State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 12, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
April 12, 2006
UN Security Council Presidential Statement on Darfur
Designation of April 30 as Goal for Reaching a Peace Agreement
Targeted Sanctions under UN Security Council Resolution 1591
Re-hatting of African Union Mission / Needs Assessment by United
Need for Humanitarian Aid / Final Political Solution
Holding Accountable Those Who Have Committed Crimes
Iran's Nuclear Program and Continued Defiance of International
Continuing Consultations within the International Community /
Diplomatic Next Steps / Possible Steps by European Union
Under Secretary Burns Upcoming Travel to G8 Political Directors
Secretary Rice's Phone Calls & Discussions on Iran
Strong Diplomatic Steps Needed by International Community
Status of Russian Proposal
Communication with Iranian Permanent Representative
GAO Report on State Department Centrally Billed Foreign Affairs
US View of Terrorist Organization PKK
12:47 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: I have a couple of points at the top of the briefing then we can get right into your questions. I want to draw your attention to an action at the U.N. Security Council yesterday. The U.N. Security Council issued a presidential statement on Darfur, endorsing the decision of the African Union Peace and Security Council to designate April 30th as the goal for reaching a peace agreement.
The international community strongly urges the parties to make the necessary effort to reach agreement by that date. And in addition, the U.S. strongly believes the time has come to designate individuals under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1591 for targeted sanctions. The activation of targeted sanctions against those individuals who are responsible for committing violence in Darfur or impeding the peace process continues efforts to end impunity and as a down payment towards justice and accountability. We're determined to pursue the designation of appropriate individuals from all parties involved in the violence in Darfur. Indeed, we are preparing to designate some individual soon and we'll be working towards designation of more. This is going to be a rolling process.
And with that, I'm pleased to take your questions.
QUESTION: Can you give us a number on how many you expect to designate?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, right now we're looking at -- the Sanctions Committee is looking at a number of individuals. George, I'm not going to -- not at liberty at this point to get into specific numbers, but I would emphasize the fact that we're looking at individuals from all sectors, including from the government. We think that this is important. I would note that as names come forward and as the Security Council acts under 1591, that this is going to be a continuing process, that this is going to be constantly updated as we're able to gather the necessary information not only that we need, but that the Security Council needs in order to act and have these actions be enforceable by law.
QUESTION: Are you going to going to feed these names to the Security Council in the hopes that they will be incorporated in the resolution? Is that the way it works?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the way -- the way it works, George, is that there is a Sanctions Committee and they consider a number of names. The names then that are agreed upon move forward to the Security Council. There is a common period, I think it's a 48-hour common period. And if there's no comment or objection to any of the names in the 48 hours, then they are so designated. And then on the -- from the U.S. side in order to have this be -- have the force of U.S. law, then there's a executive proclamation that needs to come out of the White House. I don't know if the executive proclamation is the term of art, but an action from the White House to make sure that the action has the force of law in the United States.
QUESTION: There was a list of, I think, four drawn up, was about a month ago or so? How does this fit in with that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think it's part of the same process, Peter, but there are a number of names that are being considered in this initial -- in an initial tranche of names. I would emphasize again that this is going to be a rolling process. At this point, I'm really not at liberty to get into numbers or specific names, but I would just say stay tuned on that.
QUESTION: Okay. Just a follow-up on that. If -- I believe we had a briefing on that and it was mentioned there that it was just a formality to sign off on that list there, but they've never signed off on. What was the reason for that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll look into it, Peter. I know that there are a number of different discussions that are ongoing. But part of the process, and from our perspective, is to make sure that we have all the necessary information that we need so that these actions in the Security Council have the force of law in the United States and they will be able to stand up in a U.S. court of law if need be. So we want to make sure that any actions that are taken are effective actions and that whatever names are designated and put forward through the UN have rock-solid information that the U.S. Government, if need be, can act upon.
QUESTION: Are there travel sanctions, financial sanctions, both?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check for you, George, to see exactly what the scope of the sanctions are.
QUESTION: I was going to ask about the same line. You can't describe at this point in any way --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll try to get you something.
QUESTION: -- what the down -- what being on this list means?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me -- I'll get some more information for you guys.
QUESTION: And also take another stab at the numbers, can you say whether we're talking about dozens or is there anyway you can qualify or quantify this?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, Charlie, I'd just say -- the only way I would characterize it is to call it a down payment on justice being done for the crimes committed in Sudan. Again, I'm going to wait for the process to play out before I get into any specifics. I don't want to preempt any announcements.
Teri had -- is this the same subject, Teri?
QUESTION: On the same subject, yeah.
MR. MCCORMACK: Go ahead.
QUESTION: How effective do you expect the presidential statement to be, given our experience with Iran and the presidential statement?
MR. MCCORMACK: On Sudan or --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- referring to the parallels between --
QUESTION: Well, I mean, (inaudible) a presidential statement demanding that they come to a peace agreement.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I understand. Well, the reason why we think that this is significant -- I take your point, it's a presidential statement vice a resolution, but we're continuing to work in the Security Council on all aspects of the problem, the problem in Sudan.
I would just note that the vehicle of a presidential statement is something that is accomplished through the consensus of all the members of the Security Council and it just so happens that the current president of the Security Council is the Chinese perm rep. So I know that there have been a number of discussions in the media about China and where it stands vis-à-vis Iran and -- well, not Iran -- well, Iran, too -- but on the question of Sudan and the issue of action by the Security Council. So I think it is worthwhile to note that this was a consensus statement by the president of the Security Council which is now held by the Chinese delegate.
QUESTION: Is a resolution also in order or do you think that you'll wait to see what happens, if anything, by April 30th before anything else comes out of it?
MR. MCCORMACK: We're continuing to work in the Security Council, Teri, and there are a lot of different moving parts to this issue right now. The UN is working through its needs assessment on a separate track to try to fill the gap, if you will, between the current AU mission and a future UN mission. NATO is looking at what it might do; that isn't yet complete. I expect that that is going to be a topic of discussion at the NATO ministerial two weeks from now. So there's action on a lot of different fronts with respect to Sudan, and I know that obviously this is an issue that we are pushing hard on. We pushed hard in February while we were president of the Security Council and we're going to continue to do so in the Security Council as well as in other international fora.
QUESTION: But what difference do you think this will really make on the ground where the situation is just becoming more and more difficult? Isn't the nub of the matter that you need an international force to go in?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what we're looking at, Sue, is the desired end state, and this is something that the AU has come out and said that they support as well, is to have the current AU mission rehatted as a UN mission and the reason for that is not to supplant the role of the AU, the AU forces. They've done a good job. They have done a good job within the confines of their -- both the numbers as well as their logistics.
So it's the view of the international community that in order to make the existing AU forces more robust in their capabilities in terms of planning and logistics, as well as to expand numbers, that we have to re-hat the UN -- we have to re-hat this force.
So the question then becomes: Well, what can we do in the interim? We have a current state in which we, I think, all acknowledge that we need to build up the capabilities of the AU mission to help them out. So the question then becomes: Well, what do you do? So that is where NATO is now looking at what it might do in terms of making the AU's efforts more effective. NATO is already engaged with the AU. They've provided airlift to the AU.
So that's the plan right now. It's moving forward. We're pushing this issue hard on a lot of different fronts. A lot of different countries are working in good faith on the issue. They understand what's happening in Darfur. It's a tragedy. And that is why we are working on the issue of the security forces. That is why we're working on the issue of humanitarian aid. It's vitally important that the world, while we are working towards a final political solution, also remember the need for humanitarian aid. That's something that the U.S. has also taken the lead on.
And I talked about the political solution. That's the other front. And that is -- it is in Abuja, we hope, where ultimately the issues that are the source of conflict among the various groups in and around Sudan will be able to solve their problems. There are some -- there was a Comprehensive Peace Agreement between some groups in the south and the government. That is now being implemented. We hope that that agreement and the example of its implementation can serve as an example to those other groups that are now outside of that agreement that are now meeting in Abuja to try to come to an agreement. We believe a lot of the key players necessary to an agreement are there in Abuja now. We are there. We're there 24/7. And certainly people back here in Washington are watching this issue very closely. Deputy Secretary Zoellick is deeply involved in trying to move this issue forward across all of these international fronts as well as within the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: Sean, on this particular matter, this has gone on roughly now three years or better. Is there going to be trials that you're setting up, also perhaps witnesses, not necessarily in the respect of people that they can interview? Many people have been slaughtered, others driven off, but there have been journalists and various news crews that have gone in and in many instances have documented this. Would those type documentation, videos and such, be used at a trial? And would you proceed to put together something that does have a policing force, not necessarily just with a UN force but to actually bring those people to trial, much like what we're doing or have done in the respect of Charles Taylor? It's taken, I think, over two years or more in between Liberia, working with their government, to bring him to trial in Sierra Leone.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there is a mechanism that the international community has agreed upon so that those who have committed crimes in Sudan will be held accountable for what they have done. Let me point out the example of Charles Taylor and how it has taken several years for him to actually stand before an international court. The course of justice sometimes will take longer than we would hope. That doesn't mean that we don't -- we won't always seek that justice be done. And I think it is a lesson for those who think that they can run and hide, that they can somehow escape the judgment of the international community for the crimes that they've committed, with Charles Taylor as an example for them, and others that have been taken before the international tribunal -- the ICTY for those who committed crimes in the former Yugoslavia. It doesn't matter how long it takes, the international community will act. It will follow through on its promise to render judgment and to hold accountable those who have committed crimes.
QUESTION: Change of subject.
MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas. We'll come back to you.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask quickly whether you have anything today on my question yesterday on the travel report.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think we posted an answer for you.
QUESTION: You did?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I believe so. Check with Julie.
QUESTION: I don't think you did. I'm sorry. I checked an hour ago and --
MS. RESIDE: (Off-mike.)
QUESTION: Oh, 12:30, okay. Thanks, Julie.
MR. MCCORMACK: David.
MR. MCCORMACK: Don't ever dispute Julie Reside. (Laughter.) Barry, that's dangerous. It's like taking on George and Barry on a question of history.
Yes, ma'am, proceed.
QUESTION: Thank you. After Iran claim of advancing uranium enrichment yesterday, the Secretary said today that we need strong steps in the Security Council because (inaudible) occurred (inaudible) just international community on this issue. What will be this strong steps?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we shall see what those strong steps are. I can tell you what they won't be. I can tell you that it won't be another presidential statement. So we are -- as the Secretary said, we are now working with our partners in the international community, continuing the consultations that we, I guess you could say began in Berlin at the P-5 + 1 ministerial level meeting about what the diplomatic next steps are. There are a range of diplomatic options available to the international community and we're going to be talking to members of the Security Council, members of the EU-3 about what those diplomatic next steps might be.
Now as the Secretary pointed out, that it was important for the credibility of the international community that the Security Council act and that the Security Council take strong actions, because as we have seen once again when faced at a crossroads with a choice between cooperation or confrontation, that this regime has chosen confrontation with the international community. So it is our view that in order to try to get the regime to change its behavior, to walk back where it is on its nuclear program, to engage in serious and constructive negotiations with the international community and to abide by its international commitments that the international community must bring diplomatic -- more diplomatic pressure to bear on the regime.
We have followed a steady course of increasing that pressure on the regime. They have reacted to that increasing diplomatic pressure with continued defiance. So it is now up to the international community to send a strong clear message to the Iranian regime that that continued defiance will not be tolerated and we are going to be looking at how to express that in -- what diplomatic next steps we take.
QUESTION: Could you provide a sort of a range of what those steps could be? It could range from sort of visa restrictions to financial sanctions at one end to targeted military strikes at the other end.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think I'll stick to the course that we're on, and that is the diplomatic course. And there are a range of various options. I've seen a lot of news reports about steps that the EU may be considering that relates to visa restrictions, travel restrictions, various kinds of sanctions. I'm not trying -- I don't want to steer you in the direction of one particular course of action at this point because that's the point of consultations and we are engaged in those consultations. The Secretary spoke with Director General ElBaradei, who will be taking a trip to Tehran. And you can talk to the Director General about what his message is, but I think it is safe to say that he is going to be underlining the message that the IAEA Board of Governors has sent to Iran that it must suspend its enrichment programs and it needs to come back into the mainstream and into compliance with its international obligations.
Now, on the diplomatic front for our part, Under Secretary Burns has been in contact with his counterparts, EU-3 counterparts. He will be traveling next week to a prescheduled meeting of the G-8 political directors. Now, that meeting was intended to prepare the member-states of the G-8 for the G-8 summit, but Iran will be on the agenda of discussion for this particular meeting, certainly given Iran's recent announcement. And I'm not going to rule out any other meetings that he may -- that Under Secretary Burns may participate around or in the run-up to that G-8 political directors meeting. But we don't have any --
QUESTION: You've got one meeting that you envision with the political directors or do you imagine him traveling around?
MR. MCCORMACK: There's the G-8 political directors meeting which is going to be in Moscow. That'll be next week. Now, I'm not going to rule out any other meetings that Under Secretary Burns may have on the margins, around or as part of that G-8 political directors meeting. So we'll keep you up to date on that, Barry.
QUESTION: This discussion that the Secretary had with ElBaradei, was that the second one in three days?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. It was this morning.
QUESTION: This morning. Okay.
QUESTION: Are they still meeting on occasion to pursue what Assistant Secretary Rademaker had to say in Moscow today about Russia failing to fulfill all sorts of obligations; for instance, removing tactical weapons? We haven't removed ours, all of ours anyhow, but 90 percent is gone.
MR. MCCORMACK: I saw --
QUESTION: I mean --
MR. MCCORMACK: I saw the remarks, Barry. I don't have any particular information that that will be part of a G-8 discussion. I'd be happy to follow up to see if it will be part of that discussion or what the -- or follow up to his meeting in Moscow --
QUESTION: Or if the Secretary will elevate the complaint into something.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll be happy to check for you, Barry.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can we go back?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can we stay on Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we can.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary made any other calls --
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: -- or talked to anybody besides --
MR. MCCORMACK: No. She --
QUESTION: Does she have plans to this afternoon?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect -- I don't know about this afternoon, Charlie, but I would expect over the course of the next several days that she'll have calls with some of her counterparts on this -- on these topic -- on the topic of Iran. I don't have any calls scheduled that I can give to you right now, but I'll try to keep you up to date on it.
QUESTION: Look, you're not being specific -- fair enough -- about the steps, but you're saying strong steps. So do you pursue this with confidence that there will be unanimity on the Security Council or are you steeling yourself for some version of the schism that you've had over Iraq? In other words, there are people out there -- analysts have talked to some them -- who are concerned about the risk of taking -- trying to take steps that others don't sign on to and then you sort of weaken yourself because your alliance is, so to speak, is not firm and Iran knows that, sees that. What I'm trying to say, isn't there a risk here? Because they weren't even crazy about -- some of them -- about a presidential statement, which is nebulous enough or low-key enough.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what's important, Barry, is that the matter is in the Security Council now and so there are many potential steps that the Security Council can take. But the primary issue is that Iran's nuclear program and what the international response to Iran's continued defiance of the international community will be resides in the Security Council. It also resides in the IAEA, but it is also in the Security Council and that is a qualitatively different step than any other international organization. That particular forum is really at the summit of these international fora in which these kinds of questions are considered.
Now, the Secretary talked about the fact that it was important for the Security Council to act, to take strong steps in order to maintain the credibility of the international community in confronting these kinds of threats, and that's what this is. It is certainly a threat to stability in the Middle East, a threat to stability in the world -- Iran's potentially obtaining a nuclear weapon. So the question is how to deal with that. Certainly the security -- we have pursued this question through the IAEA. We have pursued it through the IAEA, also to the Security Council, and I expect that those -- that we will push along with our diplomatic colleagues for strong steps. At this point, we're not going to get into what exactly those strong steps are.
I would also point out to you that -- and again, I refer you to the EU for specifics, but you've seen news reports that they themselves are considering what steps they might take. So our focus right now, Barry, is going to be on the Security Council and encouraging the member-states of the Security Council to look at what Iran has done not only within the past few days but its continuing record of defiance and obfuscation and, frankly, flouting its -- flaunting its defiance of the international community.
QUESTION: There are suggestions too by people in the field who care about this stuff and follow it that perhaps you ought to take steps to strengthen the IAEA. It has just limited authority. It can do just so much. It can say here's what you're supposed to do and you guys aren't doing it, so will you -- is there any way you can bring pressure to bear by making the IAEA a little more powerful?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, President Bush has talked about this. He, back in, I believe it was 2004, in a speech at NDU talked about a whole set of different proposals that would have the net result of strengthening the role of the IAEA. But that is a medium- to long-term solution. We are right now confronted with an Iranian regime that appears to be determined to proceed along the pathway to developing a nuclear weapon. So while you can continue and work on efforts to strengthen the IAEA, to strengthen the international nonproliferation regime, you also have to take some steps in the near term, diplomatic steps in the near term, to confront the Iranian defiance. Our hope would be that the international community acting and coming together, acting in concert to confront the Iranian regime's defiance would also reinforce whatever else you're doing to strengthen, over the long term, the IAEA as well as the larger nonproliferation regime.
QUESTION: Would anything less than sanctions qualify as strong measures in -- or strong steps, in the Secretary's view?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to constrain that particular phrase by saying anything other than we know what it should not be, and that is not another presidential statement.
QUESTION: But what about just another resolution?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Teri, I'm not going to -- at this point, I'm not going to try to bound what it is that she said, what she said in terms of the diplomacy.
QUESTION: Is it -- just one more. Is a presidential statement a strong step?
MR. MCCORMACK: We have, through the course of our diplomacy, gradually sought to ratchet up the pressure. The presidential statement from the Security Council sent -- it did send a strong message, a strong message that the Iranian regime sought to -- well, not sought to, actually did defy.
We'll see what the reaction will be to stronger diplomatic steps. That has been the course of our diplomatic strategy. We have acted with some urgency over the course of the past year to build a consensus. There is now a consensus that Iran should not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon. It's a long way from where we were just a year ago.
So we have acted in a focused manner. We have brought more and more states into a consensus that Iran can not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon. And we have taken what we believe are the necessary diplomatic steps to reinforce that consensus, to bring more countries onboard to that consensus, and to bring more and more diplomatic pressure on the Iranian regime.
Now, as I said, when confronted with the crossroads of cooperation or confrontation, they chose confrontation once again. So where -- the international community, as the Secretary said, must act with strong diplomatic steps to meet that choice and to urge the Iranian regime to try to make a different set of choices and to not isolate themselves, not isolate the Iranian people, have to underline the fact that any steps that the diplomatic community -- that the international community has taken on the diplomatic front and may take in the future are not designed to punish the Iranian people. It is -- they are designed to try to get the Iranian regime to change its behavior. And I think it's important that the Iranian people understand just where -- down which pathway their current regime is taking them. It's a pathway of increasing isolation.
QUESTION: Yesterday, you said you couldn't confirm any of the technical aspects of what the Iranians said they have accomplished. Are you in any further position to do that today and if not, when can we expect to hear how far along they've really come?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any update for you and as this unfolds, I'll try to keep you updated on -- to the best of my ability on what we can share with you on our assessment of exactly what it is that they -- what it is that they actually did.
QUESTION: Do you share the view of some that said that this is a milestone for the Iranians?
MR. MCCORMACK: Libby, I'm not an expert in centrifuge technology or the nuclear fuel cycle. I do know enough about it to say that the -- they did take a step forward in terms of the -- introducing the uranium hexafluoride into a centrifuge cascade and producing something from that. I can't tell you exact -- I can't confirm for you exactly what it was that they produced, how long it took them to do that, what the purity of what they produced was and confirm for you the level of enrichment and the number of centrifuges in the cascade. I don't have the answers to those questions. But you know, the Iranian Government has in the past followed through on what it said it would do. It has been relatively straightforward in after the fact saying that it has taken certain steps. So I think at this point you have to take it at face value, although I can't confirm the technical aspects for you at this point.
QUESTION: One more on this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. consider the Russian proposal as still being on the table if Iran now said it wanted to look at that more seriously?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they haven't up till this point and, you know, you'd have to -- you would have to ask the Russians whether -- what their level of frustration with the Iranians is at this point and whether or not the proposal is still active. Certainly the idea of at a certain point the Iranians being able to have access to civil nuclear power but not necessarily the fuel cycle or to be able to produce its own fuel. I think that certainly that is something that as a matter of principle the international community has laid out there as an option.
But since the Russian proposal was put on the table, we have -- we are now dealing with a different situation. We are now dealing with a situation where Iran has eroded its level of trust with the international community to an even lower level, if in fact that was possible, and they have to now work to rebuild that level of trust. They have, you know, over the course of two years pursued this strategy, this diplomatic strategy where they've tried to distract, obfuscate, deceive, lie, stretch out the diplomacy as long as they could and, you know, the EU-3 hit its limit in terms of its patience with those tactics and called the Iranians on those tactics. I think the Russians have expressed -- I'm not sure a similar level of frustration, but certainly a high level of frustration with Iranian behavior.
So right now the issue is, you know, not what might be on the table for the Iranian regime. The question is: Will Iran act to actually rebuild -- start to rebuild that trust that they have really eroded to the level of nonexistence? And so it is incumbent upon the Iranian regime to act and the IAEA Board of Governors laid out a roadmap, the presidential statement laid out a roadmap, for how the Iranian regime might start doing that.
QUESTION: Okay. But just -- as far as you're concerned, it would still be acceptable for the Russians to negotiate --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think -- I frankly don't think it's the issue. The issue is not, like I said, what proposals may have been on the table prior to Iran's actions over the past couple of months. I think what the issue now is -- is Iran, and what it will do to act in order to start to rebuild that level of trust.
QUESTION: Sean, I'm sorry, I actually went and read the answer to that question I was asking earlier about, but I'm afraid it doesn't really answer my question. It's a different question that it answers. My question was whether you've seen the report of the GAO, whether you agree with the findings that there were millions of dollars wasted in this building. That was my question. It addresses the 14-hour rule and I know that that's the policy --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, you asked a question about a 14-hour rule, Nicholas, and that's --
QUESTION: Well, that's --
MR. MCCORMACK: That's the answer -- that's the answer we provided.
QUESTION: That doesn't seem to be my recollection, but anyway --
MR. MCCORMACK: If you have a specific answer -- I don't have -- I don't have the GAO --
QUESTION: I just wanted to sort of give you an opportunity to address the report because it's not the most positive thing that has come out about the State Department.
MR. MCCORMACK: No. Look, Nicholas, the rules and regulations in the State Department are carefully considered and the people within the State Department are good stewards of the taxpayers' money. And if there are any questions that are ever raised about that, absolutely we take a look at them and, you know, if there's any remedial action that needs to be taken in terms of the rules and regulations, then of course we will take them. But in terms of this particular GAO report, if there's anything -- any further answer for you whether or not the responsible people in the building have looked at it and have reacted to it, we'll be happy to provide an answer to that specific question. You did ask yesterday about the 14-hour rule and whether or not it was in place, so we provided an answer to that. If there's a further question about the GAO report, whether we've read it and there's a reaction to it, I'd be happy to provide that answer.
QUESTION: Okay. I just want to note, in fairness, that that -- the report says whatever the period of time was, was actually before the Secretary came to office, so I just wanted to make that clear in case someone should --
MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.
QUESTION: I just wanted to go back to Iran. It took three weeks to come up with a kind of a wishy-washy presidential statement that obviously has had zero impact and it's likely that it's going to take maybe several months before the Council could agree and everybody could reach a consensus. Is it possible that the U.S. could sort of unilaterally make some decisions about Iran and impose sanctions or could you go -- or could you join up with the EU-3 and it could be an EU-3 plus U.S. --
MR. MCCORMACK: There are certainly a number of different possibilities. We are focused on the Security Council. You heard the Secretary just this morning talk about the importance of the Security Council taking strong steps when it next convenes to consider this issue, which I think will be around the end of the month. I don't know if they'll convene exactly on the 28th. I know that's when Dr. ElBaradei's report is due both at the IAEA and the Security Council, so I would expect around that time the Security Council would convene and we would certainly, as you heard from the Secretary, urge the Security Council to take strong steps.
As for the United States, the President has previously spoken to this. We're, as he put it, sanctioned out, nearly so. There's very little latitude in that regard with respect to the United States. Others have a much greater degree of latitude to act with regard to certain actions, whether that's from visa restrictions to economic sanctions. So the short answer to your question is we have really, I think, relatively little latitude of action although I would expect that there is some remaining on the diplomatic front, and for others it's much greater.
QUESTION: And more on the military front?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm talking about diplomacy.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. feel that yesterday's announcement places a lot more urgency on the need to act or is it the sense that you still have months and months to go where negotiations can go on in trying to determine what to do to crack down?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the Secretary's view of this has never been that diplomacy is an end in and of itself, that the process was an end in and of itself. The diplomacy and the process of multilateral diplomacy is a means to an end, and that is to try to get the Iranian regime to change its behavior. So her view has never been that this is something that just turns into a talkfest about the issue without acting. So I think we certainly took note of what the Iranians said they did yesterday and we would expect the international community would do the same. That is why she came out this morning and said it was important for the international community to take strong steps.
QUESTION: Sean, are you less than happy -- apparently, Riyadh has asked the Russians for help to prevent the U.S. military striking in Iran and their former Ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, has just met them in Moscow. Could the Saudis be more helpful and other countries in the region to settle this, just as the EU has met with the Iranians?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I'll let countries in the region speak for themselves about their level of concern regarding Iranian behavior across a variety of fronts, including pursuit of a nuclear weapon. As for this particular exchange between Moscow and Riyadh, I don't have any information for you on it. In terms of the military option which has come up several times during this briefing, getting questioned about the military option, the President two days ago, the day before yesterday, spoke very clearly on that issue and I don't have anything to add to it.
QUESTION: And as with the North Koreans, is there a back channel that you might be using with the Iranians at the UN?
MR. MCCORMACK: The North Korean back channel? You'll have to fill me in on that one.
QUESTION: Well, you're using a back channel in talks on the six-party talks occasionally with --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm -- I don't --
QUESTION: Is there a back channel that you might be using at the UN?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- there is a channel of diplomatic communication that we use if we need to communicate information to the Iranian permanent representative, but other than that I'm not aware of any.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: There was one more back here.
QUESTION: On Turkey, again. You said yesterday that you've had -- that you have good relations with Turkey, but they are troubled by Mr. Erdogan, the Prime Minister of Turkey is accusing you that you support the PKK, an organization that you consider as a terrorist organization.
MR. MCCORMACK: We do not support the PKK. It's listed as a terrorist organization. It's very clear we don't deal with terrorist organizations.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:26 p.m.)
DPB # 60
Released on April 12, 2006