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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 7, 2006

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 7, 2006


Council of Europe Report / Disappointed in Tone and Content /
Renditions are Internationally Recognized Practice / Intelligence
Cooperation Saves Lives in the War on Terror / Many US Government
Flights Worldwide for a Variety of Purposes / No Solid Facts
Underpinning the Report

Open Letter Received / US will Reserve Judgment at this Point / US
will Work with Groups Interested in a Peaceful Somalia / Foreign
Fighters on Somali Soil / Issue for the International Community /
Secretary Rice Watching the Situation Closely

Solana Meeting with Iran to Present P-5+1 Package / Timeline for
Review / Prerequisites for Participate in Negotiations / P-5+1
Ministers will not Speak Publicly About the Package / Iranian
Regime Aware of Incentives and Disincentives in the Package /
Secretary Rice has Contacted Members of Congress Concerning the
Package and Briefings will Continue
US Policy is that Iran Must Suspend All Enrichment and
Reprocessing Activities to Begin Negotiations / International
Community Does Not Want Iran to Master Enrichment Techniques /
Paris Agreement and IAEA Board of Governors Statement
Turkey and Other Countries Encouraged to Contact Iran Directly to
Urge them to Consider the Package

Concerns with Behavior of Chavez Regime / Political Orientation is
Not the Primary Issue / Crackdowns on NGOs / Freedom of Speech /
Biggest Problem is Not With the US but With Other States in the

Worldwide Caution Issued Today is Not About a Specific Threat /

US Congratulates the Canadian Government on Apprehension of
Terrorism Suspects

Secretary Rice at Forefront of Pushing UN Reform Agenda / Support
for Secretary General Annan's Reform Measures / Human Rights
Council / Working Hard to Explain Reform Plan to Congress and
American People


12:10 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. How are you? Is everything okay?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, absolutely. I don't have any opening statements, so we can get right into your questions.

QUESTION: Can we talk about the Council of Europe report?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. What do you want to talk about? What part of it?

QUESTION: Well, highly unflattering to the United States.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I guess you could -- you might characterize it that way. Look, this is -- we haven't had a chance to thoroughly read through it, but I think that we're certainly disappointed in the tone and the content of it. This would appear to be a rehash of the previous efforts by this group. We don't see any new solid facts in it. There seems to be a lot of allegations but no real facts behind it.

Look, we have talked about this issue many times over. I'm happy to talk about it again today. There are a few facts here: One, renditions are an internationally recognized legal practice. Carlos the Jackal wouldn't be in jail today without the practice of rendition.

Second, there seems to be this sort of tone in the report and some discussion that there is something inherently bad or illegal about intelligence activities. It couldn't be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is intelligence cooperation between the United States and Europe and between the United States and other countries around the world saves lives in the war on terror. One of the reasons why we don't talk about intelligence practice, intelligence activities is because the very fact of talking about these things in public might somehow endanger those individuals engaged in it and it might cost innocent lives around the world. Intelligence activities and intelligence cooperation save lives in the war on terror.

This, you know, the report continues to talk about thousands of -- thousands of CIA flights. Well, I just point out to you that there are many, many U.S. Government flights every single day around the world that involve a whole variety of different purposes from transporting U.S. Government employees around the world to other things. So there's nothing inherently sinister about any of these activities. So very basically, it's sort of rehash, don't see any solid facts. I think that in the report they talk about the fact that they have a number of these suspicions, a number of these allegations, but don't have any solid facts to underpin it. So I think that's my general reaction to it.

QUESTION: Has there been any communication from any European allies about this today?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of. There has also been -- let me just point out one other thing. There was this Council of Europe group. There was also -- there were also some European parliamentarians that we received here. Certainly we would hope that they would taken onboard what they heard from our officials when they come out and talk about these very same issues.

QUESTION: Sean, are you saying that -- when you say they have no facts, are you saying that that's because it's not true, or you're just criticizing the report because it can't be specific?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I'm just -- again, this is a paraphrase on my part, but I think I've seen quotes from Mr. Marty as well as others saying that they don't have all the facts here, but they have some suspicions, they have some impressions that have been left with them. What suspicions or impressions? If they have some facts, certainly we would be happy to try to address those things.

Now, back to the number of issues that have been out there in public about a lot of different allegations about intelligence activities, once again we don't get into those for the very reasons that I've talked about here today.


QUESTION: New subject, Somalia?


QUESTION: I understand that the head of the Islamic Courts Union actually wrote to different organizations and to the United States saying that we're not going to harbor terrorists or people who support terrorists. So given that sort of reassurance, is the United States willing to have contact and reach out to the Islamic militia?

MR. MCCORMACK: There has been -- I guess the best way to describe it -- an open letter that we have received here. Saul, a couple of things. One, in terms of the Islamic Courts, our understanding is that this isn't a monolithic group, that it is really an effort on the part of some individuals to try to restore some semblance of order in Mogadishu, to try to lay the foundations for some institutions in Somalia that might form the basis for a better, more peaceful, secure Somalia where the rule of law is important. Very sadly, that is not the case in Somalia today. It hasn't been the case for quite some time.

So we're going to reserve judgment at this point. I think that as a matter of principle that we would look forward to working with groups or individuals who have an interest in a better, more peaceful, more stable, secure Somalia who are interested -- who are also interested in fighting terrorism. I don't think that there's anybody in the international community that wants to see Somalia turn into a safe haven for terrorists. We do have very real concerns about the presence of foreign terrorists on Somali soil. I think that that is also a concern for many Somalis as well.

So our basic approach, Saul, is to, on one hand, look to work with those individuals or groups who want to fight the presence or combat the presence of foreign terrorists on Somali soil, and also, on the other hand, who are interested in a more peaceful Somalia, a Somalia where institutions matter, where institutions serve to benefit all the Somali people. Now, that is probably a vision that is far off in the distance, that Somalia, because right now it's a country that's been wracked for violence. It is not -- it's a country where they haven't had any real central government since 1991. There are some initial efforts to help support the transitional federal institutions and we are doing our part to do that as well.

I think but over the medium to long term, Saul, this is going to be an issue for the international community to try to address the various problems in Somalia to try to help the Somali people. We are going to be in the future working with other members of the international community, states that are interested in seeing Somalia move in the right direction. So that's where our focus is, Saul.

QUESTION: As you look forward to working with individuals and groups that meet this criteria, does that list extend to any Islamic militia?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Saul, I'm not -- I'm going to reserve judgment on characterizing any particular group at this point other than foreign terrorists who need to be brought to justice and need to be taken off the street. In terms of this particular group, Saul, we did receive a letter from them. I'm not going to -- I'm not going to pass judgment at this point about the precise nature of this group. As you know, we don't have an embassy on the ground. We did receive this letter. Our understanding at this point is this is not a group that is monolithic. There are a number of different voices in the group. I can't describe for you all the particular links and ties that those individuals might have, but it's going to be -- that is going to be a matter that we're going to be looking into.


QUESTION: What is the Secretary's involvement in this? Who has she talked to on the ground in Nairobi, or I mean --

MR. MCCORMACK: Somalia? She hasn't spoken with anybody on the ground in Nairobi. That's where we have some individuals there who preoccupy themselves with Somalia. We don't have an embassy on the ground in Mogadishu.

She has been in contact with her staff on this. She has had meetings with her staff on this. It's certainly key individuals from the State Department who would be involved in this. Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer, who is the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, as well as our Counterterrorism Director Hank Crumpton, so they're briefing the Secretary up on the situation on the ground, talking to her about what our policy is, what our policy should be. So she's certainly very much concerned with the situation and watching it closely.


QUESTION: Change the subject?


QUESTION: On Mogadishu. Thank you. Sorry. Can you tell us, does the U.S. plan on working with the government that's been operating outside of Mogadishu at this point? It's a weak government of course, but does it --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is the government in exile?

QUESTION: Yeah, exactly.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. We were asked this question. I don't think I have an answer for you. I will get you an answer on that.



QUESTION: Okay, change to Iran. Is the U.S. now willing to accept Iran enriching uranium on Iranian soil if it follows a period in which they do suspend and try to regain the international community's trust?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let's bring it back to the present day. Here's where we are. Mr. Solana just has recently met with Iranian representatives to lay out for them a package that the Permanent Five, plus one, P-5+1 members have come to agreement on. This package comprises both incentives and disincentives and it presents the Iranian regime with a choice, two pathways. Mr. Solana made that presentation to them. They -- the Iranians responded that they would need some time to review the package. We and our colleagues in the P-5+1 think that that's certainly a reasonable request. We're going to give them some time to review the package. We've talked about the fact that, in terms of the timetable for their consideration of the package, it's a matter of weeks not months.

And part of that package is that they need to -- the Iranians, in order to realize negotiations with the P-5+1 on this package, realize any negotiations in which the United States would be involved, they would need to meet the conditions laid out for them by the IAEA very -- in it's most simple state, that is, they would need to suspend all enrichment and reprocessing-related activities, all enrichment and related reprocessing activities. So that's the prerequisite for negotiations.

That is -- let's suppose just for a second, take it one step further, that there were negotiations. That condition would have to hold throughout any negotiating period. And beyond that I am not going to speculate. Beyond that we are truly into the realm of the hypothetical and theoretical. So I just want to, you know, reel you back in, bring you back to the present day where we are. I know that there's been a lot of -- there's a lot of reporting going on about this, a lot of blind quotes from anonymous sources. Some of those anonymous sources I would urge you to consider might be speaking from a partially informed or uninformed position.

The ministers of the P-5+1 level made an agreement among themselves that we were not going to talk in public about the contents of this package, either on the incentive side or the disincentive side and ask yourself why. The reason for that is because all the ministers and our governments want to give this negotiating diplomatic track every opportunity to succeed. And once you start, as a government, talking about the details of this package and you start having a debate in public about it, it probably makes it a little bit more difficult to do the sensitive diplomacy that needs to be done. We want to give the Iranian Government some time to consider what's in this package. It's an important choice. Which pathway are they going to go down?

So we think in the interest of letting the diplomacy play out, letting the diplomacy work, we're not going to talk about the details of what's in the package.

QUESTION: Sean, I didn't say this was part of the package.


QUESTION: You did.

MR. MCCORMACK: I was referring to --

QUESTION: I just asked about U.S. policy --


QUESTION: -- on whether you would be -- you would agree to allow Iran enrichment eventually. I didn't say that was part of the package.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I assumed that the question arises because there was a Washington Post story printed this morning, which talks about this as possibly a part of the package. So I --

QUESTION: But -- so, you can't answer that as U.S. policy?

MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?

QUESTION: You can't answer that separately as whether that would be U.S. policy?

MR. MCCORMACK: What U.S. policy is and it's laid out very clearly by the Secretary, by the President and as well as others, is that as a prerequisite for any negotiations in which we would be a part of the P-5+1 would be a part, Iran needs to suspend all enrichment and reprocessing-related activities. That's at the core of what the IAEA has asked them to do. It's at the core of what the P-5+1 has asked them to do. It's at the core of what the United States is asking them to do.

QUESTION: Can I just try one more? To suspend or end the program? It used to be to end their uranium enrichment activities. And now is it suspend, without a finite end?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I talked about the fact in order -- as a prerequisite for negotiations, that's a condition. I did take it one step farther in the interest of trying to talk you through this a little bit. In the -- let's assume that they did meet that condition, that you were in negotiations. That condition would have to hold throughout the period of negotiations. I'm not going to presume an outcome to the negotiations at this point. Beyond that simple step that I talked about that you start to get into the realm of the hypothetical and the theoretical, and I'm just not going to do that.

QUESTION: But implicit in the -- implicit in that if it is that if that suspension holds during negotiation, that it itself is a -- is on the table, it is a subject of negotiation. Otherwise, I mean, as in do we have to continue -- from the Iranian perspective -- do we have to continue the suspension or is that a bargaining point?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, and it's a good point. Let me explain to you why, is what you don't want to -- what the members of the P-5+1 don't want to see happen is you don't want to get into a situation in which you have a negotiation and there's talk and talk and talk and talk, and that at the same time you have the Iranian Government continuing to move down the pathway of developing a nuclear weapon, in this case mastering the techniques, the science, the engineering behind enrichment. It's a very complicated process. It takes time to learn how to do it. What's happening right now is the Iranian Government is learning how to do that.

What the world doesn't want to see is the world doesn't want to see them master those techniques because it's a critical pathway to obtaining the know-how to build a nuclear weapon, not only the know-how but the materials to build a nuclear weapon. The international community doesn't want to see that. We're united in that. That's been the point of the diplomacy that Secretary Rice and Under Secretary Burns as well as others have been engaged in over the past year and a half. You have built that consensus that the international community doesn't want to see the Iranian regime be able to master those enrichment techniques which would lead directly to development of a nuclear weapon.


QUESTION: On the suspension, your condition is the suspension has to hold throughout the negotiations. So during those negotiations, would Iran be able to receive any benefit even before the final deal?

MR. MCCORMACK: Saul, we're not at the point of negotiations here. What has been laid out for the Iranian regime is a package, is a proposal. I'm not going to prejudge an outcome of negotiations. I'm not going to prejudge any particular negotiating points. I don't think that anybody would expect that any individual country or groups of country to tip their hand on what a negotiating strategy might be, Saul.



QUESTION: You said Mr. Solana laid out a package of incentives and disincentives. There is at least one report coming out of Vienna that says he withheld the disincentives because he didn't want to ruin the positive atmosphere. Can you confirm that he laid out both sets, both sides of the package?

MR. MCCORMACK: He had -- and this was an agreement among the ministers and the political directors. He had leeway to go into whatever level of detail he thought was important to go into on either side. The Iranian regime is well aware of the potential disincentives and what generally those disincentives might be. They are also aware of the incentives. So I frankly, Charlie, don't have an exact readout of everything that he told them, but the Iranian -- the Iranian regime, I think, has a full sense of the package and what the two pathways are.

QUESTION: But you can't confirm that he laid out both sets, both sides of the --

MR. MCCORMACK: He gave them a full sense of the package, Charlie, as well as what the two potential pathways are.


QUESTION: Some of -- well, there are reports of some of the things out there, but presumably if the United States were to sign on to allowing Iran to have some kind of civil nuclear energy program, which the Secretary said they could have, that could fall into U.S. laws and regulations and legislation. Has the U.S. -- has the Administration briefed Congress on the package and some of the things that might need to be looked at in terms of legislation?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's a good question. The Secretary, as an initial part of our talking about this proposal, did contact members of Congress. I think that we have plans to do more in-depth briefings to members of Congress. I don't have a full list for you, but we certainly are going to be briefing members of Congress on this.

QUESTION: Well, can you at least acknowledge that there will be some aspects as to U.S. laws, regulations and legislation that might need to be reexamined?

MR. MCCORMACK: Is that a tricky way of trying to get me to talk about what might be in the package? Elise, I'm not going to -- I know there are a lot of reports about --


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, good. At least you're up front about it. Look, again, I'm not going to get into talking about any element, any particular element of the package, either coming at it straight on or from the side. So good try.

All right. Saul.

QUESTION: Do you rule out the U.S. ever agreeing to allow Iran to enrich on its own soil?


QUESTION: Would you rule out that? You know, Iran, you can never enrich on your own soil.

MR. MCCORMACK: Look -- (laughter).

QUESTION: They didn't like your question.

QUESTION: I even wrote it down. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Saul, I think, you know, that that's another way of trying to get me to come at, I think, the question that Ann and Teri and everybody else asked me here. All I can do is bring you back to the present day where we are, and I think I've talked about that as much as I can at this point.

Okay. Anything else on Iran? Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) suspending the enrichment, the Paris Agreement was only regarding suspension of the enrichment. Are you referring only to the Paris Agreement on 2004 or anything else?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, what we're referring to is the conditions outlined in the February 2006 Board of Governors meeting. That's the common understanding. I know that under the Paris Agreement there were some additional understandings that related to conversion and some other things. What we're referring to and what the P-5 is referring to is the IAEA Board of Governors statement.

QUESTION: Are you prepared to be any more specific today about how long you think is an appropriate time for Iran to consider the package, and then going forward from that, how long before you would assume maybe that there could be negotiations if it takes that path?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nope. Weeks, not months.

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Nothing --

QUESTION: -- how long do they have to say yeah --

MR. MCCORMACK: Weeks, not months.

QUESTION: I have a question about the package, but not what's in it. Has there been any -- is any consideration being given to making it public? I mean, is this something that is not going to happen until Iran comes forward with an answer or --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's a good question. Look, at a certain point in the future I hope that we are able to talk about this in more detail, in-depth. I've explained to you the reasons why we're not doing that right now. I think that you understand them and I think our publics understand, at least I hope they do, that this is being done in the spirit of trying to give this every opportunity to succeed.

Yes. Anything else on Iran? Okay. Lambros. Do you have another bottle for me? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yes, of course. There's plenty, plenty for all of you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Good. I need it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay, I will bring one tomorrow.

On Turkey, the Turkish press reported today specifically DOS Spokesman Sean McCormack said that the American side will welcome discussion on Iran but the specific proposal for Turkish liberation is not yet on the table. Do you know what is on the basis the report is connected is your statement with the upcoming visit to Washington, D.C., by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan to meet President Bush and the Secretary Condoleezza Rice?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think I'd make any particular connection there, Lambros. Look, Turkey as well as a number of other of Iran's neighbors are very concerned about what's happening inside Iran and Iranian behavior. Certainly we would encourage Turkey as well as other countries around the world to contact Iran directly and urge them to take the pathway of negotiation, to urge them to consider very carefully the proposal that has been laid out before them.

As for who is engaging Iran in a formal sense with regard to this package, that really right now at present stands with Mr. Solana as well as the representatives of the EU-3.

QUESTION: One more question. Do you consider that terrorism, those Turkish active military officials under the leadership and supervision of General Yasar Buyukanit who have been arrested the other day during a plot to assassinate the popular Prime Minister Recep Erdogan in order to terrorize the country with a new coup d'etat?

MR. MCCORMACK: I have absolutely no information on that particular matter that you brought up.


QUESTION: On Venezuela. Yesterday during the President's travels he made some comments to some Venezuelan nationals that he was very worried about their country and kind of suggested that President Chavez was doing his country and his people a disservice. Can you elaborate on the U.S. concerns that Chavez is doing his people a disservice?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that the President's remarks would stand on their own, but we have talked about in the past our concerns about the behavior of Mr. Chavez's regime and its -- the actions that it has taken to undermine democratic institutions in Venezuela. That's the source of our concern.

The political orientation of any given government in South America or wherever it may be isn't the primary issue here. We deal with left-of-center governments. We deal with right-of-center governments. We deal with governments that people would characterize as right down the middle.

But our concerns have been with Mr. Chavez's behavior, various crackdowns on NGOs, the ability of individuals to speak out and voice their opinion free from fear of reprisal from the Government, the ability to work with all levels of the Venezuelan Government in a productive manner and certainly the behavior of the Venezuelan Government in the region. I think that right now the biggest problem that Mr. Chavez and his government has is not with the United States but other members -- other states in the region.

There was a recent vote in Peru in which many had talked about the fact that Mr. Chavez's attempt to directly intervene in their electoral politics actually had an effect on the points of view of the various voters and may have affected the outcome. So again the concerns that we have I think are shared by other countries throughout the hemisphere as well. And again the biggest issues that he has right now is not with the United States, but those other so-called left-of-center governments in the region.

QUESTION: Just one more on this. Is there a concern that Chavez is using state-owned Venezuelan companies that do business in the United States to negatively influence the U.S. economy?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any of those reports. Do you have any -- I'd be happy to look into any specifics that you might have, Elise.


QUESTION: Sean, a couple of questions on South Asia. One, the kind of terror, supposedly, attack in Canada was foiled by the Canadian Government, was also foiled by the Indian Government in Kashmir. And one person here in Alexandria yesterday was convicted of -- he was also planning to attack on the Kashmiris in India. Do you see any connection, because I see also Worldwide Caution from the State Department just came out yesterday? Any connection here what's going on as far as terror attacks are supposed to take place?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, Goyal, I'm not going to try to draw various connections between what happened in Canada and any other particular action. The Worldwide Caution was issued and I think we talked about the fact when we put it out that it does not have to do with any specific threat. It's a renewal of a previous Worldwide Caution that we have.

We would congratulate the Canadian Government on their efforts to breakup what would appear to be, and based on the news reports, a very serious threat to Canada and Canadian officials and we congratulate them on those efforts. We have great cooperation with the Canadian Government in fighting terrorism and we have -- and it, I think outlines, underlines, the fact that the war on terror is one that requires constant effort and constant vigilance. And the fact that there was a cell in Canada making these kinds of plans also underlines the fact that this could be anywhere around the world. It could be Europe. It could be the United States, anywhere around the world, so we congratulate them.

As for any other particular connections, Goyal, I would have to refer you to the Canadian Government to talk about what other connections there may be, what other sort of intelligence relationships they may have had that led them to these arrests.

Here, let's move on. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Change of subject. The UN Deputy Secretary General said -- he's criticized the U.S. of not supporting the UN in its achievements to which Ambassador Bolton has countered that he should be disciplined and that he's criticized the American people and not the American Government. What is your response to that? And will this become another U.S.-UN standoff?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I think the person that would be most surprised by the fact that the United States is not working to meet its UN commitments and support the UN and to explain what the UN does to the American people would be Secretary Rice. I think Secretary Rice has been at the forefront of pushing the President's agenda for reform of the United Nations and as well as working to support Secretary General Annan's reform measures.

One of the big issues here is management and budget reform. We have been supporting what Secretary General Annan has proposed. We think it's important. We think it's important to streamline the operations of the UN to make them more effective so that the funding that is provided by member states, the U.S. as well as states around the world, is put to the best use on behalf of the people around the world who need it most. That is very important. I think that there is wide recognition in the UN itself that the UN needs to reform. And we have seen some progress in that regard. We've seen the creation of the Human Rights Council, the creation of which the United States worked very hard for. At the end of the day, we supported Secretary General Annan's plan -- that wasn't exactly how it came out and we didn't seek a seat on the Council this time around. We are watching closely how the Council develops and we are encouraging it to be an effective mechanism and an effective voice for the promotion of human rights around the world.

So this Administration has worked very hard and worked very closely with Secretary General Annan on the issue of UN reform. We've worked hard to explain what we're doing to the Congress. We've worked hard to explain that to the American people. And the fact that there may be people in the United States who have a different point of view, we think that that's healthy. We think that some of the issues that have come into public view regarding the UN came to view because people were willing to speak out about them in public and to say there is a problem and it needs to be fixed.

So this idea that somehow people, just because you are speaking out about problems in the UN that somehow you are unalterably opposed to the UN and the good things that it does around the world is really a simplistic kind of presentation of the reality in the United States.

QUESTION: Sean, a question on Bangladesh. And the freedom of the press and journalists are under attack in Bangladesh now again and scores have died from the Government of Bangladesh not doing anything. There were demonstrations at the UN and also here in Washington. So what action you think Secretary ever took with the Bangladeshi Government or the foreign ministers?

MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal, I'll have to look into the specifics of it. Certainly we are at the forefront of promoting and trying to protect freedom of press around the world. But as for the specifics of the issue that you raise, I'll have to look into it for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.


(The briefing was concluded at 12:45 p.m.)

DPB # 95

Released on June 7, 2006


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