State Dept. Daily Press Briefing February 14, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
February 14, 2006
Statement: First Anniversary of Assassination of Former Prime
Minister Rafik Hariri
Assistant Secretary Dan Fried's Travel Agenda / Denmark Visit /
U.S. Support for Danes and Freedom of Speech
Secretary Rice Hosts Dinner for Foreign Ministers of Mexico,
Colombia, and El Salvador
LEBANON / SYRIA
Compliance with 1559 / Syria's Withdrawal from Lebanon
Status of U.S. and International Assistance to Lebanon
Lebanese Democracy and the Rule of Law
Query on Possible Donors Conference
Syria's Compliance with 1559 and Cooperation in Meeting
Response to Reports of Efforts to De-Stabilize a New Palestinian
Quartet's Review of Assistance to Palestinians Based on Roadmap
Process for Formation of New Palestinian Government / Choices to
Consideration of Palestinians' Aspirations for Peace and Security
Review of U.S. Aid Programs / Palestinian Government's
Timetable for U.S. Review of Aid to Palestinians / Totality of Aid
& Possible Affects
Discussions with International Leaders regarding Assistance /
U.S. Response to Possible Postponement of Municipal Elections
Greater Start and Voices in the Political System but There is Much
More to be Done
Query regarding Linking of Democratic Behavior to U.S. Assistance
Danish Cartoon Protests / U.S. Urges Dialogue Versus Violence /
Commends Pakistani Protection of the Diplomatic Communities
Preliminary Election Results / Preval's Position in Vote Count
U.S. and International Community Urging Calm
Withhold Final Judgment /Election Observers / Process for
Candidates Interested in Secretary General Post
U.S. Focus on Sudan Security Council Resolution / UN Mission
Query on any U.S. Requests for Access to Individuals Suspected in
the Yemeni prison break
12:36 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I have one opening statement for you, then we can get right into questions. This is a statement from Secretary Rice. We'll have copies out for you after the briefing. It's on the first anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister -- or Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri.
"As we commemorate the first anniversary of the brutal assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, member of parliament Basil Fuleihan, seven bodyguards and 13 innocent bystanders, our thoughts are with the people of Lebanon and the families of the innocent victims who continue to live with the consequences of that terrorist attack. We recall today the legacy of Rafik Hariri who symbolizes Lebanon's resilience after decades of civil war and turmoil and its determination to rebuild itself into a free, democratic and prosperous nation. Those who killed Mr. Hariri and 21 others one year ago today tried to suppress that work and ensure that Lebanon remains subject to foreign domination. They have failed to do so, due to the foundation of freedom laid by Mr. Hariri and the determination of the Lebanese people.
"The Lebanese people have accomplished much over the past year: They have compelled Syrian troops to withdraw from Lebanon, and they have held free and fair parliamentary elections. Much remains to be done, but the forces of repression will not stifle the voices of freedom, and the Lebanese people will prevail.
"The United States and the international community remain united with the people of Lebanon in the determination to bring those responsible for this heinous crime and other subsequent acts of terrorism to justice. In this regard, we reiterate our unconditional support for the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission's work and the urgent need for Syria's full and complete cooperation with the investigation.
"The United States, and the international community, stand with the Lebanese people as they work to reassert their independence and strengthen their democracy. We will not be deterred from supporting Lebanon's call for national dignity, truth and justice."
And with that, I'd be pleased to take your questions.
QUESTION: You said there's much to be done; that includes dismantling Hezbollah. What are you doing currently to help the Lebanese Government actually do it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Saul, this is going to be a decision for the Lebanese Government. How and in what manner they accomplish compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which states very clearly that the Lebanese people, Lebanese Government should dismantle all militias. You can't have armed groups operating outside the rule of law in any country, and that includes in Lebanon. So we continue to urge the Lebanese Government to -- as well as all others, to comply with Resolution 1559. But the decisions about how and when to accomplish that compliance with 1559 are going to be for the Lebanese people and the Lebanese Government to make.
QUESTION: Taken literally, your statement calls for prosecution of terror groups and I think that's what the State Department classifies Hezbollah as. So are you appealing to the Lebanese Government to put -- I mean, Hezbollah's part of the Lebanese Government, Hezbollah members are. Are you calling on the Lebanese Government to prosecute Hezbollah for violent acts?
MR. MCCORMACK: Our view is that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, is classified as such by the U.S. Government. There is one member of Hezbollah who is part of the Lebanese Government. This gets to the larger point of how do societies deal with these groups, these armed militias, terrorist groups, who profess to want to participate in the political process, yet retain a right to engage in acts of terrorism. Our view is you can't have it both ways. You can't have one foot in the camp of terror and one foot in the camp of politics. And it is up to these particular societies, in this case, Lebanon, to resolve that fundamental contradiction -- how should they deal with that issue. So how the Lebanese people, how the Lebanese Government choose to deal with that fundamental contradiction is going to be their decision, but it is a contradiction in the eyes of the world that needs to be resolved.
QUESTION: Have you told the Lebanese Government that it could affect future relations, future aid to the government, if they don't disband the militias and do take care of those terror groups by a certain period of time?
MR. MCCORMACK: Our view is again, that the Lebanese Government needs to comply with 1559 which calls for the dismantlement of these militias, in this case, Hezbollah. In terms of what assistance the U.S. Government provides Lebanon, I'm not sure what number that might be. I don't even know if there is any assistance, formal assistance from the U.S. Government to the Lebanese Government -- it'd be something I'd have to check into for you.
QUESTION: But would it, in general, effect the kind of future relationship that you have with this new government?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we have called upon the Lebanese Government to comply with 1559. We are working with the government of Prime Minister Siniora on a number of different issues. This is a fledgling democracy. It is a democracy that has emerged from the shadow of over two decades' worth of Syrian occupation -- sometimes feudal occupation. So we stand with the people of Lebanon as they aspire to build a better way of life for themselves, as they aspire to build a fully functioning democracy, as they aspire to see the rule of law fully implemented in Lebanon.
QUESTION: Can I segue from that into the Hamas situation?
MR. MCCORMACK: Is there anything --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think we have some others on this, Barry.
QUESTION: On Lebanon. During the General Assembly meeting in -- of the UN in September, there was a Quartet meeting and it was decided that the international donor conference for Lebanon would gather in December. What happened to this project?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check to see the latest on the -- on an international gathering to support the people of Lebanon. The international community has, time and time again, said that we want to support the Lebanese people in their democracy-building work. That includes diplomatic support, includes political support. In terms of specific aid, I'll look to see what kinds of international aid has flowed into Lebanon and what, if any, aid has gone from the United States. And I'll check for you the status of the donors conference.
QUESTION: Can you square something for me -- you're saying that the Lebanese Government needs to comply with the UN resolution, but you're also saying it's up to them when they do it. Well, they haven't done it so far. If they choose that that "when" is never; they're not doing it. I don't see how you're actually pushing them to comply.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Saul, we're talking less than a year after the Syrian troops have left Lebanon. This is a government and a people that are, as I said, emerging from two decades worth of oppression and occupation by the Syrian Government. This is a new democracy. The Lebanese people have had past experience with true democracy in which their governing institutions were freely elected by the people of Lebanon and actually served their interest. That was interrupted by the Syrian occupation. They are now getting back on their feet after the years of occupation. So I think that there are some obviously serious and important issues that the Lebanese Government must deal with in the wake of this occupation. And I think that they are owed our support as they work through those particular issues.
QUESTION: So you're saying they haven't had enough time; it's less than a year?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not putting a timetable on it, Saul. I'm just pointing out the timetable you mentioned, that while it doesn't seem as though that they would ever do this, I'm just trying to put -- give people some context in terms of exactly how long they have been at this. They are dealing with some fundamental issues in their society. Essentially, you have relationships in that country that were frozen for 20 years because there wasn't free expression of political points of view. There wasn't an opportunity for political parties to work together freely to resolve differences through dialogue, as opposed through violence.
I say all this just to point out the fact that this has been a relatively short period of time that they have had to once again deal with the mechanics, the habits, of democracy.
QUESTION: So if we're looking for any sign that they're moving toward complying with the resolution, is it that the sign is that political parties now talk to each of them, so after dialogue they may reach some conclusion which complies?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, clearly there is -- clearly within Lebanon there needs to be a political accommodation that allows them to comply with 1559. That's the basis upon which the Lebanese Government would need to act to come into compliance with 1559. So part of that is obviously political dialogue among the various groups in Lebanon.
QUESTION: So are there any other signs that they're moving toward dismantling Hezbollah?
MR. MCCORMACK: Don't have anything else to add, Saul, at this point.
QUESTION: Can I bring you over to the Hamas issue? This morning the White House and the State Department said there's no plot or plan being discussed by the U.S. with Israel to destabilize the Palestinian government led by Hamas.
But you are looking at economic assistance and it may be squeezed or stopped if they don't -- you know, renounce violence and all of the above. Wouldn't an economic squeeze tend to destabilize and bring down a Hamas-led government? I know we don't -- the U.S. doesn't pay the employees, but the Europeans do and they would be very hard-pressed to keep going without economic assistance.
Have I -- am I missing something here?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you rightly point out, Barry, and you rightly characterize, certainly, the reaction of the U.S. Government and certainly, based on the press reports I have seen, the Israeli Government. Bottom line is that there is no U.S.-Israeli plan, project, plot, conspiracy to destabilize or undermine a future Palestinian government. There is an existing caretaker government with which we continue to work. We continue to work with President Abbas.
There are no conversations with the Israelis that we aren't having with other members of the international community, the Quartet, for example. Note the basis of those conversations is the recent Quartet statement out of London that lays down three conditions for any new Palestinian government to meet. And what it says basically -- you have access to it -- is that if a new Palestinian government does not meet the requirements outlined by the Quartet, the Quartet member states, and the Quartet would urge other states to follow suit, would review their assistance to the Palestinian Authority in light of the policies and actions of a future Palestinian government.
If the future Palestinian government does not meet the conditions and requirements that are outlined in that Quartet statement, certainly, we are going to have to take a hard look at what sort of assistance -- what our assistance programs would be. We do not fund terrorist organizations. We would have to act within not only our laws, but our policies and I believe that other members of the Quartet share that view. It's outlined in the Quartet statement.
Certainly, I think it's understandable that if you have a new Palestinian government that is -- that chooses to break with more than a decade's worth of policy of recognizing the State of Israel, seeking and negotiating a solution with the state of Israel, and turning away from the use of violence and terror as a matter of policy, then of course the international community is going to take a look at what its obligations are to a future Palestinian government.
I think it's -- I think that that's perfectly reasonable and understandable. So, what the international community has said in a strong, clear voice, beginning with the Quartet statement issued recently in London, is that it is incumbent upon Hamas to make some hard choices. While the government formation process has not formally begun and we don't know what the platform of a future Palestinian government might be, what the composition of that future Palestinian government might be, it is likely to be a Hamas government.
And that government will be faced with the hard choices of governing. It will be faced with the hard choices of meeting the aspirations of the Palestinian people not only for good governance and non-corrupt governance, but also with the aspirations for peace. The Palestinian people, in voting for President Abbas a little more than a year ago, voted for peace. They voted for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian people. So it will be incumbent upon any future Palestinian government to meet the aspirations of the Palestinian people not only for a good governance, non-corrupt governance, but also for peace and security.
QUESTION: The hard look that the U.S. and others would take at financial assistance if Hamas doesn't do the three things asked of it could result in suspension of assistance and couldn't -- wouldn't that have the effect of destabilizing the Palestinian government?
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry, you're leaping to conclusions here. First of all, there is a review of U.S. assistance programs at this point. There are three basic categories. There's direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority which has happened on an ad hoc basis three times over the past two years. There's indirect assistance which is provided through the Agency for International Development. There's an annual budget for that that's usually provided via NGOs. And then there's also direct assistance to the UN for humanitarian assistance. All U.S. assistance programs are under review. The EU is conducting a similar review of its assistance programs.
So at this point I can't tell you the outcome of that review. One thing that Secretary Rice has said is that we will look at humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians on a case-by-case basis. We understand there are humanitarian needs. But at this point, I'm not going to either prejudge the outcome of our assistance review and I'm not going to prejudge what the platform or composition of a future Palestinian government might be and I'm not going to prejudge what decisions they may or may not take. It is up to them to make a certain set of decisions. The international community couldn't have been clearer as to what will be required of them and we'll see if they are able to meet the requirements of the international community.
QUESTION: So are you saying that the policies that they make, will that -- that will be dependent, that will depend how much aid they get, what kind of programs do you get and that could lead ultimately to the destabilization of their government. But you're saying that's an unintended consequence, you're just forcing them to --
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I'm saying that you're hypothesizing and I'm not going to engage in hypothesizing along with you. What I'm telling you is that there is currently a review of our aid programs and that it -- the requirements for a new Palestinian government in order to realize a relationship with the existing Palestinian government that would be similar are very clear. If they fail to meet those requirements then, of course, the United States and the rest of the international community is going to look at what their assistance programs might be --
QUESTION: Which could also lead to their downfall, though? So you're saying there are policies that'll dictate --
MR. MCCORMACK: What I'm saying, Elise, is that any new Palestinian government is going to face some -- the hard choices of governing and the hard choices of meeting the aspirations of the Palestinian people. The international community could not have been clearer in what it said about what a new Palestinian government needs to do. If a new Palestinian government does not meet the requirements, as laid out by the international community, then I think there certainly will be a reaction from the international community concerning assistance to that new government.
QUESTION: When do you expect the review to be completed, because Hamas is likely to come into power fairly soon? And secondly, in her discussions last week with Foreign Minister Livni, did you look at -- did the Secretary at all look at strategy of how to isolate Hamas? What was the substance of those discussions?
MR. MCCORMACK: The substance of the discussions was what we have -- the same substance that we have had with Russia, with the EU, with Secretary General Annan as well as other states and that is seeking to make very clear to Hamas what's required of it. That's the substance of the conversations.
QUESTION: Well, did you come up with the best ways of doing that, the best strategy to do that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think the best strategy is the one that we are pursuing and that is sending a clear unified message from the international community about what will be required of a new Palestinian government. The first --
QUESTION: The other one was when will the review be finished of --
MR. MCCORMACK: I expect over the next week or two. The -- as I understand the timetable, there will be the new Palestinian legislative council will be seated, I think, the 16th or 18th.
QUESTION: This weekend?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, this weekend. And they will be sworn in. At that point, President Abbas will make some remarks. We will see if Hamas puts forward a prime minister candidate and what the platform for a new government might be. I think that President Abbas might have something to say about the platform upon which a government might be formed. So that's the beginning of the government formation process. I think that there's an amount of time, maybe five weeks, up to five weeks in which they have to form that government -- this is -- as we understand the law.
So this is going to play out over the course of the coming days and weeks.
QUESTION: But you're not saying one's conditional on the other?
MR. MCCORMACK: What, the --
QUESTION: And the aid review will proceed and --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the aid review is going to --
QUESTION: -- everything will come out in a week or two --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Whatever they say in their platform.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right. Exactly.
QUESTION: So I'm sorry, just to go back to the review. When you've finished doing the review, will the review make recommendations as to what can be channeled to humanitarian groups or what will you end up with at the end of the review?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think what we'll have a good understanding of is the totality of our assistance programs and how -- if a government fails to comply with the requirements laid out in the Quartet statement, how those assistance programs might be affected in terms of the law and in terms of our policy. And I would expect that we will also compare notes with the EU during this process once we get to a point where we have a good picture of what our aid programs look like and what our legal and policy requirements will be.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, I missed it. But the review is the U.S. review?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, there's a U.S. review. I'm saying that --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm saying, yeah, there are parallel tracks going on.
QUESTION: Yeah. Oh, of course.
MR. MCCORMACK: Separate. But at a certain point -- I don't know exactly when, Barry -- we'll compare notes about what they found and what we found.
QUESTION: Change of subject? On Egypt, as you know, President Mubarak is moving to postpone local municipal elections for two years. The reason given by the ruling party is that it's to allow for drafting of new legislation that would strengthen municipalities. Does this hold water with you and what is the U.S. -- as an argument for postponing elections for two years?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as a matter of principle, Peter, we don't support the idea of postponing elections that have been scheduled. We certainly support the progress on democracy not only in Egypt but throughout the Middle East. Our continued support for this, for our policy, the freedom agenda, is unchanged; it's unwavering. We call upon all states of the region to continue to open up the political processes, the political space, so that all citizens can have a voice in how they are governed. It's not only elections. Democracy is not only about elections but it's also about how governments govern: Do they govern in a democratic manner?
Ultimately, we can encourage -- we can encourage states to move along that pathway. Ultimately, they will move along that pathway at their own pace. That doesn't mean we're not going to continue to push, to prod, to encourage along the way. But at the end of the day, governments will be answerable to their people. President Mubarak made certain commitments during the course of his presidential campaign and I would expect that the Egyptian people are going to look to him and are going to look to the Egyptian Government to follow through on those commitments. So it's something that we will be raising with the Egyptian Government. I expect -- I can't tell you what conversations we've had at this point about it, Peter, but certainly we will be talking to them about it.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that, please?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: The U.S. Administration has been very consistent in pressing Egypt to broaden its democratic reforms; but in the last two months, just looking back at all the statements made from that podium, you really haven't had anything very curing to say about them. I mean, in December you were saying that it was seriously disturbing the parliamentary elections, at the end of December seriously disturbed about the five-year sentence given to Ayman Nour, and now you have this about postponing the elections there. Would you say, just as a general phrase, there -- I mean, to borrow a phrase from the Secretary over the weekend that Egyptian democracy is going in the wrong direction right now?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that the -- I think that certainly, the general trend in opening up the Egyptian political space to multiparty elections is one that we have been encouraged by. That isn't to say there have not been causes of serious concern. You have outlined a few of those in terms of how, in the end, some of the parliamentary elections played out.
But the -- certainly, there has been -- if you look back over the past year, year-and-a-half or so, there has been an opening in the Egyptian political space. There -- it's a start, but there's much more to be done. President Bush, in his second inaugural, specifically encouraged the Egyptian people and the Egyptian Government to take the lead in spreading democracy throughout the Middle East, to lead by example and we continue to look to Egypt, as well as other countries in the region, to lead by example.
QUESTION: Another subject.
QUESTION: Can we stay on this, please?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Is your assessment that they have led by example?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Saul, I would just say that there has been a start along this pathway to greater openness in the political system and greater creation of more space for different voices in the political system, but there is certainly much more to be done.
QUESTION: When you were saying that the governments are answerable to their people, obviously, that's true, but with the Bush Administration bringing democracy as a central plank it its bilateral relations now, aren't they sort of answerable to the money that you give them? You give Egypt a lot of money. When you talk about prodding and encouraging, are you thinking at all of linking how well they do on democracy to the aid they get?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't heard any discussions in that regard, Saul. I know that there have been various discussions about that up on Capitol Hill. Certainly, we work very closely with members of Congress on these kinds of issues. They have strongly-held views and we certainly listen to those views, but I'm not aware of any policy changes in that regard at this point.
QUESTION: Can I just sort of follow up --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: -- on that for just one second? There was, a couple of weeks ago, word that an Egyptian trade delegation had been put off here as a sign of U.S. displeasure -- displeasure over various things. Is there any word now on that or --
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new on that in that regard, Peter.
MR. MCCORMACK: Teri.
QUESTION: I'm interested -- the expansion of the Khartoum protest now to Pakistan and how violent they've become there, are you concerned -- are you ever more concerned about the fact that these don't seem to be dying down?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, any time you have incitement to violence among certain populations, or to put it more accurately, you have individuals that might use some of the offense taken by some individuals to incite them to violence. That's worrying and that's certainly a source of concern. We have been very clear in calling upon individuals, as well as governments to urge an atmosphere of calm. We have urged dialogue, not violence. So it certainly is something that we watch closely and I -- just by looking at the press reports that I have seen there -- I understand that the Pakistani authorities moved in quickly to protect diplomatic compounds which we believe is very important. Contrast that with what happened in Iran and Syria just last week in which mobs either attacked or burned down two embassies.
QUESTION: What about your own security around the U.S. embassy, that the violence was in those corridors, as --
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't checked, Teri, on specifics. Certainly, our security people are always taking a look and assessing the security situation and if there are any measures that they think appropriate to take, they certainly don't hesitate to do so. I don't have anything in particular to offer with respect to these protests.
QUESTION: And can you tell us about Dan Fried's travels? I understand that he's in Brussels now and he has spoken on this subject and he may have also been in Denmark over the weekend?
MR. MCCORMACK: He is making a trip through Europe. I don't have his itinerary. I think he was stopping in Denmark. I think he was going to stop in Germany and Brussels as well. I don't know if there are any other stops on his way. He's -- this is part of what he does, consulting on issues related to democracy in the Middle East and other issues in his portfolio.
QUESTION: Was his stop in Denmark specifically related to the cartoon controversy?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's something he wanted to talk to them about. Yes.
QUESTION: Is that the reason he went?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Yes, that's why he stopped in Denmark.
QUESTION: And what did he -- I mean, did he need to shore up the relationship after the Danes felt that the United States was not supportive enough of them?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. And then as a matter of record, we were very supportive of the Danish Government. When -- certainly when mobs attacked their embassies in Damascus, Syria -- we were very clear in our support for the Danish Government. And when I was first asked about this issue, I made very clear our support for freedom of the press and freedom of expression, so I'm not sure where this is coming from in terms of this perception that we somehow weren't real supportive of the Danes.
QUESTION: The Danish press has that perception, as you know, from comments from a Danish journalist here.
MR. MCCORMACK: I would just -- I would actually urge them to read what we said.
QUESTION: But -- I mean, was the kind of substance of Dan Fried's visit to show U.S. support and solidarity with the Danes?
MR. MCCORMACK: These are important issues and important issues of democracy, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and certainly they merit discussion and it's something Dan thought was important to do, so he made -- he specifically made a stop in Denmark.
QUESTION: But if everything was fine, why did he need to go there and remind them that everything was fine?
MR. MCCORMACK: That -- he thought it was important to have a discussion with them. These have been tough times for the Danish people and we have been forthright in our support for freedom of expression and the freedom of the press and certainly, as the Danish people and the Danish Government suffered attacks on their embassies, the United States has been forthright in its expression of support for the Danish Government and the Danish people.
QUESTION: In Haiti, the partial results based on most votes being counted say the leading candidate didn't have an outright victory, was below 50 percent, but he has come out and said he did win an outright victory and he doesn't want the full results to be published. How do you view those comments?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the -- as the count has proceeded, they have been releasing preliminary results and the percentage for Mr. Preval has oscillated just above and just below the 50 percent threshold. Why is that important? Well, it's important because if he exceeds the 50 percent threshold, there is not a second round. He wins outright. If it's less than 50 percent, then there is a runoff election that is scheduled.
The international community is involved in this -- in the process of urging all parties to maintain an atmosphere of calm, free from violence. That's important. We have heard previously from Mr. Preval urging the same thing on his supporters. What is happening right now is that the election commission is still engaged in the vote-counting process. There have been some concerns raised with regard to potential irregularities.
There is a process by which the electoral commission addresses those irregularities and they're working through those in a systematic way. I know that the electoral commission, as well as other officials from the caretaker government, are walking through exactly what those procedures are, just so all involved understand what the procedures are and how the process will unfold. So, that's what's happening now with Mr. Preval, as well as others.
QUESTION: Yeah, but the issue is he's saying, irrespective of what those vote counts are coming out to, that he's won, that -- you've called on all the parties, including him, to respect the results. That shows a lack of respect, doesn't it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's wait to find out what the final results are yet. They have not yet been announced. There's a process by which the electoral commission will address any allegations of irregularities and the international community would expect that they follow the procedures that are in place to address those irregularities. So, we're going to wait and see how the vote turns out before we have any final comments on it.
QUESTION: This process is strictly a Haitian process? Are there any independent outside observers that you're aware of?
MR. MCCORMACK: There are outside observers in Haiti. The United States, I think, had nine teams from our International Foundation for Electoral Assistance, so -- and I know the OAS is down there. There are other governments that have observers down there. I think the initial reports that we had back were that the elections were largely free and fair. There were some incidents of violence but we're going to withhold final judgment on the elections until all the questions that have arisen concerning the elections have been answered and addressed by the Haitian Electoral Commission.
QUESTION: Change of subject? Can you confirmed that Secretary Rice will have dinner tonight with the ministers of foreign affairs of Mexico, Colombia and Salvador?
MR. MCCORMACK: She will.
QUESTION: And what they are going to speak about?
MR. MCCORMACK: She will talk about issues of mutual interest and concern in the hemisphere, talk about the importance of support for democracy throughout the hemisphere, support for those fledgling or weak democracies, also talk about the importance of expansion of trade throughout the hemispheres. We firmly believe, and I think these other states share the belief, that good governance coupled with expansion of trade opportunities will benefit the entire hemisphere. So I think that that's, in general, what they'll be talking about.
QUESTION: They are going to talk about the migratory reform and the wall between U.S. and Mexico?
MR. MCCORMACK: They'll be talking about immigration reform?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure if it comes up that the United States -- that Secretary Rice will be prepared to talk to Foreign Minister Derbez about it. It's something that we have talked about with him in the past.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas has one more on this. Not so quick.
QUESTION: On Mexico, can you update us on the status of what the embassy might be doing in regards to the Sheraton Hotel in Mexico City and the judge's postponement, I understand, of a final decision on whether the hotel should be closed down?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check for you, Nicholas.
QUESTION: About the dinner that the foreign ministers are having with Secretary Rice, was this a last-minute appointment or schedule?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, they've -- actually, I know Secretary Rice has been talking about this for some time. It's just a matter of synching up various schedules, so this was a date that worked for everybody. But she's been thinking about it for some time.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: I have a question on Yemen. Can you confirm that the U.S. has asked and been rejected to interview suspects that have been rounded up in following the jailbreak?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have to check. Can't confirm.
QUESTION: You haven't heard anything about that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Haven't heard anything about that.
QUESTION: Okay. There's a story that says that the U.S. has asked and that Yemen has said no, that it would violate their sovereignty.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: So I'd be interested in hearing.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to dispute the story. Let me -- before I have a chance to check it out.
QUESTION: Would you welcome the candidacy of South Korea Foreign Minister to replace Kofi Annan at the United Nations?
MR. MCCORMACK: There are a number of candidates that have talked about their interest in the job. I think it's premature for us to speculate on what -- which candidate we might support. Certainly Foreign Minister -- the Foreign Minister of South Korea is an enormously talented individual, but there are a number of individuals who might be interested in seeking this position. I expect that it's going to be a topic that we discuss often in the months ahead. In the meantime, Secretary General Annan has a lot on his plate and we're going to be working with him very closely on a number of different issues. I think he got a taste of that yesterday when he was over at the White House talking with President Bush.
Our immediate focus now is on getting a Sudan resolution passed in the Security Council and working with the UN peacekeeping operation to lay the groundwork for possibly having that AMIS -- the missions in Sudan be transformed into UN missions.
QUESTION: Just one more to follow up. So far, most, if not all candidates that have been announced are from Asia. Would you encourage people from other continents to run for the position?
MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly, we are looking for the best person for the job and we would encourage all those who have an interest in seeking this job to certainly put their hat in the ring. But that is going to be up to those individuals.
QUESTION: Back on Sudan?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary and Secretary Annan talk about Sudan yesterday and --
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm, they did.
QUESTION: Secretary Annan would like to see a U.S. troop presence as part of a UN force. Was that discussed?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, looking carefully at his comments, I think what he was talking about -- he was talking about an interest of having the U.S. be supportive of a UN mission in Sudan. We are involved in the planning process for -- with the UN peacekeeping operations and looking at what the requirements might be in terms of personnel, in terms of logistics. This is something that we have been deeply involved with up until this point. I think I talked yesterday about the fact that to date, we have supported the AMIS mission with $190 million, as well as lift and other kinds of capabilities.
So, we will continue to be very involved in this issue. We're pushing it during our presidency of the UN Security Council. We have made it our top priority to get a Security Council resolution, so I would expect that we'll work closely with Secretary General Annan and at this point, we don't have -- (a) we don't have a resolution and (b) we don't even have a list -- a set list of requirements yet. So, I think it would be premature to speculate about what kind of involvement the United States might have with it.
QUESTION: Well, he was clearly focused -- favoring a U.S. troop presence.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think he --
QUESTION: Pretty amazing, though, but you're saying he was misquoted.
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I guess I just looked at the remarks a little differently, George. That's all.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:18 p.m.)
DPB # 26