State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 4, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 4, 2005
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
November 4, 2005
Deputy Secretary Zoellick's travel to Sudan and Kenya
EU to Investigate Allegations that CIA maintains Secret Prisons in
ICRC Access to Detainees
Contacts by Foreign Governments on Issue of Secret Prisons
Prospects for Secretary Rice's Meeting with ICRC
Immigration Issues and Safety Along Border with Mexico
Rioting in France / Advice to American Citizens
Status of Sale of F-16s
US Response to Pakistan Earthquake
Under Secretary Burns' Call to Ethiopian Prime Minister
Political Violence and Opposition Arrests in Ethiopia
Situation Along Ethiopia-Eritrea Border
Prospects for US Officials to Travel to Ethiopia
Status of US Assessment Team's Travel to Cuba in Wake Hurricane
Reported White House Meeting with Kamal Labwani
Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
Secretary Rice's Recent Meetings in Canada
Upcoming Parliamentary Elections
Reported Shooting of Palestinian Boy by Israeli Troops
Inspector General's Review of Al-Hurra
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Chalabi Travel to Washington
12:30 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I don't have any opening statements, though we do have a statement regarding Deputy Secretary Zoellick's travel to Sudan and Kenya that we will be putting out afterwards, but he has already announced the trip himself. So with that, I'll jump right into any questions.
QUESTION: Have you received requests from the EU for cooperation into the reported secret prisons in Europe?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have checked on that, George, and we have not, at this point, received any requests from the EU concerning those news reports. My understanding from reading the news reports is that the EU is actually make requests of member states or potential member states, states with which they are having accession talks. So at this point, we have not received any inquiries from the EU on those news stories.
QUESTION: A follow-up on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Jonathan, yeah.
QUESTION: Does the International Red Cross have access to all U.S. prisoners?
MR. MCCORMACK: This is a topic that came up yesterday and we --
QUESTION: Okay. Apologies.
MR. MCCORMACK: We talked a bit about it yesterday. We have an ongoing dialogue with the ICRC on a number of -- across a number of different issues. And that dialogue and the contents of that dialogue, by tradition, has been confidential and that has served the aims and work of the ICRC, so I have to respect the diplomatic confidentiality.
There have been news reports and the ICRC has commented in public that it has requested access to all detainees worldwide. And again, we have a dialogue with the ICRC on a number of different issues and we try to engage them as best we can.
I would note that the Department of Defense has -- the ICRC has access to all Department of Defense facilities where detainees are held, whether that's in Iraq or Afghanistan or Guantanomo Bay. We've talked a lot about that over the past couple of days.
If there are any future inquiries from the ICRC on these news accounts, I would expect that we would receive those inquiries and continue our dialogue with the ICRC on the broader issue of detainees.
QUESTION: I think that's a confusing answer though, Sean. You said they have access to DOD facilities in Iraq, Guantanomo and Afghanistan and if they made requests, you would, I guess consider them in the future, you said. But they have made requests that, if you have other locations, they want to visit these detainees.
MR. MCCORMACK: As I said, you know, I have to separate out these two things. We do have an ongoing dialogue with the ICRC. We have -- on any given day, we probably have a meeting with the ICRC on a topic of mutual interest, whether it's detainees or other issues. As I said before, those -- that dialogue is a confidential dialogue. It's a confidential diplomatic exchange. I'm not at liberty to discuss the contents of those dialogues.
And as I said, I have seen ICRC statements, public statements in the past, concerning requests to see all detainees. I can only say that we have an ongoing dialogue with the ICRC on questions related to detainees. And I did point out that the ICRC has access to all detainees held by the Department of Defense in those locations where they may be held, whether it's Iraq, Afghanistan or Guantanomo Bay.
QUESTION: I guess my question is have you not received, through your private channels then, a request from the ICRC? Is the only request you know about the one that you've read publicly in news reports?
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, we have -- you know, we have meetings every single day or on any given day we may have a meeting with the ICRC if -- you know, based on their public statements, which again, I have read recently. They said they would renew their request to see all detainees based on the recent news reports that have been out in The Washington Post and the Financial Times and in other news organizations. And I fully expect that, based on their public statements, that they would renew that request.
QUESTION: So they haven't --
MR. MCCORMACK: And as I said, we have meetings -- we have meetings --
QUESTION: You're just being repetitive. Have they or have they not made the request?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we have -- you know, we meet with the ICRC. I will try to keep you updated as best I can if, in fact, they have renewed that request. There are bounds in which -- by which I am constrained in terms of the confidentiality of the ICRC dialogue. I will do my best to keep you updated on any requests that they have made.
QUESTION: Without addressing the question of requests they have made, the original question -- well, not the original, but the first follow-up -- was does it have access to all detainees worldwide, not necessarily limited to DOD detainees?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. And as I said, we do have -- we have a dialogue with them on that issue.
QUESTION: It doesn't go to dialogue. It goes to do they have access to.
MR. MCCORMACK: As I said, they -- and we've talked about this over the past couple of days. They have access to Department of Defense detainees at facilities where those detainees are held, whether that's Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan or Iraq.
QUESTION: Have you been able to give any reassurances to countries like Poland, Bulgaria, Romania that there are no secret U.S. prisons?
MR. MCCORMACK: I am not aware of any particular requests for information that we have received from any of those countries. If we do receive any requests for information or discussion about the recent news reports, I am sure, as a friend and ally, we will, of course, have a discussion with those countries and provide the answers to those questions to the best of our ability.
QUESTION: Does the Secretary plan to meet with the ICRC anytime soon to discuss this issue and have they approached her directly for a meeting? And also, you said you haven't received any requests from the EU or countries about this, but have you received any complaints through diplomatic cables or other means to complain about this?
MR. MCCORMACK: On the first of your questions, I'll check to see if there's been any requests for a meeting between Secretary Rice and Mr. Kellenberger. They have met in the past. They have a good working relationship. And if there are any future meetings between the two of them, we'll certainly let you know. We'll keep you updated on those.
As -- and the second part of your question?
QUESTION: Is whether you've had any complaints. You haven't received requests, but have you received complaints?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. In the form of demarche? Let me check. The latest information that I have is we have not received any demarches, but I'll check this afternoon and see if there are any updates to that.
QUESTION: How about complaints in any other form? You say you haven't received any demarches. What about any -- something less official than a demarche? Would you include that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check. Sure, I'll be happy to include that. Sure.
QUESTION: To follow up on that, did you receive any request from your allies, Poland and Romania, that you clarify your public position on that so they don't have too many problems with EU?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any such requests.
QUESTION: Sean, I'm just confused. I mean, these stories are either true or not true. And if they're not true, surely you would want to clarify them. And I just wonder, you know, you just, you know -- fueling the suspicions exist by not just ruling this out.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'd be happy to repeat the answers that I've given to you over the past couple of days on this issue. We had this exact same -- this exact same question yesterday and I don't really have anything to add to the matter -- on the matter.
Yes, Joel. Yes.
QUESTION: Is that -- is that classified information or you believe it would come from classified sources?
MR. MCCORMACK: As I said yesterday, I've seen these news reports and inasmuch as they make allegations about potentially classified information, I would not be at liberty from the podium to discuss anything that might be potentially classified.
QUESTION: Sean, a Republican Congressional Resolution, backed with Minutemen support, these are the vigilantes along the border, are looking into U.S.-Mexico-type incursions by immigrants, obviously. And there locally have been also some confrontations at a job shelter being built in Herndon, Virginia. What is your stance as far as this wall that, I guess, would be built? Do you think that's proper? And of course, today, President Bush in Argentina is under fire with a confrontation, a verbal confrontation with Hugo Chavez. What are your thoughts concerning that?
MR. MCCORMACK: There are a lot of separate issues contained in that question, Joel. I mean, I think that the White House can describe where we are on issues related to immigration. The President is committed to looking at that issue.
And certainly, safety along the border has been a primary concern for the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for policing and controlling our borders. As for violence along our border with Mexico, this has been -- it's an issue that's been in the news and an issue of real concern not only to us but as well as the Mexican Government. Secretary Rice in her meeting with Foreign Minister Derbez talked about this. And both of them agreed that it's important to work cooperatively on both sides of the border and for the Mexican Government to address some of the causes of that violence along the border. We have made our concerns known to American citizens who may be transiting that border. That's part of our Consular Information Sheet put out by our Embassy in Mexico City, as well. So it's a matter of concern, it's something that we watch and that we work closely together with the Mexican Government to try to mitigate and prevent some of that violence.
QUESTION: Would you have any comment about the riots in France and would you advise Americans citizens to avoid traveling in France because of that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't checked to see if there's been any update to our Consular Information Sheet.
MR. CASEY: There was a Warden Message sent out this morning simply noting that violence is occurring (inaudible) go there.
MR. MCCORMACK: There we are. There is a Warden Message out, telling people to avoid those areas where violence may occur. In terms of -- this is, you know, an issue that very clearly the French Government is dealing with. This is a matter for the French Government and the French people to address. Certainly, we mourn -- I think, as anybody would, we mourn the loss of life in these kinds of situations. But again, these are issues for the French people and the French Government to address.
QUESTION: President Musharraf has said that he's going to postpone buying F-16s from the U.S. in order to pay for earthquake relief. Have you been notified about that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I've seen the press reports about President Musharraf's comments. I read them and I think that I would leave it to the Pakistani Government to talk about where exactly they stand on their request for sale of F-16s. The request was originally made this past March, in 2005. They wanted to move forward with the potential sale as part of the broadening of our relationship with Pakistan. How and when this sale actually moves forward is a -- is really at this point up to the Government of Pakistan.
So I would, out of respect for their desire to talk about this issue, I think that it would only be appropriate to let any comments regarding whether or not the sale is going to move forward come from the Government of Pakistan.
QUESTION: So you haven't been notified?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's a matter of ongoing discussion with the Pakistan Government. But I would -- in terms of whether or not the sale is going to move forward, I'd let them talk about it. Certainly, the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistani people are facing incredible challenges right now as not only they are still trying to deal with the relief phase in the aftermath of this tragic earthquake but also looking ahead to the reconstruction phase. And that is something that we are going to be working closely, as well with the Pakistani Government, as well as with the international community. There is a conference coming up on November 19th that we are going to be participating in.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up question about that, actually, because my question is do you think the world is doing enough for relief? I think the latest UN report said that it was over 200,000 people over there still not having received aid. You mentioned this conference on the 19th.
MR. MCCORMACK: This is a -- you know, this is a natural disaster of historic proportions. We, when we were -- when we traveled with Dr. Rice to Pakistan in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, we saw just a small portion of the human suffering that this earthquake has caused. The challenges, as I said, that the Pakistani people face are immense. And the world has come to the aid of the Pakistani people with in-kind assistance, with assistance of helicopters and helicopter crews, with cash assistance not only for the immediate relief effort but as well as looking forward. There are still immediate needs for tents, I believe, and blankets as winter approaches in that region.
So I think at this point what I would say is that the world and certainly the U.S. Government has responded with generous donations to the Pakistani people. But that said, there are going to be needs as a result of this earthquake in terms of reconstruction and even humanitarian relief that extend out for some time. So it is an issue that we are going to keep on looking at. We have high-level attention to this within the Department. Under Secretary Josette Shiner as well as Deputy Secretary Zoellick watch this issue very closely and we are going to continue doing what we can to help out the Pakistani people.
QUESTION: Can you go back to the decision, is it fair to say that on the fighter plane decision that you're not aware that there has been a final decision? A matter of ongoing discussion indicates that it's not finalized.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think -- well, I think at this point what I'm going to do is I'm going to let the Pakistanis speak about whether or not they want to move forward with the decision to purchase the F-16s at this point. We've been talking to them. We've talked to them. We've talked to them in the wake of those comments. But I think out of respect for that diplomatic dialogue I'm going to let the Pakistanis speak as the definitive voice as to whether they want to move forward at this point with that sale.
QUESTION: At what level do they talk? Is it State Department or DOD?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's -- this is something that happens via the State Department.
QUESTION: And how high-level were conversations since these comments came out?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check for you.
QUESTION: Not the Secretary?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, not the Secretary. No.
QUESTION: Has the company selling these F-16s asked the State Department specifically to negotiate and to try and push the Pakistanis into accepting the deal or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of --
QUESTION: Because it's quite a considerable sum of money.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. I am not aware of any sort of out-of-the-ordinary efforts by the State Department with regard to this sale.
QUESTION: Can we go to East Africa? Can you tell us what you know about the situation in Ethiopia currently? And then I have a follow up.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. That presumes I'm not going to tell you everything you want to know, if you follow up. (Laughter.) Are you -- specifically, you're looking at the internal situation in Ethiopia or --
QUESTION: It's two issues there. I know there's a -- Ethiopia issue, there is also the current disturbance or riot or --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I guess the latest is that Under Secretary Burns had a conversation this morning with Prime Minister Meles and they discussed the situation. I think that, you know, our understanding is that for the moment, the situation is -- in terms of violence in Addis Ababa, the situation has calmed somewhat. But we underlined the importance -- as I did yesterday from the podium and the day before -- we underlined the importance that anybody who might have been arrested in these demonstrations for a political reason should be released immediately. And if there are any accused of acts of violence in the demonstrations that they have -- that they are granted the full rights under the judicial system that they have a speedy hearing of their cases and that those cases proceed in a transparent manner.
We have, also -- we also called upon and Under Secretary Burns reiterated our call to establish an independent commission and investigate the demonstrations, including those on June 8th, in which dozens of people were killed. So that's the immediate situation.
Going forward, we continue to urge both sides to resolve whatever differences they may have through peaceful means. It furthers no one's cause to try to manipulate situations in order to provoke a violent reaction. We think that peaceful dialogue is the way to resolve what is, in fact, a political issue and we have also urged those who were elected in the opposition to be allowed to take their seats, not only in the governance of Addis Ababa, but as well as in the parliament.
On the separate issue of --
QUESTION: Just wanted to come back to --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: On the government issue, which -- do you condemn on excessive force used on -- the government troops, at least -- recently, there were like seven-year olds killed -- kids were killed or beaten by the street forces in (inaudible). Do you think that's acceptable in controlling the situation?
MR. MCCORMACK: We think that violence provocations and the use of violence is not the way to resolve what are political differences. The deaths in -- as a result of the actions surrounding these protestors are senseless. These are senseless deaths and they're tragic. What we have done in order to sort -- what we have suggested in order to sort out exactly what happened surrounding these protests, we have -- we think the way to establish those facts is to have an independent inquiry to it. We believe that is the way to move forward on that issue. Once you've determined the facts, if there are those who are responsible for acts of -- these acts of violence, that if they broke laws, they need to be held to account. But these -- you know, violence is not the way forward for either side and we call upon both sides to engage in a peaceful dialogue, to back away from the use of violence or to try to provoke the other side into violence.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) had direct contact with the Prime Minister now. Do you have direct contact with opposition leaders? I mean, most of them are now in jail.
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of our most recent contacts with the opposition, I'll try to get you an update. I know our people on the ground in the embassy are -- have been in contact in recent days with both sides, but I don't know specifically if they were in contact with those people who were arrested.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) excessive force and --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we -- there were reports that there were violence clashes between protestors and police and that police responded with use of live rounds. Those reports are disturbing. And I think that in order to sort out the facts surrounding these protests and the violent actions that occurred around them, we think that the inquiry is the right way to try to get at those facts in a sort of objective manner to find out exactly what happened.
QUESTION: Can you go back to the -- Eritrea, Ethiopia (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. In terms of the actions along the Ethiopia-Eritrean border, again, it's important to step back and understand what some of the current tensions are about. There is a line of demarcation that was drawn by the UN, I think, that there is some difference of opinion on part of that. In terms of recent action, I understand that the Eritrean Government banned some flights of the UN monitoring mission. And there have also been reports of troop re-deployments along the border. We think that Ethiopia has re-deployed some troops along the border and we have seen that the -- at this point, it is unclear whether or not Eritrea has re-deployed troops along that border. Again, this is a situation where there has been a history of violence but, you know, through the good offices of the UN and others, they were able to step back from that violence and there has been a period of relative calm along that border and while you've had that UN monitoring mission in there.
At this point, we are in contact with the UN. Secretary Rice spoke with Secretary General Annan about this issue recently and it's something that we're watching closely. Under Secretary Burns talked a bit about this with Mr. Meles in his conversation this morning, and Under Secretary Burns underlined that we are going to be looking with the UN at ways that we might help both sides de-escalate from a situation now where there -- it seems to be tensions are rising along the border -- along that line.
QUESTION: And how long was the conversation with Prime Minister Meles response?
MR. MCCORMACK: What the -- I'll let the Prime Minister speak for his side of the conversation.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Wait, one more.
QUESTION: The main message was on the domestic situation as opposed to the border situation?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that that was probably the bulk of the conversation, George.
Teri. Or something else on this?
QUESTION: Are there any -- does Under Secretary Burns plan to go to Ethiopia? He seems to be getting more involved in Ethiopia. Does he plan to go there anytime soon to speak to them or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't believe he has any plans at the current time to travel there, but we're looking at what we might do in conjunction with the UN on the issue.
QUESTION: Do any other U.S. officials have any plans to go -- special envoy, whatever?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we're looking at what the U.S. might do in concert with the UN on the issue.
QUESTION: My question is on Cuba.
QUESTION: Just one --
QUESTION: Oh, go ahead.
MR. MCCORMACK: Jonathan.
QUESTION: -- on Ethiopia. I think the U.S. gives considerable aid to Ethiopia. I mean, is there going to be a threat of sanctions of some kind if they don't have an inquiry into these shootings in the same way that there was concern over Uzbekistan, the shooting of protestors there?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, yeah, that wasn't part of our discussion with the Ethiopian Government. I don't think that -- I'm not aware of any discussions with the Ethiopian Government about punitive measures.
QUESTION: On Cuba, you put out a statement saying that the three-person assessment team had basically been held up by Cuba wanting to inject politics into the discussion of aid. Could you expand on that a little bit, explain what exactly Cuba was insisting upon that made you sort of stop the assessment process?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the assessment of the people, the individuals who are dealing with the Cuban Government on this issue, was that instead of the focused mission of a humanitarian assessment team going in to Cuba, assessing what needs the Cuban people might have and then, as a result of that, looking at what else the U.S. might do beyond the $100,000 in emergency humanitarian assistance we provided, said the assessment was that the Cuban Government wanted to turn this into a political dialogue about disaster relief throughout the hemisphere, off the topic, to say the least.
We, in good faith, made this -- made this offer. We believed that the Cuban Government had, without conditions, accepted the offer. The offer was focused on the humanitarian assistance for the Cuban people. We thought that the Cuban Government would have wanted to take us up on that offer. Apparently, they don't.
So as a result, just a few days ago, I said the offer was on the table. As of now, the offer is no longer on the table in terms of that humanitarian assistance team because it became clear from the Cuban Government's response that they weren't serious about accepting a team from the United States to try to go in and help the Cuban people. Instead, they wanted to make this into some sort of political show and dialogue about -- political dialogue about disaster relief in the hemisphere.
QUESTION: What does that mean? Wider disaster relief in the hemisphere? What does --
MR. MCCORMACK: You'll have to ask the Cuban Government exactly what they wanted to do. But clearly, they wanted to turn this into some sort of political dialogue as opposed to being focused on helping the Cuban people.
QUESTION: The 100,000 is untouched, though; is that right?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. That's right.
QUESTION: You gave that to them. They accepted that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. That's my understanding. Yeah.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. When you say that the technical assistance team offer is off the table, in your statement you said it was still on the table --
MR. MCCORMACK: It was as of --
QUESTION: So it's off the table as from yesterday or from when?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check exactly when. Recently. In the past day or so.
QUESTION: And why was that? It was just an untenable position for you or --
MR. MCCORMACK: It became very clear that they weren't interested in accepting something that was going to be focused on helping the Cuban people. Instead, they wanted to try to use this as a way to have a political grandstanding event.
QUESTION: One more on this. Did you inform the Cuban Government of this, that you were --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. They're -- yeah, they're aware of it. Yeah.
QUESTION: So they're aware.
QUESTION: Which of the two? (Laughter.) Thank you.
QUESTION: Sir, the White House tells this morning the Al Jazeera office here there was recently a meeting between a local Syrian leader here at the White House with some national security --
MR. MCCORMACK: First of all, we're not here at the White House. We're here at the State Department.
QUESTION: Yeah, they tell us. They tell us -- that's a source. But they tell us also that the State Department was also present at this meeting -- it's with Mr. Kamal Labwani. Do you have any -- I mean, is it a first? Are you concerned for his --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of --
QUESTION: Oh, you're not aware at all?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of the meeting, no.
QUESTION: State Department, according to the White House, were there.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of the meeting.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you.
QUESTION: There is a blog that's attached to the Embassy of the United States in Ottawa's website titled, "No Stone Unturned." Despite about 30 years of polling of Canadian citizens where they have always opposed drilling in the ANWR and despite the fact that all governments, including provincial governments, have been opposed to that drilling as well, this website says: "What has got the Canadian Government so upset about possibly drilling in the ANWR? Is this simply another issue that resonates with Canadians in election season?"
Is it the view of the State Department that the government is insincere in its opposition to drilling and that it is a vote-getting attempt to criticize the Americans drilling in ANWR?
MR. MCCORMACK: We -- look, ANWR is an issue on which we have had diplomatic exchanges with the Canadian Government for some time. I think most recently I was just at a lunch with Secretary Rice when she was up visiting Prime Minister Martin and Foreign Minister Pettigrew in Ottawa, and she was sitting next to the Environmental Minister and they had a good discussion about ANWR. It's a discussion that we think that it's important to have. We have a point of view on ANWR and certainly we respect the views of others.
QUESTION: You respect the view of Canada to assume and accuse the government of using an issue that is between the two countries as a vote-getting exercise? For example, three weeks ago, the Ambassador, David Wilkins, speaking to the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, talking about softwood lumber -- again an issue longstanding between the two countries, solid polling indicating that Canadians are opposed to it, all governments provincial and federal, opposed to the American position on softwood -- and he says, and I quote, "The tough talk against America is a ploy for votes in the next election. It's not lost of any of us that you are in an election year mood right now."
That's a long election cycle to be referring to. And that's 40 years on that issue as well. Is this a State Department policy that when there is an issue that is critical of the United States that they minimize it by talking about it in electoral terms and not the issue itself?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: You don't see this --
MR. MCCORMACK: Let's be clear. Canadian political decisions are for the Canadian people to make. End of story.
Because we share such a long border, because we have such a broad and deep relationship, we're going to have, you know, disagreements on issues, whether it's softwood lumber or perhaps on drilling in ANWR. There are a lot of things on which we agree. I would say the vast majority of bilateral issues between the two of us we agree on. We think it's healthy to have a dialogue about -- on issues that we disagree, whether that's softwood lumber or anything else. We think that in order to sort of break down barriers, maybe open lines on various issues, that it's good to have a dialogue and to raise these issues. I think that -- I would certainly take those comments and any comments from the Embassy in that vein. It's not an attempt to insert the U.S. Government into Canadian politics.
QUESTION: So making reference to vote getting as a reason for the Canadian Government to oppose the United States on an issue doesn't trouble this Department or people involved in the foreign policy?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you know, decisions about politics and Canada regarding elections are for the Canadian people to make. End of story.
QUESTION: I would like to go back to the Syrian opponent, to Kamal Labwani. I understand --
MR. MCCORMACK: About --
QUESTION: You are not aware of this meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: But do you know if U.S. official meet on a regular basis with Syrian opponents or if Syrian opponents are invited on a regular basis at the State Department?
MR. MCCORMACK: I couldn't tell you about all the meetings that take place in the State Department. Certainly, we have contacts with a wide variety of people from civil society, from the government, from -- as part of our diplomatic business. As for what particular contacts we have with members of Syrian civil society, I'm -- from this podium, I'm not in a position to catalogue those for you.
Yes, sir. In the back.
QUESTION: On Turkey, Mr. McCormack. The other day, once again, the ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in Istanbul, Turkey, he has been attacked and threatened, especially by a large group of Turkish extremists and given a lot of publicity in Greece and Turkey. What is the U.S. position on this incident? Do you condemn this action?
MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen those news reports. Certainly, we would oppose any violent action against innocent people in whatever country it may occur. And certainly, the respect for different religions is an important part of our dialogue with all countries around the world.
QUESTION: You had no idea about this incident?
MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen the news reports.
QUESTION: One on Iraq. Dr. Kamal Said Qadir -- Q-A-D-I-R -- an international legal expert and human rights activist, was arrested for political reasons by Kurdish Democratic Party of Massoud Barzani, October 27th. No one knows about his whereabouts. His arrest and disappearance caused an outcry among independent Kurdish writers, intellectuals and organizations and Kurdish media in Kurdistan which mainly directly or indirectly controlled by the two ruling parties of Massoud Barzani and Jelal Talabani has so far failed even to report the news. I'm wondering if you had anything on that issue since this area is controlled also by the U.S. forces?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: The elections in Azerbaijan this weekend, are you satisfied with the preparation of this election?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you anticipate a statement that I will release after the briefing in writing. Maybe I'll provide that statement to you now. Azerbaijan's November 6th parliamentary elections provide the Azerbaijani authorities an opportunity to conduct elections that meet international standards. Free expression of the will of the people through such elections is vital to Azerbaijan's future and to a strengthened U.S.-Azerbaijani relationship. Peaceful freedom of assembly is integral to a democratic electoral process. The United States encourages the peaceful participation of all Azerbaijanis in the elections and urges full implementation of President Aliyev's important election decree of October 25th, including the points on freedom of assembly and non-interference of local authorities in the electoral process.
QUESTION: But there were some arrests, some demonstrations, some threats of violence, so are you satisfied with what they are doing right now?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think as I have said previously on this issue, the first point, we're going to wait until the elections have taken place in order to have a final assessment of the entire electoral process. I think it is safe to say up until this point, certainly, there have been some flaws in that process. You noted some violent clashes and we have noted that it is important for President Aliyev to follow through on his promises of respecting the right to peaceful, free assembly as part of the election campaign. So there have been some things on the positive side of the ledger with respect to this election. There have been some things on the negative side of the ledger. We'll see once the election process is completed, what the final tally is between those two sides of the ledger.
QUESTION: On Kosovo.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, no, no, no.
QUESTION: I have a question -- do you have a comment on the fact that Israeli troops shot and seriously wounded a young Palestinian boy who was carrying a plastic toy gun?
MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen those news reports.
QUESTION: It was in today's --
MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen it. I'll check into it for you.
QUESTION: There was a report that this State Department Inspector General's Office is about to look into the activities of Al Hurra to determine whether any wrongdoing has occurred.
MR. MCCORMACK: I saw the article today and I've been informed by the Office of the Inspector General that for every year the OIG, Office of Inspector General's, long-term work plan has included an audit of Al Hurra. Following discussions with the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the OIG decided to commence audit work later this month. The audit of Al Hurra will consist of routine reviews of procurement controls and contracts.
Now let me add that audits and investigations under the OIG procedures are two different things. You know, audits are things that we can talk about. I can inform you in public about. Under of the rules of the OIG, which operates independently, they neither confirm nor deny investigations. Investigations are exactly what it says -- an investigation into whether or not misfeasance of malfeasance has occurred. So on those matters, George, I am proscribed from offering any comment or even confirming that there is an investigation. I can confirm that there is, in fact, an audit that is taking place or that will take place later this month.
QUESTION: Sean, Mr. Chalabi is to deliver a speech this coming Wednesday, November the 9th at American Enterprise Institute. And will he confer here at the State Department and many people have questioningly said that he is supported by Shiite clergy and maybe he is a liaison back to the Iranian Government. How do you view all this?
MR. MCCORMACK: I understand that Mr. Chalabi will be traveling to Washington. He will have, I understand, meetings with government officials here in his capacity as Deputy Prime Minister. And I expect that he will be here at the State Department in that capacity.
QUESTION: On Kosovo. Did you find anything on the letter, which had been sent by Ibrahim Rugova of Kosovo to Under Secretary Nicholas Burns you mentioned yesterday?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. Still looking into it.
QUESTION: And one more? Will you take the previous question on Dr. Kamal Said Qadir in order to find out?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see what we can do for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:12 p.m.)