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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 10, 2006

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 10, 2006

INDEX:

NEPAL
Statement on US Call to Restore Democracy
Status of Direct Conversations with King Gyanendra

ITALY
Elections in Italy / Exit Polls

VENEZUELA
Reaction from President Chavez on Incident of US Ambassador
Attack on US Ambassador Brownfield's Car
Obligations under Vienna Convention / Diplomatic Consequences
Reports of Venezuela Holding Talks with Iran / US Concerns
US Venezuelan Relations

PERU
Update of Elections

IRAQ
US Assessment of Iraq
Call for Leaders in Region to Help Iraqis

IRAN
White House Response to News Reports / Focus on Diplomacy
Security Council Presidential Statement / Diplomatic Next Steps
Status of IAEA
Restrictions on US Military Technology Sales to Iran

SUDAN
NATO Assistance to AU Mission
Transition into UN Peacekeeping Mission
Working with Multilateral Institutions / US Assistance to AU
Mission
Moving Abuja Political Process Forward / Situation in Darfur
UN Needs Assessment Planning

HUNGARY
US Reaction to Elections

ALBANIA/GREECE
Query on Letter Sent from Albanian Organizations to Secretary Rice

NORTH KOREA
Constructive Talks between US and Japanese Delegations
Contacts through New York Channel

MISCELLANEOUS
Query Regarding Reports about Ratko Mladic and Carla Del Ponte


TRANSCRIPT:

12:30 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. How are you? I have one opening statement, then we can get right into questions. This is Nepal, a message for the King.

"As a friend of Nepal, we must state that King Gyanendra's decision 14 months ago to impose direct palace rule in Nepal has failed in every regard. The demonstrations, deaths, arrests, and Maoist attacks in the past few days have shown there is more insecurity, not less. The King's continuing failure to bring the parties back into a process to restore democracy has compounded the problem. The United States calls upon the King to restore democracy immediately and to begin a dialogue with Nepal's constitutional political parties. It is time the King recognizes that this is the best way to deal with the Maoist insurgency and to return peace and prosperity to Nepal."

With that, I'll be pleased to take your questions.

QUESTION: Anything on that? If there's nothing on Nepal, I would ask you about --

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, Dave has one about Nepal.

QUESTION: Is the United States communicating directly with the King's -- as this message?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, this message is intended to communicate directly with him.

QUESTION: But did -- is the American Ambassador talking to him or --

MR. MCCORMACK: They have not had a direct conversation.

QUESTION: Is there one planned or do you really plan this as the only way to get the message to him?

MR. MCCORMACK: We are going to -- we are certainly going to follow up our -- this message with the King directly. The King and our Ambassador, at this point in time, are not co-located in the same city, so we thought that we would send this very public message, which we would have, in any case, repeated after the Ambassador delivered it.

QUESTION: Can I ask about the Italian elections? Iraq evidently was not a major issue in the campaign, but still one of the U.S.'s best friends Berlusconi, seems to have lost. And the winner is somebody who wants to get out of Iraq as soon as possible. Will the U.S. miss the Berlusconi government? You lost Aznar in Spain and now Berlusconi in Italy. Do you feel any loss so far as maintaining a coalition?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think, Barry, we certainly are not going to put much stock into exit polls at this point. We'll see what the final conclusions are and before you have a final vote count, I'm not going to have any comment on it. We certainly look forward to working with whoever is the next prime minister. Italy is a good friend and ally and we look forward to working with them on a number of issues of common concern between our two countries.

QUESTION: But Prodi has been notably anti-American over the years.

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, we're not -- I'm not here to declare winners in the Italian election. We'll work with the next Italian -- we will look forward to working with the next Italian Government.

QUESTION: Sean, I guess it is early, as you say.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. It's at 3:00, I think, they're supposed to have some initial polls out. But again, we here, Barry, are very leery of commenting on exit polls.

QUESTION: All right. Well, I tried anyhow, but I can see that you want to wait a little bit. The Prodi coalition has Communists in it and I think 30 years ago, the U.S. refused to deal with Italy because there were Communists in the government.

Do you have -- does the U.S. have a position on dealing with a government is it like Hamas?

MR. MCCORMACK: I know you're a baseball fan, Barry, so I'll just say swing and a miss.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: Sí, cómo no?

QUESTION: Swing and miss?

QUESTION: Swing and miss, it's a baseball thing. We'll explain later.

QUESTION: We'll tell you later.

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll fill you in later. Barry can fill you in later on it.

QUESTION: In Venezuela, President Chavez is threatening to throw out the U.S. Ambassador for having been provocative enough to put himself in a position to have eggs thrown at him. At the same time, there, apparently, he's given on his weekly TV show a very -- really outrageous diatribe against President Bush, calling him a donkey, a genocidal maniac, anything you want. Can I have some reaction?

(Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we're not going to have reaction to every utterance from President Chavez, but let me -- getting back to the issue of the attack on Ambassador Brownfield's car, this is just -- this was simply outrageous. This is the third time this has happened in the past several weeks, the fourth time overall. And frankly, the Venezuelan Government must live up to its obligations under the Vienna Convention to help provide protection for our diplomats.

We do that here and if we see an incident like this again, I think that there are going to be serious diplomatic consequences between our two countries and I think that the Venezuelan Ambassador might find his ability to move around the United States severely restricted. So again, this is just -- it's a thuggish attempt to intimidate our Ambassador. He won't be intimidated by this sort of petty thuggery.

Just one note for those who might not be familiar with the incident. Our Ambassador was dropping off baseball equipment to underprivileged youths who were playing little league, so that's what he was doing at the baseball park. And the Venezuelan officials knew he was there. They were part of the pre-advance before he went out there the day before and there were certainly there were people there from the local government who were handing out sandwiches and drinks to the people around -- the crowd. So they knew that he was there and it's their responsibility to see that this doesn't happen again.

QUESTION: On Venezuela?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Can you confirm or deny reports that Venezuela is holding conversations with Iran to obtain uranium?

QUESTION: No, wait a minute. Please stay in that area.

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll come back on this particular topic. Yeah, go ahead, Nicholas.

QUESTION: You say that the Ambassador here might find his ability to move around the United States a bit -- severely, actually, you said severely restricted.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Is there a precedent for that and how exactly will that work?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's just hope we don't get to that point, Nicholas. But I guarantee you there will be some serious diplomatic consequences if we see this kind of attack again on our Ambassador.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) of that means he's limited to a radius of 15 miles or so.

MR. MCCORMACK: I think it'd be a little more limited than that, George.

QUESTION: More than that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: How (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to comment any further than that, but I think it would be a little bit more restricted than that.

QUESTION: But he'll be worse off than the Cubans.

QUESTION: Again, let's just hope we don't get to that point. We don't want it to get to that point. We want Venezuela to fulfill its obligations under the Vienna Convention to help provide protection for our diplomats there. That's what we do for them here and we expect the same from them.

QUESTION: Would this restriction apply just to the Ambassador or to other diplomats here?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're cross that bridge when we get -- if we get to it.

QUESTION: Peru?

QUESTION: No, please Venezuela.

QUESTION: Still Venezuela. You're --

MR. MCCORMACK: Still Venezuela. We'll come back to you, ma'am. Okay.

QUESTION: You're banding around this threat, but at what point does it kick in? What else do they have to do or not do?

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, if we see something like this again, and I'm not necessarily going to set the threshold standing up here at this podium, but if we see something similar in our eyes, then we will act diplomatically.

QUESTION: But if you don't, they kind of got away with it then.

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, again --

QUESTION: If they're not recidivists, you're not taking any action, right?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, then we would hope that this very public discussion about this incident will have had the intended effect, and that is that our Ambassador will have the protection that he is supposed to have and he won't be subjected to these sort of threats and attacks by these thugs.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sean, were there warnings given after either of the first two events, first three events?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we did raise it with the Government of Venezuela, yes.

QUESTION: And do you know if you asked for specifically more guards or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think all we're asking for is what our Ambassador is due. And let me just point out that this is not just some random act where a group of people got together. This was organized. The government was aware of it, so certainly, there was some government involvement in this.

QUESTION: Do you mean that the sort of riot was organized, not just the whole movement of the motorcade and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, yeah, exactly, the people who were attacking his car and surrounding his car, yes.

QUESTION: So you're suggesting that the government purposely organized these people to do so?

MR. MCCORMACK: There was certainly government involvement. Yes.

QUESTION: Peru, you want to --

QUESTION: No, Venezuela.

QUESTION: Let this poor lady do Venezuela.

MR. MCCORMACK: No. She's got to go back to -- we've got to go back to Venezuela.

QUESTION: Yes. (Inaudible.) You know, there is a march in Washington today, protecting immigrants. Can you comment?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'd answer your question anyway, regardless of --

QUESTION: Let me talk. You left me -- the last thing I would say, is there discrimination here?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, my goodness.

QUESTION: No, no. I'll go back to Venezuela.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.

QUESTION: Can you confirm or deny reports that the U.S. Government is concerned about Venezuelan Government talking to Iran to obtain uranium for military purposes?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't confirm any particular discussions that the Government of Venezuela has had with Iran or any other country. I'd refer you to the Venezuelan Government for details of with whom they are speaking and about what. We have previously talked about our concerns about Venezuela's -- what we would call an outsized military buildup that is inconsistent with their stated defensive needs.

We have, as you know, previously said that we would not grant licenses to sales that would involve U.S. military -- U.S. technology from Spain and from Brazil. So our concerns in this regard are very well known. I don't know -- I can't speak to any conversations that the Venezuelans may or may not have had with the Iranians. But certainly, if there were such conversations and they involved military sales to Venezuela, certainly, it would be something that we would look very closely at.

Yes.

QUESTION: Just to follow up something I was asking before. I know you don't want to get involved in a tit for tat for tit for tat with Chavez, but this -- I saw a tape of this, this is his show over the weekend there. It really goes beyond all bounds in calling President Bush a drunk, a genocidal maniac, a donkey several times. You don't want to make any --

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I'm not going to -- sorry, Peter, I'm just not going to take the bait on this. He has made similar types of comments in the past and I'm just not going to dignify it with a response.

QUESTION: A more calm situation; Peru had elections. Are there any reflections here on the elections?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, thus far, Barry, what we have seen with regard to the elections, that they've taken place in an atmosphere that's free from violence and that they have been free and fair. That's our initial take on them. I think they're still counting the ballots.

And based on the reports out of Peru right now, I think that there's likely going to be a second round runoff in about a month. We don't know who exactly that runoff will involve. But at this point, I think the most salient fact is that our -- in our judgment, the elections have been free, fair and -- or free and fair and free from violence.

QUESTION: Can I make a geographic leap to Iraq? Mubarak led the BBC TV yesterday saying there is a civil war in Iraq right now. He sounded very alarmed, very unhappy with the instability in Iraq. Is that a bit of an exaggeration? Things are not good.

MR. MCCORMACK: You've heard from us before on this score, Barry, and that's not our assessment. We don't share that assessment. We would certainly -- certainly, there are great difficulties in Iraq with respect to the security situation. We've talked about that. We've also talked about the fact that there is progress on the political front and a variety of other fronts in Iraq.

What we think is important is that the countries of the region -- the leaders of the region do everything they can to help the Iraqi people, help the Iraqi people move forward the democratic political process that is underway, help the Iraqi people on the diplomatic front with diplomatic support, help the Iraqi people with their security challenges. So that's where I think -- where people's comments and energies should be focused.

QUESTION: The Egyptians are helping, aren't they?

MR. MCCORMACK: They are helping out with some police training in Egypt. We would certainly call upon every country to do everything that it possibly could in that regard, including the public diplomatic rhetoric.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Iran. I don't know if we're finished with Iraq. Over the weekend there were some interesting magazine reports on planning -- military planning by the U.S. to invade Iran and to use tactical nuclear weapons.

MR. MCCORMACK: Saw those reports.

QUESTION: I just wondered what your view was. In the buildup to the Iraq war, the State Department had its Future of Iraq Project and you were very involved in all kinds of preplanning for Iraq. Is the State Department involved? Do you have a Future of Iran project that's ongoing?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right now what we're --

QUESTION: And how involved are you in terms of dealing with the Pentagon in its contingency planning? As you've always said, all options are on the table.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, I think the President just addressed this very question not more than an hour ago. The White House has responded to these news reports. They've called them wild speculation. I don't have anything to add with regard to the Department of Defense's military contingency planning. I'd refer you over to them. The President, Secretary Rice have made very clear that our focus is on diplomacy; that's what the Secretary is focused on at this point.

We're working quite hard on what is a very difficult issue. And we have had some success over the past year in building greater and greater consensus about the fact that Iran should not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon, the technology to build a nuclear weapon, or the know-how to build a nuclear weapon. And the Iranian regime has heard that very clear and very strongly from the international community, from the IAEA, and from the Security Council. So that's the focus of our efforts here at the State Department.

QUESTION: But is it unhelpful to have reports such as that indicating that, you know, your planning is a little bit more advanced than originally anticipated? Because it seems to indicate that you are losing patience with the diplomatic option because it's not getting anywhere fast.

MR. MCCORMACK: You heard directly from the President on this one and what his focus is concerning the diplomacy. I would point out that we have made significant progress, certainly over the past year. There are difficult issues that are ahead of us. We are coming up on the -- in a couple of weeks, the end of the 30-day period in which the Security Council presidential statement has asked Iran to get back to the IAEA about how it is going to come into compliance with what the IAEA has asked them to do.

We will certainly take a look at what diplomatic next steps we'll take in concert with the international community. Certainly, the issue of resolution is on the table. Certainly, the issue of sanctions is something that is available to the international community in terms of leveraging a change in Iranian behavior. So that's what we're focused on right now, Sue.

QUESTION: But what's your --

QUESTION: But were expecting or hoping the message would --

MR. MCCORMACK: Did you have something else?

QUESTION: What's your view, as well, on the use of -- on the U.S. using some kind of nuclear weapon against Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Sue, you know, this is -- all these reports are wild speculation. You've heard it from the President, you've heard it from the White House, and I don't have anything to add beyond what they've said.

QUESTION: Jack Straw said it would be nuts to --

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Teri, just a second.

QUESTION: Jack Straw said it would be nuts.

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, you've heard from the Secretary and the President on this, Barry.

QUESTION: Can I ask you if you've heard anything from IAEA to Iran? Remember, you were hoping they would convey a message and expected they would.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. We expect they will. I haven't gotten any readout of Director General ElBaradei's visit there, Barry, but we have made clear that we hope that he is -- and would expect that he's going to send a clear message to Iran; simply, they need to comply and heed the will of the international community.

Yes. We'll go to the back, Libby.

QUESTION: I'm way back here. Has the U.S. received any inquiries about the reports from over the weekend or had to answer any questions along those lines, you know, whether this is actually happening or have we reached out to allies and --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any inquiries received or any outgoing messages, other than hearing in public from the White House spokesman, as well as from the President on the matter.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Peter.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: Joel has one on this.

QUESTION: Also on Iran, are you coming to any consensus for a middle ground? Now aside from the nuclear buildup in Iran, there has also, last month, been all these dramatic reports and really rhetoric by their military with missiles and torpedoes and such to put some type of quarantine or embargo against companies, whether black market or government-supported, for the other portions of that buildup.

MR. MCCORMACK: We currently have restrictions on the sales of military technology to Iran, Joel.

QUESTION: Are we going to institute any types of the strengths against other countries and/or black market type marketers -- that type of thing, AQ Khan-type networks?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as we've seen in other instances, the sale of any items that might involve U.S. technology is subject to U.S. licensing, so you can't get at it that way. As for other countries and their decisions about sales to Iran, that's going to be up to them, certainly taking into consideration the stated belligerent attitude of this regime towards Israel, as well as to some of its very hostile rhetoric. So again, that's going to be up to those individual countries. But our policy and our position is very clear on the matter.

Peter.

QUESTION: Change of subject? On Sudan, there are reports that what is being considered now is a force of several hundred NATO advisors, including the U.S. Can you comment on that, please?

MR. MCCORMACK: Peter, I checked into this and as far as I can tell, there have been no final decisions about where we -- where NATO stands with respect to its planning. The AU has requested that NATO assist them with planning and looking at ways that they might augment the effectiveness of the AU mission as we transition into a UN mission. Currently, the NATO has been providing airlift support to the AU Mission and the NATO is now considering a variety of different options for how it might assist, you know, with headquarters support and other kinds of support.

To my knowledge, there haven't been any final decisions on what kind of assistance NATO might be able to offer, the AU Mission, and I would just emphasize that this is part of what would be an interim solution, to try to help the AU as it transitions to a UN peacekeeping force. The heart of that UN peacekeeping force, everybody, I think, agrees would be the AU. The UN mission is not intended to supplant what the AU is doing, but intended to augment their abilities, their capabilities in terms of helping to ensure a more stable, secure environment in Sudan.

QUESTION: Can we just follow up on that? I'm just a bit puzzled because the United States has declared genocide is going on in Sudan and has invested an enormous amount of diplomatic capital in trying to resolve the situation. The Secretary has gone there once. I think the Deputy Secretary has gone there four times. We took the whole month of February to try to get a UN resolution on this.

But the solution seems to be -- while the situation is maybe going backward and getting further away from a solution, we seem to be giving Khartoum a veto over what will happen or will not happen there. A) Are you getting frustrated and B) is there some point there where the United States is going to have to take more muscular action on its own to resolve the situation?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Peter, the solution here is to work through the multilateral institutions. The U.S. has provided quite a bit of assistance, much more than $100 million in assistance directly to the AU Mission. So we have really put our money where our rhetoric is in this case. We're pushing very hard on a number of different fronts in the UN, in NATO, and also in the Abuja talks. We have people that are there 24-7 to try to help move the Abuja political process forward. And really, that is where this terrible situation in Darfur is going to ultimately be resolved and that is through political accommodation among the various parties.

Right now in Abuja, we have all the key players on the Sudanese side. Vice President Taha is in Abuja, as well as a number of the other -- rebel leaders. The reports back from Abuja are they are making some progress in Abuja, but there's still some difficult decisions to make among the parties. Mr. Rannenberger has been there, our chargé to Sudan. Ambassador Hume has been there. Deputy Secretary Zoellick is very involved in this issue, as is the Secretary.

So we are engaged on all the variety of fronts here, whether that's providing humanitarian assistance, helping out with the security, or pushing the political process forward, so we've been deeply involved. And what has taken place in Darfur is a human tragedy. We know that. We have seen that. And that is why we are dedicating the efforts that we are dedicating to try to resolve the issue. Ultimately, though, the security and the humanitarian assistance are going to ameliorate a terrible situation there, but it's not going to solve it. What's going to solve the situation in Darfur is coming to a political solution.

QUESTION: Can I --

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that. I think that the U.S. commitment to this process is unquestioned and we can see that. My question to you is: are you being frustrated by other players in this drama, specifically the AU and others that don't seem to be taking the forceful action needed to bring it to an end?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think the AU does take it seriously and they have dedicated resources in terms of personnel on the ground. They have been receptive to the international community, expanding this into a UN peacekeeping mission and the UN itself is, we think, very close to finishing its assessment of what is -- what would be needed. So again, I think while all would wish that this process could move forward more quickly, we are diligent in working the required diplomacy to move the process forward. And we would -- we have certainly seen, on the part of the UN, good faith in the rhetoric and the actions of Secretary General Annan as well as among those members of NATO.

So we are looking for the process to move forward. There are some things that take some time to perform, like the requirements assessment on the part of NATO as well as on the part of the UN, but it is progressing.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Did you have -- Sue and then Charlie. She had her hand up first.

QUESTION: What kind of contact are you having with Sudan's government at the moment to try and convince them to allow UN -- for the mission to be re-hatted? Because the Sudanese government has been very resistant. And so are you speaking to them on a daily basis, asking them to, you know, put forward the request? Because without that, you can't --

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check for you, Sue. I don't have the latest information on that. I'd be happy to check for you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Charlie.

QUESTION: As all these efforts that you just described at some length, these multilateral institutional efforts, go forward, does the U.S. have a number or an estimate -- since they wouldn't have an exact number, do you have an estimate of how many Darfurians are dying each week or each day or a month or whatever, while all of this international diplomatic momentum moves forward?

MR. MCCORMACK: Charlie, I don't have that number for you.

QUESTION: Could you check to see if we have any estimate or what the best estimate we might have would be?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. I will.

QUESTION: Still on this, Sean. Just a quick thing.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Let's go to Nicholas and then Peter.

QUESTION: Just very quick. I'm just wondering whether the -- you expect the issue to come up at the NATO ministerial at the end of the month, about NATO helping the AU?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I expect it's going to be a topic of discussion.

Peter.

QUESTION: Just two questions. One is that a couple of weeks ago, we were told that there was -- that you were awaiting the UN needs assessment report, indicating some impatience that it was not coming through as quickly as it should be coming through. Have you received it?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the information I have here, Peter, is we're -- they're supposed to finish their needs assessment planning by the end of this month.

QUESTION: Okay. Isn't that a bit -- I mean, given the fact you said a couple of weeks ago that it was slow, and now we're waiting another couple of weeks, is there a certain amount of frustration that the process is not moving forward?

MR. MCCORMACK: Peter, I think, look, we all wish that this were done already. We have wished that this all could have moved along more quickly. We have been pushing to move it along. In some cases, processes take time in order to do the right kind of assessment, the assessment that needs to be done. So while we certainly urge the process to move forward, we also want to make sure that the answer and the results that we get are good answers and good results.

Yes, ma'am. You've been very patient.

QUESTION: Yeah, yesterday, Hungary hold elections and the Socialists, the current government, has a slight victory but still the opposition party is expecting that maybe they will be leading as well in the second round.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sorry, where is this?

QUESTION: In Hungary.

MR. MCCORMACK: In Hungary.

QUESTION: What is the reaction on that, on the Hungarian elections?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen any final results out of the Hungarian election. I think the same answer applies with Peru as well as Italy to the Hungarian election. But we look forward to working with whoever leads the next Hungarian government.

QUESTION: One more question.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) for all three elections? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: We take them each on their own terms, George.

QUESTION: Elections for 300?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Thank you. Going back to Venezuela, we -- it was always the perception that the U.S. Government or the State Department decide the Venezuelan issue should be solved in more a regional context with the help of other countries. What happened?

MR. MCCORMACK: With the help of regional countries?

QUESTION: Yes, and multilateral level. What happened?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are -- you know, we have bilateral relationship with Venezuela and if there's any friction --

QUESTION: What happened with the OAS, for example?

MR. MCCORMACK: The OAS doing --

QUESTION: Yes, as probably to help improve U.S. and Venezuelan relations? Do you know?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure that there's help needed in that regard. We are ready to have a good relationship with the Government of Venezuela. We have, in the past, cooperated on a number of different fronts, including anti-narcotic efforts. Assistant Secretary Shannon took the opportunity to invite his counterpart, who was visiting Miami, up to Washington for a meeting. And we have daily interaction between our embassy, as well as members of the Venezuelan Government.

So the United States is certainly prepared to have a good relationship with the Government of Venezuela and to make that the best possible relationship. Certainly, we do have some publicly stated concerns about the way the current government has governed and our concerns about the fact that some of the actions that they have taken undermine the continued health of Venezuelan democracy. So we will speak openly about those concerns and honestly about those concerns. But that doesn't preclude our wanting to work with the Government of Venezuela on a number of different issues and to have a good relationship with the Government of Venezuela.

Lambros. Yes.

QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, any response to my pending question since April 6th regarding the autonomy of Northern Epirus in connection with the final status of Kosovo?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we're still working on an answer to that question.

QUESTION: Thank you. And I have another question, according to press reports, representatives of several Albanian organizations, as well as Prime Minister Sali Berisha, have sent a letter to Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice raising yet another ethnic issue in the Balkans. This time, it's unfortunately against Greece.

It refers, of course, to form Albanian Nazi collaborators from Epirus who pillaged Greek villages during the war and followed the Nazi forces of General Lanze, L-a-n-z-e, at the end of it. Who -- why should Albanian Nazi collaborators who were expelled from Greece for their treasonous acts Albanian (inaudible) to behave "as victims" and raise ethnic claims against the territorial integrity of Greece?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sorry. I'm not sure --

QUESTION: The letter is it (inaudible) of Secretary Condoleezza Rice.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sorry. I'm not aware of the letter. I haven't seen it and if there's anything that we can offer in response to you, we'd be pleased to do so. I'm not in a position to do that at the moment.

QUESTION: But they can -- as example what's going on in Kosovo today, here's the deal, let's redefine the national law (inaudible) on the basis of geography?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we'll -- if we have anything for you in terms of an answer, I'd be happy to provide it to you directly.

QUESTION: One more? Are we, as international community, repeating the Bosnian-Kosovo models to cause further Balkanization? As you know, Mr. McCormack, the Albanians of Kosovo are now -- "Kosovo is a supposed new nation." And the slaughter of Bosnia, yet the "Bosnian nationality" from the region they lead of their religion, please tell us, is there a well thought-out plan behind the systematic fragmentation of the region? Or just we operate in the position of the more chaos, the better?

MR. MCCORMACK: Our answer with regard to Kosovo, you know what it is and it hasn't changed since the last time I gave it to you.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: North Korea and the talks happening in Turkey are at the moment. Do you view the talks so far as being constructive and also, any movement towards meeting the North Koreans' allegation?

MR. MCCORMACK: You mean the constructive talks between the Japanese delegation and the American delegation?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. They have been very constructive. In terms of Assistant Secretary Hill's visit there, he talked about the motivations for that visit and the agenda for that visit. The initial impulse for his being in Tokyo was to have consultations with his Japanese counterpart. He's also going to take the opportunity to see his South Korean counterpart and attend this academic conference at which, I believe, at least five of the six parties of the six-party talks will be there. I don't know if the North Korean representative to the six-party talks will be there.

But let me make clear, this is not a convocation of the six-party talks. This is an academic conference. And right now, Ambassador Hill doesn't have any meetings planned with anybody from the North Korean delegation. I expect that if they see each other in the hallway, that they will be polite to one another, but they don't have any scheduled meetings at this point.

We'd be -- just let me add, we'd certainly be pleased if the North Koreans decided that they wanted to return to the six-party talks without precondition. Ambassador Hill has his suitcase packed. He's ready to go to Beijing. It's easy to fly from Tokyo to Beijing. So the North Koreans are the lone holdouts in terms of reconvening those talks and we would call upon them to end their current boycott of those discussions in Beijing.

QUESTION: Follow up on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Since Barry's not here, can I ask for Barry? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: He's listening.

QUESTION: He's listening to us, right. Has there been any contacts or any outreach on the New York channel since the last time Barry asked you that question?

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I say on this question, there has been -- when I first arrived here, one of the most interesting aspects of this job was the continuing fascination with the New York channel. There is -- on any given day, there is contact through the New York channel. It is a diplomatic channel through which information is passed. It is not a negotiating channel. In terms of any sort of forward movement on the six-party talks, we'll try to keep you updated on that. But I'm not going to get into a daily update or weekly update or monthly update of the New York channel.

QUESTION: There have been times, Sean, you've gone to that podium and said, "Let me give you an update on the New York channel."

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: So, okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: If there's --

QUESTION: Is there anything that has happened since that (inaudible) occasion?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything to report to you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Um-hmm. Nicholas.

QUESTION: Last -- late last week, Sean, there were reports about Ratko Mladic and Carla Del Ponte, that she might have been in contact with him, that she was saying that he will be in custody very soon. I wonder whether, from your reporting from The Hague or from Belgrade, you have anything to say on this subject or of a possible --

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen any updates, Nicholas, on that. Certainly, we -- our position on the authorities turning him over is well known, so we look for him to be turned over to the ICTY at the earliest possible date.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Concerning the guest worker program and the prevalence of illegal immigrants in the U.S., we only hear, or mainly, about the Mexicans here and the Latin American countries. How does that refer to the Europeans, like -- because we hardly hear anything if this one -- the first (inaudible) Europeans as well.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any update on how current legislative proposals might affect -- might impact that question.

Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)

DPB #58

Released on April 10, 2006

ENDS


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