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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing December 5, 2006

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 5, 2006

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT
Secretary Rice’s Participation in White House Meetings
Iraq Study Group Report

FIJI
Coup Attempt / U.S. Call for a Return to Constitutional Order
U.S. Assistance Suspended / Status of US Aid Under Section 508
Fiji Situation Unclear for U.S. Political Action

IRAN
Russian Support on Sanctions Resolution
Under Secretary Burns’ Participation in P-5+1 Meetings
Action Needed by UN Security Council / Various Aspects to
Sanctions Resolution
Iranian Government More Isolated from States in Region
U.S and International Community Focused on Solving Nuclear Issue
New Political Fault Line Has Developed in Middle East
International Community Wants Iran to Stop Meddling in Iraqi
Affairs
Iranian Attempts to Thwart the Progress of Governments

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
Qatar’s Pledge of Financial Assistance / Conditions Laid Out By
Quartet
International Financing Mechanism in Place for Humanitarian
Assistance

IRAQ
Bob Gates’ Comments Dealing with Winning the War in Iraq
State Department’s Role in Supporting Diplomacy / Security Issues
Provincial Reconstruction Teams
Iraqi National Compact
Saddam Hussein Trial

NORTH KOREA
Status of Groundwork and Resumption of Six-Party Talks / Chris
Hill

EGYPT
Arrest of American Citizen in Cairo / Granting of Consular Access

CUBA
Possible Transition Underway / U.S. View on a Transition to
Democracy

MISCELLANEOUS
Issue of John Bolton’s UN Position / Vacancy
Appointment of New Deputy Secretary

YEMEN
Shooting Incident Near U.S. Embassy / U.S. Security to Work with
Yemeni Government


TRANSCRIPT:

12:31 p.m. EST


MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Who wants to start off?

QUESTION: I'd like to ask you just simply if Secretary Rice is part of or participating in the White House meeting between the President and Mr. Baker.

MR. MCCORMACK: No. Next?

QUESTION: Is she going to be briefed on it later today?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure if there are any briefings going on over at the White House that she will be consequently briefed up. And she'll obviously also read the report once it comes out.

QUESTION: But that would be the --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay?

QUESTION: She's not -- she is or is not going to hear about Secretary Baker's conversation with the President about --

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, if there are briefings over at the White House on the report, you can go ask the White House about that. But if there are, I'm sure that she'll be briefed up afterwards.

QUESTION: Has she seen an executive summary or anything to this point?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no.

QUESTION: Does she plan to react to the report tomorrow? She'll do something --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think the President -- again, check with -- check with my colleagues over at the White House. But I understand the report gets delivered by the Iraq Study Group to the White House, to the President. I expect the reaction will probably come out of the White House.

QUESTION: Is she planning on meeting with any members of the group tomorrow?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MR. MCCORMACK: George is on the ball. (Laughter.) Don't care about the rest of the world. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I'm going to go to the top of the charts.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, all right.

QUESTION: Fiji.

MR. MCCORMACK: Fiji. Yes.

QUESTION: What's your response to the coup?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we condemn the action that General Bainimarama has taken. At the moment, the events are still unsettled. The Prime Minister has refused to resign. The President, the Vice President, the chief of the -- the head of the Council of Great Chiefs has rejected this move by the general. We do not view this as something that is irreversible, so we would call for those forces who are attempting to seize control of the Fijian Government to stand down and to return to a constitutional order.

QUESTION: You said before -- before this coup, you had said in recent weeks, I think, you essentially warned the military against the possibility of this.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. We as well as others.

QUESTION: Yeah. And I think you had also made the point that under U.S. law certain forms of assistance, unless there is a waiver, must be cut off. Is it now your intent -- one, do you regard this unmistakably as a coup? You referred to it as "the action." And two, if you do, will you then begin a process to determine whether or not to cut off aid? And then three, how much aid is involved?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, sure. On the last question, I don't know. It's in the -- it's a relatively small number, in the lower millions of dollars, but we can check for you on that. *

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of the aid, certainly the lawyers will take -- the lawyers and the policy people will take a look at what we may or may not be obligated to do under Section 508(c) of the law. And that governs assistance when there is either a coup or a coup attempt. And we have, while that review is ongoing, suspended assistance.

And as to your first question, I think, at this point, because the situation is fluid, we look at this as a coup attempt. We don't view this as something that is irreversible, and quite clearly the Prime Minister has said that he is not resigning in the face of this action. And the political leadership of Fiji has also rejected this action. So again, the situation is not -- it's not exactly clear where we stand right now in terms of a political act. The Fijian Government says it is standing in there. The streets in Suva are calm at the moment.

So that's our assessment, what we know right now. We're seeing close contact with other governments who are following this closely as well; the New Zealanders as well as the Australians.

QUESTION: One -- thanks for all that. One thing I'm not sure I understood, when you were asked -- talking about the answer to question two, you said, "We have suspended assistance."

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: So you have, as of now, suspended all assistance?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we have suspended assistance. We are going to do a deeper look as we -- as the events unfold here and become a little bit more clear, specifically under 508, Section 508.

QUESTION: So you've suspended assistance because of the coup attempt so as to --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: -- determine whether or not you have to find them --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yep.

QUESTION: And the amount suspended is in the low millions?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's just off the top of my head, George. I'll get you guys a firm number on that.

QUESTION: The same question.

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a relatively small number.

Okay, Sylvie.

QUESTION: Can we go to Iran? Russia said that they support a ban on shipment to Iran of technologies and material linked to enrichment, but they still don't support personal sanctions.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, Nick Burns, our Under Secretary for Political Affairs and the participant at the political directors level of the P-5+1, is in Paris today. I think the meetings -- just looking at the clock here, I think the meetings are still ongoing. He -- they were supposed to start around 2 or 3 o'clock Paris time and go on for about eight hours or so, kind of in different groupings.

What they're trying to do is they're trying to close the differences that exist on the language regarding a sanctions resolution. It gets also into some substantive issues as to what is included in that sanctions resolution. So I don't have a readout for you on the results of Nick's meetings there in Paris.

We would hope that we could get to a resolution in fairly short order. This shouldn't be hard. And what's required is the Security Council needs to follow up on what it said it would do, and that is to impose Chapter 7, Article 41 sanctions on Iran if it failed to comply. It has failed to comply what the Security Council has required it to do. So we think that all the parties should be able to come together on an agreement of the sanctions resolution.

Everybody understands their obligations and we are -- we're looking for consensus and unity here, but we are also approaching the time when we need to act as a Security Council. You're coming up on the time when the credibility of the Security Council on this issue is really at stake. It's been some time. We have worked patiently and we have worked the diplomacy, but the time is coming where people are going to need to raise their hands on a sanctions resolution.

QUESTION: Are individual sanctions something you think really necessary or is it something --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to try to negotiate it here in public. But what you want to do is you want to have your sanctions address specifically the ability of the Iranian Government to develop a nuclear weapon, and there are a variety of different aspects to that. You talked about their -- the ability of individuals involved in this program to travel, the ability to finance this program, the ability to get technology from the outside. So those are all components of trying to prevent them from being able to develop a nuclear weapon.

But I'm not going to try to negotiate a way or add into the mix a particular aspect of a resolution from here. We'll see what Nick is able to accomplish and then what the next steps are. We would hope that it would be in fairly short order a vote in the Security Council on a resolution.

Joel.

QUESTION: Yes --

QUESTION: Can I -- one more question?

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Does very short order mean before Christmas? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Charlie's not here.

MR. MCCORMACK: Charlie's not here to ask about holidays. I'm not going to put a specific date on it, but we think the time is really -- the time is approaching when this needs to happen.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: So --

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, wait. Is this on Iran still?

QUESTION: It's on Iran.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. We'll get to you, Joel. Okay.

QUESTION: So would you be happy with an abstention from Russia on a vote?

MR. MCCORMACK: What we're looking for is a resolution that is enacted, and how individual states vote is going to be up to them. Certainly we would -- as I said before, we're looking for a consensus. We're looking for a 15-0 vote. But how a particular member of the Security Council votes is going to be up to them. If you do have a resolution that is enacted, it will be binding on all states regardless of whether or not they abstained or voted for it.

QUESTION: Or vetoed.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in the case of the P-5, you know, obviously a vote no is a veto and the resolution wouldn't be enacted. But for the non-permanent members, if they vote against or abstain, it would still be binding on them.

Yeah, Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, Pakistan is willing to give up some of its claims concerning Kashmir and yet this morning there was a grenade thrown and 15 were wounded in northern Kashmir. Is this any progress with the Indians? And also World Sindhi Institute here in Washington is speaking about a detained or abducted American professor back on February 24, 2006 abducted from his apartment in downtown Karachi. Do you have any word concerning that?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't. We'll look into it for you, Joel.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Do you have anything today, Sean, on the Qatar agreement to pay the salaries of 40,000 teachers?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, my understanding is -- you had asked about this yesterday and I looked into it. My understanding is that the Qataris have made this pledge. We're talking to them about exactly what is the mechanism through which this assistance would flow and what exactly is the intended end use. Those things matter because the Quartet has laid out a series of principles here that the international community wouldn't be assisting the Hamas-led government unless it actually met the conditions laid out by the Quartet. We all know what those are. And the international community has made -- gone to great lengths to see that any outside group or country who wants to make a contribution to the humanitarian assistance of -- make a contribution towards the humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people would be able to do so.

There is a temporary international financing mechanism that was put in place that the Quartet discussed, that the EU took the lead on and that we all agreed upon. So there is a mechanism that exists that you can use to funnel humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people. Now, if the intended use of this money is to pay (inaudible) salaries of Hamas government workers and that it gets funneled through a Hamas government, paid directly to a Hamas government, then that would cross a line of the existing international understanding.

So the bottom line here is I know that they have made a pledge. We're talking to them about all of these details, so more to follow.

QUESTION: The Secretary will meet the Qatari Foreign Minister tomorrow.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: She will discuss this issue with him?

MR. MCCORMACK: It could come up on the agenda. I haven't talked to her about what she's going to raise with him. It could very well come up.

Jonathan.

QUESTION: Bob Gates just in his Senate hearings has said that he doesn't believe that America is winning the war in Iraq, which seems to contradict what the President said and also what the Secretary of State has said. I mean, what's the Secretary of State's view. Is the U.S. winning the war or not?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen all of his comments up there. You know, my understanding is he came back and said, you know, well, do you agree with General Abizaid's statement that we're not winning but we're not losing either, and he said yes.

The fact of the matter is we face great difficulties in Iraq in terms of those who want to undermine the democratic -- fledgling democratic institutions in Iraq. You also face problems from sectarian violence that really, really started to rise in the wake of the Samara mosque bombing. So there are great challenges, great security challenges. It's -- many parts -- some parts of Iraq are very violent places and very dangerous places. We know that.

In terms of the State Department's work, we are trying to work to support Iraq's diplomacy. It has an active diplomatic engagement with its neighbors at this point. Prime Minister Maliki talked about that a little bit today at a press conference to talk about how they might support diplomatically the Iraqi people, the Iraqi Government, and also work to address -- help the Iraqis address some of their security situation. We support them in those efforts.

We also have, as requested, worked with them as they have gone through the various stages of getting their sovereign government up and running over the past couple of years. So that's essentially what our role is. We've been working also through Provincial Reconstruction Teams to help distribute aid to those people at the local and provincial level who are participating in local government. We also have a large role in the reconstruction program. So that's what the State Department's role in Iraq is. That's the Secretary's area of responsibility. In terms of military assessments, it will have to be the folks that have stars on their shoulders and the civilian leadership of the Pentagon to offer their military assessments of what's going on in Iraq.

QUESTION: But you couldn't give an answer to the simple question: Is the U.S. winning in Iraq?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you raise it in the context of what the Secretary of Defense nominee has said, and I just -- you know, I went through what I understand he has said. In response to a question he said that, you know, we are not winning but we're not losing either. And that's what General Abizaid has said. I can only go by the assessments of what our uniformed military commanders have to offer.

QUESTION: Sean, are those three areas you mentioned -- supporting Iraq's diplomacy, PRTs and reconstruction -- is that -- did that make up the review that Secretary of State Rice is --

MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly, you know, those are --

QUESTION: I mean, if that's the role of the State Department --

MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly those are areas that we look at very closely. The Secretary also, as a close advisor to the President, is going to offer her advice to the President as well as part of this -- as part of those three. I can't tell you that it's strictly limited to those three areas. But certainly those three areas are -- those are areas that we look at in terms of our area of responsibility. Are we doing everything we can? Are we doing the right things?

Yeah, Sue.

QUESTION: So if you're not winning and you're not losing, then what are you doing? Are you struggling to contain a conflict that could be a civil war, or what? What are you doing? What are you --

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I'm going to let the military -- the uniformed military and the civilian leadership at DOD talk about the security situation in Iraq. You know, we're integrated with the military in terms of a variety of efforts, in terms of the PRTs and the political-military situation, working with the Iraqis as they come to the political accommodations that they need to, that are fundamental to any political system. Those bargains, whether it's the hydrocarbons law or de-Baathification or national reconciliation -- those are all things the Iraqis have to come to terms with.

Our role in the State Department is to work with them, offer our advice where it's requested, but also to help them work the diplomacy as well. For example, you have the Iraqi national compact, the international compact with Iraq. And part of that is an Iraqi bargain. Part of that is an international community bargain. So we're also trying to help in that regard. It's chaired by the Iraqis and Secretary General Annan, but we are obviously actively engaged in diplomacy to support them in that effort.

QUESTION: Back to Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Iranian President said today in an address to the European that anything you do in international organization is some act of hostility against Iranian people. What's your reaction of that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Who said this?

QUESTION: The President of Iran, Ahmadi-Nejad. President Ahmadi-Nejad.

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I don't know how we can make it more clear that, you know, our beef is not with the Iranian people. And when I say "our," it's the international community's; it's not just the United States. This is not a U.S.-Iran issue. This is Iran against the rest of the world.

And we have made it very clear. We don't want to in any way disadvantage or harm the interests of the Iranian people. Iran is a great culture. The Iranian people are a great people. It's unfortunate they have the leadership that they do, which is taking them in the direction of further isolating them from the rest of the world and really turning their backs on a very attractive offer. And that offer is suspend your enrichment-related programs, suspend your reprocessing programs, then you can get into negotiations at which you can talk about a whole variety of different issues if you want to bring up. It's -- the agenda is not limited to the nuclear issue.

Now, we'll focus on trying to solve the nuclear issue and the United States will be at the table if the Iranian leadership makes that choice, but thus far they have not. And the net result is that they have turned their backs on the offer and now face the prospect of being in a very exclusive club, and that would be the countries that are under Chapter 7 UN Security Council resolutions. So, you know, each day that they would be under Chapter 7 resolution, that is -- there are opportunity cost associated with that for the Iranian people. It's -- they probably don't have a full understanding based, you know, based upon the way that they gather their information, of the fact that they are being disadvantage by their government. So it's their government that's disadvantaging them, not the United States or any other country.

Yeah.

QUESTION: To follow up on Iraq, you have been saying for a month that the Iran is related in the international system, but actually we have seen a lot of -- we have seen a rise in the influence of Iran in Middle East. We have seen them in intervening indirectly in Lebanon. Today they are participating in an Iraq Strategic Forum in Dubai and the Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani was the star of this Strategic Forum today in Dubai.

MR. MCCORMACK: Who's characterization is that?

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Well --

MR. MCCORMACK: "The star of the forum."

QUESTION: And so it was -- and it was very carefully listened to by the -- all the Arab leaders over there who are your allies. So aren't you a little bit concerned that actually the influence of Iran is rising instead of regressing?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they are certainly -- they're certainly, I would suppose, less recalcitrant about trying to cause turmoil in the region. But what's the net effect of those activities? What's the net effect of their supporting Hezbollah and starting a war with Israel? What's the net effect of their trying to influence the course of Israeli-Palestinian attempts to come to some sort of political bargain? What is the net effect of their meddling in the affairs in a negative way in Iraq? I would argue, if you do an honest poll in the region of the governments that border on Iran as well as elsewhere in the region, I think that you would find, in fact, that the Iranian Government finds themselves much more isolated than they were six months ago, a year ago, in terms of how those governments view Iran and the Iranian Government's actions.

What you have now in the wake of the end of the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, with the implementation of 1701, Security Council Resolution 1701, you actually have a new political fault line that has developed in the Middle East.

On one side of that line, you have those states who are interested in a more moderate vision for the Middle East, who -- and admittedly, they have different views across the political spectrum, but a common thread that they share is they are moving forward on democratic reforms, they favor resolving differences through negotiation, they have turned their backs on the use of terrorism and violence to try to achieve some sort of political end.

On the other side of the line, you have Iran, you have Syria, and you have their subcontractors of violence, Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as others.

So in fact, you do -- when you go -- when you see new groupings come together like the Gulf Cooperation Council Plus Two -- the Secretary's now had three meetings with them, one in New York, one in Cairo, and one now in the Dead Sea in Jordan -- and this is a grouping that is really forming into a true partnership in which they talk about how to address, how to have a common approach to, issues related to Iran, whether that's with respect to Lebanon, whether that's with respect to Iraq or to the Israeli-Palestinian issues.

So there is a fundamentally changed dynamic now in the Middle East with respect to Iran and Syria. And the dividing line that you can define is that those countries that are purveyors of violence, extremism and instability in the region, namely Syria and Iran, now find themselves 180 degrees opposite from where the rest of the region is going.

Now, individual countries in the region are going to be proceeding at a different pace, admittedly, on the pathway to political and economic reform and greater freedoms for the people of the region. But that's the basic direction in which they're headed. Iran and Syria are headed in the other direction. So to my mind, that actually means that those two countries find themselves more isolated from states in the region than they were six months ago or a year ago.

You also see, with respect to the rest of the international community, Iran being on the verge of being -- of coming under a Chapter 7 resolution. That means that they're further isolated from the rest of the world, not more integrated to the rest of the world.

QUESTION: But the resolution is still not there and --

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll get one.

QUESTION: The Iraq leaders have to go to Tehran to ask the head of the Iranian regime to restore calm in their country.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, what they're asking for is for them to stop meddling in Iraq's affairs and to play a positive role, a transparent, neighborly role, with respect to Iraq. And the Iraqis have a very strong sense of their Iraqi national identity when they talk to the Iranians about this. They don't want the Iranians meddling in their affairs, so we would certainly welcome neighborly relations between Iraq and Iran. But they have made it very, very clear, and you heard from Mr. al-Hakim when he was sitting in the Oval Office yesterday, we don't want others trying to define what our diplomacy will be and what our relationship with our neighbors will be. We'll define that for ourselves.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: A follow-up. They are isolated, but they are destabilizing the whole situation in the Middle East.

MR. MCCORMACK: They are certainly making an attempt to thwart the progress that various peoples are trying to make and better define -- and to define a better future for themselves, whether that's in Lebanon or the Palestinian areas or Iraq. It takes work to try to come to political consensus and to build democratic institutions. But the people in those areas, whether in Lebanon or the PA areas or in Iraq, are determined, in the face of very difficult circumstances, the use of violence and extremism and terrorism and assassination, to move forward.

Prime Minister Siniora is standing up in the face of those who do not want to see an international tribunal who will bring -- that will bring to justice those responsible for former Prime Minister Hariri's assassination to justice. He's standing firm in favor of that. He's standing firm in favor of freedom and democracy and justice in Lebanon in the face of those who don't want to see any of those things proceed forward.

The same goes in Iraq. They are fighting for their country, for their own future, and we will stand with those governments and those people who are going to fight for a more free, democratic and prosperous future.

QUESTION: On North Korea?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Chris Hill said -- I think it was at the end of last month -- that possibly the middle of this month would be when the six-party talks could resume. The Russians today said that it seems unlikely that they could resume before the beginning of next year. Can you give us any update as to prospects?

MR. MCCORMACK: Don't have -- yeah, we don't have a date yet. I mean, we'd still like to see it before the end of this year. We'll see if that's possible. You know, again, you don't want to necessarily be a hostage to two weeks later or two weeks earlier if the difference means the talks might be that much more well prepared. Now, you still have to do negotiations, but you want to make sure that they're as well prepared as they can possibly be and the groundwork is laid, that everybody has -- all the participants in the talks actually have a pretty good understanding where the others might be coming from.

QUESTION: So you --

MR. MCCORMACK: They'll still be -- they'll still be hard negotiations, I'm sure, to follow.

QUESTION: So has the groundwork, in your opinion then, not been laid? Where are the problems?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think -- well, I mean --

QUESTION: For the resumption of talks. I don't mean overall.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I think at this point, you know, Chris's assessment and everybody else's assessment is we're not quite there yet. But his discussions as well as the discussions that others have had among various groupings is that there's a positive atmosphere. We're not yet ready to announce a date, and I think when -- that'll be the signal that we think things are well prepared when we're able to announce a date for the talks.

QUESTION: So in other words --

MR. MCCORMACK: Or prepared enough for us to move forward and to have a reasonable expectation that we can actually move forward, the starting point being the September 2005 joint declaration.

QUESTION: So are you holding them up, then?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. I mean, this has to be a consensus. You have to come -- it's, you know, one party can't just declare that thus shall be the date. You have to have an agreement on that.

QUESTION: When you say positive atmosphere, are you saying the North Koreans are open to resuming the talks on the basis of the September 19th agreement?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's what they've said. That's what they've said before and they haven't walked away from that. I think -- what's the basis for that? The basis is that they -- in these meetings they have been very engaged.

Yes.

QUESTION: A follow-up on yesterday, a question about the American arrested in Egypt along with some Europeans on a terrorist plot. Have you got any more information on that situation?

MR. MCCORMACK: None as far as I can share. We still don't have a Privacy Act waiver. We don't yet have consular access. And the Vienna Convention is actually -- it doesn't give a specified period of time. Different countries will interpret it differently.

What the Egyptians have said up to this point is that they will grant consular access once their investigation has been completed. Well, clearly, that's just -- that's not an acceptable standard. So we are continuing to talk to them about the fact that we want consular access to this citizen who has been arrested.

QUESTION: Are you able to say that this is a dual citizen?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have that information.

Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, there's been an announcement from Baghdad that Saddam Hussein wants to sit out; he doesn't want to have the courtroom sessions of his trial on Anfal. Now, because of that Anfal situation, is he setting up that court for some type of political tactic? You saw Mr. Hakim here yesterday at the White House. He, of course, represents both the Shiites and perhaps the Iranians; and of course, Saddam Hussein is, if anything, the only person really left representing the Sunnis. Do you see that as political?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I don't -- I think the elected representatives of the Iraqi Government, who include Sunnis, are the ones who are representing the Sunnis.

Yeah, Zane. Sorry.

QUESTION: On Cuba, do you have anything new you're hearing on Castro or the -- how close the end is or anything today?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, nothing new for you other than the fact that you guys have all reported he has not appeared at the birthday celebration. I can only assume that there would have to be a quite serious condition to have him miss that. You know, we have said quite clearly also that there is some sort of transition underway in Cuba. I can't give you the details. But quite clearly, there is some sort of transition underway. We don't think it should be from one dictator to another. We think that the Cuban people deserve the right to define what their future will be for them and they deserve the right to actually cast a ballot for who might lead them in the future.

QUESTION: What's the first thing you would do, if he dies? What's the U.S. plan?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we have laid out and thought quite a bit about a transition to democracy in Cuba and it's laid out in some pretty fine detail in a publicly available report. Actually, two publicly available reports.

QUESTION: I've got it.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Yeah, Libby.

QUESTION: Change of topic?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on these reports that Ambassador Khalilzad may be in line to take over John Bolton's spot?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I read it in the newspapers. He seems to be up for every job. He has one right now and he's doing a great job at it. The White House is going to take the lead in announcing who will fill in -- follow on John up at the UN. We're also working on a couple of vacancies here at the State Department as well. So in due course, we'll -- as soon as we have something to announce on those, we'll let you know.

QUESTION: So how -- talking about vacancies, how close are you at replacing the Deputy? I mean, have you done all the interviews? Have you --

MR. MCCORMACK: We're working on it. We're working on it.

QUESTION: Can I ask you why it's taking so long?

MR. MCCORMACK: We want to get the right person for the job.

QUESTION: Has anybody turned it down?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're looking for the right person for the job. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So who would that right person --

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll let you know. We'll let you know.

QUESTION: Oh, anything more on Yemen?

QUESTION: On Yemen.

QUESTION: Yemen.

QUESTION: I hear that there was an attack on the Embassy.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Well, that's a little dramatic. There was one fellow who fired a rifle at the Embassy or in the direction of the Embassy. Nobody was injured and the Yemeni police should be commended. They took quick action and disarmed the individual and took him into custody.

QUESTION: So you don't see anything (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they're looking -- they're going to -- well, I mean it's, you know, anytime you have that sort of incident, you want to look into it carefully and see if there's anything more than meets the eye. And so our security folks are going to take a close look at it and see if there's any other actions that they need to take, also work with the Yemeni Government to see if there's anything else they need to do.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:07 p.m.)

DPB # 195

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* Approximately $2.5 million.

Released on December 5, 2006

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At The UN: Paris Climate Agreement Moves Closer To Entry Into Force

The Paris Agreement on climate change moved closer toward entering into force in 2016 as 31 more countries joined the agreement today at a special event hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>

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Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

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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