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US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 12 Dec 2007


Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 12, 2007

US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 12 Dec 2007

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT

U.S. Now Full Member of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions
Secretary Rice Will Travel to Paris For International Donors Conference

LEBANON

U.S. Condemns Assassination of General Francois al-Hajj
Bombing Is Vicious and Cowardly Attack Against Constitutional Institutions
Syria Denounced Assassination / Any Talk Against Violence is Positive

IRAN

Nick Burns and Political Directors Held Conference Call Tuesday on UN Resolution

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

Everyone At Donors Conference Is Looking For Support for Palestinian Institutions
Don't Have Dollar Amount Now, But Expect Announcement Later on Financial Aid

MEXICO

Discussions with Mexico on Merida Initiative / No Budget Resolution on Hill

TRANSCRIPT:

12:38 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I have a couple of things I want to read to you off the top and then we can get right into your questions. The first one is about the ratification of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions.

We would say that today is a good day for children and parents involved in intercountry adoptions. The United States is now a full member of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions. Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Maura Harty today presented the United States ratification of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions at a ceremony in the Hague. This convention establishes international laws and procedures for intercountry adoption. Cases involving the Hague Convention are to ensure that adoptions occur in the best interests of the children. Americans adopt more foreign-born children than citizens of all other countries in the world combined, including over 19,000 in the year 2007.

We'll have a media note for you after this, but this is clearly something that affects a lot of people's lives around the globe.

QUESTION: When was that signed?

MR. MCCORMACK: It was signed back in the early 90s. It took a while. There's a good reason for this because you want to make sure it gets in right. Because adoption laws, in many cases, are regulated by the states, it took quite some time to actually normalize and get a common standard among all of the 50 states and build up the right institutions and procedures so that we could comply with the convention. It just -- it took some time to do that groundwork and when you have 50 separate sets of laws and 50 separate sets of state legislatures, it takes some time to make sure that we get it right. But we've gotten everything in place and we're very pleased and very proud that we were able to deposit those instruments of ratification.

QUESTION: So as far as you know, that was the only delay? There wasn't any opposition to --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, no. This was -- no, it wasn't a political -- a "political" question. The second involves Secretary Rice's travel and we'll put out the full note for you.

Secretary Rice will travel to Paris December 16th to 17th for an international donors conference in -- supporting Palestinian reform and institution-building. I think a few have been anticipating this for quite some time. And one of the side meetings that we note in the announcement is a Quartet meeting, so she will have a meeting of the Quartet when she goes there and we'll have the whole announcement out for you after the briefing.

And finally, I wanted to put out a formal written statement regarding the assassination of Francois al-Hajj in Lebanon.

The United States condemns today's brutal assassination of Lebanese Brigadier General Francois al-Hajj. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of all the victims and with the Lebanese Government, army, and people. This bombing is yet another vicious and cowardly attack against Lebanon and its constitutional institutions. Two years ago today, Lebanon mourned the death of Lebanese parliamentarian Gebran Tueni, just one of the numerous other Lebanese leaders who have been murdered for their service to their country. Today's heinous attack comes at a crucial time for the future of the Lebanese people when a minority in Lebanon's opposition is blocking the holding of presidential elections.

The international community has called for the Lebanese to hold, without delay, a free and fair presidential election in conformity with Lebanese constitutional rules, without foreign interference or influence, and with full respect for Lebanon's democratic institutions. The United States commends the legitimate and democratically elected Government of Lebanon and the Lebanese Armed Forces for their roles in managing the affairs of the state and in protecting Lebanon's security in the period until the presidential election occurs. Lebanese people deserve to live in an independent and secure country without fear of violence and intimidation from those who seek to undermine Lebanese democracy.

With that, let me take your questions.

QUESTION: Just before we -- can I go just to housekeeping on the trip before we get into Lebanon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: You expect her to have bilats as well?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, there will be some bilats and we'll talk a little bit more about her program in the next couple days. We're still setting some of the schedule, but we talked a little bit at the gaggle about a Quartet meeting, so we wanted to make sure we listed that in the announcement.

QUESTION: Okay. But you don't expect a -- I guess it would be a P-3+ --

MR. MCCORMACK: P-5+1?

QUESTION: Well --

MR. MCCORMACK: There's some limited -- some different geometry --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) variation of that depending on who's there?

MR. MCCORMACK: No.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) +1 minus China?

QUESTION: And --

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) At this point, no I don't expect that. They're really saying, with respect to the P-5+1 is on -- what day are we, Wednesday today -- on Monday, I think Nick Burns, I think, is doing --

QUESTION: Wednesday.

MR. MCCORMACK: Tuesday, Nick Burns had a conference call with his political director colleagues. They decided that they were going to make some amendments to the draft elements of a UN Security Council resolution. Those are being considered in capitals right now. I would expect, although it's not scheduled yet, perhaps as early as early next week, they will get together once again for a conference call. So I'm -- at this point, I don't see the P-5+1 ministers gathering as a group. Of course, many of those ministers will be there at the donors conference and I'm sure that they will talk not only about issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian track, but other matters that may be at hand.

QUESTION: Sean, you think you'd be able to give us a list, even partial, of the bilats or do you have anything you can tell us now of Lavrov --

MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, I'm just going to hold off because it's still fluid. We're still trying to look at different people's schedules. So prior to our departure, we'll try to get you something.

QUESTION: Can you get us an idea of what you -- what the U.S. intends to announce during the conference or if you don't want to say how much you --

MR. MCCORMACK: We have to save something for the conference.

QUESTION: Yes. What do you expect for this conference?

MR. MCCORMACK: You guys report every single day. We have to save something for the people who actually write about the conference.

QUESTION: But what do you expect from this conference?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what we would hope is that the attendees are able to be as generous in their support as they possibly can in all variety of support, whether that's political, diplomatic, whether that's training, whether that's actual cash support for programs. So there are a lot of different ways to contribute. But I think -- and I'll leave this to the organizers of the conference to talk in more detail about that. But I think what everybody is looking for is some real tangible support for the efforts of Palestinian institution-building because that is going to be absolutely key in helping to bring about a Palestinian state.

QUESTION: And how generous do you expect to be?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, well, that you will have to wait and see.

QUESTION: But you do expect some announcement then of U.S. assistance.

MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect there would be some announcement, yes.

QUESTION: And would that be new money or would it be --

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, here we go down this road again.

QUESTION: Well, let me take you down this road, because we're Wednesday now, so you got like three days to actually figure this stuff out.

MR. MCCORMACK: You're not going to hear it from me. I am not going to get into the money thing. What we'll do at the conference is we'll probably have some number for you and then I'll have some knowledgeable person talk to you either there or here.

QUESTION: That would be great. And just so there's no ambiguity for the fine, knowledgeable person who's not going to have to read this portion of the transcript, in addition to Matt's excellent question about how much is new money and how much is not new money, we would very much like the comparative amounts of U.S. aid to the Palestinians for the current fiscal year and for the previous fiscal year. And I realize for the current one, it's complicated because (inaudible) I don't think has actually passed the (inaudible) appropriations, but it keeps passing continuing resolutions and therefore at a minimum one would want a knowledgeable person. The -- you know, the -- at least what your budget request was and what you got the previous year.

MR. MCCORMACK: Got you. So what we need is --

QUESTION: Everything else.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- something with green eyeshades.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: We will have, here, talk about all this stuff. You're not going to hear it from me.

QUESTION: Will it be tens of a million dollars, hundreds of millions?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, Sylvie, Sylvie, please. Let's maintain the suspense. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Can you get them to come talk to us on Friday?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see. I don't know if we'll be able to talk about a number beforehand.

QUESTION: All right. Lebanon?

QUESTION: Wait a minute. Somebody back there was --

QUESTION: Yeah. I just wanted to go back to Iran, coming back on the topic. But can you say at this point that you've agreed on what the elements that would go into the draft will be or you're still talking about whittling it down from a list of elements?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, I wouldn't necessarily characterize it as whittling down. What's -- what happens during the course of negotiating these resolutions is elements drop out, they come back in. That happens over a period of time. But what we're looking for is a significant resolution that will be passed by the Security Council. We don't have -- we don't yet have agreement on the elements of the Security Council resolution. As I said, Secretary Rice has had some good conversations with some of her counterparts. Nick Burns is going to continue his efforts working with the P-5+1 political directors. And it is our hope in a matter of weeks that he will be able to actually get agreement on a resolution and have a positive vote on it in the Security Council.

QUESTION: Lebanon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: You said that you linked this assassination with some others during the last two years.

MR. MCCORMACK: And just note that --

QUESTION: Does it mean that you see the (inaudible) of Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't. I can't tell you who is responsible for the assassination that occurred in Lebanon just today. I note it only because there is a coincidence in timing. I can't tell you whether or not that is planned or whether or not is in fact a coincidence. And I'm not trying to at this point in time because we don't have the information attribute any particular group as being responsible for this.

Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: Still on Lebanon. Do you have a reaction to the Syrian Foreign Minister's denouncement of the assassination?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, you know, anytime you have officials in the region speaking out against the use of violence as a political tool, I think as a minimum standard, you can say that that is positive. But for it to, in fact, have real meaning, it needs to be something that the -- that government is committed to. And it's not entirely clear at this point that Syria, as a government, is committed to turning away from the use of violence to gain political leverage and advantage in the region and certainly, has not turned away from supporting those groups which have sworn to use violence and terror to undermine the progress to bring about a more stable, prosperous, and democratic Middle East.

QUESTION: Without a usual suspect in these kind of cases, do you think this is significant that they've come out with this statement?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't attribute any particular motivation to it. You've have to ask the Syrian Government as to why, at this point in time and with respect to this particular act, they chose to speak out. I don't know.

QUESTION: But you said that you can't say that Syria's turned away from the use of violence for political leverage in the region. Do you think they're still trying to do that specifically in Lebanon, use violence as a political tool?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know --

QUESTION: I'm not saying in this particular --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I know. Look, there have been a lot of -- going back over the past year or so, there have been a lot of suspicions about Syria's involvement in political assassinations, attempted assassinations, use of violence, and interference in Lebanon's internal affairs. We've talked a lot about that over the past year. I can't pin any particular act on the Syrian Government. I just can't draw those -- connect those dots for you, but certainly, there -- over the past year, there have been a lot of suspicions about it.

QUESTION: What is the current level of discussions -- I mean, I know we don't have the ambassador there, but you do have an embassy -- level of discussions between the government or the embassy and the Syrian Government in terms of the political situation in Lebanon and their need to stop any interference? Are there any discussions whatsoever about the issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I'm not sure -- I'm not sure what the most recent contacts that we've had between our embassy and the Syrian Government are. They've gotten a pretty clear message about the fact that the world doesn't want them to interfere in Lebanon's political affairs. This goes back some time. And the Secretary made that quite clear, when she last saw the Syrian Foreign Minister, as part of her message.

QUESTION: Sean.

MR. MCCORMACK: Samir.

QUESTION: Did you see the remarks made by the Syrian Vice President yesterday?

MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't. What did he say?

QUESTION: Well, he criticized the Annapolis conference, that nothing will come out of it and that the U.S.-Israeli plan for the Middle East failed and Syria will not give any concessions that the U.S. were pressuring it to do.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. You know, I don't know. I don't know for whose consumption he put that out there. I can only say that during the actual -- during the conference itself, one -- taken as a whole, one could say that the Syrian representative's remarks were constructive, so -- you know, I don't know -- I don't know for whose consumption they put this out.

QUESTION: Different subject, Mexico?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Sean, last week, the Foreign Minister of Mexico said that the Government of Mexico will reject any package approved by Congress with condition for the Merida Initiative.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: So my question is, is -- the Bush Administration has a Plan B just in case that the Mexican Government reject the package approved by Congress to help the -- fight the counternarcotics?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the whole -- the whole discussion about approval of budgets and supplementals is one that is currently ongoing not only up on the Hill, but between the Administration and the Congress. I can only say at this point, because the situation is very fluid with respect to the budget, that we have had very detailed discussions with the Mexican Government about this initiative and I think we have a good understanding of what this initiative is and what is acceptable to both sides, both to the United States and Mexico. And certainly, it is the intention of the Administration to abide by those understandings and those commitments that we have made to the Mexican Government. So at this point, we don't have -- yet have a resolution of the budget discussions up on the Hill.

QUESTION: But I just -- for a second, the facts that you brought against -- have a second plan, Plan B or something like that just in case --

MR. MCCORMACK: But Plan B is --

QUESTION: You know, the U.S. Congress, that -- will have some conditions.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Plan B is to make Plan A work.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:54 p.m.)

DPB # 214
Released on December 12, 2007

ENDS

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