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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing February 13 2006


Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 13, 2006

INDEX:
IRAN
Reports on the Restarting of Enrichment work / Confirmation from IAEA
Engagement with International Community / Status of Meeting with Russians
Upcoming Report from Director General ElBaradei / Agreement with
P-5 Nations

DEPARTMENT
Adriatic Charter Meeting
Read-out of Meeting of Secretary Rice and Secretary General Annan
/ Talks on Middle East / Haiti / UN Peacekeeping Operations in Sudan /Iran

SUDAN
Needs Assessment of US Contribution for Peacekeeping in Darfur
U.S. Contribution to AMIS Mission / U.S. Military Assistance in
DPKO Planning Operation / Issue of Re-hatting AMIS Mission

HAITI
Election Results / Counting of Ballots / Votes for Mr. Preval

VENEZUELA
Statement Issued by Venezuelan Embassy / Venezuelan Ambassador's
Meetings with Members of State Department Team

MISCELLANEOUS
UN Human Rights Commission Report / Report by UN Rapporteurs on
Guantanamo Bay / ICRC Access / Allegations of Torture / Ongoing
Review Process
U.S. Offer Given to Rapporteurs to Visit Guantanamo Bay
Information Collected by ICRC

TURKEY
Comment of Turkish Foreign Minister Gul / Ambassador Wilson's
Comment

LEBANON
Anniversary of Assassination of Prime Minister Hariri / US Support
for UN Commission Investigation
Secretary's Meeting with Stethem Family / Individual in Custody of
German Authorities / U.S. Ambassador in Contact with Lebanese
Authorities

IRAQ
Dr. Jafari Named Shite Coalition's Candidate for Prime Minister /
Beginning of Political Bargaining Process / U.S. Urging
Politicians to Work Across Ethnic Lines/ Ambassador Khalilzad's
Involvement


TRANSCRIPT:

1:46 p.m. EST


MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. How are you?

QUESTION: Good.

MR. MCCORMACK: Good. All right. I don't have any opening statements, so I'm ready to go right into questions.

QUESTION: This sounds like a rerun, but here we go with Iran again.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.

QUESTION: Now they're not in a mood to talk about the Russian enrichment offer. Also, AP and maybe others too have reports that they have begun some additional enrichment work. Can you deal with either or both of those, please?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can try and deal with both of them. On the second part, Barry, we've seen the news reports about -- that Iran may have begun or restarted enrichment work. What we're going to do is wait to get confirmation from the IAEA that that has, in fact, happened. We don't yet have that confirmation, so I'll -- in terms of a more detailed response, I think we'll have to wait until we have the facts, Barry.

But if true, certainly, it would be another indication that Iran is seeking confrontation, rather than negotiation, with the international community. We would continue to urge them to engage in a serious manner with the international community. But as one of the preconditions for that engagement with the international community in terms of a serious negotiation, the IAEA resolution that was passed that reported Iran to the Security Council said that they had to return to a suspension and moratorium of all their enrichment-related activities.

Unfortunately, they seem to have now, apparently, gone off in the other direction. I can't confirm that for you, but we'll wait to get word from the IAEA on it. In terms of the -- whether they're going to take the Russians up on their offer, we'll wait and see. We've seen from the Iranians that they are not going to meet with the Russians at this point concerning their offer. The Russians have said that offer remains on the table. I think the international community, again, is interested in seeing Iran get back to the negotiating table.

But it has certain commitments that it has to fulfill in order to demonstrate to the world that it is serious about seeking compromise with the international community. The international community has put on the table several offers that would allow Iran to meet its stated desire to have a peaceful nuclear energy program. Well, they haven't taken the international community up on any of those offers to date. So, we'll see what happens with these -- the comments regarding the Russian proposal and if true, their decision to restart enrichment-related activities would seem to be a step in the wrong direction. It would seem to be a step in the direction of further isolating the Iranian people from the rest of the world.

QUESTION: Has there been any high-level U.S. contact with Russia to discuss Iran's reluctance to pursue talks on enrichment?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're in contact with the Russians on a regular basis at the working levels.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: It wasn't -- Secretary Rice hasn't had any conversations in that regard.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Teri.

QUESTION: Does this make you question at all -- and I've asked this before -- waiting a month, waiting until after the next IAEA meeting to push for any more action on Iran? Given that they're announcing themselves what they're doing, why would you have to wait for the IAEA to confirm that on March 6th?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're going to wait until Director General ElBaradei has an opportunity to present his report. We would hope that that report includes everything that has transpired up until that point. We'll see if it does include -- if, in fact, the IAEA confirms that they have restarted their enrichment-related activities. If so, we would expect that that would be reported to the IAEA Board of Governors. I think the Board of Governors would consider that a relevant fact.

We're not reconsidering the deal that we made. We made a deal, an agreement among the P-5 nations that would have the Security Council defer on acting immediately; in this case, until after March 6th, until we've heard from Director General ElBaradei. In exchange for that, there was agreement among the P-5 and that agreement extended beyond the P-5 to many members of the Board of Governors to report Iran to the Security Council for their failure to live up to their obligations. So, we're not rethinking that agreement.

Anything in the front? Anything else on Iran?

Okay, Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes. Mr. McCormack, any readout on today's meeting among Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, and the members of the Adriatic Charter?

MR. MCCORMACK: I know Under Secretary Burns hosted the members of the Adriatic Charter. I think that Secretary Rice was going to stop by that meeting, do a little drop-by. I don't have -- I haven't talked to her about that, so I can't confirm that particular fact for you. If we have anything on the meeting, Under Secretary Burns' meeting, I'll be happy to post that for you.

QUESTION: And may we have also the names of the participants from both sides?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll do what we can to get you all the names.

QUESTION: And if they discussed the Kosovo issues?

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. We'll do what we can to get you information on that important --

QUESTION: Any readout on today's meeting between -- here at the State Department between the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan?

MR. MCCORMACK: They did have lunch together. It was one on one, before they both went over to the White House for a meeting with the President. They spent a lot of time talking about the Middle East. They talked a lot about the importance -- the important role the Quartet will play in the coming weeks and months. They talked about Haiti. They talked about the importance of all respecting the results of the election process and encouraged all to -- the importance of all maintaining an atmosphere of calm, free from violence.

They talked about Sudan and the way forward. They talked about the work now underway on two fronts: one, to get a UN resolution that would have the effect of re-hatting the current missions in Sudan and also, work on -- by the UN peacekeeping operations on doing an assessment of what might be needed to re-hat that operation, what -- in terms of logistics, in terms of troops on the ground. They talked about Iran and they talked about the importance of the international community coming together to deal with this issue, to deal with the Iranian issue, and that is very -- an issue of serious concern. So, those are sort of the main topics of conversation.

QUESTION: Did they discuss the Cyprus issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure. I spoke with her briefly and she didn't mention that that had come up.

QUESTION: What about Kosovo?

MR. MCCORMACK: She didn't mention that that had come up either.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Excuse me, that's a long list. Ambassador Bolton is speaking here Friday night -- spoke again of reform as -- there are several -- some critical decisions that have to be made pretty soon. Did she press Annan? And you know, there are --

MR. MCCORMACK: This was a real quick conversation, Barry. I didn't have a chance to get a -- didn't get a full readout. I know the issue of reform was on her mind. And if they didn't go into it in depth here, I'm sure that it will be a topic of discussion over at the White House. We're working very closely with Secretary General Annan and his staff on creating a human rights council, as well as on the issue of management and budget reform.

QUESTION: When they talk about Iran and Syria as it related to the Khartoums -- I know there had been some back and forth --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. Don't know.

Yes.

QUESTION: In terms of Sudan, did the Secretary General make a direct request for U.S. troops to be part of that UN -- UN-hatted mission?

MR. MCCORMACK: This was a real quick readout, so -- sorry, I just got the basic topics. As for the question of UN troops, I think it's really premature to speculate on what the needs might be. They're doing the assessment right now and what any particular American contribution might be.

We would note only that the United States has been deeply involved in this issue in terms of raising international awareness on the situation in Darfur. We have, to date, contributed $190 million to support the AMIS mission. We -- last year, over 2004, 2005 helped move 150,000 tons of equipment. We have transported 2,500 AMIS peacekeepers. We're now in the process of transporting -- rotating out 1,000 Rwandan peacekeepers.

So, the list goes on and on and that doesn't include the time the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary and the President have spent on this issue. Deputy Secretary Zoellick has made four trips to Sudan and the Secretary's been there once. So, it's an issue that we're deeply involved in and I expect that we would continue our deep involvement.

QUESTION: But does the U.S. commitment on trying to resolve what's happening in Darfur extend to sending troops there?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, that very question is premature. We have provided military assistance to the ongoing planning operation right now, the DPKO planning operation. We have provided airlift in the past; NATO has provided airlift in the past, logistical support. So right now, Sue, the first step is -- well, there are two steps that are needed.

One, you have to get a resolution that would pass so that you can re-hat the forces. Two, you also, at the same time, need to complete the needs assessment. So, it's really premature to speculate about what the needs would be in terms of logistics, in terms of airlift, in terms of actual troops. And certainly in that regard, premature to speculate on what the U.S. contribution might be.

QUESTION: Did you also look at the situation on the border with Chad and that seems to have been deteriorating?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a real source of concern. We've spoken out about it before. It is part of the changing situation in Darfur. It's something that we're watching very closely and it's something that we are concerned about. And it's part of what underpins the importance of moving forward with this new resolution, as well as this new needs assessment.

The violence in Darfur continues. The AMIS mission has done a good job, but they, we believe, are at the limits of their abilities in terms of resources. So, any re-hatting of the AMIS mission would be intended to supplant the AMIS mission, but really, it would be done with an eye towards augmenting what AMIS is already doing and has done.

Saul.

QUESTION: I know there's talk about respecting the results in Haiti. Is that because the U.S. has a concern that the results won't be respected?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's -- they're now counting the ballots, Saul. I don't think they're done yet. I know the outcome has varied over the past days as to whether or not Mr. Preval would get over 50 percent or just under 50 percent, which would entail a run-off election.

Any time that there is a hard-contested election with a number of different political forces coming together, it's important that once the election results are announced and finalized, that all parties come together and work together, regardless of their political differences, for the betterment of the country and in the best interest of the country. So, I think it is only natural, given Haiti's past experiences with some elections, and frankly, with some violence -- we have seen it over the past years -- that we underscore, at this point, before the election results are announced, that all respect the results of the election and that there be no resort to violence and that people respect others' political differences and to -- in the cases where there are remaining political differences, that they work through those dialogue, not the use of violence.

QUESTION: Well, one thing that hasn't really varied, as the vote count has gone up and down, is this very large lead that Preval has got.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: I think the second person only has something like 10 percent of the vote.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Is there any thought being given to helping that person decide not to go to a runoff?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any conversations like that, Saul.

QUESTION: Well, is that the sort of thing that you would hope for, given that these elections do produce some instability, some uncertainty; they ought to just go forward if they have one leader?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, what we would expect is that the rules and regulations be followed, as interpreted by the electoral commission.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you think that Mr. Preval has a responsibility to publicly call on his supporters to kind of stand down? Because it seems as if they're -- some of these people who are --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think he already has. At least the press reports that I've seen, I think he already has done that in terms of asking for calm.

Yes.

QUESTION: This morning, the UN peacekeepers apparently had to shoot someone who tried to gun down the crowd. Did they -- the Secretary and the General Secretary --

MR. MCCORMACK: I saw those press reports and I believe they were already in their meeting before those press reports came out, so I'm not sure that the Secretary has seen those press reports.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: On Venezuela. What is your reaction to the statement issued by the Venezuelan Embassy, saying that your session with the Venezuelan Ambassador has had full access to representative in the State Department was taken out of context? They even said they reject your answer and said that the Ambassador had not even received a response to a request sent on November 15 to discuss bilateral relations with Assistant Secretary Thomas Shannon.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, you know, I went through the list of meetings that the Ambassador had had with members of the State Department team. I think the last one was January 25th or 28th. You can go back and look at the transcript. So, the Ambassador has had meetings over here. In terms of a meeting with Assistant Secretary Shannon, we'll see. We'll see about the timing of that.

QUESTION: Could you explain if the conversation between the Secretary, the Ambassador, and the Assistant Secretary Shannon touched any bilateral issue at all or was it merely how do you do, quick chat?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, I don't think that they have had a meeting. I think that would be prospective. He has met with office directors at the office director level and I think he also -- again, go back and check the transcript. I think he met at the DAS level with people. As for the content of the conversations, I don't know what the content of the conversations were. We typically don't get into private diplomatic exchanges.

QUESTION: You even don't know if the reference to January 23rd in the taken question posted last week or any -- this kind of meeting was about? Did it go beyond any arrangement for visiting to Venezuela by the U.S.?

MR. MCCORMACK: If there's anything we have to add to the question that we posted, I'd be happy to provide it. I'm not sure that there will be.

Saul.

QUESTION: The Venezuelan Embassy -- you know, I know this sort of (inaudible) going about -- you won't let me see him and they won't let him see you. But my basic point is that the way the meetings were characterized, as if there's a policy for -- you know, the ambassador to see people, he says, "Well, I've just shaken hands with Shanon and this desk officer meeting, which is to arrange a trip," I guess, against that sort of counterpoint, how many ambassadors of Latin American countries has Shanon actually had meetings with, that he has yet to have one with the Venezuelan?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know.

QUESTION: Can we find out? It might be that he's seen everyone except him or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: There might be a new story.

MR. MCCORMACK: A new story.

QUESTION: It might be he hasn't --

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh my heavens. Committing news, we don't want to do that. Just kidding. Well, I'll check it out for you, Saul. I'll check it out for you.

Libby.

QUESTION: Change subject? Okay. Sean, several news organizations have gotten hold of a draft UN Human Rights Commission report that concludes that the U.S. has violated international laws at the prison and in some cases, tortured prisoners there. I'm wondering if you've seen the report, even though it's in its draft form, if it's circulating in the building, and what your reaction is to the report and whether or not you agree that Guantanamo Bay should be closed down?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are a few things, Libby. We have seen a draft report; it's not final. It is undergoing editing at this point. I guess we would reserve final comment until we see the -- until we see what emerges from the UN rapporteurs, who, by the way, in many circumstances around the world, have done good work in reporting on human rights violations in human rights cases.

Sadly, in this case, however, they did not take the opportunity offered them to visit Guantanamo and see firsthand what the operations are like down in Guantanamo Bay. So, this -- when people hear these press reports about these outcomes and when they actually view the final report, I would urge them to look at it in the context of the fact that nobody who wrote this report actually went to Guantanamo.

They are taking assertions by individuals who have left Guantanamo, as well as their lawyers, as fact. And there -- as we have seen over the past years, been a number of baseless claims about what went on in Guantanamo. I'd point out that many, many, many journalists have gone to Guantanamo Bay. The ICRC has the ability to have access on a 24/7, 365-day-a-year basis to the prisoners in Guantanamo and we work very closely with the ICRC.

One of the assertions about torture allegedly being committed down in Guantanamo Bay centered around the use of feeding those prisoners who had gone on hunger strike. And I have to tell you that the doctors down there comply with accepted international practice when it comes to these questions and this is done by medical professionals in a humane way, according to international practice, when there are those individuals who seek to do harm to themselves by going on a hunger strike.

So frankly, I'm not sure on what basis they are making this allegation, especially given the fact that they never went there.

QUESTION: Are you concerned at all after, you know, the Secretary went to Europe and defended the U.S. policy on torture -- are you concerned at all a report like this may sort of contradict what she was saying?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, again, these are people who never went to Guantanamo Bay, so they are -- this is baseless assertion, at least what we have seen so far. We invited these individuals to visit Guantanamo Bay; they refused the invitation. So, the United States has tried to work with these individuals, these rapporteurs who have gone around the world and done some good work in other places, but in this case, I'm sorry to say it's just not the case.

QUESTION: But they weren't going to be granted access to the prisoners, as far as I understand, is that right?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's correct.

QUESTION: So, what --

MR. MCCORMACK: They could have seen -- the ICRC is down there on a 24-hour basis. Let me point out to you -- and Secretary Rice and President Bush have talked about this -- Guantanamo Bay is there for a reason, because the individuals at Guantanamo Bay are dangerous. There have been cases -- there have been many cases documented in the media as well, where people have been released from Guantanamo Bay after going through a review process and they've shown up back on the battlefield again.

And I would also point out that the individuals down there now go through a judicial process and the U.S. federal courts are actually now involved in this judicial process, so there is an ongoing review process at Guantanamo Bay. And I would point out that -- point out to people that Guantanamo Bay is there for a reason. It is serving a purpose. It is protecting the American people, as well as others, from dangerous individuals.

Yes.

QUESTION: As you try to understand your enemy, when you have seen these cases of people being released from Guantanamo and then ending up on the battlefield again, is the conclusion that they are on the battlefield because they're so upset at the way they were treated in Guantanamo or that, previous to going to Guantanamo, they were the sort of people that would be on the battlefield anyway?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think, as far as we are concerned, they were picked up for a good reason. They were picked up fighting on the battlefields of Afghanistan or elsewhere.

Yes.

QUESTION: You said that the UN inspectors didn't come to Guantanamo Bay or that they went around the world, but they didn't come because they didn't have access to the prisoners which they have around the world, elsewhere around the world. So, why didn't you get them -- give them this access they wanted so you wouldn't risk to get this kind of report?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we shouldn't -- you shouldn't be writing this kind of report based on -- based on assertions by individuals without having ever been there. The ICRC, the International Committee of the Red Cross, has the ability to access prisoners 24 hours a day. That is common international practice.

QUESTION: But their reports are confidential -- the ICRC (inaudible) --

MR. MCCORMACK: And we work very closely with the ICRC. I would point out -- I know the implication being -- here is that Guantanamo is somehow closed, that people have not been down there. There have been countless news organizations that have visited Guantanamo Bay. There have been representatives from foreign governments that have visited Guantanamo Bay. We made an offer to these rapporteurs to visit Guantanamo Bay as well; sadly, they didn't take us up on the offer and now, they are producing a report based on not having been there.

QUESTION: But Sean, the access that people have been given has been extremely limited. I mean, you're making out as if people can just wander around and, you know, look at the sites and speak to people.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I didn't say that.

QUESTION: The access that people --

MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't say that. I didn't say that, Sue.

QUESTION: -- is extremely limited. So to go and see a prison where you can just see two or three people a couple of hundred yards away really would not help, I wouldn't think, the people to write a credible report.

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we --

QUESTION: So the access --

MR. MCCORMACK: We --

QUESTION: -- is very limited that you are offering.

MR. MCCORMACK: What --

QUESTION: I think that has to be made clear.

MR. MCCORMACK: What we -- well, I also want to make clear that the -- that this was -- that this offer was made in good faith to these rapporteurs and that we believed it was consistent with our policies, as well as international obligations.

QUESTION: Can I ask a question? If you knew that they were writing this report and you wanted it to be as credible as possible, why didn't you just provide them the access that they were looking for under, you know, kind of --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we believe -- you know, we believe that we made a good faith offer based on international obligation, as well as our policies, and we would think that it would be -- it would be incumbent upon the authors of the report to present as factual a report as possible and that inasmuch as they would want to present as factual a report as possible, that they would have taken us up on the offer to go to Guantanamo Bay. They didn't and as a result, we're seeing -- we're probably going to see a report that is based on hearsay and assertion.

QUESTION: Well, couldn't you also kind of legitimize their claim that if you wanted the report to be as legitimate as possible, that you would provide them the kind of wide access they were looking for?

MR. MCCORMACK: Just because --

QUESTION: I would think that that kind of access --

MR. MCCORMACK: Elise, just because -- just because they decided not to take up the U.S. Government on the offer to go to Guantanamo Bay does not automatically give the right to publish a report that is merely hearsay and not based on fact.

QUESTION: But if you gave them firsthand access to --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we're going --

QUESTION: -- it wouldn't be on hearsay; right?

MR. MCCORMACK: Teri, we're going around and around on this.

QUESTION: Are you discounting, though, that, you know, that they've interviewed people that have been there and lawyers that are representing these people?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, and this -- exactly. And we are --

QUESTION: That's hearsay?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: You talk about the ICRC having 24/7 access --

MR. MCCORMACK: I said they have the ability to have 24-hour access.

QUESTION: All right. But they don't have access to all the prisoners; is that right?

MR. MCCORMACK: You'll have to check with DOD in terms of what the specifics are in terms of all the prisoners they have access to. I believe they do. You can check with DOD, George.

QUESTION: This was a report prepared by a commission of the UN Human Rights Commission; is that right?

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. I believe so.

QUESTION: Do you know who the members were of that commission? Zimbabwe, Cuba, for example?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. I don't know. I don't have the entire commission membership, George.

QUESTION: Well, it would be interesting to know who was on the delegation responsible for this report. If you can provide it, that would be interesting. If not, we can go to the UN.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Well, if we have anything in that regard, happy to offer it up.

QUESTION: One more on policy. Why aren't they allowed to interview prisoners?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Teri, you're going to have to check with the Department of Defense in terms of their specific regulations as to who has access to the prisoners down there and on what basis.

QUESTION: Any thought given to allowing the Red Cross to give some of the information it collects to groups like this?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check, Saul, to see if that's -- that came up in discussion. I believe that the discussions between the ICRC and whatever government they are dealing with are confidential and I'm not sure that there's precedent for it. I'll check to see if that has ever come up as a point of discussion from our side.

Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, there is a question concerning the possible sale to a firm or firms consortium in the Persian Gulf which would ultimately end up controlling international seaport, meaning the warehouses, and then ultimately perhaps the warehouses at Newark, Bayonne, Hoboken, right outside of New York City and other locations, and it's beginning to have a -- create such a rile-up in Congress arising about the sanity of this sale. Do you have any particular thoughts concerning this?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check, Joel, and see if there's anything we have to say about that.

QUESTION: Now, domestically that would entail Homeland Security, but internationally would that be up to individual governments?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll see. If we have anything to say on it, I'll be happy to share it with you.

Yes, Lambros.

QUESTION: On Turkey. How would you comment on the -- yesterday's statement by the Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who said, "Our borders with Iran, which was drawn in 1639, is older than the U.S. history. So we do not allow any attack on our neighbor Iran via Turkey."

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if I have -- if there's anything in there for me to comment on.

QUESTION: But Mr. McCormack, but your Ambassador, your Ambassador to Ankara Ross Wilson reacted and stated immediately without delay, "The U.S. did not demand any base from Turkey for such an operation against Iran." Do you agree? Otherwise, did you ask help from the Turkish Government, yes or no?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that Ambassador Wilson made a fine comment there and I don't have anything to add to it.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on whether or not you view it as antidemocratic, the decision -- antidemocratic, the decision by the Palestinian legislature to give more powers to Abbas? This is a legislature that's basically been voted out of office, that's making a big change, giving him more power to appoint members to the court through the judiciary.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to look into that, Saul. I'm afraid I haven't looked into that. What was this specifically that the outgoing PLC --

QUESTION: I think the concern is they're outgoing and they've given extra power to the President, whereby he can appoint people to the court; if he stuffs the court with his supporters, then that court could consider unconstitutional any laws that Hamas would like to bring in.

MR. MCCORMACK: I see. Okay. I'll look into that one for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Yes.

QUESTION: Tomorrow will be the first anniversary of the assassination of Hariri. I wanted to know if you have any comment or any thought on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we'll have some statements out from the Secretary as well as others. I would say only that even though one year has passed, the United States Government and the international community stand shoulder to shoulder with the Lebanese people in their desire to see that justice be done in finding out who is responsible for the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri, as well as the deaths of 22 other people in that same explosion.

So, we fully support the work of the UN Commission and Mr. Brammertz in moving forward, that the international community will not rest until we get to the bottom of who is responsible and see that those responsible are held to account for what they have done.

QUESTION: So, you are satisfied with the pace of the inquiry?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a difficult investigation. Part of the difficulty of it was the -- was the fact that responsible authorities were not able to fully secure the crime scene and to get there immediately, as well as the fact that clearly, this was a well-planned operation done by people who are accustomed to doing these things and accustomed to not getting caught.

So, it will take a while. It has taken a while, but no matter how long it takes, we're going to support the commission in its work and then to see that the Lebanese people have a full understanding of exactly what happened on that day, why it happened, and find out who is responsible for it.

QUESTION: One more on Lebanon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout of the Secretary's meeting with the Stethem family last week, the Navy diver that was killed in a --

MR. MCCORMACK: She did meet with him. It was -- it's always difficult to look in the eyes of those who have lost a loved one because of an act of terror. I think we all remember that day. And Secretary Rice and this Department are committed to doing everything that we can to see that the individuals responsible for that act of terror are brought to justice.

There is one individual who is certainly known. They talked about that a couple of months ago in terms of his release from a German jail. We made every effort with German authorities to see that he was -- that he stay in jail, got out early, but that was done according to German law. But we are going to continue to make every effort that we possibly can to see that he faces justice for what he has done in a U.S. court.

QUESTION: Have you formally asked the Lebanese for his --

MR. MCCORMACK: I know our Ambassador has gone in on this matter to the Lebanese authorities several times, so I think that you can certainly consider that a formal request.

QUESTION: Do we know where he is right now? Do you know if --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think --

QUESTION: -- the Lebanese Government kept tabs on him or not?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure if we have an exact beat on where he is.

QUESTION: And there are several others in --

MR. MCCORMACK: There are others, yeah.

QUESTION: They're also in Lebanon?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure. I'm not sure where their location is.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Also, will you happen to bring the family up to date about what the United States is doing to help get him on a U.S. (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think it was, in part, to talk about the efforts that the United States has made over recent years, as well as what our efforts will be in the future and to express our commitment to seeing that the individuals responsible for this murder are brought to justice.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice and Kofi Annan talk about the Russian invitation to Hamas.

MR. MCCORMACK: The --

QUESTION: Russian invitation to Hamas (inaudible) members of the --

MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't get to that level of detail about their conversations.

Yes.

QUESTION: In Iraq, the Shia decided to -- they chose the current premier, Ibrahim al-Jafari, as their candidate for -- to form the next government, since they are the winners of the elections. There is high probability he will be the Prime Minister. Do you have a comment?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is a beginning of a process and, as you mentioned, the list -- the coalition list with the largest number of seats in the parliament has nominated current Prime Minister Jafari to be their candidate to form a government. This is going to be a process of coalition building as Prime Minister Jafari and his supporters seek to bring in others into the government and fill out specific portfolios.

I expect that you're going to see a lot of bargaining going on in the days and weeks ahead as they work to form a government. And we look forward to working with whatever Iraqi government emerges from this process. The decisions about who will lead the Iraqi people in this government are going to be for the elected representatives of the Iraqi people to make.

QUESTION: But the actual government was not very successful in gathering all the factions back, especially the Sunnis. You are not concerned it will --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think we are just at the beginning of the political bargaining process. And what we have urged the Iraqi people -- the elected representatives of the Iraqi people to do is to work together to form a government of national unity, so that it is very clear to the Iraqi people that their government is representing all the Iraqi people. And we urge these politicians to work across ethnic lines, to work across religious lines in the best interest of Iraq and the Iraqi people.

And I think that you've seen -- there have been a lot of behind-the-scenes conversations going on. Ambassador Khalilzad is involved in encouraging the formation of this government, but ultimately, the choices that are made, the bargains that are struck are going to be for Iraqi politicians to make.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:23 p.m.)

DPB # 25

ENDS


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