State Dept. Daily Press Briefing December 4, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
December 4, 2006
Elections Results / U.S Commends Venezuelan People for Conduct of
Reports From International Monitors Not Yet In
U.S. Hopes for Positive Constructive Relations with Venezuela /
U.S. Has Positive Agenda for Hemisphere / U.S. Ready to Work With
Any Democratic Government
Precedent Exists for Working Together / Promotion of Democracy,
Good Governance, Free Trade High on U.S. Agenda
Overtures by Raul Castro for Dialogue / Dialogue Should be Between
Cuban Regime and Cuban People
U.S. Supports Democratic Transition in Cuba
Arrest of American Citizen in Cairo / No Consular Access Yet
Kofi Annan’s Comments Regarding Security
U.S. Stands With Iraqis Who Want to Build Better Future for
Secretary Rice’s Meeting with Mr. Al-Hakim
Iraqis Must Make Political, Economic Decisions Themselves
U.S. Encourages all Factions to Participate in Political Process
Iraqis Better Off Without Saddam Hussein
U.S. urges Dialogue and Building of Relations Between Israel and
U.S. Ready to Work With Ukrainian President and His Government
Resignation of USUN Ambassador John Bolton / Secretary Rice
Appreciates Ambassador Bolton’s Work on Variety of Issues
Upcoming P-5+1 Meeting in Paris / Time For Security Council to
Act, Pass Resolution
Preparations for Six-Party Talks Underway / U.S. Hopes For
Negotiations by End of Year
U.S. Supports Elected Government, Prime Minister Siniora
Outside Parties Seeking to Affect Lebanese Domestic Political
U.S. Supports Ahtisaari’s Work on Kosovo Independence
2:20 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. No opening statements, so we can get right into your questions, whoever would like to start us off.
QUESTION: Any thoughts on the Venezuelan election?
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, well, we commend the Venezuelan people for the conduct of this election. I believe there are various observer groups that are going to weigh in with various reports about what they thought about the election, day of the election, as well as the run-up to the election in terms of fairness, transparency, the ability of opposition to access media, et cetera, et cetera. So those reports haven't come out yet and we look forward to seeing them and at that point we'll have some final thoughts on how the election was conducted.
President Chavez has been reelected for another term in office and we would hope that we could have a positive constructive relationship with the Government of Venezuela and we'll look for -- we are -- as always we'll look for opportunities to work closely with the Venezuelan Government and they are of course well reported frictions on some issues. From our standpoint, there don't have to be any frictions. We have a positive agenda for the hemisphere. We are ready to work with any democratic country that governs democratically and that works to advance the cause of democracy as well as prosperity throughout the hemisphere.
QUESTION: Now his immediate response -- Chavez's immediate response was to say that this is another defeat for the devil. He doesn't sound to be in a conciliatory mood. And you're talking about we hope that we're able to work together. How would you describe the ability of the two countries to work together over the previous -- preceding six years?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have. There are examples. For example the issues of counternarcotics, we have, despite a couple of rough patches, actually have been able to work pretty effectively together. There have been other areas where we haven't worked as well together with the Venezuela Government. So there's example and precedent for us working well together. And certainly if you go back over the course of the years, we have no problem working with the Venezuelan Government. We have great respect for Venezuela as a country and the Venezuelan people. So there can be places where we work together. Obviously when you see some of the rhetoric that comes out that that might make things a little bit more difficult in terms of the relationship. But that doesn't preclude our being table to work together, at least from our perspective.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) you like to work to together with the Venezuelans?
MR. MCCORMACK: We will see what, you know, we'll see what the platform of this Chavez government happens to be. I pointed out counternarcotics. We would hope that we could work together on the promotion of free trade and democracy throughout the region. That is our -- that has been our platform that we have worked from throughout the region. We believe that promotion of democracy, good governance, as well as promotion of free trade also addresses the issues of social justice that are talked about quite a bit throughout the hemisphere. Whereas if you have a government that governs effectively in a transparent manner, that fights corruption, that is a type of government that can help flow the benefits from expanding trade and growing the economy to those in a country that have not perhaps previously realized those benefits. So that's our positive agenda. We would like to be able to work with Venezuela across a full spectrum of various issues and we'll see if we're able to do that. If we're not able to do that, then we'll look for those areas where we can work together.
QUESTION: Are you able to do that, even if they continue the -- or Chavez continues the remarkably harsh rhetoric that he has employed toward the United States, can you still work on substance even as he sort of puts a -- you know, aims a rhetorical blow torch at you day after day after day?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. You know, like I said, in response to George's question, sure, that might make it a little bit more difficult. But if we are certainly able to look beyond that -- those kind of comments, if there is a true will and spirit of working together, I'm not sure that sort of rhetoric serves the Venezuelan Government well in the long run, in terms of its international standing. But you know, again, the Venezuelan people have spoken in terms of who they're going to elect as their president and we will work where we can with this Venezuelan Government on a positive agenda.
Our only concerns about President Chavez in terms of his government have been questions about whether or not the policies that he has pursued in Venezuela have actually advanced the cause of strengthening democratic institutions in that country. It's not a matter of whether or not a government happens to come from left or right or center, where they happen to be rated on the political spectrum. It's how they actually work to -- the actions that they take on those areas of interest to us.
I've talked a lot about those and part of that is whether or not they actually govern in a democratic manner and serve to advance the cause of democracy in their own country. And we have had some questions about that.
QUESTION: One other one. You began by commending the Venezuelan people for the conduct of the election.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: And then you properly noted that most of the NGOs and so on haven't actually --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- said a whole lot about how it's gone. By commending them for the conduct of the election, are you saying that it is your assessment that the election was conducted in a generally fair and transparent manner?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, also, what I said after that is I'm going to wait -- we're going to wait until we actually have those reports in until we have a final judgment on the election.
QUESTION: No, I know, but --
MR. MCCORMACK: The initial --
QUESTION: -- you said, which --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, the initial assessment, looking at how the Venezuelan people conducted themselves, I think that they should be commended for the way that they -- their participation in this election and the way that it played out. Now, we'll take a look at these reports to see if there's anything that's underneath that that causes concern, but I think the initial reaction is that we would compliment the Venezuelan people on how the election has unfolded.
QUESTION: Change of topic, but same vein.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Okay. In Cuba, Raul Castro gave a speech kind of offering an overture to the United States -- a suggestion that negotiations (inaudible) enter into negotiations and improve relations now. You just talked about wanting to work with the Chavez government. I mean, do you have that same kind of -- is that same kind of notion possible with a Cuban Government that's open to talks?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's some -- you know, any differences we may have with Venezuela aside, there is a fundamental qualitative difference between the situation in Cuba and anywhere else in the hemisphere. There's one seat that's empty at the OAS and that's Cuba's seat. And the reason why it's empty is because Cuba's not a democracy. OAS is open -- seats those countries that have a democratic system of governance. You don't have that in Cuba. I think, you know, Raul Castro has talked about a dialogue, a dialogue with the United States and others. I think the dialogue that needs to be had is with the Cuban people. You shouldn't get into a position and the Cuban people shouldn't have to be in a position of substituting one dictator for another. Our clear support for a democratic transition in Cuba is stated and Caleb McCarry has talked about that. We've issued a couple of reports on that. So the dialogue that should be taking place is not between Raul Castro and any group outside, any country outside of Cuba, it's the regime with the Cuban people and talking about a transition to a democratic form of governance in that country.
QUESTION: And you don't think a dialogue between the United States and that government could help push in that direction?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't see how that really furthers the cause of democracy in that country where you have dialogue with a dictator-in-waiting who wants to continue the form of governance that has really kept down the Cuban people for all these decades.
Well, all right. That was such a good answer you don't have any more questions. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the reports that an American was arrested in Cairo connected to a terrorist plot?
MR. MCCORMACK: We were -- I don't have a lot of details. I've seen all the news reports about this. We were informed by the Egyptian Government there was one of our citizens who was arrested on, I believe November 26th. I don't have much more information beyond that. We are seeking consular access to this individual but inasmuch as we don't have a Privacy Act waiver from this individual, I can't offer any further comment about that person's particular biography or the circumstances surrounding their being detained.
QUESTION: Did the U.S. have any role in this person's detention?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not to my knowledge, Libby. But I'd -- again we're still gathering the facts here.
QUESTION: Is the identity known of that particular individual?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, we do. Yeah, we know the person.
QUESTION: Will that be released at --
MR. MCCORMACK: Subject to Privacy Act waivers.
QUESTION: There's no consular access (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't believe we've -- the latest information I have is that we have not had consular access and I think it's within a week you have to be granted consular access. To date we haven't had it. I know we're actively seeking it.
QUESTION: Change of topic?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's comments on Iraq?
MR. MCCORMACK: What comment was that?
QUESTION: He said that if I were an average Iraqi, obviously I would make the same comparison that the head dictator was brutal but they had their streets, they could go out, their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or father worrying.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, we've gone over the -- you know, this gets to the fundamental question of where do we stand in Iraq today and where do the Iraqis stand and we've gone over that many, many times -- talked about that quite a bit, others have talked about that quite a bit. We, you know, we stand with the Iraqis who want to build a better future for themselves, a better country for themselves, a more stable prosperous country. Secretary Rice just had a meeting with one of the political leaders involved in that process this morning, Mr. al-Hakim. He's going to have a meeting over at the White House later today with President Bush. That's all part of our efforts to assess where we are in Iraq, see how we might do better in supporting the Iraqis as they define the future -- their future for themselves. The political leaders have been through Washington on a periodic basis. I would expect that we have Sunni, Shia, Kurd as well as other Iraqis come through town as well. In terms of Mr. -- Secretary General Annan's comments, I don't have anything particularly new to offer about that.
QUESTION: Could you give us a readout of the meeting of the Secretary with Mr. Al-Hakim?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not a whole -- I don't have a whole lot of detail that I'll offer up, because this was really a meeting that was in preparation for the President's meeting with al-Hakim, Mr. Al-Hakim, so I'll let the White House speak to it. But as I said, Secretary Rice, when she goes to Baghdad, meets with the full spectrum of the political leadership in Iraq and periodically, when they are through Washington, she will meet with them here as well.
She -- in terms of her side of the discussion, I don't think it was -- you would have heard anything different in the meeting in private that you've heard her say or the President say in public about where we stand with respect to Iraq and the Iraqi people; our support for their efforts to fight the violence and come to the political compromises that really will form the foundation for the political institutions and the Iraqi democracy in the future.
She emphasized the fact that these are decisions that the Iraqis will have to take for themselves with respect to reconciliation, reconciliation items, with respect to, for example, hydrocarbons law. You know, obviously, we can offer encouragement to them in getting to those decisions, but it's the Iraqis themselves that will have to get to those decisions.
They talked about the situation in Iraq, how Mr. al-Hakim sees the political situation, sees the security situation. That's really sort of the broad outlines of their discussion for you. I know that it's lacking in a little bit of detail, but -- you know, as these are discussions that really sort of lead up to the President's meeting, I don't think I'm going to get too far -- too much further into it.
QUESTION: Do you still plan to reach out to the Sunnis to convince them to join the political process or is it something you want to --
MR. MCCORMACK: Absolutely. Well, there are a lot of Sunnis who are involved in the political process. You know, our view is while the fundamental decisions about participation in the political process, and once that happens, what the political bargains that are struck among the participants in that political process, are for the Iraqis to make, we, of course, support and encourage all who have an interest in investing in that political process to do so.
There are a lot of Sunnis who have invested in that political process. There are some who are irreconcilable to that political process and the Iraqi Government is more and more taking the lead in dealing with those individuals. There is a group also in the middle, sort of on the fence about whether or not they are going to participate in that political process and those are the ones you want to try to draw in. You know, no matter how much encouragement we can offer, however, fundamentally, it's going to be the Iraqis who are able to either convince them or not to participate in that process. But from our perspective, absolutely, we encourage them -- continue to encourage them to participate in that process.
I know; I've seen these news stories about -- you know, 80 percent and so forth and that's just not where -- certainly not where this Secretary of State or her staff are. We, from the beginning and continue to encourage the territorial integrity of Iraq and continue to encourage the political leadership of Iraq to build an Iraq for all Iraqis, regardless of sect or ethnicity.
QUESTION: Sean, just to follow up on that, did the Secretary -- I'm sure you saw the statement that was issued earlier today by Ambassador Khalilzad and General Casey. Did the Secretary echo their plea in which they implored Iraqis not to become pawns of the people who wish to tear apart their country and not to go down the path of senseless brutality in retaliating for attacks? Was that part of the discourse at all today?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think she put it quite in that way, but she did underscore with him what he already knows and what he himself said, that the Iraqis are in the process of working through these political bargains that, all would hope, try to get at some of the root causes of the violence and some of the sectarian violence that you have seen really go up in the past -- over the course of the past 10 months. There are, of course, other sources for the violence in Iraq as well and there are those who seek to exploit any potential divisions among groups in Iraq. But again, she didn't put it quite that way, but certainly she underlined her continuing support for the political process and the Iraqis coming together and encouraging as much investment by the population of Iraq, regardless of whether they are Sunni or Shia or regardless of ethnicity, to participate and invest in that political process.
QUESTION: And to follow up on Michel's question, where he quoted Secretary General Annan, do you believe that the Iraqi people are better off today than they were before the invasion?
MR. MCCORMACK: We believe that despite the clear challenges that the Iraqi people face and that we face, that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power, that the region is better off without Saddam Hussein in power and that the Iraqi people will have a better future with Saddam Hussein out of power.
Let's remember who Saddam Hussein was. This was a dictator with aspirations to invade other countries and in fact acted on those aspirations by twice invading his neighbors. This was a person who put, by the accounts of independent organizations, upwards of 300,000 Iraqis in their graves summarily, without judgment, without trial, many of whom were tortured, some of whom were gassed with chemical weapons. So despite the challenges that we see in Iraq today, let's not forget about what Iraq was under Saddam Hussein.
And let's not forget the fact that Saddam Hussein was put aside continuing to fire at our airplanes and the fact that we were in a state of war with that regime. That he was a threat to his region as well and also a regime that had not given up its aspirations for weapons of mass destruction. So let's not lose those facts as time passes along.
QUESTION: And you said that you felt that the Iraqi -- you said the world was better off, the region was better off and the Iraqi people will have a better future. But do you think that the Iraqi people's current reality is better than what they had under Saddam Hussein?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I guess that's for the Iraqi people to decide. You know, I'm standing here in Washington, D.C., talking from the podium to you all very comfortable here and I think that's frankly an answer that they are going to -- that they will have to give. I think that fundamentally they and the world are better off. This, despite the fact that you do see this, you know, terrible violence in some corners in Baghdad, as well as other corners of the country. But I do believe and we do believe that they are fundamentally better off than they were with Saddam Hussein in power. They're fundamentally better off now that Saddam Hussein is out of power.
QUESTION: Back to the arrest in Egypt, do you have reason --
QUESTION: Can I stay on Iraq for a second?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: Does Secretary Rice share the view of National Security Advisor Hadley? I believe he said over the weekend that significant changes could be coming in U.S.-Iraq policy. Does the Secretary feel the same way on that issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: She doesn't disagree with Mr. Hadley.
QUESTION: Okay. So you -- I mean, it's fair to say --
MR. MCCORMACK: I mean -- because it --
QUESTION: -- some significant changes could be coming?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, Steve -- that's what Mr. Hadley has said. And look, we're going through a process now where the President had set in motion a review of Iraq policy, because very clearly things were, as he has put it, not happening fast enough or well enough in Iraqi as we stand now. So we're taking a look at how is it that we can do a better job, what are the right policies, what are the right strategic objectives, what are the right tactics in order to get to those strategic objectives.
Secretary Rice as well as some of the team here at the State Department has fed into that review and another part of that review is going to be the Iraq Study Group report that comes out on Wednesday. And once these reviews have been completed the President will speak to all of you, speak to the American people about where our Iraq policy is going to be headed, how -- you know, what changes there might be, what ways it might stay the same. But those, of course, are going to be pronouncements that the President has to make once he has all the inputs that he thinks he needs for that process.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the priorities within this Department as far as Iraq policy goes? What specifically is the Secretary looking at that perhaps could be improved upon, changed, looked at?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to get into the specifics of the review at this point?
QUESTION: Not any general areas (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I'm not going to get into at this point.
QUESTION: Do you have reason to believe that it was a real plot? Do you have details in some fashion and --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any of the details.
QUESTION: Can you talk in any way about the group, what your --
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't. I don't have anything that I can offer you. If in the days ahead here we have more clarity on the issues surrounding the arrest or the arrest itself, I'm happy to share those things with you.
Let's move to the back. Samir.
QUESTION: It's the London Sunday Times had a report yesterday saying that the U.S. is encouraging the Israeli Prime Minister to go to Saudi Arabia soon to examine the possibility of a peace agreement as a way to diffuse the strength of Iran in the region.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think just as a general matter of principle we would encourage relationships, dialogue between Israel and its neighbors in the Middle East including other Arab states. They do have at some level with several Arab nations a -- at varying levels -- kind of relationships, whether that is full diplomatic relations or, you know, relations at the level of having commercial offices, so that will vary. And as a matter of principle we encourage that.
In terms of with whom the Israeli Government speaks or with whom, whether or not other Arab governments speak with the Israeli Government, those are decisions -- bilateral decisions that each of the two parties involved are going to have to make.
QUESTION: But you are not encouraging the Israeli --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, as a matter of principle, of course, we encourage dialogue and the building of relationships between Israel and its neighbors, but that takes two parties and it's up to those two parties individually to make those decisions.
QUESTION: So can you say that the report is credible or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think you should talk to either of the parties involved alleged by the report, either the Israeli Government or the Saudi Government. But it's not a report for whose -- for which I can vouch.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Mr. Gollust.
QUESTION: Sean, the Secretary will be momentarily meeting the Prime Minister of Ukraine.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: There's no coverage, you know, no photo. She won't be pictured with him. He's not meeting with President Bush either and I think it's understood that he would have liked to. Is this sort of a sign of sort of deliberate lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Administration toward him vis-Ã -vis the more pro-Western president?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. We said when he was -- Mr. Yanukovych was elected that we are ready to work with him and his government on a variety of different issues, that he won the election the old-fashioned way. He went out there and campaigned for the votes of individual Ukrainians and they chose him in terms of giving him a certain percentage of the votes and he was able to form a government. So there's no slight that's intended and we're absolutely ready to work with him as well as his government.
QUESTION: But is he ready to work with us enough to take a photograph with him?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm sure, you know, I can't speak to the exact issues of the press coverage, but there's no -- I think that he's also meeting with higher-ranking officials than the Secretary of State.
QUESTION: Can you try to get us some kind of readout on his meeting with the Secretary of State afterwards?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: If I get out of here soon enough I can do it myself. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya said yesterday that Qatar has agreed to pay the salaries of 40,000 Palestinian education workers for several months. The amount will total more than $22 million a month. What's your view regarding this statement?
MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen those reports, so I'll look into it for you.
QUESTION: The Bureau of Diplomatic Securities releasing their faces of global terrorism poster throughout airports throughout the states. Can you tell me about the timing of the decision to go ahead and release these pictures all over airports in the U.S. and what effect or impact that may have on travel outside of the U.S. or into the U.S.?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to look into it. I have to admit I'm not up on the topic.
QUESTION: Poster back there.
MR. MCCORMACK: That one there? I mean, you have to -- it's the first time I've seen it, so I'll have to look into the background of it and the timing. I just don't have the answers for you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Can I have some reaction on Bolton's resignation?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of -- I know President Bush has put out a statement on it. John Bolton did -- has done an extraordinary job up at the United Nations in -- during a time of real consequence. You just look at the issues, the range of issues, important, crucial issues with which the Security Council has had to deal and it's really extraordinary; from Iraq to Iran to Somalia to Burma to Sudan. And John has gotten results in terms of moving that process within the Security Council forward.
He has also worked closely on issues of UN management reform. And while we have not gotten to a place where we think the process is completed, we think that there has been some progress in that regard. So he's done an extraordinary job. I know the Secretary appreciates very much what he has done and she thinks that he has done an extraordinary job up at the UN.
He -- you know, there were a lot of people who were critical of John before he took the job who have now come around to supporting him. Senator Voinovich is one of those people. And I think that's a testament to John's hard work and people looking beyond some of the rhetoric that was thrown out there and some of the accusations that were hurled at John.
Unfortunately, there are some senators that stood in the way of his getting an up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate and we think that if he had been given the opportunity for an up-or-down vote on the Senate, that he would have been confirmed. And that's too bad that he didn't get that chance and it's too bad for the Administration and it's too bad for the American people, because he's a great representative for America and the American people at the United Nations and somebody who is extraordinarily effective.
QUESTION: I realize that it is a presidential appointment to select ambassadors, including the U.S. Permanent Rep at the United Nations. But with the departure of Mr. Bolton, that will leave three major officials who have left the Administration in the last six months, with the Deputy Secretary Zoellick and the prospective departure of Mr. Zelikow.
Has the Secretary made any progress on selecting or thinking about candidates that she might like to see replace Mr. Bolton?
MR. MCCORMACK: I honestly haven't talked to her about her thinking on the appointment of -- clearly, as you pointed out, it's going to be a presidential -- it's a presidential appointment. She'll have input to that, obviously, as well as on the selection of the Deputy Secretary.
Each of the individual circumstances surrounding the departure of those individuals are unique to those individuals. So we'll get -- she'll -- we'll make sure we get good people in those jobs who will effectively advance the policies of the Administration and also contribute to the policy debate within the Administration. And as soon as we have some news for you on any of those fronts, we'll try to let you know.
QUESTION: Do you have anybody in sight for the Deputy Secretary?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you informed on that.
QUESTION: But you do have -- there is an intention to name another counselor?
MR. MCCORMACK: That's going to be -- that's a personal appointment of the Secretary. I think -- you know, I think she would be inclined to appoint somebody else to that position, but again, you know, if the -- it's a unique job within the Department and it's not one that is Senate confirmed and really somebody who is able to go across the Department and go across the range of issues in the Department and look into them for the Secretary -- different secretaries to use the counselor position in different ways. So I think she's probably inclined to name somebody else to that post, but you have to get the right person.
QUESTION: Just one quick one on Under Secretary Burns who's traveling to Paris tomorrow evening for the 5+1 meeting. Do you believe that the P-5+1 is now at a position where it could possibly at this meeting actually agree on the terms of a resolution that has been under discussion for so many months?
MR. MCCORMACK: We would hope so. We would hope so. The -- as the Secretary pointed out during her trip -- her recent trip to the Middle East, it's time to act. It is time to get a resolution that really shows the Security Council is going to follow up on what it said it was going to do and that is pass a resolution, Chapter 7, Article 41 resolution that has sanctions in it when Iran said that it was not going to comply in previous demands and to comply with Security Council resolutions, so it's about time to act. And we would hope that we could get one out of this meeting. Of course, there are no guarantees in multilateral diplomacy, so we'll see.
QUESTION: Beyond just hope, though, do you get the sense that the different parties have moved enough that you're actually close to getting one or is it still just in a case of --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I appreciate that. But you know, nothing's done till everything's done. And you know, there's a lot of -- you have to do a lot of multidimensional chess in terms of getting the issues -- getting the language right which reflects the policy positions right when you have not only P-5+1 but then taking it to the Security Council and putting it before the Security Council something that can get passed.
QUESTION: But are you still -- the Secretary last week, I think, clearly signaled some impatience with the process, by saying, you know, or least with the effort to seek consensus, saying at some point you need action and is it fair to say that you are now getting to the end of the process where you would seek consensus or not?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point I don't think I would change any of the words that she said, which to paraphrase, you can go back and look at the transcript that essentially said that we certainly do seek unity in consensus, but you don't want to sacrifice that at the cost of inaction. And we're going to -- really getting to the point where we need to -- the Security Council needs to act for a lot of different reasons.
QUESTION: So an abstention of some Security Council permanent members will we --
MR. MCCORMACK: Different states are going to have to side how they want to vote.
QUESTION: Would it be acceptable for you?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, again, the -- it will be up to individual states to decide how they vote. The important thing is that the Security Council act. Certainly we would -- we have done everything that we can and will continue to what we can to seek consensus to make sure that that's a 15-0 vote. But the Security Council does need to act.
QUESTION: Sean, as you may know bilateral talks between U.S. and North Korea has been tried and failed already through previous administration. Would you tell us what the United States could expected from Beijing bilateral talks and what did you get from North Korea now?
MR. MCCORMACK: From North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I wouldn't try to compare apples and oranges and I think that's what you're doing in terms of the context, the situation between now and was it seven, eight years ago. These discussions were designed to try to, as best we can, prepare a next round of six-party talks so that when you do have all the parties get to the table that they have some idea of what the outlines of the negotiations might yield. It's not to have negotiations at this point. It's more to --in a forum and so that all the various parties, including North Korea, has a set of rational expectations of what the outline of the negotiations might be so that you can actually push forward and make some progress in this round. And that was the bar that we set for ourselves and I think that's the bar that we got over in terms of this most recent set of discussions and consultations in Beijing.
QUESTION: Did you have any specific timetable for six-party talks within this year or next year?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, if we -- we hoped to get it done soon. We were hoping by the end of this year. We'll see if that comes to pass.
QUESTION: Did Ambassador Hill have a nice weekend at home? (Laughter.) And is he likely to get -- do you have any travel plans, you know, going forward?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't checked with him.
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you up to date. He's racking up the frequent flyer miles here.
QUESTION: Can we go to Lebanon? The Siniora government is under siege -- quasi-siege -- by the opposition. Do you have any comment --
MR. MCCORMACK: We continue to support the elected government of the Lebanese people and Prime Minister Siniora, in terms of his efforts at political and economic reform, as well as to see that those responsible for the murder of former Prime Minister Hariri are brought to justice and that they face justice.
There are some who don't want to see that. They don't believe that it is in their interest and they are doing everything they can to try to see that that doesn't happen. I've seen, everybody's seen the various protests in Lebanon. And of course, you know, in the abstract, of course, we support the right to peacefully express oneself in the form of political protests.
But our concern in this particular circumstance is that there are outside parties who are seeking to affect the Lebanese domestic political process. In this case, they don't want to see the tribunal who would bring to justice the murderers of Prime Minister -- the former Prime Minister Hariri to justice. They don't want to see that happen. So that has been our concern from the very beginning. And clearly, you have groups like Hezbollah that have links, very clear links to outside groups, outside countries like Syria, like Iran.
So while people may say, well, this is part of the political process, we think that there is a difference here, because there are countries as well as groups who have an interest in seeing that the political situation in Lebanon is destabilized for their own purposes.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary call Mr. Siniora?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, she talked to him over the weekend on Saturday.
QUESTION: Have you sent any message or any letter to Syria to tell the Syrians to stop interfering in Lebanese affairs?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know how many times we can say it, but most importantly, it's in the Security Council resolution that requires that they don't interfere in the domestic political situation of Lebanon.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. doing anything special to help the Siniora government to face this crisis?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well --
QUESTION: I mean on the ground.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're -- what we're doing, Samir, is we're trying to do everything we can to support the Lebanese people in seeing their way through what is a very difficult time. You know, we, of course, continue our assistance to the Lebanese people. We are expressing our political and diplomatic support for this government as it faces some real challenges that are not manufactured in Lebanon, but manufactured outside of Lebanon.
MR. MCCORMACK: Hold up, late breakers.
QUESTION: Sorry. Sorry. A question about Kosovo. The Russian Ambassador --
MR. MCCORMACK: Are you channeling Lambros?
QUESTION: -- in Belgrade -- (Laughter.) I won't comment.
QUESTION: I won't comment that. The Russian Ambassador in Belgrade says that Russia could veto any independence of Kosovo. What do you think? Do you have any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: We think that Mr. Ahtisaari is working with all the parties to come up with a solution. We're not going to prejudge what the outcome might be. We think that everyone should support Mr. Ahtisaari and his work.
QUESTION: Back to Chavez reelection. Do you have comments to the analyst's suggestion that this is now a mandate for him to continue his anti-U.S. bashing and furthermore to continue basically trying to get in the way of U.S. policy every chance he gets?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, he'll have to decide for himself what he thinks are in his interest and the interest of the Venezuelan people.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:01 p.m.)
DPB # 194
Released on December 4, 2006