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US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: May 16, 2008

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 16, 2008

US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: May 16, 2008

INDEX:

CHINA

Earthquake Relief Efforts / U.S. Provided Satellite Photos of Affected Region

BURMA

C-130 Flights to Rangoon / Operability of NGOs
Estimates of Dead Continue to Rise
Burmese Government Organized Trip for U.S. Diplomats
Protests Outside State Department and Hunger Strikes at UN Over Direct Intervention

IRAN

EU And Iranian Government Will Work Out Date and Venue to Discuss Refreshed Package
Statement on Arrests of Baha'is in Iran

NORTH KOREA

USAID In Best Position To Describe Details On Food Aid
Aid Will Be Distributed Via Emerson Trust
No Connection With Nuclear Talks
Trilateral Talks With Japanese and South Koreans

DEPARTMENT

State Department Has Confidence in Technologies / Safeguard in Electronic Passports

COLOMBIA/VENEZUELA

Groups Earn their Way On To State Sponsors of Terror Based On Facts
Reports on Venezuelan Government Links to FARC / Analysis in Intelligence Community

SOUTH AFRICA

Supreme Court Decision on Apartheid Victims Who Can Sue U.S. Companies

ZIMBABWE

Will Look Into Issue of Weapons Shipments

LEBANON

Military Assistance

TRANSCRIPT:

12:23 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I just have two small pieces of information for you. First is regarding the earthquake in China and our efforts to assist the Chinese Government. We had previously talked about the fact that the United States has provided $500,000 in cash assistance to China that was delivered through the Red Cross in Beijing on Wednesday. Also, the Chinese Government has agreed to a U.S. offer to provide airlifted relief supplies, including tents, food, blankets, generators and other supplies. And it is our hope that we have those supplies delivered this weekend, via C-17 aircraft. Those are going to be flying under the Pacific Command.

And on Burma, we had four C-130 relief flights that landed in Rangoon today. Two of the shipments were handed directly over to NGOs. That was the first time international NGOs - that was the first time that that has happened. And we're planning four to five flights for both Saturday and Sunday. And it is our hope that some of those shipments again will be handed over directly to international NGOs for distribution in affected areas. And with that, I am happy to take your questions.

Yeah.

QUESTION: We're seeing some new horrifying figures of the death toll in Myanmar. Does the U.S. believe that those numbers are going to get even worse?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I can't provide you a good number at this point. We know - I've seen various estimates out there of 2.5 million people affected by this in various ways, and death tolls continue to mount. Certainly, as you have people still out in the open, not able to have access to the kinds of humanitarian supplies they might need and you have the possibility of - and more people dying, people not getting the medical treatment that they need, and then you run the risk of disease. And I don't - and again, I don't have any updates for you, but we've all seen these kinds of natural disasters and we know if there isn't the kind of massive humanitarian response that you need with a disaster of this scope, then you do run the risk of more and more people dying, you know, after - well after the, you know, in this case the cyclone hit.

Yeah.

QUESTION: A question on Iran.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Myanmar?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) you mention that it's been handed over - the aid is handed over directly to the NGOs.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: And is it part of a new trend then?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we'll see. There is a - we do see a new trend, at least today, where some of the shipments are being handed over to the international NGOs. There have been a lot of questions about whether or not the aid that we provide is delivered down to the affected areas and we're doing our best to make sure that what is delivered in Rangoon makes it down to the affected areas to those who need it. Now, you can't - given the current circumstances, you can't construct a perfect system for doing that. You do have a higher level of assurance that aid coming in will get down to the affected areas and be handed off to those international NGOs. So right now there is a - there is a (inaudible) for that aid that is being handed over to the government. As I have said, we do - we have tried to construct a management feedback group being in contact

with those NGOs, down in affected areas to see that that aid that comes into Rangoon actually makes it down there.

QUESTION: But the Burmese are making that clear, I mean, they're stating that they want it handed over to NGOs or --

MR. MCCORMACK: No. It's - this is, again, an iterative process that we have worked with the Burmese - the Burmese Government thinks it's most efficient, in many cases, to hand it over to the international NGOs. Again, I'm trying to provide you these bits of information to show you that the situation is changing. Now, clearly there is a scope of assistance that is needed that goes well beyond what is currently provided. We, as well as others, are prepared to provide that assistance, so we're going to keep working it. We're going to keep working the politics of this in the hopes that we can get more aid and, importantly, expertise down to those affected areas.

Yeah.

QUESTION: On --

MR. MCCORMACK: On this?

QUESTION: Well, it's on China.

MR. MCCORMACK: No. No. Sorry. Straight to you in the front row here. Yes.

QUESTION: Sean, which NGOs are receiving it? And to what extent are they restricted in any way on the ground by the regime there and their operation?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't have the names for you, but there -- some of the international NGOs that were already in Burma have been able to operate down there. You'll have to talk to them about their assessment of their ability to move back and forth and to operate in those areas. We do know that they are operating down there. But I'll leave it to them to describe how they view the situation.

QUESTION: And one more? Just --

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Given what you said, that the scope of assistance that's needed is still so much greater than what's actually being provided --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Right.

QUESTION: -- do you have any - do you have any estimates, do you have any multiples, for example, compared to the four planeloads going in or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- five a day, how many would be going in if you had free reign? And secondly, if this, you know, stranglehold, even though - even though a little bit is trickling in, if this keeps on, what is the United States prepared to do? How far are you prepared to --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're continuing to work the politics there. As I said, we are starting to make progress. I think the world would like to see more progress made in terms of opening up the flow of aid and expertise. I'll see if I can find some numbers for you in terms of comparing what is being provided, the planeloads that are coming in, versus what we are prepared to do now, and we can only speak to what the United States is prepared to do. There is a whole universe beyond that - that is out there in terms of humanitarian assistance.

And I know that the UN coordinator for humanitarian assistance, I think, is going to be going into Burma this weekend, and he - Mr. Holmes - and he is going to also have an opportunity to assess needs as well as what is out there in terms of capabilities and assistance. And just one point, I'll offer one data point, I think, that we talked about yesterday in terms of the scope of what is being provided by the U.S. and then looking at the universe.

As of yesterday, what we provided, we thought could help about, roughly, 135,000 people in terms of the plane flights that had gone in. You compare that with the scope of the disaster in which people are talking about 2.5 million people affected in some way, shape or form by this natural disaster, and I think that gives you an idea of the scale that, while we are helping people, there is certainly much more that's needed here.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Can I follow up, actually, on that? Do you see that these sort of things are changing? Do you see this as a trend towards the Burmese authorities allowing the U.S. to use some of its lift capacity, its helicopters, the ships that are off the coast at this point?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well - we'll see.

QUESTION: Do you see that trending in that direction?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see. We'll see, Kirit. Again, we stand ready, we have the capabilities, we have the assistance in theater. We'll see. We'll see where this - where this heads. I'm trying to make the point here that we continue to work it. We are seeing some results, albeit relatively modest. I think some of the changes that we have described over the past several days have been relatively modest, but compared to where we started, I think there is some significance to what we have accomplished. But again, there's a lot more that can be done and there's a lot more that needs to be done.

QUESTION: Can I ask one --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Charlie --

QUESTION: Sorry, just one other question. What can you tell us about some sort of Burmese authorized or coordinated trip for the diplomatic corps? I think the Chargé is going to --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, the Chargé is going to go. Shari Villarosa is going to go on that. It's a trip that has been organized by the Burmese Government down to the affected areas for diplomats in Burma. Shari Villarosa, our Chargé in Rangoon, is going to participate in that trip. So she'll have an opportunity to report back what it is that she sees. You know, I - you know, I'm not going to make any predictions for exactly what they are going to see and how widely and freely they are going to be able to travel.

QUESTION: Is that an over flight, is it on the ground? I mean, when is it going to be? Do you know?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I think it's this weekend. Let's wait for the trip. I'm not going to make any predictions here, Kirit.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Just to - you haven't mentioned it, so I assume the answer is no, but there are no visas for the DART team yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing - no, nothing new on that front. Anything else on Burma?

QUESTION: One more - one more, Sean.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Sean, last week, many prominent Burmese were demonstrating here at the State Department and now who are on hunger strike at the United Nations. And what they're asking the United States, that they have to use their kind of more political force through the United Nations Security Council, because if this is a human - like you said, 2.5 million and maybe almost 250,000 may have died and many are dying every day.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: That's basically what they're asking. Do you think you are going through any kind of resolution through the United Nations Security Council?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) military dictatorship?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Goyal, those are always possibilities, working through the Security Council, and I know it's a source of continuing discussion up in New York. But again, those are political acts. And what you have to do is try to connect political acts with results on the ground. And you have to ask yourself, what affect will a political act up in New York actually get you in terms of results on the ground, so - and versus the kind of politics that we are trying to work - we and others are trying to work directly and indirectly with the Burmese Government.

So you're constantly assessing what it is that will be the most effective means to get results on the ground. That's the measure. And we believe, at the moment, that the course we are on is yielding some results, which I have described very clearly. They are not - the results are not sufficient to meet the needs - the humanitarian needs that currently exist.

QUESTION: That's not really critical. That's - you are saying millions of humanitarian - human beings from humanitarian catastrophe going on because you're not going to attack the military dictators in Burma. You are saving the people there.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, and that's what we're trying to do, Goyal. Everybody has the same objective here. And it's just a matter of which political means will allow you to achieve some result on the ground. That's always the trick in these things.

Yeah, anything else on Burma? New topic?

QUESTION: On Iran.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: The - Russia's foreign ministry said today that it hopes that in the very near future, the - Solana and the remaining - the other six powers --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- that includes you - will deliver this to a Deputy Foreign Minister level, they say, which would be Bill Burns, would deliver the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- new proposals. I know this the - in the broken record department, but --

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: -- is the United States now going to join the other members of the P-5+1 in delivering the proposal?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we're not going to have a physical presence there. We have, and you didn't even ask the question - we have completed work on the details of the package and the accompanying letter. I believe the EU, in the form of Mr. Solana's office, is going to be reaching out to the Iranian Government to work on a date and venue for a meeting where the representatives of the P-5+1 can hand over and discuss this refreshed package of incentives.

QUESTION: But the U.S. will, under no circumstances, send anyone, whether it's a low-level person or a medium or high person?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, if Iran suddenly has a change of tune and says that they will meet the demands of the international community, which are expressed in UN Security Council resolutions, to suspend their enrichment and reprocessing-related activities, then you might have the possibility of a different kind of conversation, which again, Secretary Rice has outlined over and over again. Absent that, the United States will not have a representative at the meeting we've just discussed.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: On China. You mentioned at the top, China's agreed to accept airlifted relief from the United States. How much? I don't think you quantified it.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't have -- I can't quantify it for you. We have two C-17 aircraft that can hold a lot of assistance and -- but I don't have, in terms of weight or numbers, anything that I can offer to you. I will -- over the weekend, we'll try to get you the information.

QUESTION: Okay. And a follow-up on that.

QUESTION: Two C-17 --

MR. MCCORMACK: Two C-17 flights, yeah.

QUESTION: A follow-up.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: What's the U.S. response to China's request for satellite images of Sichuan Province to help find --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we have provided them some overhead imagery, some photos, yeah.

QUESTION: You have? Was that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- today then?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I think it was over the past couple days.

QUESTION: Was that, in fact, Sichuan Province?

MR. MCCORMACK: Of the affected areas, yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. And --

QUESTION: Sean, I would (inaudible) --

MR. MCCORMACK: Hold on, hold on, Goyal. Hold on.

QUESTION: I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Yeah, have you ever done that before with any other country?

MR. MCCORMACK: For humanitarian disasters?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we have.

QUESTION: Sorry. Do you, off the top of your head --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I don't know with whom, but yeah, we have. Yeah. Anything else on China?

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal -- yes, over here.

QUESTION: Hi, please, can you discuss any concerns the United States Government has about possible damage to Chinese nuclear facilities and what efforts are being made to monitor that or maybe offer to assist the Chinese and get international inspection teams on the ground for that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I -- I'm not aware of any effort currently to get any international teams on the ground to look at the facilities that you're talking about. I know it's something that we're watching. I'm not aware of any information that would indicate a leak of nuclear material. But again, it's something that we watch.

QUESTION: And just back to the C-17, that's -- those two planes, is that it or is this possibly the start of additional aid?

MR. MCCORMACK: It could be more. We're -- what happened is the Chinese Government put out a list of needed items and expertise. And we responded by saying, well, we have these certain capabilities and we're happy to provide these things. So the offer of assistance was accepted. There is always the possibility of more. If there is a need there and we can provide it and we have the capability to provide it, of course, we'll be open to meeting those needs if we're the ones in the best position to do that.

Yeah, anything else on China?

QUESTION: Yeah, Sean. Quickly, do you think this is going to affect in any way as far as the Olympics are concerned, because two big tragedies in the area and if Chinese are help -- and ask for any kind of help or any discussion as far as Olympics and this earthquake is concerned?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of the actual physical ability to host the Olympics, I'm not aware that this will impinge upon it. I mean, certainly, I think as people travel to the region, they're going to have these disasters on their mind and certainly, the thoughts of the people traveling to the region will be with the families of the victims and the friends -- friends and families who have lost loved ones. But I'm not aware of any, you know, impingement on the ability to actually host the Olympics.

Yeah, Gollust.

QUESTION: Sean, (inaudible) from the USAID announcement that the issue of distribution of North Korean food aid, at least some progress has been made. Can you describe what's going on there?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think AID is probably in the best position to provide the details. But what I've been told is that over a period of time, over the course of several months, there have been interactions with the North Korean Government by AID and U.S. Government experts talking about the importance and what was -- the importance of monitoring and what was needed in terms of a monitoring regime. And AID was pleased to announce that because the needs in terms of the monitoring regime had been met, and that there was perhaps the most rigorous monitoring regime for distribution of food aid that we've seen in North Korea, that we are able to provide 500,000 tons over the period of a year starting in June.

The aid will be distributed via the Emerson Trust.* I think it's about 100,000 tons and about 400,000 tons via the World Food Program. Then representatives from Emerson and World Food Program will be able to travel to affected areas that are going to be receiving the food aid. I believe that there's going to be another set of discussions really drilling down and getting into the nitty-gritty of providing the food aid and the distribution and monitoring. AID is going to be leading that effort, but I would expect there would also be other experts from the U.S. Government involved in that delegation.

QUESTION: But do you see U.S. Government people on the ground launching the distribution?

MR. MCCORMACK: That - no. This is going to be done, to my knowledge, what I've been told, via the WFP and the Emerson Trust representatives. But talk to the AID who will have, really, more details probably than you can handle on all of this.


Yeah.


QUESTION: On that subject, do you know –


MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.


QUESTION: -- is it wheat, corn?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's going to be a mix. And that mix is going to be determined based on the needs and what we're able to provide. I can't - we're going to be briefing Congress on this. And I know there's always an interest in the cost of these kinds of things. I can't put a dollar figure on it right now because, again, that's going to depend on the mix of aid that is provided - that's needed and provided, as well as transportation costs and other associated costs.

QUESTION: And do you know, Sean, how many of these WFP people are going in?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I don't. AID probably has a better handle on all this.

Yeah. Anything else on this?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: Viola, and we'll work our way back.

QUESTION: But the timing of this coming right after there seems to be some progress being made in the nuclear talks, I mean, how --

MR. MCCORMACK: There's no connection. There's no --

QUESTION: You're saying there's no connection.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, there isn't. And I'll point to a couple of things. You know, one, the real trigger here was the fact that you got monitoring mechanisms that met the standards we had set out for ourselves and for North Korea. And two, this is a set of discussions that has been ongoing for several months, I think that extends back into either late summer or early fall of last year.

So you could have conceivably had -- you know, had this announcement take place much earlier, not tied at all to - in -- at least chronologically to the six-party talks some time ago, if you had had the same kind of monitoring mechanism. But the fact of the matter is there wasn't, but now there is and, therefore, you have this announcement today.

QUESTION: When was the last time the U.S. provided food aid to North Korea?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have the exact date. It's been a couple of years.

QUESTION: A couple of years?

MR. MCCORMACK: I believe so, yeah. 2008 - I think it was back in 2005, I think. Yeah, Gollust is telling me yeah, so there we are. Good.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Do you anticipate this will have any kind of an impact on the six-party talks moving forward? Will it help move the party talks forward?

MR. MCCORMACK: I - we don't see any connection between this. We're doing this because America is a compassionate nation and the United States is - and the American people are people who reach out to those in need.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Will this be, like a one - is this a case-by-case, one-time thing or will food aid - or do you anticipate that we'll continue food aid? That we're using the word, resumption, kind of indicates an ongoing --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is - it's going to be delivered over the course of a year. So starting, probably in June, going out for a year. And then I'm sure at some point along - during that period of time, during that year's period, there's going to be an assessment or probably ongoing assessments about need in North Korea, other needs globally, and then also, importantly, the question of how is the monitoring mechanism actually working in reality.

Yeah. Okay. In the back row here. Yeah. Mm-hmm. Yep, that's it. You.

QUESTION: Just on the NGOs, do you know if there's any other NGOs involved besides the Emerson Trust? And do you know how they were selected, what criteria?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. AID is better positioned to answer those questions. The information that I have is only the WFP and the Emerson Trust.

Yeah. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Another topic?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. After we've exhausted this one. Yes, over there.

QUESTION: On the monitoring of the food aid, it says here in the statement there is substantial improvement. Is there anything else you could elaborate on how --

MR. MCCORMACK: Is there what?


QUESTION: Is there anything else you could elaborate on how the monitoring, what kind of monitoring will be happening and --

MR. MCCORMACK: My colleagues at AID really are better positioned to get into those details than I am. Yeah.

QUESTION: And then just - sorry, as a follow-up, on the next meeting, do you have any idea of when?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I expect in the near future, but again, it's going to be led by AID.

Yes.

QUESTION: On the six-party talks --

MR. MCCORMACK: No - I don't know - do we have any more on the food aid?

QUESTION: One more.

MR. MCCORMACK: Kirit? Yeah.

QUESTION: The statement referenced a cooperation with the South Korean Government. Can you tell us anything more about how the genesis of that - did they come to us and start trying to facilitate this between the U.S. and the North Koreans or was that - we brought them (inaudible)? Do you know how that worked?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any insight to that, Kirit, you know, other than to say we work very closely with them on not only the six-party talks on one side, but also on humanitarian issues. But again, this is a decision that was taken based on the merits of the need in North Korea, that in relation to global need, and then the monitoring mechanism.

Yeah, anything else on --

QUESTION: One more.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- the food aid? Yeah.

QUESTION: What was the determination based on what the NGOs in North Korea were telling you, about how many people or what proportion of the population affected and would need - and how many would need this sort of --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a number. I can't put a number on it, but we do know that there are rather desperate circumstances there in terms of need.

Yeah, anything else on food aid? Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you know how the food will be delivered? It will be purchased from here and then ship to the North Korea or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I expect that the AID folks will be able to fill you in on all that.

Okay. Anything else on food aid? No? Nina.

QUESTION: Just quickly on these new electronic passports that are coming out in July --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- for Americans that are traveling by road or sea to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Do you have confidence in these new passports? They've been in for a lot of criticism.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, the folks that evaluate them do have a great deal of confidence in them. And it's not just State Department, but it's DHS that has been integrated into this. And I saw in the one news report, there was one - one individual talking about the importance of laser optical strips and that sort of thing. And look, all I can say is there are a lot of people around town who have a vested interest in some kinds of technologies and they're free to talk about those things. Our folks believe that this is the right way to go. They have confidence in these technologies and the safeguards that are built into these passport cards.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Another topic?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Following the finding by Interpol yesterday that the Colombian authorities did not tamper with the computers that they found in the FARC rebel camp in March in Ecuador and what Colombia keeps insisting on is - is evidence that there are links between FARC and the Venezuelan Government, is the Administration now more receptive to suggestions by Republican members of Congress that Venezuela be added to the U.S. terror list? And if so, is any consideration being given to the fact that Venezuela is one of our major oil shippers? And how would that affect those oil shipments from Venezuela to the U.S.?

MR. MCCORMACK: You can talk to experts in the oil markets for an answer to that question. In terms of the state sponsor of terror list, there are a rigorous set of standards and criteria that need to be met. You earn your way on to that list and it's based on the facts. They are - Venezuela currently is on the list of states not fully cooperating in fighting terror. So that certainly is a black mark against them and speaks to their level of cooperation in fighting terror. They are not, at this point, on the state sponsor of terror list.

QUESTION: Just a short follow-up. Does the U.S. have any evidence at all that Venezuela is either arming or funding the FARC?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that you have to go no further than a lot of the news reports that we've seen recently based on the information that has been gleaned from this laptop, laptops and other information. So there's a thorough analysis that is ongoing right now in our intelligence community. They have access to the information. I think the Colombian Government, in the days and weeks ahead, is going to be speaking more in public to what they have learned. But clearly, what you are seeing in these news reports is very disturbing about the linkages between Venezuela and this terrorist group, the FARC. And it is a source of concern for us. I know it's a concern for the Colombian people and the Colombian Government and it should be a source of concern for Colombia and Venezuela's neighbors as well.

Yes, sir, in the back.

QUESTION: Different topic from this one.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: The Supreme Court of the U.S. this week ruled that victims of apartheid in South Africa can sue several American companies for atrocities of apartheid, something which was also opposed by the South African Government. What generally, is the view of the American Government on this matter?

And secondly, the fact that the South African Government is opposing it, do you think there might be a diplomatic setback if this case go ahead and they put these claims of 400 --

MR. MCCORMACK: I have to confess I am not familiar with the court case. Let's try to get you a thoughtful answer and we can post that for you.

QUESTION: And if I could just follow up and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: -- I have an unrelated matter, quickly. It now appears, and the NGOs in Zimbabwe confirm that the shipments of arms that was supposed to be delivered in South -- to Zimbabwe via South Africa was eventually delivered in Angola. And the NGOs are now linking the escalation of violence in Zimbabwe to that shipment in Angola. Have you got that information? Have you spoken to the Government of Angola about the seriousness of this --

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me -- clearly, the issue of shipment of some arms to Zimbabwe, at this point in time, is a real concern for us and the people of the region. Let me look into the details of what we know about this particular shipment and whether or not we see any linkage between that shipment and its possible delivery and what's going on in Zimbabwe right now.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Do you have any particular reaction to the new bin Ladin tape that came out yesterday?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's, you know, yet another hate-filled diatribe from Usama bin Ladin and, you know, a call to -- you know, exactly 180 degrees opposite the message from what most people in the region want to hear. And that is they want to bridge differences, bring about peace and greater prosperity, and he's talking about murder and killing.

Yeah.

QUESTION: This isn't this Department's bailiwick, but do you know if the U.S. Government has concluded that it is indeed authentic, that it's his voice and so on?

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

Yeah, Goyal.

QUESTION: A quick one on Iran, please.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Iranian Government has been very tough in arresting and killing all those who - minorities in Iran. And this week, now, United States Commissioner (inaudible) religious freedom is calling on the (inaudible) administration forcefully that they are now arresting and harassing or killing Baha'i communities there. And at the same time, related, in the U.K. (inaudible) Iranian terrorists are celebrating. So you have any comments on these two --

MR. MCCORMACK: Check out the statement we put out yesterday on the arrests of Baha'is in Iran, Goyal.

QUESTION: And on the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I'm not familiar with --

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- what you're speaking about.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Sean, on six-party talks, previously when Ambassador Hill - or when there has been some progress made, Ambassador Hill has engaged in a series of bilateral consultations. So why a trilateral meeting? What do you --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think it's a useful -- you know, a useful geometry. We haven't done a trilateral meeting, I think, actually in a couple of years. I think it's been some time since we have done a trilateral meeting, so it's useful. You meet in different configurations.

QUESTION: Do you think it's a shift in your -- signals a shift in your approach?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no.

QUESTION: Can you explain how this meeting differs from a T-COG? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: I think it --

QUESTION: Does a rose by any other --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think it differs in name. I'm at a loss really to describe for you any other differences. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: How about a thank you?

MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.

QUESTION: Why a big meeting like this --

MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?

QUESTION: Why exclude the Chinese from, you know --

MR. MCCORMACK: They're hardly excluded from consultations in the six-party talks.

QUESTION: Is he planning on meeting with them bilaterally soon?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have lots of contact with the Chinese about the six-party talks. I don't think they're going to be jealous. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: On Lebanon, the information that you put out yesterday on military assistance to Lebanon, it looks like there's -- the predominance of the funding that's been appropriated in the last couple of years has not been spent. Can you tell me why that is?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll find somebody who deals with the budget numbers to get an answer for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:57 p.m.)

* The Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust is a food reserve for Public Law (P.L. 480) administered under the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture. This reserve is available to meet emergency humanitarian food needs in developing countries, allowing the United States to respond to unanticipated food crises with U.S. commodities. The process of selecting the NGO's to provide the food assistance to North Korea announced today is still ongoing.

DPB#88

ENDS

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