US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 14 Nov 2007
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
November 14, 2007
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 14 Nov 2007
Invitations for Annapolis Meeting Have Not Gone Out / No
Date to Announce
Preparation of Joint Document / Discussions are Ongoing Between the Parties
Continued Implementation of the Roadmap
Query on Possible Secretary Travel to the Region / Nothing to Announce
Contact with Saudis, Egyptians, and Other Parties in the Region / Posturing
Periodic Visits to the U.S. by Various Parties / Bilateral Discussions
Goals for Annapolis Meeting / International Community Support
Meeting in Ankara / Turkey's Support for Middle East Peace Process
Bilateral Financial Working
Group Meeting in New York
Department of Treasury is Leading U.S. Delegation
Assistant Secretary Hill's Meeting With Japanese Delegation on Abductee Issues
Query on EU's Troika Envoy Ischinger's
Comments on New Proposal
U.S. Position on Kosovo is Unchanged
Discussion in Secretary's Meeting with Foreign Minister Bildt of Sweden
Investigation of September 16 Blackwater Shooting is Ongoing
Department of Justice Handles Legal and Prosecution Decisions
Contractors Found to Have Broken Rules Will Not Work for Department of State
Query on Implementation of Ambassador Kennedy's Recommendations
Work with Congress on Law Governing Personal Protection Services Contractors
Inspector General Krongard's Testimony Before Chairman Waxman's Committee
Outstanding IAEA Questions on Past Activity
Progress on New Sanctions Resolution / Next P-5+1 Meeting
Elections Should be Free and Fair and
Reflect the Will of the Pakistani People
Differing Views on State of Emergency Declaration
Call for Greater Freedom and Democracy
Deputy Secretary Negroponte's Travel to Pakistan / Other Contacts with Musharraf
Threat from Violent Extremists / Detention of Peaceful Protestors
12:43 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I don't have anything to start off with, so we can get right into your questions.
QUESTION: Do you have any date yet for Annapolis and when do you plan to send out the invitations?
MR. MCCORMACK: We may have a date, but I'm not prepared to share it yet.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) says it's the 27th.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to make any announcements about the Annapolis meeting. Invitations have not yet gone out and --
QUESTION: Have they been printed?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I'm not sure that there's going to be a formal printing process, but you know, they may actually just go out via cable or a variety of different means and we may actually deliver oral invitations to (inaudible), but we'll let you know when we're prepared to announce a date formally for the meeting. Today is not that day.
QUESTION: Did you make any progress on the writing of a joint document between Israel --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're not writing it. The Israelis and the Palestinians are writing it. They're continuing to work on it. They know that they're going to be working to prepare for -- something for Annapolis. It's not done yet. They still have work to do. They're continuing to meet on it. We are offering our counsel and advice where it might be needed, where we think it's wise to offer it. But I fully expect that they're going to be prepared for Annapolis and that part of that being prepared means coming to agreement on a document.
QUESTION: Is one of the reasons why you haven't announced the date yet because you're not convinced that they're going to agree on a document and therefore, it might not take place?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: So you still count on a document?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we expect that -- we expect that there will be a document and importantly, as Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas talked about, the Annapolis meeting will not only produce this document, and in the run-up to Annapolis, we would hope that there is some progress on some of the practical, on-the-ground measures, some of which are outlined in the first phase of the roadmap, but also, Annapolis will serve as a starting point for negotiations between the two sides to address all of the core issues.
Prime Minister Olmert gave a very important speech at the Saban Center and President Abbas, just the next day, commented on that and indicated his agreement with the ideas that Prime Minister Olmert put out about Annapolis, its use as a starting point for negotiations, and also agreement with the idea that they were going to try to make as much progress as they possibly could before the end of President Bush's term in office.
QUESTION: So you expect these technical or -- steps on the ground to be taken before Annapolis?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I would expect that they are -- that they're going to take some of them beforehand. It's going to be an ongoing process while they're negotiating. I would expect that both sides are going to continue to fulfill their obligations under the roadmap. Both President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert indicated in their public statements that they are prepared to meet their obligations under the roadmap in full.
So it's going to be a process of working through the practical, on-the-ground aspects of the first phase of the roadmap, working on this document, working on what comes after Annapolis. That's what -- that's the work plan that both sides have underway. We, of course, are doing what we can to support them in those efforts as well as other interested parties, Quartet members, Arab states.
So there's a lot of work to be done before Annapolis, but we will let you know when the dates for Annapolis are formally announced, but don't take that as any -- the fact that I'm not announcing anything today isn't an indication that there is, in any way, backing off of the Annapolis meeting happening or any sort of lowering of our expectations for what Annapolis will be. I think we've been pretty clear of defining what we think Annapolis will accomplish. And I think you have agreement from the parties and the participants about what it will do.
QUESTION: Related to that, is there any travel plans for David Welch to go to the region?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I know of. I don't keep track of the Assistant Secretary travel plans, but not that I know of. I just saw him this morning, so I know he's here now.
QUESTION: What about Secretary Rice?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing on the books right now. But if she feels as though she needs to go see any of the parties in the region or the Israelis and the Palestinians, I'm sure she's going to do it, but there's no plans to do that right now.
QUESTION: Do you have any indication of --
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll come back to you, Dave.
QUESTION: Do you have any indication from the Saudis, whether they're sort of looking forward to Annapolis and --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll let them speak for themselves.
QUESTION: Are you in contact with the Saudis frequently about this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Of course, we are. Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you think they're supportive of the process so far?
MR. MCCORMACK: We talked about it. But look, we don't -- we haven't issued any invitations at this point, so we haven't expected any formal answers from anybody. But of course, we've been in contact with the Saudis, the Egyptians, Jordanians, as well as others about Annapolis.
QUESTION: Are you hearing concerns that maybe this date is coming up too quickly, that maybe you should wait and --
MR. MCCORMACK: We announced it in June. So I don't think anybody's going to -- we gave people plenty of lead time. Look, anytime you start to get closer to an actual event, then people are going to start posturing, they're going to start positioning, the realities of the event are going to start dawning upon them and also the realization of the work that they need to do.
So we've been very conscientious in working with the parties all -- however long at every step along the way. So you're going to see -- yeah, I'm sure you're going to see various statements out in public, various posturing statements from all parties involved in this. We're going to focus on making sure that the run-up to Annapolis is effective and that means getting the parties to work together and make sure Annapolis is effective and also making sure that the day after Annapolis starts to accomplish the kind of goals that the parties have set out for themselves and that we would like to see them accomplish.
QUESTION: How would you --
MR. MCCORMACK: Hold on. Gollust has been waiting patiently back here. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I saw a few reports last night and this morning that the Israelis have sent a team to Washington for some preparations and that by some accounts, they were talking about the parameters of a settlement freeze announcement that Israel would make.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not going to talk about the contents of any of our bilateral discussions either with the Israelis or with the Palestinians. But there's -- throughout this period, I would say over the past year, past year and a half or so, there have been periodic visits from the Israeli side, as well as from the Palestinian side and other concerned parties talking about moving toward the two-state solution. I don't have anything in particular to announce with respect to any team being in town at the present moment. But I wouldn't ascribe any particular significance to that beyond the fact that there have been periodic visits along the way for the past year, year and a half.
QUESTION: Is it for sure the meeting will take place in November?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, like I said, we have not announced any dates. Look for something before winter, which means December 21st. So we have several weeks to work with. Stay tuned.
QUESTION: But you can't confirm that the Israeli team is in town now, even though --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to talk about the visit of any particular team. Look, they're not infrequently here to talk about this issue and moving the process forward. It's all part of the preparations for Annapolis as well as moving forward on the two-state solution track.
QUESTION: How would you define success for Annapolis? What will be a success for you?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you've heard -- you don't need me to tell you. You've heard from the Secretary of State. You've heard from Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas. The idea is to use Annapolis as a mechanism, to support the two sides in their efforts to achieve a two-state solution. That's basically -- that is basically it. Now, you can get into more specifics. Prime Minister Olmert, President Abbas have talked about the fact that they want to use Annapolis as the starting point for negotiations between the two sides, addressing all the issues between them, working on the timetable to try to find a solution before President Bush's term in office ends.
Part of Annapolis, as we've talked about, will be this document, this understanding that the various participants at Annapolis can rally around and support. The fact that you will have a number of states from the region as well as important -- some important players in the international community at -- convened at Annapolis is a way of demonstrating support of the international community for these efforts and to let the parties know that they are not in this alone, that the international community supports their efforts, supports those who are dedicated to seeking a peaceful solution to differences between the Israelis and Palestinians.
QUESTION: President Abbas and President Peres talk about in Turkish parliament and signed a new agreement about (inaudible) in Palestine? Do you have any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Secretary Rice has talked a little bit with the Turkish Foreign Minister yesterday about those meetings. She got a little bit of a brief from him. I'll let the participants talk about it. But certainly, one of the important issues that needs to be addressed is that relationship between a future Palestinian state and Israel in terms of their economy, and what sort of economic relationship are they going to have. Very often, in terms of practical relations, on-the-ground everyday relationships, it's a little bit easier to work from the basis of those economic relationships than it is working through the sort of normative agreements, everyday agreements on political issues. You can have them at the top and you can outline the parameters of a political agreement, but oftentimes you can get a jumpstart working -- a jumpstart on building trust in those relationships when you work on an economic relationship.
QUESTION: What is the U.S. expectations from Turkey about (inaudible) process?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's really, sort of very supportive of moving this process forward. We're very grateful for their diplomatic, their political support. The meeting that they just sponsored in Ankara is one example of that. So we're going to -- we as well as the parties are going to be looking to Turkey to play an important role along with other members of the international community in helping the two parties move forward on the two-state solution track. That sort of support can manifest itself in a lot of different ways -- political and diplomatic, economic and other kinds of support. So we'll be counting on Turkey as well as others in the months ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Arshad.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this? (No response.)
QUESTION: Two things. One, there was a Yonhap report last night that there are going to be two days of U.S.-North Korean financial discussions in New York next week. I think you had agreed after the resolution of the BDA matter to set up a channel for such conversations. Are there such meetings? Is it Treasury or State that has the lead on those?
MR. MCCORMACK: Treasury has the lead on them. Let me give you -- I have some of the specifics, some of the specifics here in terms of the dates. Let me find the dates here. Yeah, they're going to be -- it's the Bilateral Financial Working Group. It's going to be held on November 19th and 20th in New York. The U.S. delegation is going to be led by Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes Danny Glaser. He's the one who's been working on these issues quite a bit. You might remember his name coming up quite a bit during the Banco Delta Asia episode.
The North Koreans apparently -- the information I've been given here, requested this meeting and we think it's an opportunity to familiarize the North Koreans with accepted international banking practices and problems that have affected North Korean access to the international financial system.
QUESTION: Do you know if the North Koreans -- whether they're sending anybody or whether it's their UN mission -- the mission to the UN?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I don't. They have typically, in these working group meetings, had people specializing in these kinds of issues. It wasn't necessarily the New York mission folks. I'll see if I can find out for you, but --
QUESTION: And do you know why they asked for the meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't.
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't.
QUESTION: And one other separate thing. Wolfgang -- Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, the European Union's Troika representative on Kosovo, is quoted by VOA's Albanian service today as having said that he doesn't think it's possible to reach an agreement on the status of Kosovo between the two parties. And again, he's quoted by VOA as saying that the Troika is -- therefore, has devised and hopes to get approval to present a proposal that doesn't address the status of Kosovo and that doesn't deal with the issue of, is it independent or is it a part of Serbia.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: But that rather, is silent on that central issue and tries to chart how relations between the two entities would --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- work on a bunch of things going forward.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: I believe he's here at the State Department today. I don't know if it was this morning or going to be this afternoon, but --
MR. MCCORMACK: (inaudible).
QUESTION: Do you, does the Administration -- if you don't know, if you could take the question, but everybody from the President on down has been pretty explicit about the notion that (inaudible).
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Our position -- our position is unchanged.
MR. MCCORMACK: I can tell you our position is unchanged.
QUESTION: Are you --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know exactly what he said, so --
QUESTION: But here's my question, and maybe you could take it, is whether the Administration -- whether the State Department likes this idea of a document that punts on the issue of status, but tries to establish some kind of relations between the two --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- entities.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you. I can tell you our position is unchanged on Kosovo. I don't know exactly what this idea is. If it conforms to the parameters of our policy position, I'm sure we're going to listen. I mean, we'll listen anyway even if it doesn't, but we've been very clear as to this issue.
QUESTION: Right. And when you check, can you also check on who he met today and so on?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: On Kosovo, the Secretary met this morning with Carl Bildt.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: And they spoke about Kosovo apparently?
MR. MCCORMACK: They --
QUESTION: Can you tell us what --
MR. MCCORMACK: They did have a general discussion of where is -- the last thing that they talked about in their meeting -- most of their meeting, they actually spent talking about the Middle East. They touched on the issue of Kosovo, the Foreign Minister - Bildt - talked a little bit about how he saw the current situation in Kosovo and, you know, the Secretary listened to him and she reiterated where we stand on the issue.
QUESTION: I don't know if you have any reaction to the New York Times report today that Blackwater guards killed 14 Iraqis in the September 16th incident without cause and --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- they violated use of deadly force. Do you have any reaction to that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, it's still an ongoing investigation by the FBI. They have the lead on this investigation at our request. We'll see what the final results of the investigation are. Any decisions about whether to take further action with respect to criminal prosecution are going to be solely in the hands of the Department of Justice and their prosecutors and their investigators there. I can tell you, from an administrative point of view, that once we have the final results of the investigation, if any individuals were found who have broken the rules, then I can assure you they're not going to be working on any contracts for the State Department in the future.
So we don't have -- excuse me, we don't have anything to do with -- in the -- we don't have a part in the decision-making process about criminal prosecution. That's the Department of Justice. They can talk to you about that. But from a State Department management point of view, if anybody is found to have broken the rules in this investigation or in any other investigation, they're not going to be working for the State Department as contractors.
QUESTION: These guys in the Blackwater incident still are working for the State Department?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you, Libby. We don't have a final report yet from the FBI. I think the New York Times report cites some preliminary findings. We would go -- we would act on the basis of any final results. And if the results show that there's any individual that broke the rules, they're not going to be working as contractors for the State Department.
QUESTION: What about the Blackwater contract itself, though? Would you consider that -- you know, Blackwater as a whole --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Would you consider that as fair game to consider that contract as a whole, depending on the findings of the FBI?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure --
QUESTION: I think Pat Kennedy recommended that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I'm not sure that anybody has addressed that issue. I think that Pat Kennedy's report said -- recommended to the Secretary and she accepted the recommendation that once you have the final results of the FBI investigation then we should look to Ryan Crocker for any recommendations with respect to Blackwater in Iraq. So we'll wait to see what Ryan has to say, but he, of course, is going to wait to hear what the results of the FBI investigation are.
QUESTION: And can you bring us up to date on your work with the Hill as far as legislation goes to bring these contractors under --
MR. MCCORMACK: Good question. I haven't checked on that recently. Let me try to get you an answer this afternoon.
MR. MCCORMACK: Charlie.
QUESTION: Just following up on that, I noticed that three different times in your answer to Libby you used the word "broken the rules."
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: As opposed to "broken the law" or "violated the law." Does that -- it may not mean anything, but does that mean you've concluded that no law has been broken?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, it's not meant to indicate that at all. I've used rules, regulations; I'm using those interchangeably only to indicate that we would make an administrative decision as opposed to a legal decision. The legal decision is going to be in the hands of the Department of Justice professional prosecutors. They're going to make a decision with respect to the law, whether or not any laws were broken. I was only trying to indicate the difference between a legal decision and a decision about the law and a decision about our State Department management administration.
QUESTION: Pat Kennedy recommended that you work on -- you work with Congress and you work with the Justice Department on legislation urgently.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Are you doing this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I know that our lawyers have been working on this. I just don't know the state of play, where we are.
QUESTION: Do you know what the state of play is with the cameras being mounted on Blackwater vehicles? Has that happened yet? Have you found the right equipment? There were some queries over, you know, technical -- some technical problems.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, let me check for you, Sue. The last I checked on this, which was several weeks ago. They were at the point of concluding the testing on the cameras, which ones would be appropriate, which ones would be durable enough for the operating environment. I'll check to see. It's -- and get you an answer.
QUESTION: Could you please just check generally whether the recommendations made by Kennedy have actually all been implemented?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, sure. Fair question.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Sean, can you confirm -- I don't know if you can, but can you confirm that the FBI did not have any access to the original statements given by the Blackwater guards?
MR. MCCORMACK: You'll have to ask the FBI because that gets to, from their point of view, an important legal question. And I'm going to let the FBI and the DOJ talk about their investigation.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I ask -- can we change the subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Can I move on to Iran, IAEA? What do you make of this partial cooperation and the Iranians are helping the IAEA with these blueprints?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think the operative word there is "partial." There's a long, long list of questions -- this is only one among many -- that the Iranians have outstanding with the IAEA. And this is just with respect to their past activities. I remember maybe about a year ago or so actually walking through with you guys just, you know, sort of our top ten questions that the Iranians had outstanding. You could go on for pages and pages in terms of the outstanding questions.
So look, so that they have -- and we'll wait for the IAEA's report. But the news reports say that they have handed over a blueprint of what looks like a hemisphere -- how to construct a hemisphere for a nuclear weapon. Well, that just raises the question in my mind as to what they're doing exactly with a blueprint that shows you how to build the core of a nuclear weapon when they say that they have no plans to try to build a nuclear weapon and that their program has nothing to do with building nuclear weapon. I think that in itself raises questions.
So we'll see what the IAEA's report has to say, but answering one question among several pages worth certainly doesn't, in my book, count as full cooperation, which is what the IAEA Board of Governors said that it's looking for.
QUESTION: Do you think this will slow momentum towards new sanctions at all?
MR. MCCORMACK: I suspect not. We'll wait to see what the IAEA's report has to say. But remember also, the P-5+1 said it was also going to look to see what Mr. Solana said as a result of his discussions with the Iranians thus far. We haven't seen them budge one inch in terms of meeting the demands of the P-5+1 to suspend their enrichment related activities. So we're going to continue moving forward on the P-5+1 political directors track, working on the elements of a resolution, working on the language of a resolution. But you know, again, answering one question among many; I'm not sure how much credit that gets you.
QUESTION: Do you know when we'll hear from Solana?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I expect in the next week or so. I think -- this was the rough timeline -- time period that we're going to hear from. Yeah.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up on Nina's question. When do you expect the next P-5+1 political directors meeting to be? And you had -- in New York, you had said that you hoped to have a resolution essentially in hand at least among those six, once you got the IAEA and the Solana report. It looks like we're now -- middle of November now and we don't have that yet. So when do you expect them to meet next and do you think you're making any progress on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check with Nick. I'll see when he's getting together with his colleagues, his now-familiar colleagues working on the P-5+1 issues related to Iran. Look, we -- look, I'm not going to make any secret of the fact that we will have wished that this process had moved forward and we would have already had the third resolution in our rearview mirror at this point. We don't. We are making some progress. I think the Chinese and, to a certain extent, the Russians have expressed some concerns about the elements of our resolution. We're trying to work through with them whatever concerns they may have about the specific elements of a resolution.
I haven't yet heard anybody walk back from their commitments -- the commitment from a year and a half, two years ago that said that if the Iranians don't cooperate, there's going to be increasing diplomatic pressure on them in the form of Security Council resolutions, if they fail to comply with the demands of the P-5+1. So what we're talking about is really tactical issues related to the elements of a resolution, the language of the resolution. We're going to be moving forward on it. It's not moving as fast as we would like to see it move forward, but it is moving forward.
QUESTION: Is there any movement on a meeting in Baghdad between the Iranian and U.S. Ambassadors?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing's scheduled, to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Blackwater? I know you said you didn't have an update on the talks with Congress. But what is the State Department advocating for in the talks with Congress about how these private contractors should be governed in Iraq?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have a statement of administration position out on the issue in general, so I'm not going to try to recreate that in shorthand from the podium. But everybody wants to see people held to account if they break the law, whether it's here or overseas. It affects us, it affects the reputation of the United States, and obviously it has some effect on the perceptions of the United States in countries where people may have broken the laws. It's not an easy legal issue to try to address. You can -- I listened to about, you know, 10 to 15 minutes from the lawyers about this and you know, your head starts to spin after awhile. But very basically, we want to make sure that people are held to account, if they break the law and that we can find ways to do that that protect the rights that are enshrined in our laws and our constitution.
QUESTION: Why has it taken them three years to get to this point where you're saying you want to make sure people are held to account?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I can't -- well, we are working to try to hold people to account. Where we have needed to tighten up our management and oversight of personal security contractors, we have. The Secretary has acted decisively in that regard. But I would note that it takes two sides here. It takes the Executive and the Legislative Branch to come to agreement on these -- on these issues. The Legislative Branch did come up with a remedy with respect to those contractors working for the Department of Defense, I think it was this past spring, where they were covered by the UCMJ. There's now an outstanding issue with respect to contractors and contract personnel working for civilian agencies like the State Department. We want to try to come to an agreement as an Administration with the Legislative Branch on a legislative legal remedy to address -- to address what everybody has identified as an issue.
QUESTION: Do you think the State Department contractors should come under the UCMJ?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to try to -- I'm not going to try to negotiate or play lawyer up here.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a question about the Kronberg -- Krongard testimony, the Inspector General?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: First, he vehemently denied any potential conflict of interest, then he admitted that there was family conflict of interest and is going to recuse himself from Blackwater investigations. What's your reaction, and isn't this another difficulty for the State Department?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen his testimony, Charlie. I can't -- I can't react to something that I haven't seen. I know that he is looking forward to addressing all the issues that Chairman Waxman had outlined in a public letter that he had released when the staff had -- that his staff had released. I haven't tracked what Howard has said up there. We'll have some reaction perhaps after he's finished and we have a chance to take a look at what he said, although Howard is perfectly able to speak on his own behalf.
QUESTION: Can you tell us about Ambassador Hill's meeting with the Japanese family tomorrow and also what do you expect from the meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, they gave me some information about this. He is going to be meeting with a delegation from the Diet and an advocacy group, members from -- with regards to the abductee issue. The delegation is being led by House of Representative member Takeo Hiranuma and Secretary -- Assistant Secretary Hill looks forward to talking to them and making clear what our position is on the issue, which he has repeated many times in public.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Sorry. Is that position that the abductee issue is not specifically linked to the lifting of --
MR. MCCORMACK: You can -- there's a lengthy public record on the issue. You can check out the transcript.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I have one on Pakistan? Since you're pressing so hard for elections, would you ever sign off on elections even if Musharraf kept emergency rule? Is that (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, first of all, it's not for us necessarily to sign off on elections. First and foremost, they have to reflect the will of the Pakistani people. The Pakistani people have to believe that they're free and fair. And that means that in the run-up to elections, people have to be able to participate peacefully in a political process. That means being able to express oneself however -- whatever views they may hold. Part of that also involves freedom of the press so people can hear various people's views. All of those things are not the case at the moment under the current state of emergency.
I know President Musharraf has talked about the fact that he thought it was important to have the state of emergency in order to have free and fair elections. Our view is different. More than that, we think it's -- given the current circumstances -- hard to imagine having a free and fair election where you have the ability to access media, the ability to fully participate in the political debate in the run-up to election day.
So we continue to call upon President Musharraf to lift the state of emergency. I note that he has talked about giving a timeframe when he's going to take off the uniform. That's positive. He should give the Pakistani people a specific date so that they have confidence that that will happen and that they have a rational expectation of when that will happen.
So there have been some positive steps in recent days, but there's much more that needs to be done.
QUESTION: What happens if you just keep pushing for elections and you do get the ideal scenario where there are free and fair elections and Islamists really do well? I mean, this has happened before in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not going to --
QUESTION: Is that a possibility that you have to consider?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not going to try to predict the outcome of elections. People -- the Pakistani people need to be able to express themselves. And thus far --
QUESTION: But it affects (inaudible) if --
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we'll deal with circumstances as they are before us. We have, for the past few years, called for the Pakistani Government to hold free and fair elections. We think it's important. We think it's important for the Pakistani people to be able to express themselves, express themselves in terms of who is going to lead them in the years to come.
The Pakistani people have benefited greatly over the past several years from the political and economic freedoms that President Musharraf has begun. And me -- there's no indication that I have seen that the Pakistani people have any interest in rolling back those reforms that have been instituted. In fact, it seems that there's more pressure and even greater stated desire to have greater freedom, greater democracy, greater prosperity. And that's certainly something that we would support in general terms because that is the antidote to the kind of violent extremism that's preached by some who pose a threat to the very reforms that President Musharraf has put in place prior to the state of emergency.
QUESTION: Do you have a date for Deputy Secretary Negroponte's visit and any idea who he will meet in Pakistan, in particular, whether he will meet with President Musharraf? And lastly, I'm sure you read The New York Times interview with President Musharraf.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, the (inaudible).
QUESTION: Well, it did not suggest -- I mean, I read the story, too. It did not suggest that he has any intention of stating when he's going to take off the uniform and so on. and I wonder -- a final question about this -- why you think he is likely to heed what Deputy Secretary Negroponte may tell him when he has chosen not to heed what the President and the Secretary of State have told him in public over the last week.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, he's not answering to the United States. We're a friend. We're counseling him. We're counseling him with what -- with the advice that we think will most benefit the Pakistani people and Pakistan in the future. He is ultimately accountable to the Pakistani people and acting in their best interest.
Now, he has taken steps saying that elections are going to happen before the middle of February. He has said subsequent to that interview, at least in the press reports that I've seen, that he is going to take off the uniform by the end of the month and be sworn in as president. He's going to take office as a civilian president. Now, we're going to continue to counsel. What you hear me and others saying in public is what we're conveying to him and others in the Pakistani leadership in private.
As for Deputy Secretary Negroponte, I would expect that he's going to reiterate that view. I think he's going to be there towards the end of this week.
QUESTION: Do you have a date yet?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to look at the specific dates, but I think -- it's on the back end of this trip to Africa. He's going to proceed immediately from Africa to Pakistan. I think that's probably Friday/Saturday timeframe.
I don't yet know with whom he is going to meet. I would expect that he is going to meet with President Musharraf. He has met with him in the past. I think it would be important for him -- for President Musharraf as well as those around him and advising him to hear directly from Deputy Secretary Negroponte. Our Ambassador on the ground continues to be in contact with the Pakistani leadership. And if the Secretary or the President feel as though they need to pick up the phone or feel it's the right time to do that, I would expect that they will.
QUESTION: Can you try to put that out -- just one request. Can you -- when you find out when he's going and who's he's going to meet, can you put that out too? Every --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Yeah, those may be two separate things, but yeah.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can I interpret that maybe President Musharraf doesn't want to meet with Deputy Secretary Negroponte?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, I wouldn't -- I wouldn't take that -- take that at all. I haven't talked to the Deputy Secretary about his plans for Pakistan. I haven't talked to the folks about with whom he plans to meet. I'm just anticipating that President Musharraf would meet with him, but I don't -- I'm not going to be so rude as to announce any meetings on behalf of President Musharraf.
QUESTION: Sean, one of the things Musharraf has said in these interviews is that he didn't -- numerous interviews, he said that the state of emergency enables him to control suicide bombers, terrorists more easily. Do you guys agree with that even though you don't agree with the state of emergency? Do you think it does give him that control?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, look, whether or not there's a state of emergency, Pakistan has faced a threat from violent extremism. It's the same group of violent extremists that pose a threat to us as well as Pakistan's neighbors. So that is something that is ongoing and they have had some security difficulties. But on the whole, we believe that in order to have free and fair elections in which the Pakistani people have an opportunity to freely express themselves and to have the results reflect their will that under the current circumstances, you're not going to achieve that result.
And that's why we have counseled President Musharraf, as well as the Pakistani leadership, to lift the state of emergency, release those people who were detained for -- only for peacefully expressing their political points of view and allow free access to the media, allow those people who wanted to peacefully participate in the Pakistani political process to do so, be allowed to move freely. That includes former Prime Minister Bhutto, as well as others.
QUESTION: So will Negroponte meet with Bhutto?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. We'll keep you up to date on the news.
QUESTION: Yeah. Okay.
MR. MCCORMACK: Anybody else? Great.
(The briefing was concluded at
DPB # 201
Released on November 14, 2007