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Posted: Feb 19 2007, 07:14 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
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
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.
Released on February 19, 2007
Posted: Feb 23 2007, 04:05 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted: Feb 26 2007, 03:49 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
Office of the Spokesman
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/
Released on February 26, 2007
Posted: Feb 27 2007, 02:39 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
Remarks at the Swearing-in Ceremony of the Honorable John Negroponte as Deputy Secretary of State
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Benjamin Franklin Room
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.
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.
Posted: Feb 27 2007, 08:15 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
MR. MCCORMACK: Off Lambros --
QUESTION: May I tomorrow?
MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.
Posted: Mar 4 2007, 06:57 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 --
MR. MCCORMACK: What's this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Solemnly.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Thanks.
Posted: Mar 5 2007, 06:53 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure they will. I'm sure they'll talk about it, yeah.
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.
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.
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.
QUESTION: Would you have any comment on the parliamentary elections in Abkhazia.
MR. MCCORMACK: Parliamentary --
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted: Mar 6 2007, 06:09 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted: Mar 7 2007, 05:29 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
Posted: Mar 8 2007, 07:53 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody.
QUESTION: Good afternoon.
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, Lambros. How are you doing?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
MR. MCCORMACK: Ellen Sauerbrey?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: 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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted: Mar 12 2007, 04:44 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted: Mar 14 2007, 04:58 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted: Mar 15 2007, 04:09 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
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.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Have you spoken to President Abbas today at all about --
MR. MCCORMACK: Secretary Rice has not. Secretary -- you heard that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Make sure you heard that Secretary Rice hasn't.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 --
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.
Posted: Apr 4 2007, 02:50 PM
If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06
Press statements in video.
Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesman
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.
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.
Released on April 4, 2007
Office of the Spokesman
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.
Posted: Apr 5 2007, 08:58 PM
If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06
Office of the Spokesman
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.
Posted: Apr 9 2007, 11:25 PM
If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
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.
Posted: Apr 9 2007, 11:26 PM
If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06
Media Note (Revised)
Office of the Spokesman
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.
Released on April 9, 2007
Posted: Apr 10 2007, 09:49 PM
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Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
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.
Released on April 10, 2007
Posted: Apr 11 2007, 10:43 PM
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Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
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.
Released on April 11, 2007
Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesman
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 :
Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science, U.S. Department of State
Public Affairs Specialist
National Zoo, Office of Public Affairs
Released on April 11, 2007
Posted: Apr 12 2007, 09:17 PM
If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
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.
Released on April 12, 2007
Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesman
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.
Released on April 12, 2007
Office of the Spokesman
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.
Released on April 12, 2007
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
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.
Released on April 12, 2007
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