State Dept. Daily Press Briefing January 10, 2006
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing January 10, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
January 10, 2006
Visit of South Korean FM Ban Ki-Moon / Strategic Consultations for
Possibility of Palestinian Voting in East Jerusalem / Need for
Mutually Acceptable Solution
Secretary's Involvement in Negotiations / Issue Between the Two
Upcoming Elections on January 25th / Need to Move Forward
Assistant Secretary Welch, Elliott Abrams Travel to the Region /
General Dayton's Role
Efforts by the Turkish Chamber of Commerce to Revitalize the Erez
Reaction to Iran Resuming Nuclear Research, Breaking Seals /
Serious Escalation by Iran
Diplomatic Next Steps / IAEA Board of Governors Meeting in March
Need for Iran to Return to Negotiations / Erosion of Trust
Support for Referral to the Security Council / China / Russia
President Ahmadi-Nejad's Comments
Finding of Non-Compliance with the NPT / Venezuela
Close Consultations with EU-3, Russia / U.S. Continues to Support
Concrete Consequences for Iranian Actions / Iranian Isolation
Kim Jong Il's Trip to China
Iranian Cooperation with North Korea on Nuclear Technology
Criticism of "Wet Foot, Dry Foot" Policy / Department of Homeland
U.S. Commitment to Safe, Legal and Orderly Migration from Cuba
Progress of the Commission for a Free Cuba
Deputy Secretary Zoellick's Meeting with Chadian Foreign Minister
Kidnapped American / U.S. Actions
Status of Australian Troops in Iraq / Foreign Minister Downer's
1:11 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everyone. It's a full house or almost a full house. I have a very brief opening statement, then we can get right into questions. This statement concerns the U.S.-Republic of Korea Strategic Consultations for Allied Partnership. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will host the South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon before the Inaugural Session of Strategic Consultations for Allied Partnership this January 19th at the Department of State. These talks were agreed to by President Bush and President Roh at the U.S.-Republic of Korea bilateral summit held in South Korea in November and announced in their joint statement.
Topics of discussion will include global, regional and bilateral issues of mutual concern. The Strategic Consultations reflect the dynamic global partnership we have developed with the Republic of Korea and will consolidate this strong bilateral cooperation that we have long shared.
With that, I'm happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Can we try to clarify what's going on regarding Palestinians voting and the Secretary's intervention? She spoke, did she, to the Acting Prime Minister? But could you elaborate on that and could you tell us what your understanding is of what Israel is prepared to do at this point? There seems to be one minister saying one thing and one the other.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not going to speak on behalf of the Israeli Government. I think that it is an issue that is under active discussion among the Israeli cabinet members. I don't think all the I's are dotted or T's crossed on this. But at its root, this is an issue for the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority to work out between themselves. I think that Defense Minister Mofaz referenced the 1996 agreement this morning. Again, I think that they're still -- there's still some discussions that need to be had on the Israeli side.
So whatever the solution is it needs to be mutually acceptable to the Israeli side and the Palestinian side to take into account Israel's very real security concerns, while also addressing the Palestinian desire to have all Palestinians be able to participate in these upcoming elections.
QUESTION: And the Secretary's role in all this?
MR. MCCORMACK: She did speak with Acting Prime Minister Olmert today, this morning. They had a good discussion the Secretary underlined the United States continuing support for Israel and Israel's security. They also talked very briefly about Prime Minister Sharon. The Secretary reiterated that the thoughts of the United States Government and the American people are with Prime Minister Sharon as he makes his recovery. And they also -- the Secretary also underlined the United States Government's continuing support for the vision of a two-state solution -- two states, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.
QUESTION: I've got to check. Did the team arrive yet -- the Assistant Secretary?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. They leave this afternoon. Leave this afternoon. Yeah.
QUESTION: Where did the elections figure in that conversation -- the Palestinian elections? What did she say to Olmert, or he to her, about planning progress --
MR. MCCORMACK: She underlined the fact that she understood that this was an issue that was currently being discussed between -- within the Israeli cabinet and between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And she underlined the fact that it was an issue between the Palestinians and the Israelis to resolve.
QUESTION: Make any suggestions?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, no. Let me take the opportunity. There was, yesterday, a question about -- you know, the Secretary offering assurances regarding this. And as I said yesterday, the Secretary reiterated in that conversation what I have said here from the podium and that is that the issue of -- the issue in question regarding voting is one for the Palestinians and the Israelis to resolve and that the United States' position is that it is an issue between the two parties.
And while we certainly want to see the January elections move forward as scheduled on January 25th, this was an issue that needed to be resolved between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary spoken to any other Israelis about either this issue or about the Prime Minister? Specifically, has she spoken to Mr. Weisglass in recent days?
MR. MCCORMACK: She has talked to him. She also spoke with him this morning. They had a brief conversation along the same lines that the Secretary had with Acting Prime Minister Olmert.
QUESTION: Sean? I'm going to have to try it again.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: There are plenty of issues that are between the Palestinians and Israelis to resolve that the U.S. does weigh in on with the sides. So, can you say that she weighed in on either side? I mean, the thing about assurances is --
MR. MCCORMACK: Not trying to tip the -- she's not trying to put her finger on the scale, if that's the question. This is a matter for the two sides to work out. We have been very clear that we think it is important for the January 25th elections to move forward. One of the stated concerns by the Palestinian side was the ability of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote. We came out from the very beginning, the first time we were asked about this, and said that this was an issue for both sides to work out. They have done so in the past and we encourage them to work it out, based on the fact that they had a history of being able to come to some mutually agreed solution on the issues. So, that has been our policy since this question first arose, I think, maybe three weeks ago or so when I was first asked about it. So this idea that somehow the Secretary's trying to -- or the U.S. is trying to put its finger on the scale in terms of a solution is just not accurate.
QUESTION: So either way we would not draw any criticism from you, whichever way is decided?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we have -- there are two issues here, one in terms of the elections moving forward. You know our position on that. In terms of working out the East Jerusalem voting issue, again, I can repeat: They've done it before. They've worked out the issues regarding voting in East Jerusalem before on two separate occasions. And so we encourage them to do so again.
As I made clear to Barry, there are still some discussions ongoing within the Israeli cabinet and the Israeli Government. I'm going to let the Israeli Government speak to where they are in that process. I believe that any details regarding what they have in mind have not been completed yet. I know, one, Defense Minister Mofaz has spoken to this, but as for where they stand in their deliberations on the issue, I'm going to let the Israelis talk about that.
QUESTION: But you must have a view -- the U.S. must have a view of --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think I've been pretty clear on this, Barry.
QUESTION: No, you have been very clear. But let me try something that you haven't said anything about.
MR. MCCORMACK: Is this a new topic or --
QUESTION: No, it's the same topic.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: In the U.S. view, would elections without Palestinian participation in Jerusalem be valid elections?
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry, we're not at that point. We want the elections -- we believe the elections should move forward. I think President Abbas just yesterday talked about the fact that he thought elections would move forward on January 25th. We think it's important that the elections reflect the will of the Palestinian people, and the issue of voting in East Jerusalem is one that is a matter of ongoing discussion.
QUESTION: Did Mr. Olmert, or Prime Minister -- Acting Prime Minister Olmert give her any assurances this morning in the phone call on this issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I'm going to let the Israeli Government speak for itself on this issue.
QUESTION: But it's what he would have told her, to the Secretary.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Charlie, I've said all I'm going to say on the issue.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary need to ease any Israeli concerns after Abbas characterized the conversation he had with the Secretary in a different way than you did?
MR. MCCORMACK: She made clear that -- what our position is with respect to the elections. It's what I've said -- what she has said previously, what I've said previously from this podium, and that's both in public and private. That is our position.
QUESTION: Was that the motivation for the call -- to make that clarification?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: Olmert put out a statement on the Prime Minister's website after the phone call with Secretary Rice, saying they would bring the issue to a vote on Sunday and that they would allow several hundred Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote, like they did in '96 and 2005, so long as terror organizations and their affiliates do not participate in the election in Jerusalem. So my question is whether Rice, in response to that, as he's saying he told Rice, said, it's up to you guys to sort this out.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the Israeli Government as I just said is speaking for themselves. I haven't seen the Acting Prime Minister's statement. My understanding is that they are going to vote on this on Sunday. We'll see what the outcome of that vote is.
QUESTION: Well, do you --
QUESTION: You've touched on security very briefly --
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- as a concern.
MR. MCCORMACK: It's a -- in many of these issues, Barry, that's what this -- the answer to the question comes down to a balance between the legitimate concerns about the Israeli Government, concerning security. And on the Palestinian side, for instance, rights of movement, rights of access. That is the core issue. That balance was the core issue in the Gaza Movement and Access Agreement. So we -- and they have in the past on the voting issue worked through it. So you can strike that balance but it is up to the two parties to strike that balance.
QUESTION: Well, is it up to the Israelis to dictate who participates in the election and who doesn't?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Elise, we'll see -- look, the Israeli cabinet hasn't put this to a vote yet. We'll see what it is that they put to a vote.
QUESTION: I wonder if you could take a picture, if you care to, things are moving. Would you care to make any statement as to --
MR. MCCORMACK: What things are moving?
QUESTION: The Middle East process, elections -- you're addressing that. You're sending top diplomats there. You're sending a security fellow there. What does this say about the Administration pursuing Middle East diplomacy, even as the Prime Minister's incapacitated? Do you feel that time would be lost not to go ahead -- I don't know what the (inaudible), but what is the overriding view here because he may be sick for a long time?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the overriding view, Barry, is -- involve a couple of things. One, as Secretary Rice underscored with -- reiterated to acting Prime Minister Olmert, the United States supports the two-state vision of two states living side by side in peace and security. That has been our policy and it continues to be our policy. And as they have talked about it over the past several days, there are still -- there are agreements and issues that are before us, before the two parties that continue to be worked. I mentioned the Gaza Movement and Access Agreement. There are still issues related to that that need to be worked. Those contacts continue at the working level.
Assistant Secretary Welch and Elliott Abrams travel out to the region is one physical manifestation of our commitment to continue to work those issues with the Israelis, with the Palestinians. General Dayton is working with the Palestinians on another set of issues, creating more robust Palestinian security force that is able to provide a secure atmosphere for the Palestinian people and help along the road of building up trust and confidence between the Israelis and Palestinians, building on what was accomplished during Gaza. So that is -- I think that's how we view the situation, Barry.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: There's still work at hand and we're rolling up our sleeves, along with others, to see that it gets done.
QUESTION: Well, thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, okay. Anything else on this topic?
QUESTION: What about yesterday -- yesterday's question?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: About the Industrial Zone in Palestine?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, I have an answer for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: This concerned the Turkish Chamber of Commerce efforts to rehabilitate the Erez Industrial Zone. We welcome the efforts to promote economic growth and investment in the near east region. We applaud this effort by the Turkish Chamber of Commerce and the Israelis to revitalize the Erez Industrial Zone as a means of enhancing opportunity in the region. Mr. Jim Wolfensohn is coordinating this effort and will continue to be engaged with the parties regarding this initiative.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, Peter.
QUESTION: On Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Okay. We all know that the announcement that's come out of Tehran just about the lifting of the seals and the beginning of nuclear research -- what is the reaction and concretely, is this the red line that is going to draw actual action?
MR. MCCORMACK: Our reaction mirrors the reaction of many around the world. We view this as a serious escalation on the part of Iran on the nuclear issue. You've seen various reactions from around the world. The EU has called the situation now very grave. They have said it cannot go without a response. German Foreign Minister Steinmeier said that Iran has crossed the line. And the Foreign Secretary of the UK has said that the international community was running out of patience.
I think what you see here is the international community coming out and sending a very clear message to Iran that their behavior is unacceptable. And as for future diplomatic steps, this is a question about which we are in close consultation with the EU-3, with other members of the IAEA, and we are currently in discussions regarding what are the diplomatic next steps.
QUESTION: Are there any plans to call an emergency meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, which I believe is next supposed to meet on March 6th -- is that right?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. It's certainly an option. It's certainly an option and I would point out, again, that Iran through its actions, now -- has now thoroughly isolated itself. It has refused the diplomatic hands that have been extended to them. The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister recently traveled to Tehran to, once again, present a Russian offer that would allow, that would provide for civilian -- a peaceful civilian nuclear program in Iran.
That's what the government says that it wants, yet thus far, the Iranian Government response to date has been to turn away from these offers. It has refused to engage in serious negotiations with the EU-3. You know, the world wants Iran to come back to the negotiating table. I don't know how the message can be said any more clearly to Iran. Yet at every turn, they refuse -- they have refused the offers of the international community. They have -- this government has sought to isolate Iran. This government has sought to isolate the Iranian people from the rest of the world. It's an interesting question.
I wonder if the Iranian people understood what the offers were that were put before this government. I wonder if the government informed the Iranian people of the kind of offer that the international community put before Iran that was designed to address Iran's concerns regarding a civilian nuclear program. And yet, we see only negative reactions coming out Iran.
QUESTION: Sean, if I could just follow up just with one more? Sean, your position is very, very well known. My question is this: Exactly, right now, you've said there's a serious escalation. What is the United States doing about it? Has the Secretary called anybody? Are you calling for an urgent meeting of the IAEA? Exactly, what are you doing?
MR. MCCORMACK: We are in consultations with our diplomatic partners on the issue, so the Iran -- Iran has said that -- Iran had previously stated that it was going to break the seals on this equipment. What they say they want to do is they want to build a centrifuge cascade. They call it research and development. They call it a small program.
Well, when it comes to enrichment technology, there are no small programs concerning Iran. Because what they want to do, they want to develop the expertise in enriching uranium so that they can produce the fissile material that would allow them to build a nuclear weapon. So essentially, what they're asking the world to do is, say, trust us, we're just doing some experiments, it's not going to go any further than that.
Well, given Iran's history of deception of the IAEA and the international community on this issue, that trust has eroded to the point of being nonexistent on this issue. So for the world not to consider what diplomatic next steps it would take would not be responsible or would essentially be allowing the Iranians to engage in research and development in experiments so that they could get good at doing it on a large scale. And the world is simply not going to stand by while the Iranians do that.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary been in touch with the Russians and the Chinese about this, and what makes you think that the Chinese are going to support a referral to the Security Council? You couldn't even get them to sign on to a strongly worded single statement from the P-5. All the statements were sent separately. So why do you think China will be on board and Russia, for that matter?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not presupposing how anybody is going to -- who -- whether Russia or China will vote for a referral to the Security Council. We're not at that point. It's certainly an option. We have said over and over again that we think that that's where we're all going to end up, at the Security Council, given Iran's behavior. But at this point, I'm not going to presuppose a certain outcome.
I would point out, though, that the -- if you look at the arc of how this -- how diplomatically this situation has evolved, if you go back to the beginning of last year, you have a situation where Iran was really not isolated diplomatically on this, that there was still a lot of diplomatic running room. The EU-3 was actively engaged in consultations on this matter. They were trying to engage the Iranians. They were trying to negotiate with them. The Secretary -- Secretary Rice, in consultation with the President, took some steps that the EU-3 asked them to take. We removed any objection we had to Iran beginning accession talks to the WTO. We also made some provisions for Iran potentially purchasing some aircraft parts if they wanted to, if they wanted to do so.
And over the months, we worked very closely with the EU-3 and our international partners who were engaged with the Iranians on this issue. Now, we get to August and the Iranians -- you have a new government -- and they decide that they are going to abrogate portions of the Paris Accord that the EU-3 had negotiated with Iran. That started raising some red flags in the international community and that started to raise a lot of questions among the international community as to what Iran was really up to.
Concomitantly, you had the IAEA doing its investigations and it -- and in its investigations coming across materials that raise questions in the mind of inspectors at the IAEA as to what Iran was really up to in terms of its nuclear program.
Lay on top of that President Ahmadi-Nejad's alarming comments -- series of alarming comments over the -- beginning in August and through the fall time and you end up in October, at the Board of Governors. And at that meeting, what you have is a finding of noncompliance, a finding of noncompliance for Iran with its NPT obligations. The only country that voted with Iran at that point was Venezuela, so what you had -- and there were other countries that abstained, so what you had is, you had the majority weight of the international community on one side of this issue and on the other side, you had a table for two, Iran and Venezuela, that were completely isolated on this issue.
Now Iran has, through its actions in taking out and removing another part of the Paris Accord, their pledge not to engage in enrichment-related activities and they find themselves even more isolated at this point. I'd refer you back to the comments of other foreign states on the matter: Germany, the UK, the IAEA, and others.
QUESTION: Do you see any alternative, any other course than Security Council referral at this point?
MR. MCCORMACK: There are a variety of different diplomatic options available. You know, in essence, the answer to that question is really, what is Iran going to do? They are the ones that put themselves in this situation. So --
QUESTION: But this is the point at which, sort of -- I suppose that --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: -- they cross this line that --
MR. MCCORMACK: Things don't happen instantaneously. I know we have a, you know, 24-hour news cycle seven days a week, a global news cycle. I appreciate the questions, but things don't happen instantaneously. The reason why I went through with you just the events of -- a summary of the events over the past year is to show that this has been the result of careful diplomacy on the part of the United States and the EU. And frankly, the Iranians, through some of the actions that they have taken, have -- the end result of all that has been that the Iranians are now isolated on this issue.
So, we are -- again, we are consulting all -- up and down the line with our diplomatic counterparts on this issue. There are a variety of different options that are open. Peter asked me earlier about an emergency Board of Governors meeting. That certainly is an option. Stepping back for a second, I'd refer you back to what we have said over and over again. We think that ultimately, this will end up in the Security Council, just because of Iran's past behavior on this.
So, we are continuing the careful diplomacy that we have engaged in over the past year on this issue. Part of the result -- in part, the result of that has been the fact that Iran now finds itself almost completely isolated on this issue.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Through this whole history that you just went over, the United States continued to support the EU-3 continuing these talks with Iran and you said that -- you know, you still feel that the talks have legs, that there's a usefulness. The Europeans are starting to say that there's no point in continuing the talks. Do you feel that the talks have kind of outweighed their usefulness and it's time to chart a new course?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that is -- if you look back on some of the statements that I read for you from some of the members of those discussions, that -- from Foreign Minister Steinmeier that Iran has "crossed the line." Foreign Secretary Straw, that the international community is "running out of patience."
I'm not going to, at this point, make any pronouncements on the EU-3 effort. I think I'm going to leave that to them to describe --
QUESTION: But the United States was willing to support this effort, as long as you saw some usefulness in it.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we continue -- we supported the effort and we continue to support the EU-3, because we thought we were going to get to a desired outcome and that desired outcome was to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everybody agrees that that would be a destabilizing event for the region, for the world. So, we were supporting the EU-3 effort for that reason, to get to an outcome. You don't support diplomatic processes just for the sake of process.
MR. MCCORMACK: So, we're trying to get to a diplomatic outcome on that. So, we're in close consultation with our EU-3 partners on this, with the Russian Government, with the IAEA on how best to achieve the end that we want to achieve, what's the right means. And as for whether the EU-3 process is the right means at this point, I think that that is a question that the EU-3 is looking at right now. I'm not going to make any pronouncements on where they view the process right now, but we continue to support our partners in the EU-3 process.
QUESTION: Sean, does the U.S. have any evidence that Iran secretly continued to amass centrifuges during the suspension -- what they said was a suspension -- and would now have possibly up to 5,000 centrifuges --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information.
QUESTION: You never heard any reports like that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information in that regard. And as much as it might involve intelligence information, it's not something that I could talk about. But I don't have anything for you on that, Teri.
QUESTION: Are you aware of the claims coming out today by one of -- former Iranian opposition spokespeople that says that this is the case?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't said that. We do know that Iran has a covert nuclear program. That is what we have been saying for quite some time. As for these reports, I haven't seen them. I don't have any particular comment on them.
QUESTION: Can you clarify what the U.S. believes it has the votes for? Does it believe it has the votes at the IAEA to refer to the Security Council as Secretary Rice said?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Yesterday you asked about the permanent five and if there was consensus, and you said, "I don't have a vote count. But talking to our experts, they assure us we have the votes. I can't tell you the composition of the majority." Were you referring to action on some resolution at the UN Security Council?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, at the IAEA. It's always dangerous when people read back your ways to you at a briefing. Yeah. I was talking about the IAEA, Janine. Yeah.
QUESTION: Sean, can I just clarify one thing?
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: In terms of how long the EU-3 process is going to run out. Is this strictly an EU decision, or is the United States going to be involved in saying enough is enough?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that we consult with them very closely, but they are the ones on the frontlines of this. They're the ones engaging in the Iranians on this. They're the ones whose creditability, in a sense, is at stake concerning the process. So I think understandably it is their decision to make with regard to that continuation of that diplomatic avenue. We continue to support the EU-3 in their efforts.
QUESTION: So you're going to let it run it as long as they want?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we're in close consultation with them on the issue.
QUESTION: The international response today to Iran carrying out a threat was lots of condemnation but nothing that said like here is the action, here's the consequence of what you've done. Why wasn't that action, consequence, coordinated given -- and prepared, given that it's no surprise to anyone what they've done?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there is a lot of coordination going on, Saul. Again, one of the -- again, the reason why I went through a year's history on this, and there's a lot more that was prior to that. Again, this is a matter for diplomacy. This is politics, international politics and there are a lot of moving parts to it. And there's a lot of diplomatic legwork that is being done on our part, on the part of the Europeans and others. And again, we will keep you informed on where we stand with respect to these diplomatic avenues.
QUESTION: How soon could we expect to have a concrete consequence for what Iran did?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think there already is a consequence to what Iran has done. They have isolated themselves almost completely from the rest of the world on this issue over the course of a year, so that is, in fact, one consequence.
I would note just one interesting, you know, one interesting point. There were a lot of, you know, right around the time of the Board of Governors vote, the Iranian stock market fell a number of points. So people -- again, the Iranians, they don't -- it doesn't matter to them whether or not they are referred to the Security Council, but I think that that is -- that's just one indication that it really does matter to the Iranians that they potentially could be more isolated from the rest of the world. So there is a consequence. There are -- there have been consequences to date for the Iranians' actions. As for what diplomatic next steps, we'll see in the coming days and weeks what is decided.
Anything else on Iran?
QUESTION: Sean, just this one thing.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: Is the Secretary planning any -- Jack Straw has called for a meeting of the EU-3 on Thursday. Is the Secretary planning any consultations with him by phone or any other means before then?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, she's touched base. She has periodically, over time, on this and other issues, touched base with Foreign Secretary Straw as well as other members of the EU-3. I wouldn't be surprised in the coming days if you see even more discussions along that line.
QUESTION: What about China and Russia, sir? You didn't answer that.
MR. MCCORMACK: She did have a conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov.
QUESTION: When was that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Today. Today.
QUESTION: And yesterday, wasn't it?
MR. MCCORMACK: It was just --
QUESTION: And the Chinese, too?
MR. MCCORMACK: Just today. No conversation with the Chinese.
QUESTION: You want to stay on Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me double-check my facts here, but I -- Lavrov was today. Nothing yesterday.
QUESTION: Okay. Will you keep us apprised just on those?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll try to keep you updated as best I can on these calls, yeah.
QUESTION: If this does end up in the Security Council, as you've suggested, does the United States still have confidence in Europe for cracking down hard on Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that the -- yes, we do have -- we do have confidence in our European partners on this issue, that they understand the seriousness of the issue. I think that their dedication to trying to resolve this is evident over the past several years.
As for what next steps there are, again, we'll see what those next steps are.
QUESTION: On the other side of the equation, apparently there is a secret trip by Kim Jong-il of North Korea to Beijing. Were you aware of that and do you see any collusion between North Korea and the Iranians?
MR. MCCORMACK: As for the trip, Joel, I've seen the press reports. I'm not in a position to confirm that there is a trip. I read the news reports today about that. I don't have anything further to ask you. There have been previous press reports about Iran and North Korea working together on different exchanges, North Korea shipping missile technology to Iran, but I don't really have anything to add to what's been reported in the press so far.
QUESTION: Monday's repatriation of 15 Cuban migrants who made it as far as the 7-mile -- the old 7-mile bridge --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- not the new one -- has led to some very vocal outrage in the Cuban exile community about the wet foot/dry foot policy, calling for an end. And there are reports locally that the Administration will be reviewing the policy in coming weeks. Any truth to that? What can you tell us about that?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of the policy, I think you'd have to talk to DHS, Department of Homeland Security, on that. They are the ones responsible for implementing the policy and I think they're the guardians of the regulations on that. As for this particular case, they are -- I'd refer you to them for questions.
I know that there was a repatriation by the Coast Guard. You know, the United States policy and understanding for the plight of the Cuban people under the Castro dictatorship is well known. We, again, appeal to the Cubans not to risk their lives on the high seas. The United States remains firmly committed to safe, legal, and orderly migration from Cuba.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice has announced a cabinet-level commission to review U.S. policy towards Cuba in a report by May. Is the wet foot/dry foot policy likely to be part of that? Has the recent events given any height to that issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'll try to update you on the progress of that commission as well as some general description of what the issue areas are. I'll try to get you that.
QUESTION: Do you have a readout on the meeting today between the Deputy Secretary and Chad's Foreign Minister?
MR. MCCORMACK: The meeting, I think, is going to take place. It hasn't taken place yet. The Deputy Secretary Zoellick is going to be meeting with the Foreign Minister of Chad, Allam-mi Ahmad. They are going to talk about the security situation in Eastern Chad and Western Darfur, the Abuja peace process and recent changes Chad made to its petroleum revenue management law.
QUESTION: After the meeting, could you please give us some feedback?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we'll try to get you something, yeah.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what the State Department is doing to try to help find this kidnapped American journalist, (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the -- we are working with local authorities to gather information and doing everything possible to bring about her safe recovery, as we do in every case like this, but we want to see her back safe with her family as soon as possible. That's everybody's shared desire and we're going to do everything we can to see that that happens.
QUESTION: Do you have any leads yet?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to get into the particulars of any efforts we may be making.
QUESTION: Is there any indication of who may have taken her? Has the U.S. received any -- you know, videotapes --
MR. MCCORMACK: Not to my knowledge, Libby.
One more back here, this gentleman.
QUESTION: There were some reports from Australia yesterday that Australia Foreign Minister Downer assured Secretary Rice yesterday when he met her that there are going to be no plan of the quick withdrawal from Iraq.
MR. MCCORMACK: The Australian Government has been committed to the mission from -- in Iraq from the very beginning and Foreign Secretary Downer -- Foreign Minister Downer talked about Australia's continuing commitment to the mission. Of course, future -- decisions about future deployments concerning Australian troops are going to have to be decisions taken by the Australian Government. In that regard, they're now working very closely with the Japanese deployment on the ground there, so I expect that there would probably also be discussions along those lines as well. But we very much appreciate the commitment, the sacrifice and the bravery of the Australian troops now working on the ground in Iraq.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:50 p.m.)