State Dept. Daily Press Briefing May 15, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
May 15, 2006
Travel of Deputy Secretary Zoellick
U.S. Speaks Out Against Oppression of Religious Beliefs
Venezuela Not Fully Cooperating with Antiterrorism Efforts / NFC
President Chavez Travel to Algeria
U.S. Will Look for Opportunities to Cooperate with Venezuela in
Consequences for Addition to List of Countries Not Fully
State Sponsors of Terror List / Libya
Mechanism for Providing Aid to Palestinians / European Union
Removal from State Sponsors of Terrorism List
Reaction of the Families of the Victims of Pan Am 103 /
Process Long in the Making
Libya's Involvement in Sudan
Secretary's Meeting with Prime Minister Howard
2:08 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. How are you? One brief note for you and we'll have the statement out later this afternoon for you.
Deputy Secretary Zoellick is going to be on some travel this coming week. He's leaving tomorrow. He'll be gone for a week, back in the office a week from tomorrow. He'll be stopping in the UK, Netherlands, Tunisia and the Royal Economic Forum Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh. So we'll have more details for you on the -- with whom he will be speaking and about what this afternoon in a statement. And with that, I'll be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Can you flesh out, to the extent the facts are in, the embargo on Venezuelan being imposed, sanctions on Venezuela?
MR. MCCORMACK: Meaning their being placed on the list of countries who are not cooperating on the --
QUESTION: For not cooperating --
MR. MCCORMACK: For not cooperating --
QUESTION: -- as consequences.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I don't have any update for you, Barry, in terms of what potential (inaudible) that may result in --
QUESTION: What -- excuse me.
MR. MCCORMACK: But they have been placed on this list and they've been (inaudible). This focuses on concerns that they have in terms of their relationship they've built up with states like Iran and Cuba, state sponsors of terror; the intelligence-sharing relationship which has made it very difficult for the United States to work on antiterrorism efforts with them. If you have a reasonable or rational expectation that somehow information that you share with them might make its way to just the groups that you're trying to combat, that's certainly a negative. There are also concerns about their interactions with the FARC and the ELN, so there are a variety of concerns here, Barry. That's why they find themselves on this list.
As for what the consequences of that are, we'll try to keep you updated.
QUESTION: Does it bother you that the President of Venezuela is going to Algeria yesterday? I mean, what's your position on this visit, since Algeria is your partner?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of what's our reaction to President Chavez going to Algeria?
MR. MCCORMACK: He's, you know, free to travel to Algeria if the Algerians want to invite him there. It's not for us to say whether or not where he can travel. Our, you know, our concerns about President Chavez's behavior in the hemisphere are well known. We don't have a problem, per se, with his government; it's the behavior of his government. It's not the fact that it's a so-called left-leaning government on the political spectrum; that's not a problem. We work with left-of-center governments in the hemisphere every single day and work with them productively and work with them well. I'd point out the Government of President Lula in Brazil. We have a great working relationship with President Lula and his government.
It's just that when you have a regime that is starting to undermine the basis for democracy within a country that we get concerned and we'll continue to speak out on those issues. All that said, we will look for opportunities to work together with the Government of Venezuela in productive ways. And one of those ways is fighting the production and traffic of narcotics. So even though there may be some areas of disagreement in the relationship, we will try to continue working in those areas where it's mutually beneficial and it can be productive.
QUESTION: Sean, isn't it also automatic that if a country is placed on that list you just talked about that your American arms sales to that country will be banned?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check in for you, Nicholas.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks.
MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal.
QUESTION: May I?
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on Venezuela? Yes.
QUESTION: Why the U.S. sanction Venezuela about terrorism when Venezuela accused the U.S. of only selectively targeting terrorists on Venezuela's side the case of Posada Cariles in this regard? Is that a punishment for Venezuela for having relations with Iran as a political decision because President Chavez always oppose the policy -- United States policy?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, it's a practical decision. If you're -- it's a hard-eyed assessment of whether or not a country is cooperating with the United States in fighting terrorism. And in this case, the answer came back no, came back no for reasons -- as well as others -- that I have outlined. As for various political decisions that President Chavez has made and is going to make, those are for him to make. But he and his regime need to understand that if they do develop certain patterns of cooperation that there will be consequences for that; in this case, the patterns of cooperation with other states that we consider state sponsors of terror.
Now, if you're developing a much closer intelligence sharing relationship with a state sponsor of terror, then it's only reasonable that the United States is going to say, wait a minute, we don't know if we can reasonable cooperate with that sort of state because we are worried about a variety of consequences, including sharing with a state sponsor of terror of information that we have provided on that very subject, trying to fight terror.
QUESTION: This is not being listed as a state sponsor of terrorism?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, that's --
QUESTION: But it comes close, then? I'm not going to --
MR. MCCORMACK: It's gradations. It's apples and oranges, really.
QUESTION: No, I'm trying to get to -- and you may not have it off the top of your head. I'm trying to get to, because being listed carries specific consequences, being one of the six -- there are now five -- state sponsors of terrorism.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Have specific consequences.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: I'm trying to figure out if Venezuela now fits into a category where someplace, somehow, it is known what the consequences --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you --
QUESTION: Military sales, of course. Maybe support the --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a list of these things.
MR. MCCORMACK: You can look it up or we'll try to -- we'll try to --
MR. MCCORMACK: I find that hard to believe, Barry. In how many years here, you never looked it up. I'll look for you, Barry. If there is something, we can -- happy to provide it to you.
QUESTION: Are you considering -- or if you can check on this -- whether Venezuela should be added to the blacklist of sponsors -- state sponsors of terrorism?
MR. MCCORMACK: That's an annual assessment, Nicholas.
MR. MCCORMACK: And when the list comes out, it comes out and you can see for yourself who's on the list and who's not on the list. Today we talked about the fact that we intend to not list Libya on the State Sponsor of Terrorists List. But in terms of the states coming onto the list, we'll let you know when we publish the list.
QUESTION: But the state could come on -- I mean, today we saw evidence. You don't have to wait the year out for somebody to come off the list.
MR. MCCORMACK: That's right.
QUESTION: So you know, logical -- logically.
MR. MCCORMACK: When we print the list, Barry, we'll inform you if there are any new entries on that list.
QUESTION: It doesn't have to be something in suspension for a year. Correct?
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry.
QUESTION: You can join the magic circle at any point during the year.
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry if we have anybody to add to the list, we'll certainly make sure you're the first to know.
QUESTION: Well -- but I'm trying to get a specific. I'm trying to clarify. A country can be put on the list between the date for the issue --
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry, I'm sure that's the case. I don't have in front of me the guidebook for how you get off and on the list of the State Sponsors of Terror, but I'm happy -- once I get it, I'll be happy to share it with you.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you.
QUESTION: So -- but how long it's going to last, embargo?
MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me.
QUESTION: The arms embargo.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you're on the list until you're not on the list. So we'll let you -- if they come off the list, we'll let you know.
QUESTION: So if you're on the list, the embargo is understand --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think I've said -- as I have said probably about four separate times already, if there are any specific consequences to this and what those are, be happy to let you know what they are.
QUESTION: When is the new list coming out on terrorism? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Next year.
MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal.
QUESTION: New subject. Sean, two questions, one related -- recently, last week U.S. State Department issued a report on religious persecution around the globe on international religious freedom. One question is that minorities are still under attack in Russia and in Malaysia and also in Kazakhstan and those are listed also in the list. But how hard the State Department's pressing those countries, especially those countries where minorities are religious -- as far as religious freedom is concerned on those countries are under attack?
MR. MCCORMACK: In general?
QUESTION: Right. Well, Hindus -- I'm talking about Hindus are under attack on that -- in those three countries basically.
MR. MCCORMACK: All right, Goyal. You know, look, freedom of religion is the fundamental element of any democracy. And wherever around the world we see that there are those who are denied the benefits of freedom, just because of the religion that they happen to choose to practice, that is something we speak out against. And where there are particularly egregious cases, they are listed. And we believe that that's an important mechanism to try to raise awareness and also to bring pressure to bear on those states who oppress people on the basis of the religion that they have chosen to worship. So the list of those states is publicly available. You can look for yourself and you can be assured that wherever we find it around the world, that it is something that we raise with the governments and that we also work to see redressed.
QUESTION: Another one. Different but related one. In this country six of the people who are with the turban, including I mean, the Prime Minister of India is also with a turban, man, with a beard. What they are saying last week they gathered thousands in Washington at a reception that they are being barred in the U.S. military not to wear turban and beard. My question is related to the State Department diplomatically, if this issue has ever come in the State Department between the U.S. and Indian authorities, a discussion between the Secretary or anybody in the Indian Government as far as why these people are being --
MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of, Goyal. Not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Have you thought any more about this new international mechanism that's going to be used to get money to the Palestinians and whether -- have you looked legally whether you can put money into this fund and are you giving it much more thought since last week?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm sure that there are a lot of people giving quite a bit of thought to it and most of those people happen to be in the European Union. They are taking the lead --
QUESTION: Well, I know they're taking the lead but --
MR. MCCORMACK: They are taking the lead in developing --
QUESTION: The European Union --
MR. MCCORMACK: As for the United States participation in this, I think that we need to have a better idea of exactly what this mechanism is before you can start to answer specific questions about legality and the application of U.S. laws and regulations about what you could or what you could not do.
So the first step in this is to have a little more clarity and a little more definition as to what this mechanism might be, and specifically to whom it might give its money and under what circumstances and for what. And those are the things currently that the EU is working on. And yes, we're in touch with the EU. David Welch as well as his staff are in close contact with their counterparts.
But I think at the moment there's nothing to share with you in terms of specifics on that. There will come a time, I am sure, in the weeks and months ahead where there is more clarity on that issue and we'd be happy to talk about it at that point.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Iraq-Iran talks?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Oh, Teri in the back. Yeah, on the question back on Libya that --
MR. MCCORMACK: Don't pretend like you weren't asking a question.
QUESTION: Just doing the old arm stretch, you know. The Pan Am families, although Secretary Welch said that they had been notified this morning to the best of State's abilities, we've heard now from I think more than one of them that they didn't get any notice in time, that they heard about it from the press, and they are very upset about that in addition to being upset about the very fact that Libya is off the list now.
Did you check at all on delivery of these messages between the time that Mr. Welch briefed us and now?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you -- I can't tell you exactly whom we have called. Look, I can certainly understand. Putting myself in their shoes, I can understand why they might be upset and we did everything that we possibly could to avoid that situation and to make sure that all the people who should know about -- should have known about this in advance of it being in public were notified. As is sometimes the case with these kind of notifications, there may have been some people who first heard it through the media or other public sources. That is certainly not what we wanted and we made every effort to see that that wasn't, in fact, the case.
QUESTION: But if it was months, if not years, in the making coming to this point, couldn't you have given them some notice besides this morning?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't know to the extent that David talked about this, but the actual final decisions on this were made within the past several days, I think within the past week or so. Yes, there's a long process, a very careful process, that led up to this day. And Secretary Rice, in making these final recommendations and in some cases making some final decisions, wanted to make sure that it was a careful process all throughout and over the past several months and going back a couple of years.
So yes, while it was a process long in the making, some of the final decisions were made only recently and, of course, there is a -- you know, there is a tradeoff. The earlier you start notifying people and expanding the numbers of people that know these things, the more likely it is that it is going to be -- it is going to come out in public and there would be some who you would wish did not find out about it in public who find out about it in public. So we try to balance those things as best we can. You know, apparently, you're telling me in a couple of cases we didn't succeed, and certainly that's not what we had wished.
QUESTION: A follow-up with regard to the rapprochement with Libya. Is there any regard that Libya might seek to help in ending the situation with the Sudanese? And also, what about the recent trial that they've had with the Bulgarians, the nurses? Has that been resolved or is that just --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think David talked about it, talked a little bit about both those questions, if I'm not mistaken. They did -- with respect to Sudan, we did engage with the Libyans and try to encourage them to -- encourage, use whatever leverage they might have with various parties to bring them to the table and get them to sign an agreement.
As for the Libyan nurses*, our bottom line, you can go through a long sort of explanation here but our bottom line is that we would like to see them be able to return home as soon as possible.
QUESTION: A quick question on immigration issue. This issue has been going on for a long time, the President going to talk tonight on this issue. As far as diplomacy and State Department is concerned, was Secretary ever in touch with those countries, all those legal and illegal immigrants are here? And I mean the question is non-Latin and non-Mexican countries because there are many people here who are legally waiting for their time to come but they are nowhere now because only illegals will become legal but the legal people who are paying taxes for years and they don't know what is their future because -- so my question is if Secretary has received any calls or any information about this from the countries that she's dealing with in this issue on immigration?
MR. MCCORMACK: She very often talks about issues related to immigration during her meetings with her counterparts. I don't have anything in particular to add or keyed to tonight's remarks by the President. I would urge you as well as others to tune in to the President's remarks and listen to them, listen carefully to what he has to say, and certainly the White House will be prepared to answer follow-up questions on that. And to the extent that it is relevant to the Department of State, we will, of course, be prepared to answer questions.
QUESTION: Do you have a readout on the meeting between the Australian Prime Minister and the Secretary?
MR. MCCORMACK: They had a meeting just prior to the lunch that Secretary Rice hosted for Prime Minister Howard. She was very pleased to welcome him here to the State Department. He, of course, has meetings tomorrow with the President.
They talked a bit about a variety of issues. They talked about Iran. They talked about Iraq. They talked a little bit about East Timor. They talked about China. And, you know, on Iran, the Secretary briefed the Prime Minister on where we stand in the diplomatic process. On Iraq, the Secretary and the Prime Minister compared notes about the political situation there and the Secretary was able to relay some of her thoughts and impressions based on her meeting with Prime Minister- designate Maliki. On East Timor, they were able to talk again about the political situation there. There's been a bit of political unease and unrest there. And on China, they just spoke very generally and broadly about the U.S.-China relations about -- as well as about China's role in the region.
QUESTION: Australia's role on uranium sales, was it brought up at the meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: The Prime Minister mentioned that Australia had signed an accord with China for uranium sales. That was it. He just noted it.
QUESTION: Any request by U.S. for -- also later do the same with India?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not in this meeting.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on the Australia meeting with the Secretary, just what the gentlemen just asked? (Inaudible) the Secretary if the issue of U.S.-India nuclear agreement came during their discussion or not?
MR. MCCORMACK: Did not.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:28 p.m.)
DPB # 80
* Bulgarian nurses
Released on May 15, 2006