US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 19 Nov 2007
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
November 19, 2007
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 19 Nov 2007
All Open Jobs Filled by
Volunteers / Department Stepped up to Challenge
No Directed Assignments at This Time / Secretary Reserves Right to Use in Future
Informing of Prime Candidates
Commitment of Secretary to Ensuring Personnel Have Adequate Training and Resources
Next Assignment Cycle
Inauguration of the Turkey-Greece Portion of the TGI Pipeline
Elections / U.S. Views on Independence Unchanged
Annapolis Conference / Israeli Confidence Building
Elements of Possible Document from Conference
France and Germany Very Supportive of Process
Issue of Settlements and Their Natural Growth and Expansion
Timeline for Invitations / Level of Representation / Agenda / Expectations
Syrian Rejection of Hamas Proposal for Counter Conference in Damascus
OIG Report on USAID Funds and Terrorist Organizations
Missile Defense / Scheduling of Upcoming Talks
Increased Punishment for Rape Victim
Financial Working Group
Securing of Nuclear Arsenal / U.S.
U.S. Diplomatic Contact
Secretary Rice's Recent Calls
12:57 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Just wanted to start off by noting the Secretary has talked to Ryan Crocker and talked to Harry Thomas about the Iraq staffing, and we are pleased to announce that all of the Iraq jobs have been filled by volunteers. So that's a total of 252, including the -- that includes the 48 jobs that we've all been talking about so much over the past couple of weeks. She's going to be sending out a cable to the State Department employees congratulating them on stepping up to the challenge that she put forward to them to fill all of these jobs. In talking to Ryan and Harry, it was their assessment that these are very qualified individuals who are going to be filling these jobs and that she was able to assure herself that we met the bar that we had set for ourselves; we in no way lowered the standards in order to get these volunteers.
So she's quite pleased by that and we are quite pleased that the Foreign Service and the State Department have stepped up to this -- stepped up to this challenge. She, of course, reserves the right at any future time, if need be, to fill any future jobs by directed assignments. But we were quite pleased that we had State Department volunteers that stepped up. And we'll have a statement out a little bit later on from her on it.
QUESTION: Did you have the breakdown of how many of the volunteers eventually ended up -- of the 48 ended being up on the list of --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I need to get you a final -- I want to get you a final one. Last time I checked in on this, it was about 15 of the 200 -- but -- were people -- people on that -- 15 of the 200 were filling some of those 48 jobs that were outstanding, but we'll get you a final list -- try to get a final number on that, Kirit.
QUESTION: Looking back, how could this have been handled better -- a certain amount of ill will, a certain amount of competition between the military and the -- or criticism between the military and the State Department? What would you do differently?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure that we would anything different. Harry talked a little bit about the fact that he would have wished that we were able to inform those 200 employees who received the prime candidates letter that they were receiving these letters prior to their reading about it in the newspapers. That said, we live in a world today where that doesn't -- that isn't necessarily the case and you have leaks to news organizations and, next thing you know, the story is out bouncing around the internet, on cable TV and on other outlets. That's unfortunate but that's the world we live in. Harry promised that we would try to get -- that in the future he would try to get out to any individuals that were wrapped up in this kind of process first before they read about it in newspaper accounts, but we can't always promise that.
In terms of the exercise as a whole, the Secretary challenged the Foreign Service, she challenged the State Department, and the people of the State Department and the Foreign Service stepped up to that challenge. She thinks it was absolutely the right decision to talk to the employees about the fact that if we weren't able to fill these jobs with volunteers then we were going to go to directed assignments. She still feels that's the right decision and she reserves the right in the future, if we face similar circumstances, to fill jobs by directed assignment.
In terms of -- you know, in terms of other government agencies, I can't account for individuals who might comment one way or the other. I know that Secretary Gates and the leadership over at the Department of Defense certainly appreciates what the State -- what State Department employees are doing, working with their military officers, their enlisted people on the ground in Iraq, the PRTs and in other ways. And Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General Petraeus have a very good working relationship and I think their intention is that that good, solid working relationship at the very top of management in Iraq will -- should flow downwards as well.
QUESTION: Sean, just for the record, because, you know, it's not just the 24-hour-7 news cycle, but it was Harry Thomas' choice to do that conference call on the Friday before the Monday the list was going out.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, because there was an AP story that was already going out. So you know, what can I say?
QUESTION: All right.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, look, everybody wished that it were otherwise, but it's not the world that we live in. This isn't 40 years ago. So you know, while we wish that it had been otherwise, people should know that we made every -- Harry made every effort to try to inform those individuals before they read about in the newspaper, it didn't work out that way.
QUESTION: Just one other one. I understand that you are, and the Department is proud that it has been able to fill all the slots with volunteers --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Is there any regret that it had to go so far down the path of essentially -- not threatening, but saying that you will have to potentially direct assignments, order people there, before you were able to come up with the volunteers?
MR. MCCORMACK: None whatsoever. No. The Secretary feels and the management of this Department feel as though that there isn't really any higher priority for the Foreign Service and the State Department in terms of our foreign policy and national security in trying to help the Iraqis get things right in Iraq. And the State Department was challenged by the President in saying that this is our international security and foreign policy priority. Many, many people volunteered prior to coming down to these 48 open jobs. I have to remind you that there were about 204 people who, prior to the notification of the 200 people, had stepped up and said we're going to volunteer for it. That isn't even to look into the, what, 1,500-plus or so people that have already served on a volunteer basis in Iraq.
Look, the world is changing. The Foreign Service and the State Department need to change along with it. We are becoming a different kind of State Department. We are becoming a different kind of Foreign Service. And while we continue to practice traditional government-to-government diplomacy, the nature of our tasks is changing and we're going to have to change along with it. And part of what you're seeing in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places around the world is part of that changing world. So in order to effectively carry out the mission that has been set for us by the President and the Secretary of State, we're going to have to change along with it. This -- part of what you're seeing, I think, is a transition here to a more expeditionary kind of State Department, a more expeditionary kind of diplomacy, along with more traditional kinds of government-to-government diplomacy that we're all accustomed to.
QUESTION: Sean, I think probably everybody in the Service will agree with what you just said, but as you know, there's been criticism that the Foreign Service is not being provided the tools needed to exercise and to carry out that type of diplomacy, in Iraq specifically. Is the Secretary committed to more training for people who are going out?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know who keeps saying that. I'm not sure where that comes from.
QUESTION: Well, in the two weeks prior to going to Iraq -- that is, the training now they receive. I think that's where it came from.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, look, the Secretary is committed to making sure that people have all the tools that they need to do the job that they have been tasked with in Iraq as well as elsewhere around the globe.
In terms of training of people, if there's an assessment that training in some way needs to be augmented or complimented, absolutely we're going to do that within the bounds of our resources. Her highest priority is making sure that our people, when they go out in the field in Iraq or wherever it may be, have the best possible protection that they can have. She is committed to making sure that they have the best possible technology that we can get, the best possible training that we can get. Now we also live in a world that is bounded by resource constraints.
I will add, however, that the Foreign Service and the State Department has never had a better advocate within the Administration and a more effective advocate within the Administration in terms of getting resources for this Department. So it's important that the members of the Foreign Service and the members of the State Department understand that, that they understand just how hard and how effectively the Secretary fights on their behalf in what is a very constrained budgetary circumstance. There are a lot of demands out there and we do quite well within the budgeting process because of the efforts of Secretary Rice.
QUESTION: People go out when, again? July?
MR. MCCORMACK: They will move -- they will probably have a shifting scale of times when they go out, but it will be this coming summer.
QUESTION: And when is the next assignment cycle? Is it --
MR. MCCORMACK: The next -- well, there's an off cycle, which is in February, but it would again be about this time next year for '09.
QUESTION: Yes. Mr. McCormack, Greece/Turkey. The Prime Minister of Greece and Turkey, Konstas Karamanlis and Recep Erdogan with the presence of U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman inaugurated yesterday a national gas pipeline from Central Asia to Europe and most particularly, to the European Union, bypassing Russia and the volatile Middle East. Any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the opening of this pipeline is a welcome development. It diversifies the sources of energy delivery through a southern route. This is, I believe, the first delivery of that Caspian gas into southeastern Europe and I would note that that gas is transiting to Greece via Turkey, which, again, is an important development and it shows how neighbors and countries in the region can work together.
QUESTION: One more on Kosovo. Anything to say on the elections in Kosovo, of Serbia since Hashim Thaci, leader of the Albanian terrorist organization, Kosovo Liberation Army, claimed victory and promised full independence soon?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of Kosovo and the issue of Kosovo and Kosovo's independence, you know our views, they're well-known and unchanged. And as for the election results, I understand that the election tabulation process has not yet been completed so I'm not going to offer any particular comment on who might have won that election.
QUESTION: Quickly, in case anybody's watching, hoping that you may announce the dates for the Annapolis conference. Can you announce those or not?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to do that today. So stay tuned tomorrow. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Okay. You said this morning you would take a look or you hope that you guys would have some contact with the Israelis about their --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Has that now happened and are you able to say anything?
MR. MCCORMACK: I talked to David a little bit about this -- Assistant Secretary David Welch -- and our view is that the steps that the Israeli Government have announced are positive, confidence building measures in the run-up to Annapolis. We're going to see at Annapolis a starting point from which the two sides can come together, negotiate solutions to the issues that divide them and one would expect that as we move forward down the line that these announcements today are points from which both sides can build on where they can build up that mutual confidence and try to improve daily lives on both sides for both the Palestinians as well as the Israelis. As we move forward through the process, both sides have responsibilities under the roadmap and that we are going to be looking to both sides to fulfill those responsibilities and where we can, we are going to try to help them along.
QUESTION: There was a report somewhere that the Secretary over the weekend -- or someone on behalf of the Secretary -- had sent to both sides the ideas that the U.S. would like to see in the document that Annapolis produces. And it was phrased, I think in the report as trying to -- the U.S. trying to dictate what they come up with. Now, without accepting that characterization of it, is there a U.S. draft floating around out there of what you would like to see?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, obviously, we're going to talk to both sides as they converge on a common understanding of a document, what will be in there, the elements of it, as well as their convergence on post-Annapolis, what comes the day after and the day after that. So we're going to continue working with them on those things. Ultimately, these have to be efforts and a document that they are both comfortable with. Any sort of imposed solution upon the two sides with respect to the document is not going to be one that they're comfortable with and will in some ways detract from the significance of the document.
That said, we're of course going to, where we can, help the sides bridge any differences in terms of their thinking and do what we can to help them move along the pathway. We're getting closer to Annapolis and I think you can expect to see some hard bargaining on both sides. I think you can expect to see a lot of posturing in public, both on the record as well as on background statements, from all the parties involved here. But we do have a sense that they are continuing to make progress, not only on the document, but also on what comes after Annapolis. I am, however, not going to comment on any particular ideas or thoughts that we might have or that we might have shared with both parties. And we're going to try to hold to that as we move forward here because it -- oftentimes in this kind of diplomacy, if you're not doing it in public, you have a better chance of it actually being effective.
QUESTION: Well, understood. But I'm still missing the "yes" or "no." Is there a draft floating around out there?
MR. MCCORMACK: Matt --
QUESTION: I'm not asking you what's in it. I'm just asking you if there is one.
MR. MCCORMACK: I know, I know. Well, that falls in the category of we're going to use a variety of different means to try to move the diplomacy forward. And I'm not going to comment on either any particular substance or any particular mechanism by which we try to move that process forward. Suffice it to say, though, it is going to be critical that both parties are comfortable with what it is that they produce at Annapolis as well as after Annapolis. We're going to do what we can to help them along, support them and that holds true for the other participants in the Annapolis conference. And I think you'll see when we make an announcement of whom they are inviting, you'll see it's a robust list and that both parties can take comfort in the fact that at Annapolis they will have a group of countries that are very supportive of their efforts in a number of different ways, politically, economically, diplomatically.
QUESTION: How about this? As of today, as of right now, where the process stands, are you confident that you're going to get what you're looking for out of the conference in terms of the documents?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's less important for what we're looking for is what the two sides are looking for and that is a good, solid understanding in a document about the understandings that they have reached and how they will use those understandings and Annapolis to push forward.
QUESTION: But as of today, Monday, how -- do they have it or are they still --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think -- they're still working on it. They're still working on it.
QUESTION: Are they close?
MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, look, I wouldn't be surprised if they're still working on it as -- in the week ahead. That wouldn't surprise me in the least. That's the nature of these things. I think if you look back in history, that these -- as you get closer to these kind of marker events, like a conference or a meeting, that oftentimes the bargaining gets pretty tough. And I would expect that to be the case here as well. I would expect that to also be true on the day after, as they actually start into the phase of negotiations.
QUESTION: But you still count on a document?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Yes.
QUESTION: Earlier you said you were confident. Nothing's changed on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing's changed.
MR. MCCORMACK: My confidence remains at a steady level.
QUESTION: And then, one other thing. You talked about how it would be a robust list and you teased --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Can you address one particular thing? To what extent have European nations, and particularly the Germans and the French, been supportive in this process so far, particularly in terms of talking to Arab states and encouraging them to come? Can you --
MR. MCCORMACK: In general, both have been very supportive of this process. Very often the Secretary is able to provide Foreign Minister Kouchner, Foreign Minister Steinmeier an update of her efforts and she hears back from them about what they have been doing. They have both been very supportive as have other European nations and other nations around the globe in trying to bridge the gaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians and bring about a two-state solution.
QUESTION: And how about trying to get other Arab -- get Arab states to come to the meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll let them speak on their own behalf about what they have done to encourage others to attend. But they have been very supportive of the effort and very supportive of the idea of Annapolis.
QUESTION: Sean, you talked about the measures that the Prime Minister announced today. Are you talking about the prisoners and also the new settlements, these two things?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.
QUESTION: Well, how about the expand -- the natural growth and expansion of existing settlements? That has not been addressed yet. The Palestinians are saying that the deal he announced is already in the roadmap, so what's the point of saying it again?
MR. MCCORMACK: Our policy in that regard hasn't changed, Nicholas.
QUESTION: But do you --
MR. MCCORMACK: And again, this is -- you know, this is the beginning of confidence-building measures and the beginning of implementation of the roadmap. One doesn't expect that you're going to have everything resolved today, in advance of Annapolis. That is going likely take some time.
But you saw Prime Minister Olmert when he spoke at the Saban Forum pledge that Israel was going to fully implement all of its -- all of its obligations under the roadmap. And you heard the same thing from President Abbas. So this going to be an iterative process.
QUESTION: Well, there's the question: so what's new about what he said today? He said -- I mean, it's -- he said there was no -- there wasn't going to be new settlements, and that's in the roadmap. He said it in the Saban Center dinner. So why are you -- are you making a big deal out of this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm mainly answering questions in response to you and your colleagues, Nicholas. There was also an announcement of prisoner release as well.
QUESTION: Right. Just one other thing. Do you think whoever you invite will have enough time to, you know, book their tickets and pack their bags and come over here?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm fully confident that when the formal invitation are issued that we will receive a positive response and that the foreign ministers or whomever countries decide to designate as their representative will have plenty of opportunity and time and the logistical wherewithal to get here for the conference.
QUESTION: Right. This is a foreign ministers level meeting, right? You hope that as many foreign ministers as possible --
MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect that the vast majority will be represented at the foreign minister level, yeah.
QUESTION: Will you be disappointed if any countries, particularly Arab states, don't send their foreign ministers?
MR. MCCORMACK: That will be them -- for them to decide. We would hope that all participants would show their support as best they possibly can in a variety of different ways. For some that might mean the level of their representation. For others that might mean how they choose to support the Palestinians and the Israelis in this process diplomatically. For others it might mean what sort of economic or monetary support down the line they can offer. So that can be manifested in a number of different ways. But we would hope that countries who have an interest in seeking peace and seeing a durable, lasting, two-state solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians would desire to show that support for the process by sending the highest possible appropriate representation they can to Annapolis.
QUESTION: Can you explain us what you expect from the meeting itself in Annapolis? What will happen there? The Palestinians and the Israelis will offer their joint document and the delegations will have to approve it, or everybody will speak? How do you --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in the days ahead, what I would like to do is a few things. One, I'll go over with you the dates of the meeting, the conference; go over with you who has been invited; and then third, go over a little bit with you what it actually looks like, what the days around Annapolis as well as what the actual Annapolis conference looks like in terms of its agenda. So I think I'll be in a better position in the next few days to give you some of that information. I think that will help you understand exactly how we're going to arrange the meeting, and then what the focus of the meeting will be on.
The primary focus, obviously, is on the Israeli-Palestinian track and various aspects of that; how you move it forward, the political as well as the building of infrastructure, which is something that Prime Minister Blair -- the capacity building, which is something Prime -- former Prime Minister Blair is working on.
I would also expect that there will probably be some -- some discussion about the issue of a comprehensive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors and Arab states. But the primary focus will be on the Israeli-Palestinian track.
QUESTION: So it's not defined yet or it's -- you don't want to speak about it?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I'm -- I didn't say that. We're just not prepared to share it in public.
QUESTION: Apparently, Hamas is putting its weight and is partly pressuring President Abbas not to lead to Palestinian concessions, they're threatening him. And also, it's encouraging that, apparently, the Syrians said no to an anti -- or a counter peace conference by Hamas and others for Damascus. In any way, were you talking to the Syrians to see if they would cancel out that meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think they heard more from their fellow Arab states about the wisdom and utility of such a meeting, and they decided against it.
Samir, do you have a question?
QUESTION: Yes. There's a report in the press that the Russians are promoting among the Quartet a follow-up meeting in Moscow to Annapolis to encourage the Syrians to attend Annapolis?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, one of the things I would expect the Quartet as well as other participants in the conference to talk about is, what does the process after Annapolis look like. And in part, that's going to be largely defined by the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves, but I'm sure that the Quartet as well as other interested states will have some thoughts about that. So at this point I'm not prepared to talk about any particular arrangements for what the post-Annapolis process looks like but it will be a topic of conversation.
Anything else on this? Nicholas.
QUESTION: Sean, can you tell us what the reason was for announcing this -- the date so late? I mean, you know, journalists asked to accredit to a conference without knowing the dates for it. I mean, you know, how --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you don't have to come if you don't want to.
QUESTION: Well, no, that's not the point. You know, for people overseas --
MR. MCCORMACK: If you can't have time for it, I'm sorry.
QUESTION: People overseas, you know, need visas, so these -- you know, consulates need to know when to issue the visas for.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: So I don't remember any such -- an important event in the past 10 years that was announced so close to the actual date. So why is that? I mean, are you so uncertain about the results you're going to come -- get out of this meeting? Why was it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well --
QUESTION: I'm serious. I'm not -- you know, I'm really serious.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Is that opposed to your previous questions? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Right. I mean, I've been packing bags and looking forward -- right.
MR. MCCORMACK: I will treat this one with due seriousness. Look, you know, there are a lot of different -- a lot of different ways to do conference invitations and conferences and to approach trying -- the process of bringing peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It's been tried a lot of different ways, so we're going to try a different way.
In terms of -- in terms of the conference, rest assured that the governments involved have been briefed along the way and they have a very good idea of exactly when the conference is going to be, what they need to do to get here, and what the agenda will be. And in terms of the journalists, we're going to do everything that we possibly can to make sure that people who want to cover the conference in Annapolis, whether they be coming from Washington, D.C. or from overseas, are able to do so.
So I'm quite confident that the news organizations represented in this room as well as around the globe are nimble enough to be able to get a journalist here to the Annapolis conference with some fair amount of notice and to book the plane flights here. So that, I'm not too concerned about.
QUESTION: Do you know who will be the participants? Like Greece, Turkey, any idea?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, I have an idea. I know exactly who it will be and we'll share it with you in the coming days.
QUESTION: But this -- you said tomorrow sometime. It's tomorrow.
MR. MCCORMACK: I said we'll share it with you in the coming days.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this?
QUESTION: Can I move onto something else? The Inspector General has released a report on USAID's kind of measures to stop, you know, funds going to the wrong --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- and ending up in terrorist organizations, this kind of thing, and has concluded that the agency lacks the means to ensure that this is secure. So can you tell me, has the Secretary been briefed on this report? Are you -- has it prompted any kind of review of procedure?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not sure that she has been briefed on this particular report, but of course, she is very concerned that we have in place in not only AID but in the State Department proper procedures and proper auditing functions to ensure that no U.S. taxpayer dollars go end up in terrorists' hands.
Now, I understand from USAID that they have some issue with some of the facts, some of the analysis and some of the recommendations put forward in the IG report. But that said, of course, we are going to look at this very seriously and look at it very seriously with an eye towards making sure we have in place the best possible, most robust procedures and mechanisms to make sure that we don't have money from U.S. taxpayers that ends up in the hands of terrorists.
QUESTION: So has it prompted a formal review?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I'll check with AID. I'm not sure it's a formal review. But you can be assured that AID takes this very seriously, as does the Secretary in terms of the issue in general.
QUESTION: There was a follow-up from this morning about Russia and upcoming talks here on missile defense and other strategic issues. Were you able to nail down when it is --
MR. MCCORMACK: I was able to --
QUESTION: Is Mr. Kislyak coming, if there are --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I was able to nail down the fact that they are working to schedule a date but yet have not arrived at a specific date, though there is a certain degree of confidence among the people with whom I spoke that they will be able to nail down a date in the near future.
QUESTION: How about Cambodia and Laos?
MR. MCCORMACK: Laos, Cambodia, I think I'm going to have to work on that one for you. And just for everyone's benefit, Matt, if you could repeat your questions.
QUESTION: Oh, right, sorry. A Japanese whaling fleet is en route to take -- well, I guess close to a thousand whales that are protected as alleged scientific research. Do you buy the line --
MR. MCCORMACK: That's the key --
QUESTION: -- that this is scientific research and do you think that it's permitted under the IWC rules?
MR. MCCORMACK: That is the key there. While recognizing Japan's legal rights under the Whaling Convention to conduct this hunt, we note that non-lethal research techniques are available to provide nearly all relevant data on whale populations. We call on Japan to refrain from conducting this year's hunt, especially with respect to humpback and fin whales. We also urge restraint and measured approaches from all sides in any protest activity that may be planned against the Japanese fleet in the Southern Ocean. The sinking or damaging of a vessel in this area could have catastrophic consequences for the crews involved, the environment, and indeed, the living resources all parties cherish in the region.
QUESTION: So that was -- so you don't want -- you said to refrain from this year's hunt?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Especially for those two species?
MR. MCCORMACK: That's correct.
QUESTION: What about for the rest of the species?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we would ask them to refrain, but most in particular with respect to those two species.
QUESTION: And what if they go ahead --
QUESTION: Why those two, just out of curiosity, do you know -- have the answer?
MR. MCCORMACK: I believe they are the most endangered.
QUESTION: And what happens if they go ahead with it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, as the first part of my answer indicated, they -- we do recognize a legal right, but we would note for the Japanese that while they have a legal right, there are other ways to conduct scientific research, non-lethal ways to conduct scientific research, which is the ostensible reason for this expedition.
QUESTION: Do you believe that that's --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any other words to offer on this, Matt.
QUESTION: Okay. And Cambodia, something maybe by the end of the day or --
MR. MCCORMACK: Something -- yeah, we'll get you something. We'll get you something later.
QUESTION: A very quick question also from this morning. Your comment, please, on -- in reaction to the young Saudi woman having her sentence more than doubled the --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, yeah. I saw the news reports and I guess the first thing to say is, while this is a judicial procedure, part of a judicial procedure overseas in the courts of a sovereign country, that said, I think that most would find this relatively astonishing that something like this happened. So while it's very difficult to offer -- you know, offer any detailed comment about the situation, I think most people would really be quite astonished by the situation.
QUESTION: Would you like the Saudi authorities to reconsider it or do you encourage them to do that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you know, again, I can't get involved in specific court cases in Saudi Arabia dealing with its own citizens, but most -- I think most people here would be quite surprised to learn of the circumstances and then the punishment meted out.
QUESTION: Does that mean that the State Department is astonished by it, too?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll leave the answer where it --
QUESTION: Well, what does "most people" mean? I mean, most of who?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would just leave -- I don't have anything else to offer.
QUESTION: Yes. In New York, North Korea and the U.S. financial working group is holding the meeting right now. So what issues will be discussed at said meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think you can check with the Department of Treasury. They have somebody there, a Deputy Assistant Secretary who is leading that delegation, and they're in a better position to answer that question than I am.
Yeah. Do you have one, sir? Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: One, is the meeting part of a possible delisting of North Korea from the terrorism sponsoring list?
MR. MCCORMACK: No updates for you.
QUESTION: This may still be ongoing, but do you have anything from the Secretary's meeting with the New Zealand Foreign Minister or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. No, they're just -- they're having a one-on-one lunch, yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the declaration by the North Koreans?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new.
QUESTION: I'd like to go back to the Saudi case, actually. Just to be clear, you're in no way condemning the sentence at all?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have said what I'm going to say about it.
QUESTION: Updates on the six-party ministerial meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Just one -- one. ASEAN, actually. Susan Schwab is in Singapore and she said that the trade deal with ASEAN is not going to go forward at this time. And I know you don't speak for the USTR, but as the reason she mentioned was Burma and the fact that ASEAN has not been effective enough to get Burma to talk to the opposition and implement more reforms. Do you -- does the State Department have a role in this in terms of linking the two, the situation in Burma and the negotiations on the trade agreement with ASEAN?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we always feed into any development of U.S. positions regarding trade pacts. But USTR Representative Susan Schwab is really the person in the lead and she's the person you should look to for definitive comment from the U.S. Government on it.
QUESTION: What options does the United States have to prevent Pakistani nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, ultimately, the major responsibility for that falls with the Pakistani Government. They have made public comments to the effect that the arsenal is secure, that they have taken a number of different steps to ensure that. We ourselves see no indication that -- to indicate to the contrary that it's secure. We obviously have an interest in seeing that it is secure, however.
QUESTION: Have the Pakistanis accepted the advice and technology that the United States has offered to your satisfaction?
MR. MCCORMACK: I will -- to the extent that the Pakistani Government wants to talk about efforts to secure their arsenal, I'll let them talk about it.
QUESTION: Sean, just two quick ones, follow-up from this morning. This morning you said you'd get us a list of the Secretary's recent calls. Can you read that out?
MR. MCCORMACK: It was talking about the Middle East. She did talk to, among others -- I'm not going to give you the comprehensive list -- but she talked to Foreign Minister Livni, as well as -- let's see here, she also talked with Foreign Minister Gheit, she talked with President Abbas and over the weekend, she also spoke with Prime Minister Olmert.
QUESTION: These were over the weekend or the first three were --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Mm-hmm. Over the weekend. No, these were all -- those were all over the weekend.
QUESTION: Any calls to Lebanese officials to Prime Minister Siniora over the weekend?
MR. MCCORMACK: She did speak with Prime Minister Siniora, yeah.
QUESTION: And do you know what that was about?
MR. MCCORMACK: I did not -- I don't have a readout of it.
QUESTION: Okay. And then last one, I think Matt had asked you this morning, whether there had been any additional contacts with President Musharraf since Deputy Secretary Negroponte's departure? Did you get a chance to check on that or --
MR. MCCORMACK: None to report. I don't know if Anne had any contact with him or not.
QUESTION: Just, again, on Pakistan a follow-up. Can you say anything that the U.S. has done to help Pakistan secure its nukes? And second question, if you have anything -- any more of a readout you can provide on Negroponte's talks with Musharraf?
MR. MCCORMACK: No on both.
QUESTION: Thank you.
Released on November 19, 2007