State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 18, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
April 18, 2006
Deputy Secretary Zoellick's Meeting with OAS Secretary General
Mr. Nahavandian's Reported Travel to US / No Meetings at State
Visa Requirements and Other Processes for Entry into US
Under Secretary Burns' in Moscow for P5+1 Meetings on Issue of
Under Secretary Burns' Meeting with Chinese Counterpart in Moscow
Call by Senator Lugar and Senator Dodd for Direct US-Iran Talks
Reported Iranian Recruitment of Volunteers to Conduct "Martyrdom
Aftermath of Bombings in Tel Aviv / Prospects for Israeli Response
Secretary Rice's Call to Israeli Foreign Minister Livni
Failure of Hamas to Condemn Bombing
Responsibility of Palestinian Authority to Prevent Acts of Terror
UNRWA and International NGOs Contact with Hamas-Led Government
Qatar and Assistance to Palestinian Authority
Status of UN Resolution / Sanctions Committee Process / Next Steps
Reported Somali Government Agreement to Permit US Naval Patrols in
Somali Coastal Waters to Combat Piracy
US Contacts with Somali Government
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora
Issue of Hezbollah and Disbanding Militias in Lebanon
12:45 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. How are you?
QUESTION: Good, and you?
MR. MCCORMACK: Doing okay. I just have one -- some additional information I would like to offer you with respect to Deputy Secretary Zoellick's meeting with OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza. I wanted to offer this up at the briefing because the meeting's going to take place around 5 o'clock later in the day, so I wanted you to have access to the information earlier in the day.
Deputy Secretary Zoellick, U.S. Permanent Representative to the OAS, Ambassador John Maisto are going to be meeting with OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza later today to discuss issues important to democracy, economic opportunity and security in the region, among other issues. They will discuss Nicaragua, where the U.S. and OAS are working together with our hemispheric partners to ensure free and fair presidential elections this November.
The United States is engaging with all parties in Nicaragua that have expressed an interest in an open, transparent, and democratic electoral process. To this end, our Ambassador in Managua met April 17th with representatives of the Liberal Constitutionalist Party, or the PLC. He made it clear that the PLC must distance itself from the leadership of convicted criminal Arnoldo Aleman and participate in open primaries to select leadership.
The United States continues to believe that democracy and leaders committed to democratic governance form the only path to a peaceful and prosperous future for Nicaragua. Former President Aleman stole millions from the Nicaraguan people. We have been pleased to see strong grassroots opposition to Aleman and his corrupt politics and we urge the Nicaraguan people to continue to reject discredited figures of the country's political past as represented by Aleman and former dictator Daniel Ortega.
And with that, I would be pleased to take whatever questions you may have.
QUESTION: If there's nothing on that, can we quickly dispose of whether you have anything further on our Iranian visitor?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any update for you. I've pledged to keep you updated as best I can on this, Barry. Again, I can't -- you know, I can't confirm that he is here. Yesterday, I talked about the fact that I've had a number of journalists say that they have -- they know people who have met with him, who have seen him. I can't dispute that, but I can't -- I also can't confirm that fact for you. It's a matter of interest for us and if I have any other information to share on the matter today or in the days ahead, I'll do so.
QUESTION: Do you know, to this extent, can you say whether this involves any -- well, I don't want to say serious, but any negotiations, any dialogue, anything that you and I would be interested in?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Not to my knowledge, Barry, not to my knowledge. He is -- he's not meeting with anybody from the State Department, not -- he would not be here as a result of an invitation from the U.S. Government and, to my knowledge, he has no meetings with anybody else in the U.S. Government if, in fact, he is here. Again, a fact that I'm not disputing, but one that I can't confirm for you.
QUESTION: Did he seek any meetings with State Department officials?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, with the previous caveats, not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Does it say anything about the entry system to the U.S. that you guys didn't know that he was coming in? Regardless of whether or not he needed a visa, would there not be a way that his name would be known at the border when he had to sort of be checked in?
MR. MCCORMACK: There are -- and further, thank you for bringing up that issue. There are -- I wanted to get into one issue. Yesterday, we talked a little bit about how one might come into the United States without a visa. I wanted to confirm a couple of facts.
So the primary way to get into the United States if you're not a U.S. citizen is with a visa. There are two other ways. One is to be a legal permanent resident and have a green card. The other way is also to have a passport from a visa waiver program country. There are 27 of these countries, so again, that would be a way that somebody could enter without a visa. As I said, we have no record of issuing a visa to a person with this name.
In terms of the border security, the Department of Homeland Security has done a terrific job in working to protect America's borders, to upgrade the technologies and the information sharing among the various U.S. Government agencies to help protect those borders. The Department of State is part of that effort and we have a good partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, so we are working with them to make sure that we have the safest possible borders that we can while also making America a welcoming place for legitimate travelers.
QUESTION: Well, I'm not saying he was a security risk, but as an official in the Iranian Government, isn't there a way that his name would have at least raised a flag that the Administration would have at some point been notified that he was here even if he was -- didn't need a visa?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, at this point, Teri, I think the only thing that I would say is that this issue and matters surrounding this issue and this question are certainly of interest to us and we are looking into them. And as I said in response to Barry's question, if I have anything further that I can share with you, I'd be pleased to do so either today or in the days ahead.
QUESTION: Just would that include in the matters you're pursuing, would that include just figuring out whether it was the green card route or the visa waiver country route he got in?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, we're going to --
QUESTION: Or do you already know that --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- I don't have all the facts surrounding these questions, Charlie, so what my job here is to try to do is to make sure that those facts get pieced together in such a way that I can provide a clearer answer to you with regard to your questions.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) be welcome in the United States? Would he be someone, if he did indeed hold a green card or was part of the visa waiver program, would he be welcome here?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we don't have diplomatic relations with Iran and there are very clear restrictions on those Iranian diplomats who are accredited to the UN and their ability to enter the country as well as once here to move around the country. So again, we don't -- we have not issued an invitation to any such individual and at this point have no plans to do so.
QUESTION: Can I have just one more general -- oh, on this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, she has a question on this.
QUESTION: We heard that he's a green card holder. Can you please confirm that or have some --
MR. MCCORMACK: As I said, there are two without a visa and we know that there was no visa issued to a person with this name. There are two ways, as I said, to get into the United States without a visa legally: one, green card; two, through the visa waiver program. And at this point, all that I would say is that this question is a matter -- it's a real matter of interest to us. We're looking into all the facts. And as I can, I'd be happy to share those with you.
QUESTION: Is that something that you would be notified about? Maybe I'm -- maybe it's not -- I mean, is he of the level if he is a deputy to Larijani, is that of the level in the Iranian Government that you would be notified? Because if not, then, you know, he can come and go as he pleases --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Without you knowing.
MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly, I think at this point, Teri, I would just say the movement of such an individual would certainly be a matter of interest.
Do you have another one on this?
MR. MCCORMACK: And we'll go back to you, Nicholas.
QUESTION: I mean, would his name be on the no-fly list? I mean, Cat Stevens's name, for example, was on the no-fly list so would his name be on the no-fly list?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Again --
QUESTION: Or should it be?
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, I'm going to try to keep you up to date on all the facts as I am able to assemble them.
QUESTION: Just for further clarification and you probably are not going to be able to say any more than you have already, but I'm just wondering, if you say there are no records of issuing a visa to this person --
MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.
QUESTION: -- I assume that this name is actually in your system because it's a huge system, I know, but there's a way to actually check things. So do you know -- I assume that if there's no record of visa, then someone found his name in the system. Do you know if -- do you know what kind of passport was attached to his name in your system? Was it an Iranian passport or was it a passport from a country on the visa waiver list?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Nicholas, at this point, I don't have anything else I can add.
QUESTION: And secondly, if he indeed had a green card, there are requirements for someone with a green card to spend a certain amount of months a year in the United States.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Are you aware if this person has been actually spending time in the United States?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any other information on the question. Like I said, we'll try to keep you up to date as best we can.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir. On the same topic?
QUESTION: No, not same topic. Iran though.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Is there anything else on this topic so we can close the book on it for today? Okay, all right.
QUESTION: On the P-5+1 meeting in Moscow, do you have any update?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Under Secretary Burns has had several meetings in Moscow today. He had an hour and a half -- he started off his day in Moscow with an hour-and-a-half meeting with his Chinese counterpart. They had a very productive exchange. This is the first opportunity that they had had to meet with -- on this particular topic. His name is Assistant Minister Cui. They had a good, detailed exchange, as would indicate an hour-and-a-half long meeting, on where we stand with Iran as well as the way forward. So that was a very good exchange.
He also has today a P-5+1 dinner. I think they're, at the moment, in the dinner and meeting. I would expect that -- right now, that they are going to be, again, talking about the same basic topic: where we stand with Iran right now and what is the way forward to get them to change their behavior. There's wide agreement -- the preliminary discussions indicate that there is wide agreement on the fact that Iran can't be allowed to possess the means to develop a nuclear weapon. There's also agreement on the fact that all the parties on the P-5+1 are committed to trying to work together within the Security Council mechanism to find a way to increase the pressure on Iran so -- on the Iranian regime so that they will change their behavior.
I expect that they are going to talk about a number of different topics, certainly, what are the diplomatic levers that you can use to accomplish that diplomatic goal, whether that's sanctions or asset freezes or travel restrictions. And I would expect also that they talked about ways that they can work together collectively, certainly through the UN route, but also ways that individual countries or groups of countries can work together to increase pressure on the Iranian regime to change their behavior. And I expect that to be the same general topics for the meetings tomorrow.
Tomorrow is a different group. It will be the G-7, G-8 countries. I think new to the mix of -- on those discussions will be Canada and Italy. So that's another opportunity in a different forum to talk about what are the diplomatic means to increase pressure on the Iranian regime.
QUESTION: Can I follow-up on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Today in Tehran, the Iranian Foreign Minister spokesman, your colleague said -- counterpart said that no matter how much pressure they put on us, we're not going to abandon our program. Your reaction to this?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see. We have had a presidential statement which is a request for the Iranian regime to heed the call of the international community. This is the second time that the international community has spoken in a strong, clear voice using the rhetoric of diplomacy. Now, pending a report from the IAEA regarding Iran's nuclear activities in the period from the beginning of March to the end of April, I think that the international community is now at the point that they are looking at what actions, diplomatic actions, that they can take that would send a strong message to the Iranian regime that they need to change their behavior.
So that's the point at which we find ourselves now, that we find ourselves at this point only because the Iranian regime has sought confrontation over diplomacy, sought confrontation over compromise. So we'll see how the regime reacts to an increase in the level of diplomatic pressure. I think that the international community has sent strong, clear messages that it is ready. We are united in this. We are united in the fact that Iran can't be allowed to obtain the means to develop a nuclear weapon.
Anything else on this? Charlie.
QUESTION: I'm slightly confused and would appreciate it if you would straighten it out. Under Secretary Burns has made public statements and maybe other officials have, too, about like-minded nations doing things and you've just made an allusion about countries getting together to do things. And on the other hand, you say we're committed to working within the Security Council. Are we talking two separate things or are we talking everybody coming -- are doing whatever they do through the Security Council?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think you can talk about both things at the same time, Charlie. Everybody is committed to working through the Security Council path. The Security Council is committed, at this point, to taking up the issue of the IAEA Board of Governors, the IAEA report about Iran's activities. At that meeting, or in and around that meeting, we would expect that they also talk about what actions that they can take.
But we've seen, for example, the EU talking about what steps they may individually -- what steps individually they may take in terms of applying diplomatic leverage to Iran to get them to change their behavior. I would expect that there are other countries, individually, who are considering such measures as well. So consideration of those kinds of individual or collective measures certainly don't preclude also working through the Security Council.
QUESTION: During his discussions with the Chinese Deputy Minister or Assistant --
MR. MCCORMACK: Assistant Minister.
QUESTION: Assistant Minister. Did they look at sanctions and whether this was a suitable option, because China so far has not shown a great deal of enthusiasm for sanctions?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, Sue, I'm going to withhold from going any further into the exact content of their exchange. I talked to Under Secretary Burns before I came out and he emphasized the fact that it was a very productive and a very good meeting. And I think one indication of that is the fact they met for an hour and a half. And they're going to have a chance to pick up that conversation when they reconvene now in the P-5+1.
China has as much interest as any other country in seeing that Iran doesn't -- isn't able to obtain a nuclear weapon. They are in the neighborhood. So we're going to continue working with the Chinese Government, the Russian Government, as well as others, on how we can act diplomatically together to get Iran to change its behavior.
QUESTION: So why was it productive and good then? What was good about it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there were a lot of -- I think that they had a good exchange on where we stand right now. The Assistant Minister was recently in Tehran, so they had a -- were able to exchange notes on where we stand diplomatically, get a read -- to get a read from his -- Under Secretary Burns was able to get a read from his interlocutor on the state of play in Tehran. And again, at this point, I'm not going to get into details of the discussion looking forward, but Under Secretary Burns said that it was a very good and productive discussion.
I have to add that in all of these meetings, whether it's a bi-lat with the Chinese, a P-5+1, or the G-7, G-8 meetings tomorrow, that these meetings are not meetings that are intended to produce decisions. These meetings are intended for the political directors to get together to discuss various options and to start to tee up decisions for capitals in the ministerial level for what diplomatic next steps we take. So the timeline is you have these -- you're having these meetings over this period of two days. You have the IAEA Board of Governors report on April 28th. And then I would -- although a date hasn't been set yet, in early May, I would expect that the Security Council is going to get together to consider that report and also to discuss what diplomatic next steps we can take.
So that period between now and the 28th, I would expect that there's going to be a lot of diplomatic activities refining the possible steps that can be taken in the Security Council, that could be taken individually, to apply that pressure to Iran.
QUESTION: The Secretary said strong steps.
MR. MCCORMACK: Strong steps. Yeah. I think --
QUESTION: Are the Chinese open, at least open -- you know, we all know the history of China's position on sanctions.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Are the Chinese -- did they reveal to Secretary Burns that they were at least open to considering strong steps?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think at this point, Barry, I'm going to let them characterize where they stand and where they stand with respect to considering such steps. I would only say that it was a good discussion.
QUESTION: Sean, a follow-up on Sue's question. I think it was two days ago that you specifically were talking about from the podium that the Moscow meetings would discuss sanctions, sanctions would be tabled or proposed --
MR. MCCORMACK: It's on the table. But I also in that same discussion made it very clear that these meetings were not intended to reach decisions.
MR. MCCORMACK: So yeah, those things are on the table.
QUESTION: And specifically you went into a certain specificity, a granularity on it that you hadn't gone before, and you said we want to keep you updated.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: So my question is: Can we confirm that what you told us about a couple of days ago, the possibility of assets freezes, travel restrictions, was put on the table and discussed at these meetings?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, with respect to the Chinese meeting, I've gone as far as I'm going to go at this point in time. And right now, actually as we speak, they're meeting in the P-5+1. I think Under Secretary Burns is going to be speaking with the press in Moscow after that dinner. I will also try to get you an update. We can post later on today for exactly what was the content in as much granularity as we can about the P-5+1 meeting.
MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas. And -- same subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, okay. You and then you.
QUESTION: Well, actually close. Senator --
MR. MCCORMACK: Close?
QUESTION: Mine's close geographically. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I mean Iran. Senator Christopher Dodd urged personal contacts between and discussions between American and Iranian Government officials, informal since we have no diplomatic relations. Is there any consideration of that route?
MR. MCCORMACK: I took a similar question yesterday with respect to Senator Lugar and we have great respect for Senators Lugar and Senator Dodd. I can only say what we're doing right now, and that is we're working the diplomatic process, we're working the P-5+1, working through the G-7, G-8 and working through the Security Council as well as the IAEA Board of Governors. We have also in the past supported the efforts of the EU-3 in offering the Iranians a diplomatic way out while meeting their desires for a peaceful nuclear program and objective guarantees for the international community. We have supported the efforts of the Russian Government in, again, trying to give the Iranians, the Iranian regime, a diplomatic way out.
Thus far, they have -- those efforts have been met only with rejection, stalling, the salami-slicing tactics. So, you know, it is really incumbent at this point on the Iranian regime to show good faith to the international community. The international community has laid out the various ways that Iran could do that. So it's really upon the -- it's really up to the Iranian regime at this point to meet the conditions laid out by the international community to try to rebuild that trust that has really been eroded to nonexistence at this point.
QUESTION: But those are all indirect contacts and perhaps direct contacts, in view of the fact that the Iranians are a very proud people, might actually explain in greater nuance and subtlety our position and they might be more inclined to respect it, or understand it at least.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that certainly, if they listen to their TVs and radios and read their newspapers, they can understand where we stand on these things. They've had a number of different opportunities working with the international community to take them up on their offers. We are not without channels of communication with the Iranian regime, although we don't have diplomatic relations with them. The Swiss channel, certainly if there's information that needs to be passed through the United Nations Perm Rep, that's certainly an open channel. So there's no shortage of channels of communication if the Iranian regime wants to convey something to us.
Joel. I think Joel is --
QUESTION: Basically, the same subject. Sean, both China and Russia -- sorry, both China and Russia have welcomed Iran into the fold of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the SCO, which has maintained it had no plans for expansion and suddenly, they're having a summit for June 15th. And the group is saying that they're endorsing the Iranian nuclear activities and are against the IAEA picking on Iran. Do you have any comments concerning that?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I haven't seen those. I haven't seen those plans or comments, Joel. Barry, did you have something?
QUESTION: Sean, yesterday, you touched briefly on the aftermath of the bombing in Tel Aviv. And I wondered if you could -- if we could draw you back to it. Has the U.S. subtly or directly urged Israel to hold its -- to be restrained and not retaliate and who would they rightfully retaliate against if they did?
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry, you know our position on this. And our position is that the Israeli Government has the right to defend the Israeli people. We, as always, ask them to consider the effect of their actions upon the prospects, future prospects for peace. That position is longstanding and unchanged. I would note that Secretary Rice did, yesterday, speak with Foreign Minister Livni to express our condolences for those who lost loved ones in that bombing, as well as to wish a speedy recovery to those injured and she also condemned that bombing. And it's something that Hamas, I would point out, failed to do yesterday.
QUESTION: I'm sorry?
MR. MCCORMACK: Something that Hamas, I would point out, failed to do yesterday. When given the opportunity to condemn the bombing, they condoned it. This is, I think, a window into the true nature of the thinking of this regime, a regime that is condoning, if not encouraging sending teenagers to go blow up other teenagers which is, I think, something that puts in stark relief for the international community what exactly the nature of this Hamas government is.
QUESTION: Can you say whether the Secretary got into the issue of Israel's response?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. She did not.
QUESTION: She did not.
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: She did not. Do you have anything to offer on the culpability, if that's the right word, of the Palestinian government if another group other than Hamas draws the assignment of killing Israelis?
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry, we said yesterday in a statement that the Palestinian Authority has the responsibility for preventing acts of terror. And at this point, that falls to a Hamas-led government.
QUESTION: Sean, on this, have you received clarification from Qatar about their donation to the government and have you made a decision on what course of action you might follow if, indeed, you think that's necessary in terms of other Arab states who offer support to the Hamas government?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would say at this point, Nicholas, we're still in the information-gathering stage with respect to what exactly Qatar's intentions are. I would expect David Welch will be in contact with officials from the Qatari Government. I'll try to let you know when that happens.
QUESTION: And what about on American officials who are working for international organizations that may have contact with Hamas?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. I did look into that matter. And it is my -- well, first of all, I'd have to leave it up to UNRA to talk about what meetings they have had, what meetings they haven't had. It is my understanding that general license number one of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, this is the office within the Department of Treasury that regulates these matters, authorizes transactions and activities with the Palestinian Authority that are conducted for the official business of the United Nations under circumstances set forth in the license.
Now, I have to also say that it is our policy, as the U.S. Government, that we and our officials do not have contact with Hamas. We don't provide material support to Hamas since it is classified as a foreign terrorist organization. So I just wanted to make that clear. This is a very discrete ruling on the part of OFAC.
QUESTION: Sorry, just to clarify again, that would apply to American citizens, though, who are working specifically under the auspices of the United Nations?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Exempting them from U.S. law.
MR. MCCORMACK: People that are conducting official business of the United Nations and, again, within the restrictions of the license. OFAC can provide you more of those details. I don't have them here. But again --
QUESTION: So other NGOs would not receive the same exemption?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, NGOs -- that has a -- that's covered under a separate license, I believe.
MR. ERELI: Yes. There's six.
MR. MCCORMACK: There are six separate licenses.
QUESTION: Oh. Do you know if there are any such exemptions for other international NGOs?
MR. MCCORMACK: International --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, NGOs are covered under those licenses, NGOs funded by the U.S. Government to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people. I don't have a list of all the NGOs with whom we work in this regard. I suspect that some are Americans and some may be international, but I can find out if there are actually any international NGOs.
QUESTION: Well, if it comes up again, and we --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this topic or related topics? Okay.
QUESTION: On Sudan, on the sanctions at the UN. Apparently, like -- Russians and the Chinese are objecting, but I believe Ambassador Bolton still wants to put it to a vote. Can you (a) update it on what the situation is, and also give us a reaction to the objections by Russia and China? We seem to be seeing a pattern here, that Russia and China are objecting to a lot of things we're trying to do with the UN.
MR. MCCORMACK: On the latter, I'm going to let them speak to their own reasons for the various actions they take in a variety of different diplomatic fora on a variety of different topics.
On the first part of your question, my understanding is that the Chinese Perm rep requested another meeting of the sanctions committee, either right about now or later this afternoon, to consider, once again, the possible sanctioning of these four individuals. Our view of this is that certainly, we are willing to consider this action within -- again, within the context of the sanctions committee. But it is also our view that if we cannot come to agreement in the very near future on this, within those confines, that we are prepared to act. We think it is important for the Security Council to act. The way that the Security Council could act in this regard, separate from the sanctions committee process, is through a resolution. Certainly, that is an open option.
We have been working through this process. It's a month-long process. But I have to remind people that there have been heinous crimes that were committed. It is time to start to hold people responsible for those crimes and for the actions that they have taken. And one way to do that is through the process that we are seeing unfold within the sanctions committee. And if that doesn't move forward than through the Security Council.
So we think it's time -- we think it's time to act. There is nobody more committed to the Abuja process or to easing the humanitarian plight of the people of Darfur or to trying to ameliorate and improve -- or improve the security situation in Darfur. But we believe it's time to act, Peter. While we are prepared to listen to these discussions today within the Sanctions Committee, we think it's time to act.
QUESTION: What would be different bringing it to the Security Council, because you also have Russia and China on the Security Council and they could block it there as well? So exactly, in terms of the actions that would be taken and the process that would be undergone, what is the difference, I mean?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, let's hope that it moves forward through the Sanctions Committee. But you know, again, you have -- if it's -- you have a resolution in the Security Council, then people have to raise their hand one way or another on this issue in full view of the public. And it is our position that it is time to start holding people accountable for what they've done and certainly people can see some of the results of that when they turn on their TVs and see the pictures of the suffering going on in Darfur.
QUESTION: Just one last thing on that. Have you been in direct contact with the Russians and the Chinese? It seems a rather minimal, basic step that you're trying to take here there and they're blocking even that, which seems to be sort of a new low in trying to get some action on Sudan. Have you had any direct discussions with the Chinese or with the Russians --
MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly up in New York we have. Certainly up in New York we have. And I can't speak to any other contacts that our officials may have had with their counterparts, but certainly in New York.
QUESTION: Have you made manifest your sort of frustrations as to about these delays and the --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think it's been very clear in public and private. We have conveyed the message that it's time to act.
MR. MCCORMACK: Elise.
QUESTION: New topic?
QUESTION: Same subject.
MR. MCCORMACK: Over here.
QUESTION: Is this something that rises to the level of a presidential discussion, though, when President Hu is in town?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll leave it to the White House to talk about what the President may or may not bring up.
QUESTION: Well, is the State Department ready to bump it up a notch?
MR. MCCORMACK: We are -- we, again, have made it clear that we're ready to act and that we're going to do everything that we can to make sure that these people are held to account.
QUESTION: Would Nick Burns have discussed this with the Chinese in Moscow?
MR. MCCORMACK: Didn't ask him about it. I'll try to determine if he raised it with him. I'm not sure if he's the person with that particular portfolio, but I'll certainly ask the question.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sue.
QUESTION: Apparently, the Somali Government has given the U.S. Navy permission to patrol its waters for pirates. I just wondered whether you had any details on this. There seemed to be kind of conflicting reports coming out of the region. There was also this story last November where a U.S. company, Bobcats -- was it Bobcats? Or Top Cat, sorry. Top Cat Marine Security was given this big contract to fight piracy. I just wondered where the U.S. Navy fitted in with this and was the embassy involved in trying to negotiate a deal.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll look into it for you, Sue. Anything else on --
QUESTION: Can I just -- so was that -- so you can't confirm the fact that the U.S. has made a deal to --
MR. MCCORMACK: With respect to piracy, our military forces are very active in that region around the Horn of Africa and the Department of Defense has talked many times about the operations, counterterrorism operations that they've had as well as meeting whatever international obligations they may have with respect to preventing piracy.
Now, on the discrete question of has the United States been in contact with the Government of Somalia on this particular issue, I'm happy to look into it for you. I don't have the particular information for you on that. I can speak in general about the fact that our military is very active in that region for a variety of different reasons.
QUESTION: But just to make that slightly more specific there, according to the copy that we have out of Nairobi, transitional Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi has said that they secured a "milestone" agreement, which is a very specific agreement, to undertake these patrols there. So we need a sort of confirmation or a yes or no --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm happy to look into that for you, Peter. I don't have the information up here and it's not an issue that I discussed with people before I came out.
MR. MCCORMACK: Elise.
QUESTION: Just back to Iran. There's a -- I'm not sure if this came up the other day, but do you know anything about Iranians and other people in Tehran registering to sign up to be a martyr to attack U.S. and British interests in the event of a military attack on Iran? This is being done at the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen those reports, Elise, but look, the current regime is -- not demonstrated any willingness to meet the demands of the international community to forego and stop its activities related to terrorism, with respect to pursuit of nuclear weapons or to try to improve the situation for its own people with respect to freedom of expression and human rights.
I think it's a fair observation to look at the statements and the activities of the regime and make a preliminary conclusion that they are trying to use these events to try to stir up, among some parts of the population, an unhealthy nationalism. I think that is intended to distract individuals from the fact that they are increasingly isolated from the rest of the world, distract them from the fact that the human rights and political freedom situation in Iran has taken a turn for the worse and is also seeking to distract them from the fact that this regime is taking this country 180 degrees off from where the rest of the region is headed.
QUESTION: Yeah. But seeking to distract is one thing. I mean, do you believe that Iran is recruiting volunteers to launch terrorist attacks against U.S. and other --
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen that particular activity cited in any reports that I've looked at, Elise. But let me just say that this is a regime that is the central banker for terrorism in the region. It's probably the most significant state sponsor of terrorism in the world today. So does it surprise me that they are engaged in activities that relate to encouraging individuals to take the lives of innocent people abroad, whether those are U.S. citizens or others? No, that doesn't surprise me, certainly, given their track record over the past two decades or more. But I can't confirm that specific fact. I haven't seen those reports.
QUESTION: On Turkey. Mr. McCormack, according to a number of reports, the local Turkish authorities in Istanbul, Turkey the other day confiscated the famous Greek (inaudible) which belongs to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, since (inaudible) to the present under the auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. I'm wondering in the framework of the religious freedom if you're concerned on this matter and what you can do to revoke this illegal action and to prevent similar actions in the future against religions and Greek minority property rights in Turkey.
MR. MCCORMACK: With respect to that particular monastery, I don't have information for you. Certainly, the issue of tolerance and religious -- freedom of religious worship is one that we speak with the Turkish Government about as well as other governments. Istanbul is a great city that stands at the crossroads of civilization. It has brought together many different ethnic groups as well as religions, and certainly tolerance for the right of others to worship is an important factor that we bring up in all of our discussions around the world where it is in question. Freedom of religion is fundamental to democracy.
QUESTION: Can you look into that for this particular issue and that also --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll see if there's anything we can --
QUESTION: And the last one. It seems that the way that the Turks are (inaudible) systematically without any international intervention, there is a fear that the next time it will be the headquarters of the Ecumenical Patriarch itself. And that's why I'm wondering if you are really concerned to get involved, raising this issue direct to the Turkish Government?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, before we start going down that pathway, let me try to ascertain the facts related to your first question.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Elise.
QUESTION: Can you speak about the Secretary's meeting with the Lebanese Prime Minister? I know that it's an extension of the meeting with the White House, but if you could just give us a readout of the meeting.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Simply, she expressed support for the Siniora Government's efforts at political reform, at national dialogue in Lebanon, and for the Siniora Government's proposals on economic reforms. These, although on separate tracks, political and economic reform, we believe, are mutually reinforcing and should move forward. We support their efforts to move forward. We support the efforts of the Siniora government to have all the Lebanese people invest in these reforms. I understand they're going through a period of national dialogue, talking about these issues. We encourage that.
The Secretary also underlined our unwavering support for full implementation of the relevant Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1595, 1636 and, I believe, 1644 and these cover a variety of different aspects of behavior. She also underlined the fact that we stand strongly for the principle that Syria, in accordance with the demands of UN Security Council resolutions, must cease any meddling in the affairs of another sovereign country, call upon Syria to establish good and neighborly relations with the Lebanese Government. So that was really the tenor of their conversation, really the subject matter that they covered.
QUESTION: When you talk about the national dialogue and the implementation of 1559, a lot of that has to do with the kind of disarming and cracking down on the Hezbollah. But that seems to be a big part of the national dialogue is, you know, how the country is going to move forward, taking into account Hezbollah's ties to Iran and Syria and how that affects Lebanese stability in the region. Is the United States offering any type of support for Lebanon in terms of resources, in terms of training, to help them kind of stand on their own and be able to shed the kind of shackles of Hezbollah?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the issue of Hezbollah, in our view, is covered by 1559, which talks about the importance and the need for disbanding militias. You know, you have to have one gun, one rule. And I think there is no dispute on that matter with the Lebanese Government. We have repeatedly and over time said that this -- how this happens and the timeline on which this happens is one for the Lebanese people to decide. It is a topic of active conversation in Lebanon.
As for international support for Lebanon, certainly at the diplomatic and political level, there's a great deal of support that is broadbased and deeply held. Whether -- in terms of a possible international conference for Lebanon, I think that that is a prospect that may be down the road, but I think that Lebanon first needs to accomplish a series of political and economic reforms on which it is now working before you can get together a group to consider the real needs that Lebanon does have on that front, but I think the Lebanese Government understands that.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)
DPB # 64
Released on April 18, 2006