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Posted by: batmanchester Jan 5 2007, 05:24 PM
Press Statement
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 5, 2007



The United States Condemns Ongoing Violence in Darfur



The United States condemns the ongoing violence in Darfur that prevents a durable cease-fire, including the bombing by Sudanese Armed Forces of areas around Um Rai in North Darfur in late December and early January.

A joint African Union - United Nations team, led by African Union Force Commander Aprezi, had just met with Darfur rebel commanders in Um Rai on December 28 in order to urge them to abide by the ceasefire and participate fully in the Ceasefire Commission. Immediately after the meeting, the Sudanese Armed Forces bombed the meeting site.


These actions violate the Sudanese government's pledge made in Addis Ababa on November 16, 2006 to facilitate the work of the African Union to achieve a strengthened ceasefire.


In addition, the United States is deeply concerned with violence around Gereida, South Darfur, where rebel militias have attacked humanitarian workers.


The United States calls on all parties to the Darfur conflict to refrain from violence, renew their commitment to the ceasefire, and fully participate in the Ceasefire Commission, in particular its next meeting scheduled for Monday, January 8.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/78423.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 8 2007, 04:51 PM
TRANSCRIPT:

1:43 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, you've already had your announcement for the day, so we'll just get -- that's it. Those are the only announcements.


QUESTION: Can you confirm it, though? (Laughter.)


MR. MCCORMACK: I feel on solid footing, James, in confirming this one.


QUESTION: What's your reaction to it?


MR. MCCORMACK: My reaction? I welcome it.


QUESTION: Can you address the recent Sudanese statements and can you give us any greater
-- you suggested this morning that they have expressed a willingness to talk about the phase one and the phase two deployments.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.


QUESTION: I've searched our stories. Maybe they missed it, but I don't see anything that explicit in any of their comments. Have they told you that privately or --


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think within the past couple weeks -- it was maybe the week before last, the week between Christmas and New Year's -- there was a letter from President Bashir to representatives of the United Nations saying that they would -- they were ready to move forward or suggesting they were ready to move forward on phase one and two, left three unanswered.


And the indications that we have had thus far is that they are ready to move forward on phase one and two. As I tried to point out this morning, there is another half to this, and that is the UN being ready to actually deploy and get its preparations ready. And they have had representatives from that first phase on the ground in Sudan and even had some of them go out to Al Fasher. They subsequently returned back to Khartoum because I think there were some questions about what sort of facilities -- whether the facilities that they would occupy were ready. I don't think that that was one that we could put on the Sudanese Government. And so they are working to make sure that there are appropriate facilities for them to work out of. That's the first phase. It's on the order of 70 people thereabouts, but get the full numbers from the UN.


Then the second phase is about -- roughly about a thousand, a thousand people, which is essentially a headquarters element. And to my knowledge -- and you can check with the UN -- they haven't yet contacted the Sudanese Government about deploying that component to Sudan. So, in essence, we haven't tested that proposition yet fully, or the UN hasn't fully tested that proposition. Sudan has said that they are willing to work with them and get them in there so we don't -- we can't come to at least an early conclusion on the phase two. On phase one, I think they're working through it. Obviously, phase three remains, and that's the bulk of the force. That's thousands and thousands of AU UN forces in Sudan which is what you really need. That's where you need to get to. All of this is preliminary work.


So the Sudanese thus far have demonstrated at least on phase one the cooperation. I don't think the international system has yet tested them on phase two yet. I don't think it's fair to say that we have tested them on phase two. And Andrew Natsios also talked to them about some other items on his list, and I think the reaction on that was sort of mixed. So the bottom line is the process is moving forward slowly, in incremental chunks, and certainly we wish that it would go forward faster. But it isn't. But the way you keep it moving forward and the way you have a hope of increasing that pace of those deployments, at least from the Sudanese side, is to keep up the diplomatic pressure. And that's one reason why Andrew Natsios is in China now talking to the Chinese because the Chinese, I think everybody understands, have -- they have some leverage with the Sudanese because of their commercial relationships.


QUESTION: Why are you not talking about Plan B, the unspecified consequences that Special Envoy Natsios said the Sudanese would suffer if they didn't agree to the hybrid force in its entirety in writing, including phase three, by the end of the year. I mean, it's like you're talking about pressure but you're not mentioning the one thing that you guys were talking about as pressure.


MR. MCCORMACK: Of course we're thinking through those. Of course we're thinking through that. And part of what you do in diplomacy, you always have your Plan B. And if we come to the judgment that the diplomatic track that we are on right now, the tactics that we're employing at the moment, aren't producing the results that we want to see at an acceptable rate, then you move to Plan B. But you have already done -- once you get to that point, if you're doing your planning well you have already gotten to Plan B, you have already thought through what Plan B is and laid the groundwork for it. So, yeah, we are thinking about what happens if this current set of diplomatic tactics doesn't work, but we're not prepared at this point to talk about them.


QUESTION: Doesn't it undermine your credibility with the Sudanese when you make what was effectively a threat -- do this by the end of the year or else -- and then you don't yet carry through because they didn't it in full by the end of the year?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, this is -- we would have liked to have seen the whole force deployed some time ago. Let's pause at that. We would have loved to have -- liked very much to have seen this deployed some time ago, but that's not where we were. The Sudanese did make some steps in the direction of the international community not certainly steps that are sufficient to meet all the conditions laid out by the international community or the goals laid out by the international community. And I don't want to be in a position of trying to explain that away for the Sudanese Government because I'm certainly not. But what I'm trying to deal with is the reality of this process. The reality of this process is that it has moved slowly. But the only reason why it has moved forward in the direction that we and the rest of the members of the international community would like to see it move is through constant, consistent diplomatic pressure and we're in the process of continuing to do that.


There are outside efforts. The Save Darfur Coalition, for example, they have asked Senator -- Governor Bill Richardson to travel to Sudan. And we consulted with him prior to his departure and any of these outside efforts, anybody with some leverage or some "in" with the Sudanese Government that can possibly move them forward, certainly that is welcome.


Samir.


QUESTION: Sudan?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.


QUESTION: Salim Salim is the African Union mediator --


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: -- is in Washington. Is he seeing anybody at State?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you. I'll check. Off the top of my head, I don't know, Samir. I'll check for you.


Joel.


QUESTION: Sean, each time there appear to be starts and stops and you've just highlighted -- I believe Arshad has just highlighted some of those.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: Way back about a year ago, the Bashir government and President Bashir himself was, I guess, nominated as the worst dictator in the world. Now, there was a briefing or a forum at Brookings some weeks ago with both Andrew Natsios and the French envoy also to the Sudan. And it was pointed out then that if they had the camps in Chad along the border, those camps would have to move another 300 miles inland into Chad to keep it away from the border. And it's a disparity, it appears, with the amount of troops or force that the Janjaweed are using. Has this been taken into account and is there any thought to implement a no-fly zone around Khartoum so that any types of military weaponry -- of course, you have the helicopters and the bombers, Russian bombers -- to put that into place now?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, Joel, certainly -- you mentioned Chad. Certainly, in addressing the situation in Darfur, you need to work with the Government of Chad in some respect. They have a problem along the border. There is also some of the violence that occurs in Darfur emanates from areas along that border so you need to deal with that. And you mentioned a no-fly zone. Others have mentioned that as an idea. Prime Minister Blair has put that out as an idea. And certainly, it's something that needs to be considered in that serious people are putting that out there. But at the moment, we are focused on the diplomatic track that we are on right now. That doesn't mean you think about, as I talked about with Arshad, what is Plan B and what are the elements of Plan B.


Farah.


QUESTION: Change of subject?


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Anything else on Sudan? Okay.


QUESTION: I'm just wondering, I know you don't want to predict what the President's going to say in his speech, but I'm just wondering --


MR. MCCORMACK: I figure that's a safe place to be.


QUESTION: How much input has been sought from like traditional U.S. allies on the idea of a surge?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in general, talking about Iraq policy, of course we talk to our allies. The President met with Prime Minister Blair several weeks ago in the course of this review. Of course, we have contact with our close allies on the issue of Iraq in general. I'm not going to talk about any particular policy prescriptions that have been mentioned in the newspapers right now, but of course we've touched base with them.


QUESTION: Has anybody else -- I mean, are you hearing reactions? I mean, obviously, there are newspaper reports about a surge. Can you give us a sense of what reactions you're hearing diplomatically?


MR. MCCORMACK: I think that the diplomatic reaction will come when the President gives his remarks and people will have something that they can hold, they can look at, they understand is the official proposal and position of the United States, as articulated by the President. I think at that point they will have something to react to. Before then they are reacting to newspaper reports.


QUESTION: I guess I'm just reacting to the fact that this has -- you know, a few years ago, this was a U.S. -- you know, we really talked about a U.S.-led coalition and there was a big push on having others involved in contributions. And now, this seems to be a U.S. change in the way forward and we're not -- I'm just wondering if there has been any attempt to elicit support from some of these allies for --


MR. MCCORMACK: I think that, you know, the situation has changed somewhat on the ground. The period that you were talking about you actually had countries with significant forces on the ground and significant boots on the ground. You still do have multinational coalition partners with boots on the ground right now, but over time the emphasis has shifted to the Iraqis taking greater responsibility for their own security.


Now on some fronts, for example, with the army, that process has moved forward and you do have an army that is largely competent in doing what it has asked to do. Now, it is not able to do everything that a fully formed national army with long years of experience and training is able to do. For example, it still needs help with support, logistics, fire support, that sort of thing. But there are certainly elements -- if you talk to our U.S. military and they point out that they are very good and very competent. Now, they get better and better every single day as they get in the fight. So you've had a shift over time in responsibility for the security to the Iraqis. There's still a ways to go with that, as we can all see on the ground.


There is also similarly then a shift on the diplomatic front to try to have the international community help the Iraqis in other ways. Right now we have the International Compact for Iraq. That process has been underway. There was a meeting at the UN. There have been a number of meetings that we have had led by Deputy Secretary of Treasury Kimmitt. And the basic deal there is the Iraqis on one hand will take certain steps in terms of political and economic reform and in return members of the international community will pledge assistance of -- in a variety of different forms, whether that's debt relief or development assistance or diplomatic support or political support. So that's really the sort of basis of our efforts on the international front right now. So it has shifted over time as the situation has shifted over time and as the strategy in Iraq has developed. And you have also had over time various corrections to the tactics that we've been using.


Sue.


QUESTION: Has there been any renewed consideration of late of speaking to Iran over Iraq and using that channel?


MR. MCCORMACK: The Zal channel?


QUESTION: Yeah.


MR. MCCORMACK: Maybe we'll have to rename it some point, pending Senate confirmation, the Ryan channel or the Crocker channel?


QUESTION: Yeah. Crocker channel, yeah.


QUESTION: Crocker channel.


MR. MCCORMACK: We can put out a -- you know, have a contest here who can rename it.


No, there's nothing new to reporting that regard.


QUESTION: And the same with Syria then?


MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new to report there.


QUESTION: Also Iraq. Any reaction to Jacques Chirac's comments a couple of days ago essentially that Iraq had turned out exactly as he'd predicted, not so well?


MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't see them. I didn't see the remarks.


QUESTION: On Somalia, there were a lot of reports out of the region that Jendayi Frazer had planned to go to Mogadishu over the weekend and had to cancel at the last minute for security reasons after news of the trip leaked.


MR. MCCORMACK: There was some thought given to it, but there was never a formal plan that people were comfortable with in terms of an international delegation going there. She would have been just a part of an international delegation. But instead, they had a very good meeting in Kenya in which members of the TFG were able to come to Kenya and that same international delegation was able to meet with them, have a good meeting with them.


But you know, Somalia has a long way to go. They have an opportunity here. The international community is focused on Somalia. They understand the needs and there is some demonstrated desire to help the Somali people not only on the security front, though more needs -- with the deployment of IGASOM -- although you need a significantly larger force than is currently slated to go there, and on the humanitarian front we ourselves have put forward some money in that regard and I think you're going to see more money being pledged. But the Somali people need to step up and seize this opportunity if they're going to have a -- if they're going to realize a better future for themselves. But they got a ways to go.


QUESTION: Have there been any contacts or any attempted contacts between U.S. officials and moderates in the Islamic Courts movement since the --


MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of, not that I'm aware of.


QUESTION: Do you believe there are moderates in the Islamic Courts movement?


MR. MCCORMACK: We -- it's not a monolithic movement. Quite clearly, the most radical elements of the Islamic Courts were ascendant prior to the Ethiopian troops going into Mogadishu and we had some real concerns about the individuals that were exercising a leadership position over the Islamic Courts, some of whom had close ties to international terror. And that was a cause of deep concern for us, but they are not a monolithic grouping by reports that we have. And we talked about that when the Islamic Courts first emerged on the scene and we were hoping that a different element might emerge in the leadership of the Islamic Courts, but it didn't.


Sue.


QUESTION: Are you encouraging the Transitional Government to have contact with the Islamic Courts and to try and negotiate something with them?


MR. MCCORMACK: We're encouraging all parties who want to play a responsible role in Somali civil and political life to come together. Now is the time to do that. And whether that includes people who self-identify as members of the Islamic Courts, we leave that to the TFG and the Somali people. These have to be individuals that are dedicated to a peaceful -- a more peaceful, better future for Somalia, not individuals who are interested in providing safe haven for terrorists, for example. That is not obviously something that we would encourage, but there are some people who self-identify as members of the Islamic Courts. I don't think that that necessarily disqualifies an individual from participating and building a better future for Somalia as long as it is -- they do so on the basis and understanding that they're trying to build a more peaceful, stable future for Somalia, one that is not -- that doesn't resort to violence or consort with terror.


QUESTION: And are you confident that the Ethiopians will pull out when they said they're going to pull out and are you in close contact with them?


MR. MCCORMACK: I think the Somalia Contact Group is in touch with them and they have stated very clearly their desire to leave Somalia and Mogadishu, and that is appropriate. You also want to do that in such a way that you don't create a security vacuum in Mogadishu. And I understand that the Ugandan Government has talked about the fact that they -- pending receipt of the resources to do so, that they are prepared to deploy their troops towards the end of the month and that there's also a search on for more contributions to that IGASOM force, which they're going to need. So I think that's probably going to be a rolling discussion. But the Ethiopians understand that they do have to withdraw and the Somalia Contact Group understands that they do need to withdraw. You also don't want to create a security vacuum.


Yes, sir.


QUESTION: Thank you, Sean. This is Arshad with the Daily Inquilab. A question on Bangladesh.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: In Bangladesh political crisis is looming. Caretaker government has lately come under controversy, election commissions utterly in disarray and controversial. In this circumstances, Sean, will election in Bangladesh be fair and acceptable, and what is the reaction of the state in the wake of the blockade by the grand alliance today? There are a lot of people in the streets of Dhaka have been came under police action.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: So what is your reaction to that, may I?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a free and fair transparent election not only on election day but in the run-up to the election day is a cornerstone of any democracy. And the caretaker government right now, we have urged them to create those conditions where all political parties and everybody who wants to be involved in Bangladesh's political -- democratic political life can do so and feel as though that when they cast their vote that it is going to be a vote that's recorded in the way that it should be and that their voice will be heard, whether or not they will -- their particular political candidate or political party wins is going to be up to those in the ballot box, but it needs to be free and fair. They need to have that opportunity.


And Under Secretary Nick Burns just last week spoke with the head of the caretaker government in Bangladesh to urge him to see that his government creates those conditions that would allow for a free, fair and transparent elections -- transparent election. I'm not sure to this point that we have seen them take those actions and we would encourage them to do so.


QUESTION: Just a follow-up to that. Ambassador Butenis on the ground met both the grand alliance leader Sheikh Hasina as well as the former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. Do you have any latest -- any deal that would really help them to come together? Is there any move by Ambassador Butenis on the ground to strike a deal between the two so that they come to an election process?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're -- the short answer is I don't have details of any meetings or any "deal" that may be emerging. Our Ambassador on the ground certainly is available to offer the good offices of that position to Somali* political parties, those involved in the political process who want to see a good election transpire in a peaceful environment. But ultimately, any of these decisions are going to -- any accommodations that are made are going to have to be among the Bangladeshis themselves.


QUESTION: Thank you, thank you.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.


QUESTION: On personnel changes, Sean. What will be -- if confirmed -- Ambassador Khalilzad's very first policy priority at the UN? You have your resolutions out on North Korea and Iran and you have the ceasefire functioning in Lebanon. What will be his very first area that he's going to have to tackle?


MR. MCCORMACK: That will be somewhat dependent on how the confirmation process goes forward. We are hopeful that this can be done in a speedy way. I'm sure Zal will do everything he can to provide all the information that he needs to provide it to the Senate so they can do so.


I would expect that all the issues that are currently on the agenda will remain on the agenda for some time. These are, I think, going to be hearty perennials for the international community and the Security Council for a time to come.


For example, Iran, North Korea, Sudan -- I am sure that during his tenure, if confirmed, he will have to deal with those. Management issues, management reform is going to be another issue that's at the top of his list. And then there are going to be other issues that from time to time will come to the attention -- need the high-level attention of the Security Council and other UN organizations, for example, like Somalia, like Burma. So I would expect that he will have his hands full while he's up there.


QUESTION: He'll have an easier confirmation process than Mr. Bolton did?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to try to predict how the confirmation process will go, but we hope that he has hearings scheduled at an early date and that he is able to proceed to a vote on the floor in a swift fashion. But again, that's the prerogative of the Senate.


Yes, ma'am.


QUESTION: Change of topic to Mexico. Mexico has sent 3,000 soldiers and federal police officers into Tijuana over the last couple days to crack down on drug trafficking and violent crimes. Given the situation in Tijuana, do you think there will be any plans to change travel advisories for U.S. tourists down there?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any plans right now, but what happens with these travel advisories is that the embassy, the relevant bureau back here, which would be Western Hemisphere Affairs, along with security folks and the Consular Affairs folks, will take a look at the situation and see if they need to update it. And that is a process that is done by the -- started out, certainly, by the professionals. They take a look at it with an objective eye as to the situation on the ground, and if we need to issue something, we will. But I don't have any particular information right now that we're going to.


Yes, ma'am.


QUESTION: Japan has upgraded its defense agency to a Defense Ministry Tuesday, so can I have your comment on that?


MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me. I'm sorry.


QUESTION: Japan upgraded its defense agency to a Defense Ministry on Tuesday. So can I have your comment on that?


MR. MCCORMACK: I think that that's really a matter for the Japanese Government. I don't think we would really offer a comment on that.


Yes, sir.


QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? There were some press reports that the U.S. needed Japan to discuss an "emergency" in the Taiwan Straits and how Japan and China -- I mean, Japan and the United States -- to cooperate on that? Have you anything --


MR. MCCORMACK: No information on that.


QUESTION: Thank you.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/78469.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 9 2007, 07:05 PM
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. We will put out the paper statements on the Secretary's travel after the briefing, but I think you have all the information so we can get right into your questions, whoever wants to start.


QUESTION: What are you prepared to say about developments in Somalia?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there have been numerous media reports about Pentagon DOD activities going after senior al-Qaida operatives that were resident in Somalia. I believe the Department of Defense has confirmed that on Sunday they did have an operation going after a high-level or senior al-Qaida operative that was operating in Somalia. I don't have any more details beyond that. I don't know how much more the Department of Defense is going to be willing to go into the details of the operation or whom it was going after, so you know what I know in terms of the operation.


QUESTION: But can you talk about diplomatic contacts with, say, Kenya and Ethiopia?


MR. MCCORMACK: Specifically with respect to that operation, I don't have any information for you, George. Clearly, we are in close contact with all the governments in the region concerning Somalia. We recently had a Somali Contact Group meeting there. Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer attended on our behalf. We co-chaired it. So we're working very closely with the governments in the region.


We have a concern that those terrorist operatives that were in Somalia -- operating in Somalia not be able to escape and flee and to try to establish safe haven elsewhere. So very clearly that has been one of our interests. We have military assets in the region. The other governments in the region -- the Ethiopians, the Kenyans as well as others -- understand that concern. I don't think that they want to see any al-Qaida or terrorist operatives be able to escape Somalia and try to set up camp either in their country or a neighboring country.


Yeah.


QUESTION: If Ethiopia or anyone else hands over any of these so-called al-Qaida operatives, would they be classified as enemy combatants and sent to Guantanamo Bay or what would happen to them?


MR. MCCORMACK: That is a several times over hypothetical question that I couldn't even begin to answer at this point.


QUESTION: Not really. But what would they be classified as?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it is actually really because you need to know the details. The lawyers always ask for details regarding these things, and I have no information that that is, in fact, the case right now. If we were, in fact, faced with that situation, of course, our lawyers would look into it. They would make judgments based upon our laws and our obligations under international treaty obligations.


QUESTION: But some of these people are named on U.S. most wanted lists, people who you are looking for --


MR. MCCORMACK: A lot of that depends on whether or not they already have indictments in the United States, whether those are unsealed or sealed. So again, you're getting into the range of the hypothetical. You need to deal with details first.


Yeah, Kirit.


QUESTION: You mentioned concerns that these al-Qaida terrorists might be able to set up camp in other countries in the region.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: Can you talk about their ability to operate within Somalia and your concerns there?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that was a longstanding concern. We had talked about that for some time that -- and Somalia was for the past 20 years or so has no effective government. It was an environment in which terrorists could carve out a niche if they, in fact, worked with some of the local warlords, some of the tribal leaders, work out arrangements whereby they could stay there. And so that had been a longstanding concern on the part of the United States as well as others in the region.


So now we have a situation where the Ethiopian army has gone in there. They have effectively taken control of Mogadishu to hand over to the Transitional Federal Institutions, as well as the southern parts of Somalia. And those terrorists no longer have a safe haven in which to operate, or at least to live in which they can count on not being hunted down. So they are trying to, we presume, make their way out of Somalia, and in doing so we want to try to get our hands on them.


QUESTION: I just want to make sure. Are you saying that they aren't able to operate in Somalia anymore?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, certainly not in the way that they were able to previously. Previously, they had -- and again, I can't speak to any specific arrangements that an individual may have had, but presumably they operated there either with the cooperation or -- of a tribal or clan leader, other sort of resident of Somalia, in which they were provided some form of protection. They clearly can't do that now. That -- the situation is changed, I imagine for them, dramatically on the ground. You have Ethiopian forces there. You have the Somali Transitional Federal Institutions moving in. Granted, those are relatively weak institutions, but they have a dramatically different situation on the ground right now.


QUESTION: And Sunday's attack has furthered their inability to operate?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'll let DOD talk to exactly whom -- who they were going after and what they think the level of effectiveness of the attack was.


QUESTION: And you couldn't say whether these were the guys who were responsible for the embassy bombing?


MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you'll have to talk to DOD about who they were going after.


Nicholas.


QUESTION: Sean, I think Javier Solana has proposed sort of a peacekeeping force for Somalia under the UN. Do you have any comments on that at all, or how do you see what happened today or late last night in terms of the whole diplomacy effort that you have in the region?


MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of the DOD operation, I'm not sure it really affects anything with regard to the Somali Contact Group or the ongoing diplomacy to rally international support to assist the Somali people.


QUESTION: And we can assume that the Secretary knew about this in advance, right, about the military operation?


MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't asked her, Nicholas. I don't know.


In terms of the question you raise about a UN force, what Mr. Solana has talked about, there are ongoing discussions regarding the IGASOM force and how to make that a robust enough force in terms of resources to help provide some security in Mogadishu, in Somalia. Right now, the force stands at about 1,200 Ugandans. They have very -- they have generously said that they would step up and they would provide some forces and some resources and equipment for that mission. They need some assistance in terms of financial assistance. We are providing some of that in part. It's about a total of $20 or $30 million that they needed to -- for that deployment, so we're helping out with that.


But you're going to need more than 1,200 troops on the ground in a city of several million people, Mogadishu, to try to help provide a security environment where the Somalis can actually start building these institutions that will form the basis of their government and help rebuild a civil society in Somalia.


So the question then is, well, from where do those resources come and how do you generate them. Now, one way to do that is a UN-mandated or a UN force. So that's an idea, I think, that is among the international community being actively discussed. I don't think at this point there is a consensus on the international mechanism that would be used to generate and sustain that force, but there is a widespread agreement that there needs to be a more robust force because as the Ethiopians pull out of Somalia, pull out of Mogadishu, you don't want to create a security vacuum because that leads you right back into the situation where the Somali people found themselves previously, in a very chaotic environment and perhaps even worse off. You don't want -- the international community does not want to see that happen. That was a very clear feeling coming out of the Somali Contact Group over the past couple days.


QUESTION: So you're not saying that you would necessarily support a UN force, you're just saying that there needs to be something to help the Ugandans?


MR. MCCORMACK: It's one of the options being discussed, Nicholas. You know, I can't say that --


QUESTION: It's too early to tell?


MR. MCCORMACK: -- that we have -- we or others have really come down on one side or the other. But clearly, it's an option because you need to have a force in there that is robust enough to help work with the Transitional Federal Institutions to provide the security environment and the UN is one way to do that.


One other point about this, too. The Somali people have an opportunity here. This is all about how do we help the Somali people take advantage of the opportunity that they have right now. There is a level of international focus on Somalia and its various issues. And they have an opportunity to maybe not turn the clock back all the way, but turn the clock back a bit where you have these internationally recognized institutions that could form the basis of a government and around which people can rally.


Now it is up to the Somali people, the Somali leadership, the leadership of the Transitional Federal Institutions to reach out and try to rally the leaders among the Somali political class, leaders among Somali society to those institutions and to that common cause of charting a better pathway for Somalia. Now that's a -- it's going to be a long pathway because it is a country and people that have suffered greatly over the past couple of decades from humanitarian deprivations, from extreme violence in many cases, so they need a lot of help, but they all -- they need to begin by helping themselves and to coming together around this common set of institutions.


Yeah.


QUESTION: You said U.S. doesn't support a UN force, a UN peace force? Would you support an African Union force?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm just saying that there are a number of different ideas that are out there right now. I don't think we've come down on one side or the other. It certainly is a possibility that exists. People are talking about it, Javier Solana has talked about it. It certainly does have some attractive aspects to it in being able to -- having it as a mechanism that -- through which you can generate a robust force, it can help provide some security in Somalia and also has the additional feature of providing a mechanism whereby you can continue to support that. There's a way to -- there's a way to do that, as opposed to ad hoc donations, such as we have with the IGASOM deployment.


Now, that isn't to say that at the end of the day, the consensus won't be to go that direction. It could very well be. But there are a lot of different needs for these kind of forces even in this region. So you have to take a look at what are the needs, for example, in Somalia, what are the needs in Sudan and how best can we accomplish both of those missions because, in essence, you're also sort of drawing from some of the same pools in terms of forces. But there have been some African states that have suggested that they would be willing to contribute forces to an expanded IGASOM force in Somalia.


So bottom line is -- the short answer is working with members of the international community to find the right formula to meet our goals.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Now that the Islamists are out and the weak transitional government is in, are you considering sending in a diplomatic team to Mogadishu because thus far you've been working out of Nairobi?


MR. MCCORMACK: No plans at this point. We have met with the transitional federal government institution -- Transitional Federal Institution leadership. We met with them in Kenya. At this point there's no -- there are no plans for U.S. diplomats to go to Mogadishu. That was something that was considered for a period of time at the end of last week over the weekend. Final decision was made that we -- the security concerns regarding our personnel outweighed at that point the potential diplomatic benefits of going to Mogadishu. So the way around that was to actually have the TFI representatives come down to Kenya. And we think -- and we had good meetings with them. So there was some positive there. It also I think highlighted the fact that there is a way to go on -- a ways to go in terms of the Somali political class really coming together in a cohesive way.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Would you mind just commenting on reports that Ethiopian intelligence has worked very closely with the United States on locating these people and helping with this assault?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Ethiopia has an interest in seeing that these individuals don't -- aren't able to flee Somalia and for example set up shop or try to set up shop in Ethiopia, try to commit acts of terror in Ethiopia. So yes, in the Horn of Africa, we do have an active effort to fight terrorism and there are a variety of different aspects to this. It's information sharing, working with the countries of the region to help build up their border security capabilities whether that's, you know, helping them out with computer systems so they can check people in and out or actually building an infrastructure. There are military to military relationships, for example, military exchanges, military training. We have some with Ethiopia. It's not very large; it's about $2.5 million. And so that all exists in the Horn of Africa. I can't tell you specifically whether or not we have received information in these cases from Ethiopia, but we do have an active counterterrorism operation cooperative effort in the Horn of Africa.


QUESTION: Also you did mention that some other African states have -- they're ready to send -- contribute to this force. Can you give specific at this stage or --


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm going to let them speak for themselves. But it was some initial expressions of interest. We have also gone out to a couple of African states suggesting that they might either themselves consider it or find a way to rally support on the continent for such a mission.


Yes, sir.


QUESTION: Change of subject?


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Anything else on Somalia? No? Okay.


QUESTION: The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated Iran's Bank of Sepah as an institution that is facilitating Iran's weapons program.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: I would like to ask whether there are other -- should we expect further Iranian entities and Iranian financial institutions that are going to be sanctioned by the U.S.?


And my second question is: Are you in contact with other countries, other states, regarding this issue and are you persuading them to take similar steps?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of prospectively are we going to designate other entities under this executive order, well, it certainly is a possibility but we would never speak in advance of those activities. And in any case, those are based on the facts. There are requirements under the law and regulation before we designate any individuals or entities under this executive order. I can only say that in this particular case there was substantial evidence that led us to this action today.


In terms of working with other states, absolutely we are working with other states. It's important -- an important aspect of fighting nonproliferation in the international community is exchange of information about the lifeblood to those operations. And that really is the -- these financial networks and the either front companies or those legitimate institutions that are unwittingly, or perhaps wittingly, serving as funnels for these kind of funds. What you want to do is be able to work cooperatively with other states as well as individual financial institutions to educate them about what it is that we know regarding Iranian WMD procurement activities and missile procurement activities, and out of that you can have a good information exchange. Based on that information exchange, sometimes you can glean useful, actionable information.


So that is very much a part of what we are doing and we are under UN Security Council Resolution 1737 working very actively with other states. This is a Chapter 7 resolution and states are obliged, regardless of whether or not they supported the resolution, to comply with its terms. So we are going to act under the terms of those resolutions. We are also going to work closely with other states based on their own national laws, looking at what actions they might take to ensure that we do not have a situation where Iran is able to continue to build up its nuclear weapons program.


Yeah, Kirit.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) if have a full answer for it. I'm just wondering if you knew whether Iran knew this was coming before the announcement today.


MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you. Can't tell you.


Yes, sir.


QUESTION: It was reported today that a plane crashed in Iraq and 30 Turkish construction workers and one American died. Do you have any reaction on that?


MR. MCCORMACK: I am aware of the reports of the plane crash. I don't have information about the nationalities of those onboard that crash. There were -- I do understand that there were fatalities and that's sad. It's sad for the families of those involved. But beyond that, I don't have any other details. Certainly, our thoughts go out to those who lost loved ones.


Yes, sir.


QUESTION: Sean, on Mexico. As you know, President Calderon, after ten days of taking position, he launched an amazing military operations against drug smuggling. Now they are working along the border in Tijuana area. How the U.S. is seeing that operation and what it's doing to prevent that many criminals just come across the United States trying to escape the Mexican authorities?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's certainly very encouraging that the Mexican Government is taking steps to go after those networks that are responsible for the smuggling of drugs. And we all know that around those networks there's always also a great deal of violence that grows up around them. So it is very encouraging. We certainly have worked very cooperatively with the Mexican Government in the past on efforts to break up these rings, prevent -- help try to prevent any illegal activities that they may be engaged in. So I would expect that that cooperation carries over into the Calderon administration. I know that when he was here, President Calderon talked about the fact that this was an important priority for him and for his administration, and we look forward to working with him and his government on it.


QUESTION: Are you concerned that maybe they try to escape to the U.S.? I mean, are you taking some precautions along the border to prevent --


MR. MCCORMACK: You would have to talk to our officials over at Department of Homeland Security and perhaps in the local and state law enforcement along those border states.


QUESTION: Well, do you have any comment to the statements, the insults of President Hugo Chavez to the Secretary of the OAS?


MR. MCCORMACK: It seems like he is kind of thin-skinned. Part of democracy in the hemisphere and promotion of democracy is the ability of leaders of institutions like the OAS to be able to speak out clearly and frankly about what it is that they see. That's part of the democratic spirit and the democratic ethos. We've seen these kind of reactions before from President Chavez.


Nicholas.


QUESTION: Sean, on the Secretary's travels, the Defense Secretary actually has also announced that he is going to go to the region and it appears that those trips might be quite close in terms of timing. Is the Secretary coordinating any perhaps mutual visits with Secretary Gates anywhere along the way?


MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas, these travel schedules are separate.


QUESTION: All right.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.


QUESTION: To follow up on his question, you have been speaking about openings in the Middle East between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but the situation seems very tense right now --


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.


QUESTION: -- in between Palestinians themselves, between Israel and the Palestinians, between Israel and the moderate Arabs. The last meeting between Olmert and Barak went very wrong. So --


MR. MCCORMACK: I guess I --


QUESTION: -- what kind of opening and what kind of objectives she can achieve there?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of the tensions between Hamas and Fatah, I think those are quite clear. And the root cause of -- at the root of those is really unresolved political contradictions that the Palestinians themselves need to come to terms with and resolve through their political process. So that is something that they need to do.


For our part, we're working with President Abbas and the presidency on ways to help strengthen those institutions that support peaceful resolution of differences between Israelis and the Palestinians.


President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert actually had a very, very good meeting, from all reports that I saw. Prime Minister Olmert talked about the release of $100 million worth of tax revenues and it is important that that dialogue continue between two political leaders that are committed to a peaceful pathway.


In terms of the meeting with Prime Minister Olmert and President Mubarak, putting aside the atmospherics resulting from the raid in Ramallah, it was actually a very good meeting, from all reports that we had. These are, again, two leaders that are committed to trying to promote peace and stability throughout the region and who are committed to fighting violent extremism in the region, which puts them on the opposite side of the fence from groups like Hamas, Syria and Iran.


In terms of the Secretary's travels, this is a trip where I expect that she is going to have some extended conversations with her counterparts and leaders in the region about how to address and confront the various threats that are -- that we face in common in the region: how to move forward on a variety of different fronts, including the Israeli-Palestinian front, how is it that we can exploit this opening that we believe exists and that many others in the region exist; how is it that we can help support those forces of moderation in the region, for example the government of Prime Minister Siniora; how is it that we can help those in Iraq who are fighting every single day for a more democratic, peaceful future for their country against the forces of extremism.


So that's really the outlines of what she's going to be talking about in very broad strokes. I would expect that this is a trip that is more about laying the foundations for potential future actions than actually coming to closure on any particular agreements.


QUESTION: So Iraq will also be part of the discussions?


MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect it will be. Yes, part of the stop in -- all along the way, I would expect that the topics of the Israel-Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq would come up. I would expect also discussions about the perception of a common threat posed by Iran and for other forces of extremism and violence in the region -- violent extremism in the region.


QUESTION: Well, that was part of my question. How large a component of her meetings do you expect Iraq to be and will she be essentially defending the al-Maliki government? Some of the people she's going to see have expressed some reservations about his ability to get this job done.


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think "defending" is the word that we would use. It's no secret that we have encouraged states in the region, whether it's Egypt or Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states, to offer their support to the Government of Iraq led by Prime Minister Maliki, whether that is through debt relief or through political support or diplomatic support or other kinds of support. And we will, of course, continue to do so. And that feeds into the dialogue that we are encouraging regarding the International Compact for Iraq. That process continues to move forward. It's, I don't think at this point, ripe for a meeting in which the Iraqis state very clearly this is what we're -- this is what we are willing to do in terms of our side and then the rest of the members of the compact state clearly what they are willing to do. The process is moving forward, it's making progress, but it hasn't yet come to that point of fruition.


In terms of dividing up -- how is she going to divide her time, I think it will probably vary along each stop. But I would expect on stops other than meeting with the Palestinians and the Israelis that you have a conversation really about the region. And one way in which that will manifest itself publicly is in Kuwait there will be a GCC+2 meeting, so that's really a forum where she and her counterparts can get together really to cover the whole range of issues that confront us as well as others in the region.


QUESTION: One follow. When the time is ripe, as you say, for an actual Iraq contact group meeting, that would presumably include Iran; is that right?


MR. MCCORMACK: It has in the past, yeah. The one we had up in New York included Iran and Syria, yeah.


Yes, sir.


QUESTION: Following up on what you just said about Kuwait, is that the primary --


MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, congratulations on the Florida Gators, by the way.


QUESTION: Oh, thank you very much. Happy to get that into the record. If you'd like to say more on that, go ahead. (Laughter.)


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm nonpartisan in that regard. There are a lot of Ohio State fans with long faces around the Department today.


QUESTION: My heart goes out to them. (Laughter.) Anyway, boy, you really know how to throw me off. (Laughter.)


On the -- is the GCC+2 in Kuwait the Secretary's main agenda itinerary for the Kuwait visit, and could you discuss at all on any issues whether she would hope to have any bilateral talks with Kuwait and how Kuwait sort of fits into all the things you've just been talking about?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure there will be some bilateral contacts. As we get closer to the trip and the schedule gets fleshed out in more refined detail, we'll be happy to share those details with you. I'm sure there will be a bilateral component to the trip. Kuwait is a very good friend, a good friend and ally in the region. We have a long history together and the Secretary looks forward to visiting Kuwait for the first time other than transiting through Kuwait.


Sue.


QUESTION: Are there any plans for a Quartet meeting?


MR. MCCORMACK: On this trip, no. On this trip, no.


QUESTION: And in London are there going to be any P-5+1 meetings or anything else?


MR. MCCORMACK: I think it'll be bilateral. I think that she will see Foreign Secretary Beckett and perhaps Prime Minister Blair, but I don't know if that's been -- what Prime Minister Blair's schedule looks like.


QUESTION: And what are you hoping for the GCC+2 countries to do in terms of Iraq? Are you hoping they'll come up with a statement at the end of the meeting or a statement of support or money or --


MR. MCCORMACK: Let's -- we'll see. Keep your eye on that space.


Yes, sir.


QUESTION: Yeah, on Russia and Belarus, has the United States offered to help resolve the dispute in any way, perhaps mediation or even seeking alternative ways to get energy to Central Europe?


MR. MCCORMACK: I think that they -- this is a dispute between Russia and Belarus and they need to work it out for themselves. But what this -- this does provide a lesson, I think, to all who might be watching that it's important to (a) develop multiple sources of energy supply and (cool.gif develop multiple means by which to transport those supplies of energy. I think we have seen a number of different examples over the past year that have really pointed to both of those lessons and the importance of those.


Yeah.


QUESTION: On North Korea, China's Wu Daiwei has said that the BDA financial (inaudible). Can you confirm that and whether the location is still going to be New York?


MR. MCCORMACK: I checked on this yesterday, and as of yesterday there was no agreement on a date or the location. We suggested New York. We'll try to keep you up to date and you also might check with Treasury. They're really the point of contact for those.


QUESTION: Why North Korea going to want to reject the place New York and let like Beijing?


MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I understand the point, and the point here is that these discussions about the financial issues are separate and apart from the six-party talks.


QUESTION: You were speaking before about a Quartet meeting.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: If it's not during this trip, could it be during the second trip at the end of the month?


MR. MCCORMACK: It's possible.


QUESTION: In the margin of the Paris conference?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, it's possible. Yeah. Well, I'm not going to --


QUESTION: It is not decided?


MR. MCCORMACK: We will not be hosting the next Quartet meeting, so I'll let whoever the hosts are of the next meeting announce it out of courtesy.


QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, we have one more. Back here.


QUESTION: Is the State Department revising its previous estimates of how many Iraqi refugees it will let into the U.S. this year?


MR. MCCORMACK: The situation as it stands now is that we are working with UNHCR, as are other countries, regarding the humanitarian needs of those people who have left Iraq and are now in Jordan, Syria and other countries in the region. I think the bulk of those people are in Jordan and Syria.


Now, UNHCR has the job of helping to provide humanitarian assistance for those individuals but also assessing their claims for refugee status. That's -- in this process that's something that they -- a job that they fulfill.


Now, in terms of the United States and potential refugees from Iraq, we have a commitment to take a look at all the cases referred to us by the UNHCR of those people who have been classified as refugees. That is something that applies worldwide. So in the case of Iraqis, if there are individuals who have been classified as refugees and who have been designated as individuals who would benefit from resettlement, we will take a look at those cases, all those cases referred to us.


Now, in terms of the overall numbers, we don't have any specific caps on countries or by region. We have target numbers and there have already been a number of, based on the funding that we have, there have already been a number of different people that -- I think tens of thousands, about 50,000 that we have committed to in terms of refugee resettlement over the past year. But there are, again, no caps at the moment on that kind of resettlement. But we are now just beginning, I think, to work with UNHCR on the issue in a more concerted fashion as there have been greater numbers that have showed up in Jordan and Syria and elsewhere.


QUESTION: But in the U.S. specifically?


MR. MCCORMACK: In the U.S. -- well, you have to go through that process in order to get to the U.S. You have to have been designated, given refugee status by UNHRC and then accepted in by a country in order to be resettled. And those in the United States have already gone through that process.


QUESTION: Okay.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.


QUESTION: Do you have anything on Andrew Natsios's visit to China? Who has he spoken to? What has he achieved? Where is he at in terms of his trip?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I'll check for you. I haven't talked to him.


Okay, great.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/78511.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 10 2007, 03:31 PM
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody.

QUESTION: Good afternoon.


MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon to you, Lambros. How are you?


QUESTION: Very well. Happy New Year.


MR. MCCORMACK: Good. Happy new year to you. I don't have any opening statements, so we can get right into your questions.


QUESTION: We'll let Lambros ask his question and get it out of the way.


MR. MCCORMACK: All right, Lambros. (Laughter.)


QUESTION: May I?


MR. MCCORMACK: You're a leadoff hitter.


QUESTION: Oh, there is a new era in here. (Laughter.)


MR. MCCORMACK: You have the floor. You have the floor, Lambros.


QUESTION: Okay. Mr. McCormack, yesterday Under Secretary Nicholas Burns during a visit at the Greek Embassy with the presence of Greek Ambassador Mallias, in answer to a question of Cyprus stated inter alia, "We think, we hope that 2007 could be a year of Cyprus. And UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is now putting together a team. We hope that there will be even senior Americans on that team in the new UN effort to try to resolve finally the problems that have stemmed from the invasion of Cyprus 30 years ago." A similar statement was made by Deputy Assistant Secretary Matt Bryza before yesterday, in answer to a question of mine with the presence of the Turkish Ambassador, Mr. Sensoy, during a conference at Sofitel Hotel here in Washington. I'm wondering based on what you are so optimistic, so clear that 2007 will be the Cyprus year for a final solution.


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we hope that all the relevant parties can come together to once again try to find a solution to this very difficult long-standing problem. Secretary General Annan made tremendous efforts to propose a solution that was put to the test of the voters and ultimately the Greek Cypriots decided against it. They voted against it. And so I think that in the wake of that there wasn't much interest among the members of the international community for reenergizing efforts to try to come to a solution. But I think we have gotten to a point now where enough interested parties in the region have expressed an interest in maybe trying again to find a solution; that the UN has taken another look at this issue and they may consider what it is that they might do. We support them in those efforts. And should they decide to move forward with a new effort to try to find a solution, we would certainly support them in those efforts, but we would be in a supporting role.


Yeah, Sylvie.


QUESTION: Can you confirm a new U.S. raid in south of Somalia today?


MR. MCCORMACK: I can't, no. There are -- let me -- in terms of any questions about ongoing operations, you can talk to the Department of Defense about that. We do as a U.S. Government have an ongoing interest in seeing that those who are involved in terrorism, members of terrorist organizations, those who are known to have perpetrated acts of terrorism against the United States, U.S. interests or its friends and allies. We want to make sure that those individuals are not able to flee Somalia, where they previously had enjoyed safe haven or at least, at the very least, the protection of some individuals in Somalia.


So as a U.S. Government, do we have an interest in seeing that they aren't allowed to leave Somalia and that, if possible, they are brought to justice? Absolutely. But I'm not going to comment on any particular effort in that regard. You all know that we do have military assets in the area. It's been publicly acknowledged that we do have naval assets off the coast of Somalia in that Horn of Africa region. We do have an active anti-terrorism effort in the Horn of Africa based out of Djibouti, and that's a cooperative effort with neighbors in the region. But it's not my role to really talk about any sort of ongoing or planned operations that we may have.


Sue.


QUESTION: Could you comment on criticism from the European Union, Italy and others about the U.S. military action in Somalia? They say that all this will do is stoke up hostilities in the region and cause further problems.


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, of course we're sympathetic to the idea that you don't want to -- in your counterterrorism efforts you don't want to create more problems for yourself. But also senior policymakers, senior officials involved in our counterterrorism efforts are paid to make difficult judgments about those sorts of tradeoffs. When do you have actionable intelligence? When do you have an opportunity to either prevent a terrorist act or to go after those who either are planning them or have perpetrated them? And those are -- there's not a cookie-cutter answer to that. They do it on a case-by-case basis.


And all of these various considerations go into deciding how to approach a given situation and there may be criticism of that, but of course that comes with the territory. And we would hope that after -- inasmuch as we can provide information and facts to our friends and allies about what it is that we have or plan to do, then we'll do so. There are obviously constraints on that. And if they are not supportive of those efforts, well then that's sometimes just the way it works out. But of course we -- of course we're sensitive to the idea that in protecting the United States and its interests we also have to do the cost-benefit analysis. But at the end of the day, we're going to err on the side of protecting the American people and protecting American interests.


QUESTION: And there are also conflicting reports on the ground as to the death toll. Are you going to at some point be able to release a U.S. estimate as to how many died? The Somalis say it's many -- could be up to 50.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right. If there's any information to be provided in that regard, if it's appropriate to come from the State Department, then I'll be happy to talk about it. But if others -- if it's more appropriate for others to talk about it, then others will talk about it, but I don't have any additional information that I can offer you.


Nicholas.


QUESTION: Sean, I think part of the criticism that she was talking about has arisen out of the fact that your allies say they didn't know about what was going to happen militarily in Somalia. Yesterday you said that you hadn't spoken to the Secretary to see whether she knew about it in advance, but are you aware of any contacts with European allies to --who are involved in Somalia to inform them that such a strike was --


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. You can talk to DOD about that.


QUESTION: But you are in charge of diplomacy with --


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I know but they are also mil-to-mil relationships as well and those would be actually the appropriate channels more likely than not, that those communications would go through. I can't tell you whether or not there was any discussion beforehand. Very frequently in counterterrorism operations you have to maintain a certain amount of operational security around them. That doesn't mean that there's a lack of trust there, but those are the hard facts of conducting counterterrorist operations.


Yeah, Kirit.


QUESTION: Can I change the subject?


MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on Somalia?


QUESTION: Iraq?


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.


QUESTION: Senior Administration official just said that there's a plan to double the number of PRTs in Iraq. I'm wondering if you have any information about that.


MR. MCCORMACK: I would recommend that you stay tuned to the President's remarks tonight. If there's anything more to say about expanding the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams that we have on the ground in Iraq, then we'll be happy to provide you more details on it. Currently there are -- I think the last count is seven U.S. PRTs and three coalition PRTs, meaning they were staffed by other members of the multinational force, so there's a total of ten right now.


QUESTION: Do you have any -- I mean, could you give us an assessment of their progress so far?


MR. MCCORMACK: We think it's a very important part of certainly the State Department's efforts in Iraq to really get out to work with provincial and local leaders to -- on a whole variety of different issues, whether that's talking with them about building up the governing institutions in the outlining areas outside of Baghdad, working with them on local projects, working with them on, you know, individual entrepreneurs, with microfinance. That's another very interesting program that is ongoing has really shown results. And it's the kind of program that has demonstrated positive returns all around the globe. As a matter of fact, the latest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate is actually the person who started the programs in Bangladesh several decades ago.


So the PRTs are a very important element not only in getting out beyond Baghdad and working at the state and at the provisional and local level, but they are also important for the fact that they are the nexus in the field outside of Baghdad, outside of the headquarters elements, of the State Department and Department of Defense, that civil-military cooperation that is very, very important anytime you're dealing with counterinsurgency operations; that once you are able to confront the bad guys, whoever they may be, that you are able to flow in behind that with civil-military reconstruction efforts, efforts to work with local leaders to promote projects that are of interest to the local population, whether that's cleaning up the streets or painting schools or building schools or those kind of projects.


So that's a big chunk of what the PRTs -- these are the people that are really on the ground out there in the provinces, in the cities and the small localities working with Iraqis at the grassroots to help them build up those democratic institutions outside of the capital.


Sue.


QUESTION: I think the U.S. Government has disbursed over $16 billion so far in reconstruction assistance. I think it's about 16 billion of the -- I know we've got 22 billion in total but --


MR. MCCORMACK: It's about 80 percent has been -- 80 percent, I think, of the 20 billion --


QUESTION: Mm-hmm, or 22 billion.


MR. MCCORMACK: -- has been spent and I think the other -- the remaining 20 percent has been obligated. Roughly.


QUESTION: Right. Now, the President is suggesting another billion or so which will go into reconstruction and jobs. Why do you think that this extra billion or so will make any difference at all in turning the situation around?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, as for any --


QUESTION: Or do you think additional reconstruction funds --


MR. MCCORMACK: First of all, as for the details of the President's speech and the strategy that he's going to outline, I suggest you wait until 9:01:30 tonight. You can tune in and you can hear it. But again, as I pointed out with Kirit, it is very important in counterinsurgency operations, and you can look at -- talk to all the experts, look at all the manuals, it's very important that once you have a cessation of the military operations in an area, in a small area, that you're able to flow in with the civil-military teams behind them, work with the local leaders, work on the local small-scale construction projects that have a real effect on people's daily lives. It is very important to help the Iraqis both rebuild their large-scale infrastructure -- we're talking power plants and power lines and oil, the oil pipelines and roads and sewage treatment and water plants, all of those things -- because they were really neglected under Saddam Hussein. It was really a decrepit infrastructure, and particularly outside of Baghdad. So that was important money to have spent.


We made a transition, I don't know, about a year or so ago, about a year, year and a half ago, to focus more on the smaller-scale projects because we understood that these are the projects that will have an immediate effect on people's lives. You know, building the power plant it may take some time and eventually they may get more hours of electricity, but they don't see any immediate benefit to that. And what we have learned and what we know is that there needs to be an immediate -- a more immediate demonstration of the benefits of working with the central government, working with the coalition forces as you're fighting insurgents, terrorists or sectarian militias, demonstrate to them that there are positive benefits that will flow from investing in that political process.


And you can do that over the short term, which is what we're talking about with the PRTs, but there also has to be some long-term expenditures to help with the large-scale infrastructure. And there are still a lot of needs in that regard and the Iraqis, I think, are going to be stepping up to that as well as perhaps others in the international community.


Yeah, Kirit.


QUESTION: The Secretary and President Bush met with or at least via videoconference a few of the PRT leaders, I think three in Baghdad and then one here last month.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.


QUESTION: Can you say whether this decision came out of that discussion or what they --


MR. MCCORMACK: No -- well, I'll let the President talk about his own decisions. First of all, the predicate to the question is that there is the expansion, so nice try. But I think it is safe to say, because the President has spoken in public about this, that he was -- how impressed he was by the effectiveness of the program but also by the people who were leading these teams. These were experienced people who have a lot of years in dealing with just these kinds of issues and they were able to give him a real view from what's going on on the ground outside of Baghdad.


And it's also a program that has the full support of Secretary Rice. She went to Mosul to announce the startup of this program and introduced the first PRT to the media and to the rest of the world and to the Iraqis. So it's a program that she is very keen on and thinks it is very effective. And I think that the President in being able to talk one-on-one with these individuals also came away impressed by the dedication and the skill and the effectiveness of not only the program but the people.


Yeah, Joel.


QUESTION: Sean, in the recent past we've seen where following the war in the Middle East between Hezbollah and Israel, following the destruction of the section in south Beirut Hezbollah raced into that area and handed out gobs of money to people to rebuild their particular homes and apartments. Now, obviously that may have been for political purposes. What's to say that right now the way the -- in Baghdad the way the population, and Sadr City and other locations within the city are thinking -- now, this is not just for Baghdad but I would assume also for country wide -- Fallujah, Najaf, elsewhere. What's to prevent the Maliki government who cannot contain some of this violence to suddenly see other groups, Sunnis and Shiites, funneling money in there for those political purposes to maybe derail the infrastructure plans?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you do have outside groups and countries meddling in Iraq's internal affairs in a negative way and we've talked about that. Iran and Syria are two prime examples of that. It is important that the central government, any central government, demonstrate to the people that they should invest in the political process and support the political process, support the democratic institutions that are part of that political process. But as in any democracy the government has to respond to the needs of the people and if those needs are not being met in some regard in these fledging democracies, they're going to look elsewhere.


So certainly there are a bunch of different components to this. There needs to be responsible effective government that provides for the needs of the people and you also need to work to make sure that those outside groups in countries that are trying to negatively effect the situation in the country aren't able to do so, either by getting them -- requesting that they stop or conducting -- engaging in actions that will make them less effective in their ability to negatively influence a situation in the country.


Sylvie.


QUESTION: Do you have any detail on the controversy in the UN over the Hariri probe? Apparently, Russia wants to identify ten countries which didn't comply or didn't participate in the inquiry and the U.S. doesn't want to identify these countries. Why?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you can talk to the Russians what their motivation is. But look, we -- you know, our position is that we defer to Mr. Brammertz as to whether or not he thinks it's useful to identify these countries. If he thinks it's useful, then we would support his decision to do so. If he decides that it is not in the interest of the investigation to make this information public, then we support his decision not to release those names.


The fundamental question here, and people shouldn't become distracted by it, is what does Mr. Brammertz think is most useful in allowing his investigation to move forward. We have and will continue to support him and the investigation in whatever ways we possibly can to see that those responsible for the murder of Prime Minister Hariri -- former Prime Minister Hariri -- are brought to justice.


QUESTION: But don't you think there is a risk this inquiry could be seen as partial because Syria has been criticized because they didn't comply enough to the inquiry and now we learn that ten countries didn't and nobody cares?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not sure -- first of all, you also don't know all the details and you're taking one snapshot in time. So again, you know, it shouldn't be about finger-pointing at this time. The fact that Syria has been cited as not being fully cooperative in the past with the investigation was important because -- let's be frank -- the signs pointed to some Syrian involvement in some fashion. Those were some of the initial indications that came out of Mr. Brammertz's predecessor, Mr. Mehlis, in conducting the investigation.


So let's distinguish here between those who may or may not have played a role and their cooperation, played a role in the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri and their cooperation, and perhaps others who are not in any way thought to be complicit in the murder of former Prime Minister Hariri. So there are two different categories here, I think, and I think Syria quite clearly falls into a category of its own so I wouldn't try to lump them all together.


QUESTION: You don't think it could slow the probe in its --


MR. MCCORMACK: No, I think that at the end of the day when Mr. Brammertz has concluded his investigation that he will lay out for all the information that he has and people can look at the body of evidence that he has amassed and they can then look at the conduct of the tribunal that will be put in place to assess this evidence and then also hold to account those responsible for the murder of former Prime Minister Hariri. So there will be plenty of time to consider the evidence and people will be able to make their own judgments about it. But again, the most important thing here is the integrity of the investigation, and that means allowing Mr. Brammertz to do what he thinks is best in achieving the goals that he -- achieving the objective that he has been charged with by the Security Council.


Yeah.


QUESTION: The East Asia summit takes place this weekend in the Philippines. Is the United States unhappy about being excluded from this, and what do you hope the summit might produce in the way of support for the Doha WTO talks or various anti-terrorism measures?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think we have any particular consternation about being left out. There are plenty of regional groupings.


And as for the Doha round of trade talks, I don't know. I have to admit I'm not fully briefed up on what it is the East Asia summit might or might not produce, but we would hope that as a general concept that states take quite seriously the importance of trying to reach some accord in this round of talks. Free trade has greatly benefited nations around the world, and most especially those nations in East Asia who have seen their economies grow by leaps and bounds over the past several decades. That has been in large part because of free trade.


And it is very important that we continue our efforts as an international trading community to not only maintain that system of free trade but to expand it and to try to go after remaining impediments that exist to free trade. We are committed to that. We have made some important proposals. We have made some important concessions as part of this. Unfortunately, however, in a couple rounds of discussions that are part of the Doha -- overall Doha round. We have not succeeded as a free trading community in coming to full agreement, but we certainly have not -- we have not given up on efforts to try to come to a successful conclusion of the Doha round and we would call upon others, including those attending that East Asia summit, to do what they can to see that we succeed. It's important.


QUESTION: And on the anti-terrorism issue, which is another major theme of the conference?


MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I confess I don't know what it is that they're -- is exactly on their agenda, but clearly we hope that there is an attitude of working with -- among themselves as well as with us and other countries to fight terrorism around the world. It's certainly an appropriate topic given that this conference is being held in the Philippines, which has suffered from terrorism from the Abu Sayyaf group as well as others. And we all know about the other terrorist activities in Southeast Asia as well. So I think certainly given the location, geographic location, an appropriate topic for them to talk about.


QUESTION: We have a speech by the Secretary shortly. I don't know if there are others, but can we --


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I mean -- what, you want to throw me over for the Secretary, Charlie? Gosh almight. Let's go to Gollust here.


QUESTION: Richard Boucher -- is he on the road this week?


MR. MCCORMACK: Is he where?


QUESTION: Is he on the road this week?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, he is out of the building. I'm not sure exactly where. Beyond the borders of the United States.


QUESTION: We have reports that he was in Afghanistan and I just wonder, if he was, what he was up to.


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. We have to have a Boucher tracker. I don't know. He's on the road quite a bit. I can't tell you.


QUESTION: And just one more. Khaled Mashal, the militant leader of Hamas, has made seemingly some disarmingly conciliatory remarks about Israel today.


MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I've seen some snippets of those reports and I have to confess I haven't seen all the remarks and I have to -- I have to check with the experts who follow these things on a minute and daily basis for whether or not these are significant in any sort of positive way. I can't tell you if they are or not.


QUESTION: (Inaudible.)


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, sometimes I'm tempted, George. (Laughter.)


Yeah.


QUESTION: Iraq Foreign Ministry yesterday said that he turned down a request by the government to delay the hanging of Saddam. I just wanted to know if you had any comment on that.


MR. MCCORMACK: You know, again, these are decisions for the Iraqis to make in terms of the timing. Our admonition has been to do this in a way that meets Iraqi laws and regulations.


QUESTION: Do you know if the Secretary has seen the cell phone video of Saddam's hanging at all?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. It's been on TV pretty much non-stop for the past couple of weeks, so I'm sure that she probably caught some of it on the TV.


QUESTION: Do you think you can follow up on Iraq?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well (inaudible), yes, ma'am.


QUESTION: Latin America. Barbara Slovin recently in USA Today had an article --


MR. MCCORMACK: I think it's Slavin.


QUESTION: Slavin, is that correct? Yeah, I wasn't sure. Concern about leftist victories in Latin America has prompted President Bush to quietly grant a waiver that allows the U.S. to resume training militaries from eleven Latin American and Caribbean countries. The 2002 U.S. law bars countries from receiving military aid and training if they refuse to promote immunity from prosecution to U.S. service members who might get hauled before the International Criminal Court. The law allows presidential waivers. Do you know which countries have granted immunity so far?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. We'll try to get you an answer.


Lambros, last one. Make it short.


QUESTION: On Iraq, it's important. Mr. McCormack, it was reported by Nation magazine that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with Saddam Hussein during their last visit in Iraq and they asked him --


MR. MCCORMACK: When?


QUESTION: -- for his cooperation to defuse the resistance, but the late Iraqi dictator refused. I'm wondering is that true.


MR. MCCORMACK: That is just --


QUESTION: It was the last issue of the Nation magazine.


MR. MCCORMACK: That's just crazy. I don't know where they made that -- who made that up.


QUESTION: Even they underlined this in capital letters.


MR. MCCORMACK: It doesn't make it right. It just means they underlined it.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/78512.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 11 2007, 02:42 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 11, 2007

Briefing by the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Room 450
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building



8:42 A.M. EST

SECRETARY RICE: Good morning. Today Secretary Gates and I will head to Capitol Hill to discuss with the Congress the new strategy for Iraq that President Bush outlined last night. All Americans know that the stakes in Iraq are enormous, and we all share the belief that the situation is currently unacceptable. On this we are united.

The President has outlined a strategy that relies on three main points. First, and most importantly, the Iraqis have devised their own strategy -- political, economic, and military -- and our efforts will support theirs. Among Americans and Iraqis, there is no confusion over one basic fact: It is the Iraqis who are responsible for what kind of country Iraq will be; it is they who must decide whether Iraq will be characterized by national unity or sectarian conflict. The President has conveyed to the Iraqi leadership that we will support their good decisions, but that Americans' patience is limited.

Second, we will further decentralize and diversify our civilian presence in Iraq to better assist the Iraqi people. Iraq has a federal government. We must therefore get our civilians out of the embassy, out of the Green Zone, and into the field across Iraq, to support promising local leaders and promising local structures. This will enhance and diversify our chances of success in Iraq.

The mechanism to accomplish this is the provincial reconstruction team, or PRT. The logic behind PRTs is simple: Success in Iraq relies on more than military efforts, it requires robust political and economic progress. Our military operations must be fully supported and integrated with our civilian and diplomatic efforts across the entire U.S. government to help Iraqis clear, hold and build throughout all Iraq.

We in the State Department fully understand our role in this mission and we are prepared to play it. We are already trying -- we are ready to strengthen, indeed, to surge our civilian efforts. We plan to expand our PRTs in Iraq from 10 to at least 18. In Baghdad we will go from one PRT to six, and in Anbar province, from one to three, because local leaders are taking encouraging steps there to confront violent extremists and to build hope for their people.

To oversee our economic support for the Iraqi people, and to ensure that it is closely integrated with our political assistance and our security strategy, I am pleased to announce today that I am appointing Ambassador Tim Carney to the new position of Coordinator for Iraq Transitional Assistance. Ambassador Carney is formerly our Ambassador to Haiti. He has enormous experience in post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction and development. He will be based in Baghdad where he will coordinate and work closely with his Iraqi counterparts.

Finally, we are anchoring our efforts in Iraq within a regional diplomatic strategy, as the Iraq Study Group recommended. We are supporting the Iraqi government in crafting an international compact with the international community based on mutual obligations. And we are working with Turkey and Iraq on concerns about terrorism from the Kurdish Workers Party.

Iraq is central to the future of the Middle East. The security of this region is an enduring vital interest for the United States. And our continued leadership in this part of the world will contribute greatly to its stability and success.

Our regional diplomacy is based on the substantially changed realities in the Middle East. Historic change is unfolding in the region, unleashing old grievances, new anxieties, and some violence, but is also revealing a promising new strategic realignment in the Middle East. This is the same alignment that we see in Iraq. On one side are the many reformers and responsible leaders who seek to advance their interests peacefully, politically, and diplomatically. On the other side are extremists of every sect and ethnicity who use violence to spread chaos to undermine democratic governments and to impose agendas of hate and intolerance.

Our most urgent diplomatic goal is to empower reformers and responsible leaders across the region, and to confront extremists. The proper partners in our regional diplomacy are those who share these goals -- our allies, Israel and Turkey, of course, but democratic reformers and leaders in places like Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories and Iraq, and the responsible governments of the Gulf States, plus Egypt and Jordan, or the GCC plus two.

Tomorrow, I leave for the Middle East to continue consultations with our partners. Two governments have unfortunately chosen to align themselves with the forces of extremism -- both in Iraq and across the Middle East. One is Syria. Despite many appeals, including from Syria's fellow Arab states, the leaders in Damascus continue to support terrorism and to destabilize Iraq and their neighbors. The problem here is not a lack of engagement with Syria, but a lack of action by Syria.

Iran is the other. If the government in Tehran wants to help stabilize the region -- as it now claims -- then it should end its support for violent extremists who destroy the aspirations of innocent Lebanese, Palestinians and Iraqis. And it should end its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

I repeat an offer that I've made several times, today. If Iran suspends its uranium enrichment -- which is an international demand, not just an American one -- then the United States is prepared to reverse 27 years of policy. And I will meet with my Iranian counterpart any time, anywhere. Thus we would have the possibility to discuss every facet of our countries' relations. Until then, the international community must continue to hold the Iranian government accountable.

Syria and Iran should end their destabilizing behavior in the region. They cannot be paid to do so. That would only embolden our enemies and demoralize our friends, both in Iraq and across the region, all of whom are watching to see whether America has the will to keep its commitments. The United States will defend its interests and those of our friends and allies in this vital region.

And now I'm happy to turn the podium over to Secretary Gates, who will talk about the military aspect of the plan.

SECRETARY GATES: Thank you, Secretary Rice. This afternoon, General Pace and I will appear before the House Armed Services Committee to discuss the military aspects of the Iraq strategy announced by the President last night. Tomorrow we will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The security plan is designed to have Iraqi forces lead a campaign, with our forces in support, to protect the population of Baghdad from intimidation and violence instigated by Sunni and Shia extremist groups, and to enable the Iraqi government to take the difficult steps necessary to address that nation's underlying issues. This means, above all, strengthening those in Iraq who are prepared to address its problems peacefully against those who seek only violence, death and chaos.

The term "surge" has been used in relation to increasing U.S. troop levels, and an increase certainly will take place. But what is really going on, and what is going to take place, is a surge across all lines of operations -- military and non-military, Iraqi and coalition. The President's plan has Iraqis in the lead and seeks a better balance of U.S. military and non-military efforts than was the case in the past. We cannot succeed in Iraq without the important non-military elements Secretary Rice just mentioned.

The increase in military forces will be phased in. It will not unfold overnight; there will be no D-Day; it won't look like the Gulf War. The timetable for the introduction of additional U.S. forces will provide ample opportunity early on and before many of the additional U.S. troops actually arrive in Iraq to evaluate the progress of this endeavor and whether the Iraqis are fulfilling their commitments to us.

This updated plan builds on the lessons and experiences of the past. It places new emphasis on and adds new resources to the holding and building part of the clear, hold, and build strategy. At this pivotal moment, the credibility of the United States is on the line in Iraq. Governments in the region, both friends and adversaries, are watching what we do and will draw their own conclusions about our resolve and the steadfastness of our commitments.

Whatever one's views on how we got to this point in Iraq, there is widespread agreement that failure there would be a calamity that would haunt our nation in the future, and in the region. The violence in Iraq, if unchecked, could spread outside its borders and draw other states into a regional conflagration. In addition, one would see an emboldened and strengthened Iran, a safe haven and base of operations for Jihadist networks in the heart of the Middle East, a humiliating defeat in the overall campaign against violent extremism worldwide, and an undermining of the credibility of the United States. Given what is at stake, failure in Iraq is not an option.

I would like to conclude my remarks with two announcements. First, the President announced last night that he would strengthen our military for the long war against terrorism by authorizing an increase in the overall strength of the Army and the Marine Corps. I am recommending to him a total increase in the two services of 92,000 soldiers and Marines over the next five years -- 65,000 soldiers, and 27,000 Marines. The emphasis will be on increasing combat capability.

This increase will be accomplished in two ways. First, we will propose to make permanent the temporary increase of 30,000 for the Army, and 5,000 for the Marine Corps. Then we propose to build up from that base in annual increments of 7,000 troops a year for the Army, and 5,000 for the Marine Corps, until the Marine Corps reaches a level of 202,000, and the Army would be at 547,000.

We should recognize that while it may take some time for these new troops to become available for deployment, it is important that our men and women in uniform know that additional manpower and resources are on the way.

Second, for several months, the Department of Defense has been assessing whether we have the right policies to govern how we manage and deploy members of the Reserves, the National Guard, and our active component units. Based on this assessment and the recommendations of our military leadership, I am making the following changes in Department policy.

First, the mobilization of ground Reserve forces going forward will be managed on a unit, instead of an individual basis. This change will allow us to achieve greater unit cohesion and predictability in how Reserve units train and deploy.

Second, from this moment forward, from this point forward, members of the Reserves who are -- will be involuntarily mobilized for a maximum of one year at a time, in contrast to the current practice of 16 to 24 months.

Third, the planning objective for Guard and Reserve units will remain one year of being mobilized, followed by five years demobilized. However, today's global demands will require a number of selected Guard and Reserve units to be remobilized sooner than this standard. Our intention is that such exceptions be temporary. The goal for the active force rotation cycle remains one year deployed for every two years at home station. Today, most active units are receiving only one year at home station before deploying again. Mobilizing select Guard and Reserve units before this five-year period is complete will allow us to move closer to relieving the stress on the total force.

Fourth, I'm directing the establishment of a new program to compensate individuals in both the active and Reserve components who are required to mobilize or deploy early, or extend beyond the established rotation policy goals.

Fifth, I am also directing that all commands and units review how they administer the hardship waiver program to ensure that they are properly taking into account exceptional circumstances facing military families of deployed service members.

It is important to note that these policy changes have been under discussion for some time within the Department of Defense and would be needed independently of the President's announcement on Iraq last night. And there will be a handout afterward on the details of these changes since they are a little complicated.

Finally, I'm pleased to report that all active branches of the United States military exceeded their recruiting goals for the month of December, with particularly strong showings by the Army and the Marine Corps. Our nation is truly blessed that so many talented and patriotic young people have stepped forward to defend our nation, and that so many servicemen and women have chosen to continue to serve.

Thank you, and we'll be happy to take your questions.

Q Secretary Gates, how long do you expect to maintain the surge in Iraq? And what happens if the Iraqis do not live up to their commitments?

SECRETARY GATES: Well, as I indicated, we're going to know pretty early on whether the Iraqis are meeting their military commitments, in terms of being able to go into all neighborhoods, in terms of the Iraqis being in the lead and carrying out the leadership and the fighting, and for there not to be political interference in the military operations that are going forward. As I say, this is going to unfold over a period of time, and so I think that as I indicated in my remarks, before very many American soldiers have been sent to Iraq, we'll have pretty good early indications of their performance. We'll have to see, in terms of the length of time. It's really hard to say at this point. It's viewed as a temporary surge. But I think no one has a really clear idea of how long that might be.

Q Can you define what success will be then, sir? If you don't know how long it will be -- I know one of the things over the last few months, the President was saying, we're winning in Iraq, we're winning in Iraq, suddenly he didn't think we were, so how do you define success? How do you know if it's not working? Certainly, there will be a period where it's bloodier, more violent. But at what point do you really know it's working?

SECRETARY GATES: Well, let me take a crack at it and then invite Condi to comment. I think that what we will see over time is a lessening of violence in Baghdad. If this strategy is successful, over time we will see a lessening of violence in Baghdad. We're going to be, to a certain extent, the prisoners of anyone who wants to strap on a bomb and blow themselves up. But if the environment in Baghdad improves to the point where the political process can go forward, where the reconciliation process can go forward, where an oil law can be passed for the distribution of the revenues from the oil sales, where provincial elections can go forward, and where the government is actually beginning to make its writ felt outside Baghdad and we see the government of Iraq beginning to operate more effectively -- I think all of these things -- as the President said last night and as I suggested this morning, it isn't going to be like anything we've experienced before in terms of when we'll know whether or not we're being successful. It's going to take a little time, and we will probably have a better view a couple of months from now in terms of whether we are making headway in terms of getting better control of Baghdad, with the Iraqis in the lead and with the Iraqis beginning to make better progress on the reconciliation process.

But let me ask Secretary Rice to offer her thoughts.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would underscore the point about political reconciliation. I do think the Iraqis obviously have to pass an oil law, they have to follow through on the promises that they've made to their own people about the inclusiveness of the political process.

I think as to -- I'd make one point about Baghdad and one point about the rest of the country. What has really happened in Baghdad -- and Prime Minister Maliki said this to the President -- is that the Iraqi people have lost confidence in the ability of their government to defend them in their capital, to protect them in their capital. And in fact, there are some, because of the sectarian overtones, who wonder if, in fact, their government is willing to protect them if they come from one sect or another.

And I think what the Iraqi government is trying to do and needs to do is to reestablish civil order, in the sense that they are, in fact, willing to, and capable of protecting all Iraqis who live in Baghdad. That means the kinds of activities that take place in these neighborhoods wouldn't be tolerated and they would, in fact, go after some of the violent people on either side who are causing the problems. And I think that will be a measure of how well they are doing.

In the provinces, it's also important to recognize that not everything -- as important as Baghdad is, not everything rests on Baghdad. One reason that we're diversifying and decentralizing into the provinces and the localities is that you want to strengthen the governance from the bottom up, as well. And we've learned that it is somewhat more effective to be able to deliver governance and economic development and reconstruction at a more local level.

And I think it's starting to have an effect. We've seen it work in Mosul, we've seen it work in Talafar, and as the Secretary said -- as Bob said, in Anbar, we're beginning to get some signs that the tribal sheiks there want to fight the violent extremists. And we've been in Anbar for awhile now working politically. So I think you should think of what the government needs to show in Baghdad, but also the building of governance structures outside of the country.

Q Secretary Rice, can I ask you a more fundamental question that applies to Secretary Gates, as well? If you look at the -- what's happened in Iraq, even recently -- I mean, the spectacle of the execution of Saddam Hussein, the trouble in the police ranks, and there's other examples -- why should the American people believe at this point that the Iraqis want reconciliation and a stable democratic government as much as the United States wants it for them?

And for Secretary Gates, I have a tactical question. Is the United States military and/or the Iraqi government prepared now to arrest or kill Muqtada al Sadr as part of this new increase?

SECRETARY RICE: David, on the first point, obviously this is a country that has had years and years of tragedy in which certain people were oppressed by other people. And it's perhaps not surprising that the passions and the anger runs pretty deep, and sometimes it expresses itself in ways that I think are not appropriate -- but it expresses itself. The Saddam trial was extremely unfortunate -- the Saddam hanging was extremely unfortunate. But, of course, we have to keep in mind, too, the victims and remember them first. But these passions do get expressed.

But as to whether the Iraqi people want to live in peace, I think that 12.5 million of them went out and voted against a lot of terrorist threats because they wanted a single Iraq. I think that you have to look at the way that their leaders are trying to work together. One of the things that's interesting about this national oil law, to which they are close, is that that's a very good sign of overcoming sectarian differences for a larger political purpose. And it's not as if they're not sacrificing for this unified Iraq. Tariq al Hashemi, who is the leading Sunni leader, has lost two brothers and a sister -- not actually to sectarianism, but to insurgents who do not want Sunnis to be a part of the process -- and, yet, he remains a part of the process.

So I think both at the level of the population and at the level of the political class, you have people who are intent on staying together in one Iraq, trying to overcome their differences with these fragile, new political institutions, and who are being buffeted and challenged in that by violent people on the extremes who are using sectarian purpose to kill innocent Iraqis. And what the Iraqi government has to do is to demonstrate firmly that it is fully committed to the protection of all Iraqis; it is fully committed to the punishment of any Iraqi who is engaged in killing innocents. And I think then you will begin to see more room for the kind of national reconciliation process that's been going on, but I think has, frankly, been undermined by the sectarian violence since February of '06.

SECRETARY GATES: I think a source of frustration for both Iraqi and American forces in the past has been political interference during clearing operations. And there are a number of instances that we've heard about of someone being detained and then a call being placed from some office in the government and, all of a sudden, that person is released because of political influence.

I think one of the most important commitments that the Prime Minister has made is that in this offensive, the military will have the authority to go after all law-breakers, there are no exceptions -- I'm not going to hang specific targets on specific people, but all law-breakers are susceptible to being detained or taken care of in this campaign.

Q But, sir, why be vague on the -- Sadr, because he has a long history here in this conflict as being on a most wanted list of the United States. Then the Iraqis persuaded the U.S. not to arrest him. He leads the Mahdi Army. I mean, this is the bad guy that the United States makes clear is helping to bring down this government. So why not commit to what our posture is with regard to him now?

SECRETARY GATES: What I will say is that all parts of Baghdad are going to be involved in this campaign, including Sadr City.

Q Could I ask the Chairman a question?

SECRETARY GATES: Please, let the Chairman --

Q We have heard repeatedly over the past year, and President Bush was fairly explicit about it last night, that Iran has been supplying ordinance that has been killing American troops. If this is so, why are we not matching Iranian force with force of our own? And why are we content to continue issuing statements of displeasure -- what do we think that's going to accomplish? And have you made any recommendations along these lines?

GENERAL PACE: What we've been doing, and will continue to do, is to track the networks of individuals, regardless of their nationality, inside of Iraq that are providing weapons that are designed to kill our troops. I think it's instructive that in the last couple of weeks two of those raids that we conduct to go after these folks that are providing these kinds of weapons -- two of those raids had policed up Iranians. So it is clear that the Iranians are complicit in providing weapons, and it's also clear that we will do all we need to do to defend our troops in Iraq by going after the entire network, regardless of where those people come from.

Q Are you going after them in Iran? Why not go to the source?

GENERAL PACE: We can take care of the security for our troops by doing the business we need to do inside of Iraq. And there are other methods, especially the kind that Secretary Rice has outlined, to deal with government-to-government relationships with Iran. But with regard to those who are physically present trying to do harm to our troops, regardless of nationality, we will go after them and defend ourselves.

Q One last attempt at this, let me take one last, different way. Has anyone in the military recommended operations inside Iran?

GENERAL PACE: No.

Q General Pace, can I just ask you a question, as long as he is at the podium?

Q Secretary Rice --

SECRETARY RICE: Why don't you go ahead while he's still at the podium, and I'll referee. (Laughter.)

Q Okay. General Pace, can you talk about the numbers? The President, Secretary Gates, everyone has said this is the most important operation; you have to succeed in there. So why just 20,000 troops? The studies from RAND show a much greater number would probably be needed. Why just 20,000, and is it because we don't really have more troops to go in there? And were there recommendations for much larger numbers of troops within the Joint Staff?

GENERAL PACE: First of all, this is not a re-invasion of Iraq, this is looking at the problem areas, specifically Baghdad and al Anbar, to determine what we can do to help the Iraqi government to protect their own people. In doing the military analysis of that -- let's take Baghdad, for example -- we looked at the Iraqi plan, which is a commander, two division commanders, nine districts, each of which would have an Iraqi brigade at its lead, and then our ability to reinforce each of those brigades with a battalion of our own, and also provide additional advisors inside those battalions.

When you then take a look at the activities that they must conduct -- the patrolling, the checkpoints, the quick reaction forces, the going door-to-door to see the people and let them know that there is a security presence, when you look at those kinds of activities, and you do what we call a "troop-to-task analysis," you end up needing more forces in Baghdad than are currently there -- preferably Iraqi forces, and the Iraqis are going to provide additional forces -- but when you look at capacity, there are still unique capabilities that the U.S. Armed Forces have that are useful to assisting the Iraqi government. And that's how our commanders on the ground did the analysis, and that's why General Casey and his commanders came forward and asked for additional forces. They asked for additional forces for Baghdad, and they asked for additional forces for al Anbar.

In fact, we have put into the pipeline to go more forces than their analysis on the ground indicated they would need initially to ensure that as the enemy makes decisions and decides what they're going to do, that we have the capacity available to our commanders on the ground to get the job done.

Q -- the fact that we're so stretched.

GENERAL PACE: Being stretched is part of the equation, but it does not impact the recommendation about how many troops are needed. We have sufficient capacity inside the U.S. Armed Forces to be able to do this plus-up. But we should not -- we must be mindful of the fact that our active forces have been rotating in and out at about one year in, one year out. And our Guard and Reserve forces have been going in at about one year and coming out for about five. The total force mix of the United States the Secretary talked about is available to solve this problem in Iraq and also to handle any other problems. So it very much is on our mind as far as how we resource this plus-up. But it had nothing to do with the division -- with the decision of the commanders on the ground as far as how many troops are needed.

They tell us here in Washington how many they need, and once that is accepted as the requirement, then we have the responsibility to find the proper mix of forces to go do that. And that's what General Schoomaker in the Army and that's what General Conway in the Marine Corps will be doing.

Q To be clear, if it appears that the Iraqis are not meeting the commitments they have made, will we withhold sending these troops on this phased-in process?

SECRETARY GATES: I think that if we get some indication that the Iraqis are not fulfilling their commitments, the way this is going to unfold, we are going to have a number of opportunities to go back to the Iraqis and point out where they have failed to meet their commitments, and to move forward. I think that, frankly, based on the President's conversations and the conversations that our Ambassador and General Casey have had, not just with the Prime Minister but with President Talabani and with other leaders in the Iraqi government, that there is a broad commitment in the Iraqi government across several different groups in the government to make this work. So I think our assumption going forward is that they have every intention of making this work, of fulfilling their commitments.

And, frankly, the notion that the Iraqis are standing by while we're doing the fighting is really not an accurate statement. In fact, one of our military folks told me the other day that now more than half of the casualties coming into U.S. military hospitals in Iraq are Iraqi military, so they are fighting. And as we saw in the streets of Baghdad just in the last couple of days, they are fighting. So I think that our belief is they will fulfill these commitments. But if we see them falling short, we will make sure that they know that and how strongly we feel about it.

Q Secretary Rice, there's been a great deal of emphasis on Maliki's government performing and whether or not there's too much pressure being put on him. If you would, in all fairness, respond to a Reuters wire that's just crossed, comments that Reuters reports that was made in an open microphone between television interviews this morning, it quotes you saying, "I don't want to descend on the Maliki government and look like just sort of beat their brains out. The President was pretty tough last night, and we'll be pretty tough today. Give them a little time now to do something, a little breathing space."

Are these accurate comments from Reuters? And is there a sense or a risk of being too hard on Maliki?

SECRETARY RICE: I don't think there is a sense of not being very tough about the commitments and the obligations that we expect. And, yes, it's an accurate quote. It was an open mike, but it was an accurate quote.

And the point was, I was asked, are you going to go to Baghdad right away. And I said that I thought it was important to have the Maliki government have a little time now to make its plan work. After all, this is the Maliki government's plan. They came to the President with this plan in Amman. They said, we need to put together a plan that will help us to deal with the problem that our population doesn't believe that we can secure them. I believe that Bob's point about "they're sitting on the sidelines" is just not the right view.

However, they haven't performed in the past, and so the President is absolutely right -- and we have all been saying to them, you have to perform. I do think now Prime Minister Maliki needs to work with his government, get his Baghdad commander in place, get his forces in place, get his reconstruction coordinator appointed, and then I fully expect at that time, probably in not very long, to go to Baghdad and to work with them. But I do think it's important to give them a little time to get organized.

Q And when you say "breathing space" or, "a little time," do you have a certain sense of the timetable? Is that months?

SECRETARY RICE: No. They have to get organized right away, and they are. He announced a Baghdad commander. They're going to put this in place. I think their forces start to flow in on February 1st, so this is coming in very quick order. But again, the question was, are you going to go immediately to Baghdad, and my point was that I think we've made very clear what the expectations are of the Maliki government, very clear both in public and in private what those expectations are. And now I expect the Maliki government is going to organize itself to carry out those obligations.

Q Can I turn back to Iran for just a second and get a little bit back into what James was talking about? The President's language last night was rather muscular, when he talked about seek and destroy these networks. Does that extend beyond the kinds of operations that General Pace -- if you both could answer this, actually -- beyond the kinds of operations that General Pace was talking about? Was the raid this morning, for instance, part of that? Will we see more of that in the coming days? Can you explain a little bit more about what he meant when he used that language last night?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think General Pace has spoken to what we think the necessity is and what it is we intend to do. We've made very clear to the Iranian government, and the Syrian government, for that matter, that we don't expect them to continue to engage in behavior that is destabilizing to the Iraqi government, but also that endangers our troops, and that we will do what is necessary for force protection. But we leave to those who deal with issues of force protection how these raids are going to be taken out.

I think you got an indication of that in what has been happening, which is the networks are identified, they are identified through good intelligence. They are then acted upon. It is without regard to whoever is in them, whatever the nationality. And we're going to protect our troops.

Now, as to state-to-state relations or the lack thereof in 27 years, that's a different matter. And we've been very clear with the Iranians that -- through others and publicly -- that they need to stop pursuing a nuclear weapon -- we have a policy on that -- that we have a Chapter Seven resolution, and that we believe that puts Iran in a very unfavorable category of states. And therefore, that people ought to be careful in how they deal with financial relations with the Iranians. And you'll continue to see those efforts, too. But I think General Pace has spoken to what we think we need to do in Iraq.

Q Secretary Rice, could I ask you about the future shape and role of the international coalition in Iraq? And also, the idea of a regional conference for Iraq?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, as to the future shape and coalition, there continue to be coalition forces operating in Iraq. The South Koreans, the Japanese, others, have re-upped their forces again to continue operating in Iraq. And there is a NATO training mission for officers in Iraq. And so I think you'll continue to see that kind of international support.

Now, the international compact for Iraq is a framework in which there can be real support for Iraq that is, in fact, a kind of conditional support the Iraqis undertake to do certain obligations. We undertake, as an international community, to match those obligations with resources. Many of the states that, for instance, the Iraqis owed debt to have agreed to very favorable terms -- 80 percent of debt reduction. We've agreed to 100 percent of debt reduction. And I think you'll see more of that.

Now, I'm going to the Middle East with the GCC because I feel very strongly that those states that are part of an alignment that understands that there are extremist forces that need to be resisted need to be mobilized and rallied in support of this Iraqi government. The states, like Saudi Arabia and Jordan and others, have been helping with Sunni outreach. I hope that they will help with more. But I think the international compact is the right framework for now because it is an international effort that is actually led by the Iraqis and the United Nations, which is really the proper way for Iraq to engage its neighbors.

Q -- for anyone. Is there anything you could do for protection of foreign workers in Iraq, including Russians? Russians have a fair number of workers there.

GENERAL PACE: I think each country that has civilians there is responsible to provide security for their own folks. So if the Russian have folks there that they want to have doing certain activities, I'm sure that they've taken to account the kind of security they need to provide for them.

Q Secretary Gates, can you explain the practical effect of the mobilization changes you announced today? Does it wipe the slate clean for Guard members who have already gone to Iraq? And do you anticipate having to mobilize units that have already done tours there again?

SECRETARY GATES: Let me ask General Pace to answer that question.

GENERAL PACE: There will be remobilization of forces, and that remobilization has been contemplated before the announcement of these additional forces, because we have a rotation base of active forces that we try to maintain, one year overseas, two years home. And that rotation has gone to one year overseas, one year home.

On the Guard and Reserve side, we try to get one year mobilized and five years demobilized. It's really been more like a year-and-a-half to almost two years mobilized, and then -- so the Secretary's comments not only allow us to remobilize forces that we need to assist in the total force effort that we've got going on in Iraq, but also, significantly, ensure that when we do remobilize -- or for those who have not yet been mobilized, when we mobilize them -- that their time will be one year from the time we call them to active duty, they train up, they deploy, do their mission, come home and demobilize, all inside of one year, which is a significant planning factor for the folks who have been enormously effective and critical to the success of our overall mission. The Guard and Reserve have been wonderful in the way that they perform their assignments.

Q But is the 24-month cumulative requirement that many Guard members have come close to meeting or met already, is that wiped clean now? And are we starting from ground zero in terms of eligibility of Guard members that will be mobilized and report?

GENERAL PACE: Inside the policy of one year mobilized and five years demobilized -- that one year would have been part of the cumulative process. When you have your -- what we call "dwell time" at home, you're not mobilized. When you start again, you're starting again. We're not adding that to the previous. So I'm not sure I'm answering your question exactly accurately, but for any one mobilization we are constrained not to keep anybody more than 24 months. For subsequent mobilization, we're constrained not to keep anybody more than 24 months. What we're committing to is that we will not keep anybody more than one year on a subsequent mobilization.

Q So if you've already been mobilized for 18 months, and you've gone to Iraq for a tour, and your unit gets mobilized, and there's still -- and it's -- you still have -- you went to Iraq -- I'm sorry, but this gets very complicated -- and you went to Iraq fewer than four years ago, you could be mobilized again and have to go. Is that correct?

GENERAL PACE: That is correct. But your time, as the Secretary has indicated, will be no more than 12 months when you go the second time, or if you happen to be a new recruit and you go the first time, it will still be for 12 months.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070111.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 25 2007, 03:58 PM
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Let me just go through a little bit of the Secretary's activities. As you know, she is on her way to Paris at the moment. Nicholas, I'm surprised to see you here. You're missing Paris.

She is on her way to Paris. She'll be getting into Paris 9 o'clock or so tonight local time. Tomorrow she will have the -- attend the Lebanon donors conference that is being hosted by the French Government. She will also have a meeting with Prime Minister Siniora and some American CEOs. And I wanted to bring this to your attention because this is actually a really very interesting part of our support for Lebanon and the Lebanese people, and that is that you have direct governmental assistance, and Secretary Rice is going to talk about the substantial pledge that we are going to be making at this conference, but there is also another important element to what the United States is doing to support the Lebanese people. And that is the private sector commitment to investment in Lebanon and that's what these CEOs are going to be talking about. Dina Powell is one of our assistant secretaries over here, as well as Randy Tobias went to Lebanon several months ago with the CEOs to talk about this important program. And it's important in a number of different respects.

But I would underscore this. That is, long after direct U.S. Government assistance has gone through the pipeline and been delivered, investment by foreign companies and U.S. companies is going to continue to create jobs and opportunity in Lebanon and those places where U.S. -- the U.S. companies have made a commitment to support, countries that are trying to get back up on their feet. Another example is Pakistan in those earthquake zones. I think you all remember that trip.


So I wanted to highlight that for you. She will then -- she'll probably have a couple of bilateral meetings while she's there and the folks on the ground can keep you updated on those. Then on Friday she's going to be traveling to Brussels for a NATO ministerial meeting. Afghanistan is going to be at the top of the agenda there. The Secretary is again going to talk about our commitment to Afghanistan. She's going to talk a little bit about what kind of support we are going to provide the Afghan people in terms of our assistance to them, our commitment to the Afghan people.


She is also going to be discussing with other NATO ministers there some of the issues that NATO is working through right now. As you know, NATO has a big commitment in Afghanistan. They have taken on the security task in southern Afghanistan and they're doing a great job at it. But there are some issues within the alliance that we're going to be talking about. One of them is going to be caveats. I expect also that we'll probably talk about Kosovo and maybe a couple of other issues that might pop up on the agenda. Again, folks on the ground with the Secretary will be able to keep you updated on that. But I just wanted to quickly run through her schedule and let you know what she's up to.


QUESTION: Can I ask one about the trip?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sure.


QUESTION: Do you expect any of the CEOs to make any announcements about a particular investment, particular jobs they might be creating working with Lebanese companies, or are they there just sort of for moral support?


MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me, I'm sorry, Nicholas. I just had somebody handing me a note so I got a little distracted. Go ahead.


QUESTION: Are you aware of any announcements about investment or other jobs or anything that the CEOs who are with the Secretary might be announcing tomorrow in Paris?


MR. MCCORMACK: I think they'll have something to say about their commitment to the Lebanese people, but I'm not going to try to steal their thunder. You can tune in tomorrow.


QUESTION: Okay. So I mean, it's not a sort of general --


MR. MCCORMACK: It's not just talk. They're actually -- they're acting.


QUESTION: Right.


MR. MCCORMACK: And I think that's a really -- that's really a great part about this effort is that, as I underscored, long after U.S. Government assistance and other direct government assistance has been pledged and delivered and had its effect, those kinds of foreign investments on the ground are going to have continuing effects and you're going to get a multiplier effect through job creation and building up industries in places like Lebanon. So it's a terribly important part, component of the overall effort of the United States, not just the United States Government but the United States and the commitment to helping these countries that are really fighting against the forces of violent extremism around the world.


QUESTION: Is it -- I know that you don't want to talk numbers today, but is it fair to say that the Secretary will make a commitment in the hundreds of thousands of dollars? Is that a --


MR. MCCORMACK: Hundreds of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? We can do better than that. (Laughter.)


QUESTION: Hundreds of millions. I'm sorry.


MR. MCCORMACK: It's going to be substantial. It'll be substantial. I don't want to get into it. She'll talk about it. She'll talk about it.


QUESTION: A prestigious Lebanese daily quoting State Department officials that the Secretary will make a commitment up to $700 million. Can you deny that? (Laughter.)


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm going to let the Secretary make the announcements on that. It's a pretty big number though, isn't it?


Yes.


QUESTION: On North Korea.


QUESTION: Can we stay on Lebanon?


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, Lebanon.


QUESTION: You talked about Dina Powell's and Randy Tobias's trip. Why was she going? She's the Assistant Secretary for Education and Cultural Affairs.


MR. MCCORMACK: Exchanges. This is something that the -- our group of people here, Karen Hughes' shop and Dina have been deeply involved in, in terms of public-private partnerships. It is something that -- you know, from the very beginning, the Secretary was interested in promoting. We talked about this, actually, during the transition period and she looked to Karen and Dina, really, to follow through on that and they've done a great job in that regard, in terms of engaging U.S. industry in issues that are of interest to them as well as interests -- issues of interest to us.


They recently had a public-private partnership summit regarding public diplomacy and the interest of -- you know, these American corporations in doing -- seeing what they can do to assist in those efforts. That was just, I think, a week or two ago. So that's -- there are a few examples. You can kind of go down the list and see it, but that's -- the reason why is -- you know, the Secretary saw this, really, as something that fell within the realm of public diplomacy. They, of course, work closely with -- you know, Dan Sullivan and our Under Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs on these things as well.


QUESTION: Just one last one on Lebanon, sorry if I'm monopolizing, but there were reports from the region that Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia and Mr. Larijani of Iran are negotiating a sort of unity government in Lebanon. Do you know anything about these talks that have been going on and do you support a government different from the current government of Prime Minister Siniora?


MR. MCCORMACK: A couple things. One, I've seen all the press reports about Mr. Larijani visiting Saudi Arabia. I'll let the Saudis and the Iranians talk about what they talked about. I don't think anybody wants -- anybody supports -- I don't think the Saudis would support this, as well, anybody negotiating over the heads of the Lebanese people or the Siniora government.


Now Amr Mussa has had an effort working with the various political factions within Lebanon about ways that they might -- ways to -- ways out of the current political impasse that they find themselves in. But this isn't negotiating over the heads of the Siniora government or anybody else. This is -- we're trying to work with them to see what they can do, lend their good offices to that effort. Secretary Rice has talked to Amr Mussa about this. She talked to him about it in Washington as well as in Cairo when she was -- or Luxor, excuse me, when she was there.


So these are -- those are efforts, certainly, that we're well aware of. I don't think anybody -- we certainly wouldn't support any effort to try to negotiate something over and above the heads of the Siniora government.


QUESTION: Well, it's very difficult to imagine that the Iranians who are part of this would be willing to -- or would be interested in preserving this government, given that the Hezbollah doesn't agree to this government staying in office. So what is your understanding of what exactly they're negotiating?


MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas, I can tell you, you talk to them and -- you know, I'm not in any way going to confirm the substance of this particular report because I can't. I don't have any information on it. As for your point about whether or not Iran would support the Siniora government, I think that that -- that the reality of it is they probably wouldn't because their proxies, Hezbollah, are doing everything they can to undermine the Siniora government out in the streets of Beirut and otherwise.


And their motivations really lie in doing what they can at the behest of the Iranians and the Syrian Government to try to stop any forward progress on this -- on the Hariri tribunal as well as stop any progress to Lebanon fully getting on its feet and really putting the past of Syrian domination behind them.


Yeah, Sylvie.


QUESTION: But to follow up on that, would the U.S. Government be ready to work with a national unity government in Lebanon, including Hezbollah?


MR. MCCORMACK: We don't meet with Hezbollah ministers. There are Hezbollah ministers in the current government. We don't meet with them.


QUESTION: So it's not a problem if they are more --


MR. MCCORMACK: We're not going to change that -- again, we're not going to change that policy. We support the elected government of Lebanon led by Prime Minister Siniora. As for any political arrangements or accommodations that Prime Minister Siniora might come to with the various factions in Lebanon, those are going to be decisions for him to make. But we won't work with individual ministers from Hezbollah and we won't meet with them.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the Lebanese army role played yesterday during the demonstrations?


MR. MCCORMACK: In what regard?


QUESTION: The Lebanese army -- what did he do yesterday during the demonstrations? He left demonstrators, cut the roads, put blocks on the road and something like that.


MR. MCCORMACK: Michel, I'd have to look into it for you. I'm happy to work with you afterwards and look into it.


QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.


QUESTION: On Iran, please.


QUESTION: Actually, I'd like to stay on this one real quick. Sorry.


MR. MCCORMACK: Lebanon?


QUESTION: Yeah.


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.


QUESTION: I'm just wondering, the Secretary didn't stop in Beirut on her last trip and with this building over the past few months -- well, since the summer, I'm just wondering why she didn't go.


MR. MCCORMACK: She stops in places where she thinks that regarding the timing and the contents of the visit, she can do some good work. She's been in good, constant contact with Prime Minister Siniora. I think her support for this government and those forces for freedom and democracy in Lebanon is quite clear. I'm sure she's going to go back to Beirut. She's been there a couple of times already during her tenure as Secretary of State and I expect she'll go back.


QUESTION: So you don't think that a stop last time would have been able to prevent the upheaval we're seeing right now?


MR. MCCORMACK: You know, because look, these -- what you're seeing manifested in the streets of Beirut is an effort to sidetrack Lebanon from the direction in which it's headed right now. And that direction is a more stable, democratic, prosperous Lebanon. They are trying to distract the world's attention from the fact that those forces started a war with another country in that region that cost the Lebanese people dearly. They made a lot of promises about reconstruction and getting international assistance to ironically help rebuild those things that were destroyed by the war that they started. They haven't come through on those promises.


So as a result this is -- what you're seeing is actions designed to distract the Lebanese people from those facts and they're also designed to try to undermine the efforts of this government, Prime Minister Siniora's government, to move forward on the Hariri tribunal so that the Lebanese people can know who murdered their former Prime Minister. I think they have a real interest in that. But there are people in Lebanon and outside of Lebanon who don't want to see that go forward. And so again that's another reason why you see these demonstrations in the streets. So what we think we can do is we can rally the forces of the international system to support this government and the good work that it's doing on behalf of the Lebanese people.


Yeah, Elise.


QUESTION: What do you make of the argument that the donors conference and all this international support is competing with a country like Iran that's pumping a lot of cash into Hezbollah for reconstruction of that country and it's really a battle for hearts and minds in Lebanon between the West and the moderates and Iran who's furthering this kind of extremism?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think it's no secret that there are -- if you look around the Middle East, including in Lebanon, that there is a ideological struggle that is ongoing in the Middle East. You can see it in places like Lebanon. You can see the forces of violent extremism at work in Lebanon and they are -- in 2006 they punch back. The forces of freedom and democracy in Lebanon had a good year in 2005, but the forces of violent extremism punched back in 2006. And our job as an international system and our job as a country that has an interest in seeing greater freedom and democracy in the Middle East and an interest in supporting the Lebanese people in their struggle for a more stable prosperous state is to stand with them and make it clear to the Lebanese people and make it clear to those forces of violent extremism that we are going to stand in their way. We're going to stand in their way in their efforts to bring about a Middle East that is more that is more oppressive, that is less prosperous and is going in the opposite direction from the rest of the world.


QUESTION: But just to follow up very quickly -- but can you fight this battle, like in the pocketbook? I mean --


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's -- I made this point the other day that you shouldn't just look at the Lebanon donor's conference as people making pledges and signing checks. That's important. It's important in a couple of ways. One, it actually can help the Lebanese people rebuild some of that infrastructure and build their country, so there are real physical effects on the ground. But there's also an important political and diplomatic statement that that makes. Just the fact that you have this conference and you have these countries gathering together at a very high level, President Chirac convened this conference, there are going to be a number of countries represented at senior ministerial levels that demonstrates the support of the international system for what Prime Minister Siniora and his government is trying to do on behalf of the Lebanese people. So it is as much a statement of political and diplomatic support as anything else.


QUESTION: On Iran.


QUESTION: Can I --


QUESTION: Do you want to go first?


QUESTION: Okay, Iran is still resisting the pressure of these UN sanctions. On the day the resolution was passed Ambassador Wolff said that it was only a first step. Can you -- if this is the case, what's the next step?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you're seeing the next steps all around the world. The EU recently voted that it was going to fully implement Resolution 1737. You have seen actions where various banks have been designated by various countries as involved in trafficking and terrorism as well as the -- helping to finance Iran's weapons of mass destruction program. So there are a lot of different steps that are ongoing beyond the Security Council route. That is a route that's still open. And I would -- there's a review period after, I think, coming up in about 30 days or so as to whether or not Iran has complied with what the Security Council has asked them to do.


Thus far, they've done nothing. As a matter of fact, they've actually gone in the opposite direction. They've denied entry to 38 inspectors the other day and it looks like they're inspector shopping. There are certain inspectors that they don't want to see back there because the Iranians might perceive them as being a little bit too tough. And that certainly doesn't give one confidence that they are -- that they intend to cooperate with the international community. So there is the Security Council route but there are also follow-on effects from the Security Council resolution, and states around the world, including in Europe, are taking a good, hard look at how their financial systems are being exploited by the Iranian Government entities involved in nuclear weapons program development. And I expect that you'll probably see more and more of that.


QUESTION: If I can just ask you about the diplomatic process thus far itself. In an interview with Fox News, John Bolton claims there was, and I'm quoting him, "a fundamental disjunction between the objective and the diplomacy we've been pursuing." He says the resolution was weak. He says that the U.S. compromised too much in terms of what the Russians and the Europeans wanted. How can we make -- what's he talking about?


MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't see all of John's comments. Look, John was deeply involved in this process and I think that he and his team should take great pride in the fact that they shepherded through the Security Council a 15-0 resolution, Chapter 7 resolution, against Iran. That means something. That has great meaning in the international community.


And look, does the resolution look like we would have written it ourselves? No, it doesn't. We've said that up front. But that's part of international diplomacy. You know, you make compromises but you don't compromise on the basic principles. And what we said going in is that Iran needs to hear a clear, strong message that their behavior is unacceptable and that there are costs to that behavior. And they got that signal. They got a 15-0 resolution, a Chapter 7 resolution, which puts them in a very small club in which they didn't want to find themselves.


And it's very interesting in Iran now. You're seeing a lot of public debate that people suspected previously was going on behind closed doors about whether or not the Ahmadi-Nejad regime is following the proper course. That's very interesting. And I don't think that that -- you would have seen that debate pop up into the public view absent this kind of unified international front. So this resolution has really had some important effects.


QUESTION: What Bolton is fundamentally saying is that his hands were tied, that he had this very strong objective that he was given by the President, but when it came to the actual negotiation level with the P-5, the Europeans (inaudible) gave the U.S. no compromise in direction.


MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, you're not going to get everything you want in a resolution. And the fact of the matter is this is the President's policy and at the end of the day that's what matters. And you can have -- look, in the Administration of course you're going to have people bring views to the table, they're going to make their strongest arguments. Those arguments are all going to get a fair hearing. Certainly with Secretary Rice I know that and certainly with President Bush. But at the end of the day you have to make decisions about what is in the best interest of the policy at that moment and there was a considered decision that this resolution was -- met the conditions that we had laid out before we even started talking about the specific provisions of the resolution.


So like I said, is it everything that we would have wanted in the resolution? No. But is it a good, strong resolution? Yes. And is it having real effects on Iran and their ability to develop nuclear weapons? I would argue yes to right now and I think probably even more down the road if they continue down their current line of behavior.


QUESTION: A couple more on this?


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.


QUESTION: First of all, a recent poll that just came out by worldpublicopinion.org said that a majority of Iranians would want their government to enrich uranium but only for a peaceful nuclear program. And a congruent poll in the United States said most Americans would agree for Iran to enrich a small amount of uranium if it was governed by IAEA regulators. I mean, you mentioned the Iranian public opinion and how Ahmadi-Nejad is not, you know, kind of in line with the international community. But if both the Iranian public and the United States and presumably other countries would see that there's some common ground, I mean, is there any common ground to having Iran have a strictly nuclear -- civil nuclear program with uranium if it was strictly monitored?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have said that we have no quibble with the idea that Iran can have peaceful nuclear energy.


QUESTION: But enriching -- with enriching uranium --


MR. MCCORMACK: The problem is that because of Iranian behavior over a long period of time, the international community simply doesn't trust this regime. It doesn't trust this regime on this particular issue. And that's solely because of the behavior of the Iranian regime. It's -- you know, as a hypothetical matter in the future of whether or not you can have a peaceful nuclear energy program based on uranium, I mean, that's -- that would be acceptable to the international community, certainly if Iran changes its behavior I suppose it would be a matter for discussion and debate. But you're simply not at that point right now. You have to deal with the facts as they are before you. And the facts as they are before you is the international system doesn't trust this regime in that they are saying one thing, saying that they have only a peaceful nuclear program, yet all the indications are that they're actually trying to develop a nuclear weapon under cover of that peaceful nuclear energy program.


As for the public opinion polls in Iran, I would just posit to you that their government isn't being forthright with them in terms of what has been offered the Iranian regime. They have been offered an opportunity to discuss all matter of topics that are of interest to the Iranian Government. All they have to do is suspend their highly enriched uranium reprocessing and enrichment program. Then they can get into negotiations and they can talk about their desire for peaceful nuclear energy. But they refuse to do that. So I think this regime is not being square with the Iranian people in terms of the opportunity costs of their behavior, and they're real now. They're starting to see what those opportunity costs are. So we'll see down the line if the Iranian regime continues to take the Iranian people down a pathway of isolation, exactly what those attitudes are.


QUESTION: One more on this. There's a report out from the Telegraph in London. Isn't necessarily the most reliable paper.


MR. MCCORMACK: Goodness.


QUESTION: It said that North Korea is helping Iran with potential nuclear testing and that they're providing enough technology to help Iran accelerate the uranium enrichment process so that perhaps it could conduct a nuclear test by the end of the year. Now, based on everything that kind of officials have said publicly and privately, it doesn't seem that Iran is that far along. Is that your understanding? And do you have any evidence of North Korea helping?


MR. MCCORMACK: On the matter of where Iran stands in the state of development of a nuclear weapons program, the intelligence community puts out regular assessments of that that are publicly available. I don't have the current one in front of me, but they're easily accessible on -- with their website.


Certainly, the Iranians would -- could benefit from outside assistance. I think the very fact that they were dealing with A.Q. Khan is evidence of the fact that they would like to have outside assistance. I couldn't comment on whether or not North Korea is involved in helping out Iran on their nuclear weapons program. I would assume that would get into intelligence information and I couldn't -- that's not something that I could discuss. But standing here, I don't have anything that I can offer on that particular aspect of the report.


We do know that North Korea and Iran have had in the past cooperation on missile programs. For example, the Iranian Shahab medium-range ballistic missile is based on a North Korean ballistic missile. So there are patterns of cooperation there. Whether that cooperation has extended into other areas, I don't have any information for you.


I would note one thing though, that both of these countries are under a Chapter 7 resolution. And very specifically under 1718, which applies to North Korea, all countries are mandated not to cooperate or participate in trade related to missile technology or weapon -- or nuclear weapons with North Korea. So if -- I emphasize if Iran were, in any way, involved in those kinds of exchanges with North Korea, they would be in violation of the UN Security Council resolution.


QUESTION: You noticed that the Russians delivered advanced air defense missile systems to Iran?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, saw that and we've -- you know, we've made our views clear on that. We raised with the Russians whether or not it was really the right moment, given the circumstances, to go through with that sale to Iran. We've raised the issue with them. They decided to go through with the sale. There are certainly laws and regulations that have to -- that would trigger a review of that sale and whether or not there are any actions that we are required to take in reaction to that. But at this point, I couldn't tell you, I couldn't give you an assessment of what the findings of that -- those reviews might be.


QUESTION: Whose laws are you talking about?


MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?


QUESTION: U.S. laws?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, yeah, our --


QUESTION: What kind of review?


MR. MCCORMACK: Reviews in -- I can't tell you the specific laws, George. I can get you a citation. But it has to do with trading in military equipment with Iran.


QUESTION: Isn't this -- can I just finish? Isn't this another indication, though, that the diplomatic process, particularly with Russia, if you -- if it goes to the UN again, if there's another resolution, doesn't this require some review? Because it's clear that Russia continues this kind of relationship. And again, I'm going to quote Bolton. He says, "The Russians did an outstanding job from the Iranian point of view of weakening resolutions, so Iran at this point would proceed."


MR. MCCORMACK: They also voted for the resolution at the end of the day and that's going to have a real effect on the Iranians' ability to develop their nuclear weapons program and also develop their missile technology programs. It's not a perfect resolution. I will grant you that right up front. But it does have a very real effect and at the end of the day, the Russians did vote for it and I think that surprised the Iranians. I think that they might have been counting on some cover from other countries in the international system and they didn't get it. They didn't get it because of their behavior. And I think that that was a real shock to the system for them.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) this resolution, as it stands, will encourage them to stop enriching uranium at this point?


MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see. It's up to the -- at this point, it's up to the Iranians. I can't tell you that at this point that they're going to change their cost-benefit calculation. But the point of our diplomacy is to get them to change that cost-benefit calculation and to see that the pathway of engagement and diplomacy is the way to go, as opposed to the pathway of defiance that they're currently on.


Zane.


QUESTION: The L.A. Times has a story that essentially questions the evidence available at the extent to which Iran is meddling in Iraq and it goes on to report that there's been little sign of modern or advanced weaponry crossing the border and no Iranian agents have been found at all -- very, very few weapons been found in sweeps by U.S. troops. Can you comment on that?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I asked some folks about that and they told me that's just flat wrong, that assessment. There is solid evidence that Iranian agents are involved in these networks and that they are working with individuals and groups in Iraq and that they are being sent there by the Iranian Government. And I would expect that, you know, in the near future we are going to try to talk a little bit more in public to the extent that we can, because again you're dealing with intelligence information, about what we know of Iranian support for these networks.


You've had individuals that have been captured that we have suspected of being involved in these networks and it's not just us. The British earlier last year talked about the threat that they faced from these networks and the threat that it posed to their troops, as a matter of fact, they lost some troops to these kind of devices. So it's the considered judgment of the British Government as well as our intelligence community that there is Iranian support for these networks, that the threat is very real. And as President Bush pointed out, we are going to confront those networks, those individuals that are trying to do harm to our troops.


QUESTION: The British have also said, though, that they haven't found Iranian-made weapons in the areas that they patrol. That's according to this report in the LA Times. And what evidence can you provide at least to some extent the --


MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I don't have the full contents of exactly what the individual was quoted as saying in that report. But I would just point you back to the news reports which are - and there are plenty of them early last year about the Brits talking about the threats from these networks. You don't necessarily have to construct something in Iran in order for it to be, you know, a threat to the U.S. or British troops from the Iranian regime. There are a lot of different ways you can do that. You can bring the know-how, you can train other people in Iraq to do that. So there are a lot of different ways, a lot of different ways to do it. I would suspect that they were probably trying to hide their tracks somewhat, so you're not going to have a "made in Iran" stamp on all of these items. But certainly the technology and the know-how originates in Iran.


Yeah.


QUESTION: What about the five people arrested in Arbil? Do you have any news about them?


MR. MCCORMACK: Still in custody of multinational forces.


Yeah, Kirit.


QUESTION: Do you have any confirmation or details about this apparent second attack in Somalia?


QUESTION: Well, I just have one more on Iran.


MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, still on Iran.


QUESTION: Amr Moussa, the Arab League Secretary General, said today that he believed there was a 50-50 percent chance that the U.S. would attack Iran and he fears that any such strike would lead to greater sectarian violence across the region. I wondered if you had any response to those comments.


MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you've heard from the President on this. We are going to confront those networks that are trying to do harm to our troops in Iraq. We are going to work with the international system to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. And by the way, Iran's neighbors in the region, more than anybody else, don't want to see that happen.


We are working in a cooperative fashion with our friends and allies in the Gulf, witness the deployment of a carrier group into the Gulf as well as deployment of Patriot 3 systems to that region. This is all in the way of cooperation and certainly as a defensive measure. It's also intended to send a signal to the Iranian regime that the U.S. is going to stand with those reasonable forces in the region who will stand against violent extremism. The President has always said you never take any option off the table, but we --- I think we are being quite transparent in the ways that we're seeking to deal with the various threats posed by Iran, really to the region.


QUESTION: And one more thing, if you could just expand a little bit on your "inspector shopping" comment. Who do you think they're looking for then and what is the makeup of the 38 inspectors within that group? How many Americans are included in --


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think it's necessarily Americans. I can't tell you the exact composition of the group. But it's a well known fact, I think if you check around in the diplomatic circles that there are certain inspectors the Iranians don't want to see walking through the door because they perceive them as being a little bit too tough. And these are people just trying to do their job. So I point that out only to illustrate the fact that this is not a regime that is cooperating at all with the international community, in fact, quite the opposite.


QUESTION: One more on the --


QUESTION: Because --


QUESTION: Sorry.


QUESTION: Sorry. Some members of diplomatic circles are saying that in fact the reason why Iran doesn't want some of these inspectors in is because they fear that they're going to collect information as happened prior to the Iraq war then use that information.


MR. MCCORMACK: That's just a smokescreen. I'm sorry.


Yeah.


QUESTION: One more on the detainees. I'm sorry if you've gone over this in the past. The Iranian -- the ones that were arrested and being held by (inaudible). What is their characterization? Are they considered detainees, prisoners of war? Have they been afforded consular access? Are you affording them --


MR. MCCORMACK: Check with MNFI. Yeah. The only thing we can tell you is they're not diplomats.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Did you have any information about that strike, the second apparent strike on Monday in Somalia?


MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing I can offer you, Kirit. You can check with Department of Defense. One thing I -- a couple things I can say is that we are going to work with others in the region including the TFG in going after those individuals who pose a continuing threat to the United States and to our friends and allies. You're well aware of all our efforts in the Horn of Africa. And we -- in that cooperation we do respect the sovereignty of all the -- all of our partners in this. I would just highlight for you the fact that we are -- there are many aspects to our assistance to the TFG, you know, humanitarian assistance, diplomatic support, political support for these individuals. And so there's a wide spectrum of our cooperation in the region to try and help out Somalia. Certainly al-Qaida elements pose a threat not only to the United States, but they pose a threat to the stability of Somalia as well.


QUESTION: Could you on this sovereignty issue, could you say whether the U.S. had been granted or had an agreement with the Somalis to conduct such attacks in a (inaudible) --


MR. MCCORMACK: Let me just leave it at that we work closely and cooperatively with all the governments in the region, including the TFG in fighting terror.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Do you have any information on the meeting between the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya and Sheikh Sharif Ahmed? They apparently met in a Nairobi hotel today.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, he is in Kenya and I think that he is under the protection of Kenyan authorities. I'm going to be a little sensitive with -- to the views of the Kenyan authorities. This is somebody that's under their protection. But what we do want to do is try to encourage a dialogue and actual cooperation between the TFG and those elements who are interested in building a more stable, peaceful Somalia. And as we've pointed out I think on a regular basis, the Islamic Courts or what was known as the Islamic Courts, were not a monolithic entity and there were a variety of individuals within the Islamic Courts who were forces for moderation. And I think this individual is somebody who would probably count in that camp. So we're going to try to reach out to those individuals and encourage them to work with the TFG.


QUESTION: Can you provide any details of the meeting? Did you reach out to Ahmed or did he reach out to you? And what is your ultimate goal here? Is it to pull him into the political process and to send him back to Somalia or what are you hoping for?


MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, I think I outlined what our desires are here and that is to get the individuals who have an interest in a different kind of Somalia working together with the internationally recognized government of Somalia. And you know, we obviously can't force those kinds of connections or force any sort of cooperation. But we can encourage them to come together and that's what we're going to try to do.


QUESTION: Do you have any more details of the meeting --


MR. MCCORMACK: No.


QUESTION: -- what was discussed, what was on the agenda?


MR. MCCORMACK: No.


QUESTION: On Africa. There's some reports that the Secretary is going to be traveling to Ethiopia at the tail end of her trip to join the AU Summit in Ethiopia. Is there any legitimacy to that?


MR. MCCORMACK: First I've heard of it. We'll obviously keep you up to date on her travel schedule.


QUESTION: Okay.


MR. MCCORMACK: Let's move around a little bit.


Yes.


QUESTION: On the UN, on al-Qaida designations at the UN's 1267 Committee, no names were -- South Africa has apparently put a hold on the U.S. request. Can you respond to South Africa's hold on the request to name a couple of people to the terrorist list?


MR. MCCORMACK: I think we've talked a little bit about this the other day. I don't have any updates for you. This is a process that because of the kind of information involved, as well as the political -- diplomatic deliberations that are ongoing in that kind of process, any of the cases, you know, we don't get into it. It essentially happens behind closed doors and once there's a designation, that is something that becomes public. But I'm not going to get into the diplomatic sausage making process.


QUESTION: And on that sausage making process --


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: Foreign Minister Zuma has called for discussions and bilaterals. Is Washington open to doing it that way?


MR. MCCORMACK: You know, again, we have an ongoing dialogue with South Africa on a variety of topics. Secretary Rice, just a couple of weeks ago, had dinner with Foreign Minister Zuma, so -- look, if there's something that the Foreign Minister wants to bring up or the African Foreign -- South African Foreign Minister wants to bring up with us, of course we'll be happy to engage them on whatever topic they want to talk about.


QUESTION: Okay. But are you currently in discussion with the South Africans on this?


MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I'm not going to -- you know, again, that gets back to -- we're not going to talk about any sort of designations until and unless they happen.


Yes.


QUESTION: Sean, well, I'm ready to -- (laughter).


MR. MCCORMACK: Turn around, man.


QUESTION: Well, I'll take a little question.


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.


QUESTION: Is there any news in the note you were handed?


MR. MCCORMACK: Huh? No.


QUESTION: No?


MR. MCCORMACK: No.


QUESTION: Okay.


MR. MCCORMACK: No. Just don't --


QUESTION: Maybe it was a bulletin?


MR. MCCORMACK: No. It's a process-related note.


QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. MCCORMACK: Zane.


QUESTION: The FBI has just confirmed that two people on the most wanted terrorist list have been killed. There are two Abu Sayyaf members that were apparently killed in a fire fight with Philippine security officials last week. Has the State Department issued a reward for information leading to their killing under the Rewards for Justice Program?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check into it for you, check into it.


Yes, ma'am.


QUESTION: On North Korea, Secretary Rice had a telephone call with her Chinese -- the Chinese and South Korean foreign ministers. Do you have a readout of those telephone conferences?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, they talked a little bit about the consultations that are ongoing right now, some of the consultations that were in Berlin as well as the other ones that Chris Hill had with his Japanese, Chinese, and South Korean counterparts. I think that the general tone and tenor among most of the members of the six-party talks now is that we are hopeful that a new round could be convened in the not-too-distant future.


We believe that these have been a good set of consultations in the run-up to what we hope is a new round and that the proof will be in the pudding in terms of negotiating in the six-party format. You can lay the groundwork, you can have good atmospherics, but until you actually produce a negotiated agreement, that's all it is. It's just hope for a new round, but we hope to put that to the test in the near future. It would be up to the Chinese Government to announce a new round of talks, but certainly, we are -- if a new round of talks is announced, we'll be ready to show up and negotiate.


QUESTION: What about North Korea --


MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.


QUESTION: North Korea representative Kim Gye Gwan mentioned North Korea has made very successful talks with the United States at Berlin. Could you tell us, what is the content of their successful talk, if any?


MR. MCCORMACK: Nope.


QUESTION: Was there any pre-condition or tested by --


MR. MCCORMACK: The -- I expect that there were -- the North Koreans have had consultations with other members of the six-party talks in addition to the United States. This is just one in a series of consultations that really started in the wake of the last round.


I think what you're seeing from the North Korean side is a response to some of the ideas -- not a formal response, but an idea of how they would respond to some of the ideas that were put forward during the last round of the six-party talks. At that point, the -- I don't think the North Korean delegation had their full set of instructions in terms of how to respond to some of the ideas that were on the table. Right now they've had some time to contemplate what it is that they heard last time in Beijing and we started to -- we as well as others are starting to hear back some of their thoughts. But again, the real test is what happens in a set of negotiations. We hope to put that prospect to the test.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Do you still hope the next round on the six-party talk will -- the resuming will be announced before the end of the week?


MR. MCCORMACK: Before the -- look, we're ready --


QUESTION: That's what Chris Hill said to --


MR. MCCORMACK: We're -- you know, we are certainly ready for an announcement whenever the Chinese are ready to make it.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Has the U.S. reconfigured its position on the financial sanctions to make it more acceptable to the North Koreans?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what we've -- what we're -- we have pledged to them is that we're going to try to address the issue in this channel that we have established between the Treasury Department and the North Korean delegation. You know, I'm going to let those discussions take place at their own pace. I don't think the Treasury Department has announced the date and the venue for the next meeting, but I would expect that that will be coming in the not-too-distant future.


QUESTION: So it did not come up in any in-depth way in Berlin?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a full read from Chris. I'm sure that the topic was raised. The North Koreans raise it on a regular basis, whether that's in the six-party talks or through these consultations that we're having.


Kirit.


QUESTION: Could you say whether the Secretary was given any assurances by the Chinese over the phone regarding the missile test the other day?


MR. MCCORMACK: We have brought this up at senior levels with the Chinese Government and I think we're still -- what we're still looking for is a little better indication as to their policies, how this -- the test that was conducted squares with their stated policy of not wanting to militarize space, what their plans are for any future tests, some of the specifics of the tests that they did conduct, and I think we're still waiting to hear back from the Chinese on that.


QUESTION: Did they give any indication when they'll get back to you on that?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think we have an indication. I think we have encouraged them to do it.


QUESTION: It didn't come up with the Secretary at all in --


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we've raised this at pretty senior levels. I'm not going to get into all the details of her conversations.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Also on North Korea, apparently, the U.S. has objected to the way that the United Nations is -- the UN Development Program specifically is delivering aid to North Korea, complaining that the UNDP has hired local staff recruited by the North Korean Government and, in fact, that money is being funneled into the government and apparently, the U.S. has objected to that. Could you discuss that?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has ordered an independent look into the oversight of UN aid programs worldwide. I think the UNDP program in North Korea would be included in that. We as well as others are -- want to make sure that in the administration of any of these programs, that you have proper oversight and that you have -- that the monies are spent in the way that they were intended and that the recipients actually are the beneficiaries of any funds that are expended.


Beyond that, I don't want to get into it too much because, as I said, the Secretary General has already said that the UN is going to look into the matter and launch their own outside independent investigation. So I don't want to muddy the waters too much and let that investigation proceed.


QUESTION: Well, apparently, he launched that investigation in part due to U.S. criticism on the matter. And in fact, I guess the UN envoy for UN Financial Management, Mark Wallace, has written the UNDP on behalf of the U.S., accusing the U.S. of violating rules by hiring North Korean government officials and paying salaries to workers recruited by the government. So could you at least talk about what the U.S. concerns are?


MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, generally -- I'll talk about them generally in the fact that we want to ensure that there are proper safeguards, management and oversight and that the beneficiaries -- the intended beneficiaries of any money that is spent are, in fact, the people who receive it, not others. And beyond that, I'm going to let the investigation proceed. The Secretary General is somebody who's committed to making sure that UN funds that are received from member states are spent in the most effective way and according to all the rules and regulations.


Sue.


QUESTION: Are you satisfied that Sudan is -- that the Sudanese Government is cooperating in terms of allowing phase one to go ahead of the plan? And secondly, the UN appears to be having problems getting enough troops even for phase two of the plan. I just wondered whether you thought that the UN was pulling its weight and whether you were putting out appeals for countries to come forward with troops.


MR. MCCORMACK: On the last, certainly, we are encouraging countries to make whatever contributions they can to make sure that phase one and phase two proceed. There is, of course, a much larger phase three program that is out there on the horizon, but the Sudanese have yet to agree to it and we would urge them to agree to that. President Bashir sent a letter several weeks ago indicating that the Sudanese would cooperate on phase one and phase two.


QUESTION: So is this the letter to Kofi Annan?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. And we are going to take that at face value; that the Sudanese Government is going to cooperate on phase one and phase two. And there are some indications that they are, in fact, cooperating on phase one. Now you can check with the UN as to exactly where they are in the deployment and the logistical support for the first phase as well as the second phase.


So where it stands now, the Sudanese have agreed to phase one and phase two. The UN -- it is important now for the UN system to come together and actually fill in behind that pledge to cooperate with phases one and two and come up with the resources and the logistical support. It's incumbent upon them to do it. I'll let them speak for themselves in terms of where they are in that. But let's not let any of that cloud the fact there is still yet a commitment that is needed from the Sudanese Government on phase three and that's critical, especially given some of the uptick in violence that we've seen over the past several months and some of the real concerns about treatment of humanitarian workers, NGO workers, and others who are there trying to help out the people of Darfur.


QUESTION: Do you take Sudan -- the Sudanese Government, though, at its word that it's going to follow through? I mean, there have been attacks on humanitarian workers. There are questions over who is responsible for those attacks, but do you think, given their past record, that they're going to pull through?


MR. MCCORMACK: They have made a commitment and we expect them to abide by those commitments. I think that what is required of the international community is constant, consistent pressure, diplomatic pressure, as well as constant review of whether or not the Sudanese are living up to the commitments that they said that they were going to perform on.


QUESTION: Are you reaching out very actively to other countries to ask them to contribute troops? I know that you're not interested in -- the U.S. isn't interested in contributing, but have you received any pledges of late from any countries that they're prepared to put forward --


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let me check for you, Sue. Of course, we encourage other countries to contribute. The -- you know, the real pivot point here is the UN system and the peacekeeping operation folks as well as the AU itself. So let me check and see how I would characterize how we're trying to leverage our support to get people to contribute.


Sylvie.


QUESTION: Do you have any details on the situation in Haiti today because there was apparently a vast UN peacekeeper operation in one of the shantytowns, Cite Soleil? And I wanted to know if the U.S. was informed or was part of this operation?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any details on it. MINUSTAH is doing good work down there. You know, the Brazilians -- I believe the Brazilians are in the lead and there's a Brazilian general who is in the lead. They're doing good work in terms of trying to bring some semblance of law and order to Haiti. They've made a lot of progress working with the Haitians. There's still a lot left to do in terms of building up respect for rule of law, building up the police forces. So a lot of progress, a lot more to do. But in terms of the specific operation, I don't have any info for you.


QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.


MR. MCCORMACK: Joel.


QUESTION: Sean, apparently the new passport regulations took effect and that requires Americans to -- when they leave the United States, Canada, Mexico and such to follow regular passport rules. However, I have a question about the old standardized system. Are you asking other governments, some which might be dubious, to have a tamper-proof passport for their citizens and also are you doing anything with regard to the third party stopovers, in other words in transit to the United States by citizens?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I can only answer you in the most general terms, Joel. There's a law that was passed mandating certain requirements for passports for people from countries traveling into the United States. So there's a certain floor that has been established in terms of tamper proofing and that sort of thing. I think the folks at DHS and if you're really interested we could get some people from Consular Affairs to talk to you a little bit more about it.


Sue.


QUESTION: I'm sorry, just one more on the South Africans.


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.


QUESTION: Apparently the South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said today that the United States has informed his government officially that these two South African guys will be put on the U.S. list irrespective of whether they get onto the UN list, have you given and have you officially told the South Africans that you are going to put them on your own list?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, two things. One, any sort of diplomatic communications we might have had with the South African Government are going to remain in diplomatic channels. As for anybody who gets designated, those are things that come out in public and there is usually some sort of notice in the Federal Register or some sort of press release that gets issued. I'm not aware of any one at this point that's been issued.


QUESTION: Thank you.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/79315.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 26 2007, 04:12 PM
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I have one brief opening statement and then we can get right into your questions.

We are deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of Ecuadorian Defense Minister Guadalupe Larriva and her daughter Claudia Avila and five members of the Ecuadorian armed forces after two helicopters collided near the Eloy Alfaro Airport in Manta, Ecuador on January 24th. We stand ready to assist in the investigation of the cause of this accident if asked and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and the people of Ecuador.


And with that, I'm happy to take your questions.


QUESTION: Can you say something about the apparent smuggling attempt of enriched uranium into Georgia from Russia?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I have a couple of facts for you, George. But off the top, I think any specific questions about the -- any trials or prosecution or the specifics of the evidence and prosecution; I'd refer you to the Georgian authorities. But here's what I can tell you about our involvement in this case. In 2006, Georgian authorities requested a joint FBI Department of Energy team to help the Georgian Government look into the seizure of nuclear material and the prosecution of those that were involved.


The seized materials were brought back to the United States and this was consistent with all the safety and evidentiary controls that are needed in a prosecution of this type as well as for the safe handling of this kind of material. The FBI and DOE did an analysis in materials. They were able to confirm that it was highly enriched uranium. And those facts and not analysis were used as part of the prosecution in Georgia.


And that is really what I can offer you in terms of the U.S. involvement. I think that beyond that, any specific questions about the case, the Georgian authorities are probably in the best position to handle.


QUESTION: Russian officials are described as not being very forthcoming on this. Do you think they should be willing to show more cooperation than they have?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we do have an initial -- that was actually just recently started up in terms of preventing nuclear terrorism, nuclear smuggling with the Russian Government. And I can tell you we have good cooperation with the government -- Russian Government in that venue. I think it really is incumbent upon all states if they have information that might pertain to the smuggling of these kinds of extremely dangerous materials, that they should offer up that information. The forum and particular venue in which they do that I think is up to them. But I think as a bedrock principle that it is important that we do develop the kind of mechanisms and operating principles that encourage the sharing of this kind of information. These are very dangerous materials and falling into the wrong hands can be put to use that would harm innocent civilian populations.


Mr. Gollust.


QUESTION: It kind of begs to question is there -- are you concerned that this was a sample size? Are you concerned that there are larger amounts of this material that are loose?


MR. MCCORMACK: Dave, I can't say. What you do know is that there was some small amount that was part of this prosecution. And certainly if there's a small amount, you have to be concerned that potentially individuals might have access to larger amounts. Now, I can't tell you that for certain, but certainly you must be concerned about that. And I think that we would -- we all have to be vigilant to make sure that there aren't these sort of smuggling attempts with larger amounts. It could lead to real tragedy.


Lambros.


QUESTION: On Greece, Mr. McCormack.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir.


QUESTION: Anything to say about the unknown terrorist organization which is using Greek language announcement has taken the responsibility for the attack against your Ambassador in Athens, January 12th?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I can tell you what we know. We saw the same newspaper report. They apparently published a form of manifesto in a Greek language newspaper in which they said that they claim responsibility for the attack on the U.S. Embassy and said that these kinds of attacks were going to continue into the future. They were previously unknown to Greek authorities and to us as well. We are working very closely with Greek authorities on this case in order to find out who is responsible for the attack on our Embassy and to hold them responsible. We've had great cooperation from the Greek police and the Greek Government. The Greek Foreign Minister immediately after the attack came down to the Embassy and met with our Ambassador there. So we're really pleased and really happy with the kind of cooperation that we've gotten from Greek authorities on this and we're going to continue to remain engaged with them.


Somebody want to get their phone?


QUESTION: That's mine. Of course.


MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, Lambros. (Laughter.) You're the culprit. I was answering your question. (Laughter.) Yeah. That's okay. (Laughter.) No more -- you don't get any more questions, Lambros.


QUESTION: Do you have any result on your investigation so far about the provoked attacks since the FBI told me twice, Mr. McCormack, that only the Department of State is in charge?


MR. MCCORMACK: We don't -- I don't have any more information for you, Lambros.


QUESTION: And the last one. Do you have any information which you could share with us from the serious (inaudible) in Athens to this attack?


MR. MCCORMACK: No.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Sean, (inaudible) violence is taking place or still taking place right now?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we would appeal for calm -- and I've seen certainly on the TV screens and the press reports about the violence that has broken out at one of the universities there. I can't pinpoint for you the origins of this violence, but the initial reporting from our folks on the ground seem -- would indicate that this is an outgrowth of the political tensions that we're seeing within Lebanon today. I understand that there was a loss of life and that's tragic.


Again, I can't pinpoint for you who started this or exactly the motivations behind it, but what you -- it is fair to say that there are certain irresponsible parties in Lebanon who have been provoking an atmosphere of confrontation and antagonism within the political system. And the links between those individuals and groups and outside entities are well known and they have been engaged in a cynical manipulation of public perceptions in the political process.


And I do think it is fair to say that those attempts at cynical manipulation of the political process certainly have had an effect on the overall atmosphere in Lebanon and I think it is fair to say likely played a role in these kinds of tensions that you're seeing manifested at -- today in Beirut and at the university.


QUESTION: Could it affect the results of Paris-3 conference?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think what it underscores is the fact that we and the international system stand behind those who are implementing -- proposing and implementing the political and economic reforms that it is going -- that are going to make Lebanon a more democratic, prosperous country. And we stand with those people.


It's well known who is on the other side of that fence, those individuals who are ready to use violence, use extremism to whip up emotions within the Lebanese political process in ways that are unproductive and detrimental to Lebanon and to the Lebanese people.


QUESTION: Sean, do you think that weakened Siniora inside Lebanon, just as he's getting all this international support, to have the violence on the streets? Has that weakened him at home politically?


MR. MCCORMACK: I can't do a political analysis for you, but what it -- I guess -- I don't know what the intended effects of this violence were. Again, I can't tell you what the motivations were behind it, but the reaction from the international community is that we stand with the Siniora government and the Lebanese people who are fighting for a better, more democratic, prosperous Lebanon.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Do you think that this money, this $7 billion or so that's been pledged will somehow help the political situation there? Is that your wish that it will somehow embolden the Siniora government and improve his standing within his own people in Lebanon?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he -- his standing with his own people in Lebanon is quite strong, it would appear. The money is intended -- there is a twofold effect here. One, there are very real, practical effects in terms of budget, support, reconstruction, security assistance. So those are very, very real, tangible effects. But the other effect is an expression of political and diplomatic support for the Siniora government by the international system. And what that is intended to do is intended to support the forces of freedom, democracy, and reform in Lebanon and Prime Minister Siniora is at the lead of those -- at those forces. So the net effect is to strengthen Prime Minister Siniora, I believe, within Lebanon.


QUESTION: But with all of this political turmoil, you have been speaking about seeing various companies that are interested in investing. How are you going to encourage investor confidence in Lebanon when the political situation is so unstable? You have -- you know, riots on the streets, people being killed. It's a very difficult situation.


MR. MCCORMACK: It is a difficult situation and it's an important moment in Lebanon's history, but you have private sector individuals, hard-nosed businessmen who take a look at the situation in Lebanon and say, "We are going to invest in Lebanon." You have countries like -- companies like Cisco, Microsoft, Occidental Petroleum, who say that, despite some of the political turmoil in Lebanon right now, we are making a bet on Lebanon and Lebanon's political future. And -- but that is that the Lebanese people are going to succeed in overcoming the forces of violent extremism and oppression in that country. Now, it's not to say that that is going to be an easy task. The Siniora government and those forces for freedom and democracy in Lebanon need support. They need support from the international community and you just saw a very strong tangible demonstration of that today, not only from governments around the world, but also the private sector, as well.


QUESTION: How much did the private sector put forward? Do you have a number or is it just promises?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a specific number. There was the $150 million OPIC facility that was worked with Citigroup.


QUESTION: Is that a loan guarantee or something?


MR. MCCORMACK: The -- you can check with OPIC as to the term of art that is associated with that. I don't want to get in cross wires with the bankers. But it is a tangible demonstration of support for Lebanon.


QUESTION: Sean, are you confident in the stability of Siniora's government? You said his standing is quite strong? I know there were some concerns awhile back about his government being toppled. Are you guys confident that he can stay in power?


MR. MCCORMACK: We're confident that he has been a tenacious advocate for freedom and political reform in Lebanon and we are going to continue to support him. We believe that he has the support of large swaths of the Lebanese population, despite the best efforts of countries like Syria and Iran and their proxies, Hezbollah, the Siniora government has continued to govern in the face of difficult challenges by those groups, by those countries who want to turn the clock back in Lebanon. And Prime Minister Siniora I think has earned the respect of other leaders around the world and that respect has manifested itself today in Paris with the donations that you've seen.


QUESTION: Could I just -- one more, just --


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.


QUESTION: I mean, do you still have concerns though, first as against him toppling his government?


MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly we are concerned that those who want to turn the clock back. And it's our job as an international system to do everything that we possibly can to see that that does not happen, that the role of the Lebanese people for economic political reform and a better day for Lebanon to succeed.


QUESTION: But, can I --


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Go ahead, Charlie.


QUESTION: Well, I want to follow up on part of it which is that earlier you made a comment to irresponsible parties --


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: -- in talking about today's activities.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: And you didn't name anybody in particular. And just now in answer to the last question you mentioned Syria, Hezbollah. Do you include the Government of Syria in terms of irresponsible parties in today's activities?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm trying to make a -- excuse me -- a settle point and that is that I can't tell you exactly who is responsible for fomenting the violence at the university today in Beirut. But what I'm trying to indicate is that the atmosphere that allowed that to move forward was created by those parties like Hezbollah and their outside supporters, Iran and Syria. They have created an atmosphere of political tension in Lebanon where they have directly challenge the role of the Lebanese people for political and economic reform and for freeing the Lebanese people and their country from the oppression that they lived with for 20 years during Syrian occupation. So that's -- I'm trying to get at the point, they have created this atmosphere in which these kinds of political tensions have now begun to manifest themselves in violence in the streets.


Yeah, Elise.


QUESTION: Sean, you have the violence on the streets which seems much more of an urgent, immediate problem than the money that you're pledging today is ultimately for long term reconstruction to help the government with the debt problems, strengthen its hand on the government. But I mean, how can you help with the situation that's on the ground today to prevent it from overtaking the kind of seeds that you're sowing right now for the long term stability of it?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in the immediate term, it's the Lebanese security forces that are going to have to deal with the current tensions and the Lebanese political leadership. Now, I understand that across the board, the political leadership has called for calm in Lebanon and certainly that is an important action. But in the immediate term, it is going to have to be the Lebanese that deal with the violence that you're seeing in Beirut.


QUESTION: Three or four months ago, the -- maybe a bit longer - the White House and yourself issued, this is to follow on from Libby's question --


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: -- issued a very strong statement saying that you feared for Siniora's -- Prime Minister Siniora's life and that there were forces working to get him, basically. Do you still stand by that statement?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.


QUESTION: Is the situation still the same or is it even more dire than when you --


MR. MCCORMACK: It hasn't -- I can't tell you if it's anymore dire at the moment. But certainly, there are forces that want to stop progress towards a free democratic prosperous Lebanon. We've seen that. We've seen them assassinate and attempt to kill numerous individuals. They succeeded in killing a former prime minister. They succeeded in killing people like Pierre Gemayel. And we have no reason to believe that that threat has abated in any way. It is I suspect that that threat will continue while those forces that are responsible for violent actions feel threatened by things like UN Security Council Resolution 1559, 1701 and the International Tribunal that is going to bring to justice those responsible for the murder for former Prime Minister Hariri. So as long as those -- I would suggest to you, as long as those threats remain to those individuals who are responsible for this violence, then the threat of violence will likely continue.


QUESTION: But do you think it was a good idea for him to leave his country at this time to go to Paris? I mean, doesn't the threat that -- of him being out of the country that things could become even more difficult for him?


MR. MCCORMACK: He's the head of government. He has to be able to represent the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese people. And we think that it is absolutely appropriate and right for him to represent Lebanon and a hopeful future for Lebanon in Paris today.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Sean, how does the U.S. read reports that Saudi Arabia and Iran are basically intensifying efforts to broker a solution in Lebanon?


MR. MCCORMACK: Look. If we are regional actors who want to play a positive role in Lebanon in trying to help the Lebanese reach the political accommodations that they need to reach in order to move their political process forward, then certainly, that is positive. Amr Mussa has made very, very public efforts in that regard. He has briefed Secretary Rice on those efforts, so we're fully cognizant of those.


If there are other efforts, then certainly, that would be positive as long as they are welcomed by the Lebanese Government. What would be of great concern to us as well as others would be any attempts to negotiate or broker solutions over the head of the Lebanese people and not with the full consent and participation of the Siniora government.


QUESTION: Has the Saudi Arabian authorities been keeping you -- keeping the United States informed about such diplomatic efforts?


MR. MCCORMACK: They can speak for themselves about what they may or may not be involved in.


Yes.


QUESTION: Switch topics to North Korea?


MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this?


QUESTION: Lebanon --


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, we'll go with North Korea.


QUESTION: No, she had Lebanon.


MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, you had Lebanon -- oh, Lebanon, then we'll come back, sure.


QUESTION: Are you going to see any positive action to come from Iran regarding the Hezbollah in Lebanon?


MR. MCCORMACK: Have we seen anything?


QUESTION: Are you -- do you expect anything like that?


MR. MCCORMACK: They have, over the past 20 years or so --


QUESTION: No, any positive action?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let me just -- let me put it in historical context for you. They -- Iran helped create Hezbollah and they have continued to support Hezbollah during the 20-plus years that they helped create it. And I don't, at this point, see any intention on the Iranians' part, at least any sort of public intention, to try to play a more positive role via Hezbollah in Lebanon's future.


Yes.


QUESTION: North Korea, we've heard all sorts of bluster dismissing these allegations that the UNDP funds have been diverted. They're saying it's a smear campaign, a plot that the UN operations are being conducted in a transparent manner. Can you react to that at all to what they're saying, the claims they're making?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, this is not a U.S.-North Korean issue. This is -- this has to do with the UN and good management and oversight practices of UN monies and UN programs. And that's how Secretary -- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has framed the issue. That's how we see the issue. He has ordered a review worldwide of UN programs, so this is about management and oversight practices. This is not about the U.S. and North Korea.


QUESTION: And could you tell me when the State Department was first aware that there was a problem here or there could be problems?


MR. MCCORMACK: I think that this has been an issue that got people's attention over the past several months. I can't tell you exactly how far back it extends. It's not limited to the United States either.


QUESTION: What about the Secretary herself? What was her initial response?


MR. MCCORMACK: She, of course, wants to make sure that UN programs, including UNDP programs, are properly administered and that there's good oversight and that the money that you allocate to those programs and reaches those who are intended to benefit from them. That's her general attitude. I haven't spoken to her specifically about this particular case.


QUESTION: I understand it's in the hands, very much in the hands of the UN.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: But North Korea is acting as if they're very insulted. Did this have any potential to derail the next round of six-party talks?


MR. MCCORMACK: It shouldn't. It shouldn't. Again, as I said, this has to do with UN management and oversight.


Yeah, Elise.


QUESTION: This follows on a topic we discussed earlier this week about President Ahmadinejad of Iran. Now Mr. Rafsanjani, the former president, is -- looks to be taking over some more of the nuclear issue, meeting with British officials, saying that Iran is ready to have full verification of its nuclear programs, things like that. Do you see an opening here and do you think that this signals that President Ahmadinejad is being increasingly isolated? And is that -- do you have --


MR. MCCORMACK: Hard to say, hard to say. The internal dynamics of Iranian politics at the top level of the Iranian regime is pretty opaque. I couldn't tell you what the intentions of various actors within that system are. But one thing you can say, just looking at the public reports, press reports, is that there is now a debate about the stance of the Ahmadinejad government on the nuclear issue that has broken out into the public.


There was, for quite some time, some suspicion that that debate was taking place behind closed doors, but now it's broken out into the public, which is certainly interesting. Now where that debate will lead to, I can't tell you and I can't -- certainly can't speak to the motivations of various actors like Rafsanjani or others who might be involved in that debate. It's fine for people to express intentions and good will, but what the Iranians need to do now is to act and they need to do so in tangible ways that meet the conditions that have been laid out for them by the Security Council as well as the IAEA. Thus far we haven't seen anything that comes close to meeting those standards.


QUESTION: But the fact that new players seem to be involved and seem to be opening a door that Ahmadinejad closed, does that give you some optimism that there might be an opening here?


MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, you know, words are great, but what you need are actions. The door has been opened by the international system for the Iranian regime and we'll see if they walk through it. Thus far, they have given no indication that they are going to.


Nicholas.


QUESTION: Sean, is the Secretary planning to pledge any more financial support for Afghanistan when she -- well, she's already out there in Brussels by now, maybe soon will be, but tomorrow there is a meeting at NATO.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: What kind of support is she planning to announce for Afghanistan?


MR. MCCORMACK: We're going to see some very substantial pledges on the part of the United States, both for reconstruction support as well as for military training and equipping of the Afghan army. So you're going to see a substantial number that the Secretary is going to propose. Now I have to point out that this is just a proposal because the supplemental budget request has yet to be submitted to the Congress, so I want to make clear that this is a proposal, not a firm pledge that all of that money is going to be forthcoming. We certainly intend that it will be, but Congress has a say in this.


QUESTION: You're talking about a '07 budget.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, a '07 supplemental


QUESTION: Right.


MR. MCCORMACK: Request, right. So this is going to be a very substantial amount that she talks about tomorrow.


QUESTION: Sean, can you talk a little bit about the review that -- I guess there's been a review going on of Afghanistan policy within the Administration? Can you talk about that a little bit and what's sort of the state of play is over there, what you think Afghanistan needs from our government?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the review was begun -- I can't tell you exactly when -- it's been ongoing for several months. And what senior policymakers wanted people to do is take a look at what has worked in Afghanistan, what are we doing right. And in areas where we need to improve, what is it that we need to do to improve our efforts with the eye to -- how can we help the Afghan people and the Afghan Government succeed? There are real challenges to that success, namely the Taliban as well as terrorist groups that are seeking to take that country back to where they were three, four, five years ago.


So the assistance that we are going to propose is intended to focus on a few key areas: Afghan reconstruction; helping with the building of roads. This is terribly important in Afghanistan. It is critical in a couple of respects: the practical effect of people being able to move around more easily in Afghanistan; the very practical effect of the farmers being able to get their goods to market. For example, Afghanistan could be a real producer of various types of agricultural products, but some of those are perishable and by the time -- with the current road system, by the time you get those goods to market, they're no good, they're spoiled. And therefore, farmers who might otherwise be involved in that kind of agricultural production might look elsewhere -- look to ally themselves with other kinds of forces, so roads are very important. Basic infrastructure, electricity grid, irrigation, also all this goes hand in hand with our counternarcotic strategy to make sure that the people of Afghanistan are involved in activities that help build up a legitimate economy in Afghanistan as opposed to being involved in the production of illicit narcotics.


There is also the other part to the assistance pledge is going to be helping to train and equip Afghanistan's national security forces. I think the bulk of this looking to expand the capabilities of the Afghan army and the police forces. They've made real strides in putting together their security forces, but they're going to need some help. The Afghans want to take over responsibility for being able to secure their country. Right now they can't do it by themselves. We're there to help. NATO is there to help. And there are serious challenges to the Afghan Government, especially in that southern region where NATO is operating. So part of this -- what this is intended to do is to help reinforce the successes that we have had in Afghanistan.


QUESTION: What do you make of these reports that Pakistani intelligence services are actually contributing to the rise of the Taliban again?


MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I can't -- this has been a continuing issue and certainly the Afghan Government has some strong feelings about it. We have -- what we have been trying to do -- we first and then NATO -- is try to bring the Afghans and the Pakistanis together to work on security issues along that border region. The forces that threaten Afghanistan also could pose a potential threat to Pakistan as well, so there's a real mutual interest there. A stable Afghanistan, a stable, prosperous Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan as well as the rest of the region and vice versa. So there -- you've seen in public, there have been tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan on this issue. They have put in place at least the groundwork for better cooperation to get after that security issue along the border region, they need to build on that. They also need to make more effective their cooperation and there are two sides to this. So what we are doing here is trying to help with the Afghan side of this and to, like I said, help them succeed beyond where they have been able to succeed thus far.


George.


QUESTION: Could you be a little bit more definitive on the numbers attached to the -- both the reconstruction and the military side? What do you have in mind?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not going to get ahead of my boss in terms of making those announcements. It'll be pretty -- it'll be substantial. I've seen press reports out there of multiple billions of dollars and I think those are in the right neighborhood.


QUESTION: Could you also say why, so many years after the Taliban was driven out, the opium poppy production is so high?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not an expert in this, George, but there are a number of different reasons, I talked a little bit about them, is you had -- Afghanistan, prior to the overthrow of the Taliban regime, had a very, very rudimentary economy and Afghanistan is not a place that has a lot of natural resources. So what you are trying to do is not necessarily rebuild Afghanistan; you're actually trying to help the Afghans build Afghanistan so that it is a state that is fully integrated with the modern international system.


And as a result, because you have a number of these shortcomings in terms of infrastructure, people are seeking to spend their time in, what we would view, less productive ways and counterproductive ways. For example, you mentioned growth and production of illegal narcotics, poppies. And what we are trying to do is encourage those individuals who may be tempted to spend their time cultivating poppies and to instead engage in other kinds of activities. You don't want to build an Afghan economy that is built on foreign aid and illicit narcotics production. That is not good for Afghanistan, nor the Afghan people, nor the international system.


So I think that the short answer to your question is the roots of this are in Afghanistan's -- the lack of development in Afghanistan and the particular historical circumstances of Afghanistan.


QUESTION: Don't you have to move aggressively against it, the way you're doing it in Colombia with the eradication?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there is a lot of discussion about that. There are a lot of different techniques that you can employ to get after the narcotics production. You can have spraying, you can have manual eradication, you can have mechanical eradication. And President Karzai and his government obviously have a big say in this and we want to respect the fact that they are a sovereign government. We can offer our best advice and -- but ultimately, these decisions are up to President Karzai.


The bottom line is everybody wants this to be effective. President Karzai understands that getting after the production of illicit narcotics in Afghanistan is in the interest of his government and the interest of the Afghan people, so we're going to do what we can to stand with President Karzai and the Afghan people. Part of the money that Secretary Rice is going to propose tomorrow is intended to help with counternarcotics, so we're going to remain deeply involved in those efforts, as are other interested actors in the international community.


Kirit.


QUESTION: Are there any parts of the strategic review that are specifically designed to expand the reach of the Karzai government and to cement his support with Afghanistan?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what you want to do is you want to cement the democratic system in Afghanistan. You have it at the federal system, you want to get it down more and more to the provincial as well as the local levels. Now again, you're building on the existing social political structures in Afghanistan, but you want to formalize those and help the Afghans build those institutions at those lower -- at the grass roots level. So that's part of what these funds are intended to do as well.


And part of -- and when you have the construction of infrastructure at those regional as well as local levels, that helps reinforce those fledgling institutions at the local and regional level as well.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Is there any possibility that the Afghan model can be used in Iraq? In the near future is more (inaudible) involvement possible for security reasons and rebuilding Iraq?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you have -- I'll let the folks on the ground in each of those places speak to the specifics, but very generally, you do have a counterinsurgency approach in which you have to take on those forces that are seeking to destabilize the country; in the case of Afghanistan, the Taliban and in the case of Iraq, multiple actors.


And there is a military component to that counterinsurgency strategy, there is a political component, and a reconstruction/development component and they all have to work together. And you will see, when Secretary Rice talks about this tomorrow, that that is present certainly in the -- in our Afghan strategy and you heard from President Bush and it's very clear that that's at the core of our Iraq strategy as well.


So I think certainly, in general terms, there are commonalities in approach. You have to tailor those to the specific circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan and I'll let others speak to the commonalities at a more specific level, but certainly at a general level, yes, there are some common approaches.


Yeah, Sue.


QUESTION: Afghanistan?


QUESTION: Again --


QUESTION: Oh, okay.


QUESTION: You have mentioned expanding the Afghan army and police, do you have specific numbers or a percentage increase in mind?


MR. MCCORMACK: We'll talk a little bit more in detail about that in the coming days.


QUESTION: Do you have an announcement yet on Bob Joseph, when he's going to be leaving, why he's leaving? And simply by my count, I think there are about five senior positions that are open and does this hinder your diplomacy?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we -- Bob has submitted a letter of resignation. We can make that available to you after the briefing. I'll let his letter speak to the reasons for his leaving, but I would suggest to you that we're six years into the Bush Administration and Bob, for example, has been with President Bush and Secretary Rice for nearly all of those six years.


And these jobs are demanding in many, many different ways. And so you are going to start to see some people, after six years, take leave and return to different endeavors. In the case of Bob, Secretary Rice has the greatest respect for Bob personally as well as professionally. He has been an important voice in the Administration's policymaking on nonproliferation as well as other matters.


He is -- the President proposed it, but I think Bob is -- I'll take some liberty, Bob is the godfather of the Proliferation Security Initiative. He really was the driving intellectual force behind that and we -- certainly, we in the Administration wish Bob all the best. And he's going to be -- the Secretary would like to find ways to draw upon his expertise and his experience in the coming two years, so we're going to see what we can do in that regard.


QUESTION: And what about the other five spots, roughly, that are missing? Is that affecting your diplomacy?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in each of those five spots, each of those individuals had different and unique reason for leaving. Ambassador Negroponte has been nominated to take the job of Deputy Secretary of State. I believe he has a confirmation hearing next week. And we are moving forward in filling each of the other remaining positions. The personnel process grinds forward relatively slowly. That's certainly not a slight on people involved in that process, because there are reasons why this process is very careful and methodical. It's the right way to do things.


And for each of the remaining positions they're at a different point in that personnel process. So I would hope in the coming days and weeks you're going to hear more about nominations to fill those other positions. In the short term you have people who are stepping up and backstopping on various issues that were -- that are handled by the bureaus in which you have people leaving. Over the long term we're certainly confident that we're going to get good strong people to replace those who have left. And in the meantime, we have some very good people who are filling in.


QUESTION: There have been some commentators like Robert Novak a couple of weeks ago wrote a column under the headline "The Mess at State," saying that the State Department was very slow in filling positions and that this was jeopardizing the work that you were doing. I wonder whether you --


MR. MCCORMACK: Just ridiculous. Sorry. Secretary Rice, as evidenced by the nomination of John Negroponte, wanted to find good strong people to fill these positions. There -- when you get to the senior most positions, there's a relatively small pool of people who you want to have in those jobs. You want to have good qualified people with solid experience who are going to be able to work within the policymaking process of this Administration. And she has done that and we are going to do that.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, do you know the reason for which your coordinator on counterterrorism, Mr. Hill, comes from is leaving the office after two years only in service? Who's going to replace him?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, it's -- I think it's a part of Sue's question. We're going to have somebody fill that position and we're actively looking at who the best candid is to do that.


QUESTION: And on Turkey, may I go to Turkey?


MR. MCCORMACK: Do you have your cell phone turned off? (Laughter.)


QUESTION: I'm closing the door. I apologize for any inconvenience I caused in this press room.


MR. MCCORMACK: That's okay. It's okay.


QUESTION: According to a report the Turkish army has gathered its forces in southeast of Turkey ready for an invasion of Northern Iraq. They've used the Kurdish people, something has provoked already a reaction from the Iraqi Government. Any comment on that?


MR. MCCORMACK: General Ralston, our special envoy on this issue is working very closely with the Iraqi Government and the Turkish Governments. We want to find a way to address Turkey's legitimate concerns about terrorism from the -- emanating from the PKK. So we're working on ways that are constructive, both for Turkey and for Iraq to resolve the -- any concerns that might exist on both sides of the border.


QUESTION: One more question.


QUESTION: You don't want to confirm any buildup?


MR. MCCORMACK: No, you can talk to the Turkish military about that.


QUESTION: One more question. A car bomb exploded in Kirkuk, killing 10 Turkomen and the Iraqi Turkomen Front claim that the bombing was the provocation as a part of a plan to annex the city to the Iraq-Kurdistan region. Any comment on that?


MR. MCCORMACK: The issue of Kirkuk is addressed in the Iraqi constitution and the Iraqis have a process that -- by which they are going to address the status of Kirkuk. It's a thorny issue. It's admittedly a very tough issue. But it's going to be the Iraqis who have to deal with the solution, whatever that may be.


QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. MCCORMACK: Thanks.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/79376.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 29 2007, 05:26 PM
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. How are you? I have one brief opening statement, then we can get right into your questions. This one concerns Belarus.

The United States condemns the Government of Belarus's decision to evict the Belarussian Helsinki Committee from its offices, a move which forces the closure of the country's most significant human rights NGO. This latest attack by the Belarussian authorities on independent civil society underscores the steady deterioration of the human rights situation in the country. The United States urges the Belarussian authorities to immediately reverse this decision against the Belarussian Helsinki Committee and to honor its international commitments, including the 1975 Helsinki Accords to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.


With that, I can take your questions, whoever wants to start.


QUESTION: Do you want to say something about Iran's plans to increase economic and military ties with Iraq?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have said from the very beginning that we encourage good, neighborly, transparent, productive, positive relations between Iran and Iraq. We fully expect that. They are neighbors after all. And there's -- after a long period of quite a bit of tension between Iran and Iraq, I think it's only natural that both governments, Iranian and Iraqi, explore how they might improve relations.


Now, that's what everybody including the Iraqis would like to see. Is it the case at the moment that the Iranians are playing a positive role in Iraq? I think there are many, many indications that the Iranian regime is not contributing to the security situation in Iraq. They are not contributing to the stabilization of Iraq and I can't, on the basis of facts, really speak to whether or not they're making any contributions on the reconstruction front. Now, if the Iraqi Government is -- welcomes in the Iranian Government's assistance with reconstruction, then I think that that certainly is their decision to make. But thus far, George, they have not made a positive contribution. All that they have done is contribute to more instability and more death in Iraq.


Yeah, Sue.


QUESTION: This is a separate issue, but still Iran. Royal Dutch Shell has signed a preliminary deal along with Spain's Repsol, another company, to develop a major gas field in Iran. Is this something that you would oppose? Non-U.S. companies starting up oil deals in Iran, do you think this goes against UN sanctions and that doesn't affect the oil industry yet, but do you think it breaks the spirit of that agreement?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms -- well, in terms of private commercial entities making business decisions that those decisions are for them to make and in consultation with the boards and their shareholders. Now the U.S. has on the books various laws with respect to investment in the Iranian oil and gas sector, the people who deal with those laws on a daily basis and their application I'm sure will take a look at this particular deal. It's triggered by the size of the deal and did it mention how large this deal is? I imagine it's in the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. If so, then there's a -- I think the amount is $30 million or right around there. If there is an investment greater than a certain amount, as specified under U.S. law, then our folks, our lawyers take a look at it and the policymakers take a look at it and see if there's any further steps that we as a government take.


QUESTION: I think it's in the billions of dollars, actually.


MR. MCCORMACK: Then it's likely that it would probably be triggered.


QUESTION: And so what would happen then?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to speculate, Sue. I mean, there's -- you can take a look at the laws on the books and there are various provisions in there if various deals are found to contravene U.S. laws and regulations.


QUESTION: I mean, Shell has operations within the United States, so because Shell is working in the U.S., would that affect how you viewed them?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not even going to begin to try to speculate in terms of the application of the law.


Yes, sir.


QUESTION: Just go back to your first answer. I'm not sure I fully understand. If Iran is going to contribute to Iraqi reconstruction, would you regard that as a step in the right direction or is it that you think that everything they do is so dodgy and so destabilizing that you don't want them to contribute --


MR. MCCORMACK: It depends on the specifics. Certainly those are -- that would be -- that's a positive sentiment to want to try to contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq. Now, there are -- a lot of times people express positive sentiments but the actual application of that sentiment on the ground isn't so positive, and that certainly is the case with respect to Iran and the security situation. You have the Iranian regime involved in these various networks that are -- that pose a real threat to our troops. You have the Iranians involved, working with various individuals involved in death squads. Again, none of that contributes to the overall security situation in Iraq. It doesn't contribute to Iraq's stabilization.


Now in terms of the reconstruction, we'll see. We would -- I would imagine that a first and minimal step, that any sort of assistance of reconstruction would have to be accepted and welcomed by the Iraqi Government.


Elise.


QUESTION: This is on a related story on Iran on oil.


QUESTION: Can I stay on that?


QUESTION: Yeah, sure.


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.


QUESTION: The Iranian Ambassador -- the article in The New York Times says that he was ridiculing some of the evidence that he thinks the U.S. has about Iranian activities inside Iraq. And also I think there's another report that said that the U.S. military would be presenting evidence this week about activities on --


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think there's any particular timeline associated with that.


QUESTION: Okay. But you do plan to respond to -- you know, if he's ridiculing the evidence --


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't feel any particular need to respond to the Iranian Ambassador in Iraq. But with respect to talking more about what we know of Iranian activities with these IED networks, as well as the various other activities in which they may be involved in Iraq, at some point we will talk in greater depth about it.


Again, I went through it last week, it was a question of combing through all the mountain of classified information that we've managed to accumulate on the topic and all the time we're accumulating more. And looking through that with an eye towards, yes, we want to be able to better inform publics about this: the Iraqi public, our public as well as other publics. At the same time in talking about that, you don't want to harm your ability to conduct -- collect more information on these topics from the same kinds of sources and methods. So you always have that balance. It is our intention to talk about these things in greater detail in public. I can't give you a particular timeline on it. I wouldn't point you to a particular date at this point.


Yeah, Sue.


QUESTION: Do you fear though that the U.S. suffers a little bit of a credibility problem? Because in the build up to the Iraq war you presented intelligence relating to weapons of mass destruction, nothing was ever found. Why should people believe you this time on Iran, especially in the climate of escalating tensions with Iran?


MR. MCCORMACK: The two are completely different topics, Sue. Here you have a case, and it's been publicly talked about by the British Government long before we ever mentioned this, the fact that the Iranian regime was engaged in these kind of networks that were -- just so everybody's clear -- it's their IEDs improved -- improvised explosive devices, sadly it's a term that we've all become far too familiar with.


What these -- what the Iranian networks do, or the Iranian-sponsored or these networks in which they participate, is they build these devices which are much more lethal. Very simply, as it's been described in the press, they're shaped in such a way that they are able to, with much greater effectiveness, penetrate armor and therefore, are much more lethal to multinational forces, British forces, our forces -- you know, other international forces that may be in Iraq.


So long before we ever talked about this, this is something that the British Government expressed a great deal of concern about. We obviously supported them in their concern. That was, I think, a year ago or so. And again, as we are able to collect information and to make it available to the publics, we will do so. But we're going to do it in such a way that we don't endanger our ability to collect more of that kind of information, because the bottom line here is that we want to take steps to protect our troops.


Regardless of the state of public presentation of the information, we're going to take steps to make sure that our troops are protected as best they can be protected. And one of the threats that they face are these particular devices which are built by these networks, so we're going to confront them. We're going to confront them in Iraq. And as the President said, we are quite determined to do that.


QUESTION: So do you anticipate the Secretary might go to the UN, for example, and present this or would it be --


MR. MCCORMACK: No.


Elise.


QUESTION: The Saudi oil minister, in recent days, has said publicly that Saudi Arabia wants to maintain "moderate oil prices."


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: And one of the discussions has been that this could have a negative effect on Iran, who is using the oil market to further its negative agenda in the region. Is this move to keep oil prices down something that the U.S. supports? The U.S. has been very supportive of Saudi oil policy in the past.


MR. MCCORMACK: You can talk to the Saudis about how they view the oil markets and the markets. The markets are the ones who set the prices. I'm not going to jump into commenting on commodity markets, thank you very much, Elise.


QUESTION: But just one more. I mean, certainly, Iran has used high oil prices to its own advantage. And do you think a lower oil price could put the squeeze on the Iranian economy that you're seeking to do through other types of measures such as financial measures, banks and so forth?


MR. MCCORMACK: You'll have to talk to the Iranian Ministry of Finance about what sort of squeeze lower oil prices will put on their spending. Everybody knows that they derive the great bulk of their international income from oil and gas related sales. But beyond that, you can talk to the Iranians about what sort of effect the price of oil and gas has on their economy.


QUESTION: Sean, what is your understanding of the proposal from Mohamed ElBaradei to Iran concerning --


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think we've talked much to him about it. I know he gave a speech, gave some remarks at Davos about it. I'm sure we'll be in touch with him or his staff to get a better idea of exactly what it is that he's outlined. As I understand it, he has talked about the Iranians' meeting what the IAEA and the UN Security Council have asked them to do, and that is to suspend their enrichment and reprocessing related activities, and then that there would be some coincident or some related suspension of action in the Security Council.


Now, previously, prior to the passage of a Security Council resolution with sanctions on it, there was some idea that we were going to give the Iranians some opportunity, some window in which if they suspended their enrichment and reprocessing related activities then there would be a suspension of activity within the Security Council to seek another resolution. At that point we were between resolutions; one had already been passed calling on them to take certain steps, and then at that point there was contemplation and discussion of the resolution that we have right now that we've already passed.


We have shifted into a qualitatively different situation now where you have in place a Chapter 7 resolution which is binding upon all member-states that calls upon them to impose certain types of sanctions on the Iranian regime. Now, only one of the requirements in that Security Council resolution is for Iran to suspend its enrichment and reprocessing related activities. You can go through -- I don't have it in front of me, but you can go through it and there are several other requirements that are -- that the Iranian regime needs to meet in order for the Security Council to consider lifting any of the sanctions involved in there.


So while we have not had an opportunity to discuss what it is that Mr. ElBaradei had in mind with him or his staff, I would just make as a preliminary comment that you are in a different kind of -- a qualitatively different situation than when this idea had previously arisen back -- I think it was back in the Fall time, back in September.


QUESTION: Do you know if legally there'd be a way to -- because his wording was not "lift the sanctions," it would be "suspend the sanctions." Now, is there some difference? Is there some decision that could be made which is less involved and --


MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I couldn't even at this point begin to comment on that, David. You know, again, you have a resolution in place, Chapter 7 binding on all states. I couldn't even begin to tell you the ins and outs of the requirements short of the Iranians meeting the requirements, the requirements that you have to meet or the Security Council would have to take a look at in order to change that finding, change that resolution.


Yes, sir.


QUESTION: Can I change the subject?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. Anything else on Iran?


QUESTION: Iraq?


MR. MCCORMACK: We'll get back to you.


QUESTION: The State Department report to Congress about use of cluster bombs by Israel and Lebanon, could you tell us -- you were quoted this morning saying on the wires there likely were violations.


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, let me -- we'll back up, give you the long form explanation here. We can answer questions about it. Don't believe everything you read in the wires. (Laughter.) Just kidding. Just kidding, guys. Wanted to make sure you guys were still awake up front here.


Under the Arms Export Control Act there's language in there that says that if a country has -- likely has violated the terms of its agreements with the United States, then you -- then that triggers a report to the Congress. Now, the question then becomes what kind of agreements are you talking about. Well, anytime throughout the licensing process of selling armaments and weapons to foreign countries, the United States typically will negotiate along with the licenses various end use agreements and in some cases agreements that specify under what kinds of conditions those armaments and munitions can be used.


In the case of cluster munitions with Israel, we have in place one of those such agreements. And so the question then arises, which the Israelis themselves are investigating right now, as to in what way the munitions were employed and in the manner of their use, did that in some way contravene the agreement between the United States and Israel. So after looking into the matter in the wake of the Hezbollah-Israel war, we work cooperatively with the Israeli Government, take a look at the facts, take a look at the agreement that was in place and then take a look at the legal requirements as specified in the law. And it was the determination based on the facts that we in a preliminary finding -- I have to emphasize preliminary, it's not a final judgment -- that there may likely could have been some violations of that agreement. So under the law, we are required to report that to the Congress and that is the step that we are taking today. I think it's either already happened or this afternoon. We are forwarding that preliminary assessment to Congress.


QUESTION: What were the conditions of the agreement? Should it be used --


MR. MCCORMACK: Right. This is the area in which we bump up against the fact that these agreements for a variety of different reasons is -- very oftentimes it gets into rules of engagement for specific countries and those themselves are usually classified or tightly held by the foreign national government. The agreements, those parts of the agreements that we negotiate with the foreign government are classified, so we do not speak about them in public.


QUESTION: Just -- can you suffice it to say that Israel isn't supposed to use these type of weapons in civilian areas?


MR. MCCORMACK: I am not going to try to get into that at all. Let me just add one other note to the conversation we had this morning as well. We of course will follow the facts scrupulously with respect to the law. And we are forthright and scrupulous in forwarding to the Congress the information that is required by the law. And we will continue to do so, regardless of the case.


Now, as a very practical matter there were a number of munitions that were expended, some of which did not explode in southern Lebanon. And as a matter of humanitarian concern, the international community has expended very significant funds for de-mining operations and dealing with some of those unexploded ordnance and we have been part of that.


Since the period from the end of the conflict this summer -- I don't have the exact date and I think it was in August -- to present we have expended about $9 million in terms of contributing to international humanitarian de-mining efforts which gets at making safe some of these unexploded ordnance items. And as part of her pledge at the Paris conference, included in that number that we talked about the $700-plus million was an additional 5 million -- a little over $5 million for more de-mining assistance. So I just wanted to make clear that we are part of those efforts as well as part of the international efforts to help the Lebanese people reconstruct much of what was lost in southern Lebanon.


QUESTION: Just come back --


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sure.


QUESTION: It might help us if you could talk about these agreement in general terms. Because it would be hard to imagine, would it not, an agreement which the United States made with a foreign government which allowed them to use cluster bombs against civilians?


MR. MCCORMACK: It's just an area I can't venture in. You know, I pretty --


QUESTION: In the most general terms --


MR. MCCORMACK: I appreciate the effort and I appreciate the question. It's a fair question. But you're just getting into an area where I can't talk about -- just the nature of these agreements.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) you refuse to comment on whether it would be hard to imagine if the United States Government would be -- would allow an agreement with anybody to allow cluster bombs against civilians.


MR. MCCORMACK: Look, obviously the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel was one between Hezbollah and Hezbollah fighters which engaged in an act of aggression against Israel. They crossed an international border. They started a war. So clearly the conflict was between those two parties.


Now, you and your editors will decide exactly how it is you describe my comments. I can't write your copy for you. Sometimes I wish I could. It's just an area that I can't get into. It gets into the realm of classified information. We are trying to be as forthright and open as we possibly can with regard to this matter. I know it's of interest to you, but there are certain lines that I can't cross.


Yeah, Sue.


QUESTION: But as a policy, does the United States agree with Israel that it has the right to use cluster bombs in terms -- as a way of defending themselves against Hezbollah or any other threat?


MR. MCCORMACK: Sue, you can talk to the Israel Government about their rules of engagement, their policies with respect to the use of cluster munitions. They're in their inventory. We have them in our inventory, so clearly they are designed for a certain type of use.


I'll refer you over to my friends at the Pentagon so that they can describe -- should they choose to -- how and under what conditions cluster munitions might be used. Now, a lot of this again gets into rules of engagement. And for a lot of reasons, and a lot of good reasons, military often doesn't talk about the specific rules of engagement.


QUESTION: Now the UN has called for a freeze on the use of cluster bombs. Is the U.S. position still that you keep them -- you're keeping them in your inventory in case you need them or are you looking in to whether there should be a freeze on cluster bombs?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't believe that -- to my knowledge, there is -- and I'm happy to look into whether or not anything has changed recently, but to my knowledge there's no change in our policies.


Yeah, David.


QUESTION: Can you talk about -- generically speaking, what kinds of sanctions would be envisioned under the Arms Export Control Act?


MR. MCCORMACK: The way it works now is that there is this preliminary report to Congress, and that if Congress requests further action on the part of the Administration then, of course, we'll do so. Whether that's in the form of further reports or other kinds of actions, we would consider what their requests were.


In terms of our work, we will continue our preliminary -- our work in terms of investigation. The Israeli Government has said that they are -- have launched a formal investigation into the use of these particular munitions and how that comported with their rules of engagement and their use policy. I'm not going to speculate what -- if anything -- might be the outcome of these continuing investigations.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) of the investigation itself?


MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I don't have it in front of me. I can't tell you. I can't tell you.


QUESTION: Sue, go ahead.


QUESTION: So just from a procedural perspective, does the report recommend action or does the action have to come from Congress? Could that be included in your report or is the onus on Congress to identify the action?


MR. MCCORMACK: No. This is a factual report.


QUESTION: Okay.


MR. MCCORMACK: It's a factual report.


QUESTION: Just on Sue's point. Is the onus on Congress or you could -- I know you don't want to discuss what could be -- what action could be taken, but do you have the license to take action against a government even if Congress doesn't recommend --


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to -- again, we're getting beyond ourselves. I'm trying to tell you where we are in this process right now. I'm not going to try to speculate about what may or may not occur down the road.


QUESTION: Did the United States suspend sales of cluster bombs to Israel pending the outcome of the investigation?


MR. MCCORMACK: Check with DOD. I'll check with our guys. I don't believe so, but I don't know if there were any sales that were ongoing at this point.


QUESTION: Do you have any idea of how long the investigation -- how much more time it needs and when to expect it to be done?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I think that people will take as long as they think they need to in order to get an objective picture of what they think are the facts.


QUESTION: Is it just a matter of getting more information from the Israelis?


MR. MCCORMACK: They collected information from a number of different sources not just the Israeli Government on this.


Yes, sir.


QUESTION: Who in Congress received the report or the assessment?


MR. MCCORMACK: I think by statute there's -- and it's different in different cases, I think this goes to the Speaker of the House and the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Don't ask me to explain why that particular divide but that's just the requirement under this kind of a law.


QUESTION: And the White House also received a copy of this assessment?


MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell for sure, but I'm sure that they have -- they have a copy of it. Yeah.


QUESTION: Sean, is this considered really a moot point, because back in that war in mid summer, weren't we saying in many instances Hezbollah were putting munitions and armaments into civilian areas in southern Lebanon?


MR. MCCORMACK: It's a fact that they used human shields, that they hid themselves among the civilian populations. It was one of the aspects of this particular conflict that was -- that made it very, very difficult I think for the international system to watch but also for the Israelis as well. It's -- no military commander wants to be -- have to be put in the position of acting in self-defense and going after those people who have committed aggressions against your country but are then hiding among civilian populations. And we made very clear in public to the Israelis and the Israeli Government, and they made clear as well in their orders, that the Israeli military would take every possible precaution to avoid casualties to innocent civilian populations.


Yes, sir.


QUESTION: It's on Iraq. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on Friday that the Bush Administration hasn't really done enough to convince the international community to engage in Iraq. I'm just wondering if you have any reaction to that. And he also called for an international conference with the UN and getting the EU more on board. What's your reaction to that?


MR. MCCORMACK: I guess I don't know exactly to what Mr. Hoyer is referring. Certainly we had been quite engaged with the international community in generating support, trying to generate support, whether that's economic or political or diplomatic or other kinds of assistance, to the Iraqi people and for the Iraqi Government. I can remember back in 2005 -- I can't give you the exact date -- we had a very large conference in Brussels designed to help support the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi people.


In this past September, we had the International Compact for Iraq meet under the auspices of the UN. UN Secretary General -- at the time -- Kofi Annan was co-chair of the conference along with the Iraqis. Those efforts continue. And essentially, very simply, that is the Iraqis will agree to take a number of different steps in terms of political and economic reform, and in return the international community, various member states, will make certain pledges of certain types of contributions. It's basically the kind of deal that was struck between the international system and the Afghan Government that was hosted by Prime Minister Tony Blair in the UK about a year, a year and a half ago.


So there is a lot of activity being -- there's a lot of activity and energy that's being expended by the Administration and by the Iraqis themselves to generate international support for Iraq, the Iraqi people and Iraq's future. I've gone through some of the more formal, larger forum conferences, but there are a number of other efforts that are underway. Secretary Rice on her most recent trip talked a lot with leaders in the region about support for Iraq and the Iraqi people and as well as for supporting the new U.S. strategy in Iraq.


QUESTION: So the current process is working? There's no need for any new sort of initiative to get the international community more engaged in Iraq?


MR. MCCORMACK: We -- you know, always open to new ideas and good ideas. If there's anything that is qualitatively new and different beyond what it is that I have described, then certainly we're open to those ideas and certainly welcome the efforts of all who want to put their shoulder to the wheel. And in that effort we are engaged in it, we're already there, always willing to welcome more people in to help out.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Can I ask you about Iraq, the bombings over the weekend in Najaf? Were you aware of these "Soldiers of Heaven" cults previously or is this a new thing? Can you give me a readout?


MR. MCCORMACK: It was new to me, but that doesn't mean that it was new to our guys in the field. I suspect it was not, but you'd have to ask them.


Yeah.


QUESTION: And what about reports that it's being armed by foreign entities? Any -- can you just give me a bit more on that?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a lot of the ground truth. I've seen a lot of the news reports that there were foreign fighters there. It's no surprise that there may have been. I don't know it as a fact because we -- there's a significant presence of foreign fighters in Iraq that are seeking to destabilize the progress that they are making. But on this particular case, I don't have much to offer you.


QUESTION: This was an effort by the Iraqi forces themselves. Would you see this as a positive thing, a good example of how --


MR. MCCORMACK: Absolutely. Absolutely. You see the Iraqi forces there, they're in the fight. We are there obviously to support them. It's going to vary case by case exactly whether or not we're shoulder-to-shoulder with them or in blocking positions or providing indirect support or indirect fire, but we are there to support them. It is certainly very positive when you see the Iraqis on the point. That is what they want. That is certainly what we are looking for as well.


Yeah, Kirit.


QUESTION: Sean, if I could just ask you about Iraq refugees again, and this is something that Assistant Secretary Sauerbrey touched on in her testimony on the Hill a couple of weeks ago. You know, there are stories of several interpreters and translators who have worked for the U.S. Government, several of whom have been severely injured and are seeking medical treatment in Jordan and so on. I'm just wondering if there's been any steps the U.S. has taken to help the system get perhaps refugee status here in the United States.


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you have to break this out in a number of different ways. You have the issue of refugees, many of whom are now resident in -- not -- resident is not the right word -- present in Jordan and Syria. And the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has the lead not only in working with the host government to provide humanitarian assistance to them, but also to assess these individuals for whether or not they have a -- a real fear of continuing persecution. I'll get that out eventually. And if they do have that finding then they're classified as refugees and they go around to various member-states to see if they could possibly be resettled into those countries.


Now, we as a country are prepared to possibly take in a fairly significant number of our overall quota of refugees from the region. But those numbers haven't been fully set yet, but there's a little bit of give in the system to allow us to take some in.


Now, you have the issue of people who have worked for the U.S. Government and there are very specific programs that allow us to bring people in from some of these places, including in Iraq, who want to emigrate to the United States after a period of service to the U.S. Government. Now, the military has in place a very specific program. We ourselves are taking a look at what the State Department -- what the U.S. Government might do for those people who have met some term of service to us to see if they would meet the requirements for that same -- for a similar kind of program that the military has. But we don't yet -- we're not there yet. We're taking a look at it.


Certainly we want to do everything we can to encourage those Iraqis who are going to be critical to help rebuilding their country stay in Iraq and invest in their future. At the same time, you also want to honor the service of those individuals who in many cases have risked their lives to help us out.


QUESTION: There's a concern from many, including some that actually testified on the same panel as Assistant Secretary Sauerbrey, that the program that's in place that allows them to get refugee status from the military is restrictive in the sense that it's hard for them to get that recommendation. So I was wondering if you could respond to that.


And also, some are saying that, you know, for their service the U.S. owes it to the Iraqis to give them the status.


MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we're trying to balance those competing demands that I just talked about there. You want Iraqis to -- those most talented Iraqis, some of whom work for us, those who might form the professional classes or middle classes in Iraq, to invest in Iraq, not in terms of dollar terms but invest in Iraq's future. They have done so, I would argue, already in working with us to help build a better country, but we would encourage that continued investment.


At the same time, you also want to honor those who have taken great risks and oftentimes made great sacrifices to help us out in that effort. But again, we're taking a look at it. I can't tell you we have come to any final conclusions at this point. But those are the two, I guess, competing demands that we're trying to balance.


Yeah, Charlie.


QUESTION: On that subject, do you have a number, a working number or even a range -- it wouldn't be an exact number. Do you have a range of people who fall into this category? They've worked for the government, they and their families, who might want to leave?


MR. MCCORMACK: Don't. We don't at this point, Charlie. It's something we're trying to get a better handle on.


QUESTION: Aside from the problem of people seeking refugee status, there's also a growing problem, aid groups are saying, of internally displaced people with more than a million people been pushed out of Baghdad. And there's a new study coming out this week by an aid group saying that within the next few months there will probably be more than a million people pushed out of Baghdad if the sectarian conflict and violence stays at the same level. What's the U.S. doing to try and ease this situation? Aid groups say it's really hard to get aid to these people and they've become targets themselves. So I just wondered if this is something you all are particular concerned about.


MR. MCCORMACK: It's something we have our eye on, obviously. Well, the best thing that we can do is help the Iraqis stabilize the security situation in Baghdad. You properly note that a big part of the problem emanate -- really is centered on Baghdad and the -- some of the sectarian conflicts that are ongoing in Baghdad.


So you heard from President Bush in his speech one of the big things we're trying to do is help the Iraqis get a handle on the security situation, a large component of which needs to be dealing with the sectarian conflicts and going after these militias or death squads that operate outside -- that are operating outside -- clearly outside the law.


That in large part, we believe, is responsible for those people who want to flee Baghdad, leave their neighborhoods, leave their homes, and in some cases leave Baghdad. People need to feel as though the security situation is getting better and that they will be more secure if they want to stay there or if people are to return. So I think that's probably the best thing that we can do. We obviously work with aid groups throughout Iraq to help deliver so that they can do the work that they are set up to do. I can't offer you any specifics on that, Sue, but as a general rule that's what we are -- we do work with aid groups in Iraq.


QUESTION: Do you have any figures yourself, any estimates on how many displaced people there are?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- at the tip of my fingers, I don't, no.


QUESTION: Okay. Could you look into that? Is that possible?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we'll what we can get you.


Okay, we've got to move on here. I've got to go soon. Yeah.


QUESTION: Yeah, about the date of the six-party talks, when do you expect the announcement by Chinese Government?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we -- they'll do that on their own particular time schedule. I can't confirm anything for you, but I know the dates in early February have been thrown out there and Assistant Secretary Chris Hill will be ready if that is, in fact, the date. He'll have his bags packed and he'll be ready to work.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Last week, Japanese Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma criticized the U.S. invasion of Iraq. I think there was a negative response from the U.S., but then he went on to criticize the U.S. role in negotiations over Okinawa bases. Do these comments -- the new comments on Okinawa as well as the ones on Iraq -- do you have any statement on those? And do these comments in any way jeopardize the 2+2 agreement or 2+2 talks?


MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, we're -- I think on the 2+2 talks it's just a matter of triangulating the schedules of foreign ministers. That's sometimes a little bit hard to do.


In terms of the minister's comments, look, on Iraq, I think his ministry mentioned something about the fact that he was expressing his personal views. On the basing agreement, we think that after some really, really tough negotiations, that we came up with a good compromise. We think we have a good deal and we're ready to follow through on our end of the bargain. I expect the Japanese are as well.


QUESTION: James Zumwalt over at the Japanese Affairs desk implied that they would jeopardize the 2+2 talks?


MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you. I don't know.


Thanks.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/79467.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 30 2007, 06:46 PM
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.


Sue.


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: No.


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.


Kirit.


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.


Sue.


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.


Yeah.


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: Sorry.


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.


Yes, ma'am.


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.


QUESTION: Okay.


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 --


QUESTION: Okay.


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.


QUESTION: Okay.


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.


QUESTION: Okay.


MR. MCCORMACK: So I don't think that that is -- I don't think that's on the agenda right now.


QUESTION: Okay.


QUESTION: Sean?


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.


Yeah, Kirit.


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: (Off-mike.)


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?


QUESTION: Yeah.


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).


(Laughter.)


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

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 31 2007, 03:46 PM
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.


Sue.


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: No.


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.


Kirit.


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.


Sue.


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.


Yeah.


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: Sorry.


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.


Yes, ma'am.


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.


QUESTION: Okay.


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 --


QUESTION: Okay.


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.


QUESTION: Okay.


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.


QUESTION: Okay.


MR. MCCORMACK: So I don't think that that is -- I don't think that's on the agenda right now.


QUESTION: Okay.


QUESTION: Sean?


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.


Yeah, Kirit.


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: (Off-mike.)


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?


QUESTION: Yeah.


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).


(Laughter.)


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

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 1 2007, 07:01 PM
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. It's your second briefing of the day.


QUESTION: Third, this morning.


MR. MCCORMACK: Third -- oh, gaggle, all right. We'll throw the gaggle in as a briefing.


No opening statements, so who wants to start us off?


QUESTION: Since I've already been to those first two briefings, I know everything.


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. (Laughter.) That's it, Charlie. Yes.


QUESTION: Do you have anything today on the German arrest warrant? Yesterday you said you weren't aware of them, it was only press reports. Have you actually received --


MR. MCCORMACK: Which -- oh, the warrants?


QUESTION: Yeah.


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure what interaction our Embassy has had with the local prosecutor. I can't tell you. You tripped me up on that one. We're obviously going to look at the details of this and any sort of response to the legal charges or legal issues that are involved and surround this -- surround these warrants, are going to be addressed by the Department of Justice.


QUESTION: Do you think this will be on the agenda when the Secretary meets with Germany's Foreign Minister tomorrow?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure that we'll bring it up, but if he brings it up of course the Secretary will be ready to discuss it.


QUESTION: Have you had any -- has this impacted your diplomacy at all recently? You know, some reports suggest that this has clouded U.S. diplomatic efforts with European countries.


MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of. I think you have Quartet meetings -- demonstration of the fact that we're working very well with Germany as well as the EU. They're both going to be represented there at the Quartet meeting, so I see no indication whatsoever of that.


QUESTION: So what is the U.S. policy usually when there is this kind of legal action against --


MR. MCCORMACK: The Department of Justice represents the U.S. Government.


QUESTION: No, but do you present the people who are charged? Usually they do go to the --


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the lawyers over at Justice are the ones who respond on behalf of the U.S. Government. The State Department may serve as a pass through any sort of -- if any sort of legal responses that are -- written legal responses that the State Department may pass those back and forth. But DOJ are the ones who handle representation of the U.S. Government whenever you have this sort of matter.


Go ahead, Sylvie.


QUESTION: Would you have some details on this role between Cyprus and Turkey on this oil dispute?


MR. MCCORMACK: Whether --


QUESTION: Do you know if -- first, can you confirm that there are some naval -- that Turkey increased its naval presence?


MR. MCCORMACK: Has moved some ships around?


QUESTION: Yes.


MR. MCCORMACK: They could well have. I can't confirm that for you. You can talk to the Turkish Government about their movement of naval assets.


The immediate issue involves oil drilling rights, oil exploration rights, and then it gets -- very quickly gets into complicated legal issues concerning delimitation of the shelf that is around Cyprus and in the eastern Mediterranean. This stuff is extremely complex and lawyers and policymakers and politicians have been -- have wrapped themselves around this for many, many years. There's no resolution to it, so they'll continue to work on that.


What we would urge is that the parties refrain from any actions that might be interpreted by the other side; that there be full transparency so that you don't have any misunderstandings that might result in mishaps. And ultimately what needs to happen is the parties should get back to the root causes of the dispute. And the pathway, we believe to that, is open via the UN. Under Secretary General Gambari has made some proposals in this regard and we would urge the parties to look at those seriously.


QUESTION: Did you get in touch with Turkey?


MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of. I don't think -- I'm not aware that we've had any contact with them on it.


QUESTION: Sean, what's your reaction to remarks by French President Chirac, which he subsequently sought to retract, that if Iran had a bomb or two it wouldn't be such a big deal?


MR. MCCORMACK: We talked a little bit about this in the morning in the gaggle. Look, I understand President Chirac has revised and extended his remarks. We take those remarks at face value and the fact that they represent the position of the French Government, we see eye to eye on the strategic objectives in not allowing Iran to obtain the technologies that would let them develop a nuclear weapon. We both understand, as well as the other members of the P-5+1, the Security, Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon would be a terribly destabilizing event for the Middle East. We believe that, the French Government believes that and there's no daylight between the two of us on the issue.


QUESTION: But if you take seriously what he said the first time, the President of France doesn't believe that and one or two nuclear weapons would not be such a problem for him.


MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, the French Government has officially revised and extended President Chirac's remarks and as I said this morning I think we all deserve a mulligan every now and then. So we are going to take his revised and extended remarks at face value.


Yes.


QUESTION: Still on this, President Chirac didn't say that he didn't mean what he said. He said he thought he was on off-the-record.


MR. MCCORMACK: You are venturing into flagellum equus mortuus territory, Nicholas.


QUESTION: Wow. (Laughter.) My Latin isn't very good.


MR. MCCORMACK: We will rule out that moniker as you persist in these questions. But go ahead.


QUESTION: Okay.


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have -- I likely don't have anything more to say on the topic, but please proceed.


QUESTION: The point is, you know, the head of state of one of the EU-3, one of the Security Council permanent members, says something that is very serious. He's talking about a nuclear bomb that Iran is, as you say, trying to develop and that this would not be as big of a deal as everybody in the Security Council has said for years that it would. So yes, they said that he doesn't represent the French policy, but he's the head of state. I really don't understand how you can be comfortable with a revision of his statement, when he said something completely different to begin with.


MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas, what the French Government has said is that his revised remarks represent their policy views and we take that at face value.


QUESTION: So you think that the President of France is isolated in the decision-making community of France?


MR. MCCORMACK: Anybody else have a question here?


Yeah.


QUESTION: I need to ask you about this incidence in Karbala. And military sources have said to Fox that now at least two senior Iraqi generals are suspected of involvement in this. Do you have any reaction to this?


MR. MCCORMACK: I have seen the news reports. I talked to the folks over at DOD. They emphasized to me that they are still in the middle of their investigation. They have not come to any conclusions. Yesterday it was the Iranians who were responsible for this. Today it was two Iraqi generals. I would advise everybody to step back, take a deep breath, let the investigation proceed. It's a serious matter. And this sort of speculation out in public doesn't help a serious investigation reach serious conclusions. And the families of those soldiers who died are owed that. So we're not going to get involved in any sort of speculation. And what we're going to do is we're going to wait for the investigation to be completed.


QUESTION: Do you have any sense of when this might come out? There seems to be mounting pressure for us to hear something.


MR. MCCORMACK: The investigators are going to take the time that they need in order to gather all the facts and reach what they believe are sound conclusions. I don't think anybody should try to rush them in that.


QUESTION: But hypothetically speaking if the Iraqi military was involved in this kind of thing, wouldn't this be absolutely explosive? I mean, the key components of this new strategy in Iraq is for the U.S. and the Iraqis to work very, very, closely together. That was a huge amount -- there should be a huge amount of trust between them. Wouldn't this be absolute -- wouldn't this just wreck the whole thing?


MR. MCCORMACK: I -- look, I appreciate your asking the question. I understand why you're asking it, but I'm just not going to venture into that territory.


Elise.


QUESTION: It's kind of in advance of the Quartet tomorrow. There's been a lot of talk about this axis -- by the Secretary of this axis of moderates versus this kind of axis of extremists.


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think she's used the word "axis."


QUESTION: Club, group, whatever. I don't remember what her --


QUESTION: (Off-mike.)


QUESTION: -- exact terminology, but there's been a --


MR. MCCORMACK: He's the President, by the way.


QUESTION: (Laughter.) And this kind of group of moderates, you know, mainly is fighting this group of extremists, most importantly Iran. And you know, this group of moderates is including Israel and all of the Arab states. And I was just wondering if you think that this creates new opportunities for Israel in terms of relations with Arab states or do you think that Iran now is eclipsing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the region as like the main threat and the main problem to resolve?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a couple things. One, trying to make progress on resolving the dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians is something in its own right that we have an interest in, that other states in the region have an interest in. This is a conflict that's gone on for decades and we have outlined our vision for how to resolve the dispute. It is a matter now of working with the parties, mobilizing the support of the international community and states in the region to try to exploit the opening that we believe exists in the region.


And by the way, we're not alone in that assessment. Other states in the region, others with an interest in seeing the dispute resolved peacefully agree that there is a moment here, that there is an opening that can be exploited. It is not a foregone conclusion that we will be able to make substantial progress. That will require the concerted efforts of the United States, other actors in the international system, and most importantly, the concerted effort by the Israelis and the Palestinians.


Secretary Rice has outlined how she envisions, at least in the near term, this process unfolding. It begins with the beginning of a discussion between the Israelis and the Palestinians, between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas about the political horizon. At the same time, you want to start working on those day-to-day issues on the Palestinian side, institution-building on the Israeli side, working with them to address some of the concerns the Palestinians have, the daily -- some of the daily irritants of Palestinian life, addressing issues of checkpoints, et cetera. That all has to be done within the context of making sure that anything that's done is properly accounted for on the security front.


As for the changed situation in the region, we believe that in the wake of the Hezbollah-Israel war, that there is the beginnings of a fundamental realignment of interest in the region. On one side, you have states that are committed -- states groups that are committed to the use of violent extremism to resolve political issues. Included in that group are Syria, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, as well as others.


On the other side of that line, you have states like Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia. You have leaders like President Abbas. You have leaders like Prime Minister Olmert. They share -- there is an interest among those leaders and those states in trying to resolve any political disputes via the negotiating table. They have an interest in seeing a stable, prosperous, peaceful Lebanon, a democratic Lebanon. There is an interest among those states in seeing a stable, prosperous Iraq as well as the emergence of a Palestinian state.


Now there's not unanimity of views among all of these states, absolutely, and the clear differences between the Israeli Government as well as the other Arab governments in the region are well-known. But there is, underlying this realignment of interests, a group being -- a group of states that have an interest in combating the rise of violent extremism in the region as well as working in support of those fledgling democracies that are struggling against the tide of violent extremism: Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestinian areas.


Yeah, Nicholas.


QUESTION: Still on this, their (inaudible) been attempts in the past such as the Saudi initiative or proposal to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. President Musharraf has just been to Malaysia and talked about the fact that Muslim countries should be more active and perhaps try to find a solution. Have you sensed any activity among the other Arab countries or any recent desire to actually be at the forefront and not just have the United States and perhaps the obvious, Egypt and Jordan, to do that? And sort of is there in the region an effort or the seeds of an effort to do that?


MR. MCCORMACK: I think you just look around at a lot of the press headlines over the past couple months. There was King Abdullah in Jordan, King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, President Mubarak as well as others who have been out in the front talking about the importance of trying to bridge the gaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians via the negotiating table. I think -- and they do have a real interest in that.


Secretary Rice in conversations over the past several months and in her travels to the region has explored the interest and dedication of those leaders, those countries in making a concerted effort to try to bring a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And what she found was that these leaders are dedicated to trying to find -- doing what they can to find a solution, to support any process that we might set in motion with the Israelis and the Palestinians. And Secretary Rice's assessment is that they are serious. And we have in a variety of different ways, public and private, seen that they have -- they are acting and demonstrating in real ways that desire and that will. Just one small example: The Government of Egypt is working very closely with the people around President Abbas and his security folks to try to strengthen Palestinian security forces and working on issues related to closing down smuggling that allows Hamas to try to bring in illicitly funds from the outside.


So there are a number of different examples, large and small, like that. And some you'll see, some you'll hear about, others you won't. But it is Secretary Rice's assessment that there is a real desire in the region to see what can be done.


Samir.


QUESTION: Can you give us a readout on the coming visit of the Egyptian delegation, the Foreign Minister and --


QUESTION: Can we stay on the Middle East for a minute?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is the Middle East. But sure, if you have something that follows on directly there.


QUESTION: I've got something that follows on the previous answer.


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, sure.


QUESTION: Excuse me. Can you talk about any of these examples that bear on Hamas and Fatah, bridging their differences, since everybody you're talking about is backing President Abbas and yet there are still Palestinians killing each other from different camps in the street every day.


MR. MCCORMACK: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has asked the leaders of the -- President Abbas and his leadership as well as the leadership of Hamas to come to Mecca to try to resolve the differences between Hamas and Fatah and getting at exactly the question that you raised, getting at the violence between the two groups. So there's another example.


There have been a number of other mediation efforts. Private envoys have been involved between the two Palestinian factions to try to resolve differences between them.


QUESTION: Why is this the time to pursue this given the violence that Charlie just talked about and that, you know, erupted again today with the Hamas government attacking a convoy, whatever it was carrying, whether it was weapons or tents that belong to the presidential guard. I mean, why is this a good time to try to push this when, on the Palestinian side, the policy differences have spilled out into gunfire that despite multiple ceasefire efforts comes back?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you don't like to see violence. You don't want see that, especially since innocent civilians inevitably get caught up in the crossfire and we've seen that. And it's a tragedy when you see innocent life lost in that sort of way.


You have in President Abbas somebody who is committed to peace, who is committed to seeking to resolve the issues between Israel and the Palestinians via the negotiating table. He has abjured the use of terror and violence and he is a person who officially is empowered by the Palestinian people under the -- as the head of the PLO executive committee, I believe, he is empowered to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people.


The violence is a manifestation of clear "political" differences. Now, we -- our views on Hamas are well-known. We view them as a terrorist organization, but what it -- it's a manifestation of the fundamental contradiction in the Palestinian political body.


You have on one side, President Abbas and Fatah, who are dedicated to living up to previous Palestinian agreements, trying to seek peace with Israel. You have, on the part of Hamas, a group that is trying to straddle a fault line. On one hand, they want to maintain their right to use terror and violence to achieve what they say are political ends. On the other hand, they want to participate in the political process. It's a fundamental contradiction that needs to be resolved by the Palestinians. They themselves have to do it.


Now as I said, you can't solve that for them. We can't solve it for them. The Israelis can't. The other Arab states can't solve it for them. So they will have to come to terms with that contradiction and what sort of pathway they want; down the pathway of terror and violence and the Hamas program, the Palestinian people aren't going to realize a Palestinian state. They're not going to realize Palestine. The other pathway, they have an opportunity for Palestine.


Secretary Rice's view is that while you have a partner for peace on the Palestinian side in the form of President Abbas and his administration, you should work with them on two fronts. One, work with them on -- to build up those Palestinian institutions that will eventually form the foundation of a Palestinian state regardless of what process -- by which process you achieve a Palestinian state, they are going to need governing institutions. That's true for any democracy. They need to be able to function, so you should start doing that now. And you have a process, you have a rough outline of how you do that with the roadmap.


The other front she believes it's important to move forward on, while -- again, while you have a partner for peace, is to start to discuss what we have referred to as the political horizon. And there's a whole collection of various issues between the Israelis and Palestinians under that rubric that needs to be resolved and addressed. They haven't talked about them for more than six years now, so start to have that conversation.


And she believes that the -- given the fact that you have a partner for peace in President Abbas and an alignment of forces within the region and an alignment of interest in the region, now is a time to exploit what we see as an opportunity.


Yeah.


QUESTION: The Quartet is going to discuss the three-way meeting with Prime Minister Olmert and --


MR. MCCORMACK: I expect they will, yeah.


QUESTION: -- Abbas. Is this meeting designed to agree on how far the Secretary can go along the roadmap or even if she can go outside the roadmap as we know it?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look. What she's talking about -- and her effort is within the context of the roadmap. It is the steps that are outlined in the roadmap in terms of institution-building and the various responsibilities are useful. They're a useful guide and everybody has agreed upon the document: the Palestinians, the Israelis and the international system, the Quartet. So it is a useful guide and nobody's talking about going out -- moving outside of that context.


What she is saying is that there are -- again, this collection of issues that need to be resolved that are at the end of the roadmap. So her suggestion to the parties, which they -- well, not her suggestion; what emerged from her last trip, and it was really the suggestion of President Abbas, is that they at least have -- begin to have a discussion about those issues, open up a discussion about those issues to provide a political horizon. Prime Minister Olmert thought that was useful, President Abbas thought that was useful, Secretary Rice thought that was useful as well.


In terms of -- so it is an effort that grew out of her trip, her initiative. I would expect that she discusses it with the members of the Quartet. I'm not sure that she's seeking -- she's not seeking permission to do it. It is -- the parties involved have agreed to do it, but certainly, we would invite the support of the Quartet members as well as other members of the international system in that initiative. And she's going to talk to them about how to mobilize the members of the Quartet's support as well as others in the international community.


Yeah, we'll get back to you, Samir. Yeah.


QUESTION: But will the Quartet be discussing the concrete steps that Abbas and Olmert have to do; for example, a cessation of settlements? Will they be talking about that kind of thing? Will they be that specific?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure that they'll get down to that level in this discussion. I would expect probably a more general discussion. I would expect that they probably will talk about the responsibilities that each side has, but probably not a detailed discussion that you might be referring to.


Samir.


QUESTION: Can you give us a readout of the coming visit by the Egyptian delegation, Foreign Minister, and Chief of Intelligence? And are the Egyptian requesting to host the Secretary's meeting with Abbas and Olmert in Egypt?


MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of. We haven't set a date or a venue yet for it, but I'm not aware that they are suggesting they serve a host. As we get closer to the meeting, Samir -- it's next week -- we'll try to get you a little bit more information, but I think there are some obvious issues dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and also the bilateral relationship between Egypt and the United States. There are a lot of issues there to talk about, so as we get closer, I'll try to get you more information on it.


QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? Last week, you had urged the Egypt Government to consider releasing Ayman Nour --


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: -- on medical grounds. Did they ever get back to you? Did they give you any sense if they have any interest in doing so?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you. I don't know that we've heard back from them. Secretary Rice did raise the issue of Ayman Nour in -- during her last visit with President Mubarak.


Yes.


QUESTION: Also on Egypt?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.


QUESTION: There's been this rash of videos coming out of Egyptian police torturing prisoners. And a lot of human rights groups are complaining that the United States isn't making the kind of issue about human rights that it used to, for instance, when Secretary Rice first took office and made her speech. And they're citing the fact that she didn't publicly mention any human rights concerns when she was in Egypt last time and they say that -- you know, stability and national security interests in the United States are taking precedence over human rights. Is that -- are those complaints fair?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think some people are maybe over-reading a bit. First of all, we believe the promotion of freedom, human rights, political and economic freedoms are in our national security. We believe that those two interests are fundamentally aligned.


Secretary Rice gave an important speech in Cairo in 2005. She stands by every word of it. And she will continue to speak out on the freedom agenda as the core of the United States foreign policy. President Bush laid that out in his second inaugural. That remains at the center of our foreign policy and our national security interests. She will continue to speak out in public about these issues during her visits while she's here in Washington, while she -- as she travels around the globe. She won't always speak about these issues in public. Sometimes she will raise them in private. Just because she is raising them in private doesn't mean that they're not at the fundamental to our foreign policy.


I just pointed out that she raised the issue of Ayman Nour during her last visit. She raised it with President Mubarak. Sometimes you have to make a choice as to whether or not you can be most effective at a given point in time by speaking out in public on an issue or raising it in private. That in no way diminishes our dedication to promotion of human rights and being at the forefront in pushing for freedom and democracy in the Middle East.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) diplomacy with respect to the torture videos?


MR. MCCORMACK: You know, as Elise was mentioning, I have to confess that I am not fully briefed up on it, so I'm going to try to find out more information and see what it is that we're doing on that.


Yeah. Lambros.


QUESTION: On FYROM. They are laughing of course. It's a matter of laughing-- yes. Anyway, FYROM.


MR. MCCORMACK: FYROM. Oh, yes. FYROM, yes.


QUESTION: We will listen carefully what you're going to say. The Defense Minister of FYROM Lazar Elenovski after his meeting yesterday with the DOD, DOS, and White House officials stated that the U.S. Government in no levels supports the integration of his country with NATO without, however, solving the main dispute with Greece. He said specifically, "I expect no obstruction from Greece to the accession to NATO." Could you please, Mr. McCormack, comment since he's placing the U.S. Government on the spot after those meetings?


MR. MCCORMACK: How is he placing us on the spot?


QUESTION: Because -- okay. In order to facilitate your answer. Okay, what is the U.S. position vis-à-vis to the dispute between the Greece and FYROM on the name?


MR. MCCORMACK: They have to come to common agreement on it. We have made our decision known on how we are going to refer to Macedonia. But Greece and Macedonia need to come to some sort of accommodation or understanding as to what Greece will refer to Macedonia as.


QUESTION: But otherwise if FYROM is going to submit an application to become a member of the European Union or NATO regardless of solving the problems between Greece, are you going as the U.S. Government to support this application using the name FYROM?


MR. MCCORMACK: I think that you can proceed concomitantly on both of those -- on those tracks, resolving -- trying to resolve the name issue between Macedonia and Greece and considering applications to those various bodies. In the case of the EU, we don't have a say in that.


QUESTION: No, I'm saying --


MR. MCCORMACK: We're not a member. But in the case of NATO, then we will talk to Macedonia about their aspirations. We have made it very clear that NATO should have a door open to consideration in expanding its membership. And we're going to continue to talk to Macedonia about what their aspirations are.


QUESTION: Otherwise you're going to support Skopje submitting the application to become a member of NATO using the name FYROM. Correct?


MR. MCCORMACK: That's not what I said. I said that we are going to continue to talk to Macedonia about their aspirations for joining NATO. That is not a process that has played out completely and that we are only one part of that conversation. They have to have that conversation with others. I understand in the case of Greece, that they need to come to some accommodation on this, for those two parties, difficult issue. We understand that it's difficult for them. It's an emotional issue. But they should try to work through the issue. They after all live next door to one another. Neither of them are going to be able to move. So they should work to resolve the issue.


QUESTION: One --


MR. MCCORMACK: We've got to --


QUESTION: One last --


MR. MCCORMACK: We've got to move --


QUESTION: Mr. McCormack --


MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, Lambros, we're going to move on. Okay? Dave.


QUESTION: So Martti Ahtisaari --


MR. MCCORMACK: Have you been conspiring with him?


QUESTION: I know, I know. Martti Ahtisaari is going to Pristina and Belgrade tomorrow to essentially unveil this long-awaited formula. It appears that the Serbian Government is not even going to meet with him and they also say that they're -- again, that they're disinterested in a solution that would involve changing the current borders of Serbia. And I wondered if you have any comment on that. Or will the United States, now that this plan is going to be in the public sector, be, you know, actively working for it?


MR. MCCORMACK: No, we are working actively with Mr. Ahtisaari. We believe the parties in the region should sit down and listen to him, hear what he has to say. Everybody agrees that -- most everybody agrees that there needs to be a resolution to this issue. It's been outstanding for quite some time, in the view of some for hundreds and hundreds of years, but at least in the immediate political context at least for a decade.


So we will -- I'm not going to have any comment about exactly what he's going to propose before he talks about it himself in public, but we do believe it would be constructive for the parties in the region to sit down with him.


Go ahead.


QUESTION: As you know, Tuesday, just to wrap up for African Union meeting at the headquarters in Addis Ababa -- as you know, the chairman was elected from Ghana and I know -- do you have any reaction on that?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we congratulate President Kufuor on his selection as chairman of the African Union. It's a wise choice. I understand that it is also a compromise because Sudan was up to chair the African Union. We made our views known on that and the African Union among their membership came to the conclusion that it was a wise choice to seek somebody else to take the position of chair. They chose President Kufuor. We have worked very closely with him in the past and we understand that he has wide support within the AU. They have an important -- they have important missions and important issues that they are dealing with. We think that they're an important organization. An indication of that view is the fact that we have just recently accredited for the first time ever an ambassador to the AU, Cindy Courville. She is actually resident in Addis Ababa. So it's an important organization dealing with important issues in Africa and we look forward to working with President Kufuor.


QUESTION: As you speaking, the U.S. Ambassador Dr. Cindy gave a state -- press -- day before yesterday. She spoke about Somalia and there needs to be (inaudible) of a group of parties in Somalia to take over (inaudible) one political organization. She gave a statement on that. What she meant on that? I'm sorry.


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's the Transitional Federal Government. It's the internationally recognized Government of Somalia. Now, that said, they need to work to bring into the political process as many Somali parties, political factions, as they possibly can -- those parties who are interested in playing a constructive role in Somalia's future. That doesn't include working with people who seek to destabilize Somalia, take them back and return the rule of those who have connections to terrorist organizations.


Now, in the case of the Islamic Courts, there are individuals who sought to moderate the views of the Islamic Courts and we believe it is appropriate to reach out to those individuals. There are some individuals who will be irreconciled to a peaceful political process who will seek to use violence and extremism to try to undermine the Transitional Federal Government and those people need to be dealt with. Part of the way the international system plans to deal with it is to deploy an IGASOM force made up of Uganda as well as potentially other states to help out these fledgling institutions in Somalia.


QUESTION: Assistant Secretary for Africa Dr. Frazer just met with Foreign Minister of Ethiopia yesterday. Do you have any --


MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't talked to her. She's on her way back now.


QUESTION: All right, thank you.


QUESTION: Still Somalia again. Sean, you don't have an embassy in Somalia, obviously, but is there any consideration being given to having a Foreign Service officer or some sort of a post or presence in Somalia, semi-permanent or an American presence?


MR. MCCORMACK: We're going to take a look, obviously, at what is appropriate in terms of security, in terms of political presence, in terms of diplomatic presence in Somalia. There aren't any final decisions in that regard. It's something that's being actively examined right now.


For the time being, Ambassador Ranneberger, who is in Kenya, for our intents and purposes, as a State Department, as a bureaucratic entity, serves as our -- I guess you could say virtual chief of mission for Somalia. So he is watching the events in Somalia. He has a lot of experience in the area. Over time, if events continue in the same direction in which they're headed right now, I would expect that that would probably change, but there's no change in status right now.


QUESTION: And when you say actively considering, are you -- does that mean that you have someone in the country talking to the government there?


MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, no. We're considering what it is our posture should be in terms of physical presence in Somalia.


QUESTION: And then you will approach the local authorities to work out the logistics and the security and --


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that those -- all of those things need to happen at the same time in order to make an informed assessment of whether or not it's feasible to do that, whether or not it's desirable to do that, whether or not that would be welcomed.


QUESTION: But do you think it would be helpful to have someone in the country?


MR. MCCORMACK: We haven't made that assessment yet.


QUESTION: No, I understand, but I mean, by default, I would think that having someone in any country is better than having no one in that country for the State Department; is that right?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you also want to make sure that A) those people are safe and they're able to conduct the business that they want to conduct. And part of that is also, are they welcome there as a presence. So I guess I would quibble with the assessment that -- you know, it is, as a good, better to have somebody in country than not. There are a lot of reasons why we don't have diplomats in North Korea or we don't have them in Iran right now. So we're making an assessment whether or not that is the right move for us.


Yeah.


QUESTION: In Latin America, there have been some reports that Hezbollah is expanding in the hemisphere and that some groups tied to Hezbollah -- the Treasury put out this statement that some groups tied to Hezbollah have been sending money back to Hezbollah and Lebanon. And how concerned are you that Iran is working with Hezbollah to expand its presence in the hemisphere and fundraise in Venezuela and other countries?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they're -- you know, Iran created Hezbollah. So I can't tell you exactly what the state of that -- those ties are, what -- I mean, more precisely, what sort of command and control relationship the regime in Tehran has with Hezbollah. But there are clear organic links there. As for Hezbollah's presence around the globe, I don't have any specifics on it, Elise. I think that people are watching whether or not there are Hezbollah activities around the globe.


You cite Treasury having some concerns about Hezbollah activities in the tri-border region in South America. And sure, that's a clear concern. You have a terrorist organization that has significant resources, significant experience, proven capability in executing terrorist attacks. That's a real concern and something that certainly our counterterrorism people watch very closely.


Okay, thank you.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/february/79708.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 2 2007, 03:06 PM
Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 2, 2007



Quartet Statement



Following is the text of a statement issued by the Quartet (United Nations, Russian Federation, The United States and European Union).

Begin Text:


The Quartet Principals - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Representative for European Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner - met today in Washington to discuss the situation in the Middle East.


The Quartet welcomed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the representative of the EU Presidency, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.


Recognizing the critical need to end the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, which would contribute to security and stability in the region, the Quartet pledged to support efforts to put in place a process with the goal of ending the occupation that began in 1967 and creating an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state, living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel, and reaffirmed its commitment to a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace based on UNSCRs 242 and 338.


The Quartet expressed the hope that the result-oriented dialogue initiated between Israeli and Palestinian leaders will continue in the framework of a renewed political process with the aim of launching meaningful negotiations.


The Quartet undertook to give active follow-up to these meetings and to remain closely engaged at this moment of increased activity and dialogue. The Quartet reaffirmed its commitment to meet regularly at both the principals and envoys level according to an agreed calendar, including with the parties and other regional partners, to monitor developments and actions taken by the parties and to discuss the way ahead.


The Quartet noted its support for renewed dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian leaders and welcomed the December 23 meeting between Israeli PM Olmert and PA President Abbas, and the subsequent implementation of some steps discussed at that meeting. The Quartet urged the parties to implement fully steps discussed at the December 23 meeting, to refrain from taking any measures that could predetermine the number of issues that will be resolved in negotiations, to meet their respective obligations under phase one of the Roadmap and under the Agreement on Movement and Access, and to seek to fulfill their obligations under the Sharm el-Sheikh Understandings of 2005.


The Quartet discussed U.S. efforts to facilitate discussions between the parties. The Quartet welcomed the upcoming meeting between Prime Minister Olmert, President Abbas, and Secretary of State Rice, that could begin to define more clearly the political horizon for the Palestinian people, and help engender a sense of partnership. The Quartet affirmed the primacy of the Roadmap, and welcomed U.S. efforts to accelerate progress on the Roadmap.


The Quartet noted the continuing importance of the Arab Peace Initiative, particularly its reflection of a shared commitment to a two-state solution.


The Quartet reiterated its call for an immediate and unconditional end to all acts of violence and terror. It condemned the suicide bombing in Eilat on 29 January and called once again for an immediate end to all rocket attacks against Israel.


The Quartet expressed its deep concern at the violence among Palestinians and called for respect for law and order.


The Quartet called for continued international assistance to the Palestinian people, and encouraged donors to focus on preserving and building the capacity of institutions of Palestinian governance as well as the development of the Palestinian economy. The Quartet welcomed international efforts to reform the Palestinian security sector and thus to help improve law and order for the Palestinian people. It called for the Temporary International Mechanism to be further developed to support the political process, to identify suitable projects for international support in the areas of governance, institution building and economic development, and urged other members of the international community to consider practical support to the parties.


The Quartet called for Palestinian unity in support of a government committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap. The Quartet reaffirmed that these principles endure. The Quartet reiterated its call for the PA government to commit to these principles.


2007/071


Released on February 2, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/february/79867.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 5 2007, 05:03 PM
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. We can get right into your questions. We don't have any opening statements. Sue.


QUESTION: Do you have any comment on Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the charges that were brought against him today?


MR. MCCORMACK: As a matter of fact, I do have something right here. I have something prepared on this. Let me read it to you.


As we have commented in connection with the original trial, the continued prosecution of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the dismantlement of Yukos raise serious questions about the rule of law in Russia. Khodorkovsky and his associate, Platon Lebedev, would have been eligible to apply for parole this year, having served half of their terms. These new charges would likely preclude their early release. Many of the actions in the case against Khodorkovsky and Yukos have raised serious concerns about the independence of courts, sanctity of contracts and property rights, and the lack of a predictable tax regime. The conduct of Russian authorities in the Khodorkovsky Yukos affair has eroded Russia's reputation and confidence in Russian legal and judicial institutions. Such actions as this and other cases raise questions about Russia's commitment to the responsibilities which all democratic, free market economies countries embrace.


QUESTION: Have you contacted the Russians about this and voiced your frustration?


MR. MCCORMACK: I think it just only happened either overnight or within the past day or so. I would expect that we would, at an appropriate time and at the appropriate level, raise it. I don't believe Secretary Rice raised this with Foreign Minister Lavrov. I don't think that this has come out in public yet.


QUESTION: But did you raise various human rights and other issues with Foreign Minister Lavrov when he was here, or was it all Middle East, Iraq, all the time?


MR. MCCORMACK: For the meetings that I were in -- and I wasn't in all of them -- she talked about Iran, they talked about the Middle East, obviously the Quartet meeting, talked a little bit about Kosovo. They talked about various bilateral issues, trade issues and such. I don't -- I wasn't there for any conversations about political and economic reform in Russia, but it's a topic that the Secretary does frequently raise with Foreign Minister Lavrov.


Lambros.


QUESTION: Yes. Mr. McCormack, on FYROM. Last Thursday, in answer to a question of mine regarding the land dispute between Greece and FYROM, inter alia, you stated, "Greece and Macedonia need to come to sort of accommodation or understanding as to what Greece will refer to Macedonia as." What do you mean with this since that reflects exactly the position of FYROM?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you asked a question about membership in NATO. That's how this whole question came about. Macedonia is part of the Membership Action Plan, MAP, so there is some interaction ongoing between NATO as an organization, its individual member-states and Macedonia. We ourselves have made a decision with respect to the name of Macedonia.


Now, eventually, as we have said, that NATO has an open door and we clearly have -- are engaged in discussions with other non-member states right now about the potential for membership down the road, one of those issues between Macedonia and Greece would have to be the name issue. And in -- if you were ever to -- if you were ever to get to membership for Macedonia in NATO, you would have to get all member NATO states agreeing that Macedonia should enter. So it was a reference to the fact that if you ever do get to that point, it's an issue that would need to be resolved between Macedonia and Greece since NATO is a consensus organization.


QUESTION: What is the U.S. position exactly, whatever you told us, that if she is going to apply as Macedonia or FYROM, would you support such an application?


MR. MCCORMACK: We're not there, Lambros. With respect to the name, we have made our decision with respect to the name. Now, the UN is involved in this issue as well and there have to be discussions as to what Macedonia would be referred to in the UN as well. Again, those need to be worked out. These are issues that are not a -- it's not a bilateral issue at this point between the U.S. and Macedonia. As an organization and as a member-state, this issue is not an issue for us, but clearly it is for the Greek Government. It would need to be resolved if Macedonia were ever to proceed further down the pathway to NATO membership.


Now, that is not the only issue. There are a number of other issues that are part of the Membership Action Plan that Macedonia would have to resolve before it could even get close to membership. So it's one among a number of different issues that NATO countries, as a whole, have with Macedonia.


QUESTION: And one on Cyprus. Last Thursday, Mr. McCormack, in answer to a question on Cyprus, you spoke extensively about the delimitation of the continental shelf around the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. Could you please clarify the U.S. position on the continental shelf of the Republic of Cyprus, a part of which is under Turkish invasion and occupation?


MR. MCCORMACK: We'll have to get you our expert on the continental shelf in the eastern Mediterranean. I can't tell you exactly what our position is. It's -- this stuff gets very quickly into complicated issues related to the Law of the Sea and so forth. I'm not going to try to jump into those waters.


QUESTION: I agree, but since you recognized the Republic of Cyprus --


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: -- I'm wondering, you don't recognize that Cyprus is a sovereign country, has the right to do whatever it's (inaudible) as part to this effect.


MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal.


QUESTION: Thanks. After a short trip to India, I just met U.S. Ambassador, Mr. Mulford at the U.S. Embassy and I'm very thankful to him and I have brought greetings for the Secretary at what he were talking about, India-U.S. relations, high-rise relations between the two democracies. And also, he said that it couldn't be better than today.


What I'm saying is now that -- talking to thousands of people throughout India, now they're talking about that -- how these two countries, India and U.S., blend together after the civil nuclear agreement between the two countries, because there's a high hope from the U.S. now. How -- what can you add now as far as the civil nuclear and the India-U.S. relations are the future?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the future is wide open, obviously. We are in the -- concluding the civil nuclear agreement and there's a lot of hard work left to do to implement that agreement. We have removed one of those obstacles to more full, broader and deeper relations between the United States and India. In large part, these relationships are going to be governed by nongovernmental interactions, business interactions, people-to-people exchanges, U.S. students studying in India, Indian students studying in the United States.


But I would expect, Goyal, that you would see the Secretary seeking to build on those -- this relationship, talking about how we might cooperate further in political, economic as well as diplomatic endeavors. There are a number of different interests that we have in common. And in the coming months and in the remaining two years, I'm sure you will see the Secretary work with her Indian counterparts to build on the good start that we have.


QUESTION: Will there be soon any high-level visits exchanged from the two countries, like a Secretary's visit or --


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we'll keep you -- nothing to announce at this point, Goyal.


QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.


QUESTION: Iran, please. Have you seen these reports coming out of the Iranian news agencies saying that -- claiming that Iran will fulfill its nuclear ambitions by next week, February the 11th? What do you make of these reports?


MR. MCCORMACK: To fulfill -- well, I'm not quite clear as to what that means, but there have been a number of different reports that they're going to install more centrifuges at the Natanz facility and I can't tell you what the Iranian public relations rollout plan is for more centrifuges at Natanz. You have seen these press reports. I think the IAEA is going to have a report that's coming out in the next couple weeks that's going to tell the world exactly what the Iranians are up to there, what sort of activities they are conducting, whether or not they're expanding their efforts, how effective their efforts to enrich uranium have been at Natanz.


We're going to wait to see what that report has to say before we offer any detailed comment, but based on the press reports that we have seen thus far, it is very clear that Iran is headed off into another direction. It intends to isolate itself from the rest of the world. It continues to go -- be 180 degrees off from where the international system wants it to be. They want -- they seem to want isolation. The international system is extending its hand in terms of negotiation. They have yet to meet those conditions.


QUESTION: So you have total confidence in this IAEA report?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's a data point. They are on the ground there. They are observing the activities on the ground in Natanz. They have a variety of different means of monitoring the activities at Natanz. They are interacting with Iranian officials down there. Now, they probably are not getting the entire story because there are a lot of outstanding questions that have yet to be answered by the Iranians. I don't expect, given their behavior recently, that they are going to come through and fully disclose the answers to those questions. But it is a snapshot as to -- for the rest of the world as to what's going on at Natanz.


Yeah.


QUESTION: If I can just ask you about something about the gaggle on Friday, which was that Under Secretary Burns had referenced that the U.S. had made protests to the Iranian Government regarding shipments into Iraq. I was wondering if you had a chance to look into that.


MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't. Let me check it out for you.


QUESTION: You say there's a report on Vienna that the United States is looking to cut about half of the 80 IAEA aid programs that involve Iran in one way or another. Is that something that's on the --


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, these are some of the technical assistance programs that are part of what the IAEA has underway with various member-states, those states who were seeking peaceful nuclear energy when -- and frankly, we have a real issue with the idea that the -- an international organization, part of which we fund as well as other countries would be offering technical assistance on nuclear energy and the technologies associated with it while you have a country that is under Chapter 7 resolution precisely because the rest of the world doesn't trust their assurances that they are not seeking a nuclear weapon. So we think that there is a fundamental contradiction in allowing these programs to proceed and go forward as normal when the situation is far from normal. You have this country that has been cited by the IAEA Board of Governors and by the Security Council under Chapter 7 resolution. So yes, we have brought the -- we as well as others have brought this issue up at the IAEA.



QUESTION: Are there programs that you'll allow -- you think should continue? There's some that have to do with managing radioactive waste and use of radio isotopes and medical.


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have that case-by-case list for you, but our Ambassador on the ground is involved in talking to the IAEA about these programs. We just think any program that might possibly offer any sort of technical assistance to the Iranians in advancing their nuclear energy program that could possibly be put to other uses should not go forward.


Yes. Nicholas.


QUESTION: Sean, actually a good technical question. Have you officially replaced the term "international community" with "international system"?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. There's no particular guidebook here. I use them interchangeably.


QUESTION: Well, you've been using "system" in the past several months, as the Secretary has, too.


MR. MCCORMACK: Personally I think it is a more accurate description because it is a system that has certain rules and regulations, if you will, that govern the standard behavior within that system between the states -- between the states and international organizations. So I personally think it's just a more accurate term.


Yes, sir.


QUESTION: Can you tell me whether the Administration is talking to members of Congress about a proposed resolution on Armenian genocide and whether or not you think this will be a likely topic for discussion between Secretary Rice and Foreign Minister Gul, and what the Administration or what Secretary Rice will be saying on that matter?


MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of working with the Congress on this issue, we do every single year. This year is no different. And I would expect that it probably would come up in the Secretary's meeting between -- with Prime Minister -- Foreign Minister Gul. It's clearly an issue of great sensitivity for a number of different communities in the United States as well as abroad.


QUESTION: Can you -- I mean, does the Administration oppose the resolution?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure that one has been officially tabled at this point, so you can't really oppose --


QUESTION: Has it in the past?


MR. MCCORMACK: We have worked with the Congress in the past on resolutions that have been passed.


QUESTION: Do you have any details on the Secretary's meeting with Don Cheadle, why they met? Was it largely to do with Darfur?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, it -- Mr. Cheadle is somebody who has taken a great interest in the issue of Darfur and has demonstrated that he is somebody who is quite serious about the issue. He's very knowledge about it. He has traveled extensively to -- in the Middle East. I think he's also traveled to China as well to talk about the issue, to raise awareness of it and to encourage countries around the world, including the United States, to do everything that it can to end the humanitarian suffering and to bring a lasting solution to the conflicts that have led to the humanitarian disaster in Darfur.


QUESTION: And what did the Secretary say to him? Maybe if you could give us a little bit of information.


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to go into a readout. They had a good discussion about it. The Secretary talked a little bit about our efforts within the international system to work on the issue of Darfur and gave a little update on the state of play where those efforts stood.


QUESTION: Sean, what do you make of the Chinese Premier's visit to Sudan in Khartoum? Any resolution forthcoming or do you think their commercial contracts with the Sudanese are causing grave difficulties?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, China has a well known, well established commercial relationship with Sudan. They work very closely together on issues related to oil exports, exports from Sudan to China. We heard in public from the Chinese that President Hu raised issues related to Darfur and the issue of allowing in an AU/UN hybrid force into Darfur with President Bashir. I don't have a readout of exactly what transpired in their meetings. That comment is based only on what I've seen reported in public on it.


There have been some mixed signals, obviously. On one hand, very positive that President Hu raised those issues. On the other hand, you have other signals like Chinese investment in building a new presidential palace. China obviously has its own reasons for doing that, but we are going to continue working closely with the Chinese as well as others to do what we can to bring that diplomatic pressure on the Sudanese Government to allow in that AU/UN hybrid force and also to live up to some of the agreements that it had signed as recently as a couple of weeks ago. They agreed to a ceasefire with Governor Richardson. He in his travels there came up with a list of things he asked them to do, including not painting Sudanese Government planes white, which causes a great deal of confusion for humanitarian aid workers as well as people on the ground because UN aircraft are painted white.


And there are a number of issues like that -- small practical steps -- that the Sudanese Government needs to live up to in addition to the much larger commitments that we all know that they have yet to act upon in terms of phase one, two and three. They have agreed in principle to the deployment of all the forces in phases one, two and three, but we have yet to see some of the action that would allow those forces to flow in.


QUESTION: Could you expand a little bit on the presidential palace loan? Do you think that this is an unhelpful gesture on behalf of the Chinese in terms of rewarding the Sudanese for --


MR. MCCORMACK: Sue, without having a full understanding of exactly what transpired in these meetings, I'm not going to go any further on it. I'm just talking about the public signals. That's what is apparent to all of us who are reading the newspaper.


QUESTION: What does that mean? The public signals? I mean, do you -- is it something you disapprove of? You've mentioned it so --


MR. MCCORMACK: Sue, I was just pointing out that there's -- that it was in public sort of a mixed bag in terms of the Chinese visit there and we'll see exactly what sort of results are yielded out of that visit.


QUESTION: Sean?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Samir.


QUESTION: Sudan is also going to launch a satellite television from Dubai in the Middle East. What's your reaction to this?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any of the details behind it. I couldn't tell you.


QUESTION: They want to promote their views in a better way?


MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Samir, I don't have the details of it. I couldn't tell you. A lot of countries launch satellites for their news programs all around the world.


Nicholas.


QUESTION: Just back to the Don Cheadle meeting for a second. He actually said publicly that he thinks that the United States could do more to help the situation in Sudan. Did the Secretary -- I imagine he asked the Secretary whether -- what the United States could do more, but did she talk to him about any plans outside the UN that the United States could actually help alleviate the situation there?


MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas, I'm not going to get into any more details of the meeting. She gave him a read on where we stand right now in terms of our policies and where things stand vis-à-vis the international community and other potential troop donor nations and our efforts with respect to the UN. But beyond that, I'm not going to get into --


QUESTION: Was he satisfied by the answers? We'll ask him then.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, David.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) death of this Iranian nuclear scientist, Hassanpour?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I looked into it. I just don't have -- wasn't able to track down any information on it. Obviously, I've seen the news reports about it but couldn't find anything else one way or the other to substantiate these reports.


QUESTION: Do you have a date yet to announce for the trilateral meeting, the Israeli -- the three-way?


MR. MCCORMACK: No.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, Mr. Gul said that his agenda consist of measures to be taken against the Kurds to -- against the PKK and a possible cross-border operation. Are you going to let them invade northern Iraq?


MR. MCCORMACK: General -- there are a lot of tensions concerning the infiltration of PKK into Turkey. And the PKK have taken the lives of soldiers as well as innocent civilians on the Turkish side of the border. That's a real concern to us. It's a concern to the Turks. And General Ralston is working to decrease those tensions on both sides of the borders between the Iraqis and the Turks. Obviously, it's a very sensitive issue and we are engaging in diplomacy so that you don't end up with an armed confrontation in northern Iraq. I don't think anybody really wants to see that.


The PKK is a terrorist organization and we view it as such, we've classified it as such, so what we're trying to do is use our good offices and the good offices of General Ralston to see if there are ways to decrease the tensions on what is a serious issue.


Lambros.


QUESTION: Yes. Do you know, Mr. McCormack, what time will be the meeting tomorrow between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul --


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't.


QUESTION: -- about the agenda something?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I talked a little bit about it yesterday. They'll talk about Iraq. I'm sure they'll talk about Iran. They will talk about Turkish-EU issues.


QUESTION: Cyprus?


MR. MCCORMACK: It could come up. If it's on the mind of Foreign Minister Gul, Secretary Rice will be ready to talk about it.


QUESTION: And one more. May we have your assessment about Martti Ahtisaari proposals on Kosovo which favor independence against the territorial integrity of Serbia?


MR. MCCORMACK: I put a statement out on Friday about it. Don't have anything to add.


Dave.


QUESTION: Have you had any discussions with the Saudis in advance of their effort to broker an agreement between Hamas and Fatah? And do you have any wishes for that process?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we certainly applaud the efforts of King Abdullah to try to bring about a solution. These efforts are obviously welcomed by President Abbas and therefore we support the efforts. Whatever solution is worked out obviously needs to be acceptable to the Palestinians and most especially to President Abbas.


In terms of our contact with the Saudis, we're in frequent contact with them about -- whether it's Israeli-Palestinian issues or other issues in the region. I can't tell you specifically, Dave, whether or not we've talked to them on this issue.


Yes.


QUESTION: Can I ask about the violence in Iraq over the weekend? Khalilzad is using the phrase "forces of evil." The White House is calling it a terrorist attack. Are you using the same kind of classification?


MR. MCCORMACK: It's clearly a terrorist attack. You have an explosion that was intended to cause maximum harm to innocent civilians who were doing their daily shopping at the market. There's no other way, I think, to classify it than to say that it is a brutal terrorist attack.


And we, of course, are going to work as closely as we can with the Iraqis to help bring security and some greater semblance of order to Baghdad. Ultimately, however, it is going to be the Iraqis that are going to have to address the very clear sectarian tensions that have led to some of these kinds of horrific episodes of violence like we have seen this past weekend.


Goyal.


QUESTION: Sean, on Afghanistan, a terrorism-related question. The problem in Afghanistan is still on the rise as far as terrorism is concerned and there is a concern in the region, especially in India. Indians will assume that now time has come that two countries, U.S. and India, must work together to fight against terrorism, especially the cross-border terrorism which your Ambassador also agreed we have to do more.


What I'm saying is they were asking that how U.S. can do more as far as fighting against terrorism on cross-border because also it's coming over from Afghanistan border. So what are we doing now as far as --


MR. MCCORMACK: This is the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan?


QUESTION: Right, and Afghanistan. This whole triangle. Because this terrorism is still following Afghanistan.


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. It's still a problem. And the Afghan Government knows it, the Pakistani Government knows it, and we have been involved and continue to be involved with both governments. We have a trilateral commission that is set up to improve the communications between the two governments as well as to improve the effectiveness of their efforts to stop cross-border infiltrations going both ways.


Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have responsibilities in this regard. They have improved their coordination. They have improved somewhat the effectiveness of that coordination, but there is clearly a lot more that needs to be done. Pakistan has an interest in a stable, prosperous, democratic Afghanistan. The rest of the region -- you point out India. The rest of the region has an interest in that as well. And clearly the rest of the world does as well. NATO has a lot of troops on the ground there. So everybody wants to see that situation more stable over the long term. Part of that equation is getting at the infiltration going both ways of Taliban terrorists along that border area.


QUESTION: One on Bangladesh, please? Just for a statement from you here that as far as elections in Bangladesh is concerned there is a big fight going on among the political parties and a lot of violence going on. But is anybody in touch with the State Department from Bangladesh as far as their elections are concerned or future of their political --


MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, we are in close contact with this caretaker government. Under Secretary Nick Burns, in fact, I think about a month ago, was on the phone with this head of the caretaker government urging them to be as inclusive as possible in the election process. I know that there were some concerns about -- by at least one significant party in the election process.


Bangladeshis are going to have to work through all of these issues themselves. What we encourage is an electoral process that is free, fair and transparent, is as inclusive as possible for all responsible parties, so that when you do have a result it is a result that can be accepted by the Bangladeshi population as a whole.


QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. MCCORMACK: Thanks.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/80063.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 7 2007, 02:39 PM
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, members of the committee, for this opportunity to address the committee about the challenges and the opportunities that we face today and the resources that the President will be requesting to be able to meet those challenges. And Mr. Chairman, I have a longer statement, but I would propose to make short opening remarks and then to have the full statement placed into the record, if that is acceptable.

CHAIRMAN LANTOS: Without objection.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. I will also, Mr. Chairman, address your question at the end of my remarks concerning civilians in Iraq.

President Bush's Fiscal Year 2008 International Affairs Budget for the Department of State, USAID and other foreign affairs agencies totals $36.2 billion. The President's budget also requests $6 billion in supplemental funding for the year 2007 to support urgent requirements that are not funded in the annual budget cycle. This supplemental request includes $1.18 billion for additional operating costs of the Department of State and other agencies, largely related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It also includes $4.81 billion to meet urgent new foreign assistance needs in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon as well as peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance in Sudan, Somalia and other countries in need. In addition, the Administration is requesting $3.3 billion in war supplemental funding for fiscal year 2008 of $1.37 billion for foreign assistance and $1.93 billion for State Department operations. This is responsive, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, to a request that has been made several times that we try and project what the war costs will be in the coming year, and these are costs that we would not expect to want to put into base budget because they are, in a sense, emergency spending and related to specific circumstances.

These resources are absolutely fundamental to our national security. I think the members of the committee recognize that over the last five years since September 11th we've been very engaged in the global war on terrorism. And it's a war and it is definitely a war in the sense that we are losing human treasure to that war. But it's completely different kind of war than we have fought before. To be successful, force of arms is necessary, but not sufficient. And we are mobilizing our democratic principles, our development assistance, our compassion, our multilateral diplomacy and the power of ideas to win what is going to be a generational struggle.

I am pleased that in this struggle President Bush has made clear our commitment to a broad approach to the war on terror and that is why this year for the first time he has designated the Department of State as a national security agency alongside the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. And that is why the State Department has the lead in most of the tasks associated with the national counterterrorism strategy.

What I would submit to you today is that this requires of the Department of State, of USAID, fundamentally different thinking about our role, fundamentally different ways to train our people, to recruit our people and to deploy them. It gives us a better understanding of what we are called to do. We're calling this mission transformational diplomacy and indeed we are making changes in where we deploy our personnel, how we deploy them, what we ask of them, the training that we give them.

In some cases, Mr. Chairman, we're trying to catch up. For instance in terms of language skills, I want to just note for this committee that one of my own personal concerns is to improve the capability to draw on people who have critical languages. When I was a young student going to college and then graduate school it was the patriotic thing to do to learn to speak Russian. Along the way I learned to speak Czech, too, because for this country the investment through the National Defense Languages Act that people needed to learn those at the time critical languages was understood.

We are frankly underinvested as a country in the acquisition of critical languages like Arabic, Farsi, Chinese and indeed Secretary Spellings and Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, then DNI John Negroponte and I have proposed through the President's critical language initiative that we try and address some of those -- that deficit in language skills. That is just one of the examples of what we are trying to do to prepare ourselves better for the long term war on terror.

But we're doing other things. We are revolutionizing our approach to development assistance. We are trying better to realign our foreign assistance with our foreign policy goals to make sure that our foreign assistance is contributing to the development of well-governed democratic states. Because after all, well-governed democratic states form the foundation of a more stable world. We recognize that democratizing states also have to be able to meet the needs of their people for education and for health, that America is a compassionate country that wishes to be involved in the great health struggles of malaria and HIV/AIDS. We are revolutionizing that through the way that we deliver foreign assistance and what we expect of those who receive our foreign assistance.

But we are also revolutionizing the way that we perform by simply being right on the front lines in the war on terror. We have people serving in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in other places, who like their military counterparts leave family behind, they serve unaccompanied in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they serve literally on the front lines. Our people in Iraq are not sitting in the Green Zone in Baghdad. They are in places like Anbar Province, one of the most difficult provinces. The Provincial Reconstruction Teams -- a concept, one that was developed by the Department of State to get our diplomats and our political personnel and our economic counselors closer to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan so that they can help to deliver services -- frankly, Mr. Chairman, it puts our people at great risk.

And I want today to pay tribute to the many civilians who on a daily basis see mortar attacks against their positions, who travel in convoys that are dodging attacks. We know that they are in danger. We've done everything that we can to help secure them. It's one of the reasons that our security costs are going up in the way that they have. We have partnered with the Department of Defense and the military in these Provincial Reconstruction Teams to put our people, to literally embed our people, with brigade commanders so that they can deliver services as a part of the counterinsurgency effort.

But it's not easy for civilians. And I will tell you that when we first started down this course I was concerned, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, that I might have to direct members of the Foreign Service to go to these difficult posts. I've not had to do that. We have indeed changed incentives. We have indeed recruited people. We've recruited people personally to go to these jobs. But I'll tell you that as of now we have already recruited for the enhanced Provincial Reconstruction Team effort associated with the President's enhanced effort for Iraq. We've already recruited 87 percent of the people that we need, and that recruitment cycle will not be active until this summer. So people are stepping up in the Department of State to take on these jobs. We are fully staffed in our PRTs. We are fully staffed not just in places like Baghdad but also Kabul and Islamabad and Sudan and difficult posts of those kinds, and we already have people volunteering in large numbers for the follow-on service.

It's a very, to me, courageous thing for civilians to do because they are not war fighters; they are political officers and linguists and economic officers, and yet they have gone to this fight. And I know that President Bush had the opportunity to meet recently some of our Provincial Reconstruction Team leaders, people who are serving in Mosul and in Anbar Province, people who by the way are in no small part responsible for the tremendous progress that we've made in places like Mosul, the fact that sheikhs in Anbar are now fighting al-Qaida. This is in no small part because of the efforts that our people have made there.

And so, Mr. Chairman, if I can use that lead-in to speak to the question that you asked about the article this morning, when it comes to the need to get Foreign Service personnel out to the field, we're doing that. The President's plan requires, however, 350 people whose skill set is far different than the one that we actually have in the Department of State. These are engineers, these are legal experts, these are soil specialists, scientists who can help on the agricultural side. These are not people that the Department of State or USAID employ. And as of December, we agreed with the Department of Defense, something that we worked with them very closely, that we would identify these specialties, that the Department of State would seek supplemental funding to fund this surge of civilian personnel, and that request is in the supplemental, that we would identify people who could fill those posts, both from inside other agencies of the U.S. Government, but also, frankly, the agencies of the U.S. Government cannot fill that many posts of those kinds of specialties.

And so we are relying on the recruitment now of additional civilians from a databank that we hold to bring people from around the country who have those specific specialties. That, as you might imagine, Mr. Chairman, takes a little time. These people have to be recruited. They have to be vetted. They have to get -- receive appropriate security clearances.

And so our agreement with the Department of Defense was that for a period of time -- and we think that is six or so months, maybe a little longer, depends a little bit on when we get the funding so that we can let contracts for these civilians -- we would actually use reservists to fill those positions, because the military actually does have a reserve corps that has many of those specialties.

It speaks to me, Mr. Chairman, to the importance of the cooperation that we've had with the Defense Department in making sure that we have the right specialties and that they can fill in until these civilians are recruited. But the Department of State's positions for these -- for this surge have already -- the people have been identified and they're ready to go. What we have to do is to recruit other civilians.

It speaks to me too, Mr. Chairman, of the very importance of the Civilian Response Corps that the President proposed in the State of the Union, because we don't have a counterpart to the military, national guard, or reserve corps of civilians who can be ready and trained to go out and perform these functions: engineers, lawyers, agricultural specialists. And so we are charged with developing the concept for a Civilian Response Corps. We will be coming to the Congress for support for that concept and for funding for that concept so that we can have a ready reserve of civilians to take exactly this kind of task.

But currently, the Department of State is, in fact, ready to go. We will recruit other civilians from within the -- U.S. Government agencies and then we will recruit broader numbers of civilians. But Mr. Chairman, I'm glad you asked because I know the President -- because I just talked to him about it and I've talked to him many times about it, he appreciates what these civilians are doing out there in harm's way and I hope that everyone in America understands that we have a lot of civilians who are very courageous and are taking great personal risk because they believe in these missions.

Thank you very much.

2007/082

Released on February 7, 2007

http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2007/feb/80185.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 8 2007, 03:55 PM
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Opening Remarks Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Washington, DC
February 8, 2007

(9:33 a.m. EST)

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Senator Lugar. Thank you members of the committee and very much thank you for that vote. It is going to be very good should he be confirmed by the full Senate to have John Negroponte return to his home at the State Department after many years of service to our government, so thank you for that.

I appreciate the opportunity to address the committee about the challenges and opportunities that we face today and the budgetary resources that are necessary to meet those challenges. I want to assure you that I look forward to continuing to work with you across party lines to make certain that our men and women who are serving so admirably abroad are able to carry out the task of U.S. foreign policy in this critical time.

Mr. Chairman, I have a longer statement, but I would suggest that if you -- if the committee will allow, I will just make a few comments and then enter the full statement into the record.

CHAIRMAN BIDEN: Entire statement will be entered into the record as if read.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. President Bush's fiscal year 2008 international affairs budget for the Department of State, USAID and other foreign affairs agencies totals $36.2 billion. The President's budget also requests $6 billion in supplemental funding for FY 2007 to support urgent requirements that are not funded in the annual budget. The supplemental request includes $1.18 billion for additional operating costs of the Department of State and other agencies and $4.8 billion to meet urgent new foreign assistance needs in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon as well as peacekeeping and humanitarian needs in Sudan, Somalia and other countries in need.

In addition, the Administration is requesting $3.3 billion in war supplemental funding for fiscal year 2008, 1.37 for foreign assistance and 1.93 for State Department operations to support emergency requirements in Iraq and Afghanistan. And this is to try and be responsive to Congress' wish to know how we project costs for those two wars into fiscal year 2008. I just want to underscore that this is money -- these are resources that are fundamental to our national security.

Over the five years since the attacks of September 11th, we remain engaged in a global war on terror. We are engaged in wars that are different kinds of wars. And to be successful, the force of arms is necessary but not sufficient. We must mobilize our democratic principles, our development assistance, our compassion and our multilateral diplomacy as well as the power of our ideas. This means, members of the committee, that the Department of State is playing in many ways a different role, a transforming role during this period of national crisis that is in some ways unaccustomed, but a role that we believe is critical to success in our policies. President Bush has recognized this and has designated the State Department this year as a national security agency alongside the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. We have most -- the lead on most of the tasks as well under the National Counterterrorism Strategy.

What I would submit to you today is that this has caused us to relook at and rethink a lot of the ways that the Department does its work. We are very actively redeploying our diplomats out of posts, for instance, in Europe to posts in places like India and places in Latin America, places that frankly have been understaffed by American diplomatic personnel. At one point, we had as many people in Germany as we had in India. We're trying to right some of those balances. We are restructuring -- we have restructured our foreign assistance efforts so that our foreign assistance dollars are going to high priority tasks and are matched up with the objectives that we are trying to achieve.

We have put a great effort into restructuring public diplomacy. And of course as Senator Lugar mentioned, we are putting a great effort into language development for our diplomats. I might just note that this is something that takes awhile to remedy. The truth of the matter is that this country has been underinvested in the study of critical languages like Arabic, Farsi, even Chinese for a very long time.

When I was a young student growing up, graduate student, it was the patriotic thing to do to learn to speak Russian and I picked up a little Czech along the way because those were considered critical languages. The National Defense Languages Act funded people to take on those critical languages, but we're trying to catch up. And two things that would help very much that are in this budget is, one, that we do need a training float -- it was mentioned by Senator Lugar -- so that we can keep people in language training to get true proficiency. And secondly, we have quadrupled the number of people that are taking, for instance, Arabic, but we are looking for more language specialists and indeed we'll look at some of our Foreign Service hiring practices to see if we can hire at mid-career people who may have those language skills.

We also are asking our diplomats to go to more and more unaccompanied posts. I think it's sometimes not recognized that when we ask diplomats to serve in Baghdad or Kabul or Riyadh or Islamabad or Beirut, they, like the military, go without their families. They go for unaccompanied posts and it is difficult on families.

It is also the case that they are going to ever more dangerous places. And here, Mr. Chairman, I really want to say a word about the people who are serving in some of these most dangerous places. I know that the President really appreciates the fact that we do have diplomats serving in places like Anbar province. We do have people serving in the neighborhoods of Baghdad in the Provincial Reconstruction Teams. These reconstruction teams were the idea of the State Department to get our diplomats out of the center of the city and into contact with local officials, with provincial officials. And they, too, are serving in places where they take mortar attack. They are, too, serving in places where convoys are attacked as they go from place to place. We are doing everything that we can to secure them. But I want it to be understood civilians are taking tremendous risk in these places and their service needs to be honored and it needs to be recognized by everyone just as the service of our men and women in uniform is recognized.

We indeed are looking for ways to improve our ability to deploy civilians. But it is interesting, when we look at posts like Baghdad or posts like Kabul, I was concerned at one point that in order to get the right mix of people, to get Foreign Service officers to go to these difficult posts, that we might have to direct service. We have not had to do that. In fact, we've had volunteers for those posts. We are at 98 percent filled right now and we are at 87 percent subscribed for assignments that do not come into being until this summer. And so the State Department, in Baghdad, in Kabul and Islamabad and Riyadh, we are getting our people to those posts.

I would like to note, too, that we are doing so with people who are appropriate to the task in terms of training and experience. It is true, as I said, that language is a problem, but that's a national problem that we're trying to deal with.

And if I may, I will just speak to a couple of questions that the Chairman and Senator Lugar asked in their opening statements. On the question of the Civilian Response Corps, Senator Lugar, I could not agree more. This is something that we very much favor. We have filled, for instance -- for the President's surge of civilian personnel -- we have filled the State Department positions. We know who's going to go; they will be ready to go.

The problem is the State Department doesn't have agronomists and engineers and city planners. No foreign service in the world has those people. And so we have to find that talent elsewhere. We don't have much of that talent, frankly, in the U.S. Government as a whole, although the President has asked other departments, including domestic agencies, to make people available.

What we need is the ability to mobilize civilians from the population as a whole who could take those tasks. Three things would be very helpful in being able to do that, and they are submitted in various parts of the budget. One is that we need the ability to reimburse domestic agencies if they send people out to places like Baghdad and Kabul for extended periods of time. We have asked for a fund to be held at the State Department to be able to reimburse those agencies because that kind of money simply does not appear in their budgets.

Secondly, it would be helpful to have full funding this time for the personnel for the SCRS, the stabilization group that reports to me and that works now in places like Lebanon and Sudan and Afghanistan and Haiti. We need full funding of that.

We have also requested money in the peacekeeping account for emergency deployment, emergency response, because when something happens, as happened in Lebanon, what we have to do is to search around, try to reprogram funding and then try to come to you in a supplemental to make up the money that we've taken someplace else. So those elements would help a great deal in helping us to be able to responsive to these rebuilding tasks and we want to work with you on the Civilian Response Corps. That would be very, very good work to do.

If I may I would like to respond also to a question that Senator Biden asked in his opening remarks and it's about how we are managing the myriad tasks that we have these days, indeed, it is an international system that is remaking itself and has a lot going on.

But I'll tell you, Senator, while Iraq obviously is a major focus for me it is not by any means my only focus. Just a couple of weeks ago I was at NATO in a meeting that we called to talk to our allies about contributions to Afghanistan and also to engage through the transatlantic dialogue that we have there the Europeans on the matter of Kosovo because I'm watching very closely the developments in Kosovo. I've had the opportunity to talk to Senator Voinovich about this but this is an issue that we are trying to work from start to finish. I also this morning spoke with the Ambassador to Lebanon. I have a weekly SVTS, a weekly teleconference with my team in Lebanon to follow very closely events there because progress in Lebanon is very important to us.

We have been using the talent of the country to help us on some of these matters. I want to thank ambassadors-at-large, so to speak, Ambassador -- General Ralston who is working for us on the PKK-Iraq-Turkey issue, Frank Wisner who is our envoy for Kosovo and, of course, Andrew Natsios who is working on Sudan. I met with him a couple of days ago and with the group that is working on Sudan. So, yes, we're keeping very busy. Oh, and I forgot to mention of course I'm leaving on Friday, a week from today, to go back to the Middle East to try and launch the trilateral with Prime Minister Olmert and with President Abbas.

So, yes, it's a busy schedule but I have to say I think we see these all as extremely important and I feel quite capable of spending a lot of time on a lot of these issues. So thank you very much for the question, but thank you also for the vote on John Negroponte which will certainly give us a lot more horsepower on these issues.

Thank you.

http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2007/feb/80259.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 9 2007, 04:28 PM
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. We can get right into your questions, whoever wants to start.


QUESTION: Has there been any effort this morning to organize a concerted review of the statement on the Palestinian unity government? Who's involved in that effort? Has the Secretary started talking to people involved and what happens next?


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, there's a lot in there.


QUESTION: I just figured I'd kind of throw it all out there, dog's breakfast --


MR. MCCORMACK: Did you guys all collude on the fact that you would ask all the questions all in one?


QUESTION: No, no, actually.


MR. MCCORMACK: All right, let's back up.


QUESTION: There will be plenty of others.


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, all right. Let's back up. Here's where we are. We understand that out of Mecca under the good offices of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia that the various Palestinian factions got together, that they had come to agreement on a government of national unity.


Now, we as well as other members of the Quartet do not yet have all the details of either the program of this government of national unity or the composition. And in fact, I don't think -- I think that there's still some work to be done in that regard among the Palestinians. So you don't have all the details, important details.


So at this point, we can't offer a reaction beyond the fact that we remain committed to a two-state solution and the Palestinian people deserve a government that is committed to that goal and one that also is clearly committed to the principles outlined at the last meeting of the Quartet.


Beyond that, I can't offer any reaction. Obviously we along with other members of the Quartet are going to endeavor to get more details as they become available. I think the Palestinians are still working on some of those details.


In terms of actions that we have taken, obviously we're in contact with various people in the region at working levels. The Secretary did have a call of the Quartet this morning. They had a good discussion. At this point, I don't have any further details that I can offer you about that discussion. And I would expect that over the coming days that there will be more conversations between the Secretary and leaders in the region.


There's no change to her plans. We plan on leaving towards the end of next week for a trip to the Middle East. We'll fill you in on those details as we get closer. The meetings that we had talked about are still planned in terms of Secretary Rice, Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas getting together, then I would expect there would be separate bilateral programs between Secretary Rice and Prime Minister Olmert, and Secretary Rice and President Abbas.


QUESTION: In that context, I imagine if there was anything particularly good to say about this agreement, you'd be saying it.


MR. MCCORMACK: You have to get the details. The details matter in this regard, both with respect to the composition and with respect to the platform. And as we have clearly said before, that we believe that the government should be clearly and credibly committed to the principles reiterated by the Quartet at its meeting last week in Washington and should be a partner in peace. Beyond that, I can't offer any more reaction because you don't have important details about the government. And as they become more clear, you can be assured that we as well as the members of the Quartet and others in the region will offer greater reaction.


Yes.


QUESTION: So it means that you don't expect any collective reaction of the Quartet before these meetings scheduled on the (inaudible)?


MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't say that. What I said is, at this point, I don't have anything further to offer with respect to the Secretary's phone call. But if there is anything more that we have to offer coming out of that phone call, we'll keep you up to date in terms of statements, et cetera.


QUESTION: And why would the Quartet -- why was the call arranged? What were they --


MR. MCCORMACK: Because there was clearly some event that occurred yesterday in Mecca where you had the announcement of the formation of this government. Now as I said, there's still a lot of details that need to be worked out by the Palestinians and then made public and made available to us. We don't have those right now. So there is an effort to get together, assess what the situation was, and compare notes on what it is --


QUESTION: Share what people --


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, exactly.


QUESTION: What each side knows -- okay.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, exactly.


QUESTION: The Hamas -- after this agreement, said that Mecca agreement -- doesn't mean they recognize Israel, but they didn't say it doesn't mean that we don't -- that we recognize the right of Israel to exist. Is there a difference for you? Is there a nuance between recognizing Israel and recognizing the right of Israel to exist?


MR. MCCORMACK: Again, let's wait until we have all the facts, they have all the details. What we have said is that the Palestinians deserve a government that is clearly and credibly committed to the principles reiterated by the Quartet last week in Washington. You can go back and look at the Quartet statement. And that the Palestinian people deserve a government that is committed to the pathway of peace.


It's very clear that is the way that the Palestinian people will realize a Palestinian state, through the pathway to negotiation. There is, very clearly, a way forward. It's outlined in the roadmap. And we will see in the coming days and weeks whether or not this government of national unity is one that is clearly and credibly committed to those principles.


QUESTION: But in principle, do you make a difference? Do you -- is there a nuance between these two --


MR. MCCORMACK: Sylvie, I'm not going to try to do halftime analysis here.


QUESTION: It's not an analysis. It's judging what exactly you expect from the --


MR. MCCORMACK: It is. You're asking me what -- Sylvie, what you're -- no, what you're asking me to do is to give you a reaction based on an incomplete set of facts and I'm not going to do that.


QUESTION: No, no, no, no, no. I want to know in general what you expect from them.


MR. MCCORMACK: I have just said -- I have just --


QUESTION: Is it to recognize Israel like this or --


MR. MCCORMACK: Sylvie, I just said -- listen to what I said. What I said is that the Palestinian people deserve a government -- we believe that they deserve a government that is clearly and credibly one that adheres to the principles outlined in the last meeting of the Quartet in Washington. You can go back and look at what that statement said and it references earlier statements as well. That is still the basis on which -- or the prism through which, if you will, that the Quartet and we will make our assessment of the composition as well as the program of this proposed government of national unity.


QUESTION: Based on what you do know, is there any change to the way the United States would deal with Abbas going forward? Do you still consider him at the -- sort of the acceptable representative and the only one with whom you're willing to deal.


MR. MCCORMACK: I think the answer to that is the Secretary intends to go forward with her trip as well as her meetings.


QUESTION: Well, you're also looking at giving them $86 million.


MR. MCCORMACK: There's no changes in our policy.


QUESTION: Can I switch topics?


MR. MCCORMACK: No.


Joel.


QUESTION: This morning again, there's violence in Jerusalem with Muslims, following worship, perhaps barricading them up themselves in the al-Aqsa Mosque at Temple Mount.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: And because of these talks with the Saudis, do you view this in any way as trying to forestall the talks that you're going to have in Jerusalem with the Turkish Government as well as Israelis and President Abbas in the next week, week and a half?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not ascribing any political connection to what went on. Here's the situation, as we understand it. There were some excavations related to construction of a new walkway. From the Western Wall Plaza in the Old City of Jerusalem to the site of the Temple Haram al-Sharif to ensure the safety of visitors. Now, we have been in contact with the Government of Israel on this matter. They take it very seriously. And we urge all parties when they are considering and taking any actions with respect to excavations or any sort of construction activity near these sensitive religious sites to take into account that they are dealing with sensitive religious sites. And if, in fact, they do decide to proceed with those kinds of activities, that they carefully consider how those activities would be carried out. I understand the Government of Israel is also looking at how they can take into account some of the concerns that have been expressed about this particular construction activity.


In terms of the unrest that we saw recently after the Friday prayers, understand that there were some rock-throwers that came out, a small number of them. The Israeli police reacted in an effort to calm the situation and -- which is the appropriate response that people should take every effort to lower the temperatures on this and not let it get out of hand.


MR. MCCORMACK: Libby, you want to change the subject now? There you go.


QUESTION: I wanted to continue beating the dead horse on Iranian evidence? Just wondering what role has the Secretary played in the decision-making process as far as when to present the evidence on Iran? And you know, can you just give us some insight into her role in this as far as the Administration's presentation?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are people who are looking at the presentation, working through it, kind of making sure that this is -- that it's a clear, concise, to-the-point presentation that meets the requirements that we don't in any way jeopardize our sources and methods in making the presentation.


She offered general guidance on just those facts, to make sure that it's clear and make sure that it is something that is representative of the facts as we know them and that it doesn't endanger future activities with respect to going after these networks. I think early on she might have seen an initial draft of the presentation. I can't tell you that she's seen any of the subsequent drafts. She's not involved in those discussions. David Satterfield is our point guy really on that. He's the Secretary's Special Advisor on Iraq. So it's not something that she's looking at on a day-to-day basis or considering on a day-to-day basis.


I would expect that when the working level folks at the deputies level, the deputies committee level people, produce a presentation that they are comfortable with, I am sure that they'll share it with Secretary Rice, Secretary Gates and Steve Hadley over at the NSC just for review. So I would characterize her role as one of general review, not getting into the details of what is included in the presentation.


QUESTION: Is it fair to say after she saw the first draft she expressed some reservation about putting it out there?


MR. MCCORMACK: I think all of the principals did. Steve Hadley talked about the fact that he, Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates took a look at the presentation and decided that there was more work that needed to be done on it, and that's what's happened.


QUESTION: And what impact did the experience over Iraq have on that? And then I think there's got to be some obvious caution in presenting intelligence at this point. Is that --


MR. MCCORMACK: Any time you are making presentations based on intelligence information, you want to abide by a certain set of rules and you want to make sure that it's clear, that it reflects the facts as you know them, that it reflects the consensus analysis and that it doesn't endanger sources and methods. And that has been -- that's her view with respect to this presentation or any other one that you do involving intelligence information.


Yes, ma'am.


QUESTION: Thank you. A quick question on Taiwan. Sean, do you have any comment on Taiwan President Chen's push to rename state-owned enterprises in Taiwan's overseas representative of offices from Republic of China to Taiwan?


MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check into that for you. We'll try to get -- we'll get you an answer.


QUESTION: Sure.


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. I don't -- I hadn't seen those stories with those particular facts in it, okay?


QUESTION: The reason I ask is in 2004, State Department expresses opposition to similar move by President Chen.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right, I know. I understand. I want to understand all the facts so we can talk a little bit afterwards.


QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. MCCORMACK: We'll get you an answer, okay?


QUESTION: Can I ask you about this Africa Command?


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.


QUESTION: What role will State be playing? There's been some --


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: -- reports that the number-two will be a State Department --


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: -- official. Can you --


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: -- elaborate on that?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we've been really -- we've been in on the ground floor discussions on the creation of this Africa Command with the Department of Defense. We've been great partners on it and we're -- I would expect that we're going to be partners in this.


We still have to work out some of the details as to exactly how the senior-most State Department representatives in the Africa Command would relate to the commander, but regardless of exactly how the line and block chart works out, this is really a new evolution, I think, in terms of the DOD-State Department partnership. We look at it that way. The Department of Defense looks at it that way. So it's really an exciting new innovation.


QUESTION: Will this be a very -- will the character of this command be very different from the existing ones in that sense?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think they will be different in how the State Department and the Department of Defense relate to each other in terms of that senior leadership. The Department of Defense has been very forward-leaning and very open with the State Department in saying, "We want to have senior level input from your people in that command. We want you to be part of the processes of that command and we want you to be part of the day-to-day operations of how the -- in what the Africa Command is doing." So it's really quite an innovation. It's new and exciting and we're looking forward to working with DOD on it.


QUESTION: What about the question of who will be the host nation?


MR. MCCORMACK: Of the Africa Command?


QUESTION: Yes.


MR. MCCORMACK: I think they're still working out all those details. I don't think we have an answer on that yet.


QUESTION: Are you courting various countries or regions or --


MR. MCCORMACK: We have approached a couple of countries. I don't think we've settled on or I don't think DOD has settled on a final choice yet.


QUESTION: And who -- will it be their decision?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, obviously, we'll have input to it, but it is a combatant command, but we will, as I said, be partners in all of this. We're providing a lot of input to them.


QUESTION: Would it make sense, then, to put someone in the Horn of Africa, which seems to be the -- at the center of problems in the region as opposed to some out of the way place like Zimbabwe?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are a lot of different choices. They're going to -- they -- you know, a lot of different possibilities. I would point out to you DOD also had some operations several years ago in West Africa as well, if you look at Liberia. Now today, on the headlines of the news pages, we're seeing a lot of activity in the Horn of Africa. We already do have a -- CENTCOM already has presence in Djibouti. I don't know if they're going to choose to build on that or if they're going to choose to station it elsewhere. So there are a lot of different choices, a lot of good choices, and we'll work with them on exactly where it's going to end up.


QUESTION: I have some questions on Iraqi Kurdistan. There seems to be a lot of anxiety in Kurdistan right now about the possibility of violence spilling over into their region. They haven't been really enthusiastic about the Peshmerga being deployed and this troop surge in Baghdad. They aren't very pleased about the U.S. support for renegotiating the 2005 constitution which they gained considerable autonomy in that constitution. They issued a totally blistering press release after the arrest of the Iranian agents in Irbil and they calculate that only about 3 percent of reconstruction funding, U.S. reconstruction funding, has been spent in Kurdistan.


So I guess my question is, you know, how concerned are you that the Kurds might be feeling that they're getting a raw deal here? And you know, have -- you know, have you been asked for any kind of assurances that their lives are going to be made -- not going to be made worse by this turn of events in Iraq?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they're Iraqis, so in large part the destiny of their country is, in part, in their hands. In terms of the ebbs and flows of the political happiness of political leadership in various parts of Iraq, that will, I am sure, be dependent upon how they're relating to their counterparts in other parts of Iraq, how they're doing in terms of the various political bargains that are underway in Iraq. So the answer to the question is it's in their hands; they can determine these things. It's not as --


QUESTION: They say they --


MR. MCCORMACK: We don't have a vote on the Iraqi budget. In terms of the Peshmerga deploying down to Baghdad, they've had a good turnout. The brigades are flowing south. You brought up some other issues. What were some of the other ones?


QUESTION: Irbil. But going back to the funding, I mean, that's -- I'm talking about U.S. reconstruction funding. I mean, in some ways because Kurdistan is thought to be so stable and so peaceful, I mean, they feel like they've been ignored in favor of maybe the U.S. trying to appease Sunnis who -- and get them into the political process by promising the renegotiation of the 2005 constitution? I mean, they say it's in their hands, but we've done it, we've brokered a constitution, and now a year later the U.S. is --


MR. MCCORMACK: The Iraqis came to an agreement that they were going to seek amendments to the constitution. That was an Iraqi understanding. It wasn't manufactured in the United States. Yes, we participated in the political process in the sense that we advised them, we pushed them together to make compromises. But at the end of the day, those were Iraqi compromises and they were Iraqi deals that were reached. So the consideration of amendments to the constitution was an Iraqi decision.


In terms of the reconstruction funding, we allocate the reconstruction funding where we believe that there is the greatest need. Now, in a sense, the north was a great beneficiary over a long period of time of about a decade or more of the international community's ability to keep Saddam Hussein from exercising the kind of influence that he exercised over the rest of Iraq with no-fly zones and other kinds of interactions with the international community. So they, in a sense, did have -- they already had an advantage over the course of ten years or more where they were able to build up some of their infrastructure, they were able to build up different kinds of industries in the north.


So in that sense, they have already benefited from a decade's worth of effort by the international community. There are other parts of Iraq that have great needs, and that's not to say that the United States or anybody else is going to ignore the needs as they exist in the north. But you have to make decisions based upon an analysis of where you think the money spent can have the most effect and where the greatest needs are.


QUESTION: Given that it is considered this success story, this oasis of stability and, you know, democratic institutions and civil society there, I mean, is -- are Kurdish leaders coming forward to talk to U.S. officials about how to preserve that success? Are they expressing anxiety that maybe it could be jeopardized by, you know, either inflows of refugees from the rest of Iraq or, you know, involvement of the Kurds in the sectarian fighting or, you know, involvement of neighbors like Turkey or Iran? Are they expressing anxiety to you guys about that?


MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I'm sure if you spoke to any politician in Iraq at this point that they would express a certain level of anxiety about any given topic that is of concern to them because this is a fledgling democracy that is struggling to build democratic institutions, functioning institutions that can serve their people.


I would just point out to you that the President of Iraq is a Kurd and he is a greatly respected figure throughout -- in the Iraqi political process. They seek out his counsel. They are well represented in senior positions throughout the Iraqi Government. So they have a real say in what the future of Iraq will be. But the future of Iraq will be dependent on how they work with the other groups within Iraq. They all have to work together.


QUESTION: The President of Iraq's son said this week that they are interested -- they are anxious about preserving the success that Kurdistan has and that, you know, he's trying to reach out to U.S. officials to see if maybe the U.S. can provide some assurances that things will not -- that the U.S. will be there if things go -- if that chaos tries to reach Kurdistan and that the U.S. will help preserve that success if the chaos tries to --


MR. MCCORMACK: Everybody has an interest in Iraq succeeding. The President wouldn't have put so much time into the review that he conducted and he wouldn't have devoted the resources that we are devoting if he didn't believe that we could make a difference and help the Iraqis succeed. So we have a great interest in seeing that Iraqis succeed. What the Iraqis need to understand is that if they are to succeed they will succeed together and that they have to collectively solve their problems. They're all in this together in the formation of this government, the Sunni, Shia, Kurd, and everybody else.


We have every interest in seeing that the kind of prosperity and stability that has been seen in the north Iraq is also present in other areas of Iraq, especially including in areas in Baghdad and around Baghdad and we're going to do everything that we can to support the Iraqis as they try to build an Iraq that's more stable, more secure and more democratic. And so that you do see the successes that you have seen, for instance, in the north replicated elsewhere in Iraq.


QUESTION: Is the U.S. in a position to offer separate assurances to the Kurds?


MR. MCCORMACK: We believe in the territorial integrity of Iraq. We believe in the Government that has been elected by all Iraqis that is designed to represent all Iraqis and is designed to work for all Iraqis. Our job is to help that government work on behalf of all of its citizens.


QUESTION: About this -- the refugees, the Iraqi refugees, the Secretary said yesterday that she authorized your charge' in Damascus to talk about the refugees with the Syrians. Would U.S. be ready to give any assistance to Syria about - for these refugees?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the main -- first of all, I don't think any of those conversations have taken place yet. I would expect in the next couple days that they do. Look we're working very closely with UNHCR, the UN Commissioner -- High Commissioner for Refugees on the issue. We -- I can't tell you exactly how our assistance is channeled, but I believe it is channeled through UNHCR as well as through NGOs operating on the ground. I can't tell you that that assistance goes directly to -- would go to the Syrian Government. I don't think it does, but we can check that out for you.


George.


QUESTION: We understand there's an Uzbek human rights activist who works for Human Rights Watch has been detained. I believe her name is Niyazova. If you don't have anything on it now, that's fine. But if you could check into it, I would appreciate.


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. She's been detained in Uzbekistan?


QUESTION: In Uzbekistan, yeah.


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Sure.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Sean, go back to Taiwan, please?


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.


QUESTION: Yeah. Well, in addition to the rectification issue that you haven't comment on and in terms of U.S. policy, does the U.S. have any specific -- has any specific or redline issues that you do not expect the Taiwanese Government to touch upon?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, it's not that it didn't have any comment on it. I said that I wanted to understand the facts better and that we would offer some comment, based on the -- our assessment of the facts as you've described them. But the primary interest of the United States remains the maintenance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. The United States does not support Taiwan independence and opposes unilateral steps by either side that would change the status quo. As we have said many times before, we do not support administrative steps by Taiwan authorities that would appear to change Taiwan's status unilaterally or move towards independence. The United States does not, for instance, support changes in terminology for entities administered by Taiwan authorities. President Chen's fulfillment of his commitments will be a test of leadership, dependability and statesmanship, as well the ability to protect Taiwan's interests, its relations with others and to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.


Sylvie.


QUESTION: If you don't have anything on that, we understand. Do you -- are you aware of the fact that Peru asked for the -- requested the extradition of the brother of the former President Fujimori?


MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't heard that.


QUESTION: Can you look into it?


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. We'll check into it, yeah.


Dave.


QUESTION: Any reports out of the Somalia Contact Group in Dar es Salaam? I know that Assistant Secretary Frazer's there and there's been a problem raising the number of troops who would go into Somalia.


MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't talked to Jendayi. I haven't gotten any reports back on it. I saw that she made a couple comments in the press, but I don't have anything beyond that for you, Dave.


QUESTION: Changing the subject?


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.


QUESTION: Going to Iran. Today top negotiator of Iran, Ali Larijani is supposed to meet with Mohamed ElBaradei, but he canceled his trip there. Do you know about it? Do you have any --


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know why he would have canceled this trip.


QUESTION: Do you support the timeout proposal of ElBaradei regarding the Iran nuclear --


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what we support is Iran meeting the conditions laid out by the international community, and that is ending their reprocessing and enrichment-related activities. If that happens, certainly the international community can -- there's an offer out there to negotiate with them. So we'll see if the Iranians choose to take them up on that offer. Thus far, they've given no indication that they are going to do so.


QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. MCCORMACK: Farah has one. Another one, shall I say.


QUESTION: Yes. Has Satterfield or any other State Department official met with any representative in the Kurdish government this week or are any meetings planned?


MR. MCCORMACK: Can't tell you. I'm sure on any given week he talks to somebody from the Kurdish regions.


QUESTION: No, I said met with, here in Washington.


MR. MCCORMACK: Or met with. Yeah, I don't know.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/80360.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 13 2007, 03:44 PM
Liberia Partners' Forum

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Preston Auditorium of the World Bank
Washington, DC
February 13, 2007

Good morning and thank you all for coming. I want to thank all of our co-hosts, co-sponsors for this conference. Especially thank you, Paul, and the staff here of the World Bank for organizing the conference. I'm obviously honored to be here in the presence of the members of the Liberian delegation, but particularly Your Excellency President Johnson Sirleaf. Thank you for your outstanding leadership and your inspirational leadership of the people of Liberia. (Applause.) I'd like to thank also all of the countries and institutions that are represented here today, all of whom are committed to Liberia’s recovery.

This is a time of optimism in Liberia. Fourteen years of civil war are over. Those displaced by war are returning to their communities. And a new, democratically-elected government is in place.

The Sirleaf administration has worked tirelessly over the past year to ensure that Liberia’s reforms and reconstruction and development take root and have the chance for lasting success. President Sirleaf and her team, many of whom are here today, are committed to advancing democracy, to rooting out corruption, and to working in the best interests of the Liberian people.

All of us in the international community applaud this determination -- and we are putting our full support behind Liberia’s new government. Since the end of Liberia’s civil war in 2003, its many partners around the world have committed more than $1 billion in relief and development assistance.

The United States has been pleased to provide over $500 million in an important international effort. The United States is determined to continue and to expand our support for Liberia. To continue our support, President Bush has asked Congress for more than $200 million of total assistance for fiscal years 2007 and 2008. And we want to do more. The United States currently holds $391 million in outstanding bilateral claims on Liberia. We will cancel that debt -- all of it -- under the framework from Highly Indebted Countries. (Applause.) We hope that this will help to relieve Liberia’s crippling debt burden, a debt burden that today's leadership and today's people of Liberia do not deserve. We hope that it will enable the Government to direct more of its resources toward reconstruction and development. Our 2008 budget request includes funds to cover the start of this process, and we will work closely with other donors, such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, to resolve the multilateral debt.

Lasting economic development in Liberia requires investment in the country’s most valuable resources -- its people. We must help the Liberian Government to liberate the creativity and energy of all of its citizens -- through a vibrant private sector, robust trade, and access to international markets. To this end, the United States is pursuing a comprehensive economic engagement strategy with Liberia -- with a particular focus on building public-private partnerships.

I'm pleased that the Liberia Private Sector Investment Forum will take place on Thursday. The United States and our international partners look forward to welcoming an enthusiastic crowd ready to invest in Liberia's future. At the same time the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation is working tirelessly with leading businesses and organizations to mobilize capital for Liberia's entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Our government is doing what we can to help. We certified Liberia as eligible to receive benefits under our African Growth and Opportunity Act, which was finalized last month. This Thursday, the U.S. Trade Representative will sign a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the Liberian Government. And we are taking steps to resume direct flights between Liberia and the United States by signing an Open Skies Agreement, which will deepen the connection between our people, our businesses, and our economies. (Applause.)

The purpose of these efforts and the more than $500 million in assistance that we have given, the additional resources that we have spent to try and help in the peacekeeping operations in Liberia -- and I want to say proudly, too, the role that American Marines played in those early pivotal days to help liberate Liberia from tyranny -- this is nothing less than an effort by the United States to try and help the people of Liberia transform Liberia toward a lasting peace, and lasting prosperity. This is a remarkable goal that the people of Liberia have set for themselves – and it is in that direction that they and their democratic leaders are striving. They desire and they deserve our support.

Madame President, I had the great honor and pleasure of attending your inauguration a little over a year ago. I want to tell you that I still have great memories of that day. I remember the university choir singing The Heavens Are Telling, one of my favorite songs. And it reminded me of Liberia's long tradition of education, indeed higher education, because my aunt went to Liberia to teach in 1961. She was a professor at Southern University, a historically black college in Louisiana. And that Liberian university was strong enough to attract her to go and teach there. So you have a wonderful tradition.

But what I remember most about that day is that it was a day of great joy and great pride, but also a day of great hope. Madame President, members of the Liberian delegation, the people of Liberia: I know, Madame President, that you have no intention of disappointing the hopes of your people, and we have every intention of helping you to succeed.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2007/feb/80483.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 13 2007, 03:46 PM
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I have one brief opening statement for you, then we can get right into your questions. This concerns Secretary Rice's travel starting at the end of the week.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories Amman and Berlin beginning February 16th, coming back on February 22nd of this year. She will hold bilateral meetings with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as a trilateral meeting with President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert on February 19th. In Amman, Secretary Rice will meet with King Abdullah of Jordan and other members of the Jordanian Government.


In addition to a meeting of the Quartet in Berlin, Secretary Rice will meet with Foreign Minister Steinmeier and Chancellor Merkel. The Quartet will discuss the recent agreement reached by the Palestinian government in Saudi Arabia and the next steps in implementing the roadmap.


With that, I'd be happy to take your questions.


QUESTION: We're running a report out of Jerusalem saying that Israel is considering suspending contacts with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas if it doesn't -- if the new unity government doesn't ultimately meet the Quartet demands.


One, do you have any reason to believe that the Israelis may curtail their contacts before they can figure that out?


MR. MCCORMACK: The Israelis -- this meeting with Secretary Rice, Prime Minister Olmert, and President Abbas is on the schedule and moving forward.


QUESTION: And have you discerned any desire on the part of your fellow members of the Quartet to relax the conditions at -- you know, before seeing what happens to -- or to relax them even if it isn't definitive, the actions of the new national unity government on those three points?


MR. MCCORMACK: What I'll do is I'll go back to the Quartet statement that was issued just on Friday.


QUESTION: Late Friday.


MR. MCCORMACK: And they -- this was put out in the name of the Quartet principles.


"The Quartet welcomed the role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in reaching the agreement to form a Palestinian National Unity government. The Quartet expressed the hope that the desired calm would prevail.

While awaiting formation of the new Palestinian government, the Quartet reaffirmed its statement of February 2nd regarding its support for a Palestinian government committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the roadmap."

So it refers back to the February 2nd statement as well, which was a very, very strong statement and this is another very strong statement. So whether or not there are any discussions within other governments, I can't tell you. Check with them. But this is a strong statement reaffirming those principles.

QUESTION: Is there anything going on with North Korea?

MR. MCCORMACK: As -- I checked. As of 20 minutes ago, they were still in their discussions and so I can't provide any further update from the podium other than to say they're still talking. Chris, I think, talked a little bit about the one or two issues that are sticking points here. We will try to keep you up to date, George, as things develop. And obviously, if they develop in a positive way, we'll -- this round, we'll have more to say.

Yeah, Libby.


QUESTION: On Iran, the Iranian President has denied publicly today that the Iranians are providing deadly weapons that are going into Iraq and harming U.S. troops. Do you have any reaction to that?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we -- our people in Baghdad with the Multinational Forces over the weekend had a background briefing in which they passed out a lot of information to reporters that were present. They made that publicly available. It included pictures of weapons that are clearly manufactured in Iran. They went through the explanation of these explosive form projectiles, their deadly nature and the fact that because of the tolerances and the machining and the technology involved with these things that they believe that these came from Iran and they also drew the linkages between the Quds Force which is a subset of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that specializes in training terrorists and those sorts of activities. They talked about their presence inside Iran and their linkage to these networks.


So while they presented a circumstantial case, I would put to you that it was a very strong circumstantial case. The Iranians are up to their eyeballs in this activity I think very clearly based on the information that was provided over the weekend in Baghdad. So beyond that I'm not going to try to embellish that briefing, which I think it was a pretty good briefing. And any reasonable person taking a look at it, I think would draw the same conclusions.


QUESTION: Does Secretary Rice see a final version of the presentation? I know you said that Friday she thought it needed more work.


MR. MCCORMACK: She did not. No, this was done at the deputy's level, I think from our building. I can't tell you all who looked at it. But David Satterfield took a look at it. He was comfortable with it. Secretary Rice gave him her proxy in terms of going through and making sure that the briefing met all the standards and the criteria that we talked about -- had talked about over the past couple of weeks.


QUESTION: So what happened over the last 10 days or so, since Steve Hadley said that it needed to be narrowed and that it had overstated the case at least the draft that he had seen? What happened in the last, you know, 10 days to make it ready for presentation?


MR. MCCORMACK: They tightened it up. In terms of the focus, in terms of the materials that were included in the briefing, I didn't go through every iteration of it, so I can't tell you what was left on the cutting room floor. But people wanted to make sure that this was a good, solid, clear presentation again that did not compromise our sources and methods, so we want to still be able to collect this kind of information, but we also want to present a clearer picture -- a clearer consensus picture of what the Iranian involvement is with these networks that are posing a threat to our troops. And that's an important point. Everybody should refocus on the fact that this originally came up because we were worried about the threat to our troops on the ground. This is -- I know others are trying to spin this up into something other than that. But this briefing talks about the threat to our troops. We had talked about what we are doing in reaction to that threat. So we thought it was important to try to present as clear a possible picture as we could at this point in time as to why we were taking the actions we were inside Iraq to protect our troops from these networks.


QUESTION: So we've known about this -- you know, I think it's been out in the public for some time now about, you know, the U.S. officials who said that the Iranians are supplying deadly weapons. Why now for the presentation, if this has been out there for a while?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of the fact that this issue has come to the fore in public and we have started talking about it, they addressed that in Baghdad. They talked about the fact that it was -- they have recently -- and I can't give you the time period, seen an increase in the number of attacks from these devices.


As for the timing of it, it was something that the folks in Baghdad decided it was time to do. I can't tell you that it is tied to anything in particular other than the idea of we need to do something to address these networks, we need to tell our publics what we're doing to protect our troops and it flowed from that decision.


QUESTION: Last week you were speaking about mountains of evidence. Is it all the evidence you have or did you keep some classified?


MR. MCCORMACK: Look, again, like I said, I can't tell you what was left on the cutting room floor. This represents the consensus view. We believe it's focused on the issue at hand. We believe that it's clear and it does not compromise sources and methods. So we think it's met all the criteria that we laid out for ourselves in making the presentation.


People continue to accumulate facts and information, and if at some point in the future people decide that there's an update that's merited, they'll take that decision. I don't believe anybody is thinking about that right now, but if there's -- if there are any updates that are merited, people will take a look at that in the future.


QUESTION: How can you make a convincing case about this if you can't really present all the evidence you have tying it to the Iranian Government? You know, you can say that it's coming from the Al Quds Force, but how do you convince people of that if you can't really show it?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, let's step back to why we're doing this. We're doing this because there's a threat to our troops. Everybody agrees that there's a threat to our troops from these devices and from the networks that supply them. I don't think you're hearing much skepticism at all from any quarter except for maybe President Ahmadi-Nejad that the Iranians are involved in these networks. The Iraqis say that they're involved in these networks. The Brits say that they're involved in these networks. And I haven't kept track of anybody else in public who has said that they're involved in these.


So there's not a lot of debate about that. What this presentation does is talk about here's some of the evidence that has led us to these conclusions. And again, this is a consensus conclusion among U.S. Government agencies of Iranian involvement in these networks that pose a threat to our troops.


QUESTION: Sean, what will be the consequences on Iran after these threats?


MR. MCCORMACK: The consequences --


QUESTION: What are you going to do? Yeah.


MR. MCCORMACK: The President has talked about it. We're going to go after these networks that are operating inside of Iraq and we're going to do everything we can in Iraq to protect our troops. This is a very basic force protection issue. Any deployed military force around the world is going to take steps that it deems necessary to protect its troops, and President Bush has made very clear that that's what he's going to do as well.


So as for the consequences, well, the consequences are that these networks are going to be broken up, they're going to be hunted down and we're going to do everything in our power inside of Iraq to stop these activities.


Arshad, you were first.


QUESTION: Go ahead.


QUESTION: Do you face any sort of problem, you know, given that Ahmadi-Nejad said that -- I think he -- one of the comments he made was that the Americans don't have credibility because of what happened with Iraq. How do you face that issue when he uses that as his rhetoric to make the case that the Americans are not being truthful about this?


MR. MCCORMACK: The -- I think it's -- I think it really is the Iranians who have a problem with the truth, to put it bluntly. Look, they're the ones who are obfuscating, who are not presenting all the facts to the IAEA Board of Governors, to their inspectors, to the UN Security Council. They are the ones that have to hide in the shadows with respect to their links to terrorist organizations. It's not the United States or its friends and allies.


The views here, again, represent the considered views of all the members of the intelligence community and the military as well as the policy community in terms of the facts as we know them. We're not trying to oversell this. Again, let's focus on what this is and what this isn't. What this is is a briefing about a threat to our troops. We're not trying to bill this as anything more than that. And the activities of our forces in Iraq with respect to the networks that support the manufacture and deployment of these kinds of devices are designed to stop those activities. That's what they're there for. It's a force protection issue. We're not trying to make this into anything more than it is, but it is a serious issue because it involves the lives of our troops deployed in Iraq working on behalf of the United States in support of building up a more peaceful, stable, democratic Iraq.


QUESTION: Related, also on Iran. Does the U.S. Government plan to ask the United Nations to take action against Iran for harboring members of al-Qaida?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any particular actions that we're taking at this point. There are already on the books existing Security Council resolutions that require members of the United Nations to take every step that they possibly can to fight terrorism, and that would include bringing to justice those known to be involved with terrorist activities.


QUESTION: I think the ones among the resolutions that I think you're alluding to are 1267 and the 1373, and the Post had a report over the weekend which cited two Bush Administration officials as saying that the United States plans to argue that Iran is violating those resolutions and that --


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any move to do that.


QUESTION: Could you check that for me? I mean, if it's --


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.


QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. MCCORMACK: Go ahead.


QUESTION: I mean, Sean, sort of a follow-up on all these questions. In a general sense, the big (inaudible) at the moment we've seen, you know, cover of Newsweek, cover of Economist saying Iran could be next, a lot of speculation about military action. Can you give me any reaction to that?


MR. MCCORMACK: It seems to be the news media that is whipping up that storyline, not us. We're dead serious about confronting threats to our troops in Iraq. We're also very serious, working through diplomatic channels, to address threats to the rest of the world about Iran trying to develop a nuclear weapon. We have expended quite a bit of diplomatic energy and capital, and I expect we will probably expend a lot more absent an Iranian turnaround in trying to convince them, using diplomatic means, to change their behavior.


We're also going to work with interested states around the world and nongovernmental organizations in trying to bring to light the abuses of human rights that take place on a daily basis inside of Iran. That is -- we believe as a country that stands up for freedom, democracy and human rights around the world that it's our obligation to do that.


But you notice that we're working through diplomatic means to accomplish all of those ends. President Bush has made it very clear that we, as has Secretary Gates -- Secretary of Defense Gates has made it very clear that while we don't take option -- no President takes options off the table, our force protection actions are focused on activities inside of Iraq. We have no plans to attack Iran.


So I'll put it to you that it might be -- you might look amongst yourselves and your colleagues within the journalistic community in terms of people who are whipping this up. It's certainly not the U.S. Government.


QUESTION: A lot of Bush critics are saying that the language that's being used in Iran kind of echoes the same kind of language that was being used in 2003.


MR. MCCORMACK: And what kind of language is that?


QUESTION: Well, even I can even quote Senator Rockefeller saying, "To be quite honest, I'm a little concerned that it's Iraq all over again."


MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you're asking me to make a political statement about what is clearly another political statement. I'm not going to do that. I'll let people that are involved in politics play those games.


QUESTION: Iran signaled this weekend that they were ready to go back to negotiations on their nuclear program. Do you think it's a new language or did you see anything new on that?


MR. MCCORMACK: You know, this seems to be a replay of something we saw back in April of 2006, very similar language about how they were ready to work through the modalities to enter back into negotiations, and thus far we've seen nothing from them. So this seems to be an old trick. It didn't work the first time because they didn't follow through on any of those words with any actions. It's very clear what they need to do: 1737 outlines it very clearly. So words are great, but they don't mean anything unless they're backed up by actions.


QUESTION: And also Larijani was in Berlin. Did you have -- did you get any readout of his talks with the Germans?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think we've heard anything about his discussions with the Germans.


QUESTION: Some of your European colleagues though seem to be somewhat interested in the possibility of Iran voicing interest in returning to the negotiating table. Do you see it as sort of, you know, utterly pointless for them to potentially engage in such conversations and you just want action?


MR. MCCORMACK: Absolutely not, no. If they -- there's no -- we absolutely have no problem with our friends and allies talking to the Iranians to get an idea of where they may be at a given point in time on this issue. It's too important for them not to occasionally take the temperature of the Iranians on the issue. But as for whether or not those exercises actually lead to anything, thus far, they have not and the Iranians have given no indications over the past several years that they are ready to take concrete steps to follow through on all of those promises. We've heard a lot of times that they intend to be cooperative, that all questions will be answered, and that conditions will be met.


Well, here we are on February 12th, 2007 and it's still not the case. So forgive my skepticism that unless they actually act on those words, I'm going to take a wait-and-see attitude.


Okay. All done on Iran?


Yeah.


QUESTION: Turkey's Foreign Minister was here last week --


MR. MCCORMACK: That's right.


QUESTION: -- to lobby against an Armenian genocide resolution in the House of Representatives and he also met with the Secretary of State.


MR. MCCORMACK: That's right.


QUESTION: Has Turkey warned that it could cut cooperation with the United States on Iraq if this resolution passes?


MR. MCCORMACK: Secretary Rice had a good discussion with Foreign Minister Gul. I'm not going to get into the back and forth on it. We know that this is a very sensitive topic for a lot of individuals, certainly for Turkey. We are talking to members of Congress about what they may or may not do. Now this is something that comes out of another branch of the government, so we don't control it. But we are talking to the members of Congress about many of the sensitivities that surround this particular issue.


Okay.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/80442.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 15 2007, 03:32 PM
Briefing With United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, and Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration Ellen Sauerbrey

Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs

Washington, DC
February 14, 2007

View Video

MR. CASEY: Okay. Afternoon, everybody. Thanks for joining us on a lovely snowy day here in Washington. Very glad you are here; I wanted to have the opportunity to have you hear from a couple of very important people. First of all, our Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky and along with her, our distinguished visitor today, Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Obviously, they've met with the Secretary earlier today and one of the subjects of discussion was the issue of Iraqi refugees currently in the region. They'd like to talk to you a little bit, both about their meetings and about some of the things that we're working on to address that situation.

So Paula, let me turn it over to you.

UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: Thank you. Good afternoon. I'm pleased to be here with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres and my colleague, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Mirgration Ellen Sauerbrey.

Today, we have had constructive discussions on an issue of great concern both to the UN High Commissioner of Refugees and UNHCR and to the United States Government, the situation of displaced Iraqis and Iraqi refugees. Earlier today, High Commissioner Guterres discussed with Secretary Rice our commitment to working together to find durable solutions for Iraqi refugees by providing humanitarian assistance, augmenting the capacity of UNHCR to identify and refer refugees in need of resettlement, and committing additional resources to assist internally displaced persons in Iraq.

Most significantly, the United States and the international community can best help displaced Iraqis by quelling the violence in Iraq and assisting them in making their country peaceful, prosperous, and secure. We are committed to working with the Iraqi Government to create a stable and secure environment that enables Iraqis to repatriate voluntarily to their homeland. At the same time, we have a responsibility to respond to the immediate needs of Iraqis who have fled violence and persecution. And the United States will provide leadership in meeting those needs.

The Secretary recently asked me to lead a task force and coordinate our efforts to respond to the situation. Members include the Senior Advisor to the Secretary on Iraq, the Director General of the Foreign Service and Human Resources, the Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, the United States Agency for International Development Administrator for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, USAID's Senior Deputy Administrator for Asia and the Near East, and representatives of the Department of Homeland Security.

Our key immediate objectives are to assist internally displaced Iraqis and Iraqi refugees by building up the capacities of UN agencies and NGOs. This includes increasing opportunities for permanent resettlement for the most vulnerable Iraqis, to establish specialized programs to assist Iraqis who are at risk because of their employment or close association with the United States Government, to work diplomatically with regional governments through bilateral and multilateral channels to uphold the principle of first asylum.

I am pleased to report that we have made some recent progress in these areas. We will contribute an immediate $18 million toward UNHCR's recent appeal for Iraq which represents 30 percent of their appeal. This is on top of the more than $76 million provided by the State Department to UNHCR over the past four years. Additional funding to other humanitarian organizations involved in this effort will be provided upon completion of FY '07 appropriation bills. Total State Department contributions since 2003 for Iraqi refugees and conflict victims total 185 million.

USAID just provided $5 million through NGOs to assist internally displaced persons in Iraq. USAID's FY '07 supplemental request includes another $45 million for this assistance. This is in addition to the $192.7 million previously provided to assist internally displaced persons from USAID.

Efforts to assist and protect refugees include resettlement for the most vulnerable. The United States will do its part. We are expanding our capacity to receive referrals from UNHCR and plan to process expeditiously some 7,000 Iraqi refugee referrals in the near term.

In terms of assisting Iraqis who are at risk because of their employment or close association with the United States Government, first we have activated a procedure to allow Embassy Baghdad to refer cases in need of refugee resettlement consideration. We are also developing in cooperation with other agencies of the U.S. Government proposed legislation to provide additional immigration mechanisms for Iraqis in need of protection due to their employment or close association with our government. We are actively engaging governments in the region through bilateral and multilateral channels, thanking them for their assistance and encouraging them to uphold the principle of first asylum.

We have already had discussions with the governments of both Jordan and Syria this week. I also confirmed today with the UN High Commissioner that the United States will fully support a UNHCR-led donors conference to be held in Geneva in April to secure pledges from the international community to help Iraqi refugees and displaced persons.

Again, I am pleased to be here today with the High Commissioner and with the Assistant Secretary to share with you what more we can do to assist Iraqi refugees and other displaced Iraqis. There is a lot to be done and we are firmly committed to helping those in need.

I'd now like to invite Commissioner Guterres to say some words. He just has returned, in fact, from the region. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER GUTERRES: Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure to be here with you. I first of all want to express my deep appreciation to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky and to Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey with whom I had today very frank and very positive discussions on how to work better in order to alleviate the plight of Iraqis that have been displace inside Iraq or became refugees outside the country.

I just came from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria and Jordan trying to contact the countries that surround Iraq and to see how we can work better with them in order to be able to give protection and assistance to the Iraqis that have been displaced and that corresponds to one of the major humanitarian problems we face at the present moment.

I think it's important to give you an idea, first of all, of the dimension of the problem we are facing. We are discussing about 1.8 million Iraqis inside Iraq and about 2 million Iraqis in the countries around, but mainly concentrated in Syria and Jordan. And my first remark would be that Syria and Jordan have been receiving Iraqis and they've been doing so based on their own Arab hospitality tradition. They are not signatories to the 51 Convention, considering them as guests, as visitors. They've been doing so with a lot of generosity in the past few years, of course, with increasing numbers and more complex situations in the recent past, but with an effort that is becoming more and more difficult to bear in relation to their economies, to their societies and to their security. And it is understandable that countries that have received, as I said, many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis feel the pressure over the economy, over prices, the real estate market, the pressure over infrastructure; namely, the education and the health systems and their impact in the social fabrics and in the security concerns of the governments.

And I do believe it is very important that the international community together can help these countries to sustain their effort of protection and assistance to the Iraqi refugees that seek refuge in them.

We are a humanitarian organization. I usually say that we are not doctors; we are only nurses. We cannot deal with the origins of a problem. We deal with the symptoms and displacement is a symptom of a problem. The solution of the problem is obviously a political solution and it's not up to us to be interfering with that political solution. But one thing I can guarantee to you, after meeting many Iraqis in the countries around, is that the large majority wants one day to be able to be back to their country and to rebuild their lives in their own country. And that's the same I think applies to any other big displacement problem in the world.

In between, I think it is our obligation to do basically two things. First of all to make sure that we mobilize international community in support of the asylum countries and especially at the present moment to Jordan and Syria in order for them to be able to sustain the protection and assistance effort to these displaced Iraqis and this has been a crucial issue of the debates we have today. And at the same time, to try to address specific vulnerable situations that have protection concerns that are very specific and in which the only solution is resettlement to third countries. And I'm very happy that not only we have been assisted in order to increase our resettlement referral capacity, we will be able hopefully to process about 20,000 referrals during 2007 for different destinations in the world. And also I'm very happy to see that there is a meaningful capacity of the United States in the next few months to be able to consider a relevant number of referrals for the U.S.

But I would like to repeat it and to make it very clear, it's very important to have resettlement opportunities for people that have no other solution: unaccompanied minors, women in very difficult circumstances, people with health problems that have no solution in the countries where they live, people that are particularly vulnerable because they belong to groups that are targeted, more specifically targeted in the present situation. But resettlement as such will never be a solution for the whole of the problem because the numbers we are speaking cannot, of course, be handled only by resettlement opportunities worldwide.

The global number of resettlement opportunities in 2006 for all destinations from all crises in the world has been about 70,000. You can understand, when we are speaking about 2 million people, we must make sure that first of all, we create the conditions to assist them where they are now and at the same time, we hope that the political situation will allow for one day, sooner rather than later, for them to be able to go back to their country and to rebuild their lives, (inaudible), as I said, to their will.

I know that we are going to work very closely together in the months to come, both in order to make sure that our conference in which we will have all the countries of the region, the donor community, the NGOs, the major actors in this humanitarian situation in Geneva in order to upgrade the capacity of the international community to act in support of the refugees themselves and in support of the countries that are hosting them. And I also know that we are going to work very closely together both in relation to the improvement of our own assistance programs and in relation to the success of the resettlement program that will be so important, I hope, for the people that really face extremely difficult and vulnerable conditions.

So thank you very much and, of course, I'll be glad to answer whatever questions you have.

UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: Thank you. Let's open it up and take questions and if you don't mind introducing yourself, identifying yourself.

QUESTION: Arshad Mohammed of Reuters. Secretary Dobriansky, just one simple question. You said that you expect to or hope to process the 7,000 in the near term. Sean McCormack told us this morning he thought that would happen by the end of the fiscal year, that is, by the end of September. Other officials have said six to nine months. Can you give us what the near term means, by the end of the year? Second --

UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: The near term, just to answer it precisely, it is during this fiscal year.

QUESTION: Okay.

UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: And we're talking about actually the interviewing of the various referrals by the Department of Homeland Security.

QUESTION: Will those people be here by the end of this fiscal year or not?

UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: In terms of the number, you have the interviews first and you have to determine who is qualified, who isn't qualified. But we expect to have those and maybe even more. That is an initial figure and our anticipation, it would be actually even more than that.

QUESTION: But do you expect to actually have 7,000 Iraqi refugees in the United States by the end of the fiscal year or not?

UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: I think I answered that question and that is, it depends on the outcome of the interview itself, because an individual would have to qualify and there is a process to that. Would you like to add something further on that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SAUERBREY: Yes. If I could add to that, the process of processing is a time-consuming one because not only do we have a very intense security screening that is in place, but following security screening, there is another health screening. So it does take a matter of months normally, once we have begun the interview process, before someone is actually travel-ready.

So I think it's fair to say that under the best of circumstances, it will be, perhaps, half of the number that we actually are addressing in the fiscal year that we'll be ready -- travel-ready before the end of September.

QUESTION: And the other question was, do you believe the U.S. Government has a special responsibility to try to take in Iraqi refugees, given the U.S. role in leading the invasion of Iraq? And if so, can you explain to us why it has taken until now for the United States to take sort of dramatic steps to try to process and bring in significantly large numbers of refugees? As you're well aware, the figure since '03 is 466 and the figure for the last fiscal year is 2002 -- is 202, excuse me. Why did it take so long for the U.S. Government to perceive that this was a problem that it should act more dramatically on?

UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: I will comment and then I'd like to invite Assistant Secretary Sauerbrey to comment. First, the numbers reflect those that were in need, meaning the earlier numbers. In terms of our responsibility, I think that today's statement, the steps that we have been -- have taken, that we are taking, and that we will continue to take manifests a concern for helping all those vulnerable Iraqis, all those who are in need, and determining solutions and ways of assisting them.

One of our priorities, as you know and I referred to, is providing for a secure Iraq. There are many who want to return to Iraq. In fact, the Commissioner shared with us some of his conversations and clearly, as you can anticipate, there are those who want to go to their homeland. So we are desirous of doing everything possible to help, given those that qualify as refugees, those who are internally displaced, those that fit in the category who have worked for the U.S. Government or are associated with us.

Our goal is certainly to provide every assistance possible, but I want to underscore the fact that I believe that the numbers before are a reflection of, in many ways, those that were coming out and expressing a need of being resettled. There were many that have not expressed a need to be resettled.

Would you like to just add to that and we'll go to another, I think, question?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SAUERBREY: Thank you, Paula. It should be recognized that a year ago this time, we were still spending most of our effort and resources in helping people to return to Iraq. It really was not until after the Samara bombing in Feburary of last year that the sectarian violence began to reach a level that there was a significant outward movement.

And in the early days, the people that were leaving were people who were, for the most part, people who had resources and they were going to the surrounding countries and they were not being categorized as refugees. In fact, Jordan and Syria do not categorize them as refugees today. They refer to them as guests or visitors. And so there was really nothing that was indicating that there was any significant issue in terms of an outflow until -- I would say the first real indication that we had began to reach us three to four months ago.

And at that point, we began conversations with the High Commissioner about initiating a registration campaign so that we could identify people to consider for resettlement. But as the Under Secretary indicated, we have also been giving considerable assistance in the region for the last four years, so this is nothing that is a new phenomena this year.

QUESTION: A question for the High Commissioner. I'm Anne Gearan with the Associated Press. Can you tell us, sir, whether you think the measures announced today by the United States go far enough and whether you would have liked to have seen them earlier than today?

COMMISSIONER GUTERRES: I think they correspond to a very good start in the program that we launched with our appeal in January, so they came close to the appeal. We are now gearing up for the appeal to become a success and after that, of course, we will have the conference in which we'll try to put together all the relevant actors and find a common strategy to have a real international capacity to deal in the best possible way with this problem. I think that these steps now are a very important step in the right direction.

QUESTION: So is it enough?

COMMISSIONER GUTERRES: Well, as I mentioned, the problem is so huge that nothing is, any time, enough. But I think it's very good stuff -- a very good step in the right direction and also, to deal with these problems, we need to build capacity and that's what we are doing. And I believe that these will make a significant change in the way, together, the international community will be able to handle this problem.

QUESTION: Elise Labott with CNN. For the High Commissioner, if I could just follow up and also, if Under Secretary and Assistant Secretary could respond, the numbers that we've heard today, 7,000, as you said, is kind of a drop in the bucket compared to the millions of refugees and internally displaced and, I think by your own estimates, about 50,000 are fleeing every month. Do you think that there should be a larger number of people here in the United States resettled? Do you think that the United States has a greater responsibility to take on more refugees?

And for the Under Secretary and for Assistant Secretary, how did you arrive at the number 7,000? Compared to the numbers that the UN is estimating, the magnitude of the problem seems that it could require a much larger contribution for resettlement. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER GUTERRES: I think it's important to understand what's the role of resettlement in a crisis of this nature. The role of resettlement is not to give an answer to the problems of everybody. We have, today, 8.5 million refugees in the world, 25 million internally displaced persons in the world. It is obvious that resettlement will never be a solution for the bulk of this population.

With resettlement, we need to try to solve the problem of those that have particular needs of protection and in which each, the movement to a third country is an essential element to provide that protection. And this refers to very vulnerable people, I would say. And for this, there is very important work in detecting these people, in referring them, and afterwards, in taking care of the security concerns that all resettlement countries necessarily apply in these situations. That is why we have defined -- as I said, in the framework of a global -- global resettlement capacity in the world that has been, more or less, of 70,000 people from all kinds of origins to all kinds of destinations.

We are trying to build, very quickly, and it will be built entirely at the end of February, a capacity to refer, as I said, about 20,000 Iraqis, which represents a very meaningful proportion of this world capacity in the present year.

Now in relation to these 20,000, the possibility of the United States to consider a first (inaudible) of 7,000 resettlement opportunities until, I would say -- I hope that they will be ready during the summer. It's, of course, a relevant contribution and I think it should be recognized as such.

UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: Do you want to say, quickly, Ellen, just on the figure?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SAUERBREY: Just to add and reinforce what's already been said, is that there is a perception, I think, that there is a huge number of people just waiting to leave their country, the region, and come and be resettled elsewhere. In reality, this refugee crisis is no different than those that we deal with throughout the world and most people do not want to resettle in another country. Most people want to stay in the region, certainly have their needs met, but they want to go home.

And so when you look at this number of 7,000, put it in the context that the United States regularly resettles more than half of the refugees that are resettled around the world in any given year and that there is a capacity need on the part of UNHCR in order to be able to process. And there is not a limitless capability right now to process 20,000 -- hundreds of thousands of people.

QUESTION: (Inaudible). Can we get those figures? What is the number that are resettled annually and how many Iraqi refugees have come here over the years? I mean, we know what it was for last year, but what about the previous years?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SAUERBREY: The numbers that we normally have resettled in the past few years has been lower than some earlier years because of the more intense security screening following 9/11. And the number -- the total number last year of refugees resettled into the United States was over 41,000. More than half of the refugees resettled anywhere in the world came here.

Now the number that we hear of the 400 and why is it so small; following 9/11, the security screening that was put in place by the Department of Homeland Security in response to the concerns of the American people made it very, very difficult for people from this region to be screened to come into the United States. And in fact, the numbers dropped off so dramatically that UNHCR found it not a very attractive destination and were making very few referrals to the United States. But in addition, I go back to what I said before, conditions in Iraq were such that there was not a huge desire for a resettlement into the United States. Most of the people that we were helping were resettling back to their homes in Iraq.

QUESTION: But the numbers in the first couple of years -- if it was 202 last year, what was it in '05 and '04?

QUESTION: Do we have those year by year or can somebody get them to us?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SAUERBREY: We can get them to you, yes.

COMMISSIONER GUTERRES: If I may just say something about this because it's a very important note. It's a very important note. Resettlement is very relevant. It's very important. And for the people resettled, it has a lot of meaning. If you are very vulnerable, if you are afraid for your life, if you have no other chance to be resettled, it means the difference between life and death. It's very important.

But resettlement cannot be used as the solution for all problems. And resettlement will never be used by us as an excuse not to address the problem of the refugees in its global dimension. And when we look at a problem of this dimension, it is obvious that the need to assist the people in the countries of the region, namely, because the bigger numbers are in Syria and Jordan but also in Egypt, in Lebanon, in Turkey and in Iran -- to assist the people, to give them conditions to have a dignified life is also a common responsibility of us all.

And hopefully, as I said, hopefully one day, helping them be able to return, because everywhere in the world, the large majority of refugees want as a solution for their lives to be able to go back to their countries and to help rebuild their countries. And I think that we should never forget these responsibilities because resettlement is very important, but it's not the beginning and the end.

QUESTION: Libby Leist from NBC News. I wanted to ask you about the Iraqis that have worked for the American Government. Do you keep -- do you have any numbers on those people that are trying to resettle elsewhere, that have worked through the American Government in Iraq and may be under threat? And also, are they receiving special priority? I know that that was a large concern for lawmakers as to whether these people that have helped our military and otherwise -- are they getting special priority to come to the United States?

UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: Let me take the last part of the question, if you'll take the first part.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SAUERBREY: Okay.


QUESTION: And is it part of the 7,000 that you mentioned?

UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: On your question, specifically, I referred in my statement to the fact that we are considering and developing specific mechanisms relevant to legislation that would address these areas and these concerns. For example, one of the areas is looking at specialized immigrant -- special immigrant visas and the terms of special immigrant visas. That's one example. So that is one of the specific actions that we are actively pursuing.

Would you like to comment on the first part?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SAUERBREY: Yes. The numbers of those that have actually been seeking either movement out of the country or requesting assistance have been from -- our own Embassy's indication, they have said that it is a very small number. However, those that are under threat, whether it's a small number or not and their lives are endangered, we take that very seriously and that's a very significant issue.

At this point, what we have done has been to say to the embassies if the person has already left the country and is in Jordan or Syria, we want to know who they are and we want to give their names immediately to UNHCR. And we have spoken to UNHCR about prioritizing -- immediately getting those into the stream for resettlement.

The longer term solution, as the Under Secretary said, some of it will require legislation. And one of the elements is that we don't want to take people who have helped the United States Government, who we bring in on parole and just dump them. And currently, there are no benefits attached to parole. So one of the elements of this is to create a system where there will be refugee status benefits applied to people who come in on a parole situation.

QUESTION: One follow-up. What is "very small number?" I mean, what are we talking about here? Can you give a little bit more specific --

QUESTION: Hundreds, thousands?

QUESTION: Right.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SAUERBREY: No, no. There are only -- in terms of foreign nationals working in -- excuse me, in terms of Iraqis working in our Embassy, I was told that the number is less than 50 and most of them are still there working and have not sought --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) worked with U.S. military (inaudible).

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SAUERBREY: No. If you start looking at the broad category, I think we're talking about several thousand people who have been translators, worked for the military, worked for various parts of the government. I cannot give you a specific number if you look at all of the people who have worked in some way with the U.S. Government. I can't give you a number.

MR. CASEY: Let's move around and let's go back here.

QUESTION: George Packer from the New Yorker. I mean, isn't it possible to refer not through UNHCR, but through the U.S. Government, which would speed it up and give them a Priority 2 status, especially if you're referring from the Embassy in Baghdad, which means they would not have to go to Amman or Damascus to the UNHCR offices there? Wouldn't it just speed up and streamline and also make safer the entire process if you would refer them from the U.S. Government?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SAUERBREY: We have been in touch with our Embassy and we have made recommendations to the Embassy that they can make direct referrals without going to UNHCR. The answer is yes.

COMMISSIONER GUTERRES: If I may just give information on that. Of the total number of U.S. resettlement cases, UNHCR refers a little bit -- about half. So when we speak about resettlement, we have not a monopoly of referrals and it doesn’t make sense to have that monopoly. And as I said, the U.S. has been accepting, more or less, the -- double than the referrals that are given through UNHCR.

MR. CASEY: Let's go back here.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) of the New York Times. I was wondering if there was a timeframe on the legislation that you were talking about in terms of a special type of visa or --

UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: We need to have an interagency process and discussion on this and so we are embarking on that. Also, clearly, as part of this process, it will involve a budgetary component as well as discussion with members on the Hill. So our expectation is to move very quickly on this. I can't estimate, but I could say to you that we are going to -- we are moving very quickly on this. We want to -- on this option, we want to propose some changes.

MR. CASEY: Let's go down here.

QUESTION: My name is Munir Mawari (ph). I am with Asharq Al Awsat daily Arabic newspaper based in London. My question to Under Secretary, as you heard the High Commissioner he has a relative point of view of the role of the neighboring country, especially Syria and Jordan. Do you share with him this point of view and are you willing to work with Syria regarding this refugee issue?

And my question to the High Commissioner about the displaced Iraqis inside Iraq, do you consider them full refugees and what can you do for them among the security issue?

UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: As to your question, we have valued and we appreciate the assistance that has been rendered in the region by these countries. As I indicated in my opening statement and let me restate it, our diplomats just went in days ago in Syria and also in Jordan to specifically discuss the situation and to try to ensure first asylum -- the upholding of first asylum policy here.

Let me add that it's been just in recent days -- I believe yesterday we got word that we already have 100 referrals in Damascus and we also have literally the beginning of interviewing, based on referrals, as well in Jordan which will start on February 26th. I don't know if you have anything to add on that portion.

COMMISSIONER GUTERRES: Thank you very much. Well, we have seven offices in Iraq: Sulaymaniyah, Arbil, Dahuk, Kirkuk, Baghdad, Nasiriyah and Basra. We are not allowed, according to UN regulations, to have international staff there so we are working based on our own Iraqi staff. I had the opportunity to meet in Kuwait our people that is working in Basra, Nasiriyah and in Amman with our people that is working in Baghdad and I have to pay tribute to their work. It's a very courageous, very brave work and I am very proud of what they are doing. As a matter of fact, they are not only trying to assist refugees inside Iraq and we have still some very difficult groups. I would raise your attention for the plight of 15,000 Palestinian refugees in Baghdad that are becoming targets. Six hundred of them have been killed and this is a very difficult situation we face. But they are working also more and more with people internally displaced in Iraq.

We believe that directly or indirectly through our action that, of course, has many security limitations as you can imagine, we have been able, in 2006, to be of some kind of assistance. I'm not going to say it was much but it was some kind of assistance to about 400,000 Iraqis displaced inside Iraq, which is, in any case, much smaller than the number of Iraqis that have been displaced. It's not easy to work in that environment. But as I said, our staff is doing its best in order to be able to provide the maximum amount of assistance we are able to do so.

We have 20 partners, NGOs -- Iraqis and international -- working with us. And I'd also like to express to them my deep gratitude and appreciation.

MR. CASEY: I think we've got time for one more. So, Michele, why don't you --

QUESTION: Michele Kelemen with National Public Radio. I wondered -- first of all, Mr. Guterres, if you could talk a little bit about the conditions that Iraqi refugees are living in in Syria and Jordan and places that you visited. And whether or not the 60,000 million is even enough given the fact that -- I don't know if it's 50,000 or 100,000 coming out every month, if you could give us a sense of that.

And then I have a technical question for the U.S. side. There's other troubles that Iraqi students and business people have had, that they have old passports that they can no longer get U.S. visas for. And I wonder if this is part of your taskforce, if you're addressing that question.

COMMISSIONER GUTERRES: First of all, the two communities are not identical. The community in Jordan is, as an average, of higher income than the community in Syria, even if today, we also have in Jordan a meaningful amount of poor people. In Syria, you have basically middle class and poor people. But even middle class that left Iraq some months or one or so or two years ago, now their income -- they have no jobs so they are becoming poor. And the number of people poor in both -- especially in Syria, but in both Syria and Jordan, is becoming very worrying and we have several situations that are absolutely dramatic. And (inaudible) some of them in absolute dramatic situations, even women having -- being forced to -- well, use so-called survival sex and things of this sort that are really very worrying and that's why it's absolutely crucial to increase the capacity to assist this group of people.

At the same time, I must say I'm particularly worried with the evolution of the public opinion in these two countries. Listening to cab drivers, to average citizens, people are feeling more and more that many of the problems they face because of inflation, because of difficulty to find flats if they want to marry a daughter or a son are due to the presence of Iraqi refugees. So there is a risk for the protection environment of the Iraqis there and that's why I appeal to a massive support to these countries. Now that massive support is not only through UNHCR. We have a limited role to play and we are going to play it very -- in a very committed way. But it is necessary to understand that the dimension of the problem requires the mobilization of all UN agencies and all forms of bilateral aid to these countries in order for them to be able to cope with such a huge pressure over their economies, their societies, their infrastructure and even their security concerns.

UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: Let me respond to your question and then I wanted just to add one thing to your question earlier because you focused specifically on two countries. And I think it's important to also mention, although the numbers may not be as great, there are a number of countries in the region involved.

On your question, the answer is yes we have the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs who is part of the taskforce. We are primarily focused on refugees, internally displaced persons, and as I indicated, those who have had an association or an affiliation with the U.S. Government. The category you mentioned that could fit in the latter, but we do have and we work closely on the taskforce with our Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs who with our Embassy and our consular apparatus is very engaged in this.

I wanted to add a footnote because I think it's also worth noting that although there are smaller numbers, as we believe, in other countries in the Middle East we are reaching out to all. There are a number in Egypt, in Lebanon, Turkey and also, needless to say, we're working very closely with the Iraqi Government in terms of -- especially internally displaced Iraqis. So I would like to say that the involvement of all and the engagement and the support matters greatly to this effort in helping those in need. Thank you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Iran, follow up. The High Commissioner said that there was also a refugee population in Iran. So when you talk about that outreach is the U.S. Government doing the outreach or is the --

COMMISSIONER GUTERRES: In Iran we have now about 50,000 Iraqi refugees. There has been no meaningful number of new arrivals. This corresponds to a traditional old population that was in Iran that reached 200,000 at a certain moment and they have been very effectively assisted by the Iranian Government. And of course we have long-standing cooperation with Iran about refugees, both Iraqis and Afghans. And they will be part of the conference that will, of course, be held in Geneva in April.

UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: Thank you.

http://www.state.gov/g/rls/rm/80532.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 17 2007, 12:00 PM
MR. CASEY: My God it's Friday and the crowd's thinning faster than my hair. (Laughter.) Anyway, good afternoon, glad to have you all here. Don't have any statements for you, but just wanted to make a quick note before we got to your questions.


We certainly want to take this opportunity to applaud the actions taken today by the Government of Japan for steps they're taking to implement Security Council Resolution 1737, which is designed to help prevent Iran from being able to enhance and continue its development of nuclear weapons. This action's coming several days after the European Union adopted a common position that calls for the implementation of the resolution and also allows for member states to be able to take additional measures beyond those formally required by the resolution as well.


I think you've also seen today that the Department of Treasury has announced a designation of several Iranian companies under terms of an existing executive order, but as part, again, of our efforts to implement this resolution. So I just think it's important to note that the international community is responding to the requirements of Resolution 1737 and I think this reflects the real and serious concern of the countries involved and of the international community more broadly to make sure that this resolution is implemented seriously and that Iran understand the concerns that we all share and our desire to see them apply the requirements of the resolution, as well as the decisions of the IAEA Board of Governors and suspend their uranium enrichment.


So with that, Sylvie.


QUESTION: Did you receive any sign that Russia is also complying with the resolution?


MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen anything specific in terms of implementation from the Russian Government, but of course, the Russian Government was one of those countries that unanimously voted in favor of the resolution and certainly, we expect they and all other members of the Security Council, all other UN members to honor and to fully implement this Chapter 7 resolution.


Let's go back here.


QUESTION: George Slidesmore (phonetic), RCN Colombia. Five Colombian congressmen that were very close to President Uribe were arrested yesterday on charges of corruption and (inaudible) with the illegal paramilitary groups of their country. How this will affect the Colombia-U.S. relationships, in particular with President Uribe? And what would be the repercussion of this affair in the upcoming final negotiations of the free trade agreement with Colombia?


MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I think this is really a matter that you need to talk to the Colombian authorities about. I understand this is a matter that's now and will now be before the Colombian courts. We certainly have faith in the Colombian judicial system to be able to deal with these cases. And again, it's important for -- not only for Colombia, but for all other countries that there be accountability for those who have engaged in any kind of illegal activities, whether that's involvement with paramilitary forces or whether that's simple, straightforward criminal activity.


In terms of the U.S. Government policy, we remain committed to the free trade agreement -- I think Sue Schwab has talked about that over at the U.S. Trade Representatives Office -- and certainly look forward to continuing our cooperation with Colombia not only on trade and economic issues but of course on anti-narcotics cooperation and the other broad range of issues before our relationship.


Yeah, Kirit.


QUESTION: Secretary Rice in her interview with the newspapers yesterday said that the U.S. was pursuing or considering pursuing a second resolution on Iran. Can you give us -- you know, expand on that, what kind of contacts we've had and what that might entail?


MR. CASEY: Well, I think she was pretty clear in what she said yesterday. Certainly we're considering the possibility, but we're doing so obviously in the context of Resolution 1737. The first step in that is seeing what kind of information we get from Mr. -- Dr. ElBaradei, as required under the resolution. I think we're expecting to see that sometime next week. Certainly we'll let him speak to the specifics, but I think it's pretty clear at this point that Iran has not responded in terms of complying with the terms of the resolution. And so with that idea in mind, we've certainly engaged in consultations in New York and among various capitals about what possibilities might there be for a follow-on resolution, whether that makes the most sense or not.


Again, the issue here is not about passing resolutions; the issue here is changing Iranian behavior, and we'll be looking in that light to see whether an additional resolution would be the most appropriate step for us to take to try and again continue to get Iran to change its behavior.


QUESTION: Can you elaborate on any of the details of what you guys are looking at at this time?


MR. CASEY: No. Again, I think at this point, this is at early stages of consultations and I'll leave it to the folks involved in that to work on and formulate their ideas. I'm sure you'll be hearing more from us about this in the coming days and weeks.


QUESTION: Sorry, one more.


MR. CASEY: It's okay, sure.


QUESTION: Is there any sort of timeline you guys are looking at? I mean --


MR. CASEY: Well, again, the resolution calls for a report to be filed. I believe the formal deadline for it is the 21st. I expect we'll see that report from the IAEA, from Dr. ElBaradei, in that timeframe. And then we'll have a chance to discuss it in the Security Council. I think, you know, within a reasonable period thereafter we'll be able to make a decision based on what we see in that report and based on the consultations we have, but I can't put a specific timeline on you for it.


QUESTION: Have you been talking to the Russians specifically about it?


MR. CASEY: I'm not honestly sure, Arshad, what specific conversations have gone on. Certainly I know that Under Secretary Burns is in regular contact with his political directors' counterparts, including the Russians. Again, I think these consultations have been relatively preliminary at this point since we don't have a report in yet, but I know that the Russian Government has been consulted, as have been the other members of the P-5+1, and I think those conversations have taken place here in Washington, in capitals as well as in New York.


QUESTION: And can you -- and I realize it's hard for you to go beyond what the Secretary said and I'm not in any way trying to --


MR. CASEY: Yeah, I try and let her make the news, not me.


QUESTION: But what I'm trying to understand is why, given how difficult the negotiations were to get the first sanctions resolution and given the strength of the Russian objections that led to it being changed, some might say watered down repeatedly from the original draft to the final, why you think it may be beneficial to look at a second one, now less than two months after the passage of the first one.


MR. CASEY: Well, I think it's just a straightforward logical proposition. We passed one resolution. It's imposed a certain series of Chapter 7 sanctions on Iran. That resolution specifically said we'd get a report from the Director General about Iran's compliance or lack thereof with the resolution, and that depending on what that report showed the Security Council said it would agree to take up and consider further measures. So certainly it's something we want to consider.


Now, in terms of the passage of the first resolution, look, we've said all along this is tough diplomacy, multilateral diplomacy often is, and it's often something that takes time. We believe that taking the time to do this and do it right, and do it right meaning getting what we got, which was a resolution unanimously approved by all members, and then as I said at the beginning of the briefing we're seeing real implementation measures associated with, was a good thing. It put positive pressure on Iran to comply with the terms of the resolution.


And so certainly, while we're not in a position yet to say that we will in fact go ahead with this, we certainly want to consider whether additional Security Council action is appropriate. So again I think it's just logical and in fact is previewed in the existing resolution.


QUESTION: Tom, would you say that the U.S. was the one that went out to capitals, to other capitals to propose this idea of a second resolution?


MR. CASEY: Well, there's ongoing discussions that have happened both before the passage of 1737 and after the passage of 1737. Some of those were initiated by us, some of those were initiated by other people. Again, I think all the parties, all the countries that voted for that resolution understood that part of what they were voting for were clauses specifically saying the Security Council would consider other measures if Iran had not complied. So again, this is part of the mix and I think this has been an ongoing process.


QUESTION: Just what I'm trying to figure out is whether this is the U.S. idea of having a second resolution or rather there's a broader consensus that this is the way to go about this?


MR. CASEY: Well, again, we haven't -- as the Secretary said, we haven't made any firm determinations on what our position is on this yet. I'm not aware that any of the other members of the P-5+1 or Security Council have come to any firm conclusions either. But I think everyone's interested in discussing what our next steps are, since again unfortunately, it appears that Iran is not going to comply by this deadline that was set out in the resolution.


QUESTION: Sorry, last one.


MR. CASEY: Sure. Last one? Last --


QUESTION: Last one. Okay, you said this was one of the options being looked at. Can you talk about any of the options that are being looked at?


MR. CASEY: Again, I think we need to let the diplomacy take shape on this one. Obviously again our goal here is to change Iranian behavior and to have them comply with the Security Council resolution, to suspend the uranium enrichment activities and then to come to talks with us and with the other members of the P-5+1 so that we can resolve this issue and we can resolve this issue in a peaceful, diplomatic way. There are plenty of tools in the diplomatic arsenal. There are many options available to people. A Security Council resolution or a second Security Council Resolution is one of them. But there are certainly others out there and I think the international community is going to have to look at all its possible options as we move down this road.


Again, I'd remind people, too, that the P-5+1 back this past summer put forward a choice for Iran to make, a positive path which involve negotiations and ultimately the permanent resolution of this issue in a way that would allow them to have a peaceful civilian nuclear program, but would provide guarantees to the international community that they were not in fact using that as a cover for building a nuclear weapon and a negative pathway.


And unfortunately despite the efforts of the P-5+1 or the EU-3+3, despite the negotiating efforts of Mr. Solana, the interventions of many other friends in the international community who've encouraged Iran to turn away from that path and move down a positive one. Iran continues to move in this direction. And so the international community has responded to that by passing this resolution, taking a number of steps, and we'll see now, if they again continue down this pathway of defiance, what the next steps ought to be.


Sylvie. I will get to you, Mr. Lambros, I promise.


QUESTION: The Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said this morning that if Kosovo were to obtain independence, it would have the most severe consequences in the region and in the world. Do you have any comment on that?


MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think you know where our position is on this and it hasn't changed. We're supporting the efforts of Mr. Ahtisaari and his plan. We think that that's something that the parties need to work with him on to be able to implement. We think that it's important that this issue be resolved, and I think you heard from the Secretary this morning in her testimony in the House say that this is an important issue to resolve because we want to, in effect, complete the work that was started with the fall of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall, to be able to unite Europe and unite Europe in a way that is peaceful and that ends some of the longstanding conflicts that resulted from those changes in the political scene back in the 1990s.


So we're going to be continuing to work with Mr. Ahtisaari. We're certainly going to be continuing to encourage the parties to work with him and to move forward on this plan. And we expect that the international community will ultimately rally behind and support these efforts because this is something that is an issue, whose time has come. And it's time to resolve this issue and resolve it for the benefit of all parties in the region.


QUESTION: Do you have any diplomatic contact with Russia on this subject? Do you try to convince them?


MR. CASEY: Well, I know this -- I'd have to go back and check my notes on it. I know certainly it's an issue that the Secretary has discussed with Foreign Minister Lavrov. It's a subject of ongoing discussion among those envoys who are working on this issue. So certainly it's something that the Russian Government and we discuss, along with our other partners and expect we will continue to do so.


Mr. Lambros.


QUESTION: Yes, Mr. Casey, the same subject. Before yesterday, the Serbian parliament by majority, 225 to 15, rejected the Annan plan -- excuse me, the Ahtisaari plan to grant independence to Kosovo actually by (inaudible) of the nation to your chosen people, the Albanians. Any comment on the rejection by Serbia?


MR. CASEY: Our chosen people? Hmm.


QUESTION: The story -- this is true. It's a deed of the --


MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, look, I think the United States interest in the Balkans and in Kosovo is to ensure that there's an outcome that serves the interest of all the people, one that, again, helps complete the work that was begun after the end of the Soviet Union to establish a Europe that's whole, free and at peace. And as everyone agreed in UN Resolution 1244, there would be an appropriate time for the final status of Kosovo to be determined. The process has been laid out for that. Mr. Ahtisaari has come forward with a plan and we think it's very important that the parties work with him to implement that one.


With respect to the specific vote in the Serbian parliament, my understanding of that is that that vote simply reaffirms the existing positions that had been laid out by the previous government in Serbia. And again, while we certainly respect the right of the parliament to do so, we believe it's important now for the Serbian Government to engage with Mr. Ahtisaari, engage with the parties in Kosovo and work on the best ways to implement that plan. Because again, that plan will provide for the rights and responsibilities of all parties, ensure protection of minorities, including the Serb minority in Kosovo, and help get us to where Serbia wants to be, where the people in the area of Kosovo want to be and where the whole region wants to be, which is at peace and working towards economic prosperity and development, not continuing in a state of conflict.


QUESTION: The UN police commander in Kosovo resigned last Wednesday after violent clashes between the police and Albanian demonstrators, left two protestors dead and another one critically injured. Anything to say about that?


MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I believe that our mission there has spoken to that issue. I don't have anything new for you beyond that. Certainly we want everyone to express their views on this issue, which we understand creates a lot of emotion, in a way that's peaceful and that's respectful of the opinions of others.


In terms of his specific resignation, I'd refer you out to our mission and to the UN authorities there.


QUESTION: And one more on Kosovo. Last week, the Metropolitan of Kosovo, Artemije of the Serbian Orthodox Church, was here in Washington in order to discuss the Kosovo issue with U.S. Governmental official and also in Congress. I'm wondering if he met any under secretary or deputy assistant secretary for this issue.


MR. CASEY: I'm honestly not sure who he might have met with in this building, but we'll ask our friends in the European Bureau to get back to you on it.


QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. CASEY: Arshad.


QUESTION: As you know, a judge in Milan today ordered 26 American citizens to stand trial for the abduction of a Muslim cleric. Does the U.S. Government intend to produce those 26 men for that trial or to oppose their being so tried?


MR. CASEY: Well, Arshad, we spoke to this a little bit this morning and I frankly don't have much more to offer you than that. Again, this is an issue that's before the judiciary in Italy. In as much as it affects any American citizens or if there's any American Government involvement in that process, that's really going to be a matter that'll be handled by the U.S. Department of Justice and I'd refer you to them for any comments they might care to make on it. I'm not aware of any specific interactions on this that might have occurred.


QUESTION: But I think they would only become involved if there were to be a U.S. Government interest here; correct? I mean, is it not conceivable that the men simply report for trial, as they have been indicted and that the U.S. Government and the State Department might have an opinion on this?


MR. CASEY: Well, my assumptions would probably be based on non-lawyerly expertise and I'll leave it to the lawyers to talk to you about that. Again, the Justice Department is, in effect, the U.S. Government's lawyer and if there's any discussions back and forth between judicial authorities in Italy, the primary folks for doing those discussions would be there. Again, I'll leave it to them. Particularly since it's a legal issue and one before the courts, I think that's really the appropriate venue for this.


QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit about the trip? Specifically, the -- what do you make of these reports that are coming out quoting Palestinian officials saying that the U.S. will absolutely not deal with this proposed unity government?


MR. CASEY: Well, again, we've talked about this and she spoke to it in her interview with some of your print colleagues yesterday. Our position on the Palestinian unity government, I think, has been fairly clear. We do not, at this point, have enough information about it, have not seen it name specific individuals to it and have not seen the specific policies that it plans to adopt. So at this point, we are really still in a wait and see position.


We want, though, for the Palestinian people to have a government that is able to move forward with the roadmap, with the peace process, and able to move forward to achieve their aspirations for a Palestinian state that can be at peace with Israel and with all its neighbors, so we definitely think they deserve a government that honors the Quartet principles. But we're going to continue to be looking at that government's formation and then we'll be in a position to make a determination about how we might or might not be able to engage in it.


I do think it's very clear, though, that the international community, that the Quartet, in statements as recently as last week, have indicated that those principles that are there are very clear and that for any Palestinian government to be able to have a positive relationship with the international community, that government is -- have to be able to meet those terms.


QUESTION: Do you have an indication of the kind of methods that she'll be bringing to them and specifically in terms of recognizing Israel, will there be a tough message saying that they will not -- you won't deal with them unless they do recognize Israel?


MR. CASEY: Well, look, the Quartet statement I think is pretty clear and pretty self-explanatory. You know, those terms and conditions are not, we think, particularly onerous or difficult for a government to meet. And they are essential if there's to be a full partner for peace in that Palestinian government with Israel.


Now, the Secretary is going out to the region today. She will have individual meetings with President Abbas and with Prime Minister Olmert. I'm sure there'll be a number of ideas exchanged about the unity government. But also as part of this discussion that's going on, there will be a trilateral meeting between her and President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert. And I do continue to expect that the focus of that is going to be looking at the many issues that are out there toward achieving the goals of the roadmap including, as she has discussed, looking at the political horizon and seeing what kinds of ideas are out there and what kinds of agreements might be possible. Again, these are issues that in many ways haven't been discussed for six years and after six years it's appropriate to have some informal conversations about that and see where they go.


Let's go over to Samir.


QUESTION: Yes. She said in the interviews also that she expects while the Palestinian and the Israelis have achieved some progress, she expects Arab states to open up to Israel. Can you explain what she meant, like give us a specific example on this?


MR. CASEY: Well, I think her comments on that subject were fairly clear and are things that she's said before. Certainly in terms of a comprehensive peace in the region you need to have the completion of the roadmap. You need to have the establishment of a Palestinian state that can live at peace with Israel and all its neighbors, but you certainly also need to have a discussion and ultimately have peaceful relations between Israel and all of its neighbors, too. That's ultimately the goal of a Middle East that is at peace and is stable and is a place where all states in the region have good relations with one another.


QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. CASEY: Last one, Mr. Lambros.


QUESTION: On Turkey, Mr. Casey, it's very important. Last Tuesday upon the arrival here in the town of the Turkish General Yasar Buyukanit, who's very, very sensitive about Islamists in Turkey, Washington Post with a front page story disclosed that al-Qaida is very active in Istanbul. In Turkey Islamists met with Usama bin Laden. Do you have anything to say since America is on the war on terror? And it's obvious, Mr. Casey, that the U.S. Government and General Buyukanit are in the same line on the Islamist issue for unknown reasons.


MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, in terms of the Washington Post story, you can figure out who their sources were and go ask them. I don't think we have anything specific to say beyond what's in our annual counterterrorism report in terms of al-Qaida operations in Turkey or any place else. Certainly, Turkey has been under threat from terrorism over time, too, and that's why Turkey's been a strong partner with us in working on counterterrorism issues. Certainly, we are very interested and very actively engaged with the Government of Turkey and the Government of Iraq as well in trying to respond to the challenges and threats posed by PKK terrorism. So we're an active partner with the Government of Turkey on those issues.


Let's let Nina go first and then we'll get back to you.


QUESTION: Anything more to add to these reports that al-Masri might have been injured in Iraq?


MR. CASEY: No. I've seen those but I think what I've seen have been several conflicting reports and honestly I don't have any information that would clarify that for you right now.


QUESTION: May I ask one on Darfur?


MR. CASEY: Sure.


QUESTION: We've heard Bashir today saying that he's absolutely rejecting this hybrid force still. Any reaction to that?


MR. CASEY: Well, I'd point you first to what Secretary General Ban said, which was to express his -- rather bluntly expressed his strong disappointment with some of the statements that he's heard coming from Khartoum now. Look, it's imperative that we move forward as quickly as possible with deployment of this hybrid force. That is a process that we understand takes time but needs to move as quickly as possible and that's why we're working with the UN and AU and others to try to encourage them to move this forward and also trying to continue to put pressure on the government in Khartoum to do what it's basically committed to do in the first place, which is honor these agreements in Addis and allow for full deployment of the hybrid force. And I think we have made it clear that if that kind of cooperation stops then there are other measures out there that the international community will look at and certainly the United States is looking at.


QUESTION: Do you have any sense of deadline for this yet?


MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think we are moving forward still with deployment of phase one and the initial parts of phase two, as I understand it, with the force. There are certainly options that are on the table and there are certainly other alternatives that are out there. But we want to, first and foremost, get that force in and the benchmark for when other options would need to be looked at will be when and if cooperation with implementing that force stops.


QUESTION: Is phase two really moving forward? I mean, aren't a lot of people stuck in Ethiopia trying to --


MR. CASEY: I don't have -- to be honest with you as of today -- an update on sort of the moving pieces involved on the UN side. Certainly, though, there's more that needs to be done as you've heard from this podium as well as from elsewhere from officials in this building, we need to see the international community step up. We need to see more troop contributions being made to that force so that we can move forward with phase two and with phase three, again, as quickly and as effectively as possible. There's no substitute for having this hybrid force in place and having the people of Darfur gain the kinds of protections from it that we all agree they need.


Thank you.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/80610.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 19 2007, 07:14 PM
Statement With Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert After Their Meeting

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Jerusalem
February 19, 2007

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met today, February 19. It was a useful and productive meeting.

The leaders affirmed their commitment to a two-state solution, agreed that a Palestinian state cannot be born of violence and terror, and reiterated their acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap.

The President and the Prime Minister discussed how to move forward on mutual obligations in the Roadmap in regard to the implementation of Phase I.

The participants called for respecting the ceasefire declared in November.

The President and the Prime Minister also discussed issues arising from the agreement for a Palestinian national unity government, and the position of the Quartet that any Palestinian Authority government must be committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including regarding the Roadmap.

The President and the Prime Minister discussed their views of the diplomatic and political horizon and how it might unfold toward the two state vision of President Bush.

The President and the Prime Minister agreed that they would meet together again soon. They reiterated their desire for American participation and leadership in facilitating efforts to overcome obstacles, rally regional and international support, and move forward toward peace.

In that vein, Secretary Rice expects to return soon.

2007/T3-9

Released on February 19, 2007

http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2007/feb/80659.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 23 2007, 04:05 PM
TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

1:15 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Okay. First of all, thanks again, Tom. I appreciate you taking the time to join us at the start of the briefing. With that, we'll go to whatever else you have on your agenda.

George.


QUESTION: Reaction to the IAEA report?


MR. CASEY: Well, as you know, the report has now been issued and circulated. While I think everyone needs to take a good chance to look at it and review it carefully, what does come through in it are the basic conclusions that I think we'd all pretty much foreseen going into this, which is first that Iran has not complied with the requirements of the UN Security Council and has not stopped enriching uranium, Iran has not ceased any of its other uranium enrichment activities and it also has not answered the outstanding questions that the IAE -- IAEA, excuse me, has had for some time about the origins of their program, including a series of issues such as where various kinds of uranium contamination, HEU as well as LEU had come from.


So the report, I think, gives us a pretty clear picture that shows that Iran has not changed its behavior, has not changed its views and is continuing on the path of defiance. And as I told you this morning, that's unfortunate. We think that it would be far better for the Iranian people as well as for the international community to be able to have Iran engage with the permanent members of the Security Council and Germany in negotiations. But of course, to do that, it requires them to heed the requirements of the resolution and suspend the uranium enrichment activities.


So the next steps are to look at in the Security Council what we might need to do in response to this. And I know there are consultations that are underway. The Secretary had some meetings relevant to this this morning before she left Berlin and she's spoken to that already. There are ongoing consultations in New York. As I mentioned, Nick Burns has been very active in terms of discussing this issue with his colleagues. And I think you'll see over the coming days an outline starting to appear of how we'd like to respond to this.


My understanding in terms of the specific actions in the Security Council is we are awaiting a formal meeting to be called by the presidency. I have an understanding that that will likely take place next week, and that will be the first of the Council's formal opportunities to review the report and take a look at things. But again, we'll be continuing to consult outside of that formal meeting structure with our partners and allies as we move along here.


Well, that was easy. (Laughter.)


QUESTION: No, is it still --


MR. CASEY: Sorry, go ahead.


QUESTION: The Secretary said last week that although no decision had been made, it was likely that you would seek a second resolution. You've seen nothing whatsoever that dissuades you from that view? I mean, if anything, it's probably more likely that you'll --


MR. CASEY: No, I think clearly while we again need to look at all the details of the report, it's very clear that none of the requirements of the resolution have been met. The resolution then says that the Council is going to meet and look at and consider other action -- other actions in response to Iran's noncompliance. So we'll certainly be doing that. And while I don't want to prejudge anything, as the Secretary has said, we're -- you know, considering and looking at a second resolution. Certainly though, there are going to be additional actions taken by the international community in response to Iran's noncompliance.


And again, the goal here is to convince Iran to change its behavior and to do what its been so long asked of it, which is to suspend its uranium enrichment activities and come back to the talks. And again, as I said this morning, I think that this is a real missed opportunity, another missed opportunity on the part of the Government of Iran, to not only engage with the international community but to really do the right thing by its people.


The United States and the broad international community does not object to civilian nuclear power for Iran or for any other country that operates in good standing with its international obligations. And certainly whether you look at the proposals that have been put on the table over the course of the last couple of years by the Russians among others to try and address this situation, time and again, unfortunately, what's happened is the Iranian Government has spurned all those opportunities to resolve this issue in a way that would allow them to achieve their stated objective but would assure the international community that they're not actually using those programs to cover the development of a nuclear weapon.


So I think it's a fair question for anyone that holds that this is simply just a normal, regular old civilian nuclear program why it is that the Iranians seems so intent -- the Iranian Government seems so intent on refusing all these opportunities to have them achieve that objective but still resolve the many questions that are outstanding and provide assurances that the international community clearly and repeatedly has said it needs.


QUESTION: Tom?


MR. CASEY: Yeah.


QUESTION: I've got to say, I feel like I'm coming in where I left off two years ago in this story. But you talked about the outside consultations. Are you aware of any -- of what those are right now? Are they going on here? Are they going on in New York right now or --


MR. CASEY: Well, there are consultations going on in several formats. The Secretary mentioned this morning in her comments that she had met and discussed the Iranian issue with several of her colleagues there. Under Secretary Burns, as I mentioned, has also been engaged via the phone with some of his counterparts. And there are active discussions and formal discussions going on in New York with Ambassador Wolf and other members of our UN team.


QUESTION: Is the -- the context of those discussions is what to do in the Council or just talking about the report? Have you gotten to that stage what to do in the Council or are you just talking --


MR. CASEY: Well, the context right now is, you know, getting people's assessments of the report and then also talking about what others as well as we consider to be logical next steps and what we might do. Again, the Secretary signaled that we certainly are considering the possibility of another resolution, but that will obviously depend on the results of these consultations and where all of us feel we can best apply our influence and best take steps to encourage the Iranians to comply with their obligations.


Let's go back here.


QUESTION: Different topic?


MR. CASEY: Sure.


QUESTION: Sorry --


QUESTION: Come back.


MR. CASEY: One hold on that. Let's go back to Sylvie.


QUESTION: Do you have any sense of -- already I don't know if you had the possibility -- do you have any sense of the readiness of Russia to talk about another resolution since the Secretary met with Foreign Minister Lavrov?


MR. CASEY: I don't have a readout on her conversations specifically and I'd leave it to the party to address that. But we've very much been in engaged with all members of the permanent five as well as Germany on this subject. Certainly, we believe that the Russians continue to understand the seriousness of the defiance of Iran for the international community, including for the Security Council resolutions that they helped craft and voted for. And certainly they are concerned about this and are engaged with us in these discussions about next steps.


Yeah. Same subject, anybody? Nina?


QUESTION: Yeah. The report itself reports a very low level of uranium enrichment. I mean, certainly not weapons grade. What does this tell us, do you think, in reality the progress of the program?


MR. CASEY: Well, I don't think -- and I'll leave it to both the experts at the IAEA as well as technical experts in this government to give you an assessment of where that specifically leaves them. Certainly what is clear though is that they have not only not suspended their uranium enrichment activities as required, but they're continuing to try and push ahead with them. As to what technical obstacles they have or haven't encountered, I'll leave it to the people that really understand the ins and outs of the nuclear fuel cycle to give you an evaluation of that.


QUESTION: Can I follow up, please?


MR. CASEY: A follow-up? Sure.


QUESTION: A question about the language that ElBaradei tends to use in these reports. In previous reports he said that he -- his general line is he cannot verify the uranium nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. Is this language strong enough? I mean, should it be saying he can't verify that it's peaceful? Should it be saying that they really are up to no good?


MR. CASEY: Now look, this is a technical report and when you look at that -- and this is the language that the IAEA and their technical experts use in producing these kinds of documents -- I think it's very disturbing when you see international inspectors after several years of review and after several years of asking for information and asking for questions being able to fundamentally not make a clear statement as to what that nuclear program is for.


And the fact that they cannot rule out diversion of nuclear materials, that they cannot rule out programs outside of what's been formally declared, the fact that even among the things that are formally declared there are many, many unanswered questions, I think makes it pretty clear to most people that this program which had an almost two-decade clandestine history before it was ever brought to light is one that the international community definitely needs to be concerned about.


And you again have to ask yourself, with all the opportunities that are being provided and have been provided over the years for Iran to resolve these issues peacefully, reasonably and do so in a way that would still allow them to have a civilian nuclear program, what is the intention? And I think for us, it's very clear that the intention is not just to develop civilian nuclear power but to use this as a cover for a nuclear weapons program.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Tom, part of --


MR. CASEY: Okay. Same subject?


QUESTION: Same subject.


MR. CASEY: Okay. Go ahead, Joel, and then we'll move on down in front.


QUESTION: Tom, Secretary Hill in delivering a address at Brookings was commenting that the Iranian nuclear reactor work was totally separate from, of course, North Korea. Now it appears to be an infrastructure that is with a black market hidden -- it could very well be banking and suppliers. Are we going -- or asking international community, meaning the talks in Europe that Condoleezza Rice has just had in Berlin, to go after those suppliers, not necessarily at government level but there's a criminal element that's supplying all this equipment and it just doesn't merely stop. You want it to stop quickly and it's just dragging on. You've dragged on in these talks for better than a year and half.


MR. CASEY: Well, but Joel, I think what you're leaving out of the picture here are a number of things. First of all, for the part of the United States, it was a very active program, both established by law as well as through executive order, to prevent the transfer of nuclear technologies, other WMD technologies, ballistic missile technologies. There are international regimens as well that many countries have subscribed to doing that. There are efforts led by the United States, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative, designed to make sure that those, whether countries or commercial entities or other kinds of networks trying to traffic in these materials can be identified, interdicted and ultimately brought down.


There are also activities that are underway, whether it's with respect to Iran or North Korea or other countries who have come under Chapter 7 sanctions to make required, as a legally binding Chapter 7 requirement, that countries again take actions to prevent the transfer of technologies openly, clandestinely or otherwise to countries that are attempting to develop nuclear weapons or attempting to proliferate these technologies.


So there's a lot of work that is actually going on in this area. Certainly there's more that needs to be done because we all understand the implications of nuclear proliferation, whether that's in the hands of a negative state actor such as the Iranian Government or whether that's potentially in the hands of a terrorist group.


Let's go down here. Sure.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) talking to China for this specific matter. The talking will be in the level of Under Secretary Burns or Secretary Negroponte when he travel to China to the area will the --


MR. CASEY: Well, I think first of all, again, as you know, a lot of the conversations among the P-5+1 have been handled at the political directors level, which is Under Secretary Burns, and I fully expect he'll continue to be engaged in this. As we said when we announced Deputy Secretary Negroponte's trip to Asia a couple days ago, the -- one of the many issues that he expects to raise in the context of his discussions with all three countries is Iran, along with a variety of other issues. So I'm sure that this subject will come up in his discussions certainly with the Chinese as well as other countries.


You have to remember, too, Japan has recently taken some steps in terms of cracking down on potential proliferation issues related to Iran and in compliance with Security Council resolutions. So all countries have obligations to work on this issue. So I'm sure it'll come up in the context of his discussions. But I think in terms of working out some of the more specific details of a potential resolution and follow-on actions that activity will also, of course, involve Under Secretary Burns and our Ambassador, or our chargé really in New York Alex Wolf, and his counterparts there.


QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. CASEY: Let's go back here.


QUESTION: Different topic.


MR. CASEY: Sure.


QUESTION: Norway opened a conference to discuss a ban on cluster bombs. They have invited 48 nations to discuss the matter. Given the U.S. stance against the usage, why did the U.S. choose not to attend?


MR. CASEY: You know, I've seen some reporting on this. But I honestly don't have updated material on this for you, so we'll get you an answer on that and post something for you later.


QUESTION: A quick follow-up then.


MR. CASEY: Sure.


QUESTION: So what would the official U.S. stance be against such a ban?


MR. CASEY: Well, I think you can talk to the Pentagon about the use of these munitions. I am not familiar to be honest with you with the specific developments of the legal documents people are considering out in Norway. In general, though, the United States always wishes to make sure that legitimate use of weapons under international laws is always allowed. But in terms of the specifics on this actual conference and event, we'll be happy to get you some information on it later.


Yeah, David.


QUESTION: Tom, a few days ago Albania had a set of elections that were considered important test of their aspirations to the Euro-Institutions. And I was wondering whether the United States had a view on the conduct of those elections?


MR. CASEY: Well, I think when you look at this -- first of all, we generally viewed the February 18 elections as peaceful and democratic. And we did note the report that was done by the OSCE's office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. They did issue a preliminary report and that did identify some technical and procedural concerns, as well as some problems in the preparation and conduct of the elections. And we certainly agree with their assessment, with the OSCE's assessment, and encouragement to Albanian political forces to work together at this point to continue the process of electoral reforms and ultimately accomplish the goals that they've set out for themselves of completing this process so that future elections will meet the highest standards.


QUESTION: There seems to be some feeling in Albania that's there daylight between the U.S. and OSCE positions on elections with the U.S., maybe somewhat more lenient. Is there anything to that?


MR. CASEY: Well, again, as I said, we associate ourselves with the OSCE's report on this subject. As you know, not only in Albania, but in many countries in the sphere in which the OSCE operates, we take very seriously and often rely on the efforts of the OSCE to which we often contribute for analysis and review of different electoral processes, specifically what has the oftentimes interesting acronym of ODIHR, but the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, which work on these issues have both internally amongst themselves as well as on the resources they draw from member states, a great deal of technical expertise and we have great respect for it. And again, in this case, we concur with their assessment of this election.


Yeah, Arshad.


QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the sentencing of an Egyptian blogger to four years in prison for allegedly having insulted Islam and President Mubarak?


MR. CASEY: Yeah, I did look into this. We are very concerned by the conviction and prison sentence of Mr. Abdel Karim for expressing his opinions. And as far as our record show, he's the first Egyptian blogger to be prosecuted for the contents of his remark. And certainly while we have great respect for all religions, including certainly Islam, the role of freedom of expression is critical for the development of a democratic and prosperous society. And so free expression of opinion and free speech are a critical component of that, including on the internet, and I think we view them as part of general basic human rights.


QUESTION: Have you conveyed that view to the Egyptian Government?


MR. CASEY: We have discussed this issue in general with the Egyptian Government. You'll note, too, that Mr. Karim is mentioned actually in our human rights report from this past year. So we have discussed issues involving him at this time. I understand we'll be discussing this specific action with them as well. I did not get confirmation that those conversations have yet taken place, though.


QUESTION: And can I follow up on George's question of this morning --


MR. CASEY: Sure.


QUESTION: -- regarding the Egyptian man alleged to have been the subject of rendition and so on and his claims that he was tortured while in Egyptian custody has been released and fears that he'll be arrested and tortured again. Are you concerned about that?


MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, other than the press reports, I don't have any information to verify or corroborate any of his statements about his treatment in Egyptian custody. I will say though -- and again, this relates back to the previous question we discussed as well -- human rights is an important part of our dialogue with the Egyptian Government throughout our relationship with them. It's a subject that the Secretary discusses, as well as other senior officials.


And if you look at our -- again, going back to our Human Rights Report, we do raise a number of concerns and questions about some judicial procedures as well as treatment of those in custody in Egypt. So this -- these kinds of issues are a regular part of our dialogue with the Egyptians.


QUESTION: Well, are you going to look further into this and perhaps tell us, you know, something about what you learned?


MR. CASEY: George, again, I think with respect to this individual and some of his claims, I really don't have anything new to offer you.


QUESTION: Well, no, I don't mean now. I mean next week when you've had a chance to look into it.


MR. CASEY: If we have anything more to offer you on it, I'll let you know.


QUESTION: Doesn't it raise questions on your rendition program, which is supposed to be (inaudible) -- assurances that the prisoners you send back to that country won't be tortured?


MR. CASEY: Well, again, I have nothing additional to tell you about this man's claims that have been made. We've made it clear repeatedly, and I'll just say it again for the record, that we don't transport and have not transported detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation by torture. That is a policy that you've heard from us before. It applies in all cases.


QUESTION: So did you receive any assurances from Egypt that he wouldn't be tortured?


MR. CASEY: Again, I have nothing new to discuss on this individual's case beyond what you've heard from other people previously.


Joel.


QUESTION: Tom, over at the National Press Club, the World Sindhi Institute is holding a press conference today and they're worried and concerned about humanitarian matters stemming from Baluchistan Province, the area of Quetta, and there are some people under detention. And also, at the same time, the Pakistani Government -- this is mostly a humanitarian group -- are denying their representation at the UN. Do you have anything that you can say concerning that?


MR. CASEY: Sorry. Denying who representation at the UN?


QUESTION: These -- it's largely an advocacy humanitarian style group that's a worldwide organization for representation at the United Nations.


MR. CASEY: Joel, I'd refer you to the United Nations on that though, but individual countries, as I understand it, don't make determinations on which groups gain observer status at the UN. That's a process that is handled in the committee framework there. But I'm not aware of any specific activity that --


QUESTION: And they've been represented before.


MR. CASEY: Yeah, again, I'd refer you back up to the UN. I just don't have anything on it.


Arshad.


QUESTION: If you have anything on this -- if you don't, if you could look into it, that would be great.


MR. CASEY: Okay, sure.


QUESTION: A man who represents three Cuban boxers says that they have been denied entry to the United States. They apparently applied for visas from Colombia and they were -- according to their representative, they were denied visas because they don't have a permanent residence. The reason they don't have a permanent residence is that they defected from Cuba, so it's kind of a catch-22.


Do you have anything on this? Is this true? Were these men denied visas? Are you reviewing the case?


MR. CASEY: You know, I think I had some stuff in here earlier but I can't seem to find it, Arshad. We'll get you --


QUESTION: If you could, that'd be great.


MR. CASEY: We'll get you an answer on that and have something for you.


QUESTION: Thank you.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/80900.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 26 2007, 03:49 PM
Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 26, 2007



Dobriansky Participates in U.S. Launch of International Polar Year



The Honorable Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, delivered remarks at the U.S. launch of International Polar Year at the National Academies of Science in Washington, D.C., on Monday, February 26, 2007.

The International Polar Year is a scientific program focused on the Arctic and the Antarctic. International Polar Year will involve more than 200 projects, with thousands of scientists from more than 60 nations examining a wide range of physical, biological and social research topics.

Many U.S. agencies are engaged in scientific research and outreach efforts in support of U.S. International Polar Year. The Department of State directs international relations in polar affairs, leads federal policy with respect to the Arctic and Antarctic, and heads U.S. delegations to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the Arctic Council, and other polar organizations and fora. The Department plans to highlight the outcomes of International Polar Year when it hosts the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in 2009. That event will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty.


The Department supports U.S. scientific efforts worldwide by facilitating scientific cooperation with foreign governments through science and technology agreements, and numerous other cooperative arrangements. The Department is actively supporting U.S.-led International Polar Year projects, including the Arctic Human Health Initiative and the Arctic Energy Summit, which address this polar year's emphasis on the people living in the Arctic. The Department is also helping to fund a monitoring program led by Alaska natives.


For additional information about International Polar Year please see: www.ipy.gov and http://www.state.gov/g/oes/ocns/ipy/


2007/133


Released on February 26, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/february/81077.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 27 2007, 02:39 PM
Remarks at the Swearing-in Ceremony of the Honorable John Negroponte as Deputy Secretary of State

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
February 27, 2007

Remarks by President Bush and Deputy Secretary John Negroponte | View Video

10:25 a.m. EDT

SECRETARY RICE: Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, members of Congress, members of the Administration, it is a great pleasure to welcome you here to the State Department for the swearing-in of John Negroponte as Deputy Secretary of State. We are honored to have John's family with us, his wife, Diana, his children, Marina, Alejandra, John, George and Sophia. And of course, we are really honored to have our very special guest, the President of the United States, George W. Bush.


(Applause.)


SECRETARY RICE: Mr. President, in John Negroponte, you could not have chosen a more capable, more dedicated, or more experienced public servant. John's tenure in the Foreign Service began during the Eisenhower Administration. He has served every president since and now, this legend of American diplomacy returns home.


As you know, Mr. President, our nation has the finest diplomatic corps in the world and we're asking more of them today than ever before. All across the globe, the men and women of the State Department are serving honorably, far away from their homes, and very often far away from their families as well. In fact, many are on the front lines in some of the toughest places in the world, serving shoulder to shoulder with our men and women in uniform and risking their lives for the sake of our country.


Every day, in every country, our diplomats and civilians are working to realize America's vision of a community of nations growing in security, prosperity, and liberty. They are drawing on the compassion of America to help eradicate diseases like AIDS and malaria, to fight poverty and injustice, and to support what you have called the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity. And they are doing their part to defend America and our allies in the global war on terror.


It is for that reason that I am so delighted to welcome John back, because he will be a great leader and an inspiration to the men and women of American diplomacy. And I know that they will be an inspiration for him, as they are for me and for all of us.


Thank you, Mr. President, for your steadfast support of the Department, for your steadfast support of the men and women of American diplomacy, and thank you for bringing John back to State. We're grateful for your leadership, we are honored by your presence here today, and it's my privilege to invite you to take the podium. Mr. President.

http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2007/feb/81123.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 27 2007, 08:15 PM
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. We have the Secretary testifying up on the Hill before the Senate Appropriations Committee in a while but I am here to take whatever questions you may have.


QUESTION: Sean, it is, indeed, the U.S. Government's intention to attend both of these conferences if they are held; correct?


MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.


QUESTION: Can you help clarify whether you would rule out the possibility of bilateral talks with the Iranians at either of these meetings?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, let's back up just so -- you know the context of this question. Let's fill people in. The Iraqi Government has issued invitations to its neighbors, the UN Security Council Permanent 5 as well as some other international organizations, to attend a regional meeting in Baghdad at the envoys level. That would happen the first half of March. There is also an intention to hold another meeting with the same group, however, at the ministerial level and adding in the G-8 countries. So that will pick up Canada, Italy, Germany, and Japan.


The Iraqis are going to set the agenda for both of these meetings. We would expect that it would focus on all the issues that are important to them, as well as others who are there to support the Iraqis' national reconciliation, building the economy, and security issues. So we're going to have these meetings in March and the second one in -- as early as April.


In terms of the diplomatic interactions, I'm not going to try to predict what the course of those diplomatic interactions might be. Security is clearly an important issue for the Iraqis. It's going to be at the top of the agenda. There are clearly issues that we have with respect to security in Iraq. IEDs, EFPs are certainly at the top of our list. This isn't, however, our meeting. Should the topic come up, of course we are going to engage on that issue. And I'm not going to exclude any possible discussions at a regional level that would include -- on a topic that is that important to us and to our troops.


So I can't predict exactly what sort of discussions or diplomatic interactions that we're going to have. Let's let the meeting take place. Again, the focus is on Iraq and we think it is important for all the states that attend this meeting to take the opportunity to demonstrate that they want to play a responsible role in Iraq's future; they want to play a positive role. That would be our hope for this -- for these meetings.


QUESTION: I personally want to thank you for that and I'm well aware of the fact that the United States has previously held regional meetings including with Iranian officials, notably last September in New York.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: My question goes, however, to the possibility and whether or not you can rule out the possibility that the United States might engage in bilateral discussions on the sidelines of this -- either of these planned meetings, absent -- with Iranian officials, absent Iran having met the condition laid down by the UN Security Council that they suspend uranium.


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, now you're getting into a different set of discussions with respect to the nuclear issue. And we have said right from the start, very clearly, repeatedly that there is an offer on the table, there are conditions that need to be met for Iran to be able to have those kinds of negotiations with the international community; in this case, the Permanent 5+1, the P-5+1. Those conditions remain.


We hope that Iran takes up the offer for negotiation, very simple conditions. We would -- we don't want to see Iran further isolated from the rest of the world. That's the direction that the regime is now taking the Iranian people. So we will -- on that score, we shall see what it is that the Iranian regime decides to do. There are indications that there's more of a discussion within Tehran right now and I would put it to you that that discussion is now taking place because the Iranian regime is feeling a bit of the pressure from the international system with the sanctions being imposed with 1737 which was passed in December.


There's a prospect of another Chapter 7, Article 41 resolution with further sanctions on Iran. That was the topic of Nick Burns' discussion with his political director counterparts in London just yesterday. They're going to have a follow-up conversation on Thursday. So the regime in Iran is feeling the pressure on the nuclear issue. And if they want to get into discussions and negotiations in that forum then they need to meet those conditions. And once they're in that forum, they can raise whatever topics they want to raise. We can raise whatever topics that are important to us, as well as others in that forum.


These meetings, the first one in Baghdad, will focus on Iraq. And I'm sure that there are going to be different kinds of discussions, meaning different groupings. Again, I'm not going to exclude any particular interaction at this point in that forum at the regional level on issues that are important to us, but the focus will be on Iraq.


QUESTION: So that means it's conceivable Secretary Rice could meet with her Iranian counterpart about Iraq? Is that what you're saying, if you're not -- I mean, you're not saying it wouldn't happen?


MR. MCCORMACK: What I'm saying is there are two stages to this. There is an envoy level meeting in Baghdad that we know will happen in the first half of March.


QUESTION: Right.


MR. MCCORMACK: In as early as April, there is a commitment on our part to attend a ministerial level meeting, again with the Iraqis serving as hosts. And we shall see what other states take up that invitation. Our intention is that should the meeting be held in April or some time thereafter at the ministerial level that we'll be there and that it's another opportunity for all the states to attend, including Iraq's neighbors, Syria, Iran and others to play a positive role in Iraq's future.


QUESTION: So just to clarify, I mean, you wouldn't rule out a meeting if that topic were to come up in (inaudible) Iran's involvement in Iraq --


MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we're getting ahead of ourselves here. Let's -- the first meeting is a -- the envoy level meeting. And we hope that all the states take the opportunity at this meeting to play a positive role and be responsible neighbors and assist Iraq as they move forward on their economic pathway to development, political pathway to development and to improving the security situation.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Where might that second meeting take place -- the ministerial?


MR. MCCORMACK: It hasn't been set yet. There are some ideas, but it has not been fully agreed upon yet.


QUESTION: Is Baghdad one of those ideas?


MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we'll see. I think there are several locations that are under consideration at this point.


QUESTION: Sean, you said that you were not going to include any particular interactions that might take place at those meetings.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: That leaves the impression that it is possible that you will not rule out the possibility that you would have a bilateral discussion with the Iranians on whatever topic without their first meeting the international conditions on suspending their uranium enrichment.


MR. MCCORMACK: Again, two separate issues. And let's sort of boil this down to the real point. We're engaged in diplomacy here. This is a multilateral forum in which a number of different states as well as international organizations are going to come together to talk about a topic of mutual interest, Iraq, and a variety of different issues related to Iraq. In the conduct of diplomacy, I'm not going to at this point, standing here three weeks away from -- three weeks or more away from a meeting, and tell you exactly how this is going to play out. That's impossible. It's impossible to tell you.


I can tell you and explain to you what our policies are with regard to the nuclear issue and getting involved in negotiations regarding a variety of different issues. You can have a discussion on issues related to Iraq and that not be a negotiation. So in the conduct of diplomacy, you need to have a certain amount of flexibility if you are going to achieve the goals that you want to achieve. Again, the focus of the meeting in Baghdad is going to be on Iraq and issues related to Iraq. Now, there are clearly issues of concern to us on the security front. We all know what those are. And I'm not going to, at this point, exclude any particular discussions at the regional level on a topic of interest and concern to our troops.


QUESTION: I'm going to try one more time because I don't want to misunderstand you. You talked about the need for flexibility in diplomacy; hitherto, the Administration has not been flexible on the point of not dealing in bilateral talks with the Iranians.


MR. MCCORMACK: This isn't a -- it's not a bilateral talk. It's a --


QUESTION: No, but I'm asking about the possibility of that, and I'm just trying to figure out if we should believe that the Administration's prior position continues to be its position that you will not hold bilateral talks with the Iranians --


MR. MCCORMACK: There's no change in our policy. There's no change in our policy. There's a new event that has occurred where the Iraqis have called a multilateral meeting involving Iraq's neighbors. We thought it -- we think it is important to attend that meeting to demonstrate, first of all, our support for Iraq on all the variety of issues that they are going to bring up: economics, security, political, diplomatic. And use that also as a way to encourage Iraq's neighbors to play as positive a role as they possibly can. It's a discussion; it's not a negotiation.


What you are talking about are negotiations. In order to realize a set of negotiations, Iran has to -- on the nuclear issue -- it has to pass a certain standard and that standard is unchanged and that policy is unchanged. But we think it is important in this context on Iraq to demonstrate support for this Iraqi Government and the Iraqi people by attending this conference and we're going to have all sorts of discussions at this conference. The agenda's going to be laid out by the Iraqis and the focus should remain on Iraq and issues related to Iraq not on the U.S. and Iran or the U.S. and Syria.


Yeah.


QUESTION: You said you're not ruling out anything on the regional level. I just want to make sure you're not drawing a distinction between the first meeting and the second meeting; you wouldn't rule out for either meeting.


MR. MCCORMACK: No.


QUESTION: Okay.


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm trying to encourage you not to get ahead of yourselves. Let's just focus on this first meeting.


QUESTION: What role did the U.S. Government play in helping to set this up or bringing up the idea of it or pushing the Iraqis to do it?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this, if you remember -- if you rewind the tape a little bit back to the fall time, this is something that Prime Minister Maliki actually raised first as a possibility and it's something that they have been thinking about and working on. A number of different outside groups, including the Baker-Hamilton group, had talked about this idea of a regional meeting and perhaps the U.S. hosting it or others hosting it, and it clearly was an idea of some merit. And it was actually, I believe, the Iraqis who first thought of this idea of a regional meeting. We thought it was a good idea. But they made it very clear that they wanted to take the initiative on this and we agree with that because it should be the Iraqis who are able to call for a meeting and invite others to their country and to Baghdad to talk about issues of concern to them. And it was important that there not be any perception whatsoever that any other country was trying to negotiate over their heads -- over the heads of this government.


So it's very clear that you have this Iraqi Government that is in the lead in conducting its own diplomacy. And we're very happy and pleased to be able to support that diplomacy and to attend this conference and to lend our support to this effort.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Two separate reports in the New Yorker and the Sunday Telegraph claimed at the weekend that the United States was working with Kurdish and other secessionist groups in Iran to destabilize the regime in that country. Any comments?


MR. MCCORMACK: I have not seen that -- any of those reports. What we're doing is working with the Iraqi Government and the Turkish Government --


QUESTION: No, this is Iran.


MR. MCCORMACK: Iran -- I don't have anything for you on that. I haven't seen those reports.


Yeah.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) find a way to open up the possibility for bilateral discussions, if not negotiations, with the Iranians?


MR. MCCORMACK: Arshad, what I'm trying to do is preserve the ability of our diplomats to do their work and to be effective. And I'm trying to lay out carefully for you the fact that there is a separate track dealing with Iran centered around the nuclear issue and the ability of the Iranian regime to realize negotiations and in contradistinction to this multilateral meeting being called by the Iraqis to discuss issues of concern to Iraq. And our envoys need to be able to have the ability to do their jobs. Of course, that is within the confines of our policy and I've tried to explain to you what that is.


Yeah.


QUESTION: How confident are you that Iran's (inaudible) will come to this meeting with good intentions of stabilizing Iraq, or trying to?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we would hope that every state that has been invited to the meeting would come and that they would come with a thought in mind that they could demonstrate a responsibility to a positive future for Iraq, because it's important not only for the Iraqis and the Iraqi Government but it's important to them as well. Iraq is an important state in the region. It has a lot to offer the region in terms of its economy, in terms of its culture, and the region can only profit by an Iraq that is more secure and more stable and that has a democratic government that represents all Iraqis.


And the Iraqis can benefit from the greater interaction with the rest of the region. They have -- the Iraqi Government has talked about the fact that it has an Arab identity and that it wants to build those ties with other Arab states. There have been some hurdles to overcome in terms of the sectarian divides within the Middle East. And this is another aspect, we believe, that's positive in that you are overcoming some of those historical divides within the Middle East. So we think that ultimately this process of bringing together Iraq and its neighbors is a positive one in a variety of different aspects.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) that those states will use this in the propaganda war at home, that they'll use this as an example of showing, look, we are engaged with the rest of the world, everything's absolutely fine?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's -- you know, let's all assume the best intentions for all the states that are going to attend this meeting.


Michel.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) Iraqi channel for discussion with Iran on Iraq through Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is still open?


MR. MCCORMACK: That's still a channel that is available to both sides.


QUESTION: Did you use it till now or --


MR. MCCORMACK: Not today, no.


Joel.


QUESTION: Sean, Muqtada al-Sadr keeps --


QUESTION: Can I ask about the meeting? Do you mind?


QUESTION: All right.


QUESTION: On the meeting.


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. We'll come back to you, Joel.


QUESTION: What would we -- what would you expect to see come out of this meeting? Would it be financial pledges? What -- is this just a meeting of ideas? What is it that, you know, you look for to --


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's a continuation of a dialogue. As it's been noted, there have been previous meetings of this kind between Iraq and some of its neighbors. And it's a continuation of the dialogue. It's been a while. It's 2004, I think, since the last major high level meeting of this kind, very similar to this meeting. So it's been a while. And it's important that as the Iraqis move to regularize their contacts with their neighbors in the region, that an event like this kind of meeting become less and less significant. It's -- this is significant in that it hasn't happened in a while and there are important issues to discuss. So you want to eventually get to the point where this is just the normal course of events and you don't even think twice about Iraq and its neighbors getting together. We're not at that point yet, but that is the desired endpoint for this process. And the Iraqis are also interested, I'm sure, in talking about very practical aspects of building relationships with each of their neighbors individually as well as a group.


I'm sure that that will include: building their economy, how to increase trade ties, how to attract investment, how Iraq can invest in other countries in the region, generating diplomatic support, whether that means more on the ground representation in Baghdad from Iraq's neighbors or working towards that -- working towards political support, political exchanges. There are a lot of different ways to go about it and I'm sure the Iraqis and their neighbors will come up with a lot of different ways that we can ever even think about. But it's part of the process of starting the conversation. So you can generate those ideas and actually start to put some of those ideas into action.


Well, wait a minute. Hold on, Lambros. We got Joel. Joel, then Lambros.


QUESTION: Sean, Moqtada al-Sadr keeps popping up in the news and do you see him as a villain with his Madhi army? And many say he's still cozying up to the Iranians.


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's a lot in that question. He's a part of the Iraqi political process and he has a political party that's part of this government and Prime Minister Maliki has talked about the importance of Moqtada al-Sadr as well as others playing a positive role in Iraq's future. Exactly what kind of role he will want to play in the future going forward, it's going to be up to him and to -- for the Iraqi political system to work out for itself. It's not for us to determine or to dictate. And it is up to the Iraqi Government to determine its comfort level of interactions both at the official governmental level as well as the individual political party level that it has with Iran. It's not for us to dictate. We would just encourage that Iran play a positive, transparent, neighborly role in Iraq's future. That has been -- that's been our mantra from the very beginning.


Yeah. Lambros.


QUESTION: Yes. In (inaudible) Mr. McCormack, last Friday I asked --


MR. MCCORMACK: I know. You did. I don't think we have an answer for you. Do we have an answer?


QUESTION: Yes, yes. I -- it's already I have an answer.


MR. MCCORMACK: You did? You got the answer?


QUESTION: Yes.


MR. MCCORMACK: Good. Okay.


QUESTION: But I have a question. I ask you if the Department of State is concerned about the state of religious freedom for the Greek Orthodox Party (inaudible) in Jerusalem and on the same day I got the answer from the above: "We have seen the reports regarding this issue --


MR. MCCORMACK: Is this like a disembodied voice or was it Gonzo? (Laughter.) Okay.


QUESTION: -- but we do not get independence confirmation of the report at this time." Mr. McCormack, this was (inaudible) almost for two years and I'm wondering what the Consul General is doing in Jerusalem? He has not any opinion in order to clarify the U.S. position vis-à-vis to this crucial issue.


MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, I'm going to have to get back to you on that.


QUESTION: Okay. May I go to Kosovo?


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.


QUESTION: Okay. Here is the Serbian (inaudible) of the Voice of America. He is being instructed by the Department of State as I was told, to send a scholarly and expert opinion that contradicts Ahtissari and perhaps the Administration position on Kosovo. I ask this question, Mr McCormack, because in the recent days a scholar has been interviewed by the Serbian service and then since without explanation, or a policy by the Civil Service or his superior the director of the (inaudible) division. Any comment on that?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know who the scholar is that you're referring to. I can only tell you that Frank Wisner is our point man on Kosovo and he's working very closely with Mr. Ahtissari as well as others back here in the Department. As you know, Mr. Ahtissari has laid out for the parties his plan. There are ongoing discussions right now in Vienna on this issue and we'll see how this plays out. Eventually this is going to be a topic with which the UN Security Council is going to have to deal, but we are not to that point yet. There are a lot of discussions that need to happen and we would encourage everybody to be as constructive as possible in those discussions.


QUESTION: But I have news for you today.


MR. MCCORMACK: You do?


QUESTION: Yes.


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Lay it on me.


QUESTION: On the same subject. It is usual for the Department of State to ask for "external review" of the (inaudible) of an interview conducted by the same service with the former Soviet -- excuse me -- with a former senior U.S. official namely Ambassador John Bolton, the famous one, who according to the Russian news agency, Interfax, believes firmly that it is incomprehensive to ask Serbia, a sovereign state, to cut off a piece of its territory to create the so-called state of Kosovo. Where does the Department of State or any other reserve the right, the right to censor opinion on Kosovo or any other issue?


MR. MCCORMACK: We're not trying to censor anybody. John is a private citizen and he has the right to his opinions.


QUESTION: And what do you think about his opinion?


MR. MCCORMACK: What do I think about his --


QUESTION: Yes. He's very famous, he's a very famous ambassador of the UN.


MR. MCCORMACK: He is quite well-known and he has the right to his opinion. He is a private citizen.


QUESTION: An International Criminal Court has issued --


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: -- named two -- the first Darfur war crimes suspects. This is two questions. Do you have any comment on that in general? And secondly, is the United States providing or will it provide any support for the ICC investigation into this, as in satellite imagery or any kinds of things which could help back up those charges?


MR. MCCORMACK: Right. On the first, we fully support bringing to justice those responsible for crimes and atrocities that occurred and -- that have occurred in Darfur. We are at a point in the process now where we would call upon the Sudanese Government to cooperate fully with the ICC under the aegis of UN Security Council Resolution 1593. So it is now incumbent upon the Government of Sudan, we believe, to cooperate with the ICC.


With respect to the ICC, we -- our views are well-known. In the case of Sudan and in the case of Resolution 1593, we didn't oppose the referral to the ICC because we support the -- support accountability for the crimes that have been committed in Darfur. As for our level of support to the ICC in terms of satellite imagery and those sorts of things, it's honestly something I would have to check on. What have we done to this point; I don't have the information off the top of my head. I'll have to check for you -- yeah, happy to check for you on that.


What's that?


QUESTION: One more on Turkey.


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, sure.


QUESTION: Yes. Mr. McCormack, the head of the Democratic Society Party in Diyarbakir, Hilmi Aydogdu, was arrested by Turkish security forces based on a statement that he would consider any Turkish attack on the oil rich city of Kirkuk in Iraq as an attack against Diyarbakir in the south east of Turkey. Could you please -- to comment on that?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- I'm not aware of the details of this particular case.


QUESTION: Sean, reaction to the Afghanistan bombing?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a couple of things. I think the White House has handled the aspect of this that relates to the Vice President's presence at Bagram Airbase, so I'll let them speak to that.


QUESTION: But in general --


MR. MCCORMACK: It was an attack that was clearly generated and designed to take innocent life -- claim innocent life. It also claimed the life of some of the multinational force individuals who were there, including one from South Korea. Our condolences go out to the family and friends who lost a loved one today. It's a tragedy and there were a number of others who lost loved ones in the attack and our hearts go out to them.


QUESTION: Cyprus.


MR. MCCORMACK: Off Lambros --


QUESTION: May I tomorrow?


MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/81127.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 4 2007, 06:57 PM
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. One quick opening statement for you. We'll have some paper out on this after the briefing. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has named Eliot Cohen as counselor of the State Department. In making this appointment Secretary Rice looked into a number of different factors and I think Eliot brings a lot to the table in terms of being a counselor, being somebody who can be an intellectual sounding board for her, somebody who can cover a number of different issues of particular interest to the State Department, in particular, that nexus between civilian and military affairs. I think that he's going to spend a lot of time thinking and working on issues related to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Civilian Response Corps, as well as other tasks that the Secretary asked him to take on.


He is currently the Robert E. Osgood professor of Strategic Studies and the director of the Strategic Studies program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He is a distinguished scholar in the areas of defense policy and military history. He previously served on the policy planning staff of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and directed the U.S. Air Force's Gulf War Air Power Survey. He is also a member of the Defense Policy Board and other governmental and private advisory committees. Among other books that he has authored, he in 2002 produced the award-winning Supreme Command, so we look forward to welcoming him onboard. As I said, we'll have this out in paper form after the briefing for you.


And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions.


Mr. Lee, welcome aboard.


QUESTION: Thank you. Sean, can you give us any -- enlighten us at all any more about the conference call yesterday, what was achieved, what remains to be achieved and the prospects for a stunning breakthrough I'm sure in tomorrow's call?


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. We'll leave the sarcasm aside.


QUESTION: It wasn't a sarcasm.


MR. MCCORMACK: Put out some notes yesterday on this. Very basically let me recap. What the P-5+1 political directors were doing on the conference call is they were really working on the guts of the resolution. What are the major elements that comprise the resolution in terms of new steps that the Security Council is going to take? Made a lot of progress on that. There are still a few remaining issues that need to be done, so the political directors decided that they were going to take their homework back to capitals, work on it, reconvene tomorrow in the morning. And we expect that by next week, the action can shift to the Perm Reps up at the UN and they can actually start drafting the language of the resolution, the pre-ambular paragraphs and sort of the connective tissue of these resolutions. But the work on the major elements, what actual sanctions will apply in sort of the parameters of those sanctions, that's what they're working on right now. Now, I know the next question is, well, what exactly is going to be in the resolution and we are going --


QUESTION: No, I don't know want to know (inaudible) resolution. I want to know what they agreed to in the phone call. The resolution we can leave until next week.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right. And you'll see it when it's being circulated around.


QUESTION: So they have -- so you're saying that they have agreed on the outlines of what the sanctions, new sanctions that will be --


MR. MCCORMACK: That's not what I said. What I said is that they made progress on a lot of these issues on the major elements. There's still some work to be done. That's why they're going to have another call tomorrow. And then that will -- once that work is done, that really is sort of the centerpiece of what the resolution will eventually be, what the sanctions actually will be, the parameters of those sanctions. There's still some work to be done on that, and that's what they're going to be working on tomorrow.


QUESTION: Okay. But is it your understanding or is the U.S. feeling that everyone is onboard pretty much basically? I mean, when you talk about the parameters of the sanctions, I mean, that could be anything from, you know, what exactly they're going to be to specific targets or, you know, specific organizations or people.


MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.


QUESTION: Where are you --


MR. MCCORMACK: It can be all those things.


QUESTION: And where are you now, though?


MR. MCCORMACK: We'll probably be talking more about that next week. But in terms of -- you make a good process point here. This is the P-5+1, so you can get agreement among the P-5+1 but you still have to deal with the elected ten members of the Security Council. So I'm sure that there will be some suggestions, some modifications to it along the way, but most of the major work on the -- what will be the guts of this resolution, that's what's being worked on now. And we expect that that should be able to be wrapped up tomorrow in the conference call, then action shifts up to New York with the perm reps.


QUESTION: You talk about major elements, but I mean, can we be expecting major new elements in this resolution in terms of major new sanctions? Because the French Foreign Minister today is really -- his description is really tinkering around the edges, adding a few entities and individuals to the list of asset and travel freezes, and maybe some complementary measures, he says. Now --


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, distinguish between the major elements of the resolution, the major elements that comprise the guts of the resolution, from overall where are we in this process. And where are we in this process is that this resolution, I would expect, would be incremental, we've said that from the beginning, and that it will be proportionate to the response that the Iranians have given the international community to this point.


Their continued defiance of the requirements of the international system is going to be met by increased pressure in the form of a -- in the form of this resolution. So I would -- up front I will tell you that this is going to be an incremental resolution. But let me make one other point, and that is that the December resolution that was passed, we readily admitted that this was not the resolution that we ourselves would have drafted. We would have included other elements in it.


But what's very interesting is that in the implementation of this resolution as well as the collateral effects of the resolution there has -- it has actually been a very effective mechanism by which to pressure the Iranian regime. And one indicator, public indicator, that I would point to in that regard is the conversation that is now taking place in public in Iran about the wisdom of the course that the regime is pursuing with respect to their nuclear program.


So the December resolution has actually had much more of an effect than even we would have predicted, and most of that is centered around the reaction of the international business community and the international financial community. What they have seen is a country now under Chapter 7 resolution. That's a big red flag to the business community when they're making investment decisions that are going to take years and years to play out, investment decisions that involve substantial sums of money. And capital can flow in a variety of places around the world, so the business leaders, financial leaders, are going to take a look and say, "What's our risk assessment? Are we really going to be able to realize the return on the investment? What are the attendant political as well as other risks of that investment?" And some of them are saying it's just not worth it.


And that is due solely to the pathway that this regime is taking the Iranian people down. Now, we wish that that were not the case and there still is another pathway that is open to them. There is a pathway to negotiation. And we have put -- we along with the other members of the P-5+1 have put a very attractive offer out there on the table. Thus far, the regime has decided that they're not going to take us up on that offer. But that's still out on the table. So there are two pathways here still open to them. We would hope that they choose the pathway of negotiation. Thus far, they have not chosen to pursue that pathway and, as a result, we're going to get another Security Council resolution.


QUESTION: Can you give us some examples of people saying it's just not worth it? Some business leaders or banks or --


MR. MCCORMACK: I can -- I'm just citing public sources. Look in the newspapers over the past couple of months, you can look at some of the European banks that have decided they're not going to do any more business with Iranian entities. Off the top of my head, I don't have them listed for you but I'd be happy to afterwards cite a couple of them that have been remarked upon in public source documents.


Yep.


QUESTION: How are you, Sean? Since I'm a little new at this, could you lay out what the sanctions entail at present and how they differ from what's being talked about? Are they different in type or degree, and are we talking about travel bans on people involved in the nuclear industry, freezes of assets of people involved in the nuclear and missile technology industry? Is that the type of thing on the table now?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to get into exactly what are the elements currently being discussed. But I would just say very generally that these are -- the new sanctions are going to build on the ones that are currently in place. And the ones that are currently in place touch on some of the things that you mentioned: the travel restrictions, restrictions on doing any sort of business with certain entities with Iran that are related to their weapons of mass destruction program. So I would expect that these new sanctions that come out in the Security Council resolution would build on those. I caution you: They are going to be incremental. But again, we have seen that even small steps within the international system in the form of these sanctions resolutions are actually quite effective.


QUESTION: So you think it is a difference of degree or a different type of sanction?


MR. MCCORMACK: We haven't finished work yet on this particular resolution, but it's incremental. It's going to build on what's already there.


QUESTION: And if you don't mind, one more thing. Since it took China and Russia quite a while to come around to the December resolution, what makes you think they'll come around at all to a new one?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I guess you never know until people raise their hand in the Security Council to vote on a resolution. But just judging by the meetings that Nick Burns has had with his P-5+1 counterparts meetings and phone calls, the tone is really very, very good. Nick commented to me that these past meetings and phone calls have really been some of the best ones that he has had in the past couple of years in terms of readiness to work, roll up the sleeves at the table and really hammer out the elements to a resolution in a pretty rapid fashion.


QUESTION: And one more thing. One source we have today says that China's dragging its feet and is again the stumbling block or they'll holding off on this.


MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I think the tone --


QUESTION: Did I say China? I meant Russia. I meant Russia.


MR. MCCORMACK: Russia, no. We have had very good discussions with our Russian counterparts. First, Secretary Rice with Foreign Minister Lavrov when she was in Berlin and then follow-up conversations between Nick Burns and Mr. Kislyak, his counterpart.


Joel.


QUESTION: Sean, earlier the Saudis were interceding --


QUESTION: Can I (inaudible) something?


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.


QUESTION: I just want to ask a little bit -- a broader question. You said that -- in there you said the December resolution, and you're admitting that the December -- I won't say admit -- the December resolution is not what you would have wanted.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right. We said that at the time.


QUESTION: But then you say that the December resolution has had more of an effect than what we would have expected.


MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.


QUESTION: Have you guys drawn any policy -- you know, policy-formulating conclusions from this that perhaps, you know, what the U.S. wants, it may not always be the most effective?


MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.)


QUESTION: You didn't get what you want and yet you're happy with the results.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.


QUESTION: So perhaps --


MR. MCCORMACK: I guess, you know, it's sort of a life lesson. You know, we can all say that, right? There's a Rolling Stones song to that effect: "You Can't Always Get What you Want."


QUESTION: Is that now guiding U.S. foreign policy? Is that it? No, Sean, come on. You were the one that brought -- no, it's a serious question. Have you drawn a conclusion -- have you drawn any conclusions?


MR. MCCORMACK: That's not a serious question. Joel.


QUESTION: Recently, in the last month or two, the Saudis were interceding with both Hamas as well as with the PA with President Abbas. Now, President Ahmadi-Nejad is just now visiting Riyadh. Have you asked the Saudis to do some preliminary legwork before this resolution reaches the UN?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we, of course, knew about the visit, but it's going to be up to the Saudi leadership to decide how they interact with the Iranian President. We would hope that they send a message to the Iranian President that across a wide spectrum the Iranian behavior in the region and around the world is just unacceptable, whether it's their support for terrorism or their pursuit for weapons of mass destruction or their efforts to block any sort of progress in building a democracy in Lebanon or in the Palestinian areas. We would hope that the message to the Iranian leadership is that they need to change their behavior.


Yes, ma'am.


QUESTION: Could you please preview the Secretary's afternoon meeting with the South Korean Foreign Minister?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, she's going to be meeting with the Foreign Minister this afternoon. They're going to, first of all, I would expect, talk about progress that has been made in implementing the agreement that was signed three weeks ago in Beijing among the six parties. I would expect they would also talk about a couple bilateral issues, maybe progress on the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement, as well as talking a little bit about the implementation of the agreement that was signed between the Korean Defense Minister and Secretary Gates concerning transfer of operational control during wartime. So that's sort of a rough outline. If you're interested, we can try to get you something afterwards about what it is that they talked about.


Nina.


QUESTION: Iraq, Sean. Can you talk about this appointment of Cohen? I mean, he's been highly critical previously. Can you elaborate on this, say why he's been appointed, why you think he's the man for the job?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the Secretary -- first of all, let's back up. For those of you not familiar with the job of Counselor, it is not something that -- it is not a job that is Senate-confirmed. It really is at the discretion of individual secretaries whether or not they fill the job. Secretary Powell chose not to fill the job. Other secretaries have.


Secretary Rice has found that it's very useful to have somebody in that job who can be an intellectual sounding board, somebody that can dig down into issues that she is interested in that does not have line management responsibilities, for example, like you would have with an assistant secretary or an under secretary.


I would expect that he would spend some time thinking about Iraq, looking into some of the details of our civil-military interaction both in Iraq and Afghanistan. He's an expert in this, has written many papers and books on the subject. He is widely respected within military circles. And so he -- he'll -- first off, he'll be able to really look at our posture in both of those places and make an assessment for the Secretary and then, of course, come back to her and provide any suggestions that she may -- that he might have about how we would -- how we might change or adjust that posture.


QUESTION: And what would you -- how would you address critics that are saying that he's coming with a very neoconservative agenda, he's got his own political bent? Would you -- how would you respond to that?


MR. MCCORMACK: That the man is a widely respected scholar. I don't think that there's any dispute about that. He brings a lot to the table. In terms of -- you know, in terms of his political views, I read a newspaper account today that made just the opposite point; he's actually been a critic of the Administration on the implementation of its Iraq policy.


So in anybody's record somebody can find something that they can use to make their point, but the fact of the matter is he -- I think everybody agrees that he is a distinguished scholar, an expert in a number of the issues that are of critical importance to our foreign policy today, and the Secretary is very pleased that he's coming onboard.


QUESTION: Can I just ask one more general question?


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.


QUESTION: About Africa and its sort of increasing importance and the role in terror. I believe even as a special deployment the Old Guard that normally guards the Tomb of the Unknown are being sent to Djibouti, apparently, as part of your force there, your hearts and minds force. Could you just talk generally about, you know, AFRICOM and its increasing importance of that continent in --


MR. MCCORMACK: Right. In terms of the deployment of the Old Guard, I don't know that fact. You'll have to check with DOD. I'm not disputing it.


Africa is very important and I think one indication of that, one manifestation of that within the bureaucracy, is that the Department of Defense is creating an Africa Command and they have asked the State Department to participate in that Africa Command in some new and interesting ways. Really, there's an offer there of embedding in the command structure of the Africa Command, which is really very interesting and exciting as it really gets at this issue of civil-military interaction. And once you have a conflict, you need to get the post-conflict right as well, and that involves the civilians and military working very closely together.


There are a lot of different examples, if you look around the continent, where this kind of interaction is very important. We are recently emerging from that kind of experience in Liberia, where the military played an important role but there was a handoff there to the civilians, in helping the Liberians rebuild their country after years of civil strife. You have current examples in -- current challenges in Sudan and Somalia. So it is a -- it's very important in that regard.


You also have a lot of concerns about terrorist activity in East Africa, in that Horn of Africa; that's why you have the CENTCOM with a forward deployment in Djibouti to address the threats, the various threats in those areas. So it is -- it's a critically important area not only for U.S. foreign policy, but for our national security policy as well.


QUESTION: You say that Somalia is number one at the moment -- it's number one priority?


MR. MCCORMACK: In Africa?


QUESTION: Yes. In this particular respect.


MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I don't know if I'd prioritize it like that. Certainly Sudan is of great concern in different ways. Somalia is of great concern in separate ways.


QUESTION: Another one.


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.


QUESTION: Are you familiar with the 15 missing Western tourists in Ethiopia in a remote area?


MR. MCCORMACK: Seen the news reports. Don't have any information for you. Happy to look into it for you.


QUESTION: AFP is ahead of us of us on that story.


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'll leave that one there, George.


QUESTION: That answered your question?


QUESTION: It was asked this morning at the gaggle, but I don't think it really a thing, about the Chinese complaining about the sale of missiles to Taiwan or they're demanding that that be canceled?


MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. Well, we're --


QUESTION: Solemnly.


MR. MCCORMACK: What's this?


QUESTION: Solemnly.


MR. MCCORMACK: Solemnly.


QUESTION: Mm-hmm.


MR. MCCORMACK: Solemnly requests that they're -- that it be canceled. Well, the sales in question are consistent with the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act. The United States assists Taiwan in meeting its legitimate self-defense needs. Bush Administration remains firmly committed to fulfilling the security and arms sales provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act. And as for the China -- China expressing concern about this, they apparently do this on a regular basis, concerning U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. And when they do so, we explain that U.S. arms sales are consistent with our "One China" policy, the three joint communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act. The Act requires the U.S. to make available to Taiwan defense articles and services necessary to -- for Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability and we believe that the sale in question is consistent with our responsibilities on that policy.


Michel.


QUESTION: Sean, do you have any readout on Andrew Natsios visit to the Sudan? What are the new ideas he wants to discuss with the Sudanese officials?


MR. MCCORMACK: No readout. He's just arriving today. As a matter of fact, he plans to be in country for about 10 days and he's going to be meeting with Sudanese officials to push forward the phase one, two, three deployment of the AU/UN hybrid force. He's also, we hope, going to be able to travel out into Darfur as well as down into the south. The message is -- obviously, there's a lot of other details that he's going to be talking about with Sudanese leaders as well as NGOs and other regional leaders. But the basic message here is to move forward with the deployment of that AU/UN force.


QUESTION: There are stories on new ideas. He wants to discuss it. Do you have anything on this?


MR. MCCORMACK: I think I'll let him discuss new ideas with the Sudanese officials before we start talking about them in public.


QUESTION: This is a spring break from his teaching routine?


MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) Well, it is a bit of a diversion, spring break in Sudan.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Do you think he's going to meet with President Bashir? Do you have any information on that?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information on his schedule at this point, but we would hope that he meets with the Sudanese leadership.


Yes.


QUESTION: Sean, can it be said that we're running out of patience with their refusal to bring that force in? I mean, we're talking about wanting to have something done in the beginning of January and it's now the beginning of March.


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we are operating under the assumption that he has already accepted the deployment of phases one, two and three. Others have raised some question about that, but we are operating on the basis that he has already accepted deployment of those forces. So the Sudanese need to acquire more of a posture of being ready, willing and active in encouraging that deployment. On the other hand, you also have the UN peacekeeping operation that frankly needs to speed up its operations. They have a standard deployment playbook that they have and there are timelines associated with that. And frankly those timelines need to be looked at and reduced. It's too important an issue.


So there are two sides to this and we are pushing on the Sudanese, we as well as others, to make sure that those forces are able to deploy in the areas that they need to deploy to and push on the Sudanese to do everything that they can to stop the violence and implement the Darfur Peace Agreement. But there is also an international aspect to this. And we encourage the UN to work with more dispatch and we also encourage member-states to step up and meet the requests that the UN has outstanding for more troops. It's important to fulfill those requirements. So those are the two sides in which we're pushing. Andrew on his trip is going to be pushing on the Sudanese side.


Yeah.


QUESTION: You say that timelines needs to be looked at and reduced.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.


QUESTION: Can you elaborate on that? Can you be more precise?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the UN peacekeeping operation, they have a standard procedure which they follow in preparing the ground for deployment of forces as well as for the deployment of forces. And this extends out over, you know, a period of a year or so. That timeline needs to be reduced. This is too critical a humanitarian issue and we've spoken about this in the past and we've spoken about it in public. But it is an issue that needs to be addressed.


QUESTION: So when do you want the force to be deployed?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have -- well, as soon as possible. I don't have a specific timeline for you, but I can tell you, having a deployment stretch out over the course of more than a year is too long.


Yeah.


QUESTION: You've been saying for weeks that people aren't offering the troops that you need.


MR. MCCORMACK: Right.


QUESTION: I mean, what's happening on that front? I think Denmark is the only country I've read has actually said something about a certain number of --


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a precise update of who has pledged troops. I know that there are a couple of countries who have pledged troops, but there are many more who are in the category of thinking about it that need to fall over into the category of making an actual pledge and standing behind it.


QUESTION: In the meanwhile the situation in Darfur is --


MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Look, we work in capitals, we work here in Washington on this, but we are not the only ones that need to be doing this. The United States certainly has quite a bit of leverage within the international system to try to make these things happen, but others also need to put their shoulder to the wheel and make sure that these pledges get made.


QUESTION: Same issue.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.


QUESTION: Has phase one been fulfilled?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you, George. The last time I checked into this was, I don't know, about a week ago or so and it had not been fully completed the last time I checked.


Yeah, Steve.


QUESTION: Sean, one more thing on Iran if you don't mind.


MR. MCCORMACK: Anything -- well, wait a minute, anything else on Sudan?


QUESTION: Yeah, go ahead.


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, you've got it.


QUESTION: Okay. Back to the timing of this, we have sources saying while the U.S. is on one side, the European Union's in the middle, China and Russia are on the other side and this may not be the last conference call and we may not be ready to put stuff on paper next week and it could be a slow -- long, slow diplomatic process. How does -- if that were true, how does that square with the IAEA saying Iran is moving full speed ahead with its installation of centrifuges and is time of the essence?


MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Absolute this is an urgent matter and that's why we're pushing forward with another Security Council resolution. I think the picture -- look, you never -- as I said, you never know until people raise their hands to vote yes or no on a resolution. But our read of the diplomatic state of play right now is that we're actually getting very good cooperation among the P-5+1 on coming to agreement on the elements of a resolution. I think there's broad agreement on the outlines of what that resolution should comprise and the various steps that need to be taken.


In terms of the picture you paint, that does not bear a resemblance of what I am hearing from our diplomats that are engaged in these conversations. You know, we shall see how the process unfolds. But our expectation is that Perm Reps should be able to begin drafting the actual text of the resolution next week in New York.


Matt.


QUESTION: Can I go back to Korea just for a second?


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.


QUESTION: Can you be any -- give any more details or be any more specific about what the Secretary will be talking about with the Foreign Minister as it relates to next week's meetings this afternoon?


MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if they will talk specifically about the working -- U.S.-North Korea working group meeting, but they'll talk broadly about what it is that we are doing and what others are doing and what South Korea is doing in terms of implementation of the agreement. I'll try to get you more afterwards. Yeah, more afterwards about what they actually spoke about.


QUESTION: Do you have any dates on the meeting on Monday night and Tuesday? You know, where it will be and --


MR. MCCORMACK: We have designated a point person for all of these details, as your colleague, Arshad Mohammed has requested. So we will after the briefing give you the name and phone number of that individual.


QUESTION: And I have another question.


MR. MCCORMACK: So you can stop asking me.


QUESTION: (Inaudible)?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, it is, actually. He's probably going to hide after we give his name out. (Laughter.)


QUESTION: I have another question about Libya. The Libyan leader Maummar Qadhafi has been very critical of Western powers, especially U.S. Yesterday, where he said that the enemy doe not launch a frontal attack but is mobilizing its agent to achieve its interest and steal power away from us as it did in Iraq. So what does it mean? Is Qadhafi getting impatient with U.S?


MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen those remarks. But we're working with Libya to develop a different kind of relationship and we have come light years from where we were four years ago in that relationship, largely because Libya's made a strategic decision about where its posture vis-à-vis turning away from terrorism and turning away from weapons of mass destruction programs. And that really was the -- that decision was the key that unlocked a lot of possibilities. And what we're engaged in right now is developing that relationship so that we can realize all the different possibilities in it. There are always going to be, on one side or another, differences over how fast that relationship is progressing but we are committed to moving forward with the relationship.


QUESTION: Yeah, but it didn't move for months now. What's preventing you?


MR. MCCORMACK: Again, sometimes the wheels of diplomacy don't always turn as all would wish, but they do move forward and they are moving forward.


Yes, sir.


QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Ellen Sauerbrey's visit to Syria, will that be strictly on immigration issue and refugee issue?


MR. MCCORMACK: On refugees, yes.


QUESTION: Will there be any talk on Syria's role in Iraq with her? Can you just elaborate on what the purpose of her trip is?


MR. MCCORMACK: No, the purpose -- the purpose of her trip -- and she's going to be paired with a representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees -- is to talk strictly about the issue of Iraqi refugees both already in Syria and future individuals who may try to enter into Syria from Iraq. And it's to look at a couple different aspects: one, how can we, the international community, assist with the humanitarian burden that comes along with taking care of a lot of different people who have been displaced and left their home country; and two, how do you efficiently work through the process of evaluating who among the those people qualify as refugees and then start processing them and work them through the pipeline so that they can be resettled in various countries around the world. We have talked about the fact that we are ready to take on part of that burden consistent with our international humanitarian obligations.


So Ellen along with the UNHCR representative will visit with many of the nongovernmental organizations who are doing the work in assisting these refugees on a daily basis and also who are working with these individuals to start the refugee processing pipeline. I expect that she will probably have a meeting with her counterpart in the Syrian Government, while that has not yet been scheduled, and the topic will be solely on refugees.


QUESTION: Will she deliver any message to the Syrian officials?


MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing -- the topics will be limited to refugees.


Yes, sir.


QUESTION: Different topic. Apparently, a tentative deal on an open skies agreement was agreed -- was struck this morning between the United States and European Union. Do you have any initial comment or reaction?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's very positive. This would be the first such open skies civil aviation agreement between the U.S. and the EU. It is potentially very important for industry, the airline industry but also for all those millions of passengers that transit back and forth between the United States and EU countries.


My understanding now is that this agreement will go to the transport ministers for their agreement and their signature, and then potentially, if it moves forward from there, it will be ready for the U.S.-EU summit, which I think is in May.


Yeah. All right, Lambros. Go ahead.


QUESTION: Thank you. On Cyprus. Mr. McCormack, the Turkish Petroleum Corporation has decided to move its oil and gas exploration for 2007 to the Mediterranean Sea, and Ankara extended selectively the territorial waters of the Turkish coast in that area to twelve miles limit, challenging the Republic of Cyprus, Egypt and Lebanon. Do you have any anything to say vis-à-vis to this particular issue? Otherwise, are you concerned about this activity?


MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to look into that for you, Lambros.


Yeah. Dave. Yeah, caught you off guard there.


QUESTION: A readout, if you could, on the Secretary's meeting with Ms. Tymoshenko of Ukraine? She's pushing a new parliamentary election there to try to break up a stalemate and I wondering does the meeting reflect a U.S. kindly view toward that?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, I'm not going to get too deeply into the details here. The Secretary has met with Ms. Tymoshenko several times before, and including in Ukraine. They talked about the domestic political situation within Ukraine. They talked about the domestic political situation within Ukraine. They talked about Ukrainian energy needs and the various sources that Ukraine might tap into for their energy needs. They talked a little bit about the Millennium Challenge Corporation. The Ukraine has qualified for consideration of Millennium Challenge Corporation grants. They talked about regional issues as well, regional international politics. That's really about it.


QUESTION: Okay.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Thanks.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/mar/81327.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 5 2007, 06:53 PM
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. How are you? I don't have any opening statements, so we can get right into your questions. Whoever wants to start off.



QUESTION: Do you have more on the Palestinian aid question and the scholarship?



MR. MCCORMACK: I anticipated your question. They gave me a whole bunch of materials on this, so let me flip through here and get to the right spot because there's a lot in this Washington Times article and let me just start off with a couple baseline principles and then we can get into more detailed questions.



First of all, USAID requires of all of its contractors and subcontractors to go through a vetting -- a careful vetting process. And this involves working with our Consulate in Jerusalem. It involves working with our Embassy in Tel Aviv. It involves going through U.S. Government -- various U.S. Government databases to ensure that any of the recipients of U.S. Government monies are not affiliated with terrorist organizations or so that that money does not end up in the hands of terrorists or terrorist organizations.



All the -- both the universities mentioned in the article, the Islamic University of Gaza and Al-Quds University, my understanding is that these are independent universities and it would be incorrect to characterize them as Hamas-controlled. They both have passed U.S. Government vetting anti-terrorism procedures, so the vetting procedures to which I was just referring. As I mentioned, any scholarship recipients are again vetted and the monies -- once they're vetted, if they qualify, then the monies for any tuition are deposited in a separate account. That account is controlled so that that money is used only for educational purposes, meaning their tuition.



It is -- oh, it was also mentioned in there that there was a project, a computer -- basically a computer lab at the Islamic University of Gaza, and that does not receive any U.S. Government funding. That is, in fact, part of a program of information technology centers of excellence that is privately funded, U.S. corporation privately funded. There are three of these that are already constructed -- one at Al-Quds University, one at the Arab American University in Jenin, one at the Palestine Polytechnic University in Hebron -- and there are a couple others under construction right now -- Birzeit University, Islamic University in Gaza which is apparently where they just broke ground.



So in terms of USAID, I talked to the folks over there and I'm conveying to you the information that was provided to me. They are confident that the organizations, including the NGO cited, ANERA, as well as the individuals who are recipients of USAID funding, have passed all U.S. Government anti-terrorism vetting procedures. The computer lab cited in the article is, in fact, not being funded by the U.S. Government; it is a private endeavor. And I think that that covers what I have been able to uncover with an opening. I'll be happy to --



QUESTION: What about the figures?



MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?



QUESTION: The figures.



MR. MCCORMACK: The figures?



QUESTION: The money. The amount of money.



MR. MCCORMACK: The amount of money --



QUESTION: Is that correct?



MR. MCCORMACK: -- provided to --



QUESTION: Was there something that was correct in the story?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, apparently, in terms of any -- you know, and again, you always get into dangerous territory when you start talking about money. But apparently, to Al-Quds University the scholarships totaled about $2.2 million and then there were also some in-kind grants -- computers, reference resources, subscriptions, that sort of thing. And then for the Islamic University of Gaza, we're looking at about 93,000 in scholarships and then about roughly 12,000 in in-kind assistance and then other research grants totaling about $30,000.



QUESTION: That's over what time frame?



MR. MCCORMACK: This was -- again, I think we're looking at -- I'll have to look into that for you, Matt. I honestly don't -- I don't have that here.



QUESTION: And just one last thing on this, and that is when you say that the scholarship recipients are vetted and then the money that they get for the scholarships are deposited into an account to make --



MR. MCCORMACK: A separate bank account, right.



QUESTION: Right --



MR. MCCORMACK: Which is, again, controlled and audited. I don't have the bank --



QUESTION: No, no, but -- so it's like in escrow or something?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's a controlled account so they -- you know, and again, I don't have the details. If you're really interested in these details, we can get somebody who does this on a daily basis for you.



QUESTION: No, no --



MR. MCCORMACK: But here's the other thing. Actually, this is an important point that was left out. Once people go through these vetting procedures, individuals as well as -- and this applies more to organizations -- go through the vetting procedures. There are follow-up audits that are conducted as well. So there are multiple, from USAID's point of view, there are multiple levels through which we can assure ourselves that these monies are not going to terrorists or terrorist organizations.



QUESTION: I guess that's just control -- when you say the account is controlled, controlled by who? Controlled by the student, controlled by the university, controlled by USAID?



MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, I'm happy to have somebody who delves into this sort of minutia talk to you offline after the briefing and be able to brief --



QUESTION: Okay. I'm not sure it's minutia. Is it?



MR. MCCORMACK: I would characterize it as that, yes.



QUESTION: That's interesting.



QUESTION: Can we stay on the Israeli-Palestinian issue? Congressman Lantos and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have put out a letter in which they call on the Secretary to essentially drop the $86 million in aid for President Abbas' security forces. The letter's dated March 1st, but I think it's just made public. There was a lot of skepticism when she testified to the committee about this, but I don't think you had the chairman and the ranking member then actually telling you to just stop it. What's your reaction to this? Is the Administration considering abandoning this effort or at least suspending it pending clarification of the shape of the national unity government?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, we just received the letter today. Second of all, I think what it does is it asks a series of questions and these are questions that the Secretary herself would want answered to ensure that any funding does not end up in the hands of Hamas or a Hamas-led government. The intention here is to assist with the training in non-lethal equipment assistance to those forces who might be under the control of President Abbas. And with the eventuality of a national unity government, which is Hamas led, we want to ensure that none of those funds would end up in the hands of that Hamas-led government. So we're going to take a look at -- and we are looking at right now -- the totality of the $86 million request. And we are studying it at the moment. We do not yet have a national unity government. And I would expect that in the not-too-distant future, we would probably have an answer in response to the letter.



QUESTION: Is it fair to say, just so we don't conflate your response to the letter and your sending a letter with your studying the overall $86 million, that you are essentially suspending that for the time being? You're not looking to actually get that money?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's a request. It's a new -- it's a reprogramming request, so you can't move forward with, in fact, without the consent of the Congress. So I don't -- I wouldn't necessarily -- I wouldn't characterize it as suspending it. We are asking ourselves some questions as the Congress has asked us to look into some questions as well. So they are asking us to do, in essence, what we are doing ourselves.



QUESTION: But in other words, you're not going to like -- I mean, I realize that you have to ask Congress to be able to reprogram the money --



MR. MCCORMACK: Right.



QUESTION: -- but, in other words, you're not telling them no, despite your questions, we still want you to reprogram the money. You're saying we're going -- we need to answer these questions ourselves.



MR. MCCORMACK: The bottom line is we intend -- our intention is to move forward with the program. Now, whether or not that includes the full $86 million will depend upon the answers to the questions that we have and obviously the answers to the questions that the Congress has.



QUESTION: So basically rethinking it in light of their questions --



MR. MCCORMACK: No, I wouldn't say we're --



QUESTION: -- and your own?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're not rethinking in response to the letter. We are already, as a result of the announcement of the intention to form a national unity government, we wanted to step back and ask ourselves those questions. So I wouldn't say that we're rethinking it or suspending it in response to the letter. We're following through on what the Secretary said she was going to be doing a couple of weeks ago when she said to these very appropriators -- well, not the appropriators, these committee members that she was going to make sure that she could assure herself that none of these funds were going to end up in the hands of Hamas or a Hamas-led government.



Yes.



QUESTION: Are you looking at other ways then of supporting President Abbas and his security forces? Is there another way that you can do this?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of what we're doing, that's transparent and you can see that in this food program and in requests. And all of our other funding goes through a transparent budgeting process. We are, of course, subject to provide that information up to the Hill, so what we are doing is completely transparent.



There are other things that other countries can do and they do work with the Palestinians on other aspects of the security forces and we think that's important. The Egyptians, in the past, have worked with the Palestinian security forces to help them -- help train them and make them more professional. There are also a variety of other equipment needs that the Palestinians have, but that would be done separately between the Palestinians and any other states that they may have a relationship with.



QUESTION: So because of your constraints on Capitol Hill in getting this money, are you now looking to the Europeans and others to fill that gap?



MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. And again, I would -- walking back from this idea of constraints imposed by Capitol Hill, what they have done is ask this series of questions. And we, of course, want to provide the answers to those questions. Many of the questions are very similar to the ones that we are asking ourselves. So this letter puts on record many of the questions that the committee had for Secretary Rice when she was up there a couple of weeks ago, but suffice it to say, we are already asking ourselves many of these questions prior to the arrival of this letter.



QUESTION: Just to follow up on Sue's question, I mean, you wouldn't sort of seek to subvert the will of Congress by trying to get other people to give you this money if you decide you can't get it through Congress?



MR. MCCORMACK: No, we're not trying to fill any other gaps. Now there are other aspects to training the Palestinian security forces or equipping the Palestinian security forces that we wouldn't consider or we wouldn't be doing because of our laws and regulations. Others can do that and they're -- and they have their own freestanding relationships with the Palestinians, so they are free, of course, to do that.



Yeah.



QUESTION: Staying on the Middle East if we could, and please correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't today the day when the King of Jordan is meeting with Secretary Rice? And if that is correct, can you give us some idea of -- segueing from that subject into what they're going to be talking about and what Ms. Rice expects to be the conclusion and the result from this meeting?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's another in a series of consultations that she's having with her counterparts and other leaders from the region. I would expect that they talk about bilateral issues of concern, both to Jordan and the United States; for example, Iraqi refugees. I know that's at the top of the Jordanian list. I know they have a lot of concerns about the pressures on the support network within Jordan and the ability of the NGOs working in Jordan to meet those humanitarian needs and -- as well as to start that process of looking at these individuals to see if they qualify for refugee status. So that's one issue, certainly.



We have a variety of other issues in the bilateral relationship. I would expect that they also talk about the situation in the region writ large, talk about the Israeli-Palestinian situation, talk about Secretary Rice's efforts to energize a process by which the Palestinians and the Israelis can come together to resolve the many differences that we all know exist between them.



QUESTION: Is that what you expect?



MR. MCCORMACK: As I said, this is a consultation. This isn't a meeting where somebody comes out with a written agreement or a product saying, "Oh, we solved it." This is part of a process, part of a consultative process.



Yeah, anything else on Israeli-Palestinian, Middle East?



QUESTION: Will they be talking about the Iraq conference that's coming up on the 10th this weekend? Is there any prep work being done for that between Rice and Abdullah?



MR. MCCORMACK: That -- I'm sure that she will talk about it to encourage full Jordanian participation at the conference, but I don't believe that that is something that is at the top of either agenda.



Yeah, Sylvie.



QUESTION: Also on Middle East, do you have any comment on the visit of the Hamas political leader, Khaled Meshal, to Iran?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, not surprisingly, we don't have a lot of sources of information, certainly not that I can share with you, beyond press reports concerning such a meeting, given our lack of relationship either with Hamas or Iran. So I can't provide you a lot of insight to it. I don't know if Mr. Haniya is going to try to make his way back into Gaza with a suitcase full of cash or not. We do know that Iran has not played a positive role either in the Palestinian areas or in Lebanon or a variety of other places throughout the Middle East. Beyond that, I can't really offer any comment.



QUESTION: Do you think it could be -- it could lead to a breakthrough since Meshal has been the most powerful person in Hamas recently and Iran has been -- has said that they are willing to participate in the East -- Middle East conference about Iraq, so maybe they are trying to soften vis-à-vis their position? Do you think there is hope on that?



MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I have no insight to that whatsoever. And I talked to -- earlier you mentioned -- this was Khaled Meshal. I mentioned Haniya going back into Gaza, so two separate incidents.



QUESTION: Sarah Baker just filling in for ABC News today. But I had a question on the education front. Do you have any numbers -- are you familiar with with how many Iraqi students are admitted into the United States for study?



MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I'm happy to look into it for you, though.



QUESTION: Great.



MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir.



QUESTION: How is the U.S. planning to verify North Korea's commitment to any agreement given that normalization talks begin today?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all -- a lot of different issues in that. First of all, this is a working group meeting and Chris will begin a discussion about a number of different matters, so I wouldn't characterize them as normalization talks. I think that he will talk to them about how the process might proceed regarding normalization. He will talk to them how the -- how a process might proceed about looking at North Korea's listing on the state sponsors of terrorism list. And he also mentioned looking at how North Korea might not be subject to the Trading with the Enemy Act.



Now, I would caution you that this is a first meeting and that -- this is a first meeting and that this is more about setting the norms of how this working group will proceed and some of the agenda items certainly from our side as well as the North Korean side that they might consider in this working group.



Second of all, the process of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula obviously is one that's going to have to proceed step by step. It is going to have to be a process by which good faith actions are met in turn by good faith actions. We're going to see a first test of that principle in the coming weeks as the 30-day and the 60-day mark from February 13 comes upon us. The various members of the six-party talks have certain responsibilities under that agreement. We'll see how the North Korean side lives up to its responsibilities. We, of course, intend to abide by our commitments under that agreement. And you make an assessment based on performance, and based on performance you either decide to proceed forward or not. And this is going to be a judgment made by the six parties.



As for what specific verification regime might come about in order to ensure the international system that North Korea has, in fact, denuclearized the Korean Peninsula and that it has, in fact, come clean about all of its nuclear programs, that is going to be a subject of discussion and I suspect intense negotiation among the members of the six-party talks. But this is a -- again, this is going to be a step-by-step process. We already know the end point. That's been outlined in the September 2005 agreement. What you're seeing now are a series of implementing agreements. We have the first one on the table now and this is going to be an initial test to see whether or not North Korea has, in fact, made that strategic decision to denuclearize. There are going to be more tests along the way for all the members of the six-party talks to test their willingness to commit to achieve the objective that is -- that they have all outlined.



QUESTION: Is it fair to say that it's likely to take years, if ever, before you get to normalization with a country with which you've had such a long and --



MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I would expect that it is -- it will take -- it would take some time in order for that process to be completed. Again, it would be a matter of building up trust. It would be a matter of performance. And today is just an initial discussion on that process as well as the number of other processes that might be underway as a result of implementing all of these -- implementing the 2005 agreement.



Underlying all of this, North Korea can realize a different kind of relationship with the rest of the world. The pathway is open to them. We see that. This implementing agreement is the first step along that pathway. There is also another pathway of isolation if they do not perform and live up to their responsibilities under these agreements.



QUESTION: Just one other sort of technical question. Will the U.S. Government meet all of its obligations under the February 13th agreement, both under the 30-day and the 60-day, even if North Korea fails to? In other words, you guys are going to go forward in good faith and do what you've said you will do, for example holding the first working group on the normalization of relations and so on; you'll do everything you said you would do regardless of whether they do it?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, within 30 days there are certain marks that they have to meet and the six parties have certain things that they have to do, and we will prepare ourselves to meet all of those obligations both within the 30-day mark and the 60-day mark. The 60-day mark, in part, depends on how well everybody does on the 30-day mark. But we intend to meet all of our commitments.



Now, of course, if there's a failure to meet commitments on the North Korean side, of course you have to take a look at what it is that you are obliged to do and whether or not it is the judgment of the other five parties that they have to meet that commitment in full if there's been a default on the North Korean side.



QUESTION: Did you -- just a last one on this real quickly. Did you get an answer to my question about whether you have actually formally begun the process on taking them off -- of considering whether to take them off the state sponsors of terrorism list?



MR. MCCORMACK: I think that bureaucratically there is a -- there was an initial discussion in preparation for Chris' meeting today and tomorrow in the North Korean working group, only to understand what it is -- what is involved in the process of potentially de-listing North Korea from the state sponsor of terrorism list. I don't think it's gone any further than that at this point.



QUESTION: That was an interagency thing where you just sat down with all the players that have to look at this and --



MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know how formal this was. I think it was probably more of an informal gathering.



Sylvie.



QUESTION: Does it mean that during this working group on normalization you won't -- they won't speak at all about --



MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, let me correct -- I wouldn't call it a working group on normalization. So proceed.



QUESTION: Okay. That's the --



QUESTION: But that's the title. It's the working group on normalization of DPRK-U.S. relations.



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are other issues that are going to be considered under the rubric of that working group.



QUESTION: Which are?



MR. MCCORMACK: I just talked about them. We talked about the state sponsor of terrorism list, talked about the Trading with the Enemy Act. So there are a number of other issues there.



QUESTION: Okay. And will -- do they -- will they speak about the implementation of the nuclear agreement in itself, for an example, the freeze of the Yongbyon?



MR. MCCORMACK: Yongbyon.



QUESTION: Yongbyon.



MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure they will. I'm sure they'll talk about it, yeah.



Mr. Lee.



QUESTION: Yes, back just to -- another country but on the same isolation track and performance track.



MR. MCCORMACK: Let's make sure everybody -- we have all the North Korea questions answered, then we'll -- you have dibs on the first question after that. Anything else on North Korea? Yeah.



QUESTION: No, on Taiwan.



MR. MCCORMACK: No? Okay. Go ahead.



QUESTION: Has anything happened in the last four hours on the Iran resolution?



MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- I can't tell you. I'm sure that there's been some activity. I'm not sure that I can detail it for you from the podium. I'm sure that people were either thinking about it or writing about it or even making telephone calls and meeting about it, but I can't tell you exactly what those things are.



Michel.



QUESTION: Do you have any updates on Under Secretary Burns' meetings in New York today?



MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?



QUESTION: Nick Burns is in New York today. He has a meeting with General Secretary Ban.



MR. MCCORMACK: Right.



QUESTION: Do you have any --



MR. MCCORMACK: No, no updates for you.



QUESTION: Sorry, one more on Iran. And that was the question that I asked you this morning about the rocket launch. Was there anything --



MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I looked into it and really nothing new. There were reports of a possible sounding rockets launch -- launches or launch that might have been sub-orbital. I can't provide you any information on that because that gets into intelligence sources so, you know, I can't provide any clarity about it. Suffice it to say we do have outstanding concerns about Iran's missile program and very -- and we're very much concerned about the possible nexus between that program and their nuclear weapons program.



QUESTION: Separate issue on Sudan. Do you have any update on Andrew Natios' travel, who's seen, what he's achieved, not achieved?



MR. MCCORMACK: I do. I do. He has not had a meeting with President Bashir. That is scheduled for this coming Wednesday. He has met with various other Sudanese officials, including some presidential advisors. He has been traveling -- is currently traveling in Darfur and Southern Sudan.



Tom, he's in Juba right now?



QUESTION: He's not in Darfur?



MR. MCCORMACK: He's not in -- yeah, he's in Juba right now. But the plan was that he would be -- I think he's already traveled to Darfur -- in Juba today, returns for meetings with President Bashir on Wednesday. At this point, I'm -- you know, we're in the middle of the trip. I don't really have anything that I could announce with respect to changes in the Sudanese position. We can encourage them to act on their acceptance of the hybrid AU-UN force.



There are actions that they need to take, there are actions that the UN and DPKO need to take as well, so we'll try to have a more full readout of his trip as he gets closer to the end of his stay in Sudan.



QUESTION: So will Andrew Natsios be presenting Plan B to the Sudanese and providing them more details on that, on sanctions or no-fly zones or anything else?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he will, of course, focus on the importance of getting in this AU-UN hybrid force. I think the Sudanese Government understands full well that there -- it is well past due, their acting on their agreement to allow in this AU-UN force and that there are, of course, other diplomatic levers at the disposal of the international system.



I think they got a taste of that when the Chinese Government decided that it was going to take Sudan off of its top tier of states that would receive trade support in terms of financing trade between the two countries, so an important step with some practical implications for the Sudanese Government and I think that it also sends a very strong signal to the Sudanese Government that the Chinese Government wants to see this AU-UN hybrid force get into Darfur.



QUESTION: Yes, but it's now March and there still has been very little done in terms of U.S. pressure.



MR. MCCORMACK: Well --



QUESTION: And the Chinese have agreed to all kinds of fabulous business dealings, the President was there, so they may have come up with this one issue, but --



MR. MCCORMACK: All right, well -- but as I said about President Hu's visit, I think that the actions at the time send a mixed signal to Sudan, but this is after President Hu's visit. They have taken another step that I think is worth noting. And in terms of U.S. pressure, it is a constant, it is something that we work on every single day, whether you have Andrew Natsios going to Sudan or Andrew Natsios or Jendayi Frazier in contact with others who might bring pressure on the Sudanese regime to get it to change its behavior. It's something that we work on every single day.



And would we have liked to have seen more progress by now? Absolutely; I don't dispute that. Absolutely, we want to see more progress. It is a tragedy, what is happening in Darfur. That is why we think it is so important for the international system to use whatever levers are at its disposal to get the Sudanese Government to change its behavior and act to allow that AU-UN force in.



Now the international system has some responsibilities itself in terms of providing the forces necessary to fill out that AU-UN force and also for the UN to speed up its timeline and to devote the focus, energy, and resources necessary to move that process forward on a timeline that is accelerated beyond what is the norm, because we think it is absolutely essential that happen.



QUESTION: How much of the problem is attributable to obstructionism by Bashir and how much attributable to the UN's lack of an infrastructure in Darfur into which these peacekeepers can deploy?



MR. MCCORMACK: There are problems of infrastructure on the ground, getting the camp set up for the phase one folks, for the phase two folks, as well as looking down the road for the wider force. Yeah, that's a problem, but you need -- the point is, George, you need to look at this as this is not business as usual. This is not getting out your playbook and turning to page 3 and saying, "Oh, well, this is the timeline on which this happens." This is too important and it is too great a tragedy to take a look at the playbook, toss it aside, and say, "We need to move faster." And it's also important for the international community to do the same. I don't think anybody's talking about U.S. troops in this regard.



And the Sudanese as well have a real role to play in this. What I think are the difficulties -- to put a polite term on it -- that the Sudanese regime has thrown up to the deployment of this force are well documented and they need to cease any acts that might even be perceived as obstructionism in moving this process forward.



Yeah.



QUESTION: Do I get another one? Great.



MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, as many as you like. We have plenty of time here.



QUESTION: Thank you, you're a gentleman and a scholar. Thank you so much.



MR. MCCORMACK: My schedule this afternoon is free.



QUESTION: The President of Iran just met with the top Saudi officials, went to Saudi Arabia, and here you have the two oil giants in the world meeting. And as I recall, the President of Iran said something to the effect he wants to talk -- he wanted to talk about the United States, he said, allegedly trying to split the Shia and the Sunni. And I think he wanted to talk about bridging that gap. What's the State Department think about this meeting between the President of Iran and the top Saudi officials?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, the Saudis live in a tight space in the Persian Gulf with the Iranians. That isn't going to change, so it is up to them how they interact with the Iranians. I think the Saudi Government has a healthy appreciation for the threat posed by violent extremism emanating from the regime in Tehran. And we encourage the Saudi Government to send a message to the Iranian regime in the form of President Ahmadi-Nejad that Iranian behavior across a spectrum of different issues is unacceptable.



We haven't -- I don't think we've had a detailed conversation with representatives from the Saudi Government to understand how the meeting went or what exactly came out of it. I've seen a lot of conflicting press reports about it, some of which involve the Iranians contradicting what the Saudi Government said about the meeting. So in terms of providing a detailed reaction, I can't because we don't have an understanding of the dynamics in the meeting and exactly what was discussed.



We would hope that coming out of the meeting the Iranian regime would change its behavior across a wide variety of issues; haven't seen any particular indication of that at this point. But of course we will be -- we remain hopeful of that. In the meantime, we are going to continue working with members in the international system, our friends and allies, to apply the necessary diplomatic leverage and pressure to Iran to get it to change its behavior.



Yes.



QUESTION: Would you have any comment on the parliamentary elections in Abkhazia.



MR. MCCORMACK: Parliamentary --



QUESTION: Yeah.



MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to look into that one.



QUESTION: Yeah. Sorry, I didn't ask you this morning.



MR. CASEY: We have something we can post on that.



MR. MCCORMACK: We have something we'll be posting for you later on that.



Yes, Nina.



QUESTION: Iraq, please. It's a reaction to a reaction to a reaction, I'm afraid, specifically this British raid in Basra, al-Maliki's comments.



MR. MCCORMACK: Right.



QUESTION: He was calling it a responsible, an illegal act. He seems more concerned about the fact that the raid occurred than there were apparent victims of torture there. Can you respond to this?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, our folks on the ground in Baghdad probably have a better, more full understanding of the circumstances surrounding this raid, so I can't tell you what level of authorization these Iraqi Government forces as well as these British forces had in entering this particular facility. So there'll be an investigation, I'm sure. If, in fact, there were individuals being held in that Iraqi Government facility who were being detained outside of Iraqi law or were in any way mistreated or tortured, that would be a source of great concern to us, of course.



So let's see if we can determine a better set of facts concerning (a) the conditions surrounding the raid and ( what exactly was found in there. There's a process question here that I think is more one for the Iraqis to take a look at, and that is what were the authorization procedures that precipitated this raid.



The second issue is a substantive issue of were there individuals being held in these facilities outside of Iraqi law and who were being mistreated or tortured in any way. That's a real concern for us.



QUESTION: Would this be a fully Iraqi-led investigation or would the U.S. take part in this or --



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, inasmuch -- as far as I can determine, our forces weren't involved in the raid. So on the process question, I think that's one more for the Iraqis and the UK authorities to sort out if, in fact, they were part of the raid or part of the change of command that authorized the raid.



Yeah.



QUESTION: Taiwan. We had asked this morning if you --



MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, yes. Here we are. And the question is?



QUESTION: What are your comments on the latest remarks by President Chen of Taiwan regarding the possibility of his seeking independence for Taiwan and even changing the name of Taiwan?



MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. As is well established, the United States does not support independence for Taiwan. President Bush has repeatedly underscored his opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo by either Taipei or Beijing because these threaten regional peace and stability, U.S. national interest and Taiwan's own welfare. President Chen has repeatedly pledged that he would not alter the guarantees in his 2000 inaugural address not to declare independence, change the national title, push for inclusion of sovereignty themes in the constitution, or promote a referendum to change the status quo in regards to the questions of independence and unification. President Chen has also reaffirmed his 2004 inaugural pledge to exclude sovereignty themes from the process of constitutional reform, which would focus exclusively on good governance and Taiwan's economic competitiveness.



President Chen's fulfillment of his commitments is a test of leadership, dependability and statesmanship and of his ability to protect Taiwan's interests, its relations with others, and to maintain peace and stability in the Strait. Rhetoric that could raise doubts about these commitments is unhelpful.



Yes, follow-up questions?



QUESTION: Since President Chen is outgoing president, his term only have one year left, so do you expect those commitments -- the four no's -- continue to be kept by other party leaders in Taiwan -- I mean, who's going to -- may be the next president?



MR. MCCORMACK: We would expect that the -- inasmuch as these commitments flow from our policy requirements and our policy statements that they would continue to be abided by.



QUESTION: Sean?



MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.



QUESTION: Does that mean that the State Department thinks that Taiwanese President's pro-independence rhetoric unhelpful?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think I used the words "rhetoric that could raise doubts about these commitments," which again refers to our opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo. And any rhetoric that might, in any way, contravene that, I called those unhelpful.



QUESTION: Do you believe that could happen?



MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Yes, inasmuch as those comments contradicted any of these -- any of these --



QUESTION: Have you guys come out to decide that, in fact, that's what he was doing and that's -- and then that -- so, in other words, can you make the link in one sentence saying that President Chen's comments are unhelpful or can you not say that?



MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything to add to the statement that I have read.



QUESTION: Sean, would you --



MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.



QUESTION: Sorry. Will you or have you asked Chen to clarify what he said officially?



MR. MCCORMACK: We would expect that inasmuch as any comments deviated from these commitments that he would make it clear that he was -- he continued to adhere to the previous commitments.



Yes.



QUESTION: Sean, the State Department regularly criticizes some of the comments that Chen Shui-bian makes, but a lot of people in Taiwan think that the real danger to the status quo is China's military buildup with its thousand missiles aimed at Taiwan and its military buildup aimed at Taiwan. I mean, do you agree with any that, in fact, the greater danger comes from Taiwan's military activities and that's really the danger to the status quo?



MR. MCCORMACK: We have spoken to the Chinese military buildup separately. Our position on that is well known; it's unchanged and quite clear. We believe that any actions that would destabilize the status quo or threaten that status quo are not helpful and we would ask parties to refrain from such activities.



Yes.



QUESTION: (Inaudible) is coming to visit Washington. I wonder do you have his agenda? Would Taiwan be on the -- you know, the agenda to talk about?



MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I'm sure that it would -- it will come up from the Chinese side, however.



QUESTION: Do you know if Secretary Negroponte raised with the Chinese U.S. concerns about the military buildup China is undertaking vis-à-vis the Taiwan question?



MR. MCCORMACK: I've not spoken with him so I don't know if he, in fact, raised them. I know that he had some remarks to the press in which he talked about -- he was asked about this and he gave our position on it.



Joel.



QUESTION: Sean, there's some troubling developments concerning Russia ever since this assassination in London. There's a gentleman up in suburban Maryland that was involved in a shooting at his home -- Joyal.



MR. MCCORMACK: Right.



QUESTION: And also there's a journalist that apparently took a fifth-story plunge off a building in Moscow, also the second or third journalist in as many months that's died an unprecedented death. Do you have any comments concerning that?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not going to try to draw any links among all those various incidents. As for the individual who was murdered in the United States, local law enforcement, I'm sure, is going to investigate that thoroughly.



Look, as for our concerns about freedom of the press, freedom of expression in Russia, those are well known. We have some -- we have concerns about those issues. We raise those with the Russian Government. It is an important and an essential component of any democracy: freedom of expression, freedom of the press.



Yeah.



QUESTION: Can we go back to Taiwan for a second to follow up on my question? Does the United States -- is the United States concerned, is the State Department concerned that the Russian military buildup is, in fact, threatening or violating the status quo in the Straits?



MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything to add to what I have said on the matter.



Okay. Thank you.


http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/mar/81396.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 6 2007, 06:09 PM
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I don't have any opening statements, so I can get right into your questions. Okay, where's Charlie when I need him?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

(Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Somebody please jump in. Okay, pressure is on Arshad.

QUESTION: Do you have anything about Secretary Hill's meetings in New York today?

MR. MCCORMACK: Ongoing. He had a meeting yesterday with his counterpart, Kim Gye Gwan. He had dinner last night with Kim Gye Gwan. They are having a larger delegation meeting today. I don't have any update on the meetings. I haven't spoken with him. But we do intend to have Chris go to the Foreign Press Center in New York to give a readout of the meetings.

QUESTION: And are you making any progress or are you getting any closer on securing agreement among the P-5+1 on an Iran resolution?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're chipping away at it. It's up with the perm reps now in New York. There was another -- there was a meeting yesterday among the P-5+1 ambassadors or representatives from the countries and there's another one again today. We believe that the conversations are taking place within a constructive atmosphere, that all among the P-5+1 have reaffirmed their intent to seek a second resolution. I expect that this will be an incremental resolution, but it nonetheless will be a Chapter 7, Article 41 resolution. I'm not going to predict exactly when we're going to submit the -- a draft resolution to the other elected members -- to the elected members of the Security Council or when that might pass, but we are pushing for a resolution as quickly as we can.

QUESTION: I remember you saying you hoped to do it this week.

MR. MCCORMACK: Table a draft resolution.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, I would expect that we will either have a draft or get close to a draft this week that we can circulate to the E-10.

QUESTION: The last one from me; has the U.S. Government made any decisions about whether it will seek a place on the UN Human Rights Council?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have made a decision in that regard and our decision is that this year, we do not plan to run. The United States supports the concept of promotion of human rights globally. We will remain a forceful advocate in the promotion of human rights in every corner of the globe, as well as shining a spotlight on -- in those areas where human rights are lacking. While we will continue to remain very engaged on the issue of human rights within the UN system, whether that's in the General Assembly or the Security Council, we do not plan this year to run for the UN Human Rights Council.

We believe that the Human Rights Council has thus far not proved itself to be a credible body in the mission that it has been charged with. There has been a nearly singular focus on issues related to Israel, for example, to the exclusion of examining issues of real concern to the international system, whether that's in Cuba or Burma or in North Korea.

So we are going to remain as observers to the Human Rights Council and we hope that over time, that this body will expand its focus and become a more credible institution representative of the important mission with which it is charged. But nonetheless, the United States will remain actively engaged not only in the UN system but also outside of the UN system in promoting human rights.

QUESTION: Do you think that if the U.S. were to take -- were to about-face and take a greater leadership role, run for the Council, take more of a leadership role in the deliberations, that it could forge some kind of change in the body?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is always a question, whether or not it is -- you would be more effective in working outside to try to change the behavior of an institution or a body, in this case the Human Rights Council, or to work from within. Secretary Rice has made the decision that in this particular case it is better to try to work for change from without and to serve as an example within the UN system of the kind of promoter of human rights, the kind of mechanism or enabler of promotion of human rights within the UN system that the Human Rights Council should be.

It is unfortunate that it has not proven to be that since its inception a couple of years ago. So while we hope that it will expand its focus and will be a credible body for the promotion of human rights within the international system, we just have made -- come to the conclusion at this point that it is not and that the interest of human rights are better served by our actively working outside of the Human Rights Council while remaining an observer to it.

QUESTION: Do you think that as the world's leading -- or only super power -- that your absence from the Council makes it irrelevant?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you have to flip -- we would hope that if we do come to the day when we decide to run for the Human Rights Council, it will have gotten to the point where it is a credible institution and that we could, in fact, lend our diplomatic weight to the council as a participant. But at this point we can't.

George.

QUESTION: Have you (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we have not. We have not run for it.

QUESTION: It's been around for about a year and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Two years, I think.

QUESTION: Two years?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, this would be the second election coming up. I can't tell you exactly when the inception date was, but this would be the second opportunity to run for the Council.

QUESTION: So you've turned it down both times?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Elise.

QUESTION: Change of topic?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the two women, American women, in Russia that have been hospitalized?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have too much information for you. I was provided some information that there were two American citizens -- Marina and Yana Kovalensky -- a mother and daughter that are hospitalized in Moscow with possible thallium poisoning. I don't have any information as to their exact condition right now. They are receiving medical care, however. Russian authorities are now conducting an investigation to try to determine when and how this happened and our Consular officers are in direct contact with the Kovalensky family to offer whatever assistance we can while they are hospitalized in Russia as well as helping them return back to the United States.

QUESTION: Do you know what they were doing there?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I don't have any further information.

QUESTION: And you don't have any reason to -- do you have any reason to believe that this is one of the kind of acts of intimidation and harassment that you mentioned today in Russia in your Human Rights Report?

MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't -- at this point, I couldn't draw any connections to any other particular actions or any other particular motivation, although the Russian authorities are looking into it.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Steve.

QUESTION: On Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Mohamed ElBaradei saying today he has information that Iran has slowed down its enrichment of uranium, but the Foreign Minister Motaki says that's not true; they're going full speed ahead. Can you shed any light on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not sure that's exactly what Mr. ElBaradei said. I know that there was a news report out to that effect, but I'm not sure that that was an accurate characterization of what Dr. ElBaradei said.

There are a lot of remaining questions concerning Iran's nuclear program, and that's exactly what the IAEA is trying to determine the answers to -- what exactly is Iran up to with respect to its nuclear program. But the international system has come to the conclusion that the Iranians are -- that their concerns are great enough concerning Iran's nuclear program, that it is subject to Security Council resolutions right now.

We are convinced, as are others, that Iran is using the cover of a civilian nuclear program to pursue a nuclear weapon. The fact of the matter is, as you stated, that Iran does still have an active program, that they have not suspended their enrichment or reprocessing-related activities.

QUESTION: Well, what do you suppose the -- it was a little vague -- slowed down or postponed or delayed or put it up -- you know, their production process -- you don't have any information about a change in their --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have -- I'll refer you back to the IAEA as to the state of their program. They are the ones that are on the ground. The basic fact, though, is that Iran has not made the political decision to suspend its enrichment or reprocessing-related activities. I can't tell you whether or not the questions about the current state of the program and level of activities there are related to technical issues, engineering issues, or some other issue. But regardless of that, the important fact is they haven't made a political decision yet to suspend that program and that's what matters.

QUESTION: And then P-5+1 and -- I don't know if I missed this, but have you covered that?

MR. MCCORMACK: We did briefly. The perm reps are up in New York chipping away at the -- you know, putting together a resolution and we would hope that this week, we would either have or get very close to having a draft resolution that we could begin circulating to the other members of the Security Council so we can put it to the vote. But all the P-5+1 members remain committed to seeking a second resolution.

Sylvie.

QUESTION: Sean, can you give us a readout of the meeting of the Secretary with the Lebanese Defense Minister?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, it was -- I wasn't in the meeting, but I know that on the agenda, very basically, were a couple of things. One, an update talking to the Defense Minister regarding implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and the ability of the Lebanese armed forces to meet the mandate that has been laid out for it in terms of exercising control over all of Lebanese territory. She is also going to talk to him about the Hariri tribunal and how to move that process forward within the Lebanese political system.

QUESTION: Is there any project to give assistance to the Lebanese forces -- financial assistance or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have already given the Lebanese armed forces some assistance in terms -- in the form of humvees. We have also provided them with some training. I know that we had in mind in our budget request some further training, but we can get you more on that with exactly what it is that the United States is -- intends to do. But at the minimum, we have already provided them some equipment and some training.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: Back to Iran for a second. Did you have anything on the ex-defense minister who apparently is missing? And there are plenty of speculations about where he might be. The theory is that the Israelis kidnapped him, that he might have gotten asylum in the United States. Anything at all to say on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no.

QUESTION: I had to try.

MR. MCCORMACK: Good try. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Kosovo.

MR. MCCORMACK: On Kosovo, yes.

QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, according to today's Washington Post, an international war crime prosecutor said yesterday that the so-called -- the "so-called" is mine -- permanent prime minister of Kosovo Albanian Ramush Haradinaj, 38 years old, who was a gangster in uniform who committed cruel and violent crimes against innocent Serbs, that Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte declared that Ramush Haradinaj has bloodied his hands and faces 37 charges of murder, rape, and torture. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen those news reports.

QUESTION: And one more?

MR. MCCORMACK: You're limited to one today.

Yes.

QUESTION: On North Korea, Treasury Secretary Paulson in Japan and he mentioned that U.S. and North Korea should be able to come to a resolution of the BDA issue, an agreement that both the U.S. and North Korea would be happy with. How close are you to a resolution of the issue and what kind of compromise would the U.S. be willing to make to accommodate North Korea to --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm going to leave that to my colleagues at the Treasury Department. It is an issue that has been worked in that channel directly between the Department of Treasury and North Korean officials, as well as Macanese officials, so I'm going to leave it to them to describe exactly where they are in that process. I know that they are working toward a resolution of the situation within the confines of our legal requirements, so I will just leave Secretary Paulson's remarks where they are and if any of my colleagues at Treasury choose to expand on those remarks, I'll let them go ahead and do that.

Thank you.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/mar/81471.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 7 2007, 05:29 PM
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I have one opening statement. This is from Secretary Rice and we'll have the full paper copy of this out for you after the briefing. This is on International Women's Day and also just a reminder that she will have an event at which she hands out the awards -- the International Women of Courage Awards -- at 1:30 or so.

Today, we pay tribute to women of courage around the world and hold them up as examples of hope, strength and compassion. This year it is my privilege to inaugurate the Secretary's International Women of Courage Award. Through this annual award the United States will honor the courage of extraordinary women worldwide who have played transformative roles in their societies. The global observance of International Women's Day reminds all nations that the empowerment of women is irrevocably tied to their safety -- I guess they use smaller words -- tied to the safety, security and prosperity of the world. The enfranchisement of women can no longer be a simple aspiration. Women are essential agents in bringing about the change and an often overlooked resource in the preservation of human security, in overcoming transnational dangers and in managing threats rising from tyranny, trafficking, poverty and disease. Achieving the United States' mission of advancing democracy, prosperity and security worldwide is not possible without the empowerment of women. If women cannot participate in the political process, there can be no real democracy. If women are deprived of economic opportunity, development is crippled. If women are not educated, they cannot pass knowledge to their children and there is no true security for the next generation.

And we will have that -- the full statement -- there is more, out for you after the briefing and also some short bios of the ten recipients of this award that the Secretary is going to be handing out.

QUESTION: Will they be in attendance?

MR. MCCORMACK: All but one and she had -- she regrets that she was unable to attend.

Okay. I just blew you away with that announcement, so we’ll give you a few minutes to absorb it. (Laughter.) I think we're on a three-second timer here, Charlie.

Yeah, go ahead, Sue.

QUESTION: Do you have anything more on the regional meeting in Baghdad over the weekend, Iran is attending? Could you provide a few more details on what the U.S. hopes to get out of this and your views on Iran's attendance and whether you plan any bilats?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, first of all, let's refocus. This is a meeting that is hosted by the Iraqis and the focus is on Iraq. It is not on the United States. We are there as an attendee and we are pleased to be going.

It is -- part of Iraq's regional diplomacy where they are working with their neighbors in the region to develop the kind of relationship that they want to have that will help them through their political processes, help them find their place in the region. And it is also designed to help the neighbors in the region have a degree of assurance about what the Iraqi Government's plans are vis-à-vis economic reform, political reform and security. I'll leave it to the Iraqi Government to outline exactly what the agenda of the meeting will be. I expect there will be a heavy focus on security, perhaps a presentation on the Baghdad security plan as well as a discussion about those security issues that require discussion among neighbors: controlling borders, security for transmission of electricity and fuel oil and other such commodities. So that -- it will be a discussion, a preparatory meeting, if you will, for a ministerial meeting that is intended to be held at some point in April, perhaps the first half of April.

So I think it's a good opening discussion for this particular grouping. There had previously been regional neighbor meetings hosted by Turkey on a variety of different topics, but this is the first one where you'll have the P-5 present as well.

On the second part of your topic, I can't tell you if there's going to be any particular interaction between our representatives -- Zal Khalilzad, our Ambassador there, and David Satterfield, who is the Secretary's advisor on Iraq. We shall see if we an opportunity to raise the issue of EFPs and Iran's support for those networks and supply of those networks with the technology know-how to construct these EFPs, you bet we're going to raise it, because that gets to an issue of force protection for our troops and we're going to take every possible opportunity that we can take to ensure that our troops are protected in theater. And if that means having a discussion with the Iranian representative in the context of this meeting, yeah, we're going to take that opportunity.

QUESTION: But have you approached the Iranians and asked them for that opportunity? When you say "You bet we'll raise it," but --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Have you approached them and said, "We'd like to discuss this face to face?"

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are a number of different opportunities to communicate with the Iranians. You have, of course, the Swiss channel. There is the ambassador-to-ambassador channel, which is also available to both sides. There has not been a meeting involving those two ambassadors to date. And then of course, you have the opportunities in this -- in the context of this conference, so we will see. We will see what interactions may come about. I'm not going to -- I'll go back to my standard line. I'm not going to point you in the direction of any particular diplomatic interaction, nor am I going to wave you off of any one occurring.



QUESTION: But if you're making the effort to be in the same room as them anyway, why not go the extra mile and arrange a bilateral to discuss this key issue?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, the -- everybody -- I am going to resist all attempts to make this about the United States and Iran. This conference, this meeting is about Iraq. And it is hosted by the Iraqis, it is going to be run by the Iraqis, they are going to set the agenda, they are taking the lead on drafting a potential statement coming out of this meeting or perhaps, the next one. So any opportunities for -- that we or the Iranians may take to exchange information or to have a discussion on the security issues related to Iraq in this meeting will be -- are incidental.



Again, the focus of this is -- this meeting is Iraq, as it properly should be, and let's make it clear that the pathway for any negotiations on any issues not related to Iraq is with the P-5+1 process. And the Iranian Government knows full well what it is that they have to do in order to realize those discussions and those negotiations.



QUESTION: So just to clarify, you said you have the opportunity to talk to them. It could be around the table with others involved or it could be face to face. You're not saying it's going to be one or the other?



MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I'm not going to try to predict. You know, our -- Zal or David Satterfield certainly aren't going to go run in a corner if there's an opportunity for a discussion on that -- security issues related to Iraq. I'm not going to try to predict any particular manner of interaction.



QUESTION: Is there one that you favor, though?



MR. MCCORMACK: Again, this is -- you know, this is diplomacy. People want things to be scripted down to the last iota -- you know, when somebody picks up their glass of orange juice and then do they put it back down on the napkin or not. You know, look, we're not going to try to prescribe those sorts of things.



If there is some interaction, some diplomatic interaction, some discussion in the room, we are going to make every effort to fully inform you that such a discussion took place and then give you as full a briefing as we possibly can on the contents of such a discussion. I cannot tell you that one will take place. I can tell you, however, that should one take place, that it will not be on any issue other than Iraq and issues related to Iraq security.



Steve.



QUESTION: Well, once again, just to follow through --



MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.



QUESTION: If this is a meeting that'll focus heavily on security?



MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.



QUESTION: Security of American troops and the security of Baghdad and Iraq are a major concern to every party; these EFPs are carrying American soldiers and yet --



MR. MCCORMACK: Right.



QUESTION: -- no special effort has been made to set up a meeting on the sidelines between Americans and Iranians?



MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we will see. I said that if we have the opportunity that of course we're going to take that opportunity. And I am not going to, despite everybody's efforts, try to detail exactly how that might happen and what the manner might be, whether or not they're going to be standing five feet away from everybody else or seated at the table.



QUESTION: Are you optimistic it might happen?



MR. MCCORMACK: Steve, we shall see. We shall see. I'm not going to tie the hands of our diplomats who are going to this meeting. But I will reiterate that the issue is Iraq and certainly the issues that you outlined about Baghdad security as well as EFPs are of deep concern to us. And one interesting note, we wouldn't even be having this discussion if President Bush hadn't raised it back in January. And I think there's something to be said for bringing the issue to the fore and having -- raising it in public. The Iranians are going to be around a table with all of Iraq's neighbors -- Iraqis, as well as us -- and there's a different dynamic in that room potentially because this issue is out there. If the President had not raised it and talked about what we are going to be doing concerning protection of our troops, you wouldn't be having this discussion right now.



Libby.



QUESTION: What's the United States message to Iraq's neighbors this weekend about what they can do to help in Iraq? What are you looking for from them?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's going to be up to them. We urge them to come in the spirit of full participation and being open to listening to what the Iraqi Government is doing vis-à-vis security and also come ready to fully participate and to discuss what commitments they might make that could help reassure this Iraqi Government that they do have friends in the region that are concerned about their future that will help the Iraqis understand that they do have a place in the region. And what we hope or what we would hope also for the Iraqis is that in sitting down and describing to their neighbors what it is that they are doing and their plans, that that offers their neighbors some degree of assurance as to what their plans are. So it's an opportunity to have that discussion.



Ultimately you have -- you want this to lead to a discussion at the ministerial level and also there is potentially an interplay here with the International Compact for Iraq. Now, that is a totally separate effort. But you can imagine if there is a degree of mutual reassurance and understanding that takes place within these neighbors meetings that that somehow can also reinforce the efforts on the International Compact for Iraq where you have a much more focused dialogue on Iraqi reconstruction and economic reform and what neighbors might -- what members of the International Compact for Iraq might do to help out Iraq on those issues.



Yeah.



QUESTION: So is it possible that you could be laying the groundwork then for a bilateral between the Secretary and the Iranian Foreign Minister, whoever attends the meeting in mid-April, to discuss this?



MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not leading you down that pathway.



QUESTION: No? Okay.



QUESTION: Are you open to that possibility?



MR. MCCORMACK: You know, let's get through this first -- let's get through this first meeting. I suppose at this point I would offer the same line about this meeting as I would about a potential ministerial meeting; certainly, if the Secretary has an opportunity to raise issues related to the security of our troops, she's not going to shy away from those opportunities, nor is she going to go run and hide in the corner if there's a particular opportunity for an interaction with an Iranian diplomat on issues related to Iraq and Iraqi security.



QUESTION: Well, I mean, just to follow up, and I'm sorry if you addressed this already, on the North Korea six-party talks, for instance, you had talks on a bilateral context within the context of the six-party talks. So as to say that Ambassador Hill sat down with his counterpart to discuss issues related to the nuclear file, is that a dynamic that you see flowing from this process?



MR. MCCORMACK: Totally different, apples and oranges, comparing these two things.



QUESTION: Well, no, I understand that the issues are apple and oranges, but I mean, it is a multilateral forum --



MR. MCCORMACK: I would say the process -- no, I would say the processes are apples and oranges. What you have in the six-party talks is a negotiating forum. There's an agreed upon agenda with a definitive objective: denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. You also have that potential with the P-5+1 process, but Iran has to meet certain conditions in order to realize those kinds of negotiations. And in those negotiations, they can raise whatever it is that they want to, but the focus would be on addressing Iran's nuclear program.



Now, those two, if you wanted to try to make some analogy between those two processes, then you might have a case. But in terms of this Iraq neighbors meeting, it's focused on Iraq. It's not a negotiation and it's not one that is hosted by us. We are invited guests, as opposed to stakeholders in the process.



George.



QUESTION: A follow-up on Iran. The Financial Times has a story suggesting that Germany's biggest importer of natural gas is pursuing a gas supply contract with Iran in order to reduce its dependence on Russia.



MR. MCCORMACK: Right.



QUESTION: Any comment?



MR. MCCORMACK: Let's see. We have something on this. Our reaction would be that we applaud the company's focus on diversifying supply of gas to help guarantee reliable supplies; however, we're a little surprised at the selection. There is little evidence that Iran would prove to be a reliable supplier and we would point to a 2005 deal with India that unraveled over shifting cost estimates by the Iranians for how they would -- what they would supply to the Indians.



And just a general comment about business dealings with Iran. It is -- we are in a time now where it is -- it should not be business as usual in terms of exchanges, business exchanges, with Iran. I'm not saying that we are trying to cut off business exchanges with Iran, but companies need to look closely at what their interactions are and with whom they are dealing. That has been one of the points of the Security Council resolution as well as our discussions with European financial institutions as well as other financial institutions around the globe.



I would note also that the German Government has been quite responsible in this regard. Export credits in support of business dealings with Iran are down substantially. I understand the Japanese have also taken some steps in this regard. So clearly governments are not treating this as a business as usual atmosphere and we would encourage companies around the world when they are looking at those types of business dealings or potential business dealings with the Iranian Government to examine them closely vis-à-vis the situation in which the international system finds itself now.



QUESTION: But why are you saying you're not trying to dissuade -- you're not trying to cut off dealings? I mean, you are.



MR. MCCORMACK: No, while we are -- first of all, it's not within our power to do so.



QUESTION: Well, that's beside the point. As to what you're encouraging, I mean, Stuart Levey is making speeches in the region, you're here at the podium. You dance around it, but it seems to me you're doing a lot of encouraging people to stop dealing with Iran.



MR. MCCORMACK: No, look, businesses will make their own decisions based on their assessment of reward and risk. And the only point that I'm trying to make is that we are in a different atmosphere with respect to risk involving Iran. They are under Chapter 7, Article 41 sanctions at the moment and there is every prospect that they will find themselves under additional sanctions in the not-too-distant future with a new Security Council resolution. And businesses around the world, including some major financial institutions, have decided that they -- that the risk involved, because Iran now finds itself in this situation of being under Chapter 7 resolution, is not worth the potential rewards.



And those are business decisions that they themselves have to make. They aren't -- those businesses aren't necessarily answerable to governments. Of course, they have to abide by rules and laws and regulations. They're answerable to their shareholders. And so they're going to make decisions about where they put their capital, where they invest and with whom they do business. And if there is an increased risk involved in some of those transactions, I think it only stands to reason that some of those businesses are going to choose not to do business with the Iranian Government.



QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?



MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sure.



QUESTION: You may not have the actual power to cut them -- to cut some of these transactions off, but certainly Stuart Levey and other U.S. officials have traveled to various European countries, and if not kind of put the fear of God in them and certainly discouraged them and made them take a hard look, encouraged them to take a hard look, reminding them of the risks of these type of transactions, so while you may not be trying to -- you may not have the power to cut them off, certainly wouldn't you agree that you're discouraging businesses from doing business with Iran?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what we are encouraging businesses to do is to take a hard look at with whom they are dealing. There have been myriad cases of Iran setting up front companies. Those front companies would be making purchases on behalf of all sorts of missile programs, WMD programs, and potentially involved in other types of illicit activity.



Our counsel is that -- take a close look at with whom you are dealing and also keep in mind that the United States has a responsibility to enforce its laws and to enforce its regulations, as with any state around the world. And now, there is the additional responsibility of looking at with whom you are dealing because of a Security Council resolution that is in place.



So -- and these come about because of the behavior of the Iranian Government, and it is the consensus among the Security Council that that behavior has merited a Security -- a Chapter 7 Security Council resolution. And there is, beyond the Security Council, widespread concern about Iran's activities in developing a nuclear weapon and also with respect to its missile development.



So there's -- this is -- there is certainly a different climate that exists, but that different climate exists because of Iran's behavior and its refusal to heed the very reasonable calls of the international system and its failure also to take up the opportunities afforded it by the P-5+1 for negotiations.



Kirit.



QUESTION: There are reports that a top Iranian general who's involved in the nuclear program has either defected or been kidnapped by Israel, and there's reports that he may end up being in the United States. Do you have any information on his whereabouts?



MR. MCCORMACK: No information on it. I've seen the press reports. No information for you.



QUESTION: Would you at least deny that he's in the United States?



MR. MCCORMACK: Kirit, I couldn't tell you. I have no information on the matter.



QUESTION: Sean, on the previous subject. A story quotes a British official as saying that no one is discussing full blown trade and economic sanctions at this stage, referring to the UN Security Council deliberations.



MR. MCCORMACK: Right.



QUESTION: Is that correct?



MR. MCCORMACK: That's correct. That's correct. These are -- you know where we are now. There's a Security Council resolution that covers -- it focuses on assets, transactions and individuals associated with their nuclear program. And we are taking an incremental approach, building on that base right now in drafting the language for this next Security Council resolution. So, no, nobody is talking about a full-blown sanctions resolution that's widespread that covers all of the Iranian economy.



QUESTION: Nick said yesterday on the Hill that he was interested in seeing some kind of restrictions put on export credits given to the Iranians. Is that part of the discussions?



MR. MCCORMACK: It has been a topic that's been discussed. The German Government itself -- I just talked about the fact that it has taken steps to reduce the number of export credits. I suppose there's probably also a reduction in demand there because people are looking at with whom they're dealing. And it's a topic that states are going to have to look at individually regardless of the discussion in the Security Council right now, but it's a topic that's being discussed.



Yes.



QUESTION: Is that something the U.S. would like to see formally enshrined in the next resolution?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's something that is being examined with respect to the resolution.



Yes, sir.



QUESTION: Tomorrow, President Bush leaves for Latin America and Guatemala on Monday. There's been renewed interest about organized crime. The Bush Administration has quietly endorsed a UN Commission to investigate organized crime or against impunity in Guatemala. It was recently endorsed by the Berger government. Are you now working with the Berger government to encourage the Guatemalan congress to approve the plan which is necessary to go in effect? Is the plan not dissimilar to what was established in Lebanon? And is the establishment of a UN Commission to investigate organized crime in Guatemala a priority for the Administration?



MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly cooperation in fighting transnational crime is an important element of our strategy all around the world to try to stop illicit trafficking in persons, narcotics and other kinds of activities. With respect to Guatemala, honestly, I have to look into it. I am not familiar with the particular initiative that you're referring to, so we can get you an answer after the briefing.



QUESTION: And if I could follow up briefly about transnational crime. Recently INL and other agencies lauded the Mexicans for making a record number of extraditions of drug suspects to the United States. At the same time, Guatemala hasn't extradited one Guatemalan on drug charges in more than a decade. At the same that the New York Times and the wires are reporting that Guatemala is moving between two-thirds and three-fourths, according to U.S. agencies, of all the cocaine reaching in the United States. And I've asked INL this and I have yet to get a straight answer. Is there some political reason why the Administration is so interested in waving a flag about the good news concerning drug traffickers in Mexico and seems to be ignoring or burying the bad news about not fighting drug traffickers in Guatemala?



MR. MCCORMACK: As for Guatemala, I'm happy to try to get -- assist you in getting a straight answer. It's a legitimate question and we'll try to get you the best answer that we possibly can. With respect to Mexico, President Calderon has taken a brave stance with respect to bringing drug traffickers who are responsible for every variety of violence along the border region, not to mention the trafficking in illegal narcotics into the United States. This is part of a wider program to focus on the Mexican economy and President Calderon has also taken steps to encourage Mexicans to look within Mexico for economic opportunities because -- and he has had a great focus on that and we applaud his efforts. Because ultimately he understands some of this arises because of a lack of economic opportunity and he is very interested in working with the United States as well as others in the region to develop those economic opportunities. So we'll try to get you answer on your other question.



QUESTION: Thank you.



MR. MCCORMACK: Samir.



QUESTION: Did the Saudis brief the U.S. about the results of the visit of Ahmadi-Nejad to Saudi Arabia last week or did they hint if they will -- the Iranians may play a positive role in the Baghdad meeting?



MR. MCCORMACK: I've heard that they're going to attend. I've seen the press reports that the Iranians are going to attend. The Iraqis have said that they're going to attend. I know that we at a variety of levels talked to the Saudi Government about the meeting between King Abdullah and President Ahmadi-Nejad. I don't have a readout for you, though.



QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the World Bank report today on funds being funneled through President Abbas' office? They're questioning whether there's enough oversight for those funds and recommending that funds should now be channeled through the finance ministry.



MR. MCCORMACK: I understand that this report is out. Our guys haven't looked at it. We haven't had a chance to look at it.



Just sort of some background information off the top, though. There has been very limited number of actual fund transfers to the presidency, never mind the Palestinian Authority. I did a real quick check before I came out here, and I could find three that have happened over the past couple of years.



QUESTION: And how much was --



MR. MCCORMACK: The first -- I don't have the exact numbers right now, but the first two dealt with -- and these were all out in the press so you can go back and look in your archives. You've all done reporting on this. The first couple dealt with assisting the PA with, I think, electricity payments and infrastructure payments, and that was done in two tranches. The last -- the most recent one had to do with assisting the Palestinian Authority prior to the election of Hamas with infrastructure, governance assistance, post-Gaza withdrawal.



Now, what happened is before all of that money got spent there was the election of Hamas. They took over the Palestinian Authority. And so there was, I think, actually $3 or $4 million in unspent funds that were returned to the United States after that by the Palestinians.



So those are the three instances recently where there have been direct -- there's been direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority. There have been other in-kind humanitarian assistance donations like with medicines and that sort of thing. And what we're talking about with the proposed $86 million supplemental request, or reprogramming request for the Palestinian security forces deals with training as well as in-kind assistance of non-lethal equipment – like uniforms, communications gear, that sort of thing.



So I'm not quite sure what it is that they're referring to. There were for all of those transitions quite detailed safeguards and auditing procedures that were worked out. One of the big holes the Palestinians had to dig themselves out from after the death of Yasser Arafat was reforming their financial management and accounting systems because there was a -- you know, during the era of Yasser Arafat a lot of this stuff was done with people handing out envelopes filled with dollar bills. And that era, in terms of President Abbas, we are confident has ended.



Now, with respect to funneling funds through the finance ministry of a Hamas-led government, that's just -- you know, that's not going to happen.



QUESTION: This World Bank report is referring largely to, I think, the funds provided by the Arab League states. But if the World Bank is questioning whether there's enough oversight for that money, does this not make your case harder to argue in Congress for the 86 million?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let me look into exactly what it is that you're talking about, Sue. The report said the Arab League funds that are going in?



QUESTION: I believe that this is --



MR. MCCORMACK: That have been pledged?



QUESTION: -- referring to the Arab League funds.



MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I know that there have been a lot of funds that were pledged. I'm unclear as to exactly how much of that has been delivered. Again, there have been discussions about this, making sure that any assistance is humanitarian assistance and it reaches those for whom it was intended.



So we'll -- I'm happy to look into it and get you a detailed answer. It may require some time, as people have to look through the report and understand it.



QUESTION: I think it also covers the Israeli $100 million in taxes, too.



MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we'll take a look at it and we'll get you a reaction, but we have to read it first.



QUESTION: Okay, thank you.



MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Samir.



QUESTION: Did you have a chance to listen to the speech by King Abdullah of Jordan before Congress? And if so, what's your reaction to his --



MR. MCCORMACK: I saw it, parts of it. I have to confess I have not seen the full text. But King Abdullah is a good friend and a close ally. An indication of that is the fact that he had dinner over at the White House with President Bush. Secretary Rice hosted him here for a working lunch. So we -- he is a good friend and he is somebody who is passionate about the cause of peace in the region. We value his counsel. So -- but I have to confess I haven't seen the text of his remarks.



QUESTION: But what's -- why the timing now, like to honor him like in Congress, White House and State? Is there any specific element with this?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's what you do with friends. We're able to honor our friends in different ways, and this is just one way that we do it. It's a real honor to speak before the Congress like that.



QUESTION: Thank you.



QUESTION: Thank you.



MR. MCCORMACK: Nope, we've got a couple more. Yes, ma'am.



QUESTION: Yes on North Korea with regard to the Japan-North Korean working group --



MR. MCCORMACK: Right.



QUESTION: -- that is taking place in Hanoi. How does the U.S. view North Korea's behavior in refusing to return to the afternoon segment of the talks?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, they're dealing with some emotional issues and we understand that. They started their bilateral working group. I understand that there were some questions about North Korea returning for the afternoon session. My understanding based on what's been provided me here today is that they are going to tomorrow resume their discussions. We would encourage that. There's nothing easy about these issues, I think on both sides, but it's important that they start that discussion. We have encouraged it and it's also important that all parties to the six-party talks meet their commitments as outlined in the implementing agreement that was signed back on the 13th of February.



QUESTION: But is such behavior helpful, and like it’s obviously not conducive to the talks and there's growing concern in Japan that North Korea is trying to isolate Japan on the abductee issue. How would the U.S. go about addressing --



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have been forthright in our support of Japan in the six-party process for putting this issue on the table, and that remains. We know it's a very important issue for the Japanese Government and the Japanese people. So we have been full supporters of the Japanese Government in putting this issue on the table and we continue to support them.



Yeah, Nicholas.



QUESTION: But, Sean, do you see any reason to be concerned about possibly derailing progress on meeting the 30-day and then the 60-day deadline just because of one working group in case, you know, it doesn't work out the way that everybody is hoping to?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we'll see. Every indication is at this point that all the parties are meeting their commitments as outlined in the agreement. Obviously, there's more as we come up on the next 30-day mark. And we'll see. I have said that in the wider process, this is a step-by- step process. As you have this implementing agreement if it's successful, then you move on to the next one and there are a lot of hard issues that are out there on the horizon for all of us. And within this implementing agreement there are steps that each side has to take and we shall see. Chris yesterday reported -- Chris Hill reported that he had good meetings in his working group. And our expectation is that we are now on course at this point to meet all the requirements of the first 30 days. And so we hope that the Japanese and the North Koreans can successfully conclude this round of discussions in their working group. We understand that it may be difficult for both sides. But the issue of abductees is very important to Japan. I know that there are important issues to North Korea. And that's the -- that's part of this process is that all sides get to raise issues that are important to them. The central focus, however, remains on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.



Elise.



QUESTION: The U.S. has always held out the abductee issue for a criteria for getting -- for North Korea getting off the State Sponsor of Terrorism list. But it -- correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the State Sponsor of Terrorism list about states that have committed terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens?



MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Elise, I -- it's before my time exactly how North Korea got themselves on the State Sponsor of Terrorism list, but it's a rigorous process through -- that the U.S. Government goes through in determining whether or not somebody merits inclusion on the list. I can't tell you all the criteria that went into it. I do think the abductee issue is one of those -- one of the issues that contributed to their being on the list. But beyond that I couldn't offer you any comment.



QUESTION: But the criteria for getting off the list, I think there's some kind of like 90 day -- six month or a period where any state on the State Sponsor of Terrorism list has to have had nothing to do with terrorism.



MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Yeah, we went through that process with Libya.



QUESTION: Right. So I mean, at what point does the inclusion or taking or removal from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list become a political issue to get a country to do things on other areas of policy that you want them to do? I mean, clearly, I don't know anybody that thinks that North Korea is still on the "terrorism list."



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, even if there were an inclination among the policymakers and "political people" which there is not, to do just that, there is no lawyer in the U.S. government that would advise them to do that. It's a rigorous process. They have to meet all the wickets that's laid out in the law and nobody's going to try to fudge it. You don't fudge it when people get on to the list and you don't do it in reverse.



QUESTION: Have you -- one quick one. Have you provided North Korea with clear criteria of what it needs to do to get off the terrorism list?



MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't talked to Chris on whether or not he covered this in the working group. This was intended as the beginning of that potential discussion. I don't know what information he's been -- he has provided them. But at some point along the way, that would make -- it would make sense that we do. But I can't tell you if Chris has already done that or not.

QUESTION: Sean, do you have a readout yet of Andrew Natsios' meeting with President Bashir?

MR. MCCORMACK: I understand he did a press availability afterwards and I got the barest bone readout of that. I think the highlight for you guys would be a couple of things. One, he understands that he has a commitment from President Bashir to look into the treatment of NGOs operating in Sudan and to take greater -- much greater care with respect to how they are treated as well as their safety. And on the second, Andrew understands from President Bashir that President Bashir has sent a letter in reply to correspondence from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon regarding the AU/UN force. President Bashir didn't brief Andrew on the contents of the letter, so I guess we'll see what that is. Andrew also made the point in the press conference that just because of the issue of the restrictive numbers of available peacekeepers in Africa that you're also -- for this AU/UN force -- going to need to look beyond Africa for getting in those peacekeepers. And that is, I understand, something that Sudan has to this point resisted. I'm not sure -- I haven't gotten a read from Andrew whether or not there was any give on that issue, but Andrew did make that point.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/mar/81524.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 8 2007, 07:53 PM
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody.

QUESTION: Good afternoon.

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, Lambros. How are you doing?

QUESTION: Fine.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any opening statements, so we can get right into all your questions. Who wants to start?

Sylvie, go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the P-5+1 conference call today?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nick Burns had a conference call with his P-5+1 counterparts. He also spoke later on with some of his counterparts individually. So we are working this on two tracks: we are working at their political directors level; we are working it at the perm rep level up in New York. We are chipping away at any remaining differences that might exist among the P-5+1 so that we can get a draft resolution and then circulate it to the rest of the Council. Everybody is committed to moving forward -- it is just a matter of time, working out the details and the language -- but everybody is committed to getting a second resolution in the -- as soon as we possibly can.



Yes.



QUESTION: Did we -- did you speak individually to the Russians, for example, and there is still some differences --

MR. MCCORMACK: We spoke with the Russians and the Chinese. Look, I want to dispel this notion that is out there and it is kind of bouncing around; maybe it is an echo of past discussions. But certainly in this round, we are working very cooperatively with the Russian Government, working very well with them. This began with Secretary Rice's meetings with Foreign Minister Lavrov in which they first discussed this idea of the second resolution and what it might look like, and it has extended up to the phone call today. So we're working very well with the Russians.

Other members of the P-5+1 have some questions. You're starting to get into in some of the elements of a resolution where you have different countries that have different equities. And we're going to be working through the specific substantive as well as language fixes with them. But make no mistake, we are going to get a resolution and we're working on getting one as soon as we can.


QUESTION: Do you have any timeline for that resolution next week?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah --

QUESTION: Some people are saying it might be April.

MR. MCCORMACK: It might be --

QUESTION: April, maybe?

MR. MCCORMACK: Where are we -- April or March?

QUESTION: We're in March now.

MR. MCCORMACK: We're in March? I'm just trying to figure out where we are in March.

QUESTION: Like a month away.

MR. MCCORMACK: March --

QUESTION: The Day of Women.

MR. MCCORMACK: That's right. International Women's Day. Thanks very much. Look, I'm not going to put timelines on it. We want one as soon as we can. We're working very well and constructively with all the members of the P-5+1.

Yes.



QUESTION: Surely you can give us some notion of the snags because, I mean, a week ago you were saying this is going more quickly than the last time and that we're expecting something. You know, I mean, it's not sticking to the kind of the pace that you kind of laid out at the end of last week now. What's --



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's inevitable. It's inevitable in any multilateral negotiation. We are still working more quickly than we were last time around. That was an extended negotiation. I would hope that this effort move forward more quickly than it did last time. The last time around, we were working on the first resolution of its kind out of the gate on this particular topic. This resolution is incremental in its nature, but nonetheless important. So I would expect that we're going to be able to move through these issues more quickly than we did last time.



Yes, Nicholas.



QUESTION: On Iran, sort of. I know we've been asking for -- this is the third time, I think, about this ex-deputy defense minister or general. I assume that you don’t have anything today, as you did --



MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. That's right.



QUESTION: I'm just wondering is there a point at which you might have something because I know that asylum cases you don't talk about.



MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.



QUESTION: If he was kidnapped, I assume that you're not going to even want to think about talking about. But seriously, is there any point in which we should --



MR. MCCORMACK: You can keep asking. You can keep asking it. I'm going to have the same answer for you unless something qualitatively changes in my ability to give you an answer. I don't have any information on those news stories.



QUESTION: Or you can call me and leak it. (Laughter.) Okay, thanks.



MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) Okay. All right.



QUESTION: The problem is now it's on the front page of the newspaper, so it's starting to be rather public. Can you at least deny these --



MR. MCCORMACK: I have no information on this news story for you.



Goyal.



QUESTION: Sir, two quick questions. One, last night I hope you were watching King Abdullah of Jordan at the Joint Session of the United States Congress.



MR. MCCORMACK: Right.



QUESTION: He spoke -- he gave a very nice, wonderful speech, but his speech was really encouraging younger Arab and Muslim youths as far as terrorism is concerned because he never condemned as far as terrorism is concerned by those youths in his region as far as Palestine and Israeli conflict was concerned. What do you think about his speech?



MR. MCCORMACK: I think King Abdullah is an advocate and a force for peace in the region. He's a good friend and ally.



QUESTION: And may I have one more on the UN, please?



MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.



QUESTION: Any reason, Sean, why again for the second year the United States is absent from the United Nations Security -- Human Rights Security Council?



MR. MCCORMACK: I went into an explanation of that back on Tuesday. Very basically, we don't believe that as it is currently constituted and given its -- given the mandate, that it is not a credible institution in meeting the mandate that has been set out for it. We're disappointed by that. We're going to remain observers to the Human Rights Council. But we have chosen not to run. That doesn't mean there's any diminishment in the United States advocacy and promotion of human rights around the world. We're going to work within the UN system, within the Security Council, within the General Assembly as well as outside the UN system, to be forceful advocates for human rights around the world. It's disappointing that the Human Rights Council just hasn't measured up to date.



QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. Secretary Rice just the other day issued or released the report on global human rights violations.



MR. MCCORMACK: Right.



QUESTION: Do you think she agrees that today the United Nations Security -- the Human Rights Security Council is run by those who are violators of human rights globally?



MR. MCCORMACK: She believes that there has been nearly singular focus on issues related to Israel to the exclusion of other very important issues -- human rights issues around the world, including in Burma, Cuba, North Korea as well as elsewhere. So she made the decision that it was not in our interest to run for the Council. We're going to be observers to it and we would hope that in the future that this Council takes seriously its mandate to look at human rights questions around the globe, no matter where they may be, and to meet the mandate that's been laid out for it. Sadly, it hasn't lived up to that mandate.



Yes, sir.



QUESTION: In today's Washington Post, Jim Hoagland's quoted diplomats as saying that Secretary Rice has persuaded Turkey to host a ministerial conference on Iraq next month with the participation of neighboring nations, P-5 and G-8. Leaving aside who has (inaudible), could you confirm that Turkey or Istanbul could be the planned venue for such a conference?



MR. MCCORMACK: It is the Iraqi Government that is going to be sponsoring this potential ministerial meeting. We have an envoys-level meeting that is going to take place in Baghdad over the weekend. That is meant as a preparatory meeting to a possible ministerial down the road. I don't believe there have been any final decisions yet on a venue or location for that meeting. Turkey has served as host for prior neighbors -- Iraq neighbors group meeting and they've played a very constructive role in that process, bringing Iraq together with its neighbors. So I'll leave it to the conference organizers, the Iraqis, to make any announcements about where a possible ministerial meeting might take place.



Lambros.



QUESTION: On Northern Epirus issue in Albania. Mr. McCormack, regarding my pending questions I raised March 7th for the Greeks of Northern Epirus and Albania when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presented to us the Annual Report on Human Rights, I got yesterday the formal answers from your press officer Kurtis Cooper: "There are no reliable statistics on the exact population of the Greeks minority in Albania. The last census was taken in 2001. However, Greeks are the largest national minority. Estimates range from 3 to 10 percent, depending on the source. In general, the Albanian Government is allowing the Greek language schools to be open. The Albanian Government granted an operating license to two schools outside the "Greek zone," one in Korca and one in Himare. During a September visit by the Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha to Greece, the Albanian Government agreed to cooperate in the building of a Greek-language university in Gjirokaster to be refunded -- to be funded by the Greek Government."



MR. MCCORMACK: Are you going to wrap this up here?



QUESTION: And in conclusion, "In addition several members of the Greek minority serve on both that 140-seat people's assembly and the executive branch in ministerial and subministerial positions." Do you agree with this response?



MR. MCCORMACK: Kurtis -- (laughter) -- Kurtis is -- as opposed to the unreliability of the statistics that you're asking about, Kurtis Cooper is very reliable and that's a good answer and that is the State Department's answer for you, Lambros.



QUESTION: But the response, however, about the size of the Greek minority in Albania, Mr. McCormack, stated there's "no reliable statistics" about its size, that the last census was taken in 2001, according to the statement.



MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.



QUESTION: I must note that the absence of reliable statistics in the results of the Albanians Government decision to exclude ethnic identity from the census questionnaire, is there any thought given by the Department of State to request that such a choice be allowed in the next Albanian census?



MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any move in that regard, but we'll have Kurtis get back to you with an answer to that question. (Laughter.) It’s proven reliable in the past.



QUESTION: One more on that?



MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, come on. You took up your time for today as well as next week reading out the answer to that. (Laughter.)



Yeah, go ahead, Samir.



QUESTION: The Syrian Government announced that they will have a parliamentary election next month on the 22nd.



MR. MCCORMACK: Right.



QUESTION: Do you -- will the U.S. be able to send observers or what's your expectations of such an election will be free and fair and transparent?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, sadly, history does not lead us to the conclusion that we can expect a free and fair election at the parliamentary level. This is -- typically these elections are ones in which the winning candidate wins with about 90 percent of the vote. It's better than the presidential election where they win with 99 percent of the vote.



But Syria is essentially a one-party state and President Assad has made promises about political reform in the past and, sadly, we have not seen that kind of political reform. So we don't have high expectations that this parliamentary election will be either free or fair.



QUESTION: Can I have one more question?



MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.



QUESTION: Is the Secretary considering appointing Assistant Secretary Welch to be special envoy to the peace process?



MR. MCCORMACK: Samir, if she were to do such a thing, I would let her make an announcement on that.



QUESTION: Thank you.



QUESTION: When do you plan to send the Under Secretary Sauerbrey there in --



MR. MCCORMACK: Ellen?



QUESTION: Yes.



MR. MCCORMACK: Ellen Sauerbrey?



QUESTION: Yes.



MR. MCCORMACK: She's our Assistant Secretary for Population and Refugees and Migration. She, I think, has left -- departed today on her trip and she's going to be stopping in Syria. She's going to be paired with a representative from the UNHCR. She is also going to be traveling individually then onward to Jordan as well as to Egypt.



QUESTION: Do you know who's going with her from the UNHCR?



MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I can try to track it down for you. I'm not sure if it's going to be an in-country person or somebody from the headquarters. We'll check for you.



QUESTION: How long does she plan to stay in Syria?



MR. MCCORMACK: I'll look, Sylvie. I don't know her travel schedule. You know a day or two.



Yes.



QUESTION: At the end of the trilateral meeting last month between President Abbas and Olmert and Secretary Rice, you said afterwards that you hoped that there would be much more contact between both -- between the Israelis and the Palestinians to work out the various working groups, et cetera. What contact has there been since that -- since the trilateral, and are you satisfied that they're sort of fulfilling the promises that were made?



MR. MCCORMACK: There have been working-level contacts. I can't list them in full for you, but there have been working-level contacts. And Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas have a meeting scheduled, I believe, for this weekend. So there has been some groundwork that has been done by both of the parties in preparation for that meeting that we both encourage that as well as are encouraged by that.



There are very clearly a number of differences that they have to work through and the prospect of a national unity government has complicated issues for the -- especially for the Israeli Government. We understand that. Despite that fact, we are encouraging them to sit down, discuss with one another their differences. We think that both Prime Minister Olmert as well as President Abbas profited from the opportunity that Secretary Rice afforded them to get together and discuss in a relaxed and more informal setting what had transpired over the recent weeks with respect to the Mecca agreement and how they might look to the future.



So that effort by Secretary Rice was a catalyst certainly for this meeting. And I would expect that at some point in the not-too-distance future she would plan to travel back out to the region to talk to both sides again how they might work through some of those practical day-to-day issues as well as to look out on the horizon and beyond.



QUESTION: So are you hoping for a trilateral --



MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't --



QUESTION: -- out of the meeting this weekend? Is there any plan --



MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't necessarily look for every time Secretary Rice travels out to the region for a trilateral visit. It is encouraging that both sides are getting together on their own. And it's not necessarily the most useful mechanism each and every time. Sometimes you come to the point in diplomacy where it is useful for a third party, in this case Secretary Rice, to be there to help bring the parties together either to help bridge any gaps that may exist between them or to cut through any misunderstandings that inevitably come up. So -- but don't look for that every single time she goes out there.



QUESTION: I'm sorry, just one more thing. In Congress today, Representative Lantos was very critical of USAID over the alleged handing over of funds to -- he said terrorist groups in the Palestinian -- in various universities in the Palestinian -- I think it was Gaza -- a university in Gaza.



MR. MCCORMACK: Islamic University of Gaza.



QUESTION: Yeah, the Islamic University of Gaza. Have you looked into that further or do you have any further information on that, whether it took place?



MR. MCCORMACK: It came up, I think, at the beginning of the week.



QUESTION: Yeah.



MR. MCCORMACK: There was a news story about it. I went through the facts as we know them. I think the bottom line with respect to the Islamic University of Gaza is that it has gone through the vetting procedures that we have put in place with respect to determining whether or not any group is either a foreign terrorist organization or associated with a foreign terrorist organization.



Yes.



QUESTION: Japan and North Korea met again today for less than an hour, I think, before it broke up. Given that you said that all the various tracks of this February 13th agreement need to progress in order for the entire agreement to progress, are you worried about the age-old animosities between the Japanese and North Koreans blocking what could otherwise be progress on the rest of the areas?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, we -- the Japanese were interested in discussing these issues with the North Koreas. We understand why. We fully support that within the context of the six-party talks. We encouraged this working group to take place. We understand that there were some discussions and it surfaced some differences between North Korea as well as Japan, understandably, on this issue. But the important thing is that the working group met, it got started, and it is going to be up to those two parties to decide the pace at which that group moves forward. We would hope that there is a resolution to the issue. It's important for the Japanese people. It's important for the Japanese Government.



So at this point, I would put to you that the terms of the agreement that was signed on February 13th have been met by the beginning of the working group. As for any progress and the effect on any progress on this or any subsequent agreements, we'll see. But the terms as laid out on February 13th have been met. The working groups have started up.



QUESTION: So there are no benchmarks -- built-in benchmarks for actual progress; it was simply they had to sit down and raise the questions?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's going to be determined by the two parties. Now, if there's some further elaboration on that in some subsequent agreement, then we'll deal with that. But we fully support the Japanese in raising this issue and seeking a resolution to it. We understand that it's a very emotional issue for the Japanese people. I think put in their place, we would have a similar interest in seeking a resolution to the issue and understanding what happened.



QUESTION: Do you regret that Prime Minister Abe has muddied the waters a bit with his statements about comfort women?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is, I think, something that Deputy Secretary Negroponte has spoken to. I think he spoke to it extensively during his trip there. I really don't have anything to add to what the Deputy Secretary said.



Tammy.



QUESTION: I wanted to ask about the --



QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?



MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?



QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?



QUESTION: Follow up on the North Koreans.



MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, sure.



QUESTION: I just wanted to add that yesterday after the talks the Japanese envoy said in a press conference, "If they want to push forward with talks with U.S., they need to improve Japan-North Korea relations." Do you agree with that?



MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sorry -- who said what about --



QUESTION: The Japanese envoy Haraguchi --



MR. MCCORMACK: Right.



QUESTION: -- said in reference to the failed talks, if they -- referring to the North Koreans -- "want to push forward talks with the U.S., they need to improve Japan-North Korea relations." Do you agree with that?



MR. MCCORMACK: Let me take a look at all of what he said. I want to understand a little bit better exactly what it is he's trying to say there.



QUESTION: Okay.



QUESTION: On North Korea. Normalization of relationship between the U.S. and North Korea and regarding this, and what is the U.S. final destination of normalization of the relationship with North Korea?



MR. MCCORMACK: What's our final destination?



QUESTION: Yes.



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's outlined in the September agreement, the September 2005 agreement. That outlines the end points for everybody and we are only at the beginning of a process. This was an initial set of discussions.



The focus needs to remain in the immediate future on the denuclearization issue. Everybody agrees that that is at the core here. Around that there are other issues that are important to the various other countries; for example, the abduction issue to Japan. For North Korea, they have an interest in security-related issues outside of their denuclearization effort. And so those all are going to be taken into account. But the core here is to get a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.



Yes, sir.



QUESTION: Do you have anything on General Ralston's and Ambassador Ries' meeting with Turkish retired General (inaudible) in Istanbul today?



MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I don't have any information for you.



QUESTION: Can you check that?



MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sure. We can check to see if we have anything for you.



QUESTION: Thanks.



MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.



QUESTION: On the American women in Russia who were apparently poisoned by thallium, do you have any update on the situation? Is there an investigation underway? Has the United States requested one from Russian authorities, anything?



MR. MCCORMACK: What I understand -- I'm just looking down here at the date -- they apparently have arrived back in Los Angeles. They arrived back on March 7th. And we understand that the Russian authorities are conducting an investigation, as they should, into exactly what happened. Beyond that, I don't have any other information for you.



Certainly, as a U.S. Government, we want to ensure that our citizens have answers to the questions that obviously come up: How did this happen? And we will be checking in with Russian authorities as to the progress in their investigation, you can be assured.



QUESTION: Was the investigation launched at U.S. request?



MR. MCCORMACK: I believe the Russians initiated the investigation on their own accord.



QUESTION: Do you know what their condition was when they arrived in LA? Are they --



MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. You can check either with the families or -- I'm sure they are visiting with physicians and under hospital care, some form of hospital care. You can check with them.



Yes, Nina.



QUESTION: On China, please. Yesterday, they announced an 18 percent increase in their military spending. Gates yesterday said that he was seeking more transparency about their military programs, their space programs.



MR. MCCORMACK: Right.



QUESTION: What's the level of concern at the moment about China and its buildup?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this has been a source of concern and interest for the United States as well as others in the region. Quite simply, it is in the interest of China as well as others in the region and around the globe that there be transparency in exactly what the Chinese Government intends not only in terms of the size of its defense spending budget, but on what those -- what that money will be spent as well as what is the underlying doctrine. It helps other countries around the world get a better understanding of what China's intentions are if they have a better understanding of Chinese military doctrine, if they have a better understanding of the budget process and the kinds of equipment that they are developing. And we have been talking to the Chinese Government about this. This was first raised by former Secretary Rumsfeld several years ago. And there has been some marginal increase and improvement in terms of transparency, but there's still a long way to go.



The recent anti-satellite test is a good example to cite. This took everybody by surprise. And the Chinese Government still has not been clear as to exactly what was its intention in conducting that test as well as how that test fits into their overall doctrine about the weaponization of space. So there's a ways to go. And I think that as long as you do have this lack of -- this basic lack of transparency that there is going to be continued concern. And we as well as others are going to continue to impress upon the Chinese Government that it's important that they become more transparent as they take a larger role on the global stage.



QUESTION: Sorry. Different part of the world, but can I move on to Iraq? Can you tell me about your hopes for Saturday's conference?



MR. MCCORMACK: Our hopes for Saturday's conference are that all the countries participating in the conference come prepared to be constructive and have a good conversation about the issues on the agenda. High up on that agenda are going to be security-related issues. The Iraqis are setting that agenda. And it is an opportunity for neighbors to express support for Iraq in their efforts to secure their borders, to secure Baghdad, and also to ensure the free flow of goods and commodities across their borders in a way that promotes economic exchange which is good for -- on both sides of the borders and doing that in a way that is safe and secure.



So we hope that it furthers the process of the neighbors understanding what is going on in Iraq, what the intentions of the Iraqi Government are to secure its population and to fight terrorism within its borders, to fight sectarianism within its borders. And it also can help the Iraqi Government begin to take its place in the region. It's no secret that there have been some tensions and some frictions between Iraq and some of its neighbors in the region, and this is a good opportunity for those neighbors to express their support for Iraq.



And it also makes an important point that there is a shared responsibility on the part of Iraq's neighbors to help Iraq stabilize the situation there and reduce the levels of violence. It is incumbent upon Iraq's neighbors to help out in that regard. Now, the primary responsibility lay with the Iraqi Government. Everybody understands that. But in part, because of the nature of the violence and the fact that some of the violent -- those engaged in violent extremism in Iraq get support from outside Iraq, those neighbors of Iraq bear some responsibility and they need to do what they can to help out this Iraqi Government.



QUESTION: And can I ask you specifically about this apparent setting aside of weapons by the Mahdi army? Any response to that? Any hopes for that?



MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of the Mahdi army -- this is a question about the Baghdad security plan?



QUESTION: Yes.



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, General Petraeus, I know, spoke a bit about this today as well as the Iraqi Government. It is far too early to judge the outcomes of the Baghdad security plan. And inasmuch as any militias are setting aside their weapons or not engaging in violent activities, certainly one can look at that as positive. But it is far too early to make a definitive judgment about the effects of the Baghdad security plan. It is only just starting. But inasmuch as the initial indications are that some of these militias are at least for now putting aside their weapons, then that's positive.



Yes, Kirit.



QUESTION: Just on the meeting in Baghdad, what would you say to critics who say that the United States is only attending because of pressure from Congress and others who have criticized the Administration's handling of the neighbors of Iraq?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's not the way you conduct foreign policy. That's sort of a cartoonish version of how the policy process really works. We are attending this meeting because we think that it is in our interest and it's in the interest of the Iraqi Government, our good friends and allies. So those are the reasons why the U.S. Government has decided to send Ambassador Khalilzad as its representative to the meeting.



QUESTION: And just one follow-up. Also, actually, do you have any concerns about security during this meeting, given that it's also a major Shia holiday --



MR. MCCORMACK: Of course. Any time you have an international meeting of this type, a high-profile meeting, you have to take into account the security situation. And I think that the Iraqi Government is aware of the fact that there would be security concerns around any gathering of this type and they're taking the steps that they think are necessary.



QUESTION: Would you say that the U.S. is taking additional steps as well, just given the concerns with the holiday and so on?



MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure that our folks in MNFI are working with the Iraqis, but you would have to ask the folks in Baghdad about what steps -- what specific steps they're taking and how comfortable they are in talking about those.



Elise.



QUESTION: Ambassador Satterfield spoke today about how this is a new and different kind of conversation, a new and useful format in terms of opening it up to this various grouping. You yourself -- and he said that the United States wouldn't, you know, walk away from talking with Iran or Syria at this conference. You yesterday said you're not going to walk away. Can you talk about how you see this, this usefulness of this new format for discussing various issues with interested parties rather than through third channels?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first and foremost, it is important for the Iraqis because they have an opportunity to get all their neighbors plus the P-5 around the table to talk about issues of concern to them. And it is for them a useful forum because they can talk across the table and others can participate. These are complex issues related to security that in some cases are interlocked, so it's very positive to have everybody there around the table.



But the focal point is on the Iraqis here. I know that there's a great interest in whether or not the

-- Ambassador Khalilzad will have any interaction with his Iranian counterpart or his Syrian counterpart. Frankly, those questions are a sideshow to the main event. The main event is the fact that the Iraqis are hosting a conference with their neighbors to talk about these issues that are crucial to their future and, quite frankly, very important to the -- what the neighborhood looks like in the years to come. So others have -- should have an interest in seeing how the security situation unfolds in Iraq.



QUESTION: Well, I know there is a lot of focus on the U.S. and Iran meeting kind of on the sidelines, but you've said yourself that there is a genuine concern among Iraq's neighbors, Iraqis and members of the international community about Iran's behavior in Iraq.



MR. MCCORMACK: Right.



QUESTION: And so do you think that this will make -- be useful in terms of Iran hearing from the rest of the international community, including the U.S. directly and the Iraqis directly, about how their behavior is potentially destabilizing.



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think President Bush did that when he talked about the Iranian support for the EFP networks, and we also did that by picking up Iranian operatives in Iraq who had some connection to these EFP networks. So the issue has been raised and put out in the public, and it was important that it was. As I have said and others in the Administration have said many times over, we are going to do everything that we possibly can to protect our troops. Force protection is the top priority that we have for our troops in Iraq.



And part of that is surfacing these kinds of activities and exposing them to international scrutiny. And if there is a discussion about this at this next meeting in Baghdad, then that is positive because you will have a different dynamic in that room where Iranian activities are exposed to international discussion in that room. And that certainly is positive. It certainly has a different -- I would argue, a different dynamic than the Iranians being able to operate in the shadows.



Joel.



QUESTION: With respect to the conference that's occurring this weekend in Baghdad, are you under any -- have you given any guidelines or heard any guidelines, for instance, from the Iraqi Government themselves if the Iranians begin to grandstand? Following the IAEA meetings in Vienna, they seemed to be up to their old behavior and rhetoric once again. And are you prepared, for instance, to go to closed circuit television to be out of the main chambers where this is occurring if they suddenly decide to gain the floor and start to act with this rhetoric and behavior?



MR. MCCORMACK: I can't predict how they're going to act, Joel. We're going to be there to be constructive participants and we would hope that everybody who's attending the meeting would be -- attend in the spirit of being constructive with respect to the questions that are raised in the meeting and on the agenda of the meeting.



Goyal.



QUESTION: Sean, (inaudible) that Chinese military buildup is like you said, that the U.S. and others in the area should be worried -- are worried. I'm sure India must be worried or should be worried also about the Chinese military buildup. What message do you think you have for those nations or how -- what plan you think U.S. has to protect them or if there's any kind of conflict in the area by the Chinese, including Taiwan?



MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure what you're --



QUESTION: I mean, what message for --



MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?



QUESTION: What message the United States has for those -- or advice for those nations in the area, including India, from the Chinese military buildup -- any threat?



MR. MCCORMACK: Well, if the Indian Government has concerns about the Chinese military buildup, then they should engage the Chinese Government about those concerns.



All right, thank you.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/mar/81575.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 12 2007, 04:44 PM
MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, everyone. I don't have anything to start you out with on this fine Monday morning, so we'll go right to your questions.


QUESTION: Tom, Libya is saying that you guys are going to help them with their civilian nuclear program; is that true?


MR. CASEY: I haven't seen any reports to that effect and I'm not aware of any such plans to do so, Arshad. Sorry, that's news to me.


QUESTION: But just so you know, it's from Libya's official Jana news agency: "The United States will help Libya generate nuclear electricity, the North African country said on Monday in an announcement that appeared to herald a further improvement in ties with the West."


MR. CASEY: Arshad, I'll happily look into it for you, but I'm certainly aware of no plans for the United States to participate in nuclear programs with Libya.


Yeah.


QUESTION: Change of subject --


QUESTION: On Libya, has there been any movement on the Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor case?


MR. CASEY: No, I'm not aware of any change in that particular situation and of course, our policy on that remains the same. We want to see these folks be able to come home as soon as possible. We believe that that's appropriate, though we certainly respect and understand the feelings and concerns of those who have been affected by this tragedy.


QUESTION: So why are you helping with the nuclear power plants? I'm joking, go on.


MR. CASEY: Thanks, Arshad.


Sylvie.


QUESTION: Change of subject.


MR. CASEY: Yeah.


QUESTION: Can we go back to the Iraq conference of this weekend? I wanted to know what you feel you have achieved going there and if you think it's something that's positive for the future.


MR. CASEY: Well, I think a number of you heard directly from Ambassador Khalilzad on Saturday about this subject. We believe that this was a good opportunity for the international community to come together and show support for the Iraqi Government and to talk with the Iraqi Government about its plans for moving forward in a variety of areas, including on security and economic development, political reform, and the like.


We thought it was a good opportunity as well to have everyone at the table be able to express their own views and concerns about the situation in Iraq and again, to talk about what they might be able to do to move the situation forward. It is positive as well that these working groups have been established and hopefully will be able to provide some practical ideas as to what Iraq's neighbors can do to improve the situation there.


So it's a useful initiative as started by President -- or Prime Minister Maliki and it's one that we expect there will be follow-up to in the form of a ministerial-level conference that'll hear reports from the working group. Again, that conference hasn't had a date or location established for it. That's something the Iraqis will be working on as part of the follow-up to this. But again, we thought it was a useful exercise and expect there will be this follow-on later.


QUESTION: Do you think it would be a good idea that this conference would be in Baghdad?


MR. CASEY: Well, I think there were a variety of views expressed on that subject, as you heard Ambassador Khalilzad say, and again, we think what's important is that everyone work together to help the Iraqis and help Prime Minister Maliki achieve the objectives that he has for his government. The location of that is something that he and others will discuss and make a determination on, but the important thing for us is that it does take place and it does move forward.


Yeah, Mr. Lambros.


QUESTION: On Kosovo, Mr. Casey, since Assistant Secretaries Madame DiCarlo and Mr. Daniel Fried earlier today did not have the time to accept more questions during their special briefing on Kosovo next door, having as a coordinator in charge, Mr. Terry Davidson, allow me to raise the following question.


Since I heard many, many times by the U.S. officials that there will be no change of borders, I'm wondering how you are going to stop an independent, sovereign and free Kosovo not to be united with Albania in the very well-known plan for the creation "of greater Albania" against the stability of Western Balkans, Southeastern Europe and beyond?


MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I think again -- you just mentioned Assistant Secretary Fried gave a -- I thought fairly extensive briefing on this subject and I don't think I really have a lot to add to that. The U.S. position on this issue is well known. We certainly, you know, support the territorial integrity of the nations of the region just as we always have. The Kosovo situation is one that certainly prompts a lot of passionate views on all -- among all parties and on all sides. Certainly what we want to see happen, though, is Mr. Ahtisaari move forward with his efforts. Again, my understanding is he'll be presenting a final report to the Secretary General probably at the end of this month or towards the end of this month and then we'll look to move forward on that basis.


QUESTION: My question is can you stop an independent and a sovereign state not to do that to -- not only with Albania (inaudible) independence and sovereign.


MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, you're talking in hypotheticals and I just don't see the point in engaging in those.


QUESTION: One last one on Kosovo. Mr. Fried told us frightening news for the Western Balkans. He said every person in the Balkans has a gun and there are many extremists -- he didn't say terrorists -- Albanian groups with a lot of weapons ready to fight for the so-called independence of Kosovo if there is no solution. Do you have any idea who is arming those Albanian terrorists, since according to a bunch of reports from Europe there are some U.S. agencies from the Department of Defense who are arming them illegally up to the teeth?


MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, again, I think our position on this is quite clear. The United States supports a peaceful resolution of the issues related to Kosovo. We are not arming any parties in that.


QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. CASEY: Yeah.


QUESTION: A separate issue on NATO. NATO Secretary General is warning that the U.S. missile defense system is going to split the alliance, as he says, between those in the program the missile defense system would protect and those it would not. I just wondered if you had any comment on that.


MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen his remarks, so I don't want to specifically respond to those. Look, I think you know our position on this issue and it's quite clear. This is something that certainly does not pose a threat to either the Russian nuclear deterrent capability or any other major powers. It's an issue that has been discussed in elaborate detail at NATO with the Russians, with individual allies and partners. It is certainly up to individual countries involved to participate or not. That has always been our position on this. And again, we believe that this is something that provides a valuable means of preventing an attack from a rogue state or other kinds of elements out there. And it is something that is beneficial for the United States and beneficial for the alliance. But there have certainly been extensive discussions about this at the alliance. The alliance has a standing position on issues related to missile defense. And I expect if there are concerns that any nation or individual have that they'll continue to be raised in that forum.


QUESTION: But he also said that there shouldn't be an A league and a B league within NATO and that's what the U.S. was doing; it was creating sort of an A list and a B list.


MR. CASEY: Well, I'm -- again, I haven't seen his comments so it's awfully hard for me to respond in specific terms to them. But again, U.S. missile defense consultations, U.S. missile defense plans are open to every one. As we have said, we fully intend to offer this opportunity and provide and share this kind of protection to any and all members of the NATO alliance that care to participate. But again, participation in terms of U.S. bilateral specific plans is something that's optional.


Yeah, Sylvie.


QUESTION: Would you have any readout of the talks of Assistant Secretary Sauerbrey in Syria?


MR. CASEY: Well, I don't have a lot beyond what I told you this morning. She did meet today with the Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister. They had a useful exchange of views on Iraq refugee issues. She did call on the Syrian side to work with the Iraqi Government as well with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to provide protection and assistance for refugees from Iraq that are in Syria. And the Syrians, as I understand it, expressed their willingness to continue hosting displaced Iraqis, although noting the burden that this does place on them and on their system. She's also met in Damascus with -- in conjunction with UNHCR reps, the Syrian Red Crescent society as well as a number of different nongovernmental organizations. And as I understand it, before going to Syria, she met with Egyptian Government officials to discuss Iraqi refugees there and then tomorrow, she'll be on in Amman for discussions with Jordanian officials on this.


QUESTION: If they spoke about the burden on Syria, did they speak about some financial aid, maybe the U.S. could provide?


MR. CASEY: I don't have any kind of more specific readout on that. Obviously our focus is on working with and through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to be able to allow them to provide appropriate support and assistance to those refugees there. That's something that we've been working with High Commissioner Guterres on for some time. You all heard from him as well as from Paula Dobriansky and Ellen after one of their meetings here a little while ago when we talked about some of the support the U.S. intends to provide for refugees.


Charlie.


QUESTION: Was her meeting with the Deputy Foreign Minister alone or with the UNHCR Representative?


MR. CASEY: My understanding was it was alone. Anything else on this?


Kirit.


QUESTION: Just wondering if you had anything on the letter that Congressman Waxman sent over to the State Department? Apparently he sent about 16 letters to Secretary Rice since 2003 and he says she's only responded satisfactorily to five of them. Do you know if she would plan to respond to this one and the reason for her not responding to the previous (inaudible)?


MR. CASEY: Well, Kirit, I've checked around. I know you've heard from his office that he's sending a letter. That letter hasn't been received here yet. So I'm sure we'll take a look at it. And as with all congressional correspondence, respond appropriately to it.


Yeah, Zain.


QUESTION: Do you have anything more on the so-called Iranian defector that you can tell us?


MR. CASEY: I have the same nothing that we've had previously, but you're welcome to keep asking.


QUESTION: Go ahead. You -- there's nothing more at all you can add? We don't know if he defected. We don't know if he was kidnapped or who was behind it.


MR. CASEY: We have absolutely no information about this individual, his location or his situation.


Mr. Lambros.


QUESTION: On NATO, one, Mr. Casey. The House of Representatives by the resolution 87987 supports now the enlargement of NATO to Georgia, Ukraine and beyond, and I'm afraid even to South Pole. Has anyone in the Department of State raised the question how far NATO expand geographically and functionally before it cease being defense alliance? Of course, all we know it has long time ago ceased being North Atlantic. Do you agree?


MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, in terms of future NATO enlargement, that's a subject that the current 26 members have to work out for themselves. NATO is an alliance that works on the basis of consensus, which means all 26 members would have to agree to any further expansion. There are a number of different programs that NATO has in terms of those countries that either wish to become members in the future or wish to have a partial relationship with NATO through things like the Partnership for Peace. That's the track it'll proceed on. These aren't matters that are legislated by any country.


QUESTION: What about the term "North Atlantic"? What means it after this expansion? It's a global institution?


MR. CASEY: It's the name of the treaty that established the organization, so I don't think it's going anywhere.


Libby.


QUESTION: Can I switch topics?


MR. CASEY: Yeah.


QUESTION: On Iran, what update do you have on the UN Security Council process? Is it realistic to expect a draft this week?


MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not going to try and start placing bets on when we'll see a resolution tabled, but there are certainly consultations that are continuing in New York among the P-5+1 representatives up there as well as at the level of political directors. I know Nick Burns, our Under Secretary for Political Affairs, had a number of conversations over the weekend with a variety of his counterparts.


So they're still working hard at it. They're still trying to work out some of the remaining concerns that are there. Obviously, when you get down to the details of any of these resolutions, people do care very much about the language and certainly want to make sure that all of their concerns and issues are addressed before we move forward. But we are working well. We continue to work well together with our partners on this and certainly want to move a resolution forward as soon as possible.


QUESTION: What do you make of this delay in the launch of the Bushehr nuclear power plant? Do you think this is tied to sensitivities, political sensitivities? There are some officials quoted in reports saying that, you know, the Russians are unhappy with the Iranians.


MR. CASEY: Well, I think the international community is unhappy with the Iranians because of their failure to respond to repeated calls and repeated requirements for them to suspend their uranium enrichment activities.


In terms of the Bushehr nuclear plant, well, my understanding is that is a commercial arrangement and a commercial dispute between the Iranian and Russian government, and I'd leave it to them to tell you if there's any other considerations at work there.


Yeah, Sue.


QUESTION: You said that you're working well in New York to try and get this resolution through, but yet the Chinese seem to be blocking you at almost every step. How's that going with the Chinese? Is that problematic or are you -- do you still see yourself as being on the same page?


MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think everyone believes that there needs to be an additional resolution. Everyone believes that that resolution needs to be under Chapter 7, Article 41, meaning that it will include additional sanctions and additional measures to be taken because of Iran's failure to comply with the requirements of previous UN Security Council resolutions.


The Chinese certainly have their concerns that they have made known. And again, this is multilateral diplomacy. We're going to continue to work with them as well as all the other members of the P-5+1 to ensure that we come up with an agreed-upon text that we can all move forward with. And again, you've heard from us before about the first resolution saying that that was not the draft that we would have -- or the resolution that we would have put forward, left to our own devices. That's never the way it is when you're dealing with this many countries, each of which has their own interests and concerns.


So certainly, there's no change in the Chinese position or the position of any of the other members of the P-5+1 about the need to move forward with a Chapter 7, Article 41 second resolution. And we certainly view any differences that remain there as being resolvable and we are all committed to doing that and to moving forward as soon as possible with an actual resolution.


QUESTION: Tom, is it more important for you to get a resolution than not necessarily to get everything you wanted in the resolution? Is international unity seen as being more important by having that resolution than -- not what's in it?


MR. CASEY: Well, I don't think I'm -- there would probably be someone in our historian's office that might care to dispute this with me, but I don't think any single nation has ever drafted a text of a resolution, at least on something of this level under Chapter 7, without any consultations with others, put it down on the table, and had it voted on as is. International diplomacy requires that we all work together and come up with a position that's unified.


But I do think the unity of the international community is important and I don't think the Iranians have any reason to believe that the international community does not remain fully united in wishing to see it change its behavior. And there will be a second resolution that will not only demonstrate that, but again, will unfortunately raise the stakes for them by placing additional sanctions on them. Because again, they've failed to comply with previous resolutions and more importantly, they've failed their own people by being unwilling to take that step and to then join with the P-5+1 nations at the negotiating table, wherein they can achieve their stated objective of having a civilian nuclear power program, but where the international community can gain assurances that that program can't be used for development of a nuclear weapon.


Let's go back here.


QUESTION: On North Korea?


MR. CASEY: Yeah.


QUESTION: South Korea media is reporting that Kim Gye Gwan said in Beijing that there is an agreement with the U.S. to allow a portion of the money held in Banco Delta Asia to be released back to the DPRK as -- in order to move forward with denuclearization under the February Beijing statement. Does the State Department have any comment on that?


MR. CASEY: The State Department's comment is that the Banco Delta Asia matter is something that's being handled by Department of Treasury and again, I'd refer you over to them for any kind of comment or any kind of announcements related to that issue.


Zain.


QUESTION: Venezuela. Hugo Chavez -- or Latin America -- appears to be trying to upstage or spoil the President's trip there. Does it bother you?


MR. CASEY: Well, I think what's important to us is that the President has a good and positive trip to the region. We have very important ties with Latin America. They are longstanding and they involve everything from trade issues to issues of alleviating poverty and job creation to moving ahead with initiatives like the biofuels project that the President announced in Brazil to working on counterterrorism and security cooperation, counternarcotics, and a full range of issues, including work together with those countries and the UN Security Council on matters of global concern.


So the important thing for us is that the President move forward, have a good trip, and be able to work on our positive agenda for the hemisphere, which is something that we believe the vast majority of folks in the region adhere to.


QUESTION: What about the specific comments, though, about the President and about U.S. policy?


MR. CASEY: Well, in terms of issues about the President's travel or any more specifics on that, I'd just leave that to my colleagues at the White House to address.


Joel.


QUESTION: Returning to the questions of Iran, former President Khatami has urged Iran to (inaudible) a certain price for talks to resolve the standoff. Are you talking to him directly through the Swiss ever since he was here, I guess, about two months ago and gave some speeches? He apparently is a moderate.


MR. CASEY: Well, former President Khatami, as you know, came to the United States on a unofficial visit invited by a number of nongovernmental organizations. He does not have an official role in the Iranian Government. The important thing is not what he or anyone else says; the important thing is whether the Iranian Government moves forward with its requirements, complies with UN Security Council resolutions and suspends its uranium enrichment. Words in this instance aren't what's important, it's actions that are required and unfortunately to this point, Iran hasn't taken the actions necessary and that's why they're unfortunately going to face additional sanctions.


Let's go back here.


QUESTION: Turkey announced yesterday that Turkish forces can invade northern Iraq "under international laws." Do you agree with them?


MR. CASEY: Could you say that again? I'm sorry, I didn't hear you.


QUESTION: Turkey announced yesterday that its forces can invade northern Iraq "under international laws." Do you agree with them?


MR. CASEY: We believe in the territorial integrity of Iraq. We certainly are working well with the Government of Turkey as well as the Government of Iraq to try and enhance our cooperation in combating the PKK. In terms of any cross border actions or other kinds of things, we've spoken before to this and again certainly do not wish to see any kind of military actions taken on the part of Turkey into northern Iraq.


QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. CASEY: Okay. Thank you.


We'll get you later, Mr. Lambros.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/mar/81646.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 14 2007, 04:58 PM
MR. CASEY: Okay. Good afternoon, everybody. Don't have any opening statements or announcements for you, so let's go right on down to Sue.

QUESTION: Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe said today that the opposition would pay a heavy price for what he called their campaign to oust him from power. And Tsvangirai is, of course, in intensive care with a cracked skull. I just wondered diplomatically what are you doing at the moment to put pressure on the Zimbabwean Government and how are you handling this?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, unfortunately, I think those kinds of comments are just in keeping with the continued efforts at intimidation and repression of the opposition that have unfortunately characterized President Mugabe's increasingly autocratic leadership in the country. In terms of actions, certainly as you've seen, we've spoken out on this issue forcefully including statements by the Secretary which you know. Our Ambassador in Zimbabwe, Chris Dell, has been very active on this issue. He was in the courtroom yesterday when Mr. Tsvangirai and some of the others appeared. He intends to meet with Mr. Tsvangirai as soon as he is physically able to receive visitors.

I would also note that the opposition intends to participate in the funeral for the individual who was killed as a result of the police action breaking up this prayer breakfast last weekend. That is scheduled to take place on Saturday and Mr. Tsvangirai said if he's physically able, he intends to participate in that. And we all on the Government of Zimbabwe to refrain from any actions against that funeral and events surrounding it and to allow that to move forward peacefully and without any further incidents of violence or intimidation.

In terms of other actions on our part, we are calling on the Human Rights Council in Geneva to take up this issue. Again, I think you've heard us express concerns about the Council and frankly, it hasn't done a credible job in its past year of work. It's focused almost exclusively on issues related to Israel and has not turned its attention to other vital issues before it. And frankly with the Council meeting right now in Geneva in session, it would be hard to understand how they wouldn't want to turn their attention to a serious case of human rights abuse and violations, as is occurring in Zimbabwe.

In addition to that, tomorrow, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Barry Lowenkron will be in Addis Ababa for consultations with the African Union. He intends to focus on this as well as a number of other issues to see what we can do with our African Union partners to push the Zimbabwean Government to allow for peaceful political participation from its citizens and from the opposition. We're also going to be consulting with a number of other likeminded countries, including some of our European allies who we've been working with actively on the ground in Zimbabwe as well to see what other kinds of things we might be able to do working with them.

As you know, we do have a number of targeted sanctions in place against some of those who are responsible for depriving the Zimbabwean people of their democratic rights and certainly we'll look at whether there are any other additional measures that might be necessary as well in response to some of these latest activities.

QUESTION: Has the Ambassador in Zimbabwe met with Zimbabwean Government officials to personally voice your displeasure over what's happened?

MR. CASEY: He has spoken with a number of officials in the foreign ministry. I'm not exactly sure who. He has not spoken to President Mugabe. I would note, of course, as well, that he had tried previously to intercede with Zimbabwean police officials and those who were at the detention center to try and see Mr. Tsvangirai as well as some of the other leaders and was rebuffed in that effort, as were members and other ambassadors from the European Union who attempted to do so as well.

So I would certainly characterize the Zimbabwean Government's response as less than satisfactory in all causes here.

QUESTION: Other than raising this with the Human Rights Council in which the State Department has often, since the Council's inception, criticized its functioning at a visit of Assistant Secretary Lowenkron to Addis Ababa to consult with the AU. Is there any consideration being given to more dramatic steps to try to persuade President Mugabe to treat the opposition with less violence?

MR. CASEY: Yeah. Well, as I said, we have in place -- the United States has in place a number of sanctions against those responsible for repressing democratic efforts in Zimbabwe. And we do need to take a look at what other measures might be appropriate in response and again, certainly, we'll talk with our European friends and allies as well as some of our other partners in the region about what other steps might be appropriate in response to this.

It is, again, troubling not only that this regime has gone forward and used acts of intimidation and efforts at suppressing free speech in the country, but to have so blatantly and so violently taken actions against the principle leaders of the opposition, I think, really shows the international community that the regime has little intention, without additional efforts on all our parts, to make the upcoming electoral campaign be one in which it's possible to have a free and fair contest and one in which the people's voice can be heard.

QUESTION: Has the United States come close to maxing out on its own sanctions that could be imposed against Zimbabwe?

MR. CASEY: I think in terms of what we have done to date, they haven't been very specific and focused on individuals who have been associated with some of these repressive policies. I think we'd have to take -- and we will have to take a look at what is currently on the table and what other steps might be taken. There's always other tools in the toolbox though, and I certainly expect we'll look at those.

QUESTION: We'll have to take a look -- you mean at actual -- at additional sanctions?

MR. CASEY: I think we have to take a look at what is in place and see what other measures might be appropriate to take. What I don't want to do is try and signal for you any specific course because people are just starting this process now.

Sue.

QUESTION: Are you also looking at humanitarian assistance because the humanitarian situation has deteriorated there and economically, you know, inflation is at a gazillion percent and people are really struggling?

MR. CASEY: Well, unfortunately part of the reason for the terrible economic situation in Zimbabwe are the policies that have been adopted by the Mugabe regime. If a political leadership had set out on a course to basically undermine what had been one of Africa's more successful economies, they couldn't have done a better job than the policies that have been implemented over the past few years.

But certainly, we're always open to and looking at ways that we can relieve the suffering of people not only in Zimbabwe but elsewhere. I'm not sure at this point what kinds of humanitarian assistance might be appropriate. But obviously, if there's a need, we'll look at that carefully and work with the UN and other agencies to fulfill that.

Libby.

QUESTION: Is Barry Lowenkron's trip a special trip or was this something -- was he already in the region?

MR. CASEY: Barry was already planning on going to speak with the AU, but this has become an issue that is now raised to the top part of his agenda for this trip just in light of the happenings over the weekend.

QUESTION: Can you say what else was on his agenda?

MR. CASEY: I'll try and give you a broader detailed response to that later, George. But I think what Barry intends to do is have consultations with the AU along with our AU Ambassador, talk about a broad range of human rights and humanitarian issues. I would expect he would talk about the situation in Sudan as well and certainly about our general concerns about human rights in the region and what the AU can do to help further necessary reforms and make a better case for what can happen in Africa. There are some success stories. But as you know, looking at our Human Rights Report, there are also a lot of problems.

Charlie.

QUESTION: Is recalling your Ambassador one of the things you'll be looking at?

MR. CASEY: I don't want to try and talk to you about specifics on this, Charlie. I know people are looking at a variety of things. I think right now Ambassador Dell is performing a very valuable function in the country by being able to make his voice heard on these issues and by being able to talk with and work with and do what he can to support the rights of the political opposition and those that have been imprisoned and those that have been fairly savagely beaten in this case.

Yeah, let's go this gentleman. Same subject, sir?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. CASEY: Okay, after you.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied that other multilateral organizations such as the African Union and the Southern African Development Community and other countries that might have even better influence on Zimbabwe -- are you satisfied that they are doing enough to stop what is going on in Zimbabwe?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think it's clear that all of us, the United States included, need to take a look at what we can do to help change this very serious situation in Zimbabwe. I know that the South African Government has spoken out on this a little earlier. But certainly all the countries of the region, including the AU, ought to take a look at what can be done to foster change in Zimbabwe. Again, I think we've got a long and clear track record from the Mugabe government of taking increasingly more repressive measures against the political opposition. And this is something that should be of concern to democratic countries in the region like South Africa as well as to the broader international community.

And again, I think an important opportunity to discuss some of those issues will be Assistant Secretary Lowenkron's visit to the AU tomorrow. But I think all of us need to do whatever we can to try and improve the situation there.

A pure Zimbabwe briefing -- it couldn't be.

QUESTION: No, another subject.

MR. CASEY: Okay. There you go, Sylvie.

QUESTION: Sudan?

MR. CASEY: Yes.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you talked about further measures that U.S. could take against the Sudan Government. And today, the British Envoy to UN speaks about sanctions and the possibility of a resolution, UN Security Council resolution. Can you tell me your thinking about that?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, and I did talk to some of our people in New York about this. We are, in fact, consulting with the British now about what we might be able to do in terms of an additional Security Council resolution on Sudan. (Cell phone rings.) That's okay, George, but I like the ring. I really do.

Anyway, so we are consulting with the British on what might go into an additional Security Council resolution on Sudan. We think it's important in light of the disappointing response that was received by the UN and the AU from President Bashir that the international community do consider what other steps would be appropriate. And this, frankly, is an issue that needs to come before the Council. So we'll be talking over the next few days with the British Government, as well as with others, I'm sure, about how the Council should respond to that, including what we might put in an additional resolution.

I don't want to go too far. These are just early stages of these discussions and I don't want to try and lean you one way or another in terms of specific elements of it, but obviously, we need to look at what kinds of measures we could take to try and encourage a change of heart on the part of the Sudanese Government.

QUESTION: And did you consult with the Chinese about their eventual support of this resolution?

MR. CASEY: My understanding is, at this point, that today, we are beginning with a discussion with the British on this. Certainly, as we would move forward towards actually tabling a resolution, we'd need to consult with various other members of the Council including, I'm sure, the Chinese and the other members of the P-5.

Libby.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I guess -- is it going to be of high priority in the UN Security Council, given how urgent the matter seems to be? I mean, how long is this process going to take to table a resolution?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think the international community has shown great patience with Sudan. It obviously is an issue, though, where our patience has largely run out, particularly in light of these new delaying tactics. So I expect that this is an issue that will come before the Council soon. I don't have and I wouldn't want to try and predict a schedule for that. I usually lose a lot of money trying to make bets on when things come up before the Council.

Sue.

QUESTION: Does the United States support a no-fly zone over Darfur, which is what many NGOs and Britain supports and quite a few other European countries too?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, Sue, I know that's an idea that's been discussed in a number of different places. I think we need to take a look at all the possible tools and responses to be able to encourage a change in the Sudanese behavior. But I don't want to try and, again, talk to the specifics at this particular point. We'll let some of the diplomacy move forward on that.

David.

QUESTION: The President of Rwanda is threatening this week to pull his troops out of the existing AMIS force in Darfur; are you concerned as all this drags on that the actual force that's there is going to disintegrate?

MR. CASEY: Well, I know there are a number of concerns on the part of the Rwandan Government and I think we've heard some similar statements in the past. We do want to see not only the Rwandan contingent, but the entire AMIS force certainly continue their presence. They are a critical element and are the foundation for the UN hybrid force -- or the UN-AU hybrid force that we do believe needs to go in. So certainly, to the extent that there are questions or concerns on the part of President Kagame, we'll certainly want to be able to respond to those, but we do want to encourage him, as well as all other members of the African Union force, to stay in place.

And again, we also need to see other countries come forward to contribute to this mission and contribute to the hybrid force. You know we've talked about this before. I think the Rwandan Government should be praised for its willingness -- it is a fairly small country, but it has been very willing to make contributions to the AMIS force and to other kinds of peacekeeping efforts that the AU is trying to undertake. So we very much appreciate what the Rwandans have been able and willing to do in Darfur. We certainly hope that presence will continue and we think it's really time for some of the other countries in the region to step up as well.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, it is reported that the United States Treasury Department has no longer involved or in charge in North Korean funds in BDA. Do you have anything on that?

MR. CASEY: Well, it is reported as well by the Department of Treasury that their Under Secretary for International Affairs Stuart Levey will be giving a press conference, I believe, at 1 o'clock today and I think you can hear from them directly what their response is to BDA issues.

Charlie, we're waiting on you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/mar/81725.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 15 2007, 04:09 PM
MR. MCCORMACK: Hello, everybody. Good afternoon. Who wants to start off? We don't have any opening statements.

QUESTION: Do you have anything -- any comment on the new Palestinian government? They had actually released parts of their platform.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And Israel is saying that -- you know, based on this early information, it's not someone with whom they can deal with and the aid embargo should continue. I wondered if you had had a chance to look at this platform.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a few things. One, the government hasn't been officially seated. It has to get approved by the Palestinian legislature. It has, at this point, just been proposed to President Abbas. And while there are perhaps pieces of their platform that may be floating around in the electronic ether, we're going to withhold any final judgment about the government, its platform, and its actions until we have a sense of exactly who finally is going to be sitting in this government, what exactly they are going to base their governing decisions on, what's their platform, and then what actions they take. So we're going to take a look at those things and then we'll have a judgment. Until that time, we're just going to reserve comment.

QUESTION: If you're going to be waiting for actions -- so, I mean, that's several steps along. I mean, how long will it take you -- I mean, actions that could take months to see exactly what the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Or it could take the day after it's officially seated and their platform is announced. At the time when we feel as though we have the facts that we need to make a determination about this government and its composition, its platform, and its actions or what, based on those things, our extrapolation of what we expect that they will do and whether or not it meets those foundational principles for peace that have been outlined by the Quartet, we'll make a judgment. But until that time, we're going to withhold any further comment.

QUESTION: Sean?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Have you spoken to President Abbas today at all about --

MR. MCCORMACK: Secretary Rice has not. Secretary -- you heard that?

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: Make sure you heard that Secretary Rice hasn't.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if anybody else has talked to him, whether from the consulate or anybody else.

QUESTION: Is David Welch there at the moment, do you know?

MR. MCCORMACK: He is not. I have to get an update on his travel. He is, I do not believe, in the Palestinian territories at the moment.

Nicholas, you want to jump in here?

QUESTION: Okay. North Korea; correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that in the run-up to the decision yesterday, Chris Hill and you were giving the impression that you were hoping this would resolve the outstanding issues on the BDA, in that it would help the six-party talks in the deal that was signed on February 13th. Is that still your position? Are you hoping that now this should have solved all the issues that the North Koreans had on the BDA?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are a couple of steps here. One, the United States has "resolved" to come to a conclusion with respect to the BDA accounts. Treasury issued its rule yesterday. There is a next step to this and that is the actual implementation of it, which is going to be up to the Macanese authorities.

And what the -- I understand the Department of Treasury is doing is sending Deputy Assistant Secretary of Treasury Danny Glaser who's been the point man working with the Macanese on this issue to consult with the Macanese authorities, provide them the information -- all the information that we have managed to accumulate, our analysis of the accounts, so that they can make a fully informed decision as to the final disposition of the funds that are in those accounts.

And remember, it's the Macanese authorities who are the ones holding those actual funds. The United States has acted in good faith and in accord with the February 13th agreement. So the process is moving along. Chris Hill referenced some further consultations which I think he was referring to Danny Glaser's trip out there.

So it is now in the hands of the -- or will soon be in the hands of the Macanese authority once they have all of this information that they can possibly have.

QUESTION: And the next part of it, which was do you think they should remove any obstacles to the nuclear negotiations so that implementation of the deal -- because the North Koreans didn't come back to the six-party talks for a year because they had a problem with it. So now a year --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the actually implementation of the February 13th agreement is proceeding. And the fact that you have the Department of Treasury issuing this rule is one indication of that; another indication is that Chris Hill is in Beijing. He's attending the working group meetings. I believe that all the other -- four of the other parties, I don't know if the North Koreans are there are not. I know Kim Gye Gwan isn't expected to arrive into Beijing until Saturday -- either tomorrow or Saturday. So it is being implemented.

We are moving forward with what we need to do and I understand that the other parties are doing so as well. The North Koreans have met with Director General ElBaradei, which is another piece of the agreement that needs to be set in place so that you can move beyond the 30-day agreement and into the 60-day timeframe.

QUESTION: I ask because -- I'm just sort -- and the last one -- because the Chinese said today they don't think this would actually resolve the North Korean objection to --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, the U.S. has taken the steps that it needs to in terms of resolving the issue by issue -- by making public this rule. We don't actually have the assets under our control; they're not controlled by the United States Government. They were actually frozen by the Macanese authorities.

QUESTION: So as a result of your -- as a result of the United States going to the Macanese authorities is actually alerting them to the activities --

MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.

QUESTION: -- of the bank, right?

MR. MCCORMACK: Correct, right.

QUESTION: So now you've lifted those objections and they can do whatever they decide to do, is that right?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we -- what they, as well as we, think is important is that they have access to all the information that we have managed to accumulate through our forensics as well as our analysis of the situation so they can make a judgment about the money in all of the accounts and what the disposition of those funds will be. So at that point, it will -- once they have all the information, it will be up to the Macanese authorities to decide on how those funds are distributed and to whom.

QUESTION: So has the U.S. told the North Korean Government that they can expect to get some of the money that had previously been frozen? They can get it back? I mean, is that an understanding between the U.S. and North Korea? I would assume that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, the way that this works is the U.S. has issued this rule, the Treasury has issued this rule and then it's going to be up to the Macanese authorities to decide on what money --

QUESTION: You must have some understanding of what --

MR. MCCORMACK: -- what funds and to whom those are disbursed and I'm not going to get involved, dig any deeper into that process.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is it fair to assume that Chris Hill outlined to the North Koreans what was going to be in this decision yesterday and exactly how that was going to work, talk them through it before it was --

MR. MCCORMACK: He obviously consulted with the North Koreans on this. It was part of the February 13th agreement. Beyond that, I'm not going to get into any of the diplomatic conversations that we may have had. It is accurate to say that we committed to resolving the issue. We believe that this is on a pathway to being resolved. The United States has issued the rule that it needed to issue in order to allow the Macanese authorities to take the steps that they deem appropriate in terms of a final disposition of the funds that were in those BDA accounts.

QUESTION: But had he gotten any indications from the North Koreans that this kind of an approach by the U.S. would satisfy their demands?

MR. MCCORMACK: Everybody's goal is to resolve the issue and we believe that it will be resolved. We just need, I guess, a couple more steps in terms of the consultations. We want to provide the information to the Macanese authorities and then they are going to take the steps that they deem appropriate.

Sue.

QUESTION: But China has a very different view about all of this and they say that far from resolving this dispute, it actually kind of muddies the water further and raises questions about Macau's sort of financial reputation and puts their financial stability into question.

MR. MCCORMACK: Understandably, they have larger concerns about, well, how does this rule affect the perceptions of the -- of Macau's financial institutions as well as China's by extension and we understand that. The BDA role is limited to BDA. I think Treasury can get into any other description of the rule, but it is -- this is focused on BDA. We are in the process of providing the information that we think we need to and as I said, the issue is on its way to being resolved. We believe that we have done our part in that regard through the issuance of this rule.

Yes.

QUESTION: Two weeks ago Mr. Hill said how important each one of these deadlines is and that to miss one could create this broken window theory. It seems that there are still some steps left to resolve this. So given anyone's talk about what 30 days is, today would have to be the outside deadline. So has the U.S. broken the deadline?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we have done our part of this. The next step of this, the actual implementation and execution of the decision, is going to be up to the Macanese authorities. Let me assure everybody that we as well as the other members of the six-party talks are acting in good faith in accordance with the agreement that was signed on February 13th and we would hope that everybody views it in that light as well.

QUESTION: But since the Macanese are not party to the six-party talks, it's feasible that the North Koreans may not think that, you know, them deciding all this stuff is good faith on the part of the U.S.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's a practical matter. The United States is not within the powers of the -- the power of the United States to release funds that we don't control. So just as a practical matter of executing the steps necessary to resolve the issue, the Macanese need to be involved in some regard. I think everybody understands that. And again, we hope to provide any information that they might need to take those final steps to resolve the issue.

QUESTION: As a follow-up, do you expect them to release the funds?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's going to be -- that is going to be their decision.

QUESTION: Change the subject?

QUESTION: Can I have one more on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Sean, I got the impression -- you keep talking about the Macanese authorities and the bank as two separate entities that have nothing in common. But in fact, the financial authority of Macau which is part of the government manages the bank, right?

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So the Treasury said yesterday that they got great cooperation and then a few hours later the Macanese Government releases a statement that says it deeply regrets the U.S. action. How does that, in effect, you know, cooperate with exactly the U.S. decision to do this? I mean, it seems to me that you're praising them for cooperating with them and they're criticizing you for your decision. How does that square? I don't get it.

MR. MCCORMACK: They're not -- those things aren't mutually exclusive.

QUESTION: On Pakistan. Do you have any comment on the arrest of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court? There is – (inaudible) of President Musharraf say that his move is unconstitutional and it's created a rather difficult situation to his opposition.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Now, understood we have -- it's a situation actually that we have been monitoring very closely for some time and I think this occurred several days ago and we are watching it closely. It is a matter of deep concern. And we believe that the resolution of this matter should take place in a way that is completely transparent and strictly in accordance with Pakistan's laws. It's essential for any developing democracy to adhere to the rule of law and conduct any investigations, any proceedings that may follow on from those investigations in a clear, aboveboard, transparent manner that strictly accords with Pakistan's laws.

QUESTION: And has it been conducted in a transparent manner thus far?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're -- again, we're early on in this and we're going to be watching it very closely.

QUESTION: And have you sent a formal complaint to the Pakistani Government and asked them for further information?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's not a matter of our complaining about it. It's an internal Pakistani matter. But clearly, it's something that in terms of Pakistan's functioning as a democratic state, that we would watch very closely and that (inaudible) would have initially deep concerns about what has taken place.

QUESTION: But your ambassador has not approached the Pakistani authorities for more information or --

MR. MCCORMACK: We have talked to them about it. I can't tell you at what level we have, but we have talked to them about it. I wouldn't use the word "complaint" because I don't think it's appropriate in this particular case, but we have talked to them about it.

QUESTION: So would it be appropriate then to say that you've just approached them for more information or --

MR. MCCORMACK: We want to understand better the action that was taken.

Lambros.

QUESTION: On Greece.

MR. MCCORMACK: On Greece.

QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, the Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis and the President of Bulgaria (inaudible) and Putin signed the agreement of the well-known pipeline Burgas, Alexandropoulos. Do you have anything to say either in favor or against this agreement, a huge energy project of southeast Europe?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that very basically we have no problem with agreements that do a couple of things: further the cause of diversifying the supplies of energy for Europe and diversifying the means of transport of those supplies of energy, so this certainly contributes to it. There are a number of other pipeline proposals that are on deck and it is important that the states of Europe, as well as the energy suppliers, Russia as well as those of the Caucuses, work in a cooperative manner, that they act based on market principles. And part of those -- part of that set of principles is diversifying the supplies as well as diversifying the means of transport of those energy supplies.

QUESTION: One more, Mr. McCormack. May we have a readout about DAS Matt Bryza trip to Istanbul, Athens and (inaudible) and do you know if Mr. Bryza discussed also in Greece energy issues and to which -- what extent?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll have to get something for you on that, Lambros.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sylvie.

QUESTION: On the pipeline, you have been criticizing the policy, the Russian policy of using energy for politic -- politician reason. Do you think there is a risk that it would be -- it will happen again with this pipeline?

MR. MCCORMACK: I certainly don't want to foreshadow or try to predict such events occurring. There have been events in the past with respect to the Ukraine and Georgia as well as others in the immediate border area of Russia that have caused concern. I'm not going to try to predict that that may happen in this case, but we do think that it is important to diversify suppliers as well as the pipelines that deliver those energy supplies.

Sue.

QUESTION: On Iran, President Ahmadi-Nejad has said that the Iran resolution is nothing more than just a torn piece of paper and it's going to have no impact at all. I wondered if you had any comment on that. And then also I know this is a broad question, but how much of an impact do you think these sanctions will have on the Iranian Government and why do you think that these are going to be so effective this time?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the initial sanctions have actually had an effect on the Iranian Government. They haven't succeeded in changing their behavior to this point, but you've noticed that they are once again on the eve or coming up on passage of a new Security Council resolution all of a sudden, some -- the Iranians trying to lay out the perception of flexibility when, in fact, they're really not offering anything new. In terms of his referring to this just as a torn piece of paper, I think that more than anything, it would cause distress among the members of the Iranian regime and among the population of Iran.

It's not just a piece of paper. It says "Force of International Laws, Chapter 7 Resolution." It's serious business and it has had an effect on the ability of the Iranian Government to participate and use the international financial system for ends that we as well as the other members of the international system have said are, at the very least, suspicious and at worse were wrong.

And so we are taking action together with other members of the international system to see that they aren't able to exploit the global financial system to build a nuclear weapon or to be able to further develop their missile technology that could be used to deliver a nuclear warhead potentially. So it does have a real effect. It's not just a torn piece of paper. We take this very seriously and I suspect that the other members of the Security Council take passage of this kind of resolution very seriously. And I expect that they would be dismayed by that kind of reaction from President Ahmadi-Nejad.

Sadly, it's the kind of reaction that we've come to expect from him, flouting the will of the international community. And if the Iranian Government continues down that pathway, you are going to see further such actions. And that's rather unfortunate, because that's not what we want for Iran. There still is a pathway to negotiation that is available to them. There's an attractive offer that is on the table. They haven't taken us up on it yet.

One can only say that the pathway that President Ahmadi-Nejad is pursuing on behalf of the Iranian people is misguided and unfortunate. But it's important that the Iranian people know that they have a way out and that way out is via the negotiating table and having this regime take up the P-5+1 on its offer of negotiation.

Yeah, all the way in the back.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) was that Madame Secretary sent a letter to Congress on the Armenian resolution?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check and see if she's -- anything's actually gone up to them.

Dave Gollust.

QUESTION: Sean, could you preview the Secretary's agenda for the meeting with the Vietnamese Foreign Minister? Especially whether she intends to raise reported backsliding by Vietnam in the human rights area.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. She is going to meet with Deputy Prime Minister Khiem and they are going to touch on, really, the whole spectrum of U.S.-Vietnam relations. They're going to touch on trade, human rights, Vietnam's role in the broader Southeast Asian region. They're also going to discuss preparation for a possible visit by Vietnamese President Triet to the United States later this year. So that's all that is on the agenda. Human rights will be at the top of our agenda. It continues to be. The Vietnamese have made some advances in that regard. They've made some advances with respect to religious freedoms in Vietnam.

There have, however, been some detentions that have been of real concern to the United States and we have raised those issues with the Vietnamese officials. Secretary Rice has done that in the past and I would expect that certainly, a general discussion about human rights, if not a specific one about these cases, will take place during the meeting.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on President Mugabe's comments today saying that Western governments should -- you know, basically go and hang themselves because of their criticism of his handling of protests and --

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a real sad state of affairs in Zimbabwe. It's a real tragedy, what's occurring there in terms of the systematic dismantling of democratic rights, the abuses of human rights that we have seen recently, and just the terrible economic destruction that the Mugabe regime has wreaked on the Zimbabwean economy. This is now an economy that is suffering from hyperinflation and it's sad because it's the people that suffer.

Certainly, they suffer as a result of the lack of political rights, of the lack of human rights, but they're also suffering the very real effects of an economy that is just -- is going down the drain and it's a sad thing to watch. So it's -- you know, while Mr. Mugabe may want to paint this as an issue of his defying the rest of the world trying to dictate to him what should be happening in Zimbabwe, it's really a case of the international system expressing real concern for a tragedy that is unfolding in that country.

QUESTION: The UN and the EU have suggested that imposing new sanctions on Zimbabwe will make the situation even more difficult for people who already face inflation of like 1700 percent or something.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I know the U.S. is considering new sanctions against Zimbabwe. How are you looking at those new sanctions and how will you be able to impose those without causing even more grief to people on the ground there?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a tough issue. It's always a hard issue when you try to balance the possible effect of diplomatic tools that you might have at your disposal, for instance, sanctions and the effect they'll have on the regime versus the effect that they may have on the population which is already suffering. So we'll take a close look at what we might do to try to bring about a change in behavior of this regime and that we are working very closely with the EU as well as others on this. We're consulting closely. I can't tell you that we've come to any final conclusions in that regard.

QUESTION: So it would be a joint effort in terms of sanctions or are you going to go unilaterally?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll take a look at what we think is the right thing to do.

QUESTION: Are you looking at some UN action? Is this going to be something circulating in the next few days or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, there are a number of options available to us so we'll -- we want to try to do what's effective as well as what is something that has as minimal effect as possible on the humanitarian situation that's unfolding in Zimbabwe.

QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq, please, just going back to this conference on the weekend? Do you have sense yet of the progress that's being made in terms of these working groups, have they been established, are you confident they'll be able to report back to the ministerial level within the next month? Do you get a sense of how the process is playing out?

MR. MCCORMACK: I have to -- you know, honestly, I have to check on that one. I have to check with David Satterfield and see -- and get his assessment of where we stand with these things. I know that people are already talking in terms of travel dates and locations for a ministerial-level conference, so there is a degree of optimism that we are going to get to that point. But I have to check for you exactly on the working groups and exactly what's happening there.

QUESTION: What the make-up is of them and are they completely international and just basically what was happening between now and --

MR. MCCORMACK: What's the process -- yes, we will get you an answer.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you think this is, again a rather broad question, but do you think this has put extra pressure on the Iraqi Government to step up themselves? I mean, in terms of -- I'll give one specific, you know, something like de-Baathification -- you know, certain benchmarks that they're expecting to be reaching. Do you think this is giving them more momentum? Are they held more to account now because of this do you think?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think -- well, they have their own motivations for getting things done in terms of de-Baathification or the hydrocarbons law or their budget or amendments to the constitution, so their own -- they have self-generated interest in getting those things done and moving forward. The international support manifested itself by attendance at the conference and expressions of support for the Iraqi Government certainly helped. And that helps reinforce the work of those in Iraq who want to push forward on all of these political issues, because they're really important. And the -- in terms of the budget, there has been progress. They actually passed a budget, voted on it, and they are now working on disbursing about $10 billion, so that's positive.

The hydrocarbons law has been -- is going to be up for debate in the Council of Representatives coming up here soon in the coming weeks. I expect that to be a healthy debate because it gets to really fundamental issues of the division of the patrimony of Iraq, its oil wealth, how that is used and how that is controlled. And that gets, again, to core issues of Sunnis, Kurds, and others working together for a common good for an Iraq. De-Baathification, there's been less progress on and that's something that we have urged the Maliki government and the Council of Representatives to move forward on.

So there has been progress. There is -- the Iraqis themselves set out some benchmarks that they -- notional benchmarks that they had hoped they could meet. They're a little behind on that. We understand that. Not to draw a direct comparison, but our own legislative process doesn't always move at the pace that they would have wished. So they -- but the bottom line story here is that they -- the political process is moving forward. It is functioning. It is functioning within an atmosphere of extreme violence, which makes the process more difficult.

But to get back to the original point, the international support that is manifested by these meetings and these conferences is important. It helps reinforce the idea for the Iraqis that they do need to move forward and that there are benefits to moving forward. Just -- I think tomorrow, the members of the International Compact for Iraq, which is a separate yet related effort, are actually going to work to try to finalize the terms of the deal on both sides, both what the Iraqis are going to do and what might get done by the international system. So those are all positive reinforcing moves for the Iraqis and the benefits for the neighbors and others in the international system are that Iraq starts to find its place in the region.

QUESTION: What do you really expect in real terms from the compact group tomorrow? Is it going to be some kind of list, like a manifest of how they're going to move forward or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's essentially a contract in simple terms that everybody understands. On one side, the Iraqis commit to take certain steps on the economic reform front and then in return, the international system will take certain steps. Those are going to differ for each individual state, but it's essentially a deal. If you commit to doing X, we will commit to doing Y; we being the collective international system.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any date on the new resolution on Sudan that you would like to be discussed at the UN?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. Let me see where we are on that, Sylvie. I'll see if there are discussions on it.

Libby.

QUESTION: On Andrew Natsios, did you ever check whether he was traveling to Khartoum again?

MR. MCCORMACK: Did we? Did we check to see if he was traveling to Khartoum again? We did --

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

MR. MCCORMACK: We did.

MR. CASEY: We care, Libby (inaudible).

QUESTION: Okay. That's okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: We will get you an answer.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. McCormack?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, Lambros, yes.

QUESTION: On Kosovo, because somebody criticizes you as a troublemaker, but I consider you as a problem-shooter.

MR. MCCORMACK: Some people call me a troublemaker?

QUESTION: Yes, but they consider you as --

MR. MCCORMACK: Who's calling me a troublemaker?

QUESTION: As -- let me say the question. The (inaudible) publication (inaudible) from New York City criticizing your recent statement of Kosovo is a unique situation and not a precedent, correct?

MR. MCCORMACK: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: But what is so "unique" -- in quotation, the unique -- about Kosovo? Apparently, Kosovo is unique because the Department of State says so and the U.S. will support or oppose self-determination on a case-by-case basis on the supposed "uniqueness" of the situation, but not on the (inaudible) self-determination. Are we to assume that by virtue of divine right, the U.S. is the earth's court of "last resort"? Yes or no? How do you respond?

MR. MCCORMACK: Is there in there -- you know, it just comes with the territory here. You know, sometimes people like what you say and sometimes, people don't. You know, I'm expressing the view of the President and the Secretary of State on this matter.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thanks.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/mar/81762.htm

Posted by: mynameis Apr 4 2007, 02:50 PM
Press statements in video.
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/


Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 4, 2007


Special Press Briefing and Release-Supporting Human Rights And Democracy: The U.S. Record 2006

The Department of State will release the annual report Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record -2006 on Thursday, April 5, at 10:00 a.m. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky will provide opening remarks, followed by remarks by Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Barry F. Lowenkron. Assistant Secretary Lowenkron will then respond to reporters' questions. This event is on camera and on the record, and will be held in the State Department's press briefing room (Room 2209).

Advance Copies of the Embargoed Report
Embargoed copies of the publication on CD-ROM will be available on Thursday, April 5, at 8:15 a.m. in the State Department's Press Office (Room 2109). The entire report is EMBARGOED until the end of the press briefing, approximately 11:00 a.m., April 5. CDs will not be reserved, mailed, faxed or delivered to a building entrance.

Press who attend this briefing should arrive at the 23rd Street entrance of the Department of State (2201 C Street, NW) and must present either (1) a U.S. Government-issued identification card (Department of State, White House, Congress, Department of Defense or Foreign Press Center), (2) a media-issued photo identification card, or (3) letter from their employer on letterhead verifying their employment as a journalist, accompanied by an official photo identification card (driver's license, passport). Press should allow adequate time to process through security and to be in the briefing room 10 minutes before the briefing.

Electronic Access to the Report via Internet
The full text of the report will be available for downloading from the State Department web site at: http://www.state.gov as soon as possible after the briefing on Wednesday, April 5.

Press Contacts
For more information on this event, contact:
Elyse Bauer, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
(202) 647-1442, or the Office of Press Relations (202) 647-2492.

2007/262
Released on April 4, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/82628.htm



Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 4, 2007


U.S. Welcomes High-Level Appointments of Two Americans to Leadership Positions at the United Nations

The United States is pleased that International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Secretary General Taieb Cherif has announced the appointment of Nancy J. Graham as the new Director of the Air Navigation Bureau.

Ms. Graham is an extraordinarily well-qualified candidate who will serve the Secretary General and the global community in promoting a safe and efficient international civil aviation system.

Ms. Graham was previously Regional Director, Asia Pacific, in the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), after an assignment as FAA's International Technical Program Manager in the Europe, Middle East and African FAA Regional Office based in Brussels, Belgium.

The United States also is pleased that Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Mirta Roses Periago has announced the appointment of Dr. Cristina V. Beato as the organization's new Deputy Director. Dr. Beato is an extraordinarily well-qualified candidate, who will serve the countries of the Americas in improving their health and living standards.

Dr. Beato previously was Acting Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services. She also served on the faculty and staff at University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

2007/261

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/82624.htm

Posted by: mynameis Apr 5 2007, 08:58 PM
edia Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 5, 2007


Deputy Secretary Negroponte Travel to Africa

Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte will travel to Sudan, Chad, Libya and Mauritania April 11–19, 2007. The focus of the trip will be the crisis in Darfur and ongoing efforts to achieve peace in Sudan through implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. In Mauritania, he will attend the inauguration of President-elect Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikk Adellahi and meet with African leaders. Accompanying the Deputy Secretary will be Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs Jendayi Frazer and Senior Director and Special Assistant to the President for African Affairs at the National Security Council Bobby Pittman, Jr. Representatives from the Department of Defense and USAID will join the traveling party in Sudan and Chad.

2007/265

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/

Posted by: mynameis Apr 9 2007, 11:25 PM
Press Statement
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 7, 2007


Somalia: Assistant Secretary Frazer Visits Baidoa

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer visited Baidoa today to support international efforts to achieve lasting stability and security in Somalia. This was the first visit to Somalia by a senior U.S. official in over a decade. Her visit highlighted the U.S. commitment at the highest levels to support the efforts of the Somali people to take advantage of their historic opportunity to achieve stability and security.

Her visit followed her participation in the recent meeting in Cairo of the International Contact Group on Somalia, which emphasized concern about the violence which has taken place in Mogadishu, and which stressed the need for an inclusive national reconciliation process.

Assistant Secretary Frazer met with President Yusuf, Prime Minister Gedi and the Speaker of the Parliament, and addressed the Transitional Federal Parliament, and spoke with clan elders and representatives of civil society. In these meetings, she urged the leadership of the Transitional Federal Institutions, clans, and civil society to support the current truce and to work urgently to bring about inclusive national reconciliation. She and all of the interlocutors she met with agreed that the reconciliation process should be open to all Somalis who eschew violence, extremism, and terrorism. She made clear U.S. views that the best way to isolate terrorists and extremists is through an inclusive political process based on the Transitional Federal Charter. Moving ahead expeditiously with the national reconciliation process will lay the groundwork to carry out successfully the transition to an elected government set for 2009.

Assistant Secretary Frazer indicated that the U.S. is moving ahead with disbursement of $40 million in assistance, and has asked Congress for an additional $60 million dollars in aid for Somalia. This assistance will be used to support development and security needs, to assist in the deployment of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) stabilization force, and to provide humanitarian assistance.
Discussions with all interlocutors were frank and constructive, and laid the basis for intensive collaboration.

2007/267

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/82704.htm

Posted by: mynameis Apr 9 2007, 11:26 PM
Media Note (Revised)
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 9, 2007


Assistant Secretary Dina Powell Addresses Opening of 2nd Annual Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists

Assistant Secretary of State Dina Powell addressed the U.S. Department of State's second annual Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists at a luncheon held at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on Monday, April 9.

The program brings about 200 emerging leaders in the field of journalism from around the world to examine journalistic practices in the United States. Planned for April 7-28, 2007, the program is an innovative public-private partnership between the Department of State, the Aspen Institute, and 12 leading U.S. schools of journalism. Working in conjunction with these partners, the Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs developed a specialized International Visitor Leadership Program to engage young international media professionals in dialogue with their U.S. counterparts.

The visitors will begin their program with an orientation in the nation's capital (April 9-11) that will offer overviews of U.S. foreign policy objectives and the practice of journalism in the United States. They will then travel in groups according to their regions of origin or language for academic seminars and field activities with faculty and students at one of twelve host campuses as follows (April 12-18):

* Africa (Francophone) group: University Maryland, Philip Merrill College of Journalism;
* Africa (Anglophone) group: University of Kentucky, School of Journalism & Telecommunications;
* East Asia (Chinese) group: University Minnesota, School of Journalism & Mass Communication;
* East Asia (English) group: University of Texas at Austin, School of Journalism;
* Europe (English) group: Louisiana State University, Manship School of Mass Communications;
* Europe (Russian) group: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Journalism;
* Multi-Regional (English) group: American University, School of International Service, International Communication Division;
* Near East (French) group: Syracuse University, Newhouse School of Public Communications & Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs;
* Near East (Arabic) group: Boston University College of Communications, Dept. of Journalism and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;
* South Asia (English) group: University of Southern California-Annenberg School of Communications; and
* Western Hemisphere (Spanish) group: University of Oklahoma, Gaylord College of Journalism & Mass Communication.

The journalism schools will design specialized courses for their international counterparts to examine journalistic principles and practices, both in the United States and around the world. The universities are generously contributing their resources, time and talent to make this program possible. Finally, the journalists will travel to several contrasting cities and small American towns to gain an understanding of media coverage of state politics and government and to observe American civic life and grassroots involvement in political affairs in smaller towns. The program will conclude in Washington, D.C., with a symposium hosted by the Aspen Institute to highlight current trends and challenges facing the media in the United States and around the world.

2007/268 (Revised)

Released on April 9, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/82764.htm

Posted by: mynameis Apr 10 2007, 09:49 PM
Press Statement
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 10, 2007


Colombia: Determination and Certification of Colombian Government and Armed Forces with Respect to Human Rights Related Conditions

On April 4, 2007, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice determined and certified to Congress that the Colombian Government and Armed Forces are meeting statutory criteria related to human rights and severing ties to paramilitary groups. This determination and certification, which is pursuant to Section 556(a) of the FY 2006 Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, permits the full balance of FY 2006 funds designated for assistance to the Colombian Armed Forces to be obligated.

Supporting human rights in Colombia remains a top priority for the U.S. Government. We are encouraged by positive developments in the Colombian government's efforts to protect human rights. The Colombian government has shown its commitment to improve respect for human rights throughout all sectors of society and remains committed to working with the international community to further its progress on human rights. That said, we recognize there is still progress to be made. The United States takes seriously all reports of human rights abuses and is committed to continue engaging the Government of Colombia and supporting programs to achieve further progress in improving the human rights performance of its armed forces, severing military-paramilitary ties, and ensuring effective investigation and prosecution of human rights violations.

To accomplish these goals, we - both in Washington and through the U.S. Embassy in Bogota - regularly engage Colombian NGOs and civil society groups, as well as U.S. and international human rights organizations, regarding Colombia's human rights performance. The work of these organizations is invaluable in expanding our understanding of the human rights situation in Colombia.

2007/270
Released on April 10, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/82824.htm

Posted by: mynameis Apr 11 2007, 10:43 PM
Press Statement
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 11, 2007


U.S. Condemns Terrorist Attacks

The United States condemns the terrorist attacks that occurred yesterday, April 10, in Casablanca involving suicide bombers and today's bomb attacks in Algiers. These horrific acts indiscriminately killed members of the security services and civilians alike. We extend our deepest sympathies to the victims of these atrocities, their families, and the people of Algeria and Morocco. We stand with the Moroccan and Algerian people and their governments in the struggle against extremism and violence, and support their efforts to secure a future of peace. There is no political justification for the murder of innocent lives.

2006/273


Released on April 11, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/82880.htm


Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 11, 2007


Canada to Join International Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking

Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Environment, and Science Claudia A. McMurray and Canadian Minister of the Environment John Baird will announce that Canada is joining the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT). The announcement will take place on Thursday, April 12, 2007 at 11:00 a.m. at the Sloth Bear Exhibit at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. This event will be hosted by Smithsonian National Zoo Director John Berry.

The international coalition, whose members include the United States, India, the United Kingdom, Australia, and 14 conservation and industry organizations, aims to focus public and political attention and resources on ending the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products. An initiative of the United States, the Coalition was founded in 2005.

The National Zoo is located at 3001 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008. Media should arrive by 10:30 and park in the Bus Parking Lot.

Points of Contact :

Russell Newell
Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science, U.S. Department of State
(202) 647-1169

John Gibbons
Public Affairs Specialist
National Zoo, Office of Public Affairs
202-633-3083

2007/272
Released on April 11, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/82854.htm


Posted by: mynameis Apr 12 2007, 09:17 PM
Press Statement
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 12, 2007


Preparations for Nigeria’s Elections

On April 14 and 21, Nigerians will go to the polls in historic elections that will lead on May 29 to Nigeria's first civilian transfer of presidential power.

The election poses a unique opportunity for that country's democratic development. This transition, along with the sustained fight against corruption, and the emergence of an institutional balance of power among the three branches of government is a vital element in the growth and consolidation of democracy in Nigeria.

The United States is a committed partner in assisting Nigeria with its preparations for credible elections that are acceptable to the Nigerian people.

The United States has provided almost $15 million over the past three years to train political parties, electoral commission staff, and civil society in facilitating preparation of these polls. The United States is supporting nearly 200 observers accredited to the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and the U.S. Mission in Nigeria.

We encourage the electoral authorities and government to take all possible measures to enhance public confidence in the elections. These steps should include the immediate granting of full and transparent access for domestic and international electoral observers, as well as posting and publishing results at each polling station.

We urge all parties to refrain from violence, and to exercise their liberties responsibly and according to the rule of law.

2007/278
Released on April 12, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/82994.htm




Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 12, 2007


Meeting of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion

The Secretary's Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion (ACDP) will meet on Monday, April 16, 2007 in Washington, D.C. to discuss strategies to promote democratic governance. Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, and Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Barry F. Lowenkron will participate in the meeting, which will begin at 9:30 a.m. and is expected to conclude at 1:00 p.m.

Secretary Rice established the Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion to convene external experts to provide her and the Administrator of the Agency for International Development with advice on issues related to democracy promotion in the formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy and foreign assistance. Under Secretary Dobriansky serves as the Executive Director. Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, is the Committee Chair.

The meeting, which will be held at the U.S. Department of State in Room 1107, will be open to the public. Secretary Rice will participate from 10:00-10:45 a.m. Space is limited and available on a first come, first serve basis.

The meeting will have pool press coverage for cameras and be open for writers and still photographers.

Pick up for cameras: 9:00 a.m. from the 23rd Street entrance.
Final access for writers and still photographers: 9:45 a.m. from the 23rd Street entrance.

Media representatives may attend this briefing upon presentation of one of the following: (1) a U.S. Government-issued identification card (Department of State, White House, Congress, Department of Defense, or Foreign Press Center), (2) a media-issued photo identification card, or (3) a letter from their employer on letterhead verifying their employment as a journalist, accompanied by an official photo identification (driver's license or passport).

For additional information on the Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion and this meeting, please contact Paul Lettow, Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, at (202) 647-1189.

2007/275
Released on April 12, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/82991.htm



Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 12, 2007


Canada Joins the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking

Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Environment and Science Claudia A. McMurray and Canadian Minister of the Environment John Baird announced today that Canada has joined the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT).

This international coalition, whose members include the United States, India, the United Kingdom, Australia, and 14 conservation and industry organizations, aims to focus public and political attention and resources on ending the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products. An initiative of the United States, the Coalition was founded in 2005.

Wildlife trafficking generates, by a conservative estimate, $10 billion a year, trailing only the illegal trade in drugs and weapons. It is estimated that 25,000-40,000 primates and 2-5 million live birds are illegally traded globally every year.

Canada's commitment to CAWT, and to hiring additional officers to enforce environmental laws, will be a valuable addition to our fight to halt the loss of biodiversity, protect human health, promote sustainable livelihoods, and end criminal activities throughout the globe.


2007/279
Released on April 12, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83004.htm


Press Statement
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 12, 2007


Attack on the Iraqi Council of Representatives Facility

Today's attack on Iraq's Council of Representatives facility is a heinous act of terrorism meant to intimidate the Iraqi people, their democratically elected representatives and institutions, and all those who work selflessly on their behalf to build a peaceful, unified, and stable Iraq. I extend our heartfelt sympathy to the loved ones of those killed and injured. The United States condemns such criminal acts and will continue to work with the Government of Iraq and our Coalition partners in pursuing the criminals who commit these atrocities against the Iraqi people and their democratically elected government.

2007/277
Released on April 12, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/82993.htm

Posted by: mynameis Apr 16 2007, 07:24 PM
Press Statement
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 16, 2007


Use of Excessive Force Against Protestors in Russia

We are deeply disturbed by the excessive use of force against and detention of peaceful protestors and journalists in Moscow and St. Petersburg on April 14 and 15 by Russian law enforcement authorities. These actions raise serious concerns about Russians' ability to exercise their basic rights of freedom of assembly and speech, concerns magnified by the fact that protest organizers faced significant difficulties in their attempts to receive permits from the government to hold these peaceful demonstrations.

Peaceful marches and protests that air differing viewpoints are a cornerstone of democratic society. We have consistently raised our concerns about freedom of assembly and speech in Russia with the Russian government. We welcome the call by some Russian officials for a thorough investigation into the use of force against the protestors on April 14-15, and urge Russian authorities to respond to these requests. We also call for the Russian government to reiterate its commitment and intention to respect fully international standards involving freedom of assembly, speech, and press.

2007/292

Released on April 16, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83109.htm



Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 16, 2007


Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky Leads Senior Level Delegation To UNHCR Conference in Geneva, Switzerland April 17-18

Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky will lead a senior level delegation to Geneva for a conference hosted by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Addressing the Humanitarian Needs of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons inside Iraq and in Neighboring Countries. Members of the delegation include Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration Ellen R. Sauerbrey; Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Lawrence Butler; Director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance Ky Luu; U.S. Ambassador to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva Warren Tichenor; Director of Episcopal Migration Ministries Richard Parkins; and Director of Education Programs, Relief International and Schools Online, Zoya Naskova. The focus of the Conference is to raise awareness of the needs of displaced Iraqis, promote concrete actions by the international community to mitigate the suffering of displaced Iraqis and support host governments.

On February 5, 2007, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice established the Iraq Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Task Force. Under Secretary Dobriansky leads this effort to coordinate refugee and IDP assistance to the region and refugee resettlement. The Task Force also draws on the multidisciplinary expertise in the U.S. Government to devise strategies for Iraqis at risks because of their employment with the United States Government.

For further information on U.S. participation in the conference and media opportunities, please contact the Public Affairs Section at the U.S. Mission in Geneva, 022-749-4359 / 4360.

2007/286

Released on April 16, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83072.htm



Remarks Upon Arrival in Khartoum

John D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State

Khartoum, Sudan
April 16, 2007

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: I have a brief statement and then I’d be pleased to try and answer some questions. This is my first trip to Sudan and only my second trip abroad since becoming Deputy Secretary of State two months ago.

Over the last four days I have had a series of meeting in Khartoum with President Bashir and several of his top advisors, including Foreign Minister Akol and Special Assistant to the President Minni Minawi. I also had an opportunity to visit Juba where I met First Vice President Salva Kiir and General Deng of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

In Juba I reiterated United States support for the historic Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended this country’s civil war and I reaffirmed our continued assistance to the Government of Sudan. The day before yesterday I traveled to Darfur, where I reviewed humanitarian and peacekeeping issues with Internally Displaced Persons, as well as United Nations, African Union, and Sudanese officials. I want to extend my thanks to the Government of Sudan for the hospitality and everyone who has made the excellent arrangements for my trip.

The principal propose of my trip has been to convey the US’s commitment to the complete and urgent implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. I focused in particular on the situation in Darfur, a situation of intense interest on the part of the American people and our government. There is widespread concern …. The crisis in Darfur has three components: humanitarian, political and security. All these components deserve the prompt attention of the Sudanese government.

On the humanitarian front, the United States has done a great deal to try and ease the suffering of the people of Darfur. The US is the single largest donor to Sudan, more than 2 billion dollars in aid since 2005, and we are working hard to protect vulnerable populations there. Visiting an IDP, or Internally Displaced Persons camp in Darfur the day before yesterday, I was able to see how important it is that the civilians have full access to humanitarian aid.

When it comes to humanitarian access, the Government of Sudan’s record is not encouraging. The denial of visas, the harassment of aid workers have created the impression that the Government of Sudan is engaged in a deliberate campaign of intimidation. The Government of Sudan’s recent agreement with the United Nations to facilitate humanitarian operations is an encouraging sign, and we will be watching carefully and expect prompt implementation.

With respect to the security situation, our focus is on supporting the ongoing AU and UN efforts to contribute to peace and stability in Darfur. The AU and UN are on the ground and working hard. But they face serious challenges. In fact, there are more Internally Displaced Persons in Darfur than when the DPA was signed in May 2006. We must move quickly to a larger hybrid African Union and United Nations peacekeeping force with a single united chain of command that conforms to UN standards and practices.

In addition to the United Nations and the AU, others have a critical role to play in security. The Government of Sudan must disarm the Janjaweed, the Arab militias that we all know could not exit without the Sudanese government's active support. The non-signatory rebel groups must stop their attacks, put down their arms, and come to the negotiating table.

Turning to the political situation, I found widespread agreement that more must be done to bring the non-signatory groups into the DPA. The US supports the work of UN Special Envoy Eliasson and African Union Special Envoy Salim. I also encouraged First Vice President Salva Kiir in his efforts to convene a conference of the non-signatory groups. The United Nations-African Union peacekeepers are essential to security but it is difficult to see a satisfactory long-term outcome unless these political efforts bear fruit.

It is also necessary to support the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority and other DPA provisions designed to provide the people of Darfur with the political and economic opportunities they deserve. We expect the Sudanese government to fulfill its obligations in this regard.

The Darfur Peace Agreement offers great promise and opportunity to the people of Sudan. It can only be realized through the active efforts of the Sudanese Government. A quick transition to a UN-AU force, an improvement in access for humanitarian workers, and support for the TDRA would improve the situation in Darfur ad could pave the way for better relations between Sudan and the international community. If these improvements do not take place, the alternative for Sudan is continued and perhaps even intensified isolation. Thank you very much, and I‘d be pleased to answer a few of your questions.

It’s eight o’clock now. I would propose that we would have about 15 minutes for questions because then we must continue on our trip.

Yes.

QUESTION: You said that your main idea is to deploy UN forces with UN support. What is the outcome that you reached with the Sudanese government about that? Also, today in New York , Mr. Kenare agreed to the UN Secretary General to have a statement from the UN issued to finance the second package. What is, any comments on that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Right. First of all, while we had discussions during the past three days, the question of the hybrid force is being negotiated and discussed between officials of the UN and the AU and as you correctly point out will no doubt also be a subject of discussion in New York today between Mr. Konare and United Nations officials. What we have stressed and what has been our consistent position throughout, is that, whatever the arrangements between the United Nations and the African Union, there must be a single, united chain-of-command for these forces and that the forces will carry out their mission in accordance with United Nations standards and practices. On the other hand, we acknowledge and have agreed that the preponderance, the majority of this force will be recruited from African countries and the commander of this United Nations-slash-African Union force will also be from Africa. So, no matter what the final arrangement for this unified command, there will be a strong African voice.

QUESTION: My question is, the United States is seeking to have a resolution issued at the United Nations to impose sanctions on the Sudan. If the Government of Sudan does not respond to the issue of the hybrid force, the Secretary General has asked for more time to give the diplomatic work its course. Also President Bashir has spoken with the King of Saudi Arabia and confirmed the success of the Arab initiative and the approval of Sudan on the second package of heavy equipment and also the deployment of aircraft. Do you know about that and do you think that from that the United States may change its position?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: As I mentioned in my statement, the security situation in Darfur continues to be extremely challenging. And in fact there are even more internally displaced people today than there were at the time the Darfur Peace Agreement was signed in 2006. So our position has been that there is an urgent need to deploy additional forces to the Darfur area in order to help stabilize the situation. Otherwise we could be faced with a situation where the humanitarian crisis deepens and there will no solution, or end in sight, to this situation. So our focus is to work with the United Nations and all the member states concerned to mobilize additional peacekeeping forces as soon as possible. I would note that there have been some indications that steps are being taken towards creating such forces. But as all of you know there have been disappointments in the past where there have been agreements made but then not necessarily carried out. So what I would stress, stress at this particular point is that it is the actions that are required and words are not sufficient.

QUESTION: You have spoken a lot about the humanitarian situation and about the increase of the number of the IDPs. However the UN envoy during his last visit spoke about an improvement in the situation. And in the meantime the United States continues its sanctions and don’t you think these sanctions only affect the Sudanese citizens and not the Sudanese government?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: As I said in my remarks, there are three different elements of the situation: the humanitarian, the security and the political. I also noted that there has been, and I have noted this in the conversations that I have had here in the past three days, some stabilization in certain aspects of the humanitarian situation, particularly with respect to nutrition, on the one hand, and the mortality rate on the other. But also as I noted there has been an increase in the number of internally displaced people, so that situation has not improved. And because of insecurity and a lack of political agreement among the various parties, the situation remains very precarious and very unpredictable. And I would say it continues to be fraught with danger.

We believe that with additional peacekeeping forces that progress can be made towards stabilizing the security situation. And we consider such an increase an indispensable element towards making progress on the issue of Darfur, while efforts are also made to find some kind of political solution between the signatory and non-signatory groups to the Darfur Peace Agreement.

There’s a gentleman who has been waiting very patiently here. This, this will be my last, last question.

QUESTION: My question, uh, do you think the agreement of war in Darfur they can make smooth landing in The Hague.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: You have to repeat that.

QUESTION: Do you think the agreement of war in Darfur, they can make smooth landing in The Hague? and why not America one of the members of the High Court? The last question, what about on the table between Khartoum and Washington in this meeting?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: That’s not one question. (laughter) Well, there are, there are several people under indictment by the International Criminal Court and as you know when that matter was brought before the United Nations Security Council the United States abstained, therefore allowing that resolution to pass so I think there is a possibility that at some point in the future these people who are under indictment may well be brought before the Court. I can’t recall the other two questions you had. What was the other two?

QUESTION: (inaudible)

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Why we are not members of the High Court? Well, that was a decision that was taken by the United States a number of years ago at the time of the negotiation of the International Criminal Court and is not, is not a new situation. But we certainly believe that our own domestic legal procedures are very adequate for dealing with these kinds of situations and we believe that we have a judicial system in the United States that is second to none in dealing with crimes that might be committed.

2007/290


Released on April 16, 2007

http://www.state.gov/s/d/2007/83107.htm




Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 16, 2007


Middle East Partnership Initiative Invites Applications for Three-month Democracy Fellowships in the U.S.

The U.S. State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) invites young democratic reform leaders from the Middle East and North Africa to apply for three-month fellowships in the United States, where successful candidates will complete academic coursework and a practical, skill-building experience in their fields of choice.

The 2008 MEPI Leaders for Democracy Fellowships will begin with a six-week course on leadership and democracy at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University in New York. The Syracuse portion of the fellowship will include a capstone project by each participant, focusing on a topic of professional interest.

After the academic program, each participant will gain practical experience and professional contacts in a four- to five-week fellowship with a political, non-governmental, or public policy organization in Syracuse, NY, or Washington, DC. Possible placement opportunities include working with a city council, local elections commission, non-governmental organization, issue advocacy group, political campaign, media outlet, grassroots organization, or think tank. Fellows will earn a certificate upon successful completion of the three-month program.

The Leaders for Democracy Fellowships are open to people between the ages of 25 and 40 with a bachelor’s degree and English language fluency to function successfully in an American academic and professional environment. Applicants also should have five years of work experience, as well as demonstrated leadership skills, and the availability to be in the United States unaccompanied from March 15 through June 15, 2008.

Applications are due to U.S. embassies in the region by May 31, 2007. Please see www.mepi.state.gov/82860.htm for detailed application instructions.

The Middle East Partnership Initiative supports the aspirations of people in the Middle East seeking greater freedom and opportunity. In four years, MEPI has devoted more than $293 million to reformers working so democracy can spread, education can thrive, economies can grow, and women can be empowered.

2007/287

Released on April 16, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83073.htm



Taken Question
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 16, 2007
Question Taken at April 16, 2007 Daily Press Briefing

Iran: UNSC Sanctions Resolution

Question: If corporations were to help Iran in construction of nuclear power, would it violate either of the UNSC Resolutions?

Answer: We would need to look at the circumstances of any specific case, but corporations that assist Iran in the construction of nuclear power facilities could be in violation of the measures taken by States to implement UNSC resolutions 1737 and 1747.

These resolutions require UN Member States to implement measures for preventing: certain nuclear-related transfers to Iran; provision to Iran of technical and financial assistance related to such transfers; and provision of any financial assets or other economic resources to designated individuals and entities, including many associated with Iran's nuclear program.

The unanimous adoption of two UNSCRs makes clear that now is not the time for business as usual with Iran. Full and swift implementation of UNSCR 1737 and 1737 is critical to signal to Tehran the costs of its defiance. All members of the United Nations must fully implement the provisions of UNSC resolutions 1737 and 1747, which we believe can be an effective means to persuade Iran to change course and respond constructively to the international concerns about the nature of its nuclear program. Iran's failure to completely, verifiably suspend enrichment related and reprocessing activities and engage in subsequent direct talks with the U.S. and our European partners continues to be a missed opportunity.

2007/291

Released on April 16, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83108.htm


Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 16, 2007


Fine Arts Committee Meeting, Friday, April 20, 2007

The Fine Arts Committee of the Department of State will meet on Friday, April 20, 2007 at 2:30 p.m. in the Henry Clay Room (8th floor, Department of State). The meeting will last until approximately 3:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

The agenda for the committee meeting will include a summary of the work of the Fine Arts Office since its last meeting on February 20, 2007 and the announcement of gifts and loans of furnishings as well as financial contributions from January 1, 2007 through March 31, 2007.

Public access to the Department of State is strictly controlled and space is limited. Members of the public wishing to take part in the meeting should telephone the Fine Arts Office at (202) 647-1990 by close of business on April 16, providing their name, date of birth; citizenship; ID number, i.e., U.S. Government ID (agency), U.S. military ID (branch), passport (country) or driver's license (state) in order to arrange admittance. All attendees must use the "C" Street entrance. One of the following valid IDs will be required for admittance: any U.S. driver's license with photo, a passport, or a U.S. Government agency ID. Attendees should expect to remain in the meeting for the entire session. The public may take part in the discussion as long as time permits and at the discretion of the chairman.

2007/288

Released on April 16, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83076.htm





Posted by: mynameis Apr 17 2007, 07:49 PM
Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 17, 2007


Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky Announces Administration’s Draft Legislation on Special Immigrant Visa

Today in Geneva, at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' international conference on Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons, the U.S. Head of Delegation, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, announced that the Bush Administration is sending to Congress draft special immigrant visa (SIV) legislation. The proposed legislation gives the Secretary of State the worldwide authority, under exceptional circumstances, to lower the number of years a Foreign Service National (FSN) must work in order to be eligible for the existing SIV program from 15 to 3 years. The Under Secretary also endorsed the intent of Senate Bill 1104 introduced by Senators Kennedy and Lugar, and H.R. 1790 introduced by Representatives Berman and Fortenberry. Both Bills seek to expand the existing law on SIV to allow as many as 1,500 interpreters under Departments of Defense and State authority, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, access to the SIV program.

Dr. Dobriansky is the Chair of the Secretary of State's Interagency Task Force on Iraqi Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, which was established on February 5, 2007.

2007/293
Released on April 17, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83118.htm




Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 17, 2007


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Address InterAction 2007 Annual Forum

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will deliver remarks at 6:00 p.m., on Wednesday, April 18, to the InterAction 2007 Annual Forum, in the Grand Ballroom of the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, 480 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Washington DC. The Secretary will take questions from the audience after her remarks.

This InterAction Annual Forum brings together over 600 participants from 160 member organizations, including non governmental organizations, government agencies and international organizations to discuss this year's theme: "Setting a Bold Agenda for Relief and Development."

The conference will be open for press coverage. Media attending this event should enter through the main entrance, and must register at the press table.

Pre-set time for cameras: 4:30 p.m. from the main entrance
Final access time for writers and still photographers: 5:15 p.m. from the main entrance

PRESS CONTACTS:
Robyn Shepherd
InterAction
Media Specialist
(202) 667-8227 ext 535
(267) 230-7651
rshepherd@interaction.org

Office of Press Relations
U.S. Department of State
(202) 647-2492

2007/294
Released on April 17, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83136.htm

Taken Question
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 17, 2007
Question Taken at April 17, 2007 Daily Press Briefing

North Korea -- Return of the USS Pueblo

Question: Have we received an offer from the North Koreans to return the USS Pueblo? Are there any conditions? Would we consider such an offer?

Answer: We have not heard officially from the D.P.R.K. about the USS Pueblo. The D.P.R.K. did not offer to return the ship during the Richardson-Principi visit, and the U.S. government members of the delegation declined an offer of a tour of the vessel.

As we have said previously, the USS Pueblo is the property of the United States government and it should be returned to the United States. North Korea's seizure of the vessel and its detention of the crew were in violation of international law.

2007/295

Released on April 17, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83156.htm

Posted by: mynameis Apr 18 2007, 05:46 PM
To Read all press transcripts for the Month of April Click Here: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/


Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 18, 2007


Secretary of State Rice and Under Secretary Burns to Address Young Global Leaders on April 19

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns will address the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders U.S. Policy Roundtable on Thursday, April 19, 2007 at 9:45 a.m. in the Department of State's East Auditorium. The event is hosted by Young Global Leaders and Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Dina Habib Powell in partnership with the World Economic Forum. Both remarks are OPEN for press coverage and begin at 9:45 a.m.

The Forum of Young Global Leaders is a foundation set up in partnership with the World Economic Forum to bring together outstanding leaders in business, politics, academia, the media, and civil society from every region of the world to collectively work towards a better future.

Press coverage for this event:
Pre-Set for Cameras: 7:30-8:00 a.m., 21st street entrance
Final access for all press: 9:30 a.m., 21st Street entrance

Media representatives must present one of the following: (1) a U.S. Government-issued identification card (Department of State, White House, Congress, Department of Defense, or Foreign Press Center), (2) a media-issued photo identification card, or (3) a letter from their employer on letterhead verifying their employment as a journalist, accompanied by an official photo identification (driver's license or passport).

For questions on the event or on the Forum of Young Global Leaders, contact Nicole Deaner, 202-203-7613 or Darlene Kirk, 202-203-5060.

2007/297
Released on April 18, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83183.htm




Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 18, 2007

INDEX:

PHILIPPINES
Death of Peace Corps Volunteer Julia Campbell / Effects on Peace Corps Operations

LIBYA
Deputy Secretary Negroponte’s Meetings

SUDAN
Possible UNSC Resolution on Sanctions
Assistant Secretary Silverberg’s Travel to South Africa
AU/UN Hybrid Force
Implementation of Darfur Peace Agreement
Ongoing Dialogue with the Chinese Government
NGOs Accusation that the U.S. is Acting Irresponsible
Responsibility for the Situation in Darfur

MIDDLE EAST
Arab Minister’s Working Groups / Dialogue with Israel
Encouraging Broader Dialogue between Arab States
Saudi Arabia’s Participation in Discussions
Secretary of Defense Gates Comments

IRAN
UNSC Resolutions
Efforts to Locate Missing American Citizen

IRAQ
Update on Today’s Violence
Possible Loss of Confidence by Iraqi People
Origins of Baghdad Security Plan
Regional Neighbor’s Conference

DEPARTMENT
Secretary Rice’s Involvement in Search for a new War Czar

NORTH KOREA
Transfer of Money from BDA Accounts
Reported Activity at Yongbyon

AUSTRALIA
Resettlement of Persons in Need of Protection


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video
12:45 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. One brief opening statement for you and then a bit of housekeeping.

We are deeply saddened to learn that the body discovered yesterday in the Philippines was that of missing Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family at this very difficult time, as well as to her colleagues at the Peace Corps who have lost a fine colleague.

And one other bit of housekeeping regarding the Deputy Secretary's trip to Libya. I had talked to you earlier this morning about the fact that he had not met with the Libyan Foreign Minister. He had, in fact, met with the Libyan Foreign Minister, so I wanted to correct that for the record.

And with that, I can get into your questions.

QUESTION: Just to start with the Philippines situation, do you have any information -- the Embassy there, have you heard from them about a possible cause or what exactly happened to her?

MR. MCCORMACK: We haven't yet. That has not been finally determined. I know there is an ongoing investigation. We're working very well with the Philippine authorities. They're taking this case quite seriously. And we are going to work with them until we are able to get to the bottom of this and get all of those answers for Julia's family.

QUESTION: All right. And is this going to have any effect on the Peace Corps operations or programs?

MR. MCCORMACK: Check with the Peace Corps. Obviously, in these kinds of circumstances, I'm sure that they do a review to make sure that they take all the appropriate precautions that they can. These people are out living beyond the cities, living in some places where they face a variety of different threats, and they're fully aware of all of those. But that said, I'm sure the Peace Corps is going to take a look at any other steps they might take. But you should check with them.

QUESTION: All right. You mentioned various threats, though. Is there any reason to believe -- do you have any reason to believe this might not be -- it might not have been an accident?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, that's just a general statement about the fact that these people are living in some places that are really quite undeveloped.

QUESTION: And I haven't seen yet -- or if there is one, but do you know if the Embassy put out a Warden Message or anything?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware that they have.

Libby.

QUESTION: Change of topic? On Sudan.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: I know the President mentioned a draft resolution, a resolution for sanctions if Bashir doesn't act. Tony Blair said that discussions could begin tomorrow. Is that your understanding as well?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is going to be a joint effort between the U.S. and the UK and we have already had discussions between our two countries about what might be in such a resolution. There are going to be ongoing diplomatic discussions that get launched as early as tomorrow; for example, Assistant Secretary Kristen Silverberg, who is responsible for International Organization Affairs, is going to be traveling to South Africa, who holds presidency of the Security Council through the end of this month. And that kind of diplomatic interaction is going to be replicated all around the globe with the thought in mind that we may well have to act on a Security Council resolution.

Everybody hopes that it doesn't get to that point and President Bush made it very clear that President Bashir does have some time. He has weeks. He has weeks in order to fully meet the commitments that he signed on to in Addis Ababa and we are going give Secretary General Ban some time to work with the Sudanese authorities as well as others in the hope that they will follow through on those commitments because it's absolutely critical that that AU/UN hybrid force get into Darfur. We talked a little bit over the past few days about the importance of that and how that will help stabilize the situation and will help allow humanitarian workers to do their job, to bring some relief to the people in that region, and ultimately help provide an environment where you can move forward in implementing the Darfur Peace Agreement. So you're not going to have an end to the large-scale violence and the humanitarian catastrophe that we've witnessed in Darfur until you have implementation of that political settlement.

QUESTION: Where do you stand in securing troop commitments for -- you know, if Bashir said tomorrow I'll accept this force?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's been slow going and there has -- the response from the international community in that regard up until this point has not been heartening, but that is not entirely the fault of these potential individual donor states. President Bashir has, through his unwillingness to state clearly in public that the Sudanese Government would allow in these forces, even for the heavy support package, has been a stumbling block for these countries who might possibly pledge troops. The bottom line is they don't want to go into a non-permissive environment. I think everybody understands that.

So it is -- it ultimately comes back to President Bashir and the Sudanese Government clearly stating that they accept all three phases of the Addis Ababa agreement and acting on those words, as the President made clear just today.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up about one aspect of President Bashir? Do you think that he's going out of his way to discourage countries from contributing because several months ago there was kind of --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure, Anne.

QUESTION: -- feeling that he was purposely going out of his way to, you know, threaten or, you know, make it clear to countries that it's best that they not --

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I can't speak out of firsthand knowledge of any steps that they may have taken. But at the very least, the fact that they have made it very clear that the Sudanese Government wouldn't allow or welcome in these forces is a clear message to those potential donor countries. It's a clear message to them that they would be sending their troops into an uncertain situation and they understand in many places the difficulties that that might raise in the minds of decision-makers. So a clear, unambiguous set of statements and actions on the part of the Sudanese Government is what's needed. And we believe that that would also have a follow-on effect of helping to generate the necessary forces for the AU hybrid force. We're talking, you know, upwards of 13,000 more troops that will be needed.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Are you expecting difficulty getting this passed in the UN? Do you have the support from China for these sanctions and is Kristen Silverberg's trip to South Africa an indication that the South Africans will not be completely on board?

MR. MCCORMACK: I expect that we're going to be talking to all the members of the Security Council. And we expect that in the absence of action by the Sudanese Government that it would be very difficult for members of the Security Council, given the humanitarian catastrophe that is ongoing in Sudan, to vote against such a resolution. And the whole object of this exercise is to get the Sudanese Government to change their behavior. It would be unfortunate that we all got to the point of punitive diplomatic measures. Nobody wants that. But certainly, the ongoing circumstances in Darfur would dictate and really require that kind of action and response by the international system.

QUESTION: Have you received any assurances from the Chinese that they would go along with what President Bush was talking about this morning?

MR. MCCORMACK: Kirit, I can't tell you exactly what the Chinese response will be to the President's remarks. They have recently sent an envoy to Sudan in which they appear to have stepped up the pressure on the Sudanese Government. We're going to need to see more of those kinds of actions not only from the Chinese Government, but from other governments.

QUESTION: And you have been in contact with them leading up to this, though?

MR. MCCORMACK: The Chinese Government? We have a regular dialogue on this matter with the Chinese Government. Recently, Andrew Natsios was in China talking about this, but we -- and I know Deputy Secretary Negroponte has also been in touch with Chinese interlocutors prior to his trip. So there's an ongoing dialogue with the Chinese. They potentially could be a key player in convincing the Sudanese Government to change their position.

Yeah, Nicholas.

QUESTION: Is the resolution the only item on Kristen's agenda when she goes down to South Africa or is it a broader set of meetings connected to the --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, it's going to be tightly focused on this.

QUESTION: And it is not a regular practice that the Assistant Secretary would visit the president of the Security Council every month, right? This is not something that's usually done?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, what it -- typically, when you have new members come on to the Council, she'll make a tour.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, right, exactly. She'll make a tour. No, this is designed to send a clear message of the seriousness of our intent in trying -- doing our part to make the diplomacy work, but it's going to require more than just us.

Yeah, David.

QUESTION: You said that Bashir had weeks to honor his commitments.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.

QUESTION: Could you just elaborate on that a bit?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think -- I'm not going to get into setting hard and fast deadlines, but we are talking about a matter of weeks that President Bashir would have to act as -- in a way that was described by President Bush today?

QUESTION: Well, why are you giving him so much time? It seems to me this has been going on for --

MR. MCCORMACK: It has been and President Bush made clear this afternoon -- or this morning that this was, in part, due to Secretary General Ban's call for more time to work the diplomacy. And we think -- Secretary Rice had a couple of conversations with him. She had one with him yesterday afternoon as well as --

QUESTION: With who, with Ban?

MR. MCCORMACK: With Ban Ki-Moon, yes, and then one again this morning to talk about this. And it was his position that the Sudanese Government had taken a step with the approval of the heavy support package and that perhaps, diplomacy -- further diplomacy should be explored to see if the Sudanese Government would, in fact, agree to the full phase-three deployment of the hybrid force. We'll see. Let's be honest here that the Sudanese Government to date has not demonstrated that it is going to meet its commitments under the Addis agreement to the full deployment of the AU/UN hybrid force. We would certainly hope that's the case.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: All would hope that's the case, so we are going to allow some more time. But as I said the time's limited and it's limited to a matter of weeks.

QUESTION: And you're comfortable with that position knowing that within weeks -- I mean, that people are suffering and dying and continuing to be displaced, you are comfortable with allowing another couple of weeks?

MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, we've been at the forefront of bringing world attention to this issue and trying to rally the resources of the international community to address the issues of Darfur. Deputy Secretary Zoellick was tireless in his efforts to try to negotiate a Darfur Peace Agreement. We all would have liked to have seen this issue resolved, the humanitarian catastrophe, the humanitarian crisis, end in Darfur years ago. We all would have hoped for that. That is not the situation with which we are dealing right now. So that's where we are and we're going to do the things that we think will help us best achieve everybody's shared goals.

QUESTION: Okay. I don't know if the White House has already spoken to this. But this morning you mentioned that Deputy Secretary -- the current Deputy Secretary Negroponte -- has spoken with the President directly --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- about Darfur and that his --

MR. MCCORMACK: He did.

QUESTION: Do you -- I don't know if they've already talked about it, but do you have anything? Do you know what his impressions were from his talks with Bashir and the other government officials there or -- and the rest of the principals?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if the White House has talked about it or not. But I -- look, this is a conversation between the Deputy Secretary and the President. Far be it for me to start to get into what he relayed to him. But it was an important factor in the President's speech, I believe, in really demanding that President Bashir not just make verbal commitments but actually demonstrate action.

QUESTION: The readout that the President got from Negroponte was --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- important.

MR. MCCORMACK: That we need to see action.

QUESTION: Sean, I know you guys, you know, want to give it a little more time. Ban Ki-moon wants the diplomacy to play out.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: But is it your judgment that Bashir is stalling on this? I mean, did Negroponte come out of those meetings and say he's not serious about this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's just put it this way. You have a verbal commitment to part of what the Sudanese Government had previously said it would do. That verbal commitment is untested and the Sudanese Government has to this point not demonstrated that it is going to follow through on those verbal commitments. We shall see in the coming weeks whether or not they do, not only on the heavy support package portion of the agreement but also the most critical part of that. And that is agreeing to all the conditions that will allow an AU/UN hybrid force to be effective in Darfur.

QUESTION: So -- I know Ban Ki-Moon said it was a very positive signal that he had agreed to at least a small number of UN peacekeepers. Do you guys see it that way or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we want to see action.

QUESTION: Sean, these deliberations that you're talking about -- about the UN Security Council, is it your goal to have a UN Security Council resolution ready to go at which point if you decide that these weeks are up you can vote on it right away. Or do you anticipate that deliberations will go beyond those?

MR. MCCORMACK: In the absence of action, it would be our view that the international community should move with some dispatch, move quickly. So the idea would be to move as quickly as we could to get agreement on a resolution in the event that we would need to vote on such a resolution.

Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: Groups like Save Darfur Coalition, they held a big rally today -- seem to always point the finger of blame squarely on the U.S. Do you think this is fair? And if not, who does bear responsibility? Is it the UN, the AU?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we're not going to duck our responsibility as a leading member in the -- of the international community. Absolutely not. We are standing up and saying this is a problem that needs to be addressed. It needs to be resolved. So I think we are acting in a responsible manner.

All of that said, we cannot do this ourselves. The Sudanese Government has proved itself intransigent on this issue, so we have taken the approach of trying to rally the international community to this issue to convince the Sudanese Government it needs to change its behavior, to rally the resources in order to affect a real solution in Darfur. That has taken longer than anybody would have liked.

So this is yet again an attempt by the President to push the issue forward and to demonstrate U.S. leadership.

QUESTION: So ultimately, you're saying it's the world's problem and it has to be --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think this is -- you have -- you have a humanitarian tragedy of this scope, this -- what we have called genocide. That's the world's problem. And that isn't to say the United States is in any way shirking its responsibility or wants to slough off its responsibilities as a member of the international system. Absolutely not. But this is humanity's problem.

Yeah, Michel. Anything else on this? Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, this group Save Darfur Coalition intends to picket the Fidelity building on April 25th for disinvestment of monies to the Sudan. Do you recommend that? And also, there'll be further rallies such as in front of the White House on April 29th.

MR. MCCORMACK: Joel, it's not for the government to dictate what private organizations involved in a legitimate part of the public discourse about an important issue should do or not do. It's for them to determine.

Yeah, okay. Anything else on Sudan/Darfur? Okay. Michel.

QUESTION: Arab ministers have formed a working group today consisting from Egypt, Jordan and Palestinians to contact Israel to try to persuade it in the Arab peace initiative. This delegation will visit Israel soon. Do you have any reaction on this issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: It would be a start. And the Arab League has talked about the fact that they would reach out to the Government of Israel and that they would form these working groups, so it's a start. Certainly, we would like to see a broader dialogue between neighbors in the region of issues of mutual concern. The pace of that dialogue is going to be one for the two parties to determine themselves. We can encourage them along, and we have been and will continue to do so.

So we say all that with the thought in mind that this could be -- this would be a first step in that kind of dialogue.

QUESTION: When you say that you'd like to see a broader dialogue, do you mean broader than simply these groups that already have relations with Israel, or is this the broader thing you'd like to see?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we've talked about for some time about the fact that, of course, we would like to see an initiative in which there were more participants in some form of direct dialogue discussion with Israel. We've talked about the fact that you have the whole spectrum of kinds of relationships between Arab states and Israel, going all the way from full diplomatic relations -- countries like Egypt and Jordan -- all the way to other groups of countries which have absolutely no contact or diplomatic relations with Israel whatsoever.

You want to get to the point where you start expanding out that group of countries that can have some form of diplomatic interaction with Israel. So we would view this as a first step in that regard and we would encourage that it expand. It is going to have to expand at a pace that is comfortable for both sides. Secretary Rice has made it very clear that just as Israel and the Palestinians need to work on day-to-day very practical issues regarding that sort of tension and friction between Israelis and Palestinians, you also need to have what she refers to as a political horizon as well.

The same -- you can make the same case on the other side between Israel and Arab states that it would be an important part of this process in trying to bring peace to the Middle East in which you have some form of political horizon for Israel with Arab states. Now the Arab League has come up with its own initiative and we have commented that that is a positive thing. It's their initiative. And perhaps that initiative, the re-launch of that initiative can serve as a starting point for discussion and that's how we would view this effort.

QUESTION: You just pointed at some of the -- you said the Gulf states who have the kind of nominal relations, trade ties with Israel that aren't -- weren't included in this?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know. Well, the --

QUESTION: I mean, the Mauritanians who I believe have diplomatic relations and where you have a very senior person today --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Look, ultimately, that's going to be -- that's going to have to be their decision. We have encouraged as wide and thorough participation as we could among the Arab states in these working groups. So we would hope that this is just a step and that you would actually see the expansion over time of the membership of these working groups, as well as an increase in the intensity of the kind of discussions that they might have. But you know, this is a first step.

QUESTION: Did you ask or suggest to any of these countries with -- that are not at virtual war with Israel --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- that have some contact to --

MR. MCCORMACK: We have encouraged contact. But ultimately, we have left it to them to make the decision about how they would participate in this working group and what kinds of contact they might have.

Yeah, Michel.

QUESTION: Are you expecting that Saudi Arabia will be in this delegation?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, that's -- you know, that's really something for the Saudi Government to decide. I would note that it was the re-launch of this initiative of the former Crown Prince, now King Abdullah's previous initiative took place at the Arab League Summit in Riyadh. And that, I think, was an important signal, but the pace of any sort of engagement between Saudi officials, Saudi Arabia and Israel is going to have to be a decision for both of those parties to make.

Charlie.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) today in Israel, I believe, Secretary of Defense Gates made some comments about some -- seeing some forward movement or said something to the effect that the diplomacy is working with Iran and the nuclear issue. I mean, are you aware of those comments? Do you agree with those comments? And can you tell us why you think it is?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen his comments, Charlie. You know, I'm not going to try to interpret them for you. I can tell you that in our view the diplomacy has moved forward in the sense that you -- if you turn back the clock to 2005, the United States found itself in a position of being relatively isolated on the issue of Iran and its nuclear program. We don't have -- when we looked around, there weren't too many people standing to either side of us, telling Iran that it has to meet the conditions of stopping their enrichment and actually get into negotiations so that they can realize a peaceful nuclear program and not a nuclear weapons program. The Europeans were -- came onboard early on in that regard.

But now we have gotten to a point where we have a -- two 15-0 Security Council resolutions, Chapter 7 resolutions that have made it quite clear to Iran that their behavior is unacceptable, that they need to take up the P-5+1 on their offer of negotiations and that you have had strong support in the IAEA Board of Governors, including among -- including from those states that count themselves as members of the Non-Aligned Movement. So in that sense, absolutely, the diplomacy has moved forward and in that sense, it has worked. Now, have we gotten to the point where Iran is stopping its enrichment-related activities? No, we haven't. But we are hopeful that the diplomatic strategy that we're pursuing of gradually increasing pressure on the Iranian Government to get them to change their behavior will yield positive results. And by that I mean actually getting them to the negotiating table under the conditions the international community has set out. We're not there yet.

QUESTION: Sean, on Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you enlighten us a little bit further as you said you would try to do about the new outreach on Mr. Levinson?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. I don't have numbers for you. I'll try to get those for you guys this afternoon. We'll post an answer for you. But just to recap a little bit, we have -- we have not yet heard from the Iranian Government regarding our request about Mr. Levinson and his whereabouts. We put in a request over the weekend, you know, reiterated our request for information about his whereabouts. We have not yet heard back from them. We think that they've had sufficient time to pulse their system, look everywhere that they need to look, talk to all the people that they need to talk to in their system and come up with an answer.

So as a result of that, we're going to continue pursuing that track. But we are also going to try to work with other states who might have some diplomatic entrée to the Iranian Government add their resources, all the resources to make inquiries with the Iranian Government or Iranian officials to try to determine Mr. Levinson's whereabouts. We're going to start that effort today and I'll try to get you some more information as to, you know, sort of the numbers of states that are going to participate in --

QUESTION: And which ones would be nice, too, if you can.

MR. MCCORMACK: If we can at this point, we'll certainly try to provide those for you.

Yeah, Libby.

QUESTION: Sean, on Iraq. It was a very bloody day there today.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on numbers as far as the U.S. Government knows and any reaction to the violence?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, it was just an absolutely horrible series of attacks. I don't have specific numbers for you. We'll try to get those for you. But the latest that I have seen is over a hundred dead, over a hundred wounded, well over. And it's just terrible I understand to watch that. It is quite clear that these attacks are perpetrated by individuals who don't want to see Iraq make any progress and they are designed to try to exacerbate an already tense situation among various sects in Iraq and in Baghdad and that -- you can talk to the military folks, but I expect that they would tell you that this is also a reaction against the joint efforts of the multinational forces and the Iraqi security forces to try to implement the Baghdad security plan, bring a greater sense of order to Baghdad and a greater sense of security to the Iraqi people. Those efforts will continue.

I expect that we will see continuing attempts on the part of those who want to derail that -- those efforts in the future and you will see future spectacular attacks such as this in which there's large-scale loss of life. We don't accept that as a continuing condition and we are going to do everything we can, working with the Iraqis, to try to prevent them. But it is a very difficult security environment in Iraq now.

QUESTION: To what extent does it worry you -- I know you said and the Secretary said that this is early on in the process.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: But to what extent does it worry that the Iraqi people will continue to lose confidence in, you know, the U.S. -- you know, given that these bombings keep going on despite the surge?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they as well as others need to understand that you still have the flow of inputs to the Baghdad security plan ongoing now. That all of the resources are not yet in place, that those resources will continue to be put in place over the course of the next months. The Pentagon can fill you in on the exact timetables. I don't have those right now.

One of the origins of the Baghdad security plan, or the point to which you can trace this effort back to I think pretty directly, is Prime Minister Maliki's meeting with President Bush in Jordan in which he brought to the President the outlines of a potential plan and he said this is a starting point; we'd like to get your thoughts on it and work together with you on it. And he understood at that moment that it was important that the Iraqi people felt a greater sense of security in their country, but most especially in Baghdad where you had the greatest potential for sectarian tensions. And it was very important to address that -- those tensions at that moment, because they had been steadily increasing over the year 2006.

So the Iraqi people should understand that the Baghdad security plan is an attempt to act on the desire of the -- desires of the Iraqi people to see a more stable, secure, prosperous Iraq and to see their government working on their behalf. And we want to try to help the Iraqi Government do that, as it's going to be important for Iraq's future that people build confidence in Iraqi institutions, that they have faith in them.

Yeah, Elise.

QUESTION: Do you expect Ambassador Crocker to take the same kind of hands-on approach in trying to help forge a political settlement that Ambassador Khalilzad did? Or do you think that now that you're having this regional neighbors' conference, it'll take more of kind of an international dimension?

MR. MCCORMACK: Ryan's going to have his own style. I don't expect he's going to be any less involved in encouraging the Iraqis to work on those political benchmarks that they have laid out for themselves: implementation of the hydrocarbon law and the associated revenue-sharing, action on a de-Baathification law, as well as work on a budget. I expect that he will continue to be very much involved in efforts to encourage the Iraqis to come to the political accommodations that they need to in order to pass that legislation. But ultimately, it's going to be up to the Iraqis to pass that legislation, to cut the political deals that they think they need to cut.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: One more on this. I don't know if you talked about this idea of the war czar for Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't know if you've addressed that here, but --

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, right -- no.

QUESTION: I'm wondering what the State Department role is as -- trying to find somebody. Is Secretary Rice part of the process of interviewing or talking to people?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. You know, I haven't asked her about it, so let me ask her. I know that there's been -- the White House has talked a little bit about the fact that they're looking for a person to replace Meghan O'Sullivan, who's going to be leaving at some point in the next couple months. Let me talk to her about it. I'll ask her. I just -- it hasn't come up.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Going back to your housecleaning item, can you give us, to the best of your ability and knowledge, a run-down of what the Deputy Secretary discussed with the Libyan Foreign Minister that was not Darfur-related?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have -- he did a little availability with the press in there and we're going to try to get the transcript of that out for you. He did address and bring up some bilateral issues between the United States and Libya that are outstanding, specifically the importance of the Libyan Government coming to agreement with the families and victims of the Pan Am 103 bombings as well as the La Belle disco bombings.

He also urged them to resolve the issue of the Bulgarian nurses and medics as an outstanding issue and important to really continuing the work of a changed relationship between Libya and the outside -- and the rest of the world.

Anything else?

QUESTION: I have one more.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. We have one more back here. Yes.

QUESTION: Quickly on North Korea, the Treasury ruling on BDA came into effect today. How do you think this might impact the bigger picture of the six-party talks, given the criticisms that the other parties have made and the fact that the North Koreans haven't transferred the money yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, again, the issue of gaining access to the accounts and transferring any funds is an issue between the North Korean account holders and their bankers in Macau. We have done everything that we need to do in order to fill our obligations under the February 13th agreement. I know that there's been some misunderstanding of that, but let's be clear. The United States has done what it needs to do and more under the February 13th agreement and the ball is the North Koreans' court with regard to BDA and access to those accounts.

QUESTION: Sean, are you aware of an agreement that was signed apparently today between you guys and the Australians on refugees? And if you are, do you have any brief comment you would like to --

MR. MCCORMACK: There is no formal agreement between the United States and Australia. There is an informal arrangement for mutual assistance that provides that each will consider resettlement of people interdicted at sea and found to be in need of international protection. The arrangement does not create legal obligations. In the spirit of our humanitarian -- mutual humanitarian traditions and commitment to assist individuals in need of international protection, the U.S. and Australia are willing to consider resettling up to 200 individuals in a calendar year referred by the other country under this arrangement.

The United States and Australia will each consider individuals for resettlement in accordance with our own regulations and procedures respectively. These may include individual interviews and security background checks. No referrals have been accepted by either country at this time. The arrangement does not call for an exchange or a swap of individuals and no person is referred -- who is referred would be forced to accept a resettlement.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas.

QUESTION: Still on North Korea. The South Korean intelligence service was quoted as confirming today that there has been some activity in Yongbyon. I know that yesterday you couldn't -- you said that you weren't aware of anything, but have they shared anything with you?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, what I said yesterday is what I'll say again today, and that is that we haven't received any formal notification from North Korea that they have taken steps to shut down and seal Yongbyon. Beyond that, any discussion of what may or may not be happening there would involve discussion of intelligence-related materials, and that's not something I can do.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:18 p.m.)

DPB # 68

Released on April 18, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/

Posted by: mynameis Apr 19 2007, 10:12 PM
Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 19, 2007


Department of State Ranks Sixth Overall and First Among Women in 2007 Best Places to Work

The Partnership for Public Service and American University's Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation have announced the results of the 2007 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government ranking, and the Department of State has placed sixth among the 30 large Federal agencies, up from last year's tenth place ranking, and first among women.

Rankings are based on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's Federal Human Capital Survey of nearly 150,000 executive branch employees in over 250 federal organizations, conducted in 2006.

Under Secretary for Management Henrietta H. Fore said: "We feel we are one of the best places to work. I am particularly pleased with our third place ranking for support for diversity. This year we have focused on recruiting, mentoring, distance learning, training, assigning and promoting."

Presented in association with US News and World Report, Best Places to Work is the most comprehensive ranking of federal government organizations on overall employee engagement, as well as in ten work environment categories. The rankings are designed to offer job seekers unprecedented insight into the best opportunities for public service and to provide managers and government leaders a roadmap for improving employee engagement and commitment.

Out of 30 large agencies, the Department of State ranked third on support for diversity, third on effective leadership, third on performance based rewards and advancement, and fourth on teamwork.

To view all the rankings and analyses of the results, please visit
www.bestplacestowork.org.

2007/302
Released on April 19, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/




Press Statement
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 19, 2007


Resumption of Northern Uganda/Lord's Resistance Army Peace Talks

The United States Government welcomes the agreement between the Government of Uganda and Lord's Resistance Army to extend the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and to resume peace talks on April 26. A durable peace agreement that puts an end to the 21-year old conflict and the suffering of hundreds of thousands of displaced northern Ugandans is vital to the region and to the future of Uganda.

2007/301
Released on April 19, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83242.htm



Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 19, 2007

INDEX:

IRAN
Iranian Response to Request for Information Regarding Missing US Citizen / U.S. Will Continue to Pursue with Iran and Other Countries

PHILIPPINES
Death of Peace Corps Volunteer Julia Campbell / Ongoing Investigation

LIBYA/SUDAN/MAURITANIA
Deputy Secretary Negroponte’s Travel / Meetings in Libya / Issue of Imprisoned Bulgarian Nurses Raised
Deputy Secretary’s Travel to Sudan and Mauritania / Meetings

RUSSIA/EUROPE
Russian Criticism of Missile Defense System in Europe
Secretary Rice’s Possible Travel to Russia

IRAQ
Al-Qaida and Threats to Security in Iraq

COLOMBIA
Congressional Concern Regarding Human Rights Situation / U.S. Aid

NORTH KOREA
North Korea’s Obligations / Banco Delta Asia Issue / Six-Party Talks

EUROPEAN UNION
Proposed New Rules for Combating Racism and Hate Crimes


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video
12:48 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. You have any -- no opening statements. We can get right to your questions.

QUESTION: Sean.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Were you able to find out what exactly the Iranian response was? Were you able to get a look at it or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I took a look at it. It's brief. It's very matter of fact, straightforward, and they said that they didn't have any information regarding the individual that we described. And our thoughts on that are we're going to continue to pursue it with the Iranian Government. We have assured ourselves to a reasonable degree that he is actually in Iran. We know that he went there. We're pretty sure that he didn't leave.

We're also going to take some other steps. We're going to reach out to some European states that have diplomatic relations with Iran, see if they can knock on a few doors with their government contacts in getting more information about Mr. Levinson's whereabouts. So that's really where we stand right now.

QUESTION: Okay. And when you say -- and I realize you're going to -- you're probably going to dismiss my question, but I would like to ask you --

MR. MCCORMACK: Never in any way.

QUESTION: When you say that the response was brief, literally like, one paragraph saying "Sorry, we don't have any?"

MR. MCCORMACK: Which paragraph do you see -- I can't remember --

QUESTION: Does it say, "Sorry, we don't have any?"

MR. MCCORMACK: It's not the way these things go. You know, five or six sentences, pretty short with all the accompanying diplomatic language.

QUESTION: Language --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, it's actually --

QUESTION: So we have the honor of accepting ourselves to --

MR. MCCORMACK: It takes the -- exactly, it takes a while to clear the throat when you -- in the diplomatic language-speak mode.

QUESTION: I will drop it, then.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you find it plausible that the Iranian Government should have no information whatsoever about this man?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's what they said thus far. We're -- let me just put it this way. We're going to continue to pursue it with them and, as I pointed out, with others who might have some entrée into -- with their own sources in Iran to maybe discern where Mr. Levinson is.

You guys asked me earlier about the question of, well, have there ever been any American citizens in recent memory who have gone missing in Iran that we have made inquiries about that are still missing, but we don't know of their whereabouts. And I checked with our Consular Affairs Bureau and in -- to their memory, there aren't any other cases. On average, it's about two to three a year where we have these kind of inquiries where family members or friends might make an inquiry about somebody who's traveling in Iran or who has gone to Iran for business or other purposes and they haven't heard from them in a given period of time, so we've made inquiries to the Iranian Government, "Do you know where this person is?"

And in every -- any -- every case in recent memory, we've been able to find them, either gotten the information or the person has called their friends and family, so the question's been cleared up.

QUESTION: So this is an unprecedented situation here?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's unique in recent memory, in that thus far, we have not been able to locate Mr. Levinson.

QUESTION: When the Iranians said -- just taking a look at it, when they said, "We have no information about him," did they not even have information about his arrival in Iran? Are they questioning the -- you know --

MR. MCCORMACK: They said -- you know, I'm not quoting exact words here, but essentially, "We don't have any information regarding the person that you've described."

QUESTION: And what other European countries that you are reaching out to?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're not going to get into who might be assisting us, but we're going to talk to a couple of them now. We may, depending on what sort of information they're able to turn up, we may expand that out. But we're going to start with a couple right now.

QUESTION: Sean, is it your information that when Mr. Levinson checked into his hotel he checked in under his own name?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure that we -- I don't know, Charlie. I can't tell you. I believe that's true but let me check -- see if we know that bit of information.

QUESTION: Sean, I know it's a delicate situation. I know your hands are tied. But there's a lot of speculation out there that he's been picked up, he's being held in Tehran as some kind of potential prisoner exchange.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: For either, you know, the Iranians in Iran -- or in Iraq -- or possibly this guy that was picked up in Turkey a few months ago by the CIA. Have you any reaction to that, those kinds of --

MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen a lot of that speculation in the press reported in various places. I can't say anything other than it's speculation. We don't know where he is. We don't know his whereabouts and that's the reason why we're asking all these questions. And we are going to do absolutely everything we can as a government to work on behalf of an American citizen and his family, make sure he gets back safely and sees his family and friends.

QUESTION: Can you give me the theme of Americans overseas, individuals --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Is there any update? Have you heard anything from the Philippines? Is the embassy there gotten any more information about the death of the Peace Corps volunteer?

MR. MCCORMACK: And the circumstances -- not that I'm aware of. I don't think we've had any updates. I believe it's an ongoing investigation.

Yes, Nicholas.

QUESTION: Sean, you talked briefly yesterday about the Deputy Secretary's meetings in Libya.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: You did say he brought up the Bulgarian nurses --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- in his meeting with the Foreign Minister. Do you know today more about sort of what exactly he asked or -- how he brought it up?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't have anything

QUESTION: You don't have any more than you did yesterday?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. He'll be back -- he's going to be on his way back from Mauritania soon, leaving today. He'll be back here in the office I think late tomorrow afternoon. I think we'll have an opportunity to get a full debrief on his trip. He's going to sit down and talk to the Secretary.

QUESTION: A full brief?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, he's not going to give you a full briefing personally, Lambros. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) humanitarian mission (inaudible) for 126 children with HIV virus. It's a very important issue -- to discuss this issue.

MR. MCCORMACK: It is a very important issue, which is the reason why he brought it up and it's the reason why the Secretary brings it up whenever she has a meeting with a Libyan official.

QUESTION: Sean, have you heard -- has he reported back to the Department yet or has he still only reported back to the White House about his Sudan meetings?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, he's --

QUESTION: And the reason --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, he's been --

QUESTION: I actually have a non-obnoxious reason for asking this -- and that's news. (Laughter.) And that is that in Mauritania I presume that he'll have discussions with the President-elect or I guess he's now the president.

MR. MCCORMACK: Now the president --

QUESTION: And yesterday you were talking about --

MR. MCCORMACK: Depending on when he has the conversation, if it's before or afterwards, yeah.

QUESTION: Broader Arab League dialogue with the Israelis on this. And I'm just wondering if that is something -- considering Mauritania is one of the few that has relations with Israel, if that's something that he has or will or was planning to bring up with the new president?

MR. MCCORMACK: He has called back to the State Department. He has reported back. He just hasn't had an opportunity to give the Secretary a full, detailed briefing of his travels.

On that, let me ask the question, Matt. I haven't asked, so I'll be happy to look into it for you.

QUESTION: Sean, just to follow up on this --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Since there is another trial or part of it scheduled for next month, are you aware of any new or recent efforts by the State Department to bilaterally, since you have now an office or some sort of a mission in Tripoli, to work with the Libyans to try to get a resolution soon?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you what the most recent contacts have been, but it's something that we consistently bring up. The consistent message is that these individuals need to be returned back to their home countries as soon as possible.


Yes, David.

QUESTION: The Russians have pretty firmly rebuffed some offers and proposals put forward to them about cooperating with the missile defense thing. Do you have any kind of response to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen their rebuff.

QUESTION: Sergey Ivanov --

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a serious offer for cooperation on missile defense. This is a threat that is common to us, the Russians, the Europeans and others. John Rood, who is Assistant Secretary responsible for these matters, was just having conversations with his counterpart, Sergei Kislyak, on this as well as other matters. So he reiterated our offer for cooperation on missile defense and I guess this is the response to it. We're going to keep hammering away at it because we think it's important. We think it's important for Europeans. We think it's important for us. We think it's important for the Russians. And this idea that somehow this poses a threat to the strategic balance with regard to Russian rocket forces is just far-fetched, frankly. But we're -- you know, that said, we're going to keep working with the Russians on this.

QUESTION: You say it's important to -- you know, to try and reach some kind of understanding and agreement with them. Is it important enough that you could put the moves towards actually placing this -- elements of the shield in the Czech Republic and in Poland in order to facilitate those talks?

MR. MCCORMACK: That we would delay those efforts?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't foresee that, no. It's just a false choice that they're presenting out there with respect to the missile defense efforts. (A) We have offered deep cooperation with them on this and we would like to make this a cooperative effort. It doesn't pose a threat to Russia. In fact, we believe Russia might even benefit from these efforts. So you know, I -- you'll have to Russian -- ask the Russians for -- questions about their motivations for making this is an issue. I can't explain it to you. But this is not something that poses a threat to the strategic balance with regard to Russia.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. feel that the missile threat, the potential missile threat from rogue states or whatever, is so imminent that there is no time to waste in terms of putting this in place?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you already have -- you already have the ability of Iran with its missile forces to reach Europe. This is -- and they show no signs of letting up in developing longer-range missiles that could eventually reach further into Russia, further into Europe and eventually the United States. It's not only a threat that emanates from the Middle East. We have concerns about North Korea's missile program development. In response to that, we have in Alaska put out a test bed system that provides a rudimentary ability to perhaps intercept some of these missiles, but is also a test bed.

And this is an architecture and technology that's going to develop over time and we think it's important. I just can't buy the argument that you just allow yourself to be threatened by potential missile launches from rogue states such as Iran and not do something about it, not make every attempt to protect yourself against those kind of efforts. And that's our view and I think it's shared by a lot of others in Europe as well. Apparently, the Russians haven't quite come around to that view. We're going to try to talk to them and bring them around to that point of view.

QUESTION: Do you have any plans for Secretary Rice to actually meet with her Russian counterpart to try and do this?

MR. MCCORMACK: I expect she'll probably be traveling to Russia in the next month or so. And Secretary Gates, I think, is scheduled to -- either has gone or is going to go there.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can I switch to Iraq, these attacks?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: You said this morning that bore all the hallmarks of al-Qaida. Would you say now in your assessment that, you know, al-Qaida in Iraq is a bigger threat now to security than, say, the Mahdi army?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I'm going to leave that to the commanders out there. They're the ones qualified to make those kind of military judgments. Clearly, they pose different kinds of threats. The Mahdi army obviously is a sect-based organization that's designed to try to protect certain Shia populations from outside threats and there have been allegations that they have been engaged in sectarian-based violence, and given cause to the rise in sectarian tensions in Iraq. Al-Qaida is a different kind of -- it's a different kind of threat. In some cases no less deadly, but they have different modus operandi, different bases of support.

It's our view -- it's the view of the military professionals that many of these spectacular vehicle-borne attacks that you see, for example yesterday the series of bombs that went off that resulted in just horrific casualties there, are the work of al-Qaida. And they, too, are designed to exacerbate sectarian tensions in Iraq. We've seen a consistent strategy that Zarqawi articulated several years ago and that really came into high relief with the Samarra mosque bombing back in 2006.

QUESTION: Do you have the sense some of these are homegrown fighters or whether they're coming from different countries?

MR. MCCORMACK: You can check with MNFI for their most recent assessment, but I think that there is a -- it's hard to draw some of the lines. There's a corps of fighters that are coming in from overseas from outside Iraq's borders. It seems as though there are also Iraqis who have joined in. I can't from here paint the picture for you of exactly all the relationships between al-Qaida and Iraq and then other perhaps independent yet associated groups. But they do -- as a whole, they pose a serious threat to not only Iraq but to our forces as well as potentially to Iraq's neighbors.

QUESTION: And there have been reports that Maliki has ordered the arrest of the colonel that was in charge of security of that area, the market area. Can you confirm that and --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I heard -- I've heard that as well. I'm not in a position to confirm it for you.

Lambros, we'll get to you. Yeah, just behind you. Yeah.

QUESTION: A question on Colombia.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Senator Patrick Leahy has blocked the aid for Colombia and I am waiting for full explanation from the State Department on how you cleared Colombia in human rights. Are you going to provide that explanation or what's your reaction about the Senator's action?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you the particular state of play right now. I know it's been an ongoing concern for him. We've had a dialogue with him for some time on this. You know, of course we want to work with the Senator to address whatever concerns he may have. I can say that we have had very good conversations with President Uribe as well as other Colombian Government representatives on this matter.

We believe they're pursuing these questions in a serious manner and that the Colombian justice system is dealing with those paramilitary organizations that have been accused of human rights violations in an open, transparent manner consistent with Colombian law. President Uribe has talked about the fact that he is going to let these investigations proceed and play out no matter where they may lead. And we have seen, in public and in private conversations, evidence of that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Still on North Korea, when we passed the deadline, you mentioned that you'd be willing to wait a few days on North Korea to take actions as soon as possible. It's already been a few days. How much longer are you willing to wait? And what next steps are being considered at the moment?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, I think there's no change in our position. Any remaining issues are issues that are between North Korea and its bankers. We -- they have stated themselves that they remain committed to the February 13th agreement. We expect them to meet their obligations. We explained the reasons for our flexibility on this matter at this time. BDA was more complicated than anybody could have imagined. That said, we expect North Korea to live up to its obligations and once this banking matter is concluded, perhaps everybody can get back to the real business of the six-party talks, which is the denuclearization issue.

QUESTION: But how much longer are you willing to wait, really, until you begin to take more concrete steps and still --

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, we're waiting to -- we're willing to wait some days.

QUESTION: Do you have any (inaudible) up to access as to the money in the BDA accounts or to check whether they can do so?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think I'm going to let -- allow the North Korean Government to speak to that.

QUESTION: Was it --

QUESTION: Thanks for (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: You can ask at their daily briefing, Matt.

QUESTION: Sounds like you have (inaudible) going out. Do you have any reason to believe that any --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, that's not -- that's not what I'm trying to say. No, you were talking about whether or not they've tried to access --

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- the stuff. I'll let them speak to that. Yeah.

QUESTION: Who determines when the banking matter is concluded?

MR. MCCORMACK: Who determines when the banking matter is concluded? I expect the North Koreans probably will --

QUESTION: So it's come on their timetable, in other words?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, sure. It is in -- yes, I guess you can say that it is, but also remember that they are not going to see the 50,000 tons in fuel oil and they are not going to be able to realize the potential benefits of engaging in six-party talks if they fail to act on the core issue, which is denuclearization.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) or are you going to wait forever?

MR. MCCORMACK: We said that we don't -- Matt, do you have something to add?

QUESTION: No.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Something you'd like to share with the class, Matthew?

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: It's been noted. Look, there is not an infinite amount of time, but we're willing to give this some days, yeah.

And we're down to you, Lambros.

QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, on FYROM I need your special attention.

MR. MCCORMACK: Ah, yes.

QUESTION: According to a bunch of reports in the entire Balkans, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sent a letter to Skopje which has been released by the authorities in Skopje saying, inter alia, that here there is no agreement with Athens on the name issue, then the U.S. Government will proceed to support FYROM to enter NATO with the so-called constitutional name Macedonia. Could you please clarify for us the U.S. policy?

MR. MCCORMACK: I read the line, Lambros, and there's no change in U.S. policy. And I think if you read it, you won't discern there's any change in U.S. policy. We continue to support Greece and Macedonia coming to a solution under the aegis of the UN. There's a process underway. We encourage both sides to come to a resolution of the matter.

QUESTION: And as far as for the NATO issue, what the letter is saying since you saw the letter?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, there's no change in our policy.

QUESTION: Sean, your friends in Europe appear today to have adopted some sweeping new hate speech laws that would include punishments for Holocaust deniers.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: I'm wondering if you have any comment on this, if you think it's a good idea or if you think it's a violation of the freedom of expression that the United States enshrines in its constitution.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Look, it's going to be a matter for your individual European states at the EU to come up with their own laws. We've talked a lot about the fact that while we share the same set of values regarding freedom of expression, different states are going to draw that line -- the line in a different place. The U.K. has a completely different set of laws with respect to what can be printed in newspapers that -- information based on classified materials. That would never -- I suspect that would never fly with the AP or any of the other news organizations here. And we ourselves in our set of laws have drawn the line in a different place.

So it really is up to those states to define for themselves where they draw those lines. And everybody understands from where this springs. The European states are trying to deal with a particular issue in their history and they have chose to deal with it in this way. So we -- whereas these states are going to deal with it in their own way, we do share a common set of values. How that is actually manifested in laws is going to vary from place to place.

QUESTION: Right. No, I understand that. But do you think that this is an infringement on freedom of speech, freedom of expression?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's not --

QUESTION: I mean, you have said that these Human Rights Reports every year that talk about --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I understand --

QUESTION: Is this something --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I understand where you're coming -- look, we're not going to play the Constitutional Court for the EU or these European states. It's for them to decide. We think that these states have a fundamental commitment to the same values that we share regarding freedom of expression and, you know, participation in the political process and to trying to deal with difficult issues like the Holocaust. How they deal with that ultimately is going to be for them to define.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: All right, thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:08 p.m.)

DPB # 69

Released on April 19, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/apr/83232.htm

Posted by: mynameis Apr 20 2007, 09:24 PM
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 20, 2007

INDEX:

IRAQ / EGYPT
Secretary’s Travel to Sharm El Sheikh for the launch of the International Compact with Iraq and the Expanded Neighbors of Iraq ministerial
Whether she will meet With Iranian or Syrian Foreign Minister

IRAN
Nothing New to Report on Missing American Citizen

GERMANY
Warden Message Issued / Security Threat

NIGERIA
Elections

IRAQ
Senator Reid’s Comments on Secretary Rice’s Support for U.S. Policy

INDIA
Foreign Secretary Menon’s Upcoming Visit / Will Meet with Under Secretary Burns
Ongoing Negotiations on Civil Nuclear Agreement / Discussions in Cape Town
India’s Relationship with Iran

CZECH REPUBLIC
Secretary Rice’s Meeting with Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg / Missile Defense Plan
Importance of Working with Russia on Issue of Missile Defense

IRAN / AFGHANISTAN
Iranian Arms Found in Afghanistan / U.S. Concerns

NORTH KOREA
BDA Fund Issues

COLOMBIA
U.S Assistance / Concerns that Aid is Focused too Much on Military Assistance

SUDAN / LIBYA / MAURITANIA
Deputy Secretary Negroponte’s Trip

DEPARTMENT
Responsiveness to Congressman Waxman’s Questions / Possible Congressional Subpoena
Secretary Rice’s Record of Working with Congress

MISCELLANEOUS
Foreign Students Coming to the U.S. in Light of Virginia Tech Tragedy


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:37 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: One quick announcement for you, just an official announcement of the Secretary's travel to Egypt for the upcoming International Compact with Iraq and expanded neighbors meeting. She'll leave for Sharm el-Sheikh and be there for meetings May 1st through the 4th, depart on the 1st, back on the 4th. She's also going to have a bilateral agenda while she's there. We'll keep you up to date on those as the schedule develops. It's not settled yet.

That's about it in terms of opening stuff. We can get right into your questions.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary have any plans to meet the Iranian Foreign Minister while she's there?

MR. MCCORMACK: First of all, I don't know if he'll be there. I'm not sure he's RSVP'd to the Iraqis at this point. Whether or not he goes is going to be up to him. Same answer as for the envoys level meeting; I'm not going to rule out any particular diplomatic interaction, I'm not going to point you in the direction of any particular meeting with the Iranians or the Syrians. You know, she -- obviously, the Secretary has latitude to choose targets of opportunity if she feels as though something presents itself, but I'm not going to point you in the direction of anything in particular.

QUESTION: Targets of opportunity? That's an interesting phrase for talking about the Iranian Foreign Minister.

MR. MCCORMACK: I also mentioned the Syrian Foreign Minister as well.

QUESTION: On Iran, unless there's anything more on this trip. No? I take it that there's nothing yet back from the Iranians again or anything through your extended contacts.

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new to report.

QUESTION: Is there anything more you can tell us about this security threat in Germany?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm constrained in terms of specificity of the kind of threat, but suffice it to say it is serious enough and credible enough that we believe that we were obliged to put out the Warden message warning Americans in Germany to be vigilant and exercise extra caution. Our Embassy will, of course, take the steps that it deems appropriate to meet a heightened security threat situation. But beyond that, I don't really have much more information for you.

QUESTION: And this applies to not just the Embassy in Berlin, right --

MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.

QUESTION: -- but to all diplomatic missions there?

MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.

QUESTION: How many -- there are five?

MR. MCCORMACK: American presences in Germany, right.

QUESTION: Do you know how many there are?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can get it for you. I don't know.

QUESTION: And you said it is serious and it is credible enough. Does that mean there was a single specific piece of information that they were operating on?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you, Matt. I don't know whether it's a single piece or whether or not it's something that is out there that was corroborated by other information they received either contemporaneously or prior. You know, so I can't tell you.

QUESTION: I just want to figure out -- which -- is it -- should the word "threat" be plural or is it just singular?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, regardless of how many different reporting streams you have coming in, it constitutes a threat. And it's a threat seriously -- serious enough so that we think we have to take steps to protect our personnel but also to make those announcements publicly to urge others extra caution and vigilance.

QUESTION: Right now it's late Friday afternoon, if not already evening there, so I assume that nothing was closed down.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: And on Monday, does that depend on a review of the security posture and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Our guys will take whatever steps they think are necessary. At this point I haven't heard anybody talking about that.

David.

QUESTION: New topic? You spoke earlier this week about hoping you'd see some activities in Nigeria to improve the electoral situation between the two rounds of elections.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And they're voting tomorrow. Have you seen signs of the kinds of actions you would have liked to see ahead of that? I know that the President has been speaking quite a lot about this.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. At this point, I think it's too early to tell, David. I'm not going to offer an assessment right now. We're going to have for you, obviously, a reaction after the elections take place about the electoral process as well as how the votes are counted. We haven't had a report back from IRI or NDI or any of the other international organizations there. There have been sporadic reports about irregularities in the vote and we take those seriously -- in the previously election. We take those seriously.

We would expect the Nigerian authorities would take every step that they possibly could to rectify any of those problems that occurred in the previous election. We've talked about the fact that this is an important election for Nigeria -- it would be the first civilian transfer of power -- but also an important election for Africa. Nigeria is a leading state in Africa because of its history, its population, and its control of resources. So we would hope that the Nigerian authorities -- not only for the Nigerian people, but also for the continent, would take every step that they possibly could to smooth out any problems that may exist in the election system so you have a free, fair, transparent election such that the results reflect the will of the Nigerian people.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Sean, Senator Reid made some interesting comments in which he apparently said that -- well, no, he didn't apparently say, he did say that the Secretary of State was among several senior officials in the governmental cabinet level of people who knew that the war in Iraq was lost. Has the Secretary told him of her thinking on this? Is he -- is that, in fact, her thinking?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, thanks -- first of all, thanks for allowing at least me to correct the record here. Senator Reid is a legislator. He should stick to that and not try to be a mind-reader. The Secretary has, in no way, conveyed any such idea to Senator Reid or anybody else. Secretary Rice would never countenance continuing to send young American men and women to Iraq in pursuit of a strategy that she didn't think had a chance of success. She would never continue to commit resources to a strategy that she thought wouldn't work. So to suggest otherwise is just flat untrue.

QUESTION: Has there been any contact with -- between her and the Senator on this that you're aware of?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. Not that I know of, no.

QUESTION: Do you have -- and you're not aware of any conversation that she might have had with him in which -- that would have led him to come to this?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, absolutely not.

George.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on Secretary Burns' visit to India forthcoming? And I understand the Indian Foreign Secretary is due here as well.

MR. MCCORMACK: That's right. Foreign Secretary Menon plan -- has planned to come here for some time next Monday and Tuesday.* He's going to meet with Nick. They're going to talk broadly about U.S.-India relations, but most specifically, they're going to discuss the India civil nuclear deal, the state of the negotiations, and say that there's probably some frustration on the part of the Administration as well as the Congress on the pace of these negotiations. Nobody is questioning the Indian Government's goodwill and good faith in this regard and it's a useful opportunity to bump up the level of discussions to take stock of where we are right now, so you have essentially a political-level discussion as opposed to just the experts-level discussion and they're going to explore ways that we can energize the discussion so that we can get this done.

We still have faith that we're going to be able to get this agreement done and we believe that the Indian Government is committed to that, but we're at a stage in these particular negotiations where we think we need to raise the level of dialogue to a political level in order to move it forward.

QUESTION: Sean, could you turn to -- jump the one step further? You said there is probably some frustration on the --

MR. MCCORMACK: There is frustration, yes. There is.

QUESTION: And how much frustration would that be?

MR. MCCORMACK: You want to get the frustration meter?

QUESTION: The level, yeah. I mean, obviously, you said you don't believe that all hope is lost, but --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I wouldn't put it quite as that -- you know, in fact, I would put it in the positive. I would say that we believe that these negotiations will ultimately yield an agreement that will allow us to move forward and fully implement the deal previously.

QUESTION: Can you talk about what the cause of your frustration is?

MR. MCCORMACK: There -- well, I don't want to get into specific issues because it's a negotiation, but the Indian Government has raised a series of issues in these negotiations concerning our laws and -- you know, suggesting solutions that would require us to change our laws and we just -- we're not going to do that, we can't do that. So we would suggest that we set aside that group of issues and let's focus on areas where the two governments can negotiate and come to agreement.

And it's -- it has been our suggested tactic that we focus on defining what is that -- what are those baskets of issues, what are the basket of issues that would require changes to the U.S. law and put those aside. Let's define and work on those issues that we can actually negotiate on that would necessitate changes to law. We've already passed legislation and this is -- this would require -- this is an implementing agreement that itself would also have to be approved by the Congress, but we're not willing to consider at this point any further changes to our laws.

QUESTION: The past couple of days, you've been asked about this, you or your surrogates have been asked about this. And I wanted to at least, to the best of my recollection -- you know, long -- as far as you have today --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Talking about the frustration, what's the issue? Has something changed over the course of -- since Monday that now --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's why you ask -- that's why you get to ask the questions every single day, Matt, and write stories every single day.

QUESTION: But has something changed that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well --

QUESTION: I mean, have they -- have you told them, "Look, we're not going to change our law, just drop this, it's a dead end," and they have not taken that hint?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we had -- we -- it's a good question, it deserves a fair answer. And there were a series of discussions at the expert level in Cape Town and those discussions moved forward, but they didn't yield -- quite yield the results that we had hoped for. So we're going to take this up to a higher -- take the opportunity of Foreign Secretary Menon's visit here to the United States to have a political-level dialogue.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Why were they in Cape Town? Because the --

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you. You know, Sue, I can't tell you. I don't know. Maybe they like the hotels there. I don't know.

QUESTION: That could be it. Are you going to start setting a deadline for --

MR. MCCORMACK: Halfway -- I mean, it probably has more to do with the travel, I assume.

QUESTION: Are you going to start looking at a deadline or realistic timelines as to when you can get closure on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we hope to move it forward as quickly as we possibly can, but there are certain realities of the legislative calendar here and certain realities. This Administration has about 20 months left in office, so we would very much like to conclude this agreement in the Bush Administration. President Bush has been responsible for fundamentally changing the -- at least on the U.S. side, the U.S.-India relationship.

QUESTION: You'll give them as long as -- what is it?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you. You know --

QUESTION: Twenty months?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we'd like to have it done well before then.

QUESTION: Sixty days?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, yeah, I'd like to have it done well before then.

Goyal, I suspect you want to follow up on this.

QUESTION: Yeah. Sean, thanks. Sean, one, the U.S. Congress has not yet finalized or voted the final vote up and down work, but I understand. And second, also there is an arms race between India and Pakistan, and now India tested the missile and Pakistan tested it before, now Pakistan may follow. You think that will also come on as a hurdle or on the way of -- as far as this treaty is concerned?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure I gather what you're saying.

QUESTION: As far as testing the missiles and this missile test will be on the way of this deal.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any potential impact. You know, India and Pakistan have a formal agreement where they --

QUESTION: No, no, as far as testing by India missiles, as far as U.S. Congress is concerned, you think this missile test or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you how it'll affect the mood in Congress, Goyal. You can ask them.

QUESTION: And one more just quick.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: As far as the frustration is concerned, like Matt said, you said it's serious and all that. But it is so serious because Prime Minister of India and the Indian Government said that they will not go farther until and unless they have the right of certain things which they have already told the U.S. that they want to make some changes or -- in the treaty. My question is that -- how does now Secretary Rice feel, say, if you can make some changes or not? How will this -- Mr. Menon's visit will make a difference?

MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal, I'm not going to conduct the negotiations here, but we've made it clear we're not going to change the laws. Let's focus on what's doable in terms of negotiations.

QUESTION: When did this South -- the Cape Town --

MR. MCCORMACK: It was this week. It was over this --

QUESTION: Do you know who was involved in it?

MR. MCCORMACK: It was working-level. I can't -- I don't know exactly who.

QUESTION: On both sides?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is the Indian military relationship with Iran a cause of concern here?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't specifically heard it as a mention of concern in these negotiations, George. You know, we've talked to the Indian Government about various aspects of their relationship with Iran. We -- you know, we fully comprehend the fact that Iran and India are in the same neighborhood and that they are going to have a certain kind of relationship. We have urged the Indian Government to take a look at what sort of ties that they have with Iran and take into consideration the behavior and fundamental orientation of this Iranian Government when they look at what sort of interactions that they might have with the Iranian Government, and including the Iranian military.

QUESTION: Can you just find out for us when the Cape Town talks ended?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Yeah, it --

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that they broke down?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, no, no, no. Not at all. No, they -- I think I said they did make some progress, but not the kind of progress that we had hoped they would make.

QUESTION: Sean, one more, please.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: As far as Iran-India relations are concerned, India had already voted at least three times for the U.S. or with the U.S. at the United Nations as far as nuclear deal of Iran is concerned. Another thing, some lawmakers are saying in India that what happens if U.S. and Iran comes (inaudible), then what will happen to the U.S. and India and Iran's relations. What they're saying is really that Iran and U.S. may come (inaudible), but why can't they have relations with Iran, which we have already voted against their nuclear program?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the conditions for a different kind of relationship or the potential for a different kind of relationship between the United States and Iran are well known. They're out there. They have to meet certain conditions, stopping their enrichment-related activities, in order to realize negotiations with the United States and its P-5+1 partners. In those negotiations they can bring up whatever they want to.

Certainly, we will focus on getting to a solution of how the Iranian people can have access to peaceful nuclear energy while giving the world assurances that they're not going to use that peaceful nuclear energy program to develop a nuclear weapon. That's at the heart of the matter. But if there are other issues that the Iranian Government or others want to raise in those negotiations, they certainly can.

Now, we're not going to dictate Iranian-Indian relations. That course is going to be defined by Iran and India together. We have, however, in public counseled them to consider the nature of the regime and the behavior of the regime in their decision-making process about what sort of interactions they have with the Iranian Government.

Now, certainly, we are pleased that the Indian Government has in the past voted with the majority in the IAEA. We think it's an important message to Iran. But it was also an important step by the Indian Government on the world stage in taking its place as an important voice in the international system for responsible behavior. And I'm sure that that was as much as anything else a motivation by the Indian Government in deciding how it cast its vote.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout on the Secretary's meeting today with the Czech Foreign Minister? Did they look at missile defense --

MR. MCCORMACK: They talked about it.

QUESTION: -- in details? Did they negotiate over it?

MR. MCCORMACK: No.

QUESTION: I mean, what -- at what stage are they in terms of -- are you --

MR. MCCORMACK: It was a general discussion about the -- I guess the political situation in Europe, given some of the recent Russian statements about missile defense. They both talked about the importance of working together not only between the U.S. and the Czech Republic but also the U.S. and European countries as well as the U.S. and Russia on the issue of missile defense. Both of them were quite heartened by the discussion yesterday in NATO about missile defense. We thought it was quite positive.

The Secretary underlined for the Foreign Minister that the United States is quite serious about working with the Russian Government on missile defense. John Rood just the other day made a serious presentation to Sergei Kislyak about missile defense and what the possibilities were for U.S.-Russia cooperation on missile defense. And certainly we hope that the Russian Government takes a serious look at it because it was a serious offer.

They also talked about Kosovo, talked about the upcoming NATO ministerial meeting. They talked a little bit about the agenda there, talked about Afghanistan. They talked a little bit about Cuba and EU Cuba policy. That was really -- that was the bulk of the conversation.

QUESTION: Did the Czech Foreign Minister express his concerns over Russia's opposition to this or --

MR. MCCORMACK: They talked in general about it. I'll let him speak for himself. You heard from them a bit upstairs, but he can speak for himself on it.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary provide any assurances, you know, over the U.S. wanting to use their -- is it an intercept transfer? I can't remember the technical term of what they've asked for -- some radar station or something.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I confess I can't remember. There's -- one, there would be the test bed, the interceptor platform in one country and radar in another. I think it's radar in Poland and then an interceptor in the Czech Republic, if that's the right term. It wasn't a detailed discussion about the technical aspects of this in any regard. It wasn't a negotiation.

QUESTION: So when does that begin, the negotiation?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's -- well, the technical discussions have been ongoing for some time. We didn't just send them a letter and, you know, they decided that they'd take us up on the offer. There have been careful consultations all along the way here. The Pentagon is heavily involved in this, as are we, and the discussions are at the working level. I can't tell you who's leading them.

Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: General Pace said a couple of days ago that the U.S. forces in Kandahar intercepted some Iranian-made weapons.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: We've had these earlier reports of similar kinds of weapons going to Iraq to both -- populations on both sides. Now, how concerned are you that this is all part of a very broad, an increasingly broad, you know, covert Iranian effort to destabilize American forces in the entire region?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's a real source of concern not only with regard to U.S. forces but Afghan forces as well as the NATO forces. We all know that NATO has a heavy presence in Afghanistan. And this is a situation that bears careful watching. It's not something that I can, you know, elaborate beyond what General Pace said.

But we are quite concerned that this could signal a change in Iranian policy with regard to Afghanistan and its support for the Taliban as well as other violent extremist groups that seek to undermine the progress that has been made by the Afghan people. So it is something that we're watching very carefully and it's something about which we are concerned. And I would expect that others would be concerned as well since this is a truly international effort in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Do you have sense what Iranian entity is responsible for sending these arms? Would it be the Quds Force --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- or the Iranian leadership itself?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, in terms of the details of this, I can't really go beyond what General Pace offered.

QUESTION: This is very new information -- this Afghanistan, Taliban involvement?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you how far back it goes, but I think it's, relatively speaking, new.

QUESTION: And are you surprised? I mean, the Taliban are a traditional enemy of Iran.

MR. MCCORMACK: There certainly are a lot of questions, outstanding questions, about this, none of which I can get into talking about here. But we are concerned that this could possibly signal a change in Iranian policy. They had previously actually played a constructive role in Afghans' future, especially in areas of counternarcotics as well as other areas, and certainly we'd like to see those -- that cooperation continue. But this certainly is a troubling sign.

Anything else on this? Okay, let's move back and we'll come back. Yeah.

QUESTION: Sean, do you have any idea why the North Korea did not take out their BDA fund yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I saw a statement from the North Korean Government just this morning talking about how they were briskly working on the issue with bankers. And I can't tell you -- I'm not going to presume to get into the middle of those discussions. We've stated previously we've taken the ball to the one yard line here and it's going to be up to the North Koreans and their bankers to get it over the goal line.

We certainly would want to see -- we want to see this BDA -- them be able to resolve this BDA issue with their bankers and have us get back to the issue at hand, and that is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The North Korean Government in the same statement talked about the fact that they remain committed to the February 13th agreement. We have all talked about how we are showing some flexibility with regard to the deadlines of that agreement, and this is an indication that the North Korean Government is taking steps in order to try to move that process forward. And that's positive.

QUESTION: So excuse me. There is 52 named BDA funds.

MR. MCCORMACK: Accountholders?

QUESTION: Yeah, accountholders. As far I know, a couple, maybe 20 or more people is dead so they don't have anybody, you know, name on there. So is that possible to, you know --

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, you're going to have to talk to them. You know, certainly you can presumably sign over authority to other people in order to access accounts, but you should talk to the Macanese and the North Koreans about exactly what they're doing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this BDA? Yeah.

QUESTION: So the U.S. doesn't know what the problem is or you just can't say?

MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?

QUESTION: The U.S. doesn't know what the problem is in terms of withdrawing the funds or it can't say at this time?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I think it's better for the parties directly involved in the matter to talk about it if they want to talk about it.

Yeah. Anything else on BDA? No? Okay, we'll go -- yes, in the back.

QUESTION: Can you comment on the Washington Post article today saying that human rights groups say the United States is giving Colombia too much money for its armed forces and too little for social and economic problems? And Senator Leahy has placed a hold on $55 million in aid to Colombian security forces because of their alleged links with death squads.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we talked a little bit yesterday about the Colombian Government's activities in bringing to justice those individuals related to paramilitary organizations and extrajudicial killings, and we believe that the Uribe government is serious about this effort. It's something I know he's talked about with Secretary Rice and he's talked about with President Bush. And we believe President Uribe and his assurances that no matter where the evidence may lead, he is going to allow investigations to go forward. And there have been a number of people who have been arrested as well as questioned by judicial authorities.

Now, in terms of the balance between -- balance in assistance, I can't speak to exactly what their differences may be with us. But it is a program that has proved very successful, Plan Colombia, over the years in helping the Colombian Government get a handle on a number of different issues: the production of illicit drugs, working to prevent human rights abuses, and then working to bring under control a violent insurgency. So we're looking at how we might further assist the Colombian Government. Again, if you can later on bring up some of the specifics of the differences that people may have, maybe we can give you a more detailed answer.

Yeah, yes.

QUESTION: Going back to the threat level in Europe, the terrorist threat level, do you see any connection between the ongoing trial in southern Germany against Ansar al-Islam members and the fact that the level has been raised right now?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't draw in public for you any particular connection. To do so, we would start to get into intelligence-related matters. But as I said before, we're taking the steps that we think are prudent based on what we believe is a serious threat.

Yeah, Gollust.

QUESTION: Have you --

MR. MCCORMACK: Caught you off guard there.

QUESTION: Have you heard anything from the Cuban and Venezuelan governments diplomatically about the re-release of Luis Carriles?

MR. MCCORMACK: I should have checked on this beforehand. No, I -- let me -- we'll post an answer for you, Dave.

QUESTION: Okay. And I just have one more that you'll probably to post also. A leading newspaper editor in Azerbaijan was imprisoned apparently for strictly editorial activity and I can provide you with --

MR. MCCORMACK: You're right. I have to check on that.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: I think Mr. Negroponte is back in Washington. Do you have any --

MR. MCCORMACK: Not quite yet.

QUESTION: Not yet?

MR. MCCORMAC