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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing December 6, 2006


Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 6, 2006

INDEX:

IRAQ
Release of Iraq Study Group Report
Report’s Recommendations for Secretary of State Role
Report’s Recommendation for Iraq Support Group
Report’s Objectives and Goals with Respect to Iraq / Middle East
Iraqi Proposal Regarding International Conference
U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad’s Status
Secretary Rice Has Received Copy of Iraq Study Group Report

IRAQ/IRAN
Channel to Discuss Iraq with Iran

MISCELLANEOUS
Defense Secretary-Designate Robert Gates’ Hearing and Discussion
of Countries Possessing Nuclear Weapons
Treasury Department Announcement Regarding Hezbollah Fundraising
Network in the Triple Frontier of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay

DEPARTMENT
Status of Filling Senior State Department Positions

COSTA RICA
Secretary Rice’s Meeting with Costa Rican Prime Minister

QATAR
Secretary Rice’s Meeting with Qatar Foreign Minister

NORTH KOREA
Discussion with North Korea on Preparing for Next Round of
Six-Party Talks
Media Reports on Possible New Position for Assistant Secretary
Chris Hill
Possible Date for Next Round of Six-Party Talks

INDIA
Under Secretary Burns’ Travel to India / Meetings / Agenda
Status of US-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative

TURKEY
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s Visit to Iran and Syria

EUROPEAN UNION
US-EU Air Transport Agreement

IRAN
P5+1 Political Directors’ Meeting in Paris
Status of UN Resolution on Iran

MIDDLE EAST
Secretary Rice’s Meeting with Arab League Secretary-General
Moussa

UNITED KINGDOM/RUSSIA
FBI Offer of Technical Assistance in Poisoning Investigation

LIBYA
Trial of Bulgarian Nurses and Palestinian Doctor in HIV Case


TRANSCRIPT:


1:40 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Who wants to start with a question? We don't have any opening statements.

QUESTION: The report --

MR. MCCORMACK: What report is that, Barry? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: The report on the Washington Senators' winter baseball activity. No, but actually the Iraq Study Group.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Thinks or says that the Secretary should lead the diplomatic effort, whatever, to obviously reorder what the U.S. is doing in Iraq and elsewhere. Can you tell us anything about some new role she's going to take on or add to her current role, which I thought is pretty much in that area?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, obviously she's quite active on the diplomatic front in the region as well as elsewhere. Just as a general comment about the Iraq Study Group report which came out today and is very interesting and offers a lot of detailed proposals, we along with other parts of the Administration are going to take a close look at it. It's a serious look. It's, as I said, very detailed on a number of different fronts, and so we're not going to have instant analysis of the recommendations contained in the report. It's a serious bipartisan effort. The people who put this together have a lot of collective wisdom and experience in Washington dealing with this as well as other matters. So we're going to take a close look at it, Barry, and I don't think we're going to have an immediate reaction to each of the specific recommendations today. But in the coming days, I'm sure you'll hear more from the White House, more from the President, more from the Secretary as well, about specific parts of it as we work through it. And that feeds into our overall Iraq policy review.

QUESTION: Yeah, but on the thing I -- I mean, I want to get a little bit ahead of the Sunday talk shows, if I can.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And it's only Wednesday, you know.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if we're going to be on Sunday.

QUESTION: You know, I'm just a nervous wreck waiting for an answer.

MR. MCCORMACK: They might not ask us.

QUESTION: But no, I'm just saying it suggests a role for her in bringing about these changes. They do call for changes, the report does.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Anything about her intentions or how she views this personally?

MR. MCCORMACK: Obviously, as the nation's chief diplomat, I would expect that she is going to remain deeply engaged in diplomacy in the region working on issues of peace and security, bettering -- helping to help governments in the region better the lives of their people. She will certainly be -- remain deeply engaged in diplomatic efforts in the region.

Sue.

QUESTION: The report was very specific about speaking to Syria and Iran.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Thus far, you tend to focus on speaking to the more moderate Arab states. I wonder whether you think that policy has worked. They seemed to imply that that just wasn't enough and that this isolation policy of your so-called enemies just hasn't worked.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not sure that they called it an isolation policy of our enemies. In fact, there is an offer on the table for Iran on the nuclear front. And in that context, they as well as others can bring up other issues. So it's not -- and I don't think that they called it that.

Look, again, you know, in terms of the specific recommendations, it's detailed. They have a number of specific steps that they suggest. They talk about an Iraq Support Group, which is a new diplomatic mechanism that they suggest that you can use to get at a number of these problems related to Iraq as well as more broadly in the region. The Secretary along with other senior members of the Administration are going to take a look at what's contained in the report here.

I think if you flip through what their objectives are with respect to Iraq or with respect to trying to peacefully reconcile differences between the Israelis and Palestinians, as well as other diplomatic efforts throughout the region, I think there is certainly -- I'm pretty sure it's the same goals here. If you go through and look at specifically what they're talking about with respect to Iraq as well as elsewhere in the region, everybody shares the goal of a more peaceful, stable, secure, prosperous region. They suggest a specific way to achieve some of those goals and we're going to take a close look at those things.

QUESTION: But they talk about this Iraq -- this support group.

MR. MCCORMACK: Iraq Support Group, yeah.

QUESTION: Would it be palatable to you then to deal with Iran and Syria via this group? Would that be better than having direct talks? Would that be an easier route for you?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, for you know, just a couple issues on -- with respect to a factual basis. We have diplomatic relations with Syria and we do -- you know, we are able to exchange information with them. On Iran, everybody knows the story on the offer on the table with respect to the nuclear issue.

And with respect to diplomacy with Iraq's neighbors, Iraq is engaged in an active diplomatic effort and we support them in that diplomatic effort. Now, whether or not you want to augment that diplomatic effort, add to it, substitute something else for it, that's what this report is about. Well, we'll take a look at what it is that they have to say.

But we do think that is very encouraging and important that the Iraqis themselves have taken the reins on their diplomatic effort with respect to how they relate to their neighbors and how their neighbors relate to them. They have been very clear and I think very forceful. They speak -- they've spoken out very forcefully on this. President Talabani, Mr. al-Hakim, Prime Minister Maliki all spoke about this issue, how it is very important for Iraq to be in the lead on these diplomatic efforts. We support them in that.

Now, if there's anything else that certainly we or others can learn from this Iraq Study Group report, certainly we're going to take those lessons from the report and integrate it into our overall approach to Iraq as well as to the region.

QUESTION: Just one more question. Is your own review sort of in line with the Iraq Study Group recommendations? And did you make some of these recommendations? For example, David Welch, the Secretary, others, did they make some of these recommendations in their interviews or discussions with --

MR. MCCORMACK: Honestly, I didn't talk to the Secretary about the specific content of her discussions with the Iraq Study Group. David Welch and David Satterfield were present when she talked to them. This represents the work of this particular group, a concerted, thoughtful, focused effort that deserves thorough review and consideration.

Yes. Let's go back here. You had your hand up first. Yes. We'll come back, Barry. Yes.

QUESTION: Can I ask a bit more on Iran and Syria specifically?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: In the press conference, Baker said that although, you know, the nuclear issue could always be put to one side and that if there was to be a dialogue about Iraq, it would have to be about Iraq. Have you got any response to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we're going to take a look at what they have to talk about here.

QUESTION: Do you still believe that the nuclear issue needs to be resolved before you talk to Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that has never --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, that is actually not then sort of the sequence.

QUESTION: Well, you talked to them in that separate channel through -- you had made it through the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. And that's still available. And you still have, like I've said before and I think the Secretary has said as well, that that's a channel that is available to us and should we choose to avail ourselves of it, it is there.

And also you have the -- you do have the P-5+1 offer on the table. Now, the Iranians haven't taken the P-5+1 up on that offer. And that, of course, is also a forum where other issues can be raised. Now, the primary focus of it is the nuclear issue, but other issues can be raised in that forum.

And it is interesting to note -- you're looking -- I haven't read the entire report, but I read the portions specifically related to the external -- what they refer to as the external efforts, the diplomatic efforts. And there is a healthy degree of skepticism specifically with respect to Iran, whether or not they would even take up an offer to engage in some discussions with respect to Iraq.

QUESTION: Sean, Mr. Baker said that the Syrians are ready to start positive discussions with us and maybe they will help us. What's your reaction?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, I'll keep repeating myself here. We're going to take a look at what they have to say but again, you know, to this point the Syrians have not chosen to do that. We have made clear and more importantly the Iraqis have made quite clear what it is that Syria could do to play a constructive role in Iraq's future.

QUESTION: What have they not chosen to do, to talk to you or to be constructive or both?

MR. MCCORMACK: To be constructive. Yeah.

Okay, all right. Yes.

QUESTION: Can I (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, yeah.

QUESTION: I think already, you know, been quoted in the morning newspaper on that. The notion of the Iraqis reaching out and inviting people to an international, multinational conference.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: I assume you haven't changed your mind overnight. Could that be a vehicle for having -- sort of like Sue's question but a slightly -- could that be the vehicle you would use to try to broaden your discussions with Iran and Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, and one important point in that. That's actually the Iraqis that said that they wanted (inaudible).

QUESTION: Indeed. I hope I said that. I meant that. Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: There are certainly many different possibilities as to the form, the substance and, you know, the format of the conference that was -- been proposed by Prime Minister Maliki. Of course we're going to talk to them about their ideas are and they are also going to be speaking directly with the Iraq Study Group. Well, I think they actually already have. So they're going to have access to this text as well and I'm sure that they're going to take a close look at it as well and to see what they can possibly glean from it. You know, it's an important detailed study and it bears looking at, it bears analysis, and it bears careful consideration.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Sean, yesterday at the Senate hearing, the Defense Secretary-designate Mr. Gates literally confirmed that Israel has nuclear weapons. In fact, he -- to a question -- in answer to a question, he said that Iran is pressing for, you know, nuclear capability largely as a deterrent because they are surrounded by "powers with nuclear weapons, Pakistan to the east, the Russians to the North, the Israelis to the west." And I mean, what's your take on it basically?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen that quote. I'll take a look at it and we'll get you something.

QUESTION: But again, in relation to efforts by the United States and other powers to end Iran's nuclear program.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. And we'll -- with respect to your -- the first part of your question, we'll certainly get back to you.

You know, with respect to Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon, they're doing so covertly in violation of their treaty obligations. They signed up to an international convention, a binding international convention, at which they said we are going to forego our right to develop -- forego developing nuclear weapons in exchange for development of peaceful nuclear energy. That is the problem here. And nobody wants to see Iran with a nuclear weapon. Iran with a nuclear weapon, everybody agrees, would be one of the most destabilizing events that anybody can imagine in the Middle East; that occurrence.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the job status of Ambassador Khalilzad?

MR. MCCORMACK: Still working away. I just saw him yesterday on a video conference. Still fully employed.

QUESTION: And --

QUESTION: Until when?

QUESTION: And Ambassador Crocker --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's always up to the President.

QUESTION: Ambassador Crocker hasn't started picking out a new office or anything yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: Hey, he is still in Islamabad.

QUESTION: You've got a lot of vacancies here.

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, that was noted to me. That was noted to me yesterday, Barry.

QUESTION: Somebody had mentioned that today.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, somebody -- yeah, it's been mentioned. We're working on all of those to ensure we get the right people in the jobs. We have a UN Perm Rep. We have -- we have a Deputy Secretary. And the Secretary, although it's not a Senate-confirmed position and different secretaries have treated that position differently, I think the Secretary is inclined to fill that counselor role when Mr. Zelikow leaves.

QUESTION: Just a quick one on the report. Has the Secretary read it yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: She has not read the full report. She has read the executive summary. She had lunch with the President also this afternoon after the meeting with the Costa Rican Prime Minister. So she also had a chance to discuss it with him and his interaction with the Iraq Study Group. And she's going to read it. We've given her a copy of it.

QUESTION: Is that what she's working on this afternoon or --

MR. MCCORMACK: She's -- well, she's doing a lot of different things this afternoon. She has a meeting with the Qatari Foreign Minister and she has some internal meetings, but she's a pretty quick study and a pretty quick read so she'll get through it.

Yeah.

QUESTION: That meeting with the Foreign Minister -- remember the business of Qatar financing schoolteachers?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right. I'll try to let you know if it comes up.

QUESTION: Yeah, because it might be the answer to what was on hold yesterday. You were looking into any potential Hamas connection.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we -- yeah, and we were talking -- and we've been talking to them at a lower level about that. I have to admit I haven't got briefed up on what the results of those conversations are. I'll let you know if it comes up, whether or not it comes up --

QUESTION: -- or leads to some conclusion?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right. Yep.

Dave, did you have a question?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a different subject.

QUESTION: Oh, one more.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, you've got dibs after we are done with Iraq.

QUESTION: One of the leading newspapers reports in some great detail about a U.S. proposal to the North Koreans made during --

QUESTION: Iraq.

QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we'll come back. We'll come back to North Korea after Iraq.

QUESTION: Just to go back to the channel that's open, you say --

MR. MCCORMACK: -- we can avail ourselves of.

QUESTION: -- you can avail yourselves to. Have you approached the Iranians lately to say we'd like to take advantage of this channel? Are you interested? Have they turned you down?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, the denouement the last time, the last time around, was where there was an interest expressed, there was a little bit of back and forth as to subject area and who might attend. We made it clear that this would be a channel in which we could discuss Iraq security matters and it would be a channel between our ambassadors, their ambassador in Baghdad, our ambassador in Baghdad. And there was some discussion about that.

I think the Iranians -- the Iranians decided that they weren't going to, at that point, use the channel. And that's where it was left. I think they had an idea to talk about a broader range of issues.

QUESTION: When was that --

MR. MCCORMACK: That was -- it was back in the springtime. It was just --

QUESTION: Spring? About April, May?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. April, May. Because it is shortly thereafter that we came out with our policy initiative to participate in the P-5+1 if they suspend enrichment and reprocessing. So there was -- there was some interaction from our point of view there as well (inaudible) the Iranians had an idea maybe to talk about a wider range of issues in that Baghdad channel and we thought that it was more appropriate to put it in the P-5+1. So that's basically where it stands. It is an available channel should both sides choose to avail themselves of it.

QUESTION: But are you considering soon availing yourselves of that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, if there's any change in that, we'll try to let you know.

QUESTION: Was her lunch today designed to get a briefing on the report? Is that why it was set up or was it just --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, as a matter of fact -- as a matter of fact, I think it wasn't originally on her schedule. She was planning on having lunch here. I think it was just she was over at the White House in the meetings with the President and they -- he asked her to have lunch. It's an invitation you don't turn down. (Laughter.)

Dave, I think you're up next.

QUESTION: Well, I was in the process of asking a question about a press account this morning about a U.S. proposal to North Korea, quoting some details -- aid would be forthcoming.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: They would first have to shut down their plutonium reprocessing operation.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. How do you describe the discussion? These were not -- this was between Chris Hill and Kim Gye Gwan and also including at some times the Chinese during his meetings in Beijing. These were not -- these were not down-in-the-weed technical discussions at which people got out lengthy reports about here's our proposal, there's -- here's their proposal. It was a discussion. It wasn't a negotiation. I think that there was a general discussion on both sides as to how they could move forward using the September 19th, 2005 joint declaration as the basis for moving forward and touching on those issue areas. The discussions focused on the issue areas that are outlined in that joint declaration. If you take a look at it, there are several different parts to it.

So that's really -- that was really the sort of the tenor, the focus of it. The basic -- the operating principle here again is that with a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, all things are possible. Without a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, nothing is possible. So that same operating principle of, you know, good-faith actions in return for good-faith actions is -- was really sort of the underlying message for what Chris was talking about. So we didn't get into any sort of "detailed packages" or detailed proposals. It was a general discussion so that you can -- so that we could better prepare for the next round of six-party talks and that each of the different parties has a rational expectation at what -- of what they might expect. You know, there's still -- at that next round of talks there's still going to be a negotiation. I would expect that it's probably going to be very intense. They would be very intense negotiations. But this gives each of the parties an idea of what they might expect in terms of general outcomes.

QUESTION: But is it correct to say that as a matter of good faith, we would like to see them with an early shutdown of their reprocessing operations to show --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to -- I know that there have been a lot of -- there's been a lot of news reports on that as well as other matters, and we're just not going to get into at this point discussing what North Korea might do as some initial steps to move forward on that joint declaration.

Yes.

QUESTION: There were some reports in the Korea media about Ambassador Hill is tapped to be the Washington policy coordinator on North Korea. Can you verify this and also what --

MR. MCCORMACK: The Washington policy coordinator for North Korea?

QUESTION: Right. Like the Administration policy coordinator for North Korea is what the report said.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he's the Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and he sometimes bemoans the fact that he becomes at times the Assistant Secretary for North Korean affairs or the six-party talks. I -- that specific title -- I can't tell you. I'm not aware that he holds that one, but he is our point man on six-party talks negotiations.

QUESTION: So there's no talk about him moving towards the White House and becoming their point man specifically? He's going to stay at the State Department?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I've heard of.

Yes.

QUESTION: On India.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I know Nick Burns is going to be showing up there tonight. Any word on what he's going to be talking about? I mean, besides obviously the India nuclear deal.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. And that's working on the Hill. We're working very closely with members and their staff up on the Hill. It's one of the President's top priorities to get that through in this Congress, which comes to a conclusion in the not-too-distant future.

He's going to be talking about that agreement, talking about the associated negotiations, the so-called 1, 2, 3 negotiations that are underway; talk about the broad arc of the U.S.-Indian relationship, where that can go; talk about regional issues as well. That's something the Secretary is very interested in, sort of more and better integration along that arc running from Central Asia down through India. I think that there's a lot of potential and a lot of promise there that can be beneficial to all the countries in the region in terms of economic cooperation and integration. He'll talk about that. That's sort of the broad scope.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up on that. The Indians have said that they're not going to accept any condition that violates the July 2005 agreement, which is I guess one of the dangers in Congress. Are we accepting that that's their position? Are we trying to change their mind?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we of course stand by the agreement that we signed. In our system there is the Congress; they have a say; they have a say in approving these kind of agreements that require a change in laws. Of course, we believe that anything that the United States Government does with respect to this agreement should abide by both the spirit and the letter of that agreement. And I would just urge everybody involved to see what emerges from the Congress and view it in the context of what is the letter and the spirit of the agreement. And we're confident that this is an agreement that's going to be able to be implemented.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan visited Iran and Syria recently and he had held two meetings with Iranian leaders and President Assad. My question about that meeting: Does the United States support Prime Minister Erdogan's diplomatic efforts about Iran, Iraq and other Middle East issues? What's your reaction?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they -- you know, Turkey is -- Turkey has diplomatic relations with all of its neighbors. We expect them to be engaged with their neighbors. From our perspective, Turkey is a good friend and ally and we appreciate their efforts to try to further the causes of peace and stability in the region.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Came from left field. Is the U.S. still committed to signing the Open Skies Agreement with EU even though DOT recently has withdrawn a plan for foreign investors to have more control in domestic airlines.

MR. MCCORMACK: As a matter of fact, we are. The United States remains fully committed to signing this agreement with both -- with the EU. It creates a win-win for consumers, airlines and communities on both sides of the Atlantic by increasing travel and transport options, catalyzing trade and employment growth, and enhancing people to people contacts. I understand that there was a notice yesterday by the Department -- or, yes, yesterday by the Department of Transportation withdrawing a proposed rule. But the DOT decision doesn't signify any change in the Administration's strong support for an international trade and investment regime or its commitment to close U.S.-EU economic cooperation, including through the aviation agreement.

Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have any details on Nick Burns' meeting yesterday in Paris? They don't seem to have bridged the differences that you were hoping to bridge.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, they -- not there. Not there yet. We hope that we can come to a consensus resolution. But I think the feeling was it was now time to move on to New York. And certainly there will continue to be some work done. And as I said, we will continue to work for consensus. We can get as many countries voting for a sanctions resolution, but we are getting to the point now where we need to come to a vote in the not-too-distant future.

QUESTION: And does the not-too-distant future mean by the end of the year?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to put any specific timelines on it, but it's getting about time to act.

Yeah.

QUESTION: And you used to say that you expect a strong resolution? Do you still stand by that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I think we are going to -- any resolution that is tabled is going to a strong one. And we expect that we will get a resolution.

QUESTION: A strong resolution.

MR. MCCORMACK: A strong resolution.

QUESTION: Is Russia still a problem?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I'm not going to characterize it that way. They have their views. And as I said before, they have -- there's a certain logic to their point of view. We have obviously had a lot of discussions about that. We understand their point of view. They understand our point of view which is shared by many others, and that we hope when it comes down to it that we can get Russian as well as entire Security Council support, affirmative support for a resolution, strong resolution.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday North Korean reported -- by the North Korean Broadcasting (inaudible) said they will not hold six-party talks within this year. Does the United States have a clear commitment?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we don't have a -- you know, we don't have a date yet. And as I said yesterday, we would still like to see the six parties convene this year. But if it's a matter of a couple weeks here, a couple weeks there and getting some good preparation and really getting the best possible round that we can, of course we're going to err on that side and allow for a little bit more time to prepare for the talks. But we think that it's possible certainly to still have a round of six-party talks this month before the end of the year.

Dave.

QUESTION: Sean -- excuse me -- your office was kind enough to circulate a Treasury announcement this morning that they are putting antiterrorist sanctions against a number of individuals in Paraguay who were, to boil it down, operating businesses that at least partially support Hezbollah. And including -- it says a shopping center that essentially was run by Hezbollah individuals that among other things were circulating American -- counterfeit American currency or selling it. Is this in any way, this announcement, reflect dissatisfaction with the kind of diplomatic discourse we've had about Paraguay, about them tolerating such an enterprise unnecessarily?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of, Dave. You know, this is -- it's a lot of information gathering that goes into these announcements. And I wouldn't take it as a comment on the Paraguayan Government's policies or its diplomatic stance or our relationship.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that Rice will be meeting with the Secretary General of the Arab League tomorrow?

MR. MCCORMACK: Amr Moussa, yes.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: She will be.

QUESTION: And give us an idea of what they'll be talking about?

MR. MCCORMACK: There's -- actually probably a wide range of issues. I'm sure they'll talk about Israeli-Palestinian issues, talk about Lebanon, talk about Iraq, talk about Iran, probably talk about Sudan as well. The Arab League has been deeply involved in Sudan and working with us to try to get to implementation of Resolution 1706 where you have that AU-UN hybrid force. So that's sort of the broad sweep of what they're going to talk about.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any (inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts on the -- on the less than robust cooperation being offered by Russia to the British investigators in the killing last month?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's -- you know, that's really between the two countries, between Russia and Britain. Certainly we encourage cooperation in any sort of investigation of this type. We have offered our assistance to the British Government. I think we're providing some technical assistance. We have some people who have some expertise in the attributes of these radioactive materials, so I think we've offered some of that assistance. And anything we can do to help -- help further the investigation, certainly we'll do.

QUESTION: There's a scientific study published in -- by a British magazine today that would seem to set a scientific basis that those accused in the Libya HIV trial could not be guilty just because of findings that apparently the HIV infections in Libya began far before they were accused of being involved. Is this something that the United States would commend to the Libyan authorities? There was supposed to be a verdict in the second trial coming up within a matter of days. This would seem to be exonerating information. Is that something you would raise with them?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I'm not sure. I'm not sure we'd bring it up -- bring up a magazine article like that. Look, this is a terrible tragedy in which people -- you know, innocent people lost their lives, it really is. It's just a terrible, terrible thing. It caused a lot of grief and pain. We understand that. That said, we have for some time said that we think it's important that those nurses and medics be returned to their home country at the earliest possible moment.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:10 p.m.)

DPB # 196

Released on December 6, 2006

ENDS


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