State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 13, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 13, 2005
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
June 13, 2005
African Growth and Opportunity Initiative / U.S. Development Assistance
U.S Commitment to Region / Debt Relief
U.S. Assistance to Combat HIV/AIDS
Statement on Secretary Rice's Travel to the Middle East and Europe
/ Ministerial Meeting for G-8
Secretary's Focus on Trip to Middle East / Gaza Withdrawal/ General Ward's Role
Coordination of Israeli/Palestinian Efforts for a Successful Withdrawal
Reports of Russian Diplomatic Contacts with Muqtada al-Sadr
Department of State's Role in Investigation of Missing Woman
Ongoing Election Process / International Election Observers
Concerns of Syrian Interference in Lebanon's Election / Roed-Larson's Trip to Syria
Bilateral Relations with U.S. / Agreement with U.S. on Issue of Six-Party Talks
Fatal Bombings / Violence and Unrest in Khuzestan Province
Reports of Bombing Targeting a U.S. Diplomat
Status of EU's Arms Embargo of China
12:40 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. Before we get into questions, I have a couple items at the top.
As we heard from President Bush earlier today concerning our support for Africa, the United States is taking strong and sustained action to build democracy and economic opportunity in Africa. As part of those efforts to assist Africa, the United States is working on the African Growth and Opportunity initiative. Under that initiative, that Act, trade with 47 eligible countries was up 88 percent last year.
In addition to this essential trade initiative, the United States is supporting Africa in a number of other critical areas. The U.S. provided $3.2 billion in official development assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2004 to help relieve poverty, provide essential health and medical service, and spur economic growth. This nearly triples the amount provided since originally provided in 2000.
In addition, nine African countries are currently eligible for funding under the President's Millennium Challenge Account initiative and Madagascar, as you know, has already signed a compact worth $110 million for rural development initiatives. An additional $1.4 billion in humanitarian assistance was given to respond to emergencies in 32 African countries in 2004, including vital assistance to respond to the crisis in Darfur, and just last week the President announced an additional $674 million in additional humanitarian assistance.
And I would note also that Deputy Secretary Zoellick has already made two trips to Sudan and to Darfur. I think this underscores this Administration's commitment to try to help the parties come to a solution that will finally bring peace and opportunity to that country.
And also, the President noted today that the United States is joining with its G-8 partners to provide debt relief for 14 of Africa's poorest nations. This debt relief is estimated to be worth a total of $40 billion.
And through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, African countries received $780 million for HIV/AIDS prevention in 2004 and that amount will grow to $1.1 billion in 2005. We are going to have a briefing on camera, on the record, at 2:30 this afternoon with Ambassador Tobias, who is the Global AIDS Coordinator, who can talk about this as well as more details of our efforts to fight the scourge of AIDS and disease in Africa.
I also have one announcement for you today, and that is that the Secretary, Secretary Condoleezza Rice, will travel to the Middle East and Europe from June 17th to June 23rd. She will visit Ramallah, Jerusalem, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to discuss regional peacemaking efforts, support for democracy and reform throughout the region, and counterterrorism. The Secretary will then travel to Brussels for the international conference on Iraq, where representatives from over 80 nations and international organizations will come together in support of the Iraqi Transitional Government in its efforts to build a free, democratic and prosperous Iraq. The Secretary will proceed to London for the ministerial meeting at the G-8 in preparation for the July G-8 summit.
And with that, I am happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: The list that you gave, is that the order in which she will is that the order of the stops that she'll make?
MR. MCCORMACK: The order, I believe, as it stands now will be Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Brussels and London.
QUESTION: Great. And can you link at all her trip to Jerusalem and to see officials of the Palestinian Authority with the Gaza withdrawal and particularly with Palestinian efforts to develop the security capability to take control if and when the Israelis pull out?
MR. MCCORMACK: That will be part of her discussions. She is going to talk about Gaza withdrawal, both with the Israelis as well as the Palestinian Authority. August 8th, which is the planned beginning of the Gaza withdrawal, is coming up on us and we think it's important that all as we've said before that all sides make a maximum effort to have this withdrawal be a success so that can accelerate progress towards the ultimate goals of the roadmap. And part of that is, on the Palestinian side, is to work with them in building the institutions so that when the withdrawal does occur, that there are capable institutions in place to handle issues related to security, as well as providing for the needs of the Palestinian people.
QUESTION: You have about seven weeks left now. Do you think that there will be those capable institutions in place?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's part of the mission of General Ward. He's working with the Palestinian Authority to help develop those practices, those institutions that will be able to take over and prove capable of fulfilling the security requirements once the withdrawal does take place. There have been there's been positive progress in that regard. There's more to do as the August withdrawal comes upon us, comes upon the parties in the region. I'll just repeat, it's important that all sides make a maximum effort. We ourselves are Secretary Rice is traveling there to ensure that there is good progress on all sides in doing what they need to do. We encourage the two the Israelis and the Palestinians to have constructive contact in order to coordinate their efforts as the withdrawal process moves forward. We believe that that will be important for this withdrawal to be successful.
QUESTION: Have you seen the story about the Russian diplomatic contacts with Al Sadr in Iraq and do you have any comment?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have seen the reports and we would say that we are supportive of the Iraqi Transitional Government's efforts to be inclusive of all parties, all Iraqis who have renounced violence, and bring them into the political process. That is something that we have talked to them about directly and that is also something that we encourage others to speak with the Iraqis about. We did not have any specific did not ask the Russian envoy to convey any specific message. We would stress and we would expect that all parties would stress the importance of working within a stable political system that reflects the needs of the Iraqi people as they move forward in building a better future for themselves. And all of those political, economic and security institutions will provide a foundation for an Iraq that is peaceful and stable and prosperous.
QUESTION: Scott, do you have any comments
MR. MCCORMACK: Scott?
QUESTION: Sorry. Sean. Do you have any comments concerning
MR. MCCORMACK: That's the other guy. That's the other guy at the
QUESTION: Right White House. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Sean, do you have any comments on Africa and their (inaudible). One is President Yusuf of Somalia is trying to set up a new government there, coming from Kenya. And also, last week we've seen the developments in Zimbabwe with the tearing out of this whole shantytown area. Is that going to be discussed in this conference at the White House and what are Secretary Rice's views concerning both matters?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that any questions with respect to the White House and conversations over there, you are going to have to talk to Scott McClellan (laughter) who is the White House Press Secretary.
Okay. Yes, Mr. Rosen.
QUESTION: Long-time listener, first-time question. I have two subjects. One very briefly on the situation in Aruba. What is the extent now of the State Department's involvement in that case?
MR. MCCORMACK: Our officials on the ground have been in constant contact with the family. We are providing all assistance. At this point, I don't have any other specifics I can offer you and we will certainly keep you updated with information as that we can share with you in an appropriate way.
QUESTION: Then on to a different subject: the elections in Lebanon. Any reaction to the victory of this general?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, over the past two weeks and now three weeks, I have not offered any comment as the electoral process is ongoing. There's one more stage of this election process to go on. I would note the presence of international observers during these elections as certainly a positive aspect of the electoral process. So I think what we'll do is we'll reserve any comment on the final outcome of the elections until all the stages of the elections are completed.
QUESTION: Can I ask a process question? Does it appear to be unfolding in a way that that reflects the wishes of the international community?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we've noted the presence of the international observers and I would really, at this point, reserve any comment on the final process because it is not, in fact, completed.
QUESTION: How do you what's the may I? What will happen after the elections are completed and how will the judgments of the international observers be made known to the U.S.?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are Lebanese domestic observers and a UN technical team on the ground there, as well as representatives of the European Union. I would expect that we would be in contact through normal channels of communications, both with the EU side and the UN side, to gather their impressions of the overall electoral process and that we will ultimately look forward to working with a government freely elected by the Lebanese people.
QUESTION: One last, if I might. Last week, you expressed some concerns about Syrian interference. Are those concerns do those concerns have a basis in fact where these elections are concerned? So far, have you been able to observe any Syrian interference in the elections?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think our concerns are based on fact. I think it would be a little odd to have concerns not based on fact. In terms of a
QUESTION: It's happened.
QUESTION: WMD in Iraq?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of the electoral process, again, I've you know, I'm not going to I'm going to reserve any final judgments on that electoral process until it's been concluded.
QUESTION: Is there any evidence the Syrians have heeded the concerns that you expressed last week?
MR. MCCORMACK: Mr. Larsen, as you know, was recently in Syria. He's returning back from a trip to Syria. We would expect that part of that discussion was full implementation of UN Resolution 1559. I would not I hesitate to comment any further on his travels there. Comment on his travels should come out of the United Nations.
QUESTION: Is he going to come by to brief the Secretary on his trip?
MR. MCCORMACK: If there I expect that we would be in contact with the UN with respect to what he heard from the Syrian Government. At this point, we don't I'm not aware of any feedback we have and I'm not aware of, at this point, any meetings between he and the Secretary that are scheduled.
QUESTION: New subject? Can we change?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think people are ready to move on.
QUESTION: The President of South Korea yesterday is quoted as saying that North Korea could expect more flexibility. I don't know what he meant from South Korea or whether from the other five parties in the six-party talks. But is your understanding that when he was here on Friday, he was given to understand that perhaps the United States is also willing to be more flexible with North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a couple of things. One, I haven't seen his comments so I couldn't comment specifically on what he may have said. And I would refer you over to the White House for any comment on the meetings that he had with President Bush.
I can tell you what we heard from the Koreans when they visited here in advance of President Roh's meeting with President Bush, and that is that we are both dedicated to maintaining the excellent state of our alliance and the good bilateral relations we have between the United States and South Korea. We both agree fully on the six-party talks as the framework to resolve the question of North Korean nuclear programs and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And we both underscored the importance of and the need for North Korea to return to the six-party talks and engage in a constructive manner.
We have a serious proposal on the table at the six-party talks and we would encourage the North Koreans to engage in a constructive manner regarding that proposal. And I think that we and the South Koreans and certainly the other three members in addition to South Korea are on the same page in that regard.
QUESTION: And did the South Koreans ask the United States when they were here to be more flexible in the process?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think what we heard from the South Koreans is exactly what I said, underscoring the importance of North Koreans getting back to the six-party process that's where the focus should be and to work in a constructive manner on the proposal that's in front of them, which really offers them a pathway to a better life for the North Korean people as well as integration into the international community, more integration into the international community.
QUESTION: Can I ask a question about the upcoming Iranian presidential elections?
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, I'm sorry. Mr. Gedda.
QUESTION: As I understand it, folks in East Asia are expecting a visit soon by Chris Hill. If you haven't heard about that, could you take the question?
MR. MCCORMACK: He does not have any official travel scheduled at this point.
QUESTION: Yeah, I know we don't know the result, but have you any optimism has the U.S. any optimism at all, any hope, that the result could help change relations at all with the U.S.?
MR. MCCORMACK: The Iranian and I talked a lot about this, about the Iranian elections, on Friday. I got a lot of questions on it. Again, it's a very interesting election where a small group of unelected people define the choices for the Iranian people. So beyond that, I don't really have any comment on the Iranian elections. Secretary Rice has talked to this on Friday in an interview that you have the transcript of with respect to U.S.-Iranian relations and I don't really have anything to add beyond that.
QUESTION: Can I follow up, Sean?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: On the bombings yesterday in Iran in which nine people were killed, do you have any are you worried about instability, perhaps, on the Iran-Iraq border? Has the U.S. conveyed any condolences?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we condemn any act of violence that claims innocent life and our condolences go out to the families of the victims who lost their lives, as well as to those who were injured in these attacks. And we have in the past, when this question of violence in this region has come up, expressed our concern about that violence and unrest in the province of Khuzestan, including the killing of several people and the arrest of hundreds in April 2005.
QUESTION: Excuse me, good morning. So the Iranians are accusing the Iraq groups based in Iraq, you know, and saying that this group enjoys some kind of support or at least are tolerated by the U.S. and Iraq?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information on who might be responsible for these acts.
QUESTION: Yeah, you were just talking earlier about United States' position to assist Sub-Saharan Africa. What's the position on the issue involving Morocco and Algeria Morocco claiming territory and Algeria claiming Sub-Saharan's independence. And also, my second question is, do you feel that the cancellation of the Arab summit worsened the relationships between the two countries?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm going to have to get back to you with answers to those questions.
QUESTION: And I have another question.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, why don't we move it around? We have some other people here who have questions. Yes.
QUESTION: Anything on the so-called "second Downing Street memo," which seems to show that our closest ally had some concerns about postwar planning or lack thereof in Iraq?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair have talked about these issues in general. Secretary Rice and Foreign Secretary Straw have as well. And I don't think I have anything to add on that topic.
Yeah. Over here.
QUESTION: There is a report from Iraq, from Baghdad today, that a U.S. diplomat has escaped from a bomb in Baghdad. Is this accurate? Do you have any information?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would refer you to the Embassy for a detailed explanation of these events, but my understanding of the situation was that this was there was an explosion but it was not targeted it was not targeting any it was not targeting a U.S. Embassy convoy nor was the convoy affected by the explosion.
QUESTION: Do you have anything it seems that the EU seemed to have shelved plans on ending its embargo of China. Do you have anything on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, our views with respect to the suggestion that the European Union would lift the EU embargo or that they were considering it are well known. We made those views clearly known in private and in public to European officials. I haven't seen any reports that a final decision with respect to the possibility of lifting the embargo has been made. To my knowledge, it is still an issue that the European Union is still actively discussing. But again, we've made our position on that issue known very clearly.
QUESTION: Sean, last week the Chinese imposed heavy fines, registration with $120,000 per individual location in China. And today, Microsoft has deleted all references to democracy and freedom and today there are anti-communist protestors outside your building handing out fliers, saying a world without communist tyranny will be a safer place. There have been these restrictions that have been imposed. Are you talking to Beijing concerning what they're doing?
MR. MCCORMACK: Joel, there's a lot of stuff in one question-slash-statement. I don't have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on this large car bomb in Indian Kashmir that killed 12 people and wounded 70, and particularly do you have and in particular do you have any reason to believe that it might that there might have been a cross-border any cross-border influence behind the bombing?
MR. MCCORMACK: Before I get you an answer on that, let me look into the details, Arshad, and we'll try to get you something.
Yes, okay, thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:05 p.m.)