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US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 06 Nov 2007

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 6, 2007

US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 06 Nov 2007



Condolences for Victims of Terrorist Attack in Baghlan Province


U.S. Assistance Programs to Pakistan / Categories of Economic Assistance
Ambassador Anne Patterson Meeting with Chief of Election Commission
Encouragement for January Elections
Secretary Rice Phone Call to President Musharraf
Importance of Free Media / Free Speech


Secretary Rice Travel Plans
No Invitations Yet for Annapolis Meeting


Yesterday's Treasury Announcement
Message to Syria on Interference in Lebanese Affairs


Progress of Disablement Process / Declaration
Entering a Different Phase: Disablement versus Dismantling
Timeline for Declarations
New York Philharmonic Invitation


12:43 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Just let me take a minute at the top to offer our condolences to the people of Afghanistan and to the -- specifically to the families who lost loved ones today in a horrific terrorist attack in Baghlan province. We're still trying to determine exact numbers, but I've seen reports of upwards of 60 people have lost their lives, including members of parliament and, most distressingly, children. So we are conveying, both in public and private, our condolences to the people of Afghanistan and to the Government of Afghanistan.

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QUESTION: Has that taken the form of any phone calls?

MR. MCCORMACK: No phone calls at this point, although I suspect our embassy is in close touch with the government; nothing from Washington.

QUESTION: Different?

MR. MCCORMACK: Whoever wants to start.

QUESTION: Yeah. Is there anything more to say about the review of Pakistan assistance?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, not much new from this morning. We talked a little bit about the fact that we have people in the State Department, Department of Defense, other government agencies taking a look at our assistance programs to Pakistan, taking a look at those vis-à-vis the laws and legal requirements, our rules and regulations. I can't give you a timeline for how long this review will be underway, but it's something that we're actively engaged in. We are -- we take seriously our obligations under the law and we're going to take a look at our programs with respect to Pakistan.

The ultimate goal here is to make sure that anything that we do helps Pakistan get further down that road of building democratic institutions, down the pathway to democracy, down the pathway to further political and economic reform. Now we can help with that, but we all know that what needs to happen first is that President Musharraf and his government need to rescind and rollback the extra-constitutional orders that they have given, get back on the pathway to democracy. President Musharraf has made certain commitments with respect to taking off the uniform and to holding elections as scheduled in January. We have, through a number of different means, conveyed to him that we expect him to abide by those commitments.

And just one other note, one other further piece of information for you: just today, Anne Patterson went to meet with the chief of the elections commission to again reiterate our view that the elections need to take place, need to take place as scheduled in January, and also need to take place in an atmosphere free from intimidation. And the elections need to be conducted, as well, in a free, fair, and transparent manner.

QUESTION: Is that -- is the head of the elections commission really someone who has any authority over this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it -- he is -- he does play a role in how the elections would unfold once you get back to the point -- once you get back to the political and governing commitment to holding elections. So yes, he is important in the actual unfolding of the electoral process. You make the point that yes, well, does he have the -- does he have the authority to actually get Pakistan back on track for elections as scheduled in January; no, he does not. Obviously, that power resides with others.

And we have conveyed directly to President Musharraf; Secretary Rice, just yesterday in her phone call, underlined to President Musharraf urging -- she urged President Musharraf to get back on that pathway to democracy and to hold elections and to take off the uniform.

QUESTION: Sean, have you heard from Pakistani officials that there are some reports that they had said they will hold elections in early January? Is that your understanding?

MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen some press reporting in that regard. I have not yet seen that commitment to holding elections in January on January 15th. That's what we're looking for. We continue to urge the Pakistani Government to hold those elections on time. But I -- in all the reports that I have seen, Libby, I have not seen a firm commitment to that date and that timing.

QUESTION: Can I have a readout of any of the calls that have been between Rice and Musharraf in recent days?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's only the one. The most recent phone call was yesterday, as she was traveling back from the Middle East. President -- well, you got the readout from President Bush and he gave a readout yesterday. And the essence of it was urging President Musharraf to get back on that pathway to democracy and abide by those commitments that he had made previously concerning elections and the uniform.

QUESTION: How would you describe the tone of the call?

MR. MCCORMACK: They've talked quite a bit over the past weeks and months and even over the past years. So it was -- Secretary Rice wanted to have a constructive conversation with President Musharraf and I think that the -- he took the phone call in that spirit as well.

QUESTION: How long was the call?

MR. MCCORMACK: It was about 20 minutes -- about 20 minutes.

QUESTION: Is there any truth to the reports that the Secretary had tried in vain after Wednesday, the 31st of October, to get in touch with either President Musharraf or other senior Pakistani officials, but was unable to get through?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. She spoke with him on the 31st.

QUESTION: I know -- after that. Between the 31st and when the decision actually was made, did she try without success?

MR. MCCORMACK: Secretary Rice, no. Not to my knowledge, no. I was with her the whole time and not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: She never left your sight? (Laughter.) You are --

MR. MCCORMACK: I was trying to --

QUESTION: I understand -- but you are -- you know -- there was a report in a British newspaper I think this morning that said that both she and Miliband had tried repeatedly to get through and --

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't speak for the Foreign Secretary.

QUESTION: No, I know.

MR. MCCORMACK: But the Secretary of State, no.

QUESTION: Okay. It's not true at least with respect to the Secretary?



QUESTION: Can you give us more details on the type of aid given to Pakistan? How much is that -- what kind of economic assistance is given?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's a whole variety of different types of assistance, from educational exchanges, which are ongoing to assistance related to counterterrorism, military-to-military programs. You have so-called FMF money. You have IMET programs. You have -- there's a whole long list. I don't have it right here in front of me. If it's of interest to all of you, then we can post something up that goes through the various programs -- maybe gives you a sort of a general idea of the categories and maybe some of the subcategories. I don't have it in front of me right now.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Is there a message that the United States can send to individual Pakistanis, particularly those involved in protests, willing to put their own freedom at risk to make their point?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we, from the very beginning, have encouraged the -- any restrictions on the media to be lifted. Free media is an important component of any functioning, stable and thriving democracy.

In terms of people speaking their minds and expressing their opinions, absolutely, we encourage that. But we encourage that in such a way that it does not lead to violence, that is -- and that they don't express themselves in violent -- in violent ways.

If Pakistan is going to successfully get back on the road to democracy, get back on the road to reform, get back on the road to constitutional rule, the chances of that happening in a urgent way are aided by calm, by the freedom from violence. And that's what -- that's what we would encourage anybody who has an interest in expressing their views that they do it in such a way that is not violent or doesn't lead to violence.

Yeah, Michel.

QUESTION: Just one more?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) are at normal -- they're not --


QUESTION: Nothing's closed?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Of course, they -- you know, the internal embassy committees that take a look at this, they looked at all the threat reporting and they're constantly monitoring that. But I'm not aware of any significant changes that they have made to their posture in terms of daily operations.


QUESTION: A Palestinian official has announced today that Secretary Rice will be back to the region in November 15th to issue invitations for the international meeting in 26 and 27 of November. Do you have --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we don't -- news to me. We don't have -- we don't have any travel on the books at this point. Of course, if she feels that it's important for her to travel back to the region at any point in time between now and the Annapolis meeting, then of course she's going to do so.

As for the invitations, everybody stay tuned. It is not lost in the mail. They have not yet been issued. I would expect that when the invitations are issued that we will get a positive response, however.

QUESTION: Does she have to deliver these invitations in person --


QUESTION: She's not going to fly all the way over there and then back --

MR. MCCORMACK: Hand the envelope. Right.

QUESTION: No, I mean, it's a semi-serious question. It is a serious question.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. And I take it in that spirit. No, she does not.

QUESTION: If she were to go back, it would not -- it would be for something more than --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to tie her hands. She's -- she'll decide for whatever reason, if she needs to go back, she'll go back. It'll be for a good reason, you know, something that will -- it will be an effort to move the process forward not only -- you know, not only the on-the-ground realities with the Israelis and Palestinians in terms of implementing those phase one of the roadmap obligations, but making Annapolis successful and then making the day after Annapolis successful.


QUESTION: Do you know if Assistant Secretary Welch when he was in Paris last week, if he asked the French to take -- consider taking similar measures like the Treasury did yesterday on Lebanon?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know, Samir. I'm happy to ask him if he did.

QUESTION: And do you have anything to add on why you -- the Treasury selected these individuals? I mean, what --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, if you look at Treasury's announcement yesterday and, I think, how we talked about it yesterday, and these are individuals that were very clearly, in our view, identified as trying to interfere in Lebanon's internal affairs and trying to undermine the progress that this Lebanese Government is making in terms of establishing -- reestablishing its sovereignty, reestablishing Lebanon as a fully sovereign and independent state free from control by outside influences.

And these were individuals that were playing a role in trying to undermine those efforts and we thought it was appropriate not only as a practical matter to do these designations but also to send a message, and send a message to those who would try to interfere in the upcoming electoral processes in Lebanon that they should not try to interfere in Lebanon's affairs, that the world is watching, we are watching, and that Lebanon's neighbors are watching.

A great example of that is just the other day -- or on Tuesday -- I think it was Saturday or Sunday when -- Sunday -- Saturday, when the Secretary was in Istanbul, she had a meeting with a number of foreign ministers -- the French Foreign Minister, the Foreign Minister of the UAE, of Egypt, of Saudi Arabia, the Chairman of the Arab League. I don't want to leave anybody out. But they issued a statement that I think Tom gave to you yesterday sending a very clear message to Syria that they should not try to interfere in Lebanon's internal affairs.

So it's an important period coming up here in Lebanon, the next two and a half weeks. And it is our hope that this process will be one that is driven by Lebanese who are informed by Lebanese concerns and who want to try to build a better future for Lebanon.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you. -- oh, yeah.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) of terror arrests in Italy, was the United States involved? (Inaudible) cell outside of Lombardy? Any involvement?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check on that for you. Wait, we got a couple of late-breakers. Yes.

QUESTION: On North Korea, can you give us an update on what you have from the disablement team?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any reports from them. Sung Kim has made some comments that the disablement process is moving forward, that there's more work to be done. Our hope is -- and when I say "our," the six -- the other five parties' hope is that the process will be finished and completed by the end of the year, along with the declaration.

And I would just note that we are now entering a qualitatively different phase of this process and that we are now seeing a phase where those facilities, those Yongbyon facilities are being disabled; not dismantled, but disabled. So we haven't -- you know, if we finish the disablement process, we will not have attained our ultimate goal of dismantlement of that facility. But this is an important new step. This is groundbreaking, the fact that we are disabling those facilities; no previous agreements or efforts have gotten to that point. So I think it's important to note that this process is underway. We're -- there's still hard work to do in terms of the disablement and there's still a lot more hard work that needs to be done if we are successful in completing this phase, but it is proceeding.

QUESTION: And in terms of the declaration and the six-party talks envoy meeting, is that going to happen at the same time? Is that your understanding? Were you able to check on that or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there -- I'm sure that there's going to be an envoys meeting sometime between now and the end of the year. I can't tell you when that is going to be. And there's a commitment also on the part of the ministers to get together. That has not yet been scheduled. As for the declaration, Chris mentioned just the other day that we are looking for some preliminary or initial declarations in the next couple of weeks. We'll also be working towards that full and final declaration by the end of the year.


QUESTION: You said this morning that you will check and see if you can confirm whether the New York Philharmonic was going to North Korea or not?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I think they -- the information that I have is that they are still considering the invitation. You can check with them as to their thinking and a timeline for deciding whether or not to accept the invitation.


QUESTION: The Turkish Prime Minister said that the Turkish army is going to go ahead with operations in northern Iraq. I wondered if you had any sort of indication of timing, size of force or what exactly he's talking --

MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen his comments. Let me -- let me check for you. I want to -- it's an important, sensitive topic so I want to take a look at exactly what he said.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.


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