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Daily Press Briefing

Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 30, 2007

INDEX:

IRAN
U.S. View and Response to Detained British Sailors
Iranian Attempts to Link British Sailors to Other Issues
UNSC Council Press Statement
Secretary Rice's Contact with Foreign Minister Beckett
Designation by Department of Iran's Defense Industries Organization
INDIA
Status of Negotiations on U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement / In-House Assessment
SYRIA
View of Congressional Visits to Syria / Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Trip
Comparison to Assistant Secretary Ellen Sauerbrey's Trip
DEPARTMENT
Congressman Waxman and Alleged Un-Answered Congressional Correspondence
ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
Arab League Peace Initiative / Prime Minister Olmert's Response / Positive Developments
Importance of Political Horizon / Roadmap
VIETNAM
Trial and Conviction of Father Nguyen Van Ly / Right to Peaceful Speech
ZIMBABWE
U.S. View of SADC Statement / President Mugabe's Intransigence
U.S Encouragement of South Africa to Do Whatever It Can
Humanitarian Situation
JAPAN / IRAQ
Diet Approval to Extend Self-Defense Forces Operation in Iraq
NORTH KOREA
Obligations Under February 13 Agreement / 60 Day Deadline
SOMALIA
Increase in Violence / Potential Humanitarian Impact


TRANSCRIPT:

2:00 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to Friday. I don't have anything to open up with, so who wants to start off?

QUESTION: George.

MR. MCCORMACK: George.

QUESTION: Yeah, I know that you probably already discussed this ad infinitum, but on Iran and the sailor seizure, have you guys made a conscious decision to try and -- you know, stay out of the middle of this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well --

QUESTION: And if so, why?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, we -- as with other members of the international community, we have actually been quite outspoken on the issue and we have been supportive, as have the rest of the international community, of the U.K.'s demand that their personnel, their equipment be returned immediately, be returned safely. The British have put out compelling evidence that their personnel were operating in Iraqi waters under a Security Council mandate. And the Security Council just yesterday issued a press statement from the Security Council president telling the Iranians, in effect, that these individuals need to be returned immediately to the U.K.

So we have actually talked quite a bit about this in public and we've been very supportive of the British. That said, this is an issue between the U.K. and Iran. I know that there have been some anonymous Iranian sources that have sought to draw the United States into this by suggesting a swap of personnel, the Iranian personnel held by multinational forces in Iraq, those individuals who were tied in some form or fashion to the EFD networks that are present in Iraq and that are associated with Iran.

We reject any sort of linkage between those two, unconditionally. And we would just -- we would echo the call of Prime Minister Blair as well as other senior British officials that these individuals be returned immediately.

Sue.

QUESTION: Has there been any -- I mean, you talk about these anonymous Iranian sources, but are you discussing this at all with the Brits? I understand that they had raised it to some level? Is that correct?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware that anybody has raised it. We would reject, out of hand, any suggestion by the Iranian sources that there's any linkage between these two issues or linkage of this issue with any other issue. Certainly, the international community is not going to stand for the Iranian Government trying to use this issue to distract the rest of the world from the situation in which Iran finds itself vis--vis their nuclear program or other behaviors around the Middle East.

QUESTION: And it's probably a silly question, but when you talk about anonymous Iranian sources, are you referring to news reports or are these --

MR. MCCORMACK: Just news reports. I think somebody just yesterday brought those up, inside its own anonymous Iranian sources. So that's what I'm referring to.

QUESTION: But you're not picking up anything else on the ground that this is what the (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of. Nobody's made me aware of any such formal or informal approaches.

QUESTION: But on the idea of -- have the British discussed with you the possible idea of a prisoner swap between these particular detainees?

MR. MCCORMACK: I am not aware of any such discussion or suggestion.

QUESTION: So you don't think, in any way, that the British --

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, I've not been made aware of any such suggestion or idea.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Sean, what do you make of this analysis that the Iranian military is working sort of separately from the foreign ministry and that they're not working on the same page here?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I don't know. I can't tell you. We don't have -- obviously, I've said it before, we don't have a whole lot of insight into the decision-making processes of the Iranian regime, never mind the highest levels of the Iranian regime. I think it stands to note if you look at the Iranians' public statements, that they have been all over the map with respect to what happened and whether or not a -- one of the -- British personnel were going to be released or not. So there has been at least in public a bit of confusion on their side, but I can't tell you what that means or if that's in any way related to any sort of discord or disunity within the Iranian decision-making apparatus.

QUESTION: Well, we have the Security Council statement last night, of course, but since that we've seen more footage, you know, of these possibly coerced confession --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Why was this such a weak course of action? I mean, that's the weakest kind of statement that the Council can make. And what's going to happen next?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's -- these sorts of statements happen by consensus within the Security Council. Whether or not you have a press statement, as was read out yesterday, or a presidential statement which actually gets entered into the Security Council's record. We supported the UK's efforts to have the most robust form of statement that they could possibly get, and whether that spoke to the form -- a presidential statement or press statement -- or the language of it. We supported whatever the British wanted to put in that statement and the way in which they wanted to release it.

But as I said, this is a body that operates by consensus on these particular matters, so clearly there were others who had some concerns about the form of the statement as well as the content of the statement. And I can't speak to those where -- I will let the other members of the Security Council talk about what they thought of the UK's proposals.

QUESTION: I know you're leaving this as a bilateral issue, but as an ally of the UK, I mean, will you be exerting any pressure at the Security Council? Can you talk about that at all? Will you be pushing this further?

MR. MCCORMACK: We, of course, stand ready to assist the British Government in any fashion that they think is effective.

Yeah.

QUESTION: On Iran, just one more on the hostages.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary talk to Foreign Secretary Beckett?

MR. MCCORMACK: She did speak with her just after this incident occurred late last week, and they are also going to speak in the near future. They haven't spoken in recent days, but the Secretary does want to reach out to Foreign Secretary Beckett.

QUESTION: On this again. Is there a concern that the Iranians are trying to use this to draw the U.S. in?

MR. MCCORMACK: Draw us into?

QUESTION: Into whatever malevolent, nefarious schemes they --

MR. MCCORMACK: You know -- scheme they may have, right. You know, again, Matt, an answer to that really requires some insight into their thought processes. I think that it stands to reason that they would like to use it as a means of distracting the rest of the world from Iran's current set of problems: you know, the fact that they just were subject to a second Chapter 7 resolution as well as the international spotlight on a number of their behaviors over recent months. But I couldn't say definitively whether or not they want to draw us in or not, but we're stating quite clearly that we don't -- we reject any sort of linkage between this particular issue and any other.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that any attempt to draw you in would be unsuccessful?

MR. MCCORMACK: We -- as I said, we're out of hand stating that there is no linkage between this as well as any other issue, and I think you're hearing the same thing from the Brits.

QUESTION: And not willing to -- not willing at all under any circumstances to allow this --

MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, we reject any linkage between the -- between this incident and anything else.

QUESTION: Just one more on this, than I have another question on Iran. When -- you said that this is a means of distracting, but what about the Iranian argument that this type of kind of what they call incursion into Iranian waters has happened six or seven times in the last two years?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, the UK has put out what we think is definitive evidence that these personnel were operating in Iraqi waters and therefore under a Security Council mandate. As for any other claims of incursions, "incursions" into Iranian-claimed waters, I can't speak to those. You know, and I can't also speak to whether or not Iran has made incursions into Iraqi waters. It requires a little bit of history that I just don't have in front of me.

QUESTION: Also on Iran, can you talk about the designation of the DIO today? Why is it happening now if the -- if this is related to the resolution that was passed in December? Is it just because it --

MR. MCCORMACK: It takes some time. You go through -- you go through the executive order requirements. This is a relatively new executive order dealing with authority to freeze the assets of proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters. And there are a number of different entities that are in Resolution 1737 that had already been designated under this executive order. I'll give you the number here. It's E.O. 13382.

So this was just a -- this was another step where the bureaucracy was able to gather up all the evidence that it needs to gather fulfilling the legal and regulatory requirements that they need to under this executive order. And the result was the designation of this particular entity and it's supportive of Resolution 1737 and 1747.

QUESTION: Will you be taking steps through your other area of sanctions, through the banking industry, to make sure that there are no transactions in --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are -- I can't -- Treasury can speak to sort of the real on-the-ground mechanics of this. But the way I understand it, these sort of notifications go out to businesses as well as financial institutions and they do a check of their records to see if there are any assets that may be linked to this particular organization, the Defense Industry's organization. And if they do find any of those assets, then they're required to freeze them and then report back to Treasury.

The DIO had previously been under various sanctions under the Arms Export Control Act as well as other U.S. laws, so at this point we'd be surprised if there were any assets in the United States or under the control of U.S. entities, but there may well be and so we are going to go through and do due diligence and make sure that there aren't any of those assets. If we do find them, we're going to freeze them.

QUESTION: Just one more on that, and actually kind of a two-part question. Are you worried about any kind of reconstituting or renaming of entities, kind of like a shell game to see if they can continue to enlist in financial transactions? And do you know if this -- if the DIO is responsible for the manufacturing of these explosive devices that you've been --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any connection between DIO and the EFPs. In terms of the Iranian shell game, it's ongoing and we have a lot of people that are dedicated to making sure that they aren't able to succeed in those efforts, putting up new front companies, using various cutouts, other types of methods designed to deceive legitimate financial institutions, legitimate businesses who may be dealing with those front companies.

QUESTION: Can I just ask one more question about the naval incident? I'm sorry, it's just because I simply don't know and of course you don't know either, but the to and fro about the coordinates, how are these waterway borders defined? I mean, are they very clearly defined or is this an example of a problem that you might -- a continuing problem you might have?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll try to get you some information on that. I have seen a variety of different reports about this, but nothing that I would feel comfortable giving you a definitive answer. So let's circle back and we'll try to get you a clear answer on that, to the extent we can.

Sue.

QUESTION: On India. Do you have a readout of Nick Burns' meeting --

MR. MCCORMACK: Sorry. That was on my to-do list. I'll see what -- we'll see what we can get you. There will be --

QUESTION: Well maybe you might know yourself, then; what are the areas of disagreement that you're looking at, at the moment?

MR. MCCORMACK: This is all highly technical stuff. Off the top of my head, I do not know. There are some areas that the Indians have raised and that has caused us to raise some questions back to them as well. So we're -- Nick is going to take the information that he receives from the negotiating team that's just returning. He's going to do a conversation in-house here to assess where we are in these negotiations.

We have already worked with Congress to pass the overall legislation. This is part of one of the steps that is required to implement -- fully implement the deal that we have with the Indian Government. The negotiations have taken some time. These are tough negotiations. I guess that's the way I'd put it right now. And once we have an opportunity to assess where we are in those negotiations, I think we'll probably have Nick go back to the Indians at the political level to really have a conversation about where we are and what's needed in order to move forward and successfully complete these negotiations.

QUESTION: So do you have any idea when that next negotiating session might be, whether it's going to be months away or weeks away?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I can't tell you. We'll have to do an in-house assessment and see where we are. Certainly, we have acted in good faith in these negotiations to see that they move forward and we can only assume that that is the motivation of the Indian Government as well.

QUESTION: Do you think, though, that the Indian Government is acting in good faith at the moment or do you think that it's a lot of politics on their side too?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, everybody has their own politics. You know, we had our own politics in working with the Congress to pass the overall legislation, so everybody has politics. That's just the reality of democracies dealing with one another. We expect at this point that the Indians do want to move forward with these negotiations and we're acting on that basis.

Yeah.

QUESTION: On Syria.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Nancy Pelosi is visiting Syria. The White House criticized her decision to go. I was wondering what you think of this. And it's my understanding that the Bush Administration tried to dissuade her from visiting Syria at this time, didn't think it would be appropriate.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Can you speak to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we've -- you know, our message both to Republicans and Democrats alike who either have visited Syria in this recent period or intend to, as Speaker Pelosi does, has been consistent, it's been the same. In our view, it's not the right time to have those sort of high-profile visitors to Syria mostly for the simple fact that the Syrians, despite a number of different pleas and approaches from the United States as well as other countries, have refused to change their behavior vis--vis support for Palestinian rejectionist groups, for their support for -- their unhelpful stance with respect to Lebanon. And we don't think it would be appropriate for high-level visitors, even those from the Congress, to pay a visit to Syria right now.

A typical Syrian MO on this is to use these visits to tell the rest of the world and say, "Look, there's nothing wrong. We're having all these visitors come to Syria, coming to Damascus, there's no problem with our behavior," and they point to the visits as proof that there is no problem with their behavior and that they are not, in fact, isolated. So that's the simple reason why we have encouraged others as well as Speaker Pelosi not to travel.

That said, congressmen and representatives are going to make their own decisions about where they travel. And in this case, they made the decision to go forward. We are going to provide all the support that might normally be expected to be provided to a member of Congress traveling to a foreign country. We provided a briefing for Speaker Pelosi's staff and those traveling with her. So that's about -- that's really where we stand right now.

QUESTION: Will anyone from State be accompanying Speaker Pelosi?

MR. MCCORMACK: No.

QUESTION: Sometimes, you send along a little help (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: A little help --

(Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Not to my knowledge, not to my knowledge. Of course, other people on the ground are ready to assist the congressional delegation in setting up meetings and even attending those meetings if that's what the congressional delegation wants.

QUESTION: But Ellen Sauerbrey was there and --

MR. MCCORMACK: A very specific mission dealing with the humanitarian issue of Iraqi refugees and she went in -- talked to somebody at her level, her counterpart on a very limited scope mission.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Just to sort of -- has there been a presidential or vice presidential visit to Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: To Syria? When?

QUESTION: Has there been?

MR. MCCORMACK: Ever?

QUESTION: Ever.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm going to look over here. George. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Jimmy Carter met with President Asad, I think in Geneva. So did --

QUESTION: So did Clinton.

MR. MCCORMACK: In Geneva. And Secretary Albright, I know, visited there for the funeral and then --

QUESTION: Christopher --

QUESTION: Christopher went a couple of times.

MR. MCCORMACK: Baker's been there numerous times.

QUESTION: Even Sean McCormack, I think might have been to Damascus once or twice. Is that true?

MR. MCCORMACK: I made one trip there, yeah. Not that that's important. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Change of topics. Have you seen that Henry Waxman sent another letter to Secretary Rice, I believe, today or yesterday, asking her to appear before his committee?

MR. MCCORMACK: Haven't seen that. I know, if this is related to his previous letter about unanswered correspondence --

QUESTION: Yeah. He's saying that he hasn't --

MR. MCCORMACK: Alleged unanswered correspondence, we have a reply in preparation. We did a lot of groundwork to make sure we went through and addressed each of the incidences in which Secretary Rice or then-National Security Advisor Rice was alleged not to have responded to the correspondence. I think it's nearly ready for signature if not -- if it already has not been signed and we're going to be sending that out to Congressman Waxman.

QUESTION: Do you think she'd be willing to testify in front of his committee about the topics he asked her about?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that the fact that we will have answered all of his concerns as stated in his letter would obviate the need for any sort of testimony. I'm sure he'll be satisfied with the response.

QUESTION: What if he's not?

QUESTION: I'm trying to get that straight. Is it allegedly unanswered or is it alleged correspondence?

MR. MCCORMACK: Allegedly unanswered.

QUESTION: But it's correspondence that you acknowledge you received?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well --

QUESTION: Are you saying you did not --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't want to get too deeply into this. But it talks about a number of different correspondences to the State Department as well as to the White House over time. And what we've done is we've looked through -- gone back and looked through each of those incidences of correspondence and seen what the reply -- and determined what the replies were and we're detailing all of those, just straight up in the factual manner in the letter replying to Congressman Waxman.

QUESTION: Sean, what if, in fact, the Congressman is not satisfied with the answer --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't see -- I'm sure he'll be satisfied with -- it's a very complete response, so I'm not sure why he wouldn't be.

QUESTION: In the Secretary's response does she touch on the issue of Niger and all of the questions -- the lengthy questions that he's posed on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're going to send the correspondence up and if he wants to release, he's free to release it. We typically don't when we send something out to the Hill like that.

QUESTION: Well, I mean -- you know, you said that the State Department would comply with the questions. But, I mean, do you have any curiosity as to what the end game here is? I mean, obviously there are a lot of lingering question about Niger but to what practical effect, I mean, is this investigation going on?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think this is a piece of ground that has been plowed over --

QUESTION: Right, exactly.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- and over and over and over and over again. So I'm not sure what the -- what their lingering questions are. I'm pretty sure whatever they may be they have nothing to do with Secretary Rice.

Yeah.

QUESTION: I guess onto Israel. Olmert's giving a series of newspaper interviews quoting this Arab peace plan revolutionary saying it could be wrapped up within five years. Can I have a reaction to that, what you make of these comments?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well --

QUESTION: Is obviously a policy change.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Prime Minister Olmert has provided a response to the Arab League initiative intended to re-launch something that they had talked about several years ago and that is looking at a vision of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East involving Arab states and the state of Israel. The fact that the Arab League came through and reissued that offer as well as talked about -- I think they referred to them as implementing committees, committees that would go around and explain what it is, the thinking behind the initiative. It's very positive. The fact that you have Prime Minister Olmert offering what I would characterize as a positive response is a little bit of what Secretary Rice talked about during her trip and prior to her trip. And that is, the idea that perhaps this Arab League initiative might be used as a basis for more active diplomacy on this particular issue. How this plays out will be a decision for the Arab League members as well as Israel. But certainly the decision to re-launch the initiative and Prime Minister Olmert's reply are positive.

QUESTION: Well, don't think there are -- sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Has she spoken with him?

MR. MCCORMACK: She has not. No.

QUESTION: Don't you think there are some discrepancies, though, in Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's response? I mean, on one hand, he says it's, you know, a positive development that they re-launch the initiative --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: But at the same time, he said pretty publicly that he's not willing to talk about the contours of a Palestinian state right now. So, I mean, how can you even get to the initiative if he's not even willing to talk about the final contours of a peace deal?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, nobody's talking about going for the long down field pass here. You know, Secretary Rice has talked about the fact that moving forward the process of peace in the Middle East between the Israelis and the Palestinians and some sort of wider peace throughout the Middle East is going to be a step by step process. This is hard stuff. A lot of people have tried before. The situation is such now, though, that we believe that there is an opportunity to advance the process, to put in place a process where the different parties involved might be able to start a discussion on issues that they really haven't had a serious discussion about in six years.

So this is going to go step by step. We're going to take these positive developments, try to build on them. A lot of it, though, will not be dependent upon the United States or Secretary Rice's efforts in the region. It's going to be dependent upon Arab states, it's going to be dependent on the Palestinians looking to reconcile the political contradictions within their own system. It's going to be up to the Israelis as well. We are going to be there to support them, help energize the process, push, prod, cajole, encourage along the way, but fundamentally is going to be the parties in the region that come up with the solutions.

QUESTION: Well, just on (inaudible), I mean it seems that the Israelis find the most attractive thing about the Saudi initiative is that it normalized relations with Israel, but Foreign Minister Livni, when she was here with the Secretary about a week-and-a-half ago or two weeks ago, said that she was hoping that Arab states would normalize relations -- moderate Arab states would normalize relations with the Israelis before a Palestinian peace deal was ever hatched, because she thought it would inspire moderate Palestinians to sign up to the deal.

Does the Secretary sign up to that point of view or does she agree that -- with the Arabs, that they can -- that they should only normalize relations with Israel if there's the creation of a Palestinian --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, she's talked about the fact that both for the Palestinians and the Israelis, it is important to provide what she's referred to as a political horizon, that you see where you're going to -- you see your destination and in doing so, that sometimes helps you work through some of the more difficult, practical, and necessary issues on the pathway to achieving either a state or a different state of relations between Israel and Arab states.

So that is essentially how she views this process and -- but the fact that you are working on a political horizon doesn't obviate the need for working on the sort of day-to-day issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It's on phase one of the roadmap. In terms of the Arab League initiative and the Israelis, what -- the way she has phrased it, and I'm going to stick with it, is she's talked about using the re-launch of this initiative as the basis for active diplomacy. We're not going to prescribe exactly what the Arab League or their implementing committees might do or what the Israeli response might be.

We encourage -- we have obviously encouraged both sides to take a look at what is out there, but how this develops is going to be something that we're going to see over a period of time. You know, we're just one or two days away from -- is it two -- two days away from the re-launch of this initiative, so we'll see how this plays out.

QUESTION: But you don't necessarily see Arab normalization with Israel as a -- being condition upon Israel --

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you have the Arabs re-launching this initiative. We're not going to prescribe exactly how this plays out. It's a positive development that they have re-launched.

George.

QUESTION: Did you see the story about the Vietnamese Catholic priest who was given an eight-year prison sentence for anti-government activities?

MR. MCCORMACK: We did. We're deeply troubled by the March 30th trial and conviction and sentencing of Father Nguyen Van Ly on charges of propagandizing against the state. This trial comes in the wake of some -- of an increase in the harassment, detention, and arrest of individuals peacefully exercising a legitimate right to peaceful speech. And this is a case that we have raised with the Vietnamese Government officials among other cases. Secretary Rice did bring the issue -- up the issue of human rights as well as democratic rights in Vietnam when she met with the Foreign Minister here in Washington just a couple of weeks ago. So we're going to be watching the situation very closely and as we said, this is something that is certainly not a positive development.

QUESTION: Do you want to say it's a negative development?

MR. MCCORMACK: Absolutely, it's a negative development.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, it's been since roughly March 11th when all this chaos developed in Harare with Robert Mugabe and he's just left the SADC meeting saying that his neighbors agree with him. And, of course, I guess over a year, year and a half, he's caused this repression and economic disaster and he's just today raided the MDC headquarters. There is a Future of International Law conference here in Washington, and for instance tomorrow morning they're talking about strengthening human rights mechanisms around the world. Are you taking part in that particular discussion tomorrow?

MR. MCCORMACK: In the conference?

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: I have no idea.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about Zimbabwe and the latest that's happened there? Anything?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they did have -- the SADC did have this meeting and they issued a statement out of it. I think it's safe to say that we would have wished for something a bit stronger out of the SADC and taking a little bit more firm stance vis--vis what's going on in Zimbabwe. We can take heart, however, from the fact that they actually did have this summit meeting and they did get together to at least discuss the issue of Zimbabwe, if they didn't necessarily take the actions that one might have hoped that they would take.

QUESTION: Do you think that President Mugabe has been emboldened by the sort of fairly mild response? For example, his ruling party today adopted a motion to hold elections in 2008 and endorsed Mugabe as their candidate. So that -- you know, I'm not saying it's directly (inaudible) or anything else, but it appears that it's not really having any impact at all -- this international pressure that you're putting on.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, I can't speak to what their calculations are. Clearly he has become very intransigent in the face of a lot of international pressure. That doesn't mean that you let up on the international pressure. I think that it makes it all the more important we continue to focus the spotlight on the kind of behavior that is being demonstrated by President Mugabe as well as his government. It's sad, it's outrageous, and certainly we hope better for the Zimbabwean people. And we already have sanctions in place, so it's really a matter of looking at what else we might do with the international community, and part of that effort is to work with states in the region to get them to increase the pressure because some -- the situation obviously in Zimbabwe can't continue as it is. This is an economy that is in complete ruin and there's real suffering that's ongoing as a result of the decrease in the level of human rights as well as democratic rights in that state.

QUESTION: Are you reaching out to South Africa to ask them to do a lot more? On the flip side, they of course fear that if they're too strong in their response that they'll have a flood of refugees. I mean, that's one of their problems. But are you reaching out to them and asking them to do more or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we've encouraged them to do everything that they possible can. There's always a delicate balance between applying the international pressure and the concern for the humanitarian situation of the people that might possibly be affected by it, in this case the Zimbabwean people. So key to whatever solution is arrived at in Zimbabwe is going to be the efforts of South Africa as well as others of Zimbabwe's neighbors.

QUESTION: You said yesterday and perhaps the day before that you wanted SADC to make clear to Mugabe that his behavior was unacceptable.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Did they fall short, fall short?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they fell short.

QUESTION: Fell short?

MR. MCCORMACK: Fell short.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the Japanese cabinet's approval of the law extending the Self-Defense Forces' operations in Iraq?

MR. MCCORMACK: We certainly welcome the move by the Japanese Diet. The Japanese forces have been very important in providing logistical and air support into Iraq, and the Japanese Government several years ago took a -- for them -- virtually unprecedented step in deploying these forces to Iraq and we very much appreciate the fact that that effort is being renewed.

QUESTION: And then on North Korea.

MR. MCCORMACK: On BDA.

QUESTION: On BDA, daily BDA question. Chris Hill said on Monday that he expected that -- the transfer to be resolved in a couple of days.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And it's the end of the week. Are you frustrated with the lack of progress that's been made? And also do you have any concerns about meeting the 60-day deadline?

MR. MCCORMACK: We continue to be confident that everybody is going to meet their obligations under the February 13th agreement, meet the 60-day deadline. The process of implementing the action that we have decided to take is ongoing. Our Treasury team is there in Beijing. I think Danny Glaser is probably going to the dry cleaner because he's been there for quite some time. I don't know how much longer he is going to be there.

I do know that they are working hard to come up with a solution so that the -- we can finally tie a bow around this situation and move on. I'm not going to try to put a date on it.

QUESTION: Before the Olympics? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Before the Olympics? Yes, I suspect before the Olympics, Matt. Are you looking forward to going to the Olympics? Do you have your mind on that? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Just one more question. Sorry. Do you have anything on Governor Bill Richardson's proposed trip to North Korea?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, don't.

QUESTION: One more on Somalia. Ethiopia says that it killed about 200 Islamic insurgents in a major offensive today. How much support is the U.S. giving Ethiopia in these?

MR. MCCORMACK: Support? What do you mean, support?

QUESTION: In terms of -- I might have to direct this to -- more to the Pentagon, but how much sort of logistical and other support is the U.S. --

MR. MCCORMACK: Check with the Pentagon.

QUESTION: Okay. And any comment on the increase in violence in Somalia and fears that it's sort of spinning out of control?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not going to try to characterize it beyond the fact that it's clear that there are increased levels of violence ongoing there. The real concern here is for the potential humanitarian impact and that you have innocent civilians that get caught in the crossfire. It's clearly a dangerous situation in Mogadishu right now. We continue to support the TFG and the -- as well as the Ugandan deployment of forces to Mogadishu. It's a tough situation. You know, Mogadishu -- it's not as if Mogadishu has been a stable place for lo these many years.

Certainly our hope is that the Somali people can actually realize a better day and that the security situation stabilizes and that they do have actual functioning democratic governmental institutions. We're not there yet. We are doing what we can to support the TFG as well as working with the international community to see what it can do to support the TFG.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:40 p.m.)

DPB # 56



Released on March 30, 2007



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