State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 8, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 8, 2005
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
June 8, 2005
Declaration Adopted at OAS General Assembly Meeting in Fort
Contacts Through the New York Channel
Prospects for Resuming Six Party Talks
Status of North Korea's Nuclear Program
Reported Attack Against Hamas Activists in Gaza
African Union's Request for Airlift of Monitors into Darfur
Proposed US Legislation on UN Reform and Payment of UN Arrears
Reported Meeting on Guantanamo Bay Facility with State Department
Officials and Representatives of the Carter Center
Human Rights Watch Report on Andijan
General Security Situation in Uzbekistan / Status of US Embassy Operations
US Position on Third Term for Dr. ElBaradei as Director General
EU-3 Discussions with Iran
President Mesa's Resignation
Issuance of US Travel Warning / Welfare of American Citizens
Status of US Embassy Operations
Reports of Political Violence in Ethiopia
US Visit of South Korean President Roh
Search for Missing American Citizen
Status of Vote on Nomination of John Bolton as US Ambassador to UN
Security and Stability in Iraq/ Training of Iraqi Security Forces
(2:35 p.m. EDT)
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. Before I get into questions, I just wanted to note for you the Declaration that was adopted out of the OAS meeting the recent OAS meeting down in Florida. Many of you traveled with the Secretary down there and I just wanted to note the adoption of the Declaration of Florida.
We believe that the Declaration and its contents will help the Secretary General Insulza and the organization carry out their important work. More talks and discussions will ensue as a result of the Declaration of Florida. I expect that these will continue over time. We believe that this is an excellent result that reflects serious discussions among the member states of the OAS, as well as the OAS Secretariat. We believe that this moves a long way towards what we were talking about down in Florida. The Declaration underscores the Secretary General's ability to raise with the Council, situations that might lead to action on the Democratic Charter. It gives the Secretary General a mandate to develop proposals for promoting and defending democracy.
And importantly, we believe that the Declaration opens the doors of the OAS wider to civil society groups. This is something the Secretary stressed when she was in Florida. We think it's very important that civil society have a role to play in delivering the benefits of democracy in the hemisphere.
So we are quite pleased with the result down in Florida. We just heard from the Secretary upstairs, less than an hour ago. But with that, I'm pleased to jump into questions.
QUESTION: We didn't hear anything much on North Korea, as I recall. Is there anything since yesterday that would if you could tell us about the news, the situation, (inaudible) anything going on?
MR. MCCORMACK: We have no additional meetings with the North Koreans that are planned at this time but the New York channel remains open. And I really don't have anything to add beyond what I had yesterday.
QUESTION: After you spoke yesterday, the Chinese Ambassador the Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations, said that he thought that meetings with North Korea, the six-party talks, would resume within the next few weeks in Beijing. Do you have any reason to believe that that will be the case?
MR. MCCORMACK: We have seen the reports indicating that China seen those same reports from the Chinese Ambassador. We have not heard directly from the Chinese on this matter and with respect to commitment to timing, I don't have anything to add to my statement from yesterday.
QUESTION: Have you heard from anybody else? If you haven't heard directly from the Chinese, have you heard from the South Koreans or the Japanese or anybody else that the North Koreans might have
MR. MCCORMACK: Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: What about China? Ambassador Hill had some remarks on the Hill yesterday that, essentially saying, that China these aren't his precise words but that China has to do more to not just tell North Korea to go to the talks, but (inaudible) prepare to negotiate. By any chance has China responded to that admonition? Is there anything from Beijing on whether that's a good idea or mind your own business or we'll do what we think makes sense or whatever?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not to my knowledge, Barry.
QUESTION: Can we go back to North Korea for one second to what the Ambassador said?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: You said that you had heard directly from the Chinese with regard to commitment on timing but the Chinese Ambassador to the UN didn't say anything about a commitment to timing; he just said it was his expectation that this would happen in the next couple of next few several, I think he said, weeks. Have you heard from the Chinese, not about a commitment to timing, but about a possible timing for the resumption of six-party talks?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not to my knowledge, Arshad. Concerning the issue of timing, from our perspective, I don't have anything to add beyond what I talked about yesterday.
QUESTION: Could you check? Because I realize "not to your knowledge" means you simply may not know and I'd be grateful if you would check on what you've heard back from the Chinese about possible resumption of six-party talks and possible timing for that, regardless of whether there is yet a specific commitment from the North Koreans to a specific date.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. We'll check and, if there is anything, we'll let you know.
QUESTION: But could we at least substantiate that the next round, if there is a next round, would be held in Beijing, which he said in that statement as well? That has (inaudible) importance, as we all know.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right. I don't have anything for you on that. If there is anything, Barry, I'll let you guys know.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, up here.
QUESTION: Another region. Apparently, the Israelis are resuming the practice of targeted killings, even though they failed apparently today. It is an attack against four Hamas activists today in the region of Gaza. Do you have anything on that and do you consider that as being a targeted killing?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen those reports so I couldn't comment directly on those reports. But our position with respect to this issue is well known and unchanged from when my predecessor addressed it numerous times.
QUESTION: Darfur. Do you have any reaction to apparently, NATO is dropping plans to airlift AU troops in. The French have apparently objected.
MR. MCCORMACK: I knew that there were some technical discussions ongoing with respect to NATO's response to the AU for requests of airlift for AU monitors into Darfur. I haven't checked today on the state of those discussions. I know that as of yesterday that they were ongoing. So if there's anything more to add with respect to that, anything more definitive, we'll let you know.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on Darfur, Sudan?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, we'll come back to Nicholas.
QUESTION: The subject, back in this country. The House International Relations Committee is preparing legislation about the arrears to the UN and apparently there are some conditions attached in terms of reform, UN reform. Do you does the State Department think that it's useful at this point to attach conditions, which is pretty much the way it was in the Clinton Administration, in Congress, to paying dues to the UN, to be conditioned on the UN itself having done reforms that this country thinks that are necessary?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure if we, as an administration, have taken a view on this particular piece of legislation. If there is anything, we'll let you know, but I haven't heard of anything as an administration. And that would come out as an administration-wide position, not just from the State Department.
QUESTION: Apparently, representatives from the Carter Center are saying they've met with State Department officials to talk about the Guantanamo Bay issue and the proposal that it or the suggestion, I should say, that it be closed. Do you know anything about those meetings?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't heard about such meetings. We can Tom, we can check to see if there were any meetings.
QUESTION: Well, more broadly then, does the State Department have a position on this idea that's being bandied about now that Guantanamo would be closed as the building where most of the complaints come from foreign countries when they want to address the fact that their citizens are being held there? Do you take a view?
MR. MCCORMACK: Our view is the same as the administration. You've heard from I think the Department of Defense has addressed the issue of Guantanamo. I think the question that you raise came up as well. So we share the Department of Defense's view on this issue, which would be an administration-wide view.
QUESTION: Have you had a chance to review the report by Human Rights Watch calling the Uzbek crackdown by the Government a "massacre"? Is that your position?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not going to get into, you know, talking about bumper stickers or slogans or blowing a tragic incident down to one particular word. But I think what we can say and our people here at the Department were briefed on the Human Rights Watch report; I believe I was asked about this yesterday, and subsequent to the question, I learned that they had, in fact, been briefed on the report.
I think our position would be that there have been many reliable eyewitness accounts to shooting by Uzbek forces of civilians. And I think what we know now is that hundreds of innocent civilians were killed. What's important now is to find out what happened. So the Uzbek people know, so that the world knows and so that something like this does not happen again.
So for that reason, we support an international investigation into this incident. I believe the Uzbek parliament began its own investigation. We chose not to participate in that investigation, as we don't see that as a substitute for an international investigation.
Let's anything else on this subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Charlie.
QUESTION: What's the status of Americans in Uzbekistan and the people both at the airbase and civilians? Do you have any update on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: As for the airbase I would if there are any personnel there, I would refer you to the Department of Defense. I think they would be the best prepared to discuss that situation. As for the general security situation in Uzbekistan, we have received information that terrorist groups are planning attacks, possibly, against U.S. interests in the very near future.
Our Embassy in Tashkent, however, remains open, but we have allowed decided to allow authorized departure of non-essential personnel. For those of you who don't cover the State Department on a daily basis, that means that family members and non-essential personnel are authorized to leave Tashkent where our Embassy is located. We are going to we continuously review our security measures for the personnel that remain in Tashkent and in reaction to those reviews, we will take appropriate security measures and any upgrades to those security measures, although I think you all understand that we can't discuss what those security measures might be.
We did issue a travel warning on June 2nd, so that remains in place.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, anything else on Uzbekistan? Okay.
QUESTION: Can you just tell us if there's been you continue to pester the Uzbek Government about also on other levels than just from this podium about allowing an international investigation.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Our Embassy our personnel at the Embassy have been in contact with Uzbek officials on that.
QUESTION: Do you know when the last time was that we formally said formally pressed them again?
MR. MCCORMACK: Now I don't. I don't have that. Okay. Why don't we move around? Joel.
QUESTION: Could you kindly speak to Mr. whether you've changed any policies regarding Mr. ElBaradei's position for a third term with the IAEA and how does that stand with both Iran and North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: You must have missed Mr. Schweid's incisive question to the Secretary not less than an hour ago. So I don't have I don't have anything to add beyond what the Secretary talked about. She will be meeting with him tomorrow.
QUESTION: If there is something to talk about. I mean
MR. MCCORMACK: But why don't we I'll come around I promise I'll come back to you, Barry. All right.
QUESTION: Yes. Secretary Rice in her remarks about the EU-3 negotiations with Iran said that they are working on other issues beside the nuclear issue and that they are working groups. She mentioned working groups. What did she mean by that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think this has been talked about before that there are they do have other working groups the EU-3 with the Iranians do have other working groups on other issues. I think that's yeah, I think that's been
QUESTION: Can you tell us what are the other issues?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have the list in front of me. You know, I would hesitate to comment without having a comprehensive list in front of me right now.
QUESTION: Can we go back to the Iran question because, I'm sorry, I wasn't able to hear Barry's incisive question or the Secretary's incisive answer. But
MR. MCCORMACK: I give you credit with that.
QUESTION: I'll take it. I have more it's more confused questioning. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I'm told that she said that your basic position is that two terms is enough for heads of UN agencies but that Mr. ElBaradei had done a good job. And I guess it'd be nice to know whether there is any wiggle room here or if you're going to stick to your position that people should really only serve twice if they head a UN agency?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think I hesitate to get out ahead of the Secretary and her remarks. She just spoke less than an hour ago. And for the benefit of others, I'll read back a little bit of what a little bit of what she says:
"We do have a long-held" this is in response to the question of "do you think ElBaradei has been tough on Iran and are we going to abide by the three-term rule, which has been our principle. We do have a long-held view that in general it is better that there be two terms for these positions. Nonetheless, we have worked well with Dr. ElBaradei in the past and I'm going to meet with him tomorrow to discuss his vision for what the IAEA will do in these next extremely important years."
So I think that that's really the sentence that gets to your question. There are some other she said a few other things here but I'll leave that to the transcript.
QUESTION: But if you're going to stick to the two-term position, you wouldn't be interested in his vision for the IAEA going forward because he'd be gone.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think I'm going to stick with what the Secretary said. I'm not going to at this point, I'm just not going to go beyond it. They are going to be meeting tomorrow.
QUESTION: Can I try something that definitely didn't come up?
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, wait a minute.
QUESTION: Well, I'd like to stay on Iran.
MR. MCCORMACK: Why don't we see if there's anything else on Iran.
QUESTION: There has been a couple of issues between the U.S. and the EU in terms of not arguments but, you know, differences of opinion. How do you feel about there being a timeline for these negotiations? Do you think that they should be open-ended? The Foreign Minister said as long as there's a kind of climate for these types of negotiations, then they're still going on. But do you have any kind of period in which you would like to wrap this up?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't believe we've committed to any timeline. I'd point out that these are negotiations between the EU, EU-3 and Iran. We are fully linked up with them. As the Secretary pointed out, we had numerous conversations on this issue, not only between her and her counterparts, but between others in the Department and their counterparts as well.
So they talked about resuming the discussions soon, I think near the end of this month, maybe the beginning of next month. So we'll be guided by our discussions with respect to that issue, be guided by our discussions with the EU-3.
QUESTION: And the other issue is the Secretary has made clear that Iran shouldn't use a nuclear program use the cover of a civil nuclear program for a nuclear weapons program, but the Foreign Minister has said that, you know, if Iran wanted to have a civil nuclear program, there would have to be certain conditions and verification mechanisms in there to make sure that it wasn't being used as cover for a nuclear program. Are there any conditions in which the U.S. would agree to Iran having a modest civil nuclear program?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that I'm not going to not get into a negotiation from the podium in which we're not involved. I don't have anything to add beyond what the Secretary said.
QUESTION: Can I try mine yet?
MR. BOUCHER: All right, Barry. Go.
QUESTION: All right, thanks. Thanks for the (inaudible). A leading Japanese newspaper, well-known newspaper, says that North Korea, at the talks in New York, asked Mr. DeTrani whether North Korea shouldn't be recognized as a nuclear state. Now, I've called around, even outside, to ask if there's some legal classification. They have said they want their sovereignty recognized. They have said they have at least a couple of nuclear weapons produced. But I still don't understand this. By any chance, is anybody that you know of here dealing with that? Do you know if they've made the request, or something like that, of the U.S.?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information on that, Barry.
QUESTION: Do you consider them a nuclear state, Sean?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we've talked to the intelligence community has talked about the status of their nuclear program many times. You can go look it up. There's it's in public. I don't have anything to add beyond that.
Yes, in the back.
QUESTION: Can we go back to the OAS?
MR. MCCORMACK: We can go back to the OAS, yes.
QUESTION: On Haiti. Today, you said you consider excellent results on this meeting in Florida. What do you mean by that, considering that the U.S. original proposal was rejected by the U.S. Latin American countries, especially by Venezuela? Do you have any comments on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I go back to what I said at the beginning of the briefing. I think that this is an excellent outcome. There are going to be more discussions. This is, as you know, a multilateral organization. That's the way multilateral organizations work. You start, you set out a goal on the horizon, you work towards that through discussions.
I think what you see we have a commitment to bring in to the process with respect to democracies in the hemisphere civil society. It's a very important development to give them direct access and have a direct interaction between the OAS and the civil society programs. You have a reaffirmation of the role of the Secretary General in terms of looking out on the horizon and seeing if there are problems we can prevent. And you have a commitment from the OAS and the member states to give the Secretary General a mandate to come up with some proposals on how the OAS might intervene to help those countries that may be in need in a variety of different ways, whether that's politically or economically.
And as the Secretary talked about, this isn't it's not the idea of intervention to punish; this is an intervention to help and to assist. So I think that this was a great outcome and that we look forward to continuing the discussions with the other members of the OAS on these issues and following up on the Florida Declaration.
QUESTION: But specifically, this proposal on the civil society participation create a controversy between Venezuela and the U.S. Do you still remain in the same idea? This
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure how it I haven't seen anybody indicate that it creates a controversy.
QUESTION: But the remarks for of Mr. Noriega yesterday, did you check that, what he say on Venezuelan democracy?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen Mr. Noriega's remarks.
QUESTION: Oh, that's what I was going to ask about (inaudible). You didn't follow up on the question yesterday. Mr. Noriega is quoted as saying that Venezuela's role in Bolivia is well-known and not in a good way. (Laughter.) Can you expand on that at all, what his
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I'm I'm sorry. I admit I have not seen the remarks, so I'll check for you.
QUESTION: Okay. Could you update us on anything on Bolivia? You put out a travel warning yesterday. Anything further to say on Mesa's resignation?
MR. MCCORMACK: With respect to President Mesa, we understand that and you've all seen the news reports that he has submitted his resignation. He remains, however, the Constitutional President until the Bolivian Congress assembles to take up the issue. We remain supportive of a constitutional, democratic, peaceful resolution to the tensions that currently exist in Bolivia. Our Embassy has been speaking with government officials and a broad spectrum of Bolivian political leaders and we have reiterated that message to them. And we will keep a close watch on the situation in Bolivia as events unfold.
QUESTION: And what are your concerns for American citizens there? Is it just basically that the unrest in the streets could draw them into random violence?
MR. MCCORMACK: First of all, we have not received any reports that Americans have been targeted. We did on June 7th authorize the departure of the family members and non-emergency personnel from the Embassy in La Paz and that status is reviewed in 30 days. The Embassy remains open.
And we did issue a Travel Warning on June 7th also to notify the American citizens who are in Bolivia and these actions result from an assessment of the security situation specifically with respect to food and gas shortages in La Paz and El Alto and the difficulty in accessing the international airport as well as the potential for an increase in general violence.
QUESTION: So is the State Department going to arrange flights for family members of non-essential personnel who do want to leave if there's a problem getting to the airport?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't checked on any of the logistical arrangements.
QUESTION: In Egypt there is a story today from Cairo saying that U.S. the U.S. support for political change in Egypt has shifted in favor of those who advocate pushing to keep the Islamists out of power and to clarify or modify their choices. Is this accurate or not? What's your view regarding this issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think there's no change in policy. You've heard from the President directly on this issue recently and as well as during his Inaugural Address. I think we made our views pretty clear on the issue.
Yes, in the back.
QUESTION: There has been an explosion, apparently, of political violence in Ethiopia, protestors killed in clashes with the authorities and some opposition politicians arrested, apparently. I wondered if you had any response.
MR. MCCORMACK: I have seen some reports about violence in Ethiopia and I would just say that these reports are troubling. We are concerned about this violence. I would say that which has, I think, grown out of some protests that took place during a business and transport strike.
What we would say on this, first of all, is that, of course, an important part of any democracy is the right to assemble peacefully. But we would also say that, at the moment, all sides need to take a step back and refrain from any violence and people should speak out against any violence.
There were deaths as a result of some of these demonstrators and it's a tragedy and it should not happen. So we're asking everybody to step back. And what we need to resolve what needs to happen is they need to resolve any differences that they might have through political through the political process and political dialogue, let the political process unfold.
QUESTION: Sean, is there a you're almost blaming the demonstrators
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
MR. MCCORMACK: No. Our strong belief is that the police and federal security forces need to respond in a restrained manner when confronted with protests, and any violence or the threat of violence is unacceptable. That's our view.
QUESTION: Same thing? Do you have anything specific on the arrest of these opposition politicians? This is sort of election-related.
MR. MCCORMACK: I do not.
All right, we haven't had a question in the back.
QUESTION: Thank you. This week, South Korean President Roh, Moo-Hyun will visit D.C. and meet with the U.S. President Bush. Some people are concerned that U.S. and the South Korea have a difference on the North Korean issue. U.S. Government has taken a firm stand against North Korea but South Korea seems to have another position. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: As you point out, the President will be meeting with President Roh tomorrow. We work very closely with all the other members of the six-party talks, the other five members, and I think that we are in constant contact with our close friends and allies in South Korea. And I think that we are all on the same page with respect to the six-party talks and certainly the goals of the six-party talks.
Yeah. Okay. Elise.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the folks in Curacao about or in Aruba about the search for Natalee Holloway?
MR. MCCORMACK: Do we have any updates, Tom?
MR. CASEY: Don't have any updates (inaudible).
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Yeah. At the moment, we don't have any updates on the situation.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I try one more then? The Democrats in the Senate, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Biden, put out a notice to journalists yesterday kind of an update of where the Democrats are and on the nomination of John Bolton. I'm saying that they're still upset that the administration has not put forward these intercepts in other documents, that they're looking for an threatening to hold up the nomination any further. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: We would urge speedy action in a vote for John Bolton. There are important issues that are before the UN. You just heard from the Secretary talking about the issue of UN reform. That's only one. The issues of Sudan, nonproliferation, as well as many others, are either before the UN or going to become are going to go before the UN another one is development assistance.
So I think that it is important that we have an Ambassador, a Permanent Representative in New York, and that we would urge the Senate to vote on John Bolton and to approve him. As for any further submission of materials or information to the Senate, I don't have any update for you on that beyond what has been said by the President and the Secretary and others.
QUESTION: Is there not a compromise to be made? Is the administration seeking any compromise with the Senate or is that it? Is it your kind of just waiting for the
MR. MCCORMACK: We are always in contact with the Senate and the Hill on a variety of different matters. I'm not going to as for where we are, I mean, the question that you have posed, I don't have anything to add beyond what the President and others have said.
QUESTION: Is that a decision of the State Department to make at this point or is I mean, obviously, the White House has access to anything at once. So is the White House who is being asked to release the documents or does State have a role in the decision?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. We all work together all the various elements of the government. This is a the President nominated Mr. Bolton to this position. The Secretary was, in fact, I think the first person actually to talk to him about it. He would work closely for work closely for the Secretary at the UN report to the President through the Secretary. So these are issues that were you know, we all work together and you heard from the President on the issue and beyond that, I don't have anything to add.
QUESTION: But is Biden pressuring the State Department or is he pressuring the White House?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's an administration. This is an administration nomination.
QUESTION: Are you disturbed at all by the comments by Iraqi President Talabani and by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq leader, Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, saying that militias of the Badr Brigades and the Peshmirga continue to have a role in Iraq should go on fighting against insurgents? I believe this is a change in from what the Baghdad Government had said before of trying to gradually disband these militias that build up their own forces. And I wonder if you think that there is a role for independent militias in Iraq where you are trying to support the Iraqis in building their own security forces.
MR. MCCORMACK: There is, as you've all reported on, there is an important political process going on in Iraq. The new government is bringing into the constitution writing process is wide a variety of representation as possible, including Sunnis, Shia and Kurds. And they're coming together to write a constitution that will Iraqis will vote on and, if approved, they will form a new government.
Important to this is to move this process forward, to get Iraq beyond its current period is training of security forces and that's something that we're working very closely with the Iraqi Government on. I don't have the latest figures on how many security forces we have trained already. But we believe that that security force that is associated with a central government, a central authority is should be the force frontline elements responsible for security and stability in Iraq.
These are decisions for Iraqis to make how to integrate the various elements that do exist into a centralized security force. But we are, of course, going to be working very closely with the Iraqis on training these training the security forces and how the various elements that do exist in Iraq could be integrated into that into that central security force that, again, reports to a central authority.
QUESTION: So your view then is that they don't have a role outside of a central authority, that they have to be integrated; they shouldn't just be out there freelancing?
MR. MCCORMACK: My view is that there is a that this is an Iraqi process. These are decisions that Iraqis have to make. But in order, I think, experience would show that in order to have an effective security environment, that there needs to be unity of purpose and unity of command in order to stabilize the situation in Iraq. So again, I have to emphasize, this is an Iraqi issue that they will decide and that they will deal with. But we will continue to work closely with them in the training of Iraqi forces.
Okay. Thank you.
(This briefing was concluded at 3:10 p.m.)
DPB # 97
Released on June 8, 2005