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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing May 11, 2006

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing May 11, 2006

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 11, 2006

INDEX:

EGYPT
U.S. Concern About Egyptian Government Arrests and Repression of
Demonstrators
U.S. Aid to Government of Egypt / Current Levels of Support
Consistent with Past Practice
Continuation of Emergency Law

TAIWAN
President Chen's Visit to Libya
President Chen's Refusal of Transit Stop Offer in Alaska Will Not
Affect Bilateral Relations

LYBIA
U.S.-Libya Relations Have Changed Dramatically
Bulgarian Nurses and Medics Should Be Allowed to Return Home

IRAN
Under Secretary Nicholas Burns' Upcoming Meetings in London
Next Steps on Chapter 7 Text and Discussions on Incentives
No Direct U.S. Engagement with Iran
Discussions with International Community on Actions to be Taken as
a Group and Independently

ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS
Response to Foreign Minister Livni's Comments / Positive Step in
Addressing Humanitarian Situation

SOUTH KOREA
Reports on President Roh Moo-hyun's Visit to Mongolia / South
Korea's Policies Toward North Korea

NORTH KOREA
World Food Program Signed Memorandum of Understanding with North
Korea
U.S. is Not Contributing to this World Food Program Agreement /
U.S. Concerns About Monitoring Food Shipments

UZBEKISTAN
U.S. Concerned about Lack of Basic Political Freedoms

NIGERIA
American Employee of Oil Services Company Killed / Ongoing
Investigation

SOMALIA
Violence in Mogadishu / U.S. Interest in Working with Transitional
Government / U.S. Will Respond to Questions from the UN or Other
International Organizations

RUSSIA
President Putin's Comments on Arms Race, Russian Military
Capability
Transparency As To Amount of Money Spent on Military Build-Up /
Differences Between Russia and China

ETHIOPIA
U.S. Expects All Political Parties to Start Cooperating and Work
Together on Behalf of the Ethiopian People

DEPARTMENT
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Chairman of Presidency of Bosnia and
Herzegovina Tihic
Under Secretary Nicholas Burns Meeting with Special Envoy Wiesner
and Mr. Ahtissari


TRANSCRIPT:

12:10 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I have one opening statement, then we can get right into the questions. This regards the repression of demonstrators in Egypt.

We are deeply concerned by reports of Egyptian Government arrests and repression of demonstrators protesting election fraud and calling for an independent judiciary. Particularly troubling are reports of Egyptian police tactics against demonstrators and journalists covering the event that left many injured. We urge the Egyptian Government to permit peaceful demonstrations on behalf of reform and civil liberties by those exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and expression.

We are also troubled by reports that the periods of detention of many of those arrested have been extended and that security-related charges have been filed against them. We have noted our serious concern about the path of political reform and democracy in Egypt and actions such as these are incongruous with the Egyptian Government's professed commitment to increased political openness and dialogue within Egyptian society. We will be following up with the Egyptian Government regarding our concerns and will continue to push for political reform and freedom of speech and press. We support the rights of Egyptians and people throughout the Middle East to peacefully advocate for democracy and political reform.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) with whom you would have the Egyptian Government conduct a dialogue? Or are you using the term, dialogue, just meaning --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. These are --

QUESTION: Normal discourse?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, these were public, peaceful demonstrations, Barry, in terms of --

QUESTION: Yeah, but you're calling for a dialogue and there are people in Sardis who would like to overthrow the government and are far less democratic than it is to --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, if you're referring to the Muslim Brotherhood, Barry, it is under the Egyptian Constitution that is a group that is not allowed to be. The Egyptian Constitution says that any -- there should not be any political parties that are based on religion. That's the Egyptian Constitution. Now in terms of how the Egyptian people organize themselves politically, that is for them to decide and for them to look at their laws and their constitution to decide whether or not they have it right.

But the underlying issue here, Barry, is whether or not people can peacefully protest, express freely their thoughts, their feelings about actions that their government has taken. That's what the issue here is. And unfortunately, we witnessed today the fact that these demonstrations were broken up with violence and there were people who were injured, including reporters who were trying to cover these demonstrations. So as I said, it's a real source of concern. We're going to be following up with the Egyptian Government.

QUESTION: I got all the speech.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.

Sue.

QUESTION: Are you noticing a pattern of repression here, because the Emergency Law was reintroduced or extended? You've got these public demonstrations that don't seem to be able to go ahead unfettered. I mean, you're the biggest donor to Egypt, giving monstrous amounts of money every year. Do you think it's time to revisit whether you're getting bang for your buck?

MR. MCCORMACK: There's been a lot of discussion up on Capitol Hill over the past couple of years concerning the United States aid packages and monies that go to the Government of Egypt. We have, over the past couple years, when this topic has come up, supported the continuance of that aid at the amounts that we have, consistent with our past practice -- at levels that are consistent with our past practice and also in terms of areas of disbursement that are consistent with our past practice. And that continues to be our position, Sue.

That said, there are very clearly concerns on the part of our government in the Executive Branch about several of the issues that you brought up. But we just talked today about the protests and the use of violence to break up peaceful protests. These were people who were very concerned about the Egyptian Government's actions with respect to some judges. And the root of that issue was an independent judiciary; whether or not there would be an independent judiciary in Egypt that could oversee implementation of election laws. So that was the root issue.

You mentioned the emergency law. We talked about our great concern that the emergency law had been extended. President Mubarak, during the presidential campaign, had talked about the fact that he would seek to get new laws passed by the Egyptian Parliament that would deal specifically with addressing the threat of terrorism, which is very real to the Egyptian people. We understand that. But at the same time, taking into consideration the fundamental need for freedom of expression; that hasn't been done yet. I know that there are plans to do so over the next couple years. But we had hoped that the Egyptian Government would have used that time between the elections and when they made that announcement to actually move forward on that front.

So Egypt is a good friend. Egypt is a good ally. We have a lot of common issues that we're working on together in terms -- certainly in fighting terrorism, certainly in trying to bring peace to the Middle East. That said, when there are issues that arise like we have seen today, we are going to speak out very plainly about them and that's what friends do. And we're going to be following up with the Egyptian Government on today's events and we would hope that the Egyptian Government would come out and make it very clear that there is support for and the ability to peacefully express views concerning government actions in Egypt.

QUESTION: So just to follow up, you are not then sort of revisiting the aid issue and whether you should be withdrawing some aid or making aid more conditional on progress on reform?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, like I said, Sue, this has been a topic I know that has come up on Capitol Hill. There's a lot of discussion on Capitol Hill and the foreign governments also need to understand that there are -- the relationship between the government, the legislative and the executive, and the role of the legislative in apportioning funding for these kind of programs. We have, in the past, and currently do support continued disbursement of that aid at the levels at which we have proposed, which is fairly consistent over the past several years, and disbursement of that aid to allocations broken down between military and nonmilitary items.

Sylvie.

QUESTION: You said you are going to follow up. Does the Secretary plan to call President Mubarak?

MR. MCCORMACK: There are no plans at this point to do that. If something that like that should occur, we'll certainly keep you up to date. But I would expect that people at our embassy, as well as in our Near Eastern Bureau, would be following up with Egyptian officials, both in Cairo as well as in Washington.

Teri.

QUESTION: I just wanted -- several times that the U.S. has been concerned about these things in the past few months, why doesn't it warrant a phone call from the Secretary, since apparently, the Egyptian Government is not getting -- not getting the message or not deciding on its own either that these -- this behavior is inappropriate?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Teri, we have followed up with senior Egyptian officials at very high levels regarding these issues and I expect that it will be a source of continuing discussion between the United States and Egypt and I would expect that at high levels as well. Secretary Rice has had an opportunity to visit with President Mubarak in Egypt several times. If she thinks that a phone call is the right thing to do, then of course, she won't hesitate to pick up the phone. But we want to work with the Egyptian Government in ways that we think and they think are the most effective to actually further everybody's shared objective here and that is the promotion of greater freedoms and bringing more voices into the Egyptian political process so that they can peacefully express their points of view.

QUESTION: Do you think they've been effective so far?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, frankly, Teri, we'd like to see some action on a variety of different fronts. We've talked about the emergency law. We've talked about the ability of people to be able to protest and express themselves freely and in a peaceful manner. So we would hope that the Egyptian Government would follow up on those things.

QUESTION: And was there an opportunity for Secretary Rice to speak privately at all with the Egyptian Foreign Minister when he visited New York or --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, there wasn't an opportunity after those meetings. We were scheduled really back-to-back.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this topic?

Okay. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Yeah, my question is on Taiwan. Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian made a surprise visit in Libya and what's your response to that? Do you have any concern that Taiwan is developing relationship with Libya?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's for the two parties to decide.

QUESTION: But (inaudible) we know that Libya is still on the U.S. terrorist black list.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we have the liaison office in Tripoli and U.S.-Libyan relation -- the U.S.-Libyan relationship has changed dramatically over the past couple of years. And the reason for that is that Libya has taken some fundamental and important steps with respect to terror and with respect to weapons of mass destruction. They have given up their weapons of mass destruction program and they have agreed to -- and very intrusive inspections so that the international community could verify that they have, in fact, given up in its entirety their weapons of mass destruction program. So the U.S.-Libyan relationship is certainly one that is changing and has changed.

As for the other question, that's a decision for those two parties to make.

QUESTION: On the subject of Libya, do you have any comment on the postponement of the Bulgarian nurses' trial?

MR. MCCORMACK: This is -- look, our bottom line on this is we would like to see these nurses and medics allowed to return home. The events which have led to their being in prison for several years are tragic. I think any feeling person, any parent would certainly empathize with the tragedy of what happened with these children in Benghazi. And we and other members of the international community are working to see what we can do to address some of the underlying issues in terms of dealing with the humanitarian tragedy which occurred.

All of that said, our bottom line position is that we believe that these nurses and medics should be allowed to return home.

QUESTION: Something (inaudible) there.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: You guys work it out. Elise, why don't you go ahead if it's directly related. We'll come back to you, Barry.

QUESTION: On the nurses, I mean, is it your position that this trial is not free or fair and didn't follow appropriate procedures? Because (inaudible) say that if you're going to call for democracy and the rule of law, this is in their courts. And it's -- you know, it's a little bit kind of hypocritical to call for just wholesale release of the nurses without (inaudible)

MR. MCCORMACK: There have been on some parts, some concern about the trials, about the trial in the past. I'm going to leave that behind at the moment. There is a new trial. There is a new judicial proceeding and I'm not going to make any comment other than to say we believe that they should be allowed to return home.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about whether there's any special reason for the note yesterday that the meeting in London would not be on Monday, would be the following -- a week from tomorrow?

MR. MCCORMACK: I just wanted to correct the record, Barry.

QUESTION: It was just a slip of the --

MR. MCCORMACK: No. I -- the information that I had was that the meeting would be on Monday. It is -- actually, I have an update for you. I'm glad you asked that -- I'm glad you asked that, in the ever-changing schedule of Under Secretary Nick Burns. I just talked to him this morning. He said that there would actually be some meetings, starting Thursday.

QUESTION: In London.

MR. MCCORMACK: In London.

QUESTION: I don't want to draw cosmic -- I don't know what -- conclusions, but it does give more time to map out.

MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't -- yeah, I wouldn't draw any cosmic or even microscopic or anything -- any other kind of conclusions other than that I got information the meetings would be on Monday, then they'd be on Friday. I wanted to make sure that --

QUESTION: Now as well as Thursday and Friday.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what Barry was referring to is last night I did an amendment to the transcript indicating it would be Friday. Now this morning I find out that the meeting will be on Thursday.

QUESTION: We'll hold back on it for (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check to see how long they're going to go. I can tell you they'll start on -- the meetings will start on Thursday.

QUESTION: As far as you know, everybody will be there?

MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?

QUESTION: As far as you know, all P-5 and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And he still has no plans to go to Brussels? Is that still true?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think his first scheduled international trip in the coming week will be going to London --

QUESTION: But what about Quartet --

MR. MCCORMACK: -- leaving Wednesday night.

QUESTION: -- Quartet talks on Palestinian aid he will not be involved in?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. That's David Welch.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: David Welch and Elliot Abrams.

QUESTION: Sean, what happens with the consultations over the Chapter 7 text?

MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me.

QUESTION: What happens to the consultations over the Chapter 7 text in the next couple of weeks? Do you expect those to be part of -- I think you said yesterday they are a part of next meetings. But is that sort of put on hold while this incentives package is put together and then, you know, revisited in a couple of weeks?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. I think that -- you know, those discussions get folded -- they get folded into the overall discussions about incentives and then, you know, penalties, costs for not choosing that pathway of cooperation. That will take place at the political director's level. I would expect that the perm reps were also involved in that as well. Ambassador John Bolton will certainly be involved in those things -- those discussions as well.

Barry.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) still on the subject.

QUESTION: Still Iran.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Yeah.

QUESTION: A senior official told us in New York that the U.S. is not being pressured privately by P-5 members or other countries to open these talks with -- open talks with Tehran, but they continue to be discussed even increasingly in the press. Is it still so that in private meetings and private phone calls, as much as you can say about them, that countries are not suggesting to the United States that they would like to see the U.S. and Tehran open direct talks?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think what we're hearing is a consensus view that we need to, together, come up with this package for the Iranian regime so they can make a choice. This is something, you know, prior to traveling up to New York, Secretary Rice had been thinking about it. She talked a little bit about it with her teams, talked about it with the White House as well. So we believe that we're on the proper course.

I know that there have been a lot of suggestions in public that the United States should engage directly with the Iranians. Our view, at this point, is that there are plenty of channels of communication if the Iranians want to pass information to us or we want to pass information to them. We believe that the right course at the moment is to move forward in coming up with this package of incentives and penalties. And at the same time, we are also going to be talking to other states about actions that they might consider taking themselves, or like-minded states might take themselves, on the financial front. And I would also expect as Libya alluded to that we're going to be continuing discussions on the specific language of resolutions.

So however this turns out over the next several weeks, and we're hopeful that we can come up with a package. At a minimum, what we're looking at is a Chapter 7 resolution that demands the Iranian regime come into compliance with the demands of the IAEA as well as the Security Council presidential statement. So in terms of multilateral action, I think that's, at a minimum, what you're looking at. Outside of that, an action on a resolution wouldn't preclude steps by individual states or like-minded states on actions related to assets or the financial aspects of the funding for Iran's nuclear program as well as terrorism.

QUESTION: That's my question, it's much more specific than that. We were given information as of 1:00 a.m. Tuesday morning that the United States was not being pressured privately to hold direct talks with Tehran.

MR. MCCORMACK: Listen --

QUESTION: I'm aware of --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Look, that is certainly not the message that we are getting from other members of the international community involved in these discussions. This is not -- these discussions are not about why the United States should engage with Iran directly. These discussions are about how, as a group, that we can move forward, down this diplomatic process.

QUESTION: Are you puzzled when you see these continued public statements from leaders that you do speak with quite frequently, including Germany, that they say publicly they would like to see this but they don't say that privately. Is that puzzling to you?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, all I can describe for you is the course that we're on. Of course, when -- you know, we value the statements and advice of our partners in this endeavor, but we are, as a group, working on a common approach now. And at the moment, I wouldn't expect that that includes direct engagement between the United States and Iran on these issues.

And it's an important point, the problems that Iran has right now with -- are with the rest of the world, not just between the United States and Iran. The concerns about Iran's nuclear program, the concerns about their support for terrorism, the concerns about the treatment of their own people, these are global concerns. This isn't just the United States and Iran. And I know that certainly the Iranians would -- this Iranian regime would like to turn it into a U.S.-Iran issue, but it's just not the case.

QUESTION: You referenced to the channel communication, is that a subtle invitation for a follow-up letter? After all, the reaction here at the White House here was that it didn't address the Iranian overture, it didn't address the nuclear issue.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right. It was --

QUESTION: Would you like to hear from them again?

MR. MCCORMACK: It was just a -- it was a statement of fact, Barry, that we have well-known, long-established channels of communication.

QUESTION: You wouldn't like to -- you're not suggesting --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I'm not trying to -- it was merely a statement of fact.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, Elise.

QUESTION: On Iran, you say that you're going to continue the work towards a resolution, but if Iran were to accept this package, then you wouldn't see the need -- would you still see the need for a resolution and to ask other states to take action, or is this just a (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I mean, we'll see, Elise. Presumably, if the Iranian Government does engage, in a serious way, and demonstrate that it is ready to engage, in a serious way, through actual steps, change on the situation on the ground, we'll see how that changes the situation. But at the moment, the Iranians have given no indication that they intend to do that. We'll see what happens when they come to the point where they're confronted. They will be at a crossroads. They will be confronted with very basic choices and we'll see what they decide to do and we'll deal with the specific situation and questions about resolutions and other steps at that time and see how they react.

QUESTION: One more on Iran. This language about -- you know, that Iran's -- the concerns about Iran are for the international community and not just the United States; you used to say the same thing about North Korea, yet you joined the six-party process because it was really the United States that the North Koreans were looking to get some kind of guarantees from. Why not take the same approach with Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's just completely different histories there with respect to the problem involving North Korea and problems related to Iran, so they're just -- they are completely different histories and completely different situations.

QUESTION: Did you notice -- is there a decision to release some of the -- use some of the tax-collections -- I'm sorry, you're still on Iran? Yeah, beg your pardon.

QUESTION: Yeah, how many --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll be thinking about the answer to your question, Barry. Okay.

QUESTION: I'll change the question. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: How many likeminded states are you speaking to about -- you know, taking individual, sort of, action? And also, is there any movement on the talks with Iran over Iraq?

MR. MCCORMACK: On number two, no updates for you there. On the first, I don't have a specific number for you, Sue.

QUESTION: Well, is it 20, 30, 45?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have an order of magnitude for you; many.

QUESTION: That's too vague.

MR. MCCORMACK: That's all I have for you.

Barry.

QUESTION: Israel will use some of the tax-collected money --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- Palestinian money for humanitarian purposes for the Palestinians, not for job payments, salaries. Any reflections on that here? You guys are going your way, the Europeans are going their way? There's generally sort of a move to lighten the humanitarian -- lighten the situation for the Palestinians.

MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen the comments from Foreign Minister Livni. I think that -- just without knowing the details, I think that this -- we could -- the initial reaction would be that this is a good, positive step in addressing the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people. This is -- it certainly would be consistent with what the Quartet has called upon in its most recent statement up in New York on Tuesday, so I think general reaction is positive at this point, Barry.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Yes, South Korea. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun has mentioned that North -- South Korea willingly make bigger concession to North Korea during his recent visit to Mongolia. Is it (inaudible) to the United States? What is your comment?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I understand that there has been some news reporting based on some private remarks that the president made to the South Korean community while in Mongolia. Our understanding is that there is no change in South Korea's policy towards the North. We ourselves have encouraged interaction between North Korea and South Korea. Certainly, we have never stood in the way of that. We have actually encouraged that kind of dialogue. I know that South Korea does have a number of different channels of communication, as well as different projects going on with the North. So very basically, we understand that there is no change in South Korea's policy.

QUESTION: The same area. The World Food Program is going to resume shipments of food to North Korea.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Do you have any observations on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I know that there's been a letter of understanding, a memorandum of understanding, that the World Food Program has signed with North Korea. At this point I couldn't get into all of the details of that, but our basic understanding is that there will be provision of some humanitarian food aid to North Korea. This would go, or is intended to go, to the most needy recipients. And one other point we understand are the levels of the humanitarian shipments in this particular case will be much lower than they have been in the past.

We continue to have concerns about the ability to monitor whether or not these humanitarian food shipments do, in fact, get to those most -- those who are most in need. We ourselves have not made a contribution to this particular shipment or this particular agreement. We have not -- American food aid has not gone to North Korea via the World Food Program since the suspension of the World Food Program initiative in North Korea late last year, late in 2005.

So we will continue to assess our ability to make contributions to the World Food Program initiative. We're going to take a look at needs, we're going to take a look at competing demands across the globe for humanitarian assistance, and very importantly, George, take a look at whether or not we or others are able to monitor effectively that the food that the American people would provide actually get to those who need it.

QUESTION: Well, have you not contributed because of North Korean intransigence on the monitoring issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: That has been a real source of concern of ours, George. It's been a source of concern for the World Food Program as well as others.

QUESTION: Are you in touch with the World Food Program to find out what monitoring arrangements there are?

MR. MCCORMACK: We are. We are. My understanding now is that there are not -- there is some ability to monitor this distribution. I have to -- I think we need to find out some more details, more details about that, exactly what sort of monitoring operation they have and understand that a little bit better. But it does not involve, I believe, regional offices, which has been one of the ways through experience we have seen that the WFP as well as other organizations can monitor whether or not this food is getting to those who need it.

Sue.

QUESTION: Just so that I'm clear on this, you are not giving anything to this new round of food that's going?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's correct.

QUESTION: Because you've always said that food should not be used as a weapon --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's right.

QUESTION: -- against them.

MR. MCCORMACK: That's right.

QUESTION: So if you get guarantees then that the monitoring can be done adequately or to your satisfaction, would you then? Is it only the monitoring that's blocking this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sue, it's an important factor. And there are three -- I just outlined sort of the three basic areas that we look at in terms of what's the need, what are the competing demands around the globe, and then can we effectively monitor, we or others effectively monitor. So this is something that we look at, assess on a periodic if not continuous basis. So if there's -- at this point there's no change in our position but if there is, we'll certainly try to keep you up to date.

QUESTION: If you feel like taking a dip into Italian politics, a longtime left-wing --

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, wait a minute. Hold on. Nicholas before you.

QUESTION: I didn't see you come in.

QUESTION: I just did.

MR. MCCORMACK: He came in late. Some people aren't here at the beginning, like you are, Barry.

QUESTION: I wonder whether you saw the Korean -- the South Korean President's intention to send Kim Dae Jung up to the North. He made a speech yesterday in Mongolia saying that he's going to make --

MR. MCCORMACK: Asked and answered.

QUESTION: Oh, you -- today?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yep.

QUESTION: Okay. Sorry.

MR. MCCORMACK: This fine journalist back here asked that very same question.

QUESTION: I guess -- okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Anything else on the Korean Peninsula?

QUESTION: I just wanted to take a flyer at the selection -- no? Go, Dave. Taiwan. Yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: All right. What do you have, Dave?

QUESTION: This weekend is the first anniversary of the Andijan events in Uzbekistan. Human rights groups say there's been no improvement in the situation; no one has been held accountable. A couple of members of Congress -- Chris Smith and John McKeon -have introduced legislation calling for targeted sanctions against the leadership of that country. And I was wondering if that's an approach that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check for you, Dave. I'll check for you. Certainly the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, the lack of basic political freedoms is a continuing source of concern, distress for the United States as well as other members of the international community. With respect to this particular legislation, these legislative proposals, let me look into it for you.

Libby.

QUESTION: Yesterday you didn't have anything on the Nigerian -- the American that was shot in Nigeria.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. There was an American, a very sad occurrence. An employee of an oil services company was killed. We're still trying to piece together, working with Nigerian authorities, the specific circumstances of his death. But it is certainly a personal tragedy for his family and friends and our condolences go out to them. But we are going to be working very closely with the Nigerian Government to find out exactly what happened, what was behind this, and certainly we want to see those responsible brought to justice.

QUESTION: You have no idea what the motives were at this point?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to speculate at this point, Libby. I think that there are several different theories out there, but at this point in the investigation, I don't want to offer up support for any one of those in particular.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Still a follow up on Taiwan. You did mention that, you know, that's between Chen Shui-bian stopover in Libya; that's between Libya and Taiwan. But U.S. did offer the transit stops to Chen and Chen refused it and also complained about it. So is that going to have any influence on U.S.-Taiwan relation?

MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't expect so. It was a decision that President Chen made not to stopover. He was offered transit both outgoing and returning home. He decided not to take us up on it.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the Italians' choice of a long time, very left, fellow named Napolitano to be the President -- admittedly a ceremonial post, but it was a tight election. And Berlusconi says effectively, right of center has been excluded from a role in Italian politics. Do you care to say something about it?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think I'm going to take a pass on diving into Italian politics. Those are decisions for the Italian people and their political leadership to make.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sue.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on this fighting in Mogadishu? It seems to be getting more and more violent with the death toll now at about 120. Also, allegations seem to be mounting against the United States giving support to this alliance for the restoration of peace and counterterrorism. And there was a UN report yesterday which said that they were investigating violation of an arms embargo by apparently the United States.

MR. MCCORMACK: It's very sad. The violence that has been going on in Somalia and Mogadishu, in particular, for many, many years. It is -- we had hopes that this, I believe it's a transitional government, would be able to work with some of the leadership in Mogadishu and in Somalia to try to bring some order, some -- a more stable, secure environment for the people of Somalia. Sadly, we have seen recent events demonstrate that that's not the case. You know, we have an interest in working with that transitional government to see what we can do to help them build up institutions that, over the course of time, the Somali people could have confidence in. It's not the case at the moment. As for this UN investigation, I don't have anything in particular for you on that.

QUESTION: Is it something you are looking into, though, that maybe you broke an arms embargo?

MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly, if there are any questions that may arise from the UN or other international organizations, we'll do our best to respond to those questions.

QUESTION: Has the UN approached you on this and asked you to provide details?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check. I don't know if they have specifically.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: Two follow-ups from yesterday. The first one is do you have anything to say today on that letter from the Arizona attorney to the Secretary about the Mexican alleged interference?

MR. MCCORMACK: No.

QUESTION: No, okay. And the second is now that you've got -- we've had more time to look at President Putin's speech from yesterday, I wonder whether you have today anything to say on specifically the fact that he said that the arms race is not over yet and that Russia needs to build up its own military capability?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Russia is going to make its own decisions about what military capabilities it thinks it needs. There's a big difference between the Cold War and present day certainly where there's transparency. In terms of Russian Government budget expenditures, these expenditures need to pass through the Russian parliament. They're proposed by their executive branch. So it's a fundamentally different proposition than we had 30 or 40 years ago.

Russia will make its own decisions about what it needs in terms of national defense. Our -- you know, I don't have much more of a reaction to the speech than I offered yesterday. I think that as I understand it, the vast majority of the speech was on domestic issues, Russian domestic issues. I think there was probably a disproportionate amount of coverage in the media about the international aspects, the foreign policy aspects of the speech.

QUESTION: We pick and choose, yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: It's true. It's up to you and your editors.

QUESTION: But it's also true that there are arms agreements and, you know, the Bush Administration invented the notion that you don't want cumbersome arms agreements, which used to go on for years and years which held each side to their promises.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: I mean, look, Mr. Powell, at least, arranged for a three-page piece of paper.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Which took some doing. Are you -- doesn't -- they make their own decisions but they are compelled, aren't they, or required?

MR. MCCORMACK: Of course. Of course to meet their obligations under international agreements, including the Treaty of Moscow. And it was only a three-page piece of paper, but I also have to remind you that that three-page piece of paper referenced back to the verification procedures of the START treaties, which are, shall I say, quite extensive.

But yes, of course -- of course in, you know, this decision-making process in terms of the Russian Government takes place within the context of its existing international obligations, yes. Good point.

QUESTION: Sean, just to follow up on sort of two points. First of all, I understand that you're saying it's their decision to make, but I just want to point out that today the chief of staff in the Kremlin actually criticized an American program of missiles with non-nuclear warheads, so they actually talked about your arsenal and you're refraining from talking about their own.

But my other point is, in the case of China, you've said many, many times that they have no reason to build up their military capabilities and they're spending way too much money in their budget on this and you're not willing to say this about Russia. What is the difference? Is it that Russia has more -- are there more threats to Russia than they are to China?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. You go back and look at -- go back and look at what we've said. Yes, we believe -- we believe the Chinese military buildup is outsized to its needs and specifically we have mentioned the buildup just opposite Taiwan on the Taiwan Straits.

But the key, the fundamental problem that we had, if you look at what Secretary Rumsfeld has said on the issue and what Secretary Rice has said on the issue, is the issue of transparency. We believe that in the past the Chinese Government has not been transparent as to the amount of money that it has been spending. And that was the point I was trying to make about the Russian Government's expenditures is that there is an open political process that their budget goes through, so you have much greater visibility into exactly what it is that they are doing. And you want to take a look at -- you want to take a look at those expenditures over time to see what sort of trajectory that we have.

The point with the Chinese is that we think that for quite some time they have -- their public, published declarations about what they've been spending have been -- have really low-balled what it is that they're really spending. So it's the transparency issue, it's the focus of their spending and -- also related to that transparency issue -- real questions about exactly, you know, kind of is this an outsized military buildup.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you. Can we go back to the Horn of Africa on Ethiopia?

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: As you know, deputy secretary assistants (inaudible) traveled to Ethiopia numerous times and they trying to help the Ethiopian Government on political situation last week. This week, the Prime Minister just nominated a new cabinet for his exile administration.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And are you happy about that or are you --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that my understanding is that he did nominate a cabinet of technocrats to take over the administration of the Addis Ababa area. Their ability to carry through and actually administer has been severely hampered by some political disagreements, some especially on the part of the opposition party not -- you know, boycotting the vote in the parliament that would allow them to move forward and actually do their work.

So what we would expect is that the -- all the political parties in Ethiopia really begin to work together and pull together for the sake of the Ethiopian people. The people who are really disadvantaged by the inability of the government to really follow through and provide services and provide competent administration is the Ethiopian people. So we think it's time really for all parties to act responsibly, especially the opposition parties, pull together and allow some form of competent administration to take its seat and to actually start working on behalf of the Ethiopian people.

QUESTION: But right now opposition refuse to take their seat and -- which is a year from now. But their government introduced a new administration. That's -- do you think that's acceptable on your (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, it's not our job to referee political disputes and provide specific solutions in Ethiopia. But what we will do is call upon people to abide by the constitution, abide by the laws, express any differences that they may have in a peaceful manner to seek political accommodation which is what you do in a representative democracy. And most fundamentally to start working on behalf of the Ethiopian people. That's why they got elected.

Yes.

QUESTION: Sean, a couple of the Balkans around in meetings in the building today? The Secretary meeting with the rotating President of Bosnia and Herzegovina also Nick Burns and Frank Rosen are out, I believe, meeting with Mr. Ahtissari (inaudible) Kosovo.

MR. MCCORMACK: That's right.

QUESTION: I just -- anything on either of them?

MR. MCCORMACK: The Secretary is going to be meeting with Sulejman Tihic. He's the chairman of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It's scheduled to happen in just a few minutes. It'll be the first meeting since November when President Tihic traveled to Washington to take part in the events commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords. I expect that they'll discuss the importance of promoting constitutional reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina and -- which we believe would strengthen their aspirations for their ability to achieve their Euro-Atlantic aspirations. The Secretary will underscore the enduring U.S. commitment to constitutional reform.

QUESTION: Ahtissari and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Ahtissari -- Nick Burns -- Under Secretary Burns is going to be having a meeting with Special Envoy Wiesner and Mr. Ahtissari. They're going to review the state of play on issues related to Kosovo. There's quite a bit of diplomacy and a lot of discussion that is ongoing now. Mr. Ahtissari, for the international community, is really at the center of that, along with Ambassador Wiesner. So I expect that that's just going to be -- that's a meeting to really take stock of where we are and to take a look at where the process is moving.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:55 p.m.)

DPB #78

ENDS


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