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US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 29 Nov 2007


Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 29, 2007

US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 29 Nov 2007

INDEX:

PAKISTAN

Positive Steps / State of Emergency - January Elections - Musharraf Uniform
Conditions for Free, Fair and Transparent Elections
Musharraf's Motivations / Contact with U.S. Officials

MIDDLE EAST

Israeli and Palestinian Commitment / Building a House
Russian FM Lavrov's Offer to Host Next Conference in Moscow
Point of Annapolis / Follow-up Discussions / Quartet Meeting in Paris
Timeline / Time Horizon of Next 12 to 14 Months
Syrian-Israeli Talks / Syrian Participation in Annapolis
Lebanese Election / No Outside Interference
Syrian Invitation
Prime Minister Olmert's Commitments / Implementation of Roadmap

IRAQ

Return of Iraqi Refugees to Baghdad
International Obligations of Neighboring States to Provide Humanitarian Relief
U.S. Involvement in Refugee Resettlement, Humanitarian Aid
Ambassador Foley / $25 Million for Iraqi Refugees

CHINA

Cancellation of Kitty Hawk Visit to Hong Kong
U.S.-China Relationship
Chinese FM Meeting with President Bush
Nature of Diplomatic Discourse / White House Diplomacy

NORTH KOREA

A/S Hill's Travel Schedule / Meetings with Kim Gye Gwan

AFGHANISTAN

New Usama bin Laden Video Tape
Commitment from European, NATO Allies

DEPARTMENT

Secretary's Travel / Addis Ababa, Ethiopia / Great Lakes States
Brussels, Belgium / NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting
Future Travel to Congo

TRANSCRIPT:

12:38 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don't have anything to start off with, so we can get right into your questions.

Yes.

QUESTION: So the emergency will be lifted on the 16th of December?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I've seen the press reports about that. It's a positive and significant step. We look forward to the elections taking place in early January. I believe the day has been set by President Musharraf. This announcement, combined with the fact that President Musharraf has taken off the uniform and is now sworn in as President of Pakistan as a civilian, are all positive steps that will help get Pakistan back on the pathway to democratic and constitutional rule.

Now, it's going to be very important that once you have the state of emergency actually lifted that during that run-up to the election, which will be several weeks now if those date -- all -- both of those dates hold, will be one in which the candidates and all those who want to peacefully participate in the Pakistani political process are able to do so, that they have access to free and independent media, that free and independent media be able to operate, that there are provisions made for election observers so that they can move freely throughout the country to observe the election -- all the types of things that we would expect in any election taking place anywhere around the globe. But today's announcements are a positive and significant step forward, but there are still steps left in order to get Pakistan back firmly on that road to constitutional, democratic rule.

QUESTION: So was this key then? Was this a watershed that he finally seems to be fulfilling his promises and responding to all the international pressure?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you can talk to the Pakistani Government and President Musharraf about his reasons for doing this. I'll leave him to explain those. It is in the best interest of the Pakistani people. It's in the best interest of Pakistan and Pakistan's future. So I'm sure that those were the motivations that were foremost in his mind. Of course, the international community has been calling for these measures and inasmuch as he has committed to taking these steps it is a positive -- positive movement. We would ask that -- and counsel him to follow through on his promises. In the past, President Musharraf has followed through and done what he said he would do.

QUESTION: And you don't regard his own position as President as in any way tainted given the manner in which he was elected by the outgoing assemblies and his --

MR. MCCORMACK: He is President of Pakistan --

QUESTION: And there's a second part of the question.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, I understand where you were going with it, but go ahead.

QUESTION: And given his second -- you know, and given his decision to dismiss significant numbers of the Supreme Court and replace them prior to their ruling on his election.

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we are where we are, and we have spoken out with our views about the steps that President Musharraf has taken in the past with respect to suspending the constitution as well as implementing a state of emergency. But we are where we are. And it is important that President Musharraf get Pakistan back on the road to constitutional rule and democratic governance, a pathway that he really himself had put Pakistan on since 2001. So it is really a call for him to really renew the kind of efforts that he had made prior to the imposition of the state of emergency.

And ultimately, it will be the Pakistani people who decide who lead them, who elect members of parliament and who will determine how Pakistan comes through this political transition.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) that you want him to lift the state of emergency well in advance of the elections, which is supposed to take place in January. Do you believe that the three weeks, though, that there will be between lifting the state of emergency and the elections is enough time for them to be considered free and fair?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, I'll leave that to experts. Obviously, the more time you have prior to an election where people can freely move about, the -- be released from incarceration, have access to media, have the media up and running; the longer lead time you have before the election, the better. So there's probably a sliding scale of what is -- what are the optimal outcomes here.

I think just roughly speaking, that it is -- if there is a concerted effort and a dedicated effort and a dedication to making sure that elections are free, fair, and transparent that you can, in fact, have those kinds of elections. But you're going to -- they're going to need to work at it and they're going to make sure that they follow through faithfully with those commitments, making sure that people are able to freely express themselves, that people want -- who want to participate in the political process in a peaceful manner are able to do so, that the media is able to operate, that people can access that media, that you have election observers in there.

So those are all the variety of different conditions and actions that one would expect that -- in any election that would take place around the globe, but it would be particularly important now, given where Pakistan has been over the past month, that Pakistani authorities ensure that those proper conditions are created. I mean, all the more -- you know, forget about the views of the international community and what it thinks about these elections; more importantly, those things are important for the Pakistani people so that they can have faith that those elections are free, fair, and transparent.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what contact there has been, if any, from senior officials in Washington to President Musharraf or to General Kayani in the last couple days or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing recent, nothing recent.

QUESTION: -- any phone calls?

MR. MCCORMACK: At least nothing from the Secretary.

QUESTION: And Assistant Secretary Boucher or --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, nothing -- not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Deputy Secretary Negroponte?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he's on travel at the moment and I'm not aware that Richard has made any phone calls.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Rodney Livingston, SPNN.NET television here in Washington. This is more of a vision question. Number one, is the Annapolis -- has that determination been made for it to succeed and they're going to work on the details?

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

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: But do you guys have any more Pakistan questions?

(No response.)

Okay. Sorry to interrupt.

QUESTION: That's okay. Focusing on the vision in Annapolis --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.

QUESTION: -- has the determination been made already for it to work and the details will be worked out in December? Has that determination been set that it's going to work? Let's say you're going to buy a house -- even though it's more complicated than that, we're going to buy it, but the details --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And then the second part of that is, is there -- and this is more of a vision question for the Secretary.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Is it enough to go around? And that's more of a vision question.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Well, to sort of pick up on the house analogy, I think it's more a matter now of the Israelis and the Palestinians needing to build the house. So I don't think anybody has bought anything other than the fact that they have committed to a process and they have committed to a process and negotiations with certain parameters, meaning that all the issues are on the table between them, they know what needs to be resolved, they know where they want to get, they have the support of the international community, they're going to have the support certainly of the United States in getting to that end point. But it's going to have to be those two parties that make the hard compromises, do the hard deals. It's not going to be easy. The grade of the slope hasn't gotten any shallower; it's going to be tough going. But we are committed to helping them do what they need to do in order to achieve the two-state solution.

QUESTION: What is your current understanding -- has it changed since yesterday -- of this idea for a conference in -- the next conference being in Russia?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. I've seen a lot of comments about it. What happened coming at Annapolis was Foreign Minister Lavrov made a gracious offer to host a future international conference in Moscow. It's not something that had been considered during the Quartet meeting prior to the Annapolis conference. I expect that it's going to be a topic of --

QUESTION: You mean the one just literally the day before, Monday?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: That meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, there was a topic of conversation there about how do you follow on Annapolis, what are the next steps beyond the parties getting together and negotiating.

QUESTION: And he made the offer there at Annapolis or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if it's the first time he made -- he's made that offer, but they did discuss it there. And it was something he said during the -- one of the plenary sessions. I can't remember exactly which one. It was prior to his leaving. He left right after lunch.

So he made the offer. Everybody thinks it's an idea that is worth discussing how one might follow up in a larger forum to the Annapolis conference. I think any agreement to that idea -- I don't think any of the parties are quite there yet. I think we're at the point of discussing it. It's an interesting concept.

But the point of Annapolis isn't to just have another conference. The point of Annapolis is to launch those final status negotiations so the two parties can make some progress. Now, if there's a way to further manifest the international support that you saw in Annapolis for that -- for the bilateral -- for the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, I think that's something that people will look at and look at very closely.

QUESTION: Well, is this something that will be discussed by the Quartet again when they meet through the Paris --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, in Paris. Yes, it is. It will be on the agenda.

QUESTION: Will it -- and on the agenda in terms of like agreeing to have it, or do you need to have --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think it would be premature --

QUESTION: Still, even then?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Look, you will only be three weeks removed from Annapolis and only four days removed from the parties having sat down for the first time to actually structure the negotiations. So it's an idea that will be discussed. And again, the underpinning thought is how does the international community, once again, manifest its support for the ongoing process of negotiation. And there is an idea of, you know, how can -- how can you use perhaps another international gathering of again focusing the attention of the parties in their efforts.

QUESTION: Well, is it your understanding then that his suggestion is not about the -- would it be like a sequel to Annapolis with the same things on the agenda?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think --

QUESTION: Or is he -- or is the way that he's presenting it that it would focus on the other tracks?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I think that any discussion -- and this is really very premature, but any discussion of what is on the agenda would follow from a decision to have another conference.

QUESTION: Is the Russian offer premature?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we don't think it's premature. It's not premature to start thinking about what next steps -- how this unfolds over the course of a year. I mean, we already have a time horizon of 12 months, 12 to 14 months, so it is not unreasonable to start thinking about how the time -- how the time within that 12 months might break down. Do you -- what sort of other gatherings, what sort of other mechanisms might you use in order to get to the point everybody wants to get to? So it's not --

QUESTION: Well --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't think it's premature to start talking about, well, what are the mechanisms, what are the other meetings perhaps that we might need to hold in order to get there. But you know, again, the focus of -- the whole point of Annapolis wasn't to have another international meeting. It's to get the parties together to negotiate. That's where the focus is. That's where our focus is going to be. I know it's where the focus of the Israelis and the Palestinians is going to be.

Once you have that focus, the question then becomes, well, how do you support that process, how do you move it forward, how do you perhaps -- if there are any openings, how do you support the idea of moving forward on the front of a comprehensive peace. Now, those are all -- the answers to all those questions are going to be -- are going to come as a result of hard work and actions that the parties engage in between now and whenever we might get together again.

QUESTION: Do you see any openings in particular? I'm thinking with Syria.

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I talked a little bit about this yesterday. And really, that is going to be up to the Syrians and the Israelis to see whether or not they -- if there's anything there, if they see an opening that they believe that they can exploit. We have -- whenever this question has come up over the past year, we've said that it's up to those two parties to see if there's anything there, whether or not there's anything that they want to explore. Of course, we're supportive of the idea of a comprehensive peace and a political horizon, if you will, for the Israeli Government with other Arab states. That was the whole point of that third plenary session that we had at Annapolis.

The answer to that question, though, is going to be determined by what the two parties think is there, whether or not there's anything to exploit. I will say that in our view, it is not a substitute for the Israeli-Palestinian track and I don't think the -- certainly, the Israeli Government doesn't see it as such either.

QUESTION: Are there any byproducts of bringing the Syrians here? Are they more cooperative on other issues such as Lebanon? Suleiman, it looks like, will be the new president. What about the border with Iraq? Are they cooperating more or are you -- is the relationship improving in other ways?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we'll see -- we'll see what sort of Syrian behavior we see going forward. We made an offer. We invited Syria to the conference as an individual state, issued the invitation to them bilaterally. They accepted. And like I said yesterday, taken as a whole, the comments from the Syrian delegate were added to the conversation. They were constructive.

As for the Lebanese election, the Lebanese will decide who their next president is going to be. We've made it clear and it's important to us as well as the rest of the world that there not be any outside interference in that choice. It has to be a Lebanese choice for themselves.

We have called upon the Syrian Government to change their behavior in a variety of different ways. I don't think, at this point, I can offer you a definitive assessment, but the fact that they did come to the conference, the fact that they did participate in such a way that added to the conversation indicates to me that they understand that there is another pathway that they can choose to take, a more constructive pathway in which -- on which they play a positive role on a variety of different fronts in the region. We'll see if they ultimately choose to go down that pathway. I think it's too early to say which way -- which path they're going to choose now.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on this. Are you confident that the Lebanese people are going to be -- or at least through their representatives, that they are going to be the ones who are going to decide who the next president is?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, certainly --

QUESTION: It certainly hasn't always been the --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I understand that. We'll see how the process unfolds. It is unfolding now according to their constitution. And it has been our strong encouragement, as well as the strong encouragement of other key international actors, that they -- the Lebanese people choose -- or Lebanese representatives, political representatives, choose who will be the next Lebanese president.

QUESTION: All right. And then just a technical point; you said that Syria was invited to the conference as a sovereign nation on its own.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: But in fact, that was not the line going into this pre-conference.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we were --

QUESTION: It was that they were being invited --

MR. MCCORMACK: They were part of --

QUESTION: -- because they're part of the follow-up committee.

MR. MCCORMACK: They were part of the Arab Follow-up Committee.

QUESTION: Are you saying that if they were not a member of the Arab Follow-up Committee, they would not have gotten an invitation?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's the history. I don't rewrite the history. But the fact is those invitations were delivered to each individual state. And each individual state showed up there and had its own flag with its own nameplate sitting there. They came as sovereign -- they came as sovereign states.

And I get your point; I mean, it was in the context of the Arab League Follow-up Committee, yes. But I say that to draw a distinction between the -- what unfolded in Annapolis, where every state was sitting there as a full participant in their own right as a sovereign state, just to draw a distinction with past efforts. For example, Madrid; Saudi Arabia was there as an observer in connection with the OIC and it was understood that Saudi Arabia was there in that context. At Annapolis, they were there as Saudi Arabia and they were invited as an individual sovereign state. That was the only point that I was making. No, I take your point (inaudible) that they were invited in the context of the Arab League Follow-up Committee.

QUESTION: Well, would they have been invited if they hadn't been a member of the committee?

MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, you know, we can't go back and rewrite history. That's the way this unfolded.

QUESTION: Oh, I'm not asking you to rewrite it. I'm just asking, you know, would --

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't possibly answer that question. They were invited the way that they were invited.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: I know you said that the Secretary didn't meet with any of the members of the Syrian delegation. Did any other U.S. officials meet with them and were any other issues other than the Israeli-Palestinian issues discussed with them?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware. I'm not aware of any other contacts. But I wasn't keeping tabs on David Welch and the other members of our delegation the whole time. I'm not aware --

QUESTION: It was Foley who met with the Syrian delegation.

MR. MCCORMACK: Jim Foley?

QUESTION: Oh, sorry. Jim Foley met --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, he traveled there specifically to break some logjams that existed with respect to the visas and he was successful in those efforts.

QUESTION: But while they were in Annapolis or in the country at all, were there any other --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any.

Kirit.

QUESTION: On refugees, these convoys that are going from Syria, is this an example of a really substantial increase in people going back and what are you attributing to this -- that to?

MR. MCCORMACK: This is -- did Jim talk about this during his briefing?

QUESTION: Yes. But there were a couple of things he couldn't provide answers on, so.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm -- you know, I have to admit and it's a confession, I didn't read the transcript. I do know that -- I've seen the news reports about Iraqis traveling back into Baghdad, back into Iraq. That's very positive. That's exactly what the Iraqi Government would like to see and that's exactly what the states in the region would like to see. That said, if there are people with a legitimate fear of persecution that have a legitimate shot at being refugees, they need to be accorded all the rights that they should be granted under the international conventions. And their humanitarian needs should be provided for. We are doing our part, the Iraqi Government is doing their part in that regard, as are other states in the region.

So there are some initial hopeful signs that you're starting to see people come back into some of the areas that had been really subject to very, very difficult and brutal security conditions. So that's an indication that there is some improvement on the ground in Iraq. I know our commanders on the ground have talked about that, but they're not making any predictions about how long that can -- that would last in the absence of the continuing efforts by not only our forces, but by Iraqi forces.

QUESTION: And do you -- sorry, do you regard the welfare of the people that have returned now in the hands of the Iraqi Government or will the U.S. be helping them with that? Will there be more funding or special programs?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not aware of any particular special programs for people who have made the decision to return. I think that's an individual decision -- they're going back to their homes, going back to their own neighborhoods.

QUESTION: That's not the question, though, Sean. The suggestion was raised that some of these people, not all but some of them, may be being pushed in the direction of going back out by, you know, the Syrian Government, the Iraqi Government or their own personal circumstances -- running out of money, visa questions, that kind of thing.

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Matt, again, I -- you know, I didn't listen on the briefing, so I -- you know, I'm at a disadvantage here. I -- look, if there are people who -- there are people that have a legitimate right and a legitimate case regarding refugee status, I mean, absolutely, there are international obligations there. And not only that, we believe that there is an international obligation that neighboring states have to help out and provide humanitarian relief to people who are fleeing violence. And we're doing our part to make sure that they receive that relief and there have been some generous contributions from others in the region.

In terms of people being pushed back into Iraq, I mean, certainly it's something we have a problem with. People, if they want to, if they choose of their own volition to return back to their own houses, their neighborhoods or back to their own country because they have made a definite assessment about the situation on the ground and they feel as though that they can go back there, that's very positive. But again, that has to be an individual decision, not coerced by some other authority. Now, of course, you run into individual circumstances where people have to make hard decisions about whether or not they have the means to continue in one place, as opposed to going back to another. That I think falls in the category of people have to make their own decisions.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: UNHCR put out a statement earlier this week that was pretty critical -- it was expressing concern about the returning Iraq refugees, namely, that they weren't returning because of security improving in Iraq, but because their situations had deteriorated in other countries. And you had mentioned that you believe that this more due to the security situation. So are you disputing UNHCR's standpoint?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I haven't read the report, Kirit. I'm just saying -- I'm only going -- right up front I stated based on a variety of different news reports that I've seen about people flowing back, I'm sure that for each person that decides to return there's going to be an individual circumstance or a different story. I don't know what the aggregate looks like. I don't know what the trends -- I don't know what the trends look like. I mean, certainly, the United States can't be accused of in any way ignoring the humanitarian needs of these people. Sometimes we have been not as nimble in delivering on our desire to help these people out in a humanitarian way or to help out people with visas or resettlement, those sorts of things. But certainly, an intention has always been there, and I think now our capabilities are catching up with our intentions to the extent that the Secretary is starting to get more comfortable with where we are. But as for this report, I haven't seen it. I can't comment on it.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more thing?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Ambassador Foley said that he was frustrated with what was happening with the 25 million that you've given to the Iraqi Government to help these people and give to host countries. Can you clarify what's going on with that?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I can't. Like I said, you know, (inaudible) I have not -- I didn't see the briefing, didn't see the transcript.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with -- I mean, that's a huge amount of money. Are you satisfied with --

MR. MCCORMACK: The 25 million? I understand the Iraqis have delivered it. It's just a question of whether or not they've delivered to the right location. I think that was the question. But they have actually gotten from the point of saying they're going to deliver the 25 million to actually having delivered it. Now it's a question of is it sitting in the right bank account or with the right person.

Yeah.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Iraq. Do you have any comment on the claims by Beijing that the cancellation of the visit to Hong Kong was not a misunderstanding and linking it to the Dalai Lama?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I know. Yeah, I saw that. I know Dana addressed that over at the White House and I wouldn't really have much more to add than what she did, that we're seeking clarification of that -- that statement.

QUESTION: Do you know why the Foreign Minister -- or why the White House would say that the Foreign Minister claims it's a misunderstanding and then the next day the Foreign Ministry would say it's not --

MR. MCCORMACK: Because I would assume that the White House said that because that's what they heard, and that if there was any reports to the contrary coming out of the Chinese Foreign Ministry that they're seeking clarification about those subsequent comments that have come in out of -- come out of the Foreign Ministry. And I understand -- I know that the White House is handling that.

QUESTION: What about the linking of it with the award to the Dalai Lama? That would seem to be indicative that they're still holding a grudge.

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, we're seeking clarification on the subsequent statements that they've made in public.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) spill over into other U.S.-China relations?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, the U.S.-China relationship is a broad, mature, deep relationship that is constantly evolving, changing, and in some ways getting better and in some way -- in some areas we have differences. But it is fundamentally a relationship between two important world powers, so where we have bumps in the road we work through them. We deal with each other in a straightforward manner. Where we have questions, we raise them. We're not afraid to raise them. As Dana indicated just this morning, we're going to seek clarification.

QUESTION: Have there been any other bumps that we haven't heard about? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, none that I'm going to tell you about. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Sean, the White House is seeking clarification on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: From whom?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a White House meeting.

QUESTION: In other words, is the President --

MR. MCCORMACK: The meeting in question was a meeting between the Foreign Minister and the President. I think it's appropriate that the White House follow up on it. Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, where are they seeking clarification from? Why isn't it the Embassy in Beijing that's doing this?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- why wouldn't it?

QUESTION: Well, I don't know. Is the First Lady going to be seeking the clarification? Who is seeking it? Is it the President?

MR. MCCORMACK: No --

QUESTION: Is he calling up the Chinese President to say --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's silly.

QUESTION: No --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's silly, Matt.

QUESTION: Sean, I mean, the diplomatic discourse of this country is generally done between, you know --

MR. MCCORMACK: Not in absolute -- no, Matt.

QUESTION: So --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, that's incorrect. The White House actually engages in quite a bit of diplomacy. The President does quite a bit himself. You have his National Security Advisor who does quite a bit himself. You have his Deputy National Security Advisor who does quite a bit himself. You have the Vice President who does quite a bit of it himself. So there's actually -- yes, we are the body responsible for foreign policy making, and I would say probably a large portion of the diplomatic discourse emanates from the State Department and is received by the State Department. But it is not correct to say that we have the -- we have exclusive rights to that domain.

QUESTION: Well, then have they told you who exactly is -- who is being -- who is the White House seeking the clarification from? From the Embassy here? From the Foreign Ministry?

MR. MCCORMACK: Talk to our friends at the White House about that. It's their deal.

QUESTION: Could this be a translation problem? I mean, is there a transcript of --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think, again, any further follow-up is going to come from my pals at the White House.

Yeah.

QUESTION: When Assistant Secretary Hill travel to Pyongyang next week, do you expect any way he will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il at this time?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't believe so. I don't think that's on the schedule. I don't know if they have any surprises in store for him, but I think it's anticipated he'll meet with -- the bulk of his meetings will be with his interlocutor Kim Gye Gwan.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) with President message, special envoy for the President?

MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?

QUESTION: He bring the President Bush's message -- special envoy for President?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, if he has any messages, those will be for the North Koreans. I'm not going to share them with you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Do you have anything more to say about this case of case in Slovakia of this highly enriched uranium, apparently, that was smuggled or attempted to be sold? DOE is referring all comments to the State Department.

MR. MCCORMACK: How convenient. (Laughter.) Well, you know, I guess what comes around goes around. I'm going to have to get back to you with an answer.

QUESTION: Okay, just curious looking into the circumstances of this and whether you had the confirmation of the grade of the --

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll get you an answer.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Back to Israel for a second. Olmert said that he's not going to be freezing settlement construction in the main settlements, the so-called consensus blocks. And I'm wondering if that's acceptable to the United States.

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, he's made certain promises. He's made them -- made public commitments. He's made private commitments to us. Those are consonant. There are obligations under the Roadmap and Prime Minister Olmert has made implementation, full implementation, of the Roadmap one of his goals. He's committed to that. And there are certain steps along the way; this is an iterative process. So I'm not going to comment on the state of the process at this time point. They've made certain commitments. The Israeli side has certain commitments. I expect that they will follow through on those, as will the Palestinians.

QUESTION: So maybe you can clarify --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: I'm sorry, I just wanted to follow up on that for a second.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: So maybe you can just clarify what the standard is in general that you're expecting Israel to meet. Because it sounded like and it's been interpreted by some people that Bush is actually saying something different; he's talking about not expanding settlements, as opposed to the Roadmap which talks about no settlement growth and natural growth included in the freeze. So you do you see a difference there?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I'm not going to get into interpretations at this point. This is going to be an iterative process that plays out over time. And the end result, we hope, is going to be a final agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. They will define what the contents of that agreement are.

And the other outcome of the process is that the Roadmap will be fully implemented. And along the way there are going to be a number of different steps. I'm not going to try to analyze where we are any further beyond what the President has said, the Secretary has said in public, along with President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert.

QUESTION: Sean, if the standard is indeed the language that is in the Roadmap, which the former questioner alluded to, which is a freeze on all settlement activity, including so-called natural growth.

MR. MCCORMACK: And Prime Minister Olmert said that Israel intends to fully implement the roadmap.

QUESTION: I just got this. Just in. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: (Inaudible). What's that?

QUESTION: Usama bin Laden has urged Europeans to end their involvement in Afghanistan and reiterated his responsibility for the September 11th attacks. That's what we just heard from Al Jazeera TV.

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen -- I haven't seen the comments, but it's hardly news that he has claimed responsibility for the September 11th --

QUESTION: But if he urges Europeans to leave Afghanistan, could that -- I mean, they're trying to undermine the coalition, I presume, but you --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's not -- again, not a new tactic. But I think the -- I think our NATO allies understand quite clearly what is at stake in Afghanistan as well as elsewhere around the world in fighting the war on terror. Afghanistan has made great strides since the era of the Taliban. There are -- just one example is that there are tens of thousands of young Afghan children who are alive today just because of the kinds of medical care and vaccination care that has been provided by the international community who wouldn't have been alive today otherwise. That's just one example.

But it's going to require a lot of -- a lot more work. You know, Afghanistan started from a pretty low place in terms of development, so there's a lot more work to be done. A lot has been done. A lot more work needs to be done. And it's going to require a sustained commitment over a period of time. And we have seen that kind of commitment from our European allies. We have seen that -- certainly have seen that commitment from the United States as well as others around the globe. And I see no diminution in that level of commitment.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any travel announcements for the Secretary, by any chance, anytime soon?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we're going to put one -- we're going to put one out after the briefing here talking about her travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as well as Brussels, Belgium for the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting.

QUESTION: Do you have any more details on her trip to Addis, why she's going and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'll just go ahead and read it now.

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Secretary will attend a meeting with leaders from the African Great Lakes states -- Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda -- to discuss issues of regional peace and security. That is on December 5th. Secretary Rice will also engage in consultations on current developments in Somalia and on implementation of Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement with cabinet ministers from East African countries as well as senior representatives of the African Union and the United Nations. She will also hold bilateral meetings with the Government of Ethiopia.

Secretary Rice will travel to Brussels on December 6th to attend foreign ministerial sessions on December 7th among NATO's 26 Allies. This includes a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, which is likely to discuss Afghanistan, Kosovo, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty regime, and the upcoming NATO Summit in Bucharest. She will participate in a meeting of the 26 Allies with NATO's seven Mediterranean Dialogue partners -- those are Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco, Israel, Jordan, and Tunisia -- and a session of the NATO-Russia Council. There will also be a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. She will also take part in a transatlantic dinner bringing together EU and NATO foreign ministers.

We'll have that -- post that announcement for you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: In terms of the Great Lakes, are you going with any specific suggestions as to how this can be resolved and trying to get the tripartite plus Burundi group to do a little more to resolve this?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll try to get you a little bit more in the days ahead about any specific ideas we might have for that.

QUESTION: Do you have anything you could share with us now, though?

MR. MCCORMACK: If I did, I would.

QUESTION: Sean, just -- can I ask one question about --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: The NATO schedule seems awfully full. Is that over one day?

MR. MCCORMACK: 6th and 7th, yeah.

QUESTION: Two days, okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any information about -- there's apparently several foreigners who have been arrested in Vietnam on terrorism charges, including a couple Americans. This happened overnight. Do you know anything about this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not until right now.

QUESTION: Any queries about it with the Vietnamese?

QUESTION: Does she still intend -- does the Secretary still intend to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo?

MR. MCCORMACK: At some point, I expect she will. It was on a previously scheduled trip that we had to cancel because of demands elsewhere in the Middle East, but I fully expect that she would -- that she certainly wants to go there and she's told that to President Kabila the last time she met with him, so I would expect that she probably will travel there at some point in the future.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:16 p.m.)

DPB # 208
Released on November 29, 2007

ENDS

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