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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing September 6, 20


Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
September 6, 2005

INDEX:

INDONESIA
Statement on Plane Crash

HURICANE KATRINA
Offers of Foreign Assistance for Hurricane Relief / America
Grateful for Support
Update on Foreign Aid Pledged by Countries and International Organizations
All Offers of Support Accepted Based on Need
Coordination of Relief Efforts Between International and US Agencies
HHS Reports US Medical Community Offering Robust Response to Disaster
Visa Considerations for Victims of Katrina
US and Red Cross working to Locate Missing Foreign Nationals
Protection of Foreign Consular Offices in New Orleans
Transportation of Aid into the United States

CUBA
Cuba Offer of Hurricane General Assistance
Offer of Medical Personnel to be Evaluated Based on US Needs
Legality of Foreign Doctors Practicing in US to be Evaluated

VENEZUELA
Citgo To Work Directly with Louisiana Government on Hurricane Aid

GREECE
Offer of Hurricane Aid, Cruise Ships to Provide Shelter for Hurricane Victims

NORTH KOREA
Status of Six Party Talks / China Has Not Announced Date of Talks
Meeting between Secretary Rice and Special Envoy Jay Lefkowitz

ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Commissioner General of UNRWA, Karen Abu Zayd

EGYPT
Electoral Process / US Urges Transparency
US Technical Assistance for Elections through NGOs

ETHIOPIA
Parliamentary Election Results: US Urges Disputes to be handled
Peacefully and Democratically


TRANSCRIPT:

1:05 p.m. EDT


Daily Press Briefing Sean McCormack, Spokesman Washington, DC September 6, 2005

INDEX:

INDONESIA Statement on Plane Crash

HURICANE KATRINA Offers of Foreign Assistance for Hurricane Relief / America Grateful for Support Update on Foreign Aid Pledged by Countries and International Organizations All Offers of Support Accepted Based on Need Coordination of Relief Efforts Between International and US Agencies HHS Reports US Medical Community Offering Robust Response to Disaster Visa Considerations for Victims of Katrina US and Red Cross working to Locate Missing Foreign Nationals Protection of Foreign Consular Offices in New Orleans Transportation of Aid into the United States

CUBA Cuba Offer of Hurricane General Assistance Offer of Medical Personnel to be Evaluated Based on US Needs Legality of Foreign Doctors Practicing in US to be Evaluated

VENEZUELA Citgo To Work Directly with Louisiana Government on Hurricane Aid

GREECE Offer of Hurricane Aid, Cruise Ships to Provide Shelter for Hurricane Victims

NORTH KOREA Status of Six Party Talks / China Has Not Announced Date of Talks Meeting between Secretary Rice and Special Envoy Jay Lefkowitz

ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS Secretary Rice's Meeting with Commissioner General of UNRWA, Karen Abu Zayd

EGYPT Electoral Process / US Urges Transparency US Technical Assistance for Elections through NGOs

ETHIOPIA Parliamentary Election Results: US Urges Disputes to be handled Peacefully and Democratically

TRANSCRIPT:

1:05 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me just start by saying a few words about the plane crash in Indonesia that occurred yesterday. A hundred and forty-three people lost their lives. Others were injured in this terrible, terrible plane crash. It is a terrible tragedy for the people of Indonesia, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims and we wish a speedy recovery to those who are injured.

And with that, I'd be pleased to jump into your questions.

QUESTION: Can you talk about relief offers from foreign countries? The Secretary talked about this a bit on Sunday. I believe she mentioned three or four countries specifically. Could you expand on that at all?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. I can -- and one of the things we'll try to do is provide you some lists of countries from which we have accepted donations. There have been numerous, numerous offers. I think over 90 countries and organizations around the world have made offers of assistance to the United States and the American people in our time of need. And I think that the American people can take great heart from the fact that when we need help, when we need assistance, the world is answering the call.

Americans over the decades have been generous in our helping hand to those around the world who have needed the assistance of the American people, and I think that it is a reflection of the goodwill that the United States has built up over those years that we see this tremendous outpouring of support for the American people, and especially for those affected by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

We have received cash donations and pledges of monetary assistance from a number of countries: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, the Organization of American States, Republic of Korea, also from Sri Lanka. The Secretary has talked about that. I think that that is really quite touching. It is a $25,000 donation. But here, coming from a country that has recently suffered greatly from the tsunami and lost a number of lives and is itself in the process of rebuilding, I think that that really speaks to the goodwill of the American people in reaching out to those in need.

We also have received several large, very large, donations from Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. We have also seen donations made to the Red Cross from Australia, China, India, Ireland, Japan, Maldives, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

We have -- in terms of material support outside of the donations of cash either to the United States or to the Red Cross or other charities -- we have received helicopters from Canada and Singapore. Those are currently working on the ground in support of relief efforts. We have received meals-ready-to-eat, MREs, from Germany, Italy, Mexico and the United Kingdom. Air Canada planes have been involved, I think, since September 3rd in evacuating individuals who have been displaced as a result of the storm to other locations. And the Finnish Government has also provided logistical experts.

And we are also in the process of accepting a number of other offers from a variety of different countries. I'll give you a couple of examples:

Germany, they have specialized high-speed pumps they can be used in getting the water out of New Orleans that now is -- that offer has been accepted and we're now working with FEMA to get some more information about the specifications of the pumps and exactly how they might be used.

The Netherlands, they have expertise in levees and rebuilding levees, and that offer of assistance has been accepted as well. Certainly, there will be quite a bit of work to do in that regard.

So those are just a few examples. I don't mean to leave anybody out. There have been so many generous offers. We could just go on and on throughout the briefing. But we'll try to provide you more information in terms of some handouts as we go forward.

QUESTION: Has anybody been turned down?

MR. MCCORMACK: To my knowledge, George, we have -- any offers of support that could potentially benefit the people who have been victimized by this storm have been accepted. There is a process of matching needs with the expertise and the donations that have been made. This is going to be an ongoing process over a period of time. Certainly, based on needs and those types of things that are offered, I think that the experts will take a look at exactly what is needed now and from that list will draw -- inform countries that have made offers, let them know that we will accept -- will, in fact, accept their donation.

I think there are going to be other times when we might go back to countries and say that -- thank them for their offer and then talk to them a little bit about what exactly there are in terms of outstanding needs to see if they might be able to fill those needs. So I think it is going to be an ongoing process, George, and I think it is going to be a two-way conversation about what the needs are, what the capabilities are and what others might do.

Teri.

QUESTION: Can you talk about what you've asked for and received from the United Nations and from NATO? I think both organizations have said you requested aid from them.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. We, in fact, do have some disaster relief experts from the UN who are now working with our people from AID, Agency for International Development. Under AID there is an office called the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. These are people that, around the world, go out where there are natural disasters and help organize the aid and relief efforts.

So these people are very experienced in working with experts from the UN. And the UN experts are now starting to link up with our people from OFDA, both here in Washington and looking to deploy down to the field to help out with the survey in terms of survey activities and helping the OFDA as well as other people organize our efforts. NATO has a representative now in the AID operations center and what they -- as well as the EU, I might add. There are two representatives, one from NATO and one from the EU. Their resident teamed up with their U.S. colleagues in the operation center and what they are able to do is, they are able to, if there is a specific NATO -- I'll use the example of the MREs with NATO -- if there is a specific need, they are able to go back to their organization, put out the call for those -- that specific need and -- in an organized way and we value their assistance. This is something that NATO, very early on, offered to us and we accepted and the EU has made the same type of offering. And we're making use of their expertise.

QUESTION: The bilateral stuff you mentioned earlier, that did not go through NATO or the EU? The MREs from Germany, for example, those are bilateral --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the initial -- I mentioned the specific countries, as these organizations are made up of the specific countries. But, in some cases, some of those requests may be coordinated through NATO or coordinated through the EU. They're serving as a coordination function now, but it will be the actual nation that provides the -- you know, the expertise or the material.

Yes, Elise. We'll come back to you.

QUESTION: So when you say that no offers of aid that will support the people have been rejected or would be rejected, are you saying that there are absolutely no political considerations in terms of whether you would accept any offers of aid? And if you could speak about this supposed offer from Cuba to send about a thousand doctors? There seems to be some discrepancy as to whether they made the offer directly to the government.

MR. MCCORMACK: I understand that there are numerous offers and there are a lot of countries that want to help. And the process through -- by which we arrive at what we need, what's needed out in the field, that's done by experts. What we are doing as a government and our function here at the State Department, to help coordinate with FEMA as well as other U.S. Government agencies, is to see what the American people need, to see what these people who have been affected by the hurricane need. That is our criterion.

And in terms of Cuba, I understand that there has been an offer of medical personnel. I think that that it is an offer, along with some other offers of medical personnel, that we will continue to take a look at. I will say after talking to some of my colleagues at the Health and Human Services Agency, which is really the central point for organizing these efforts in the United States Government along with DHS, there has been a robust response from the American medical community in terms of medical supplies, in terms of medical professionals, doctors, nurses, as well as public health officials.

I think if you talk to HHS, and they will have the most up-to-date figures, that they now have -- they are now in the process of getting people out to those centers to which people have been evacuated. I think the HHS now -- it has a call-in line, it has website, a website line, where they put out a call for medical professionals here in the United States. And I think that they have had some 12,000 applications. So right now, I think if you talk to HHS, they have seen a robust response from the American medical community in terms of getting people to the places where they need to go.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: So, Sean, it sounds to me as if you're saying that perhaps medical professionals in the United States can cope with this and --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I'm not saying that. What I'm trying to do is describe for you the facts of what the response is, what the response has been.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: And in terms of the international offers of assistance, our criterion is what's needed. This going to be an ongoing process. You're going to have -- you know, for instance, we'll use the example of medical professionals. You have an initial response now where people are working around the clock to help these people who have been affected and you're going to need more people to come in and follow on after them. So again, this is a process that's being managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with the states, the local officials, with FEMA, with DHS.

And I'm just trying to describe the facts for you as they are right now.

QUESTION: I understand that HHS is dealing with this, but you are the agency that gets in contact with foreign governments and foreign countries. So then how about the issue of licensing and certification of medical personnel in the United States? I mean, for anybody from overseas to come in and work as a doctor, would, you know, would the United States accept that without certification?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, those are questions that the relevant federal officials, HHS and DHS, are going to have to answer for you.

QUESTION: I understand this. But you, as a Department, as a liaison between these agencies and foreign countries, you don't know the answer to that question, whether foreign medical --

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I'm not an expert in medical licensing, so I'm not going to get up here and try to run through the rules and regulations for you. I think it would be best to go to the people who can run through chapter and verse for you on those issues to answer those questions.

What I'm trying to lay out for you is the fact that there are needs. There are needs, and as needs are identified, certainly, if they can be filled from the international offers of assistance, that is something that we have and will go back to foreign countries to try to meet.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on Cuba?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Sean, I actually have just one more. I'm sorry to -- if these people -- have you thought about the issue of visas and what kind of visas these people will get? Will they be working visas? Because we know there is a cap on work visas in this country? So have you -- has CA or someone else in the Department thought about visa issues?

MR. MCCORMACK: Our people in Consular Affairs have been deeply involved in a number of different visa issues from, you know, getting in air crews to students who were here under U.S. grants to study. And we have been working very closely with DHS on making sure that people aren't disadvantaged because of this disaster in either trying to help out or trying to continue in doing what they originally came to the United States to do; in this case, the example I gave, education, so they're not disadvantaged in that way. And our CA people, if there are any issues that come up, they're going to work with DHS on them.

Yes.

QUESTION: I'd like to go back to Cuba for a second. Did the Cuban Government directly make a request of -- to send these doctors to the United States? Has the State Department been in touch through the Interests Section there or here? Do you consider this a legitimate offer or do you consider Castro just going in front of the cameras and making the offer to be him grandstanding?

MR. MCCORMACK: I believe we have received an offer of general assistance from the Cuban Government. As I said, we've received offers of assistance from 90-plus countries and organizations. I am getting a lot of questions about Cuba here and certainly that is -- you know, I understand the reason for that. But let's not narrow this down to one country. We have 90-plus offers of assistance from around the world and I certainly don't want to obscure the real generosity of people and governments and organizations around the world. So anyway, I just wanted to make that point.

QUESTION: I understand that, but you didn't answer the question. If you could, are there any political considerations being made yet on accepting of aid or any country, regardless of the relationship that the United States has with that country, if the particular good or service or money or anything is -- would be needed, will that be accepted or are there political concerns?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I think I did answer that question. And I think what I responded to you is that the -- or maybe it was Nicholas -- that the criterion that we're using here is what are the needs, and matching needs with capabilities and offers of assistance.

Yes.

QUESTION: Excuse me. One more on Cuba. I just -- has there been any back and forth between our governments about it? You said that, you know, there is a Cuban offer. Has the Interests Section, for instance, engaged in dialogue with them in any way about it?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have the details of any sort of back and both.

Yes. Charlie.

QUESTION: Well, as long as we're on the specifics, even though you don't want to go there. Last week we were asking about the offer from Venezuela. And secondly, we were asking about the offer from Russia about a helicopter that was loaded -- already loaded on some big cargo plane and hadn't moved off the tarmac. Do you have any updates on either of those?

MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of Venezuela, let me -- I'll get back to you with a specific answer, Charlie. But I believe that Citgo, which is a subsidiary of the Venezuelan National Oil Company, is working directly with the Louisiana State Government on some sort of response in aiding the people who have been affected by the hurricane and its aftermath. And let me get back to you to see if there are any more details on that, as well as the Russian helicopter.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any updates on the foreign nationals missing in the region? How many requests did you receive to this date? About how many countries called you about people missing? Do you have that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have an update in terms of the specific countries, the number of specific countries. I do know that -- and this is a number that is constantly moving so I'm, you know, not going to get into specific numbers. But I think that what's happening is a process of narrowing down the number of people who have not had contact either with their family, friends or with their government.

The process that the State Department plays in this right now is we are -- we work on one side with the governments who may have some people missing or thought to be missing in the area. And we assemble that -- we assemble that list and we work with other U.S. Government agencies, whether it's the military or state or health officials or DHS or FEMA, to try to locate those individuals. So we serve as an intermediary in this process, helping to facilitate the flow of information back to host governments.

We also work with the Red Cross on this issue. As you heard the Secretary this morning, she encouraged those foreign nationals who may be in the United States and for one reason or another, certainly understandable, haven't been able to contact their friends or their family or their embassy or a consulate, to contact them; or failing that, to get in touch with an official from the Red Cross. The International Committee for the Red Cross is a well established international tracking system for these types of situations where there may be people overseas who are in search of friends or loved ones and they do actually -- you can -- they do have a running list of those who have had some contact either with them or with the government saying that they're okay. And people overseas who are worried about their loved ones or friends can look at that, look at that website list.

We have several people on the ground working this issue right now, including Ambassador Joe Sullivan, who was our Diplomat-in-Residence at Tulane University. So he's on the ground now. We're going to headquarter our operations in Baton Rogue, Louisiana to help out on the issue of foreign nationals who were in the area and try to help locate them.

We also have a responsibility -- treaty responsibility under -- to help protect any consulates or missions that may have been in New Orleans -- I think there are nine -- and also to coordinate our efforts with respect to the New Orleans Passport Agency.

So we have people on the ground now. They're down there. They're establishing their headquarters in Baton Rogue.

QUESTION: You cannot evaluate the number of people missing, to your knowledge?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't want to get into numbers right now.

QUESTION: Would it be hundreds or thousands?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we're talking in the hundreds. In the hundreds.

Yes, Louie.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. (inaudible) aid or requests from these foreign countries or organizations? Because I thought I saw a report that the U.S. had actually reached out to the EU for aid. Is that accurate?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think there was a conversation. I can't say who picked up the phone first. But we appreciate their support.

QUESTION: So have there been occurrences where the U.S. has actually reached out to other countries saying we want your help?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, part of this is what I described with George. It's an ongoing conversation. You have an offer of assistance and, you know, we might get back to them and say, well, this is -- these are the current needs, if it's something you want to consider.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more on the EU?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: The EU is saying that there had been some kind of transportation problems and logistics issues about the aid that has already been accepted that is trying -- they're trying to get it to the United States. Could you speak a little bit about that? Have there been problems? And are you willing -- the U.S. is apparently -- the EU is asking why they can't just use U.S. bases like Ramstein or something like that to get the aid through. Is that something you're going to allow them to --

MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of the use of military bases overseas, you would have to talk to DOD about it. In terms of any sort of logistical issues, certainly people are working through those things. This is a difficult environment to operate in. I don't -- if there's a specific instance, I'm happy to look into that for you. But I know, for instance, today there is a scheduled flight from France that's supposed to arrive in the United States with material like tents and food and soap and those sorts of items. I know there is a ship from Mexico that is scheduled to dock tomorrow. So things are flowing in. We've had a plane come in from Germany to Pensacola. So things are flowing in. If there are logistical issues, certainly, we will work to resolve them. But, you know, again, this is -- it's a difficult environment.

QUESTION: Sean, I'd like to go back to Cuba for one minute.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: I'm still not clear. If I understood you correctly, you said that a general offer of assistance has been made by Cuba, but Castro has actually gone on television claiming that he's offered, I think, upwards of a thousand Cuban physicians to come. Are you aware -- is that part of this general offer of assistance that you're --

MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen the news reports, obviously. I think what I have listed is a general offer of assistance, but certainly we're aware of the offer of physicians from -- certainly, at least from the news reports.

QUESTION: You're aware, but it has not been -- as far as you're concerned, it hasn't been made through the proper channels, the official channels --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, that's not what I'm saying. Certainly, what I have -- the information that I have is a general offer, a general offer of assistance. We're aware of the offer of -- certainly aware of the offer of physicians. People in the building here are aware of the offer of physicians.

Yes.

QUESTION: Any response from Greece?

MR. MCCORMACK: There has been. They have offered -- there have been a number of private and individual offers. There has also been an offer of some cruise ships that would be docked off -- either off the coast or in a port to provide shelter for those people who have been displaced. That offer has been accepted and they're working to get those ships to the right place now.

QUESTION: One follow-up? In the European Union, as the European Union, did they respond?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a European Union organizational response for you.

Samir.

QUESTION: There is a report that Iran is offering or offered to contribute 20 million barrels of oil. Can you confirm that or --

MR. MCCORMACK: No. We haven't received any direct contact from the Iranian Government with an offer.

Yes.

QUESTION: You talked about the need for pumps down there and you suggested that the number of medical personnel available here is adequate. Do you have a list of things that you are looking for in terms of foreign donations?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what we have, we operate off of what DHS and FEMA have listed as their needs and that's something that's changing every single day. For these larger items like the pumps, it's, I think, going to be an ongoing need. But that list is -- it's probably going to be different next week than it is today. So it's constantly updated. We are lashed up with FEMA and DHS, and if there are any outstanding offers or capabilities that we can match up with those needs, certainly we'll try to get them there.

QUESTION: Are you saying you don't have the latest list?

MR. MCCORMACK: As we speak, George, probably since I came out here, it's changed in terms of lists changing. That's the way this process is working.

QUESTION: Is that a secret list or can we have a copy of that? I mean, is it on the -- is it unclassified --

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll try to -- we will keep you updated as best we can, Nicholas.

QUESTION: Just outof curiosity, you didn't mention it -- anything from Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't --

QUESTION: Or Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: On Iran, I've just answered the question.

QUESTION: Sorry. I'm sort of thinking through the State Sponsors of Terrorism list and you've got Cuba --

QUESTION: And Saddam.

MR. MCCORMACK: That's right.

QUESTION: And North Korea, while you're at it.

MR. MCCORMACK: I can tell you no on North Korea. Syria -- we'll look through the list. I don't have anything from Syria.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

QUESTION: Oh, no.

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, no. We are not finished with this.

QUESTION: Oh, what about China?

MR. MCCORMACK: China, yes. I went through China.

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: Any (inaudible) Africa, like Egypt or Sudan?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have -- I'll give you one example -- two examples: Djibouti, $50,000 in cash; Gabon, $500,000. That's just a quick review of the list here.

QUESTION: Is it the --

MR. MCCORMACK: We're going to try to -- we're going to work to get out some of this information for you, kind of in an informal way.

Yes.

QUESTION: Sean, I think you've been over this in previous briefings, but it's becoming more obvious as we get more of these offers in. What about the countries that are such heavy recipients of U.S. aid? Do they -- I don't know, do they really have money to spare, Afghanistan, to give it back? What are you doing about countries that are heavily subsidized by the United States offering back money? It's a generous offer and, you know, a great moral support. But does that make any sense to take back money that you're giving them?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think what we do is we accept these offers in the spirit in which they are given.

Yes, Nicholas.

QUESTION: Sean, we all saw these images last week on TV and the whole world saw them. Do you have any concerns in terms of public diplomacy about this and have you instructed posts around the world to have perhaps ambassadors or other officers go out on TV and explain what actually happened, talk about the response that is now being -- that is happening in the United States that we hear stories about -- the high spirits of volunteers in the Houston and all that? Are you doing anything on that front?

MR. MCCORMACK: What we're trying to do is keep the field -- our embassies and missions abroad updated with the best information that we can provide from here in terms of what the United States Government is doing on behalf of those affected in the United States. This is -- I would expect that this is part of what our public affairs/public diplomacy people overseas would do as a matter of course on any issue of international interest and certainly one that is unfolding in the United States.

George.

QUESTION: Can I ask about Cuba? Do I get your permission for me to ask about Cuba?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm happy to stand up here and answer your questions.

QUESTION: I have other countries I'm dying to ask about, but I just happen to have one about Cuba.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: They have repeatedly turned down U.S. offers of humanitarian assistance for various problems they've had over the years. And by the way, so has Venezuela, once that I'm aware of, turned down an offer U.S. flood relief assistance six years ago. Does this influence in any way the U.S. recommendation to the agencies that make these decisions, whether or not they have rejected U.S. offers of assistance in the past?

MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of what -- coming to decisions?

QUESTION: In terms of whether the U.S. accepts these offers. Will the fact that they have rejected U.S. offers of humanitarian assistance in the past, does that influence U.S. thinking about whether or not to accept their offers?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think in the case of Venezuela, I know that they are making -- they have made an offer and, in part, they have been directed to the State of Louisiana --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: To offer --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: All right. But Venezuela (inaudible) goes well beyond that.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. And as I said, in terms of any other details of the offer and parts of it has already been accepted, we'll get you the details. I don't have them here with me right now.

Look, you know, in terms of the criterion, the criterion is: What are their needs and how best can we meet the needs that exist out there? And if the best way to meet those needs that exist is from international offers of assistance, we have been -- we have gratefully accepted many, many offers from around the world. And I expect that to continue.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: So, finally, can I change the subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. You'll have to ask your colleagues for permission and see if it's okay. (Laughter.) All right. So granted.

QUESTION: On six-party talks. Do you have any announcement for the schedule?

MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of a date, we would hope to return at the earliest possible moment. If that date is next week, we are prepared to return next to the six-party talks. As of yet, the Chinese Government has not announced a final date for those talks. I know the North Koreans and others have talked about a date next week, and certainly if it is next week, we will be prepared and ready to roll up our sleeves and work to make progress in these discussions.

QUESTION: So there is a report that North Korea said the 13th --

MR. MCCORMACK: That was one the countries I was referring to.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Can you explain Secretary Rice's meeting with Jay Lefkowitz, the Special Envoy to North Korea, this morning?

MR. MCCORMACK: Actually, it was his -- it was Jay's first day here in the building. He's going to be spending some time in the building over the couple -- in the next couple of months. I expect that he'll also be traveling in his new capacity. The Secretary wanted to take some time to meet with him to talk a little bit about his plans, talk a little bit about her expectations and to express her personal support for what he is going to be doing. And this is a position that is mandated by law, but I think it also reflects the commitment of the President as well as this Secretary of State to the issue of human rights.

QUESTION: Will he work in the State Department on daily basis or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't expect him to be here on a daily basis, but I expect him to be here in the Department frequently, as well as traveling in his role as special envoy.

Yes.

QUESTION: On the (inaudible) tragedy, any offer from Turkey? Seeing if it's on the list?

MR. MCCORMACK: Turkey; we'll get back to you on that.

Yes, Michel.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice has met today with the Commissioner General of UNRWA, Karen Abu Zayd. Do you have anything on that meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: They had a good meeting. It lasted, I think, about half an hour or so. They discussed the current situation in the region. The Secretary asked for her thoughts about Gaza withdrawal and how she's also working with Mr. Wolfensohn on his part -- issues related to Gaza withdrawal. They had -- I would say they had a good discussion.

QUESTION: Can -- do you have any reaction to Israel's finalization, I guess, of plans to add 117 dwellings to the Ariel settlement?

MR. MCCORMACK: Our views on that issue are well known.

QUESTION: Have they been expressed recently?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, they have been. Yes, they have been. Yes.

QUESTION: Recently to the Israeli Government?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, they have been. Yes.

QUESTION: There was again, an incident; a young Palestinian was killed by Israeli troops apparently in the south-- the Gaza territory. Is it a good sign for --

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me look into the specifics of that incident for you.

Yes.

QUESTION: A follow-up on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: You said that your views have been recently expressed to the Israeli Government. Have you expressed any kind of consequences that could be taken into account if Israel does not halt these expansions of the settlements?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we have had -- we have had -- we have an ongoing discussion on this as well as other issues with Israel. It's a close friend and I'm not going to get into the content of those diplomatic exchanges.

Yes.

QUESTION: Still on this. Has Secretary Rice or -- what is the highest-level exchange between U.S. and Israeli officials to date, for example? Do you know?

MR. MCCORMACK: To date, I think that --

QUESTION: I mean, has Secretary Rice made any phone calls today?

MR. MCCORMACK: She has not made any phone calls today.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: On the eve of the presidential elections in Egypt, what are the expectations in Washington regarding these elections?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we will see how the actual election process unfolds. It has been ongoing for several weeks. There has been a campaign underway. I think it has been a positive step that we have multiparty elections in Egypt. In terms of the process, the process is not yet completed. There's election day and there's also the ballot counting yet to go. I think as a general rule, in terms of the electoral process and election day and balloting, we encourage the greatest possible transparency.

And I think that we have called for international monitors, for Egypt to accept international monitors. I don't believe that there is a formal international monitoring mechanism in Egypt. I think that certainly that has been something we expressed concern to the Egyptian Government about. But in terms of the entire election -- the entire election process, I think we'll wait to see how exactly it unfolds. But we would, I think, as a general statement, hope that the Egyptian Government builds on what it is -- what has occurred in this presidential election for the next elections, the parliamentary elections coming up this fall.

QUESTION: Sean, do you feel that you can really see what unfolds without any international observers there?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I think there is still some --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: I think there are still some questions about domestic observers, what exactly their role will be. And the press, I think, is going to be there as well. We're going to be talking to Egyptians through -- in all walks of life, in civil society as well as political parties, for their views as well on how the election process unfolded.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: About Ethiopia? Recently --

QUESTION: One more on Egypt?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Sorry to interrupt. Are you aware of any U.S. organizations having helped with training or anything else -- Egyptian NGOs or press organizations -- with how to -- what to do during an election campaign on election day?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think there have been -- there are some organizations funded by the U.S. Government: IRI, you know, National Endowment for Democracy and others who have a presence in Egypt. And certainly that is -- that's positive. It's part of the development of Egypt's political system as it becomes more open, as it becomes more transparent.

In the future, I think, part of that is a greater international involvement. The United States has had election monitors for our last presidential election. Countries around the world have election monitors. It is a step that is commonly accepted practice. It is positive. It helps ensure that election processes meet international standards. It's all part of what democracies around the world do.

QUESTION: Have you made any last-ditch attempts to make them change their mind? Has the Ambassador gone in? Anything like that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't speak to the Ambassador's most recent meeting but I think we've made our views pretty clear on this -- made them known pretty clearly on this.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Recently, the opposition parties are trying to engage the public to discuss if they have to draw in the parliament or not. But Ethiopian Government banned such kind of discussion. Do you have anything on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: And this is in Ethiopia?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: We urge all parties to continue to resolve any disputes or challenges to the results through existing legal channels. We expect all political parties to work through any future phases of this process, including the formation of a new government, in a peaceful, transparent and democratic manner.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Deputy for Assistant Secretary Matt Bryza was in Athens for talks. Do you have anything on that? Any readout?

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

QUESTION: Can you take the question?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, if there's anything that we can offer from here, I'll certainly keep you up to date on that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Go back to North Korea. Is there going to be any bilateral meeting between U.S. and North Korea prior to the start of the next session six-party talks?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's get a date for the talks first before we start talking about the bilateral contacts in the context of the six-party talks.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:45 p.m.)

DPB # 152

Released on September 6, 2005

ENDS


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