follow up on yourself, please do so.
QUESTION: Could you say to what degree the Administration's experience in the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003 is playing in the decision to release evidence this time regarding Iran's involvement in Iraq?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would say none.
QUESTION: Back to Iran --
MR. MCCORMACK: As far as I know, Kirit, none.
QUESTION: Are there any differences between the Europeans and the U.S. on the financial pressures on Iran and the way to exert these pressures?
MR. MCCORMACK: I saw the story I think you're referring to this morning. Look, I think that the concern is that the -- that European governments are expressing have to do with their legal requirements. They have a set of legal requirements that they have to abide by and I'm not sure I would call that resistance to discussing or cooperating on these various measures. But they have requirements that they need to meet and we're going to continue talking to them about those. I think that there is a -- certainly a political will to talk about these subjects and I think that they understand what's at stake and they understand the importance of maintaining a unified front and squeezing out any of those illegitimate activities that might be accruing under the cover of legitimate activities in their financial system.
So we're talking to the Europeans. You have different sets of laws, different sets of past behaviors in this regard. You have different sets of commercial relationships. So it's not a one-size-fits-all question. You have to do it individually.
But regardless of what the individual states or the European Union might be doing right now, you see European as well as other international businesses making business decisions based on investment risk and reputational risk about whether or not they are going to finance or invest in Iran, a country that is now under Chapter 7 resolutions. So those are a set of decisions that are taking place outside of the discussions that we're having government to government. Of course, we also provide information to individual businesses, but they make their own decisions about what kinds of investments they're going to make.
When you're talking about, for example, investments in or financing for oil and gas ventures, which is the biggest -- by far the biggest part of the Iranian economy -- while we are not in the UN Security Council resolution targeting the oil and gas sector, there is certainly a collateral effect in terms of the financial institutions willing to finance or invest in these kinds of projects. Because especially in that field, the people who are making these investments -- these investment decisions, we are talking about payoffs on investments extending over a decade, two decades, three decades. And they have to take into account what is -- what are the political risks of making those sorts of investments. What sort of stability is there going to be in this investment? Here we have a country that's under Chapter 7 resolution. We don't know if they're going to be under more sanctions in the future given their pattern of behavior. But those are a set of decisions that are made by business, separate and apart from government.
QUESTION: Yes, but New York Times quotes a UN senior official -- U.S. senior official saying that the European response on the economic side has been pretty weak, so it's not really the -- does it mean that there are --
MR. MCCORMACK: Everybody is going to --
QUESTION: -- differences between --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sylvie, look. Everybody is --
QUESTION: -- the U.S. Administration?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, Sylvie. Everybody is going to move at their own pace. Okay? Individual European states are going to move at their own pace. I was trying to make the point that there is not a cookie cutter here, there's not a turnkey operation in terms of these types of issues. Each -- the EU has its own laws and regulations and each of the individual member-states of the EU have their own set of banking and finance regulations, and you have to deal with that. You have to deal with those realities. You have to deal with the political realities within each of those countries. You have to deal with the fact that each of those individual countries will have different sets of commercial relationships. So you might have to work with them a little bit more because this is a much bigger decision for one country versus another country.
That doesn't mean that we don't think the overall -- everything is heading in the right direction. We believe it is. We believe that the existing Security Council resolution has been extraordinarily effective, I think even more effective than we would have thought it would have been. So this will, again, move at a certain pace. There's a certain rhythm to it. Each of these individual countries will move, again, at a different pace.
QUESTION: So if somebody is impatient, it's not the State Department?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- there's nothing wrong with being impatient. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being impatient given the stakes. And certainly we are going to continue to push and prod. People are going to continue to push and prod us. But that's to be expected given what's at stake here: Iran getting a nuclear weapon. Nobody wants to see that.
QUESTION: In terms of the oil and gas sector, I mean, you said that one of the collateral effects is that financial institutions won't back some of these projects. But Shell and a Spanish company, for example, are moving ahead, so that flies in the face of your argument that it's --
MR. MCCORMACK: Individual -- no, but individual -- well, look at the empirical data. If you look at various banks -- I'm just -- at this point, I'm just relying on press reports. If you look at major European-based banks, they have either greatly reduced or even, in some cases, stopped dealing with the Iranian Government and that's just based on press reports that I've seen.
You're going to see other businesses make different business decisions. They might have a different appetite for risk in terms of their investment decisions. I mean, that just goes -- it makes my point that these businesses are going to make their own individual decisions and it's all going to be based on their own appetite for risk -- political risk, investment risk, your reputational risk, all of those things. It all goes into making a decision to invest large sums of money in these various sectors.
Yeah, you haven't had one yet.
QUESTION: It is now six months since Fidel Castro -- we know that he's sick and --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- Raul Castro took over.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: In the meantime, there is also a new congress and there is pressure to change -- there's more pressure than other years, maybe, to change the American policy towards Cuba. Now we have Negroponte coming to the State -- to the United -- Department of State. Is there any idea maybe Mr. Negroponte may change a little bit United States policy towards Cuba or may suggest some changes?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's let him get -- you know, get into the office there on the seventh floor. It's still empty at the moment. I'm sure that if he has views on the matter, he'll have ample opportunity to express them within counsels of the government. I haven't talked to him about what his particular views on Cuba are. I don't know if he's spoken about it in public. The President's laid out a policy course. If there are any arguments to the contrary or suggestions about how to improve it, I'm sure people will make those arguments.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Iraq quickly?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: On the issue of the evidence against Iran, what role is the State Department playing in putting that together? You know, so far, we've heard that this is information seized by the U.S. military and that's what -- you know, that's what's going to be part of the evidence. So what role is State playing in putting that together and -- well, in possibly presenting it to the American public?
MR. MCCORMACK: On -- in terms of the sources of information, I would expect, as with any intelligence-based activity, that there are multiple sources of intelligence, and in order to arrive at a conclusion you have to triangulate those, have faith in your analysis, faith in the sources.
So those -- I can't tell you exactly all the various sources from which people are collecting things. I don't -- I can't tell you whether or not State Department intelligence bureau has any role in that or not. I just don't know.
Certainly, we'll take a look at whatever it is -- the presentation is, add our comments. Whether or not we play a role in rolling this out, laying it out for folks, I think that that is a decision that has yet to be taken.
QUESTION: And then another on Iraq, sorry.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Are you aware of this letter that Senator Levin and Senator McCain have sent to Secretary Rice? I guess Levin said today that it's been -- he has asked three times since November --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- for clarification on political benchmarks --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- for the Iraqi Government to meet. Does the State Department plan on responding to this letter?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I think we have a draft of it that's in the building here. People are working on responding to it. Of course, we want to be responsive to senators when they have inquiries. I haven't had a look at the letter, so I can't tell you exactly what it says, but I think what Secretary Rice would say is that the Iraqis themselves have laid out a series of benchmarks that they plan to meet. Prime Minister Maliki has spoken in detail about the political as well as the military benchmarks that they themselves have laid out.
And they understand that more than anything else, they're accountable to the Iraqi people. When Prime Minister Maliki sat down with President Bush in Amman, Jordan, the first thing he talked about was security in Baghdad and he talked about the fact that his government needed to provide security for the people in Baghdad, otherwise they were going to lose confidence in his government.
So they understand fully what it is that they need to do. They know what the tasks are ahead of them. They know that they need to pass an oil law. They need -- they know that they need to pass something dealing with de-Baathification. They know that they need to pass a budget that allocates and distributes Iraqi wealth to all Iraqis so that they are, in fact, and are perceived to be a government for all Iraqis. So Prime Minister Maliki has laid out those benchmarks.
I don't think that we have any new benchmarks that we would lay out for ourselves or lay out for the Iraqis right now. They know what they have to do and they have to do that -- certainly, they have to demonstrate to the American people that they are acting and that they understand that they have to act. I think everybody understands that. But more than anybody else, they have to -- more than anything else, they have to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that they have both the will as well as the capability to act on their behalf.
QUESTION: The UN environment agency is asking Ban Ki-moon to call an emergency summit to look at the issue of global warming. Apparently, they're pushing for this summit to look for an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol. Would this be something that the United States would support, this emergency summit? And what about the Kyoto Protocol alternative?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, our views on the Kyoto Protocol are well known. President Bush has devoted billions of dollars to this question of climate change, developing technologies that could in some way benefit the issue of climate change, but also make it so that you don't, in doing that, throw people out of work. It's important to keep the economic engines going as well. So he has made many, many proposals. He's put down money on the issue to back it up with programs.
In terms of this conference, we've seen the proposal. I think we'll take a look at it. Sue, I can't offer you a definitive account, yay or nay, up or down on it, how we would engage with such a proposed conference. So I think it's something that folks will take a look at, try to understand the parameters and the details of what they hope to be discussed, and then we'll make an assessment of how we, as a government, would relate to such a conference.
QUESTION: So you would only decide it after looking at what was on the agenda and where this was going?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I'm not going to try to specify certain -- shall I use the word "benchmarks" -- that we're going to require to look at before we make a final decision. But we'll -- people -- this is an organic process. I'm sure they'll have conversations and they'll want to understand better exactly what it is the UN has in mind, exactly what it is the Secretary General has in mind, and then we'll make a decision.
QUESTION: Libya. The son of Qadhafi --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- has stated in an interview that they have a plan to free the Bulgarian nurses. I wanted to know if you looked into it and if you have any comment on that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Don't have much more to say than I said yesterday, in that we have been engaged with the Libyans on this question. We have made our views known to them, which is the same thing that we've said in public. We believe that a way should be found to return them to their home countries as soon as possible. And we understand that the Libyans have a certain judicial process that they have been going through, but nevertheless we believe that a way should be found to return them home.
But if, in fact, the Libyans do act on what this gentleman has said, certainly that would be welcome. I think that would be welcome news on many, many fronts. And I would just note, however, regardless of what happens with respect to these individuals in being able to get home that we understand the real tragedy that occurred in Libya and that you're never going to be able to replace the losses of loved ones and children that occurred those years back in Libya.
QUESTION: If you remember, well, there was a fund which was proposed by U.S. and the Europeans to finance --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Yeah. And we have -- working with Baylor University, we had some participation in trying to address this issue inside of Libya some form of humanitarian gesture. I believe that the Bulgarians as well as the EU are -- have also been looking at some way to address the humanitarian issue in Libya. I don't have the details for you, but I know that they have been --
QUESTION: You don't know if it was accepted by Libya or not?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I don't.
QUESTION: Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister.
QUESTION: One more on Libya.
QUESTION: That's fine.
QUESTION: Are there any moves or any plans to send up an ambassador -- to send up a request to the Hill for an ambassador, U.S. ambassador from Libya or is that still static?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't checked on that one recently. We'll see. I'll check -- see if we have anything that we can say on that beyond the normal admonitions about personnel. You know, you'll see it when you see it sort of thing.
QUESTION: Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister said Saudi Arabia and Iran are really working together to try and resolve the crisis in Iraq and in Lebanon. I'm wondering how you feel about that?
MR. MCCORMACK: That particular pairing and that --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) sort of unusual relationship.
MR. MCCORMACK: No. You know, obviously the Saudis and the Iranians would decide for themselves how they work together or not, what issues they want to work together on. There's an elected government in Lebanon. They represent the interests of the Lebanese people. They act in -- they act on behalf of the Lebanese people. The Lebanese people put them in place to do that. There are a lot of different actors within the region who have talked about playing a positive role in trying to help the Lebanese get beyond the current political crisis with which they are faced.
There are many who have devoted a lot of time to this. Amre Moussa has, you know, I think taken a couple of trips to Lebanon, had a lot of conversations to see if they could find a formula that would work -- that was acceptable to all sides within the Lebanese political scene. Those efforts continue. And certainly any effort where a solution that is welcomed and acceptable to the elected Lebanese Government is something that is acceptable to us and I think that that is the key. Something that is acceptable to the elected government would be acceptable to us.
QUESTION: Just one more. (Inaudible) the idea of Iran playing a peace broker role in the region, it seems together with Saudi Arabia in places like Lebanon and Iraq at a time where the U.S. wants to isolate and pressure Tehran.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what we want to see from Iran is a change of behavior. And if in fact they are engaged in attempts to play a positive role in the region, that would seem to be somewhat of a change. We'll see. We'll see if in fact those efforts come to fruition, see if those efforts are acceptable to Prime Minister Siniora and his government. Certainly as Iran and Saudi Arabia that is not a pairing that you hear about every day in the news headlines, it is up to them how they relate to one another. But our problem with Iran has been the behavior of the regime. And our diplomatic efforts on a variety of different fronts are aimed at changing that behavior. Maybe this is -- maybe this at the end will turn out to be one small indication that they are changing their behavior, but I think it's premature to make that judgment right now.
QUESTION: At the meeting in Beijing, U.S. Department -- Treasury Department, Mr. Glaser mentioned yesterday there is a serious problem to resolve between the United States and North Korea. What are the contents of those serious problem?
MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) Well, we're going to let Mr. Glaser and his interlocutors with the -- on the North Korean side talk about those very issues and I'm not going to talk about them up here. But I know they had a meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing today. I think tomorrow it's planned that they're at the North Korean Embassy. They had a good set of discussions today about financial issues, financial measures. I think the idea is to try to build on those discussions, to try to address some of the BD --issues specifically related to BDA. I can't provide you any update beyond that on the particular items that they are discussing. I think properly those are left to be discussed between the two sides.
I did see one fascinating statistic. Everybody talks about, well, shouldn't this be easy to try to get at all these various issues? The people in the Treasury side and people working with them to this point have had to look through 300,000 pages of documents related to this issue. So you wonder, say, well, why is it you say it's so complicated. Well, there's one reason why. I mean, physically just looking through that number of documents will give you some idea of the complexity of the issue and the seriousness with which we take this. This is not -- we're not engaged in some sort of capricious behavior here. This is serious stuff. And saying that we would sit down with the North Korean side to address this issue is indication that we are in fact serious about discussing it.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Chris Hill any word if he is to meet with North Koreans before the February talks begin.
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see. He is probably going to leave some time this week, make his way to Beijing via Seoul and Tokyo and obviously -- and Beijing. He'll see his Chinese counterparts. I expect that in Beijing he'll also have an opportunity to sit down with his new Russian counterpart. I think there's somebody new that has been appointed to the -- by the Russian Government to participate in these discussions. Whether or not he sits down with the North Korean side prior to the formal commencement of the talks has yet to be determined. As always, we're trying to keep you updated on his itinerary. He has in the past met with his North Korean interlocutor in a round of talks. It wouldn't surprise me if he did so again, but it's not on his dance card yet.
QUESTION: Can you --
QUESTION: If he does appear, could you let us know?
MR. MCCORMACK: Absolutely. As soon as I am able, I will do so.
QUESTION: Can you explain why it seems like Chris hasn't met with the Russians so much in the last few trips?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't give you a tally, but he's met with his Russian interlocutor. The last set of -- round of consultations he did -- or maybe it was the one prior to that, I can't remember -- he actually met his Russian counterpart in Beijing. That just was a convenient meeting point for them. So although he might not travel to Moscow, he is consulting with the Russians.
QUESTION: Sean, why does he have to stop in Seoul and Tokyo every time he goes to Beijing, though? He was just there ten days ago. I mean, I really have a hard time understanding what is it with these allies and friends that he cannot discuss on the phone or in Beijing, but he has to go to Seoul and Tokyo?
MR. MCCORMACK: He just really likes the hotels in those (inaudible). (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, it's also (inaudible) miles. Yes, I know that. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: We just can't get him away from these places, I tell you. (Laughter.) Really, people are starting to wonder. People are starting to wonder.
No, he thinks it's useful, obviously. You know, he thinks it's useful to sit down with his counterparts face to face to talk about where they've been, map out strategy for the session ahead. He thinks it's useful and --
QUESTION: And they couldn't do it the night before in his hotel in Beijing? That's not appropriate to do?
Anyway, I had another question about --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure they'll do that, too.
QUESTION: Right. And I apologize --
MR. MCCORMACK: Maybe he's playing cards or something, I don't know.
QUESTION: I apologize in advance if that came up yesterday, but there are reports in the South Korean press that there's actually some sort of a deal that the United States will agree for about 13 million of the money in the bank in Macau to be unfrozen, part of the -- I think -- 24 million that were at issue. Anything to say about that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nope. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: By popular demand, could you give us a readout on Nick Burns meeting today with the UN Rep for Bosnia-Herzegovina?
MR. MCCORMACK: We're going -- we're providing you a Media Note on that. Let me see if I can find it in here. Bear with me and I can read it to you. I can do a dramatic reading of it for you.
MR. MCCORMACK: See, I picked this up. You're on radio and you need the sound.
"Under Secretary of State R. Nicholas Burns welcomed High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Dr. Christian Schwarz-Schilling to the State Department on January 30th. Under Secretary Burns and Dr. Schwarz-Schilling discussed the need for a new Bosnian Government to set aside the divisive nationalist rhetoric that characterized the election period and to move rapidly on the reforms needed for the benefit of all Bosnians, particularly police and constitutional reform.
"They discussed the importance of undertaking a thorough review of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region in advance of the February decision by the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board on the future of the Office of the High Representative. Under Secretary Burns expressed his deep appreciation for the dedication that Dr. Schwarz-Schilling has shown to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The United States looks forward to continuing to collaborate closely with and to supporting him during the remainder of his tenure."
QUESTION: Now do we support a continuation --
MR. MCCORMACK: After that you're going to actually ask me a question?
QUESTION: Do we support the continuation of the existence of this entity, the High Representative? It's supposed to sunset in the middle of this year.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think people are talking about exactly what -- who might take up or what mechanism might be used to fulfill some of the functions here. I'm not sure folks have -- people have agreed upon any particular formula at this point, Dave.
QUESTION: And Mr. Schwarz-Schilling in a German interview this week suggested he's being pushed out of his position in large part by the United States, which is impatient with the pace of things in Bosnia.
MR. MCCORMACK: No. Nope.
Anything else? You're not going to ask me another question about this, are you?
QUESTION: Schwarz-Schilling? No. No, I want to ask you about the Quartet meeting on Friday --
MR. MCCORMACK: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: -- and whether you have any details about that. What's on the agenda? There were meetings last week among the envoys to see where you were going to be going with this. What are you --
MR. MCCORMACK: I have an idea, but let me talk to the Secretary first about it --
MR. MCCORMACK: And we'll -- I'll have something for you tomorrow morning and --
QUESTION: Okay. Will you --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- we can talk a little bit about it.
QUESTION: Okay. Are you going to provide a briefing before it or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think anything more than poor old me.
QUESTION: Right, okay.
MR. MCCORMACK: In and around this thing you'll have all the principals. You'll have an opportunity to fire some questions at them when they're here. It's the standard setup.
QUESTION: The Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that he would like to engage with Talibans to discuss peace talks or to have peace talks with them. Do you think it's a good idea?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen the specifics of the proposal, Sylvie. But periodically I know President Karzai has thought that it was useful to try to bring in people who may have associated themselves in one way or the other with the Taliban in order to invest them in a political process. Certainly it is a laudable goal to try to bring as many people and invest as many people into that political process. There are, of course, going to be those individuals who are irreconcilable to any sort of democratic political process. You have to deal with them using security services. And in any case, in trying to address the issue of the Taliban you need to have an integrated counterinsurgency strategy, which is what we working with NATO and our NATO partners have, as well as working with the Afghan Government.
QUESTION: So just one more on the Quartet. Will there be a GCC+2 or 4 or whatever?
MR. MCCORMACK: We're going to have the GCC --
QUESTION: The Quartet+2?
MR. MCCORMACK: -- and Jordan and Egypt. We'll try to give them proper due.
QUESTION: Right. Will there be one prior to the Quartet meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't believe so. Foreign Minister Abu Gheit will be here next week, February 5th, for a visit. But I think this is going to be a straight up, plain vanilla Quartet meeting.
MR. MCCORMACK: I would note today is an important day. It is the one-year anniversary of the Quartet statement with regard to the behavior of Hamas that was negotiated in London. And I think you will find despite the many naysayers -- and I'm not going to say that I see any in this room today -- that that statement has actually held up quite well and been very important in rallying the international community to laying out a clear standard of behavior for the Palestinian government, and that adherence to that statement actually has grown over time in terms of not only the members of the Quartet but those in the region that have come out and not only supported it rhetorically and diplomatically but in terms of their actions.
So it is -- I just thought it was an important note one year later. And then on the eve of another Quartet meeting it was an important document that was negotiated by this particular group in London a year ago today.
QUESTION: Funny you say that, because Britain's parliamentary committee came out with a report today saying that the West's isolation of Hamas has only served to push it closer to Iran and that it's being counterproductive.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think -- you know, look, that's an assessment. I think the reality of it is that Hamas has now been forced to govern. They have failed in that. The sort of -- this idea among the Palestinians that Hamas were fighting on behalf of the Palestinian people and they were this resistance force, we of course consider them a terrorist organization. But nonetheless, that that has -- that idea has been really stripped away. Now they are politicians who can't make their government run and they cannot govern on behalf of the Palestinian people, and that with their adherence to the platform of terror and use of violence that the Palestinian people are no closer to the state that they hope for. The pathway and the hope for that state is really with people like President Abbas who are ready and willing to engage the international community, ready and willing to engage the Israeli people, the Israeli Government, in order to work out a political solution.
And in the meantime, we have used this period of time to work with others in the region to try to exploit that opening that we think now exists to try to see if there are possibilities for a political horizon for the Palestinian people. That's not because of Hamas' election, but because of the dedication of people like President Abbas and people around him to seeking peace.
QUESTION: Are you planning on maybe expanding the temporary international mechanism possibly, the Quartet meeting to include --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure. I think they did that --
QUESTION: Last week, two weeks --
MR. MCCORMACK: It was at the end of December, I think, because it was coming up for renewal and I think that they extended it for another six months, I think, and they just did it -- three months -- they did it through a letter.
MR. MCCORMACK: So I don't think that that is -- I don't think that's on the agenda right now.
MR. MCCORMACK: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Also on Abbas -- I mean, you talk about all these kind of programs and things you're working on to prop up President Abbas and efforts to strengthen his security forces. And while he condemned the suicide bombing yesterday, I mean, certainly, this shows that there hasn't been a crackdown on Palestinian militants. Do you place the onus on Hamas or do you feel that President Abbas also has a responsibility to do more to crack down on militants?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we think that the Palestinian security forces need to stop terror attacks. It's sad that you are not able to stop every single one of those. That is because there are people who, regardless of the fact that you might have a moment when you can exploit an opening to make progress for -- on a Palestinian state, that there are going to be those who want to derail that because they don't find it in their interest. You see acts like this. They're sad. It is a terrible tragedy when innocent civilians lose their life.
(Interruption - cell phone ringing.)
MR. MCCORMACK: That's a phone violation by the State Department -- my staff, by the way. (Laughter.) Just for the record, that is not a phone violation by the press corps.
And so you're going to have to deal with that. That is a sad, unfortunate fact of life in the Middle East right now, that there are going to be those who want to derail any sort of hope for a Palestinian state. We believe President Abbas and the people working with him are dedicated to try to use the negotiating table to work out differences. Meanwhile, we will work to strengthen those security forces that are under the command of President Abbas.
It's a tall order because these were security forces that were fragmented, set against one another and, in many cases, thoroughly corrupt under the rule of Yasser Arafat. That's how he wanted it. So you're really trying to overcome quite a large obstacle and it's taking some time, but we're dedicated to it. President Bush and Secretary Rice talked about how we're going to -- we plan to dedicate some funds in order to help out those security forces, make them more professional, help organize them, and we're going to continue to do that. We're going to continue working with the EU as well as others to help out on the governance piece as well as other parts of this.
QUESTION: Right, but you talk about the responsibility that Hamas has failed to govern the Palestinian people. Can you point to concrete steps that -- beyond talking about a two-state solution and advocating a peaceable solution, can you talk about concrete steps that President Abbas has taken to lead on the security front?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. He and the security forces are the only thing on the Palestinian side that keep these crossings open when they're open. I'm not saying that they're open every single day, but that's the only reason why you have any of those open at any point and have that commerce go through, so there's one good example for you.
QUESTION: But on cracking down on militants, for example?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you have -- you still have Kassam rockets coming out of the north, but you have fewer of them coming out of the north. It's not perfect, but it is better.
QUESTION: I'd like to ask you one more about this Iran evidence here. Can you just say more about --
MR. MCCORMACK: Equus mortis, beating a dead horse.
QUESTION: If you don't mind --
QUESTION: If you don't mind answering more broadly whether there have been -- I mean, if this is being delayed in any way over (inaudible).
MR. MCCORMACK: Delayed?
MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't see anybody set a date for it.
QUESTION: I mean -- but are there any concerns within the Administration besides the intelligence and so on? I mean, is this --
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, you want to make sure that you have -- people have talked about this. You want to make sure that you have the best possible picture of what the Iranians are doing in Iraq. You want to present that picture in as full a light as possible, in such a way that you don't do harm to your ability to fight the people that are engaged in these kinds of behaviors down the road. You don't want to compromise your sources and methods.
QUESTION: Just to continue beating the dead horse --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: -- if I may, when the presentation ultimately occurs, will it be here or will it be done in Baghdad? Do we know?
MR. MCCORMACK: Zane, I couldn't tell you. Probably in Baghdad, probably in Baghdad, yeah.
QUESTION: On the -- (inaudible) TV, but --
QUESTION: What's that supposed to mean?
QUESTION: Well, you need sound bites and he's not giving them to you, so you keep -- yeah, anyway --
MR. MCCORMACK: (Inaudible).
QUESTION: Nancy Pelosi has been sort of doing photo-ops in Afghanistan and Baghdad and other places. I understand that she wanted to make the point that now she and the House are a very major foreign policy maker. Does that irritate the Secretary in any way? And is there any cooperation between the State Department and the planning of these visits by the speaker?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as with any congressional delegation, we, of course, offer any assistance that they might need in country, setting up meetings, going along with them, providing them the logistical support that they need. We're happy to do that. It's important that Congress and members of Congress inform themselves of what is going on around the world. They have to legislate on these issues. They have a say, certainly, in terms of the power of the purse.
On this particular congressional delegation, I don't think we have anybody along with them. It's up to the delegation members whether or not representatives from the embassy sit in on their meetings. We're happy to go if they so desire. Prior to their departure, I know that we had a briefing up on the Hill for them about each of their stops.
QUESTION: Thank you. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/79562.htm