State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 30, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
August 30, 2006
Status on Meeting Demands of August 31 Deadline / IAEA Report
Iran's Compliance with 1696 / Chapter 7 Under Article 41
Political Directors Meetings with P-5-+1 / Nick Burns Travel /
Consultations By John Bolton
Security Council and P-5+1 Offer for Negotiations / Diplomatic
Relations With Iran by Individual States
US Reaction to Release of Dissident in Tehran
Increasing Diplomatic Pressure / Trying to Change Iranian Behavior
/ Menu of Possible Sanctions / Real Resolution to Send Substantial
Signal / International Obligations / Under Nonproliferation Treaty
/ Meeting Demands of International Community
Diplomatic Accomplishments on Iranian Issue / Tough Diplomacy
Former President Khatami's Visit to Washington
Various Tracks of IAEA and Security Council / What is Being Asked
Responses of Former President Khatami / Nature of Iranian Regime /
Issuance of Visa
Contact Group Meeting in Sweden / Communique Issued / Situation
Somalia Fluid / Islamic Courts / US Encourages Dialogue Among
VENEZUELA / SYRIA
President Chavez's Visit to Syria
Assistant Secretary Frazer's Return from Meeting with President
President Bashir's Response / Darfur Peace Agreement
ISRAEL / LEBANON
Hezbollah's Actions / Full Implementation of 1701
Decisions Whether to Have Diplomatic Relations / Positive Signs of
US Representative in Donor's Conference in Stockholm
PKK / Special Envoy General Ralston's Travel
Implementation of Recent Security Council Resolution
Prevention on Export of Technology
Kenneth Tomlinson and Broadcasting Board of Governors
Inspector General's Report / Issue of Release of Executive Summary
12:45 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. How are you? Good. Well, we don't have any opening statements. I don't have any opening statements, so we can get right into your questions.
QUESTION: Do you have any indications possibly from the European Union, Mr. Solana, whether or what Iran might say as the deadline comes down on them tomorrow?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see, Barry. Thus far, they haven't given any indication that they are going to meet the just demands of the UN Security Council, the IAEA Board of Governors. In fact, they've gone off in the other direction. It seems as though they have made it a point to try to defy the international community up to this point. We'll see what happens in the run-up to the deadline which is tomorrow and we'll also take a look at what the IAEA report has to say about their compliance.
We don't expect it to say at this point anything other than that they have not lived up to what the UN Security Council has demanded that they do, required them to do. And if they do not meet the requirements of the UN Security Council resolution then we would expect that the parties would immediately begin formal discussions about a resolution that would call for sanctions. That is what was agreed to as a passage of 1696 as well as what was agreed to in Paris, among the P-5+1 and we would expect that process to begin. It would be triggered if we don't get the kind of answer from Iran saying that they are going to comply with what 1696 has asked them to do.
QUESTION: Small question.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Clarification -- UN sanctions?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Because there are other ways to apply sanctions.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. You can go through -- we talked about that --
QUESTION: Sure, many --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- the individual countries can take actions on their own. But no, this would be -- well, you know, what the agreement, if you look back at Paris what the Security Council resolution talks about, it talks about Chapter 7 under Article 41.
QUESTION: What then are Ambassador Bolton's marching orders at the UN tomorrow, should there be a Security Council meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think what you'll see first, Anne, is that you'll see probably a political directors meetings of the P-5+1. Nick Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, is going to be traveling to Europe, I believe next week, early next week. That would probably be the first convocation of that group looking at specific language for a resolution. We, of course, have some of our own ideas in terms of language and what would be in the resolution. But of course, we have to begin those discussions. So early next week, Nick will probably travel to Europe, then I would expect you'll really see the focus shift to New York with John Bolton negotiating specific language of the resolution. I'm sure that John will probably start consultations among his counterparts up in New York after the 31st, but the first formal meeting I think will probably be Nick Burns with P-5+1.
QUESTION: Is there a fixed date and place for that meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you. I think it's early next week.
QUESTION: And where?
QUESTION: But it's a place, it's not a tour?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, place, yeah. It's a meeting. He's not doing a circuit.
QUESTION: Is this meeting going to take place regardless of whether Iran complies with the demands of the UN or not? Or is this just sort of the worst case scenario?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think this -- well, I think everybody's reasonable expectation, based upon their actions up to this point that they don't intend to comply. They have said that they don't intend to comply. And we'll see if they pull a rabbit out of the hat before the 31st. I don't expect -- I don't think anybody expects that at the moment. But look, we remain hopeful that they will take up the Security Council, the P-5+1, on its offer for negotiations. They have to meet the conditions for those negotiations. It addresses the – this approach addresses Iran's stated concerns and we'll see what their reaction is.
QUESTION: Before the deadline, is the U.S. privy to any meetings leading up to it among the Europeans perhaps a last minute back channel discussions to get them to do something before the deadline?
MR. MCCORMACK: You can talk to various countries involved, whether or not --
QUESTION: I mean, we would be monitoring that, I'm thinking of --
MR. MCCORMACK: Monitoring -- we're certainly in touch with the P-5+1, of course we are. As for what contacts they may be having with Iran, you can talk to them. Many of these states have diplomatic relations with Iran, so I would imagine that they probably are encouraging Iran to respond positively. But thus far we have not seen any result of those entreaties.
QUESTION: Sean, are U.S. officials in possession of the upcoming IAEA report?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you, James. I don't know. I don't know when it's -- if it's been distributed or not.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any reason to believe, regardless of what that report finds, that Iran has continued to enrich uranium at whatever levels --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I know that there have been news reports out there about Iranian activities concerning enrichment of uranium. That, I think, would be a topic addressed by the IAEA report. I'm going to let that report come out and then -- because they would be the ones on the ground actually doing the observations and inspections there, so I'm going to let that rest until we see the report out in public.
QUESTION: So you have no idea what's in the report, aside from the press reports --
MR. MCCORMACK: James, we're going to wait to see and withhold any public comment until we have the IAEA report publicly released.
QUESTION: Do you see the release of the dissident today in Tehran as in any way related to the nuclear case or attempt to -- you know, improve the public face?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. He should have never been there in the first place, but I -- you know, I don't know. I can't divine for you the motivations of this regime. Certainly, their decision-making processes are somewhat opaque, not being a open, democratic style of government. So I don't know what their motivations might be. Certainly, we welcome the release, as I would just stand by pointing out what I started with, that he shouldn't have been there in the first place. It's not the behavior of a -- it's not the way a government should treat its citizens.
QUESTION: If we can go back to the meeting of Mr. Solana with Mr. Larijani next week, do you see that as useful since it will be after the deadline?
MR. MCCORMACK: One thing about the deadline; what it is, it's a trigger for the Security Council to begin discussions about sanctions resolutions. It doesn't mean, at any point along the line here, even while those discussions are ongoing, that Iran can't come to the P-5+1 and say: We are going to meet the conditions of the Security Council Resolution 1696. We are going to suspend all enrichment and reprocessing-related activities. And if that is, in fact, confirmed and verified, then there can be negotiations. So the 31st deadline doesn't mean that those things can't happen.
Our approach all along has been to try to increase diplomatic pressure, other kinds of pressure on the Iranian regime to get it to change its behavior. We've been doing this over the course of working with the P-5+1 and the Europeans over the past year, year and a half. So the idea is to try to get them to change their behavior. That's what we want to happen.
And we are now at the next step where we believe that sanctions are merited and we hope that sanctions will send a clear, strong signal to the Iranian regime that this is a matter of utmost concern and serious concern to the international community and that they need to change their behavior, and that if they don't change their behavior that they are going to become more and more isolated, which is not something certainly that we would want to see for the Iranian people. But again, it would be their government, the unelected few, who would be leading them down that pathway. We don't want to see that, but that is the pathway that the Iranian regime is now choosing for their own regime as well as for their own people.
QUESTION: How aggressive does the Secretary believe the first round of sanctions should be?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we talked -- again, I talked a little bit about the fact that we want to increase pressure. We think that the first resolution should send a substantial signal to the Iranian regime that this is serious business and that the international community means what it says.
As for the specific list of what might be included in that resolution, I'm not going to prejudge what might be in there. That will be a matter of some discussion, I would expect intensive discussion, in the coming month among the P-5+1 as well as the Security Council. The agreement among the P-5+1 was that there was an agreed upon list -- menu -- of sanctions that they would consider employing but what was left for further discussion and negotiation was at which point -- which sanctions at what point would be implemented and included in the resolution. So that's going to be really the focus of discussion, James, you know, what exactly is in that resolution. But we think that this should be a real resolution sending a substantial signal to them.
QUESTION: Do you sense any backpedaling on the part of any other P-5 members in terms of their willingness to review that menu and select some items at all?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, James, you've seen -- there are all sorts of public comments out there. In terms of formal discussions, I wouldn't say that formal discussions had begun on this. Let's wait to see. Let's wait the extra day to see what the, I guess, final answer for this phase of the diplomacy is from the Iranian regime, then we can talk about who stands where with respect to what sanctions.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) a strong statement but containing no specific sanctions.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I said sending a substantial signal. But --
QUESTION: With action in it, not just another call --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, this has to be a real resolution. Yeah. What we're talking about, Barry, and again what the agreement was -- Chapter 7 Resolution -- under Article 41 of Chapter 7. And that's the article that governs economic sanctions kind of activities. But this -- you know, this does. It has to be a real action, Barry. I mean this is serious business. I mean, we are talking here about a regime that has, we believe, broached its international obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty.
They made a deal that they would get assistance from the international community with their civilian nuclear power program in exchange for not seeking nuclear weapons. Well, we believe that they broke that bargain. And let's just think about for a second an Iranian -- this Iranian regime in possession of nuclear weapons. That is a terrifically destabilizing of -- that would be a terrifically destabilizing event in the Middle East. I don't think anybody wants to see that happen, certainly not among the P-5+1 and members of the Security Council. I think there is unanimity among the P-5+1 that nobody believes that Iran can be allowed to develop and possess nuclear weapons. Everybody agrees that that is a destabilizing event. We're working the diplomacy to make sure that that does not happen.
And we believe that at this point we have reached a point that there needs to be a real action by the Security Council, Barry. I'm not saying that this would be the final steps or actions with regard to sanctions. There could be further steps. We would hope that there wouldn't be. We would hope that the Iranian regime would get the message, get the signal and change its behavior because that would be in the interest of the Iranian people. And if they're truly there to act in the best interests of the Iranian people, they would take up the offer of the international community and they would meet the demands of the international community.
QUESTION: Are you looking at a range of action outside of sanctions when you say that there could be further steps? What are you referring to there?
MR. MCCORMACK: What I was talking about there -- I'm not saying -- I'm not trying to lay out for you that this resolution would employ all the possible sanctions that are on that menu. Again, the approach has been to increase the pressure on the Iranian regime. So there could be -- if we do get -- look down the road -- if you do get to the point where let's say tomorrow they don't meet the demands of the international community and there is passage of a sanctions resolution, those sanctions are applied and you still have continued defiance, again, you could go back again for more sanctions. So I was just trying to lay out a process for you.
QUESTION: So --
MR. MCCORMACK: Now in terms of we've always talked about the fact that there can also be other tracks where individual states or individual states banding together to take other individual actions that might increase pressure on the Iranian regime. There's been certainly a lot of reporting done, and the Department of Treasury has talked about the fact that they are looking at what the possibilities are with respect to the international financial system and how you might use some of those levers to get the Iranian regime to try to change its behavior. And I would expect that those -- again, if we continue to see this kind of Iranian behavior, I would expect that those discussions among individual states would probably progress. You'd probably see more of those discussions.
QUESTION: Do you see this likely scenario as being you have one load of sanctions to begin with and then there's another deadline set, but if you don't do so, so then these sanctions would be imposed? That it's a sort of turntable of ratcheting up the pressure?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't want to get into whether or not there would be a deadline in this resolution and what might follow it. I'm just trying to lay out the process for you that it is a process of increasing, building the pressure. I'm trying to set it out for you so you don't expect to see that whole list of sanctions that was on that menu agreed upon by the P-5+1 all in this resolution. I don't expect that that's what you'll see.
QUESTION: But taking a step back, I mean, you have been, as you say, pursuing this graduated approach, increasing the pressure. So far, apparently, to utterly no avail. I mean, they haven't stopped doing any of the things you've asked them to stop doing. What gives you any confidence that this next stage in that graduated approach will have any different effect?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I guess I would differ in the way the question is posed. There has been a lot accomplished in the past year and a half. Let's look at where we began when back in, what, 2005, winter of 2005, or January 2005, February 2005. We had a position where you had politically and on the diplomatic scene you had the United States on one hand, you had Iran on the other hand, and there was this sense among the Europeans that they were somehow interposed between the U.S. and Iran. You know, we've talked a lot about how we changed that -- the decisions that President Bush took, Secretary Rice and her diplomatic activity -- and how we now have a coherent approach among the European powers and now including Russia and China. And what you have is a coherent international group that is speaking with one voice to the Iranian regime, "You need to change your behavior."
We also now have the Security Council on record demanding, requiring Iran to change its behavior. Now at some point we hope and we believe that that approach will work, that that diplomatic approach will work. Clearly we have not reached that point yet and the Iranian regime has done everything that it possibly could over that period of time to try to break off individual states from that group, from the P-5+1, from the Security Council, to try to convince them, try to peel people away. They have engaged in, you know, a really extraordinary road show in which their officials have been traveling around the globe trying to gin up support for their position, one of continued defiance of the international community.
And frankly, if you look at the results of what they have been trying to do on the diplomatic front, they have failed. They failed on the Board of Governors, they failed on the Security Council, and they now find themselves very, very isolated. So we are -- we believe we're working the right track in terms of working diplomacy. We are fully aware of what the stakes are here. I think the other countries involved in this are fully aware of what the stakes are and we take it very seriously. But we think we're following the right approach right now.
QUESTION: Can you, at this point, say what you think the tipping point would be? I mean, you said if we were on the right path and eventually, now that everyone is arm in arm pursuing the same goal, that will work. Well, when? I mean, what is it that makes the --
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, again, you have to get inside of the decision-making processes of the Iranian regime and that is not somewhere where I am at this point. I couldn't tell you what it is that would do it for them. But I think that if the Iranian people had a clear sense of the cost/benefit -- the opportunity costs involved here of what is being offered to them, I think that they might have a different opinion. But I'm pretty sure that they don't have a clear view of what exactly has been offered to them.
QUESTION: You said that you're expecting intensive discussions in the coming month. Does it mean that any sanction wouldn't be applicable for a month?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. What I'm trying to -- what I was trying to hint at in saying that is that we have all seen the diplomatic sausage-making process in putting together these resolutions. It's hard-fought, tough diplomacy because the issues are important and people want to take them seriously, so I'm not trying to predict how long discussions might take in the Security Council. We would certainly be ready to do something very quickly and we would hope that the Security Council would be ready to act very, very quickly.
But I think that if you look at the history of these kinds of things and these kind of topics and even just the history of negotiations over this particular topic in the Security Council, it takes some time. But like I said, we're prepared to move immediately. That doesn't -- you know, that reality certainly, in no way, diminishes our sense of urgency in taking up this matter and coming to closure on a resolution.
QUESTION: On a related issue --
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: President Khatami -- former President Khatami is coming into town tomorrow. He's meant to arrive in Washington. Do you have any --
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: -- plans to meet with him? It's sort of --
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: -- coincidental that it's in August -- on August 31st that he's coming.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Also, do you have any details on the planned meeting between President Carter and Khatami? Did he ask for your -- for the State Department's permission to meet him? Has there been any sort of correspondence backwards and forwards on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: He doesn't need our permission. I don't know what, if any, contact there has been with former President Carter. He's a private citizen and he is free to meet with whomever he pleases.
QUESTION: Do you think it's a good idea for him to --
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, he is a former president and he can make his own decisions about whom he meets with.
QUESTION: I asked this question of Tom yesterday and --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well -- and you have an answer, so you don't need to ask the question again. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, I'm just -- I'm prompted to ask it again because I think that it strikes me as sane, but maybe not other people as sane, but here is a man who was a president --
MR. MCCORMACK: Do you frequently find yourself in that position, James?
QUESTION: All too often. Here is a person who was president of a country that we have identified as the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism and president of that country at a time during which we have alleged those -- that leadership to have been exerted. And yet, here he is, coming to our country and we're not going to do anything to pick his brain about those terrorist activities or about this nuclear program, all of which he was probably as president of the country, an integral player in. And so my question is, once again, why are we not detaining and interrogating this man?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, James, you know, he's free to come clean about Iran's terrorist activities. We would certainly encourage him to be as open and realistic about Iran's current and past behavior as possible.
Look, he was invited here at first to attend I think a UN activity. He's given a G visa, which is the appropriate kind of visa to attend those kinds of activities. And then there are also other private U.S. organizations who invited him to visit other U.S. cities. The decision was made that he would be granted a visa and that he could travel to other U.S. cities, specific U.S. cities. He will be able to speak his mind and, you know, that may include criticism of the United States.
That's -- excuse me.
QUESTION: I was going to ask something related to that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Well, hold on. Let me finish. You can ask afterwards. Yeah, that is not something that people in his country are allowed to do. And we would hope that these organizations and the individuals attending these events might take the opportunity to ask him hard questions about Iran's role in the world, how it treats its own people, and why it continues to be the world's most significant state sponsor of terror -- whether it is -- why they view that as a useful constructive behavior. I know President Khatami is -- former President Khatami has said he wanted to start a dialogue of civilizations. Well, you know, certainly sponsorship of terror is not a hallmark of a civilized kind of behavior.
QUESTION: Has President Khatami made an official request to meet officials from the U.S.?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of. I'll check for you.
QUESTION: And you have still not requested to meet with him? And you're encouraging him to speak to America about Iran, but yet --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- look, you know, he -- the U.S. Government didn't invite him here. I wouldn't say that we are encouraging him to do one thing or another. He accepted invitations from UN-sponsored meetings and private U.S. organizations, so you can speak to them about what they might be encouraging him or not encouraging him to do.
I would encourage those organizations and the individuals attending those events to ask him some hard questions, ask him some pointed questions, ask him the kind of questions that if asked in Iran would get the questioner thrown in jail. Those are the kind of questions that should be asked.
QUESTION: Is that reasonable though as an invited guest to expect their host to ask such pointed questions? Wouldn't the State Department miss an opportunity to do so itself while he's here?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we didn't invite him. He was granted a visa by the U.S. Government. I would think this is an opportunity to ask him the kind of questions that might be on the mind of the American people.
QUESTION: One more crack at this just purely for rhetorical sake. You tell us you're engaged in a war on terror. You tell us that this man was president of a country that was the leading state sponsor of terror for several years. And you tell us when you have him in your midst and on our soil, you have no intention of interrogating him for the intelligence value that would provide in this war on terror. Does that make sense?
MR. MCCORMACK: James, I answered the question.
QUESTION: I want to clarify some earlier points made. You were talking about the menu of possible punishments and sanctions. It's my understanding that that menu was shown to Iran when the incentives were shown; when the package of incentives was shown, the package of disincentives was also shown. Is that correct?
MR. MCCORMACK: You can check with Mr. Solana. He was authorized to, within the bounds of what he thought was appropriate, and he's had a couple of meetings with them, to talk about the incentive side and the disincentive side. I'll check for you, Farah, to see in what level of detail he went through. There's been plenty of reporting on the possible sanctions in there, but I'll check for you to see what exactly he discussed with them.
QUESTION: Okay. And going then, you're -- there's a lot of talk about sort of assembling a coalition of the willing outside of the Security Council to --
MR. MCCORMACK: That's your term, not mine.
QUESTION: Sure. To impose sanctions outside the Security Council.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: That's always been talked about, in my understanding, in the case -- in the event that the Security Council wouldn't pass a resolution. But you seem to be saying today that that might be in addition, that states individually could impose additional sanctions or would be encouraged to impose additional sanctions outside of the framework of the --
MR. MCCORMACK: We've -- all throughout this process, if you go back -- I can't even -- months, when we started talking about the P-5+1, the U.S. joining this effort, we always talked about the fact that there were different tracks. There was the IAEA track, there was the UN Security Council track, there was also the track of individual states. And that has -- that remains open and viable regardless of what may be going on on the Security Council track or the IAEA track.
QUESTION: And then my final question is about the Iranian counterproposal. It doesn't seem like there's going to be an official response to them, but there are a lot of sort of analysts who say that there might be a third solution in that proposal, the door might -- you know, that the Iranians might have some kind of door open in that proposal and that the fact that the U.S. and everyone is examining it might, you know, prove that some are still interested in whether or not the Iranians --
MR. MCCORMACK: It's real simple. It's very simple. The conditions for them. You know, we're not going to start negotiating about negotiating. The conditions are very clear, laid out for them. And I have made the point repeatedly this is not -- what is being asked of the Iranian regime is not a final answer on the package, a yes or no, yes we accept this package, no we don't accept this package.
What is being asked of them is to suspend their uranium and reprocessing -- plutonium-based reprocessing activities and in exchange you can have a negotiation in which Iran could realize all those things that it has publicly stated it is seeking -- the peaceful civilian nuclear energy program -- and to start to rebuild the level of trust with the international community. That is what is being asked of them. It is only: suspend those activities and get into negotiations. And that the P-5+1, the international community, will not -- will suspend activities in the Security Council, will not seek further action on sanctions or any further measures while those negotiations are going on. That's what's being asked of them.
So you know, they're going to want to try to -- repeatedly you've seen this -- they're going to want to try to game this out, try to give very clever responses that may appear to respond to what the international community has asked them to do, but when you actually look at it and read it, it doesn't. And you know, that's -- you know, again, that's what we've seen again. What we need is for them to – we, the international community, needs for them to do is to meet the demands very clearly outlined by the Security Council in order to begin that negotiation process. Otherwise, they're going to go down the pathway of further isolation.
QUESTION: Why not make their counter-proposal public then?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think they have.
QUESTION: I don't think it's been out there.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. I'll check for you. I'll check to see if it's been made public.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
QUESTION: I'd like to stay on this.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Khatami, you know, you wouldn't mind the fact it might be good for him to be asked some tough questions by non-official Americans while he's here.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Does the State Department currently subscribe to the notion that he's distinctly different in view, more moderate from the people running -- now you may not know, but there were people in this building who really thought just a few years ago and throughout the city and throughout the country and in think tanks that there were two Irans really. There's a moderate personified by Khatami, particularly, and then there's a hardline Iran. Is --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well --
QUESTION: I'm not saying -- I don't want you to -- I'm not asking you to debate that all over again.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: I'm saying is he -- maybe it's too far in advance to ask this, but is a response by Khatami going to be taken as a statement by the Iranian Government, or is it a statement by somebody who's not in power anymore and probably isn't as hardline as the current people?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a couple of things, Barry. Maybe you shouldn't take the fact that there was a decision to issue his visa as that we have any illusions about the nature of the Iranian regime. Now you -- there are plenty of people who study Iran up-close and spend their lives doing that who will, you know, have debates about where along the political spectrum that, you know, various Iranian public officials might be. You know, how far off to the right, how close to the Ayatollahs and the Revolutionary Guard and all those kinds of discussions, Barry. I'm not going to get into those kinds of discussions. You know, the fact of the matter is Iran is, and was, a state sponsor of terror. Iran is now, and was, seeking nuclear weapons in contravention of its international obligations. So I'm not going to try to draw distinctions among former or current officials.
QUESTION: But in his time as well as now?
MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.
MR. MCCORMACK: It was a matter of record they were on the State Sponsors of Terror list when he was President.
QUESTION: You probably (inaudible) Senator Santorum late yesterday, issued a statement of outrage that he had been granted a visa and said Khatami is responsible for one thing: for the arrest in 1999 of thousands of demonstrators many of whom remain in prison. He, for one, sees no distinction, I think, between Khatami's rule and current rule.
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry, as I said, I don't think anybody should take the decision about issuance of his visa to indicate that we are under any illusions about the nature of that regime.
Yeah. You wanted to change the subject?
QUESTION: On Somalia.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Somalia and then Sudan --
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: I wondered whether you had any comment on how the U.S. Government views the Islamists in Somalia. Sweden yesterday, at this international -- this Contact Group meeting said that these Islamists now enjoy very broad public support and that the transitional government was becoming weaker and have urged much closer conversations between the Islamists and the weak transitional government. Where do you stand on the Islamists? Do you recognize that they're making a difference on the ground in Somalia? They've got the ports reopened and it seems to be much calmer in Mogadishu.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. The Somalia Contact Group issued a communique yesterday on -- that includes mention of this matter, and I can be happy to provide that to you guys. I don't have a lot to add beyond what the communique said.
In terms of the situation in Somalia, I still think it's pretty fluid. And the -- as we've seen over the sad recent history in Somalia, the -- those exercising control and power in Somalia is sometimes a matter of rapid change, a lot of different changes. So I think we're going to reserve -- again reserve judgment on the real nature of the Islamic Courts and the relative balance of power among the individuals in those Islamic Courts.
You mentioned various outward signs of "progress." You have to balance those against the existing as well as potential costs to the people of Somalia of those kinds of things. So at this point, Sue, I think we're just watching it very closely, and we would reserve judgment. I think we would -- we would encourage dialogue among the responsible political actors in Somalia. We continue to express our support for the transitional federal institutions. I understand they're very weak and have become even weaker. But we believe that that is potentially something that people can build around in Somalia.
QUESTION: So if I'm understanding this correctly, you're still backing the transitional government, and you still have a wait-and-see approach on the Islamists?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: And there's no -- you're not more open (inaudible) --
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, on the Islamists, what I'm trying to do here is also trying to -- groups are made of individuals and individuals have various and varying points of view, so I'm not trying to lump every individual together. Certainly there have been some in Somalia, "Islamists" who have expressed some troubling views. So what I'm trying to do is be a little bit more fine in the distinctions that we have. But as a group and because of that reason, we are still going to withhold final judgment on the Islamic Courts.
QUESTION: Have you had any direct contact with any members of the Islamist groups?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you. We'll check for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: While we're in Africa, can we touch on Sudan a bit?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this gentleman here has been waiting.
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry.
QUESTION: That's okay.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: The Venezuela President in Syria today --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: How is the U.S. taking that visit? There's more bellicose statements, is it going to complicate our efforts in the Middle East to have these two teamed up against the U.S. role there?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I haven't seen the quotes. Look, President Chavez, as we have said, is free to – he's a head of state. He's free to travel and meet with whomever he wants to meet with.
QUESTION: But is the U.S. doing anything to counter what appears to be a friendly reception over there? And do you see him as getting a friendly reception? Is he a friend of the Arab world?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, why don't you ask states in the Arab world? There are a lot of states in the Arab world and whether or not he's a friend of the Arab world. I haven't seen the news reports, the specific news reports about President Chavez's visit to Syria. I haven't seen any specific quotations, but you know, again, individual governments will make their own decisions about what kind of relationship they want to have with Venezuela.
QUESTION: Over the horizon, has anybody seen an envoy on his way from Sudan to respond to the president's message?
MR. MCCORMACK: We did. Jendayi Frazer is going to be getting back into town later today. She had met with President Bashir. The Sudanese said that they were going to respond to us via an envoy. The envoy would be carrying a message. We don't have the who, the when, or the where of those. We'll try to keep you up to date on that.
QUESTION: And do you have any reaction to the condemnation by Sudan of Britain and the U.S.?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen it, Barry.
QUESTION: Can you address the notion that the U.S. has dangled the prospect of a meeting in New York between Bashir and President Bush as part of some incentives that we've put out for them?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, anything involving meetings with the President, I would refer you to my friends over at the White House.
QUESTION: Do you have any details on incentives that were offered? I'm not referring necessarily to the incentive of meeting with the President, but--
MR. MCCORMACK: The contents of the -- I don't have anything further for you.
QUESTION: And are you disappointed by -- that it took President Bashir so long to see Jendayi Frazer and that she basically hung around her hotel room?
MR. MCCORMACK: This is the MO there, so -- you know, of course, as a general statement, would we have hoped that the Sudanese Government would have, by now, responded in a positive manner and followed through on what it said it was going to do in terms of supporting the deployment of UN peacekeepers once there was a Darfur Peace Agreement? Of course.
But as I have said, consistent, concerted diplomatic pressure has moved the process forward. As for making Jendayi wait for a meeting, you know, that's just the way things work. Bottom line is she did get in to meet with President Bashir and she was able to pass the messages that we wanted to pass.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, just -- Sudan still?
QUESTION: No. Just one more. If and when the UN resolution passes and Sudan is still holding back and not consenting to a UN force, then what?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's deal with that when we get to that point.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Lebanon. The Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said today that Lebanon would be the last country in the Middle East to -- the last country -- the last Arab country that could sign a peace agreement with Israel. And this comes from a man that you have been quoting a moderate Arab. Do you think it's a success or it's something -- do you think the Middle East is better off now after this war than before?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's -- those are two different questions, and the last one is sort of a -- you know, I mean, that's a big question. Do we wish that Hezbollah had not initiated a war? Of course. Do we wish that those innocent lives had not been lost? Of course. But we were handed the situation we know by Hezbollah and its actions, and we believe that we have in Resolution 1701 the framework, a pathway to eventually realizing a better situation in that small corner of the Middle East. It needs to be implemented, and all the parties involved with 1701 need to follow through. And we have seen the beginnings of that with a large number of countries contributing troops to this UNIFIL force. And there are also a number of other actions down the road with 1701 and 1559 that need to be followed through on.
So eventually if fully implemented, this gets you to a better place than where we started. But it needs to be implemented. People need to live up to their obligations. There are going to be -- I'm sure along the way there are going to be individuals, groups, maybe even states who don't want to see it fully implemented because they would view it as contrary to their interests. So what the international community needs to do, and what our job is, is to see that these resolutions are faithfully and effectively implemented.
As for decisions about whether or not to have diplomatic relations, normalized relations between Israel and any other Arab state, certainly we would encourage that, certainly we encourage that to happen. Some Arab states have taken that step, and we would encourage others to do so. That said, it is their sovereign decision whether or not to take that step.
QUESTION: But that's an indicator, isn't it?
QUESTION: I mean you put a great stock -- what's the word, a great -- you spent a lot of money and manpower and lives in Iraq and you supported Israel and Lebanon. And these would seem to be the examples of the Administration's democracy movement. If you could move it in -- you're beginning to call Lebanon a democracy I've noticed. In Iraq, of course you have hopes for a democracy. Isn't it -- but there have been hostile statements from Iraq about Israel, and we have this now from Lebanon.
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry.
QUESTION: Are these good signs of democracy taking root?
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry.
QUESTION: There's only one democracy in the region. And if these countries are hostile to it, how far have you gotten?
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry. You know Barry, look, I know you guys have to write daily news stories. Okay, I understand that.
QUESTION: No, it's an indicator, isn't it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry, look, I understand you guys have to write stories every day and in your case multiple times per day.
QUESTION: We're still going to do it right.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. And you know, you've heard Secretary Rice talk about this, you've heard President Bush talk about it, and you've heard me talk about it. And you are -- what is happening in the Middle East is a change of historic proportions and that this change is going to take years, if not decades, in which you see the process of greater openness, greater freedom, greater prosperity, greater democracy. And is every single statement that a political leader in the region going to conform to our ideal of what we had hoped that that leader would say at that particular point in time? No.
But the fact of the matter is, Prime Minister Siniora has, through the most difficult circumstances, been an extraordinary leader, elected leader for the Lebanese people. Now certainly the process of consolidation of democracy in Lebanon is not complete. We all know what remains to be done, but Prime Minister Siniora has been a strong leader. You talk about Iraq. Prime Minister Maliki and his government are doing -- they are doing what they think is best on behalf of the Iraqi people. And you have seen real signs of change and progress. You look at Egypt now. Is it what we would have hoped? No. But there have been multi-party presidential elections in Egypt, and that's not something -- you're not going to reverse that. You can't reverse course on that, Barry.
In Kuwait you have seen women elected to the Parliament. You have seen women vote. You have seen the beginnings of change in Saudi Arabia. Now, I'm not telling you these things to say that this process isn't going to take a long time. But there are signs of change, positive signs of change, and it's going to take a long time. And are there going to be bumps along the way? Yes. Are there going to be challenges? You bet. Are there going to be things that are distressing? Certainly. But, you know, our view is that any day, any day of the week we will take those challenges and try to work to find solutions to those challenges in trying to bring democracy and greater freedom and openness and prosperity to the Middle East than to go back to the status quo of the past 60 years because that's what got you September 11th; that's what got you bombings in Bali and London and Madrid and all around the world.
So it is our firm belief that these are the right policies. We're not going to be happy with everything that is said by political leaders. But you know what, that's democracy.
QUESTION: Would you take a horse racing question, please?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Ken Tomlinson's status, please. And can you --
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, wait a minute. Samir is --
QUESTION: Oh, beg your pardon.
QUESTION: Sean, who will represent the U.S. in the Donor's Conference in Stockholm tomorrow for Lebanon? And --
MR. MCCORMACK: It's going to be Randy Tobias, yeah.
MR. MCCORMACK: Randall Tobias.
QUESTION: Okay. One more thing. President Bush committed $230 million to help the rebuilding in Lebanon. Is this going to be what they ask him to offer tomorrow in the conference or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think what we're going to do, Samir, is we're going to challenge others to meet the generosity of what the U.S. has already said it's put on the table.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, you've been very patient.
QUESTION: Yes, Mr. McCormack. Thank you. On PKK.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: On August 28th, Associated Press quoted Murat Karayilan, "the co-president" of the PKK, as saying, "We will remain in the Qandi Mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. We respect the American calls for disarmament but the Americans must intervene to come up with a political solution for the Kurdish problem in Turkey. They should be thankful for maintaining security in the area. We are not terrorists. We are preventing international terrorists from bifurcating Kurdistan and Iraq."
My question, Mr. McCormack, does the PKK serve U.S. interests by "maintaining security" from terrorists in Iraqi Kurdistan?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's a terrorist group, Mr. Lambros. Yeah.
QUESTION: And the second question. Do you know when your Special Envoy General Joseph Ralston will be sent in the area, Ankara and Baghdad?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect in the coming weeks he'll probably -- in the coming weeks he'll travel to Ankara. He's going to have an office here in the State Department. He's a Special Envoy for the Secretary of State. And you know, he'll choose the right time to travel to Turkey, but I expect that would be in the coming weeks.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: On North Korea. Recently North Korea withdraw their entire money, amount of $51 million from Russian bank account. Do you have anything on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: What about the 51? I'm sorry, I didn't hear all of the question.
QUESTION: North Korea withdraw their entire money, amount of $51 million from Russian bank account. Do you have anything on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't heard that.
QUESTION: I have another question. Okay?
MR. MCCORMACK: Go ahead.
QUESTION: When will the United States impose to full economic sanctions against North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: Full economic --
MR. MCCORMACK: Full economic sanctions? Well, there's -- certainly we are talking to other states about the implementation of the recent Security Council resolution. Those discussions focus mainly on what the resolution talks about. What does that talk about? It talks about not allowing know-how and technology assets in that would further the North Korean WMD program and also work to try to prevent any export -- proliferation of those kind of technologies out of North Korea. So that's what we're talking to people about.
QUESTION: On Taiwan, do you have anything on Taiwan's President Chen's plans to transit in Guam? And also does the U.S. have any concern that this time also the first time Chen is going to plan to travel by his own presidential plane with a national flag on it?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you on that issue.
Yeah. You've got some on Korea? Okay.
QUESTION: Do you have any information on whether Kim Jong-il may have crossed over into China?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I've seen the press reports that he may -- may be going to China. I don't have any information on that for you.
QUESTION: What about Ambassador Chun's visit today? Do you have a menu or -- from South Korea -- the envoy?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check. His meeting with Chris Hill?
QUESTION: Apparently, yeah.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Well, we'll check for you. I don't have -- didn't check in with Chris this morning.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) talk about that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, Mr. Casey can get you that info.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on United States MD test, missile defense test?
MR. MCCORMACK: Talk to the Department of Defense about missile defense.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: A Voice of America question. On Tomlinson, what's his status? I take it he's the administrator of the board that runs the Voice of America and --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. And I don't know exactly the mechanisms, but he's been swept up in a horse racing scandal for operating out of his office some sort of --
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, hold on, hold on, hold on. Look, let's -- well, I think first of all I'm not going to get into, you know, politics here, but let's back up. There is an Inspector General audit or investigation. You can check with them, the Inspector General's Office, as to the correct term. I'm not sure if it's investigation or an audit. And there are certain questions and I believe that the Inspector General has completed a report. A copy of that goes up to the Hill. Inspector General works for the Secretary as well as for the Hill.
Now, I understand that -- I read in the newspaper today that there was a member of Congress who released the executive summary of this report. I read about it in The New York Times. Look, you know, we've seen before -- we have seen this game before where people will release selected parts of reports to try to color people's views of a particular issue. I'm not going to play that game. He's still a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. If there are any actions that need to be taken as a result of the Inspector General report, of course we're going to take them. But you know, again, I'm not going to get into talking about Inspector General reports. We never have and, you know, not going to start right now.
QUESTION: Can you explain the chain of command? Is he responsible to the Secretary of State?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's an independent --
QUESTION: Yeah, I know.
MR. MCCORMACK: I mean, she -- the Secretary of State has a representative on the Broadcasting Board of -- Board of Governors.
QUESTION: Being --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, she's actually a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and what she usually -- she'll designate a representative. Usually in these cases it's Karen Hughes, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy. So we have representation on the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
QUESTION: But is that a function of the State Department or is the U.S. Information Agency or whatever its become, is that under State --
MR. MCCORMACK: That's --
QUESTION: A different group again, right?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, totally apples and oranges there, yeah. We can -- I'll have somebody kind of give you --
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: -- a briefing on the ins and outs of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and VOA and all the rest.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:38 p.m.)
Released on August 30, 2006