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US State Dept: Daily Press Briefing


Daily Press Briefing
Gonzalo R. Gallegos, Director, Office of Press Relations
Washington, DC
January 22, 2008

INDEX:

IRAN
Agreement on Resolution / P-5+1 Press Conference
Two-Track Strategy

GREECE
Bilateral Relations / Strong Relationship

SOUTH KOREA
Deputy Secretary Negroponte’s Meeting with Special Envoy Chung

NORTH KOREA
Denuclearization Progress
North Korea’s Terrorism Designation / Trading with the Enemy Act

IRAQ
Visa Program for Translators

SERBIA
Presidential Elections / Election Observers

DRC
Peace Agreement with Rebels

SUDAN
Decision to Name Musa Hilal as a Senior Government Advisor

ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS
American Officials in Contact with Israelis Regarding Gaza
Reports of Palestinians Wanting UN Resolution to Lift Blockade


TRANSCRIPT:

12:53 p.m. EST

MR. GALLEGOS: Good morning – oh, excuse me, good afternoon. Welcome.

Anne.

QUESTION: Did the resolution agreed upon in Berlin shortly – a little bit ago, contain new sanctions for Iran and if so why not?

MR. GALLEGOS:Well, as you all saw from the press briefing from Berlin, the P-5+1 has reaffirmed a commitment to a two-track strategy. It sends a strong message to Iran that it needs to comply with UN Chapter 7 resolutions. They’re becoming increasingly isolated and I think this shows that they aren’t able to divide us in our commitment to this effort.

In terms of details, I don’t have them right now. They’ll be released in appropriate time.

QUESTION: Well, I mean when they – when Steinmeier says we’ve agreed on the elements in the resolution – I mean, one might logically assume that if those elements included sanctions he would have said so.

MR. GALLEGOS:Well, since I don’t have it, we haven’t released it, I can’t tell you at this point. But I do know that at an appropriate it will be released and we’ll be able to comment on it further at that time.

Yes.

QUESTION: You have anything on the two-track strategy?

MR. GALLEGOS:The two-track strategy, the carrot and the stick. The idea that we are offering the Iranians this opportunity to stop their proliferation attempts, to come to the table, discuss with us and the rest of the world where they are, what they’re doing, begin a process by which we can reintegrate them into the world economy, the world market, socializing with the rest of the world or decide together if they refuse and keep on the path that they’re following that they will continue to become more and more isolated. The idea is that there are people in Iran who may well – who will look at what is happening to Iran and decide amongst themselves that they need to take a different path and we want to make clear that this opportunity is open to the government and we’ll continue on this process.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that the resolution – draft resolution embraces that strategy?

MR. GALLEGOS: Yes, yes.

Michel.

QUESTION: Do you have any date for the vote, when the Security Council will vote on this draft resolution?

MR. GALLEGOS: No, I don’t have a date on that, sorry.

Yes, Dave.

QUESTION: Gonzo, it appeared implicit from the German Foreign Minister’s statement that nothing will happen until this one-month period expires, during which Iran is to answer the questions of the IAEA. Does that conform with your understanding of this?

MR. GALLEGOS: For the particulars, I’m going to leave it for the party travelling out there to get into more details. What I have to say about it, I’ve been able to convey to you at this time and I’m sure that the Secretary or Sean will be able to comment further from Berlin.

Yes.

QUESTION: Who is going to be bringing this statement to the Security Council? The six or --

MR. GALLEGOS: Like I said, as we get – to go any further down what I’ve been able to talk for you now, I’m going to have to refer to the traveling party and let them give you all the details as they become available.

QUESTION: And did they say they had agreed on the content or the elements or what is the term?

MR. GALLEGOS: My understanding is that they’ve agreed – they’ve come to an agreement on a resolution that they’re going to move forward, so – Lambros, how may I help you?

QUESTION: Mr. Spokesman, on Greece, the so-called analysis of Carol Migdalovitz, of the Library of Congress released a CRS report on Greece January 16 full of lies, accusation, and distortion of the true against Greece. I am wondering how seriously the Department of State is taking the reports which in the final analysis, is a disservice to the U.S. interests.

MR. GALLEGOS: There’s always a unique description of these reports from Mr. Lambros. I’ll tell you what. Since I haven’t actually had an opportunity to read through the report, I’ll have to take the question and see what we have to say.

QUESTION: One more question, Mr. --

MR. GALLEGOS: One more.

QUESTION: Since Mr. (inaudible) that there’s a strong (inaudible) of anti-American (inaudible) mentioned that there’s a strong anti-Greek sentiment in (inaudible) in this country. Would you please comment on the so-called anti-American (inaudible)? Do you believe here --

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think that we have a strong relationship with Greece. They’re a partner of ours. In terms of anti-Americanism, anti-Greek, I’ll let the pundits make their comments. However, it is our standpoint from the United States Government that we have a strong relationship with them and continue to do so.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout of Deputy Secretary Negroponte’s meeting with the representative from the new South Korean Government?

MR. GALLEGOS: I sure do. Actually, the Deputy Secretary and Special Envoy Chung discussed the importance of U.S.-ROK relations. Deputy Secretary Negroponte underlined the value the United States places in its relations with the ROK. Special Envoy Chung conveyed the serious personal commitment of President-elect Lee Myung-Bak to strengthening these relations. Special Envoy Chung affirmed that the incoming Administration plans to continue close U.S. coordination, including on issues related to the six-party talks. He and the Deputy Secretary reviewed the progress made thus far in implementing the joint statement and agreed on the importance of the DPRK providing a complete and correct declaration as soon as possible. The Deputy Secretary reaffirmed the United States commitment to the six-party process and to following through on all commitments as North Korea follows through on its own.

The Deputy Secretary and Special Envoy Chung also discussed the co-USA Free Trade Agreement,* the Special Envoy noted the importance of the FTA and its economic and security implications for the U.S.-ROK relations. He said the Government of the Republic of Korea would work for passage in the national assembly and ask the United States Government to do the same with Congress. Deputy Secretary stressed the importance of Korea re-opening its market to imports of U.S. beef and he also expressed America’s appreciation for Korea’s contributions in Iraq.

Yes.

*Spokesman meant to say KORUS (Korea-US Free Trade Agreement)

QUESTION: Do you – on North Korea, they’re saying in a newspaper commentary that the U.S. is dragging its feet on its commitments to the nuclear deal and saying the U.S. is slowing progress on the deal.

MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah. Well, I have something on that. The U.S. has met and is meeting its commitments. As part of the February 13 agreement, the United States agreed to begin the process of removing the designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. We also agreed to advance the process of terminating the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act to North Korea. Criteria for removing a country’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism and lifting the application of the Trade with the Enemy Act – Trading with the Enemy Act are set forth in U.S. law. The U.S. action related to the terrorism designation and the Trading with the Enemy Act application are dependent on the – on North Korea’s fulfillment of the requirements

of U.S. law and its progress on addressing concerns on the nuclear issue and meeting its denuclearization commitments.

QUESTION: Is there any risk to this turning into a rift?

MR. GALLEGOS: We’re going to continue working with our close allies, Japan and South Korea, and our partners China and Russia, as well as North Korea, to deliver a complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear programs, including its nuclear weapons and programs, facilities and proliferation activities and to complete the agreed disablement activities at the three core facilities at Yongbyon.

We’re going to make --

QUESTION: Is there any –

MR. GALLEGOS: We’ve been very clear in the past where we stand on this. Our policy has not changed. We’re going to continue.

Yes, Michel. Excuse me. Samir.

QUESTION: Yes. Samir. Do you have a reaction to this article in the Washington Post about the asylum program for Iraqi translators, that the program is falling short compared to Denmark?

MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, I saw that report. The latest numbers that I have through October of 2008 are 860 Iraqis under the special immigration visas program. Ambassador Foley, when he came and spoke to you all at the end of November, made it clear that due to the fact that we had difficulties placing DHS adjudicators in Syria until we received permission from the government in October, we have not been able to have the number of applicants – to process the number of applicants that we would have liked to. We believe that the second and third quarter of this year are going to provide us with more substantial numbers of applicants and therefore that we will eventually be able to meet the number of 12,000 that we discussed earlier in the year for fiscal year ’08.

So we’re continuing the process. We are working apace. We are ensuring the security of the United States, yet proceeding with this as quickly as we can.

QUESTION: So you’ll not change that goal of 12,000 for this year?

MR. GALLEGOS: No --

QUESTION: You think you’ll be able to meet it this year?

MR. GALLEGOS: I have no – our goal is 12,000. We’re committed to it and we’re working towards it.

Yes.

QUESTION: Going back to North Korea for a minute, when you said that the U.S. has started the process, what were you talking about specifically there?

MR. GALLEGOS: Starting the process --

QUESTION: Starting the process of removing North Korea from --

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think that it is a – if you go review the law, which I don’t have in front of me so I can’t lay out , but there is a series of events that have to happen, of decisions and factors that are taken into consideration. We’ve begun that process. It takes a certain amount of time. I’m not sure of the exact time it will take for North Korea. But as we’ve said in the past, as Chris Hill has said in the past, this is a process that we’ve begun and we’re continuing to follow through on.

QUESTION: Have you notified any of the congressional committees?

MR. GALLEGOS: I wouldn't be able to tell you. I’m sorry.

One more, Lambros.

QUESTION: Another issue. Do you have anything on the elections in Serbia last Sunday?

MR. GALLEGOS: I believe I do. And let me just find it real quick for you. Just – I’ve been advised that I need bifocals, so as I work my way through the book, I now have an excuse. (Laughter.)

We understand that the first round of voting for Serbia’s president took place in an orderly and democratic manner. No candidate won the necessary majority of votes cast. Their high voter turnout was notable. Since we only have preliminary reports, it’s going to be premature for us to comment on the numbers themselves. It appears a runoff election between the two top vote-getters will be on February 3rd and we will look to make some more comment at that point.

QUESTION: Did you send observers?

MR. GALLEGOS: U.S. personnel observed the elections under OSCE auspices. American Embassy staff traveled throughout Serbia in their diplomatic capacity, not serving as credentialed observers but able to talk to local officers, voters and civil society groups.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. GALLEGOS: Yes, David.

QUESTION: Gonzo, I asked up in the gaggle earlier about an agreement that was reached in the eastern Congo -- the DRC government and a rebel leader. I wonder if you have any reaction to that.

MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, we’re pleased with the agreement. This has been a priority for Secretary Rice. Only last month, she convened a meeting of the Great Lakes heads of state in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to urge them to move forward with a resolution to this conflict. We’ll support the agreement in conjunction with the international community.

QUESTION: When you say “support the agreement,” this involves some peacekeeping. Is the United States going to logistically support peacekeeping forces?

MR. GALLEGOS: What I have here is a preliminary response to your first question. I don’t have any details at this point.

QUESTION: What role did the U.S. have in forging the agreement?

MR. GALLEGOS: I couldn't get into the details with you, on that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Also, earlier you said you were going to look into the details of the existing sanctions against Mr. Hilal, the person who was promoted to the post in Sudan. I wondered if you were able to --

MR. GALLEGOS:I actually was able to get something on it. First, we deplore the Government of Sudan’s decision to name Musa Hilal as a senior government advisor. In April 2006 the UN Security Council imposed travel and financial sanctions on Hilal and three other Sudanese nationals alleged to have committed war crimes in Darfur. The Security Council measure called on member-states to take measures that freeze the suspects’ financial assets and prevent them entering and transiting their countries. President Bush signed an executive order on April 27, 2006 blocking Hilal and other suspects from having any financial dealings in the United States.

That’s the level of detail I have for you on that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Another thing that came from the gaggle this morning was the Palestinian – the reports of a Palestinian push for a resolution at the UN. And what was the U.S. attitude about that – a resolution that would call for the blockade to be fully lifted?

MR. GALLEGOS:I do have something on that.

First, you asked who had spoken to the government of Israel. The Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch in Washington – or from Washington, and Ambassador Richard Jones in Tel Aviv have been in contact with Israeli officials regarding the situation in Gaza. We’re going to continue working with the parties and the international community to address humanitarian needs of the innocent people of Gaza. You’ve heard both the Secretary and our Ambassador to the UN speak to this issue and how we want to prevent -- want to keep from having a humanitarian crisis there. We’ve spoken to the Israeli Government about this. They have expressed to us their desire that there not be one. It’s important for us that the Council examine the overall situation including Hamas’s responsibility for the continuing rocket attacks against Israel that led to the current circumstances and today’s restoration of the flow of diesel fuel and medical supplies into Gaza.

QUESTION: So are you commenting on the idea of a resolution at the UN?

MR. GALLEGOS:No, this is what I have to say about this right now.

Thank you all. Have a greater afternoon.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:09 p.m.)

ends


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