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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 11, 2006

Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 11, 2006

INDEX:

PAKISTAN
Statement on Bombing in Karachi
Travel Warnings Based on Information Available

IRAN
U.S. Cannot Confirm Technical Details of Nuclear Enrichment Claim
U.S. Calls on Iran to Stop Enrichment, Come Back Into Compliance
with Treaties
International Community Against Iran Obtaining Nuclear Weapons
Technology
UN Security Council Presidential Statement Gives 30 Days to
Reconsider Actions
U.S. Acting in Concert with Partners in International Community
Meetings with Iran on Iraq Postponed

ITALY
Official Election Results Still Pending / U.S. Looks Forward to
Working With Next Government

INDIA
Secretary Supports Civilian Nuclear Deal / Congress Drafting
Legislation

NEPAL
U.S. Urges King to Take Actions to Strengthen Democracy

KOREA
Resumption of Six-Party Talks Separate Issue From Sanctions on
Macao Bank
U.S. Will Act To Defend Security of Currency

IRAQ
Decision on New Government Up to Iraqis
Secretary's Visit Gave Impetus to Political Process

PALESTINIANS
Suspension of Aid Consistent with U.S. Laws


TRANSCRIPT:

(2:33 p.m. EDT)

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I have some brief opening remarks about the bombing in Karachi and then we can get right into your questions.

We are saddened by the news of a bombing at a celebration of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad in Karachi, Pakistan. We strongly condemn this attack and can see no conceivable justification for this atrocity. Our consulate in Karachi is checking, but thus far, we don't have any news of any Americans being injured in this terrible incident.

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

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the uranium enrichment announcement by the Iranian president?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I've seen these news reports, George, and I'm -- while I'm not in the position to confirm for you the technical details of what the Iranians may or may not have done, what I can say is that this is another step by the Iranian regime in defiance of the international community.

Once again, they have chosen the pathway of defiance as opposed to the pathway of cooperation. And we would call upon this -- the Iranian regime to reconsider the steps that it has taken and to heed the call of the international community, the call of the U.N. Security Council and the IAEA Board of Governors to stop their enrichment activities, suspend them, come back into compliance with its international treaty obligations, come back into compliance with its previous obligations to the EU-3 and to engage the international community in a serious manner on this issue.

As the President referred to yesterday, the international community is united in its conviction that Iran cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, that Iran cannot be allowed to possess the technology or the know-how to develop a nuclear weapon. One of the critical pathways to development of a nuclear weapon is the ability to enrich uranium to high levels. That is not the announcement that the Iranians made today. While I still can't confirm the technical details for you, it is not the enrichment -- their stated enrichment activity is not something that is highly enriched uranium. It's a fairly low enrichment level.

So again, our call is again upon the Iranian regime to abide by its international obligations, to choose the pathway of diplomacy. I think that this certainly gives this step that they have taken -- or this announced step that they have taken -- gives more weight to the international community to act in a concerted fashion. The -- I know, I'll be done in a second. (Laughter.)

There is a -- the U.N. Security Council has issued a presidential statement in which it gave the Iranian regime 30 days to reconsider its actions. As part of that presidential statement, the IAEA will be issuing a report to the IAEA Board of Governors as well as through the Security Council concerning Iran's reaction. Iran's reaction to the call of the Security Council to meet its international obligations, to abide by the -- what the IAEA has asked them to do. And in its most simple form, that is to walk back its enrichment program and adhere to its NPT obligations and to engage in negotiations in a serious manner. I would note that the Iranians have announced -- made this announcement on the eve of the visitor of Mr. ElBaradei to Tehran. And we know that Mr. ElBaradei in taking this trip was going to urge the Iranian regime to heed the call of the international community and we expect that this announcement by the Iranian regime certainly would make that message even more pointed.

Sue.

QUESTION: The presidential statement seems to have had the opposite sort of intended effect. Iran has not rolled back. They seem to be proceeding further. Do you think that there should be an emergency meeting at the Security Council in which sanctions should be imposed against the Iranian --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, certainly, this is not the reaction that the international community would have hoped for in issuing the presidential statement. We would have hoped that the Iranian regime would have taken this opportunity to choose a pathway of diplomacy as opposed to a pathway of defiance. We'll be in contact, as we have been over the past weeks, with our colleagues in the international community on this issue. I think some of you in this room were on the trip the Secretary took when she stopped in Berlin, when she started the consultations on this matter. What, after the presidential statement, were the possible diplomatic options. In the wake of that meeting at the political director level, the level of Under Secretary Burns, those conversations have continued, those consultations have moved forward.

Certainly you mention the issue of sanctions and resolutions at the Security Council. Those are certainly steps that are available to the international community. But at this point, I think that we are going to see what the days ahead bring us in terms of -- in terms of Iranian reaction. This is not what the international community would have hoped for in terms of their reaction, but I think this certainly gives the international community something to consider as the first step that the Iranian Government has chosen to take in the wake of the presidential statement. So we'll be in close contact with our allies on --

QUESTION: Just one follow-up. Are you considering any unilateral action where the U.S. may take your own steps, whether they be sanctions or other steps?

MR. MCCORMACK: You heard from the President yesterday that we're acting in concert with our partners in the international community. And I would point out that over the past year you've seen the consensus grow that has been very pointed and direct in telling Iran that it cannot and would not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, that it would not be allowed to, with the assistance of the international community, move forward with enrichment on its own soil and that the international community would not condone Iran moving forward with enrichment of -- enrichment or reprocessing on its own soil.

Peter.

QUESTION: A follow-up on that. This success that the Iranians are proclaiming in making work a 164-centrifuge cascade, if it is true, does this mean that they are further ahead in the process than you have been calculating? And two, does this then add urgency to the whole issue of dealing with them?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me -- at this point, Peter, I can't confirm any of the technical details. There is a lot that goes into a technical assessment of where the Iranians might be in their capability in operating a centrifuge cascade, whether it be a small one or a large one. So at this point, I couldn't offer an assessment for you as to where they stand in that process.

And as to any other -- any change in our assessment of where they are in their overall program, if there's anything further to add in the days ahead I would be happy to share it with you, but I don't -- at this point, I don't have any instant analysis for you, primarily because we don't have all the facts. There are a lot of technical details that the experts need in order to make an assessment of how efficient the cascade might be and a lot of other variables going into it.

QUESTION: If I can just pose it more generally without asking the specifics on what the Iranians are doing or not doing. But we've been hearing for a long time about this famous quote "point of no return" in which it would be difficult to stop the Iranians. Is the successful implementation of a 164-centrifuge cascade considered one of these real red line markers there that, if it is true that they have mastered that, that it would raise the ante to a whole new level?

MR. MCCORMACK: Peter, I'm not an expert on centrifuge cascades. I know that there are a lot of experts out there who have talked about the importance of that number, 164, in terms of centrifuge technology and the ability to enrich uranium in an efficient manner that would be -- that would allow for industrial level production. So I myself can't offer an assessment of that, but certainly there are people who have expressed real concern about that particular number.

Libby.

QUESTION: Isn't it pretty clear to the U.S. right now that Iran has no intention of changing its behavior and this is just another example of their not willing to play ball with any of the things that have been offered to them?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Libby, we continue to pursue a diplomatic course in the hope that Iran will change its behavior. They have -- they tried mightily to stay out of the Security Council. They were unsuccessful in that regard. And we are going to be moving forward on the diplomatic front with the idea in mind that consistent, concerted, united international pressure on Iran will have the effect of causing the regime to change its behavior and its desire to pursue nuclear weapons.

QUESTION: And who is helping them on this project?

MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Who is helping Iran at this time on this project that they're going through?

MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal, I don't have any particular information about who might be helping the Iranians with this project. I know there's historical evidence that's been out there in public talking about the A.Q. Khan's network cooperation in the past with the Iranian nuclear program, but beyond that I don't have anything to offer you.

Teri.

QUESTION: They may have not succeeded in staying out of the Security Council, but it didn't seem to have any impact on whether or not they could perform this cascade. So isn't -- when you're calling on them to reconsider their steps, if this is true, isn't it something that can't be undone? I mean, what's to reconsider?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well --

QUESTION: Reconsider going further, you're saying?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, Teri, this gets into an area in which in order to offer a more in-depth assessment of where they stand, we need facts, facts that at this point we don't have. They made an announcement that they have enriched uranium to the level of 3.5 percent. Again, I can't verify that for you. And certainly the level of 3.5 percent is not sufficient to make a nuclear weapon. That's -- you need a much, much higher level of enrichment of the uranium in order to make a nuclear weapon. And again, there are many, many technical details that at this point we are not able to confirm that you really need in order to make an assessment of where they stand in the centrifuge program.

QUESTION: But even if -- if they didn't want to be in the Security Council, again, it didn't stop them from moving forward, so why should they be intimidated by the Security Council?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as we've said before -- you've heard from the Secretary, you've heard from the President and others -- that there are a number of diplomatic options that are still available to the international community. We have followed a very steady course of diplomacy in which over the period of a year we have moved forward at a rapid pace in building a consensus among members of the international community that Iran should not be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon. Everybody agrees that Iran cannot be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon. That would be destabilizing for the region as well as the world.

So what I expect that you will see if Iran continues down this pathway of defiance, that you will see a parallel increase in the pressure on Iran from the international community. It is not a country and it is not a nation that wants to be isolated from the rest of the world. It now finds itself increasingly isolated from the rest of the world. That is not where the Iranian people want to find themselves. So I think that it will be -- the isolation of the Iranian people when -- if the regime continues to move forward will become more and more acute. And we, again, as I said, will be talking with our friends and allies, as we have been over the past weeks, concerning Iran's behavior.

QUESTION: So this may help you build -- I mean, it's not a good thing, but it may help you form stronger opinions on the Security Council?

MR. MCCORMACK: What it does is it certainly gives additional weight to the international community as it considered concerted -- additional concerted diplomatic action regarding Iran.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: So strictly from the U.S. point of view, can't we at least today consider after the announcement in Tehran, that at least from the Washington point of view that a new page has been opened here? There is a defiance, clearly. There's a big "no" said to the world. How would you describe it? Are we really in a process from the U.S. point of view of stepping forward into another page in the history of this crisis? Would you go that far?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I think that what I would say is that we have not seen a qualitative change in Iran's behavior. They have step by step sought to evade the scrutiny of the international community. They have sought to evade telling the truth to the IAEA as well as its former negotiating partners in the EU-3. A qualitative change in behavior would be walking back its nuclear program, coming into compliance with its international obligations, and returning to the negotiating table.

This is, I would say, part of a continuum in terms of their behavior and I think that it is -- their defiance of the international community is, I guess in some ways, more public with these kind of events. It was during the time that they were purporting to be negotiating in good faith with the EU-3 they sought to conceal their behavior I think a bit more, so in -- this is, I guess one might say, a bit more openly defiant of the international community but, again, it's a continuum of the same kind of behavior.

QUESTION: But, Sean, at a certain moment in history, diplomacy has to stop.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think --

QUESTION: I mean, in the process we've seen it in Iraq, maybe now with Iran. I mean, at a certain moment -- when do you think ultimately down the road diplomacy has to stop and maybe other means, ways of looking at the issue, from an international point of view, I mean?

MR. MCCORMACK: You heard from the President on this issue just yesterday and I don't think I have anything to add to his words.

Yes, Sylvie.

QUESTION: You say often that no option should be taken off the table, so do you prepare yourself to the possibility that Iran gets the nuclear weapon? Do you have a strategy? Does the U.S. Administration has a strategy when it gets the weapon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, you heard the -- you heard from the President on this very issue yesterday. He said that our aim is preventative. In this case, preventative means preventative diplomacy and that means preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon through diplomatic means. And that's what we're working on. That's what the Secretary is intently focused on as well as other members of her team.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I'm sure you prepare for any option.

MR. MCCORMACK: Our focus and our energy is working the diplomacy to increase pressure on Iran, to increase the number of countries applying that pressure to Iran to try to get the regime to change its behavior.

Teri.

QUESTION: Since this is not yet the enrichment level that would constitute a nuclear weapon or contribute to a nuclear weapon, would it be enough for the U.S. if Iran said, okay, we wanted to prove, we wanted to get ourselves to the scientific level or the technical level where we could, you know, run 164-centrifuge cascades. Would that be enough for the United States, if it now said, okay, we're at this level; we suspend now?

MR. MCCORMACK: What we have said, our position is that Iran should not be allowed to master enrichment or reprocessing on its own territory.

QUESTION: Yeah, I know --

MR. MCCORMACK: That position remains. They should not -- because -- and the reason why is because of their past behavior. They have over the years -- they have a two-decade long record of lying to the IAEA, lying to the international community about what it is that they're doing, so it's not a matter of whether or not they should be able to have peaceful nuclear energy. That is an issue that is -- nobody is disputing. The issue, rather, is should they be allowed -- should they be entrusted with this technology and the answer is no and that --

QUESTION: Even at 164 just --

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you know, our position is that they should not be allowed to have reprocessing or enrichment capabilities on Iranian soil. That includes research and development -- so-called research and development.

Libby.

QUESTION: Did today's announcement come as a surprise to the Secretary or was it something that perhaps she was expecting to hear?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there have been a lot of reports about the fact that -- I've seen them in public -- about the fact that the Iranians were trying to build a larger cascade, up to 164. I'm not sure that -- and we certainly were aware of the news reports that they intended to introduce UF6, uranium hexafluoride which is the feedstock that you use for this centrifuge cascade. So you know again the Iranian -- the decision-making process of the Iranian regime in terms of the people who really run things in Iran is somewhat opaque, so I think it's very difficult for anybody to actually anticipate exactly what it will do at any given point in time.

QUESTION: But she wasn't surprised?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I think that certainly we were well aware that they were working on a 164-centrifuge cascade and that they were also talking a lot about introducing the UF6 into that cascade.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary spoken to her counterparts in Russia and China of whether they would support stronger action against Iran? Because at the meeting in Berlin, the Russian and Chinese ministers or one vice minister were both very down on having sanctions imposed or on sort of any further, as they said, "meddling in the Middle East."

MR. MCCORMACK: That's what I referred to at the top of the briefing was in the wake of that Berlin meeting, the political directors were in contact with one another, they have been and they will continue to be. In terms of the Secretary making calls to the Chinese and her Russian counterparts about Iran, I don't have any update for you, certainly not in recent days.

I have seen the news reports about the EU has been circulating some ideas about what steps the EU might take if Iran again chose the pathway of defiance. So I think that there are a lot of discussions going on at the working level that hasn't surfaced yet to the principals level at this point, Sue.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. MCCORMACK: Peter.

QUESTION: Just to be very sure about something you said earlier, despite today's announcements and the statements by President Ahmadi-Nejad that he wants to accelerate the whole program. Are you still maintaining the same schedule as laid out in the presidential schedule -- presidential statement for the 30 days and the process afterwards or do you think there's going to be a need to accelerate that given Iran's response?

MR. MCCORMACK: The schedule as laid out in the presidential statement in terms of the IAEA stands. I don't have any announcements for you about any other meetings. At this point, none are planned, other than our diplomatic consultations which would normally go along with the Iran issue. So we'll keep you up to date, Peter, but I don't have any announcements of any other meetings at this point.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: New subject?

QUESTION: No.

MR. MCCORMACK: No. I don't think we have exhausted it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I can still think of another.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. All right. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Could you just tell us why the talk between Iran and the United States has been postponed regarding Iraq?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, Dr. Khalilzad -- Ambassador Khalilzad talked about this a little bit over the weekend. We did not think it was appropriate that the -- while the process of government formation was ongoing in Iraq, that those discussions between the United States and Iran take place.

QUESTION: This is a quick one. Has the Secretary made any calls to counterparts in light of the announcement -- since the announcement?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. No.

QUESTION: No.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. All right. We have a couple more. Oh, yes. Lambros, I know what you're going to ask about. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Please can you comment on the elections in Italy about --

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, you stole his thunder. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: He's probably got --

MR. MCCORMACK: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- he's probably got trickier ones than that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) interest for that.

MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?

QUESTION: Any comment about the Italian elections?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that there's still some open questions with regard to the election results, so I'm not going to -- I'm not going to certainly pronounce on any winners before there is an official result out of Italy. We look forward to working with the next Italian Government, whoever heads that government. The bonds between Italy and the United States are strong and deep. Certainly, the ties between our two peoples and our two cultures go -- extend far back into history and we look forward to working with our -- the next government in Italy.

QUESTION: Another subject. According to your announcement today -- (laughter) -- yes, go ahead. Sorry.

QUESTION: No.

QUESTION: I want to add something on Italy.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Okay.

QUESTION: Thanks. Well, I don't see what you are expecting as official results because it was announced by the Italian Interior Ministry the result so it's official.

MR. MCCORMACK: I also saw that there were some comments, raising some questions about the electoral process. So again, at this point, I'm not going to have any pronouncement about the election.

QUESTION: But are you worried by the fact that any kind of results in this situation would make the Italian system and the Italian policy more -- less stable than it was in the last 45 years. So are you worried that it could add an element of instability in your relations with Europe and with your allies?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're confident that whatever the outcome of the Italian election that the Italian people will have confidence and faith in that electoral outcome in that the Italian people have faith in their democratic institutions and that we certainly look forward to working with whoever heads the government and whoever fills the seats in the Italian cabinet.

Goyal?

QUESTION: Sean, as far as presidential visit to India is concerned, Secretary Rice is a household name in India. She was shining on the Z-TV area.

MR. MCCORMACK: That's a lot of households. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Z-TV covered her all the way because she gave an interview where she defended India-U.S. relations and also the nuclear -- civilian nuclear agreement between the U.S. and India. And she did the same thing here last week on the Capitol Hill in the Senate and House. So as far as her comments on the most powerful statement from her I ever heard on this issue, where do we stand now as this agreement is concerned?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we are working with Capitol Hill. The Secretary had testimony last week in support of this deal. What needs to happen is that Congress needs to consider any changes to the law. There's draft legislation I know that's out there. So we're going to continue to work very closely with Capitol Hill on any questions that they may have concerning the draft legislation, concerning the negotiating record, and any other issues that may arise concerning the deal. We believe it's the right deal for the United States. We think it's good for both countries and certainly we're going to be working on behalf of legislation that would allow the deal to be implemented.

QUESTION: Can I have one more, please, on Nepal? I just saw a statement from you and from the Department, the first time I saw a strong warning for the King, it said "message for the King." Is it directly from the Secretary? And --

MR. MCCORMACK: There was a statement in my name yesterday.

QUESTION: What prompted or made that this time that a straight and strong warning for the King that it has been first time? The Nepalese government and the democratic government had been calling on the United States that the U.S. should help them to form a democratic government in Nepal. What happened this time that -- what is the future?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Goyal, we have for some time expressed our serious concern about the trajectory of developments in Nepal and we believe that the situation had gotten to the point that we needed to send a very strong and clear message to the King. Ultimately, these are issues that he and the Nepalese people need to deal with. Certainly, we will support actions that will strengthen democracy in Nepal, but ultimately it has to be the King and his government that takes those steps and actions. So we urge him to do that.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: New subject? Oh, Nicholas, actually. Sorry.

QUESTION: Yes, a very important subject. There's been a report from the GAO, I think it was released yesterday, on State Department travel and it says that the State Department has wasted millions of dollars on business and other premium class tickets. I just wanted to ask you, as far as I know, it's been a few years now that the policy has been if a flight is more than 14 hours then State Department employees are entitled to a business class ticket. Is this still in force and does that --

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

QUESTION: Okay. But you have not seen the report?

MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen the press reports of the report.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: I myself have not read the report.

QUESTION: And you don't have -- since you haven't read the report, you don't have a response.

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll post an answer for you. We'll post an answer for you, Nicholas.

QUESTION: Okay, all right. Thanks.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Iran if possible?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: How can you tell the world -- on what facts can you base the opinion that Iran is not going to be allowed to have the nuclear weapon in the future and that this is a consensus from the world community? I mean, in a couple of words, how can you -- one, two, three, if you can give us a summary of why this regime is not allowed to such technology in the future?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think given its behavior over the past 20 years. It is the central banker for terrorism in the Middle East. It's probably the most significant state sponsor of terrorism around the world. It is a supporter of Hezbollah. It is a supporter of Palestinian rejectionist groups. It seeks to promote instability where others seek to promote peace. It is a significant abuser of human rights of its own people and this has only gotten worse in the recent months, certainly since President Ahmadi-Nejad has taken office. And it is also -- it is also, as we have documented over and over again, as well as the IAEA, sought nuclear weapons.

So again, this is -- given the behavior of this regime across a spectrum of different measures, this is a regime that is, as we've said, as the Secretary has said before, 180 degrees opposite from where the rest of the region is heading. So that's the reason why. That's not just the judgment of the United States. This is not a United States-Iran issue. This is the judgment of the international community. And a testament to the level of concern among members of the international community is you have seen the consensus grow and grow and grow and grow to the point where the only countries that last time around voted with Iran in the IAEA included Cuba, Syria, and Venezuela. It's only going to find itself increasingly isolated and the reason for that isolation is the behavior of the Iranian regime. Certainly the international community has no desire to punish the Iranian people. That is not the intent of the international community. That is not the intent of the United States. But it is the behavior of the regime that is increasingly isolating the Iranian people from the rest of the world.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: There's a report in the Japanese media that a member of the Hill delegation in Tokyo said that they told North Korea that if they were willing to come back to the talks, the U.S. would be willing to discuss the Macao financial action that is in place and the story implied that it would not only be a discussion or a review of the policy but possibly easing it. I was wondering if you had anything on that at all.

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't confirm that news story. In our view, we've talked about this before, the issue of the six-party talks and the action that we took -- were taken for separate reasons. We, of course, are going to act to defend the security of our currency and we've talked many times in the past about why we took the actions with respect to the Macao bank. I would point out that we have taken similar kinds of actions with respect to different banks in Europe and Middle East unrelated to North Korea, so this is not an issue of -- this is solely an issue that has to do with protecting the United States currency.

QUESTION: On Iraq. The Secretary and you were there a week ago, a little over a week ago, and trying to lend some momentum to the process of forming a government. Any comments on the fact that this still isn't happening? Anything on the continued refusal of Mr. Al-Jafari to either form a coalition or step down?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, on the last of those points, who the Iraqi political leadership chooses to nominate to put before the parliament to lead them is a decision for the Iraqis to make.

Secretary Rice and Foreign Secretary Straw's visit I believe added some -- gave some impetus to the political process. She talked about the fact that when she was there she, after her discussions, she felt as though some of the pieces were starting to fall in place. And as a matter of fact, during her visit there the Iraqi political leadership presented to Secretary Rice and Foreign Secretary Straw their plans for a platform for this new government, what their policies would be, but also presented to them the plan for how the government would work, you know, how the government would be structured. And we all know that it's very important not only the policies and the platform that the government will pursue but how it's structured, in particular for new democracies, how various power centers and bureaucratic groupings relate to one another so that it can be an effective government. So they did make -- they did make some process -- progress.

They are now working on who's going to be -- who's going to be leading the government and who's going to be working with that prime minister in the cabinet. They continue their discussions. We've seen the news reports about it. I don't have anything to add to the news reports you've seen today. I know the discussions continue. We -- the President talked about this yesterday. We urge them to move forward on the process of forming a government if for no other reason than to repay the trust that the Iraqi people have placed in their political leaders in voting for them. That's what a democracy is all about. So we have urged the Iraqi political leadership to move forward and we hope that they are able to form an effective, good, strong national unity government in the near future.

QUESTION: So a week later, you feel that the momentum that she noted while you were there is continuing?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Are you disappointed though that the message to Jafari doesn't appear to have gone through yet, seeing that he appears to be the stumbling block here?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, as to who the Iraqis choose to lead them, that is a decision for them.

Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes, another subject. According to your announcement today, a meeting of the Advisory Committee on International Law will be held on Friday, April 28th here in the State Department. The Legal Advisor of the Department of State John Bellinger III will chair the meeting which will be open to the public up to the capacity of the meeting room. I am wondering (inaudible) who will be the participants from other countries? May we have the list, meaning what is the legal issues like the status of Kosovo or the issue of the (inaudible) the Aegean between Greece and Turkey?

MR. MCCORMACK: As for the participants, I'll check for you whether or not we release a list. As you point out, this is a meeting that's open to the public so in terms of issues that they may discuss, you may want to go and check it out.

QUESTION: Another one. Do you know when the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is going to visit Turkey and Greece? There's showing a lot of reports from both countries for this topic.

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you updated on her travel schedule. Nothing to announce at this point.

QUESTION: Another one. Since she is going to meet the Turkish Foreign Minister in Sophia, Bulgaria, April 27 during the NATO conference, do you --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure that they will see one another. Whether or not there's a bilateral -- a separate bilateral meeting scheduled, as we get closer to the foreign minister levels meeting we'll keep you updated.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how are the relations with Turkey in the last --

MR. MCCORMACK: How are relations with Turkey?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: Turkey is a good friend and a NATO ally. We have a strong relationship with Turkey. Is there anything in particular --

QUESTION: But you are complaining that we are helping with the Kurds.

MR. MCCORMACK: Helping the Kurds --

QUESTION: -- to create a state?

MR. MCCORMACK: We've been very clear from the very beginning that we believe in the territorial integrity of Iraq, and that includes the regions in the north.

QUESTION: According to (inaudible) and as we understand (inaudible) sent -- he sent top advisor to D.C. last week. Can you tell us if he met with anybody in this building?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't believe he met with the Secretary, if in fact he was here. I can't confirm that for you. I don't have reason to dispute it. If there's anything else we have to add, we'll certainly let you know.

Sylvie.

QUESTION: The Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said today that suspending aid to -- international aid to the Palestinian Government was a mistake. Do you have any comment on that? And what does it mean for the future of the Quartet?

MR. MCCORMACK: As for our decision, we believe that we took the right decision consistent with our policies and our laws. The EU decided to take a similar decision. As for the Russian Government, we have made clear that they, as well as other governments, are going to have to make their own decisions. We would, of course, expect that they would take the decisions consistent with the Quartet and certainly in consultation with the Quartet.

QUESTION: But, Sean, the -- what the Foreign Minister's actually saying is that what you and the Europeans did based on the London statement in January is a mistake, so he's sort of saying that that mistake was embedded in that statement and he signed onto that statement in London. How do you sort of interpret that? I mean, he was there meeting with the Secretary and the -- right.

MR. MCCORMACK: That's right.

QUESTION: So now he's saying that what you did is in that statement, right? So aren't you a little surprised or perplexed about those comments?

MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect that we're going to continue working closely with our Quartet partners both at the envoy as well as the ministerial level.

QUESTION: Sean, just quickly, going back to the recent incident in Pakistan. A few days ago the Department updated its Travel Warning to Pakistan. Was there any kind of that -- that something was coming up, anything to do with this updated Travel Warning?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information that would connect those two events. We periodically update Travel Warnings and issue Consular Warden Messages based on the information that we have. We have a responsibility to help inform our publics concerning issues related to travel to various countries and we take what we believe are the appropriate steps based on the information that we have.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:13 p.m.)

DPB #59

Released on April 11, 2006

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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