US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: August 6, 2008
Daily Press Briefing
Gonzalo R. Gallegos, Acting Deputy Spokesman
August 6, 2008
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: August 6, 2008
Disappointed that Iran Has Failed to Give a Clear
Answer to the P5+1 Incentives Package
Political Director’s Call / Response Discussed
Will Pursue Further Sanctions as Part of Dual-Track Strategy
P5+1 to have Further Consolations and Communications
More Rhetoric from the Iranian President
Proceeding with Dual Track Process
Important Opportunity to Pursue Relations
Working with Groups of Allies
Momentary Misunderstanding to the Exact Location of the
Will Work Diligently to Control Illegal Activities along the Border
We Take this Misunderstanding Seriously
Share a Great Working Relationship with Mexico / We will Continue to Improve the Process / We will Continue Open Dialogue with Mexico
Statement to be Released
We Condemn the Military’s Overthrow in the Strongest Terms
Call on the Military to Release the President and Prime Minister
The Capital is Calm / Warden Message Sent Out
Possible Suspension of Aid
Continue to Work with Gazans
Revoking of Visas by Students
Issue between the United States and these Individuals
Prudential Revocations / Ability to Reapply
Review Situation with Concern
No Change in the Department’s Position on the Name of Macedonia
U.S. Image around the World / Governments and Citizens
around the World Should Understand the Values for which the
U.S. Stands for / Human Rights / Open and Free Government
Administration Concerned about Safe and Legal Immigration to the U.S. / Open and Free Markets
Importance of Freedom of Expression / Taking Advantage of Olympic Spotlight
12:47 p.m. EDT
MR. GALLEGOS: Good afternoon. I don’t have anything for you right now, so we can start with your questions.
QUESTION: I have nothing.
MR. GALLEGOS: Sue.
QUESTION: Do you have anything further on Iran? The Russians don’t really seem quite as enthusiastic as you are about another round of sanctions. They would like to continue to pursue, you know, the talking route. I just wondered whether you had any comment on Russia’s apparent reluctance to go along with what you want to do?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think reluctance would be your term. I haven’t heard that from the Russians. But we’re very disappointed that Iran has failed yet again to give Javier Solana a clear answer to the P5+1 generous incentives package. The letter we received yesterday appears to be a stalling tactic.
The P5+1 reaffirmed their commitment to the dual-track strategy and are agreed that we have no choice but to pursue further measures against Iran as part of this strategy. Given the absence of a clear, positive response from Iran and its failure to meet the deadline in UNSCR 1803, the P5+1 are discussing next steps in the UN Security Council and beginning to consider the possible outlines of another sanctions resolution.
QUESTION: So who’s going to be drawing together the outlines of this new resolution? Is it Britain and the United States? You seem to be at the forefront. Are you actively working together now to try and pull together some new – some sort of financial restrictions on banks and other things?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, as you know, there was a political directors call this morning, where the response, the document they received from the Iranian Government, was discussed. There was a consensus that it did not meet our expectations for a clear – as being a clear response from them. We have stated previously that if that were not the case, that we would pursue further sanctions against Iran as part of this dual-track strategy, and that is what we have started. We’ve discussed this beginning to consider the possible outlines of another sanctions resolution, and that is what we’re going to be doing. We’re going to be discussing within the P-5+1 context, that. We’re going to have further consultations and communications with each other. And when we’re ready to proceed, you’ll be getting more information about that.
QUESTION: But do you think you’ll have anything by the end of the Bush Administration?
MR. GALLEGOS: I don’t believe anybody from this podium has given the timeline to these measures. I won’t do that today. However, what we do have is three sanctions that have passed. There is a continued effort to do this. There is commitment by the parties to have a dialogue and to move forward with this. What that will ultimately result in, we haven’t discussed from this podium before, and I’m not going to today, so –
QUESTION: Iranian President had a warning for the West, if they go further, then he will have some global oil supply interrupted or cut off.
MR. GALLEGOS: Mm-hmm. Well, we’ve heard a lot of rhetoric from the Iranian President. What we’ve been waiting to hear is a response to this generous incentives package. We haven’t heard that yet, so we will proceed as we’ve described.
Look, this is an important opportunity for the Iranian people to normalize their relations with the world, to normalize their relations with the United States. The option is theirs. We’re going to continue with an incentive package. That door remains open. Now, we’re proceeding – opening the door to the disincentive package. And as we’ve been doing in the past, we’ll continue on the dual-track process. We have committed partners in this. And we’ll be – have more information for you as we proceed.
QUESTION: Hi, (inaudible), with The Washington Times. The Times are reporting today that a U.S. border agent was held at gunpoint by Mexican military officials on Sunday. It was without incident after U.S. backup arrived, and that representatives from non-supervisory employees of the Border Patrol say that this has happened before several times over the past couple of years, and it’s outlined in the article. I was wondering if you guys – do you know anything about this? As of yesterday, the answer was no. B, what’s the policy on it? And do you think you’ll be going to the Mexicans with any sort of complaint?
MR. GALLEGOS: No. We’re aware of the incident, and we brought it to the attention of the Government of Mexico. Our understanding is that this encounter stemmed from a momentary misunderstanding as to the exact location of the U.S.-Mexican border. I want to note that the border is more than 2,000 miles long. Both our governments work diligently to try and control illegal activities along the border. We recognize that occasional incidents such as this can and do occur. But we take the misunderstanding seriously, as does the Government of Mexico. We share an excellent working relationship with the Mexican Government, including among our respective law enforcement and security personnel. We’re fortunate to have liaison mechanisms in place to notify each other of such incidents and take immediate steps to rectify these situations. We’ll continue to work to improve that process, and we’ll continue with open dialogue with the Government of Mexico to ensure that, although there may be future incidents, that we will be able to communicate with each other as soon as possible about them to clarify those.
QUESTION: A momentary misunderstanding of the U.S.-Mexican border?
MR. GALLEGOS: As – the last time I checked, there was not a painted line along the border area.
QUESTION: Yeah, but you already built a fence along some of it, you know. Maybe that would have helped out in this case. What –
MR. GALLEGOS: There seems to have been, unfortunately –
QUESTION: How momentary was this lapse?
MR. GALLEGOS: I was not on the ground, nor have I walked the border in any recent time. I can see and understand how there may have been this misunderstanding of exactly where they were at any given moment; however, as I said before, these are incidents that do occur. We have a good communications strategy with the Mexican Government. We continually work with them to refine that, and we will do so in the future.
QUESTION: Whose geography was off momentarily here? The U.S. or –
MR. GALLEGOS: As I was not on the ground, I would not be able to tell you, Matthew.
QUESTION: Well, it must – you must have an idea from –
MR. GALLEGOS: I have what I have.
QUESTION: Did the Americans stray across the Mexican border, or did the Mexicans –
MR. GALLEGOS: I could not tell you. What I have is what I’ve said here. There was a misunderstanding – there seems to have been a misunderstanding. The important thing here is that we were able to communicate with the Mexican Government to inform them of the situation. We were able to proceed, and we’re working closely with them in the future.
QUESTION: Can you find out – or is it possible to find out how many of these momentary misunderstandings there are or have been in the past? Is this something that’s pretty frequent? People just don’t –
MR. GALLEGOS: I would say that this seems to occur on occasion.
QUESTION: Hamdan was found guilty today on one of the charges against him. Where’s he going to serve his sentence, as far as you know? Will it be Guantanamo Bay, and have you contacted the Yemeni authorities to see whether they might want him to serve his sentence there?
MR. GALLEGOS: I’m not sure where we are on that. I’d have to take a look. I think that the decision was made. Let me see what I have on that, Sue.
QUESTION: Can I return to the (inaudible)?
MR. GALLEGOS: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: Just to the lapsed geographic understanding of our borders. It seems that the Border Patrol, the U.S. Border Patrol, says that they came here. And there has been – there have been longstanding complaints that both current and former military officials in Mexico have been hired by drug gangs. Is that part of your active and engaged dialogue with Mexican authorities?
MR. GALLEGOS: I believe that Assistant Secretary Tom Shannon has had discussions with the Mexican Government about that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. GALLEGOS: So, Sue –
QUESTION: The Yemeni –
MR. GALLEGOS: Oh, in terms of the Yemeni – I don’t have that information, Sue. I’m going to have to see what I can find out for you on that.
QUESTION: Could you ask that? Because if Guantanamo Bay ever closes, which people think it may do soon, then what happens to people like that, or would he be sent to the U.S. homeland, or would you be cutting a deal with the Yemenis?
MR. GALLEGOS: I’ll have to see what I can find out about that, Sue.
QUESTION: Can I just briefly go back to Iran on something you said this morning about how if the U.S. was acting alone, not with the P-5+1, the pace would be faster? Can you talk about that again, please?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, no, I think what we – our position on this is well known and we’ve been very clear about it. We realize and understand that we are working with a group of allies and partners in this process. We know and understand that this is a consensus process to, as we as a group, decide what is the best way to move forward and what will be the most effective mechanisms to deal with this situation. Once we get to the UN Security Council, there is obviously a whole other process that becomes part of this dynamic. It is not fast-moving, but we believe it can be effective and therefore we’re going to continue proceeding with that process.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Government of Mauritania was overthrown by the military. It was something of a model of democracy, at least in that region. What is your reaction to that?
MR. GALLEGOS: I appreciate that opportunity. We’re going to have a statement for you a little bit later on that. However, I can tell you right now that we condemn in the strongest possible terms the Mauritanians’ military’s overthrow of the democratically elected government of Mauritania. We oppose any attempts by military elements to change governments through extra-constitutional means. We call on the military to release the President and the Prime Minister, and to restore the legitimate constitutional, democratically elected government immediately.
QUESTION: Is the United States involved in any diplomatic way to try to get this – consequences reversed?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, we’ve condemned the event. We are communicating this to the African Union. We look to members of the African Union as well as other countries around the world to speak out against this action. Just to let you know that right now the capital is reportedly calm, been no reports of shooting or violence. Our Embassy has sent out a Warden Message to Americans instructing them to remain at home and to keep an eye on what’s happening around them. We’re going to continue to reach out to them as we continue to assess the situation. Our Embassy does remain open today.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. – I don’t even know how much aid you give to Mauritania, whether it’s an MCC country, but have you immediately, as usually happens, suspended aid because there’s been a coup?
MR. GALLEGOS: I’ll have to take a look. I know that that issue’s been brought up, but I’m going to have to take a look at exactly what would be affected. I don’t have a list of that.
QUESTION: But it would be a matter of course that you would suspend assistance, right?
MR. GALLEGOS: My understanding is that (inaudible) we’d have to take a look. I don’t have that information, but we can give you something a little bit later on that.
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have some (inaudible) additional information for revoking the visas of the three Gaza students? What is the information? What is the additional information? Were they told what it is? And if they aren’t aware, how can they reapply again for visas?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I spoke to that issue yesterday. The bottom line here is that we’re not going to get into the details about this. That’s between the United States Government and the individuals. In this case, in the case of prudential revocations, a prudential revocation is a revocation of which we acquire additional information that we believe that it is necessary to review before we allow individuals to enter the United States. We attempt to inform them as quickly as possible of the situation. They can reapply for another visa. I’m not sure of the timing of that. However, they do have that opportunity, so –
QUESTION: Have they been told why, in order to have the proper information to do that?
MR. GALLEGOS: My understanding is that there has been communications to them. I’m not sure exactly what they were told, but –
QUESTION: And also too, was this additional information, information provided by the Israelis, something that was missed in the initial review process?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, that would fall under my, I’m not going to comment about details of the information, but thank you for asking.
QUESTION: Can I stay on this (inaudible)?
MR. GALLEGOS: Sure.
QUESTION: Have these people – students’ scholarships themselves been revoked, or just the visas?
MR. GALLEGOS: I would have to see technically what is happening to the scholarship. If they cannot come to the United States then they cannot participate in the program, then the funding for the scholarships would –
QUESTION: I understand. But you said –
MR. GALLEGOS: – would not be spent this fiscal year.
QUESTION: – they can reapply for the visas. But can they reapply for the scholarships if they – if – I mean, do they need to reapply for the scholarship?
MR. GALLEGOS: I would have to check the process of that. The scholarships are basically there as money allotted during a fiscal year, X amount of dollars for said scholarships for a post any fiscal year. And I would have to see how they would manage that. But I don’t have that information right now.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the students who were given visas, are they potentially going to get re-reviewed? Are they at risk of further scrutiny, the ones who did get their visas, the other three?
MR. GALLEGOS: No, I would say that we’re always keeping an eye out for additional information that might come up on these individuals. However, I want to make note that, number one, we view this situation with concern. We want to make sure that we try and get as much information as we can, as soon as we can, about any individual who is requesting a visa to enter the United States. As such, we’re take – we’re reviewing the process by which this group had been reviewed and the information we received and when we received it.
There are 17 Gazans right now in the United States studying on various programs – Fulbright, Youth Exchange, and then one other program, an International Visitor program, which is a short-term program – at this time. So, unfortunately, this comes down to individuals and information we receive about them. However, we see these programs as important. We continue to work with Gazans, and when possible we look forward to providing them this opportunity to come to the United States on these exchange programs.
Yes, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: On FYROM, Mr. Gallegos, July 31st, Assistant Secretary Matthew Reynolds wrote to Senator Robert Menendez, quote, “We seek a solution that resolves confusion between the country of Macedonia and the larger historical geographic area of Macedonia. Some in Greece have expressed their concern that this confusion could give rise to irredentism. Our Ambassador will help those leaders understand the dangers of irredentism in any form out of the importance of avoiding the implication of irredentism in any form, as well as the need to develop good relations with all of its neighbors,” unquote. Question: Was this letter cleared by the Department of State or was only this the personal opinion of Mr. Reynolds?
MR. GALLEGOS: I would say that our position on the name of Macedonia as – is clear and has been repeated often from this podium.
QUESTION: How about your position on irredentism?
MR. GALLEGOS: Irredentism – (laughter) – our position has not changed.
QUESTION: The Japanese and North Koreans are meeting on the 11th and 12th. Will this have an impact on the timing of the removal of North Korea from the state sponsor of terror list?
MR. GALLEGOS: Let me – I wasn’t able to get what I need for you on that. But if you’ll give me a call, let me –
QUESTION: Sure thing.
MR. GALLEGOS: – deal with that.
Mr. – yes.
QUESTION: I have two questions on the U.S. image around the globe. One is that most of the money U.S. gives in assistance, aids and helps – frankly, they are the really ones that against the U.S. And how you think are you going to improve the U.S. image around the globe, like Karen Hughes here to do? Like, including this is now in Pakistan, you have the lowest number of percentage that they favor the U.S., even billions are being spent there. What do you think – now you think ISI will be with the U.S., which during General Musharraf they were not with the U.S., but they were with the terrorists.
MR. GALLEGOS: That’s a –
QUESTION: Work anonymously. (Laughter.)
MR. GALLEGOS: That’s a very multilayered question. But I think it, suffice to say, that – look, we believe it’s important that the governments of countries and that the people in those countries know and understand the values for which the United States stands. We stand for human rights, we stand for open and free government, we stand for open economies. Most importantly, we stand for a society where a man and a woman can go to work, where they can come home, where they can play with their children, where they can live in a free and open society.
That’s one of the most important messages that we can share with others, that basic – when it comes down to the basic acts of waking up, working, living, and enjoying the fruits of your labor and your family, then we’re pretty much the same all the world around. And what we’re about, as a government, is providing for the best opportunities to be able to do that. So that’s what we’re going to be working to communicate.
QUESTION: And second, going back to Mexico.
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.
QUESTION: As far as relations with Mexico and Latin America is concerned, that immigration is a big issue which both the senators have spoken in recent weeks and they are favoring, like some kind of solution should be there to illegal immigrants here. Now, there are – by the ICE, arrests are going all around the country, many arrests have been made, and I am sure you must be getting a lot of angry calls from those countries, including Mexico and other Latin American countries. How you think going to improve the image in Latin America as far as the immigrants are concerned here – or illegals, and the calls by these two major candidates?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, in terms of the candidates, I’d direct you to their campaigns to discuss their policies on immigration. And I think the Administration is concerned about safe and legal immigration and migration to the United States. That’s something that we are trying to make as clear as possible to our allies.
We’re also engaged with those allies in Latin America to assure that we have open, free, and fair markets so that individuals in their own countries can work and have the opportunity to provide a stable home for their own families and to enjoy the fruits of their labor there in those countries, so –
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: I’ve got a number of (inaudible).
MR. GALLEGOS: Matt.
QUESTION: There’s been some concern expressed that the Chinese may have – or may have or may misinterpret, or interpret some remarks that the Secretary made over the weekend in Aspen as a kind of okay for them to use unnecessary – or to use force to clamp down on Olympic protestors. She said at this Aspen Institute thing that, “I hope the Chinese will be discreet about the use of their security,” end quote, during the Olympics. And I just want to make – give you the opportunity to make it – to clear up any misunderstandings about what – she was not suggesting that the Chinese security forces could do whatever they want in terms of repression, as long as they kept it quiet and no one could see it, was she?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think we’ve been very clear with everybody, including the Chinese, that we believe that freedom of expression is an important value. We’ve also been very clear that this Olympics is an opportunity for the Chinese to put their best foot forward in the face of the world, with all the eyes of the world upon them. We hope that they will. And we believe that they’ll take advantage of this opportunity.
QUESTION: Yeah, but she wasn’t meaning to say that as long as the Chinese are discreet about their repression, it’s okay, was she?
MR. GALLEGOS: I will let her words stand.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:08 p.m.)
DPB # 138