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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing October 20, 2005


Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 20, 2005

INDEX:

AFGHANISTAN
Allegations Regarding Conduct of US Soldiers in Afghanistan
Ongoing Investigation into Allegations
Such Incidents Not Reflective of Military or US Values
Department's Instructions to US Embassies to Engage on Issue
Impact of Allegations on Under Secretary Hughes' Travel

LEBANON
Mehlis Report Regarding Assassination of Former Lebanese Prime
Minister Hariri Delivered to UN Secretary General

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
President Bush's Meeting with Palestinian President Abbas
Parties' Obligations Under the Roadmap
US Assistance to the Palestinian Authority
General Ward's Schedule / Whereabouts
US View Regarding Hamas Participation in Elections

MIDDLE EAST
Secretary Rice's Comments Yesterday on Encouraging Development of
Democratic Institutions in the Middle East

PAKISTAN
US Assistance to Pakistan for Earthquake Relief Operations
International Community's Efforts / Assistance

AZERBAIJAN
Assistant Secretary Fried in Azerbaijan
Election Process in Azerbaijan

MISCELLANEOUS
Avian Flu Outbreaks and Prospects for US Travel
Advisory/Warnings

VENEZUELA
President Chavez's Allegations Regarding US Intentions Toward Venezuela

GEORGIA
Firing of Georgian Foreign Minister

CHINA/TAIWAN
Former Taiwan President's Comments Regarding Taiwan's Official Name


TRANSCRIPT:

12:39 p.m. EDT


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

Mr. Gedda.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the events involving U.S. troops in Afghanistan?

MR. MCCORMACK: The Department of Defense has put out a statement concerning this television broadcast of some events that occurred in Afghanistan. From our point of view, these are very serious allegations and if true, very troublesome. And I believe that the authorities in Afghanistan from our U.S. Central Command have already put out a statement that said that the Army Criminal Division has already initiated an investigation. That investigation will follow the facts wherever they may lead. And if there is, in fact, wrongdoing that was found then those who are responsible for that wrongdoing will be held to account.

I'd also like to make a few other points concerning the role of our military and the rules and regulations that govern our military. Department of Defense has said that it is the policy of the United States to treat all remains consistent with the Geneva Convention and with the utmost respect. Our military personnel receive clear instructions to this effect. Also I would just like to point out that we should not let the -- I'll say "alleged" actions because there is an ongoing investigation here -- but the actions of a few to in any way obscure the work of our military and the values that that military represents. I would just point to one example in the region where you have members of our military who are providing evacuation helicopter flights and delivery of humanitarian aid to those affected in Pakistan by the recent earthquakes.

So again, what we see in this videotape is not at all reflective of the values of the military or of the United States.

Yes.

QUESTION: Have U.S. missions in the region been making any proactive effort to make sure that something doesn't -- that reaction doesn't happen like it did when we saw these allegations of Koran abuse and other matters like that?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have gone out to our embassies around the world with instructions to engage on this issue to make clear that, again, what people might see in this videotape are not at all reflective of the actions of the vast majority of our U.S. military as well as they are not reflective of our values, as well.

QUESTION: Have you seen any evidence of a backlash yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: I have not had an opportunity to monitor in depth the foreign media.

QUESTION: Do you think this will make more difficult the mission of Under Secretary Hughes, which I think is beginning tonight in Indonesia?

MR. MCCORMACK: She is in the region and I think certainly Under Secretary Hughes is fully prepared to address this issue on her trip. Look, these are difficult issues and those are, you know, I saw the news reports and the video myself. These are very difficult images to see. I can only emphasize the fact that, again, this kind of alleged behavior does not reflect the values of the United States or the values of our military and I think that you'll hear the same thing from our Department of Defense. But again, I have to emphasize that there is an ongoing investigation into this, so we will find out exactly what all the facts are.

Yes.

QUESTION: I understand that you say that it's not reflective of the values of the United States or of the military, however, this is one in a series of, if true -- I know you're still doing the investigation, but -- one in a series of incidents where there hasn't been -- where these values have not been reflected. You have Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, this alleged treatment of the Koran. Is there any thought being given to the fact that while the U.S. military leadership and the Administration has certain values that the Administration wants to uphold, that people in the field aren't following that and maybe you need more cultural sensitivity training for cultures around the world.

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that, you know, again, I'm not going to try to lump these various incidents that you did together.

QUESTION: Why not, though? I mean, they're all symptomatic of a certain lack of respect for culture, don't you think?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think these are -- no, absolutely not. I think that what you have in each of these incidents and again and the latest one, this is still a matter under investigation. You have the actions and then in this case potential actions of a few individuals that are not at all representative of the actions of the vast majority, not only of our military, but all of our diplomatic -- but all of our representation abroad. Again, I think that if you look back over the history of our military interventions overseas over the past -- the past decade or so, you will see that the United States has acted to liberate and defend Muslims around the world, whether that's in Bosnia or Kosovo or Kuwait or Iraq or Afghanistan.

And in terms of providing humanitarian aid, I pointed out the example of Pakistan where our military is working on the ground to provide humanitarian relief to those in an hour of need. So again, I think that -- I'm not going to try to take the actions of a few individuals and try to make a sweeping generalization about the behavior of the vast majority of the people who are representing and working on behalf of the United States Government overseas. I just think that's unfair.

QUESTION: Well, no one is negating the fact that you, over the United States history have, you know, sought to liberate Muslims. And I mean, I'm not making a sweeping judgment about everybody in the military or in the U.S. -- in the United States about the Muslim world and that the U.S. hasn't been very generous. But I'm saying that, if you look at several incidents, yes, there are isolated, there are a few, but there are a few here and there are a few there and there are a few there. And at what point do you start to say, you know what, we might have a problem, a culture within the people in the field that they're not upholding the values of this country?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, because of the sort of speed of the media cycle, you see that these images get replayed over and over and over again. But again, that is still only reflective of the actions of a few individuals. What you're not seeing on a daily basis are our troops working with civilians in Afghanistan, with civilians in Iraq to try to help them rebuild a better life for their -- rebuild their countries and build a better life for themselves, whether that's in providing security for them or helping them open up schools or helping them rebuilt their infrastructure. Those are the things you don't necessarily see played over and over and over again on the TV. But that's in fact, reflective of the vast majority of what our diplomats as well as what our military are doing overseas.

Yes, Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, the Secretary on --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll come back to you. I'll come back to you.

QUESTION: The Secretary on Wednesday in testifying to Congress said she wouldn't rule out Syrian or Iranian attacks. And it's been reported by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette this morning that U.S. forces have followed insurgents into Syria and have engaged with the Syrian army. And apparently Syrians, as we've seen, have not cooperated in Lebanon and/or in Iraq and they've harbored both terrorists and given sanctuary to them. And you've repeatedly been saying that something's got to give. We don't have the best of relations with Syria. What comes next?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think, Joel, the Secretary covered this in depth during repeated questions in her testimony yesterday and I don't have anything to add to it.

Yes, Charlie.

QUESTION: I want to go back to what you said and I don't have the exact language, but you said that you've asked embassies to go out and engage on this, I believe. Can you describe what you mean by that more precisely and can you address whether or not that's part of Under Secretary Hughes's rapid reaction team or whatever --

MR. MCCORMACK: What it means is if again there are these stories in sort of media markets around the world, we want to make sure that people understand that what they may read about or what they may see on their television sets, again, is not representative of the actions of our military or diplomats overseas.

We think it's important to provide, you know, provide that context and to help people understand that in the cases where you do have these incidents that these incidents are investigated, they're investigated thoroughly, they're investigated in a transparent manner. And if there are those who are found to have engaged in wrongdoing, that they are held to account for their behavior.

And as for whether or not this is part of our rapid response efforts, I think that we have seen from experience over the past few years that it's very important to take these issues head on, wherever they may arise around the world so that people understand what it is that they may be reading about or what it is that they may be seeing on their television and put it in context.

Yes.

QUESTION: To follow-up on that. Are you saying, then, you're putting out talking points? Are you expecting people to go on television, do interviews with radio, television, anyone in the region area or --

MR. MCCORMACK: What I'm saying is we're providing people the information that they need in order to answer any questions that may arise in the media markets about this.

QUESTION: And what kind -- what would that be? Would that be --

MR. MCCORMACK: The same sort of engagement that I'm having here with you. We want to make sure that in case people do get questions on this issue, in case the issue does arise that people are informed and they understand the context in which this is all occurring.

QUESTION: But doesn't (inaudible) in the embassy know that message already?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, I mean, that's part of our job in Washington here is if you have somebody who is an embassy overseas it may not necessarily be in Afghanistan, that they understand exactly what it is that has happened, what the military is doing.

Yes.

QUESTION: About the video and what you've seen there.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Right.

QUESTION: Are you looking at stepping up any travel warnings?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't believe we have issued any new travel warnings. Of course, our Consular Affairs people working with other people in the building are constantly reviewing the status of travel warnings and whether or not there are any changes that are needed. I believe that we probably have a fairly robust travel warning with regard to Afghanistan. If there are any changes to that, we'll let you know.

Yes, Luis.

QUESTION: Have you heard from any other countries and any contacts regarding this incident?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any. I'm not aware of any.

QUESTION: Not the Afghan Government in particular?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have been -- well, we have been in contact, obviously, with the Afghan Government on the issue.

Yes.

QUESTION: Change of subject.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: The Mehlis report was handed over today. I wonder whether Secretary Rice had received a copy and whether you'd had a change yet to have a look at it?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nope. No. In terms of whether or not it is the -- Mr. Mehlis has delivered the report to the Secretary General, Annan that will come out of the UN. We have not received a copy of it. And what will happen is we -- I expect that we will receive a copy over the coming days; I don't know exactly when. We'll take a look at it, and as I said, you know, in consultation with members of the Security Council as well as other interested parties. Based on what it is contained in the report, we'll have a discussion about whether any additional steps, any additional actions, if any, are warranted by the report. But the first step is to see what Mr. Mehlis has in this report.

And I expect -- one additional point -- I expect that this is actually what they refer to as a technical report. I think you might also refer to it as an interim report; it's not the final report.

QUESTION: Does this mean that you agree with an extension of Mr. Mehlis's mandate for another three months?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we'll take a look at the report and see where we are. Once we have had an opportunity to look at the report, I'll try to share what our reaction is to the report with you.

QUESTION: As for the extension specifically, I believe they've asked for an extension.

MR. MCCORMACK: And I think Secretary General Annan and others have spoken to this. We'll take a look at what steps, if any, in the Security Council are warranted by the report and where we stand in the investigation.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: In the investigation of the UN Oil-for-Food, a Virginia oil trading company, Midway Trading in Reston, Virginia, has pleaded guilty to grand larceny and kickbacks to Iraq under that program. Do you have anything on that?

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

Yes.

QUESTION: President Abbas was today at the White House and he spoke rather clearly about the participation of all movements in Palestinian territory in the elections. It means that Hamas will participate; they said it already several times. And when there was no reaction from the U.S. parts, does it mean that U.S. agrees with Hamas participation in the election?

MR. MCCORMACK: In our -- you know, this is a question that has come up before. You know, our position hasn't changed. The position of the Quartet hasn't changed with regard to the question of armed groups, terrorist organizations operating outside of the rule of law. We have been very clear in our view that Hamas is a terrorist organization; that hasn't changed. I think if you look back at the most recent statement of the Quartet, the Quartet as a group, reaffirmed the idea that there cannot be armed groups that operate outside of the rule of law. That is something that we have said for some time.

It is also -- from our perspective, it is also the case that how the Palestinian political process unfolds and evolves is a question for the Palestinian people. And I think that President Abbas is at the forefront, saying that there can only be one rule, one gun and one authority. And you heard he and President Bush speak just a short while ago in the Rose Garden and talk about the fact that President Abbas was elected on a platform of bringing peace and security to the Palestinian people. And we are working with him and other members of the Palestinian Authority to see that the Palestinian Authority is able to live up to its obligations under the roadmap. Those obligations are that they not only have to stop acts of terrorism and violence, but they have to act to dismantle terrorist groups.

So to assist with that, General Ward and his successor, who will be named, has been working with the Palestinian Authority to increase the capabilities of the Palestinian Authority security forces. That's very important so that they are able to help the Palestinian Authority live up to their obligations on the roadmap, as well as to enforce their own rules and regulations. President Abbas recently issued, where there was a law recently passed by the Palestinian Authority that there can be no displays of -- no armed displays in mass demonstrations. You know, that was directed at -- that was directed primarily at Hamas and other Palestinian rejectionist groups, so we're going to continue working with the Palestinian Authority on that.

QUESTION: Yes, but before this meeting the Israeli sides said that there were hoping that President Bush would push on the Palestinian leader for Hamas not to participate in this election and we didn't' hear any pushing from President Bush. Does it mean there is a softening of the position?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. As I said, our position has not changed on that.

Yes.

QUESTION: President Abbas said that after this meeting with President Bush, he was more confident that they can get the roadmap back on track and move forward on a solution. Is the United States also more confident after this meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: That we will be able to move the --

QUESTION: Now that things are going to move forward and get security coordination, for example, back on track?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of any readouts that President Bush has made, I think the White House is going to handle that. I think that we are confident that President Abbas, working with the Israelis, working with other interested parties, including the United States and the Quartet, is committed to achieving the goals outlined in the roadmap -- the ultimate goal being Palestine and Israel living side-by-side in peace and security. There are a lot of steps that both sides need to achieve in order to get to that ultimate goal.

I think that as you heard President Bush say in the Rose Garden, that what is now before the two parties and there rest of the world, there's an opportunity. You have an opportunity in the wake of a, I think, what most would term as successful Gaza withdrawal process, in which the two sides worked together. There's an opportunity there to build up trust and we encourage those continuing contacts along all levels, up and down the chain between the Israelis and the Palestinians because ultimately it would be that foundation of trust that will allow them to address and resolve the very difficult issues that we all know are before them if they are going to be moving forward. So I think that we do have a sense that the parties are committed to achieving the goals outlined in the roadmap and that we would hope and we encourage the two parties to seize the opportunities that exist because of a successful Gaza withdrawal process.

Move around. Nicholas, you haven't had one. I don't know. Farah, did you have the same --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: I noticed that President Bush signed a waiver a couple weeks ago, the same waiver to give direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority. A couple months ago I checked into this and assistance was earmarked but it hadn't gone through the pipeline. Can you tell us how much money has actually got -- you know, has money started actually moving?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you. I don't have those figures right in front of me.

Anything else on this topic? Luis.

QUESTION: The President said that he's going to be choosing a new coordinator or announcing the coordinator. When he did so, he said that there would be an enhanced mission.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Could you elaborate on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that we will do is we'll wait until we actually have the person announced and then we'll talk a little bit more about what exactly -- what role exactly that person is going to play. But I think the baseline mission that General Ward has really -- that was outlined for him and that he really was able to develop because of his ability to win the trust and confidence of both sides is one that's going to continue. But we'll have more for you on this in the coming days, as President Bush said.

QUESTION: General Ward won't go back; is that right? He's here now? Completed?

MR. MCCORMACK: He's here now. I'll check to see what his travel schedule is. I think it's possible that he will be going back. I'll check.

Yes. On this?

QUESTION: Semi-related. Yesterday in her testimony, Secretary Rice spoke about malignancies in the Middle East and the Arab American Institute is quite upset by these comments. I just wondered whether you had any reaction to that. They found it very disappointing that she viewed it as --

MR. MCCORMACK: This is -- you know, again, this sort of idea and I think this particular phrasing is something that she has talked about in the past. Let's be clear what it is that she's talking about. You know, these comments take place in the context of 60 years of U.S. and other countries' policy towards the Middle East in which we turned a blind eye towards the non-democratic development of many states in exchange for stability; and in the end, as you've heard her say, we got neither. We didn't get stability. We didn't get democratic rule in the Middle East.

And what she was saying is as a result of those policies and those behaviors, what happened was the development, in her words, of this malignancy, I think manifested by, you know, acts of terrorism, most recently or most spectacularly and most tragically from the point of the view of the U.S., September 11th.

So that's, I mean, that's what she's referring to. She's not trying to paint a broad brush; what she's trying to point out is that the lack of democratic institutions and the lack of certain freedoms -- encouragement of certain freedoms in the region has led to this ideology or led to the atmosphere where this ideology of hatred and violent extremism can take root. And what she's talking about is the importance of encouraging the development of democracy, democratic institutions and freedoms to fight this ideology of hatred. That's what she's referring to.

QUESTION: I've heard her talk about the freedom deficit before. I've heard her talk about this idea you've just spoken of. I've never heard her say, "The malignant waters that is the Middle East." That is a quote from what she said yesterday. She said terrorism breeds from, "the malignant waters that is the Middle East." She used the word "malignant" or "malignancy" four times in three hours and in some places far from talk of a freedom deficit. I mean, is it -- has she spoke of "malignancy" -- the entire agenda as malignant in the past?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: And do -- no, I'm telling -- this is a quote.

MR. MCCORMACK: She's not -- she's not talking about, first of all, the entire region. And second of all, she has, in fact, I think if you go back -- many of you have been with her when she's talked about these ideas -- and certainly this phrase, and so it's not new.

QUESTION: Could this be a, you know, is there some concern that this might be the source of a public diplomacy, you know, our public diplomacy problem in the Middle East? I mean, anyone from the Middle East who read her statements yesterday that I spoke to was offended by them.

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I don't think -- again, first of all, this is, you know, this isn't new. Second of all, I think it speaks to a truth and it speaks to the truth that there's a problem. There is a problem in this region where you have, you know, an atmosphere in certain areas. We're not trying to paint a broad brush here, but you have -- but the fact of the matter is that the origins of this ideology of violent extremism that manifests itself in attacks like September 11th that manifests itself in attacks like the school in Beslan; attacks like we saw in Bali, twice, in the past three years, comes from a certain region.

And what she has talked about is the conditions that have led or allowed this atmosphere to be created or this ideology has sprung up. And what we are trying to do is address that. How are we trying to address that? What we're trying to do to address that is to encourage the development of democratic institutions, the spread of democracy and greater freedom.

QUESTION: Well, but when you talk about the malignant waters of the Middle East, I mean, aren't you lumping those together and saying that, you know, kind of all violent extremism? And violent -- I mean, there is areas of -- and pockets of violent extremism in the Middle East, but is she insinuating that the region itself is a region of violent extremism?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. I think I was pretty clear in my answer -- in my answer to Farah's question that we're not trying to paint a broad brush. What we're talking about is a region in which in certain areas this atmosphere has grown up that has produced these ideologies of violent extremism.

QUESTION: You'll someday talk about the malignant waters of the UK in response to the London bombers who grew up in the UK or the IRA bombings which have taken place for a number of years?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, this is, you know, I think many of you in this room have heard her talk about these ideas as well as using this particular phrasing, so it's not new.

QUESTION: Sean, while we're on the subject --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- does the Administration have a position of whether Hamas should participate in the elections in January?

MR. MCCORMACK: I just got that question, Barry. There's no change in our position. We've --

QUESTION: I don't know what the position is, though, so would you just help me out?

MR. MCCORMACK: I've talked about it.

QUESTION: The President didn't speak to it, so I need a refresher.

MR. MCCORMACK: I answered this -- you just came in late, Barry, to the room so if you go back and look at the transcript, I've already answered the question.

QUESTION: Okay, but I get one shot, so let me quickly say, does his silence on the subject -- direct silence directly on the subject suggest anything? Is it a message to the Palestinians to go about it as they wish?

MR. MCCORMACK: Our policy hasn't changed, Barry, so we've talked about this many times.

Yes.

QUESTION: On the earthquake. The death toll is like 50,000 now and it's probably going to triple or quadruple in the next couple of months. The UN's expressed concern that they've got pledges from lots of member countries but the pledges haven't been met yet. What are we doing -- what's the U.S. doing -- at the UN level to encourage member nations to live up to their pledges? And are we planning on stepping up our aid anytime soon?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think in the -- one thing we have been working with other potential donor countries as well as the UN. I think in the coming days we're going to see a donors conference at which countries can come together -- countries, organizations can come together -- in an organized manner and look at exactly what the needs are and then try to match those needs with donations, whether it's cash or in-kind material or expertise.

The United States Government has been -- and the American people have been very generous in this regard. The U.S. Government has provided $50 million in cash aid. We have provided humanitarian relief and helicopters as well as personnel to operate those helicopters to get that aid to the regions of Pakistan that are most affected by this tragedy.

And as always, we encourage any country or organization that has made a pledge to follow through with their pledge. So this is certainly an issue that the Secretary follows closely. Under Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Josette Shiner is our point person in the Department for working with the international community to see that the Pakistani Government and the Pakistani people get the assistance that they need in this terrible time.

Yes.

QUESTION: Sean, the Government of Azerbaijan, where they're going to have elections next week -- or next month -- is apparently engaged in a roundup of opposition activists, including some parliamentary candidates themselves. I wonder if that's something the U.S. mission there has observed and if you have anything to say about it.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, Assistant Secretary Dan Fried is in Azerbaijan today and he is talking about many of these issues: the importance of having free and fair elections, not only on election day but in the run-up right up to the elections. I think that there are -- if we look at the situation in Azerbaijan right now as it relates to re-elections, I think that you see some positive, you some negative. On the positive side of the ledger, I think that we'd point to a May 11th decree put out by President Aliyev that outlined several steps, including registration of more than 2,000 candidates for 125 parliamentary seats, an agreement to allow a U.S.-funded exit poll. Those are positive measures.

I think on the negative side of the ledger and an indication that there's much work that lay ahead in -- 17 days before the election, that we are disturbed by steps the government took this week, including mass detentions, detention of some candidates, I should point out, restriction of media access for opposition candidates and deployment of security forces. And these all -- these actions raise questions about the government's commitment to a democratic campaign.

So I think a demonstration of our commitment to doing everything we possibly can to see that there is a free and fair election in Azerbaijan is demonstrated by Assistant Secretary Fried's presence in Azerbaijan. He's working on these issues right now. He's talking to the government about it.

QUESTION: Is Fried's mission just an Azerbaijan specific thing? He went out there -- one country -- to talk to them about this?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, he's traveling in the region, but he thought it was important to stop in Azerbaijan and go address these issues.

Yes. Oh, wait a minute. Nicholas has been waiting. Let me go back to --

QUESTION: Thanks. Avian flu.

MR. MCCORMACK: Avian flu.

QUESTION: You've put out a Fact Sheet this morning and we haven't issued any travel warnings yet. Can you tell us what your benchmarks will be in terms of alerting people not to travel to certain places? There's been another death confirmed today. What is your vision for the near term in a way that would protect American citizens from any exposure?

MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of specific benchmarks, we'll try to get you some precise information based on what the scientists are telling us. But we are -- we have had a very active diplomatic effort in order to -- as part of a much wider U.S. Government effort to help protect the American people in the case that there is an outbreak or a pandemic of avian flu.

The steps that we are taking, I think two weeks ago, we had an international conference hosted by the Department of State and the Department of Health and Human Services here at the State Department to talk about surveillance and detection, as well as prevention. And what the goal of that -- what that conference did was it, in countries around the world, we were able to talk about what steps are important in terms of transparency and reporting back to the World Health Organization. And within countries, what procedures countries need to set up in order to have an effective reporting mechanism and then also to identify what the needs of those countries might be in terms of remediation in case there were cases of avian flu.

And so what we've -- and the follow-up to that was Under Secretary Dobriansky and Secretary -- Health and Human Services Secretary Leavitt traveled to Southeast Asia to kind of get an on-the-ground assessment of how countries in that region were preparing themselves and what steps that they were taking to fight any potential outbreaks.

So it's a continuing effort. It has the interest here at the Department of the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary. This is a question that they work very closely with Under Secretary Dobriansky on. She is the point person here in the Department on these issues.

But in terms of the specific benchmarks, we'll try to see if we can get you some more information.

QUESTION: And the Secretary in (inaudible) called on countries to report cases as they --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's right.

QUESTION: Right. Are you proactive in certain countries? Because if you look at the map, Greece, Turkey or Romania, you've got Bulgaria and Yugoslavia and Serbia and Montenegro right there. Are your missions there proactive in terms of talking to officials and urging them to test?

MR. MCCORMACK: With regard to those specific embassies, I'll try to find out for you.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Real quick on Venezuela. President Chavez says he again has evidence that the United States is planning an invasion of his country. Have you heard that? Yeah, he's apparently interviewed on BBC and says that they have intelligence which proves that the U.S. is lining this up -- again, he says.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) That would be your answer?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, our -- you know, I've said it many times before. The United States is prepared to work with any government in the region -- left of center, center, right of center. Our issue is with states that don't govern in a democratic manner and we have previously expressed our concerns about some of President Chavez's actions. We have diplomatic representation in Caracas. We encourage the Venezuelan Government to work together with us on -- in a variety of different areas. Our agenda is a positive one for the hemisphere, including promotion of expansion of freedoms, expansion of free trade. So you know, again, we're open to working with, you know, any democratically elected government. The issue for us becomes when states start to govern in a non-democratic manner.

QUESTION: Would you like to dismiss his suspicions?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that there's no basis to that.

Yes.

QUESTION: The Foreign Minister of Georgia has been fired and replaced by the Security Minister. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I have no particular comment. This is an internal matter for the Georgian Government. I think that we look forward to working with the Georgian Government on issues of mutual concern as well as working with a new foreign minister. But in terms of any other questions, it's a matter for the Georgian Government to address.

Yes.

QUESTION: Taiwan's former president is in D.C. today, Lee, and he was once again pushing for Taiwan's official name to be changed away from being the Republic of China to Taiwan. I know that you've opposed such suggestions in the past. I just wondered what the U.S. stance was on it.

MR. MCCORMACK: No change in our policy.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 p.m.)

DPB #179

Released on October 20, 2005

ENDS


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Preliminary Results: MH17 Investigation Report

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is convinced of having obtained irrefutable evidence to establish that on 17 July 2014, flight MH-17 was shot down by a BUK missile from the 9M38-series. According to the JIT there is also evidence identifying the launch location that involves an agricultural field near Pervomaiskyi which, at the time, was controlled by pro-Russian fighters. More>>

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At The UN: Paris Climate Agreement Moves Closer To Entry Into Force

The Paris Agreement on climate change moved closer toward entering into force in 2016 as 31 more countries joined the agreement today at a special event hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>

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Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>

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