State Dept. Daily Press Briefing May 17, 2006
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing May 17, 2006
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
May 17, 2006
State Sponsor of Terrorism List / Venezuela Cooperation on
Decision to Reestablish Diplomatic Ties / Congressional Views
Sale of F-16 Aircrafts to Iran / Spare Parts Sales and Licenses /
Retransfers to Third Parties / Meaning of the Word Embargo /
Russian Arms Sales
Working on Issues of Mutual Concern / Illegal Narcotics
Package of Incentives / P-5+1 Meeting / Light-Water Reactor /
Statements by Iranian President / Possible Chapter 7 Resolution /
Proliferation Security Initiative / Under Secretary Burns Travel
to London / Discussion at the Political Director Level / Security
Guarantees / Diplomatic Course / IAEA Board of Governors / Turkey
and Involvement of other Countries
Abuja Agreement / International Conventions and other Laws
U.S. Saudi Strategic Dialogue / Agenda / Political Reforms
Support to Warlords / Fighting Terrorism / Working with
Transitional Institutions / Foreign Fighters / World Food Program
/ Working with International Community / Counterterrorism
Attack on Administration Court / Killing of Judge / Condemnation
Resolution 1559 / Security Council
Establishing an Embassy in Lebanon
Greater Democracy in the Middle East / Greater Prosperity for
Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill Travel / Malaysia / Singapore
/ Thailand / Beijing / South Korea
12:22 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. How are you?
MR. MCCORMACK: Good, all right. Well, I don't have any opening statements, so we can get right into your questions.
QUESTION: Well, I (inaudible) this week you did some nice things for Libya and today they welcomed Mr. Chavez of Venezuela. Does that get under anybody's skin here or you figure it's just a normal sovereign right to invite whoever you like.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that it's certainly their sovereign right and maybe Mr. Qadhafi and the Libyan Government can talk to Mr. Chavez about cooperation on terrorism. It's an interesting note, I think that we just announced the fact that we intend to have Libya come off the state sponsor of terrorism list and they won't be listed on the not cooperating list with the United States on terror. Venezuela is making their appearance on their list, so maybe they can bring away something from the Libyans on that.
QUESTION: Do you think this is likely?
MR. MCCORMACK: All right, just a suggestion, Barry.
QUESTION: Just a suggestion.
MR. MCCORMACK: Just a suggestion.
QUESTION: All right let me ask you something, please, left over from yesterday. The F-16 business --
MR. MCCORMACK: Ah, yes.
QUESTION: Suppose, I know it's hypothetical, but sometimes you've got to ask hypothetical questions, is there any way the U.S. can coerce or force Venezuela not to sell airplanes where we don't want them to?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as I pointed out yesterday, this would be in contravention of an agreement that they have previously signed. And I also went back and looked at some of the news reports and this is something that they have talked about before. I think the last time they said that they were going to sell -- send the F-16s to China. China had no interest in that. And also I would note that there seems to be a little difference of opinion within the Venezuelan Government on this matter. The Minister of Defense, I believe, has backed away from this statement. So Barry, I think this is some overheated rhetoric, but just in case there are any questions about it, there are prohibitions in the agreements that the Venezuelan Government signed concerning such an action.
QUESTION: But should they do it anyhow, you can't throw a rule book at them.
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said Barry, if we get to that point we'll deal with it. As I pointed out before, this is something that they've threatened to do in the past and have not followed through on it.
QUESTION: The ban -- the U.S. ban on commercial -- military sales to Venezuela extend to any spare parts that will be needed for equipment that's already been sold?
MR. MCCORMACK: Good question. I looked into this. Barry raised this yesterday, I believe maybe it was George. It was Saul. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: One of these in the front row.
MR. MCCORMACK: It's still a good question. (Laughter.)
Let me run through this for you. Previously authorized retransfers to Venezuela are not affected by the restrictions that automatically go in place as a result of being put on this list. Existing licenses and authorizations for the export of defense articles and defense services and maintenance and parts authorized under existing cases are also not affected. So that's part one.
Part two: Exports of up to $500 in spare parts for previously licensed defense articles may normally be made by a U.S. exporter without a requirement for a license. A registered U.S. exporter may be use this spare parts license exemption up to 24 times a year. Okay. So that's sort of an explanation of the rules.
What does that really mean? That means that in simple English that previously authorized licenses for spare parts, maintenance, that sort of thing are not affected by Venezuela having been put on this list. And the normal span for these licenses is four years; they last for about four years. So as best as I can tell, doing a little research on this, the most recent licenses for spare parts maintenance on the F-16s were done 2005. So it's conceivable that there could be spare parts maintenance on the F-16s up and through 2009 at some point. And then, of course, you have the $500 exemption, so on a F-16 you that will probably buy you a toggle switch. But there are those exemptions.
QUESTION: But the fact that they're talking about, anyway, transferring it to Iran. Would that kind of allow you to stop the export of spare parts and prevention of them?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it doesn't matter what country it is, fill in the blank. Any retransfer to a third party has to be authorized in writing from the United States and I wouldn't expect that if such a request were actually forthcoming to the U.S. Government that we would accede to such a request.
QUESTION: Venezuela said that they've -- that according to the original agreement that U.S. is supposed to supply these parts to Venezuela and that the United States has not done so. So under that --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's not the United States that provides these things; it's the companies in question. What the United States role in doing this is to provide the license. And as I just went through, there are licenses that have previously been granted for spare parts and maintenance on the F-16s. And those I pointed out, those licenses are not affected by Venezuela having been put on the list a couple of days ago.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. McCormack. (inaudible) -- the U.S. were very close to signing agreement, a cooperation agreement to fight narcotrafficking. What kind of impact do you foresee after this embargo to Venezuela? Do you see any consequences?
MR. MCCORMACK: First of all, it's not an embargo. But second, I would hope that it doesn't have any consequences. As I've talked about before, we are prepared to work with the Venezuelan Government on issues of mutual concern. One of those areas has been fighting the transport and production and cultivation of illegal narcotics. We hope that that cooperation would continue. It's in our interest. It's in the interest of the Venezuelan Government and it's in the interest of the hemisphere. Where we have differences with Venezuela we'll speak very clearly about them. I think that that's apparent from the action we took two days ago. So we would hope that this does not have any effect on our cooperation regarding trafficking, cultivation or production of illegal drugs.
QUESTION: You will say this embargo is a kind of step-by-step process?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I will -- first of all, I wouldn't call it an embargo. Just again it --
QUESTION: Or, well, this --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- look, as I said before, we looked carefully at the facts as they relate to Venezuela's case. And as I said before, they earned their way onto this list. Certainly, if they want to take steps that would get Venezuela off this list, they could and they can. And we'll certainly be hopeful that they will take those kinds of steps. The example of Libya shows that states can act to get off the list.
QUESTION: So you object to the action taken two days ago or the description of it as an arms embargo against Venezuela. What's wrong with the word "embargo"?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, embargo brings with it -- it's in the international parlances. You know, George, it's a loaded term. What the actions that we took, it's a cutoff of sales. It's a -- there are still existing sales of spare parts and maintenance contracts but, you know, this is an action that was taken according to U.S. law that was -- you know, it affects Venezuela. And also for other countries on the list, they are subject to the same kind of restrictions, so I would use the word "restriction" as opposed to "embargo."
QUESTION: In Libya, Chavez said that they discussed with Qadhafi about oil cooperation. Is it something that you welcome?
MR. MCCORMACK: Oil cooperation?
QUESTION: Yes. Between --
MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen the comments, Sylvie, so I couldn't tell you. I couldn't tell you. Libya will make its own decisions about how to develop its oil sector. Certainly, there's been some increasing interest from Western companies I know over the past several years. The decisions that Libya takes with respect to development of its oil sector will be decisions for the Libyan Government to make.
QUESTION: So the decision to restore full diplomatic relations didn't have anything to do with oil?
MR. MCCORMACK: The decisions the Secretary took and that the President took were principled decisions and were done according to the letter and the spirit of the law. Certainly, there were pressures from a variety of different angles to do this earlier. But the leadership at the State Department, the leadership at the White House took a look at the facts and they made the decisions based on what was before them and whether or not those facts fit the letter and the spirit of the law and they weren't going to do it anytime before that. So again, there are a lot of people with a variety of different interests that are out there concerning Libya. But this government took its decisions based on principle and based on policy and based on the letter and the spirit of the law.
QUESTION: Just out of curiosity, have there been any signs of disapproval on the Hill? They have 45 days to disapprove. Has anybody been asked informally, at least, speak to people up there or is it kind of quiet on that front? A lot of people approved it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right, Barry. I haven't heard of anything in particular, any grumblings or -- grumblings about it. But I'm happy to check for you if there is anything we can share with you in the days ahead certainly, we'll let you know. And of course, representatives and senators on the Hill will also make their views known and we would expect --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Change of topic?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. Do we have anything else on --
QUESTION: Yes just to check or to clarify something. What about if Russia decides to sell armament to Venezuela. That's already happened in the past. Did -- you have considered the possibility of that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have made our concerns known about Venezuela's -- what we called "outsized military buildup." And with respect to the proposed sales from other countries involving American technology, we have not agreed to the request to make those transfers. Now with respect to Russia, I don't think that there's any -- at least to my knowledge -- any American technology and any of their armaments. But the Russian Government will have to make decisions about to whom it is going to sell those armaments. We have -- I think that we would want to talk to the Russian Government about our views concerning this matter before any future sales are made and ask them to take a hard look at exactly what it is that Venezuela is trying to do with our armaments that it is buying, whether or not those planned or intended purchases actually fit Venezuela's stated needs. You know, our answer to that question is well, we -- is that their armament purchase plans are outsized to what their needs are.
QUESTION: Could we go through the drill a little on Iran? Most of the stuff last couple of days coming out of Europe --
MR. MCCORMACK: Did you have a question, Libby, or --
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, go ahead, Barry.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, just to run through it.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: It's off the talks at least until Tuesday. That's what we're hearing from Europe -- the P-5+1.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Yeah, keep going.
QUESTION: Postpone it until Tuesday.
MR. MCCORMACK: Keep going.
QUESTION: I don't think I've heard an American official verify, although I don't have any reason to doubt the Europeans, that a light-water reactor is among the incentives. I would ask if it isn't a calculated risk? I'm not a scientist, but I don't how easily one can discern whether equipment is being put to weapons use or to civilian use. Maybe it's a risk, with supervision, you're willing to take to move the thing along, et cetera. Could you bring us up to date a little?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Let me try -- I'll try to pace through that. One the first -- the process point regarding these. I would expect that the political directors probably will now get together next week, as opposed to on Friday. And that simply is because what we're trying to do, and this gets a little bit to the part about the light-water reactor reports that have been out there, we're trying to put together a package and we've talked about this before. The package would include incentives on one side and penalties, disincentives on the other side. And we're not going to talk about the various elements of that potential package in isolation and it is still a matter of discussion right now. I don't think that there is agreement on -- full agreement on exactly what would comprise this package.
Now, why is this taking some time? Why are we going to be meeting Tuesday at the political director as opposed to on Friday? Well, the reason is that what we're trying to do with our colleagues in the P-5+1 is on each of these tracks, both the incentive side as well as the disincentive side, try to talk through not just step one but what is going to be step one, step two, step three, step four and so forth in this process. Meaning, how would the international community react to either Iran agreeing to this package of incentives or rejecting this package of incentives. So what we want to have is a good understanding among the members of at least the P-5+1 as to how this is going to play out. And so that -- you can understand this is complex, complicated multilateral diplomacy. It takes a little bit of time. So that was the reason why the meeting was shifted to next week as opposed to Friday.
Now, I do have to make the point that individual countries are not working in isolation on this and they're just going to come together next week and compare notes. There's almost constant contact among the various members of the P-5+1 at the political director level. Under Secretary Nick Burns is multiple times per day on the phone with his counterparts at the political director level, so there's a lot of activity that's going on. The meeting next week is just intended to get together and really walk through what it is that they have at that point, Barry, in terms of the package, both sides of it, the incentive side as well as the disincentive side.
On the light-water reactor the same answer as yesterday. These reports about light-water reactor and we're not going to talk about, you know, individual press reports out there or try to pick out one element of what might be a package. The Iranian Government has to look at this thing in its totality, both sides of it. There are certainly benefits on one side for cooperation. On the other side there are costs, not only in terms of potential sanctions but also in terms of opportunity costs. You lose something when you don't take an opportunity.
The Iranian regime is going to have to account for that in terms of what's best for the Iranian people. There are, you know, certainly as I pointed out yesterday, real stresses within the Iranian economy that are long-standing, so they have to take a look and see what's best for the Iranian people.
QUESTION: The U.S. is looking for a consensus, both on incentives and disincentives.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: That's harder to do because we know the Russians and Chinese may not look at disincentives the same way, at least at this point, the U.S. and the Europeans do. But we have it right. I mean, that is what you want to do. Another way would be to offer them things and if they turn them down then you get together again but* you decide* what to do about it. But in this case you're trying to make those decisions, so to speak, beforehand.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Exactly. Opposite sides of the same coin, Barry. You want to -- the idea here, as the Secretary has talked about, is to provide them a choice. They have said -- I've heard President Ahmadi-Nejad say that they're not going to trade gold for candy.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that was the quote. I think it's odd that he would reject a proposal out of hand before he's even seen it, which, you know, raises a lot of questions about what exactly his motives are.
QUESTION: Last point. Is U.S. participation in negotiations under consideration at all in these discussions?
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry, we think that right now we're following the right course in terms of consulting with our P-5+1 partners on what the incentives and disincentives are. In terms of any future actions on our part, we'll try to keep you up-to-date.
MR. MCCORMACK: What do you make of Ahmadi-Nejad's continued insistence that they're not going to give up their enrichment work? Do you take that at face value?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think at this point we don't know exactly what is behind those statements, whether or not this is a negotiating bluff or this is really the stance of the Iranian Government. The intent -- one of the intents here behind coming up with this package and presenting the regime with a choice is to smoke out exactly what their intentions are. And I think that once this is presented to the Iranian regime, we will have at least better idea of what their intent is. You know, they say that they want to -- that they want to work with, they want to cooperate with the international community and it is the international community that is somehow being unreasonable. Well, I think that that statement will be put to the test, certainly, when the Iranian regime is presented with these choices.
And let me make a couple more points. At minimum, what we expect to come out of this process at the bare minimum is if you continue to see Iran go down this pathway of non cooperation that you're going to see a Chapter 7 resolution that would demand that the Iranian regime come into compliance with what the IAEA has asked them to do and what the Security Council has asked them to do in terms of the presidential statement.
And also, none of that activity on the multilateral front precludes individual states or likeminded states from talking to one another about what other actions they might take, either whether that's on the financial front or on the -- what we have called the Proliferation Security Initiative front and that is to prevent any transfers, either incoming or outgoing with respect to Iran and their nuclear program. So those are discussions certainly that we're having with other states and I know other states are thinking about those very things themselves as well.
QUESTION: Back to the meeting planning again. What were -- I know that you always say diplomacy takes time, so you know, don't make a big deal about changing and updates. But what it is that happened that has happened since they initially thought they could get -- they would be ready on Monday to do this and then Friday? Could you just give us some behind-the-scenes understanding of that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. On the Monday meeting, I have to clarify. This was my -- this was -- I got some bad information that I passed along to you. The Monday meeting was always intended to be the EU, getting together.
MR. MCCORMACK: And the question was whether or not Under Secretary Burns was going to be traveling to London on Thursday or Friday to meet with them. The assessment was Nick Burns talking to the Secretary as well as others, made the assessment that, look, it's better to move the meeting to a few days later next week on Tuesday to allow more of the discussions both internally within the EU in capitals and then among capitals to take place and to really, as I said, walk through what these steps would be, looking out into the future. The discussions we're having right now aren't intended to just look at the immediate next step. It's intended to look down the road. And that -- you can imagine that that's a complex series of discussions, you know, how do you react to a given action on the part of the Iranians and really talk about how all this is going to play out. So that's the reason. That's the thinking.
QUESTION: So is that a change in the agenda that they had originally envisioned?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. It's just --
QUESTION: Why did they used to think they could do that by Friday and they can't anymore?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, you just -- you make the best estimates in terms of when you want to get together, both as a realistic assessment of when you might be ready, as well as an action forcing event -- force people to put their -- roll up their sleeves and get the work done. Made the assessment that they needed a few more days. As you can imagine, you're --
QUESTION: Who is they? Everybody?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's among the political directors, but certainly we make our own assessments here. Under Secretary Burns in consultation with Secretary Rice and others makes the assessment here in Washington, then they talk about that among the members of the P-5+1 as well.
QUESTION: What does the U.S. need a few days for?
MR. MCCORMACK: What do we need a few days for?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's not us, in particular. I think it's just the group as a whole, like I said, to walk through to these series of steps.
QUESTION: Does this have to do with any pushback about the light-water reactor proposal?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, but nice try. Nice try.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Well, I mean to reconsider what maybe was -- has been floated out there.
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry tried. No, we're not going to talk about any --
QUESTION: How about news reports on the light-water reactor?
MR. MCCORMACK: I know. There have been a lot of news reports. But like I said, we're not going to talk about any particular or alleged element of the whole package.
QUESTION: But these are next steps was exactly what was supposed to have been discussed during the P-5+1 dinner in New York last week.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. And that happens at the ministerial level. Okay, so that is talking about --
QUESTION: It was decided.
MR. MCCORMACK: What they're trying to do at the political director level and this is just a function of when ministers get together, they talk at a certain level. Sometimes they delve into the minutiae and the details of it. But very often, it's a matter -- it's a discussion about principles, strategy. And the discussions at the political director level are intended to be much more at the working level in terms of minutiae, and the details of it. You know, really sort of hammer out specific language and hammering out specific understandings. And then you bring the ministers back in so that they can walk through those details themselves. But at -- just for sheer sort of efficiency and use of time, you want to have the political directors be the ones that really work on those minute details.
QUESTION: Is offering the Iranian security guarantees under discussion?
MR. MCCORMACK: From the United States' perspective, is the United States going to be providing security guarantees? That's not something from the United States that's on the table.
QUESTION: Okay. So --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll let other speak for themselves.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. MCCORMACK: But from the United States, that's not on the table.
QUESTION: Okay. Just -- I'm not quite sure of your criterion for what you will and won't talk about then because it seems that you will -- you'll tell us that's not under discussion. That's not on the table. But then when we mention the light-water reactor, you won't rule that one out. People will infer from that that it must be in that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. I made an exception. I made an exception to the rule. This was -- it's an important question, Saul, in terms of the security guarantees and I don't want any misperceptions about that particular issue.
QUESTION: Okay. So, you don't want a misperception thinking the light-water reactors in the --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to -- on that as well as other issues, Saul, I'm not going to try to steer you one way or the other on it.
QUESTION: When you made sure -- didn't have a misperception about security guarantees, you said U.S. wants, okay. I'm ruling out that U.S. security guarantees are not in this package.
MR. MCCORMACK: Not on the table.
QUESTION: What about the Europeans offering security guarantees?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll let them speak for themselves, if they want to address those questions.
QUESTION: Sean, have you had a chance to follow up on the Shanghai summit in Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think we posted an answer yesterday on that.
QUESTION: You did?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Yeah.
QUESTION: Well, I didn't see it. Sorry. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, that's OK. (Off-Mike.)
QUESTION: I'm mean, you're not going to talk about the light-water reactor, but --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- I mean, it's important, isn't it. Because if you're having negotiations with North Korea on its nuclear program, I mean, are you looking at these incentives for Iran in isolation or are you looking at them in the context of your discussions with other countries' nuclear programs that you have concerns about?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think in terms of both those issues, we're not making a linkage between what might be done in one set of proposals and what might be done in another set of proposals. The histories with respect to North Korea and then the other five parties to the six-party talks and then Iran with their interlocutors is their separate histories and, you know, we're not going to make a particular linkage between the two.
QUESTION: Well, you might not. But others will, won't they? You'd be sending one signal to one country and another to another country.
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, like I said, we take each of those cases separately on their merits as well.
QUESTION: Sean, security guarantee is something pretty fundamental when it comes to these things and he offered that to North Korea. I'm wondering why it's not on the table--
MR. MCCORMACK: But the President -- you can go back and check the record -- you know, what the President said is that we have no plan to invade or attack North Korea. And you know, Saul asked a question about Iran and I gave him our answer on that. So we'll let the record stand.
QUESTION: So you're not saying that the United States doesn't have has no intention of attacking (inaudible) Iran as you did North Korea. You just think it -- that that issue is not on the table at the moment.
MR. MCCORMACK: The specific question Saul asked about security guarantees in the context of this negotiation -- it's not on -- it's not something that's on the table. With respect to Iran, the question of the military option has come up many, many times before. The President has been very clear on that. He's answered it. There's no change to that answer. We are on a diplomatic course now.
QUESTION: Oh, I just -- is it correct to assume that as you talk about the scenario as it unfolds in the future, that the discussion would include what would happen if the Iranians ignore a Chapter 7 resolution, what might follow in the UN? Is that part of the scenario?
MR. MCCORMACK: That's part of -- yeah, that's part of the discussions that I'm talking about. That's what the political directors are talking about -- how this might unfold. For a given action, what would be the reaction among the P-5+1.
QUESTION: So you're talking again in this scenario about more than one UN resolution?
MR. MCCORMACK: We are talking about how the entire scenario might unfold on both sides. On the incentive side as well as the disincentive side.
QUESTION: I know this is getting on your nerves, but I have to ask one more --
MR. MCCORMACK: Getting on my nerves? Where did that come from?
QUESTION: (Laughter.) I'm just being sympathetic. I have to follow up on Sylvie's question. Aren't these the exact questions that they've been discussing forever and ever? Why would these --
MR. MCCORMACK: What questions?
QUESTION: Well, the future, how Iran will react. I mean, yeah, what would we do then? They've been talking about it forever, including last week. Why would they just have to sit down and talk about that again?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the decision --
QUESTION: Is the light-water reactor -- (Laughter.) No, I mean --
MR. MCCORMACK: The decision --
QUESTION: That's the new element there, nothing else is new.
MR. MCCORMACK: The decision to look at this in its totality, the incentive side, the disincentive side, and consider it as a package is a decision that the ministers made just last week, while we were up in New York. So it hasn't been that long that we have actually had this particular set of discussions. Yes, we have been talking step by step.
QUESTION: Everyday, numerous times.
MR. MCCORMACK: That's right. And this -- look, these are serious issues. It's complicated diplomacy. There have been -- it's you know, been in public some differences in terms of the tactics. So what we're trying to do is we're trying to address in one fell swoop those differences that might exist among members of the P-5 about how this might play out. That's important because we have been trying to build a consensus among member of the P-5+1 and members of the international community to maintain pressure on Iran to get them to change their behavior on this score. And so Secretary Rice believed that it was -- it would be a useful way to approach this, instead of just taking it step by step, one Chapter 7 resolution, then what might follow after that and then do it serially in that regard. Let's have the discussion in its totality before something might happen, before we --
QUESTION: So she suggested the delay? Is that what you're saying?
MR. MCCORMACK: What I would -- she did -- she did up in New York and I wouldn't say delay, I would say because, in fact, what you're doing is you're having discussions now on the front end that you might otherwise be having after a given step. For example, we could have gone to a vote on the Chapter 7 resolution that would compel Iran to comply with the IAEA Board of Governors statements that would compel them to comply with the presidential statement. We could have done that. And we could have taken that step, seeing how Iran would have reacted, then had another set of discussions about what might follow that, what might follow in terms of sanctions, what might follow in terms of individual or likeminded states acting together. So instead of having that discussion in the serial manner, let's have it all at once. Let's have it on the front end. So that's the approach that she decided to take.
QUESTION: So things are going to move really quickly after this then, right, because you guys are going to have it all figured out?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see how they play out, Teri. You know, we don't have an agreement on the package yet. That's what we're working through.
QUESTION: But it's the idea now to come to -- you've sort of -- you've worked out your tactical differences now and that'll hold maybe Russia and China to account when later Iran doesn't do what it's going to say and you have the Russians and the Chinese word that they said they would do this, when Iran doesn't comply--
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, we're trying to work through what are the steps: one, two, three, four five and beyond.
QUESTION: You seem to have red lines of what you won't offer Iran in terms of incentives, such as a security guarantee. But do you have red lines on the disincentives? I mean, is there a Chapter 7 resolution kind of your red line? Would you accept anything less than a Chapter 7?
MR. MCCORMACK: We think -- we have stated from the very beginning that we think at a minimum what should be required and what should be an outcome of these discussions if Iran persists in their behavior is a Chapter 7 resolution that compels Iran to comply with and heed the call of the international community. So we think that that's a minimum coming out of this, if they continue down the pathway that they're on.
QUESTION: You weren't able to get that. The Russians and the Chinese didn't want a Chapter 7 resolution, so then you came up with this idea of a incentive-disincentive package, so are you still standing firm to the idea of a Chapter 7 resolution?
MR. MCCORMACK: If they continue down this pathway, if they continue in their intransigence, if they continue in their defiance, if they continue in their obfuscation, then we think that at a minimum a Chapter 7 resolution compelling them to heed the call of the international community is called for.
QUESTION: Change the subject to Sudan?
QUESTION: On Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, Iran. Okay, yes.
QUESTION: Partly Iran. I'm just trying to raise my hand for several hours. Anyway, Turkish Prime Minister has said recently that he wants to visit Washington for talks to pursue a diplomatic solution to the Iran crisis. Do you want anybody else's mediation, mediation by anyone like Turkey?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that we welcome the input of other countries from around the globe who have an interest in seeing that Iran is not able to obtain nuclear weapons or the know-how or the technology to produce nuclear weapons. So Secretary Rice was just in Ankara. And she had part of her discussions with the Turkish leadership. She met with Foreign Minister Gul, she met with Prime Minister Erdogan, she met with President Sezer and they talked about Iran. And certainly we welcome discussions with our Turkish colleagues on Iran and welcome their suggestions.
QUESTION: But mediation?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of mediation, you have to define what you're talking about. I am not aware of any specific proposal that's on the table.
QUESTION: On Sudan. Thanks for posting the answer yesterday about the sort of contacts that you've been having with the Sudanese Government since the Abuja Agreement. Can you tell us if you've had any kind of commitment from the Sudanese Government that they will allow a UN mission?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have that yet, Saul, and that's why we're continuing to press them on that issue.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Sudan and then I will go to another question here.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: The other two group hasn't signed the agreement yet, they are telling us or putting a statement out that they are threatened by sanction from the United State, or UN or other countries have something you might are working on? And how do you see sanction that could be imposed on them, while they are just disagreeing with the agreement that's already been signed by one of them?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of particular sanctions that would be applied for their failing to sign the agreement. I think that there are certain benefits that come along with being part of this agreement, so I'm not sure exactly what it is that they are referring to. Now in terms of any other international conventions or other laws that might apply to their behavior separately, I would expect that those are going to be looked into individually, regardless of what their participation in this agreement might be.
QUESTION: My other question --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: -- about the U.S.-Saudi Arabia strategic dialogue that would be tomorrow.
MR. MCCORMACK: Tomorrow, yes.
QUESTION: Since the (inaudible) to us last November. What the progress has been made and what are the issues tomorrow is going to be?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll try to get you more information, but I would expect that it's very similar to what was on the agenda before. There are consular issues that are on the agenda. There are issues related to reform, political and economic reform. There are issues related to fighting terrorism, so I would expect that to be the core of the discussion. If there's anything else we'll try to let you know this afternoon. Of course, there's going to be, as part of this, a press availability as well. So you'll have opportunity to speak with the principals involved.
QUESTION: Syria, can we change the subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Another else on --
QUESTION: Yeah. The King of Saudi Arabia yesterday, or a couple of days ago, said that -- to a group of journalists that he would not welcome any stories that were negative about Saudi Arabia and that he didn't want images of women published in Saudi newspapers. Do you expect freedom of the press and women's issues to be discussed tomorrow?
MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly, the issues related to political reform will be discussed. It's something that King Abdallah has moved forward on in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We talk to them -- we talk to Saudi officials about their plans for political reform. They are taking steps in that regard. With respect to freedom of the press, that is something that we raise frequently. I don't -- I can't tell you if it's going to be specifically on the agenda. We'll try to let you know what exactly they talk about as part of our efforts tomorrow to fill you in on the meetings.
MR. MCCORMACK: Somalia.
QUESTION: There's a report in the Washington Post today that the U.S. is supporting certain warlords and bypassing the government in their counterterrorism efforts. Can you respond to this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. I've talked about this a little bit before. A couple of times I got questions on this. Look, the United States is interested in working with the federal transitional institutions. This is, I guess, a nascent government in Somalia. Right now I think it's safe to say that the institutions in Somalia are not very strong. We think that a better pathway for Somalia, a brighter future for Somalia is really predicated on helping to build up those institutions so that there can be effective governance in Somalia. There isn't right now.
So certainly we work in -- our operating principle in that regard is working with members of the federal transitional institution as well as other responsible members of the Somalia political spectrum. We also have -- we and the rest of the world also have a real interest in seeing that Somalia does not turn into a safe haven for terrorists. Our concerns with regard to Somalia and terrorism lie primarily in the potential presence of foreign fighters in Somalia, so we again work across this spectrum in Somalia. We and the international community work across the spectrum in Somalia to make sure that Somalia doesn't turn into a safe haven for terrorism. We believe that these two things go hand in hand in fighting terrorism and then building up the institutions in Somalia, because if you have a well-governed state with strong governing institutions, then you are likely not going to have a safe haven for terrorism. So that's what -- that's our program in Somalia.
We're also very interested in making sure that the World Food Program is able to deliver humanitarian food shipments to the south of Somalia and part of that involves a security aspect. You want to make sure that that food assistance gets to those for whom it is intended.
QUESTION: But why is fighting terrorism and building a strong government two separate tracks? I mean, in Iraq, for instance, you talk about strengthening the government and building the institutions as the best way to fight terrorism. So do you think that this, by working with parties of that the government is in many ways battle -- that this transitional government is in many ways battling, do you think that that strengthens the institutions and legitimizes the government?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that certainly fighting terrorism and making sure that Somalia isn't a safe haven for foreign terrorists is a way of helping to strengthen any institutions that might form the basis for strong governance -- strong government in Somalia down the road.
QUESTION: Can we be sure that (inaudible)
MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me.
QUESTION: Can you be sure there's no support, no U.S. support going to militias?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of any of the --
QUESTION: Because you didn't answer that part.
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of any specific allegations in the Washington Post story, those are not something I can get into.
QUESTION: When you say that you're working across the spectrum, I presume that includes with the government. Does it also include working with warlords?
MR. MCCORMACK: Saul, you know, I've seen the news report and the Washington Post story. We certainly have active efforts working with the international community and working across a spectrum of Somalis to make sure that Somalia isn't a safe haven for terrorism. We have a real interest in counterterrorism efforts in Somalia.
QUESTION: So who does the spectrum include?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any details for you on that Saul.
QUESTION: But you're saying we're working at it with the spectrum. You're telling it's not just the government, therefore, you must know who else it is.
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any details for you on that, Saul.
QUESTION: The U.S. has previously worked with many different groups in Africa, for example, with Unita, with Jonas Savimbi and other groups. Is this a similar sort of situation or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to try to draw an analogy between the situation in Somalia and any other past practices.
QUESTION: Where do you draw the line, though, in terms of who you work with and who you don't work with? Do you have specific guidelines set out that you can work with this specific group if their goal is to stamp out terrorism? And if they have arms, well, we can still work with them. What kind of guidelines do you have over which groups you deal with?
MR. MCCORMACK: I've talked about the extent of our counterterrorism efforts to the best of my ability at this point.
QUESTION: Are you --
QUESTION: Is that -- I just want to clarify. You're not going to comment on specific allegations in the Post story because --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- you can't or you won't?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, Jonathan, I've -- on the matter, I've said what I'm going to say.
QUESTION: But, Sean, is it because it involves intelligence matters or why is it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas, like I said, I've said what I'm going to say on the subject.
QUESTION: What do you know about the international links of terrorist groups in Somalia?
MR. MCCORMACK: The situation on the ground there, George, is, as you might imagine, it's very difficult to get a handle on exactly who might be operating there. But it's -- let me just say that there are real concerns about the potential presence of foreign fighters on the ground there. We want to make sure, as I said before, that it doesn't become a safe haven.
QUESTION: A different subject.
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this?
QUESTION: Can I ask you something that's sort of -- since you're (inaudible) -- these concerns have been there since 2002, even since after 9/11, and Secretary Powell spoke about this several times back in '02, is there a way for us to get a briefing from someone else? I mean, in the building who sort of knows more about these issues that we know exactly what's happening there and what are you doing to make sure that it doesn't become a safe haven?
MR. MCCORMACK: We will take that into consideration, Nicholas.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah?
QUESTION: Is there a lot of cross-agency cooperation in terms of dealing with Somalia?
MR. MCCORMACK: Cross-agency cooperation?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that, as with any aspect of our foreign policy that it's something that is talked about in the interagency.
QUESTION: Does the right hand know what the left hand is doing?
MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) I think that you can assume that there is, with respect to Somalia as well as other foreign policy issues that there is interagency interest in the matter.
QUESTION: Will you be able to assist the level of dangers that -- from this group you are talking about, Somalia not to be a safe haven to a terrorist group? What levels of dangers now you have come with right now and led you to involve --
MR. MCCORMACK: What level of danger?
QUESTION: Yes, from the terrorists.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think the fact that there are counterterrorism operations within the Horn of Africa is an indication that there's a level of concern. I can't give you a gradation relative to other areas.
QUESTION: Earlier today an Islamist gunman opened fire inside Turkey's top administrative court killing one judge and injuring four others. And Turkey's President qualified this as a major attack against the secular system. Are you concerned? Any remarks?
MR. MCCORMACK: It was a tragedy and certainly we condemn such an attack. I understand that there were a number of people who were injured in the attack, some gravely injured. So it is something that we condemn. Our thoughts are certainly with those who were victims in this attack and certainly our thoughts and prayers are with the Turkish people right now.
QUESTION: On the Palestinian territories. There seems to be a struggle between the Hamas-led government and President Abbas' office about the security forces and there seems to be a lot of militants on the street, talk about creating a militant army. How are you responding to this with the lack of contacts with the Hamas government?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to look into any specific developments, Elise. I know that there's been some discussion between President Abbas' office and Hamas-led government about responsibility for the security forces. As for any new developments in that regard, I'll look into it for you if there's anything in particular we have to say about it.
QUESTION: About Syria. The Security Council passed a resolution on Syria, asking Syria to open a fuller diplomatic relation with Lebanon.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: And Syria reacted saying it was an interference in its internal affairs. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I haven't seen their specific comment, but if they're talking about opening up an embassy in Lebanon as an interference in their internal affairs, it would seem that they may not have gotten the message that the international community has been sending to them over the past year-plus. You know, their reluctance, despite the request of the Lebanese Government to open up an embassy in Beirut is certainly, at the very least, curious. And now they are subject to a UN Security Council resolution which calls upon them to do this. So we would expect that they would comply with this as well as other and previous Security Council resolutions with respect to Lebanon.
Another part of that resolution called upon them to stop the inflow of arms into Lebanon and more generally called upon them to stop any interference or meddling in the affairs of Lebanon and come into compliance with Resolution 1559.
QUESTION: Do we see anything new on the inquiry on Hariri murder?
MR. MCCORMACK: Mr. Brammertz is working on it. I don't have any particular update for you. I think that he would probably be the best source to let you know where he is in his inquiry.
QUESTION: Change of subject.
MR. MCCORMACK: Wait a minute. Hold on, we've got Syria still back here.
QUESTION: Is the (inaudible) resolution only mention Syria and not Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to look at exactly the language of the resolution. But 1559 calls upon all states to cease any meddling in the internal affairs of Lebanon. Our concerns with respect to the behavior of Iran have been -- are well known, particularly with respect to funding for terrorist groups in the region, their funding for Palestinian rejectionist groups.
QUESTION: But hadn't you hoped to see them mentioned specifically like Syria?
MR. MCCORMACK: This is the resolution that we have. This is the resolution that we got. Thirteen countries voted for it; two abstained. That's pretty good.
QUESTION: Well, on that particular question of the abstention, are -- Ambassador Bolton said today that he was disappointed that it wasn't unanimous in terms of Russia and China abstaining.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we would think that this would be an easy call, to call upon all countries of the Security Council to have Syria comply with previous Security Council resolutions. So we would -- I mean, we certainly would have hoped that we would have unanimity in the vote. We didn't, but 13 votes for it so it's still pretty good and sends a strong message to the Syrian Government.
QUESTION: I wonder what is the urgency that the United States see in having such a resolution from the Security Council when the charter of the UN and the Vienna Conventions do not require any two countries or impose on any two countries the establishment of diplomatic relations. And also this attempt seems to actually delay probably having such a relation taking place between the, I mean, diplomatic relations, taking place between the two countries. This seems to be more of helping the -- trying to help the U.S. agenda in the Middle East and it is actually to help the establishment of the relationships. I mean, it will help the warlords who are trying to make statements every day to delay such a step to take place. And a second thing --
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Is there -- wrapping up the question here?
QUESTION: Well, yes. I will wrap it up. Why are you not as much curious about having the Israelis stopping their aggression and Lebanon, if you care so much about, you know, about the Lebanese people? I mean, the Israeli planes and many things, every single day they are intrusion -- you know, (inaudible) territories?
MR. MCCORMACK: You done? You done? Okay, good. Just want to make sure. Look, you call this a U.S. agenda in the Middle East. If you're referring to people actually wanting to have a say in how they are governed, I think that that's an agenda for all humanity. And certainly, the calls for greater freedom and greater democracy in the Middle East are coming from voices within the Middle East and originated from the Middle East.
So do we associate ourselves with that agenda? Absolutely. Are we going to do everything we can to push that agenda? Absolutely, right. Because as the President has talked about, we think that that is the best way to secure greater prosperity for people of the Middle East and greater security for people of the world. We have talked previously about our policies over the past 60 years in the Middle East and Secretary Rice has spoken very eloquently about the fact that President Bush's second inaugural address marked a turning point in U.S. policy.
And as for establishing an embassy, okay, fine. You know, it may not be required Vienna Convention, but this is something the Government of Lebanon has asked for. And I think it's a pretty easy suggestion to take that if -- and it would send a pretty positive signal on the part of the Syrian Government that they would open up an embassy in Lebanon, a country which they for two decades occupied. So I think that that would be reassuring to the Lebanese people. It sends a signal to the Lebanese people that the Syrian Government has, in fact, accepted that they are no longer controlling power in Lebanon and that it is the Lebanese people that are going to determine their own future.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) just. May I --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think you've had enough.
QUESTION: On the Korean Peninsula?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill is reported to be going to South Korea next week. I wonder if you can tell us about this trip and also your plans trying to -- resume the six-party talks process or to get the North Korea to follow the (inaudible) which is something that South Koreans are urging North Koreans to do. Last, can you tell us if Mr. Hill is going to other countries besides South Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me go down -- I have his travel schedule here, so let me run it -- run down it for you. He's going to be in the region. The total trip is scheduled now to go from May 16th to the 26th. He will be attending the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ARF Senior Officials Meeting in Sabah, Malaysia, May 18th through the 20th. And he's going to then go to Singapore May 20th through the 22nd. That's for -- to talk about our bilateral agenda. He is then going to go to Bangkok, May 22nd to May 23rd to talk about the U.S. ASEAN dialog. And after that, he will go to Kuala Lumpur for U.S.-Malaysia Senior Officials Dialogue. That's May 23rd to the 24th. He'll then go to Beijing May 24th, 25th and then Seoul, May 25th to 26th. And then his family and we look forward to welcoming him back to Washington at that point.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. Did you say Indonesia in there or no? I'm sorry.
MR. MCCORMACK: Let's see. Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia again, Beijing and South Korea.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:18 p.m.)
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