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US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 15 Nov 2007


Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 15, 2007

US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 15 Nov 2007

INDEX:
DEPARTMENT

Status of the Inspector General / Still Working at the Department of State
Ongoing Investigations by the Office of the Inspector General
Inspector General's Recusal from Blackwater, Embassy Baghdad Investigations

IRAN

U.S. Desire for a New UN Security Council Resolution / P5+1
IAEA Report / Iranian Cooperation Reactive, Not Proactive
IAEA Diminishing View of Current Activities in Iran
Next Steps / Role of the Chinese

GEORGIA

Decision Taken by the Georgia Parliament to Lift State of Emergency / Positive
Importance for Public to Have Access to Free, Robust, Independent Media

PAKISTAN

Deputy Secretary's Meetings with Pakistan Officials
Need for Return to Democratic Rule / Importance of Moderates Working Together
U.S. Relationship with President Musharraf
Reports of a Possible Swearing In of a Caretaker Government
Need for the Release of Peaceful Political Leaders Under House Arrest
Consul General's Meeting with Bhutto

IRAQ

Volunteers for Outstanding Jobs in Iraq / Process to be Finalized Soon
Secretary Has Committed to Filling all Open Jobs in Iraq / Directed Assignments

BOLIVIA

U.S. Conversation with Bolivian Ambassador About Unfounded Allegations
U.S. Support for Constitutional Democratic Rule in Bolivia, Elsewhere

MACEDONIA

Naming Issue Between Greece and Macedonia / U.S. Encouragement for Resolution

NORTH KOREA/JAPAN

Importance of Abductee Issue to Japanese People / U.S. Hope for a Resolution

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

Upcoming Annapolis Meeting / Preparations On Track
State of Discussions Between Israelis and Palestinians


TRANSCRIPT:

12:40 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Nothing to start off with. Someone want to grab Matt's tape recorder for him?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Jumped out of your seat, literally. We can get right to your questions, whoever wants to start.

QUESTION: You have any updates on the employment status of the Inspector General?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't; still employed, still working as Inspector General here at the State Department.

QUESTION: Do you still have confidence in him?

MR. MCCORMACK: He is still working here as a -- at the State Department and I expect that he is going to be working hard at his job to do the best possible job he can do on behalf of the American people and the Secretary.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about any of the recusals that he's decided to take from any cases?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not aware of any others beyond the one that he talked about with Chairman Waxman's committee yesterday as well as one that the committee asked him to take regarding the new embassy compound. I'm not aware of any others.

QUESTION: Is it not unusual for -- these would appear to be the two -- to the outside observer, the two biggest internal State Department investigations going on. Wouldn't it be appropriate for there to be an Inspector General or at least someone of that similar rank, a Special Inspector General or a special something or other to look into that? As just a (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you what investigations the Inspector General currently has underway. Typically, they have multiple investigations into issues small, medium, large.

QUESTION: These are unquestionably not just large, they're huge. We're talking about one aspect of a multibillion dollar worldwide contract and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- the embassy project, which is 600 -- you know, more than $600 million.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, again, I can't draw -- I can't draw any particular linkage between the size of particular projects and the effort that is being allocated on behalf of the Inspector General. You can talk to their office about the resources they have devoted to any investigations they might have underway. We do not, as a practice, talk about Inspector General investigations.

QUESTION: (Inaudible). I understand that, but these are two that you have spoken about and these are two that he is no longer going to be involved in.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And he happens to be the Inspector General.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. And there's a professional staff that works for him and I would imagine that they are working with all the energy and resources that they need in order to conclude the investigations; again, to conduct them in a way that they feel as though they need to be conducted.

And remember here, that this is -- with inspector generals' offices, there is a line that goes up to the cabinet secretary for whom they work, as well as to the Congress. So the Congress has full visibility into the activities of the inspector generals across the U.S. Government and I would expect that in any case where you did not have an inspector general or the office that was performing up to standards, you wouldn't just hear it from the cabinet agency. You would hear it from the Congress. And there have been questions that Chairman Waxman's committee has posed to Howard Krongard directly. He had an opportunity to answer some of those yesterday.

And I would expect if there are any future questions, Howard is going to be responding to Chairman Waxman in as full and complete manner as he possibly can.

QUESTION: Right, but two small things. One, aren't you concerned about at least the appearance of the IG's office being leaderless in two major investigations?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, it's not leaderless. He's still -- he is working as the Inspector General, he's still there. He has appropriately recused himself from these two issues, Blackwater and the new embassy compound. It's -- it is not unusual for people who have had a previous life outside of government, when they come into government, to recuse themselves on certain issues. Howard has done that as he believes appropriate. As soon as he found out yesterday that his brother had some relationship with Blackwater, he recused himself.

QUESTION: Okay. And just the second thing, you've been asked several times if you could say that the Secretary or the building has confidence in him and you have declined --

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, he's still --

QUESTION: -- to say that.

MR. MCCORMACK: He's still -- he is still doing his job as Inspector -- as Inspector General. He has --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) that you have confidence in his ability to do the job --

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, it's not --

QUESTION: Do you have confidence in his --

MR. MCCORMACK: It's not for me to judge, Matt, the job the Inspector General is doing. The Congress can do that. The Secretary can do that. There have been questions that he has had to answer. He has answered those with Chairman Waxman. There have been some issues that have been raised with respect to the Inspector General's office. As appropriate, we have asked the overseer board of inspectors general to look into the work of the State Department Inspector General Office. These are -- this is all strictly according to the book. Howard is continuing his work as Inspector General. It's important work, the Secretary believes it's important work, and clearly, the Congress believes it's important work.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- but the word, confident -- you can't use the word, confidence, or give me a yes or no answer to the question, do you have confidence?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Inaudible) you can play the Washington games with people. Howard is still working as Inspector General here at the State Department.

Yeah.

QUESTION: You talked about the two ties on the organizational chart.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: In fact, if the Secretary wanted to ask him to resign, does she have the power to do that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well --

QUESTION: What is the legal authority?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'll have to ask, Charlie. I haven't even asked that question. I don't know. I can't tell you what the answer to that question is; happy to post an answer for you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, happy to post an answer for you, yeah.

QUESTION: Can we switch to Iran now or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. Anything else on this?

(No response.)

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: Be my guest.

QUESTION: The White House says they're going ahead with sanctions against Iran following this recent -- well, this report today from the IAEA.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: So how quickly can you do that and who can you get on board?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the new Security Council resolution about -- you know, we would have hoped that by now there would have been a new Security Council resolution, but there isn't. The commitment that we had back in September when the Secretary met up in the -- on the margins of the UN General Assembly with her P-5+1 ministerial counterparts was that we would take a look at the IAEA report, which is now out today, as well as a report from Mr. Solana regarding his discussions with the Iranians.

Thus far, the Iranians have not taken up the P-5+1 on the offer of negotiations. They are continuing to operate centrifuges. They are continuing - continuing to expand those operations, as is noted in the IAEA report. So I can't -- I wouldn't expect that Mr. Solana's report is going to be -- do anything but note the fact the Iranians have continued to defy the international community. But I'm sure that he will have more to say upon -- have more to say on that in the days and weeks ahead.

The IAEA report speaks for itself. There were two things that caught my eye in there, and that is that the IAEA report talks about Iranian cooperation being reactive rather than proactive. And all that tells me is that the Iranians only respond to pressure, and when they feel like they're cornered they're going to try to make some really sort of surface-level concessions to the international community, give the appearance of trying to cooperate with the international community.

Now, they have answered some questions about their past activities, but these are partial answers. I don't think the world is prepared to give Iran partial credit on the test of -- involving whether or not they're developing nuclear weapons.

Also, it talks about -- the report talks about the fact the IAEA has a diminishing view into the current activities of Iran. So while the Iranians are trying to turn everybody's attention to their partial answers on some of their past activities, the ability of the IAEA to gain insight into what they're currently doing on the ground in Iran with respect to their nuclear program is starting to diminish. And that certainly is troubling. It's troubling to the rest of the world, and certainly the members of the Security Council and P-5+1 are going to take note of the fact that Iran is continuing with its uranium enrichment program, in defiance of what the international community has asked Iran to do, and that is to suspend those activities.

QUESTION: The report also says that Iran has been generally honest in dealings with the IAEA.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, okay, so again, it gets back to the point when they're feeling cornered, when they feel as though the pressure is on, they're going to try to make some concessions in terms of answering some questions. Like I said, partial credit doesn't cut it when you're talking about issues of whether or not Iran is developing a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: Well, do you --

MR. MCCORMACK: And that doesn't even -- that talks about past activity. That doesn't even talk about what they're doing today.

QUESTION: But notwithstanding your idea -- or refusal to give them partial credit, do you have any reason to believe that the answers that -- that the limited number of answers that they have provided are truthful?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any reason to dispute the answers that they have given. I can't confirm for you -- I'm not in a position to confirm for you the veracity of the answers that they have given. But I'm not in a position to call them into question as well.

QUESTION: What are the next steps now for -- when is the -- Solana's report expected and what do you expect for the next steps?

MR. MCCORMACK: I expect that -- you know, he can talk about the specific timing, but probably, you know, a matter of days.

QUESTION: And then the P-5+1 or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're currently working to schedule a P-5+1 political directors meeting to talk about the elements and specific language of a resolution.

QUESTION: But you're having trouble getting the Chinese to cooperate?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think the way I would put it is we look for the Chinese to play an effective role in not only scheduling the meeting of the P-5+1 political directors but also play an effective role in coming up with the language and the contents of that resolution.

Anything else on Iran? Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Can we change the topic?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: The state of emergency will be lifted tonight in Georgia, but one independent TV channel remains closed because of the court's decision. Do you have anything to say about the latest developments in the country?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there was a decision taken by the Georgian parliament to lift the state of emergency. I believe that would be effective tomorrow, Friday. That is positive.

In the coming weeks as Georgia prepares for elections, it's very important that there be an open atmosphere where candidates can express themselves, that they have access to independent media and that there be an independent media that can report on developments in Georgia and be able to provide publics with information.

So it's an essential element of any democracy that you have a free, robust, independent media. Sometimes it may be difficult or uncomfortable for governments to have that independent, robust media, but it's an essential element of any thriving democracy.

Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) this independent media, independent TV, which was violently shut down, it's named Imedi, which was owned and owned now by Rupert Murdoch and it's American company, TV company. And Murdoch wrote a letter to the President Bush and Secretary of State for -- and asked to help. Is it any development in this?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of the letter. I wasn't aware that it was owned by Rupert Murdoch. But that doesn't really matter. What matters is --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: No, what matters is that independent media be allowed to operate and to do their job. And like I said, sometimes it may not be comfortable, but it's important. It's an important element of any robust democracy.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Pakistan. Can you talk about the message that Negroponte will be bringing with him tomorrow?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, he's going to be traveling from -- Mali to Pakistan. I expect that he'll get there sometime tomorrow. He will have meetings Friday night and Saturday. We don't yet have the full itinerary of his meetings. We'll try to keep you up to date on those.

The message is very much what you've heard from us in public, and that is it's critically important that Pakistan get back on the road to constitutional, democratic rule. And a critical element of that taking place is for the state of emergency to be lifted to allow those who want to peacefully participate in Pakistan's political process to move freely, to have access to independent media. I would note that there are some independent television stations that have apparently come back on the air. That's positive.

But that needs to be something that happens all throughout this period in the run-up to elections, whenever they may be scheduled. It's important to see that date. It's important that President Musharraf keep his promise to take off his military uniform.

So these are the basic messages. I don't think it will surprise anybody that those are the messages that the Deputy Secretary is going to be bringing when he meets with officials in Pakistan. I think he'll probably also make the point, too, that it's important for those moderate forces in the Pakistani political system to work together on behalf of the Pakistani people so that at the end of this period of political turmoil, that you have a Pakistan that is back on the course to democracy, on the course to political reform, economic reform. Because it is our counsel to President Musharraf and his government that a Pakistan that is on the pathway to reform, both economic and political, will be a Pakistan that benefits the Pakistani people and is the antidote to fighting violent extremists who want to reverse the gains that President Musharraf had put in place prior to the state of emergency.

QUESTION: But what about reports that the U.S. is now looking beyond Musharraf, perhaps a (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, look -- you know, I'm not sure where these reports came from, but the United States has investment in this relationship with Pakistan and the Pakistani people. And we've worked very well with President Musharraf. He's been a good partner in fighting the war on terror and, quite frankly, he has done a lot for the Pakistani people in putting it on a fundamentally different course than it had been prior to 2001. That's been positive. We would like to see that continue and that's been our counsel to President Musharraf, that this is -- putting Pakistan back on the pathway to democratic constitutional rule is good for Pakistan, it's good for the region, and frankly, it's good for those who have an interest in fighting violent extremists around the world.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Sean, correct me if I -- I just thought I heard you say that you'd like President Musharraf to stay in power. Did you say that? Because you said you'd like to continue what's been happening since 9/11 with him in power.

MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas, I'm not sure -- judging by the stunned looks of your colleagues here, I don't think anybody heard me say that.

Ultimately, the decision about who is president of Pakistan, who is in the parliament of Pakistan, who are the local elected leaders in Pakistan, that's going to be a decision for the Pakistani people. We have worked well with President Musharraf, absolutely. But he has taken a diversion from the pathway that he had previously put Pakistan on. We have counseled him to get back on the pathway that he had previously set for Pakistan and the Pakistani people.

QUESTION: So why are you surprised by those reports about looking beyond and past him? Isn't it sort of a practice in the government, in this town, to contingency plan and look at different options in the democracy?

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, Nicholas, there were specific things in that newspaper report, I just -- I'm not sure where they came from.

QUESTION: Do you know anything about -- this just came in, maybe you don't know -- but about the swearing-in -- swearing-in --

MR. MCCORMACK: We have to ban the use of Blackberries in the briefing room.

QUESTION: -- swearing-in tomorrow of a new prime -- of a caretaker prime minister?

MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen the news reports that that is the intention, that they were going to have a caretaker government.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I can't comment on the specific makeup or the mandate of this government. If the mandate of this government is to lift the state of emergency and to have a situation where you can have free, fair, open elections in the run-up to election day and on election day and after election day, then that's positive. But I think, you know, in -- you have to take a look at what is the composition and the mandate of this caretaker government.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that Negroponte will have any difficulty in actually physically meeting with any opposition leaders? I mean, most of them seem to be either under house arrest or detained.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I'm sure that he will be able to meet with whomever he wants to see while he's on the ground and I'm sure the Pakistani Government will work with us if we have a specific request to meet with an individual.

QUESTION: Bhutto's house arrest, she's still there; she's supposed to be out.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. And we have said that we think that all those political leaders, people who want to participate in the political process who are under house arrest or have been arrested merely for expressing their point of view in a peaceful manner, should be released. They should be allowed to move freely. They should be allowed to participate as they wish, peacefully, in the debate that is now ongoing in Pakistan, okay?

QUESTION: Are there any requests for him to meet with specific opposition leaders?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you up to date on his --

QUESTION: Does -- is it still -- does he plan to leave Islamabad at all -- Negroponte?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't believe so, but we'll let you know if he does. We've been, you know, very upfront in terms of his travel plans and everything. His itinerary -- I'll be upfront, it just hasn't been set yet. I'm not trying to dodge the questions. It's just that we don't yet have the meetings scheduled, so when we do, we'll let you guys know.

QUESTION: Do you expect him to leave on Saturday?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that's the plan now. That's the plan now.

QUESTION: If he doesn't have any plans to meet in person, would he like at least to have a phone conversation with Benazir Bhutto, any of the other opposition leaders?

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

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: We will let you -- we'll let you guys know.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you speak to what contact you've had with Bhutto's camp just over the past three or four days, over the past week?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't detail the -- I can't catalog them for you. I know that our Consul General, I think just today, met with her in Lahore. They had an exchange on how she sees the current political environment. That's -- those are the kinds of meetings that we have with a number of different people who participate in the Pakistan political system: civil society leaders, political party leaders. Beyond that, I'm not going to detail the specific exchange that they had.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. It was, yeah. Look, the circumstances are somewhat extraordinary. I'm certainly not going to look past that. But the kind of meeting that our Consul General had is not out of the ordinary in terms of getting an assessment of how a political party leader sees a situation, how they see the situation unfolding. He took the opportunity to reiterate what we have been stating in public in terms of those moderate forces within Pakistan working together, and as well as reiterating our support for the lifting of the state of emergency and for scheduling elections, as well as President Musharraf taking off the uniform.

Yeah.

QUESTION: The Consul General met with Ms. Bhutto. Does he plan to meet --

MR. MCCORMACK: The Consul General, yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. Does he plan to meet with Imran Khan?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any plans at this point, but we'll try to keep you up to date on those things.

Yeah. Anything else on Pakistan?

(No response.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Do you have any update for us on the directed assignments for Iraq, whether you've had any more volunteers step forward since Tuesday?

MR. MCCORMACK: Actually, we're -- I have to check on specific numbers for you. I can't give them to you right now. But I think we're down to single digits or low double digits in terms of the outstanding jobs. So we've had a very good response from people stepping forward and volunteering to fill the 48 open positions.

This process I expect to be finalized probably in the next week or so. The process of -- this is a little bit of inside baseball, but the process of forming the panels that actually formally, in a bureaucratic way, put people into jobs, in this case the volunteers, the people who had previously volunteered for the 200 or so jobs that were in Iraq, that process started this week -- those panels meeting. They'll meet several times during this period in which we're doing the Iraq assignments. And at some point in the not-too-distant future, we're going to get to the point where we have these outstanding jobs looking at the 48, and if there are any jobs for which there are not volunteers, then people will be directed into those jobs.

But we're not yet to that point. And as I said, people are continuing to step forward. We're down to, really, I think, single digits if not low double digits.

QUESTION: And is the window for volunteers still open or is that closed at this point?

MR. MCCORMACK: There's still an opportunity for people to step forward. But the window -- the window is closing. Like I said, the Secretary is committed to filling those jobs. If we don't have volunteers in the not-too-distant future to fill all those jobs, then she is committed to directing people into the remaining jobs.

QUESTION: At this point, do you expect that that'll be the case, that she will have to direct people?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see. We'll see.

QUESTION: The other day, the number was 11, I think on Tuesday, 11 slots still remaining. Do you think it's less than that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I think we're -- you know, different people have different counts. And again, this gets into where -- you know, where you stand with respect to people being vetted and looking at specific jobs that they might go into. So we're right around, you know, single digits, maybe up into the low double digits, 10, 11, something like that. But I think we're down to around single digits.

Yeah, Sue.

QUESTION: New topic?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Apparently, Bolivia's Ambassador was called in last week to the State Department, asking his country to sort of tone down accusations against the U.S. Ambassador.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Apparently, Bolivia has been accusing the U.S. Ambassador of being a liar and of trying to overthrow the government. This is a longstanding sort of row.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Yeah, it's, in fact -- it is, in fact, true that we called in the Bolivian Ambassador. Craig Kelly, who is the number two person in our Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau, called him in and talked to him about these allegations -- unfounded allegations, I might add -- that were being made against our Ambassador.

The basic message is just stop it, knock it off. These -- the allegations are untrue, they're unfounded and they're just not helpful in nurturing relations between the U.S. and Bolivia.

QUESTION: Apparently, what they're pretty angry about is that there was a photograph of the U.S. Ambassador with some Colombian criminal who apparently they're claiming is -- you know, this is proof that the U.S. is trying to overthrow the government in Bolivia with Colombian assistance, paramilitary assistance.

MR. MCCORMACK: It's just not true. As I understand it, our Ambassador was at a widely attended public event and there were a number of different photographs taken. I don't think there's any question about our support for constitutional, democratic rule wherever it may be around the world, including in Bolivia. So any sort of suggestion to the contrary is really unfounded.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Did he use the words, "Knock it off"? No, that's my description.

QUESTION: I see. So --

MR. MCCORMACK: Stop it, knock it off. That's my description.

QUESTION: What would he have said? Something slightly more diplomatic?

MR. MCCORMACK: Probably something a little more diplomatic, yeah.

QUESTION: Maybe shut up, because I hear that's a pretty common expression (inaudible) Spanish kings? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, it's quite a dialogue ongoing.

Lambros, you've got your hand raised high. Yes, indeed.

QUESTION: On FYROM.

MR. MCCORMACK: You mean Macedonia?

QUESTION: On FYROM. Mr. McCormack -- (laughter). Repeat again what you said?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's Macedonia? Go ahead.

QUESTION: No, no, no, please. It's too bad for me. Under Secretary Nicholas Burns stated yesterday during the testimony in Congress, "Macedonia should not be denied an invitation to NATO for any reason. We do not feel that disagreement on the name alone is a reason to block Macedonia's membership in international organization."

Mr. McCormack, since this policy affects the stability in the Western Balkans, I am wondering if that is your target -- the destabilization.

MR. MCCORMACK: Do I think what?

QUESTION: If your policy is the destabilization of (inaudible) the Balkans.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we think that it's in the interest of NATO as well as the region -- look, I know there's an issue here between Greece and Macedonia regarding the name. We have encouraged both sides -- I've been there when the Secretary has done this -- to resolve the issue. It's not an insurmountable issue.

And so we have made our decision. It's clear. Under Secretary Burns made very clear what our position is with respect to the name as well as NATO membership. There are still some outstanding issues regarding Greece. We encourage Greece, a fellow NATO member, to work out any remaining issues with Macedonia.

QUESTION: Let me to ask then, in case of agreement on the name issue between Greece and FYROM, as USA are you going to implement that decision or that agreement?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't understand what you're saying, Lambros.

QUESTION: If Greece and FYROM would reach an agreement on the name issue, are you going to implement that agreement to change the name again to the new name that they will agree -- the two parties?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, that's just so many different hypothetical questions wrapped into one, I'm not even going to try to answer it.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Even if the Japanese abductee issue is not solved, will the United States considering about removing North Korea from the list of terrorist states soon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, regarding the abductee issue, we have been foursquare behind the Japanese Government in seeking a resolution with North Korea on the issue. We understand the importance of the issue to the Japanese people as well as to the Japanese Government. We want to see this issue resolved and we've been working very hard within the confines of the six-party talks to see it resolved. And I know Japan and North Korea have met on the issue and we hope very much to see within the six-party talks a resolution on the abductee issue.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Back on Iraq assignments. Are all of the volunteers that you've received -- have they all been accepted and are they considered qualified for the positions that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there have been some people who have volunteered and for a variety of different reasons there wasn't a good match between their skill set and the jobs that we had open. So I mean, that's the way this works. You have 48 jobs; you have to consider a much larger pool of people in order to get the 48 people that we believe will match the required skill sets for the jobs.

QUESTION: Sorry. I meant the ones that had volunteered since you announced that there were 25 remaining, and you say that's gone down to --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well --

QUESTION: -- those maybe 12 or so, have they all been accepted as qualified at this point or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I can only say that we're not lowering the bar in terms of people when they're volunteering and matching them up with the job. If we don't have enough volunteers based on the criteria that the Director General, the Secretary and Ambassador Ryan Crocker have laid out, then there are going to be directed assignments. So there's no lowering of the bar when you have certain standards that are required of all these jobs. And we shall see in the coming days whether or not they're filled by volunteers or whether or not there's going to be a mixture of volunteers and people directed to those jobs.

Yeah, in the back.

QUESTION: I'm just curious, is there any more -- anything more firm on the timetable for Annapolis yet or is it still sort of --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have some dates in mind and I expect that in the coming days, we're going to formally talk about those dates with all of you.

QUESTION: But why are you stalling on announcing it? I just don't really understand.

MR. MCCORMACK: We're not stalling.

QUESTION: Is it just because you just want to keep up the suspense? I mean, what's the reasoning here?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're not -- we're not -- we just want to make sure the ground is well-prepared. We are confident that all the preparations are well underway. They're on a good track. The Israelis and the Palestinians are working on the document. I know that there have been a lot of news reports about calling into question the state of the discussions between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

And I would just submit to you that -- and just keep this in mind, I'm making a conscious effort to condition the ground here -- that in the run-up to Annapolis, during Annapolis, after Annapolis, you're going to see a lot of public posturing from all sides with respect to these negotiations on the document.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: Of course not. Never, Matt. (Laughter.) And after Annapolis. So there is a discount factor that needs to be built in here. The -- what's important is that they are continuing to do their work, we're continuing to support them in their work. There are a number of countries that are going to be coming to Annapolis that are going to be there to demonstrate support for this process and for the two parties reaching an agreement.

QUESTION: Will the Saudis be there?

MR. MCCORMACK: No invitations issued yet, no RSVPs received.

QUESTION: So how do you know a number of countries will be coming to Annapolis?

MR. MCCORMACK: I fully expect that when we issue invitations, that we're going to get -- we're going to get a lot of positive responses.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thanks.

DPB # 202
Released on November 15, 2007

ENDS

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