State Dept. Daily Press Briefing September 7, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
September 7, 2006
Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Delay Regarding Ambassador
Foreign Service Bidding Process for Overseas Assignments
Secretary Rice's Meeting with President Boris Tadic
Signing of Status of Forces Agreement
Guatanamo Detention Facility / Transfer of Detainees
ICRC Plans to Visit to Guatanamo Detention Facility
Intelligence Cooperation / Secret Prison Sites
Reports Iranian President Plans to Attend UN General Assembly in
Under Secretary Burns' Meeting in Berlin with P5+1 Counterparts
Former Iran President Khatami's Visa
Reports Iranian President Plans to Travel to Cuba for Nonaligned
Governor Richardson's Travel to Sudan to Seek Release of
US Embassy's Office of Hostage Affairs
Reports Iraqi Police Have Closed Al-Arabiya Baghdad Bureau
Lifting of Blockade in Lebanon
Reports Israel Plans Additional Housing Units in the West Bank
Secretary Rice's Meeting with South Korean National Security
2:00 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don't have any opening statements, so we can get right into all of your questions.
QUESTION: Well, I don't know if the White House has had anything to say --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- go on, Barry.
QUESTION: Okay, sir. Mr. Bolton again is being delayed a chance to be confirmed, nominated -- his nomination confirmed. I don't think the White House has made any statement on this. Do you care to talk about the Senate Committee's deferral of action on Mr. Bolton?
MR. MCCORMACK: Obviously, the rules and procedures for the Senate are for the Senate to decide. We are in close contact with the Senate, and we're confident that John is going to be given a fair chance to get a vote, up or down vote, on the floor of the Senate. That would mean we have some hope that he would be referred out of committee in a positive way. It's just a matter of their holding a business meeting.
So the Senate Foreign Relations Committee can talk to you about their procedures and why it is that this particular business meeting on these topics was delayed. I would expect probably early next week they'll have an opportunity to take it up again, but far be it for me to talk about what the Senate schedule will be. You can check with them.
But we are very hopeful, Barry, that John will get an up or down vote on the Senate and that we would urge everybody to vote in a positive way on John's nomination. He's done an extraordinary job on behalf of the President, Secretary Rice and the American people up at the United Nations at a time of particular consequence --
QUESTION: Well, that's what --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- especially for the -- you just look at the agenda of the Security Council. You go down that list, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, as well as a variety of other issues, Barry. And this is a real-time consequence for the Security Council, and we couldn't have a better man up there right now than John Bolton. QUESTION: So you not only would like -- you not only would hope that it could be cleared up before the special session of the General Assembly, but expect there will be?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we would hope so, Barry. We hope so. Again, that's up to the Senate and the senators, but we would certainly hope so.
QUESTION: It's on Bolton. Has Secretary Rice received a letter from Senator Chaffey yet where he details his concerns about the Bolton nomination and --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I couldn't --
MR. MCCORMACK: As of this morning she hadn't, but I have not spoken with her in the past couple hours, so I can't tell you whether or not she has.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can you explain to us why the U.S. Government feels that it wants to have military cooperation agreement with Serbia, particularly given Serbia's failure to work aggressively to turn over -- finally turning over Vladic and Karadzic?
MR. MCCORMACK: Secretary Rice did talk about that with President Tadic, and we think our position is pretty clear and well known on that matter, and she did urge President Tadic to do everything that he could to meet the requirements of the international tribunal and The Hague to turn over these war criminals, including Ratko Vladic. This is a standard agreement. We do have the text of it and I think we will be able to make it available to you. I'm going to check on that, but it is a public document so we will try to make it available to you. It's -- I haven't looked at it myself, but I've been told it's a standard issue SOFA.
There are a couple of aspects of this. One, we do want to have a good relationship with Serbia. We believe that a stable, democratic Serbia in the Balkans is important not only for Serbia and the Serbian people but for the stability of that region. So we do want to have a good relationship with Serbia. Although we are not a member of the European Union, we also think that Serbia should have a European horizon. Now I know that there have been some discussions between the EU and Serbia on that matter and there are certain conditions that they have to meet. Part of those conditions is turning over these war criminals.
We also have, within NATO, talked about what is the horizon for Serbia. Again, there are certain obstacles to that at the moment. But we do want to put in -- try to put in place, for that day when we can't have the best possible and fullest possible relationship with Serbia, those pieces that would constitute, that would comprise that relationship in all its various aspects and one of those aspects is military-to-military cooperation.
At this point, this -- I think that this cooperation would really be centered on the potential for civilian military training, talking about the relationship in a democracy between civilian authority and military authority. This is something we do all around the world. And then once we have a more solid basis for expanding that relationship, then I would expect that the various component parts would also expand. But the idea here is to put in place those building blocks that would allow eventually for that fullest possible relationship and then potentially starting off small with some kinds of cooperation, some kinds of training that we do.
QUESTION: Is this -- just to be clear, the training that you're talking about, those civilian military, it's not military training, in other words, it's not U.S. military officers teaching Serbian military officers how to better run their army?
QUESTION: I would -- again, there's not a program in place for this yet, Arshad, there's -- I'm just trying to give you an idea of the kinds of things that initially might be considered. But we do this sort of training discussion all around the world, how do -- in democracies, how does military relate to civilian authority. It's not talking about combat techniques or that sort of thing, it's really civil-military relations, how does that work in a democracy.
QUESTION: One last one on this if I may. Are you trying to strengthen the hand of people like Mr. Tadic and Mr. Kostunica, who are among the pro-Western pro-reform minded Serbian politicians, and who have a very strong hard line opposition when they're facing elections next year? I mean is part of this trying to make life a little bit easier for the pro-Western pro-reform minded politicians by saying here, this is a small step but it could lead to -- help you on the road toward NATO membership someday, help you on the road toward the EU membership someday? You know, is that part of the --
MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't narrow it down particularly to individuals, but certainly we want to work with those members of government that share a vision for how to advance the cause of democracy and greater personal freedoms, how to advance the cause of a Serbia that has a Euro-Atlantic outlook and Euro-Atlantic horizon. At the end of the day, all of these -- all of the decisions about Serbia's foreign policy and the orientation of its government and what actions it takes, that's going to be for the Serbian people and their government. Certainly we're going to work with and reach out to those people that share that kind of vision.
We're also, certainly at the embassy level, we're going to try to reach out to all the various parties that comprise the Serbian political entity. There are going to be a lot of people that may not agree with the views of the United States but part of our job as a State Department, and on the ground our embassies, is to reach out to all the people and try to explain where we're coming from. But I think it's safe to say that we will -- we'll probably have a lot more contact with those that might have a shared vision. But in terms of trying to play domestic politics in Serbia, we're certainly not going to do that.
QUESTION: The same subject.
MR. MCCORMACK: All right. Okay, we'll just go one, two, three.
QUESTION: Does it mean that this agreement means that the U.S. is willing to deploy troops in Serbia?
MR. MCCORMACK: There is no change in our stance on that.
QUESTION: After 10 years of Karadzic and Vladic being on the loose and having -- you can't answer for previous Secretaries of State, but doesn't it sort of ring hollow when Secretary Rice talks -- brings up this subject and then goes ahead and does something else to advance relations between the two countries?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. Look, you know, when Secretary Rice brought it up, she meant it and they had a -- you know, they had a good, honest discussion on the matter. As you point out, this has been a longstanding obstacle for the Serbian people and Serbia for a -- the fullest possible relationship with Europe, the U.S. and other countries. So they are going to -- we would hope that they take the hard decisions I know it may be hard for them domestically to take this step, but we would hope that they would listen not only to the United States but others, their European friends as well, and take those hard steps. But ultimately they are the ones that are going to have to make those decisions.
QUESTION: On the same subject, Mr. McCormack, any specific readout of the today's talks between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Serbian moderate President Boris Tadic?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think they talked -- they talked obviously about issues in the region. They talked about -- they talked about Kosovo. They talked about Serb-Euro relations. They talked about U.S.-Serbian relations and other various aspects. I don't really have anything more detailed to share with you. I don't know if there's anything particular on your mind.
QUESTION: Somehow did they reach any conclusion, vis-Ã -vis to the Kosovo issue, and more specifically to the final status?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as you know, this is a topic of negotiations at the current moment. Mr. Ahtisaari is deeply involved in the issue talking to all interested parties. For our part, Secretary Rice is interested in this. Nick Burns follows it very closely. Our point man on it is Frank Wisner. Dan Fried is also deeply involved, but on a day-to-day basis Frank Wisner has been spending a lot of time on the issue. He was at today's meeting as well as our special envoy for the issue.
And with regard to where we stand on it, that hasn't changed since the last time you guys asked.
QUESTION: How long lasted the meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: How long did it last? About half an hour.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I try something else?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Washington Times has a long story today about efforts to steer more diplomats or more American foreign service officers into Iraq, speaking for instance on the bidding system being held in abeyance until Iraq's posts are filled. Could you address some of these points?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's not just Iraq. It's hard-to-fill.
QUESTION: The tough places?
MR. MCCORMACK: Exactly. Hard-to-fill positions. And I can't tell you exactly which posts fall into that category, but certainly Iraq, Afghanistan, and there are others. And these are tough places. What this is an indication of is Secretary Rice's commitment to what she refers to as transformational diplomacy, making sure that we get the best people out into some of the most important places and the most important posts around the world. Sometimes that equates with very difficult conditions, either the living conditions or the security conditions or the fact that you can't take your family with you. Sometimes it's all three in one.
So the Director General Staples has come up with a proposal that Secretary Rice supports 100 percent that in the bidding process, and this gets into a little bit of inside baseball, in the bidding process they're going to fill those positions first. You're going to fill those positions before you start filling your positions in Rome and Paris and London and some other very important posts but maybe those posts where the ability of a single diplomatic to make a difference might be a little bit less than, say, in a place like Iraq or Afghanistan working out in a PRT or even in the embassy.
So that's the idea behind it, Barry. There are other -- the jobs will get filled. It's just that they changed the batting order. You know, the batting order now is you fill the hard-to-fill posts and then you go down the line.
QUESTION: I understand and it is a little bit inside baseball so I don't want to beat it to death, but would that mean though that someone bidding for another post, a non-critical post, would be on hold for some length of time until the tough posts are filled?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the --
QUESTION: Or would it be a matter of, say, come back to us in a couple of months, you know?
MR. MCCORMACK: It doesn't -- a couple things. One, it doesn't really affect when somebody will actually arrive in a place. The way the bidding process works is people will start -- will be bidding this summer, this fall, for jobs next summer so there's a year timeline when people can get prepared and that sort of thing. So they're bidding right now and we're filling the jobs right now in the fall time for those jobs that will open up next summer, in the summer of 2007. So there's no delay in terms of people actually arriving there.
QUESTION: Or having to wait.
MR. MCCORMACK: Or having -- well, they may have to wait a little bit longer for -- let's just use the example of somebody who is bidding on western -- I'm not trying to pick on EUR and Dan Fried and his guys because there are some tough, important posts there absolutely. You know, people may have to wait a little bit longer for an answer about where they're going to end up, what job they get. But the bidding process stretch out -- stretches out in any case. So you go back years. It stretches out over a period of months anyway so it's not like in a single week all the jobs get filled. This is a process that stretches out anyway over a period of months.
QUESTION: Can you -- just to clarify one thing. The article seemed to me to say, as Barry said in his question, that you were going to basically not do the regular bidding process until you've filled all these positions. The way it sounds to me, and I just want to understand it, is so the bidding process goes forward as it always has; it's just you fill the hard positions first?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, exactly. The difference is on the, I guess, management side. And the management side of it is that you select who's going to be filling in -- filling which jobs. The actual process of putting down on a piece of paper, well, I want to go to -- here are my top five places where I want to go, that proceeds as normal.
QUESTION: And what if you don't fill -- I mean because some of these positions, as you know, are very hard to fill. Many are open. What happens if you don't fill those positions, are you going to start ordering people -- I forget the State Department term -- directed --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, directed assignments.
MR. MCCORMACK: Directed assignments. The Secretary has not taken decision to do that.
QUESTION: Because the story said that you were going to proceed with directed assignments.
MR. MCCORMACK: She hasn't taken -- we haven't reached that point, Arshad. And look, she has a variety of options open to her in that regard, but she hasn't taken that step.
QUESTION: Is critical the same as dangerous?
MR. MCCORMACK: Critical -- there's sort of differences in terminology.
QUESTION: I mean --
MR. MCCORMACK: There's critical threat posts, which is actually a security related categorization.
QUESTION: Critical threat posts, okay.
MR. MCCORMACK: Critical can also mean very important, those posts where we have important foreign policy stakes, important work that we have to do. All the work that we do around the world is important, okay, but there are some areas very clearly in which the priorities in our foreign policy are reflected more acutely on the ground.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: On the President's speech yesterday and the legal advisor's briefing today, the President said that there are quite a few countries that have refused to take back their citizens from Guantanamo. I was hoping you'll tell us which ones.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't --
QUESTION: Or maybe you won't. (Laughter). No, my question is about the diplomacy the Department is engaged in terms of these people who are still in Guantanamo and who you would like to go back to their countries. And also the European Parliament today has, again, demanded for the European countries where those prisons are to come clean and admit it. Are you in favor of that? Are you advising these countries to keep quiet?
MR. MCCORMACK: A few different things. In terms of moving people out of Guantanamo, the President outlined what -- the various potential pathways are there. There have been states that have been -- that have either refused to take back their foreign nationals or we have not been able to satisfy ourselves a couple of conditions. One, that we have a reasonable expectation they won't be mistreated, tortured. Two, that they're not going to go in the front door of the jail and then out the back door so that we have to face them on the battlefield again. Sometimes it gets -- that gets into complex legal issues in the second case. Can, under international law, states hold people for something that may not have been a crime or something that they don't think they have evidence for, enough evidence to hold them. That applies -- that's been an issue with countries in the Middle East, with Europe, all around the world.
So we would -- look, as the President said, we don't want to be the world's jailers. There are some people that we are going to put before Military Commissions that, of course, pending passage of a new law that would set out the guidelines for those Military Commissions. But we don't want to have to hold people that we don't think we need to hold or that are held -- or we think are better dealt with by their host government for whatever reason.
So in that process we'll move forward. We have, for example with Saudi Arabia, we had a long period of negotiations in which we did come to agreement to send back to Saudi Arabia -- I can't tell you exactly how many, it was double digits – a number of detainees from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia. That took a while. So it is an ongoing process. We do work on it with other governments. We work on it with DOD obviously as well.
On the latter part of your question, President Bush talked about the importance of this program. He talked in a fair amount of detail about some aspects of it. There are some aspects of it about which he's not going to talk. And you referred to locations, we're not going to talk about that.
QUESTION: You said we're not going to talk about it.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Exactly. I'm trying to answer Nicholas' question.
QUESTION: Well, he wasn't there.
QUESTION: Thanks, Barry.
QUESTION: I was.
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll get him the transcript.
QUESTION: But are you encouraging those countries to keep quiet?
MR. MCCORMACK: We respect the sovereignty of all our friends and allies, and we're just not going to discuss certain aspects of this program. We do want it to proceed. President Bush I think made a pretty convincing case about the importance of the program and how this program has saved lives. So there are just certain lines we have decided we're not going to cross.
QUESTION: The ICRC said today they'll be going to Guantanamo next week. I'm wondering what role the State Department has at all in facilitating that visit. I think Bellinger said today that the modalities were being worked on about the visit. So --
MR. MCCORMACK: That's a good State Department word, modalities.
QUESTION: It's one of your words.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: What role, if any, are you guys playing in that visit?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of working out the modalities of the visit, I think that's primarily DOD, but it was Secretary Rice yesterday who called Mr. Kellenberger to tell him about the decision and what the President was going to be saying. So we do -- we play a role along with the Defense Department. It is a very specific relationship between the ICRC and the U.S. Military as they have -- the ICRC has with other militaries around the world. But we do play a role in terms of talking about the larger issues with the ICRC. And as I pointed out, Secretary Rice did make the call yesterday. But in terms of working out the when, the who, the how, in terms of people visiting there, that would be DOD.
QUESTION: Will any State Department personnel be down there for that visit?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you. I don't know. I don't know that.
QUESTION: Mr. Bellinger this morning also linked the continuation of these secret locations to the continuation of the exchange of intelligence with the countries where these prisons are located. Is it a threat you keep the prisons or we stop informing?
MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't see John's, I have to admit, the full transcript of John's briefing. I'm sure it was riveting. John's a smart guy and he's very -- he knows a lot about these issues. But the President made very clear that the way -- one of the ways that we win the struggle in which we find ourselves now is through intelligence cooperation.
And one of the, sort of, most important stories since -- in the five years since 9/11 that can be written is the story about the network of intelligence cooperation that has been built up among freedom-loving countries around the world in fighting the menace of global terrorism. That has a variety of different aspects, that cooperation. Obviously, in some cases that cooperation includes this particular program that the President talked about yesterday. But it is a sovereign decision whether or not to cooperate with the United States or any other state on intelligence matters and that would also comprise this particular program, so that's a individual state decision.
QUESTION: There are reports the Iranian President wants to come to the opening of the General Assembly in New York.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Did I miss that at the top? Okay.
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: You had this look of recognition.
MR. MCCORMACK: No. (Inaudible) reports.
QUESTION: Who pays for security for that trip and --
MR. MCCORMACK: For -- security for the --
QUESTION: The head of state Irani -- this came up during Khatami as well.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: But he is a head of state.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Is the State Department involved with security or who covers that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. The State Department would, I believe in this -- in that particular case provide security. I think they did last year when he came. He came to the General Assembly last year. I'll check for you whether or not he has applied for a visa to come to the General Assembly and whether or not his delegation has applied. I don't know that as a fact. I'm not -- you know, when he says he wants to come to the General Assembly, I have no reason to doubt that he wants to come to the General Assembly and address it. Iran is a member-state of the United Nations, and there are certain obligations as the host country that we have with respect to the United Nations and visitors to the General Assembly and to the United Nations. We will -- if there is of course a visa application, we will take a look at it. As for his activities during the General Assembly, you would have to talk to the Iranian Government about those.
QUESTION: I thought a head of government protection was the Secret Service duty.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check, Charlie. There are sometimes cases --
QUESTION: I know, but those are --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- particular cases, case by case. So I'll be happy to check for you. The predicate fact is, you know, is he coming here and then we can proceed from there.
QUESTION: Follow up on the same issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll come back to you, Lambros.
QUESTION: Any news about the 5+1 meeting today in Berlin?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I have not --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Ahmadi-Nejad.
MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?
QUESTION: I was still with Ahmadi-Nejad.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, well, this will --
MR. MCCORMACK: This will be relatively quick.
QUESTION: All right. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't had a chance to talk to Nick about his meetings. I think he's still having an informal dinner with the Canadians, the Italians and the Japanese. That was after the P-5+1 meeting. So what we're going to do is we're going to try to check to see if we get any readout from the meetings that he had. I want to temper your expectations here because this is intended as a working meeting. This is not intended as a meeting to come out with a deal or final text. This was an initial round of formal discussions. We'd had a variety of informal discussions in the run-up to this in capitals as well as up in New York. So I -- again, set your expectations for several weeks of these kinds of activities where you're going to have the political directors, you're going to have Secretary Rice involved, you're going to have John Bolton involved as well. So this is the --
QUESTION: Will there be Italian and Japanese there or not? Because --
MR. MCCORMACK: They have an interest in the issue very clearly, I think, for each individual country can explain for themselves why they're interested in the Iran issue. I think that there are, at a minimum, compelling reasons surrounding whether or not Iran develops a nuclear weapon and the consequences for that of the stability in the region. For example, I think Italy is one of Iran's largest trading partners, right up there in the top one or two. Japan obviously has interest in Iran, as does Canada. So we are certainly interested in staying in close touch with them and getting their thoughts on how to move forward.
QUESTION: Were their political directors invited to -- why were their political directors in Berlin?
MR. MCCORMACK: For -- to meet with Nick.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. And I would -- you can check with them. But I would expect they also had meetings with the other members of the P-5.
Sorry, it wasn't such a short answer, was it.
QUESTION: One more on that one. Is this meeting assuming that they're working on other options outside of the Security Council process for sanctions?
MR. MCCORMACK: Those discussions -- I don't know how much Nick is going to touch on those in his discussions but we do have a separate set of discussions on that matter with a variety of different countries that's really spearheaded by the Treasury Department, Deputy Secretary Kimmitt, Under Secretary Libby, Bob Joseph -- Under Secretary Bob Joseph from -- and Assistant Secretary Dan Sullivan here in this building also play a role in that. So that's -- Nick may touch on those things, but that is really a separate set of discussions, but those are ongoing.
QUESTION: If I could. On the Ahmadi-Nejad visit, he was quoted as saying yesterday that he was come to New York to engage in a great debate with the United States. Do you have any response to that?
MR. MCCORMACK: The quote I saw was he wanted to engage in a debate with President Bush.
QUESTION: Well, with Bush, yeah.
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, somehow I get the feeling that's not going to happen.
QUESTION: It would be good TV.
MR. MCCORMACK: Now, I'm not sure what debate he wants to engage in, on what topic. If it is a debate on a vision of the Middle East and the world that this Iranian regime may have, one in which human rights are abused, one in which there is support for people taking innocent life through terror, if it's a debate about talking about whether or not to wipe another people and state off the map, I don't think that's much of a debate. I think the world has really spoken on that matter. So if he does decide to come to the General Assembly, we'll see what he has to say. But I don't think the vision that this Iranian regime has to offer the world is very compelling shall we say.
QUESTION: So the United States will not take this as any overture for dialog or would not accept it as such?
MR. MCCORMACK: We haven't had any indication at this point that Iran is ready to meet the conditions that not the United States have laid out for it but the world has laid out for it. So we'll see. We'll see what their actions say. We've seen lots of words; we've heard lots of words from the regime, and we'll see what they actually do.
QUESTION: Related to this. Ahmadi-Nejad I believe is expected to travel to Cuba to attend the nonalign meetings later this month. What does the U.S. Government think about the nonalign movement? Is this something that should have just been tossed on the scrap heap of history now that the Cold War is over? Does it bother you that Cuba is taking over the Chairmanship of it for the next three years? Does it bother you that I believe the North Koreans are also sending a representative? You know, what do you think about this meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: The states will have to make their own decisions, clearly, about what kind of relationships they have with, you know, countries like Cuba and countries like Iran, countries like North Korea. That's for them to decide.
As you point out, the origins of the Nonaligned Movement are deep in history. The future of the organization is -- and where it's headed and the views that it espouses are for its membership to decide. But I will point out that, you know, the world has changed quite a bit since the beginnings of the Nonaligned Movement. There are obvious things like the fall of -- defeat of communism. But you also look at some of the individual relationships, and I'll just use us as an example with even some of the founding members of the Nonaligned Movement. You look at our relationship with Indonesia, you look at our relationship with India. These are fundamentally different and better relationships than we have ever had, I think, with both of those countries. So I know that there is -- the member-states consider themselves to have varying levels of attachment to this group and to the name of the Nonaligned Movement. Again, they will decide what it is that they stand for.
But there is certainly participation in these meetings doesn't exclude us -- is not a solely exclusionary reason for us to have a good relationship with individual member-states. I used India and Indonesia as examples. There are other countries that are going to be participating in the meeting. That is whether or not they go Havana for the meeting is going to be one for them to decide. We're not going to dictate to them.
QUESTION: Switching topics. On Sudan, did you guys have any role in Bill Richardson deciding to go over to Sudan to try to secure the release of the Chicago Tribune reporter?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. He's going on his own -- in his capacity as a private citizen. We have been in contact with Mr. Salopek on the ground there and we have talked directly to the Sudanese Government at a very high level about the fact that whatever judicial process there is needs to be speedy, transparent and fair. So we would like to see him back home as soon as possible so that he can get back to work doing the good work that he does and so that he can be reunited with his family as soon as possible.
QUESTION: But you're supportive of the efforts of Governor Richardson?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we're interested in seeing Mr. Salopek get home.
QUESTION: Yes. The White House today published a statement mentioning an Office of Hostage Affairs in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Does it mean that the State Department has a hand in the U.S. Hostage Affairs in Baghdad? And --
MR. MCCORMACK: Can we participate? There's an office there.
QUESTION: What is it exactly?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I think I would rather let the embassy talk a little bit about what it is that that office does. Certainly they're there. We want to see anybody who in Iraq is taken captive released. We obviously do everything that we can to see that our citizens are released unharmed and in a rapid fashion and there are also other states who unfortunately have their citizens taken hostage. And whenever something like that happens, if there is a state that wants to talk to us about it, seek our assistance, we are always ready there, ready there to help. But I'm going to let the Embassy talk in more detail if they choose to about that particular office and their efforts.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you ask also if there are other such offices in other embassies around the world?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Is it the only embassy in the world you have such an office?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir. You've been very patient.
QUESTION: Yeah. Can you give us the Administration's reaction to the lifting of the air blockade over Lebanon?
MR. MCCORMACK: Think it's an important step. It's an important step in the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701. We are -- there are a variety of different aspects to the blockade and we're working very closely with Prime Minister Siniora's government, the Israeli Government and other interested parties, I think. The German Government should be applauded for stepping up, sending the experts on the ground there that were -- that met the conditions of the Lebanese Government and also were able to -- they were also able to -- German Government was able to reassure the Israeli Government that the letter and the spirit of 1701 would be upheld.
We are also working with some European parties, including the Italians and the French, on the naval portion of this as well. We would hope that in the -- in hours, in the coming days, that aspect of this blockade can be addressed. And then there are also questions about -- questions about other ports of entry. We're working on that. Secretary Rice over the past five days has made a number of calls, certainly in the double -- easily in the double digits, on this, talking to Secretary General Annan, who is on the ground in the region who was -- who played an important role, Prime Minister Siniora, the German Government, with the Israeli Government as well.
So she spent a lot of time on this. And what it does -- I think this is a good -- a good, solid example of following through on what she said she was going to do. When we passed 1701, we said it was an important moment, it stopped the fighting, but it -- and we said that we believe that properly implemented, effectively implemented, this resolution would not return us to the status quo ante, that it would improve the situation. And Secretary Rice has followed through on that. This is one example of that. She has spent a lot of time working on this, working the phones on this. The call log runs quite a length on it.
But there's still more work to do on implementing this resolution. There are going to be, I am sure, bumps in the road, misunderstandings. Maybe things might not move as quickly as everybody would have hoped, but it is moving forward and our job is working with other parties to the agreement and other members of the international community is to see that the resolution gets implemented and that when there are those bumps, when there are those misunderstandings, that they get addressed within the confines of 1701.
QUESTION: Reports out of Israel this week suggest they intend to add 690 homes in the West Bank. I wonder if that changes the status of the U.S. policy of holding both sides to their commitment there.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, it doesn't. You know our views -- our views on this are clear. They go back to April of 2005 when the President and then Prime Minister Sharon talked about it and the President made statements on it. That holds. There are obligations under the roadmap. We would expect the Israeli Government to live up to those obligations. The Palestinian Authority under that has -- also has obligations that are equally important and part of that is, you know, preventing terrorist attacks being launched from Palestinian Authority territory and also stopping rocket attacks. So there are still responsibilities on both sides. This -- I know that there have -- there's been a lot that's happened in recent months, but that doesn't mean, in our view, that the parties still don't have to live up to their obligations under the roadmap and previous commitments.
QUESTION: What kind of leverage do you use to keep that pressure on?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's in -- in the course of our relations with the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government. This is -- you know, you brought up the issue of settlements. This is an issue that we do talk to the Israeli Government about. Oftentimes, those discussions are done quietly and they're done privately. But -- and you may not hear about them, but we do talk about them. We do talk about the issue with them.
QUESTION: Do your answers mean that you do not want the Israeli Government to permit these additional housing units to be constructed?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's the -- you know, the policy is the same. Expand should be -- they should not be expanding the settlements. There should not be expansion of the settlements and outposts should be removed.
QUESTION: Apparently, the Iraqi police have gone and shut down the Baghdad bureau for Al Arabiyah for one month. I was wondering if you had any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen those reports. I'll look into it.
QUESTION: On Albania. Mr. McCormack, Tom Ridge, the former U.S. Homeland Security chief used to work as a consultant to the Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha on security and NATO issues. Mr. Ridge said today that Mr. Berisha is a very passionate and compelling individual with a great vision for Albania and the entire Balkans. Any comment?
MR. MCCORMACK: Former Secretary Ridge is a private citizen.
QUESTION: But it's -- but it's private citizen, I agree, but I was told that Mr. Ridge prior to the acceptance has full consultation with a DOS official and I'm wondering how this trilateral connection Tom Ridge, Sali Berisha, Department of State was cooperating in this --
MR. MCCORMACK: Former senior officials are very often in contact with the State Department, especially when they have contacts with foreign officials. We certainly do everything that we can to give them the most up-to-date information we have about our policies, but that is typically where it ends.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice met with South Korean National Security Advisor, Mr. Song yesterday. Did Secretary Rice and Mr. Song discussed the issue of U.S. visa waiver program at this time?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you. I don't know. I don't know.
QUESTION: On Iran, I will ask Reza Pahlavi, the son of the former Shah of Iran earlier today did a conference at the National Press Club and a bunch of his opponents, including a U.S. senator and congressman -- I was there -- started criticizing the Department of State regarding visa to the former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami who is in town, calling him international terrorist. I'm wondering do you consider Mr. Khatami as an international terrorist?
MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, we've plowed this ground before.
QUESTION: Excuse me?
MR. MCCORMACK: We have plowed this ground before. Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:47 p.m.)
DPB # 145
Released on September 7, 2006