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US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 11 Dec 2007

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 11, 2007

US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 11 Dec 2007



Statement / U.S. Condemnation of Terrorist Bombings in Algeria
U.S. Ready to Provide Assistance to Government Upon Their Request
No Information on Responsibility


P5+1 Conference Call / Under Secretary Burns / Constructive Conversation
Working Toward a Final Security Council Resolution / Draft Text
U.S. Having Good Discussions with Others on Elements of Resolution
President Ahmadi-Nejad's Comments / National Intelligence Estimate
Claims of a Nuclear Program by an Iranian Dissident
NIE a Consensus Estimate of the Entire U.S. Intelligence Community
Oil Agreement Between China, Iran / U.S. Laws


Reports of a Halliburton Employee Raped in Iraq
DOS Acted Immediately, Conducted Investigation / Department of Justice
Iraqi National Security Advisor's Comments on Basing in Iraq
Role Iran Plays in Iraq / Need for a Positive Role, Reflective of a Neighbor


Meeting Between Israelis and Palestinians to Have Organizational Focus
Secretary Rice's Calls
Israeli Construction Plans / U.S. Seeks Clarification
Hamas' Failure in Its Administration of Gaza, Looking for Way Out
Upcoming Choice for the Palestinian People
U.S. Focused on Those Palestinians Committed to Peace
Reports of Israeli Incursion Into Gaza
Final Status Negotiations

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NATO's Pushing Out the Taliban in Musa Qala / Still Engaged in Struggle


New York Philharmonic's Trip to DPRK / Private Effort
Need for Effort to be Focused on Verifiable Denuclearization of Peninsula
Cultural Exchanges One Element of Different Kind of Relationship for DPRK


U.S. Discussions with Russia, Others / Implementation of Ahtisaari Plan
Lavrov's Comments / U.S. Efforts to Promote Stability in the Balkans


12:40 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I have one opening statement for you and then I can get to your questions. This is regarding the bombings in Algeria.

The United States condemns the terrorist bombings today in Algeria that killed scores of innocent people, including employees of the United Nations. There is no justification for these kind of despicable attacks. At this moment, we stand with the government and the people of Algeria as they deal with this unconscionable violence and struggle against a terrorist threat. We are ready to provide assistance to the Algerian Government upon their request and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

With that, I can take your questions.

QUESTION: What kind of assistance?

MR. MCCORMACK: Whatever -- if they ask for any assistance, we're ready to provide it. I don't know if they need forensic assistance or any other kind, but if they ask, we are prepared to provide it.

QUESTION: Do you know -- this is a neighborhood that -- populated by embassies and diplomatic missions, that kind of thing. Do you know how close this was?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I don't know exactly. Our embassy is somewhat removed from the downtown area, so it's kind of up in the hills a little bit. Our embassy continues its operations. It's going to be open for business. We do have a travel warning that's out and that remains in effect.

QUESTION: Not a new one, that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Not a new one; we have one that remains in effect.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: Do you guys --


QUESTION: -- have any information about who might be responsible?

MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, we don't. I know that the Ministry of Interior in Algeria was just talking about who they thought might be responsible, but at this point, we don't have any information. There is an active and ongoing terrorist presence in Algeria. They've been fighting a terrorist threat for quite some time. But I can't pin it down for you exactly who is responsible.

QUESTION: Do you have any details on the P-5+1 conference call? Has it taken place?

MR. MCCORMACK: It has taken place. They were on for about an hour and a half. This was -- from our side, Under Secretary Nick Burns. He is our Political Director. He's been the primary interlocutor at the political director level. Not much in way -- by way of details. They had an hour and a half -- they had an hour and a half conversation, but I can't really provide too many of the details of the conversation beyond saying that they had a good, constructive conversation and they will continue to work to finalize the elements of a Security Council resolution.

The thought is that they will, at some point, get together probably via conference call, once again, in the not-too-distant future with an eye towards, in the next several weeks, in the coming weeks, having a final Security Council resolution that can be voted upon. And what is very interesting about this is that we're not talking about whether or not there's going to be a resolution, but we're talking about, what are the elements to a new Security Council resolution.

QUESTION: So in other words, China and Russia indicated that they were supportive of --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'll let --

QUESTION: -- finalizing --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll let them speak for themselves, but we're working continually to finalize a resolution.

QUESTION: But previous --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) expected to give penalties against the IRGC?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not going to talk about any particular elements that are being discussed. We'll, at some point, have a draft text that is circulated among the members of the Security Council, but we are not at that point yet. We're still doing negotiations within the P-5+1.

QUESTION: Does the United States want to impose such --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to talk about any of the particular elements of the resolution.

QUESTION: Sean, when you say in the not-too-distant future, another call -- a conference call yet --


QUESTION: This week?

MR. MCCORMACK: Possibly. They haven't scheduled it yet, but they're looking to --

QUESTION: Are you working towards --

MR. MCCORMACK: What's happening now is -- and the reason why they haven't scheduled it yet is they're going to recirculate a new draft of the text of the resolution and at that point, once everybody has had a chance to take a look at it and assess it, they get together again for a conference call at the political director's level.

QUESTION: So this call -- this morning, I take it?

MR. MCCORMACK: This morning, yeah.

QUESTION: This call produced revisions to a draft that will now be circulated around the Capitol?


QUESTION: Is there thought being given towards having the minister -- the foreign minister sign off on this as a meeting that might happen, you know, in person rather than a conference call in, say, the next --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I wouldn't -- I wouldn't -- I wouldn't look to that kind of schedule, Matt.

QUESTION: You would not?

MR. MCCORMACK: I would not look to that kind of schedule, no.

QUESTION: So as far as -- just to follow up on what Matt said, on Sunday, in other words, you don't plan to have a P-5+1?

MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't -- I wouldn't expect that they will and certainly, if the ministers need to get together, they can do so via conference call. And of course, everybody has their own scheduling issues with respect to the Paris meeting. I'm not sure that all the P-5+1 ministers are going to be able to make it to the Paris meeting.

QUESTION: There was a problem, I think, with the Chinese in terms of them getting there?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think there were a couple of the ministers -- I'm not going to speak on their behalf, but I think there would be a couple of the ministers, so I wouldn't just -- I wouldn't single out the Chinese in this regard.

QUESTION: And are they scheduling problems or is that because the Chinese are being belligerent?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) No, no. Look, they're continuing to work through the elements of a resolution. It was a good, constructive phone call. We're not there yet. But our hope, as you heard from Secretary Rice, is that in the coming weeks, that we could have a resolution that is voted on in the Security Council.

QUESTION: Do the Europeans and the U.S. agree on all the elements?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I'm not going to get into who stands where on what issue, but we have had good discussions with our EU partners on the elements of a resolution. We are also having good discussions with the Russian Government at senior levels about what the elements of a resolution might be.

And I know the Secretary, while she was back here just a couple of weeks, had a good meeting with Foreign Minister -- the Chinese Foreign Minister and they had a good constructive discussion. So we are having constructive discussions about the elements of a resolution as well as the process as well as where we stand with respect to Iran and the strategic choice that they have to make, which pathway they want to go down and continue down the pathway of rejecting the demands of the international community or take the opportunities that's been -- that have been presented to them by the P-5+1.

QUESTION: One more thing on that. The -- President Ahmadi-Nejad said that there was no legal basis for further sanctions following the intelligence estimate?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think the members of the UN Security Council would beg to differ with President Ahmadi-Nejad and his assessments about international law.

QUESTION: Can I just -- I just want to make sure --

MR. MCCORMACK: And let's also -- let's also remember what the intelligence estimate said. It said that they had a military program up until 2003. That in and of itself is a violation of their international treaty obligations.

QUESTION: But I just want to make -- confirm one thing. You don't see a need for the P-5+1 ministers to meet again to -- in person to sign off on the review of the revisions that were made to the draft in the conference call today or any future -- it doesn't need to go back to them for --

MR. MCCORMACK: Not necessarily. That's really a matter of sort of their mutual assessment: Do they need to either (a) get together or (b) get together via a conference call. And that's going to be an assessment they make.

QUESTION: Yeah, well --

MR. MCCORMACK: It has varied -- it has varied. Typically, though, they have, when we get to the very final stages of a resolution, gotten together on a conference call or in person. But it's not -- it's not a requirement.

QUESTION: So -- I'm sorry to be pedantic. So does that mean that if they're not going to meet this weekend, then they're simply just not ready to sign off on it?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we'll see.

QUESTION: You're not there yet, you said.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we're not there yet as of this phone call. I can't tell you what the next round of discussions will produce or exactly when they will come to closure on the elements of a resolution. We -- I would just put out there that we would hope that we'd be able to get a new Security Council resolution in a matter of weeks. That's something the Secretary talked about yesterday in a Q&A session she had at a speech.

QUESTION: Sean, I don't want to (inaudible), but can you just confirm -- this a Chapter 7 resolution, right?


QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.


QUESTION: Today an Iranian dissident said that the military program -- the military nuclear program was suspended in 2003, but it -- that it restarted in 2004. So that actually it was alive. It was still working -- it's working. Do you have any information about that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't, Sylvie. I can only just refer you back to the consensus intelligence estimate that we released last week from our intelligence community.

QUESTION: But this guy is the one who actually made revelation in 2002 about (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: Sylvie, I can't -- you know, can't offer any comment beyond the fact that our intelligence community -- 16 intelligence agencies in that community -- came up with a consensus assessment. This was what it was. And I can't speak to this. And you know, they had access to a whole variety of different information. They actually went back and carefully went through all the information that they had and came up with this assessment.

QUESTION: Okay. I have a small question. This guy is the former spokesman from the National Council of Islamic Resistance.


QUESTION: Is it a group that you consider as a terrorist?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the MEK, the Mujahedin-e Khalq is considered a terrorist organization.

QUESTION: But not the National --

MR. MCCORMACK: Sylvie, I can't tell you --

QUESTION: You don't know.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- off the top of my head, you know, where they fall. I think this is a group that was in some way constituted in the United States. I can't tell you exactly how we view them. You'd probably get a better read on that from the Department of Justice or the FBI.


QUESTION: Sean, could you just on the NIE -- would you care to comment on former Speaker Gingrich's -- on a column that he wrote in which he said that the conclusions of the NIE are part of a State Department coupe against the right-thinking rest of the Administration - (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, as I pointed out, this is the consensus estimate of the entire U.S. intelligence community which includes elements from the Department of Defense, from the State Department, INR, as well as other members of the intelligence community. So there is not just one cook who put this together. There's a whole -- a whole and entire intelligence community that came to this consensus view.


QUESTION: A new topic?


QUESTION: Okay. This is about reports about a contractor in Iraq working for Halliburton that claims that she was raped. Specifically about the State Department --


QUESTION: -- the congressman in her district who her family contacted, Congressman Poe, has said that he called the State Department and the State Department dispatched Diplomatic Security agents to rescue her. I was wondering if you could confirm that. And also, the congressman has complained that he's not getting enough information from the State Department about the investigation. Is Diplomatic Security doing its own investigation? I think in previous times, your previous spokesmen for the bureau have said that they were. So what's the latest on that, please?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is one of these situations where I hope you will understand I'm not going to be able to offer too much comment because I in no way want to jeopardize the ability of our prosecutors to bring successfully a court case. I can say that when the State Department received information, it acted immediately. It conducted an investigation and it turned over the results of that investigation over to the Department of Justice. And I'd have to refer you over to the Department of Justice for any further comment.

QUESTION: But when you say "acted immediately" to get this woman out of danger, is that what you --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm going to leave it at that.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: And was the investigation -- a Diplomatic Security investigation?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: Can you say when the results were turned over?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. Oh, okay. Anything else on this?


QUESTION: In Iraq, I think there have been comments about this in the past, Sean, but can you tell us is there a plan by the U.S. Government once the troops have left Iraq to have permanent military bases in Iraq? Is that in the negotiating -- in the talks with Iraq, has it come up recently and what's the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think Secretary Gates has talked about this. He's testified about it recently and I think he's done some news interviews. I couldn't really offer anything beyond what he said on the topic. I know it's been pretty recently he's talked about it.

QUESTION: I'm asking because the Iraqi National Security Advisor said today that no foreign forces will be allowed to station permanently in Iraq after the multinational forces have completed their task. And he was saying under any circumstances, would they not be allowed to stay. I mean, comments like that coming from a government that you're trying to work with to stabilize your outcome doesn't -- don't strike me as particularly helpful. Do you have any --

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't -- Nicholas, I haven't seen the comments. I can only say that we're working very well with the Iraqis on the security front as well as on a number of different issues, working on the political front as well. As for this question of future military presence, I would just have to refer you back to what Secretary Gates has said about it. It's really his (inaudible).


QUESTION: The Iranian President said today that he's considering visiting Iraq. Will the U.S. consider such a visit as provocative or positive?

MR. MCCORMACK: It depends -- you know, a simple visit is something that's going to be for the two countries to decide upon. They're neighbors. We would expect that they would have good, neighborly, transparent relations.

As for the role that Iran has -- plans to play in Iraq, it's going to be up to the Iranian Government. And I think the Iraqi Government has made it quite clear the kind of role that they would like to see Iran play, one that is a positive role, one that is a -- reflective of their status as a neighbor, reflective of the desire for the Iraqi people to have good relationships with the Iranian people. It's going to be for the two countries to work out between them. We've made it quite clear that our troops will act to defend themselves and will act to break up any of these networks that are seeking to do harm to Iraqi citizens or to our U.S. military presence there or to our diplomatic presence there.


QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the meetings tomorrow between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the first round of talks? And then secondly, has the Secretary called either Prime Minister Olmert or President Abbas prior to these meetings?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me -- she has --

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

MR. MCCORMACK: No. Last conversations were last week with the Israelis. She hasn't spoken with them. We talked about it before. This is really meant to be, I think, an organizational meeting. They're going to talk about how they want to structure the final status negotiations in terms of what committees they might want to establish, who will be in those committees, what will be the various lanes that they use to communicate with one another.

Is there -- I wouldn't -- you know, if they choose to address substance, then of course, that is going to be up to them and we could encourage them to move as fast as they are able to move together. But I think the expectation that they had set out was that this was going to be more of an organizational kind of get-together.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice said yesterday that she hoped the -- Israel's plan to build these new homes wouldn't cloud any discussions.


QUESTION: Is it your sense that they're going to tackle this at the meeting, the new building activity?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I don't know. I don't know if they will. We've made very clear what our views are and we've conveyed those to the Israeli Government. As you heard from Secretary Rice, we've asked for clarification from the Israeli Government. I can't tell you in what way they're going to address the issue between the Israelis and the Palestinians.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: Any updates on the next round of Crocker talks with the Iranians and the Iraqis?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check. We'll check for you and post something this afternoon.


QUESTION: Can I ask one other quick question? Any reaction to NATO pushing Taliban out of Musa Qala?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they'd be in a better position to speak to the military aspects of the operation and exactly what it is that they have achieved. But it does point out the fact that we're still engaged in a struggle in Afghanistan. There are still elements of al-Qaida and the Taliban who want to reverse the gains that the Afghan people have made over the past several years. So it's -- the NATO involvement and the NATO efforts are really crucial to seeing Afghanistan become a real success. They've made great gains since 2001, but there's still a lot more work to be done.


QUESTION: On the Palestinian issues, Hamas is indicating it's willingness to restart the talks with Fatah and open a national dialogue. Will this hinder or help the Annapolis talks, in your opinion?

MR. MCCORMACK: Hinder or help?

QUESTION: The Annapolis talks and the ongoing peace negotiation.

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I think Hamas has failed in its administration of Gaza and it wouldn't surprise me that they are looking for some way out, looking for, you know, discussions with Fatah or others. But I think President Abbas has laid out a very clear vision of where he intends to lead the Palestinian people and let's be clear that the future Palestinian state is not going to be realized through the use of violence or the use of terror. It's going to be realized through negotiations. That's the pathway that President Abbas has set out and I think you saw quite a bit of Arab state support for that vision and for that effort.

So I think that's where everybody's focus is going to lie and eventually, the Palestinian people are going to face a choice which pathway they want to go. Do they want to realize a Palestinian state, a state of their own, or do they want to go down a different pathway that's now represented by Hamas?

QUESTION: Well, do you encourage the negotiations? Because it's already going on in Saudi Arabia now.

MR. MCCORMACK: Our focus -- our focus is on the Israeli-Palestinian track, supporting President Abbas, supporting Prime Minister Fayyad and those who want to realize a negotiation -- realize a Palestinian state via negotiation.

QUESTION: But I mean --


QUESTION: Just to follow up, I mean, obviously, when there is a final status deal and you've said in the past that that would be needed to put to a referendum of the Palestinian people and President Abbas has said that himself. So wouldn't it help to have all of the parties on board supporting this type of agreement?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Hamas -- Hamas is not on board in supporting that kind of agreement. Like I said, the Palestinian people are going to have to face a choice at some point. Very clearly, their president and their government is committed to the pathway of negotiations. They have launched, along with the Israelis, final status negotiations as of Annapolis and, you know, all elements of Palestinian society at some point are going to face a choice when you do get to the point where you have a final status agreement. And we are not to that point yet, but one day, there will be a choice and we'll see what choice the Palestinian people make.

QUESTION: Well, wouldn't it help to -- if you're saying -- I mean, Hamas is obviously an element of that society.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Elise, they have chosen not to play a constructive role. As a matter of fact, they've chosen to play a destructive role with respect to these -- the attempts to negotiate a final status solution. So you know, they have a choice to make as well. I think Secretary Rice talked about this a little bit yesterday in her public discussions. So we are not to that point. We are going to focus our efforts on those elements of Palestinian society that are committed to peace, that are committed to creation of a Palestinian state via the negotiating table.

QUESTION: Do you have any -- just one last one. Do you have any thoughts on the Israeli incursion into Gaza today?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think you can talk to the Israeli Government about that. One thing that is troubling is the continuing rocket attacks that are coming out of Gaza.

QUESTION: Do you have any information about travels by General Jones?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I haven't checked on that. Let me -- that's a good question, let me check on it.


QUESTION: Sean, does the Secretary see a need to go to the Middle East before the President's trip there?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing currently scheduled. If she sees the need to do so, then I'm sure she will. At this point, there's nothing scheduled.

QUESTION: And while we're on the subject, after resisting for several years to use the phrase, final status, both you and the Secretary have been using it for the past two weeks after Annapolis. What changed? Why are you now ready to talk openly and use the phase, final status, when (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that is what the parties agreed to and I think that it merits our using it as well if that's what the two parties wanted to use.


QUESTION: Can I have a change of subject?


QUESTION: All right. Historic concerts, not Led Zeppelin. The --

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) I heard it got good reviews, though.

QUESTION: If I'm not mistaken, I think the New York Philharmonic has announced that it is going to North Korea?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, yeah.

QUESTION: So what do you have to say about that if you --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think -- look, we have encouraged these sort of cultural people-to-people exchanges. This is a private effort. We have supported the New York Philharmonic in taking this decision, but it's their decision to make. It was something that the North Korean Government and the Philharmonic worked out between themselves.

QUESTION: Are you hopeful that this could lead to a -- or contribute to a warming of or an establishment of actual formal relations?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that -- that --

QUESTION: A warming of ties and then potential --

MR. MCCORMACK: A warming of ties? Well, I think the real effort needs to be focused on the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and then if you have that, then you can certainly talk about a different kind of relationship between North Korea and the rest of the world and North Korea and the United States. But in and of itself, as important as cultural exchanges may be in changing relationships between states and -- in this case, it will really be whether or not North Korea makes that strategic decision to denuclearize.

QUESTION: Well, then, is there not some concern that this kind of a thing might be a little bit premature?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you -- look, in this -- this was -- this is not a U.S. Government program. The U.S. Government isn't paying for this. Have we encouraged the New York Philharmonic to engage and seriously consider the requests of the North Korean Government, yes, absolutely. But this is -- you know, this is just one element of a potentially different kind of relationship between North Korea and the rest of the world. It's been very, very isolated, as isolated as a state could be, really, for over the past decades. And perhaps you're seeing some difference and, you know, some change in that status. In terms of formal government-to-government relations and formal change in the relationship between and among governments, that is going to rest upon whether or not North Korea makes some strategic decisions in the context of the six-party talks. Now, we had some pretty good early returns in terms of the disablement process, but there are still many steps along the way here: a good declaration, a full declaration, actual dismantlement of the North Korean nuclear program; and then you can really imagine a different kind of relationship between North Korea and the rest of the world, as outlined in the September 2005 agreement.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Any reaction on the new agreement on oil industry between China and Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: China and?


MR. MCCORMACK: Let me look -- I haven't looked into this recently. We have talked to the Chinese National Oil Company about their discussions with Iran and investment in Iran, and we did convey to them the information about U.S. laws. And any sort of agreements that are above a certain threshold level are going to require a look by the U.S. Government in whether or not any actions need to be taken. But let me look to see if there's any change in the status. I know that there's been a lot of preliminary discussions and the Iranians like to tout those kind of preliminary discussions as meaningful when, in fact, in a real business sense are not too meaningful, because unless and until you sign on the bottom line and actually start moving money and moving materiel doesn't mean so much.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Hi. Do you have any idea why Chris Hill canceled at the last minute from attending the New York Philharmonic's press conference?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you it's a -- you know, a private event.

QUESTION: Is the State Department involved in any way in this trip by the New York Philharmonic?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know what sort of involvement we might have, what support, if any, we might provide. But you know, again, this is -- this is a private effort. I want to make it clear that it is -- we have supported them in positively considering these kind of cultural exchanges. It's a private effort. I will look into whether or not there is any sort of support that we are offering.

QUESTION: Are there any (inaudible) restrictions to North Korea for American citizens?

MR. MCCORMACK: Off the top of my head, I don't know. We have had American citizens, journalists, government officials going there. And private citizens have gone there for visits, yeah.

QUESTION: Could you take that question as a "taken question?

MR. MCCORMACK: Which one?

QUESTION: Whether you're going to provide any --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Yeah. I'm happy to do that.


QUESTION: Also on the same, did you help facilitate the negotiations? I mean, the question that you took was about future, but I'm just wondering about the past.

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I'm not aware of anything other than encouraging them to seriously consider the offer.

QUESTION: So no translators were provided?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I can't tell you. I don't know.

QUESTION: We have no requests.

MR. MCCORMACK: No requests. We have no requests. As for the past, I'll look into it and see if there's anything (inaudible).

Lambros has a two-handed question.

QUESTION: On Kosovo, Mr. McCormack, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated in Cyprus before yesterday, "I want to stress that UBI or Kosovo and recognition of such independence will not remain without consequences throughout the Balkans and around the world." How would you pacify Mr. Lavrov?

MR. MCCORMACK: Pacify Mr. Lavrov?


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Look, we've had very good discussions with the Russian Government as well as others on this issue. I know that's an emotional issue for many. But our position is -- remain clear. The President outlined it. We continue to support implementation of the Ahtisaari plan. There's been a lot of diplomacy that's underpinned this. I know the Secretary spent a lot of time on the issue in her recent trip to Brussels. But it's not really a case of how do we get from where we are now to implementation of the Ahtisaari plan.

QUESTION: And how do you respond to Moscow's new proposal for more negotiations like on so many (inaudible) in the international initiatives (inaudible), i.e., the Israeli-Palestinian issue (inaudible) to the present?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not -- I don't think we would view any of these situations as analogous. We would view the Kosovo situation as sui generis. And as for negotiations, we (inaudible) engaged in some intensive diplomacy with the Russians as well as with the Europeans and it states -- interested states in the region. But there comes a point in which you need to act. And President Bush outlined what our position is and I think we are getting to the point now where we, as well as others, are looking at how do you get from where we are now to implementation of the Ahtisaari plan.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Sean, do you share Mr. Lavrov's concerns about instability in the Balkans? I mean, last time I looked, pretty much everyone who wants to be independent in the Balkans is independent. Is that because -- do you see any similar movements in other places in the Balkans to declare independence if Kosovo gets independence?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any. Look, there is -- it is a part of Europe that is still in transition and still finding its way after a lot of turbulence in the past decade or so. And there is always a risk of violence and outbreak of violence. Our efforts have been aimed at trying to avoid that and trying to actually stabilize, encourage more stability in the region. We believe that ultimately, implementation of the Ahtisaari plan or something that looks very much like it is going to, over the long term, increase stability in the region, not decrease it.

QUESTION: So do you think the Russian concerns have more to do with perhaps Chechnya and other semiautonomous republics within Russia that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas, you can talk to them. You know, again, we've made it very clear and we've been very consistent in this that we view the situation in Kosovo as unique.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)

DPB # 213
Released on December 11, 2007


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UN News: Aid Access Is Key Priority

Among the key issues facing diplomats is securing the release of a reported 199 Israeli hostages, seized during the Hamas raid. “History is watching,” says Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths. “This war was started by taking those hostages. Of course, there's a history between Palestinian people and the Israeli people, and I'm not denying any of that. But that act alone lit a fire, which can only be put out with the release of those hostages.” More

Save The Children: Four Earthquakes In a Week Leave Thousands Homeless

Families in western Afghanistan are reeling after a fourth earthquake hit Herat Province, crumbling buildings and forcing people to flee once again, with thousands now living in tents exposed to fierce winds and dust storms. The latest 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit 30 km outside of Herat on Sunday, shattering communities still reeling from strong and shallow aftershocks. More


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