State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 31, 2006
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 31, 2006
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
August 31, 2006
Under Secretary R. Nicholas Burns's Travel to Europe September 7 /
Expect EU-3 and Others to Continue Diplomatic Contacts with
IAEA Report and Compliance with Demands and UNSC Resolution 1696
Question is not Peaceful Civilian Nuclear Energy but Iranian
Behavior / Nuclear Weapon
Iranian Government Has Not Given Any Indication that it will
Change Its Behavior
Iranians have Used Time to Develop a Nuclear Weapon, Continue Its
Continued Defiance is of Serious Concern
The Dispute is not about Rights to Develop, but Behavior
Suspension of Activities Necessary for the Entire Duration of
The Iran Attempted Everything Except to Meet International
Assistant Secretary Christopher R. Hill's Travel to the Region
Envoy Chun Young-Woo's August 30 Meetings at the State Department
Transit Approval of President Chen and other Senior Officials
through U.S. Territory
Cultivation and Trade in Illicit Drugs
12:55 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. I'm ready for whatever other questions you may have.
QUESTION: The -- it looks as if there may be a -- I mean you -- perhaps you know more than we do, but a new European diplomatic effort with Iran starting as early as next month. Has that happened in tandem with the Security Council? Does it mean that the Security Council action will be delayed?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. As a matter of fact, Under Secretary Nick Burns is going to be traveling to Europe next week, I think September 7th. They're going to be meeting in Berlin. I would expect that there -- both before and after that meeting there will be diplomatic contacts with the Iranians to encourage them to take the offer that has been made to them and to comply with the just demands of the international community, comply with the Security Council resolution.
So I would expect that the EU3 as well as others would have continuing diplomatic contact with the Iranian Government. I'll leave it to them to talk about when and if they might have further contacts when and if Mr. Solana might talk to Mr. Larijani.
QUESTION: What does a deadline mean, though, if the deadline is today but the European nations are still going to talk to them and they could still take the offer?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's back up a couple of things and let's understand what today means. There are a couple of things. One, there's -- there was an IAEA report concerning Iran's behavior over the past several months, their compliance with the IAEA Board of Governors' demands as well as compliance with the UN Security Council Resolution 1696. That report has been issued and it can -- it's I think 15 pages or so, maybe a little bit longer. It can be boiled down to two words, continued defiance on the part of Iran. And as President Bush said today, for that continued defiance there is an agreement that there must be consequences for that behavior. What we're talking about is Iranian behavior. They want to obfuscate the issue and talk about the rights under the NPT and what is legal and what is not legal.
Nobody's disputing the right to peaceful nuclear energy. What is in question here is Iranian behavior and their demonstrated behavior over a number of different years of hiding from the international community what they're really trying to do with their nuclear program. And what they -- what -- it is very clear from their behavior and from the questions that are outstanding is that they're pursuing a nuclear weapon under the cover of a civilian nuclear program. And that is why you have actions like the Security Council voting 15 to 0 demanding Iran comply with the just demands of the international community.
You know, our focus is going to be on now discussions with our partners, P-5+1 Security Council members, about those next steps, those sanctions. That's what the agreement was, that we would move towards sanctions. The President talked about consequences. That's what we were talking about. I would expect that diplomatic process would take some time.
Now the question arises if during this period of time the Iranian Government says we will and have met the conditions laid out for us, meaning suspension of all enrichment related and reprocessing related activities, and that is verified, then of course that is the deal. Suspension of those activities means suspension in the Security Council in terms of the P-5+1 and the Security Council acting and seeking sanctions.
The Iranian Government has given zero indication to this point that that's what they intend to do. Certainly we would hope that there is a change in behavior. That is the point of this. That is the point of this diplomacy, to get a change in Iranian behavior. Nobody wants to punish the Iranian people, but it is the behavior of the government, the Iranian Government, that is taking them, the government as well as the people of Iran, down a pathway of further isolation. Nobody wants to see that, but that is what the Iranian Government is bringing upon itself as well as the Iranian people.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, can I just -- I need to make sure I understand this.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: You could be asking European Governments among others to impose the first steps of sanctions. Essentially at the exact same time -- and get that presumably at the exact same time as those same governments are negotiating separately with Iran --
MR. MCCORMACK: You used the word negotiating, and I think that that would be a misnomer. There is unanimity of opinion here that Iran must face consequences for its continued defiance of the international community.
Now, if there are diplomatic contacts to talk to them about and to encourage them to take up the world on this offer, then certainly that is up to those governments. We would encourage international pressure on the Iranian Government to get them to act to change their behavior. That is certainly positive.
But nobody, nobody is talking about negotiating about negotiating here. What -- in fact, the IAEA Report I think is illustrative of Iranian behavior. What have they used the past three months to do since the Vienna meeting in which the P-5+1 came together on this approach? What have they used that time to do? They have not used that time to reflect and think about how it is they might meet the demands of the international community. No. They've used that three months to continue the hiding, continue the obfuscation, to continue their enrichment related activities. The IAEA Report is very clear about that. They have, as of I believe just within recent days, continued their enrichment related activities.
So they haven't used that time constructively. What they have used that time to do is to continue along the pathway to developing a nuclear weapon, continued in their defiance of the international community. And the international community, the response is this is serious and that you must comply with the just demands of the international community. But we're going to send a message to the Iranian Government that this is serious business.
QUESTION: President Larijani is going to be meeting with Solana in Berlin on the eve of the meeting. Now I mean with all the parties in one city, I mean is there any opportunity for even proximity --
MR. MCCORMACK: No. No.
QUESTION: None whatsoever?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: You mean if that could help resolve --
MR. MCCORMACK: No. We made very clear what the conditions are. Again, this is -- we are at this point because of the behavior of the Iranian Government. The conditions laid out couldn't be clearer and couldn't be more simple, an act of goodwill and good faith and now a demand by the international community. Meet those demands and you can realize negotiations.
Again, I've said over and over again what is being asked of the Iranian Government here is not a final answer on the package that was presented to them. What is being asked of them is to meet the conditions so that you can realize negotiations and we can talk about, we can discuss what would be in that package which would lead to a positive pathway for the Iranian people.
QUESTION: While the Iranians may be continuing their enrichment, some Vienna based diplomats are saying that, in fact, they're sort of delaying the pace of their work while diplomacy makes its course.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that's cold comfort.
QUESTION: And also, they're -- they think that the -- they say they could be having some technical problems. What's your --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I don't know, Libby. I -- we are not reassured by the fact that the pace may be a bit slower. I think the fact that you do have enrichment related activities is a problem. I think what it -- all that that does is point out the fact that they are continuing to enrich is point out the importance of acting and the importance of the international community sending a substantial message that there are -- there will be consequences for Iran's continued defiance.
QUESTION: Setting aside the conclusion of the report that Iran has continued its enrichment activity, there were a number of other things covered in the report, and I wonder if you could tell us what you regarded as the most serious of the behaviors that the report cited.
MR. MCCORMACK: James, I -- you can read the report for yourself, I think, and I believe copies are available. They're in public. You know, again, I boiled it down for you, continued defiance. And the fact that they are continuing to enrich is of serious concern. It should be a serious concern to the world. And I'm sure states in the region are quite concerned about it because nobody wants -- again, nobody wants to see Iran develop a nuclear weapon. That can't be allowed to happen because it would be a terribly destabilizing event in the Middle East.
QUESTION: And you've mentioned that Under Secretary Burns is to meet with other political directors on September 7 in Berlin.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What will his mission be?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's going to be talking about what would be contained in the UN Security Council resolution, what sanctions will be contained in that resolution. So that's the basic task. John Bolton, our ambassador to the UN, is also going to be having informal discussion I would expect up in New York as well. So there's going to be a lot of activity in capitals and up in New York I expect over the coming period of time.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Goyal.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Iranian President had a press conference in Tehran, and he was talking tough against the West and the United States. And he said that before U.S. or the European Union or UN take any action against his country, he wants to meet with, as again he said many times in the past, with President Bush. And but at the same time he said his country will not go back as what their demand is to stop nuclear weapons or a nuclear program.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that it's -- it appears to us this is just another attempt to make this an Iran-U.S. issue. We've seen this over and over again. It's a, at this point, a well worn tactic on the part of the Iranian Government to try to make this a dispute between Iran and the United States. It's not.
This is -- Iran has a problem with the rest of the world. And I think that the best recent indicator of that is a 15-0 vote in the Security Council. And that Security Council resolution was very clear in telling the Iranian Government what it had to do. And the reason why you ended up with a 15-0 vote is the world has now become convinced that Iran is doing something other than it says it is doing with its nuclear program. They say that they're pursuing a peaceful nuclear energy program and that it is their right. Nobody's disputing rights here under the NPT. What is at dispute is Iranian behavior and Iranian intentions. And what you have now is the world saying with one voice that frankly Iran -- Iranian Government, we do not trust what you are doing with your nuclear energy program. We believe that the concerns are grave enough that you must suspend all enrichment related and reprocessing related activities.
QUESTION: Just to follow up quick.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: You think a meeting could take place between now and General Assembly meeting in September or early October in New York between Iranian President and President Bush or Secretary of State or her counterpart.
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Goyal, as for the U.S. joining negotiations, the conditions are clear.
Yeah. Okay, Anne.
QUESTION: Does it remain a red line in those conditions that Iran suspend enrichment for the entire duration of negotiations over the package or might a more limited suspension, trial suspension or something like that be --
MR. MCCORMACK: The deal is suspension for suspension.
QUESTION: Suspension for the duration.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: And does that remain the position of all members of the P-5?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I haven't heard anything different. That was the agreement. And look, what you don't want is while you're talking and discussing and negotiating, to have the Iranian Government continue on its merry way with developing a nuclear weapon. That's -- nobody wants that. Certainly the Iranian Government would like that. They would like to negotiate and negotiate and negotiate all the while they continue on with their nuclear program. And the Europeans and the rest of the world learned their lesson on that, that they would like very much to continue negotiating without actually having to do anything.
QUESTION: Sean. Now that the deadline has passed, are you willing to tell us that it'll be weeks, not months before we see action out of the Security Council?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we would hope that we see action out of the Security Council in the very near future. But as I tried to condition you yesterday that this process could take some time. That doesn't in any way diminish our sense of urgency in acting. But I think it's just -- it's an acknowledgement of reality of getting this kind of action through the Security Council. It takes -- it will take some time. But again, we' are going to be pushing hard and we're going to be pushing hard immediately for the Security Council to act.
QUESTION: Would the effort to curb Iran's nuclear program be damaged by a portion of time that would take up to -- I'd say, two months?
MR. MCCORMACK: James, you know, we would certainly hope that the Security Council could act before that kind of period of time.
QUESTION: Can you tell us any more about the prospect of unilateral sanctions against Iran by individual countries including the U.S. that you eluded to yesterday -- treasury, financial?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you used the word "sanctions," which is a very particular word -- actions. At this point, that's a pathway that is certainly open and viable to individual states. It's something that we have been -- that we are certainly going to explore with other states. It's -- it is a pathway that's open, not only to the United States, but to other states and that is going to be a topic that we continue to discuss with other states around the world.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Yeah, Libby.
QUESTION: On that -- on the response that the Iranians gave on the 22nd last week, is that sort of dead as far as the U.S. is concerned? I know you said it fell short. You know, is it dead in your mind what they reacted to? And also, just going forward, is that something Solana is going to be talking through with them perhaps next week? I mean, is that still on the table to date?
MR. MCCORMACK: You can talk to Mr. Solana's representatives about his ideas for the meeting. I'm not going to speak for him. But the Iranian response tried to do everything, but meet the conditions that were laid out by the international community. So inasmuch as it did not get over that bar, I'm not sure that there's much to work with there at this point. They have to meet the conditions. There can be all sorts of stated good intentions on the part of the Iranians and stated good faith. But the fact of the matter is they need to act and they need to demonstrate that goodwill and that good faith and the international community has spoken very clearly about how they can do that.
QUESTION: Sean, throughout this whole period of time, what are you hearing from other governments that do have relations with the Iranians? And also what do you think of the recent behavior with the proxy war, with Hezbollah and the very much the cozying up to Hugo Chavez? He's just gone on a tour to the Middle East. Is this emboldening the Iranians to the point that no one can make any headway with them?
MR. MCCORMACK: Joel, I don't know. You know, I don't know what is factoring into their decision-making processes or how they view the world at this point. As for their support for Hezbollah, we've made very clear that there are troubling aspects across the spectrum of Iranian behavior, whether that's support for terror through supporting groups like Hezbollah or the treatment of its own citizens. So while we're all talking about the nuclear issue and it is a critical issue, we should not forget about the fact that there are other troubling aspects of Iranian behavior.
Yes. Anything else on Iran? Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Sean, can you read out some about the Assistant Secretary here did a trip to Asia next week?
MR. MCCORMACK: He is going to be -- he's going to be traveling to Asia next week. I think it's going to step in Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul. There may be other stops. This is in his capacity as Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs not his capacity as Assistant Secretary for the six-party talks, although I would expect that they would talk -- you know, would touch on the six-party talk issue. It's going to be talking about the bilateral as well as regional issues.
QUESTION: On the South Korean special envoy to the six-party talks, can you give us a readout about his meeting yesterday here?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have much to offer. I believe he met with Chris Hill and met with Nick Burns, but beyond that I don't have much for you.
QUESTION: Sir, Taiwan's presidential office has already announced the plan of President Chen's foreign in trip and he prepared to make a stopover in Guam. Do you have any comment?
Also, President Chen originally prepared to land in Guam with Air Force 1. It seems the plan has been changed. Do you have any comment?
MR. MCCORMACK: As for his travel plans, I refer you to his office. Our reaction would be that our position concerning transit by Taiwan senior leaders is that consistent with the unofficial nature of our relationship and our longstanding policy and practice, we are prepared to consider it for approval on a case-by-case basis requests to facilitate such transits based on the criteria of the traveler's safety, comfort and convenience while respecting the dignity of the traveler. And beyond that, I don't have any details for you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing else for you.
QUESTION: One Afghanistan question, please.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: There was a briefing this morning not on camera this morning on the opium trade in Afghanistan. Two-part question. What impact does that revenue have on Afghanistan's efforts to establish a strong central government? And secondly, why is the increase so dramatic?
MR. MCCORMACK: As for the first part of your question, certainly the production growth and trade in illicit drugs in an economy like Afghanistan, for that matter most any other economy, is corrosive but especially in the case of Afghanistan, which is really trying to get on its feet and develop an economy that can plug in to the modern world and move beyond where it has been. So it is a real source of concern not only for the Afghans but the international community. That is why we are working with the Afghans to fight the production and trade in illicit drugs.
As for the reasons, you had a briefing on it and I don't have anything beyond what they've said.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)