State Dept. Daily Press Briefing September 8, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
September 8, 2006
Secretary's Schedule for Monday, September 11th / Plans to Travel
Query on Senate Committee's Decision to Delay Vote on Ambassador
Secretary's Desire to See Ambassador Bolton Confirmed
Under Secretary Burns' Meetings in Berlin with P5+1 Counterparts /
U.S. Believes UNSC will Act with a Chapter VII Resolution / P5 +1
Comments by Javier Solana on Sanctions / Importance of UN Security
Comments made by Former President Khatami / Discourse of Treats
Issue is between Iran and the International Community / U.S.
Working through Multilateral Institutions
U.S. Treasury Department Cuts Iran's Bank Saderat Off From U.S.
Iranian President Ahmadi-Nejad's and Iranian Officials' Visa
Applications to Attend the UNGA/ Secret Service Protection /
Today's Car bombing in Kabul / Status of U.S. Embassy
Decision by Iraqi Government to Suspend Al-Arabiya
U.S. Embassy Baghdad's Office of Hostage Affairs
No New Information on Disappearance of U.S. Air Force Major Jill
Closure of Military Acquisition Office in Miami and Venezuelan
Liaison Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio
Query on Current U.S. Diplomatic Activity in the Region
North Korea Needs to Return to the Six Party Talks
12:35 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I have a couple brief scheduling announcements for you. Just to go over the Secretary's schedule, not in detail, but just a few of the major elements. On September 11th, this coming Monday, she'll attend a morning church service. She will then go to the White House for the moment of silence. She'll come back here to the State Department.
We're going to have a ceremony here, a remembrance ceremony honoring all of those foreign nationals who lost their lives on September 11th. This is for people -- you may not remember this, but there are -- there were people from 90-plus countries who lost their lives in the attacks on September 11th. So Secretary Rice will host an event here in the morning, honoring those individuals, and then she will travel to Canada. She will travel to Nova Scotia, Canada, and Secretary Rice and Canadian Foreign Minister Peter Mackay will visit Halifax and Stellarton. Stellarton is Foreign Minister Mackay's riding, his home district.
And Secretary Rice wanted to go to Canada on September 11th as a way of thanking Canada and the Canadian people for all that they did on that day. I think you will all remember that on September 11th, America closed its air space and the Canadian Government and the Canadian people took in many, many flights and many, many people who were essentially stranded, because they could not continue flying into American airspace. So that was just an extraordinary act of trust, generosity, and kindness in a moment of need. And Secretary Rice wanted to travel to Canada to thank the Canadian Government and the Canadian people for those extraordinary acts.
And with that, I will be happy to take your questions. Arshad.
QUESTION: On Under Secretary Burns's talks in Berlin, the French Foreign Ministry -- as you're well aware, Under Secretary Burns said that he hoped that we'd start working on a draft resolution on sanctions next week.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: The French Foreign Ministry was rather dismissive and the Foreign Ministry spokesman said there's not much point in going to the Security Council to display our divisions. Are you bothered that the French are so dismissive of your desire to move to a serious discussion of sanctions next week?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have to admit I hadn't seen those comments. By all reports, Nick had very good discussions at the meeting on -- in Berlin. They're going to get together via telephone again on Monday to have discussions about a sanctions resolution and we would hope to move thereafter to discussions in New York on a specific text.
Now, look, I fully expect that these discussions are going to be complex. I believe that they're going to be hard-fought. But at the end of the day, we believe that the Security Council will act to follow through on what it said it would do, that if Iran did not meet the deadline in terms of actions of -- regarding its nuclear program, that the Security Council would act and that the Security Council would act with a Chapter 7 resolution that would talk about specific sanctions.
Now, our approach all along has been that we would act in a graduated fashion; that we would try to increase pressure on the Iranian regime to get it to change its behavior. That's the object of this diplomatic exercise. So we have an agreement that was enshrined in the 15-0 vote in the Security Council and it's now time for the Security Council to follow through on what it said it would do. It's important not only as a means of increasing the pressure on the Iranian regime, hoping the end of result of which we hope will be a change in behavior, but also it's important for the Security Council to follow through and demonstrate to the world that it will follow through on what it said it would do.
QUESTION: There was no trigger mechanism. There was no automatic guarantee of moving two sanctions in that resolution and I wonder how you plan to bring the French and the Russians along, given that they don't appear to have any great enthusiasm for sanctions right now.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there was an agreement in Paris that was -- that really the meeting in Paris among the P-5+1 ministers in the run-up to the Security Council vote that the way that this -- the diplomacy would unfold is that Iran would be given some time to meet the demands of, at the time, the IAEA Board of Governors and take up the offer of the P-5+1, meet the conditions and realize negotiations. And the P-5+1 would also suspend any activity or action in the Security Council. Iran didn't meet those conditions. So the agreement reached in Paris was that at that point, we would then move to a sanctions resolution. That was enshrined in the most recent Security Council resolution, I believe, 1695 -- 1696. So we, you know, we have an agreement with the P-5+1 that this is the way the diplomacy would unfold. Of course, all the governments of the Security Council, including the permanent members, are going to have views. They're going to have views in terms of what specifically to do, but we think we do have an agreement on a general way forward and that is on the sanctions resolution.
QUESTION: The French were not the only ones to express a difference with the U.S. Mr. Solana also said no sanction was possible while there were still discussions with the Iranians. Isn't it the sign that something is happening with the Iranians and maybe you should take that into account?
MR. MCCORMACK: I saw some partial quotes from Mr. Solana. In that regard, I haven't seen the full context of his quotes. Certainly we want to get some clarification on at least the partial quotes if that is, in fact, the entire sense of what he was saying. We have an agreement and we would expect that all the members of the P-5 would move forward on that agreement. There certainly is a mechanism and a way to air all views on the matter in terms of what specifically to do, what specific sanctions to choose from in -- that would be put into the resolution. There's a mechanism to do that. And certainly we would expect to have a thorough discussion about it. It's a serious matter. But again, it is important that Iran see -- that the Iranian regime see that the Security Council is going to follow through on what it says -- on what it said it would do. That is very important. Now look, would the Iranian Government like nothing better than to play out negotiations and discussions, all the while continuing work on their nuclear weapons program? Of course. But the world said that we would not allow that to happen, and we're going to have -- we're going to continue the discussions in capitals and those discussions will then move into New York.
QUESTION: Sean, what is your reaction to -- is this directly related -- former Iranian President Khatami yesterday, although he didn't specifically address it at the United States it seemed pretty obvious who he was talking about, called for an end to the discourse of threat. It seemed a very obvious implicit reference to the threat of sanctions, let alone the threat of force. What is your reaction to that aspect of his speech, his basically telling the United States stop threatening us, that will never resolve this, we're happy to talk about suspensions once we're in talks?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you know, first of all, he's a private citizen. And I haven't seen the text of his remarks. But you refer to the discourse of threats. Well, I think the place to start when talking about the discourse of threats is with his own president, President Ahmadi-Nejad, in threatening to wipe the state of Israel off the map. So I think that, again, the sort of discourse of confrontation or threat is something that is emanating from Tehran and from this regime.
The international community has actually extended a hand to this regime. It has extended a pathway to greater understanding and also a pathway at the end of which Iran could realize what it says it wants, and that is a peaceful nuclear energy program, in such a way that the international community is satisfied that that is in fact the nature of the program, that it is in fact a peaceful nuclear energy program. That's not where we are right now. And we're not there now because of Iran's actions. So actually, the sort of discourse of threats, I think the Iranian regime might look inward first.
QUESTION: I mean, you could also argue that the international community and the United States in particular, while extending a hand, to use your phrase, has also extended a stick, which is sanctions. The Bush Administration also, whenever asked on the question, says it can't take military options off the table although it has no such plans at the moment. You don't think that it is reasonable of the Iranians to feel that they are being threatened?
MR. MCCORMACK: Arshad, I think that -- a couple of things. One, no American President, regardless of the issue, ever takes any option off the table, so that's not particular to Iran. In terms of sanctions, this is not our first choice. Our first choice would have been that Iran by now would have met the terms and conditions laid out for it, not by the United States but by the entire international community. This is not a U.S.-Iran issue. I know this is a well-worn tactic of the Iranian regime, Iranian leadership, whereby they want to make -- they want to make this an issue between Iran and the United States. It's not. This has evolved into an issue that is quite clearly an issue between Iran and the rest of the international community. Look at the Board of Governors' votes. Look at the Security Council resolution. So, I know that they want to -- they do want to make this into a U.S.-Iran discourse and U.S.-Iran issue, but it's simply not.
QUESTION: Can you -- sorry, one last one on that. Can you respond more generally to his speech, in particular to other aspects of it? One was -- and again, he didn't explicitly cite the United States but it seemed that it was clear this is the nation he was referring to when he talked about, you know, avoiding unilateralism and avoiding the use of force. So if you could comment on that and then, secondly, on his statement that this just isn't the right time for a real discourse between the United States and Iran, again because of the threats and force that he alluded to.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, there's been a lot of discussion from this podium and in other places about so-called American unilateralism. I think that we would have a different view. Look at what we have done in Afghanistan. Look what we did in Iraq as well as elsewhere. Look at the case of Iran. We are working through multilateral institutions. We are working with friends and allies to a common objective, a common end. So the idea that somehow the United States is acting unilaterally is just in fact not true.
We have sought and continue to seek to use multilateral institutions and make them work, make them serve their intended purpose, for example the Security Council with Iran. This is exactly the kind of issue that the Security Council was created to deal with. North Korea, the six-party talks. The United States initiated the process that led to the formation of the six-party talks. We have used the Security Council to try to deal with North Korea. So there are legions of examples of this Administration and America working through multilateral institutions and working with friends and allies to accomplish common objectives.
Of course we have views on how to address various issues in the foreign policy area. And are we going to stand up and quite clearly speak about those views and try to chart a way forward, and rally others to our views? Absolutely. Of course. That's the nature of international politics. Certainly we're not going to be shy about that. I think the American people would certainly expect that and we are going to continue to act to defend the interests of the United States and to also defend the interests of our friends and allies.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, wait a minute.
QUESTION: I'm sorry.
MR. MCCORMACK: Kirit.
QUESTION: This actually just came out a few moments ago but you probably know about it. It would be the -- well, the Treasury Department just cut off the Iranian bank, if you have any comment on that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the Treasury Department can give you the specific details. This is a very targeted action with respect to some Iranian financial institutions and a very particular action. They call them U-turn transactions. And the Treasury Department, again, can speak to more specifics about it. But again, this is certainly an example of the variety of different levers that are available not only to the United States but other countries as well about how to bring about a change in behavior in the Iranian regime.
Nobody here wants a diplomatic confrontation with the Iranian people. That's not what we seek. We don't want to punish the Iranian people. That's not our objective in taking these steps. It's not our objective in seeking to work through the Security Council. Our objective is to get the Iranian regime to change its behavior.
And unfortunately it is that regime that is taking the Iranian people down a pathway of greater isolation. We know that they don't want to be isolated. We don't want to isolate the Iranian people. But unfortunately that is where this regime is headed. That is where this regime is taking the Iranian people.
QUESTION: I was reminded yesterday with the Iranian President's possible intention to come to the UN when it opens to the General Assembly. Have you received a visa application and have you clarified the security?
MR. MCCORMACK: I looked into that and in fact we have received an application. It was on August 21st for President Ahmadi-Nejad to travel to the United Nations. Now, I still don't know whether they in fact have made a final decision to travel to the UN. We'll see. And we of course are looking -- considering and looking at that visa application in the context of our obligations and our laws. We have not yet made a final decision on the visa. We'll keep you updated on that.
In terms of the security, if, in fact, President Ahmadi-Nejad did visit the UN for the General Assembly, I believe that the security would be provided by the Secret Service.
QUESTION: Is that --
MR. MCCORMACK: Because he's a head of state, because he is a head of state, yeah.
QUESTION: Just on this one very quickly, just -- I'm just --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- is it the same topic, Tom, or a different one?
QUESTION: It's about the UN (inaudible).
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, okay, sure.
QUESTION: I'm sure not many people are interested in this. Just -- I'm just curious, since you don't have an embassy or a post in Iran, where did he submit the application?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let's see, we have that information. I believe it was -- it's usually in Switzerland.
QUESTION: Through the Swiss embassy?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let's see, the Iran mission at the United Nations officially requested a visa for President Ahmadi-Nejad to travel to New York. But usually, the actual -- you know, physical giving of the visa happens in Switzerland.
QUESTION: Is there any basis on which you could refuse to grant a head of state a visa to come to the UN General Assembly?
MR. MCCORMACK: We went through this last year. He did decide to travel here and we did grant a visa. We have obligations under a Headquarters Agreement to grant visas of officials who want to travel to the General Assembly. I would have to consult our consular affairs people. You know, there could be compelling reasons, but I -- at this point, we are -- we have, in the past, been guided by our obligations under the Headquarters Agreement.
QUESTION: Too early to discuss (inaudible) any restrictions in travel beyond New York?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- I'm not aware that there's been a request to travel outside the 25-mile limit.
QUESTION: And one last one perhaps on this. Normally, if he were not a senior official, he would have to appear in person. I assume he did not. And does that apply to all senior officials of all governments that they don't have to appear in person to apply for a visa?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check with our consular people, but typically, the heads of state, heads of government do not have to appear in person.
QUESTION: On the UN, but the subset topic being the UN ambassador, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, as you know, at the last minute very unexpectedly, put off action yet again, this time at the request of Republicans. Two questions, a small one: what efforts are underway either in this building or in the Administration to whip up a little party discipline to move this forward? And second, the broader question, given the important issues facing this nation diplomatically and at the UN, have you begun a discussion -- or perhaps it's time to say to Mr. Bolton, "Thanks for your patriotism, hard work, but we need somebody we can formally confirm?"
MR. MCCORMACK: We think John Bolton is the right man for the job at the right time. This is -- these are extraordinary times at the United Nations and at the Security Council. I have talked about a few of the issues that are currently before the Security Council now; Iran, North Korea, you can add to that list Sudan, talk -- and management reform of the UN. So there's a whole host of basic fundamental issues before the United Nations. And we have been very well represented by John Bolton in the year that he's been up there. And the President and Secretary Rice fully support his continuing as Perm. Rep. at the United Nations. Now of course, that would require a vote by the Senate and I understand that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee decided to defer until possibly next week a discussion and action on reporting John out to the full Senate if, in fact, that's what they decide to do. We would call upon them to do so, and we would call upon senators to give John a fair up-and-down vote on the floor of the Senate.
Now as for the first part of your question, that gets into the realm of politics. I'm not going to venture there. But we do firmly believe that John deserves an up or down vote on the floor of the Senate and we firmly believe that -- and we firmly encourage senators to vote yes on his nomination, because we think that he is the best man for the job at this time.
QUESTION: In her role as Ambassador Bolton's boss, would Secretary Rice in an apolitical but diplomatic way, add her voice personally these calls to move them out of committee and have a vote. Is she calling senators?
MR. MCCORMACK: She has -- I know Senator Chaffee has sent her a letter with some questions and they're related to John's nomination. She's going to -- she'll get back in contact with Senator Chaffee, either by phone or by letter answering his questions. So that's certainly one way in which she expresses her support. She has in the past when this question has come up, she has talked to a number of members of Congress about this over the period of time when John has been UN Ambassador. She absolutely thinks that he is the right man for the job. She fully supports this nomination and she thinks that John is doing an extraordinary job up there in New York.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice will respond directly instead of your legislative affairs assistant secretary?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect that, you know, she'll either pick up the phone or respond via letter. He sent her a letter, so she'll decide which way she wants to do.
QUESTION: Regarding the car bombing in Afghanistan, do you know if any U.S. citizens or U.S. soldiers were killed or injured in the incident?
MR. MCCORMACK: There were, sadly, two American citizens, two military -- American military personnel lost their lives in that explosion. Right now to the best of our knowledge, we have 16 people killed by that -- in that attack and more than 20 wounded. Those two American personnel would be included in that total of 16. It's a heinous act of terrorism that we condemn. Certainly we will work with the Afghan Government to determine who perpetrated this act of terrorism and work to bring to justice any of those who were associated with this act.
QUESTION: Do you have any information about who may have been behind the attack and whether U.S. forces were specifically targeted?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point --
QUESTION: Can you speak up, Arshad?
QUESTION: Yeah, sorry, I'll say it louder. Do you have any information on who was behind the attack and whether U.S. forces were specifically targeted?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, I'm going to defer on both of those questions because I don't have any information that would indicate who was responsible. Certainly, there are some likely suspects, but I can't tell you, in fact, that based on forensics and other investigations, that people have determined exactly who might have been responsible.
As for whether or not this particular convoy was targeted, again, I -- you know, I can't give you the hundred-percent answer on that, but I think it stands to reason that it was.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this?
QUESTION: Real quick.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Kirit.
QUESTION: Could you tell us the operating status of the embassy at this time? Is it open? Did is close?
MR. MCCORMACK: It was closed today.
QUESTION: It was closed today as well.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: It was planned on being closed all day or --
MR. MCCORMACK: They took the steps that they thought were prudent, but – it's Friday, so --
QUESTION: On that, since it was closed -- apparently close to the embassy, any damage at all to any of the --
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: -- buildings?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: No. Thanks.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, Sylvie.
QUESTION: I had a question about Iraq. Do you have any comment about the decision of the Iraqi Government to suspend the Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya for one month?
MR. MCCORMACK: It is a decision by the Iraqi Government. They're a sovereign government. I think that goes -- that's a baseline from which we're operating here. But we would encourage the Iraqi Government to take every possible step to allow for freedom of the press. It's crucial in any democracy and certainly, the Iraqi Government understands that.
I don't have the specific details of what led to the closure and we are talking to the Iraqis to better understand what were the motivations behind that. But in any of these cases, we would urge the Iraqi Government as well as other governments to err on the side, whenever possible, of allowing for and promoting freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
QUESTION: As far as I understand it, Sean, the argument is that national security trumps freedom of the press in this case, because of whatever was aired on the channel. Do you agree that national security would trump --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, again, I think we want to better understand what are the origins of the dispute between Al-Arabiya and the Iraqi Government before I offer any more in-depth comment on that particular matter. These are always -- you bring up national security and freedom of the press. These are always complex issues. Different countries will draw the line in different places. We will draw the line in a different place than, for example, the UK and, for example, in Afghanistan or Iraq or other places around the world.
So governments and people, based on their history, their values, their current situation will draw those lines for themselves. But we, let me be clear, stand fully behind freedom of expression, freedom of the press as cornerstones of any democracy.
QUESTION: Looking for the ethics line the U.S. would draw in South Florida with some reporters who were moonlighting on U.S. payroll while also having jobs with U.S.-based media outlets to aid in the anti-Castro effort, do you have anything to (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: First I've heard of that.
QUESTION: Ten of them were taking two paychecks. One of them was the U.S. Government, one of them was their regular job, and it was part of the effort to supply an alternative to Castro's regime.
MR. MCCORMACK: First I've heard of it. I'll be happy to look into it for you.
QUESTION: Sean, I have another question about Iraq. Yesterday, I asked you a question about this office of hostage affairs --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: -- at the embassy, U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Do you have any information about what it is?
MR. MCCORMACK: They did provide me a little bit more information that I can run through -- what I've been given about it. The Office of Hostage Affairs is a collaborative group of experts from all relevant agencies dedicated to the safe recovery of hostages in Iraq, bring hostage takers to justice, and preventing future kidnappings. The office works closely with Iraqi authorities and other governments and has tracked down -- has tracked and worked on over 400 foreign and Iraqi hostage cases and assisted in hundreds of Iraqi -- in bringing to justice and finding hundreds of Iraqis who were kidnapped, finding those responsible. The office has been involved in efforts leading to numerous successful rescues and recoveries and has cooperated with Iraqi authorities in the investigation and prosecution of kidnappers in Iraqi courts.
It is a unique operation in terms of U.S. embassies around the world. There's no similar office in any other embassy around the world, although there are, wherever there is an issue around the world, the ability on a rapid reaction interagency basis to have people addressing these issues. And certainly within embassies where this might be an issue, there are people -- perhaps in some cases individuals -- who have -- this is a specific part of their portfolio. But this is the only American embassy around the world that does have a separate office within the embassy dedicated to this effort.
QUESTION: Is it a signal that the security in Iraq is so poor that you really have to create a special unit (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's an acknowledgement of the reality of the current situation, the current security situation in Iraq.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what those (inaudible) agencies are and is the head of the office a Foreign Service officer?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check for you, Nicholas.
QUESTION: Tangentially related. Is there any news on the kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan where -- I say kidnapping. I mean the disappearance.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't have any update for you and it's a real source of concern for us. Obviously our thoughts go out to her colleagues and her family now. They're waiting for her safe return and we want to do everything that we can to see that she is -- she gets home safe and sound to her family. I don't have any other information regarding the circumstances of her disappearance or current whereabouts, but certainly we're, you know, at Embassy Bishkek this is right at the very top of the list in finding out what happened and getting her back safe.
QUESTION: I have a question on Venezuela, please.
MR. MCCORMACK: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Have we closed -- has the U.S. ordered any offices closed of Venezuela, and how come?
MR. MCCORMACK: As a matter of fact, we have. There was a Military Acquisition Office in Miami and we sent, according to the information I have, a diplomatic note on September 5th to the Venezuelan Embassy requesting that the Military Acquisition Office in Miami be closed by September 30th. And this is a practical outcome of the decision that we were going to terminate the sale and licensing for export of defense articles and defense services to Venezuela, so it follows that this, this particular office, is not needed anymore.
And there was also another office, the Venezuelan Liaison Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Ohio that will close this month since the foreign military sales case providing its funding expires in three weeks. Again, a practical outcome of where we are policy-wise with Venezuela on the sale of defense articles.
MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?
QUESTION: Are they both September 30th? That's the month we're in.
MR. MCCORMACK: This one we'll call -- to close in three weeks, so it's right around the end of the month. But the Miami office, it was specifically requested that it close by September 30th.
QUESTION: Do the Venezuelan personnel have to leave the country or could they be reassigned to Washington or --
MR. MCCORMACK: It is up to the Venezuelan Government to determine what it would like to do with personnel currently working at the Military Acquisition Office. If the Venezuelan Government would like to keep these individuals in the U.S., the Government of Venezuela may at its discretion request accreditation from the Department for individuals it may wish to reassign to its -- to Venezuela's Embassy in Washington or its consulates in the U.S. So bottom line, it's going to be up to them. You go through the normal process of making the request.
QUESTION: Is this typical for a foreign government to have a military acquisition office outside of Washington?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would have to look for you -- look at that for you. I honestly don't know the answer. We'll check it out and see what --
QUESTION: It just seems odd.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll look into it for you. Don't know the answer.
QUESTION: A lot of acquisition contracts are ongoing. They don't sell the gear and the equipment and they're done. Are there any contracts that are still underway that this would affect?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll look into it for you. Don't know.
QUESTION: Have the Venezuelans taken any steps to close any American offices since they received --
MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Not yet anyway.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll find out what sort of reaction we got from them.
QUESTION: Another subject? In Middle East there is a lot of activity, diplomatic activity right now. The foreign ministers of Italy, Germany, Russia have been in Middle East and the British Prime Minister Tony Blair is going this weekend. The great absent is U.S. Where are you in the Middle East right now? What are you doing?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, an odd question given that we just had the air and sea blockade of Lebanon lifted --
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, nonetheless, it wouldn't have happened without Secretary Rice's hard work over the past several days, bottom line. She, as I said yesterday, was -- had multiple, multiple phone calls on this issue with a whole a variety of different, you know, different actors from Prime Minister Siniora to Prime Minister Olmert to Secretary General Annan to the German Foreign Minister. And so we're quite pleased -- we're very pleased that a number of different countries have contributed to the effort to see 1701 implemented, fully implemented. This is one step along the way. We now have French, Italian and Greek warships patrolling the Lebanese coast in support of 1701 implementation. We have German experts at the airport again to address that particular entry-exit point. So we are, you know, we're quite active in the Middle East.
Of course, on issues related to the Israelis and the Palestinians, every single day. We have our people on the ground in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Assistant Secretary David Welch Secretary Rice works -- on any given day, they're working on those issues. And we've -- I think if you check the travel log, we've logged a fair number of miles in the Middle East over the past year and a half, so we are quite deeply involved.
QUESTION: But these people are not only speaking about the implementation of the 1701, they are also speaking about giving a new impression to the peace process, and I wanted to know what is your position on that? What --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you know, again we -- there's no greater champion of trying to bring together Israelis and Palestinians to come to a negotiated solution. If you -- you can go back in the history of this Administration just to see that effort, you can go back and see what Secretary Rice has done personally in negotiating movement and access agreements. Every single day our people work on issues, practical issues like how to get the flow of humanitarian goods into Palestinian areas through the Rafah and Karny Crossings. So this is something that we work on a daily basis. You may not see what we do every single day, but it is something that our people are working on. And I would expect that at some point, Secretary Rice will be going back to the Middle East, but she wants to go back there for a reason and she, you know -- she will make trips and go to those places and meet with those people in furtherance of our foreign policy goals. She's not going to travel for travel sake. And when she thinks the time is right, I'm sure she will be back in the Middle East.
QUESTION: But you mentioned that there's a ceremony on Monday. Do you have the time and is it open?
MR. MCCORMACK: The --
MR. MCCORMACK: The event here at the State Department?
MR. MCCORMACK: We're going to put out a media note. I don't have the exact time for you right now. It will be in the morning -- be mid-morning.
QUESTION: But will it be open?
MR. MCCORMACK: We're going to work on all the press arrangements for you.
QUESTION: Because the President is going to have a speech on that at night and won't she be involved in that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, she'll be -- this event is in the morning. The President's remarks will be at night.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Joel.
QUESTION: Sean, incoming Mexican President Calderon has said that he's willing to work out an immigration accord. For the second time, you had a fairly big-size rally here in the Washington Mall yesterday. And also, in Arlington at the U.S. Courthouse, there is a fake so-called marriage scheme that they've begun to hold hearings about. And what are your responses with what the State Department is doing to consular service overseas to make certain that everything is above board when people do come here into the United States, whether it be on visa or for permanent status?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the State Department works very closely with the Department of Homeland Security to make sure that people who apply for visas do what they say they're going to do when they're making their applications.
Yes, ma'am, in the back.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Chinese Government say that if United States enforce the economic sanctions against North Korea, North Korea eventually does not come to the six-party talks. What is your comment?
MR. MCCORMACK: That they won't come to the six-party talks?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they're not coming to the six-party talks right now. Look; North Korea needs to listen to the world and what the world is telling it. Again, another Security Council resolution that is quite clear in what it needs to do. We would encourage the North Korean regime to act in a constructive, responsible manner; set a date to come back to the six-party talks.
QUESTION: Any comment on the nuclear weapons-free zone treaty that was just signed by the Central Asian --
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll get something for you later. We'll post it for you. Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)
Released on September 8, 2006