State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 2, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
November 2, 2006
Elections Should be Free, Fair, Transparent
International Election Observers Will Be in Place / U.S. Will Look
to Observers For Assessment of Fairness / U.S. Will Not Prejudge
U.S. Does Not Take Position on Elections / For People to Decide
U.S. Assistance Dictated by Actions of Leaders, U.S. Law
Venezuela's Withdrawal From UN Security Council Seat Race
GRULAC Consensus Will Determine Latin American Candidate
Guatemala Campaigned With Dignity, Would Have Made Excellent
Resolution on Sanctions are Multilateral Negotiation Process /
U.S. Believes We Will Have Strong Resolution / P-5+1 Continues to
Military Exercises / Iran Not Source of Regional Stability
Energy Deal with Russia / Variety of Energy Sources, Deliveries
Travel Plans of U/S Nicholas Burns and U/S Bob Joseph / Tokyo,
Beijing, Seoul on Itinerary
Planning for Six Party Talks / Talks Should be Substantive
U.S. Supports Japanese Efforts to Return Kidnapped Citizens From
SYRIA / IRAN / LEBANON
Reaction to U.S. Accusations About Attempts to Topple Lebanese
Government / UN Security Council Resolutions Speak to Same Issue
U.S. Hopes all Parties Play Positive Role for Lebanon
Syria Should Focus on Neighborly Relations With Lebanon, Open
Composition of Government Up to Lebanese People / U.S. Supports
Those Who Want Democratic Lebanon
Hezbollah is Terrorist Organization, Cannot Operate Outside
Control of Central Government / Central Government Should Have
Monopoly on Use of Force
U.S. Working with Arab League to Restart Negotiations
Transitional Federal Institutions and Islamic Courts / U.S.
Advocates Negotiations, Not Violence
Warden Messages Issued for Kenya and Ethiopia / Terror Networks in
Somalia a Concern
U.S. Encourages Development of Alternate Energy Sources, Including
Peaceful Nuclear Energy
GREECE / TURKEY
Rapprochement / U.S. We Encourage NATO Allies to Resolve
Differences over Aegean
U.S. Supports Efforts of Ahtisaari to Resolve Kosovo Issue by End
U.S. Policy Has Not Changed / U.S. Does Not Support Taiwan
12:18 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Let's just get right into your questions. Who wants to start?
QUESTION: The Nicaraguan election.
MR. MCCORMACK: All right.
QUESTION: There's about three days to go. I wonder what the U.S. position is on the election. There have been suggestions that the U.S. has concerns about the Ortega candidacy and suggested that the process is not exactly democratic and that Ortega and his friends are to blame. I have quotes from the Commerce Secretary, Gutierrez, Ambassador Trivelli and the Adolfo Franco of AID.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Let me just say where the Secretary is on this. She believes that whoever is elected in Nicaragua should be up to the Nicaraguan people and that that election should be an election that is free, fair, transparent not only on election day but in the run-up to that election. Of course, international election observers are going to be in place. I think there's an extensive network that is already in place or going to be in place for the election including the OAS. So we will, of course, look to those international organizations for their assessments about the fairness of the election process in Nicaragua, as I said, not only on election day but in the run-up to the election. So that is where the Secretary stands.
We do not -- we are not trying to shade opinion or to try to take a position. This is a democratic election. If you look around the globe, we do not take positions. We do not try to influence these elections. We do, of course, take steps around the world with overt transparent programs, for example in areas of voter education, helping parties build up their institutional ability to participate in elections. But again, whoever is elected as a result of the Nicaraguan election is going to be a decision solely for the Nicaraguan people to make.
QUESTION: Well, Ambassador Trivelli has made up his mind that the process is already rigged. I think this was in September, he said the democratic institutions have been hijacked by two democratic parties and manipulated in their favor. That's a pretty strong way to describe an election that's three days away and -- I take it you're not going to echo those sentiments?
MR. MCCORMACK: George, I can only tell you where the Secretary is on this. We'll wait to see what the outcome of the election is. We'll wait to see what the considered opinions of outside observers may be concerning the election. And then we'll make an assessment about the fairness and the transparency of the election. But we're not going to try to prejudge an outcome of this election before it happens.
QUESTION: And you're not willing to say that these people are off message?
MR. MCCORMACK: George, I can only tell you where the Secretary is on this.
QUESTION: The representative of USAID in Latin America said that, one, that the U.S. assistance would be reduced in case of an election of Daniel Ortega. So you say it depends on the State Department --
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you know, I haven't seen any specific quotes from anybody, but just as a matter of general United States policy, the course of any bilateral relationship, the course of any U.S. assistance, of course is going to be dictated by the actions of our partners in this regard. If there are any changes in the actions of our partners or the policy of our partners, of course those things get taken into account. But that is something that happens all around the globe. It's not specific to Latin America, Nicaragua, South America. That's just all around the globe.
There are certain requirements for -- and rules and regulations that govern U.S. assistance programs and of course those would apply. But it's not -- this is -- there are not -- there's not a separate set of rules for any given country. People's actions will be measured against their compliance with the rules and regulations. They are quite clear and laid out for everybody to see. But there's no separate set of rules.
QUESTION: You say you don't take any positions, but there have been -- there have been numerous quotations of officials. The Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez --
MR. MCCORMACK: I can only -- as I answered to George, I can only speak on behalf of the Secretary in this regard -- Secretary Rice.
QUESTION: Anything else?
MR. MCCORMACK: New topics.
QUESTION: Latin American elections for $200. (Laughter.) Not actually technically a Latin American election, but do you have any comment on Venezuela throwing in the towel in its effort for the UN Security Council seat? And does this suggest to you that they simply don't have the kind of international support that they might aspire to?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I understand that the GRULAC, the regional grouping, is going to have a meeting. I don't know if they've already had their meeting. And there have been some indications that they are going to, by consensus, agree upon another candidate -- Panama. We'll see if that in fact happens. We'll wait for the moment. If there is a change in the GRULAC consensus about who should be put forward as a candidate.
At this point I can only say that Guatemala has campaigned in this election with, I think some dignity. They've campaigned hard. We have believed throughout this process that they would have made an excellent partner on the UN Security Council. And if in fact there is a decision to put forward another -- a single consensus candidate, in this case Panama, then we would of course support that candidacy, but I don't want to get ahead of the actual process itself.
QUESTION: Could you give us something on the Venezuela question if that is --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, yeah, if in fact that is the decision of the GRULAC group, we'll -- I'll be happy to post something for you guys.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: But does it follow that Venezuela did not campaign with dignity?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we made no secret of the fact that we were -- we supported Guatemala in this race. We think that they did a good job. They were certainly a worthy candidate and we would have looked forward to working with them on the Security Council. And if in fact there's another candidate, and it's Panama, we look forward to working with them and would support their candidacy.
QUESTION: Can I cut in? I always wanted to cut in. China's UN Ambassador and Russia's Foreign Minister are saying --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- they will not support draft -- a resolution on Iran that imposes tough sanctions --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, riding the sine curve of hope and despair, Barry; yes, indeed.
QUESTION: Do you want to rerack to yesterday or the day before or do you want to say something about it again?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, this is a multilateral negotiation process. There, of course, are going to be changes to any particular draft that is out there in the early stages of this. We are working closely with the P-5+1 on a draft. Secretary Rice was on a conference call two days ago. Nick Burns has been working on this issue as well. The bottom line is at the end of these negotiations for -- on a resolution, we believe we are going to get a good strong resolution that sends a message to Iran that it must come into line with what the international community has demanded that they do. And there are going to be plenty of news stories about people wanting to make changes, people unhappy with the specific language; that's all part of the process.
And like I said, at the end of the day, we understand -- we believe that everybody understands that there is an agreement among the P-5+1 at the ministerial level that if Iran failed to comply with the last Security Council resolution then we would go to sanctions -- not the first choice of anybody in that grouping including us. But this is the pathway that Iran is leading us down with their failure to heed the demands, the requirements of the international community.
QUESTION: Strong is pretty clear. Is strong a synonym for robust?
MR. MCCORMACK: Strong, robust, yes.
MR. MCCORMACK: Tough, yes. All good words. All good words.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: What about the meeting scheduled at the ambassador level on this resolution, it was supposed to take place this week? Is it still on the agenda?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if they -- you'll have to check with Ambassador Bolton up in the UN. I haven't checked to see if they've had a formal meeting. I know that he is having a lot of discussions about the resolution this week. Nick Burns is doing the same. The Secretary's involved in this. So I can't tell you if there's been a formal meeting, but I'm sure there has been -- I know that there have been a lot of informal conversations up there in New York.
QUESTION: There was a formal meeting scheduled this weekend. Apparently it doesn't take place.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Again, you know, I wouldn't read too much into it, if that is in fact the case. People are working on this. I know for a fact that there are a lot of conversations going on about it. And this process is going to unfold over the coming days and weeks.
QUESTION: Yeah, Sue.
MR. MCCORMACK: On North Korea, do you have any --
QUESTION: I have a follow-up.
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, okay. Not so fast. Go ahead, yeah.
QUESTION: Iran did serious military exercise today, launching missiles that could reach American business in the Gulf region. Do you have any concerns towards that?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of the assessment of the capabilities of these missiles, I don't have one. The intelligence community, I'm sure, has publicly available documents about what the capabilities of these missiles are. You know, this is -- as I understand it, this is another in a series of military exercises that Iran has conducted in the past. I would expect that they'd conduct more. I wouldn't read anything in particular into the significance of these exercises. I think one thing -- the missile tests certainly have gotten people's attention in terms of the media coverage of them. You know, I can only say one thing, that this kind of behavior, this sort of seeming saber rattling on the part of Iran, I think just underscores the fact that Iran is at this point in time with this regime not a source of stability in the region. I think it is again a source of potential instability and is clearly heading in a different direction from where the rest of the region is going. And I know that's a concern not only of its neighbors in the region but also other countries around the world.
QUESTION: Still on Iran, sort of. There are reports that Russia is trying to form what they call a natural gas alliance with some of their former Soviet republics that have gas and Iran to balance whatever other forces there are in the world in that area. Have you seen those reports? And do you have an --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I haven't. You know, energy is obviously an important topic. It's one that the Secretary has talked about on her travels to Europe. You know, our view is that the markets will make many of these decisions by themselves in terms of what are the most -- what are the best sources for energy, what are the most accessible sources of energy, what are the best ways to get that energy to market. We would encourage a variety of different sources of energy as a matter -- general matter of policy, as well as a variety of different delivery mechanisms, different pathways for pipelines, et cetera. So just as a general statement, that's where we are. I have not seen these reports that you're talking about.
QUESTION: Well, just to follow up, there's actually another report today which you probably have seen, which is that Russia has decided to double the price of gas that goes to Georgia, and the Georgians not surprisingly are saying that this is a political move and retribution for what they did earlier last month. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll -- we'll look into that for you. I hadn't seen those reports.
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on Iran or tangentially related to Iran? It was very clever trying to get that in there.
QUESTION: On North Korea. Do you have any -- or can you release any details of the travel plans of Nicholas Burns?
MR. MCCORMACK: And Bob Joseph.
QUESTION: Bob Joseph.
MR. MCCORMACK: Don't leave Bob out of it.
QUESTION: Are they going together or separately or --
MR. MCCORMACK: They're going to be -- they're going to together.
QUESTION: When? How?
MR. MCCORMACK: By air. (Laughter.) They will be traveling by air. I can tell you that. They're going to be -- the sort of rough travel plans that I have here now are that they will be leaving this weekend. They're going to be traveling to Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul in, I believe, that order. Yes, in that order. And they are also planning right now to meet in Beijing with some of their Russian counterparts, so they are actually going to be able to meet with representatives from the other four members of the six-party talks on this trip.
The President talked yesterday about what their mission is. Very simply, to encapsulate, talk about implementation, continuing implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1718, and also talk about how to create the right conditions, the best atmosphere to prepare for this next round of six-party talks in order to make it an effective round so that we start to see progress, using the September 19th join statement as the starting point. We don't want to go backwards. We want to go forwards. We don't want this just to be about talk. We want it to be about getting some concrete, positive outcomes.
QUESTION: Do you think that there will be any meetings with the North Koreans this time around? Are you anticipating that? Are you ruling that out?
MR. MCCORMACK: What, in the six-party talks?
QUESTION: Mm-hmm, yeah.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well --
QUESTION: Do you think that that could take place in --
QUESTION: -- maybe Beijing? Is that an option?
MR. MCCORMACK: What, the actual six-party talks?
QUESTION: Whether Burns or Joseph --
QUESTION: The six -- the North Koreans might be there --
QUESTION: -- might meet the North Koreans.
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, I get it. I don't anticipate that happening. Don't see that happening.
QUESTION: When are they going to be where? What days?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, let's see. And this is tentative travel schedule so we have arriving Tokyo on Sunday, November 5th, some time in Tokyo on Monday the 6th, departing for Beijing; and then I think the meetings in Beijing really are going to be on the 7th of November. You'll also -- those meetings will continue in Beijing through the 8th and then you also talk to the Russian counterparts there. Then you leave Beijing on -- later on the 8th to travel to Seoul, you have meetings in Seoul on November 9th, and then back here in Washington on Friday, November 10th.
QUESTION: Is Secretary Hill going to accompany them?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't believe he is going to be on this trip. I'll check for you.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll try to get an idea for who else might be accompanying them in terms of, you know, State Department staff or other --
QUESTION: In that regard, is anyone from Treasury going with --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you, Charlie, see if there are other folks that are going to going along with them.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: I have a follow up Treasury and North Korea. There is sort of a twin report from South Korea that Treasury will lift some of the frozen assets, North Korean assets. And the other was that Mr. Hill asked the Chinese to do likewise. Do you -- this is a South Korean report.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't think those -- not to my knowledge. Certainly not the part about Chris Hill. I don't believe the Treasury part is accurate, but just to confirm, you should check with them.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't believe either of those are accurate.
Anything else on North Korea? Elise?
QUESTION: No, new topic.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, North Korea? Yeah.
QUESTION: Japan's announced that they are requesting North Korea hand over a woman involved in the 1978 kidnappings. I think that's occurred today. Is that going to complicate in your opinion the talks or does that in no way impinge on U.S. policy?
MR. MCCORMACK: No -- well, we fully support the efforts of the Japanese Government to get back their citizens who have been abducted.
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry. They requested the extradition of a North Korean intelligence officer involved in the abductions.
MR. MCCORMACK: From where? From the United States?
QUESTION: From North Korea.
MR. MCCORMACK: From North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure how that affects the talks. It sounds like it's a bilateral issue. But let's be clear that, in fact, that we fully support the Japanese Government in their efforts to get back their citizens from North Korea. Anything else on North Korea?
QUESTION: Yeah, just where they're traveling. Under Secretary Burns is going to Beijing?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, yeah. Under Secretary Burns, Under Secretary Joseph. They'll be -- Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul.
QUESTION: And earlier, I think the State Department announced Secretary Burns is going to resume the --
MR. MCCORMACK: Strategic Dialogue.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. That'll be part of what he does when he's in Beijing.
Okay. North Korea? Nothing else on North Korea? All right. Elise.
QUESTION: On Lebanon. On the very tough reaction from Syria and Iran and also forces in Lebanon about your statements from yesterday, what's going on in Lebanon? I'm not sure if you saw comments by General Aoun who kind of denounced the White House statement, denying any involvement in trying to topple the Government and said it's rather U.S. policy in the region that's the problem.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, it's sort of interesting that an individual decided to -- singled himself out regarding a statement that didn't single out any particular individuals. So I'm not sure why he thought that was particularly directed at him. It's an interesting reaction. Look, the statement really focused on two concerns and our statements by Secretary Rice, our UN Ambassador Bolton and then yesterday from Tony Snow and what I've talked about, there are two concerns here. One they concerned that there may be outside powers, Syria and Iran, who are seeking to try to manipulate Lebanese politics to continue to play a negative role in Lebanon's attempts to emerge from the shadows of Syrian occupation, try to build a better way of life for that country, a peaceful, stable, democratic way of life. So there are real concerns about that. There are UN Security Council resolutions that speak to this very issue that demand and mandate that outside states not interfere in Lebanon's internal matters.
The second concern has to do with some of the statements from within Lebanon by some individuals that hint at attempts to influence the Lebanese political system in non-democratic extra constitutional means. That's a source of concern because we stand for a fully developed, stable, peaceful Lebanon. We support the efforts of Prime Minister Siniora, duly elected government by the Lebanese people, at political and economic reform. This is a fledgling democratic movement. We believe it's important that states around the world, states in the region support those efforts. We are not trying to put our finger on the scale here, but what we do support is the efforts of those individuals who want to ensure that Lebanon is once again free from foreign influence and also free from any attempts at non-democratic extra-constitutional means to change their politics.
QUESTION: I know you didn't mention anyone in this particular statement, but one of the goals of Hassan Nasrallah's threat to start these street protests unless there's some kind of unity government where there are a lot of forces in the country that want General Aoun in the unity government because he represents pro Syrian voices. Do you believe that he's one of the individuals that's interested in causing trouble for the Siniora Government?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know I'm not going to try to comment on remarks that I haven't seen myself. I haven't had a chance to fully read through them.
QUESTION: What about his particular role in --
MR. MCCORMACK: We would expect that General Aoun as well as others would try to play a positive role in furthering efforts at democratic political reform as well as economic reform.
QUESTION: I want to ring in.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: On Iran --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the usual question whether there's any -- the Secretary did any --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we'll come back to you.
QUESTION: -- any telephoning around to a member of the P-5+1? Did she get them back on the phone trying to facilitate the resolution?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we did -- I talked about the call two days ago.
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new since then.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: In the same context of my colleague here, but you know the Syrian Government yesterday issued a statement saying that Syria fully respects the sovereignty of Lebanon and does not interfere in its internal politics. The Speaker of the House of Lebanon seems to also not like very much the statement of the United States yesterday. He put that in the context -- I was wondering if that comes in the context of what you call constructive chaos in the area? Whether you agree him or not, but that's what he believes. He is the Speaker of the Parliament there. And he particularly was very disturbed by the fact that the United States does not see itself defending Lebanon when the Israeli airplanes fly over -- violates the Lebanese sovereignty every day. Why you don't speak out to this?
Thirdly, there are other people in the Middle East today, they are talking about wondering whether the United States was trying to reward Kamal Jumblatt, who was a very divisive figure in Lebanon.
QUESTION: What's the question?
QUESTION: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: What's the question?
QUESTION: I mean, they were wondering why the United States chose to issue such a statement while Walid Jumblatt was trying ahead for campaign against Syria and other forces in Lebanon.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not going to comment on, you know, Speaker Berri's remarks. He obviously has a right to express his opinions.
In terms of Syria, you know, pardon me if I'm a little skeptical. This is a country that has refused to open up formal diplomatic relations with Lebanon. They don't have an embassy in Beirut. So that would be a good first step and maybe establishing the good, transparent, neighborly relations that I believe the Lebanese want as opposed to continuing to view Lebanon as one of its clients, a former -- an area that it formerly occupied. The Lebanese people desire to be a free, sovereign nation. So I would just put it to the Syrian Government that they might start by opening up an embassy in Beirut and actually starting to treat Lebanon like a free, sovereign country that it is.
QUESTION: Well, you've never said necessarily explicitly whether you support the creation of a unity government or you think that the government -- I know you support Prime Minister Siniora, but should the government stand as is or should there be a unity government? I mean, you said that Nabih Berri is entitled to speak, you know, as an individual, but this is someone that the Secretary has met before, has tried to encourage to play a positive role, and he's one of the people that's calling for a national unity government. So what's your position on whether --
MR. MCCORMACK: Our position --
QUESTION: Should the government be expanded to be more inclusive?
MR. MCCORMACK: Our position is that the Lebanese Government, the Lebanese leadership and the Lebanese people should decide how they are arranged politically in Lebanon. We shouldn't dictate it. Nobody else should dictate it to them.
In terms of the composition of the government, that is something that is going to be up to ultimately Lebanese political leadership. They will have to sort that out themselves. We of course reserve the right to not deal with certain individuals. There are two Hezbollah cabinet ministers in this current government. We don't deal with them because of our well known views with respect to Hezbollah.
But all we can do is we can stand with those people who want to see a better, more democratic, more free way of life for the Lebanese people. Certainly Prime Minister Siniora is one of those people and we support him in his efforts at political and economic reform.
QUESTION: Is Nabih Berri another?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we are working with all individuals in the Lebanese political constellation who have an interest in playing a positive role in Lebanon's future.
QUESTION: Sean, with regard to this, Hezbollah was ordered in the UN to cease and desist, and the Syrians were asked, back with UN 1559, to leave Lebanon in more ways than one. They still have the political influence there. Are you saying -- your comments and what Elise has just said -- that Hezbollah should refrain from any more political entries into that political process which would then undermine further UN 1559?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, our views on Hezbollah are well known. We believe Hezbollah is a terrorist organization and that they cannot have one foot in the camp of terror and one foot in the camp of politics. You also can't have militias, such as Hezbollah has, that operate outside the control of the central government. The central government needs to have a monopoly on the use of force and to maintain law and order in a country, in a democracy. That's just the way it works.
QUESTION: So in other words, what you're saying is you wish to tell the Lebanese Government now that Hezbollah can't run for offices, can't have any further --
MR. MCCORMACK: That's not our judgment. What we're saying is that the Lebanese people, the Lebanese electorate needs to resolve what is a fundamental contradiction here. You have a terrorist group and a terrorist group that has its own militias that operate outside the control of the central government, yet they say they want to participate in the central government. That's a fundamental contradiction. So that's what we're saying. They need -- the Lebanese people need to resolve that. UN Security Council resolutions make clear that Hezbollah needs to disarm but it is the Lebanese people and the Lebanese electorate that needs to decide that. We can't do that for them. That's a question that they need to answer for themselves.
QUESTION: On Somalia.
QUESTION: Just one quick one on this.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Could you address from just a couple of minutes ago the question of the overflights, the Israeli overflights? Do you believe that they are in fact actually violating Lebanese airspace? Is that your belief?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll look into it, Nicholas.
QUESTION: The collapse of talks between the Transitional Government and the Islamic Courts Movement, a lot of concern of a rapid deterioration of the situation there. What, if anything, is the United States doing to prevent --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're trying to work with the Arab League, which sponsored the talks in Khartoum, to try to get the parties back together. We believe -- the Islamic Courts placed some conditions on going back to the courts. We don't think that those are appropriate. We think that they should return to the talks without condition, get these two parties together.
It's an extremely difficult situation in Somalia right now. This is a country that has been wracked by violence for two decades. It's very said. But we believe that the most hopeful course forward is -- begins with the Transitional Federal Institutions and the Islamic Courts coming together. We don't believe that the Islamic Courts are a monolithic institution; there are a variety of different factions within the Islamic Courts that are vying for -- to control what path the Islamic Courts will take.
So we are trying to encourage a political discussion as opposed to the kinds of -- the ways that disputes in Somalia have been for the past two decades resolved via use of violence. We would advocate resolving any differences through the -- through negotiations, coming together around the table.
QUESTION: And the neighboring countries? Concerns about their involvement? I mean, you spoke about it the other day but it's getting a little more pressing.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, there are concerns that the situation -- the current situation in Somalia -- might lend itself to wider violence in the region. And we are doing everything that we can to see that that does not happen. We would call upon Somalia's neighbors to play a positive role in Somalia and not use the situation in Somalia as a way to further destabilize the situation there.
QUESTION: How's that message going out and presumably not just you saying it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, through our embassies.
QUESTION: The U.S. embassies in Nairobi, in Addis Ababa, issued Warden Messages --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- in which they spoke of terrorist threats emanating from extremist elements within Somalia which are targeting Kenya and Ethiopia and surrounding countries.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Also the suicide explosions were mentioned as one particular threat. Who are these extremist elements that you are referring to within this Warden Message? Are you referring to the Islamists or who are you referring to?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not going to get into specifics, but we have over quite a period of time talked about our concerns about the presence of terrorist elements in Somalia. I'm not trying to -- there are very discrete groupings within Somalia and we have had concerns about them in the past. When you get some specific information that raises concerns, you -- as a government we issue these kinds of warnings. We think it's important that publics are -- our publics are informed anytime we get this kind of -- get information that we deem is a specific threat and we try to disseminate that in an efficient way. One way to do that is through a Warden Message.
QUESTION: The U.S. embassy has been attacked -- well, in 1998 it was attacked in Kenya, Nairobi. There were the attacks in Mombassa plus in Dar es Salaam. Are you stepping up security at your embassy or taking any special measures?
MR. MCCORMACK: What typically happens in these cases is that embassies' Emergency Action Committees will get together. This is -- these are the senior most representatives within the embassy community and they'll get together and take a look at the information that they have and then decide what action -- what other further actions they might need to take if any to best protect not only the embassy but American citizens in their country.
QUESTION: You talk about these different factions within the Islamists, what -- could you give us some more details of how you see those different factions because some people say that some of those factions are based outside of Somalia within the Islamists, some say that they were within Somalia but scattered around the country with different beliefs. How do you see them?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not an expert in Somali politics, but there -- I think the bottom line is that we have concerns about the presence of terrorist elements in Somalia that have links to terrorist elements outside of Somalia. And that's a great concern for us. There are -- there's a variety of different stripes of individuals who have different views on the use of violence and the mixture of violence in politics in Somalia. I can't get into a long discussion trying to talk about where everybody fits in that particular spectrum. But there are -- for us the greatest concern are those terrorist elements that have links to outside terrorist groups.
Anything else on Somalia? Yes.
QUESTION: A Russian official said today that Russia would take part in a tender for the construction of nuclear power stations in Egypt as Mubarak is visiting Russia now. What are your comments on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of development of peaceful nuclear energy in Egypt or any other responsible country around the world, we encourage that. Secretary Rice said as much when we were in Egypt. Egypt is a growing country with significant energy needs going well out into the future. And we have talked about the importance of developing alternative sources of energy to petrochemicals, and the Egyptian Government, while Secretary Rice was in the region, expressed an interest in development of peaceful nuclear energy. And certainly we encourage the development of peaceful nuclear energy by responsible states.
Yeah. Let's move to the back here. Lambros.
QUESTION: Yes, on Greece and Turkey. Mr. McCormack, the Turkish Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff General Buyukanit for the first time in history is in an official visit in Athens to discuss ways of improving mutual understanding in CBM, confidence building measures. And the spokesman of the Greek Foreign Ministry George Koumoutsakos said today that the contacts between the two countries are positive and useful. Any comment on this rapprochement since the U.S., as you know very well, is involved for a long time on the improvement of the Greek-Turkish relations over the Aegean and Cyprus issues?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, I agree with my friend George and his comments. It is positive. There are longstanding differences on a variety of different topics between Greece and Turkey. These are two good friends, two NATO allies and we encourage them to resolve their differences over the Aegean as well as other issues. It is a good step, a good, positive step.
QUESTION: May I go to Kosovo? New York Times today reported, "In the next few months Kosovo is likely winning independence finally from Serbia including a titanic struggle by the UN and Western governments to close a chapter that began the ethnic warfare there." May we have your assessment?
MR. MCCORMACK: My assessment is Mr. Ahtisaari is working on this issue with Ambassador Wisner, who is working closely with him. We support the original timeline that Mr. Ahtisaari laid out as trying to get -- find a solution by the end of the year, right around the end of the year. That's the timeline he's working on. We support him in his efforts.
QUESTION: And a follow-up. And further the same New York Times, "The U.S. and western Europe have hoped that a Kosovo agreement would end the recent violent dispute over borders and avoid the need for a very heavy international civilian and military presence." May we assume that the Balkans will be policed since the Kosovar Albanians, as you know, Mr. McCormack, are armed up to the teeth by unknown forces.
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll have to look into your question for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: On Taiwan. A few weeks ago the State Department put out a statement calling on Taiwan's President Chen to abide by his commitments not to permit the constitutional reform passes to touch on sovereignty issues. But yesterday in an interview with the Financial Times, Chen suggested a freeze of Taiwan's constitution and adoption of a new one so he can -- I mean the new constitution can refine the whole territory and sovereignty issue. And he said technically this would not break his commitments to the U.S. and would not change its status quo as long as the current constitution is frozen and intact. Does the U.S. accept this explanation?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have some points here for you. The United States does not support independence for Taiwan. We are opposed to unilateral changes to the status quo by either side. We take seriously President Chen's repeated commitments not to permit the constitutional reform process to touch on sovereignty issues including territorial definition.
President Chen's fulfillment of his commitment will be a test of leadership, dependability and statesmanship as well as his ability to protect Taiwan's interest, its relations with others and to maintain peace and stability in the Strait.
QUESTION: Wow, (inaudible.)
MR. MCCORMACK: You're a pot-stirrer, Barry.
QUESTION: Just one more thing. One Iraq, a senior U.S. general today compared Iraq to a work of art in progress. I just wondered whether this was a description that you thought was an accurate description?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen those particular comments.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:58 p.m.)
DPB # 178
Released on November 2, 2006