State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 5, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
June 5, 2006
Peruvian Elections / Election Results / Assessment of Election
REPUBLIC OF CONGO
Secretary Rice's Meeting with President Denis Sassou-Nguesso
Arrival of Joint African Union-United Nations Assessment Team to
Khartoum and Darfur Later This Week
Press Reports that Islamic Militia Has Taken Mogadishu
Presentation of Package to Iranians
Conditions for US to Join Talks
Sean McCormack's One Year Anniversary as Department Spokesman
Taiwan President Chen Shui-Bian's Recent Decision to Give Up Some
Arrest of Suspected Terrorist Ring in Canada
Continuing Sectarian Violence / Formation of Iraqi Government
12:15 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. How are you doing?
MR. MCCORMACK: Good, good. I don't have any opening statements, so we can get right into your questions.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the Peruvian election?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, George, we don't have the final results. I think we congratulate the Peruvian people on what would seem to be an open election free of violence. I haven't heard any serious reports of electoral irregularities, so this is an important moment for the Peruvian people, but I think I'm going to withhold any judgment on it until we have final results.
QUESTION: And when you do get those final results, you will have a judgment on the outcome?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we'll have -- I think what we will do is typical, George. We will have an assessment of how the election was conducted and make a judgment about how the election was actually conducted, whether or not it was free and fair. And in terms of the results, obviously, the results are up to the Peruvian people and we will respect whatever results the Peruvian people express through the ballot box.
QUESTION: Any reaction to the -- Secretary Rice meeting with the Congo leader?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, she had a meeting that was in conjunction with the President's meeting. That, of course, is the centerpiece of his visit here. They were -- they discussed a number of different issues. The centerpiece, really, was the discussion about Sudan and implementation of the Darfur peace agreement. This was -- it's an important issue for the U.S. It's an important issue for the AU and President Sassou-Nguesso holds the chairmanship of the AU, in addition to being President of the Republic of the Congo. So it was really the same set of topics that he discussed -- the president discussed with President Bush.
QUESTION: Any further steps on the UN troops going into expanding their role in Darfur?
MR. MCCORMACK: I believe the assessment team is -- it's going to be a joint UN-AU assessment team and I believe that's scheduled to arrive in Sudan later this week. We look forward to that team's arrival, which will be an important part of rehatting this mission from an AU mission only to a UN peacekeeping mission. The AU will certainly form -- we would expect form the core of that future UN mission, but getting this assessment team in there is an important part along the road to making that happen.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a question about reports that Islamic militants have taken over Mogadishu?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I've seen the press reports, Jonathan. I can't provide many details that would clarify the reports one way or the other. We, of course, don't have an official presence -- embassy presence in Mogadishu. We watch Somalia from our embassy in Nairobi.
We've talked about this in the past. We're very interested in seeing that the Somali people start to build up institutions that are responsive to the Somali people, that, at some point, have the hope of being democratic institutions that respect the rights of all individuals there. At the same time, we don't want to see Somalia turn into a safe haven for foreign terrorists. We do have very real concerns about that. So those are really the two pillars of our policy. And as for these reports, I can't really offer any detail for you, Jonathan.
QUESTION: It doesn't look good, though, does it? I mean, if you have those concerns about Somalia being -- turning into a safe haven for terror groups -- I mean, you believe that there are al-Qaida links there, don't you --
MR. MCCORMACK: We do have real concerns about the presence of foreign terrorists in Somalia and that is a -- that informs an important aspect of our policy with regard to Somalia.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. We have one more on this?
QUESTION: If the U.S. back warlord alliance loses grip of the capital, do you think that this is going to be a setback for the war on terrorism?
MR. MCCORMACK: There are a lot of "if's" in that question. What we all want to see --
QUESTION: But it's already on the verge of collapse.
MR. MCCORMACK: What we -- well, Somalia has not had a functioning central government since 1991 so it's not a place that has strong institutions. And I think that over the course of that time, and even going back further, there has been quite a bit of violence and quite a bit of conflict in Somalia.
So there are reports about various factions fighting. Everybody in the world wants to see a more peaceful, better situation for the Somali people. We, of course, are trying to do our part in that regard but ultimately it's going to have to be the Somali people who work together to solve the issues of the violence that is really now endemic in Somalia.
QUESTION: Are you taking seriously the Iranian Supreme Leader threat regarding oil supply?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Secretary Rice talked about this a little bit yesterday. And we're not going to react to every single utterance that comes out of Tehran. Mr. Solana, I believe, is going to be in Tehran tomorrow to lay out for the leadership there -- I believe he's going to be, according to the press reports, meeting with Mr. Larijani. So we believe that the Iranian leadership will get a full sense of this package that was put together, both the incentive side as well as the disincentive side. It will be up to Mr. Solana to go into whatever level of detail he feels is appropriate about the different aspects of the proposal. But so we will wait to see what the answer to -- from the Iranian regime to the rest of the world is regarding this package that is being presented to them.
QUESTION: Is this a take-it-or-leave-it package or do you consider this a jumping off point by which there could be negotiations with the Iranians?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the way it has been put is the Iranians, in order to sit down and have a discussion with us at the table, need to suspend their enrichment-related activities, enrichment-related and reprocessing-related activities. They need to also implement the activities of the additional protocol. I'm not asking them to actually ratify it at this point, but basically go back to status quo ante, where they were living up to those obligations.
As for what the future may bring, certainly there are many, many possibilities, as outlined in this package. So we'll wait to -- we will wait to see what their response is in terms of negotiations. That is , in fact, what is being offered them, that is being offered discussions, negotiations about their nuclear program and this package outlines what the proposal, the agreed proposal, is from the P-5+1.
QUESTION: The United States put down the condition that it wouldn't join the talks if Iran didn't suspend, but do you have agreement with your other partners that they wouldn't go back to the table with Iran unless Iran suspended?
MR. MCCORMACK: That's the common agreement. That's everybody's condition. That's the IAEA -- and it's outlined in the IAEA Board of Governors statement and it's also -- it's also -- was made very clear at the P-5+1. Foreign Secretary Becket talked about that when we were in Vienna on Thursday.
QUESTION: Could I just follow up on that? Just to clarify, the suspension doesn't have to be permanent, is what you're saying, for the talks to take place; it just has to be a temporary suspension?
MR. MCCORMACK: What the offer is, the proposal, if you will, is that in return for Iran suspending its enrichment-related activities, according to the Board of Governors statement, then we would -- we ourselves would join the discussions and that we -- the P-5+1 has agreed that it would suspend activities in the Security Council, activities going down the pathway of isolation and potential resolutions. So that's the basis of the deal.
QUESTION: But the other side of that is that nobody returns to talks unless they suspend?
MR. MCCORMACK: The condition for getting back into discussions is that they suspend. If they do not -- if they do not suspend and agree to the package, then we go down the other pathway, the pathway of isolation and UN Security Council action.
QUESTION: Do you expect that Solana will be the only point of contact going forward if the Iranians have any questions or, you know, sort of going back and forth, or will other foreign ministers get involved, as far as your under -- you know, Russia, China, the Europeans?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Mr. Solana is representing the P-5+1 in this regard. The Iranians also have bilateral relations with Russia, with many European countries, so I would expect -- that are party to this package. I wouldn't be surprised if they contacted them as well. But the point here is there is an agreed package. He is the one that is presenting it on behalf of the group. He is fully empowered to answer whatever questions they may have and to go into whatever detail he thinks is necessary in presenting the package.
QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, something. Last Saturday, June 3rd, was your first anniversary as the chief spokesman of the Department of State. As a small token of our appreciation, I brought to you a bottle of ouzo -- not, of course, to be consumed during the briefing. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: Or before it. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: But according to the federal law, Mr. McCormack, it is less than $250 to be considered as a bribe in protest to say no to the Annan plan of Cyprus since you know I am with the "no's" side. Please don't pay attention to the phrase, "Be aware of Greeks bearing gifts." And of course this is not a Trojan horse to destroy the Department of State. It's just a bottle of ouzo. Any comment on your first anniversary? Are you satisfied so far?
MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) Well, I guess first if I get my hands on the bottle, I'm willing to share it with all of you. Second, it's wonderful working with all of you here. It's a joy as well as a challenge and it's truly an honor to be working on behalf of this President and this Secretary of State.
QUESTION: If you are satisfied, we are satisfied, too.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. I hope you're speaking on behalf of all of your colleagues. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That's a good point. (Laughter.) The forum is open to anyone to make statements. So I cannot represent; I'm speaking for myself.
MR. MCCORMACK: Feel free to express your satisfaction, all of you. (Laughter.) Thank you. Thank you, Lambros. Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you, Sean. Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian recently ceded much of his authorities to other officials and following his move there have been reports in Asian medias that now the U.S. favors a greater role for other Taiwanese officials. How would you address Chen Shui-bian's move and these reports?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not familiar with any actions that he may have taken. I'll look into it for you, see if we have any particular reaction.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a question about the terrorism arrests in Canada last week? The State Department put out its report, the Country Report on Terrorism, I guess, about a month ago in which it said that Canada was not doing enough to stop terrorism. It was -- its lax immigration policies were allowing terrorists to operate there. Does the State Department still stand by those comments?
MR. MCCORMACK: The terrorism report, I don't have any updates for you. What it does is it assesses the previous year's efforts. With respect to today's -- or the arrests that were announced yesterday, I believe, or over the weekend, we congratulate the Canadian authorities. This is very clearly a -- it was a big operation that they got to before these people were able to potentially commit acts of terrorism.
As for any potential linkages between these individuals in Canada and individuals in the U.S., I think that that's something that our law enforcement authorities are better positioned to talk about. But certainly we would congratulate the Canadian authorities on what they've accomplished.
QUESTION: So is the State Department still concerned that they're able to operate, to plan and to carry out attacks?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, terrorism is a threat that everybody faces. We here face it in the United States. You face it in Canada. You face it all around the world. Certainly, there is potential in every country around the world for terror cells, unknown terror cells to be present. That's why we have things like the Patriot Act. That's why we have the Department of Homeland Security. And that's why we have robust intelligence cooperation. So you want to act to prevent these individuals from actually plotting and carrying out terrorist acts around the world.
QUESTION: On Iraq?
MR. MCCORMACK: On Iraq, yeah, sure.
QUESTION: Many, many attacks over the last week or so, a real uptick in sectarian violence. What are your discussions with the Iraqi Government on this? And you and the Secretary and the President have all said that once the new government was in place, you thought that that would curb the sectarian violence. What are your messages to the government?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, the government is not yet complete. Prime Minister Maliki is acting as not only prime minister, but minister of interior, minister of defense. I know that there are very active discussions underway right now to fill those positions. We think that that is important. We hope that that, in fact, occurs in the very near future. That will be an important -- send an important signal to the Iraqi people that you have -- that they have a full government working on their behalf and especially in those positions where you would have individuals that are -- would be free from the taint of association with militias. That's what -- we've said that in the past.
In terms of curbing the violence in Iraq, yes, forming the national unity government and having that national unity government work on behalf of the Iraqi people in terms of better services, in terms of better security, it's going to be very important, certainly over the medium and long term, in reducing the levels of violence there. We also have said that it's -- that the levels of violence there, you're not going to -- you know, you're not going to necessarily see a precipitous diminution in the near future. As a matter of fact, as you see, this government stood up and as you see this government start to work on behalf of the Iraqi people, it's very possible that you're going to see an uptick in the level of violence, because the people who are committing these acts of violence, terrorists and insurgents alike, know that an effectively operating Iraqi Government is the greatest threat to them.
So we are working very closely with the Iraqi Government, our coalition forces there, working with Iraqi forces to try to address the security situation. Sectarian violence is certainly an issue. You are seeing much of this and you're seeing the echoes of the divisions that were encouraged and exploited by Saddam Hussein over two decades' worth of rule. But what is encouraging is that throughout this past three years, when the Iraqis have had many, many opportunities -- the Iraqis, as a nation, have had many opportunities to turn away from one another, to turn on one another at massive scales, they have not done so, you saw with the Samara mosque bombing, and in the face of some of these daily attacks which are tragic. They're very sad. The Iraqi people, still, as a nation, have chosen to pull together the tangible evidence and that is the formation of this national unity government, as well as the previous election that resulted in the formation of this government.
QUESTION: I mean, you're attributing most of the violence to insurgents and foreign terrorists, but there are a lot of reports that some of these massacres are being undertaken by Shia death squads.
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Elise, I would leave it to our -- the coalition force representatives for a better description on the ground of exactly who's responsible for the violence. Certainly, we know that terrorists are responsible. Zarqawi and al-Qaida in Iraq are responsible for much of the spectacular violence that we see there. Certainly, the insurgency, we all know, is present. And you also know that there are criminal gangs that are responsible for many of the acts of kidnapping and violence that you see. Trying to differentiate as to a specific militia or a sectarian militia being responsible for some percentage or kinds of acts of violence, I'm going to leave that to the coalition forces to try to describe those.
QUESTION: Right, but at the same time, you're -- this building is doing contacts with political leaders across all boards, so are you reaching out to -- I mean, when you find out which groups are responsible, are you reaching out, for instance, to Shia leaders to speak out against this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're working with groups across the political spectrum and we have made it very clear that there has to be one gun and one authority in Iraq and that that authority has to be the Iraqi central government run by Prime Minister Maliki. Now, the relationship of that central government to the provincial governments and local governments, that's something that is going to be worked out by the Iraqis themselves. But as for militias we have made it very clear that you can't have armed groups operating outside the rule of law and that is going to be one of the great challenges of -- for this government, but it's a crucial and important challenge for them to meet if Iraq, over the medium and long term, is going to become a secure, peaceful, stable, and prospering democracy.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:30 p.m.)
DPB # 93
Released on June 5, 2006