State Dept. Daily Press Briefing September 26 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
September 26, 2006
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Query on Tariq Ramadan's Visa Application
Secretary Rice's Remarks on 9/11 Commission Report / Delenda Plan
Issue of Thailand's Next New Prime Minister / Former WTO Director
U.S. Concern for Thailand to Get Back on Pathway for Democracy
Status of Talks Between Larijani and Solana / Discussion of
Talks by Europeans / Solana / P-5 Plus 1 / Sanction Resolution
US Assessment of New Sanctions / Nothing New to Announce
Elections Met International Criteria for Free and Fair Elections
US Congratulates New Prime Minister Abe
Query on Meeting with Indonesian Officials
Hamas Discussions on Unity Government / Political Dynamic within
US Reaction on EU Decision to Accept Bulgaria and Romania as
12:20 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Don't have any opening statements, so we can get right into your questions.
QUESTION: The State was briefly into this business of an academic, a Muslim academic whose visa was --
MR. MCCORMACK: This is Tariq Ramadan?
QUESTION: Yeah, Ramadan, whose visa was not granted. Is he being denied a visa for his actions or for his views? Could you get into it a little bit?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's -- as with any visa case, Barry, there's a limited amount of information that we can provide. But he was denied a visa under Section 212(a)(3)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act for providing material support to a terrorist organization. It's a little bit of history that we can go through to explain to you how we got to a visa denial. He was originally -- Dr. Ramadan was originally issued an H-1B work visa to teach in the U.S. in 2004. The State Department revoked this visa in July 2004 to allow the U.S. Government to follow up on information that came to light after that H-1B visa was issued. He subsequently applied for a B1-B2 visa, business and tourism visa in the fall of 2005. New information was evaluated in his most -- that new information which led to the revocation of the H-1B visa was evaluated in light of the fall 2005 visa application and that ultimately lead to a finding of inadmissibility.
Now, just so you know, there's a -- just for your information, the "to provide material support" clause here refers to a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act. And what this does is it established inadmissibility for committing, "an act that the actor knows or reasonably should know affords material support, including a safe house, transportation, communications, funds, transfer of funds or other material financial benefit, false documentation or identification, weapons, including chemical, biological or radiological weapons, explosives or training … to a terrorist organization." So that's just a little bit of background information for you.
QUESTION: Is that (inaudible) the argument that the group that he is said to have contributed to was not then listed as a terrorist organization?
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry, this is -- people went through this exhaustively. I know there were a lot of discussions about this. People looked at it very carefully the facts. Rack that up against the existing law and this is the decision that we came out with.
QUESTION: Sean, can you just make clear what did he actually do to violate that particular provision?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not something I can get into.
QUESTION: So in answering Barry's question, you didn't mean to implicitly say that, yeah, it was in fact contributing funds to a group.
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I just went through that list just for your background and just for your information -- save you the trouble of flipping through the Immigration and Nationality Act. I know it's what you probably like to do after the briefing.
QUESTION: Yeah. I did it yesterday. (Laughter.) But here's the next question. He -- Mr. Ramadan gave an interview yesterday in which he accused the United States of essentially rejecting his visa on ideological grounds that this had to do with his viewpoints. Can you address that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not true. It was -- again, I can't get into the reasons behind it. You will find that, as you know with any questions about visa applications that we just don't get into the decision-making process. We try to outline for you the law and regulations under which a visa was either denied or revoked or granted and then give a general description of some of what went into our thinking. But in terms of the details of it, it's just as a matter of practice, we don't get into it.
QUESTION: Right. But it has nothing to do with his point -- with his sort of, you know, intellectual points of view?
MR. MCCORMACK: That's certainly not part of that -- that part of the statute of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
QUESTION: Can we go to Thailand?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: There are a series of Thai newspaper reports suggesting that the former WTO Director General Mr. Supachai has agreed to be Thailand's next new prime minister, presumably an interim prime minister until such time as the coup leaders may hold elections. Is he an acceptable choice to the United States? Does he seem like a good choice to you?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to comment on any specific names. That is going to be for the Thai people to decide. Our concern is that Thailand gets back on the pathway to democracy. The actions taken in this coup were clearly a setback for Thai democracy. We want to see the Thai people get back onto the pathway for democracy. That means that those who led this coup should follow up on their promises, form a council, form -- appoint a head of government and schedule elections as quickly as possible. Some of the actions that are occurring right now give us a bit of concern in terms of the ability of political parties to meet and some other actions that they've taken.
So we're watching the situation very closely. While I'm not going to comment on a specific name, I think what is more important is their commitment to democratic values to Thailand's democracy and get them back on that pathway.
QUESTION: Is the one year promise that they made acceptable to you for elections?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to at this point get into commenting on specific timelines. It should happen as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: On Iran, can you give us a kind of update on where you understand things to stand with the talks between Larijani and Solana and any discussion of a temporary suspension during the negotiations that's been reported about?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the last part first. No surprise, you've heard it from us before, their suspension for suspension. If they meet -- if they have a verifiable suspension, the United States will be at the table. Secretary Rice committed to be at that first round of meetings or that first meeting. We haven't seen that yet. We don't have an answer that meets the criterion laid out in Resolution 1696 and previously in the IAEA Board of Governors. We hope that the answer is yes, and that there's a positive answer and that they suspend.
Mr. Solana has not heard that from Mr. Larijani at this point. I believe that they have a meeting scheduled for sometime this week. Those meetings have been delayed several times along the way. They were supposed to meet during the U.N. General Assembly I think last week or the week before. So we'll see. We certainly hope the answer is positive, but we have not heard a positive answer. And as you've heard from Secretary Rice, we are willing to give this a little bit of time. We're not saying how much at this point, but time is quite limited.
QUESTION: When we talk about suspension for suspension, is there -- are you working with the Europeans who -- and Solana, who are working with Larijani, on a formula for this suspension such as do you have to have a complete suspension before the talks could start? Because some of the reports out there suggest that, you know, that you may be able to come to some kind of agreement that's satisfactory to both sides; whereas, the Iranians make some kind of gesture that they have started all the suspension might have not started but the talks could continue.
Is there a kind of formula here or you have to see a complete suspension before those talks would start?
MR. MCCORMACK: A couple of things. One we're in close contact with Mr. Solana as well as the other partners in the P-5+1. Second, the United States will not be at the table for any negotiations absent a suspension as outlined by the IAEA and the Security Council. That means it has to be a verifiable suspension. And suspension means suspension which means suspension. There is a definition listed, I think, in the IAEA Board of Governors' statement from several months back. So it's very clear what needs to happen. We're speaking for ourselves, we won't be at the table absent a verified suspension.
QUESTION: Just one more on this. Would you agree to have the Europeans begin talking with the Iranians before you would join the talks, or is it all or nothing in terms of these issues?
MR. MCCORMACK: The fact of the matter is the Europeans are talking to them. And Mr. Solana is talking to them. I believe at the first and -- the first and the subsequent meetings that Mr. Solana had after the Paris agreement that there were a number of other representatives that were there. There's been sort of -- has not been a set number of people on the European side or the P-5+1 side. But, you know, for example, political directors from various countries have accompanied Mr. Solana. I expect that that would probably continue if Mr. Solana does actually have this meeting with Mr. Larijani.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is there any reason to believe that The Washington Times report is accurate that Iran is close to an agreement with the Europeans to undertake temporary suspension of their uranium enrichment and therefore clear the way for talks with you guys? Do you have reason to believe that's true?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I guess an accurate answer to that question would involve having very clear and accurate insight into the decision-making process of the Iranian regime which we don't have. We'll see. We can only judge them on what it is that they do. They have -- I have heard some hopeful statements from the Iranian Foreign Minister, for example. We'll see if those are borne out. We certainly hope that the answer is, yes; we will suspend. We will verifiably suspend in order to get to negotiations. That's what we want. That's certainly our preferred course of action here. But we are fully prepared along with the other members of the P-5+1 to go down the track of sanctions if that, in fact, is not the answer.
QUESTION: But the flip side is not -- I mean, I realize the Iranian decision making is opaque at best for you guys. That said, you also have much clearer -- much more transparent exchanges with the Europeans. And I wonder if you have heard anything from them to suggest that this report is true; that the Iranians are close to saying yes on the temporary suspension.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think -- you know, Arshad, you just don't know the answer to the question until you have the definitive answer. And there can be hopeful signs, there can be good atmospherics, there can be various permutations of proposals floated formally, informally, in those discussions. But until you have a concrete answer, a definitive answer one way or the other, you know, you're just not going to know.
QUESTION: How close are you guys on possible agreement on a first round of sanctions? I mean, I know the political directors have been meeting all along. Is there agreement on what to do in the first round once, you know --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think we have that nailed down yet. But Nick Burns, our Under Secretary for Political Affairs, is speaking -- in some contact with his colleagues in the -- from the world of political directors in the P-5+1 talking about this. The last time I checked in with him he said that they were making -- they were making progress on that but they haven't nailed it down finally.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. has specific -- I mean, does the U.S. have a clear idea of what it wants when it comes to the table?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sure, we do. I'm not going to, at this point, share that with you guys as we're negotiating with the other members of the P-5+1 at this point. You know, suffice it to say that however, if we do get to this point of a sanctions resolution, it might not look exactly like a resolution that we ourselves drafted and we're wholly responsible for. But it will be something that is acceptable to us and it will be acceptable and conform to our approach of trying to gradually ratchet up pressure on this regime to get it to change its behavior.
QUESTION: Sean, the Secretary said yesterday that the United States is considering new sanctions on Syria.
QUESTION: Can we stay on Iran for a moment?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Let's stay on Iran.
QUESTION: Did -- the story Arshad cited also suggested that perhaps Iran would like to do any suspension more quietly than you might be willing to accept, in other words for public consumption in order to save face? And are you aware of any requests Iran might have made to the Europeans to not be very public in announcing any suspension?
MR. MCCORMACK: A couple of things. Look, you know, they can call it whatever they want. I mean they could call it a ball of wax. But if it's a suspension, meaning the facts on the ground say that it is in fact a suspension and that is verified by the IAEA, they can call it whatever they want.
So it's the facts on the ground that matter to us, whether or not those facts conform to and meet the standards laid out by the IAEA. And you know, again, for us to be at the table for negotiations, that suspension has to be verified and you all know the conditions for our going to the table and we would, of course, restate what those conditions are, that you have to meet the standard of suspension for us to be at the table. So you would certainly know if we ever got to that point and we were at the table that there would be a suspension.
But as I said, they can call it whatever they want as long as it meets the terms and conditions that are laid out.
QUESTION: Do you think it's conceivable in your view to verify it in a secret way? I mean are you open to sending, IAEA inspectors in and not publicly announce it, or do you feel like it has to be a publicly verified thing and you have to be able to -- I mean can you do it secretly?
MR. MCCORMACK: I suppose that that becomes very tricky because it would have to be verified by the IAEA. And I suspect that you guys would soon find out if, in fact, that happened given your skill and prowess in tracking down these matters.
But again, -- you know, again, if we showed up at the table, you would know why. We would be there because there was a full suspension. And you know, the Iranians may want to call it something else, I don't know, which is -- doesn't really matter frankly what you call it as long as the facts on the ground meet the standards laid out and the requirements laid out by the Security Council and the IAEA Board of Governors.
Anything else on Iran?
QUESTION: Secretary Rice has said yesterday that the United States is considering renewed sanctions on Syria. Are you considering this in the U.N. Security Council or from outside the Security Council?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have a variety of measures that are available to us. She is -- she was talking about the fact that you -- as a policy maker, you are always assessing where you are policy-wise and whether or not you have the proper policies in place, in this case the appropriate measures, based on Syria's behavior.
We, at this point, don't have any announcements for you. I'm not aware of any at this point, any new push in the Security Council for new sanctions. Individual states can, of course, take their own decisions. Individual organizations can take their decisions based on Syria's actions, based on Syria's compliance or noncompliance with existing Security Council resolutions.
So that's a long way of saying we don't have anything new to announce at the moment.
QUESTION: Are you considering for yourself, bilateral ones?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think it's fair to say, Arshad, you always look at where we stand. At this point, I don't have any announcements for you, though.
QUESTION: Does the United States share the assessment of some such as the Yemeni NGO Political Development Forum that last week's elections in Yemen were the best in the region?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to try to make comparisons across the region, but I think all the information that I've read on the elections has indicated that the elections in Yemen did meet a certain international standard for freeness and fairness. So Yemen and President Saleh, who did win re-election in those elections, should be congratulated on the fact that they ran some good elections that met international criteria for free and fair elections.
QUESTION: A quick one on Japan. Can we have your comment on the newly elected Japanese Prime Minister in the cabinet today?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll say that we congratulate him on his election. We look forward to working with him across a broad and deep relationship that Japan and the United States enjoy. We have a close treaty alliance and we look forward to working Prime Minister Abe and his government.
I understand that Foreign Minister Aso was reappointed as Foreign Minister. Secretary Rice certainly congratulates him on his reappointment. She looks forward to working with him. They felt a good, close working relationship over this past period of time. They've dealt with some pretty weighty issues, and there's some weighty issues on the agenda in front of all of us. And I expect that at some point in the near future she'll probably give him a call to congratulate him.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice has gotten some attention for some remarks she made yesterday to The New York Post I believe.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think The New York Post got some attention.
QUESTION: Yeah, right. Well, she said President Clinton's interview with Fox, some of his assertions about the Bush Administration pre-9/11 were "flatly false." That's --
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, I mean -- take a look at the transcript. I mean what she was -- and it's very clear if you look at the transcript, that she was not making this a personal issue. But the questioner did raise some of these old issues. We've been through these before. I was having flashbacks to the 9/11 Commission, and prior to that I lived through all of that over at the White House.
It's just -- you know, her bottom line was, look, look at the 9/11 Commission Report. It's a pretty thorough document that's been widely praised from across the political spectrum. Take a look at the facts. And the fact of the matter is that the United States and the United States Government, going back over Republican and Democrat administrations, was not organized to fight the war that we're fighting right now. And that the Clinton Administration tried; the Bush Administration tried. Those efforts were clearly not enough, clearly not enough to stop a 9/11.
And she was just -- she wanted to go back and she was just trying to address in a factual way what it is that the Bush Administration did in its eight months that it had to address this issue.
QUESTION: What do you make and what does she make of President Clinton's strong defense and, you know, attacking the Bush Administration's efforts?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, there's -- I know President Bush just got asked this question. Look, it was -- clearly, there was a lot of emotion in that interview, and I think it's probably better to ask the people involved in that interview what was behind it and to comment on it.
Secretary Rice was merely answering some questions that were put to her in one of a number of different interviews she had scheduled yesterday and but were scheduled well in advance of this small tempest.
QUESTION: Will she be doing an interview on the meeting with the Indonesian?
MR. MCCORMACK: An interview? Yeah, we're -- the Indonesians are the host on that, so they'll be dictating the press coverage. I don't know that she's going to be taking questions at that, Barry.
QUESTION: No, no, I meant looking for information on the meeting. She, more than occasionally, gives interviews to news organizations with the -- from the other country. I just wondered if she's going to do anything with Indonesians that we can look to?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing -- no. Nothing scheduled, Barry. I don't know if they'll stop her on the sidewalk or something, but nothing planned at this point.
Yes, sir, Mr.Gollust.
QUESTION: Sean, Embassy International has a report out that the Government of Iran has mounted a fairly wide-ranging crackdown against the Azerbaijani minority in Iran. I was just wondering if the State Department was aware of it or had anything to say about it.
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check into that specific report for you, Dave. I want to give you --
QUESTION: (inaudible) out yesterday.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. We'll give you an informed answer on that.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice yesterday has said to -- has differentiated between Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hamas in Syria, Khaled Meshaal. What can you do to let Hamas in the Palestinian territory be more moderated?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know that that is up to us or anybody outside of Hamas. You know, I think it's pretty clear that ultimately on important questions related to whether or not Hamas is going to have discussions with Fatah to come up with a national unity government, and even more grave questions like launching attacks on Israel, you know, rockets or kidnapping soldiers, those shots are -- it would seem -- called out of Damascus by Khaled Meshaal and those around him.
You'll have to talk to others about the political dynamic within Hamas, but I think it is fair to say -- just standing back and observing events -- the leadership is under quite a bit of stress at this point, based on the fact that they have not delivered as a political party, as a government for the Palestinian people. We ourselves consider them a terrorist organization. But it's quite clear that they have not delivered on their campaign promises. They didn't campaign on, you know, on a platform of we're going to send your -- turn your kids into suicide bombers. They campaigned on a platform of we're going to clean up the Palestinian Authority government and we're going to govern effectively. Well, they certainly have not governed effectively. And partly as a result, you see the Palestinian Authority civil servants on strike and so they are quite clearly a group under a great deal of pressure and stress.
QUESTION: I just wonder if I can go back quickly to the previous topic. The Secretary made another comment yesterday when she was talking about the fact that there wasn't a blueprint or strategy of some sort that Clinton left behind after he left office. Was she talking about a specific single document or was she talking about a (inaudible) -- because Richard Clarke was still in the White --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- he had, if there were any such blueprint, probably he wrote it and he was still there when she got to the White House. So I'm just a bit confused of whether she --
MR. MCCORMACK: You can go back and this is all --
QUESTION: Right. Commission --
MR. MCCORMACK: 9/11 Commission flashback at the moment. There is -- look, you can go back and look at the record of the 9/11 Commission. There's -- what they're referring to is the so-called Delenda Plan. It was transmitted I think in a January 25th, 2001 memo that was taken up. It was received at the deputies committee meeting, I believe in a meeting in February or March of 2001. They took a look at this plan and decided that they needed -- there were missing components who had basically -- you know, at its most basic, you needed to have a regional strategy not just dealing with Afghanistan, per se, but you had to deal with other issues like Pakistan and how Pakistan relates to Afghanistan, how Pakistan relates to India. So you had to deal with this comprehensively.
So that might have been what was being referred to. And I would just note that Dick Clarke himself in an interview with journalists while he was at the White House said that there was nothing new. There was no new plan, so that's in his own words.
Yes. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. Any reaction to or comment on the European Commission's decision today to accept Bulgaria and Romania as members of the EU?
MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly that's welcome. And I know that the EU is wrestling with these issues of expansion and at what pace to take the talks that they have ongoing with a variety of other countries. Those decisions are at the base for the EU to make. We certainly would encourage the EU to continue to keep open a European horizon for a number of states including those in the Balkans and Turkey as well. But certainly today's news is welcomed news for those few countries as well as the EU.
QUESTION: Since we have very close cooperation with both countries and recent agreements, a military cooperation, do you see the fact that there will be now in the EU as perhaps enhancing that cooperation or making it easier for you to work with them and your other European allies?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas, I'm not sure how much it changes in that regard. They're both NATO allies as well. We -- there are always ongoing discussions between the EU and NATO on how they might best cooperate. Those discussions, as far as I know, are still ongoing. Sometimes they turn somewhat contentious. But we would expect good cooperation and no troubles there.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:49 p.m.)
DPB # 155
Released on September 26, 2006