State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 17, 2006
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 17, 2006
Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
April 17, 2006
Terrorist Attack in Tel Aviv
Hamas' Response to Terrorist Attack in Tel Aviv
Policy Views Toward Funding Hamas Government
International Pledges for Support for Palestinian Authority
U.S. Seeks Clarification on Other Nation's Funding of Palestinian
International Community Demands Hamas Renounce Violence, Recognize
U.S. Supports President Abbas /Considering Financial Support
The Hamas-led Government Must Act in the Interests of the
Inquiry on Legality of US Citizen Employed by UN Meeting with
U.S. Relations with Qatar in regards to Assistance to Palestinian
Visit of Mr. Nahavandian to United States / No Meetings at State
This is not a U.S. Iran Confrontation / Support for EU3,
ElBaradei's Work, and Russian Proposal
International Community Ready to Meet Iranian Negative Behavior /
Possible Sanctions, Asset Freezes
Considerations and Discussions with EU and Other Countries
Media Reports of Iranian Nuclear Plant Expansion / U.S. Waiting
for IAEA Assessments
Iranian Possession and Work on P2 Centerfuge Designs
Under Secretary Burns' Visit to Moscow / Discussions on Iran
Clarification of U.S. Role in Chad / Query Regarding Mediation
Deputy Assistant Secretary Donald Yamamoto's Meetings with
Officials in Chad / Encourage Political Dialogue / Yamamoto has No
Meetings with Commercial Entities Scheduled at this Time
Inquiry on Whether Mr. Yamamoto will Meet with Sudanese Officials
U.S. Contact with Sudanese Government Regarding Potential
Inquiry on Secretary Rice Traveling to Greece and Turkey in the
Agenda for Secretary Rice's Meetings with President Hu
U.S. Wants a Prosperous, Democratic China that Seeks to Play a
Positive Role in the World
Query on Agreement Between Turkey and Cyprus / Territorial
U.S. and Turkey's Designation of PKK as Terrorist Organization /
Fighting Terrorist Organizations Wherever They May be Based
Agenda for Secretary Rice's April 18 Meeting with Prime Minister
12:19 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I have one opening statement for you regarding the terrorist bombing in Tel Aviv today:
"The United States condemns the heinous terrorist bombing in Tel Aviv today that killed at least seven civilians and wounded over 30. Our condolences go out to the victims, their families and the people of Israel.
The burden of responsibility for preventing terrorist attacks rests with the Palestinian Authority. We have noted reactions by several Palestinian terrorist groups, including Hamas that defend or even applaud these barbaric actions, as we have noted President Abbas' swift denunciation of it.
Defense of terrorist acts by officials of the Palestinian cabinet will undoubtedly affect relations between the Palestinian Authority and all states seeking peace in the Middle East. A Palestinian Government that encourages or tolerates terrorism against innocent men, women and children not only increases violence against the Israelis but does great harm to the interests of the Palestinian people, ensuring their further isolation. We reiterate the United States will have no contact with a Hamas-led government and we call upon all states to demand that it abandon its support for terror."
With that I'll be pleased to take your questions.
QUESTION: What has Hamas said about this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Hamas -- I don't have the exact quote. You can go back and look at it, George. But they essentially laid this off as an act that was justified. And instead of taking the opportunity to condemn this terrorist attack, Hamas has condoned it. And that certainly, as we noted, will have an effect or should have an effect on its relationships with all those who seek to promote peace and understanding in the region.
QUESTION: Last week, I think it was announced that there was going to be a Hamas team that was going to be sort of going to various countries in the Arab world seeking the funding that was cut off by the United States and the European Union. What is your message to these countries that they'll be visiting about giving such a --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think we -- what we do is we go back to the Quartet statement, Peter, and what the principles of that Quartet statement and that whomever chooses, and I say chooses, to meet with Hamas that the message that be sent to them is that they need to abide by what they have been called upon to do by the Quartet and many others throughout the international community: renounce violence, turn away from violence, recognize the state of Israel as well as abide the Palestinian Authority's previous commitments and that includes abiding by the commandments of the roadmap.
Now, I understand that they are on a tour, if you will. Currently, I think they have a representative in Tehran and they're talking about funding for the Palestinian Authority. My understanding is that the, at least in public, the Iranian Government has pledged $50 million to Hamas. I've also seen other reports of other pledges to a Hamas-led government. Clearly, that runs against certainly our policy views as well as the policy views of many others. And I would also say -- and I also note that it would seem to really contradict and run up against the spirit of the Quartet statement. We'll see if any of these funds actually make it through to Hamas.
Right now, Hamas is faced with the hard choices of governing. They are faced with trying to meet a payroll of $150 million a month. So even if these public pledges actually come true -- the $50 million from Qatar, the $50 million from Iran -- that would only be two-thirds of one month's worth of salaries for the Palestinian Authority.
QUESTION: If I could follow up. Because I think that the sense of my question was is that obviously -- obviously relations can't get any worse between the United States and Iran, but for a country like Qatar or any other country that has amicable relations with the United States, if they would wish to contribute to a Hamas government, would that have any affect on relations? Would you see that as hostile act or as just something that's the prerogative of a sovereign state?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think what we would do at this point, Peter, is we've seen these public statements -- we'd seek a little clarity from the Government of Qatar as to exactly what they're intentions are, to whom they actually intend to give this money and under what circumstances. We ourselves are providing humanitarian relief to the Palestinian people, as is the EU and as are many other countries and organizations around the world. We think that that is not only right but appropriate because the Palestinian people do have legitimate humanitarian needs, but it is going to be channeled in such a way that it does not provide any material benefit or support to a Hamas-led government.
So we will seek some clarification, Peter, on that particular matter. But again, I would return to what I said earlier on, and that is that even if you do add up these pledges and even if they are carried through, and I would note that there's a long history of countries in the region making pledges to a previous Palestinian Authority and that money actually not being delivered at all times, that even at that, even assuming all those things, that that only makes up two-thirds of one month's worth of salary.
So clearly Hamas now is confronted with the hard choices of governing given the fact that they have not chosen to follow the pathway to peace.
QUESTION: But I think the question is would, between you and the Government of Qatar, if the money is given to the Hamas government, would that be a problem between the U.S. and the Qatar Government? I don't think there's any indication that Qatar has a problem giving it directly to Hamas.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, like I said, we'll seek some clarification on that matter and we'll and again, we will see to whom they have actually pledged and intend to give that money. So again, we'll seek some clarification on that matter.
QUESTION: The very fact that you need clarification on it would indicate that if it does go directly to the Hamas government there would be a problem, otherwise why do you need to ask?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let's deal with the facts first, and we're going to try to seek all of the facts before we have a more definitive response.
QUESTION: I mean, just with the Palestinian Authority as well, including President Abbas, has blamed the fact that there's no progress in the peace process and Israeli incursions every day into West Bank areas as being one reason, possible reason for the, you know, Palestinian frustrations, as you might call it. I was wondering what your reaction to that to Israel's responsibility in all this, still making the process; and second, whether you're leaving Hamas no choice but to resort to Iran to seek money at a time you're cutting all your aid.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, this is about the choices that Hamas has to make, and I would argue that there is a significant, vast, qualitative difference between how the Hamas-led government has responded and how President Abbas has responded. He has come out and denounced this terrorist act.
Given the opportunity, the first opportunity to denounce an act of terror, to condemn an act of terror, Hamas has decided to condone it. That is -- we are now seeing the true nature of this Hamas-led government. They would rather encourage 16-year-olds to go out, strap explosives to them and go out and try to kill other 16-year-olds, other innocent civilians. That's the kind of government that you're dealing with. They are advocating -- they advocate through their charter, through their statements and certainly through their actions here in condoning this terrorist attack. Certainly, the net effect of that is to encourage more violence. That is certainly not the pathway to peace.
QUESTION: What about Israeli responsibilities, ir?
MR. MCCORMACK: As we've said before, the Israeli Government has taken steps. It needs to keep in mind the plight of the Palestinian people. They have in the past sought to ease the daily plight of the Palestinian people. And I would note that in the past they have, despite their misgivings about the new Hamas government, they have in the past agreed to transfer some funds. I believe that that was -- they said that that was a one-time exception. We'll see exactly how they react to the needs of the Palestinian people.
But I would only note that they no longer have a partner for peace in a Palestinian Authority. They no longer have President Abbas' government running the Palestinian Authority. That previous Palestinian Authority had committed itself to the roadmap, to proceeding down the pathway to peace. Israel had a partner for peace. What we're -- what the international community is demanding of Hamas is that they turn back from the pathway of violence, that they turn back from the pathway of not recognizing the state of Israel and to renounce violence, renounce terror and to comply with more than a decade's worth of precedent and action by the Palestinian Authority in recognizing the state of Israel, as well as working together with the international community to come up with a peaceful solution to the differences that divide the Palestinian and the Israeli people.
QUESTION: Sean, I have one on President Abbas, You've made clear your distinction between President Abbas and the PA and that you think that he is a partner for peace, but the Palestinian Authority is not. I mean, other than these public statements what are you doing to support President Abbas?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have met with President Abbas since the Hamas-led government has taken over day-to-day operations of the Palestinian Authority.
QUESTION: When you say "we," who do you mean?
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, David Welch has met with them. Look, President Abbas, I believe, is a figure of moral authority among the Palestinian people. He was elected by 63 percent of the Palestinian people during his election. He ran on a platform of peace of trying to resolve the differences between the Palestinian people and the Israeli people through dialogue. He understands that the only way the Palestinian people will realize a peaceful, independent, prosperous state of their own is via the negotiating table. That pathway is -- the pathway to violence is going to result in a dead end. It's going to result in more violence.
And frankly, the people who will be negatively affected most by that will be the Palestinian people and that is clearly not what the rest of the world wants. The rest of the world wants a better life for the Palestinian people and it is, we believe, incumbent upon the Palestinian Authority, currently led by Hamas, a Hamas-led government, to act in the best interests of the Palestinian people.
The best interests of the Palestinian people would be for a normal life where they could have commerce, normal commerce with the outside world, where they could travel in a normal fashion outside of the Palestinian areas, where they could realize a better way of life and build up a more stable, a more stable, secure future for themselves.
QUESTION: I understand, but in the absence of the Hamas-led PA doing that, is there anything you can do to empower President Abbas, given the fact that you've pretty much -- are you going to provide any support to his office? I mean, I know --
MR. MCCORMACK: That is a question that is still under consideration. We have not at this point dedicated any funding to the Palestinian Authority's, President Abbas's office. It is something that is under consideration but at this point we have not provided any funding to his office.
QUESTION: Would it be accurate to say that you're looking for ways to empower him without contact with the -- with Hamas? I mean, you've talked about what a figure of moral authority he is, but what good is it if he has no power, no authority --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he does retain the right to certain powers under Palestinian law, and I believe he is still looking at ways by which he may exercise some of those authorities with regard to the security forces and in some other areas. I think that that is a situation that is still evolving at this point. And as for support, he enjoys the support of the Palestinian people. Certainly we will continue to talk with him. We will continue to meet with him, as we believe that that is important. He is a figure, a leader among the Palestinian people, who has committed to that pathway to peace.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) because you said before that the Israelis have no partner in the peace process. Do you consider President Abbas as a partner or potential partner to --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he is the president. He is the president of the Palestinian people. He, however, is not -- does not on a day-to-day basis run the government. He does not control all of the leaders of government. I think certainly in President Abbas the Israeli Government does enjoy still a partner for peace, but the Palestinian Authority, which in essence acts as the government for the Palestinian people, is led by Hamas and Hamas is not a partner for peace.
Anything else on this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Teri.
QUESTION: On Hamas. The UNRWA's top person in -- I think in Gaza, yeah, in Gaza City, is American and she has met with Hamas officials. What is your policy on that? Is it illegal for any American in any capacity to meet with Hamas or is it -- I mean, how are you governing that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would have to -- Teri, I would have to look at exactly what status she has as a full-time -- whether that's a full-time UN employ or some other status. So without some more facts, I couldn't answer that question for you specifically.
QUESTION: I'm sure there are more --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll be happy to look into it.
QUESTION: I think it would be interesting. There's surely more Americans that will be in that position as UN employees. I'd be interested to know.
QUESTION: Or EU.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. We'll be happy to look into --
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: -- look into those legal -- the specific legal questions involved.
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on Hamas? Okay, you've been very patient, yes.
QUESTION: It's said about Iranian delegation headed by Deputy National Security Council Deputy Ali Larijani is in Washington for talking, negotiating. Do you confirm that? And if that's --
MR. MCCORMACK: This is Mr. Nahavandian?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, he's not here for meetings with U.S. Government officials, to my knowledge, certainly not with members of the State Department. I do know that he was not -- he was not issued a visa, as we've talked about previously. As for -- there are a variety of other ways for an individual to arrive in the country. At this point, I don't think I could get into the details of that. But he is not here for any meetings with U.S. Government officials, to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Could you say whether he's here on a legal basis or not?
MR. MCCORMACK: I believe that he is, yes.
QUESTION: How is that --
QUESTION: How would that work?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, as I said, there are a variety of other -- there are a variety of means for an individual here to travel on a legal basis without a visa.
QUESTION: Could you go back to Hamas for a moment? I'm sorry I came in late. But Nick Burns is going -- is there anything Burns can do about this situation, holding the line and not supporting Hamas? The line is not too strong anymore.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I think, Barry, I'm sure that he will have the opportunity while he's in Moscow to bring up the topic. There are two main reasons for his going there: One, to have meetings with the P-5+1 and then the G-7, G-8. A main topic of conversation of these issues will be Iran. He'll have the opportunity to talk about Hamas, Barry.
QUESTION: Sean, can we go back to the Iranians for a second? Sorry, it's a bit confusing because on what basis is it possible he can be here and (inaudible) the very fact that some basis would be organized for him would indicate that there's some type of (inaudible).
MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't say organized, Peter. I wouldn't say organized by the U.S. Government. No.
QUESTION: Well, the fact that there's some basis that permitted him to come into the country, would indicate that somebody had an interest in bringing him into the country.
MR. MCCORMACK: Not necessarily, Peter. No.
QUESTION: Not necessarily?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: Could you flesh that out a little bit?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point I don't have any further details for you.
QUESTION: But all of us who cover this building and cover visa policy aren't aware of the variety of ways you can get into the country without one, so why can't you help us out a little bit?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any more details for you. I don't have any more details for you at this point.
QUESTION: But you do know that he's in the country, so how do you know that he's in the country?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have heard from various journalists who have actually --
QUESTION: But you were (inaudible).
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know of anybody in the U.S. Government with whom he has met.
QUESTION: Has Homeland Security informed you that he's in the country?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I don't have any more details for you.
QUESTION: Sean, can you take the question though and find out?
MR. MCCORMACK: If I am able to provide more details to you, then I would be happy to provide them to you.
QUESTION: Is he here with another unknown agency?
MR. MCCORMACK: Same answer.
QUESTION: Senator Lugar has recommended yesterday direct talks between the U.S. and Iran. Are you considering this issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: We have a lot of respect for Senator Lugar and his views. Let me just tell you what we are doing. We are supporting -- and we have in the past supported the EU-3 in their efforts to engage Iran. We have supported the Russians in their efforts to seek a solution to this. We have supported and continue to support Director General ElBaradei and his good offices in trying to seek a solution to this. So this is not solely a U.S.-Iranian issue concerning their nuclear program.
At this point, it is, despite all of these offers of seeking a solution, the solution that would meet Iran's publicly stated desire for peaceful nuclear energy, while providing objective guarantees to the international community that they are not going to try to build a nuclear weapon under guise of a peaceful nuclear program.
To date, they have sought confrontation inside of seeking out dialogue. When they were in dialogue with the EU-3, with the Russians, they were engaged in diplomatic tactics that sought only to obscure the issues they sought to delay. Secretary Rice has talked about the salami-slicing tactic. They have engaged in a diplomatic process without, it would appear at this time, having any serious intention of meeting the desired end state of the international community; that is a peaceful nuclear program that would, according to objective guarantees, reassure the international community that it was in fact a peaceful nuclear program.
So where we are now is that the Iranian Government needs -- is confronted with choices. It is confronted with a basic crossroad's decision. Do they continue the path of confrontation which they are currently on, or do they choose the pathway of diplomacy? Do they choose the pathway of resolving through diplomatic means this issue, the issue of their pursuit of nuclear weapons?
We in the international community have sought to build a consensus that sends a strong message to the Iranian Government that they will either be further isolated from the international community or we can work on a solution. So thus far, the response has been negative from the Iranian regime and we are going to see -- if that response continues to be negative, you are going to continue to see more and more pressure on the Iranian regime in the form of possibly sanctions, in the form of possibly asset freezes, in the form of possibly restrictions on travel and UN resolutions. So if that is the pathway at this point that they choose to continue down, certainly the international community is more than ready to meet their desire for diplomatic confrontation with increased diplomatic pressure and that's a big part of the reason behind Under Secretary Burns' trip to Moscow.
This meeting is intended to try to start to tee up decisions about strong diplomatic actions for the coming weeks. We would expect when the Security Council next meets to take up the issue of Iran in the wake of the IAEA's upcoming report on Iran, that they be ready to take strong diplomatic action.
QUESTION: When you say "diplomatic action," is that a generic phrase? In other words, it could -- I know you're not ready to say what you want to do, but it could include economic action? It isn't just diplomacy in a pure sense that you're thinking about?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. What we've said here, Barry, is that's it's not going to be another presidential statement. And in part of what we're looking, and part of what will be on the table for discussion when Under Secretary Burns travels to Moscow, will be things like UN resolutions, Chapter 7 resolutions, things like asset freezes, things like sanctions, things like travel restrictions. So I'm not going to try to prejudge an outcome at this point, but that's certainly what's on the table right now as far as we're concerned, as well as, I would say others as well.
QUESTION: Let me try to jump ahead an inch and anything that's hypothetical, of course, can be turned aside. But is the U.S. prepared to take measures on its own or at least jointly with the Europeans if it cannot command the kind of response it would like to get from the Security Council?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we will certainly take a look at what the possibilities are for U.S. Government. You've heard from the President on this. We're kind of sanctioned out at this point. We're down to pistachios and rugs. So that doesn't give you a lot of latitude, but there are -- but there are -- certainly there are other states that have much more latitude. And I would only note that the EU has on their own decided to take up and examine this question of what might be done in terms of diplomatic actions. We will see. We'll see what the discussions in Moscow yield, Barry. I don't -- this is not going to be a decision-making set of meetings. It's going to be a set of meetings designed to tee things up. I would note if you look at the membership of these various groups with the P-5+1, everybody's familiar with them and their membership, you're looking at the G-7, G-8, it includes a different set of countries certainly that have been involved in thinking about and talking about Iran in the past, but not around the same table. You're looking at Canada. You're looking at Italy which is Iran's largest trading partner. So again, I'm not going to speak on behalf of any other country. But certainly, I would say that there are groups in the form of the EU as well as other countries that are taking a look at what might be done.
QUESTION: The group IIS, David Albright's group, the International Institute of Science --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- released these photos over the weekend that indicate that Iran is expanding its nuclear plant at Natanz. Does this -- do you know about these photos?
MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen the photos, yes.
QUESTION: Does it concur with what you know? Does it present any kind of new, alarming development in what you believe Iran's nuclear program to be?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Elise, in terms of public comment about what we know regarding the Iranian nuclear program, certainly one source, one important source of information right now, is the IAEA. And they are now -- they now have people on the ground and I think they're doing some technical assessments of exactly what the Iranians are doing right now, whether that be enlargement of their centrifuge operations which they have stated they intend to do or a technical assessment of their enrichment activities, again which they said that they have performed. I can't confirm either of those for you at this point. We'll look for the IAEA to provide a report back to the Board of Governors. We would hope that that is in the near future. And then whatever I can from that report share with you, I certainly will.
QUESTION: But have you -- have these -- have you seen these photos? Do they -- you know, is it anything more than what you believe -- I mean, you've already made arguments and have been working with the IAEA on what you believe Iran already has, so regardless of what you are going to learn from this new investigation from the IAEA, I mean, do these photos in themselves present any special new challenges for you?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think we've all seen them. They came out over the weekend and I'm sure the people that deal with questions of Iran's nuclear program on a daily basis will take a look at them. I can't tell you whether or not those people find anything new in these photographs and that is probably an area in which I couldn't go. We can't get into what intelligence assessments are regarding Iran's nuclear activity, but we are of course watching very closely and gathering information from as many different data points as we possibly can on the issue.
QUESTION: Just one more. There is a lot of talk now about Iran's P-2 centrifuge program and I believe that you've come to the conclusion that Iran does have a design for a P-2 centrifuge program, so does the fact that they've started to declare this publicly that their researching this particular type of centrifuge cause any new alarms for you?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it --
QUESTION: What does that say --
MR. MCCORMACK: Can't confirm it. I've cited President -- I believe President Ahmadi-Nejad said that they were conducting research on the P-2 centrifuges. Certainly if that is, in fact, true, that would be a source of real concern not only for us but for the international community. And for those who aren't familiar with it, a P-2 is just a more advanced kind of centrifuge. It is a more efficient kind of centrifuge and, as such, represents a higher level of design, engineering and technology than a P-1 centrifuge.
It is very interesting. Up until this point, the Iranians have actually sought to conceal what they are doing with the P-2 centrifuges. We know, just to review a couple of notes here, that the Iranians admitted to Director General ElBaradei that in the 1994 to 1995 period they received P-2 centrifuge designs from the A.Q. Khan network. At that time, it said it had received no actual P-2 centrifuges or centrifuge components from the network. Iran told the IAEA that it undertook no work on P-2 components until 2002, when Iranian engineers produced sophisticated, modified P-2 rotors within a matter of months. Iran also told the IAEA that although it had conducted R&D on a modified P-2 design between 2002 and 2003, this R&D had been terminated in July of 2003.
According to Dr. ElBaradei's reports, the IAEA finds implausible Iran's claim that it did no P-2 work between 1995 and 2002 and received nothing beyond P-2 designs from A.Q. Khan's clandestine procurement network.
So there are a lot of questions surrounding their P-2 program. They admit that they, at the very least, received the designs and did some limited R&D work so we know that there is some form of a program around the P-2 centrifuges. Up until just very recently, the past day or so, they have really sought to downplay the fact that they are working on this program. Now we hear from President Ahmadi-Nejad that they are presently conducting research on them, so it's a source of concern. Certainly we are going to be looking into it as best we can and I would expect the IAEA would also be looking into it very closely.
QUESTION: What does it say -- just one last -- sorry. What does it say to you that they're being so unabashed about a centrifuge program of this nature which is for the kind of highly enriched uranium that you need for a nuclear weapon?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, as for the decision-making processes and the values that go into those decision-making processes among the people who really run Iran, the senior clerical leadership, you know, President Ahmadi-Nejad, who I would argue represents more closely the actually policies and values of the groups that really rule Iran, I couldn't tell you, I can't tell you what motivates and what factors into it.
A couple of things do spring to mind. Clearly they are continuing to seek confrontation with the international community in the hopes that the international community will back down. That certainly will not be the case. And I would suspect as well that they are trying to derive some form of domestic political benefit by saying that this is a case of the Iranian people against the rest of the world. Well, that's just not the case. You know, our problems and the problems of the world are with the Iranian regime, its behavior, and not with the Iranian people. And I think it's an interesting question whether or not the Iranian people really know the real story, whether or not they know the story of the Russian proposal or the EU-3 proposals. I think that's an interesting question that bears some looking at.
QUESTION: On this. What do you make of the reports that broke over the weekend that Iran is preparing suicide bombers now and that they also have stepped up their efforts to illegally obtain weapons technology from the United States.
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of Iran's terrorist activities, I think we all know that Iran is probably the most significant state sponsor of terror in the world today. We have attempted to work with members of the international community to raise awareness about Iran's activities as well as to deal with ways to prevent any potential terrorist attacks, whether they emanate from Iran or any other address.
I can only say that the United States has robust programs to seek to prevent terrorist activities, to break up terrorist networks, to break up terror cells, as well as to harden our borders while remaining a welcoming place. So we have a lot of people dedicated to that effort. It's certainly an effort on which the President as well as other members of his cabinet are focused on.
In terms of attempts to buy U.S. origin technology or U.S. technology, I don't have any particular information for you. There are stringent guidelines that regulate the sale of this kind of technology, sensitive technology around the world, whether those sales start in Europe or South America or any place else. But as for any particular reports, I don't have anything to share with you, Teri.
QUESTION: Yes, change of topic. On Chad.
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, we have one still on Iran.
QUESTION: Thank you. You referred to Chapter 7 and you've referred before many times and you know that one of the article of Chapter 7 mention using the force, military force. Then in the end, that would be the option, you think?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, President Bush, Secretary Rice as well as others have spoken to that topic. I don't have anything to add.
QUESTION: Chad's Oil Minister said today that the U.S. has offered to mediate in this oil and royalties dispute with the World Bank. They're also saying that the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto is due to visit N'Djamena by the end of this month. In addition, they say that he wrote -- Mr. Yamamoto wrote a letter a couple of days ago asking for this deadline to be extended over this oil royalties issue. Can you please either confirm or deny, say whether it's true or false, that you are, in fact, mediating because there seem to be conflicting reports coming from the two capitals.
MR. MCCORMACK: I understand. I asked about this question. I saw these reports so I wanted to make sure that we got our verbs correct on this and I asked specifically, well, you know, is the verb "mediate" correct? And I was told that that is not -- that is not how we would describe Mr. Yamamoto's mission. Our goal here is not to interpose ourselves between the Government of Chad and international financial institutions like the World Bank or --
MR. MCCORMACK: Or -- yeah, I'm getting there. I understand you're a wire service, but wait a couple minutes. Okay, we'll speed it up. (Laughter.) Saul is listening. (Laughter.)
And nor do we seek to interpose ourselves between the Government of Chad and any other commercial relationships that they may have. What Mr. Yamamoto has in the past done and what we will -- what he will seek to do is a few things. One, he will meet with government leaders at the end of the month. I don't have the exact dates for you. But he's going there to talk to the officials from the Government of Chad about a variety of issues, the need for them to engage political opposition, to come to a political accommodation within Chad. There have been -- the situation there has been (inaudible) as we have seen over the past week or so. So the way you resolve that is through political dialogue. You need to engage. So that's one message.
And he's also going to travel there to offer his good offices to try to encourage greater understanding between the Government of Chad, the IFIs, Government of Chad and whoever and their commercial relationships. These are important sources of revenue for the Government of Chad. Certainly, the World Bank has a strong interest in this issue.
So we will do what we have in the past and we will continue to do what we can to encourage them to reach whatever settlements that they will reach that are acceptable to both sides, but ours -- we are not doing a mediating role. We will encourage. We may even at some point cajole. But I would not say we are going to mediate.
QUESTION: It sounds like you're going to mediate. I mean, if you're encouraging and --
MR. MCCORMACK: I would --
QUESTION: -- and understanding and all this other flowery language --
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me -- no --
QUESTION: -- it sounds like you're mediating.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's -- we'll get off -- we'll go -- we'll forego -- we will forego the dictionary definitions here. But the idea of mediating somehow, again, leaves the impression that we are trying to put ourselves between the government and these outside groups. It's not what we're trying to do.
QUESTION: It's more like arbitrate. If mediating means -- you're not mediating. I know you're not arbi -- I know you're saying you're not -- your description of what it is you're not doing --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- is that you're not arbitrating. Are you sure you don't want to --
MR. MCCORMACK: We want to --
QUESTION: Mediate is to just stand in there and try to help two sides.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I think, again, Barry, you know, mediating -- you're talking about trying to shuttle different proposals between the sides. That's not the role we foresee for ourselves in this process. What -- the role we see for ourselves is --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- I think -- I think we will -- we will go with honest broker.
QUESTION: Can I continue, sir?
MR. MCCORMACK: With an interest on neither side, other than seeing that a solution is made.
QUESTION: Can I introduce just an element of empiricism to this discussion? Will he be meeting with both sides?
MR. MCCORMACK: He has no -- he has no meetings scheduled at this point with any commercial entities. He is scheduled to go there to meet with government officials. As for whether he meets with officials from the World Bank, he might. You know, I can't tell you, Peter. We're in contact with people from the World Bank here.
QUESTION: So is the goal here more to focus on the sort of border conflict, the Chad/Sudan border conflict, or is it more to focus on this oil issue and these oil royalties that --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's -- no, that's -- that, I would say, is probably a secondary issue. His primary mission, as it's been described to me, is to go out there and to help and encourage the government to engage its political opponents to help them come to some political resolution to the differences that are there. Inasmuch as those political differences get wrapped up in the recent -- or wrapped up in the recent violence we have seen I think in Chad and along the border region, I think that that will help it. But there are a lot of different cross-cutting issues that, as you know, go into producing the situation along the border. One component of that is the political situation in Chad, so I think that a more stable political situation in which all the parties feel as though that they have an investment and a role to play adds to the stability and I think is -- would -- we would certainly view that as positive. I think it's positive for the region.
QUESTION: Did Mr. Yamamoto write a letter two days ago asking for the deadline to be extended?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll get an answer for you, yeah. I don't know the answer to that particular question.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Well, we'll come back. Lambros, go ahead. You've been very patient. Thank you.
QUESTION: Very short question. Don't worry.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: Anything to say about the upcoming visit to Greece and Turkey by the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, she certainly looks forward to traveling to Greece at some point, Lambros. I will keep you up to date on her travel schedule.
QUESTION: One more. Did you find out if the Secretary is going to visit Athens and Ankara prior to April 27th, yes or no?
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, she looks forward to traveling to both of those places at some point in the future and we'll keep you up to date on her travel schedule.
QUESTION: And when in --
MR. MCCORMACK: I thought you said these were going to be real short.
QUESTION: Short but --
MR. MCCORMACK: Why don't we do this. We'll come back to you for your third question. Mr. Mackler has been very patient here so we'll -- he was on topic so we'll go back to him. We'll come back to you at the end.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Back to the topic of the honest broker.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is he going to be speaking at all with Sudanese officials? Just as a corollary to that, you were discussing last week whether or not the United States has determined that Sudan is responsible for -- in any way for the violence in Chad and the rebel movement. Have you made any determination on it?
MR. MCCORMACK: As for the -- whether or not Mr. Yamamoto is going to meet with Sudanese, I'll check for you, Peter. I don't think that that's what his agenda is, but let me check for you.
We have -- we, the EU and the AU, have gone into many of the governments in the region and talked about the fact that it is unacceptable to sponsor, aid armed groups that may be entering -- trying to enter into or do enter into the territory of other states. An example of that would include these forces that seem to have -- that have entered into Chad over the past week. It's unacceptable. And I cannot offer a definitive public conclusion as to whether or not the Government of Sudan played a role in aiding, encouraging, arming these forces. I certainly cannot wave you off that that is a possibility and that we have made very, very clear to the Government of Chad -- Government of Sudan that that -- you know, that kind of future behavior is just unacceptable.
QUESTION: In what way have you done it? Have you had contacts with them in recent days to --
MR. MCCORMACK: We have recently --
QUESTION: If you're doing it, cut it out.
MR. MCCORMACK: We have recently and we did that with the EU as well as the AU -- African Union, European Union.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: And what form did that take? Was that --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check, Peter. I don't know who exactly did it.
QUESTION: This is about President Hu's visit to Washington. The Secretary said earlier this month that one of the things that really surprised her as Secretary of State the way that the politics of energy and oil warps diplomacy around the world and she used China as an example, who's building ties with a lot of oil-rich countries whose interests often run counter to the United States; Iran being the most troubling example. Do you expect this to be an issue when the President meets -- and the Secretary meet with President Hu?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the White House is going to be giving a briefing this afternoon on President Hu's visit, so I would defer to my colleagues at the White House for whether or not a particular issue or a set of issues comes up. But Secretary Rice and Deputy Secretary Zoellick have spoken about the fact that we would like to make China a responsible stakeholder in the international system. And where there are concerns, whether that be about their behavior overseas, or whether those concerns center around human rights or religious freedom, freedom of expression, then we'll talk to the Chinese about those things. But I'll leave it to the White House to describe what in particular may come up in any meetings over there.
QUESTION: But just as a general rule, I mean, do you have a problem with China kind of deepening its relations with countries that you have problems with or that -- befriending countries like Iran, North Korea and --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we want a stable, prosperous, democratic China that seeks to play a positive role in the world. In as much as China tries to reinforce negative behaviors among other countries around the world, whether that be Iran or elsewhere, then of course we will raise those issues with China. I can't believe that China wants Iran to have a nuclear weapon anymore than the United States or the European countries or Russia. So we're going to be working with them in as constructive a manner as possible. They have come into the consensus regarding Iran. They in fact were in the chair of the UN Security Council presidency that issued the most recent presidential statement. So we will keep working with them. Where there are issues of concern, we'll talk about them.
QUESTION: Can you talk about President's Hu's proposal for a dialogue with the Taiwanese or are you going to leave that to the White House.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm going to leave that to the White House.
QUESTION: On Turkey, two short questions. Number one, the Iranian Ambassador to Ankara urged Turkey, Iran and Syria to form a kind of joint policy on the Kurdish issue saying in an interview that if they did not, "The U.S. will carve pieces from us for a Kurdish state." How do you view that, since he's criticizing the U.S. Government?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, with respect to Turkey's territorial integrity, certainly we have spoken to that. With respect to the territorial integrity of other countries, we have spoken to those issues as well.
QUESTION: One more question. According to reports that PKK is working now in Iran and the U.S. has no time as you can understand, to attack them in Iraq, despite the fact that Washington and Ankara agree that PKK is a terrorist organization.
By another mention, Mr. McCormack, I hate air strikes and wars, but I am raising the question only to understand why (inaudible) policy. That means you agree with the Turks vis-à-vis PKK, but not an option. Why?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think our military forces would differ with your assessment of the situation and they work very closely with Iraqi forces. I know that they have also a dialogue with the Turkish Government on these issues. We go after terrorist organizations wherever they may be based and that includes in Iraq.
QUESTION: You said the Secretary is looking forward to visiting Greece at some point in the near future. Is this also valid about Turkey that she also plans to visit Turkey?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, that's what I said.
QUESTION: And Bulgaria? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly, she's going there. I can confirm that for you. But again, she looks forward to visiting Turkey and Greece.
QUESTION: The Lebanese Prime Minister is going to meet with the President and the Secretary tomorrow.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Can you talk to us about that?
MR. MCCORMACK: The Secretary looks forward to meeting with Prime Minister Siniora here. She's going to talk -- well, he's going to have primarily the meeting with the President and the Secretary will go over and meet with Prime Minister Siniora in advance of that meeting with the President. Secretary Rice will underscore the United States support for the Lebanese Government's continuing efforts at political and economic reform. Those are important for the future of the Lebanese people. She'll also underscore the importance of implementation of all UN Security Council resolutions, including 1595. So that's, I think, George, the real core of what we will be talking about with Prime Minister Siniora. Of course, we'll be listening to whatever happens to be on his mind as well.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:07 p.m.)
DPB # 63
Released on April 17, 2006