State Dept. Daily Press Briefing September 28 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
September 28, 2006
Suspension of US Assistance Programs
Reported Draft of Constitution Circulated by Coup Leaders
Secretary Rice's Travel to the Region / Consultations / Meetings
Israeli-Palestinian Issues, Situation in the Middle East, Moving
Forward Democracy Agenda in the Middle East, Threats to Peace and
Stability and Moderation in the Middle East Expected to be On the
Egypt's Announcement Regarding Plans to Pursue Nuclear Program
EU Javier Solana and Chief Iranian Negotiator Larijani Meetings in
Prospects for Further Talks
Timeline Set in New York Remains
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Congressional Black Caucus
Secretary Rice's Speech on Sudan
Consequences for Sudan Not Cooperating with International
Status of International Peacekeeping Force
President Bush's Meeting with President Karzai and President
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Greek Foreign Minister
Visa Waiver Program
President Chen's Comments on Constitutional Reform
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Indian Defense Minister in New York
Status of US-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative
Burma on the Agenda of the UN Security Council
12:40 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I have a couple of opening announcements for you, and then we can get into your questions. The first one concerns Thailand.
In response to the military coup on September 19th in Thailand, the United States has suspended almost $24 million of assistance to the Thai Government under Section 508 of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act in the following areas: Foreign Military Financing, International Military Education and Training, Peacekeeping Operations and Section 1206 funds. The United States continues to urge a rapid return to democratic rule and early elections in Thailand. We look forward to being able to reinstate these suspended programs after a democratically elected government takes office.
And second, the Secretary will be hitting the road starting this coming Sunday, will be traveling next week to the Middle East. She is going to make stops in Saudi Arabia, in Egypt, in Jerusalem and in the Palestinian Authority areas with leaders from -- in those areas. This is a follow-up to the President's task to her as stated in the UN General Assembly speech to go out and consult in the region, consult with those leaders who have a vision for a more moderate, peaceful, democratic, stable and prosperous Middle East, to talk about the various issues that are out there on the table. I would expect Israeli-Palestinian issues certainly would be on the table; the situation in the Middle East; moving forward the democracy agenda in the Middle East; as well as threats to that peace and stability and moderation in the Middle East, for example from Iran and from terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.
And with that, I'm happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: The President, if I'm not mistaken, in his speech said that he had tasked her with going out to try to deal particularly with the Israeli-Palestinian issue and to see what progress might be possible. Is it fair to say that that is the central theme of her trip?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'd say it is an important component, an important component of it, and to see what the possibilities are. Again, this, I would characterize more as a trip centered around consultations and really to follow up on some of her conversations that she had at the United Nations over the past couple of weeks and to go to the region and further explore some of the ideas that are out there and to see what the possibilities are; and have her focus with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian issues, really center on the security-related issues to see how we can move that forward; and then also as that relates to existing agreements like the Gaza movement and access agreement, how we might be able to move that forward. But I suspect that this is going to be a trip more about consultations in those areas.
QUESTION: She said in a newspaper interview last week that she thought that there would be -- that we'd see a meeting between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas in the not-too-distant future. And this morning there were again signs that, you know, at least on the Israeli side that they were looking to do that. Does she have any desire or is she seeking to do a three-way meeting while she is on this trip?
MR. MCCORMACK: No plans for that right now. No plans for that.
QUESTION: And just one quick one on Thailand. Can you tell us what Section 1206 money is?
MR. MCCORMACK: I will have an expert afterwards get you some information on that and run through all of this. Anytime you start getting into money and funding, I'm going to leave it to the people who deal with stuff on a daily basis as you start getting into what you're funding and so forth. But one thing that I can say is that this is not all of U.S. bilateral aid to Thailand. There are -- this is covered by what I just referred to, Section 508, of the law. There are certain aid programs that fall outside the purview of that and that in our view are important to continue on. This very generally deals with things like helping prevent the spread of AIDS, preparing for a possible avian influenza outbreak and how to prevent that. So those sorts of programs.
QUESTION: Humanitarian programs?
MR. MCCORMACK: Humanitarian programs. Those are the sorts of things that are going to continue. These programs -- the law stipulates that until and unless the President -- and this authority is now delegated to the Secretary of State -- is able to determine that there is a democratically elected government in place, these funds and these programs will be suspended.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: I have questions on both topics, but I will go back to the trip first. Yesterday you said that you're not going to ask Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians given the absence of a partner that doesn't have disputes within its own ranks, within the Palestinians. I assume that the Secretary will meet with President Abbas. In terms of negotiations and the road ahead in the peace process then, how do you -- do you still see Israel talking to President Abbas, excluding Hamas? And where does that leave the new unity government that they're trying to form in terms of the peace process?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of the new unity government, that is something -- there isn't a new unity government at this point, and that is something that the Palestinians are going to have to arrive at themselves if, in fact, there is a unity government. And the platform for that government, the composition of that government, is going to be a decision for the Palestinians to make.
In the meantime, we will continue our contacts with President Abbas because we believe he is a partner for peace, he is a channel, somebody with whom we as well as the Israelis can work. Foreign Minister Livni met with President Abbas while he was at the UN General Assembly. There are some issues that we can work on. He does have under his purview some security forces, some of the presidential guard, and they are the ones who are actually now working along the Rafah crossing point. That's why you can have that continuing flow through the Rafah crossing point and on occasion through the Karni crossing point.
So there are things that we can do. One thing we can't do is work with a Hamas-led government. And why is that? We can't do that, the international community can't do that, chooses not to do that, because they have not renounced terrorism, they have not acknowledged the right of the state of Israel to exist. So while those conditions hold, continue to hold, we're not going to talk to a Hamas-led government and we're certainly not going to advocate others, including the Israelis, talking to a Hamas-led government.
QUESTION: How much does she think she can accomplish on this trip to fulfill the task that the President gave her last week in terms of the progress in the process?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the task from the President was to consult and to see what the possibilities are. And that is how I would frame this trip. This is a trip about consultation, continuing discussions to see what the possibilities are. So this is a trip designed to lay the foundations potentially for moving the process forward. There aren't any guarantees in that regard.
You saw at the Security Council discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian issues up in New York -- I think it was last week -- a really positive, I would say -- characterize it as a positive atmosphere. There weren't accusations hurled back and forth. It was a real atmosphere of hope as well as desire to try to enhance the prospects for a more moderate, peaceful, prosperous Middle East, including for trying to make progress on issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The job now is to try to see if you can turn some of that hope and that will into concrete actions and there seems to be a genuine desire among leaders in the region that you start to see some of those emerge in Saudi Arabia, in Egypt as well as others, to try to move that process forward. So the Secretary is going to go there to consult, explore what the possibilities are. So I think that that's how I would frame this trip.
QUESTION: Just one last thing. Early yesterday you spoke about moderates and extremists in the Middle East. Is she going to talk about this with the governments in the countries where she'll go, in Jerusalem for instance?
MR. MCCORMACK: I expect that that will certainly be a -- it will be a frame for the conversations there. And certainly we would put the governments with whom we are going to be meeting on the side of moderation and these are governments that have an interest in a more stable, peaceful, prosperous Middle East, one that is more free. Because that is -- because the forces of extremism and violence are as much a threat to them and their nations as they are to the United States or other freedom-loving nations around the world. So it is in all of our interests to try to -- to sit down and talk and see how we can move forward on a positive agenda in the Middle East.
QUESTION: Sean, as far as this general desire among leaders in the region, can there be peace without Hamas or will Hamas be ready -- they are still saying that they will not recognize Israel and how can you have peace without Hamas if other leaders are ready but Hamas terrorists are not ready? You have to get rid of them or bring some moderates there in Palestine who can have this kind of agreement or --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's about choices, Goyal, and the Palestinian people have to make choices. The leaders of Hamas -- an organization that we consider a terrorist organization -- have to make choices. Certainly an optimal outcome would be if you had a Palestinian Authority, Palestinian-led government that recognizes Israel's right to exist, that was committed to good governance, fighting corruption, stopping terrorism and renouncing terrorism. That certainly is in, we believe, the Palestinian people's interest. We believe it is in the interest of the Israeli people as well. If Hamas chose to be part of that under those conditions, certainly that would be positive. But that is their choice to make. It is the choice of the Palestinian people to make.
I would just note that we were able to actually make some progress in resolving some of the issues and there are a lot of them between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And then you had Hamas come into power and that progress ceased, even the potential for progress -- it ceased. Why did it cease? It ceased because you don't have a partner for peace in that kind of Palestinian Authority.
And I'd just note, and I've said this before, Hamas didn't participate in the Palestinian Authority elections on the platform of, you know, we're going to send your teenage children to die and to go blow up other teenage children. No. They ran on a platform of we are going to govern well, we are going to govern effectively and we're going to clean up the Palestinian Authority. Well, they've failed.
And as for the choices the Palestinian people make as to who leads them and what kind of government they want and what kind of platform that government will have, that's going to be up to the Palestinian people.
QUESTION: Sean, during this trip the Secretary is going there, do you think there is some kind of indication from Hamas and other leaders that they are ready to talk or --
MR. MCCORMACK: We're not going --
QUESTION: -- because she has been there many times in the region,
MR. MCCORMACK: We're not talking to Hamas and we're not going to talk to Hamas.
Yes, anything else on Middle East?
QUESTION: Yes, I wanted to ask, is there any plan in these consultations to talk to Siniora and the Lebanese Government?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll, again, keep you up to date on the schedule. The stops that I've outlined for you are the ones that we're going to be putting out on a piece of paper.
QUESTION: Yeah. How did --
MR. MCCORMACK: That should be coming out in a few minutes.
QUESTION: How will that government fit into that mix, though, that you've talked about, you know, consultations with moderate governments? I assume they're a big part of this push.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, yes, we consider the government of Prime Minister Siniora and the efforts that he has made as efforts in favor of democracy, in favor of good governance, in favor of an elected government serving the people that elected that government. And certainly there's a great deal of interest, there's a great deal of interest in the region, in seeing Prime Minister Siniora and his efforts and the efforts of those interested in a true Lebanese democracy succeed. And so I would expect certainly the issue of Lebanon in the context of the region certainly might come up.
QUESTION: I was just wondering if there's any sort of concrete goals trying to come out of this trip, specifically the release of the Israeli soldiers in Lebanon.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we -- I've tried to frame this trip as really a trip that is designed for consultations and to explore ideas and to see what the possibilities are. Certainly there's an easy resolution to this and that is Hamas unconditionally releases immediately the soldier it has in its hands and Hezbollah do the same with the two soldiers it has in its hands. So that part isn't hard and certainly we will continue to call for that.
QUESTION: Can we do Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. Anything else on --
QUESTION: Sean, when does she go and who's going with her?
MR. MCCORMACK: She will be leaving here Sunday night, traveling to the Middle East to the stops that I outlined for you. As for who's going to be going with her, it's the people on her staff who deal with Middle East issues and others who travel with her on a regular basis.
QUESTION: Do you have the list of countries? Are you going going to put them out?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, we're going to put out a piece of paper that gives you the planned stops that we have right now.
QUESTION: She leaves Sunday, this Sunday?
MR. MCCORMACK: This Sunday, yes. Yes, okay. On the Middle East.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: Following on the extremist versus moderates and in the context of your push for democracy in the Middle East. As you know, some governments, particularly in Egypt, consider some of those pro-democracy advocates as extreme elements. And I'm not sure that you do, but there seems to be -- the issue seems to be quite difficult to resolve in terms of who is who and who is a terrorist, who's not a terrorist. Is she going to talk to President Mubarak about dealing with extremism but also trying to promote democratic reform?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure that she is going to talk to President Mubarak as well as her other Egyptian interlocutors about the importance of continuing the democratic reform process in Egypt. We're not going to get into the business of deciding --
QUESTION: Who's who.
MR. MCCORMACK: Who is who. But I think there are some pretty clear lines in the region as to who are forces that are either forces for extremism and violence or supporters of. You can look at Iran. You can look at Syria. You can look at Hezbollah. You can look at Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad. There are a number of different groups. So I think quite clearly there's a bright line there and you can see exactly what side of the line groups and states fall.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. taken a line on the announcements out of Egypt last week that Egypt would like to pursue a nuclear program and will that be part of Secretary Rice's discussions in Egypt?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't talked to our folks about it, but there is -- and I would have to check to see if Egypt is a signatory of the Nonproliferation Treaty. I believe it is. It is the right of countries under the Nonproliferation Treaty to pursue peaceful civilian nuclear energy programs. We certainly recognize that right and encourage that. The President has a global nuclear energy promotion initiative that's out there. So we are advocates of development of peaceful nuclear power.
There are responsibilities, however, that come along with and there are responsibilities that come along with those treaty obligations and that is not to seek nuclear weapons, not to seek nuclear weapons under the cover of a peaceful nuclear energy program.
Now that's where Iran runs afoul of the international community. They -- and it is the belief of the international community and the IAEA, the United States and European countries, as well as others -- are pursuing a nuclear weapons program under the cover of a peaceful nuclear energy program. And that is something that has played out over a long period of time.
QUESTION: Can we stay with Iran for a second?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Can you give us -- can you let us know whether the Secretary's had any conversations with Mr. Solana since his meetings yesterday and today and any readout on them?
MR. MCCORMACK: She did have a brief conversation with Mr. Solana last night. Again, I'm not in a position to give a detailed readout of these things. I'm going to leave it to Mr. Solana and his folks over there in Berlin to give you a readout, their assessment of the meetings, what the mood music is, what the atmospherics are, what the specifics of their conversations are.
I checked just before I came out here and my understanding is that there still is an ongoing meeting between Mr. Solana and Mr. Larijani. That may have changed in the 15 minutes I've been out here. But I'm going to leave it to them to discuss (a) what is on their agenda and their impressions of the meetings that they're having with the Iranians.
We continue to hope for a positive answer from the Iranians on a very simple point: Are they willing to suspend their enrichment-related activities in order to realize a suspension of activity in the Security Council as well as to get into negotiations? We hope that that is the choice. Everybody hopes that that is the choice and it is a pretty simple one for the Iranians. The ball is in their court. The world is watching them. Nobody wants to go down the path of sanctions. That is not our first choice. But we are prepared along with the P-5+1 to go down that path if that's the door that the Iranian regime wants to open. We hope that the door to a negotiated settlement to this issue is the door that the Iranians choose to open.
QUESTION: To your knowledge, have they yet made that choice in these meetings?
MR. MCCORMACK: To my knowledge, no. No. To my knowledge, they have not.
QUESTION: And if there -- two follow-ups. Some people seem to have interpreted your statements yesterday as suggesting that you would give the Iranians a little bit more time.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure where that came from. I thought I was pretty clear when I was referring to giving Mr. Solana some weeks and days that I was pinning that to a period of time back early in September because I was talking about that in the context of the international community not wanting to wrestle with this issue in the Security Council. Just an acknowledgement of reality that we, at that point in time earlier in December, made the assessment, based on conversations with Mr. Solana, that we would give them some time, give them some weeks, to see if there's an opening, see if there's some possibilities here.
We are now at a point in time here at the end of September in which that time is growing short. And just up in New York the P-5+1 met. They have an agreement on how long we are willing to let this go. We decided not to talk about this date. We're doing that in the interest of giving this every opportunity to try to succeed. But --
QUESTION: But that timeline stays the same.
MR. MCCORMACK: That timeline -- yes, that timeline stays. I saw a couple of reports. Frankly, whoever wrote it got it wrong. And I think if you look at the transcript, it's pretty clear.
QUESTION: I'm not -- I wasn't trying to point the finger at anybody. I just wanted to get it clear on it.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. No, but it is important -- it is important to clear it up because I did some of those reports yesterday. The timeline that was agreed in New York stays and we are getting short now in terms of that time.
QUESTION: And one other thing on this. If the Iranians were to make the positive choice that you hope they do, how quickly might they see -- I realize that would be an agreement that would simply open the doors to negotiations on the incentives package, but how quickly is it conceivable that they could see some benefits?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that depends on a lot of things. First of all, you have to have an authoritative statement. And I'm not going to go through every single step required here, but just very generally you have to have an authoritative statement that they are willing to suspend and that they are going to and they have made a commitment. Then you have to have the IAEA verify the fact that there is a suspension. And then I would expect, again if we get to this point, that there's some discussion about the modalities -- the when and the where and the who and all of those things. Then you actually have negotiations and during this time you have the Iranians continuing their suspension. There would be negotiations as long as there was a suspension.
Its how fast the pace of those negotiations -- I couldn't predict the rhythm and the pace of those. But certainly, again, we would stand by our word and that we would enter such negotiations with -- in a spirit of good faith and goodwill and based on the proposal that was agreed among the P-5+1. But right now that's a long ways off, if it ever happens. And the choice of whether or not that happens, that scenario unfolds, is -- it lay with the Iranians.
QUESTION: Can I try one last one on this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: I think the meetings may have ended, at least based on our reporting.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: And I believe we're quoting Mr. Solana as talking about the possibility of some additional talks next week. You have no information about that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. Again, I checked right before I came out and, at least as when I came out here, they were still going on. So we'll -- I'm sure we're going to have some discussions with a readout from Mr. Solana or his people.
QUESTION: Is the Secretary planning to talk to him today?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's likely that they will. It's likely they will. That's sort of been the pattern. If there's anything that we can share, we can try to put something out for you later. I can't guarantee that. I don't know how much we'll have to share at this point.
QUESTION: Are the political directors meeting anytime soon?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- I'll have to check for you. They met last week. I don't know about any scheduled meetings this week.
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll check for you.
QUESTION: Sean, just one quick note back on Thailand. Do happen to have the total number of U.S. aid this year? I know that last week there were some numbers floating but --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have it. We'll have somebody get that stuff for you.
QUESTION: Can we stick with Thailand and have just one more on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: There are reports now surfacing in the Thai press, and we've talked to people who have actually seen this document, that there's a draft of the constitution that the coup leaders are circulating. And there are some concerns that it would retain an excessively great role for the coup leaders during whatever interim period there may be before elections. There was something about the head of the coup leaders being able to summon the Prime Minister for conversations about any basically decision. The impression read -- by people who have actually read the thing is that that they would retain a lot of influence. Is that acceptable to you? Don't you want them to just let go to a caretaker administration and hold elections?
MR. MCCORMACK: We would -- I would have to comment based on specifics and the people in our Embassy in Bangkok may or may not have seen the draft of this. I don't know. But we would have to look at the specifics of it.
Just as a general comment, what we want to see is Thailand get back as quickly as possible onto the pathway of democracy. They are not currently on that pathway. The coup was a setback. It was a real setback for Thai democracy. So just as a general comment, you want to see them get back on that path and start pushing forward.
I'm going to withhold any comment until we have a chance to see the specifics of it. But very generally, you want to see a return to adherence of democratic principles and that means political parties being able to form and discuss in a free manner what their platforms might be. You want to have freedom of expression and you want to have elections as soon as possible. And you also want to have an interim government that is a government committed to the principles of democracy and acting on those principles of democracy.
QUESTION: Don't you also want an interim government that does not have the military looking over its shoulder with veto power on --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well that gets back to the original question of the constitution. What I would say is you want an interim government that adheres to the principles of democracy and that acts on those principles.
QUESTION: On Burma.
MR. MCCORMACK: Hold on, hold on a second. We have some others that have had their hands up here, so we'll get to you.
QUESTION: I was just looking for a readout from her meeting on the Hill this morning with the Congressional Black Caucus. What are they -- I think they were suppose to talk about Darfur and other --
MR. MCCORMACK: It was mostly on Sudan. I wasn't there but I did talk to some folks that were there. It was mostly on Darfur. It was actually a very positive discussion. I think the last time she met with the CBC was back in May of 2005. The meeting was scheduled, I think, for a half hour; it went an hour. They touched on a couple other issues as well, but the real focus of the conversations was Sudan.
QUESTION: Sean, on Sudan.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Many people who -- at least some people who read the Secretary's speech yesterday interpret a sanctions threat or punitive actions against Sudan if they do not accept the blue-hatting. Is that a true read of what she said?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you can go back and look at the wording that she used. She used the word "confrontation" with the international community. And we're not going to talk about specifics at this point right now because we still hope that there is a spirit of cooperation and actually acting on the spirit of cooperation, allowing in UN peacekeepers, blue-hatting the AMIS force that is there right now. There are already international forces on the ground, so I think it's quite clear the international community is not in any way -- I've heard this term before -- trying to re-colonize Sudan. That's not the point.
The point here is to try to protect people who need protection and to try to alleviate, in some small regard, some of the really awful, terrible humanitarian suffering that's going on there; and ultimately, to try to give these peace agreements, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement as well as the Darfur Peace Agreement, an opportunity to work. And in trying to get them to work, everybody has responsibilities. We know that. But you need to address the immediate issues of concern, the tragedy that is now unfolding in Darfur, and a big part of that is getting that UN force in there and we hope that is the decision of the Sudanese Government, to assent to that.
QUESTION: There are a lot of sanctions out there. Do you --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to talk about that right now. The Secretary put it the way she put it because that's what she wants to say about it right now.
QUESTION: Do the Sudanese leaders have any sense for what confrontation might mean? Has the Secretary made clear through intermediaries what they might face if they don't cooperate?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to get into those conversations.
Yes, anything else on Sudan?
QUESTION: What is the benchmark in terms of whether you know that the Sudanese are choosing confrontation or not? I mean, how long are you willing to give them and what -- there was some talk last week about a -- some ministers had suggested a kind of last-ditch effort to push -- to go to the government and see if they'll allow the force. I mean, what efforts are going to be made to test whether they're actually choosing -- making the choice between confrontation or cooperation?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the Secretary talked about some of those in her speech yesterday. I think probably the most important metric at this point is assenting to the international force coming in. Also, we're looking for other measures -- implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement and actually acting to stop the violence. So those are the things that we're looking at, but I think the most pressing issue at this point is allowing in, agreeing to, the blue-hatting of the current force and then the inflow of additional international forces under the aegis of the UN.
QUESTION: Just to follow that though, I mean, at what point do you take no for an answer? The government keeps saying no. There's been -- like I said, there was some talk about sending a delegation of ministers in to push the idea of allowing the force in. I mean, at what point are you going to, like any other issue -- Iran, North Korea -- at what point do you say this government is not cooperating, it's time for further action?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, those are judgments that are not yet before us and those are frankly political judgments, judgments of international politics. And to see if you have either -- see if either (a) you're making progress or you have the real hope of making progress, not just some vague, amorphous hope of making progress. And we'll see. There was talk about the AU and others leading a delegation to try to convince the regime in Khartoum to allow in this international force. We hope that they respond to that. And we also have called upon others to speak out and to pressure those who might be in any way shielding the government in Khartoum from this kind of pressure.
So the Secretary had the meeting up in New York and gave the speech yesterday for a reason. She wants to keep the international spotlight on this issue. It would be a tragedy if the international community allowed the current situation to continue and she is going to continue speaking out on this issue. She is going to continue shining the spotlight on this issue and we're going to do everything that we can to see that the government in Khartoum does agree to that international force. We can't do it alone and one of the reasons why she gave that speech yesterday is she wants to -- she also thinks it is important that other countries around the globe apply real pressure, diplomatic pressure, to the Government of Sudan to get them to do the right thing.
QUESTION: Last night, Sean, Nick Burns was also interviewed on PBS on Charlie Rose Show and spoke clearly and succinctly about some of the problems we've been discussing. Now, our elections are here in a little over a month in November for 2006 for Congress and some senatorial type seats --
MR. MCCORMACK: A bunch of governor races, too.
QUESTION: Right. Now, that's possibly taking a bearing because al-Qaida just released another 20-minute audiotape today. What do you think of that tape? Are you either looking at it or ignoring it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Haven't seen it. Haven't seen it, Joel.
QUESTION: What came -- from your point of view, what came out of the meeting of President Bush with President Musharraf and President Karzai? Do you feel like there is a new commitment on their part to work together to try to crack down on terrorism and militants?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think I'm going to let my colleagues at the White House talk about the President's meetings.
QUESTION: Is there anything that you guys want to see come -- you know, that you want to see them now do?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I'm going to -- again, inasmuch as that question relates to the President's meeting, the White House can talk about that. The President talked about it yesterday. Those three leaders and those three countries have a shared interest in addressing the threat of terrorism and extremism, and it is in the interest of those countries and all the peoples of those countries to do everything that we possibly can to address those threats. So they did talk about some practical issues, I understand, at the meeting, how to better achieve that goal. And we would just emphasize and underline the importance of all of the three of us working together to address what is a common threat, a threat to all of us.
QUESTION: Sean, may I just follow, please? Is Secretary Rice satisfied from this blame game between Afghanistan and Pakistan because of President Karzai saying that the terrorists are coming into his country, Taliban back? And also at the same time, he's saying Usama bin Laden is not in Afghanistan and General Musharraf is saying he's not in Pakistan, but news reports are saying he is on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Why somebody doesn't clarify which side of the border he is in?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, Goyal, you know, if we knew where he was, we'd be having a different conversation right now. We don't know where he is. And in terms of the Pakistani Government and the Afghan Government working together, yes, we're all aware of the historical differences and, you know, any tensions that may have been built up over time. But we would just encourage everybody to look beyond those, put those aside and to work together on -- to address what is a common and a very real threat. And we are hopeful that if everybody can keep their eye on that goal, then we will make some progress.
QUESTION: One on a different issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, we have others here who have been waiting. Lambros.
QUESTION: On Greece. Mr. McCormack, any readout on the yesterday's talks between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis which lasted almost an hour? Could you please to be more specific as you can in order to have a full picture on the context of their talks?
MR. MCCORMACK: They have a good personal and professional relationship. Relations between Greece and the United States are excellent. They talked about a number of sort of regional as well as bilateral issues. They talked a little bit about Cyprus. They talked about Greek-Turkish relations. They talked a little bit about Kosovo. Talked a little bit about -- the Foreign Minister brought up the issue of visas. So there were a number of different issues that they talked about. It was a good exchange.
QUESTION: What was said about the visas?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, this is an issue that's regulated by the law. Certainly we want to do everything that we can in the context of that law to facilitate travel back and forth between the United States and Greece.
QUESTION: Were you present in the meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Were you present in the meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, I was.
QUESTION: Who else was present in that meeting from your side?
MR. MCCORMACK: From our side?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm trying to remember --
QUESTION: To the best of your recollection. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, to the best of my recollection. You know I'm getting old, so it's a little hard to remember that far back. I think Kurt Volker was there. Dan Fried is traveling in the region at the moment. Let see, me, Kurt Volker -- I'll have to go back and look at my notes. We'll get you an answer.
QUESTION: One more. Mr. McCormack, did they disagree --
MR. MCCORMACK: The Secretary was in the meeting, too.
QUESTION: Did they disagree in any issue on both agendas, the Greek one and the American one, in order to avoid (inaudible) theories, not mine, and conspiracies against this particular meeting between Secretary Rice and Minister Bakoyannis?
MR. MCCORMACK: You want me to be more clear so people don't make things up?
QUESTION: But any disagreement?
MR. MCCORMACK: They had a good meeting. They had a good meeting, Lambros.
Yes, ma'am, in the back.
QUESTION: On Taiwan. Do you have any comment on Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's new remarks yesterday saying that Taiwan and China are different countries? And his party also talked about 10-year timetable to turn Taiwan into a normal country. Thanks.
MR. MCCORMACK: Our longstanding position is clear and remains: We do not support Taiwan independence. We are opposed to unilateral changes to the status quo by either side. We take seriously President Chen's repeated commitments not to permit the constitutional reform process to touch on Taiwan's status, including territorial definition. President Chen's fulfillment of his commitments will be a test of leadership, dependability and statesmanship.
QUESTION: A follow-up. The President said that his new remarks do not oppose, you know, his earlier commitment. Do you have any -- do you get any clarification from Taiwan so far?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything to add to what I just read you.
QUESTION: One quick one. One on India, one Burma.
MR. MCCORMACK: That's two questions.
QUESTION: I understand the Secretary met with the Indian Defense Minister in New York and also --
MR. MCCORMACK: She did.
QUESTION: -- some Indian officials were here at the State Department also. What is going on? Everything looks like low key between India and U.S.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, it was good. It was a good meeting. The vast majority of their conversation was about the India civil nuclear deal and, you know, all the various components and parts to that. So that was really the focus of their discussion.
QUESTION: Is there much to (inaudible) the Indians -- it doesn't appear likely to get Congressional approval this session?
MR. MCCORMACK: As a multiethnic democracy they have a healthy understanding of the legislative process. We are pushing hard -- the Administration is pushing hard to get all the required agreements, you know, up on the Hill so that they can schedule a vote for it and to do that as soon as possible. We would hope -- we would certainly hope that that could get done in the next couple of days. I don't know if that's going to happen. There's a lot of pressing business up there on the Hill, but we certainly -- we're pressing very hard to get this done in this session and as soon as possible.
QUESTION: And there was a discussion here with Mr. Shyam Saran, the outgoing Foreign Secretary.
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing for you on that.
QUESTION: Finally, Burma. Burma is in the news in these days at the United Nations when I was there --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- and also --
MR. MCCORMACK: They are on the agenda at the Security Council, yes.
QUESTION: -- the First Lady spoke about it and you had a statement here also. It's been 16 years when this democratic election took place and this lady's still in jail or under house arrest now. Why you are not pushing -- I keep saying this every week maybe or every month -- why you are not pushing harder as this lady -- I mean, this elected government is in exile or still under house arrest as far as democracy is concerned in Burma?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I guess I'm a little bit surprised by your question. I don't think there's a country on earth that has pushed harder on the issue of Burma and for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and for a real democracy to take root in Burma. Suffice it to say that without the sustained and vigorous efforts of this Administration, the issue of Burma would not be on the agenda of the Security Council. It is now on the agenda of the Security Council. That is an important new development. And it's a step. I grant you it is only a step but it is an important step. We're going to continue to speak out about the importance of a real full-fledged democracy taking root in Burma.
QUESTION: What is --
MR. MCCORMACK: Here, let's go -- yes.
QUESTION: On Turkey. Do you know if your special envoy, General Joseph Ralston, during his recent trip to the area, Mr. McCormack, spoke finally to any of the two branches of PKK, the political or the military one?
MR. MCCORMACK: We don't negotiate with the PKK. They're a terrorist organization. They need to put down their arms unconditionally.
QUESTION: And also in your mediation, who's representing the million of Kurdish people of Turkey, the political section of PKK or the Turkish Government since the Kurdish people of Iraq have their own representatives, namely Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, and the PKK leader Adullah Ocalan, as you know, is in Turkish prison since February 1999.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to in any way try to draw any equivalence between a terrorist organization on one hand and the President of Iraq on the other. Sorry, not going to go there.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)
DPB # 157
Released on September 28, 2006