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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 5, 2005

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 5, 2005

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
July 5, 2005

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT
Secretary Rice's Travel to Asia / Planned Bilateral Discussions
Representation at ASEAN Conference
Deputy Secretary Zoellick Travel to Sudan, Jordan and Egypt
Ambassador Khalilzad Health

NORTH KOREA
Six-Party Talks / Proposal

CHINA
Shanghai Cooperation Organization
Bid for UNOCAL

AFGHANISTAN
U.S. Use of Facilities to Aid Afghan People
Military Action

IRAN
President-elect Ahmadinejad Possible Role in Hostage Crisis
Support for EU-3 Efforts

IRAQ
Kidnapping of Egyptian Ambassador / Secretary Rice Contact with
Egyptian Foreign Minister / Encouragement for Countries to Show
Support by Sending Diplomats

ARUBA
Natalee Holloway Case

LEBANON
Hezbollah / UN Resolution 1559

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
Hamas
Need for Peaceful Withdrawal from Gaza

ALBANIA
Elections

MISCELLANEOUS
Farewell to Arshad Mohammed of Reuters


TRANSCRIPT:

2:35 p.m. EDT


MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon to all those hearty souls who have stuck it out for a late afternoon briefing. We have a statement that we have either just put out or I can read it to you now about the Secretary's travel to Asia. Have you received that?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: You have that?

QUESTION: Could you read it?

MR. MCCORMACK: I would be happy to read it.

"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to China, Thailand and the Republic of Korea and Japan from July 8th to July 13th. During her stops in each country, Secretary Rice will meet with senior government officials for discussions of political, economic issues of bilateral concern as well as global and regional matters of mutual interest such as the North Korean nuclear issue, cooperation on fighting terrorism and transnational crimes, and tsunami recovery and reconstruction efforts."

That's all I have. Be happy to start with any questions.

QUESTION: Given that the Secretary's going back to the region to talk about North Korea, does this show an effort to actually restart the talks?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have been urging for quite some time North Korea to return to the six-party talks without precondition and to engage in a constructive manner. That's, at this moment, the holdup to having another round of talks. We have been in consultation and on this trip we will consult again with other members of the six-party talks about the way forward, but we still urge the North Koreans' return to the table and engage in a constructive manner. We have not heard that they would do so at this point.

QUESTION: Since you spoke of the need I mean, the holdup, is there any thought on the U.S. side that maybe the U.S. approach in the talks themselves has to be varied a little bit? I mean, I could go on, but I think you know what I mean. Holding out all these wonderful things pending completion of the negotiations, pending a pledge to halt their program -- others have suggested a step-by-step, offer something, see what they say. You know, a more basic form of negotiating. Is the U.S. reconsidering its strategy, its tactics?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Barry, in order to have a discussion, you need to have somebody sitting around the table, and the holdup to that is the North Koreans. We have a constructive proposal on the table. That plan is still on the table and it does have, as you've talked about, different phases to that proposal. You've talked about that with my predecessor in detail.

We have made clear that we are prepared to explain our proposal in detail and address any questions North Korea might raise at the next round of talks, but in order to do that we need to have the next round of talks. In order to have the next round of talks, North Korea has to return to the table.

Yeah, Saul.

QUESTION: Whenever the Secretary's traveling, there's always a sense that she's using the prestige of her auspice and she's not just doing things on the phone, so is there any effort to make this symbolic that she's going there to show, look, the United States really does care about restarting these talks, this is us coming to the region, doing our shuttle diplomacy at the highest level, and therefore, you know, we are doing our bit to bring them back? You, China, you've got to do more. That type of thing.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have encouraged the North Koreans to listen to the requests of other parties as well. The South Korean Unification Minister was recently in town and he had been to North Korea. Deputy Secretary Zoellick met with him while he was here. He had other meetings around town and the Secretary stopped by that meeting as well. But, and so, again, we urge the North Koreans to return to the talks and I believe all -- I haven't done a check recently, but I believe at least several of the other parties to the six-party talks have urged North Korea to return.

But this trip is also about other issues as well. We are going to Thailand, going to Phuket, one of the areas that was devastated by the tsunami which occurred last December. And the Secretary is going to go there to talk about the reconstruction efforts, the ongoing reconstruction efforts and the ongoing efforts of the U.S. Government and the international community to help people affected by that terrible event.

We're also going to be traveling to China, Japan, South Korea and we have -- we will have bilateral discussions on a variety of topics in each of those countries and talk about regional issues as well.

So, yes, the Secretary will talk about North Korea and the North Korean nuclear issue and the six-party talks, but there is more to the trip than that. And as we get closer, I'll try to fill you in more on what the Secretary plans to address. This is just an announcement of the trip today.

Charlie.

QUESTION: Sean, as a follow-up, a further follow-up on the North Korea issue, has the Administration heard anything of substance, positively or negatively, since the New York contact or whatever? I forget how you --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think I used the word "contact." I'll stick with that.

QUESTION: Yes. Have you got anything else to say about that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything new for you on that, Charlie. No.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: No response? No --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything. I don't have anything.

QUESTION: You don't have anything, but is there -- is there a point to having another contact until you hear from them?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we have not heard a date when they would return to the talks. Of course, we, as well as the other members of the six-party talks, are waiting for that date.

QUESTION: You haven't heard a place, either?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't believe we have heard --

QUESTION: Because the Chinese were saying --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Haven't heard -- haven't heard a date. Yeah.

All right. Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, on another matter --

QUESTION: Can we stay on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, yeah. Are there any others? Then we'll go back. Okay.

QUESTION: Yes. May we conclude that because the Secretary itinerary has been announced, then she won't be making two trips to Asia in a month, which she will not attend the ASEAN in Vientiane?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't have anything to add to the last time we talked about this issue. There will be high-level representation at the ASEAN meeting and we'll keep you up to date on the Secretary's travel plans as well as that of the Deputy Secretary.

And while I'm on that matter, let me just add that the Deputy Secretary will be traveling this week. He'll be leaving -- tomorrow?

MR. ERELI: Tomorrow.

MR. MCCORMACK: He'll be leaving tomorrow. He has -- and we'll put out a piece of paper on this, but I'll just summarize for you. He will be traveling to Sudan, Jordan and Egypt. And this will be the, I think, third trip by the Deputy in a matter of the past three months, I believe, to Sudan. I think it's a demonstration of this Administration's commitment to helping those parties move forward, implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, deal with issues related to Darfur and try to bring peace to that country and help them move along the political front as well.

In Jordan, the Deputy Secretary will be leading an interagency delegation to the United States-Iraq Joint Commission on Reconstruction and Economic Development, and he will be talking there with his Iraqi counterparts on a number of issues ranging from economic and agricultural reform to the continued development of the oil and electricity sectors.

And while in Egypt, the Deputy Secretary will hold talks with President Mubarak and other senior Egyptian officials on issues of political and economic reform, and I expect that while he is there he'll also meet with civil society activists and a broad spectrum of political party leaders to lend his support to encouraging the Egyptian Government to holding free and fair elections.

QUESTION: Back the ASEAN question.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: The question was, you know, can we conclude that she won't be going. You say you don't have anything. Would you be -- it would be surprising to us if she would go back in the same month to Asia. Would you also be surprised if she were to go?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I expect that she'll probably have more travel and we'll announce that as we move forward in the month. But as I said, there will be high-level representation there and I will keep you up to date on the Secretary as well as the Deputy Secretary's travel plans.

QUESTION: You wanted to jump in?

QUESTION: Sean --

MR. MCCORMACK: Is there anything else related to the trip or the announcements?

QUESTION: Just -- sorry, just to pick up. I mean, she's going to China and we know that China has in this Shanghai group, asked for the U.S. to close -- set a timetable to close bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Have you responded to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen the news reports and I think, you know, as in two of these countries, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, we have had the use of some military facilities and that's been out in the press and we appreciate that. I would note, however, there was party from those discussions and from the signature line on the statement who's missing, and it's Afghanistan. And the U.S. and international forces are in Afghanistan at the request of the Afghan Government. These -- the use of the facilities has been in an effort to aid the Afghan people build their democracy and greater prosperity. So I would just say that our presence and the countries -- some of the countries mentioned is determined by the terms of our bilateral agreements under which both countries have concluded that there's a benefit to both sides from our activities.

QUESTION: Can we spin off that, if you don't mind? Just while you're mentioning Afghanistan?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, Barry. Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: The President is irritated by the U.S. military strike against civilians. Is there a reaction to that or a reflection on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I believe the military has put out a statement --

QUESTION: There.

MR. MCCORMACK: In Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Yeah, there. Do you have --

MR. MCCORMACK: Barry --

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) Washington (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think the people on the ground would be in the best position, but of course we deeply regret any loss of civilian life in the course of military actions. Our military is second to none in the care that it takes to target those who are fighting against our U.S. forces and avoid any civilian casualties or collateral damage, and that has been their policy, I think, throughout operations not only in Afghanistan but Iraq.

Yes. Any more on this topic? Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, in another matter with China, they want to purchase Unocal Oil and Congress has said no and President Bush says it's a national security matter, yet the Chinese are continuing to criticize Congress and they say it's normal commercial activity. Do you have any response to their --

MR. MCCORMACK: To say that the United States welcomes foreign investment. Foreign investment plays an important role in the U.S. economy and makes a substantial contribution to U.S. economic prosperity. The Defense Production Act of 1950 provides a process for reviewing foreign acquisition -- acquisitions of U.S. companies to determine the effect on U.S. national security. This Act provides for confidentiality of the review process. And as a result, I'm not in a position to comment with respect to CFIUS and CNOOC's bid for Unocal. And if you have any other questions on that matter, I'd have to refer you to the Treasury Department.

Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) said that it would check on these allegations concerning the President-elect of Iran. Now there are new accusations against Mr. Ahmadinejad coming out of Europe. An Austrian member of parliament, Peter Pilz, says he has information that he was linked to a killer commander that assassinated three high-level Kurdish activists in Vienna in '89. Are you also checking these allegations coming out of Europe and what did you come up with until now?

MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen those press reports. I don't have anything for you on those particular reports that you mentioned. With respect to other questions that have been raised about the President-elect, we are continuing our efforts to look into and, from our end, determine what, if any, involvement he may have had with the hostages. Those efforts are ongoing. We have not come to any final conclusions yet.

QUESTION: Do you take them serious -- these --

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I've seen the news reports and I don't have anything for you on that.

QUESTION: Al-Qaida. Al-Qaida is now --

MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else --

QUESTION: Al-Qaida is now, on its website, taking responsibility for the kidnapping of the first ambassador in Iraq, the Egyptian Ambassador. I'm wondering what the U.S. reaction to this is and how concerned you are that there are now a number of both Arab and Muslim diplomats who appear to be targeted by insurgents and other crime-related groups.

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen the specific report to which you've referred. Secretary Rice did speak this morning with Foreign Minister Gheit of Egypt and she said that we -- she offered any help that we might make available to the Egyptian Government in this regard. And we call for the diplomat in question's early and speedy release, unharmed.

And as to the larger question, we are, of course, along with the Iraqi Government, concerned about the safety and well-being of any individual who is in Iraq to try to help the Iraqi people build a democratic, more prosperous, stable country for themselves. These are people who are in the country at the request of their country to help out the Iraqi people. And we, as you know, called upon other countries at the Brussels conference to send their diplomats to Iraq in a show of support for the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Government.

Again, we will do everything that we can that is within our power and capabilities to work with the Iraqi Government to see that this person is returned. We offered our assistance and, again, we work quite closely with other members of the international community to provide whatever help we might in order to protect them while they're there.

QUESTION: Sean, can I follow up?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Some countries have reacted. For instance, the Bahraini Government has effectively closed down its small diplomatic presence in Iraq following the fact that the Bahraini diplomat was -- his convoy was fired upon today and he was wounded. And then the Pakistanis have also -- or maybe it was the Pakistani. Well, the Pakistani was -- an attempted attack on the Pakistani diplomat. What, if anything, can the U.S. do perhaps to try to reassure some of these other countries that don't have military presence in Iraq, yet want to have a diplomatic presence there?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Those would be questions that our commanders on the ground, working with the multinational force, would be in a better position to answer in terms of what, if any, practical cooperation they might offer. I'd have to refer you to them for the answer on that question.

QUESTION: Could you elaborate what you meant when Secretary Rice offered whatever help the U.S. might be able to to the Egyptian Government?

MR. MCCORMACK: It was -- I don't have anything more than that. It was an offer from a friend and an ally, reaching out to the Egyptian Foreign Minister, as you might expect that we would do in this case. If there is any assistance asked for or required by the Egyptian Government, we would stand ready to offer it. But there's not any specific assistance.

QUESTION: This is more rhetorical support or?

MR. MCCORMACK: It would depend. If there was a request from the Egyptian Government, certainly it would be more than rhetorical support.

QUESTION: A couple on that. If I'm not mistaken, the Egyptian diplomat had not been there very long before his kidnapping. Does this suggest to you that the insurgents or the kidnappers in this particular case are developing sort of intelligence capabilities that are quite strong when they can nab somebody soon after their arrival in country, or do you think they just sort of got lucky in this case?

MR. MCCORMACK: First of all, I don't know who is responsible for this act. You heard one report that Andrea mentioned. I don't have information on that.

And as for the larger question, you know, I'm not in a position to try and discern or establish any, from this podium, any assessment of the, you know, the capabilities of who might have been responsible for this. As I, you know, I just, we just don't -- at least I just don't know standing here right now.

QUESTION: No, I was asking you -- I was asking whether it suggests that when they can nab somebody that quickly, that their intel capabilities are quite good.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I don't have the details of, you know, how long he was in country or any of those other things. So I wouldn't be in a position to make an assessment of that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the American diplomatic presence?

MR. MCCORMACK: Our --

QUESTION: You have a Travel Warning out.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Our security people work very closely with the Iraqis as well as the MNF on a continuous basis to review our security posture there.

QUESTION: Why should people send -- why should other countries send their diplomats to Iraq when the security risks -- you know, to show support when the security risks are so high?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, each country is going to make their own assessments with respect the security and the security of their own people. But the demonstration of support by sending diplomats or other types of assistance, on-the-ground presence, is a strong signal to the Iraqi people and those who might try to undermine what it is that the Iraqi people, along with the international community, are trying to do. But again, it is up to each individual country to make those assessments. But we encourage countries to do that. This is a time of need for the Iraqi people and we think it is important for us as well as others to stand with them in this time of need.

Yeah. Let me go back. I'll come back. Teri.

QUESTION: Arshad asked one question, but I'm going to change the subject now. If anybody -- anybody else on this?

I know State generally doesn't have much to say about this issue, but in the Natalee Holloway case the mother of Natalee Holloway has now said she wanted the State Department to prevent two of the suspects who have now been released from entering the United States if they should try to leave Aruba. Do you have any comment on this or could you update us on anything the State Department may have had to do with this case in recent days? Any contact with the Dutch Government, for example?

MR. MCCORMACK: As for the second, I'm not aware -- as for the first, I'm not aware of an attempt to try to travel to the United States. I don't -- I haven't seen her comments.

As for our presence on the ground, I know that our diplomats have been contact with the family throughout this situation and working with authorities in Aruba, as well as the families -- the family to do what we can to see that all assistance is provided to the family, and that every effort is made to search for this girl and determine what the situation is.

And beyond that, I don't have any particular updates for you today, any new information that I can offer you, other than, in general, we have been on the ground there and we have been in touch with the family.

QUESTION: There have been reports that there was some tension between the FBI and the Aruban authorities with -- in terms of getting access and working on the case. Has that been something that has come through the State Department to talk to the Dutch Government about?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of those reports. The FBI would be in a better position to answer those.

Yes. Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: Two questions. First, do you have an update on Ambassador Khalilzad's condition? Has he left the hospital yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: He has and he is now working with his doctors to make sure that he makes a full recovery. He left the hospital this weekend. I don't have a day for you. But he looks forward to a full recovery and assuming his duties as Ambassador in Iraq.

QUESTION: Okay. And the second question is a follow-up to the press conference the Secretary had with the French Foreign Minister. The French Foreign Minister made an allusion to a sort of an incentive package, a credible package that he described, which would include some sort of security guarantees, it seems, for Iran; and then he went on to note that they need the United States in order to make this work. What is the U.S. position on offering Iran some sort of security guarantee?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're working with the EU-3 in these negotiations. We're not a part of them, but we fully support their efforts. And beyond that, I don't have anything to add to what the Secretary said.

QUESTION: Sean.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Both officials upstairs were offered a chance to say what they wanted from the negotiations and it seems like they said different things. The French Foreign Minister said we won't allow a resumption -- that was the word used -- of military nuclear effort. He didn't use the word "civilian." Whereas the Secretary said, look, they shouldn't have access to any part of the fuel cycle, which would rule out civilian nuclear fuel. So it seems that there's a difference there in what people -- in what the two sides want. Is that a difference that you acknowledge at the moment and that you have to work and consult on?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we've been -- you know, we're in very frequent contact on this issue. Nick Burns -- Under Secretary Nick Burns has worked very closely with his counterparts from the EU-3 over the past -- you know, the past months on this issue. The discussions are ongoing. With regard to any differences, I -- you know, in the meeting that I have been in and listened to, I haven't detected any differences. I guess I didn't -- I didn't hear any differences upstairs between the two sides.

QUESTION: I wasn't there. Is the U.S. position that Iran can have no use of nuclear fuel for civilian or military purposes? That would be a big deal.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything to add to what the Secretary just has talked about upstairs.

QUESTION: How can there be no conflict with the Europeans, because the Europeans are trying to work a program out that will restrict them to a civilian nuclear program?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Barry, you just had the Secretary upstairs -- ask her these questions. She responded to them about half an hour ago and I don't have anything to add to it.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice and French Foreign Minister have discussed the Lebanon. Did they have the same point of view regarding Hezbollah?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'll let the French side speak for themselves. But with respect to Hezbollah, our views are clear. We both very much agree on the importance of implementing fully UN Security Council Resolution 1559 so that the Lebanese people are able to make their political choices free from any outside interference.

QUESTION: Can we get into the -- you're almost heading toward Syria geographically. Can you make some appraisal of whether Syria's battles with insurgents is a genuine effort to stop the infiltration or is it some sort of -- if you know by now, it's early to know, to analyze -- but do you know if it's some sort of an internal struggle or are they really doing God's work for you now?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, I'm not going to try to trump the Secretary. She was -- she gave a pretty good answer on this just a bit ago upstairs. I don't have anything to add to that.

Yeah, Joel.

QUESTION: With respect to Gaza for the pullout, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon expects 41,000 soldiers to take part if there's any troubles. And yet in Gaza, Hamas has just said they reject a unity government with the PA, and yet they expect to sit it out and wait to fall* elections. They want to displace Fatah completely. Do you have any response to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, on the issue of Hamas, our views are well known and our focus is on working with the Palestinian Authority to see that there is an effective, peaceful withdrawal along the lines of the principles that the Secretary outlined when she was in the region on her last trip.

Yes, Arshad.

QUESTION: Sean, for one second. I was out of the room, but I think I heard most of your answer. I wonder if you think it is inappropriate at all of the Chinese Foreign Ministry to accuse the U.S. Congress of politicizing this issue and of interfering. Doesn't the U.S. Congress have the right to pass whatever laws or bills it wishes to?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the issue in question here is application of a U.S. law and that is something the Executive Branch is charged with. And, you know, I gave my answer with respect to the CFIUS process. And with respect to the Congress, this is clearly an issue that Congress has demonstrated an interest in. It's part of our system where there's a free and open discussion about these issues.

QUESTION: You don't think it's inappropriate then for a foreign government to criticize the operations of the U.S. Congress?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, our Congress is going to speak out and discuss issues according to our laws, our customs and our traditions.

QUESTION: Just one other thing. The Chinese statement, at least as represented by the Post, says that Congress shouldn't interfere in normal commercial exchanges -- those three words: normal, commercial exchanges. Is it fair to say that you don't regard this particular transaction as a normal commercial exchange and that is why you referred it to CFIUS because it does have national security implications in your view?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, even to -- anything with respect to the CFIUS process, even to comment on whether or not there is a review, is something I am enjoined from doing. So I'm going to refer any questions on that matter over to the Treasury Department.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

MR. MCCORMACK: An enthusiastic question about --

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the recent election in Albania? The OSCE had some criticisms. I was wondering.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, our Embassy yesterday put out a statement and I think just a couple of things. During the initial election process we did see some problems. Those focused mostly on voter lists and access to media. We feel as though the period in which we find ourselves now, the post-election period, including the counting of ballots, is critical for measuring progress about an election. So, I think that at this point what we are going to do is limit our comments to calling on all political forces to work together in the spirit of cooperation to form a new government that will continue the reforms necessary to advance Albania's integration into the Euro-Atlantic community.

And beyond that, I think we'll wait for the election process to play out in its -- to let the complete election process play out.

Thank you.

Wait one moment, one moment, please. This is the last briefing at the State Department for one of your colleagues, and I'll say one of my colleagues, because I have worked closely with Arshad Mohammed not only here but while I was at the White House. And let me just say Arshad is a true professional. He is a gentleman and his new colleagues are lucky to have him working at their organization. So thank you, Arshad.

QUESTION: You're only as good as your last story. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: All right. Thank you very much.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:05 p.m.)

DPB # 114

Released on July 5, 2005

ENDS


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