State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 7, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
November 7, 2006
Election of Panama to UN Security Council Seat for Latin America
and the Caribbean
US Encourages Dialogue Between Transitional Federal Institutions
and the Islamic Courts
US Bilateral Relationship with Eritrea
Leaked Polish Memo and Reported Remarks by US Deputy Chief of
Mission in Warsaw
Status of UN Security Council Resolution on Iran / USUN Ambassador
International Energy Agency Report on World Energy Outlook
Reports US Ambassador Khalilzad Planning to Leave
Secretary Rice's Phone Call with Former President Carter
Secretary Rice and Voting Opportunity
Update on Election Results / Assessment of Election Process
Secretary Rice's Relationship with New Indian Foreign Minister
Reports of Planned Resumption of Talks Between India and Pakistan
Trial of Three American Citizens and Upcoming Visit to Vietnam by
Travel by Under Secretary Burns and Under Secretary Joseph to
Resumption of Six-Party Talks and Possible Date
Human Rights Situation in Pakistan
12:35 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I hope you've all voted or intend to vote.
QUESTION: Happy Election Day.
MR. MCCORMACK: Happy Election Day. I have one brief -- speaking of elections -- one brief statement for you. We'll put out in paper format after this.
Today's election of Panama to the non-permanent Latin American seat on the UN Security Council completes this year's non-permanent election process. The United States congratulates Panama, South Africa, Indonesia, Italy and Belgium on their election to the Security Council and we look forward to working with them on the many important issues before the Council. These five countries will begin their two-year terms on January 1st, 2007. We also congratulate Guatemala on its serious and dignified campaign for the Security Council. Guatemala would be an excellent member for the Council and we are pleased that Guatemala has announced its candidacy for the Council for the years 2012-2013.
QUESTION: Are there any other serious candidates to congratulate? Fill us in.
MR. MCCORMACK: That's what we've got there, Barry.
QUESTION: Okay. On Somalia making a move to take in the Islamic movement to try to avoid fighting, chaos, whatever that usually happens when there's an Islamic movement moving in. Do you have any comment on it? It's not a fait accompli. But Somalia's most powerful lawmaker offered the country's Islamic movement a role in government, but it said it must pull back its militia to avoid a looming war. Do you think something positive afoot here?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have encouraged dialogue between the Transitional Federal Institutions and the Islamic Courts, which are not a monolithic movement. There are various factions within the Courts that are competing for control over which way they're going to head. We would hope that they would play a positive role in Somalia and that by coming together with the Transitional Federal Institutions, the TFI, they can chart a better future for Somalia than they've had over the past couple of decades. But that is our general policy, Barry. I haven't seen these particular statements so --
QUESTION: Okay. There are peace talks going on, yeah?
MR. MCCORMACK: There are a number of efforts to try to get the two sides to come together and chart a common pathway forward. That would be positive. Yeah.
QUESTION: On Somalia.
MR. MCCORMACK: Somalia? Okay.
QUESTION: You talked last week about other countries in the neighborhood and their involvement or that they should perhaps stay away. Eritrea has been supporting the Islamic Courts and as we learned from the answer to a taken question yesterday, USAID has been -- was kicked out of Eritrea almost a year ago. How would you describe your relationship with Eritrea right now regarding not only with Somalia but also bilateral relations and the fact that they are not allowing your government agency to function in Eritrea when there is a lot of need for helping development and people in Eritrea?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we want to have a good relationship with Eritrea. There are a lot of outstanding issues in which we have an interest that need to be resolved including the final demarcation of the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, also the Horn of Africa is a place that we're watching quite closely. There's a lot of activity there. Somalia's obviously a real concern. There have been some bumps in the road with Eritrea recently. You point out a couple of the issues, but we want to have a good relationship with Eritrea. And if there are any issues that we need to resolve then we're ready to work through them. But, no, there have been a couple of bumps in the road recently.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Polish Public Radio.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Deputy U.S. Ambassador in Warsaw suggested that the Polish Prime Minister should fire Deputy Prime Minister Roman Giertych after he had proposed a debate on Iraq. Do you find such a suggestion appropriate? Don't you think that the U.S. diplomat went too far and what's going to happen to him?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, all of your question comes about because of a leaked memo from -- I don't know what sources -- but a Polish Government account of the meeting that they had with our Deputy Chief of Mission Mr. Hillas. Look, we don't comment on leaked memos or confidential conversations. We were a bit surprised by the Minister of Education's comments, but it's not for us to pick and choose or even comment publicly on the composition of the Polish Government. Poland is a good friend and ally, a very close friend and ally. As a matter of fact, Iraq was a very small portion of this conversation as I understand it. And we're going to move forward and work together with the Polish Government, this Polish Government, all members of the Polish Government, on issues of mutual concern.
QUESTION: But I'm not asking for your comment on Polish Government, but on the U.S. diplomat suggestions. Have you talked to him? Did you ask him if it was true, if the reports were true?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, this all comes up because of this leaked confidential memo. We have diplomatic private conversations with members of the Polish Government all the time. We don't comment on them. And as I said before, it's not for us to comment publicly about the composition of the Polish Government; that's for the Polish political leadership and the Polish people to decide not for us to decide.
QUESTION: On Iran.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: The draft resolution from the Europeans went to the full Security Council today.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: And Bolton came out and said that the Russians seemed to be breaking with their past agreements on this. He said their position today is not consistent with what the foreign ministers decided earlier. Where is that at and is the United States still not a co-sponsor of this resolution and why?
MR. MCCORMACK: We're going to work through all of these things. I mean, again we're, you know, we have the ups and downs of the multilateral negotiating process, but all that matters is at the end of the day we are going to get a Security Council resolution that imposes sanctions under Article 41 of Chapter 7 on Iran for its failure to comply with the previous Security Council resolutions. So for us that's the objective. We're going to get there. We're going to get there with the P-5+1. We have an agreement with them. There's an understanding. Everybody knows what that is. And the understanding is that we now, absent Iranian compliance with what the international community has demanded of them, go to a sanctions resolution.
Now the Russians have their own views on how hard to press the Iranians and how fast to do that. We understand that. We understand the logic behind it. We think it is important, however, for the credibility of the Security Council and the entire international community that we now go to a sanctions resolution. The object here -- the ultimate diplomatic objective here is to get the Iranians to live up to their commitments, to come clean with the IAEA and to have a peaceful nuclear energy program under conditions that give the international community objective assurances that they are not trying to develop a nuclear weapon. We, as well as others, have grave concerns about their activities right now. So that's what we're trying to get them to do, get them to change their behavior. And the way we're trying to do that it is to ratchet up the diplomatic pressure on them, gradually to increase the diplomatic pressure on them. And as I've said, part of this is going to be a Security Council resolution that we're going to get to.
QUESTION: But why isn't the U.S. -- I mean, what's keeping the U.S. from co-sponsoring this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we support the UN -- the European draft --
QUESTION: Then why can't you co-sponsor it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, there's time left in this process, you can join as a co-sponsor at any point along the way. The fact of the matter is we support and have supported the European draft from the very beginning.
QUESTION: Not withstanding your comments about the objective, in terms of what Mr. Bolton said, does the Secretary agree with his comments?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we're in the diplomatic process with the Russians as well as others. Do we wish that we had had a resolution by now? Sure. Of course we do. But we are going to get to one. I'm not going to put it -- the next question is well, what -- how long is it going to take? Is it going to be by Thanksgiving?
We're going to get there. I'm not going to put a time on it. We believe that the matter merits some degree of urgency just because as we have these discussions, the Iranians are proceeding along their merry way, you know, spinning their centrifuges, getting every single day a little bit better at this. Our objective is to make sure that they don't get really good at it and be able to perfect their techniques so that they can produce highly enriched uranium with those centrifuges. We believe the way you stop that is by increasing the diplomatic pressure on them. It's important to speak with one voice on this matter; ultimately. There can be debates along the way, we understand that. But ultimately the signal that is sent to the Iranians must be a clear, strong one.
QUESTION: Sean, it might just be me, but I think there is something different today because for months the Secretary and everybody has said -- I mean, she said and I quote, that she's quite confident that something will come out and the Russians will observe the decisions of the ministers. Now, Ambassador Bolton comes out today and basically accuses Russia of backtracking, and he's either expressing the views of the Secretary or he's freelancing, which I don't think he is because he's got his nomination still in the Senate for the permanent position --
MR. MCCORMACK: But we think --
QUESTION: -- so what's going on?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, the Secretary believes we're going to get a resolution. Everybody understands what their commitments are, including the Russians, and we expect everybody is going to follow through on them.
Yeah. Anything else on Iran? Yeah.
QUESTION: Question on energy. Today the International Energy Agency released its annual World Energy Outlook report. And I wondered if you would comment on -- apparently this is the first time that agency has ever endorsed nuclear power as a solution to the global energy crunch.
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen the report, but President Bush has been a proponent and is a proponent of the development of peaceful nuclear energy. We face around the globe as countries increase their demands for energy as their economies expand, as social services expand, infrastructure services expand into different areas, there's a real demand for energy. And one of the ways to meet those increasing demands, both here and abroad is a development of peaceful nuclear energy. And that, of course, has to be done under proper restrictions. We have our own proposals with respect to the provision of fuel for those nuclear reactors. But we are -- the President and we are on record as supporters of that, of course, within the constraints of this being done with proper safeguards and that the states develop it in a responsible and safe manner.
QUESTION: One follow-up. Do you feel this will give a new impetus to the nuclear power industry's expansion plans, including in countries that, say, have hesitated thus far to include it?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you. Those will be market-based decisions.
QUESTION: Sean, can you address reports about Ambassador Khalilzad's future? There are accounts that he's on his way out. Even a successor has been mentioned. Could you deal with that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Yeah, Zal is doing -- I just asked the Secretary about this because I've seen the news reports -- the Secretary thinks Zal is doing a great job on behalf of her, as well as the President, in Iraq. It's tough circumstances and he has no immediate plans to go anywhere. He has a lot on his plate. The President and the Secretary have a lot for him -- a lot left for him to do there in Iraq and I don't think he has any immediate plans to leave.
QUESTION: These reports aren't talking really about immediate plans, but at the end of the year, a change or --
MR. MCCORMACK: Eventually we all leave. (Laughter.) Okay. Eventually, yeah -- eventually we all depart. Like I said, he has no immediate plans to leave.
QUESTION: Nicaragua. Did -- Jimmy Carter said he spoke this morning with Secretary Rice.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, that's right.
QUESTION: Can you give us any readout on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: Well, he said that she said that if Ortega -- if his election is confirmed, which it looks like it's going to happen, and if the Ortega government reaches out in a respectful way to the United States, that the United States would reciprocate and deal with his government.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think my answer would be very similar to the one you heard yesterday. The election results aren't yet final. I know things are trending in a certain direction, but we're not going to have any final pronouncements about the election until the results are final and certified.
We in the United States have made a commitment to the Nicaraguan people. We have, in good faith, we have negotiated the CAFTA deal; we have an MCC Compact, Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact, with some areas of Nicaragua which I think are actually under the leadership control -- political leadership control of Mr. Ortega's party. So they have an interest in continuing that relationship. We have also worked on debt relief with them. So we have -- we, the United States, have made very clear that we want to have a good relationship with the Nicaraguan people and we've acted on that and we've shown that.
Look, we'll see. Again, I'm not going to prejudge the outcome of an election that to this point and what we have seen thus far has been free from violence. People will make their assessments about whether or not it was a free, fair election, but I can't make those assessments right now. I'm not trying to suggest otherwise, but we're just going to wait until the assessments are in and we'll see. We'll see what government this election produces. We'll see what the platform of that government is. But we have very clearly demonstrated our commitment to the Nicaraguan people.
MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal.
QUESTION: Sean, India has a new Foreign Minister, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee. The Secretary met him when he was Defense Minister at the UN last month.
MR. MCCORMACK: That's right.
QUESTION: She had a good relationship with Mr. Manmohan Singh, the former, who was ousted on corruption charges. What do you think how she can work with this new Foreign Minister of India?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure that she's going to work quite well with him. You pointed out that they met together while at the UN. He was Defense Minister at the time. He's a very accomplished individual. He brings with him a lot of experience to the job as Foreign Minister operating on a world stage. India is a very important partner for the United States. We are in the course of changing that relationship and deepening and broadening our ties. So I'm sure she's going to work very closely with him and looks forward to working with him on a number of different issues of mutual concern.
QUESTION: Another little question. India and Pakistan talks were stalled because of India's blame that Pakistan was behind the bombings in Bombay and elsewhere. Now the talks are ready to go next week in Delhi and then following in Islamabad. There was a conference yesterday by the Kashmiri people and they are saying that Kashmiris should be part of the talks. So where the U.S. stands now as far as India-Pakistan talks are concerned and the Kashmir issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see if there's anything we can get for you, Goyal, on that.
QUESTION: On Vietnam? They apparently have decided today to put these three American citizens on trial on terrorism charges. Some say they're just anti-government activities they're involved with. Do you have any concerns especially now just over a week before the President visits Vietnam?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have for some time asked that the judicial process move forward in one direction or another. Either these people are charged or they're released. We now understand that they are charged, and what we would ask is that any judicial proceedings proceed in a free -- in a fair and transparent manner. We, of course, have been watching this issue quite closely. At this point, I don't expect that this is going to affect the Secretary's trip to Vietnam or the President's trip. You can ask the White House more specifically, but I don't think they'll have a different answer to that question. But we want to make sure that these people, now that they have been charged, proceed through the judicial process in a way that is transparent, that fully respects their rights, and that is done in a relatively speedy manner.
QUESTION: Does the Secretary plan to say that when she goes to Hanoi?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would just stay tuned. You coming with us?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, good. Well, you can look for yourself.
MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?
QUESTION: Are you able to say anything Â– it may be too personal a question -- did she get a chance to vote today?
MR. MCCORMACK: She did. Well, she didn't vote today. She's -- she votes in California via absentee ballot.
QUESTION: Oh, I see.
MR. MCCORMACK: But she did, yes.
QUESTION: One on North Korea.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: Have Under Secretary Burns and Joseph already arrived in Beijing or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I believe they have. I believe they have.
QUESTION: And any further indication of when the talks might resume?
MR. MCCORMACK: No dates yet.
Let's do a couple more.
QUESTION: One more, please. Sean, does the Department follow, as far as human rights are concerned, in Sindh and Balochistan, because yesterday there was a conference at George Washington University by the Sindhis and Blochis that human rights violations in their part in Pakistan. And also human rights chairwoman from Pakistan was also here in Washington, if she met anybody at the State Department because she was also blaming and saying that General Musharraf and his military government is suppressing the people in Balochistan and Sindh.
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you about the meeting. But in terms of human rights, it doesn't matter religion, ethnic background, nationality, we believe respect for human rights is a very important -- very important for any government. They are universal rights that we believe all human beings have a right to and deserve, and we speak out in favor of those regardless of what country it happens to be. And it's an important component of any bilateral relationship we have.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, great.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:55 p.m.) DPB # 181
Released on November 7, 2006