US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: Feb 19, 2008
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: Feb 19, 2008
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
February 19, 2008
Resignation of Fidel Castro / Real Question is What Does it Mean for Cuban People?
U.S. Hopeful that Cubans Will One Day Elect Their Leaders, Release Political Prisoners
Possibilities for Change / Decisions for the Cuban People
Events in Cuba Somewhat Unpredictable / U.S. Sees Democratic Future
No Change in U.S. Policy / Embargo
Possible Tactical Differences with Some in EU, but Shared Strategic Objectives
No Real Difference Between Fidel and Raul Castro’s Rule
No Information on Fidel Castro’s Health
Under Secretary Burns Conference Call on Kosovo Independence
Kosovo Situation Does Not Serve as Precedent for Any Other Situation
Role for NATO Presence in Kosovo / Period of Supervision, Assistance / KFOR
U.S. Urges All Parties to Refrain from Violence
Reports that Serbian Ambassador Recalled / U.S. Embassy Up and Running
Qualitatively Different Situation in the Region
Need for Progress for Kosovo / Possible European Horizon for Serbia
No Final Decisions for NATO Membership / Upcoming Bucharest Summit
Russian Response to Kosovo Independence / Abkhazia / South Ossetia / Georgia
Long Process Leading to Kosovo Independence
Pakistani Elections / Results Not Completely Tallied
Variety of Political Parties’ Commitment to Addressing Terrorism and Violent Extremism
U.S. Plans to Work with President Musharraf and the New Government
Reports that Strike on al-Libi Was Conducted without Pakistani Permission
Possible Department Contacts with Musharraf, Opposition
No U.S. Assessment of the Conduct of the Election Yet / Reports of Instances of Fraud
U.S. Urges Pakistan to Broaden Democracy, Encourage Economic Reform
U.S. Having an Open Debate About Civil Liberties / Protect America Act
Evolution of American Democracy
U.S. Vote on UN Resolution on Nazism / Financial Claims from Nazi Era / Eizenstat
U.S. Continues to Work with Turkey to Combat PKK
Need for Cooperation Between Turkey and Iraq on this Issue
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Effort to Shoot Down Defective Satellite / Concerns by Chinese
Assistant Secretary Hill’s Public Comments
12:00 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody, just barely. I don't have anything to start off with so we can get right into your questions. Okay, that's it. Call it a wrap. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Do you want to officially tell us what you think of Fidel Castro's move today?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think you heard from the President earlier today in his press conference and he noted that the real question is what does this mean for the Cuban people and what are the Cuban people going to make of it. It's very clear that there's a transition underway from Fidel Castro to some other form of government. Unfortunately, at the moment, that form of government is not an elected democracy.
So we remain hopeful that the Cuban people will one day be able to elect their leaders; that they will one day be able to actually build democratic institutions that serve the needs of the people and that reflect the will of the people. And more immediately, that you will see a day where political prisoners, who are being held in Cuban jails only for speaking their minds, will be released.
QUESTION: Just following up there. What cause for hope do you have that the new generation of leaders, I mean, hasn't Castro ensured a good, strong base in the next generation, Lage, or Lage? Is a loyal follower? (Inaudible).
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, well, we shall see. Very often, when you have dictatorships that are undergoing change, there are possibilities for change. Again, much of this will be up to the Cuban people working with the international community to help build democratic institutions, to help -- to help convince the Cuban people that there is a -- that there still are on the international scene those who hold out hope for them having a democratic future. But fundamentally, this is -- these are going to have to be decisions that are made by the Cuban people for themselves.
QUESTION: I know that -- I know that you don't expect much change if Raul takes over the government --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- Raul Castro. But what happens in the event of Fidel Castro's death? Would you expect any change at that point? Someone said that it will take Fidel's death to actually see any change in Cuba.
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I don't know, Libby, you know, these sorts of events, when you have these transition phases from dictators to some other -- some other stage, and we hope that that transition continues on to the form of a democracy in Cuba -- the events are somewhat unpredictable as to how they will unfold. It' s important for us, however, to make it very clear that we see us as well as others in the international community, that we see a democratic future for Cuba, that we see a democratic future for the Cuban people, one in which the prisons that are now full of political prisoners are emptied, one in which you actually have institutions that reflect the will of the Cuban people and serve their needs based upon that will.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: I just -- I missed the beginning. I don't know if you said -- but, I mean, you don't expect any changes in U.S. policy at all with this transition?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't see any change in our policy, no.
Any on Cuba? Nina, go ahead.
QUESTION: The EU seems to have a whole different opinion to the U.S. at moment on how to go forward with Cuba. They had exploratory talks in September. They’ve had some comments today from the EU presidents, the Slovenian President saying that he’s ready to sound out possibilities to resume a political dialogue with Cuba. Can you tell me if there’s any – are you concerned about any kind of split in policy on how to approach Cuba, how to deal with it now?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, when the Secretary was last in Spain we had a lot of these questions that came up, and she answered a lot of these questions with Foreign Minister Moratinos, who was next to her, and they had a good discussion about, well, how do you approach this – approach this question. And I think we have a good understanding with the EU that it’s very important that we maintain out there the hope for a democratic future for the Cuban people and continuing to work directly with the Cuban people. I think that we have made it quite clear that we don’t think that dialogue with the government is really going to yield any sort of results, dialogue with a government that is responsible for suppressing the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people and putting in jail anybody who hopes, who dares to speak out in favor of those aspirations.
So again, there are some – while there may be some technic – tactical differences – just pull the battery out of that thing, Lachlan. (Laughter.) There may be a few tactical differences with some members of the EU with respect to Cuba, but again, I would say these are tactical – tactical differences and we have the same strategic objectives.
QUESTION: But they seem to be – they’ve had some clear comments today trying – that seem to be trying to kind of open some kind of dialogue here. We’ve had another comment from the spokesman for the EU Aid Commissioner saying, you know, we reiterate our willingness to engage with Cuba in constructive dialogue. I mean, that’s pretty strong language.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. Again, I think when we – when we have gone and talked to the individual member-states of the EU, that we have a shared common strategic objective here. And as I said, if you will poll the individual members of the EU, the member-states here, you will see gradations in terms of their policy, how they approach Cuba, and there may be some tactical differences here and there. But I think on the whole that we are on the same page in terms of wanting to see the same kind of future for Cuba.
QUESTION: Just one last thing. What would the U.S. need to see happening on the ground before they would even consider any kind of dialogue, direct dialogue with the Cubans?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, a hypothetical question. I mean, we’re nowhere near that point. Right now, we stand – we stand ready to help build, along with other members of the international system, the institutions for a democratic Cuba. Certainly, we continue to call for the release of political prisoners that sadly remained in Cuba’s -- Cuba’s jails. So there are a number of different things that we can do right now, but as for your question, that’s hypothetical and I don’t see the – I certainly don’t see the basis for that at any point in the future.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any concern for a mass exodus of people from Cuba because of these political changes underway?
MR. MCCORMACK: I see no indication of that.
QUESTION: Does it matter that Castro has sort of more formally handed over power from your point of view? I mean, he had done so when he – at the time of the surgery, I think – you know, and do you see any reason at all to think that Raul will be any different in terms of how he governs the country?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t – I suppose one could look at it as the difference – difference between de facto and de jure. In terms of the steps that Raul Castro has taken, I don’t think they have been qualitatively any different than what his brother may have done in a similar position. You haven’t really seen any transition to democracy, but quite clearly, a transition is underway.
There is change ongoing within Cuba. As I said, I don’t know exactly where – what course they are on. We remain hopeful that that course is one towards a democratic Cuba, but when you – earlier on, when you had these kinds of transitions from dictatorships to some other – some other form of government or some other pathway, occasionally, the way they unfold is unpredictable. I can’t predict for you exactly how this will unfold in the immediate future, but we do know what our long-term goal is. We’re going to continue working towards that.
QUESTION: And why not use this opportunity to rethink your policy?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we think we have – we think we have the rights sets of policies in terms of encouraging democratic change within – within Cuba, trying to work directly as much as we can with the Cuban people. But at this point, you’ve seen no – no real difference in this government headed by Raul Castro than – than the government headed by Fidel Castro over the past 50 years. They continue to crack down on individual civil liberties, ignore basic human rights, and basically impose a system of governments – governance on the Cuban people as opposed to being open to allowing them to define their own future.
QUESTION: Right, but the embargo also has not yielded a policy outcome that you would have liked for these six years or however many years it is now, so --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, there’s – I know that there’s a debate within political as well as academic arenas, whether or not we have followed the correct policies. We believe we have followed the correct policies. There are others who have a different view.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Sean, the people of Cuba have been crying for freedom for almost 50 years and the United States also tolerated the dictatorship of Fidel Castro for almost 50 years. Any reason why? I mean --
MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?
QUESTION: For 50 years, we have tolerated his dictatorship and people have been crying for democracy and freedom.
MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal – there’s a long – there’s a long history there. And I think that you can spend a lot of weeks not coming to the briefings and doing the -- reading on that history and I think you’d – the historians will do a better job than I will of explaining that to you.
QUESTION: Is there any chance the transition to new leadership will possibly persuade the U.S. Government to lift the embargo?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, I – there’s no change in our policies. I don’t believe that there is anyone contemplated at this point, either.
QUESTION: Sean, just quickly on Fidel Castro’s health. Is this any indication that it’s gotten severely worse or --
MR. MCCORMACK: Don’t really have a read for you on that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, why I was excluded from the yesterday’s conference call of Under Secretary Nicholas Burns? Is there any particular reason I received as yet nothing (inaudible) telephone call? It was on Kosovo. I’m wondering why this discrimination against the freedom of the press. I strongly protest and I demand an explanation.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, protest noted. I don’t know if you got the e-mail or not. It was open to –
QUESTION: Nothing. Nothing. I received everything but this one.
MR. MCCORMACK: -- all the members of the press. I’ll have somebody follow up for you. It should have gone out to all members of our press corps that sign up for it. I – and I won’t ask for a show of hands in this room.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) indicated Albanians could never appear in any press briefing.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, like I said, we’ll have somebody follow up with you, Lambros.
QUESTION: I would like know if it was set up or how difficult it made the whole thing.
MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, do you really think that this is the proper forum to get into housekeeping matters? Maybe we’ll have somebody to follow up with you afterwards.
QUESTION: Okay. On Kosovo, with the same token of your policy on Kosovo, do the Greeks in Northern Epirus have the same rights of self-determination like the Albanians in the Serbian territory of Kosovo? The (inaudible) of the Republic of Northern Epirus, Mr. McCormack, you know very well is pending since 1913 to the present with a signature to the United States of America. Your comment, please, in order to understand the double standard of U.S. policy.
MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, you know well that the issue regarding Kosovo, in our view, is sui generis. It had absolutely no other impact on any other situation around the globe. It does not serve as precedent for any other situation.
QUESTION: Still on Kosovo. Nick Burns yesterday talked about the NATO force and sort of mentioned some of its future responsibilities in training the Kosovars themselves to get ready to take over there on security. Can you tell us if NATO or you have more specific ideas about the force in terms of their daily duties now in terms of a timetable for potential withdrawal?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t. I’ll check with our folks to see what they have in mind, what they – what is their reasonable projection. There is – there’s a provision within the Ahtisaari plan and it’s something that the Kosovars signed onto that there would be this period of supervision or assistance as they stand up the institutions of a democratic state. I don’t know exactly what the timetable is for you. It’s a good question. I’ll see if people have been working on that.
QUESTION: And I’m asking partly because there was some violence today by some Serbs and, apparently, the Kosovar police just fled their posts. And so I guess the question is: Is the NATO force going to engage in trying to calm down situations like this or are they just going to be there purely for training?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, no. The KFOR – KFOR has certainly responsibilities in terms of protecting populations and that is on both sides, both Kosovars as well as –
QUESTION: (Inaudible) change?
MR. MCCORMACK: -- (inaudible) minorities. Right. No, that hasn’t changed. They still have those responsibilities. And this is going to be a matter of interest for capitals and certainly a matter of interest for NATO as well as the governments of countries that have forces in KFOR. So we’re going to be – make sure that there’s good communication between NATO – among NATO capitals as well as those on the ground. Ultimately, however, you’re going to have commanders who are on the ground who are going to have to deal with real-life situations and they’ll have their own rules of engagement. So they’re going to have to make some decisions on the ground no matter how clear rules of engagement may be and no matter how clear guidance may be coming from capitals or NATO headquarters.
So I’m not in a position to go through those rules of engagement for you, but just a general – it’s just a general statement of saying that, one, we have KFOR force on the ground, they have certain responsibilities, they’re going to continue to carry out those responsibilities. It’s something that we’re – it’s a situation we are watching very closely. And we’re appealing to all in the region, in Kosovo as well as in the Balkans region in general, to urge all populations to turn away from violence – it’s not going to resolve anything – and to instead work for a better future for Kosovo, for Serbia, as well as other states in the region.
QUESTION: Just one last one on this, on Serbia? I don’t know if you saw the comments today by Prime Minister Kostunica, but he denounced U.S. policy in a language very reminiscent of some of Milosevic’s statements years ago. I wonder if you’re worried about your relationship with Serbia. I mean, he clearly was very hostile. He asked the Ambassador from here to go back to Belgrade. What’s going on with that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I understand their – from news reports that their Ambassador has been recalled for consultations. I also understand that our Embassy is up and running today. It’s closed to the public, but our Embassy is doing the work. And we’re actually working very closely with the Serbian Government on issues related to security. They’re doing a fine job in providing the security for – helping to provide security for our Embassy.
This is going to be an emotional period for many in Serbia, for many in the region. This has been a very difficult political issue. It’s been a very difficult social issue. It’s in many ways for many in the region an issue that really is sort of a gut issue. We get that. We understand it.
But we now have a qualitatively different situation in the region. We have Kosovo that’s been recognized by 20-plus countries, I believe. I don’t have the latest count, but 20-plus countries, and I expect that number to increase. So the job is to help the Kosovar people build up those institutions for a fully functional, fully functioning, free, independent Kosovo.
We also have an interest in seeing that there is greater stability in the region. Part of the reason why we took the steps we did yesterday in recognizing Kosovo’s declaration of independence was to actually increase stability over the long term in the region. And one other part of increasing that stability is also to encourage a European horizon for Serbia. And I know that there have been a lot of discussions and there are ongoing discussions between the EU and EU member-states and Serbia about that European horizon.
So there are a lot of different components to this policy. Kosovo is just one of them. But overall, what you want to see is in the future a Balkan region that is more stable, that is more prosperous, and importantly that is democratic as well.
QUESTION: And you have no plans to ask your Ambassador to come back here?
MR. MCCORMACK: Our Ambassador to Serbia?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: And do you --
MR. MCCORMACK: Cameron is on the job. He’s doing a fine job.
QUESTION: Right. Do you know how long the Embassy will stay closed to the public?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think they’re going to do it on a day-by-day basis. It’s closed today and I would expect that our Ambassador there, Cameron Munter, is going to look at that situation on a day-to-day basis. But they’re earning their paychecks every single day. They’re at work and they’re working hard on behalf of their government in the national interest.
QUESTION: Do you have any readout from Negroponte’s meeting with the Adriatic 3 and do you – does the United States expect now that those three will be invited to join NATO at the Bucharest summit?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have a readout of his meeting. I’ll be happy to get what we can after talking to the Deputy Secretary and post an answer for you. In terms of NATO membership, those are discussions that are still ongoing not only within capitals, but among capitals, and I think it’s safe to say at this point, there are no final decisions. We have a little bit over – a little bit over a month to go before the Bucharest summit, which is really the final deadline that you have in order to make these decisions.
So there’s a lot of ongoing discussions right now with the various countries that are either candidates for membership or candidates for some other status like MAP, Membership Action Plan, understand what they need to do in order to meet the requirements of either membership or moving into a different phase of their relationship with NATO. Nobody’s going to lower the bar for any of these states and we’re going to make our own decisions about – in assessing whether or not these states are ready for the next level of association with NATO.
And then we’ll also, at the same time, consult with our NATO country colleagues. It’s a organization that is consensus-driven, so we’re all going to need to arrive at a consensus decision on each of the individual questions of both the member states as well as those states seeking Membership Action Plan status.
QUESTION: Can you say which way that consensus is trending now on those three countries?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. Discussion’s ongoing.
QUESTION: Same subject. Russia has made what you might describe as well-informed predictions of trouble in parts of Georgia if what happened in Kosovo yesterday occurred. And I was just wondering, what do you – what is your response to the Russians on this and have you noticed or has there been, to your knowledge, any trouble in South Ossetia or Abkhazia?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven’t. I know that that’s – on any given day, that’s a situation that has the potential for trouble and has the potential for some conflict. I haven’t seen any particular comments out of the Russians. I know that they have, in the past, cited Kosovo as a precedent for Abkhazia and South Ossetia and we have rejected, out of hand, any attempt to link those two and I think others have as well.
You know, look, the Russians will say what they believe is in their interest. We think it is in the interest not only of the region of the South Caucuses, but of the Balkans to encourage dialogue, to encourage greater stability, to encourage the dialogue among parties that helps – helps parties work through differences in a peaceful – in a peaceful way. We have stood fast on the principle of recognizing and standing for Georgia’s territorial integrity. I don’t see that changing anytime at all. So, you know, maybe the Russians will have a slightly different view, but we think that the vast majority of states around the world have come out and said that they don’t see any linkage between Kosovo and any other – in any other potential resolution to conflicts involving ethnic minorities on territories of sovereign states.
QUESTION: On the surge in --
MR. MCCORMACK: Arshad.
QUESTION: Just to turn to Pakistan, which I know that Tom spoke about this morning, the election results in some ways have been portrayed as a blow to the United States and to its sort of --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- you know, counterterrorism, you know, objective.
MR. MCCORMACK: The last time I checked we weren't on the ballot, you know. (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: I didn't say I portrayed it that way. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I know.
QUESTION: Your longtime ally was -- you know, his party was on the ballot. And the question I wanted to ask you was whether you think it is conceivable that you might -- that the United States might -- well, two things. One, do you expect any significant change in Pakistan's policies on counterterrorism going forward, given that it will be a new government?
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And then secondly, do you now think it is conceivable that you might actually get better cooperation, or at least more politically sustainable cooperation, to the extent that you get any cooperation because it would be cooperation from a government that actually won an election and therefore perhaps has some popular legitimacy?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I don't know what government will come out of these elections. We'll probably have a better read on what the precise results will be in maybe a week from now or so, once all the votes are tallied and they're able to apportion the seats based on the votes and based on their specific counting rolls. I think early returns, you know -- read the press -- are that the opposition parties, moderate opposition parties, won a number of seats, a large number of seats in the parliament and President Musharraf's party won fewer. That's just the reading in the press. We'll wait to see what the final results are.
Whatever the outcome, you have a number of different political parties that have, in one form or another, expressed deep interest and an abiding commitment to fighting violent extremists and fighting terrorists. One of the parties that did -- reportedly did -- reportedly quite well in the elections was the PPP, the party of the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated. That party, I mean more so than any other political party in Pakistan right now, feels acutely the threat from foreign extremists and terrorism having had their party leader recently assassinated. Others -- other moderate forces within Pakistan's political system have pledged to work against violent extremists.
Now, what we will urge is that those moderate forces within Pakistani politics who now have a seat at the table, so to speak, in winning seats in the parliament should band together, should work together, for a few goals that are in the interest of Pakistan, broaden and deepen Pakistan's economic and political reforms, remain committed to fighting violent extremists and terrorists in the region and on Pakistani soil. This is in the long-term interest of Pakistan and the Pakistani people. We are going to continue our work with President Musharraf and whatever that new government may be on goals of our (inaudible) interest. And we have a deep national interest in fighting violent extremists, breaking up those terror cells that may either operate from, or from time to time, operate from Pakistani territory. And by that, I mean primarily the federally administered tribal areas, north and south of Waziristan.
So we have a real interest in maintaining that relationship of cooperation, fighting terrorism with Pakistan and remain committed to the Pakistani people in helping them realize a different, more democratic, more prosperous future. Fundamentally, regardless of who is sitting in the prime minister's chair, the foreign minister's chair, the defense minister's chair, primarily that's our interest is remaining committed to the Pakistani people. So we're going to work with President Musharraf, we're going to work with this new government on those issues and towards those goals that are in our national interest.
QUESTION: Two follow-ups. Has Ambassador Patterson, since the election, had contact with any of the party leadership in the -- of the opposition parties?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think she has. I don't have a full read on that, but I think that she has had some contacts, initial contacts.
QUESTION: Can you check that and post that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: The other thing is, as I'm sure you saw the -- there was a story in the Washington Post today that said that a recent Predator attack in Pakistan that killed al-Qaida figure al-Libi was carried out -- if I read -- understood it correctly, without the explicit sort of authorization of the Pakistani government, that they just went ahead and did it and informed the Pakistani Government. Is that true and does that not violate your general policy of not conducting military operations in another sovereign state’s territory without their consent.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Saw the – saw the news reports; I’m not going to have any particular comment on the reports. I think they – they talk a lot about intelligence activities and intelligence-related activities. I’m just not going to have any comment on that. I will say that we do have a good level of cooperation with Pakistan on fighting terrorism and fighting violent extremism. It’s a relationship that has grown immensely since 2001 and I expect that that relationship will continue to grow in the future.
QUESTION: Is it generally your policy not to conduct military operations in another state without --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t – I don’t comment – I don’t comment on military operations. We respect the sovereignty of our friends and allies.
QUESTION: You were asked about U.S. contact with the opposition parties in Pakistan. What about with Musharraf? Has anyone talked to him?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll – I’ll try to get you a list of who’s talked to whom. I know that – I would expect that there will probably be some, shall I say, senior-level outreach to President Musharraf, so we’ll keep you up to date on any of that outreach.
QUESTION: How senior?
MR. MCCORMACK: Huh? I’ll just say senior-level outreach.
QUESTION: In this building or other buildings?
MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll just keep it at that.
QUESTION: Yes, this is a little off topic, but in regards to your mentioning that the Cubans have been deprived of their civil liberties, with the now-expired Protect America Act, political think tanks here in Washington, D.C. along with organizations like the ACLU claim that the federal government has been directly violating amendment rights such as freedom of speech and privacy for – the privacy amendment. What does that say to countries around the world who are looking to (inaudible) democracies if American democracy is in jeopardy of the surveillance of the state, for example? What are your comments on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, without commenting on the merits of these particular lawsuits, I would point out just the fact that we’re having that conversation and that debate in the open, in American society, is an indicator of the strength of our democracy and the strength of our system. We’re – you know, to use the example of Cuba, if the analog to the ACLU ever existed in Cuba, do you think that they would really be able to speak out and bring a suit against their government without immediately being thrown in jail? Probably not. And you can repeat that example around the globe in a lot of different places where populations are denied basic human rights.
So we have never claimed that our democracy is perfect. As a matter of fact, you’ve heard Secretary of State Rice talk many, many times about our evolution as a democracy, how we have learned and changed along the way. She’s talked very eloquently about the example of slavery and denial of rights to Black Americans throughout our history and how that has been resolved over time.
So we don’t get it right the first time every time, but the very fact that we are having these debates in public, in Congress, aired in the press and that these groups have the right and the ability to bring these suits in federal and state courts is testament to American democracy.
QUESTION: So the fact that they’re trying to make this law permanent which would – it would take away privacy rights and --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, we’re at --
QUESTION: Does that not continue to violate our amendment rights?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, we’re going to see that – there’s a difference of opinion. Where do you draw these various lines? And – you know, without – again, without getting into commenting on an ongoing legal matter and a matter that is pending in Congress, that’s part of the debate is where to draw the various lines, where to draw the legal lines with what the Constitution means and how it is interpreted and so forth and how it’s manifested in laws that are passed and how they are applied. Those are all questions that get answered in the context of our constitution and our legal system.
MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal.
QUESTION: May I go back to Pakistan elections, please? One, there were several bombings in Afghanistan and Pakistan pre-elections in Pakistan. And also, do you see any change in the U.S. policy, let’s say, if the PPP or the opposition parties come in power and – because they calling that if they come into power, then they will impeach General Musharraf.
MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal, let’s let the final results be tallied, let them – let’s let them form a government and come up with a platform before you start making those kinds of – those kinds of judgments. Whatever the government is, it will be a government that reflects the will of the Pakistani – Pakistani people.
Again, we’ll have our assessment about the – about how the election was conducted over the next few days or so. If there were -- any instances of fraud, which there have been some reported in the press should be taken seriously and reported. So we’ll look to see what the electoral process looked like through the eyes of outside observers, but let’s let the government be formed. Again, we will look forward to working with President Musharraf and whatever government flows from these elections.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Libby.
QUESTION: Just to follow on that, Benazir Bhutto’s widow, who leads the PPP, said today that they’re not interested in working with any member of the current government – Musharraf. And he said – his quote is “The decision of the party is that we are not interested in any of those people who are part and parcel of the last government.”
MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll see – again, let’s let Pakistani politics play out according to their rules and the election – and the results of the election. I would expect that there are going to be a lot of statements in the next – in the period of the next week and even after that, a lot of political posturing. I’m not going to get drawn into it. We’re going to look forward to working with President Musharraf as well as what the next – whatever next Pakistani government emerges from this election.
QUESTION: So you would strongly urge these opposition parties to work with him? You would contact them directly and say, “What do you mean by these statements? Why don’t you work with him?”
MR. MCCORMACK: I would only repeat what we – today, what we have said in the weeks prior to this election. We have – we have and will continue to urge moderate political forces within Pakistan’s political system to work together to strengthen and broaden Pakistan’s democracy, to put Pakistan firmly back on the pathway to a developing democracy, to continue a program of economic reform that will result in greater prosperity for the Pakistani people. Because ultimately, that – every single day, you have to – you have to fight against violent extremists, you have to fight against terrorists. But the most important bulwark, long-term, against the encroachment of violent extremists or terrorists into your territory, into your society is a society that is more open, more free and more prosperous.
QUESTION: Sean, Turkish Foreign Minister Babacan today said that in terms of combating the PKK in northern Iraq, the land operation option is still on the table. Do you have any comment on that (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven’t seen – haven’t seen the most recent statements out of the Turkish side. You know, we continue to work with the Turkish Government and the Turkish military to provide the best possible intelligence so that – so that the terrorist group PKK operating in Iraqi territory can be dealt with. Ultimately, what we’re looking for is cooperation between Turkey and Iraq in fighting this terrorist threat and we’re going to do what we can as a interested party with good relations with both sides to make sure that there is an open dialogue and good communication and effective action in dealing with the PKK.
QUESTION: Just two questions on Kosovo, Mr. McCormack. Since your policy vis-à-vis to Kosovo, according to a bunch of reports, is targeting the national security and territorial integrity of Greece, the destabilization of the Balkans and Southeast Europe and using the Albanians as puppets. Could you then explain why you have decided to oppose the so-called independence so fast using your new terminology sui generis?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I’m not sure – I’m not sure I understand the question, Lambros, but there is – there was a long process that led up to this point. It started in 1999. I wouldn’t say that that was quick. And it is our belief – it is our policy judgment that it was the right thing to do to recognize Kosovo’s declaration of independence because we believe that that ultimately will lead to greater stability, greater freedom and greater prosperity in the Balkans.
QUESTION: May I --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, no. No.
QUESTION: (inaudible) --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, you’re done. You're cut off.
QUESTION: On the (inaudible) shootdown because the international community is paying very close attention to it.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Can you confirm or deny reports that this will take place on the 21st?
MR. MCCORMACK: Check with the folks over at DOD. But I believe what they will tell you is that there will be a window during which they will make this attempt and that’s going to be based on trajectories and the location of the satellite and the reentry and their ability to get the best shot at the satellite. So check with DOD. I think what they’ll tell you is there’s going to be a window and I can’t tell you exactly when that window will open.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up on that. Do you have any response to the comment of the Chinese Foreign Ministry urging the U.S. not to go ahead with this shootdown, saying that they’re afraid about space debris and toxic fuel floating around?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. No, I don’t – you know, I’ve seen the comments. They understand perfectly well what – what the object of this exercise is. This is not an anti-satellite weapon's test. And whereas their activities took place at about 800 kilometers up in the atmosphere and left a debris field that potentially threatens any other object in that global – this is going to take place at a significantly lower level, probably about 250 kilometers. So that the risk of creating a debris field is much, much, much, much less and it is also fundamentally different in that this is an action that is being contemplated and will be taken in order to help protect populations on the ground. It’s not to test a weapon.
QUESTION: Sean, I raised this issue earlier. In December the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution prohibiting racism, xenophobia and the glorification of Nazism. Israel voted for the resolution. The United States voted against it, which is – seems to be insulting to all the Americans who died fighting Naziism in World War II and also ignores former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Eizenstat’s efforts to obtain compensation for the victims of Nazi atrocities. I realize that was during the Clinton Administration, but has our policy changed?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, specifically with respect to this vote, I will get you some information. My only counsel, not knowing the details, is sometimes things are a lot more complicated than they might be – might appear to be from a yes or no vote. And in terms of support for -- of this Administration for the ability of groups and individuals to seek claims from the Nazi era, we’ve continued to support that. I know that we’ve been very strongly supporting the efforts of Mr. Eizenstat as well as others.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Sean, do you have anything about Chris Hill meet with North Korea delegation Kim Kye Gwan in China?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think -- he's run into some of your colleagues in the press corps at various stops along the way, not only in Beijing but in Seoul, where he is right now. And he's given about as full explanation as he's ready to give. I have not spoken with him, so I can't offer anything above and beyond what he has said in public.
QUESTION: Any good news on six-party talks?
MR. MCCORMACK: Check the transcript.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:39 p.m.)
Released on February 19, 2008