State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 21, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
April 21, 2006
Situation in Nepal
Possible Financial Measures to Counter Iranian Nuclear Program /
Security Council Discussions and Next Steps
State Department's Report on Fight Against Terrorism / National
Counter-Terrorism Center Statistics and Methodology
Readout of Deputy Secretary Zoellick's meeting with the Iraqi
Minister of Finance
Denial of Visa to Iraqi Actor
Effect of President Hu's Visit on U.S.-China Relations
12:40 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: I have a statement, then I'll take questions from Barry and from Elaine.
"The United States salutes the people of Nepal's courage and the resilience in their struggle for democracy. We are pleased that King Guyanendra's message today made clear that sovereignty resides with the people. We expect the King to live up to his words and allow the parties to form a government. We urge the parties to respond quickly by choosing a prime minister and a cabinet. The people of Nepal deserve a democratic government that can return stability and peace to their country. We urge all sides to refrain from violence to allow the restoration of democracy to take place swiftly and peacefully."
QUESTION: Are you confident those things are in the offing?
MR. MCCORMACK: We hope so, Barry. He made a speech and now it is time for the King to live up to his words and to follow through on his words with actions.
QUESTION: We just heard a briefing from Bob Joseph and Nick Burns on Iran. They raised the possibility that individual nations or groups of nations would consider their economic transactions with Iran. Do you have some specifics on that? I believe that Mr. Joseph indicated he might be talking to the Indians. What's that about?
MR. MCCORMACK: Bob recently returned from the trip to the Gulf. He has certainly talked about defensive measures that individual countries might make and that individual countries might cooperate on. The goal of this is to prevent Iran from requiring the know-how and the technology to build a nuclear weapon. Part of that also is looking at finances. You have a country that is a central banker in funding terrorism around the world. They are pursuing a nuclear weapon, I think. Looking at the assets of that regime certainly is an area that would be of interest to us as well as interest to others.
As far as specific countries, I don't have a list for you, Elaine. But certainly, it is an issue that we are going to be discussing with members of the international community. I would expect that it also comes up in the context of a discussion in the Security Council. I know that the European Union has also looked at a variety of different measures that it might take that it could possibly pursue with an eye towards changing the behavior of the regime.
QUESTION: I didn't stay through the whole briefing, so if this was answered, I apologize. But this -- it seems to me you're setting up duplicate or parallel mechanisms to deal with the problem. You have the UN --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well --
QUESTION: -- then you have the -- you know, it kind of suggests to me that maybe you're not that confident you'll get what you want at the UN and you've got to open a new front. Am I on the wrong track here?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nick talked about this a little bit. And I think what you're seeing is just the reality of international politics. We are committed to pursuing the UN Security Council front. We're devoting quite a bit of energy to that and I would expect in the coming days and weeks, we'll talk more about that. Certainly in the wake of the April 28th IAEA report regarding Iran's nuclear activities, we are going to be looking at what specific steps the Security Council can take. But certainly, in parallel to that, you are going to have these discussions about what individual countries might do, what groups of countries might do collectively in the case that the Security Council does not find it within itself to act. Whether that's passing a resolution, a Chapter 7 resolution, or passing other measures regarding asset freezes or sanctions or travel restrictions or other measures that may be discussed. So they're not mutually exclusive, Barry. Certainly, we're pursuing the Security Council track, but that does not preclude also preliminary discussions about what other possibilities are.
QUESTION: Yeah, well, apropos the question (inaudible)
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Exactly. Exactly.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I -- if I don't know if we're done with that, but I wanted to ask you about terrorism, if I might. A Knight Ridder good reporter has what seems to be accurate statistics, if that's the word, on an increase in terrorism incidents last year. You have a report coming out in about a week. Is that account -- which now, of course, others are beginning to duplicate -- is that account basically correct? Can you speak about that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a couple things, Barry. One, a process point, the National Counterterrorism Center is responsible for producing a number of statistics related to terrorism incidents worldwide. The State Department is responsible for producing an annual report regarding the state of the fight against terrorism. Certainly, that report reflects the reality of the statistics accumulated by the NCTC, but it is a narrative. It doesn't include statistics. So those two processes are conducted separately, yet, in parallel.
MR. MCCORMACK: So the NCTC will talk about what the statistics are. The legal requirement is that these reports come out on or about May 1st. So I would expect -- I don't think we've set the exact date yet, but I would expect probably at the end of next week or the beginning of the week following that, that we'll have these reports we'll do a briefing for you on it. So they can speak to the numbers at that point.
I would make one important point and that is that if you look back over the past three years, the methodology that the NCTC has used to make these counts has changed. So there is -- you don't have a baseline. I don't think it's technically inaccurate. You know, I guess technically you could say that there might be a larger number of incidents from one year to another, but it's comparing apples and oranges. You don't have a common baseline. Just this past year, the change was made because of a change in the law. In prior years, it was actually just a change in methodology that the NCTC made that was an internal change in the way they counted things. So I expect within the next week or so we'll have those reports out and people can brief you in more depth, in detail about exactly what the numbers are and also about the narrative.
QUESTION: Well -- but for now to the extent that you can say, is that estimate about 10,000 additional incidents last year? I realize measurements change. I mean, what's going on in Iraq? Is that every incident in terror or not? I mean, this is difficult to wrestle with. But that aside, how does 10,000 -- as a surge, a surge in terrorist incidents last year about 10,000 -- does that stand up?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, in terms of specific numbers, Barry, well, let's wait a week. Let's wait a week or so and people can brief you on that. And again, I would have to, you know, you'll choose your own words, but I would take issue with the word "surge" because that implies that you're counting from a common baseline, which we're not.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, two different -- two completely different baselines. It's -- the count this year will be unique. You can't compare it against the count from the previous year or the year before that.
QUESTION: Yeah. Back to the specific measures -- financial measures on Iran, do those measures include refraining from the investment on the oil field?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are a number of different measures that can be taken at this point. I'm not going to get into the specifics of it. The goal here is to try to change -- compel a change of behavior in the Iranian regime and certainly this is a regime that doesn't exist in isolation from the rest of the world. This is not North Korea. So they are, in some sense, dependent upon their links to the outside world and one of the things that we are looking at is how can you use that fact as a way to compel change in the behavior of the regime.
Now, I say that with the thought in mind that whatever actions that we and others might be talking about or considering, they are not designed to try to harm the Iranian people. Nobody wants to do that. And the Secretary has made clear that, as an initial step, nobody's looking at oil and gas sanctions. What we're trying to do is trying to compel a change in the behavior in the regime by targeting any actions that we take in ways that we think would be effective in bringing about that change in behavior.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Nothing else on Iran? Okay.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on this Iraqi actor? His name is Lewis Alsamari and he was denied entry into the United States for the premiere of his movie on the 9/11 hijacking.
MR. MCCORMACK: I saw the news report. I don't have anything for you, Elise. Happy to look into it.
QUESTION: Can you look into it, please?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Libby.
QUESTION: Sean, actually just going back to Iran somewhat.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: Yesterday at the White House, there were two pretty major mishaps regarding President Hu's visit: the national anthem, the name of the People's Republic of China being called the Republic of China and also the Falun Gong protestor slipping through security. How can these two incidents not affect U.S.-Chinese relations? I mean, those things are seen as very offensive over in China. You know, and given their importance with talks on Iran and North Korea and things like that, is this something that's worrying the United States? Have the Chinese moved on?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm going to have to get back to how that relates to Iran, but --
QUESTION: Well, I mean, you know, Nick met with him for a half hour last week or an hour-and-a-half.
MR. MCCORMACK: I know, I know, I hear you. Look, Libby, the folks over at the White House talked about these incidents yesterday and I think that their assessment -- I'm not going to try to add to their assessment of what effect that had on any particular discussions. I think, you know, certainly, the U.S.-China relationship is broad enough and deep enough so that such incidents aren't going to have -- cause any major disturbances in those relations.
Look, you know, the White House talked about how that it was regrettable that those things occurred, but their readout of the meetings was that it didn't really affect the meeting, so I would expect that it doesn't have any effect on the relations, Libby, as much as everybody wishes that those things had not occurred.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, Lambros.
QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, any update for the Secretary -- for the Secretary's trip to Ankara and Athens, since she is departing Monday?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
MR. MCCORMACK: Samir. That's it, then. That's it.
QUESTION: Can you give us a readout on the meeting between Mr. Zoellick and Iraqi Minister of Finance?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll see what we can get you.
Barry*, now that's tricky. You're the only one with your hand up.
QUESTION: April 24th the Secretary Condoleezza Rice will travel to Ankara, but the same day the world famous American pop singer Madonna will travel to Kurdish city Amed, A-m-e-d, known among Kurds as the capital of Kurdistan in Southeast of Turkey. She will give a free concert in a football stadium to entertain, as she says, the Kurdish people. I'm wondering if you're concerned about her safety since April 17 you issued, Mr. McCormack, a Public Announcement advising the U.S. citizens not to visit this (inaudible) area of Southeast of Turkey by May 16, 2006.
MR. MCCORMACK: We're not going to the concert, I can tell you that. You know, people make their own assessments. We put out this information for people to consider. They will make their own judgments about traveling in areas where there are Travel Warnings and Travel Announcements.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:55 p.m.)
DPB # 66
Released on April 21, 2006