State Dept. Daily Press Briefing December 14, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
December 14, 2006
Incident at Gaza Border / Prime Minister Haniyah Stopped From
Entering Gaza with Illegal Amounts of Cash
Violence Between Hamas and Fatah / U.S. Working With Others to
Strengthen Security, Provide Support / Collaborative Approach
U.S. Law Allows Funding on Case by Case Basis
Bulgarian Nurses Case / U.S. Position Unchanged
Formation of New Governing Coalition is Iraqi-Generated idea
UNSC Draft Resolution
Concern About Iran and Syria Destabilizing Region
Travel of Assistant Secretary Welch
Treasury Department-led Bilateral Working Group Within Six-Party
Andrew Natsios’ Travel and Meeting Agenda
Sudan Will Issue Visas for UN Logistical Experts
AU-UN Force Discussed
NATO Has Played Role in Logistics
1:00 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, no statements to open up. Who wants to start?
QUESTION: Could I ask you if you could shed any light on the Haniyah incident in Gaza?
MR. MCCORMACK: As the facts or what --
QUESTION: Anything. It's very sketchy.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we've seen a lot of the press reports, Barry. I don't have any sort --
QUESTION: Any independent --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- of first-hand independent confirmation. But my understanding is that he was carrying a bunch of cash, trying to carry a bunch of cash into Palestinian areas. He was stopped from reentering. I suspect that this was in contravention of Palestinian Authority laws and regulations and President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority were enforcing their laws. This is really something for the Palestinians to work out among themselves.
QUESTION: Two questions. One is the Beijing human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng was put -- was reported to put under trial, a separate trial in Beijing, for charge of the subversion of the state and government. And the second question is about Hong Kong democrat party has won more than 100 seats for the election committee, so is there any comments from the State?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll get you something on both of those.
QUESTION: Palestinian territories --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: The recent violence between apparently Hamas and other factions and dangers of that kind of getting out of control. One of the main initiatives that Secretary Rice has been doing in the Middle East is to boost the security forces loyal to President Abbas. What exactly -- there doesn't seem to have been much progress made in that. Can you -- is there any update on exactly what's been done to strengthen his security forces?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we've been working with others. It is not just a United States effort. This is a number of different countries involved in providing salary support, providing training, providing equipment, providing uniforms, communications, all that sort of thing. So this is -- various countries have various parts of this.
QUESTION: Those things have been arriving in the territories?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, they have not yet. We, working with others, have been trying to generate support for that and there are a lot of pledges and commitments. Obviously there are a lot of logistical elements to this to work out as well. From our standpoint, we're working with the Congress to get some -- to get authorization for more money to be released so that we can assist in that regard, providing logistical support, uniforms and that sort of thing, helping out with training, helping out with materiel. I don't have a specific breakdown yet, but this is something that would require working with Congress to get the funding released.
QUESTION: And is one of the logistic problems you're running into Israeli approval of delivering these --
MR. MCCORMACK: You have to understand (inaudible). It's not -- no, I wouldn't say necessarily that the Israelis have been a particular obstacle to this. It's working out funding mechanisms, making sure that you do a specific needs assessment of what these forces really need. You know, part of it is also organizational, and again this is what General Ward was doing and General Dayton is doing now. So he works very well with the Palestinians. He works well with the Israelis as well. He was back here with David Welch, so they went up to the Hill to talk about this issue as well a couple of weeks ago. And we're working with others in the region. The Egyptians are also deeply involved in this.
QUESTION: Just one last thing on the Badr Brigade. Has there been any progress on getting them deployed from Jordan to Gaza as well?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't checked on it recently, but I don't believe that they have been deployed.
QUESTION: So are you confident that Congress will allow you to channel more funding to Abbas for his security forces? Is the problem in Congress?
MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't say it's a problem. This is a collaborative effort. This is a part of an effort on our part going to the Congress in the recent weeks to talk about this, so I wouldn't characterize it as Congress being an obstacle. This is a collaborative approach. Because of the fact that you have the Palestinian Authority government run by Hamas, you want to make sure that there's a full understanding and there's full approval and support from the Congress in order to do these things if gets into reprogramming of money and that sort of thing.
QUESTION: Under U.S. law, could you technically provide assistance?
MR. MCCORMACK: As long as -- and again, this gets into the lawyers' assessments of these things. But there have been -- there has been (a) humanitarian support and also other kinds of support that have flowed to President Abbas and bureaucratic entities associated with President Abbas and that would report directly to him separate and apart from the Hamas-led government. So that, the determination of our lawyers, some -- has been that some of that kind of assistance has been allowed to flow. But you do it on a case-by-case basis.
QUESTION: This goes way beyond humanitarian assistance. This is --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no --
QUESTION: -- money for guns or money for whatever --
MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't characterize it necessarily as that, but support for the security services. There are a lot of different ways that we and others can participate and help out with those security services.
QUESTION: One more question on Haniyah. The money that he was apparently trying to carry across was $35 million that he got on his recent shopping tour. A lot of that came from Iran. I wonder whether you have any comment.
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't vouch for whether or not that amount is accurate. Again, this flies in the face of the will of the international community in terms of the rules that it has laid down and I think that it bumps up against Palestinian regulations as well.
QUESTION: So just to clarify, you support what Israel has done, stopping him getting back in?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I understand this is more something between the -- among various Palestinian factions. I think that some of the confrontation, at least as it's reported in the media, has been between Palestinians, between President Abbas's Presidential Security Guard and some of Hamas that's, I assume, either traveling with or in some way associated with Mr. Haniyah.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the money that Qatar had promised for schoolteachers?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think probably good to ask them, but I think we're working with them, as we talked about before, in terms of getting any sort of assistance (a) funneled through the proper channels and (b) funneled to the appropriate destinations, meaning humanitarian support for the Palestinians.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on a Miami Herald story about a Swiss envoy from Havana coming to deliver a message from Raul Castro to U.S. officials?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I hadn't heard about it. Happy to look into it for you.
QUESTION: On Kosovo.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. A U.S. citizen of ethnic Albanian, Mr. McCormack, named Doda, D-o-d-a, Ljucaj, L-j-u-c-a-j, 50 years old from Michigan, charged with plotting an insurgency in Montenegro, has been arrested at the airport of Vienna, Austria, attempting to fly illegally to the United States. Do you have anything on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have no information concerning this particular case. I'll look into it for you, and if it's something upon which we would usually comment, then we'll offer --
QUESTION: A similar one. A new Albanian organization under the title ANA, A-N-A, Albanian National Army, appears in the streets of Kosovo, creating security problems using American weapons, ignoring totally local authorities, NATO and the UN Administrator. I am wondering do you consider its members terrorists or just freedom fighters, and do you have anything on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would have to look into the particular facts of this organization and their activities and get you back an answer.
QUESTION: And the last one on HIV. Since a Libyan court is expected to deliver a verdict on December 19th to punish with death penalty five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who infected 426 children with HIV virus using pills for the first time in the history of this deadly disease, may we know the U.S. position on this issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: Our position is well known on this. It is a terrible, terrible tragedy that so many innocents lost their life. It is, however, our position that those nurses and medics should be returned to their home country at the earliest possible moment.
Here we are. Kirit.
QUESTION: There are reports that a North Korean delegation is going to be meeting with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson in the coming days and they've also traveled to Georgia. I'm just wondering what the decision was to extend their visas to travel outside of New York.
MR. MCCORMACK: News to me. There is, on occasion, requests to travel outside the 25-mile limit outside of New York. Those are looked at on a case-by-case basis. I'll look into it for you, Kirit.
QUESTION: Apparently, Iraqi Vice President Hashimi has said that many of the U.S. officials he saw this week had spoken of the need to form a new governing coalition which brought in more moderate voices. I just wondered whether you had any reaction. Was this something that Secretary Rice had spoken to him about?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is actually -- this is something that is occurring within the Iraqi political system and Mr. Hakim when he was through town seeing the President and Secretary Rice talked about this as well. There's been news reporting about it. I've seen it in the newspapers and the wire services. Mr. Hashimi also brought it up.
It is -- this is an Iraqi-generated idea, an Iraqi-generated initiative, and as I understand it is an attempt to, through what we would all recognize as political bargaining and compromise, trying to form a political grouping that would form the basis of action for passing various laws and coming up with some of -- coming up with a group of people that could help push forward the process of coming to those political compromises that we all know the Iraqis have to come to within their political system. Obviously it gets to the root of issues like de-Baathification and national reconciliation, dealing with the militias.
So I think it is an attempt within the Iraqi political system to get together those likeminded people who want to move the process forward and deal with some of the tough issues that they have before them.
QUESTION: And is it something you would support, that you are in favor of?
MR. MCCORMACK: This is for the Iraqis to decide. It's not anything that's generated out of the United States or an idea that we have brought to them. This is something that they came to us with to talk about it, to describe it, let us know what they're doing.
QUESTION: There's a case that's been brought up here before, a case of an Iranian businessman who sued the United States for kidnapping and was -- won the suit an in Iranian court which -- for $500 million and there's some threat against the U.S. Embassy compound in Tehran to seize that and sell it or something to pay for it.
Now, apparently there was a writ that was delivered by the Pakistan Embassy this week to the U.S. Government. Do you know anything about that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check it out for you.
QUESTION: Can you check it out?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: On Iran, now that it appears the Russians have finally been satisfied with the latest text of the resolution up in New York, are you -- how close do you think -- well, let me rephrase. I know you don't do numbers. But does it look like that perhaps in the next few days there might be a resolution that finally would go out of --
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see. We'll see. You know I don't do predictions on when the Security Council will vote on particular resolutions. It's about time. It's time to vote and we would hope that that vote would occur in the near future.
QUESTION: Well, the Secretary talked about narrowing differences the other day. That still seems there is a little gap --
MR. MCCORMACK: We're chipping away. We're chipping away at all of -- chipping away at all the sort of various issues that are still on the table. Some of these get down to substance. Some of them get down to language fixes. So we are trying to narrow this down to the point where in the near future everybody can make all the compromises that need to be made and we can get to a vote.
QUESTION: Ambassador Wang said earlier this week that he didn't think that the travel bans and the financial restrictions should be part of the resolution. Do you have any response to that?
MR. MCCORMACK: We support the European draft that's on the table now that includes all of those things.
QUESTION: But would that be -- would that be something that if you needed to go back and negotiate --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to negotiate from here.
QUESTION: The Washington Post is quoting U.S. officials saying that the National Security Advisor of Saudi Arabia, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, visited Washington recently and urged the Administration not to deal with Syria. Can you confirm this or comment on it?
MR. MCCORMACK: You can talk to Prince Bandar about his travel schedule and what he's been saying on behalf of Saudi Arabia. I think it's pretty clear based on the comments you've seen from Saudi Arabia as well as other countries in the region that they're quite concerned about the activities of Iran and Syria in trying to destabilize the region, whether it's in Lebanon or the Palestinian areas or Iraq. So I will let them speak for themselves in terms of their views on whether or not they or anybody else should be engaging with Syria and Iran at this point. Our view point on that, I think, is pretty well known at this point.
QUESTION: Is Assistant Secretary Welch still in the region?
MR. MCCORMACK: He is.
QUESTION: Can you give us anything about --
MR. MCCORMACK: He's making his way back. He's making his way back here. I think he is -- let me go through this. He's visited Amman. He has visited the UAE. He has visited -- well, he's visited Amman, Jordan; Oman, Yemen. I believe he's in Doha today and he's going to be making his way back to the United States. He might have one or two other stops along the way.
QUESTION: To follow on. Did the Prince Bandar meet with somebody in the building?
MR. MCCORMACK: Did he -- has he met with (inaudible).
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you the last time that he and the Secretary met. I'm sure that it's been within the past several weeks, but I can't tell you exactly when.
QUESTION: Could you find that out?
QUESTION: Can you find out, please?
MR. MCCORMACK: (Inaudible) get into all of those things. It's been recently. She talks to him as well as other Saudi officials.
QUESTION: Isn't her schedule public?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not all of it, no.
QUESTION: So would that be part of her private schedule? Would it have been a private dinner or something?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you, you know.
QUESTION: At least in the last couple of weeks, was that a conversation or was that in the building, like met?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think -- I don't -- again, I don't have the details. I know he's been through town here recently. I can't tell you exactly when.
QUESTION: Chris Hill yesterday described a bilateral mechanism led by Treasury as part of the six-party talks.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is that -- could you describe for me, is that part of six-party talks? Is that a working group or is that a separate initiative?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think it's what we talked about before as forming a working group. I think it's within the context of the six-party talks.
QUESTION: Who at State's going to be on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. A working-level person. It's going to be led by Treasury, but I'm sure we'll have somebody around the table. They're going to work -- Chris and the Treasury person will work closely together.
QUESTION: Do you have an update on Andrew Natsios's meetings yesterday? You hadn't had any readouts from his meetings with Bashir and what he's up to now.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, he -- they put something out from the Embassy detailing some of his meetings. We can get that for you if you haven't seen it. But he is -- there is a change to his travel schedule. He's not going to be going to London; he's going to be going to Brussels. I expect he'll probably show up in Brussels tomorrow -- is that tomorrow? There he's going to be meeting with Javier Solana. He'll be meeting with Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, some of the EU technical experts. He will also have some meetings with -- bilateral meetings with Belgium Government representatives. That's his meeting schedule.
In terms of what he talked about, you know, very briefly the thumbnail of that is he obtained agreement for Sudan to issue the visas for that first wave of UN logistical experts to come in. The Sudanese had previously agreed to these individuals coming in as part of the first step in the deployment of a force, but they had not yet issued the visas for them to come in. That hurdle has been cleared. He also touched upon issues of the so-called phase two deployment of the AU-UN force as described under the Addis Ababa agreement, talked about implementation and encouraged more energy applied to the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, getting into issues of security in the South, then also about Darfur and implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement. And you have more details on exactly what he talked about.
QUESTION: Did the government agree to the phase two?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. That was just an issue that came up. I think probably the notable accomplishment in terms of -- in practical terms moving the process forward was removing the obstacle of getting that initial package of UN logistical experts into Sudan.
QUESTION: Why did he meet de Hoop Scheffer or why is he going to meet him? What is he going to be discussing?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, NATO has played a role in terms of helping out with the logistics. I haven't talked to Andrew about what's on his agenda. As we kind of get through this we'll try to keep you updated on his meetings, but I didn't talk to him about what's on his agenda. I'm sure he's going to be talking about what NATO is doing right now.
QUESTION: Is this to discuss the implementation of a no-fly zone?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of, no.
QUESTION: Could you ask, please?
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, I'll try to --
QUESTION: That specific question.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll try to track him down.
QUESTION: The decision not to go to Chad, does he still feel like he has confidence that the Chadian Government will help with the -- you know, allow the force into the eastern part of Chad and that kind of thing to lay the groundwork?
MR. MCCORMACK: We've been talking to them about that. The Secretary met with their foreign minister here several weeks ago. She brought that up. We're still talking to them about that. I don't know if we have the full commitment that we need from them. He didn't go to Chad because the President of Chad wasn't available for a meeting and wasn't going to be in the country, so he decided to cancel that and reroute to Belgium instead.
QUESTION: Sean, do you have finally any updates on what's occurring in Somalia? Apparently Ethiopian forces to some extent are over the border and it's very unsettled with the Islamic Court government that's taken over. They say the country, for a good period of time, were ruled by the warlords.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I'm going to shamelessly punt these questions to my colleague Jendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, who will be out here at 3:15 for a briefing with you and can -- I don't know, I think it's probably going to be in the conference room right after Barry Lowenkron talking about human rights day. So she can go into excruciating detail on all of these issues for you.
QUESTION: One more on --
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, Lambros, one more, come on.
QUESTION: It's pertained to your interest, too. Do you know, Mr. McCormack, if your government today issued a new Warden for possible terrorist attack in the United States?
MR. MCCORMACK: Have we issued a new Warden message?
QUESTION: Yes. Today, yes.
MR. MCCORMACK: Warning?
QUESTION: Yes, yes.
MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I know of, no. I mean, we wouldn't be issuing warnings within the United States anyway.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:18 p.m.)
DPB # 202
Released on December 14, 2006