State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 3, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
August 3, 2006
US Continues Work with Allies for a UN Resolution that Ensures a
Prospects for UN Resolution This Week
Elements / Sequencing in UN Resolution
US Ready to Train and Equip Lebanese Army When Conditions on
Lebanon Government Interest in Shebaa Farms Issue
Iranian President's Comments Calling for Destruction of Israel
Syrian Government and Role in Region
Secretary Rice's Diplomatic Contacts and Diplomatic Efforts
Secretary Rice to Travel to Crawford, Texas for Weekend
Assistant Secretary Welch to Travel to Region
US Assisted Departures of American Citizens from Lebanon
Status of Discussion on Multinational Force
Spanish Foreign Minister's Visit to Syria
Prospects for Conflict Expanding in Region
Prospects for Seat at the UN Security Council
Alleged US Report on India Nuclear Planning
Situation in Somalia / Cabinet Resignations
Situation in Cuba / Fidel Castro's Health
Appointment of Viktor Yanukovich as Prime Minister
12:43 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I don't have any opening statements so we can get right into your questions. Who would like to start? Mr. Gedda.
QUESTION: Lebanon. How is the processing doing?
MR. MCCORMACK: Making good progress, still work to be done, working very closely with our French allies in coming up with an approach that will bring an end to the fighting in a way such that we don't end up right back where we were three weeks ago, so that it's a lasting durable peace. And also talking about how we can get international support to help the Lebanese Government exercise sovereignty over all of their territory.
Part of -- just to fill you in a little bit on our thinking about how we can help do that in helping the Lebanese armed forces build up their capabilities. Secretary Rice and Secretary Rumsfeld have approved a program whereby once we do have -- once we do have conditions on the ground permitting, we will be able to help train and equip the Lebanese armed forces. Now this is -- I expect is going to be one effort among many from the international community to help out the Lebanese armed forces. But that's just a little bit of our thinking about how down the road we can help the Lebanese armed forces exercise control and sovereignty over all of Lebanese territory once we have an end to the fighting in such a way that is durable.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice said on Monday that there was an emerging consensus for a lasting and durable ceasefire.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: And she also expected there to be some kind of a resolution by the end of this week. Are you disappointed that this is not happening and why, in your opinion, is this not happening? The French seem to be less optimistic than you are, for example.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I saw the comments. I just came back from upstairs talking to Under Secretary Burns who was just in a two-hour conference call with our French allies. This is complex diplomacy. You want to have something that stands up. You want to have something that is durable. You want to have something that is acceptable to the parties as well as to all the Security Council members. So we certainly would hope that we could achieve something by Friday, but if not, we are prepared and Secretary Rice has instructed our people, both here in Washington and up in New York, that we're going to work all throughout the weekend if necessary to get something done. Because we are working on an urgent basis to bring about an end to the fighting in such a way that is lasting and durable.
QUESTION: They're saying problems still with the sequencing, whether you have a ceasefire first before you send in the troops or --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I --
QUESTION: Where's the problem here?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I wouldn't -- you know, I wouldn't characterize it as a problem. There are issues that we have to work through and we want to make sure that this is done in such a way that it is something that can be implemented and implemented effectively and something that has buy-in from the Security Council members as well as the parties in the region. So this is -- these are complicated issues. Timing and sequencing is something that we're looking at. We have, I think it's fair to say, widespread agreement on the major elements. We've talked about that. So how to do the timing and the sequencing of all these elements, how they fit together, how they fit together in terms of Security Council actions and resolutions is something that we're talking about and that we're working through.
We do have a real convergence here in terms of our friends and allies working on this issue. We are -- as I said yesterday -- we are working off of one sheet of paper. We are working off a common text. There's still some diplomacy that needs to be done and once we have an agreement with our French allies, we're going to also start working more and more with other Security Council members. So that's -- that is something that is going to take some time, but we are working urgently on trying to bring an end to the violence in a way that is sustainable and we don't end up with the status quo ante.
QUESTION: Can I ask you to pick at this a little bit. Why do you need a new resolution that -- what do you need -- why do you need to call in a new resolution for the disarming of Hezbollah because it's already been ordered by the Security Council? Now, diplomacy involves balancing and juggling and apparently will be -- I would imagine it will be a price to pay for asking for this, but I don't see why you have to ask for it. It's on the books already. Can't you just insist that it be implemented?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Barry, you also want to make sure that there is an international consensus on how to do this and how to introduce other elements into a resolution so that you don't end up back with Hezbollah being able to rearm, be able to stay in place in the status quo ante. So you'd point out, 1559 is on the books. But there are also other things that we're looking at with our French allies, with the other members of the Security Council so you don't end up with the status quo ante.
Now I'm not prepared at this point to get into the details of that, Barry. That's part of the diplomacy and necessarily some of that diplomacy has to be done through diplomatic channels and best not be done from podia around Washington or in other capitals.
QUESTION: But part of diplomacy also seems to be to bring in such intractable issues as the future of Shebaa Farms. I mean, it looks like it's going to be a kitchen sink the way -- at least what we're hearing. And I don't know why the U.S. would be party to something that complex. When -- what you want, you've been very clear, you have three main points. You want the situation -- you want a lasting ceasefire and other main points. Why drag in all sorts of Mid East issues that have been lurking for decades?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Barry, the -- you point out the Shebaa Farms issue. This is something that the Lebanese Government has put on the table in their Seven Point Program. It is something that is of interest to them. I would only point out the real issue -- the real sort of blocking point on Shebaa Farms at this point is really between Lebanon and Syria, and it's really Syria who is blocking a path forward on Shebaa Farms. So it's an interest to the Lebanese Government and certainly it has been a matter of continuing interest for the international community. And I'm sure that the international community will take a look at that issue as the Lebanese Government has expressed an interest in it.
QUESTION: The Iranian President has restated his call for the destruction of Israel and added his view that the Americans are after the Greater Middle East. Can you respond to that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Just more of the kind of rhetoric, sadly, that we have come to expect from President Amahdi-Nejad talking about wiping countries off the face of the map, calling for the destruction of Israel. I think it only points out exactly why it is so important to get a lasting solution to the current round of violence.
It is no mistake that this violence was provoked by Hezbollah and prior to that by Hamas at a time when there were some flickers of hope of moving forward on a political process not only with the Palestinians but in Lebanon where they were making process on the political front, where they were dealing with implementation of 1559 and working through those difficult political issues that confronted them after more than 20 years of Syrian occupation
And what happens? You have an unprovoked attack by Hezbollah and certainly I can't connect the dots for you that there was direct Iranian command-and-control of that attack, but certainly we all know that Hezbollah is a recipient of arms as well as funding from the Iranian Government. So certainly the Iranian Government as well as the Syrian Government have played a negative, destabilizing role in this latest round of violence, and we would hope that a state like Syria would make the right choices and play a positive role but it heretofore has not in the Middle East.
QUESTION: Can I build on the Syrian part of this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: They have been offering their influence but do their expectations of what they want in return for that influence, are they reasonable, like the Golan Heights issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, the Syrian Government shouldn't look to profit from this current round of violence, this current effort to destabilize the region. The Syrian Government -- and they've heard this from a number of different quarters -- the Syrian Government should make that choice to play a positive role in the region. We ourselves have over the course of the years, going back to Secretary Powell's tenure, urged them to play that positive role. Secretary Powell has made -- has had direct contacts with the Syrian Government, then Assistant Secretary Bill Burns did, Deputy Secretary Rich Armitage just after the transition of power in Syria, but to no effect. We have urged them to play that positive role, but time and time again they have chosen not to.
This certainly would be a moment for them to step up and to play a positive role in the Middle East, to follow the calls that others in the region have made on them to do so, but thus far they have chosen not to.
QUESTION: What is the Secretary actually doing at the moment? She has nothing on her public schedule. Is she -- who is she speaking to to try and push this issue forward? Who did she talk to this morning?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a phone call readout for you, but in the past days she's been in touch with Prime Minister Olmert, she's been in touch with Foreign Minister Livni, she's been in touch with Secretary General Annan, EU High Representative Solana. So she has maintained a vigorous level of contacts on the international front. She's been doing a lot of work with her staff here in-house. Under Secretary Nick Burns and Assistant Secretary Welch here in the State Department have really been deeply involved in working with our international partners on this issue.
I would say two, three times a day she gets together a core group of her close advisors on this issue to talk about where we're headed, the diplomacy, the diplomatic pathway forward. She's in close contact with the White House on this. So she's very much involved with the diplomacy behind the scenes and also working with her team at the State Department to move this process forward. You know she's going to be traveling down this weekend to Crawford. I would expect that she's going to be working the phones from Crawford, just as she would be working the phones here in Washington.
QUESTION: Well, what are you hoping is going to come out of Crawford? Is there going to be a more integral U.S. plan to help cope with this or --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I think it's -- she's going to be traveling down there. The President, I think, is traveling down to Crawford today. National Security Advisor Steve Hadley will be down there. I think it's a good opportunity to maintain that close contact. Like I said, I expect her to be quite active in not only working the phones on the international front but also working the phones with her staff and the U.S. Government representatives who are trying to move this diplomacy forward.
One note. David Welch is going to be leaving today to travel to the region. He's going to be talking to various partners in the region about the diplomatic pathway forward that we are outlining here with the French Government as well as other partners on the international front.
QUESTION: Could you be more specific?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have an itinerary for you, but he is going to be traveling to the region. We'll try to keep you up to date on his meetings.
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: The fact that the Secretary is going to Crawford, would it be unfair to read that as the fact that the Administration's position is evolving, there's debate within the Administration between various parts of it about the best way to proceed, or is it just to kind of keep on the same page?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I think -- you know, she frequently travels down to Crawford, certainly during this time of the year. Look, you're always looking for the best ideas, but look, everybody is on one sheet of music here, from the President on down.
MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?
QUESTION: It's very nice there this time of year.
MR. MCCORMACK: It's probably a little cooler than it is in Washington right now.
QUESTION: So it would be unfair?
MR. MCCORMACK: In a word, yes.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, you can follow up on that.
QUESTION: You said yesterday that the Secretary of State has been working the phones. Has she been in touch with her Lebanese counterpart?
MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Her counterpart? Has she been in touch with the Lebanese Prime Minister or her Lebanese counterpart?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not today or yesterday, but she has been -- she has had many conversations with Prime Minister Siniora, and our Ambassador Jeff Feltman is also very active on the ground staying in touch with Lebanese Government officials.
QUESTION: Is he planning to meet any Lebanese officials in the region?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you up to date on his travel schedule. Yeah. He's going to be meeting with a wide array of people in the region.
QUESTION: A what array?
MR. MCCORMACK: A wide array of people.
QUESTION: Is he going to meet with Israeli people? (Inaudible.) Is he going to see the Israelis as well as the Arabs?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you up to date on his travel schedule, Barry.
QUESTION: Both sides? Did you say both sides?
MR. MCCORMACK: He's going to be meeting with officials who are working towards a solution to this current conflict.
QUESTION: My question is on the notice put out I think early this morning that official or organized departures of Americans from Lebanon are now complete from the State Department's perspective. Could you expand on that and let us know what services remain available if some Americans who are there change their mind and want to leave?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Yeah. We've gotten to the point in this process where moving large numbers at a time of people out of Lebanon has really -- you've really started to see a diminishment in those numbers moving out. There are still people in Lebanon, and we're still ready to help them get out. And there is no charge for them getting out. I know this has been a concern in the past, and we're ready to help people get out of Lebanon who want to get out and help them make their way to Cyprus. From there, we'll help them make onward travel plans.
QUESTION: Are you saying that there are still Americans there whom you know want to leave or just conceivably some may want to leave in the future?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think both. I think both. Yeah. Look, there are certainly people throughout Lebanon, most especially I think in the south, who are understandingly are having a difficult time getting out. I would anticipate people who had made the decision to stay there who might, in the future, might want to leave and we stand ready to help them.
QUESTION: One more thing. What kind of facilities will still be available for them to want to leave if there aren't any more ships? I mean are they able to go out on planes or -- it doesn't seem like --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the airport isn't open but you still --
MR. MCCORMACK: You still do have the helicopter air bridge that is operating. So that capability remains in place. Like I said, the numbers of people on a daily basis have really -- have been greatly reduced from the thousands of people per day that we were seeing, you know, try to leave a week or more ago.
QUESTION: Can you say anything about the fact that 15,000 Americans did decide to leave according to State Department's numbers. At the beginning you thought maybe only several thousand would leave. To what do you attribute that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think what we said at the time is you don't know exactly how many are going to choose to leave. I think our original estimates were maybe planning for eight or nine thousand people who wanted to leave. That was based on the numbers of people that we had actually registered, 15,000. But there were also higher estimates based on previous experience of people who were in Lebanon. That numbers was about 25,000. It turns out that more people wanted to leave, and we were able to, in our planning, adapt to that increased number and put in place the assets to help those people get out.
QUESTION: Earlier, Sean, when you were talking about the U.S. efforts at the United Nations, you said that you hoped for something by Friday and, if necessary, you'd work through the weekend for something. Can you just clarify what that something is? Is it a resolution that mandates a ceasefire or is it something short of that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think what -- there certainly is a possibility of multiple actions from the Security Council. And what I mean by actions are resolutions. What we're looking for is a resolution that would bring an end to the violence in such a way that it is you don't end up back where we were so that a -- that end to the violence supports some political framework that charts a way forward so you don't return to the status quo ante.
Now, you may have to subsequently consider what are the details of an international force that supports the Lebanese armed forces. So that's where we stand right now, Saul. And that's how we see the diplomatic way forward.
QUESTION: So what it is you want by Friday is a resolution over a ceasefire?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think as soon as possible we would want to see a resolution that would bring about an end to the violence in such a way that we don't end up back where we were status quo ante.
QUESTION: Yeah, but that charting -- that charting looks to the future. This is a policy change. You don't want things to happen before there is a ceasefire. You want a ceasefire and then you want something said about what's to happen futurely.
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't --
QUESTION: A ceasefire would stand on its own. You just described -- charting means putting down a wish list for the future. A ceasefire is a real thing. So they're asking for -- you support a suspension of the fighting in a resolution that looks ahead to the way things that can be done to make sure the ceasefire lasts. Is that fair?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know what we've always said, Barry, is that we want to see an -- the violence brought to an end in such a way that is lasting and durable. That's what we have been saying. That's where we stand right now. And that's what we think we're going to get.
QUESTION: But if you have a -- I don't want to belabor it, but if you have a resolution that calls for a ceasefire and also, for example, calls for the dismantling of Hezbollah, what have you accomplished? I mean you already have a resolution calling for this. I thought you were working on something that puts in position things like a peacekeeping force as part of the ceasefire.
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry, that's -- what I just said and what we have been saying is that we want the violence to end in such a way that you don't end up back where we were. And that's -- and so that when you have an end to the violence, when the violence stops, it is done in support of a political framework so that you don't end up with the status quo ante. Part and parcel of that -- that way forward -- is making sure that the Lebanese armed forces can exercise sovereignty and authority and control over all of Lebanese territory. And the international community is going to have to play a part in helping them do that because they just don't have the capability. We all know they just don't have the capability to do that right now, Barry.
I've talked a little bit about some of our thinking in a very practical level of how we do that. And certainly there is going to be -- there's going to have to be an on-the-ground contribution. We've also talked about that with our international partners. We, ourselves, won't be contributing troops to that. But there have been a numbers of countries who have expressed a real interest in doing that, who want to see an end to the violence and want to see this solution, when it is finally agreed upon, be one that is durable and lasting and can be effectively implemented.
QUESTION: Isn't that the French approach?
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry, no. We're working closely with the French on this, but this is a cooperative effort. We -- I'm not sure I see where there is -- you're kind of --
QUESTION: You're asserting a ceasefire --
MR. MCCORMACK: We're asserting a change in the course forward where there just isn't one.
QUESTION: Well, the French approach is a ceasefire --
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me --
QUESTION: And then let's move on to other things.
QUESTION: Where does, in terms of sequencing, where does the troop contribution meeting that was postponed fall into when a resolution is passed? Do you have any sense of would that have to come before any resolution is passed?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect that those things happen pretty close together. But we certainly are sensitive to the idea that you want to have this end to the violence charted out and an understanding of how that is going to happen before you get into the practical aspects of who exactly is going to be contributing what. People certainly -- people who make contributions to this force want to have an understanding of exactly what this force is going to be doing and what is the political framework in which they're going to be working. We're certainly sensitive to that and understand that.
We, in fact, supported the idea of postponing that troop contribution meeting that was actually scheduled for today, I think. There was widespread agreement that that was -- it was probably wise to go ahead and postpone it. But it will be held.
QUESTION: Can we stay on the resolution?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sure, Saul.
QUESTION: Thank you. I just want to make sure that I'm understanding what it is that you're hoping for in the resolution. You said a resolution that would bring an end to the violence. Does that mean that the actual end of the violence is sometime after the resolution, the resolution is about a ceasefire but it charts later steps for when the ceasefire can happen or is it it happens Friday, so there should be a ceasefire Saturday. Is it something like that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, certainly, Saul, the answer to those questions ultimately lies with the parties. We can get an agreement. But in terms -- in practical terms, on the ground that will depend on the parties. And I would posit at that most -- in most scenarios that means what is Hezbollah going to do since they were the party that provoked these attacks.
QUESTION: Basically, you hope for a resolution that urges or mandates a ceasefire Friday? And if not then, into the weekend?
MR. MCCORMACK: And to the violence. Look, we want to -- we would like very much to get something done this week.
QUESTION: Is there a --
MR. MCCORMACK: But, but --
MR. MCCORMACK: If that is not possible, then we're prepared to work all through the weekend. Secretary Rice has made it very clear that our people will do whatever it takes, working through the weekend, as long as it takes to get this done on an urgent basis.
QUESTION: Is there a reason, Sean, why you don't use the word ceasefire? Each of my questions have been about a ceasefire, and I think most of the other questions, but you always talk about end of the violence. Is there something in diplomatic speak here that we're missing? Is there a difference?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I am not trying to draw any distinction here.
QUESTION: On the issue of army training and equipping --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: You started by saying that you're ready to help train and equip the Lebanese army.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Even if elements of Hezbollah elements are integrated into this army considering that it represents a large portion of the population?
MR. MCCORMACK: Hezbollah is a terrorist group. We're ready to work with the Lebanese Government.
QUESTION: So you're saying that you are willing to train and equip and help a Lebanese army that is free of Hezbollah elements?
MR. MCCORMACK: We are ready to train and equip Lebanese armed forces when the conditions on the ground are right.
QUESTION: Would that take place outside of Lebanon proper?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we would work out the details of exactly how this gets done. But this is I just want to let you know sort of in practical terms we are thinking ahead in how to do this and I know other countries are as well.
QUESTION: Sean, going back to Iranian arms to Hezbollah, do you have any comments on the story or reports that China is giving or selling arms to Iran and rockets and Iran is giving to Hezbollah? I mean Chinese-made rockets hitting Israel through Iran.
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any particular information on that, Goyal.
QUESTION: Can I --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Barry.
QUESTION: I'd be interested.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: It was twice there was to have been and it didn't happen a meeting of countries willing to contribute troops. Does that still exist as something we all want to arrange?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, the -- yeah.
QUESTION: It hasn't disappeared because --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, it hasn't. It's just a matter of the timing, Barry.
QUESTION: It exists separately and parallel to the resolution?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, they haven't gotten together -- they haven't gotten together yet, but I expect that that meeting will take place. And it is very real, the fact that countries are out there that have come forward through diplomatic channels and said we want to contribute, we want to talk -- we want to have an understanding of exactly what kind of solution, diplomatic solution, there is going to be, but it is a very real fact that people -- that countries have stepped forward and said that -- raised their hand and said we are interested in contributing.
QUESTION: And it could be before or after the resolution? It's not coincident or attendant?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I would expect, Barry, that it probably happens very -- it would happen very close to the time that an initial resolution gets passed.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: You just said that you're working very closely with the French people, French Government. And as you know, two days ago Iranian Foreign Minister met with his Iranian counterpart.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Was it any special message from United States to Iranian Government or not?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any particular message that we passed through that channel.
QUESTION: The Spanish Foreign Minister, Mr. Moratinos, yesterday had meetings in Damascus and he seems to end up with the impression and position where he is much more satisfied with Syria's position in contributing to the stabilization of Lebanon than you have been recently and now today. This was -- is that because he has a direct dialogue with the Syria Government and you don't, first?
And the second thing are lots of (inaudible) in the area that Israel would make -- would use another pretext to expand its aggression and go into Syria. What kind of efforts is the United States trying to eliminate this kind of possibility and the leverage that it is using with Israel not to use its aggression against Syria in this era?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not aware of any comments from the Israeli Government saying that they wanted to expand the current conflict, so I'm not sure that you need to have that conversation. You'd have to talk to the Israeli Government about their intentions, but I haven't heard anything from them indicating that they wish to expand the conflict beyond its current area of operation. Now, you may be aware of some comments that I'm not of, but as a matter of fact, what I have heard from the Israeli Government very specifically has said they are not interested in expanding it.
In terms of Foreign Minister Moratinos's visit, I don't know that we've gotten a readout of what he's heard from the Syrians. We have a long -- a long history over the past several years with the Syrians encouraging them to take specific -- very specific steps to play a more positive role in the region. They really haven't. Oftentimes what you see from them is sort of a half step forward and they're saying that they have made positive movements when in fact there is much, much more work to be done.
QUESTION: Have you heard from the speaker of the parliament of Iraq about his visit to Damascus yesterday? He also has expressed a great satisfaction with the "promising cooperation" between the two governments in the coming --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, again, I don't know that we have gotten any readout from Mr. Mashhadani and his -- in his visit. But you know, look, the Syrian Government -- the experience over the past several years has been long on promises and short on fulfilling those promises.
QUESTION: Yes, Mr. McCormack. I have for you a question on behalf of the Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and I need your special attention since Mr. Gul (inaudible) a first-class gentleman, decent human being and sincere Turkish politician. In his big article today --
MR. MCCORMACK: I hear a "but" coming in all this.
QUESTION: Excuse me?
MR. MCCORMACK: I hear a "but" in this question. Yes.
QUESTION: In his big article today in Washington Post, Mr. Abdullah Gul raised the following question to your government regarding the Middle East crisis: Why has the sole superpower, the United States of America, could spread legacy of leadership for freedom and justice which really has the capability to stop now this tragedy, instead with a blind eye to the images of human suffering and a deaf ear to the crisis (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that the facts show that the United States Government has been deeply involved from very early on in trying to bring about an end to the violence in such a way that we don't end up right back where we were. So I guess I would characterize it a little differently.
QUESTION: One more question on Turkey. According to reports from Ankara, Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer based in Turkey, said the U.S. has to make a policy change if it really wants to regain the trust of the Turkish public. However, he also noted that he didn't believe that such a change was likely to happen. How do you respond to that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen his comments.
QUESTION: Thank you. This is on Latin America, on Venezuela.
MR. MCCORMACK: Are we all done with Lebanon? Okay.
QUESTION: Okay. Venezuela has been lobbying very hard not only in Latin America, which seems to be divided, but around the world to get a seat in the United Nations Security Council. Are you in any way concerned that Venezuela is going to get this seat? And if so, why?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's going to be a vote in the General Assembly about and among the GULAC group as to who gets that seat. I will only say that the Security Council is probably the single most international body that deals with weighty issues of war and peace. We've seen that over the past couple weeks. So it's a terribly important position and certainly we want to see a country assume -- countries assume seats on the Security Council that are dedicated to constructive engagement in the international community and certainly promoting those values which we share with many other members of the Security Council.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, but according to other governments like Chile, Guatemala, they country the U.S. is supporting for that is not representing a unity for Latin America.
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, there's going to be a decision among the GULAC group as to who they nominate and then there's going to be a vote among the General Assembly as to who assumes that seat, and we'll see how those votes turn out.
QUESTION: Yeah, I wanted to re-raise a question that a colleague of mine brought up yesterday. There's a controversy in the Indian parliament centered on alleged correspondence involving a former American ambassador, to wit that there was some sort of a high-level Indian personage spying and reporting back to Washington.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: And I just wondered what your take on it is.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we did look into -- we did look into the issue and a couple of things. One, we can't verify that this correspondence is, in fact, authentic. Two, the two individuals between -- in this alleged correspondence took place were -- at the time that is listed on the correspondence, were in fact working in private nongovernmental organizations. They weren't employed by the U.S. Government. And the third thing I would note is that the initial press reporting on this particular alleged correspondence was very selective in how it was put out. So I would, you know, again I don't see anything nefarious in the copy of the alleged correspondence that I have seen, whatever the case is. This is -- this would have been, if in fact it is an authentic correspondence, a correspondence between two private individuals not employed by the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: Change of subject, Somalia.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: The U.S. Government has said previously that you would like to strengthen the interim government in Somalia.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: And that is quickly collapsing and it's becoming a rather untenable sort of situation.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: I just wondered, do you still -- are you still looking to support this interim government which is really not doing rather well --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we are.
QUESTION: -- in handling the --
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, it's a difficult situation in Somalia and, you know, it has been for quite some time. Admittedly, this transitional government, Transitional Federal Institutions, they're relatively weak. And certainly they are not strengthened by the resignation of other ministers. I would point out that --
QUESTION: I think it's a third of the cabinet.
MR. MCCORMACK: I would point out that resignations do occur in all types of government. That said, this is a weak institution that we, as well as other members of the Somali Contact Group, are interested in building up and making more robust. So we have been having a lot of conversations with the Somalia Contact Group about how to do that. It is a very difficult situation in Somalia right now. There are a lot of tensions, including between Somalia and neighboring countries. So what we want to see is an effort by the international community to see what we can do to strengthen those Federal Institutions that exist right now, but it's a tough problem. I admit that.
QUESTION: And how would you suggest strengthening this group? I mean, what could you do? You've tried several methods, some reported, some not; to strengthen them and to help them out. So what are you looking at now? Are you looking at some sort of change in tact as to how you deal with this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're having a number of discussions right now. I don't think there's anything at this point I can get into further.
QUESTION: On Cuba, just the obligatory question on Cuba. Could this have been any kind of a test run for the Cuban regime that if something even more dire happens to Fidel it looks like they may have withstood it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I can't say. I mean, the -- our insight into the decision-making process of this particular dictatorship isn't that great. I don't think there are too many people outside that small core group of people who run Cuba, who really know what is going on. I don't have an assessment for you on Fidel Castro's health. I can only say that a transition to Raul Castro is just yet another imposition of this regime on the Cuban people of an authoritarian government that is, in virtually every way runs contradictory to the democratic values that you see in virtually every other country in the hemisphere.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, Steve.
QUESTION: On Ukraine. The Administration was a very strong supporter of the Orange Revolution.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: I think the President mentioned it in his State of the Union last year. Is there any concern then about the impending comeback of Mr. Yanukovich as Prime Minister?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a couple of things. We're very strong supporters of the Orange Revolution in as much as it represented a cry for free and fair elections and for democracy to take root -- true democracy, to take root in Ukraine. And the Orange -- and the leadership of the Orange Revolution did embody that. And they were successful in bringing about what the world said were relatively free and fair elections.
What we're seeing right now is the evolution of a democratic process in Ukraine. Mr. Yanukovich has come to the prime ministership in the old-fashion democratic way: he worked hard for votes, he campaigned, he politicked. And we are going to work with the government of Mr. Yanukovich just as we would with any other democratically elected government. We look forward to talking about the full range of issues between the United States and Ukraine. We want to have a good relationship with the Ukrainian Government. So he is the elected Prime Minister of the Ukrainian Government, appointed according to the terms of the Ukrainian constitution. So we look forward to working with his government.
QUESTION: What does it -- what does this auger for the idea of bringing Ukraine into NATO perhaps as soon as 2008, given the fact that Yanukovich is a strong -- strongly opposed to --
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see -- we'll see what his views are. That's going to be discussion that is held within NATO as well as between NATO and the Ukraine. I think that there is time to talk about what pathway there is for NATO in the Ukraine in the run-up to the summit next year or later this year.
QUESTION: Sean, can I bring your attention, please, yesterday's Washington Post story on Bangladesh by Mr. Selig Harrison that al-Qaidas are now -- have their foot in Bangladesh. Are you in touch with the Bangladeshi Government or anybody from there to the State Department about this or --
MR. MCCORMACK: We're concerned -- we're concerned about terrorism in Bangladesh as is the Bangladeshi Government. And we certainly stand ready to work with them. I don't have any particular information about the presence of al-Qaida individuals in Bangladesh. We do know that they have -- that they have had in the past a worldwide network. So we do have cooperation on the counterterrorism front with Bangladesh.
QUESTION: And the story also -- just to follow a story, also talk about that they have connection with -- back and forth to Afghanistan to --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any particular information on that, Goyal.
QUESTION: About North Korea. According to a South Korean think tank report, when North Korea fired missiles on July 4th, they targeted American troops in Japan. Have you got any further information?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information that would support that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, George.
QUESTION: Do you have any fresh guidance at all on Cuba?
MR. MCCORMACK: Any fresh guidance on -- sorry to disappoint. I don't have any new information for you, George, in terms of Fidel Castro's health --
QUESTION: No, no, no.
MR. MCCORMACK: -- or --
QUESTION: U.S. contact with third countries.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, nothing --
QUESTION: Urging them not to meddle in Cuban --
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new for you on that, George.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There is a delegation, six delegation, from Ethiopian parliament, most of them with opposition party that have been invited by State Department are currently here. Can you -- do you have anything to add?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll look into it for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:24 p.m.)
DPB # 130
Released on August 3, 2006