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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing January 6, 2006

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 6, 2006


Secretary Rice's Phone Call to Acting Prime Minister Olmert
General Dayton's Travel to the Region / Discussions with the
Secretary Rice Monitoring Situation in the Middle East / Thoughts
and Prayers with Prime Minister Sharon and His Family
Israeli People's Desire For Stable, Lasting Peace / Prime Minister
Sharon Historic Figure in That Process
Iranian President's Remarks About Prime Minister Sharon's Illness
are Hateful, Disgusting

Secretary Rice's Conversation with Foreign Minister Downer / Visit
to be Rescheduled, Possibly March / Delegation to Climate Change
Discussions to be Led by Energy Secretary Bodman

Secretary Rice's Phone Calls Related to Travel

News Reports of a New Video from Zawahiri
Investment in Infrastructure by Iraqis, US
Recent Terrorist Attacks Condemned / Attacks Designed to Divide
Iraqi People, Derail Political Development / Iraqi People up to
the Challenges / Political Process Moves Forward / Iraqi Political
Process to be Inclusive / Iraqi People to Speak Out Against

Uninterested in Diplomatic Offers for Negotiations to Try to
Accommodate a Civilian Nuclear Program
Diplomatic Avenues That Are Open, Available / EU-3 Negotiating
Process with Russians / IAEA Board of Governors / Possible
Referral to UN Security Council / Patience of International
Community is Not Finite
Iran Increasingly Isolated From Rest of the World / Iran Found in
Noncompliance of Treaty Obligations at Last Board of Governors
Meeting / Iran Voted Against Resolution, Only Country to Join Was Venezuela
Iranian People Have Aspirations for Greater Freedoms
Enrichment Would Be Breaking Another Part of the Paris Agreement
Statements by President Ahmadi-Nejad Provide Window Into Nature of
Individuals Who Control, Hold Power in Iran / Shocking to the World

Secretary Rice Had a Good Meeting with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister
/ Discussed Current Status of Peace Process, Importance of
Strengthening Ceasefire / Praised Efforts of Norway in
Facilitating Peace Process Between the Government and the LTTE /
U.S. Remains Committed to Working with Sri Lanka to Defeat
Terrorism, Promote Peace
Travel by Under Secretary Burns to Colombo


12:18 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I don't have any opening statements, so I'd be happy to take your questions.

Great, let's go. See you next week.

QUESTION: I know we're going over a little bit of the same ground, but can you tell us whether she's had telephone or other contacts with Middle East people in the last day or two on the situation and also possibly on what the United -- how the United States might be preparing itself in the event of untoward developments?

MR. MCCORMACK: The Secretary did speak this morning with the Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. She conveyed to the Acting Prime Minister that the American people stand with the Israeli people in what we know is a difficult time and that our thoughts and prayers are with them and with Prime Minister Sharon and she also conveyed our hopes for Prime Minister Sharon's recovery.

QUESTION: And she had very strong things to say yesterday about expectations, the Palestinians should go ahead with their elections and all. Did she reinforce that with some telephone talk?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. It was very short conversation, very brief conversation.

QUESTION: I mean with the Palestinians.

MR. MCCORMACK: No. She has not spoken with anybody from the Palestinian Authority.


QUESTION: Was that the only call?

MR. MCCORMACK: She did speak with Foreign Minister Downer as well and she talked about dates where she could reschedule her visit to Australia. They agreed that some dates in March would be appropriate. The Secretary looks forward to visiting Australia. And I would also point out that she also talked to Foreign Minister Downer and said that Energy Secretary Bodman would be leading our delegation to the climate change discussions in Sydney. He will be accompanied by Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky as well as Jim Connaughton from the White House.

QUESTION: I want to just to follow up on that, if I may? Has she also spoken with Dov Weisglass today?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, not today.

QUESTION: Not today. Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: She had spoken with him over the past couple days.

QUESTION: Okay. And also, is she or has she or why hasn't she spoken directly to the Indonesians on scrapping that part of the trip?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a matter of time differences. Foreign Minister Downer was actually in Mexico when she spoke with him. So this has been conveyed through the Embassy as well and we'll keep you up to date if there are any other phone calls she makes related to different travel.

QUESTION: Does she have any expectation of a direct phone call with the Indonesians just to try to --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll keep you up to date, if there is a phone call.


QUESTION: Same issues. Has she spoken with Dov Weisglass in the last 24 hours or so?

MR. MCCORMACK: I have to do my math. She has spoken with him over the past couple days on Wednesday and Thursday.

QUESTION: On Wednesday and Thursday.


QUESTION: And also can you bring us up to date on travel plans -- or the location if they've already traveled -- of General Dayton, has he left yet? Is he going --

MR. MCCORMACK: He has left. He did start his travels yesterday. He was in the region for an initial consultation from December 16 to the 28th. He met with senior Israeli and Palestinian authorities, including Palestinian Authority President Abbas and Minister of Defense Mofaz on his previous trip. And he left yesterday for the region, so I think he's going to continue his discussions in the region. He's going to be working with the Palestinians to build up their security force capability and also working closely with the Israeli officials.

QUESTION: And do you have any update on the postponed trip of David Welch and Elliott Abrams?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new for you on that. We'll keep you up to date on their travel schedules.

Anne and then Peter. Anne, the same topic?

QUESTION: Yes. You mentioned earlier that -- this morning -- that the Secretary wanted to be close to home.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thought it was the right thing to do, to be here in Washington.

QUESTION: What does that look like? I mean, are you setting up some sort of, you know, a command center here to keep tabs on what's happening there? Do you expect her to be in the office over the weekend? She would be making phone calls over the weekend?

MR. MCCORMACK: Neither of the first two things. On the phone calls, we'll keep you updated. She's going to be monitoring the situation in the Middle East. David Welch and her staff in the Near East Bureau will be monitoring -- as they do every day -- the situation in the Middle East.

And she just -- given the physical distances, as well as time differences, with potential travel to Indonesia and Australia, she just thought that it was the right decision to be here in Washington right now.

QUESTION: If you don't prefer the word "contingency," choose your own, please. The State Department is known for having contingencies for all sorts of situations: large, medium and small. Is there any contingency planning going on now apropos the situation in Israel that you could tell us a little bit about?

MR. MCCORMACK: Barry, our focus is on our solidarity with the Israeli people and what is a tough time and it is a very difficult time for them. And also our thoughts are with the family of Prime Minister Sharon and with Prime Minister Sharon. And we continue to hope for his recovery. And I think out of respect for them and out of respect for the Israeli people, I don't think I have anything more to say.

QUESTION: You have to --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I understand your --

QUESTION: I have no (Inaudible) to disrespect --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I understand your question, Barry. I take it.

QUESTION: Everybody's hoping for his recovery, but it doesn't mean he would be able to continue in office.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I understand your question, Barry. I don't think I have anything else to say.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, Peter.

QUESTION: This is in the same sense of what of Barry and I were saying. There was a meeting of principals yesterday, a regularly scheduled meeting, I believe. Was this discussed at all, the situation in the Middle East? And also are there any other meetings just of either principals or other people involved in the Middle East that are going to be planned in the next couple of days?

MR. MCCORMACK: Those White House meetings? If it was --

QUESTION: Yeah. This was a White House meeting.

MR. MCCORMACK: Check with the White House on that. The Secretary goes over to the White House on a regular basis for Principals' Committee meetings and National Security Council meetings. There could well have been one yesterday, I don't know.

QUESTION: I guess is the sense of our questions is whether or not there's going to be meetings or any sense of a task force, or somebody is just keeping a monitor on (inaudible) --

MR. MCCORMACK: We will handle any monitoring of the situation in the Middle East through our normal channels, through our consulates, through our embassies, as well as through the staff here in the Near East Bureau.


QUESTION: Can you address in some way that won't tread on sensibilities in the current atmosphere how closely tied U.S. policies in any given region are to a given individual? In other words, are U.S. policies or U.S. aspirations where the Middle East is concerned contingent on the survival of a given figure or can you address the continuities that would prevail?

MR. MCCORMACK: The Secretary talked about that a little bit at the breakfast with the Correspondents' Association and I think you were there.

QUESTION: It was breakfast for us.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. (Laughter.) Breakfast for you. Exactly. That's right. She had to sing for her supper.

No, she talked about this -- she talked about this yesterday and she talked about the fact that, specifically with respect to the region and Israel, that the Israeli people have a deep-seated desire for a stable and lasting peace. Prime Minister Sharon has been and is a historic figure in moving that process forward with his decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. And, you know, beyond that, I don't think I have anything to add to what she said. I think she was pretty clear about it.

QUESTION: Well, can you in a generic sense -- in a generic sense -- could you address how the U.S. conducts policy when there is a change in the government or a change in leadership -- without reference to the specific situation?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, well, it is in reference to the specific situation. You wouldn't be asking the question otherwise so I'm not going to -- nice try. I'm not going to go there.

QUESTION: Can I ask you if you are willing to elaborate -- and you rephrased what she said yesterday -- about it now being the sentiment and she made the point last year particularly with the Israeli people (inaudible) recognize involves improving the Palestinian situation. Does she, does the State Department feel, whoever, that it's so deep-rooted that whoever is in charge in Israel will necessarily reflect that view?

MR. MCCORMACK: Barry, again, the same answer as --

QUESTION: Well, it's a little different.

MR. MCCORMACK: There is a slightly different angle, but same answer. Sorry.

QUESTION: But you understand, I mean --

MR. MCCORMACK: Barry, I --

QUESTION: I mean, it's not that (inaudible) is going to --

MR. MCCORMACK: I absolutely --

QUESTION: -- is going to --

MR. MCCORMACK: I absolutely understand.

QUESTION: I mean, if we could just get you to make an affirmative statement about the continuity of U.S. policy across the globe despite any incidents or flare-ups. Should imagine you'd be happy to do that.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right. Any more questions?

Yes, Farah.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary been in contact with the Israeli Embassy here in Washington? That's number one. And number two --


QUESTION: -- the letters which Sharon and Bush exchanged, as far as we're concerned, they're still -- they're still U.S. policy? That's still the plan?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing's changed in that regard.

QUESTION: Did you address the one about the embassy?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. I said no.

QUESTION: He said no.

QUESTION: Well, she is supposed to have a strategic dialogue with Japan --

MR. MCCORMACK: Do we have -- have we -- I guess we have not exhausted this topic. Okay.

QUESTION: I have one other question technical one. And how was the decision made clear to the Indonesians? Was it through the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta?



MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir. Continue.

QUESTION: She was supposed to have a strategic dialogue with Japan in Australia. Somebody instead of her will join in the strategic dialogue or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we're going to reschedule that.

QUESTION: Reschedule.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, we're going to reschedule that.

Okay. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Does that mean in March? She's scheduled to -- in March when the Secretary goes to Australia?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see. The March timeframe relates specifically to a bilateral visit with Australia. The visit to Australia actually had three components: There was the trilateral strategic dialogue; there was the climate change discussions, and then there was a bilateral aspect to the visit. So the Secretary has committed to Foreign Minister Downer that in March we will come back to the bilateral component of that. The global climate change discussions are going to continue with Secretary Bodman in the lead, and for the trilateral dialogue -- strategic dialogue, we'll keep you updated. I'm not going to exclude the possibility that it may occur in March, but I don't have a date for that at the moment.

QUESTION: One last bit of housekeeping on the Israeli issue.


QUESTION: Did you -- did the government -- does our government have any response to the remarks of the Iranian President about Mr. Sharon's illness that will run on the state-run channels in Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: James, I'm very disappointed in you. You do not read transcripts. (Laughter.)

This did come up yesterday. But these -- I think very simply, those remarks are hateful and disgusting.

QUESTION: Sean, you may not have anything on this because it's so new but there's apparently a new video from Zawahiri?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, I saw the news reports about it. Don't have anything for you on it. Our intelligence committee will look at the video as they always do when these come out but beyond that I don't -- I haven't had a chance to look at the content of it.


QUESTION: Yesterday, the Secretary said that she predicted there would be more investment in the Iraqi infrastructure but she didn't say whether she thought it would be Iraqi investment or U.S. investment. Can you find out what she's talking about?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll ask her specifically but I think that we encourage that countries around the world invest in Iraq -- look at it as a strategic investment. Now, I expect -- the Iraqis themselves have said that they are going to be investing in their infrastructure. We already have

-- we have ongoing funds that are obligated for infrastructure improvements. As for any additional funds devoted to infrastructure, we'll let you know. Nothing new for you at this point.

QUESTION: Because she -- I mean, in -- it was the context of the question when she was talking about operating and maintaining what was already --

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. If you point out -- afterwards, if you point out to me the -- what portion of the transcript in question, I'll take a look at it.

QUESTION: Can I ask another on Iraq for a moment?


QUESTION: How does the recent horrible violence in Iraq resonate here? I mean, does it

I mean, does it suggest something about the potential -- I don't know what -- success of U.S. efforts? Is it --you know we've always expected violence in one form or another, not just simply disappear, but that was horrendous.


QUESTION: What's the reflection -- view on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, we condemn these horrendous terrorist attacks. They claimed more than I believe 140 innocent lives. These attacks are very clearly designed to try to divide the Iraqi people. They are very clearly designed to try to derail the political development of Iraq. And what we have seen time after time, and we have these kinds of -- sadly, we have seen these kinds of attacks before. But time after time the response we've seen the Iraqi people is one of defiance. They will not allow these hateful few -- relatively few -- individuals try to tear apart what they are trying to build up. They are working to come together to build a better, more prosperous, more safe, more free life for the Iraqi people, so these are challenges.

But the Iraqi people are up to these challenges. They have proven that time and time again. And what is important, as the political process moves forward, as they finalize the vote counts and they get to the hard political bargaining of forming coalitions and selecting a president and a vice president and a cabinet, is that they try to move beyond identity politics and really, you know, engage in cross-sectarian, cross-ethnic activities in looking to build those coalitions and to do what is right for all Iraqis.

And understand that this is -- Saddam Hussein used divide and conquer as part of his way of maintaining power. He set factions and coalitions and ethnic groups and religious groups against one and other. So that is the backdrop against which this takes place. The Iraqis are moving beyond that. Remember, they had 20 years of that. Twenty years of oppression, 20 years of violence, 20 years of division, so they are now working together to overcome that. We've seen that in the votes in the most recent election. So, we and the rest of the world are going to be working to help them overcome these obstacles.

QUESTION: I was going to pick you up, but you touched on it already. Maybe we can develop it a little: cross-ethnic coalitions.


QUESTION: Is the U.S. suggesting that the leaders of these ethnic, sometimes competing ethnic groups, could do more to suppress the violence? You called for terrorists -- and when you kill a lot of people, you're a terrorist -- but they also may represent political views they may not be good views -- so what is it you would like to see -- if you can be specific -- these ethnic groups' leaders do to maybe help the situation?

MR. MCCORMACK: A couple of things, Barry. One, what we have stressed throughout the development of the Iraqi political class and the Iraqi political process is to be inclusive, to bring people into the political process. You saw that around the time of the constitutional referendum. Ambassador Khalilzad worked very hard to bring more Sunnis into that process. And I think that you have seen in the results of the vote, the most recent vote in January, that more Sunnis have joined the political process; that you have seen more people investing in the political process, choosing to express their will and their desire through the ballot box as opposed through armed conflict.

Now, there are still those who are -- that reject that approach. We and the -- most importantly, the Iraqis, continue to try to bring as many people into the political process as possible. There are going to be those who are totally irreconcilable to the political process, the Zarqawis of the world and his followers. There are going to be hard-core former Baathists and other who just -- who regardless, will not participate in the political process and they have to be dealt with and they will be dealt with. And they are being dealt with through Iraqi security forces, through the multinational security forces.

But right now what you are seeing is more people investing in the political process. And I think that the Iraqis themselves have said that it is the duty of all Iraqis to speak out against violence. The Iraqi people are the ones that are suffering as a result of this violence most acutely. Yes, we continue, sadly, to lose soldiers and members of coalition and each one of those deaths is a tragedy. But if you look at, right now, who is dying as a result of these attacks, it is the Iraqi people. And we think it is incumbent upon the Iraqi people to speak up and act to stop acts of violence against their countrymen.

QUESTION: Do you see last question -- do you discern a foreign hand, any change in foreign intervention, in this latest upsurge?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information on that, Barry. This is -- probably the commanders in the multinational force have a better handle on that.


QUESTION: New subject, Iran.


QUESTION: Can I just follow up on one that's concerned --


QUESTION:The Washington Post, in its coverage of yesterday's attacks, cast them as a kind of a turning point in the ability of the Iraqi average citizen to see that these attacks are coming from the insurgents and not to be blamed on the Americans or the coalition. Is that something that the government sees as well out of yesterday's attacks?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I saw that same newspaper report, James. I thought it was very interesting. I haven't had a chance to talk to Ambassador Khalilzad or Ambassador Jeffrey about that. It certainly would be a very interesting development. I can't, right now, speak to that. In the days ahead, if I have anything else on it, we can talk about it.

Anything else on Iraq? Okay, Saul.

QUESTION: On Iran. Yesterday, you said that the fact that the Iranians didn't turn up as they had planned to at the IAEA was a symbol, an indication, that they were unwilling to sort of look for a diplomatic solution. What are the consequences for them for not turning up?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, their not showing up for one meeting is just one in a series of actions that indicate -- give every indication thus far -- that they are uninterested in taking up the diplomatic offers that have been put before them, diplomatic offers for serious negotiations which try to accommodate what they say is their desire for a civilian nuclear program while also addressing the very real concerns about the rest of the world that they would try to use a civilian nuclear program to build a nuclear weapon.

So in terms of the diplomatic avenues that are open and available now, there are a number of them. There still is the EU-3 negotiating process with the Russians. Thus far, they have not taken up that offer of serious negotiations. They had a meeting in December, mid-December. They, right now, have another scheduled meeting in, I think the 19th of January, with the EU-3. But thus far, we have seen no indication that they're going to take up the EU-3 on serious negotiations, or the Russians for that matter.

There is the IAEA Board of Governors. Right now, there is sitting there a finding of noncompliance with the Nonproliferation Treaty. So should the -- and the consequence of that could possibly be referral to the Security Council.

Now, we will see in the coming days and weeks what the Iranians choose to do. They are the ones that have put themselves in this position, one, I might note, is a position of being increasingly isolated, virtually alone, isolated from the rest of the world in their position. So we'll see what they do. We'll see if they work to address their position in which they have put themselves.

And we have always said that for -- well, for quite some time -- that we believe, because of the nature of the Iranian program and because of the -- what we believe is Iran's intent to build a nuclear weapon, that this issue is going to end up before the Security Council. But we, as the Secretary said yesterday, continue to support the other diplomatic fora, the IAEA as well as the EU-3 process, to see if there can be in those fora a negotiated diplomatic solution. If not, then there is another diplomatic channel available: the Security Council.

QUESTION: You talk about -- repeatedly about isolation of Iran. Do you have a notion that a resolution calling for sanctions would be accepted, that Iran's isolation is such that there would be approval of a resolution like that? Because they're two different things.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, I understand, Barry. I think that -- a couple things. I'm not going to prejudge what action the Security Council may or may not take. We're not to that point yet. But very clearly I think if you look at the Iranian actions in trying to draw out these discussions, doing everything they can to keep the diplomatic process going without actually committing to something, you see underneath that a real desire to avoid being referred to the Security Council because that truly is a public mark in the international forum that a country is absolutely isolated in its position. De facto, now I think you see that they are virtually alone in their position. Security Council referral is another step along that process.

And you know, quite frankly, the Iranian people don't deserve that. They're a great people. They have a -- they're a great culture. And quite frankly, they don't deserve to be isolated in that regard, but that's where their government is taking them. And we -- as we have said before -- stand with the Iranian people. These actions are not directed against them. They're directed against the government that has gotten them into this position.

QUESTION: Is that another way of saying that Iranians don't deserve the government they have?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, we think that the Iranian people have aspirations for greater freedom, greater freedom of expression, greater democracy. You don't see that. You actually see -- you actually see going in just the opposite direction. Their newspapers recently shut down. There was a woman's newspaper that was going to be opened up. It was going to be up and it was prevented from opening. You saw an electoral process that, well, I'll leave it to others to describe now that produced this election result. It was an election process where candidates were weeded out and prevented from running before the election ever began.

So, again, if you go back to the many public statements we have made on this, back to the President, I think in July 12, 2002, made a statement saying we stand with the Iranian people and that continues to be our position.

QUESTION: When you said that they are (inaudible) on negotiations without any real attempt to look for a solution, but what do you say to a person that they're able to do that because there are no consequences at the moment for them to stringing the negotiations along.

MR. MCCORMACK: As you have heard from the Secretary, Saul, and others as well, the patience of the international community in this regard is not infinite. We want to give these particular diplomatic avenues every possibility to succeed. We are doing that. But the patience of the international community in the face of this continuing obfuscation and delay is not infinite. But there's still some meetings scheduled and we will see if the Iranians choose to take up the opportunities that have been presented them.

QUESTION: So on the specific meeting that they didn't show up for, when they announced that they were going to resume research, you in part said, we're looking for clarification of what they're actually going to do. And they didn't turn up for the meeting. So what do you do as a result of it? You just wait for them to do something bad on Monday? Have you had consultations where you can warn them that this is a red line or a Rubicon that they shouldn't cross?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that they understand that, specifically with respect to enrichment, that that would be breaking another part of the Paris agreement. They've already abrogated other parts of that with their conversion activities. So it if they did engage in enrichment-related activities and, you know, in our view, it includes manufacturing centrifuge parts and other types of activities, that would be abrogating another part of the Paris agreement and I think that the IAEA inspectors who -- I'm not sure if they're on the ground now, they have a presence in Iran -- would certainly be able to witness such activities. And as, you know, if Iran did take those steps, I think it would be a matter of serious concern for the IAEA, the EU-3, as well as other members of the IAEA Board of Governors.

QUESTION: So the consequences of them breaking another part of the Paris agreement is it would be a matter of serious concern to some of the parties --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that, you know, again, whether or not that happens, we'll see. And if it does -- if it does happen, I'm sure that it will be taken up.

QUESTION: Any word from the, you know, there has been serious concern about Iran's activities for a long time -- years -- and yet they don't actually ever get referred to the Security Council. Therefore, they're able to work things out --


QUESTION: -- and at the same time, nibble away, nibble away at the agreements.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the -- Iran's position actually has changed over the years and, you know, not to go through the history that we have gone through here previously, that the Secretary went through yesterday at your breakfast, but I would like to note one data point. If you look back at the last Board of Governors meeting, they were found to be in noncompliance with their treaty obligations -- very serious. And in that vote, it was very interesting. You had the Iranians voting against that resolution. The only other country that went along with them was Venezuela. Everybody else abandoned them. And you even had other countries that had on this issue, previously abstained like India, voting for the resolution.

So I think, again, without going through -- going back through two years of history on this, there's been a steady trend and the steady trend has been that Iran has been isolated, increasingly isolated from the international community. And where, in our view, this is headed is the Security Council. And I can assure you the Iranians don't want to end up in the Security Council. They've been doing everything they can along the way to try to forestall that conclusion.

Again, we are working in support of the EU-3 process. We'll see how that plays out. We'll see what the coming days and weeks bring in terms of Iran's behavior. And I have to emphasize, it is Iran's behavior that has gotten them to this point, nobody else, it's Iran.

QUESTION: Is it clear to them what would land them in the Security Council?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think they have a pretty healthy understanding. Yes.

QUESTION: Why? You haven't laid out any consequences for what happens on Monday?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that we have been very clear in our public statements and I'm sure that those who do have direct contact with Iran have expressed to them where they are headed.

QUESTION:Quid pro quo for their action on Monday? Have they expressed a clear "you do this and then you" --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think there's been -- I don't think it's been that exactly you can check with the Europeans and others who have talked to them directly about their conversations.

QUESTION: But the point is there is no clear laid out consequence for them if they do act?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think they already -- again, Saul, I guess I differ with you on the fact that there haven't been any consequences. There is a tremendous consequence right now that they find themselves very isolated from the international community on this issue whereas two years ago, they did not. And that will have -- that can have very practical and real effects.

QUESTION: There is a tendency to speak of the Iranian regime in sort of monolithic terms. And as we all know, there is the Ahmadi-Nejad regime and then there is the supreme leadership of the country. And I wonder what -- how you would characterize the relationship between the supreme leadership and Ahmadi-Nejad right now? Do we observe or discern any daylight between those two entities that could be useful to the United States as it approaches this particular nuclear issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not a political science or specialist in Iranian politics. The only thing I would say is that in our view -- and you can go back to our past statements over the past couple of years, I refer you to back to the President's statement back in July 2002 -- the people who are controlling the levers of power in Iran over the past years we believe is traditionally not been those people who have been elected. They are the ones that have stood in the way of the Iranian people's aspirations for a truly democratic regime and democratic -- more free future.

The statements by President Ahmadi-Nejad, we believe, actually provide a window into the true nature of those individuals who actually control and hold the power in Iran. And I think that these statements have been shocking to the world. I think any person looking at the series of statements coming from the Iranian President would be absolutely shocked at them -- talking about wiping the state of Israel off the map, wishing for the death of another human being, another foreign leader as well as others. These are statements that have, along with Iran's actions on the nuclear front, they have served to isolate the Iranian people from the rest of the world.

QUESTION: So when you say that you think these offer a true window into the views of those who control power in Iran, that suggests that you don't really see much daylight between --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to try to get into analyzing any particular relationships. But I think that we believe that those types of statements do offer a real insight into the nature of this regime.

QUESTION: When you say this regime?

MR. MCCORMACK: Those who control power in Iran.

QUESTION: And they include the supreme leadership and the president?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to get into naming names, but those who control power in Iran.

Yes, sir. Anything else on Iran?

QUESTION: Can touch a bit on the Secretary's meeting with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister yesterday and the ominous prospect of the eternal civil war in Sri Lanka?

MR. MCCORMACK: They had a good meeting, a good meeting yesterday. It was the first time that they had the opportunity to meet. They discussed the current status of the Sri Lankan peace process and the importance of strengthening the ceasefire. Secretary Rice reiterated the United States hoped the talks between the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on ways to strengthen the ceasefire could resume soon.

She also praised the efforts of Norway in this regard. They've played an important role in trying to facilitate the peace process between the government and the LTTE. She expressed concern over the recent upsurge in violence in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. She also lauded the Sri Lankan Government for its restraint in the face of the Tamil Tigers provocations. And she said that the United States remains committed to working with Sri Lanka to defeat terrorism and to promote peace and told the Foreign Minister that Under Secretary Burns does intend to travel to Sri Lanka.

QUESTION: Did the Minister express concern over -- I mean, he had been quoted as saying that the Tamil Tigers were more ruthless than the al-Qaida terrorists.

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, this is a group that is listed as a foreign terrorist organization. We view them as such. I don't' have anything to add beyond what I've offered at this readout of the Secretary's meeting.

QUESTION: One further in terms of Burns' visit to Colombo? What's the purpose of the visit actually?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, I think he's going to talk about a number of different issues. He'll talk about facilitating peace between the government and the LTTE as well as other issues of regional concern.


QUESTION: Sean, since earlier, prior to New Year's, you brought up the situation in Nepal with King Gyanendra. Has that been resolved in your mind or --

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see if we can get you something else on that, Joel. I don't have anything for you right now.

QUESTION: Thank you.


(The briefing was concluded at 12:55 p.m.)

# # #

DPB # 4


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