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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing March 22, 2006

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing March 22, 2006

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 22, 2006

INDEX:

IRAN
Next Steps at the UN Security Council / Progress on Text of
Presidential Statement
Channel of Communication with Iran Concerning Iraq

SPAIN
ETA Ceasefire Announcement

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
Reported PLO Rejection of Hamas Government Platform

DEPARTMENT
State Department Purchase of Lenovo Computers
Under Secretary Hughes Address to International Conference on
Faith and Service

CHINA
Proposed Congressional Legislation Regarding China's Currency

AFGHANISTAN
Legal Case Against Abdul Rahman / Importance of Freedom of
Worship, Tolerance, Freedom of Expression / U.S. Has Discussed the
Case with the Afghan Government
Status of Foreign Minister Abdullah

VENEZUELA
Status of Luis Posada Carriles

GREECE
Secretary Rice's Upcoming Meeting with Greek Foreign Minister

TURKEY
US-Turkish Bilateral Relations


TRANSCRIPT:

1:00 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. How are you? Good. Well, I don't have any opening statements so I'll be happy to jump into whatever questions you want to start off with.

QUESTION: Well, Iran nuclear, if I could?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Again this morning Under Secretary Burns was at the (inaudible) about Iran's (inaudible)

MR. MCCORMACK: As the Secretary has been as well.

QUESTION: As the Secretary has been -- that's right, but she's traveling, so I haven't heard her. But I know she's (inaudible) about getting a good statement out of the -- a presidential statement out of the UN. But he was asked a couple of times about whether you were applying a deadline of sorts and he didn't answer that directly. He suggested you have to work with Russia and China, but he said everybody's against Iran being nuclear.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: So are you prepared to give us an idea, you know, a deadline for finishing the job and a deadline -- imposing a deadline possibly, or trying to, on Iran to comply?

MR. MCCORMACK: The second of those, Barry, certainly, that would be a matter for discussion among the members of the Security Council and we're not going to negotiate the final text of the statement in public. It's safe to say we are working very closely with the other members of the Security Council on a statement that would send a strong, clear message to the Iranians that they have to heed the call of the international community. That was spelled out very clearly in the IAEA Board of Governors resolution from just about a month ago.

We're working well with the other members of the Security Council, but as you've heard from me, you've heard from Under Secretary Burns, and more importantly, from Secretary Rice that multilateral diplomacy sometimes take a little bit of time. And we're patient, we're focused. The diplomacy is moving in the right direction. You know that it's the case in these kinds of endeavors -- presidential statements -- that every word matters to somebody. And sometimes it takes time to work through the specific wording and work through the various ideas. But we're confident that the diplomacy is moving in the right direction. We're working hard on this. Under Secretary Burns is engaged on the issue, Ambassador Bolton up at the UN and certainly Secretary Rice. So we're moving in the right direction. We are engaging in focused, patient diplomacy, Barry, but we're also trying to push the process along. We think that that's -- we think it's important. And we think it's important that the Security Council send that strong, clear message and that's what we're working towards.

Teri.

QUESTION: Do you still think that a presidential statement is the way to go rather than a resolution?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's where our focus is at the moment. And as Secretary Rice said, we're confident that we're going to find the right words. We're confident that we'll find the right vehicle to accomplish this. The focus of our diplomacy up in New York right now is working on the wording of a presidential statement. And as I pointed out to Barry, all the diplomacy on that is moving in the right direction.

QUESTION: But what are the advantages of a presidential statement over a resolution?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you know, this is a matter of working through these issues with the members -- other members of the Security Council. We have talked in public for quite some time about the fact that the first step that we would be working on would be a presidential statement. There are certainly technical differences between the two. A presidential statement is a statement from the Security Council that reflects a consensus view of all the members of the Security Council. It is not, however, a binding matter of international law. Now, a UN Security Council resolution -- there are several different types. But, for example, a Chapter VII resolution has the effect of binding on the country or countries that it's directed against. It has the effect of binding international law, so there's a technical distinction between the two of them. At this point, what we're working on is a presidential statement.

Saul.

QUESTION: Any concern that the differences that are causing the time to run without a statement, are actually diluting the power of the message that you want to be delivered in a statement?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Saul, I think it doesn't, because all the members of the Security Council, and certainly the permanent five members that we're working with, are united in the objective. And that objective is that Iran cannot be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon. Everybody agrees that that would be a destabilizing event. So what we're -- and that's been clearly stated in the IAEA Board of Governors resolution, certainly that's the implication of it. And we want to send a strong, clear message to Iran that they won't be allowed to obfuscate -- they won't be allowed to thwart the will of the international community. They won't be allowed to lie to the international community about what they're really doing.

And what we're hoping for in this presidential statement is a strong, clear signal from the Security Council that reflects what has already been said by the IAEA Board of Governors. And that is: you have to abide by your international commitments. You have to, for example, suspend all your enrichment activities, which by the way, they have previously pledged to do, and demonstrate to the international community that this regime is serious about coming back into the mainstream of the nonproliferation international community. Thus far, they have decided not to. Thus far, they have -- the regime has taken the Iranian people down the pathway to increased isolation from the rest of the world. And the sole party responsible for that is the Iranian regime and the Iranian people should understand that.

QUESTION: What is it you mean by technical differences? Can you give us an example of somewhere where the United States has a technical difference with Russia?

MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of the specific wording?

QUESTION: Yeah, is the -- what does it come down to? It's difficult for us to imagine --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, no, no. I understand that and I certainly appreciate the question. At this point, certainly we're going to -- as I pointed out to Barry, we're going to try to perform these negotiations within diplomatic channels and I hope you would appreciate that we're not going to get into, really, the ins and outs of the diplomacy and what specifically is -- what the specific wording is that we're working on.

But again, I underline the point here that everybody shares a common objective. There's unanimity on the fact that Iran can't be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon, so what we're trying to do is work on the proper wording, work on the proper vehicle to send that clear message to them.

QUESTION: So by a technicality, what you mean is we differ over the words?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're working -- it's essentially tactical differences, working through tactical issues with respect to words. That's how I would characterize it. I'm trying to differentiate here between the strategic overall objectives that all share and between any tactical issues that might arise. And we're confident that we'll be able to resolve any differences of opinion concerning wording through the process of patient diplomacy up in New York.

QUESTION: Have you -- tactical could be quite wide-ranging, I guess. I mean, you could have the strategic goal of Iran not getting a nuclear weapon, but tactically, one side might think sanctions are the way to go and another might say tactically, that's counterproductive, that's not the way. That's a -- you know, big difference.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, no, no -- certainly, I appreciate that. We're -- in terms of sanctions, we talked about the fact that at the UN, the United States -- that was not the first step that we would be seeking and that still holds.

QUESTION: In another arena, have you taken note of what seems to be now Iranian Government approval, not just the arms negotiator, to talk to the U.S. on Iraq --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: I agree separately -- really separate from --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- what's going on with the UN. Is there some new life in this process?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we've talked about this a little bit before in this room. I think everybody understands the history here, that this -- Ambassador Khalilzad, for some time, has been authorized to have this channel of communication on a very narrow range of interest concerning Iraq.

Again, as I have pointed out previously when asked this question, I find it very interesting that the Iranian regime has chosen this particular time to seek to communicate with the United States Government through this channel of communication, where this channel of communication has been open for some time. We think it has more to do with Iran's desire to decrease the pressure on the regime and to divert attention from the ongoing discussions about the topic of Iran's nuclear program that we're watching unfold up in New York. We think it has more to do with that and less to do with the actual desire to communicate with the United States Government on issues concerning Iraq.

So we're certainly not going to allow that to divert our attention and I doubt very much that it is going to divert the attention of the rest of the world, because the rest of the world is united in its concern over Iranian behavior, certainly on the nuclear matter. And I would also submit to you on questions related to support -- state sponsor support of terrorism and the Iranian regime's terrible human rights record.

So we're, again, going to continue our discussions in New York. I think everybody else is focused on those discussions and in terms of a meeting, I don't have -- I checked, Barry, and I don't have any update for you on that.

QUESTION: All right. I don't want to get out of line here, but the Iranian nuclear program is, for a long -- for the foreseeable future, is going to hang over this situation and if you, indeed, want to talk about -- about their meddling in Iraq, you know, you seem to be -- the White House last week, now you today, of finding suspicious motives, which may very well be true. But how do you ever talk to them, because the -- on Iraq -- because the nuclear thing won't go away and indeed, they probably are trying to divert attention. But so what; don't you want to slow them down in Iraq, get them out of there?

MR. MCCORMACK: As we said, Barry, this channel of communication is available. It's open. It has been for quite some time. Ambassador Khalilzad has been empowered for quite some time to have those kinds of communications with the Iranian Government and as I pointed out, it's really a matter of curious timing now, that they -- in which they find themselves under the very harsh and intense spotlight of the international community, that they choose to say, "Oh, well, you know, perhaps we would like to communicate with you regarding Iraq," and use that channel of communication.

QUESTION: But does the curious timing mean that you don't want to accept their offer to --

MR. MCCORMACK: There is -- again, it was the United States that said that this channel of communication was open. We don't have any meeting scheduled at this point. I'm not aware of any -- I have not been made aware of any communications regarding establishing -- setting up a meeting. Like I said, I've pledged to you that we'll try to keep you up to date as best we can if there is, in fact, a meeting and what the content of those discussions would be. But from our point of view, certainly, it would -- any communication would take place within a very narrow band of issues related to Iraq.

QUESTION: So you say to them, "We'd like to talk to you about Iraq," they come back with some curious timing, you say, "Yes, we'd like to talk." You go out of your way to emphasize this skepticism rather than, "Okay, we invited them, they've said yes. I haven't got a time for you, but yes, we do plan to meet them." Can you not tell us whether you plan to take them up on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, the channel of communication is open on that particular issue, Saul. Let me just get back to one issue here and that is, the issues that Iran has are not solely with the United States. The issues that Iran has and that this regime has are with the rest of the world on the issues of terrorism, on the issue of seeking nuclear weapons, and the issue of their human rights record.

So this isn't a -- the Iranians would certainly like to make this a U.S.-Iran issue on all of these various fronts, but the fact of the matter -- it isn't. And the international community is united in this, certainly on the nuclear program we have seen that sending a very strong, clear message to the Iranian Government that that -- the behavior in which they have engaged will not be tolerated. And that behavior is seeking a nuclear weapon under the cover of a peaceful nuclear program in abrogation of their international agreements and in abrogation of the agreements that they reach with the EU-3.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: I'm just confused because I understand that you say this is a very limited mandate, only about Iraq, but you seem to be talking about everything else other than Iraq. I mean, why don't you just have the conversations with them about Iraq, not talk about anything else? I mean, it seems like you're the one that's introducing all this other stuff into the equation. Even though you don't want to talk about that with the Iranians, you're not dealing with the issue of Iraq with the Iranians. I mean, are you waiting for them to call you and say, "Let's meet," or -- I mean, if you really want to meet them, why don't you just meet them and keep the conversation limited to Iraq?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I would only point you to the history of this and --

QUESTION: Why don't you just call them on their bluff, then?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have talked about the history of this issue, I think, going back to this fall when we, in this briefing room, talked about the fact that this channel of communication was open and available to the Iranians and they declined. They declined -- they declined an offer to meet on these topics. So as I told Saul and as I've told others, that channel of communication on those particular issues is open. We don't have any updates for you with regard to any meeting and we'll try to keep you updated on it.

QUESTION: A follow-up on that.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: I agree with what you're saying. I think this mixed message that's going out there, which is -- you know, they're not going to talk about your nuclear situation, but on the issue of Iraq, you seem to be sending a very negative message that sort of says -- talking out of both sides of our mouths which are saying, "Well, we want to have a discussion about the Middle East and Iraq, in particular, but" --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're actually not saying --

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) the stick and the carrot by saying, "If you don't talk" --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're actually --

QUESTION: Are you're holding this over their head that "if you don't cooperate on your nuclear program, we're not going to meet with you on Iraq?"

MR. MCCORMACK: I think --

QUESTION: The communication is open and it's (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sorry, I think the question ignores the history that I just went through here and first -- and also, I want to clarify one thing. You mentioned, "Have this discussion about the Middle East and Iraq." -- no. The discussion would be very narrowly focused and this channel of communication is very narrowly focused on Iraq.

The onus in all of these questions is on Iraq -- on Iran. It is the Iranian regime that is engaged in behavior that the international community finds troubling. It is the Iranian regime that is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, even though they pledged in signing the nonproliferation treaty not to do so. They are also the central banker for terrorism in the Middle East. They're the most significant state sponsor of terrorism in the world. This directly goes against UN Resolution 1373, which calls upon all states to fight terrorism. Their human rights record has grown increasingly troubling, certainly during the regime of President Ahmadi-Nejad. You have more and more media outlets that are either being shut down or not opened because of the regime. You have more and more -- you see more and more instances where freedom of expression is stifled.

One very good example are some transportation workers who, within the past several months wanted to organize peacefully and to express their differences with the regime concerning work conditions. They were just speaking out, saying they wanted better working conditions. And the public demonstration was violently broken up. That's an example of the kind of behavior of this regime. And it is the kind of -- it is a kind of behavior that is troubling to the rest of the world, not just the United States. Certainly, we have expressed our concerns with their behavior. But the onus is upon the Iranian regime to change their behavior and that's what the rest of the world is calling upon them to do.

QUESTION: Are you saying that the Iranian regime has to change its behavior before you'll talk to them about Iraq?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. Like I said, I don't know how many times I can say it or how I can say it more clearly.

QUESTION: I let you expand on the history, but my question to you was you seem to be saying --

MR. MCCORMACK: It's the same question that Elise asked and other people asked. The channel of communication is open. We've said it's open. Ambassador Khalilzad has been authorized for quite some time to --

QUESTION: But now you're saying that they've responded and you find it curious that they're now saying, you know, well, we want to talk -- well, why don't -- just as Elise just said, why don't we say, okay?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, first of all, let's be clear about the history. There was -- they previously have said that they didn't want to talk in this channel. Why is it that several months ago, they wouldn't want to talk in this -- with this channel of communication. But just now when the situation in the international community has changed, where they find themselves now isolated and they now find themselves before the U.N. Security Council, that now they're interested in opening up that channel of communication. And I think that any reasonable person walking down the street would certainly find that timing as curious as we do.

QUESTION: Sean, I don't think anybody is even questioning this, I mean, is kind of disagreeing that the timing is curious, but so what? I mean, why should the Iraq issue kind of suffer? If you need to talk to these people, why are you --

MR. MCCORMACK: Who's saying it's suffering, Elise?

QUESTION: Well, no. I mean, you're saying that --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- I'm not quite sure I get the point of your question. The channel of communication is open. Ambassador Khalilzad is authorized to speak with the Iranian government.

QUESTION: Is he waiting to hear from the Iranians?

MR. MCCORMACK: I have told you --

QUESTION: What's --

MR. MCCORMACK: I have told you that we will keep you up to date on any meetings. There are no meetings scheduled at this point?

QUESTION: Well, why not?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well -- (Laughter) -- Teri, we will keep you up to date on any meetings that are scheduled.

QUESTION: But that doesn't answer the question of why you aren't scheduling meetings?

MR. MCCORMACK: Any other questions?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. I apologize to change the topic.

MR. MCCORMACK: That's fine. Fine with me. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: This is Carlos Sedaya (ph) from the Spanish network Quattro on CNN Plus. Today the terrorist group ETA has called a permanent ceasefire. I'm wondering how do you receive this announcement and if there is any specific collaboration already offered to the Spanish Government?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have certainly seen the news reports about this and I think in the days ahead certainly we're going to be in touch with the Spanish Government to get some more information concerning these news reports. I would say a few points. One, that the United States and Spain are the closest of allies and we're allies in fighting the war against terrorism. We certainly have known the -- we have both known the suffering from terrorists acts and let us be very clear that the United States is opposed to all forms of terrorism and is committed to continuing fighting the war against terrorism with Spain. I think that as an initial comment, we would say that any decisive steps taken by E-T-A -- ETA -- to give up violence should be welcomed and that we, as I said, are going to be in contact with the Spanish Government in the days ahead, as details of these news reports become more clear.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Yeah. Since there have been more announcements of this kind for -- does the U.S. Government give credit to ETA to issue such an announcement?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, like I said, we're going to be in contact with the Spanish Government to follow up to get more clarity about the details of this announcement. As I've said, any decisive steps taken by ETA to walk away from the use of violence and terror should be welcomed.

QUESTION: May I follow up just briefly?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you think that the Irish process, the Northern Ireland process could be a model in the Spanish possible peace process?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to -- I'm not going to try to get into the business of suggesting how the Spanish Government deal with this. This is an issue for the Spanish Government to deal with.

QUESTION: Just a few minutes ago, a story started coming out of Jerusalem that the Acting Prime Minister says he can't wait -- Israel can't wait forever for Hamas to straighten itself out and that they will begin -- Israel will have to begin implementing its own plan. This is not brand new. But still, newly said, are there any instant reflections here on that story?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think -- I haven't had an opportunity to see the Acting Prime Minister's remarks, so let me defer any comment until we have an opportunity to take a look at exactly what he said.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Samir. We'll come back to you guys.

Samir.

QUESTION: PLO Executive Committee under the leadership of President Abbas rejected Hamas new government and its platform. It was the -- they don't recognize the agreements the Palestinian Authority had with Israel and because they don't recognize the PLO Executive Committee as the sole representative of all the Palestinian people. I mean, how the U.S. react to this?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to take a look, Samir. I hadn't seen those particular comments from President Abbas. I know that they are in the process of government formation and there is some communication back and forth between Hamas, who is trying to form a government, and the president's office. I'll check for you to see what the -- what we have in terms of the latest comment on where that process stands.

Elise.

QUESTION: This week, the Chinese Government-owned entity LanEvo (ph) group announced it would be selling 16 -- this is the group that bought, I think, some divisions of IBM -- announced it would be selling 16,000 computers to the State Department as part of a worldwide upgrade of both unclassified and classified systems. Given the -- you know, kind of well-documented concern in the past about Chinese spying activities through front companies in the United States, are you concerned at all that this could pose a security risk to your classified systems?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, my understanding, the original solicitation was for unclassified systems with removable hard drives. A second point, the computers in question were purchased under standard government procurement laws. It was done in full compliance with the requirements that were laid out and certainly, the United States takes its responsibility seriously in terms of getting the best value for the dollar whenever we spend American taxpayer dollars.

One other point about the Lenovo purchase, which was done through a government contractor, that the -- Lenovo's North American presence and workforce are, in large part, in North America. The desktops are manufactured in Raleigh, North Carolina. The smaller mini-tower computers are manufactured in Mexico. I guess the only -- the final point I would make about this is that although Lenovo purchased IBM's PC operations, the -- IBM will continue to service all Lenovo PC products.

QUESTION: Follow-up on China?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Different subject, but on Capitol Hill, there's a bill being drafted, or I guess it's already written, that would threaten China if it doesn't float the yuan, threatened it with a 27.5 percent tax. Does the State Department take any position on this? Is this something that you weigh in on or that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Usually -- I'll check, Teri. Usually, what will happen with legislation of this type, once it reaches a certain stage, is there will be a statement of administration position, which is a government-wide position. Obviously, the State Department would input to that as a matter of practice.

On this particular question, I'll check to see. I don't know off the top of my head if there is a statement of administration position on it.

QUESTION: Okay. In general, has the State Department said -- taken a position yet at all on whether China should -- whether there should be any measures to try to force China into --

MR. MCCORMACK: I know that the U.S. Government has, in the past, spoken about this issue and I know that the Chinese Government has, in the past, taken some steps on the issue to -- that meet some of the United States' concerns. In terms of the current state of play on the issue, I'll have to check for you. I know that they have taken some steps in the past. I'll be happy to check for you to see if there's any other -- anything else that we are --

QUESTION: Yeah, if there's anything you can say on the current bill?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, I'll check for you.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. MCCORMACK: Joel

QUESTION: Right about now, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes is addressing an all-day conference and -- in Northwest Washington. It's an inter-religious conference. Will you be -- meaning the State Department -- directing any changes or any particular emphasis to counter madras schools, their curriculum, and the religious behavior? And these schools have been inciting the terrorism that you're trying to combat.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, Joel, you know, schools and school systems will vary from country to country. The madras system in Indonesia is different than the one in Pakistan, which is different than the system in Saudi Arabia. I can only tell you in -- you know, a couple of case-by-case examples, for example, Pakistan -- President Musharraf has made changing the curriculum of the madrasas a core of his education reform policy and we certainly support that.

In Indonesia, the Secretary recently visited a madrasa and she very much enjoyed her visit. She found it very encouraging that you had little boys and little girls learning together in that environment, where they were learning the practical tools that will help them later in life, learning -- you know, learning about grammar, learning about science, learning about mathematics. They were also learning about religion and their heritage as well, all happening in one place.

So again, the particular curriculum and the particular schooling and the way that this fits into the overall education program will vary from country to country. We have placed a great deal of emphasis on the importance of education. It's an important passport for children as they seek to find their place not only in their societies, but in the global economy.

Teri.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) issue of yesterday.

MR. MCCORMACK: Teri, do you want to get that?

QUESTION: The Afghan case again.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Now President Bush says he's deeply troubled by this, that anybody would be prosecuted for something like this. Is there anything more you can say also about the fact that they're now talking about possibly declaring the man unfit to stand trial as a way out?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah Teri, we talked about this a little bit yesterday. Under Secretary Burns also talked about it. I think I would just build on those comments from yesterday, certainly echoing the President's comments that he made in West Virginia, that we find deeply troubling any case -- you know, any case that would allow somebody to be tried, much less face the death penalty, for freely expressing their religious views. Clearly, this case challenges concepts of the universal right of people to freely express themselves and choose how they worship and also, I think goes against the Afghan constitution, which talks about the -- and which guarantees freedom of worship.

So as we talked about yesterday, we have made these concerns very clear to Foreign Minister Abdullah. He continues his visit here and we will be following this issue very, very closely. It's an issue of real concern.

QUESTION: And about the fact that they -- (cell phone rings) -- sorry.

MR. MCCORMACK: Cell phone violation. You disturbed Teri's train of thought. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay, sorry. About the fact that they may declare him unfit to stand trial, I mean, is this -- this doesn't solve the problem that he is still being -- you know, that the case could be brought in the first place, which is the fundamental issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. That's right and that is the fundamental issue. And, you know our views. We have over the past couple of days, and certainly the President today, made very clear our views on this issue. Freedom of religion is a core element of any democracy and any application, practical application of that, of those ideas, has to be true. And it is important, we believe, that the Afghan Government act to uphold those guarantees in the Afghan constitution.

QUESTION: Are you yet saying that you think the case should be dismissed or do you stand by your comments before that you'll just see how it plays out in the court system?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we would -- you know, again, building on what I said and Under Secretary Burns said yesterday that we are deeply troubled that even such a case would be brought when, in fact, the Afghan constitution guarantees freedom of worship and freedom to worship as people would choose.

QUESTION: And one more thing. Did you hear that Foreign Minister Abdullah is no longer going to continue in his job?

MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen those press reports.

QUESTION: Yeah, Hamid Karzai has announced a reorganization and he's apparently no longer Foreign Minister. They've already announced a replacement. News to you? Okay, so I guess it didn't come up.

MR. MCCORMACK: It didn't come up in the meetings I was in.

QUESTION: Right, okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Elise.

QUESTION: New question, new topic. This is about Mr. Posada Carriles. A judge has denied his petition for release and he seems to be a little bit in limbo because the judge also ruled he can't be sent back to Cuba or Venezuela but at the same time he isn't being released. Is the State -- there are some reports that the State Department is petitioning a third country to accept him. Is this true? And if so, what countries are you talking to?

MR. MCCORMACK: I know DHS is handling the matter. Let me -- I'll check for you, Elise, to see what kind of State Department involvement there may be in the case.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: There's a gentleman over here. We'll come to you. You'll be the last question. You, sir.

QUESTION: May I go back to Iranian issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, sure. We had so much fun with it the first time around.

QUESTION: I'd like to know when was the last official contact or meeting with Iranians that took place in this (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, we have well-established channels of communication. I can't tell you when the last contact was.

QUESTION: So, yes, it's already (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, again, I can't tell you specifically when the last time there was a communication through the channels that we have already.

Yes, sir. Lambros.

QUESTION: I need your special attention (inaudible). Do you have, first of all, anything on Greece about the visit?

MR. MCCORMACK: The Secretary looks forward to meeting with the Greek Foreign Minister.

QUESTION: That's it?

MR. MCCORMACK: They're going to discuss a wide range of issues.

QUESTION: Anything else?

MR. MCCORMACK: Greece is a good friend and ally.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. Let's go to Turkey and I need your attention, your attention.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, okay.

QUESTION: Hello? Ready?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm ready.

QUESTION: Your attention. According to a series of reports, the dictator-to-be in Turkey, Turkish General Yasar Buyukanit, is planning a coup d'etat to overthrow the popular government of Recep Erdogan in the name of Islamic (inaudible). Since Turkey is an ally to U.S. and NATO member, are you concerned to prevent such a fascist coup d'etat to present democracy, because in the case of Greece, as I do remember very well 1967, neither U.S. or NATO did absolutely nothing to prevent such a coup.

MR. MCCORMACK: I have not heard any such reports. Turkey is a good friend and ally and we have full faith and confidence in Turkish democracy and adherence to their constitution.

QUESTION: May I have one more? I know it is a decision (inaudible) because in the Turkish newspaper Zaman, Z-a-m-a-n, March 20th reported, "In a telephone conversation with a Turkish official over the parliamentary refusal of the March 1st deployment mission prior to the war in Iraq, an official from the U.S. Department of Defense was referring to the Turkish armed forces, as he said, 'Tell them they owe us a favor for three coup d'etats.' Is this the way they are doing us a favor?'"

I'm wondering what is going on.

MR. MCCORMACK: You'll have to ask Zaman newspaper. I can't make heads or tails out of that.

QUESTION: But as far as for democracy, are you concerned about democracy in Turkey?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think I just answered that question.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m.)

DPB # 48

Released on March 22, 2006

ENDS


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