World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 23, 2005

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 23, 2005

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
August 23, 2005


Pat Robertson's Comments on Venezuelan President Chavez
Robertson's Comments Do Not Represent the Views of US Government
US Urging Venezuela to Play Positive Role in Hemisphere
US Contacts with Venezuela Government Regarding Robertson Remarks
Denial of US Visa for Venezuela Attendee to OAS Meeting

Recent Bombings /Counter-Terrorism Efforts

US Contacts / Meetings with North Korea Through the New York Channel

Secretary Rice's Meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon
South Korean Proposal on North Korea's Energy Issues

Human Rights Situation

Softwood Lumber Issue

Gaza Settlers Reportedly Moving into West Bank

Report Macedonia Prime Minister Rejected Request from Albanian
Community to Designate Albanian as the Official Second Language

Turkey's Human Rights Practices and Policies

Allegations of US Mistreatment of Iranian Detainee at Guantanamo Facility
Coordination on Transferring Iranian Detainee to Iran

IAEA Report on Investigation of Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program

Discussions on Proposed Declaration by UN Summit Leaders in New York

Next Steps on Finalizing Iraq's Constitution
Status of Iraq's Security Forces


12:58 p.m. EDT

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

QUESTION: I want to ask you about Pat Robertson's suggestion that the United States assassinate the President of Venezuela as a way of getting rid of a dictator and not having to spend $200 billion getting the job done.

MR. MCCORMACK: I would say that Pat Robertson is a private citizen and that his views do not represent the policy of the United States. We do not share his view and that his comments are inappropriate and that, as we have said before, any allegations that we are planning to take hostile action against the Venezuelan Government are completely baseless and without fact.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I have a follow up on that?


QUESTION: In other cases when somebody, a private citizen suggests the killing of a foreign leader you consider that guy a terrorist. Do you consider Pat Robertson -- his ideas to be -- also embracing terrorist -- acts of terrorism against other leaders?

MR. MCCORMACK: I've said what I'm going to say on the matter.

QUESTION: Can I ask though about Mr. Chavez? Do you agree that Venezuela under Chavez is a launching pad, as Pat Robertson said, for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism? I mean, you guys have been pretty tough on Mr. Chavez. Would you go that far, though?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, let me separate the two issues of Mr. Robertson's comments about action against President Chavez.

Concerning Venezuela, we have expressed our concerns in the past regarding some of Venezuela's behavior in the hemisphere. What we have said is that Venezuela should try to play a positive role in the hemisphere. We have invited the Venezuelan Government to join our positive agenda for the hemisphere in which we seek to promote democracy, promote greater prosperity for all the citizens of the hemisphere. This was the focus of the recent summit of the OAS in Florida, and we have an Embassy in Caracas and we are in contact with Venezuelan officials. So our agenda is a positive one for the hemisphere. We invite Venezuela to join in that positive agenda for the hemisphere and in its contacts with its neighbors and other countries of the neighborhood that they play a transparent and open and positive role with those countries.

QUESTION: Does it follow that their agenda is a negative one?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we have in the past, you've heard us and the various officials talk about Venezuela and certain actions that they have taken in the hemisphere. We urge Venezuela, as all countries in the hemisphere, to play a positive role in the hemisphere and in their relationships with other countries in the hemisphere to have an open, transparent and positive relationship that you would have between two sovereign states anywhere around the world.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we'll move around here.

Yeah, Nicholas.

QUESTION: Sean, you say Mr. Robertson is a private citizen, but he clearly expresses the views of people who are clearly the President's base -- a big part of that base, at least, which are Christian conservatives and Republicans. Do you -- you don't think that much of the world may interpret this as much as you can say that he is a private citizen as perhaps expressing the views that are shared by a big part of the Republican Party?

MR. MCCORMACK: I would think that people around the world would take the comments for what they are. They're the expression of one citizen. And we have been very clear -- I have been very clear that this is not the policy of the United States Government. We do not share his views and that his comments are inappropriate.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Which one?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right in front of you and then we'll get to you, if you're talking about Venezuela.

QUESTION: Is this -- do you consider it's not ambivalent from the U.S. Government to consider for one hand or do you suggest that Venezuela possibly -- probably is using its oil supply potentially to interfere in political issues in other countries? And by the same time, you are asking and requesting cooperation from the Venezuelan Government with the Drug Enforcement Agency. Is it not an ambivalent position from your government?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. I don't think I ever talked -- I don't think I talked about Venezuela trying to use its oil or money or oil --

QUESTION: What do you suggest?

MR. MCCORMACK: -- for any particular purpose. I was asked this question yesterday of whether or not I thought that they were trying to use their influence. What I said was what I said today. and that is we would expect that they play an open and a positive role in the hemisphere and that holds with their neighbors as well. Anytime you have relations -- a relationship between two sovereign states we would expect that that relationship would be on the basis of a mutual trust and respect and transparency.

And with regard to fighting the production, the processing and the transit of illicit drugs, we would think that that's a good for the hemisphere. I don't think anybody argues that it's important and necessary to cooperation in fighting the spread of drugs. So I don't -- that's our agenda. And with respect to the Venezuela Government on -- their views on those subjects, you can ask them.

QUESTION: But what do you consider --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we're going to move it around.

QUESTION: -- open and transparent manner?


QUESTION: I know the U.S. is expecting that Venezuela play a cooperative role in the hemisphere. My question is, there is 1971 Convention Treaty that U.S.A. signed, forbidding acts of crimes of the assassination of leader and president. Does United States feel any obligation to take measure to prevent an assassination to President Hugo Chavez, especially with comment in broadcasting television from the United States calling for that act of terrorism? How does the United States feel about that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I will just repeat what I have said several times over --

QUESTION: I am giving you my question saying I knew how you feel about the -- to play a positive role in the hemisphere. But I'm more specifically talking about a treaty and a Convention signed for United States and all signatures in 1971 specifically in February 2 of that.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have this Convention that you're citing in front of me. I've been very clear that these comments are inappropriate. They do not represent the policy of the United States, and I would add that any accusations or any idea that we are planning to take hostile action against Venezuela or the Venezuelan Government are -- any ideas in that regard are totally without fact and baseless.

QUESTION: So you don't feel any obligation to prevent that type of act.


QUESTION: Sort of on the same subject, the Venezuelan Government has already come out and said that this would be a violation of U.S. law, prohibiting the assassination of leaders of a foreign government. Do these comments fall under -- fall under that U.S. law?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not a lawyer. You'd have to check with a lawyer on that.


QUESTION: Even though that Pat Robertson is a private citizen, does the U.S. have any concern that his suggestion will have a negative effect on your agenda in the Western Hemisphere?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't see how it would. I'm speaking on behalf of the U.S. Government right now. Pat Robertson is a private citizen. The views that I'm expressing are the views of the United States Government.


QUESTION: Have you been in contact with the Venezuelan authorities or the Embassy to assure them that this is not the view of the U.S. Government and have you been contacted?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check to see exactly what diplomatic exchanges we've had.

QUESTION: You don't know at the moment whether you've had any?

MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of our Embassy contact with the Venezuelan Government, I haven't checked on that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) reacting in Venezuela saying that these were criminal statements and that the ball was in the U.S.'s court. They see this as a test of U.S. anti-terrorism commitment and they believe that this is something the U.S. has to act on. He mentioned a double standard and saying that there was an aggressive fight in the war on terror abroad but not inside the U.S.

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I've said what I'm going to say on the matter.

QUESTION: On another issue on Venezuela, on the denial of a visa to Asia Villegas Poljak who was coming to the OAS to a meeting of women, the Inter American Commission of Women, do you have any statement on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's an issue that I'll have to look into for you. QUESTION: Do you have any contacts or efforts to reach out to Mr. Robertson to discuss his comments?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I'm not aware of any.

QUESTION: Are there any intentions to do so?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know that that would be the role of the State Department to do.

QUESTION: But if it's impacting on foreign policy in a sense that you have a foreign government reacting to the comments made by private citizens, which they're characterizing as terrorist statements, which if he were a British citizen he would have -- or a British -- living in Britain right now, he would have been deported.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're not living in Britain. And I'm not aware of any contacts.


QUESTION: Sean, new subject, on Bangladesh. Sean, according to the reports appearing in India Globe, 400 bombs in 30 minutes throughout Bangladesh. I think you or I or we have never heard any word except in a war that in a tiny country 400 bombs went simultaneously. My question is that -- or when terrorist organizations, which was banned by the U.S., has taken the responsibility for those bombs and they have links with al-Qaida network. My question is that what sort of steps do you think U.S. is taking or Bangladesh asking the U.S. to help them out to investigate all these bombings? It has been terrible -- the whole Bangladesh.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. At the time of these bombings we put out a statement condemning these acts -- these acts of terror. I know the Bangladeshi Government is working very hard to identify the individuals responsible for these acts and certainly we stand with them as they search for these individuals and ultimately hold them to account for what they've done. We work -- in general terms, we work closely with Bangladesh on matters of combating terrorism and I think that we're in full agreement on the need to fight terrorism.

As far as specific actions, those are things that I wouldn't get into from the podium.

QUESTION: I suggest to follow that what this organization is saying that they will continue these bombings and terrorism of Bangladesh until -- unless this -- Bangladesh becomes an Islamic state and they want to end the democracy in Bangladesh.

MR. MCCORMACK: We've made it very, very clear that there is no cause, there's no political agenda that justifies the use of terrorism and the killing of innocents.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Sean, can I (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Inaudible) All right. So be it.

QUESTION: Yesterday you mentioned that there was three diplomatic exchanges in the New York channel. Did you find any more information about the third one? (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: I think Ambassador Hill talked a little bit this morning about these contacts. We were in touch last week with the North Korean delegation at the UN through the New York channel about getting together for a meeting. Subsequently, Ambassador Joe DeTrani through -- in the New York channel, in the context of the six-party talks, had a meeting. And Ambassador Hill talked a little bit again, just this morning, about the fact that we would -- we hoped to get together again prior to the beginning of the second part of this round of the six-party talks with the North Korean delegation, again in the New York channel and in the context of the six-party talks.

We had a contact just yesterday to let them know. We were in touch with them again yesterday to let them know that we wanted to do that. So those are the three. There was two -- we were in touch with the North Koreans last week through the New York channel to set up a get-together between Ambassador DeTrani and their delegation. And then again this week we were in touch with them to say that we -- prior to the beginning of the next part of the six-party talks that we would want to get together via the New York channel.

Again all of this, as part of our effort to maintain contact with all the parties during this recess of this round of the six-party talks and in advance of the resumption of the talks, and we're meeting in Washington with the Chinese representatives, with the South Korean representatives and Japanese representatives. Secretary Rice is getting together with the South Korean Foreign Minister late this afternoon. I believe the meeting time is around six. So this is all part of -- within the context of the six-party talks laying, what we hope is, the diplomatic groundwork to make progress when the talks resume.

QUESTION: But just more details on what --

QUESTION: Just a quick question. The third meeting was initiated by who?

MR. MCCORMACK: It wasn't a meeting. It was -- we were in touch with them.

QUESTION: A diplomatic exchange?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. We were in touch with them to let them know that we thought it would be useful to get together before the resumption of the talks. Again, in the New York channel in the context of the six-party talks.

QUESTION: When is the Japanese meeting, you think? You said yesterday but it slipped by mind.

MR. MCCORMACK: The Japanese meeting is Thursday.

QUESTION: With Hill?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. With Assistant Secretary Hill and he's going to be meeting with Japanese Director-General Kenichiro Sasae.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: To clarify on the New York channel meeting expected to take place before next week's discussions, would that also be Ambassador DeTrani given that it's the New York channel?

MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect it would be. Yeah, that's the usual New York channel contact.


QUESTION: And the other issues from North Korea propose to the United States is a peace treaty or something like that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, the agenda of the six-party talks were focused on a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. Other issues certainly have been raised and I expect will be raised in the context of the six-party talks. But the focus right now of the six-party talks is on a denuclearized -- achieving a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

Yes. On Korea?

QUESTION: Yeah. No --

MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on North Korea?

QUESTION: Quite a bit has been made of the difference between the U.S. Administration and Mr. Ban about the idea that North Korea has a possible right to a civilian nuclear power capacity after an agreement. Well, what does the Secretary intend to tell Mr. Ban about that subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that what we've said before and I think we're on the same page as the South Korean delegation. We all share the goal of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. And certainly, our view is there's no need for a Korean nuclear program. We've made that very clear. We also support the South Korean proposal, that they have tabled in the six-party talks, to address some of North Korea's energy issues. It's a topic that they've brought up repeatedly and we thought that the South Korean proposal is a creative way to address North Korea's energy needs. And I expect that the Secretary will talk with the Foreign Minister about that, as well as other issue -- bilateral issues, U.S.-South Korean bilateral issues and issues related to six-party talks.


QUESTION: Sean, how are we on the same page if South Korea is saying they believe North Korea should be allowed to have civilian nuclear power and the U.S. is saying it shouldn't. How is that the same page?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we share the same goal of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and the --

QUESTION: Maybe your definition is different of "denuclearized" then because they've clearly come out as recently as this weekend in an interview, the Foreign Minister said they believe it's okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I think also you've seen the South Korean Government saying the same thing, that we are on the same page with respect to the six-party talks and a denuclearized peninsula and that we fully support the South Koreans -- South Korea's own proposal, which doesn't include a nuclear component to provide it energy to North Korea. And so we're certainly in agreement on that.

QUESTION: But is your understanding that South Korea would support North Korea's eventual construction of a civilian nuclear plant?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, the issue of light-water reactor, it was part of the 1994 agreed framework that agreement has gone by the wayside. And I think where everybody is focused on is how do we meet North Korea's energy needs. And we think that the South Korean proposal is certainly a creative way of addressing the issue.


QUESTION: Sean, the Nigerian Government has finally admitted to abuse, torture and killings over a period of time. You, of course, have the --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sorry, the --

QUESTION: The Nigerian Government. And you, of course, have the Annual Report -- I believe they were on Tier 2 -- and even a more severe report was that of Human Rights Watch. What comes now? Are you bringing this up with the Nigerians and also the African Union and they're really the kingpin in all this, especially as -- meaning, Nigeria -- relates to other governments.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, this certainly, you know, our speaking out on human rights both with our friends and other countries is well-known, speak out very clearly on these issues inasmuch as our issues with Nigeria, we certainly do bring them up and speak with the Nigerian Government about -- in a open and frank manner, you know, with mutual respect.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Hi. I'm (inaudible) with CTV Canadian Television. This question is regarding softwood-lumber. The Canadian Government today is considering slapping trade tariffs on U.S. exports in retaliation for American protectionism on softwood-lumber. As you know, Canada has claimed victory in WTO and NAFTA rulings. It appears that the United States with respect to softwood-lumber will only obey regulations when it suits itself. I guess, what message are you sending to your CAFTA partners by dismissing Canada's claims?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, the issue of softwood-lumber is one of longstanding discussion between the United States and Canada. There are certainly differences of approach. We're working -- we have over the years worked in good faith and closely with the Canadian Government to try to resolve this issue. As for more details and a detailed response to the question about WTO filings, I would refer you over to the U.S. Trade Representative's office.


QUESTION: Sean, one more. Sean, any comments on President of India Dr. Abdul Kalam. He said that as for CTBT concerned for India, it has lost its relevance because, one, India is for a full and complete disarmament; and second, that India will not have any first use of any nuclear weapon or arms race in the area.

What do you think that his comments on the celebration of India's 59th independence came that we are for complete disarmament?

MR. MCCORMACK: I -- well, I have not seen -- Goyal, I haven't seen the gentleman's remarks and without having seen his remarks, I'm not going to comment.

QUESTION: How about just if you can just say --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not going to -- I haven't seen the remarks; I'm not going to comment. We're going to move on.

Right. Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: New subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: New subject.

QUESTION: Middle East. The Israeli Government has told the U.S. that settlers who are withdrawn from the Gaza settlements would not be relocated in the West Bank. Now, some Israeli settlers have begun to turn up there. You know, what's the U.S. reaction to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I have not seen those reports, so I'd have to take a look at them, talk to our folks who are analyzing the situation and we'll get back to you with a response.

QUESTION: Well, as part of that, Sean, do -- I don't know if maybe you can answer it -- do you concur that the Israelis did tell the U.S. that those settlers were not being resettled --

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, let me take a look at those reports.

QUESTION: News reports.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I'll take a look at the reports. Yeah.

Yes, in the back. Yes.

QUESTION: On the Balkans, Mr. McCormack, the Prime Minister --

MR. MCCORMACK: On the Balkans?

QUESTION: The Balkans. The Prime Minister of FYROM, in Skopje, before yesterday rejected a request by the Albanians who constitute over 20 percent of the population of this country to use the Albanian language as the official one to, according to the terms of the Ohrid Agreement for which the U.S. is a signatory, too. What is the U.S. position of this issue since it has also to do with the minority rights for which the U.S. Government is very sensitive?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me -- I haven't seen those comments. Let me look into them for you.

QUESTION: Okay. And on Turkey, I have one. The Turkish Prime Minster Recep Erdogan was the first Turkish leader ever to admit that Turkey mishandled the Kurdish rebellion during a historic visit in Diyarbakir of Southeast of the country the other day, saying that democracy and not more repression is the solution to the problem, creating an outcry to the opposition and, of course, to the Turkish military establishment. How do you comment from the human rights point of view for his remarks?

MR. MCCORMACK: There is a lot in that question. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Excuse me?

MR. MCCORMACK: There is a lot in that question.

QUESTION: It's a lot.

MR. MCCORMACK: I will have to get back to you on that.

QUESTION: Sean, can you take this question?

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. All right.


QUESTION: An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman is complaining that the Iranian detainee who was released from Guantanamo was treated poorly, harassed by his jailers. Do you have any response about the treatment of the detainee in Guantanamo?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. We have -- we see these types of news stories pop up quite a bit from some of these former detainees. Let me just tell you what the reality is down in Guantanamo.

We have had a number of international visitors down there, including the ICRC, the International Committee of the Red Cross. The people who are in charge of the facility at the Department of Defense are trained to respect the rights of all the detainees down there, in accordance with our international obligations. And they are particularly sensitive to the fact that many of these detainees practice Islam and there is a great sensitivity in terms of how the Koran is handled, a great sensitivity to the need for many of these detainees to engage in prayer. Arrows are painted on the ground in the direction of Mecca, so they understand at which direction to pray. Prayer mats are often provided for them. These are just a few examples of the treatment of the detainees down there.

So again, without specifically seeing what the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said, I would differ with the characterization of how detainees at Guantanamo are treated. But for the more full explanation or exactly all the procedures and how -- and the training that goes into -- that is given to the people down there, responsible for Guantanamo, I think the Department of Defense can give you a fuller explanation of how people are treated down there.

QUESTION: And can you address how this detainee was sent back to Iran, how that was coordinated since the U.S. doesn't have diplomatic relations.

MR. MCCORMACK: I would refer you over to the Department of Defense for that.


QUESTION: Can you tell us about the conclusion that Iran did not -- that some of the material that had been detected before in Iran actually came from Pakistani equipment and also in reaction to France's announcement that the EU-3 has decided to cancel scheduled talks with Iran for August 31st?

MR. MCCORMACK: First of all, this story in The Washington Post references an IAEA report. And as I understand it, the International Atomic Energy Agency is now working on an interim report, which was called for during the last Board of Governors meeting. This report is to look at where the IAEA's investigation of Iran's nuclear weapons program stands.

And I'll get to the issue of this -- you know, this issue of the contamination of the P1-P2 centrifuges that Iran possessed. But I think we need to back up first and take a look at Iranian behavior as well. This is just one small issue in the litany of questions that remain unanswered about Iran's nuclear program. You know, I would add a nuclear program in a country that certainly has well-known energy reserves in the form of oil and gas.

So I think the first question you have to ask yourself is why the need for a civilian nuclear program in a country that is very rich in oil and gas reserves. For years, Iran denied the very existence of an enrichment program and it was only until confronted with proof to the contrary that it did admit to the IAEA that it developed its enrichment program without any external help until the -- once again, the IAEA confronted Iran with proof that they did receive external help in developing an enrichment program.

It is -- so, you know, the beginning of this story was that they said -- first of all, we don't have an enrichment program. And then well, yeah, we do have an enrichment program, but we didn't have any external help. So the very issue of contamination from a foreign source on the centrifuges, again, is I think, evidence of the fact that they are trying to mislead the IAEA and mislead the rest of the world with respect to their nuclear program. Iran also claimed that it never undertook actual tests of enrichment, using nuclear material. And guess what, same story. Once again, when confronted with proof by the IAEA, that they had, in fact, conducted such tests, they said, yeah, we did.

So you know, we have here a series of events that have demonstrated the fact that Iran has, you know, intentionally misled the IAEA and the rest of the world about the nature of their nuclear program. I mean, we still have a number of questions. You raised the question about the contamination of the centrifuges. And again, we're going to wait for the IAEA report -- the whole IAEA report -- to come out before we offer any sort of comments on it.

QUESTION: But weren't U.S. scientists involved in the assessment, as well?

MR. MCCORMACK: It is an IAEA report and. I would expect that as with any member of the IAEA, there is interest in getting to the bottom of what Iran is really up to in its nuclear program. And again, we think that they -- and we believe that they are developing -- they are pursing a nuclear weapon that, of course, you know, we would cooperate with the IAEA in their work and we would expect any other country to do so. So -- and I mention some of the other unresolved concerns, you know, outside of this issue of contamination and the centrifuges and there are a number of them.

There's still open questions about the history and scope of Iran's P1 and P2 centrifuge program and the extent of Iran's dealings with the clandestine nuclear procurement networks. There are still questions separately about their pursuit of a plutonium route to a nuclear weapon, separate from the highly enriched uranium route. There are questions about Iran's formerly secret uranium mine at (inaudible).

There are questions about whether Iran is still refusing to allow the IAEA further access to investigate suspicions about high explosives at the Parchin facility. Whether Iran is still refusing access to allow the IAEA to investigate several Iranian officials whom the IAEA believes may be involved in suspicious nuclear-related procurement. Whether Iran is addressing the IAEA's concerns about why Iran bulldozed the Lavizan facility to the ground before allowing the IAEA to visit the site. Whether Iran has provided satisfactory answers regarding its procurement interest in hot cells for the Arak heavy water reactor that would be well-suited for plutonium separation. Again, a separate track to a nuclear weapon. And whether Iran has answered the IAEA concerns about the extent of the Iranian military's role in Iran's nuclear question -- nuclear program.

These are all big questions that are still unresolved. And certainly the contamination -- we have the contamination issue. It's one part of this overall set of questions that not just the United States has, but the rest of the world has about Iran's nuclear program.

QUESTION: And what about the cancellation of talks?

MR. MCCORMACK: About the French? Again, we fully support, you know, our EU-3 partners in their efforts and we believe that Iran should abide by its Paris commitment. It has broken those commitments and we are in contact with the EU-3 on this matter.

QUESTION: So you think it's time to stop the negotiations?

MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't say that. Again, that is a decision --

QUESTION: You support them canceling --

MR. MCCORMACK: That is a decision for the EU-3. I don't think we've heard that from the EU-3. We support them in their diplomatic efforts and we're in contact with them.

QUESTION: A follow-up, please?


QUESTION: (Inaudible), do you feel that -- do you think that the United States should tell the EU that it doesn't make sense to have talks with Iran, based on what you said?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, what we're trying to do is we're working in the -- both with the EU-3 and in the multilateral setting of the IAEA. All we're trying to do is get to the truth about the Iranian nuclear weapons program. And at every turn, the Iranians obfuscate, they try to change the subject. But the focus should be on Iran's behavior. That's why we're having this discussion, not about what the EU-3 is doing or the United States is doing. It's about Iranian behavior. That's where the focus should be and it is up to Iran to answer these questions.

QUESTION: (Inaudible), which countries in your opinion are entitled to have nuclear weapons?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, there are NPT obligations and Iran under the NPT said that it would not seek nuclear weapons under cover of civilian program, which is exactly what they're trying to do.


QUESTION: Sean, throughout the -- you mentioned the EU with their negotiations with the Iranians. But the Russians are, whether overtly or covertly, began building and helping the Iranians build on these nuclear reactors, as well as there have been reports of ancillary type of weapons such as submarines and other type of infrastructure that's been sold or given to Iran. Are you in any way talking to the Russians and also possibly prodding the EU-3 to also talk with the Russians regarding this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think we have over the course of the years, been in contact with the Russians concerning the Bushehr reactor. And I think, in part, because of their own concerns and I think in part because of the discussions with us, as well as others, under their agreement with the Iranians concerning Bushehr that there is actually a fuel return provision in that agreement. So any fuel that is provided for the Bushehr reactor once it is completed is then returned to Russia. So the Iranians cannot use it as part of a fuel cycle enrichment.

QUESTION: But that's still one facility. Is there any talk to the Russians concerning maybe their involvement, whether overtly or covertly, in any other facilities as well?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything for you on that.


QUESTION: On another subject. I have a question on the negotiations over this proposed declaration for the UN summit leaders next month in New York. What's the U.S. position on the provision that calls for the international community to recognize a responsibility to protect civilians against war crimes like genocide, ethnic cleansing and so forth, if their own country is not willing or able to do something about it?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as you said, we are currently in discussions with a number of different parties, both bilaterally and up at the UN, concerning what the final document will be from this high-level event. At this point, I'm not going to get into any particular diplomatic back and forth and where we stand on any particular issues. I would just say stay tuned and we will see what the final document says.

QUESTION: Yeah. But the negotiations are going on right now. I mean, we know that what happens in Septembers is being decided right now. So --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. And those are negotiations that are going on in diplomatic channels not in the press.

QUESTION: Can we switch to Iraq Constitution?


QUESTION: Do you have anything to add on the discussions on the Iraq constitution and any special messages for the Sunnis?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think you heard earlier today from President Bush. He spoke to this issue. I think -- and you saw the statement from the Secretary yesterday about where we are in this process -- I think that what we are watching is history unfold. We are watching Iraqis from a variety of different regions and different ethnic groups, as well as religious backgrounds, pull together and come together to write a constitution that will serve as a foundation for a new, free, democratic and, we all hope, more prosperous Iraq. And what we are also seeing is a political process that is unfolding under the glare of klieg lights and 24-hour news cycles and the internet. I'd hate to think about where we might be if drafters of our constitution had to work under similar conditions.

I think that Iraq's leaders and the people drafting this constitution should be applauded for the decisions that they have taken, the way that they have conducted themselves and how they have gotten the process to this point. Not to say that there haven't been tough discussions among all the different groups.

I think that what we have seen at every turn and you heard it, I think, from the speaker of the Iraqi Transitional Assembly yesterday, about the importance of bringing all groups in, including the Sunnis, into this process. The constitution drafters came up with the draft constitution. The Transitional Assembly said that they need three more days and we think that certainly that's a statesman-like decision.

And we are also seeing, certainly, as text becomes available that this is a constitution of which the Iraqis, certainly at this point, although it's not done yet, can be proud and that those who are watching it unfold can be proud. It has protections in there for freedom of speech, freedom of religion and women's rights.

And also they're dealing with issues related to the role of religion in Iraq and those are decisions for the Iraqis to make. But I think -- just not to comment too much on where, you know, the substance of the constitution right now is -- it's not completed yet -- the process that they have gone through, to this point, is really one that has been extraordinarily inclusive and that has dealt with very tough issues -- and you have to remember, this all takes place in the context of, you know, 20 years of absolute brutality by the regime of Saddam Hussein, where the constitution wasn't worth the paper it was written on -- and working through very difficult issues, through dialogue and political bargaining, not through -- resort to force of arms or violence -- or calls to violence. So I think it really is an extraordinary process that we're all witnessing here.



QUESTION: According to Post, "Shiite and Kurdish militias often operating as part of Iraqi Government security forces, have carried out a wave of abductions, assassinations and other acts of intimidation, consolidating their control over territory across northern and southern Iraq and deepening the country's divide along ethnic and sectarian lines." How do you comment, since the U.S. forces are fighting, Mr. McCormack, and making a lot of sacrifices for a unified Iraq?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that our forces are there to work with Iraqi security forces to provide a secure, stable environment for all Iraqis. And I think that it is very clear that in any democracy there has to be one authority that governs security and that is -- and how that comes about is certainly up to that government.

But we're working very closely with the Iraqis and as their forces become more capable, I think that more and more, you're going to see them taking the lead on issues related to security and fighting any armed groups that may be on their territory.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)

DPB # 145

Released on August 23, 2005


© Scoop Media

World Headlines


North Korea: NZ Denounces Missile Test

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has denounced North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test. The test, which took place this morning, is North Korea’s third test flight of an inter-continental ballistic missile. More>>


Gordon Campbell: Zimbabwe - Meet The New Bosses

At 75, Mnangagwa is not exactly what you’d call a new broom. As many observers have pointed out, his track record has been one of unswerving dedication to Mugabe ever since the days of anti-colonial insurgency... To these guys, things had to change in Zimbabwe, so that things could remain the same. More>>