State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 7, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
August 7, 2006
Status of Draft Resolution / U.S., UNSC Members' Discussions /
Need for Durable Cessation of Violence / Need for Government of
Lebanon to have Full Control of its Territory / No Return to
Status Quo Ante
Secretary's Conversations with Foreign Leaders, Travel Plans
PM Siniora's Seven Point Plan
Prospects for UN Resolution This Week
AS Welch's meetings in Beirut
Secretary Rice's Statement on Radio Marti
Additional Assets being used to increase TV and Radio Reception in
U.S. Supports Democratic Transition in Cuba, will Provide
Shift of Assets
U.S. disturbed by Descent into Violence
Sanctions of Two Indian Entities under Iran Nonproliferation Act
India a Responsible Actor on Nonproliferation Issues
12:45 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don't have any opening statements for you, so we can get right into your questions.
QUESTION: Okay, on the subject, of course, we're all interested in mostly. Has Israel registered any objections or differences as far as you know with the draft resolution?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we've --
QUESTION: I mean, we've heard from the Arabs.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Look, we've been in touch with the Israeli Government concerning the resolution; we have been during the process of drafting the text. Barry, I'm going to let them speak for themselves concerning their views on the draft resolution. I'm not going to get into any particular diplomatic changes we might have with them. You've heard Secretary Rice talk to us this morning about the fact that there is -- each side in this, the Lebanese side as well as the Israeli side, they're going to have their own views about what should be on the agenda and how to move forward.
Are those views going to be consonant, exactly alike? No. But the international community does have a view. That is encapsulated in this draft resolution. I think there is going to be more discussion about it, Barry, over the coming days, the next couple days. Some representatives from the Arab League meeting that was just held in Beirut are going to be coming to New York. The Security Council is going to listen to what they have to say of course. But in the meantime, we are going to continue working on the draft, Barry.
QUESTION: I ask because the President I thought had said something like that and cast it in the future tense. Not everybody -- everybody's not going to like everything about this. I just hadn't seen any Israeli objections and I wondered, even if you don't want to provide specifics, if indeed Israel has registered any differences with the U.S. --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll let --
QUESTION: -- about what's been done so for?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll let them speak for themselves, Barry.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that there is agreement on the fact that, I think neither side, and Prime Minister Siniora in his seven-point plan has pointed this out as well, they don't want an armed group like Hezbollah to be able to roam freely in southern Lebanon to provoke this kind of crisis in the future. As a matter of fact, in his seven-point plan Prime Minister Siniora talks about the fact that the Lebanese Government would extend authority over all of its territory through its armed forces, such that there will be no weapons or authority other than that of the Lebanese state as stipulated in the Taif national reconciliation document.
So everybody agrees on the outcome. I think there are some questions on timing, on sequencing, Barry. But the foundation idea is there that you have the Lebanese armed forces extending control over all of Lebanese authority down into the south and that there would be some international force component there. So we continue to work through the issues. There are going to be a variety of different points of view. This is multilateral diplomacy. But Secretary Rice is still very hopeful that in the coming days we're going to have a resolution to vote on.
QUESTION: I don't want to go off on a tangent, but the speaker of the Lebanese Government is speaking for Hezbollah. I don't -- it's pretty hard to digest the notion that everybody wants Hezbollah to go away. But let me ask you about the Secretary's plans. I didn't hear any announcement, maybe it's been spread around down in Texas, but do you have -- is it known now when she might join the deliberations or maybe come back to Washington?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, she is working the phones. She is engaged in some intensive diplomacy, as she talked about herself just over the past couple days. She's had multiple conversations with Secretary General Annan, Prime Minister Siniora, Prime Minister Olmert. She spoke with Foreign Minister Steinmeier from Germany just this morning as well and against spoke with Secretary General Annan this morning. So she is working these issues from Texas. She is obviously there consulting with the President as well.
And we have teams in the region. Ambassador Feltman, Ambassador Jones, David Welch is in the region as well. They're working with various governments in the region. We have Nick Burns, Under Secretary Nick Burns, who is back here in Washington coordinating efforts here.
So we're working hard on this, Barry. Like I said, I expect in terms of the timing we are still hopeful in the coming days that we will have a resolution to vote on that brings about an end to the violence on a sustainable basis or lays the foundation for that durable cessation of violence.
QUESTION: Is she going to the UN? Do you know when or whether she is --
MR. MCCORMACK: We don't have a date for that yet, Barry. We'll keep you up to date on her travel plans. She is coming back from Texas today.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, to Washington. To Washington, yes.
QUESTION: But the Greek Foreign Minister is coming in this evening so does the Secretary plan to be there tomorrow for the deliberations? Apparently there are going to be deliberations along with Arab ministers in New York.
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you up to date on her travels, Sue. At this point I think that is going to be a Security Council meeting that the Perm Reps attend and then the Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa will be there and representatives from UAE and Qatar, which is of course a Council member.
QUESTION: And if Lebanon has very strong reservations about this French-U.S. draft of the resolution, how can you go ahead with the resolution without the full support of the Lebanese Government?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we are of course listening to what they have to say. I know Prime Minister Siniora had some comments just this morning. We are in close touch with Prime Minister Siniora's government on this. As Ambassador Bolton just noted several minutes ago, we have been in contact with the governments all throughout this drafting process, so it's not as though this was a surprise that was just laid on them.
So we are of course going to listen to what they have to say. I will reiterate what Secretary Rice said: The Lebanese Government and the Israeli Government, they will have views, they will have agenda items; they're not necessarily going to -- there's not necessarily going to be complete overlap among those things. And the international community will work with both sides and come up with a resolution that is -- we believe will be effective in bringing about a durable cessation to the violence.
And that will probably come in phases, as you've heard the President and Secretary Rice talk about, but you want to get a resolution that does a couple of things. You want a resolution that can be implemented, that can be effectively implemented; otherwise, it's not worth the paper that it's written on. And also you want -- and everybody agrees -- that the Lebanese armed forces should be in that southern area. There shouldn't be a vacuum left just to let Hezbollah flow back in to return to the status quo ante. Everybody agrees that there shouldn't be foreign forces on Lebanese soil. I think that there is agreement both on the Lebanese as well as the Israeli side on that.
So there's a lot to work with here. There's a lot of agreement, as Secretary Rice said. There's a lot more agreement than I think you all are giving credit for. There are still some issues and differences to be worked out. We're working on those. And this is multilateral diplomacy. And while it does take some time, we are working on an urgent basis on the matter.
QUESTION: Well, one more question. What is the U.S. position on the buffer zone? Do you think that's a good idea?
MR. MCCORMACK: A buffer zone, I don't know that we've used that term necessarily. But what we have talked about is not returning to the status quo ante. We all know what that was -- Hezbollah, an armed militia, a state within a state, able to roam freely in southern Lebanon and be able to provoke this kind of crisis at a whim. Nobody wants to return to that state. And as a matter of fact, Prime Minister Siniora himself talked about that in his seven-point plan.
People have talked -- raised the question of, well, how has Hezbollah -- you know, how are you going to get Hezbollah to agree to this, how are they going to do this? Well, certainly we would hope that there is international pressure on Hezbollah to agree to any Security Council resolution that is passed, to abide by its terms. And certainly, we would expect the Lebanese Government that would be the -- essentially party to that resolution to live up to those terms. Prime Minister Siniora has agreed as much in his seven-point plan, that there wouldn't be this terrorist group allowed to roam armed in southern Lebanon. So that is the operating concept. Everybody agrees on it. We agree on it. It's one of the keys to not allowing a return to the status quo ante.
QUESTION: What's the U.S. view on possibly having only one resolution, on working what you now envision as a second resolution back into the single one?
MR. MCCORMACK: Secretary Rice said the one that we have on the table now is, we believe, a solid foundation from which to proceed and that we envision, as do the French as well as others, a second follow-on resolution. You want the time between those resolutions to be as short as possible. Part of what will occur in that interregnum would be the generation of this international force, deciding upon who would join it. There are, as I mentioned last week, a number of states who have already come forward to say they want to be part of it. And our Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs John Hillen has gone up to New York to really start to lay some more of the groundwork for those discussions and for that force generation so that when you -- in the event you do have this first resolution passed, you're just not starting from zero. You actually have some work already done. So we're anticipating that. And we would hope that that -- the passage of that second resolution, which would give the mandate for that international force, would happen as quickly as possible. But there are a number of different options that are being examined. Ultimately, what you do want to happen is you want to have that turnover of territory to the LAF, the Lebanese armed forces, backed up by some international force.
QUESTION: Because the Lebanese themselves are wanting a single resolution to take care of all issues from the outset of the resolution. As Sue alluded to, it's kind of difficult to move forward if they're saying, hey, put all the political stuff in the front, in the first resolution, and I know that this may be a stretch for the U.S., but they believe that Hezbollah would then stand down.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there is a lot of the political stuff in the first resolution. It does lay out the political framework. You also have 1559.
In terms of process, we're working process but the substance is the same. You don't want that vacuum, as President Bush referred to. So nobody wants that. The Lebanese don't want that. The Israelis don't want it. Certainly the international community doesn't want it. So we will work the process issues to ensure that you don't have that situation.
QUESTION: Is it conceivable to you that Hezbollah would stand down and thereby an international force would not be needed in Lebanon?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't think you want to count on the goodwill of the armed wing of Hezbollah.
QUESTION: The Secretary says was prepared to take some time to work with the parties who have objections to parts of this resolution.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: The draft. But is the U.S. prepared to make changes to the resolution as it's written down on paper?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think, well, as with any draft, it's a draft. We think that the draft that we have now is the right foundation. If parties, individuals, groups, have suggestions, language changes, different ideas they want to bring to the table that strengthen the resolution, make it more effective in the considered view of the international community, including the United States, then of course we're going to listen to those. We're going to listen to those points of view. Part of what Ambassador Bolton is doing up in New York is he is listening to the different viewpoints, different ideas, language changes. He's going to listen to what the representatives from the -- dispatched from the Arab League meeting might have to say. So we, of course, are open to listening to those views. And if they make sense, then we'll certainly consider them.
QUESTION: Would the Secretary consider meeting the Arab ministers at some stage?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, she's had a lot of phone calls with Foreign Ministers from the region. Over the weekend she's had a number of different calls. On Friday, she spoke with the Saudi Foreign Minister, Egyptian Foreign Minister, Jordanian Foreign Minister. That reprises a cycle of calls she had earlier, about a week prior. So we're in -- she is in close contact. She has, I think, a good idea of the pulse of what's going on in the region, the thinking in the region. We of course have our Embassy, is working hard there -- as I mentioned, our Ambassadors in Lebanon as well as Israel -- David Welch is out there as well. So I think we have a good idea of what the ideas are that are coming from the region and what the mood and the tone is.
QUESTION: So David Welch did end up going to Beirut over the weekend?
MR. MCCORMACK: He did. He did.
QUESTION: You didn't say.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: How was --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, but hold on a second. I mean, I think for obvious reasons I wasn't going to talk about David's travel itinerary at the time when he was in Beirut. So go ahead.
QUESTION: How was his reception there? Was he able to move the resolution along with the Lebanese or is that something you're leaving more to the French? Could you just kind of describe his conversations and the receptivity there?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, he is walking them through it. Clearly they've had some comments both in public and in private. You've heard the public ones. I'll reserve the private ones for private conversations. He is there to help walk the Siniora government through what the resolution is, what it means, what follows from it and to do the diplomacy on the ground. I understand that the French also have representatives in the region. I think that they are -- we certainly are in close contact with the French. They are on separate tracks but we're in pretty close contact. So I think we each have a good idea of what the other is doing.
QUESTION: And they're walking him through the seven-point plan, I imagine?
MR. MCCORMACK: I imagine that they talked about that, sure.
MR. MCCORMACK: Joel.
QUESTION: Is the Secretary cognizant of the fact that in the three locations, meaning Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, much of the root cause of this are the Shiites and you also have Muqtada al-Sadr with his new Mahdi army in a section of Baghdad. Of course he fomented this rebellion or uprising in Fallujah and Najaf. Through all this, there has been this media outrage in some of the Arab locations with Nasrallah being heralded as the next, if you would, bin Laden. Is the Secretary willing to talk to Shiites directly?
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, she does. You know, when she was in Beirut she spoke with Speaker Beri, Nabih Beri. Of course she's willing to speak with Shia and Sunni alike.
Look, I guess I would point out one thing, Joel, and that is I think we're all aware of the historical fault lines in the Middle East. There are a variety of cross-cutting fault lines. Some of them have to do with differences between Shia and Sunni and various other sects. But I think that the more interesting fault line that has emerged out of this current crisis is really between moderation and extremism. Although you do have those forces of extremism -- President Bush referred to them as Islamo-fascism -- who wants to stop any progress, advancement of democracy and freedom throughout the region. They want to take the region back to a darker, less progressive time.
And then there are forces of moderation. You saw just several years ago, the UN Human Development Report, in which those voices talked about the importance of the region moving forward, greater freedom, greater democracy, more prosperity, more free enterprise, better education. Those are the forces with which we align ourselves. And I think that if you look across the region, Joel, that those are really the forces that dominate, that are the larger numbers right now and ultimately those are the forces that will win. This is a battle between forces of extremism and violence on one hand and the forces of moderation on the other. Those who seek to advance the situation of people of the region through democracy and through greater prosperity.
Okay. Oh, wait a minute. Kirit, you were too slow.
QUESTION: No. I wasn't going say thank you. I was going to start (inaudible).
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: Change the subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: On Friday, Secretary Rice addressed the Cuban people over Radio and TV Marti. Do you have any sense of how successful she was in getting her message across? I know people were concerned that the signal would be jammed or something.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I know that we have taken additional steps. I believe the Office of Broadcasting that handles Cuba have put additional assets at the disposal of the broadcasters there. And I think that their hope is that those additional assets will help get the message through. I think that there is, as I understand it, sort of uneven reception across Cuba for Radio and TV Marti. But -- and I don't have the latest figures for you exactly how many people listen to them. But she thinks the message is going to get through, one way or the other
QUESTION: Could you talk about the additional assets?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, just on Friday, George, we put out a statement and talked about the Office of Cuba Broadcasting announcing the beginning of airborne broadcasting of the TV and Radio Marti to the Cuban people. We believe that this is part of a fulfillment of the President's initiative to try to get more information through to the Cuban people. And as for the specifics of exactly what those platforms are, George, we'll be happy to get you more information after the briefing.
QUESTION: Now this is not the new airplane that we're talking about. This is just -- you're just announcing that the one they've been using all along.
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I think there are additional assets that they --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Touching on that one. There's now been a statement by Roberto Retamar out of Cuba that says a succession has taken place in Cuba. There's also some discussion that he left out the word "temporarily." Do you have any read on whether they are actually saying Raul has now succeeded Fidel?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't at this point, Teri, but our view is well known, that would just be the replacement of one dictator with another. And that it is our belief that the Cuban people thirst for democracy, thirst for the right to choose their own leaders through the ballot box. And we certainly would align ourselves with those aspirations. You heard from the President and you heard from Secretary Rice in that regard. But as for this specific statement, I don't have anything new for you.
QUESTION: And do I conclude correctly that you're saying that even if it were a succession of Raul from Fidel, it's basically irrelevant because there's not enough change at the top then?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, it would be a replacement of one dictator for another.
QUESTION: At what point will the State Department implement the Cuba plan? You know, will you send in your advisors very quickly and have advisors within weeks on the ground?
MR. MCCORMACK: If you look at it, if you read through it, what it does is it envisions if there is a -- and these aren't the exact words, you can go look at the plan itself -- if the Cuban people make very clear in tangible ways that there is a transition to democracy, we're going to do everything that we can to help them through organizing elections as well as other means. But this is something -- and again, it's probably better because people spend a lot of time drafting this language and going through it and printing up a report. I'm not going to try to reprise everything that's in it right now. But if you can look at --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) be implemented?
MR. MCCORMACK: That's a political judgment ultimately. You know, that is --
QUESTION: It's not happened yet, I take it?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: No. Okay.
MR. MCCORMACK: I mean, ultimately that is a judgment made by policymakers.
Yes, sir. Back there.
QUESTION: On North Korea.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Some reports said after the United States froze account, North Koreans' account in Macao banks, North Korea changed it account to a bank in Singapore. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information in that regard. And it was actually not the United States that froze the assets in that bank, by the way. So, just a point of clarification.
QUESTION: There's been a massacre of aid workers in northeastern Sri Lanka. Do you have any comments concerning that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, it's a terrible situation, Joel. And we're quite disturbed by the descent into violence and we're going to do everything that we can, working with the other members of the international community that have been deeply involved in trying to help the Sri Lankan Government bring peace to that troubled island. So it is certainly a disturbing development and we're going to do what we can to try to bring at least a return to an end to the violence and then ultimately go down the road of any negotiations that would bring a permanent end to the violence.
QUESTION: What is that, Sean? Are you saying that you're going to do something as a result of this horrible tragedy? You're going to step up efforts? I mean, which have already been working groups and --
MR. MCCORMACK: You know it's a terrible, terrible situation. Under Secretary Burns just at the morning staff meeting was talking about this and he is somebody who has been -- paid personal attention to this issue so be aware that he did ask our people to see what we can do, working with the other members of the international community who are deeply involved in this issue to see if there's anything that we can do to bring about a return to a cessation of the violence and then ultimately move down the road to a more lasting peace.
QUESTION: Do you have any updates on the Somali Contact Group? Last week you said that you were assessing how to bolster the transitional government.
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check for you, Sue, to see exactly what they've done.
QUESTION: Sean, some opponents on the Hill of the India civilian nuclear assistance deal are suggesting that the Administration withheld information about the sanction announcement last Friday. As you recall, we sanctioned a couple Indian companies for doing business with Iran and there's an insinuation that somehow this information about the activities of the sanctioned Indian firms was withheld deliberately so that it would not affect the congressional vote about ten days ago on the civilian nuclear deal.
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Dave, I'm not aware of any attempt to deliberately withhold information from Congress in that regard. There is a tightly controlled process that considers these issues when the identified firms -- private firms, I believe, in this case -- that are engaged in activities that are contrary to American law. And certainly I think people would understand that for a variety of different reasons when you're in that process of consideration, not only for the reputation of the country -- of the company but also to make sure that you don't tip your hand, that that's done in a pretty fairly closed way.
There is a process whereby these decisions are made public in the Federal Register. And there is -- on issues related to nonproliferation -- there's a constant dialogue with the Hill. In this particular case I don't know -- I'm not aware of any particular broach of etiquette or past conduct or even regulation. If you have anything else more specific for me, I'll be happy to look into it for you.
QUESTION: Wouldn't this reflect in general that India's record on nonproliferation is not terrifically good?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, David, look at the announcement. I think if you -- as I understand it, there are 33 companies that are currently sanctioned under the Iran Nonproliferation Act. They're from a variety of different countries. But we believe the Indian Government itself is a responsible actor, very responsible actor on the front of nonproliferation.
You are going to find private entities from around the world and you are going to find state-controlled entities where those -- where the economy is dominated by the state who do break American law. And when they do break American law, we will hold them to account. We do so through the sanctioning process. But we believe that the Indian Government is -- has a very strong record overall on the nonproliferation front and that the deal negotiated between the United States and India on nuclear issues is a good one for the U.S., is a good one for the international community on the nonproliferation front.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)
DPB # 131
Released on August 7, 2006