State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 2, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
August 2, 2006
U.S. Continues to Work with Allies for a Resolution that Ensures a
Elements Included in the Framework to a Lasting Solution to Crisis
U.S. Remains Hopeful for UN Action Soon
Response to Mark Malloch Brown's Comments / UN
EU Consensus View of Hezbollah's Status / U.S. Believes a
U.S. and France Working Together Off of a Common Text / UN
Freedom of the Press / Arab Press Criticism of the Secretary's
Status of Discussion on Multinational Force
Possible Expansion of Humanitarian Corridors Allowing Movement
North & South
U.S. Does Not Believe the Iranian Regime is a Stabilizing Force in
U.S. Plan if the Cuban People Eventually Pursue a Democratic Free
Fidel Castro's Health / Closed Castro Decision Making Circle
Query on Possible Efforts to Amendment to the Helms-Burton Act
Reported Letter to former Ambassador Harry Barnes
U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Energy Agreement
12:34 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I don't have any opening statements, so we can get right into your questions.
QUESTION: Well, there's a little Cuba to ask about, but things are breaking, as we say. We're hearing that there will not be a ministerial this week on peacekeeping forces. You know, that can wrap into what Mr. Annan's deputy has slammed -- I think that's a fair word -- the U.S. and the UK saying they shouldn't be taking the lead. I don't know that he's a self-starter, but putting aside who put him up to it, if anybody, could you respond to those two developments?
MR. MCCORMACK: A couple things, Barry. I don't know how you postpone something that hasn't been scheduled yet. So --
MR. MCCORMACK: What Secretary Rice has said over the past couple days still stands. We're working very well with our friends and allies to come up with a resolution that leads to a lasting solution to the crisis in the Middle East. That includes the various elements of a cease-fire, a political framework that is supported by that ceasefire which means that you don't get back to where you are right now in three weeks, three years or three months from now, and also the element of an international force. So those are the various elements that are in play. There's widespread agreement on those elements.
I would say also that that we are working very closely with our friends and allies, including the French. In fact, I would say that our point of view and the French point of view are really converging to the point now where we are working off a single text of a draft resolution. Now there's still work to be done. There's still a lot of conversations to be had. But we are working very closely and very well with our friends and allies on this and we hope to have action in the United Nations this week, if not in the coming days. Secretary Rice has talked about that.
Now on the second part to your question, I've seen some of these comments from Mr. Malloch Brown. We have a good working relationship with Mark Malloch Brown. He has an important position at the UN. But I have to say that some of his comments, as reported today, are really misguided and misplaced. And we are seeing a troubling pattern of a high official of the UN who seems to be making it his business to criticize member-states, and frankly with misplaced and misguided criticism. So you know, I really don't understand the origin of these comments, Barry. I would say that it does demonstrate a troubling pattern. We do have a good working relationship with Mark Malloch Brown and we certainly hope to continue that good working relationship. And we hope also that he can focus his efforts really where they are needed, on working with member-states to help bring about an end to this current crisis, to work on UN reform. We want to make sure that member-state contributions, that U.S. taxpayer dollars, are well spent. And there's a lot more work to be done on UN reform. We think that certainly that is an area where he can concentrate his efforts.
QUESTION: Can I ask you if the U.S. was informed in advance that -- by him or his office that there would be such criticism made public?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any such notification, Barry.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: On that, besides Malloch Brown's comments, though, that Hezbollah is not actually a terrorist organization, even though it uses terrorist tactics, the EU has also rejected U.S. calls for Hezbollah to be on their terrorist list, so it's not just him that is saying -- at least that part of his remarks isn't -- he's not alone. The EU is also saying they don't believe Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. How does that add up?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the EU operates by consensus and that is the consensus view of the EU and it is representative of the views of its member-states. Now we have a different point of view. We believe Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. And in terms of Mr. Malloch Brown's comments regarding Hezbollah, clearly, we disagree. We believe it's a terrorist organization.
QUESTION: But isn't that going to perhaps -- isn't this an indication that Europe may not be fully on board with everything that the United States wants to get at the United Nations? These are some of the same countries that are going to be voting with you.
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I think that, as I pointed out, we're working very well with our --
QUESTION: And you don't see that hindering it?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, on the issue of Hezbollah, we have a different point of view. This EU point of view represents what is a consensus point of view. There may be a variety of opinions within the EU, but this -- as an organization, this represents a point of view. We respect that. We have a different view.
But in terms of working together to resolve this crisis, we're working very closely together. As I pointed out, we actually are at the point now with the French Government where we are working off one paper, a common text. Now that is not to say that there aren't still issues to work through, that there aren't intensive diplomatic discussions that need to be had not only with the French but others as well, but we are coming to a convergence of views, a convergence of approach. We agree on all the major elements. It's now a question of how those elements fit together and how you memorialize and capsulate those elements in text of UN resolutions.
QUESTION: How would you characterize the differences between the United States and France at this stage?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I would say that the -- whatever differences in approach there are, they're really narrowing down to the point where we expect that the -- we can get action in the Security Council in the coming days.
QUESTION: Well, backing -- it's hard to follow the bouncing ball. I mean, they were responsible for the cancellation Monday, then they came back and they said they were for it. Then they came back, yes --
MR. MCCORMACK: (inaudible) --
QUESTION: I mean, it goes back and forth. Aren't -- I mean, I suppose you could say -- I mean -- but you need the French, they're supposed to lead the force of --
MR. MCCORMACK: You bring up an interesting point about the meeting that was scheduled to talk about generating --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- specific -- generating specific forces for an international force. The meeting which I think had been rescheduled for tomorrow, Thursday --
MR. MCCORMACK: Which originally was going to be held on Monday.
MR. MCCORMACK: We actually support the idea of postponing that meeting that was going to be held tomorrow. We think -- again, we think that we are working through the elements of a solution that include a cessation of hostilities that supports a lasting, durable political solution, a political framework, as well as talks about the introduction of this international force to support the Lebanese armed forces so that they can exercise sovereignty over all of the Lebanese territory.
We think it's -- we think now the focus should be and is on coming up with that initial resolution. We can have a discussion at the expert level about the specifics of generating this force at some point down the line. And I expect that would be in the not too distant future, but we actually did support the decision to postpone tomorrow's scheduled meeting on that topic.
QUESTION: One of the sticking points is that the French feel that there should be a cessation of hostilities so that all the other things can kick in. And one of the things that's being discussed is the idea of a rapid reaction force that could kind of just quickly stabilize the area while you arrange all the other political pieces and then the bigger force comes in. Can you talk about that idea and whether you think it has merit?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, these are some of the issues we're talking about. How do you introduce an international force so that it is assisting the Lebanese armed forces in exercising that sovereignty, in support of an agreed-upon political framework? The importance of the political framework is that it would, outlined in broad strokes, (inaudible) -- a roadmap so that you get to a point where you don't end up back where you are today or back where you were three weeks ago when all of this started.
So these are -- again, Elise, these are all discussions that we're having issues of sequencing and timing. They're all important issues and both within the elements and between the elements those are discussions we're having. I think that I would characterize these discussions as rapidly evolving, evolving in a very positive direction, but I can't really at this point get into the details with you.
QUESTION: Well, like you said the other day, it seems that there's wide agreement on all the elements.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: So would you say that the thing to work out now is the sequencing of all this?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think there are a variety of different issues that are still out there. I think certainly how these elements all fit together, that's certainly an important point that we're still working on with the French as well as other members of the Security Council.
QUESTION: There's now a single text of the draft resolution that the U.S. is working on.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Is it possible that there's enough to circulate within the Security Council tomorrow, as the British have suggested.
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see. We'll see if we're at that point. As I said, we are working off one sheet of paper. I want to point out that there are still within -- within that text there are still issues that need to be resolved, still points of discussion. And again, we're talking about with the United States and France; this would have to be something that would have to be agreed upon by the entire Council, or at least a majority of nine of the Council. So we're working not only with the French but with the British and other important members of the Council and other countries that have an interest in this issue.
But I really want to emphasize the fact that this is really, from our point of view I think, moving in a very positive direction in terms of getting positive action in the Security Council in the coming days.
QUESTION: Can I push it a little further? A single text is a sign of a consensus emerging.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: But you're not saying the U.S. and the French, or even the U.S. and the British, are in agreement on what the final text should say, or are you?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, if I were in a position to say that, Barry, I would be saying that right now.
QUESTION: Okay. Just wanted to understand.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, there are still issues that we're working through. No, I -- there's still some intensive diplomacy ahead of us. But we are working very well together. We're working intensively on this. Under Secretary Burns has had a number of extended conversations with his French counterpart just today I think, two long conversations today. That is in addition to a number of conference calls involving Nick Burns, David Welch, people at the White House as well, including Secretary Rice. So she is deeply involved in this working with her team as well as keeping in contact with partners in the international community.
QUESTION: Is Nick up there or here?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, he's here.
QUESTION: Are these conference calls U.S.-French conference calls?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's a variety, a variety of different participants in the calls.
QUESTION: Any more specific than that?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on Lebanon? Joel.
QUESTION: The Secretary was asked last night in a television interview with Bill O'Reilly show. At the very conclusion of the show, Bill O'Reilly had pointed out that the French had said that the Iranian regime was a stabilizing force.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: And she didn't really want to expand on that. Can you?
MR. MCCORMACK: I thought she was pretty clear in answering it. We don't believe Iran is a force for stabilization in the region. As a matter of fact, we think that it is one of the most destabilizing forces in the region.
QUESTION: Now --
QUESTION: Does she quibble with the French Foreign Minister then?
MR. MCCORMACK: She made --
QUESTION: Did she phrase her remarks that way?
MR. MCCORMACK: She made clear what her views are. Yeah.
QUESTION: Now, Sean --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Joel. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Also to follow, the Lebanese are demanding from the Israelis maps of where landmines have been hidden and what if these -- then the Israelis demand maps of where the Hezbollah missile launches are hidden? How do you iron out those differences? And is the UN, which has had this on their -- or should have had this on their radar --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- able to then deal with these issues?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Joel, we all want to see an end to violence here and we want to see an end to violence that lasts, so we are going to work through all the details to make sure that that happens.
QUESTION: You said yesterday that the U.S. would like to see the humanitarian corridors expanded or extended.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary bring that up with Shimon Peres yesterday and how did he respond?
MR. MCCORMACK: That did not come up in their conversation yesterday, though we have talked to the Israel Government about it at a variety of levels. I don't -- I'll check for you. I don't know that we have gotten a final answer back on that.
QUESTION: Have they responded --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, my understanding is that there are humanitarian corridors that allow movement from south to north. The issue is those corridors from north to south. So I'll check for you to see where we stand on that.
QUESTION: (inaudible) in Cuba? He's crazy.
MR. MCCORMACK: Let's see if there's anything else on Lebanon.
QUESTION: Oh, I thought we were done.
MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas maybe -- might have something.
QUESTION: I'm not happy about asking this question, but there have been a lot of insults in the Arab press about the Secretary personally as you know and which is nothing new. There's been such insults about all our Secretaries of State, including when Saddam Hussein called Madeleine Albright a snake.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: But there have been some recently in newspapers controlled by President Abbas's Fatah party. And I don't want to repeat them because I don't think they deserve repeating anyway.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Are you -- is the Secretary aware of those? Are you conveying any sort of messages to the Palestinian Authority and the President about these things? And how -- you know, how the Secretary -- how does she feel about all this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I don't know that she is aware of them. I certainly -- I hadn't heard about that. She has a great working relationship with President Abbas. She has a great deal of personal respect for him.
Look, in a free press, wherever that is, you see these sorts of things happen.
QUESTION: You think the Arab press free?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, free press around the world. I can't speak to this, Nicholas. I haven't seen the comments. I haven't seen the newspapers. But we encourage the development of a free press, but along with those freedoms come certain responsibilities. But, look, Secretary Rice is focused on doing her job. She knows that the United States is doing the right thing. Sometimes people disagree with that. It's their right to disagree.
MR. MCCORMACK: Do you -- Lebanon or --
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. We'll go to Mr. Schweid here and we'll come back to you.
QUESTION: Generally, immigration service says it doesn't see a pick up in people trying to come here or go there. Is there anything the U.S. is doing that you can tell us about, although Castro says he is feeling fine, thank you. Is there anything the U.S. is doing or planning to prepare for this transition that you can tell us about?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, at this point, there isn't a transition, Barry. We do have in place plans for the eventuality that the Cuban people do make that choice for a democratic free Cuba. We believe that the Cuban people given the choice will choose a democratic Cuba. They don't have that choice right now. It's ruled by a dictatorship, by Fidel Castro and his brother as well as a number of other cronies around them. Look; you know, as we've said before, the incapacitation or death of Fidel Castro would be a significant event in Cuba's history and the United States stands ready, if the Cuban people demonstrate that they do, in fact, want to make the transition to democracy. And the United States is prepared to do that. In the meantime, we continue with our programs to help those voices in Cuba who yearn for democracy to be heard and also, for the Cuban people to be able to hear about what is going on outside of their country, outside of the state-controlled media.
QUESTION: You mean broadcasts and --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, broadcasts, those types of things, yeah.
QUESTION: You talk about the attempts to make sure those voices are heard. Are we stepping those efforts up with Raul Castro in power at this point?
MR. MCCORMACK: It is -- my understanding is our efforts continue. I'm not aware of any ramp-up in those, but they're pretty robust as it stands.
QUESTION: Yesterday, you were just citing press reports on Fidel Castro's health. Have you gotten any more independent confirmation of --
MR. MCCORMACK: Can't -- no, don't have any --
QUESTION: Nothing at all?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, don't have anything else I can offer as to his state of health.
QUESTION: And what -- doesn't the Interests Section talk to locals and people who might know firsthand?
MR. MCCORMACK: I mean, I'm sure that they can pick up on the same rumors that others do, but the fact of the matter is this is a pretty closed decision-making circle and it's very opaque as to what is actually going on.
Yeah, on Cuba?
QUESTION: Yes, please. What if you get a Tiananmen Square kind of rally somewhere in Cuba where there's this mass group that can stage a prolonged demonstration saying, "Yes, we want democracy?" Will the U.S. somehow take that as a legitimate message that it's ready to support officially somehow?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nice hypothetical question. We'll deal with the facts on the ground as they are.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, we have a pattern already from Tiananmen Square. That one didn't work out. What if it happens in Cuba?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I'm not going to try to draw any analogy between the two situations. We do have a plan in place, it's publicly available, at which you can see how the United States stands ready if the Cuban people give an indication that they are ready to make that transition to democracy.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that, Sean?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: They can give an indication, but as you said before, the kind of crackdown of the police and the authoritarian nature of the regime kind of has a certain limit as to how far the people can go in terms of asking for democracy. And the report always said that it would be if asked, but how you do kind of draw the line between people asking and their ability to actually reach out to --
MR. MCCORMACK: Those are policy judgments and we don't -- at this point, aren't faced with those kind of policy judgments. But we do stand ready to help the Cuban people if they make that decision.
Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Sean --
MR. MCCORMACK: Nope, no, right in front of you, Dave.
QUESTION: With this new controversy in India about this letter written by Thomas Graham and --
QUESTION: On Cuba?
QUESTION: This is about India.
MR. MCCORMACK: That's all right, we'll get back to you, Dave.
QUESTION: So it's adding to the numerous stories that we have about India/U.S. nuclear deal.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: And there's this new -- a letter that's come up which was written by Thomas Graham to Ambassador -- former Ambassador Harry Barnes about India -- you know, the Indian administration at that time, under pressure to do nuclear testing. So I was wondering, what's the State Department's stand on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of the letter.
QUESTION: There's a five-page letter that's come up.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I'm not aware of the letter. We'll look into it for you. Yeah, certainly -- look; we think that this is a good deal for India. We think it's a good deal for the United States. We think it's a good deal, ultimately, for the global nonproliferation regime and we're working very closely with Congress to get the necessary legislation passed so that we can implement the agreement. There are things that the Indian side has to do as well, so we're moving along here. The House has passed the bill. We're working with the Senate to get a vote scheduled and then there's going to have to be a conference and they're going to have to pass, finally, some legislation. So there's still steps to be taken here, but we've come a long way and we are fully supportive and fully behind seeing this agreement being implemented.
QUESTION: And the U.S. Embassy in India has said that they think that this letter is just fake and --
MR. MCCORMACK: I just -- you know, I haven't seen the letter. I'll be happy to look into it for you. Sure.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mr. Gollust.
QUESTION: Yeah, I was just wondering since the Administration has been very active in protecting presidential prerogatives, with regard to the Helms-Burton law it would limit -- or many people think it would limit the Administration's flexibility in dealing with the Cuban transition. I was wondering if the Administration is talking to Congress perhaps about amending the legislation.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any such discussions, Dave.
Okay, all right.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:55 p.m.)
DPB # 129
Released on August 2, 2006