US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: May 12, 2008
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
May 12, 2008
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: May 12, 2008
Humanitarian Assistance Flight from U.S. to Burma
U.S. Prepared to Provide Additional $13 Million in Assistance via World Food Program
U.S. Engaging Burmese Officials through Diplomatic Channels
U.S. Working with Burma's Neighbors
More Experts Needed on the Ground to Help with Distribution/Humanitarian Efforts
U.S. to Work with NGOs in Affected Region on Monitoring Mechanism
Situation Update on
Earthquake in Sichuan Province
U.S. Has Not Received a Request for Assistance from Government of China
U.S. Stands Ready to Offer Assistance Based on Needs
Statement on Escalating Violence Against Mexican Law Enforcement Officials
Arab League Statement Condemns
Hezbollah's Actions in Lebanon
Secretary Rice to Participate in Conference Call with Friends of Lebanon
Partial List of Conference Call Participants
Periodic Meetings of Friends of Lebanon
Siniora Government has Shown Itself Resilient in Face of Challenges
U.S. Assistance to Lebanese Military
Political Arrangement of Pakistani Government will be
Decided by Pakistanis
U.S. Will Continue to Work with Pakistani Government on Issues of Mutual Concern
Sung Kim's Travel/Return to the U.S.
Review of North Korean Documents and Records
Sung Kim to Brief Chris Hill and other U.S. Officials
U.S. Embassy Khartoum Operations / Curfew
12:19 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Just a couple quick updates for you. I know Ky Luu updated you on Burma, but just to reiterate. The first assistance flight from the United States made its way into Burma today. There are supposed to be two others. Each flight carries approximately 28,000 pounds of humanitarian assistance. We are also prepared, as Henrietta Fore announced, to provide an additional $13 million of food and logistical assistance though the United Nations World Food Program.
QUESTION: Did you say 15?
MR. MCCORMACK: Thirteen.
MR. MCCORMACK: Thirteen. Thirteen -- World Food Program for relief operations in Burma. That brings our total to 16.25 million of this new assistance. The U.S. Government is prepared to provide 12 million for food aid that will arrive in the coming weeks. Part of this contribution will include 1,000 tons of urgently needed food from the USAID Food for Peace warehouse in Djibouti.
Shifting to China, just to update you on where we are there. We do not yet have any request for assistance from the Chinese Government. We are prepared to offer assistance based on needs, so we stand ready if there is a request. As for the operations of our Consulate in Chengdu, all of our personnel are accounted for. At first glance, there's no visible damage to the consulate facilities and we do not at this point have any reports of injuries or deaths for American citizens.
I guess the phone service is rather spotty there, but one thing, just for anybody who happens to be listening who has family or friends in the area, text messaging apparently is operating. So anybody who has -- is trying to get through to loved ones or friends in the region, they might try using text messaging. And of course, we'll -- if there are any specific requests, we'll do what we can via our channels.
And finally, just one statement from me regarding Mexico, and we'll put out a paper statement. We are shocked by the escalating violence against Mexican law enforcement officials. The recent murders of three high-level police officials by criminal syndicates and drug trafficking cartels are a brutal reaction to President Calderon's determination to fight organized crime. They illustrate the serious threat these organizations pose to democratic institutions in Mexico. We offer our condolences and heartfelt sorrow to the families and colleagues of these courageous Mexicans. Mexico is resolved in this fight against organized crime, has our full and immediate support. Violence and drug trafficking are shared problems and we have shared a responsibility to confront them.
Mexico's success in the struggle will be our success. We urge U.S. Congress to fully fund the President's Merida Initiative, a program designed to help Mexico and Central American countries fight organized crime and drug trafficking.
With that, I'm happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Can I just ask something minor on -- and you may not have the answer to this, but I'm just curious. On the food warehouse that's in Djibouti, was that something that was set up after the -- is that relatively recent? Was it set up after the tsunami for --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check, Matt. I don't know. I don't know. We can get you an answer.
Gollust, jump in here.
QUESTION: Serbian election --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- response to that. Also, the fact that ethnic Serbs voted in this election in Kosovo.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, I think the Serbian people can be proud of an election, the recent election that took place. There were observers on the ground, and I haven't seen any reports of serious incidents that would call into question the final results of the election, which I don't think are going to be announced until later this week. They're going to take a couple of days to come up with the initial tallies.
The initial indications are that there's a -- one party will have a plurality in terms of being able to lead the efforts to form a coalition government. Those decisions, however, are going to be up to the Serbian people and the Serbian leaders how they arrange themselves politically. We have, of course, encouraged Serbia to look forward, not backwards, and look towards a different kind of -- a new future with Europe and the European Union.
QUESTION: Sean, do you have any details on the conference call that the Secretary's going to have with the Friends of Lebanon group? What are they -- what's the reasoning behind this call?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there was -- there was a statement from the Arab League over the weekend, which essentially condemned the actions of Hezbollah in sparking the violence which has led to the deaths of innocent Lebanese citizens. And the Secretary, as we detailed last week, was also working -- working the phones on this issue. And I would expect during this conference call with Friends of Lebanon, the so-called Friends of Lebanon group, that they're going to talk about what the current situation is and how they -- each individual state, as well as collectively, we might support the Siniora government in their efforts to work on behalf of the Lebanese people, bring -- help bring some order to the streets of Beirut and to Lebanon in the face of what is a direct challenge from Hezbollah, an armed group with -- operating outside the rule of law in Lebanon and, again, that was responsible for the deaths of innocent Lebanese civilians.
In terms of who is on the call, this is probably just a partial list. We'll try to get you the full -- the final list of participants after the phone call. But ministerial level of participation from Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK. I would expect also representation from the Arab League, the EU, and the UN on the phone call.
QUESTION: Who has organized the call? Who's leading it? Is it your call?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure if we did this or not. I wouldn't be surprised. It could be the French Government. But there have been some periodic meetings of this group on the sidelines of other international meetings. There was recently one when we were in Kuwait, and I know that there was one previously in Istanbul as well. So it's a group that periodically comes together either in person or by phone. You have in the past seen statements issued by this particular grouping. We'll, of course, keep you up to date, if there's anything here (a) to readout from the call or (b) any statement that flows from the call.
QUESTION: Right. What time do you expect the call to be?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know exactly. I think it's around two or so.
QUESTION: Sean, sorry. Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi - you were going way too fast for my --
MR. MCCORMACK: Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and the UK.
QUESTION: Thank you for putting those in alphabetical order for us.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: Sean, do you have any reaction to the --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Always happy to help. Part of what we do here is try to make life easier for the press.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the - Siniora government's decision to roll back moves that your government supported last week, mainly taking action against Hezbollah's telecom network, et cetera?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, the decisions that the government takes is, I'm sure going - are done in the best interest of the Lebanese people. The Siniora government has shown itself incredibly resilient in the face of these kinds of challenges, not only from within -- from armed groups like Hezbollah, but also from without, as he referenced the continued Syrian meddling in Lebanon's political affairs. And this is a government that is dedicated to trying to expand the reach of democracy, deepen democracy in Lebanon, continue to engage in economic reforms that benefit all of the Lebanese people. That stands in stark contrast to the actions of groups like Hezbollah that we've seen recently that have resulted only in damage to personal property, certainly resulted in economic loss with the shutdown of the airport and the airport road. And most tragically, the loss of innocent Lebanese life. They've shown themselves willing to use force of arms and violence to kill innocent Lebanese civilians.
QUESTION: How worried are you that -- in the eyes of some observers that the Siniora government has come out weaker after taking a step back from its initial steps and that Hezbollah has come out stronger?
MR. MCCORMACK: We - we think that Prime Minister Siniora and his government are strong. And once the dust settles -- you know, again, I'm not a political analyst, but I would - I would suspect the Lebanese people will take a look at what happened. And clearly, what happened is an armed group, operating outside the rule of law, killing innocent Lebanese civilians. That I couldn't imagine would be too popular among the vast majority of the Lebanese people.
QUESTION: Do they plan to issue a statement after this conference call?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll let you know. We'll let you know. We have a good –
QUESTION: Will you give a readout?
MR. MCCORMACK: -- we'll either get you some more information about the call, what they discussed, or perhaps a statement to follow.
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll let you know.
QUESTION: Can you get in on it?
QUESTION: Okay. And is - do you still plan to do something at the UN afterwards, because on Friday a U.S. official told us that maybe after this conference call the Security Council could be - speaking out.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, -- we'll let you know. Let's let them have the conference call first and then we'll brief you as best we can on what they talked about and perhaps any decisions that were taken as a result of the call.
QUESTION: You mentioned the idea of some kind of U.S. assistance and what kind of assistance would that take?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have a aid program of continuing assistance with the Lebanese military that we've talked -- and the Lebanese have talked about quite publicly. I don't have any new announcements in that regard in terms of the most recent violent acts by Hezbollah and the reaction by the Lebanese army. But it falls, at this point, primarily in the arena of political and diplomatic support for the government.
And I know that people say, well, what does this statement mean? Well, it means quite a bit, very oftentimes, when you have a government that is trying to address these kinds of serious challenges, both from within and from without.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that the U.S. has called - came back to the region, came back to militarily --
MR. MCCORMACK: You can talk to the DOD about the movements and their assets.
QUESTION: On Pakistan, if you had any comment on the breakdown of the coalition effort there? And if this - these are the concerns you had about the ability to --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I– again, I - I'll leave it to others to describe the details of one of the political parties and what they said they would and would not do. My understanding is that the government will continue - continue to function at this point. Look, how the Pakistanis arrange themselves politically, what - who's in the coalition, who's not, what the platform is, questions about judges, these are all things for the Pakistanis to answer.
We neither want to, nor can, answer these questions for the Pakistani political leaders and their political system. They are going to have to address it. We're going to continue to work with the government on issues that are of mutual concern.
QUESTION: But this has no bearing or causes you no concern that they'll be in a weaker position, not be able to fight terror under the (inaudible) in the region.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, let's - you know, they're - I'll leave it to the parties to describe exactly what the government can do and can't do with the support of Nawaz -- Mr. Sharif's party. We are convinced that we are able to work with this government on fighting terror, working with them to help build a different kind of and a better kind of Pakistan with greater freedoms and greater prosperity. So we're going to continue working with them. How they arrange themselves politically, the platform of the government, those are going to be decisions for the Pakistani Government to make.
QUESTION: So I understand that - or I've heard that Sung Kim and his parcels have arrived back in Washington; is that correct?
MR. MCCORMACK: Apparently, they were scheduled to land at 11:30, so I don't know if they've --
QUESTION: Cleared customs?
MR. MCCORMACK: -- cleared - cleared customs or not with all - with all their boxes.
QUESTION: All right, well - so he was going to - what was he going to do? He was going to come here and drop them off or he's --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, he's going to come and --
QUESTION: What's he going to do?
MR. MCCORMACK: He'll come back -- he'll come - I don't know what his precise plans are, but he'll come back here with the materials that he picked up in North Korea and he's going to brief Chris Hill, brief other people in the Department and the government. And then they're going to get started working on these documents, seeing what they have, and leafing through and analyzing 18,000 pages worth of documents which include records - Yongbyon records going back to, I think, 1986. It goes back quite a ways.
QUESTION: And you expect that to begin today, or does he get a little break?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't know - I don't know exactly what role he is going to --
QUESTION: No, I mean - no, no, the - his briefing for Chris Hill.
MR. MCCORMACK: He'll probably come back. He'll probably come back here and do some briefings here.
QUESTION: And then I have one on another subject unless --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think the floor is yours.
QUESTION: On Sudan, Chad and your statement of the other day.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the developments post your statement, breaking relations, that kind of thing?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't, only to say that our Embassy was on minimal - minimal operations today and they're going to take a look at tomorrow, given the security situation. Our people are - have a curfew, a dusk to dawn curfew there. I don't have any greater insight for you.
QUESTION: In Khartoum, you're talking about?
MR. MCCORMACK: In Khartoum. Yeah, in Khartoum. I don't have any greater insight to - for you about the linkages between Chad and this particular rebel group.
In the back? Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Back on Burma, can you talk --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: -- a little bit more about the negotiations that led to the flight getting through today and two more tomorrow? Obviously there's been a breakthrough. Some people are saying China put some pressure on.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we've been working the diplomacy hard on this, not only working - engaging Burmese officials through our diplomatic channels, but also some of Burma's neighbors as well to try to convince them, as I have said many times last week, to use their leverage to convince the Burmese regime to change the course it was on. Now we are going to take this operation day by day. We had a flight come in to - we had a flight land today. We're scheduled to have two more tomorrow.
We're going to continue working on the issue of getting more assistance in as well as continue working on the issue of actually getting experts on the ground that can help out, not only with the distribution but also making it - not only with the distribution, but helping the humanitarian efforts and making an assessment of what else might be needed. We are going to work with NGOs that are actually down in the affected region to work out, as best we can, a monitoring mechanism to see that the aid that comes in, in Rangoon, makes its way down to the affected areas.
QUESTION: And if I may follow up?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Specifically, how important China was in getting as far as you have?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there were a number of different countries that played an important role and are continuing to play an important role to convince the regime to accept the assistance that the world is ready to provide.
QUESTION: Any idea when P4+1 will deliver the offer on --
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, I have to check on that. I - let me - we'll check for you, get an answer.
QUESTION: Are you still haggling over the text of it, of the letter?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think it's - I think things are pretty close. Again, I didn't - I apologize; I did not check on that before I came out here.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:36 p.m.)
Released on May 12, 2008