State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 15, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 15, 2005
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
June 15, 2005
Mukhtiar Mai Case / Removal from Exit Control List / Invitation to Visit U.S.
Concern Over Allegations of Extrajudicial Conduct in Kirkuk / No
Involvement of Coalition Forces
Concern for Protection of Minority Rights
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Members of International Criminal
Tribunals for Rwanda and Former Yugoslavia / Support for Tribunals' Work
Extension of Deadline for Biometric Passports
Secretary Rice Holding Briefing Tomorrow
Undersecretary Burns' Trip / Intention of Serbian Government to
Deliver Radko Mladic to International Criminal Tribunal
Resolution Regarding Accountability to International Criminal
Court for Crimes in Darfur
Restrictions on U.S. Flights
Secretary Rice's Trip / Gaza Disengagement
General Ward's Work / Palestinian Institutions to Ensure Security
Assistant Secretary Welch and Elliot Abrams' Discussions
Encouragement For Positive Engagement
Progress Towards Roadmap
Secretary Rice's Trip
Secretary Rice's Trip / Mubarak's Proposal to Open Presidential
Election Process / Planned Remarks on Freedom and Democracy in Middle East
Encouragement for Opening Presidential Elections / Importance of Freedom of Expression
Extradition Request for Posada Carriles
Gingrich-Mitchell Report / Support for Work of Task Force / Need
for Comprehensive Debate on Reform
Goal of More Effective UN
Secretary Rice's Meeting With Foreign Minister Ping /
Undersecretary Burns' Activity
Hyde Bill / Concerns About Withholding Dues
Request for Asylum by Chen Yonglin
Farewell to Christophe deRocquefeuil of AFP
(12:50 p.m. EDT)
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I have a brief statement to open up with and we'll get right into questions.
The opening statement is with respect to the Mukhtiar Mai case in Pakistan. The United States expects Pakistan's leaders to honor their pledge to protect the basic human rights of their citizens, including the freedom to travel. Mukhtiar Mai met with U.S. Embassy officials today in Islamabad. She is a courageous woman who is a victim of a horrendous crime. Ms. Mai is welcome to travel to the United States at any time. We were confronted with, what I can only say, was an outrageous situation where her attackers were ordered to be freed while she had restrictions on her travel placed on her. We conveyed our views about these restrictions to the senior levels of the Pakistani Government. The Government of Pakistan informed us today that Ms. Mai has been removed from its Exit Control List, permitting her to travel out of Pakistan. We have also advised Pakistani officials that she was invited to the United States by a Pakistani organization based in the U.S.
And with that, I'm happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Do you expect her to -- actually, a couple things. One, did the Pakistani Government give any explanation for what is at least reported to been her detention over the last couple of days?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of the exact content of the conversations that -- between our Embassy and Pakistani officials and Assistant Secretary Rocca and the Pakistani Ambassador here in the United States. That was the channel in which we found out that she was free to travel, including to the United States. We have had a conversation with Ms. Mai -- our Embassy officials have. I'm not at liberty to get into the content to those discussions, but we have met with her.
QUESTION: Yeah. I ask just because according to the reporting, notably by Kristof of the New York Times, she was brought to Islamabad, detained and placed in custody and even though she's free to go, which I guess is a good thing, it's a rather odd thing that the Pakistani Government should have seen fit, if the reports are accurate, to have detained her and questioned her. It's not clear what crime she committed. Did you raise that specific issue? Not just her being on the exit -- sort of (inaudible), but what is reported to have been her detention.
MR. MCCORMACK: As I said, I don't have the content of our conversations and I think it would probably be most appropriate -- Pakistani officials describe their motivations and their reasons for the actions that they took, both to place her on the list and then to remove her from the list. So I don't want to speak for them.
QUESTION: Well, I understand. The only reason I'm asking you guys is that you guys have -- I mean, Secretary Rocca spoke about this yesterday in public and you guys have done the right thing, it would seem, in trying to get her out but it also -- I'd be surprised if you haven't raised the issue of her detention. And so if you could take a question on that, it would be interesting because -- it's just interesting when your allies, you know, detain people -- or reportedly detain people, sort of, you know, without apparent or at least publicly disclosed cause. So if you could tell -- let us know if you actually raised the issue of her detention with them, that would be interesting.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. If we have more information, I'd be happy to share it with you.
QUESTION: Has she received any aid funding for the various education projects that she has undertaken over the past several years?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would have to check into that. I don't have anything on that in front of me.
QUESTION: Do wemove along? The report on --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, we will.
QUESTION: Is there more on this? I was asking if you had anything on the report of Kurdish mistreatment of Turkomen Arabs in Kirkuk?
MR. MCCORMACK: I saw the report in today's Washington Post. Let me just try to break this down into some constituent parts. We have had serious and credible information about allegations of extrajudicial conduct-both arrests and detentions of individuals in the northern areas of Iraq.
These allegations and these reports are of very serious concern to us and we have raised our concerns in a forthright way with the authorities involved or who we believe to be involved. I want to make clear that the United States and the coalition forces have had every opportunity to make it very clear -- make very clear our views on the importance of the adherence to the rule of law, the importance of building and supporting institutions that enforce the rule of law and our strong support for respect for minority rights. These are all principles that are contained in the talk and we would expect all Iraqi officials to abide by those principals.
Let me also make clear that our coalition forces, according to every report that I have, not only were not involved in these activities but, in fact, raise their concerns about the fact that they had serious and credible reports that those activities were taking place. So that's according to the best information that we have and I think that I would defer any further comment about the activities of coalition forces to the Pentagon. But I think that what you'll hear is the same thing.
QUESTION: When you say "reports" do you have -- does the State Department have its own independent reporting or are you simply reading the newspaper? In other words, have you heard such reports otherwise than in the press?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this came to light in public because of The Washington Post article on the front page. And it refers to a cable reporting in from the field. And in fact, they're -- you know, there was reporting from the field. I'm not at liberty to discuss the exact details of that report. But it did -- our reporting from the field did outline what we believe are serious and credible allegations of this activity.
QUESTION: Okay, one last thing. I don't know who's in charge. You said "officials." Are you speaking to Iraqi Government officials? I mean, if you are, there's a presumption that they would have authority over what the Kurds may or may not be doing in a city that they feel is rightfully theirs and from which Iraq -- Kurds were ejected by Saddam Hussein and thousands of them were killed and the city was repopulated by Arabs.
So can you -- if I made any sense, can you untangle it? Who is it you're taking this up with and with what confidence are you taking it up with officials in a situation where, you know, there's a lot of unrest?
MR. MCCORMACK: You're referring to Kirkuk and --
QUESTION: Yeah. Absolutely.
MR. MCCORMACK: The case of Kirkuk as dealt specifically in the TAL -- in Article 58. And the Resolution of this issue is still under discussion with the Iraqis. It's an Iraqi issue to resolve. We certainly support them in the resolution of those issues. And certainly any pre-existing tensions or grievances need to be resolved within the rule of law. There's no -- there's no excuse for going outside the rule of law to try to resolve any of these pre-existing tensions. And with respect to the officials, I think we're referring to officials related to security forces. I don't have any --
QUESTION: No, no. I --
MR. MCCORMACK: Any more detail than that.
QUESTION: I understand that. That was my question.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Charlie.
QUESTION: These are Iraqi security officials in Baghdad? Are these local Kurdish --
MR. MCCORMACK: These are in the northern areas.
QUESTION: In the northern areas.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: So the Secretary this morning met with the prosecutors of the UN Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia? Can you give us a readout of the talks?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think, in general, I can talk about what they discussed in brief terms. I don't want to get into the details of it. Those are private exchanges. But she did meet with prosecutors from the ICTY and the ICTR, the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. She also met with the presidents of those tribunals. They were present, as long as -- as well as other staff in those tribunals.
The Secretary reiterated our strong support for their work, underlined the fact that we are going to continue to support them in their work and urge them to complete their work along the timetables that have been outlined. We understand that on the ICTY there have been a number of indictees that have recently been brought before the court. We understand that that has not been a continuous flow and that there is a sudden, I guess if you will, surge in the number of indictees. But we encourage them to continue their work.
She underscored the importance of what they're doing so that those who are responsible for crimes are held to account for their crimes and also emphasized that their work and these people facing justice in a public forum is important; it's one part to the resolution of differences and tensions that existed in these two areas.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up. Was there anything more specific about Radko Mladic, the former Serb military commander? I thought (inaudible) last week.
MR. MCCORMACK: They did touch briefly on the fact that there are three major indictees from the ICTY that have yet to be delivered to the ICTY. And Under Secretary Burns in his recent trip to the region talked about the -- what he believes and what he heard was the serious intention for the Serbian Government to locate, arrest and deliver to the ICTY Radko Mladic.
QUESTION: Sean, can I ask a related question?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: What are you doing to help the International -- the ICC in its efforts to bring to justice perpetrators of what Secretary Powell called genocide in Darfur?
MR. MCCORMACK: As you know --
QUESTION: Besides the resolution. Besides the resolution --
MR. MCCORMACK: Besides the resolution, we did -- there were three resolutions that were passed, as you know and you've reported on, with respect to Sudan. One of them concerned the ICC and holding those accountable for crimes in Darfur responsible for what they've done. We did not oppose that resolution despite our concerns and our position with respect to the ICC.
As for the specifics of your question, Arshad, I'm going to have to look in to see what, if anything, in that regard there is.
QUESTION: That would be great. Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll look into that for you.
Anything else on this?
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, all right. Teri.
QUESTION: Mine is going to be easy, then they can have it. (Laughter.)
I know that you've talked about -- we've talked about the Uzbek base issue here before, but now the Pentagon is confirming that, indeed, they have been restricted. And I wondered, is that a message that comes from the Uzbek Government through the State Department, as most diplomatic messages would?
MR. MCCORMACK: This is --
QUESTION: About the restrictions on U.S. flights out of the Uzbek base.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. You're referring to The Washington Post report today. Or there's a --
QUESTION: The Pentagon has --
MR. MCCORMACK: The Pentagon's --
QUESTION: No, I'm referring to the Pentagon's confirmation.
MR. MCCORMACK: The Pentagon's confirmation of it. Well, and that's really the proper place for these questions. As I understand it from the Pentagon, the commanders, military commanders, made an operational decision with regard to the location of assets and I'm going to defer any comment about military operations or military assets. I'm going to leave that to the Pentagon.
With respect to Uzbekistan and our policy, I think we had a long -- you know, we had a long discussion about this yesterday. I don't really have anything to add to that discussion about policy.
QUESTION: My question is whether the Uzbek Government has formally notified the U.S. Government of these restrictions.
MR. MCCORMACK: That would be a matter that you'd have to address to the Pentagon.
QUESTION: It didn't come through here, you're saying?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, that's a matter that you have to talk to the Pentagon about.
QUESTION: Well --
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of issues related to access -- access and discussions about K2, the K2 base.
QUESTION: Do you regard this -- their action on this, the Uzbek Government's action on this, as a punitive reaction to the U.S. calling for an independent international investigation into the events in Andijan?
MR. MCCORMACK: You'll have to talk to the Uzbeks about what went into -- what goes into their decision-making. We've been -- you know, we've been very clear what our policy is with respect to Uzbekistan. We talked about that yesterday.
QUESTION: Sean, just --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Charlie.
QUESTION: I don't want to beat this to death, but even if the Uzbeks told the State Department for the Pentagon, you would still -- you are still not going to say anything about it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Questions about the Pentagon movement of assets, notifications with respect to the Pentagon assets, I'm going to refer you over to the Pentagon.
QUESTION: But, (inaudible) -- but aren't discussed -- like, isn't the State Department involved in the diplomacy about gaining the access, those kind of things or that's purely --
MR. MCCORMACK: These are interesting process issues. But in terms of the substance of what you're talking about, these questions are properly addressed at the Pentagon.
QUESTION: Change of subject? Iran. The ex-President of Iran, Rafsanjani said -- who is a candidate in this election -- said that if he is elected, he is going to open a new page with Washington, as he said. Do you endorse directly or indirectly any candidates in the Presidential election in Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think we're going to insert ourselves into the Iranian election. We've talked a lot this week about the Iranian election. I don't really have much to add to what I've already said on it.
QUESTION: Did you see his comments?
MR. MCCORMACK: I had not seen his comments specifically, no.
QUESTION: He also endorsed in those countries have done the peace process for the Middle East, which is a new development for Iran. You also see this as a positive direction should he be elected?
MR. MCCORMACK: I am aware of discussions about some proposals that the Crown Prince had with respect to peace in the Middle East that were several years old. But I'm not aware of anything new that's come out.
QUESTION: He said that today.
MR. MCCORMACK: I have not seen his comments.
QUESTION: Do you put any importance to his statement that he is willing to --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Samir, I haven't seen his comments so I'm not going to comment on something that I have not had an opportunity to see.
QUESTION: He's offering a new attitude. I mean, do you welcome this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I still haven't seen the comments so I'm not going to talk about something that I have not seen.
QUESTION: Will you comment on a (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: New subject?
QUESTION: Sean, could you outline for us some specifics that the Secretary of State may raise with the Palestinians and Israelis, beyond the general pronouncements we expect this, expect that -- (inaudible) Are there some certain demands that she may actually ask the Palestinians and Israelis to do during her trip?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that our messages in public and private are, you know, entirely consistent. You know that you have seen what the Secretary has said with respect to the Palestinians, what the Palestinians need to do, what the Israeli Government needs to do. And that is that all sides need to make the maximum effort. They need to focus on what it is that they're doing in order to make the Gaza disengagement a success. You know, we believe on the Palestinian side that security is integral to the success of this disengagement plan.
So we -- General Ward is working in the region with the Palestinian security officials to ensure that there is a credible apparatus in place, credible institutions in order to take over the responsibilities of security for the areas where the Israeli forces withdraw.
And the Secretary looks forward to their discussions with, you know, with Israeli officials and Palestinian officials about progress that each are making separately, as well as together to make the disengagement a success.
QUESTION: But are you (inaudible) you are getting all kinds of mixed signals. The new Chief of Staff, for instance, saying that it may be not be such a good idea to withdraw as scheduled while, you know, he's threatening, on the other hand, that they will not withdraw under fire and raising all kinds of things that may complicate the withdrawal process. Are you raising these issues before the Secretary's trip?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Assistant Secretary Welch and Elliott Abrams from the NSC are -- Assistant Secretary Welch is already in the region, I believe. Mr. Abrams is en route to the region. So they're going to be having initial discussions concerning a variety of different issues, including the withdrawal. Again, you know, our focus is on encouraging all sides to do -- make the maximum effort and do what they can to make this a success.
QUESTION: But I -- did you express any dissatisfaction with our Ambassador's pronouncement a couple days ago that he would not disarm HAMAS or--
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that what we're focused on are the actions that people are taking. I would note that the Defense Minister -- Defense Minister Mofaz and the Palestinian Interior Minister met last week. Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas have a meeting scheduled after the Secretary's visit, so those, I think, are positive engagements and interactions and we encourage both sides to work together, as appropriate, to make sure that this engagement is a success.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Peter.
QUESTION: Sean, just a follow-up on that. The President, when he announced that the Secretary was going out to that area, said that specifically part of it was to discuss getting back to the roadmap after Gaza to sort of convince the Palestinians that there is a post-Gaza phase to this whole thing. Do you -- can you tell us in what terms is the Secretary going to be discussing? What is the next step after Gaza, since that was one of the mandates she has from the President?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, we will be talking about the -- certainly, the continuing process. The primary focus now is on the disengagement that they -- it's fast coming up on the parties. And I believe, mid-August is the scheduled beginning for the disengagement.
Certainly, we have emphasized that the disengagement is a way to accelerate progress towards the goals of the roadmap and to get back into the roadmap. And I expect that, certainly, that is an issue that the Secretary will touch on. We'll have more for you in the coming days about the Secretary's trip and the run-up to it and a greater discussion of it.
QUESTION: Follow up on --
QUESTION: Could -- just one more? Since some of us have to write an advancement tonight on this. Can you just give us some idea? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, parochial motives.
QUESTION: There you go. Can you just give us some idea what she's going to be discussing in Saudi Arabia?
MR. MCCORMACK: Saudi Arabia, I think, that she will be talking about several different areas. Certainly, the Israeli-Palestinian issue. She'll be talking about our Broader Middle East Initiative. We'll talk about, I expect, the reforms that the Saudi -- the Crown Prince Abdullah has put out there, concerning municipal elections and certainly we encourage that process and encourage these initial steps.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) does she try to raise them?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me get back to you on that, Arshad. I --
QUESTION: How about Egypt?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: If you could tell us what she would expect to discuss in Egypt?
MR. MCCORMACK: In Egypt, many similar issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian issues, Egyptian support for that process. She will talk about Broader Middle East Initiative, the President's initiative to promote freedom and democracy in the Middle East. She'll talk about, I believe -- President Mubarak's proposals to open up the Presidential election process to other candidates. And I think she will be following up with remarks of her own in Egypt concerning issues of freedom and democracy in the Middle East.
QUESTION: What is your view of the constitutional amendment under which it is true that the Presidential elections would be opened up to more than one candidate; but which Egyptian and international pro-democracy groups feel set extremely high bars or restrictions to really independent parties taking part?
I ask partly because former Secretary Albright and former Congressman Vin Weber in an op-ed last week said that they essentially said they regarded this as a "sham democracy" and that sham democracy should be exposed as such. Do you regard it as a sham?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think the President has talked about these issues recently and I would go back to what the President mentioned in his -- talked about in his Inaugural Address. He talked about how Egypt and the leaders of Egypt have, once again, an opportunity to show leadership in the region, as the Egyptian culture has done so many times throughout history and to demonstrate leadership on the issues of freedom and democracy and showing the way to other countries in the region. And that we certainly, you've seen what we've had to say concerning the proposal that President Mubarak has made with regard to opening up the presidential electoral process. It's certainly a positive step and it is a first step. And as the President said, for those willing to take the first step along the pathway to freedom and democracy, we will be with you.
QUESTION: And you don't feel that it's excessively restrictive then in terms of independent parties --
MR. MCCORMACK: The President has been clear on our views with respect to this issue. I don't have anything more to add beyond what I've said.
QUESTION: Sean, a quick follow-up on this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Today, Human Rights Watch issued a very bad, you know, report on academic freedoms in Egypt, accused the state-run universities of disallowing discussions of topics like sex and religion and so on, and there is an effort to harass women who are not wearing the hijab and so on. Are you raising these issues with the Egyptian Government?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have not seen -- I have not seen the report that you've talked about. We have talked about the importance of free and open expression within the confines and peaceful expression in the confines of the political process.
There is a -- there was an incident that took place several weeks ago in which some women were to speak out in support of democratic reforms and they were roughed up. Our President, President Bush, spoke out against those actions.
So we have been very clear with respect to our support for the freedom of expression and the freedom for dialogue, political expression within the political sphere. It's an important of democracy and we encourage its development. We've spoken out in public with respect to these issues. With respect to our private conversations with Egyptian officials, I don't have any information for you at this point.
QUESTION: Well, can I just follow up on Teri? Will her visit to Cairo be limited to government officials or is she likely to meet with anybody from the opposition?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll have more for you on her schedule in the coming days.
QUESTION: So does that mean she's going to meet with --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, like I said, we'll have more for you on the schedule in the coming days.
QUESTION: You mentioned -- you mentioned that she would be also including her own comments or outside of official circles. There had been this idea out there about something of a major policy speech or something. Is that going to occur?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll fill you in on the schedule, but I expect you can hear from her in public. She will be making some public remarks.
MR. MCCORMACK: Samir.
QUESTION: Can you tell us where will she make these public remarks?
MR. MCCORMACK: We will fill you in, keep you apprised.
QUESTION: This is on Venezuela. The Venezuelans have said they've delivered or are in the process of delivering a formal extradition request to the State Department on Mr. Posada Carriles. Have you received this request? What's the process at this point?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, this came up the other day. As for the delivery mechanism, I can't confirm for you that something arrived here or not. I'm not sure -- I don't know what exactly the delivery mechanism for these things, these diplomatic exchanges. But the proper address for questions related to extradition, the extradition requests and where this stands is with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.
QUESTION: A question. Newt Gingrich and George Mitchell are releasing a new report on UN reform. Have you seen that? I don't know if they kept you apprised of it as they went along. Just any reaction to the report and their call for a significant reform, particularly in peacekeeping, financially?
MR. MCCORMACK: We have had some initial briefings prior to the report so we have some idea of what is in it. As you mentioned, the report's being issued today by the Gingrich-Mitchell Task Force. I would say that, as some general comments, that we certainly support the work of the task force. We think that they've done some important work. I think that they have come up with some creative proposals, many of which we can support -- not all. I think we share a couple focuses with -- that I would point to.
The first one is that the focus of what -- of their work was on trying to make the UN more effective, a more effective organization, and we share that. That's something that we have talked about in making our own proposals about the UN.
The second thing is they put a particular focus on the need for a comprehensive debate about UN reform. There's been a lot of discussion, I think, in the newspaper in particular interest on the part of many governments about Security Council reform. Certainly that is part of the debate but we believe the discussion needs to be a comprehensive discussion and that's something that the task force pointed out and we would share that view.
We, as I mentioned, already have important proposals already out there in several different areas, certainly concerning budget and management reform that Secretary General Annan has talked about; the fact that the UN is an organization in real need of reform in the area of management, and certainly that's something that we are going to be talking about, continuing to talk about; talk about reform of the Human Rights Commission and we have proposals out there for the formation of a human rights council, something that the task force talked about. We talked about a democracy fund. This is something that Secretary General Annan has talked about and certainly an initiative that we have a great deal of interest in and support. There's discussion about a peace building commission as well as comprehensive convention on terrorism.
And one final area that we believe is very important is in the area of development. We think that there is a good basis for discussion about development from the Monterrey consensus and I expect that you're going to hear a lot of discussion in the lead-up to the G-8 summit. There's already been some discussion about that, as well as continuing on as we approach the high-level event in the UN General Assembly in September.
QUESTION: Well, there have been so many reports out on the need for UN reform, including the UN itself, as you mentioned. Do you think there's anything about this report and this grouping of people that will make it -- or the explicit backing of Congress that will make it more "implementable," if that's a word?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think it's -- we believe it's an important contribution. It should be something that people look to. The Secretary General has made -- the Secretary General has made some proposals. We have put our own proposals out there. And this is another contribution to the debate. And I think that what you're starting to see is a lot of -- you know, some areas of real overlap in the areas that I talked about.
QUESTION: But is that good or is that bad?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that anytime we can generate a comprehensive debate and not focus -- not just pick out one area of debate, but have a comprehensive debate about all of these issues, then I think that that is a positive -- that is positive.
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, I'm sorry. Do you have more?
QUESTION: Not on this.
MR. MCCORMACK: Any more on this?
QUESTION: On this.
MR. MCCORMACK: On this. Okay.
QUESTION: Secretary General Annan has said that he'd like to see these reforms -- any kind of reform -- instituted at the UN by September. Is that a realistic deadline, based on the fact that there has been no comprehensive debate in the United States (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think one of the things that we are going to be talking about in the coming days and certainly weeks is, you know, this debate -- the need for this discussion in a variety of different areas and one element of that, certainly will be what, you know, over what period of time do you have various reforms and over what period of time are they implemented. So we are focused on the need to come up with criterion for reform. Let's try to define what it is we're trying to achieve. We're trying to achieve a more effective United Nations. So what are the criterion that are going to help us in these various areas reach our goal for more effective UN.
So we want to have that discussion and I expect that you will -- that's a discussion that the President has been deeply involved in, the Secretary has been deeply involved in this and phone calls over the past several weeks with her counterparts. She met recently with the President of the General Assembly, Foreign Minister Ping.
Under Secretary Burns has been quite active in -- at the political director level talking about these issues, as well as our mission up at the UN. So we're -- there's quite a bit of diplomatic activity that has been going on. I expect that in the coming days and weeks that you will see more. We'll be talking about this. It's an important issue. It's certainly firmly on our agenda and on the agenda of many other members of the United Nations.
QUESTION: So does this increased activity kind of signify that the United States will be jumping onboard that deadline?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, I think that that's one element of the discussion of taking one element out of what is really a wider discussion that we think needs to take place.
QUESTION: And do you guys have a stance on the Hyde bill?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the Hyde bill, there's a Statement of Administration Position that's coming out, I think, very soon from the White House concerning the Hyde bill and it has -- it reflects our concerns about certain provisions of the bill. There are several different areas, including the withholding of dues. Beyond that, I don't want to go any further than that, because you will see a statement -- a statement on the position from the administration on the issue and I expect that that will be coming out soon.
QUESTION: And will that include a veto?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm going to refer you to the statement.
QUESTION: Can we see that today, do you think?
MR. MCCORMACK: It -- I don't want to put a timetable on it. It's not ours to release. But I expect that you'll see it soon.
QUESTION: Can I ask another question?
MR. MCCORMACK: Um-hmm.
QUESTION: On the U.S. passport, on the decision to extend the deadline for getting biometrics in passports from foreign countries, can you talk about what led to the decision that the extension was needed? What is concern over the dropping numbers of tourists, perplexity on the part of the foreign governments? Can we talk about that a little bit?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know that I would use that word, Arshad. The Department of Homeland Security is, I think, having a briefing as we speak, concerning the implementation of this law. It was part of the -- these provisions were contained within the Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 and that requires -- in that act, they had a requirement that any passport issued after October 26, 2005, and used for Visa Waiver Program travel to the United States must include a biometric identifier based on applicable specifications established by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
And their announcement and the DHS -- this is really DHS action right now to describe the process that went into this current position. But it's a result of extensive consultation with those countries who would be affected by implementation of this law and as well as people here at the State Department, certainly in Consular Affairs, and as well as with the Congress. And this -- you know, the implementation of this law, you know, I think highlights our commitment to secure borders while continuing to be a welcoming place for visitors. This is something the Secretary has placed a lot of emphasis on.
So you know, in response to your -- what are the various factors that went into this decision that's, I think, DHS is probably in the best position to give you a comprehensive explanation of all that went into their thinking behind this.
QUESTION: Sean, do you have any comment on the Chinese diplomat who, according to The New York Times says, he's been denied his asylum request to the United States has been denied?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. On this issue, as with other similar issues, it is longstanding U.S. policy not to comment on any individual requests for protection, such as asylum or refugee status, nor to confirm or deny the existence of individual such requests, in order to protect any possible applicants, their families and the integrity and confidentiality of the process.
QUESTION: Sean, can I --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, Barry.
QUESTION: Interrupt the flow and go back to the business of Iraq for a moment?
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You gave a fairly -- quite a comprehensive account of what the U.S. is looking into, but as I looked at your remarks you never, I don't think, spoke of the Kurds -- being the abusers -- nor of the victims, or alleged or possible victims being Turkomen and Arabs, but you pretty much credited the published account, except the important caveat, the American officials, U.S. forces, were not involved, you said.
So is it -- are you saying that you're looking into reports of Kurdish abuses?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think, because what we're talking about are allegations and we do have -- you know, we do believe that these are serious and credible reports, I'm going to defer being more specific as to individuals because I don't want to -- don't want to, at this point, single out any particular individuals or groups.
The issues that we were talking about did concern the city of Kirkuk and surrounding areas in northern Iraq and I did talk about the importance of the protection of minority rights and the importance of resolving any differences between different groups or individuals through the rule of law. So I think, at this point, I'm not going to be any more specific than I have, Barry.
QUESTION: Okay. But on the victim side of things, minority people. That much --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think it's safe to say that we are concerned about the protection of minority rights in that area.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. I do have one quick thing, if we're all done.
QUESTION: I had a question but --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I wanted to finish out. I have two quick things at the end before we close out.
QUESTION: My question was if you had any comment on the departure of Christophe de Roquefeuil --
MR. MCCORMACK: You anticipate one of the things I wanted to mention. I wanted to mention to all of you assembled here that Christophe de Roquefeuil from Agence France Presse is going to, after a period of five years, I believe, at the State Department --
MR. MCCORMACK: Six years. Six years. Sorry. Six years at the State Department, has decided to return back to the mother ship in Paris. And we will miss him. He is a real professional. He has been, in my short tenure here, a pleasure to work with and we wish you and your family all the best as you return to Paris and put the tough questions to my counterparts at the Quai d'Orsay.
One other thing I wanted to mention to you is about tomorrow. I have good news for you. You're going to get an upgrade. The Secretary is going to be doing a press briefing tomorrow so we'll fill you in all the details of that, but I just wanted to let you know that that was going to be happening.
QUESTION: Do you have a rough time?
QUESTION: Do you have a time?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll fill you in. It'll be -- like I said, we'll fill you in on all the details.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you very much.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m.)