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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 18, 2005

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 18, 2005

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
July 18, 2005

INDEX:

IRAN/IRAQ/SYRIA
Signs of Friendship / Visit of the Iraqi Prime Minister to Tehran
/ Iran's Role in Iraq's Development
US Concern for Syria's Role in the Transit of Foreign Fighters
Over Iraq Border

INDONESIA
Rebel Movement in Aceh / US Hopes for a Peaceful Settlement
US Support for Indonesia's Territorial Integrity

LEBANON
Political Development / Full Implementation of UN Security Council
Resolution 1559

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
Gaza Withdrawal / Disengagement
Secretary Rice's Conversations with Prime Minister Abbas / Defense
Minister Mofaz / Mr. Weissglas
Assistant Secretary Welch's Travel / Preparations for Secretary Rice's Visit
Need for Both Parties to End Terror / Stop Violence / Exercise Restraint

NORTH KOREA
Six-Party Talks in Beijing / Assistant Secretary Hill's Leadership of the US Delegation

IRAQ
Query Regarding US Influence in Election Outcome / State Department's Activities
Implementation of Funds for Elections

DEPARTMENT
Ongoing Investigation of a Memo from INR Regarding Ambassador Joe
Wilson and His Trip to Niger / Secretary Rice's Cooperation with the Investigation


TRANSCRIPT:

12:05 p.m. EDT


MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I don't have any opening statements or announcements, so I'll jump right into questions. Mr. Gedda.

QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts on the signs of friendship between Iran and Iraq lately, including the visit of the Prime Minister to Tehran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we've always said that we encourage Iraq to have good relations with all of its neighbors, including Iran. And we have encouraged, likewise, Iraq's neighbors to play a positive role in Iraq's development as it moves towards a more peaceful, prosperous, stable and democratic future. We have noted the importance that Iraq's neighbors play a positive role in Iraq that is transparent and that is mutually beneficial and that is based on mutual trust and respect.

QUESTION: Well, what is your assessment of the way the Iranians have been dealing with Iraq?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I -- again, we have at times commented in the past on some of -- the fact that Iran could play a more helpful role in Iraq's development. Again, we have talked about the importance of all of Iraq's neighbors playing a positive role. In this regard, we have cited more often Syria and Syria's role in continuing to allow foreign fighters to transit through Syria and cross the border with Iraq. So that has been a greater concern, as we have talked in the past about Iraq's development. As for the specifics of the Prime Minister's visit, George, we haven't had a chance to talk to the Prime Minister about his visit. But again, we have in the past and continue to urge Iraq's neighbors to play a positive, open and transparent role in Iraq's development.

QUESTION: Could you refresh our memory as to the unhelpful things that Iran may have done?

MR. MCCORMACK: There were some concerns in the past, George, about individuals transiting in the border -- the Iraq-Iran border. But again, our greater concerns have been with the role Syria has played in that regard.

Yes. QUESTION: Indonesia and the rebel movement in Aceh have signed a peace agreement. I'm wondering if you had any response to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. We understand that the two sides, as you mentioned, have initialed a draft accord. We are hopeful that a peaceful settlement to this longstanding conflict is within reach. The United States supports the territorial integrity of Indonesia and we note that effective implementation of any written agreement will be key to achieving a lasting peace in Aceh, and we have told the Indonesian Government that the United States stands ready to assist, as and if needed.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Lebanon. Lebanon's parliament has approved today an amnesty for Lebanese forces, Commander Samir Geagea. And another amnesty bill was approved by the parliament in the case of a number of suspected Muslim militants being tried for endangering state security. What's your reaction on these two amnesties?

MR. MCCORMACK: As to these two specific questions, we'll have to look into those for you. We have, of course, said that Lebanon's political development and internal developments in Lebanon are a question for the Lebanese people. We've also said that it's important to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1559 in its entirety.

So, again, the Lebanese people now have an opportunity with the public Syrian forces out -- to start a political development that reflects the aspirations of the Lebanese people. But on these two particular bills, I don't have any information for you.

QUESTION: Can you take questions?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll look into it and see if there's anything we can get for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Welcome.

QUESTION: Thank you. A suspected top al-Qaida operative walked free from jail today in Germany because of the legislation on the terrorism, which was not sufficient penalty. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll have to look into the details of that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Tammy.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any concerns that Israel may go into Gaza? They have forces arrayed along the border with Gaza right now and what does this do for prospects for a withdrawal on time?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the disengagement process, I understand the consultation and certainly the work of General Ward and Mr. Wolfensohn and our work to spur the parties toward effective -- an effective disengagement continues.

Secretary Rice, last week, had a series of phone calls. She spoke with Prime Minister Abbas. She spoke with Defense Minister Mofaz. Over the weekend, she spoke with Mr. Weissglas. David Welch has just returned from the region, in which he was working with Israeli and Palestinian officials. He was also in Cairo talking about disengagement. He will return tomorrow to the region to lay the groundwork for the Secretary's visit later this week.

General Ward, as I said, has been in contact with the parties, working the issues separately and encouraging them to cooperate -- is making the maximum effort as we have talked about, both individually and together, making the maximum effort to cooperate will lead, we hope, to the successful disengagement. The time to make that maximum effort is now. I noted this on Friday -- it is true today all -- you know, both parties need to make a maximum effort to make this withdrawal successful.

We also urge both parties to exercise restraint and to restore calm. We have seen the Palestinian Authority recently take some steps, some positive steps to act against violence and terror, but more needs to be done and they need to make every effort as we talked about that maximum effort now to stop violence and to end -- act to end terror.

Yes. In the back. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Me?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Six-party talks on North Korea. Do you have a schedule on the procedure of how to proceed the negotiation?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Assistant Secretary Hill will be leading our delegation back to the six-party talks the week of July 25th, next week, and we don't have specific dates for you at the moment. I believe that those announcements will be coming. He has been working with the other members of the six-party talks, mostly specifically the South Koreans and the Japanese on the modalities.

We are prepared to work the issues, the basis for discussion at the six-party talks, is our June 2004 proposal. That is on the table. We're waiting to hear back from the North Koreans. They said that they would return to the table with the same goal that all the other parties at the six-party talks share, and that is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. So we look forward to constructive discussions. We're waiting to hear back from the North Koreans, their reaction to the June 2004 proposal. But we, and I believe the other members of the six-party talks are prepared to engage in a constructive manner and to roll up our sleeves and see if we can move this process forward.

QUESTION: Why did it take you so much time to set up the date?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, the -- you have six different parties coming in to Beijing. It is going to be the week of the 25th. We haven't announced a specific date yet, but it will be the week of the 25th.

Yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: About peace talks? According to a Japanese newspaper, Washington said to the North Korean that they would walk of out the talks if there is no progress. So this is the last chance. Do you confirm that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, what we have talked about is we need to and we want to see progress at this round of talks. We're prepared to sit down, roll up our sleeves. We've been doing intensive diplomatic preparations with other members of the six-party talks. And so that's where our focus has been and that is making this a productive round in which we do our part to make progress.

QUESTION: Do you not confirm that you would --

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, our focus is on this round of talks and doing what we can to see that it will be a success.

Yes.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, there's been talk about a State Department memo from INR regarding Ambassador Joe Wilson and his trip to Niger. Can you confirm the existence of this memo and talk about its path, how it got to the White House or what its contents might be? Whatever you can talk about.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. This is a question that relates to an ongoing investigation. And as such, I am not going to offer any comment on an ongoing investigation.

QUESTION: Can you confirm the existence of the memo?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not going to. Not going to offer any comment on the investigation.

QUESTION: Can I ask you -- has the Secretary ever appeared before the grand jury or has she ever been interviewed by investigators in this case?

MR. MCCORMACK: The Secretary has cooperated with the investigation.

QUESTION: Could you expand on that and tell us how --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's as far as I'm prepared to go.

QUESTION: Was she interviewed here on premises? Or was she --

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, the Secretary has cooperated with the investigation.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: As have other members of the White House staff.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this? Okay? No. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Sorry for being late. I wanted to -- please, could we go back to the Secretary's trip to the Middle East? Is she doing anything today to sort of stem the volatility of the situation? And is she in direct contacts with either the Palestinians or the Israelis because the Israelis are poised to, you know, to penetrate them and to conduct incursions into various cities in the West Bank.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I did -- I did talk a little about it in response to Tammy's question. We have -- the Secretary has been engaged with phone calls, as have other members of the administration. I talked about Secretary Welch has been -- he's been working the phones over the weekend. He, having just returned from the region, he's going to return to the region starting tomorrow to prepare for the Secretary's visit on the ground. And General Ward continues his work with both sides and in also encouraging the cooperation between the two sides.

QUESTION: Are you getting any signals from the Israelis that they will hold back because there were very clear language -- there was very clear language that they were going to Gaza.

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we have urged all parties to exercise restraint, both parties to exercise restraint and to restore calm. I have talked about some of the Palestinians' recent efforts but more needs to be done. And I think I'll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Are you getting, you know, any response from the Israelis saying, "Okay, we will not for now" or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to get into the diplomatic conversations, the details of those.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: You know, you are aware of the reports that talk about the administration trying to influence the outcome of the Iraqi election and there has been denial to that. But are you aware of any money that's been given to Ayad Allawi's campaign, in particular through a third party that was not direct?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I can speak to the State Department and the State Department has a full range of programs known to the public to support democratic parties around the world, including Iraq. These were publicized and known in Iraq as they were occurring in the run-up to the elections, to which you refer.

What the State Department implemented for Iraq was that at all times consistent with the standards we use around the world to work with parties that support democracy, public integrity, the rule of law and the renunciation of violence.

Our programs total at about $60 million of State Department programs -- $60 million in Iraq. And the funds were administered in an open and public manner by the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and provided technical and material support to all of the elections within that transitional election cycle.

There included administrating voter registration, developing a regulatory framework, training in staffing and in conducting polling, and an additional $11 million was appropriated for human rights programs and $10 million for women's programs. In addition, USAID awarded $50 million to a consortium of U.S. nongovernmental organizations to support civil society in all phases of the elections. This included the January 30th election and the October constitutional referendum, in December, assembly elections. And was intended to build the capacity of the Iraqi people to provide election oversight and transparency.

I would further note that over 23 domestic Iraqi elections monitors, the International Mission for Iraqi Elections, thousands of Iraqi political party representatives and the Iraqi international journalists observe the conduct of the January 30 elections from polling places to vote tallying. Their reports on the election, I think, speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Sure. You didn't favor Allawi because he seemed much more democrat than the others --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I think I went through a detailed list of the activities of the State Department with regard to those elections.

Yes. Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, there appears to be a Sunni insurgency. It's headquartered apparently in northern Syria with as many as 10 foreign countries involved that are terrorists or militia fighters. Is this under discussion when the Secretary reaches the Middle East this coming week?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Joel, she, the President and others in the administration have talked about our concerns of Syria's role in allowing the transit of foreign fighters through their territory into Iraq. It's something that we have, in public, told the Syrians that it needs to stop. We're waiting to see action in that regard. As for the details that you've discussed, I don't have anything for you on that, but it certainly is an issue that is of continuing concern to the U.S. Government.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:25 p.m.) DPB # 123

Released on July 18, 2005

ENDS


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