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US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 14 Dec 2007


Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 14, 2007

US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 14 Dec 2007

INDEX:

NORTH KOREA

Status of Six Party Talks / Disablement Process / Declaration of Nuclear Program
Response to President's Letter Through New York Channel

MACEDONIA

Meeting with Foreign Minister of Macedonia / Agenda of Meeting
U.S. Decision on Name of Macedonia / NATO Deliberations

ARGENTINA

Arrest of Foreign Agents in Florida
Department of State Aware of Case but will be Prosecuted by Department of Justice
Matter for U.S. Law Enforcement / Not Related to U.S.-Argentina Relations

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

Agenda for Secretary's Trip to Paris for Donors' Conference and Quartet Meeting
U.S. Pledge of Resources / Query on Target for Donations
Har Homa Settlement Issue / Moving Forward with the Negotiating Process

COLOMBIA

Questions on Extradition Handled by Department of Justice
Continue to Work on Issues with Government of Colombia to Free Hostages

IRAQ

Al Qaeda Links to Attacks in Great Britain
Progress Made to Eliminate Al Qaeda in Iraq / Global Threat of Extremism

LIBYA

Visit of Foreign Minister / Agenda for Meeting with Secretary Rice

TRANSCRIPT:

MR. MCCORMACK: Afternoon. Nothing to start off with. Who wants to go first here?

QUESTION: Does the North Korean response to the President change anything in the calculus of the six-party talks?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. We're still looking for everybody to perform on their obligations in the United States, North Korea and the other members of the six-party talks. We have a target date deadline of the 31st to complete some of these recent actions: disablement, declaration, then we have some obligations as well. We fully expect that those will be completed within some time frame around that. The disablement process will probably take a bit more time, just because you want to do it in a safe manner. We can do it more quickly, but it'd be much less safe. We don't want to see that. We expect the declaration process will be on or about the 31st within some -- you know, within a few days of that and then, of course, we'll perform on our obligations as well.

QUESTION: Well, does the response give you any encouragement that they will -- the North Koreans will, in fact, intend to meet these deadlines and to completely fulfill their obligations?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Look, inasmuch as this is correspondence to President Bush, I'm going to let my colleagues over at the White House describe it in as much detail as they see fit. Suffice it to say, we haven't heard anything from North Korea that would indicate that they are backing away from their commitment to fulfill their obligations.

QUESTION: Do you need -- do you feel a need to emphasize that they must their commitments, their obligations? Do you feel a need to emphasize that today more than other days?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have become pretty consistent in that. It's one of those things that bears repeating all throughout this process. We are breaking new ground at this point in terms of getting to disablement of the North Korean facilities, getting a declaration of the North Korean nuclear program. So inasmuch as you are going to or prospectively breaking ground that we're already breaking new ground, it bears repeating that everybody has to maintain their commitments.

Lambros. Let it out.

QUESTION: On FYROM, Mr. McCormack.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, indeed.

QUESTION: Any readout on the today's talks among Deputy Secretary John Negroponte, DAS Daniel Fried and a senior official from FYROM?

MR. MCCORMACK: This is a -- is this a -- the Foreign Minister from Macedonia you're speaking about?

QUESTION: I guess that's the official, yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: Understood. They were --

QUESTION: Of FYROM, you said Macedonia.

MR. MCCORMACK: We've made our decision. You're still working on yours. They're probably going to talk about NATO, talk about the importance of continuing reforms that Macedonia has underway, probably talk a little bit about Kosovo, the fact that Macedonia can play an important role, along with other states in the region, maintaining, you know, a stable atmosphere. And they'll probably also talk about the name issue in this. We have made our decision, but there are still other outstanding questions specifically with respect to NATO. There's a process underway.

QUESTION: To which extent did you discuss the name issue? Any concrete details, if you can say so?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any more details for you.

QUESTION: And the last one. I was told by a high reliable source before yesterday that the U.S. Government is not sure if it's going to implement any agreement between Athens and Skopje on the name issue in order to avoid Albania and Bulgaria, which is crucial. Mr. McCormack, some FYROM officials or Bulgarian (inaudible) not to change the name. I'm wondering how Bulgaria is involved in this case (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I don't know.

QUESTION: The Department of State (inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: I couldn't begin to tell you. I don't know about this. We as a government have made our decision about the name issue. It's Macedonia. There's still an open question within NATO right now. It's under consideration. We have -- you know, the Secretary when she's met with the Greek Foreign Minister as well as others, that urge that this process be resolved as part of the questions about Macedonia's potential membership.

QUESTION: Are you going to implement any agreement between the two sides?

MR. MCCORMACK: Between what two sides?

QUESTION: FYROM and Greece on the names?

MR. MCCORMACK: They have to work something out first. Look, Lambros, we've made our decision. I'm not sure I see the -- fire on all the connections here.

QUESTION: I -- has the meeting actually happened yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know exactly. I'm not sure. It could have. Yeah, or it could not have either. But --

QUESTION: On Argentina, I would like to start getting your response to yesterday -- a response to new elected President Fernández de Kirchner to the charges of the Department of Justice that there is an attempt from the Government of Venezuela to, you know, go -- get to a little bargain to her campaign.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we talked a little bit about this yesterday and possibly there's -- and Florida have also spoken to it. It's very simply; it's a matter of U.S. law enforcement. There were foreign agents who were involved in activities that we believe break U.S. laws. The Department of Justice and the FBI are prosecuting a case against those individuals. They've talked -- they've talked about it. This isn't about U.S.-Argentine relations. This is about individuals, who are not Argentineans, allegedly breaking laws on U.S. soil; therefore, those people are going to be prosecuted. So this is not about U.S.-Argentinean relations.

And the State Department became aware of this case, but that's the extent of it. This was something that was originated and is being prosecuted by the Department of Justice, completely separate from the State Department and completely separate as a matter of foreign policy.

QUESTION: The President Fernandez* (inaudible) seems to see things differently. I mean, she had really harsh words for these charges.

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you know, I --

QUESTION: And she didn't point to the Department of Justice, she talked about the U.S. Government.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the law is the law is the law. And if the FBI and the Department of Justice find people and find evidence of people on U.S. soil -- let me point out not Argentinean citizens -- breaking U.S. laws, they're going to prosecute those people. I would fully expect that the Argentinean Government would bring charges against individuals who were breaking laws on Argentinean soil, just as a hypothetical matter.

So this is not -- it's not a matter of foreign policy. It's not a matter of U.S.-Argentinean relations. It's a matter of law enforcement. It's a matter of enforcing one's own laws.

QUESTION: But obviously, I mean, this is not a good start for you guys with the new Government of Argentina. And we remember that President Kirchner, during the whole term of his administration, he didn't visit U.S. Obviously, I mean, the sign is that these new incidents won't help to restore, to develop bilateral relationship between two countries.

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I can't help how individuals interpret legitimate law enforcement actions. The United States has over the years been a good friend to Argentina. Back in 2000, 2001, we worked very closely with the IMF on a program that helped bail Argentina out from a very real financial crisis and we have tried to be a good friend all along. I will expect we will continue to be a good friend of Argentina. But when it comes to enforcing U.S. laws on U.S. soil, I don't expect that that would be a question in anybody's mind.

Yes.

QUESTION: Sean, do you have any comments on Turkish Government's intention to pass amnesty resolution for some PKK members?

MR. MCCORMACK: I had not seen that, so let me check on it for you and we'll get you an answer.

Yeah, Matthew.

QUESTION: Can you enlighten us at all about the Secretary's plans for -- well, I guess it's very late in the weekend on Monday, in terms of bilats?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. We're going to get there Sunday, Sunday night in Paris. This is for the donors conference that's being co-hosted by the Government of France.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: Prime -- former Prime Minister Blair, the Norwegians, as well as others. She's going to see Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. I expect that on Monday, early on Monday, she'll see --

QUESTION: That's Sunday?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's Sunday, Sunday night. That early Monday, she'll see Foreign Minister Livni. She will also have separate meetings with Foreign Minister Kouchner. She'll probably have a separate meeting with President Sarkozy. I would expect there'd probably be a couple other bilats or pull-asides. We'll keep you guys up to date on that. There will be a Quartet meeting as well and the donors conference that we're going to be --

QUESTION: That's a pretty full Monday.

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a pretty full day. I expect that we'll extend off into the evening on Monday night.

QUESTION: And what do you expect her to be doing and saying at the donors conference?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I would expect that we'd have something to say about a U.S. pledge of resources, as I would expect many others at the conference will do. We're going to maintain the suspense on what that number is, so stay tuned on that. I would expect that she will probably also take the opportunity to see a number of other of her foreign minister colleagues to talk about bilateral, regional, or multilateral issues, though that would be more of an ad hoc sort of thing.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you aware if there -- if former Prime Minister Blair or if the French hosts or the Norwegians or anyone else has a kind of a target in mind --

MR. MCCORMACK: They may. I don't -- I'm not -- I'm not aware of one. I'm not aware of one.

Yeah. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: On Columbia. The DOJ has concerns that U.S. is asking for the extradition of the three Colombians that were carrying the proof of -- life of hostage, including the three Americans. How does the U.S. explain the extradition of three persons that were carrying out -- carry-on proof of life of hostage that were ostracized by the U.S. Government or by the U.S. --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, as a matter of -- as a general matter, requests for extradition originate in the Department of Justice and I think that any questions about any extradition requests would probably best be answered by them.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: On North Korea again, were you able to find out any details of when the response came from the --

MR. MCCORMACK: I was and I guess we heard it via the New York channel. It was an oral message and that was on Tuesday.

QUESTION: Tuesday?

MR. MCCORMACK: Tuesday, yes.

QUESTION: Did the call -- was it conveyed orally in person or was it a phone call and was it to Washington to --

MR. MCCORMACK: It was an oral message. That's all that I asked.

QUESTION: Okay. And can I follow up on some of Matt's questions about the conference? I heard you say that if there was a target, you weren't aware of it, but there have been published reports that the Palestinian Authority plans to ask for $5.6 billion. You had not seen those reports, that that's what they wanted to ask for?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen it. Look, there may exist a -- you know, out there somewhere a target that some people have in mind. I'm just not aware of it.

QUESTION: And have you been able to get some of the comparative figures so that when you do choose to end the suspense, we'll have good comparisons?

MR. MCCORMACK: What I plan to do is, when there's an announcement, I will have a fact sheet and a piece of paper that we are going to issue explaining all of this. And then when that generates further unanswerable questions, we're going to get a real live human to try to answer all of those questions for you.

QUESTION: There's no such thing as an unanswerable question.

MR. MCCORMACK: That's true. There are always answers. You just may not always like them.

QUESTION: Well --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we're going to do our best. We're going to do our best to try to fill out the picture for you guys to make sure you have the facts that you need to do your job.

QUESTION: Great -- no -- thank you. And then I heard you say to -- you talked about the bilats that the Secretary may have. The only one I think you alluded to this morning was with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Sunday night, I guess?

MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.

QUESTION: Any others that you can now say are expected to happen on Monday?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, that's what -- I went through some of those.

QUESTION: You did? I'm sorry, I missed it.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah -- no, no, that's all right. Start off the morning with Foreign Minister Livni and then, not in any particular order, President Sarkozy, Foreign Minister Kouchner, a Quartet meeting and then there will probably be some other bilats or pull-asides that we -- that get put together.

QUESTION: Is Livni -- Livni's actually attending the meeting or she's just going to be there to --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I'm not sure why she will -- what -- the reason, but she'll be there.

QUESTION: But you don't know whether she'll be at the donors conference?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I -- no, I don't know. I do know that all countries' organizations that were invited to Annapolis were invited to this meeting as well.

QUESTION: Have you gotten -- can I ask one last one?

MR. MCCORMACK: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Just one last one on this? Have you gotten any sense of frustration from any of your Arab partners in this and particularly those who -- you know, I mean, since so many of them came to Annapolis, about -- notably about your response to the Har Homa housing tenders? I mean, (a) the fact that they happened at all right after the -- you know, Annapolis within a week and (b) the fact that it -- you know, the Department did indeed raise it and the Secretary raised it with Foreign Minister Livni, but we didn't hear about that for many days until after it happened. Have you perceived any sort of frustration or dismay or dissatisfaction on the part of your Arab partners at that -- you know, that's sort of the first act after --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- the curtain went up at Annapolis was this one and then that dominated, it appears, at least the coverage of the first talks on the 12th -- you know, have you perceived that at all or no?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'll leave the description or the perceptions about the feelings of our friends and allies in the region to them to describe. I'm not going to describe them. They can describe their own thoughts about this.

QUESTION: I guess my -- have they raised these issues with you?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I don't know the details of every issue. I would be surprised if they didn't talk to David Welch or others. I would be surprised if they hadn't talked about it. It was a matter of interest. But in terms of Har Homa, the context of the Annapolis process, look, like I said, Secretary Rice has said it, there are going to be good meetings, there are going to be not so good meetings, there are going to be bad meetings as we go forward.

There is going to be a rhythm and a tempo to the negotiating process and the parties are going to get together, I would expect in the near future, in the coming week or so, once again, to discuss some of the things that they might have discussed at the first meeting. That's the nature of these kinds of negotiations. What this does underline is the importance of getting to resolution so you don't have incidents like this in the future that can knock a potential negotiation off-course. We've seen that. We have experienced that. We have experienced it over the decades. So not only is it important in its own right to try to resolve the issue between the Israelis and Palestinians and establish two states; the fact that you do have these sort of perturbations within the international system, it underlines the fact and the importance of moving forward on the negotiating process. That's what we're going to do. We're going to focus on that.

And we have a commitment from the parties, you have the will of the parties to move forward and as long as you have those things, you are going to have a process that moves forward over time.

QUESTION: Did I -- I want to make sure I got the word right. Did you say perturbations or peregrinations?

MR. MCCORMACK: Perturbations.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, right. Look it up, Matt.

QUESTION: I know what it means. (Laughter.)

MR. CASEY: He hasn't (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Can I ask about these reports that al-Qaida in Iraq is linked to these attacks in Britain and Glasgow. And have you any comment on that, first of all? Have you any more information? And --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- by implication of these reports at least, are you concerned that Iraq is becoming increasingly a sort of breeding ground for al-Qaida?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of the British reports, they're going to have to speak for themselves in terms of what they have found to be the origins of these terrible attacks and attempted attacks. We have worked very closely with the British Government. We have a very close intelligence-sharing relationship and as well as counterterrorism relationship. But in the interest of preserving that relationship, preserving the sort of necessary secrecy of some of the information exchanged in that relationship, I'm not going to really comment any further beyond what has been said by the British Government.

QUESTION: But separate to that, are you not concerned that there is potential in Iraq for this kind of activity and training and this kind of thing?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, anytime around the globe you have -- you know, areas where there are groupings of terrorists and terrorist activity, there is always that kind of threat. It's certainly not unique to Iraq or any other place around the world. And what that tells you is the importance of making sure that those groups don't have a firm foothold from which they can launch operations like we saw al-Qaida do from Afghanistan against the United States back in 2001. So you know, again, the al-Qaida presence in Iraq is not unique. And in fact, you have here also, in effect, a lagging indicator these attacks happened some time ago. And there has been great progress made against al-Qaida in Iraq. It still is a presence. It still needs to be eliminated, but there has been a great deal of presence -- a great deal of progress made by our forces and the Iraqi forces in eliminating al-Qaida in Iraq.

QUESTION: But have you seen al-Qaida in Iraq basically* plotting overseas, whether it's Britain or elsewhere.

MR. MCCORMACK: I -- you know, it would probably -- that's probably a question best put to our intelligence community inasmuch as they can share information they have about that kind of thing, they would be the ones to do it.

QUESTION: But if they are, I mean, are you not concerned that this showing a great global reach? I mean, the suspects in this case were, you know, doctors that have been living in the UK for some time.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, the threat from violent extremism and terrorism around the world isn't new. It is a very complicated problem to try to address. You have to address it at a lot of different levels. You know, not a complete list, but a brief list: You have to eliminate safe havens. You have to break up cells. You have to cut off the sources of finance. You have to, where necessary, bring to justice those responsible for terrorist attacks. You also have to fight the ideological battle. So you have to fight it on many different fronts. And it's an extremely complex problem and it's not particular to any one spot around the globe, as we have found out, very sadly.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Again, Sean, in Colombia, going back to the issue of these three persons who were detained at this life proof. There have been some reports in Colombia who say that these persons, they are not member of the FARC -- well, actually middlemen who were paid by the FARC to carry these proof of life. I wonder if you had -- if you guys had looked into that charges? And also, if these three people are finally extradited to the United States, do you feel -- you don't feel that this may complicate it more the efforts by you going to release these three U.S. hostage?

MR. MCCORMACK: Any questions about the particulars of this -- these news reports as they relate to extradition, the Department of Justice should really address them. This is the agency that originates these kinds of requests and they should really talk about that. We are continuing to work very closely with the Government of Colombia on this issue. It's of great concern to us as well as for the Government of Colombia. That's one of the things that we take some comfort in and that is the fact that the Government of Colombia has made it very clear that the hostages that are being held, the Government of Colombia will not make any differentiation among the nationality of those hostages. There are going to be Colombian hostages, American hostages, French -- all are going to be treated with equal regard and equal concern. And we very much appreciate the fact that President Uribe has made that commitment. We want to see these people back home as soon as they possibly can, safe, and so that they can be reunited with their families. And we, of course, are going to do everything that we possibly can working with the Government of Colombia to see that happen.

QUESTION: Well, Sean, the (inaudible) the last role in this issue is not from the Government of Colombia, but the FARC. I mean, ultimately those guys, they are going to decide who they release and who not. I mean, if they feel in some way that the FARC, that the Government of Colombia is keeping -- extraditing his members, the members of the FARC to the U.S. -- I mean, obviously, they're going to have a -- they will have a different point of view than the Government of Colombia on this issue. So that was a question -- I mean, you don't feel that these type of extraditions could complicate it more the effort to release these prisoners regardless of what the Government of Colombia had to offer you?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we're going to continue working with the Government of Colombia on the issue and we're going to do everything we possibly can to make sure that those people are returned to their families safe.

QUESTION: One last one. Has there been any progress made in scheduling the next P-5+1 round talk, conference --

MR. MCCORMACK: Conference call, not to my knowledge. Let me check and see if we have anything new on that.

QUESTION: Well, did you check on the -- I'm sorry if I missed it, although I thought I heard most of the briefing, but the Libyan Foreign Minister, did we get that nailed down about whether he's actually coming to the State Department and when was the last time --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, he is -- no, he is coming. He is coming here January 3rd. We don't have the historical data yet. We'll be happy to post that, though.

QUESTION: But here, meaning to the Department, to C Street?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, as far as I know, yeah.

QUESTION: What's on the agenda?

MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?

QUESTION: What's on the agenda?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, U.S.-Libya bilateral ties, the state of those ties. I'm sure they'll talk about a number of different regional issues as well. The meeting's about three weeks away, so as we get closer, we'll have a little bit more on the agenda.

QUESTION: I assume you'll push Lockerbie?

MR. MCCORMACK: Absolute -- we would -- well, we have been urging resolution of all these outstanding claims cases.

QUESTION: Sean.

MR. MCCORMACK: Samir.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary, say, considering a visit to Libya and when and if so?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, stay tuned. Nothing scheduled at this point.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:05 p.m.)

ENDS

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