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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 3, 2006


Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 3, 2006

INDEX:

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
Situation in Gaza / Rocket Attacks from Gaza into Israel
Reports of Human Shields
Assistant Secretary Welch's Travel / Discussion with Jordanians

IRAQ
Timetable for Closing Office of the Special Inspector General for
Iraq
Query on Potential for Conflict of Interest Among State Department
Inspector Generals
Query on Whether Ambassador Schulte or other U.S. Officials were
Approached by IAEA Officials About a U.S. Government Website
Containing Information of Iraq's Nuclear Program

TAIWAN
Indictment of President Chen's Wife / Possible Effects on
US-Taiwan Relations if President Chen Steps Down

NORTH KOREA
U.S. Has No Intention to Invade or Attack North Korea / Committed
to Finding Diplomatic Solution
Query on Whether Human Rights Issues will Come Up During Six Party
Talks
Effect North Korean Nuclear Test has on Six Party Talks
Opportunities for Bilateral Discussions within Six Party Talks /
Groupings at Six Party Talks / Various Issues can be raised /
Focus is on Nuclear Issue
Food Shipments / World Food Program

SYRIA/EGYPT
U.S. Policy on Muslim Brotherhood

MISCELLANEOUS
Last Month's PSI Exercise in Persian Gulf

TURKEY
Relations with Europe / EU Membership Negotiations

CYPRUS
Meeting Between UN Deputy Secretary General Ibrahim Gambari,
Assistant Secretary Silverberg, and Ambassador Bryza

VIETNAM
Detained American Citizens

RUSSIA/GEORGIA
Gazprom Raising Prices

LIBYA
Case of Bulgarian Nurses and Palestinian Doctor

TRANSCRIPT:

12:30 p.m. EST


MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Good afternoon, Lambros. How you doing? All right, no opening statements. We can get right into your questions. Barry, do you want to start us off?

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you if you had any thoughts about the statement issued by Kofi Annan's spokesman. I'll read you the first sentence: "The Secretary General is deeply concerned about the continuing escalation of violence and rising death toll caused by -- caused by -- the Israeli military operation in northern Gaza." Israel's the target. That's not even even-handed, is it?

MR. MCCORMACK: The UN has a point of view. They put out their statement, Barry. Here's how we see the situation. It is a true tragedy that innocent life has been lost. Nobody can replace those people. But let's remember -- let us remember how the situation developed. The situation originally developed because you have people, terrorists, continuing to launch rockets into Israel. Israel has taken steps to defend itself. And unfortunately because of the way the situation evolved, the specifics as we know them now, you have a situation where people were put in a very difficult situation and having to make judgments that no people should have to make. But the reason why all of this developed in the first place is because you have continuing attacks on Israel from Palestinian Authority areas.

Now we have talked in the past, and it still holds, about Israel's right to defend itself. We have also talked about the importance of the Palestinian authorities taking steps not only to stop the rocket attacks but to dismantle terrorist organizations and terrorist groups. Well, that's a little more difficult when you have a terrorist organization that is actually at the head of the government that holds the reins of government. President Abbas is somebody who wants a pathway to peace; he's different from the Palestinian Authority Government right now. We work with him very closely to do what we can to beef up the security services under his control so that you don't have these kind of situations in the future.

All of this underscores, Barry, the importance of getting back to some political pathway, some political horizon where you solve differences via the negotiating table and not through resort to violence. And that is why it is very important that Israel and others, who have an interest in peace in this region, have a legitimate partner for peace on the Palestinian side. You have it in President Abbas, but have a Palestinian Authority Government that is a legitimate partner for peace. And how the Palestinians arrange themselves politically, that is a decision for them to make.

I know that it's part of the ongoing ferment in the Palestinian political system right now, but it's critically important that we do have at some point a legitimate partner for peace on the Palestinian side.

QUESTION: You spoke of the difficult choice, are you referring to the use of civilians as -- what's the word?

QUESTION: Shields.

QUESTION: Shields. Women, according to reports, are being used as human shields.

MR. MCCORMACK: What I was referring to, Barry, is the specific circumstances as we know them right now. We've seen all the news reports about it where you had a shootout between Israeli forces and then those Palestinians who may have been involved in these rocket attacks holed up in a mosque. And then, again, based on the news reports that we've seen, you do have these civilians that, either intentionally or not -- I can't tell you standing here right now -- got in the middle of this. And again, these are -- you're faced with choices in these kind of situations and, unfortunately, we've seen it before, seen these kind of tactics before where people are put in situations where they have to make choices about defending themselves or risking loss of innocent life that no people should have to be put in.

Yeah.

QUESTION: David Welch was in the region or is he still in the region?

MR. MCCORMACK: He's on his way back now. Yeah, he's on his way back. He -- I haven't talked to David so I don't have any readout of his meetings. He -- I believe he met with Israeli authorities, met with Palestinian authorities, President Abbas, they met with Jordanian authorities and I think he and Elliott Abrams are on their way back here now.

Yeah.

QUESTION: What did he discuss with the Jordanians? Are their plans afoot to have some sort of meeting in Jordan soon to discuss the (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: What they're talking about is what's -- you know, what is the potential way forward in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian issue and then also talking more broadly about democracy issues in the region.

Yeah. Okay, anything else on this? Do you have anything else on this? Okay. All right.

New subject? Who wants to start a new subject? Elise, go a head.

QUESTION: This is on the Iraq inspector --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- the Office of the Inspector General. As you know, they are talking about dismantling it. And the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter, issued a statement that this inspector general for Iraq isn't needed because it's time to return to a non-wartime footing where the State Department and Pentagon have oversight -- would investigate those programs. Do you already have inspectors or auditors from the State Department working in Iraq on these programs?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, we do. Yeah. It's a -- a couple of facts. When I looked into this, there was actually some interesting facts about the special inspector general for Iraq and when that office would actually sunset based on the laws. I know there was a lot of discussion in this particular article about that. Under the previous law, the SIGIR, as its known, Special Inspector General for Iraq, would have closed down ten months after 80 percent of the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund, IRRF, was expended. As of October 24th, 2006, 76 percent of the 18.4 billion in these funds had been expended. So as you -- we're getting very close to that 80 percent threshold. So the practical effect of the new legislation really would have been probably minimal in terms of when SIGIR would have closed down. In fact, it is likely given that disbursement of funds, that SIGIR actually would have closed down prior to October 2007, which is the new date in the legislation.

Now in terms of the handover, there's going to be a handover to the existing inspector generals, Department of Defense, Department of State, any other agencies that have personnel there or are involved in the expenditure of the IRRF funds. Howard Krongard, our Inspector General here at the State Department, has already made trips to Iraq. There's a plan due, under the law I believe, to Congress in April of this coming year outlining how this transition, how this handover will take place. So there's a long lead time here. People are going to be very careful in how they do this to make sure that there's no -- there are no gaps and that this function continues. It's an important function.

Secretary Rice absolutely supports this function. She has met as recently as yesterday with Stuart Bowen; she does periodically. And she has a great deal of respect for the work that has been done by SIGIR. She believes it's important work, and she also believes that from the State Department's perspective, that this work is going to be done at a professional, high level by Howard Krongard and his people once the tasks are handed over to the State Department.

QUESTION: But do you think that -- I mean traditionally even though -- I know that this is an inspector general from the State Department, but I mean, do you think that there needs to be a more independent voice having oversight over these type of programs? I mean, now the State Department is going to have oversight over money and programs that it administers. I mean, is that a conflict of interest in any way?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. That's a function of an inspector general. The way you have to look at this is inspector generals are, in very rough terms, auditors. They're internal auditors. They're more than that, but just for -- in laymen's terms, that's their function. So their very -- the very nature of their role is to oversee -- look into the functions of the organization of which they are a part. Now they have a very special reporting relationship. They report directly to the Secretary and then also they have certain responsibilities vis-Ã -vis the Congress as well. So these are organizations that are, certainly here in the State Department, highly respected. They maintain a certain degree of independence from the organization. And Secretary Rice has full confidence that the Inspector General's Office of the State Department will be fully capable, competent and professional in carrying out these duties.

Yeah. On this?

QUESTION: Yeah, same thing. One of the roles that SIGIR has had is being -- doing the daily monitoring of various projects and reporting back in sort of real-time in terms of the problems that you've had with Iraq reconstruction to try and prevent fraud, abuse and various other contracting issues that you've had. Will the State Department's inspector generals do this sort of real-time evaluation of projects that SIGIR has been doing or will that function just fall to the wayside?

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, there's going to be a plan for a handover of all the various functions that SIGIR does. So they're working on this right now. I can't tell you right now exactly what -- how our inspector general is going to handle this. I've been assured that they are fully staffed up and competent to do this. If they need additional resources, they're going to get them. So there's going to -- there's a plan to do this. And again, I remind people that this is basically a year off now, that this office is going to be sun-setting. They're going to continue their work. They're going to continue to have the support of the State Department in doing their work and that at the appropriate moment, we'll take over in terms of our inspector general. So I'm not sure what the Sturm und Drang here is all about.

QUESTION: So would you reject the allegation then from the Democrats that one of the reasons why this is not being extended further is because the Bush Administration doesn't like the news that has emerged from the SIGIR reports?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's just silly. You know, just look at -- for a whole bunch of reasons. You know, one: You -- you know, you are handing over to inspector generals. Two: If you listen to what I was talking about in terms of prior to this legislation under the previous legislation, when this office would have closed down, it probably would have closed down earlier, given the weight of expenditure of these funds. So I just don't -- I don't think that that really has any basis, in fact.

Yeah. Anything else on this?

QUESTION: Can I stay on Iraq?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: We can go to a different topic. This web archive with Iraqi documents that was shut down --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And I saw the Secretary spoke to Laura Ingraham about it and Dan Bartlett and others have talked about it, but one State Department-related matter. Was the U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA approached by IAEA officials about this website? Did they express concern to the Ambassador?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. We've --

QUESTION: Okay. That's totally false?

MR. MCCORMACK: Absolutely, yeah, and they should probably correct the record in the story.

QUESTION: Do you know --

MR. MCCORMACK: And we've asked them to.

QUESTION: Do you know of any other U.S. officials that were approached by the IAEA?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I – not to my knowledge, no, but the story said that Ambassador Schulte was contacted and that's just not true.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Yes, sir. And thank you for raising your hand.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you, Sean. The First Lady of Taiwan has been --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- indicted on embezzlement and burglary charges. You may well – very well call this the internal affairs of Taiwan. That's --

MR. MCCORMACK: You anticipated my answer.

QUESTION: Yes, sure, but it has serious ramifications for the political stability in Taiwan, for the stability across the Taiwan Strait, and the stability in U.S.-Taiwan relations. Do you have any comment on the indictment itself? And I have a quick follow-up.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, how do you know? I might answer everything and you won't have a follow-up. As you anticipated, we view this as an internal matter that should be dealt with by the established constitution and laws of Taiwan.

QUESTION: Early last week, the AIT director, Mr. Stephen Young, said that the United States would cooperate with President Chen until the end of his term. Given this latest development, do you still believe that President Chen will be able to serve the full term of his office? Or are you drawing up any contingency plans for any possible stepping down by President Chen and a possible transfer of power from the president to the vice president?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's a double-foul. I mean, that's asking me to comment on an internal matter and a hypothetical, so it's just – it's a double-foul.

(Laughter.)

Yes.

QUESTION: The indictment itself immediately led to a widespread protest in Taiwan calling for Chen's ouster. And I'm just wondering if the U.S. concerned about the stability in Taiwan or across the Strait?

MR. MCCORMACK: We are confident that the matter will be dealt with according to the established constitution and laws.

QUESTION: I have another unanswerable question.

(Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: You're not going to commit any fouls, George.

QUESTION: The next in line is more pro-independence than President Chen. Does this cause any concern here?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we -- this is -- this presupposes some change in the leadership and I'm not going to get into such matters. I expect that our relationship will continue as it is right now.

Yeah.

QUESTION: The South Korean envoy to --

QUESTION: One more on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Are you going to try and come at it from another angle? Sure go ahead.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. sending any message to President Chen telling him either, you know, be prepared to step down or to stay the course?

MR. MCCORMACK: All right, next.

QUESTION: Whether he steps down or not, it's going to be internal chaos in Taiwan. Would that impact any current cooperation between U.S. and Taiwan?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think I answered that question in response to George's question.

Yeah. Yes, sir, in the middle here.

QUESTION: Getting back to the Taiwan question, if he steps down Annette Lu becomes President and she's more pro-Taiwan and more pro-activist than Chen Shui-bian. Does the United States -- is the United States concerned at all that this might stir the pot and cause problems for the United States?

MR. MCCORMACK: Same answer as up here.

Yeah, Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, can you explain the front page story of today's Washington Times in which they say that we're poised to invade North Korea. And is this accurate or a wrong assumption?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure that's exactly what it said.

QUESTION: Can we talk about Taiwan? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Go on, you bring it up, Barry.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you dismiss this story or has this been a (inaudible) to if at all stall the six-party talks?

MR. MCCORMACK: A Washington Times news story? I don't think so. Look, we have made clear, the President, Secretary Rice, numerous U.S. Government officials have made it clear we have no intention to invade or attack North Korea. We believe that there is an opportunity to settle the issues that are before us via diplomatic means. I think we've shown our commitment to diplomacy and we're continuing to show that commitment in doing everything that we can to make this next round of six-party talks productive and effective with the starting point being the September 19th joint statement.

Now in terms of the military and the Pentagon, planners plan. That's what they do. But the President has made very, very clear that we are committed to finding a diplomatic solution to the current issues before us.

Yes.

QUESTION: South Korea's envoy said that there will be informal talks before the full six-party talks begin and they said that they will probably take place at the end of November. Do you have any details on these informal talks and what would be discussed?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't believe that there has been any such agreement to that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Will the United States bring the North Korean human right issues to the six-party talk at this time or at future?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the six-party talks is a framework and a forum that can deal with a number of different issues, that is, the human rights situation in North Korea is a matter of considerable concern to us, to this President.

Our primary focus in this round of the six-party talks is the nuclear issue, but we are going to continue to raise those issues. The President has a special envoy for these issues, Jay Lefkowitz. So it's going to be an issue that stays at the top of our agenda.

Yes, Sue.

QUESTION: You said that the September 19 declaration would be the starting point --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- for the resumption of the talks. What about the fact that they have tested -- done the underground nuclear test since the September 19th declaration? Will that be high up there in terms of your starting points?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the root of the question is, do we view this as reversible? And the question is yes. The fact that we don't -- that there was a test of a nuclear device, but the whole point of what we're trying to do is to have a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, which means that you dismantle those nuclear programs.

So the -- it is a fact there was a test, but it is also a fact that we believe, and the whole point of what we're trying to achieve in this round of talks, is a reversal of that situation. And also, let's remember that North Korea had this capability for many, many years. They chose to conduct the test last month, but they had this capability for quite some time.

QUESTION: Will there be any new conditions or demands that you'll bring to the table?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to start negotiating here in public. We still have -- what we're doing is we're trying to prepare for talks. Nick Burns and Bob Joseph are going out there and we're going to do everything we can to make sure that this round of talks is as effective as possible.

Yes.

QUESTION: I'm getting the impression that the structure might be different.

MR. MCCORMACK: The structure of what, the talks?

QUESTION: Of the six-party talks. Instead of a heavy emphasis of six parties around a table, they'll be much more mixing and matching, more opportunities for the U.S. to talk to the North Koreans directly as they would wish, the Chinese to talk to them directly. I mean you refer now to -- I mean I don't want to go crazy with the nuances here, but you know you're not speaking so strongly about the nuclear program as the focus. There are other issues. There are their assets. It sounds very -- it sounds almost like a comfortable get together of people that have diverse views instead of trying to stop a nuclear power and reverse the course. Are you going to have the same structure, or have you made the concession that there will be more room for bilateral discussions?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, Chris Hill, our lead negotiator, will be empowered within the context of the six-party talks to operate how he sees best. He'll have certain sets of instructions that will give him substantive guidance. In terms of the past rounds, there has been -- there have been various groupings within the six-party talks that have gotten together, whether that's the U.S. and China, or the U.S. and South Korea and Japan, or the U.S. and North Korea. And you can do the calculations of how many different types of groupings you can have among six parties. But that has been the past practice. I expect that will be what happens in this next round as well.

QUESTION: Don't the negotiations begin and end with North Korea's nuclear program and how to stop it and enforce it?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's our focus, Barry. But if you look at the September 19th joint statement, it actually has in there a number of different issue areas that can be addressed within the context of the six-party talks. You can bring up -- there is a certain flexibility within the format of the six-party talks to raise issues. And for example, we -- I was just asked about human rights. That is certainly an issue that can be raised in the context of the six-party talks. If you go back and look at the statement, you can see that there are a number of different issue areas. North Korea can raise issues. Japan can raise issues. They can raise issues about abductees should they choose.

So there are a lot of different issues that can be raised. The focus, however, as I've said today and before, is on the nuclear program and getting to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

QUESTION: While we're at it, the food issue, which I know policy is it's separate and apart. It's humanitarian and that's not why -- the program was ended because of not being sure the food was getting to the people that need it. Has there been in the last several days, even though I know it's not connected to North Korea's position on its arms program, but has there been any reassessment of whether the conditions are right to resume food shipments?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of, Barry. In terms of actions that people have taken, I think it's fair to say that people are constantly looking or regularly looking at that issue. The World Food Program itself, after ending its cooperation with North Korea, restarted it recently within the past months even though they weren't entirely comfortable with all of the assurance they received. They thought as though -- they felt as though they could proceed with a more limited program based on the kind of assurances they have received.

For our part, we are not comfortable still at this point contributing to the program because we still, based on our standards, can't assure ourselves that the humanitarian assistance -- humanitarian food assistance is going to get to those people who really need it and not be diverted to the elites or to the army.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: What is the U.S. position on the Muslim Brotherhood particularly with respect to Syria? There seems to be this coalition that they're a part of the National Salvation Front, seems to be gaining some momentum and they've met with White House officials. What is the U.S. policy on the Muslim Brotherhood? And I have a follow-up.

MR. MCCORMACK: The Muslim Brotherhood as an organization or specifically in countries? It usually comes up in relation to Egypt and, you know, our position with respect to that situation hasn't changed. We don't meet with them --

QUESTION: Which is we don't meet with them?

MR. MCCORMACK: -- because this is -- the Egyptian constitution says that there can be no political parties based on religion, and we are respecting the laws and constitution of Egypt.

QUESTION: What about with respect to Syria where they're also backed but --

MR. MCCORMACK: I would have to ask the question. I can't tell you what our contact policy is in Syria.

QUESTION: Can you find that out?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. I'll certainly try to.

QUESTION: And the other --

MR. MCCORMACK: My gut is I'll probably be able to find out.

QUESTION: That would be great. Well, you were going to find out as well how much of the democracy money on Iran has been spent.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. What we'll do is we'll put -- because it is one of these basically long convoluted answers involving different pots of money over different periods of time, we will post an answer for you on that.

QUESTION: Excellent.

MR. MCCORMACK: And we have it prepared.

QUESTION: Excellent. And then the last question is the PSI exercises outside of Bahrain, is that aimed at, you know, preventing folks from sending any packages to Iran that we might disagree with? Is that to send any kind of message to Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: The --

QUESTION: Tell us about this exercise.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it occurred October 30th and 31st. It was an exercise designed to increase the operational cooperation capability of the states that participate in it. There were a number of Gulf states as well as states outside of the Gulf who not only contributed operational assets but also participated in the exercise. It wasn't directed at any one particular country. But I think it was the 25th similar such exercise that PSI has conducted. They do these around the world and --

QUESTION: The 25th in the Persian Gulf or in --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, worldwide.

QUESTION: It's the first in the Persian Gulf, right?

MR. MCCORMACK: It was the first in the Persian Gulf, yeah. I said similar such exercises, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Anything else on PSI?

Ah, the Washington Times. Nicholas Kralev. Go ahead.

QUESTION: What is that supposed to mean? Actually on Turkey.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. He beat you to the punch, Lambros. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: That was my goal today. There have been some comments from senior officials in Turkey regarding the Pope's visit, regarding, you know, the EU. Many people in Europe see Turkey as moving itself away from Europe but at the same time it wants to be a permanent member of the EU. How is -- what's your assessment of sort of the latest developments between Turkey and the EU and the Vatican? Are you concerned that Turkey indeed might be moving away from Europe?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's not my assessment. The -- there's a lot of work to do I think between Turkey and the EU. I've seen various press reports about EU officials wishing that they had made more progress in the discussions. I'm sure the same holds true for the Turkish side as well. We're not trying to interpose ourselves in those negotiations. That is truly something for the EU and Turkey to work out. So I'm not sure that our assessment in public is really something that's useful or really germane. We have supported Turkey in its efforts to become a member of the EU and we continue to do so, but the specifics of the negotiations are between two parties and we're not one of them.

QUESTION: Do you view those comments by the Prime Minister as an insult?

MR. MCCORMACK: Which comments?

QUESTION: There were some comments yesterday reported that he had referred to the Pope's visit. Perhaps you --

MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen them. I hadn't seen them.

Is this the same subject, Lambros?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.

QUESTION: Since the first proposal collapsed --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- do you have any comment? Because it's a very serious matter.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we would hope that the parties would continue to put their shoulder to the wheel, take these efforts very seriously, and try to move forward.

QUESTION: The other day, Ambassador Bryza met with Deputy Secretary -- UN Secretary -- Deputy -- UN Deputy Secretary General Ibrahim Gambari here at the State Department on the Cyprus issue. May we know, Mr. McCormack, the purpose of this meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as I am informed by our European bureau, I guess, he was a participant in a larger meeting between Mr. Gambari and Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs Silverberg. And I guess the discussion covered a wide range of different topics. Cyprus was one of them.

QUESTION: May we expect any new American initiative for a solution with the UN cooperation after this collapse?

MR. MCCORMACK: We continue to support the existing efforts.

QUESTION: And the last on Cyprus. In the Consular Information Sheet collected yesterday it's saying in the beginning, "Cyprus is a developed Mediterranean island divided de facto in two." Since it was stated for the first time, Mr. McCormack, since the Turkish invasion and occupation there, I'm wondering what is the message that DOS is trying to send to the Greek Cypriots (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. The message we're trying to send to them is that there's no change in our policy.

QUESTION: On Vietnam?

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any more details on the three Vietnamese-born U.S. citizens being prosecuted? I understand you might have a bit more on that today.

MR. MCCORMACK: There -- well, there are a number of different cases here and we are following them all very, very closely. We have different levels of Privacy Act waivers here. We are trying to work with the Vietnamese Government on all of these various cases to get them resolved in a speedy manner, consistent with Vietnamese law.

QUESTION: So the Secretary's going to raise this when she visits Vietnam next --

MR. MCCORMACK: She has raised it with the Vietnamese Foreign Minister in the past and I would expect that if the cases are still ongoing, then she will -- I believe she will address them on her visit to Vietnam this time.

QUESTION: Sean, yesterday you didn't have anything on the Russian decision to raise gas prices to Georgia --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- rather substantially. Do you have anything today?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I understand right now that there are discussions between Gazprom and the Georgian Government regarding pricing. I understand that there's a substantial price increase for Georgia that's in the offing. We believe that market forces should determine the price levels. So Georgia and Gazprom are going to work out a price. Our general take on this is, as well as similar matters, is that Russia should be a good partner for its clients and a reliable supplier of energy.

Samir.

QUESTION: Excuse me, does that mean --

QUESTION: -- there should be no explicit or implicit threat about cutoffs, even as you're more than doubling the price of --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that Georgia -- there are two things.

QUESTION: I mean, a good neighbor means --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think. one, Georgia -- the Georgian Government is working with Gazprom on the pricing levels.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: And that -- my understanding is that they have also put in place other contingency planning and other arrangements so that they can deal with these fluctuations in prices.

Samir.

QUESTION: What's the latest on Libya trying their Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor?

MR. MCCORMACK: Don't have any update for you. I believe that the situation still stands that the case has come back up. It is still before the court. And right now we're waiting for a decision from the court. And our position remains the same. We would like to see -- we believe that they should be freed and returned back to their own countries.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:02 p.m.)

DPB # 170

Released on November 3, 2006

ENDS


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Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On Bidding Bye Bye To Boris

Boris Johnson’s exit from the contest for Conservative Party leadership supports the conspiracy theory that he never really expected the “Leave” option to win the referendum – and he has no intention now of picking up the poisoned chalice that managing the outcome will entail... More>>

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