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State Department Briefing, June 10

10 June 2005

Saudi Arabia, Syria/Lebanon, Iran, Bolivia, Mexico, South Korea, Iraq, China, Pakistan

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack briefed the press June 10.

Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Friday, June 10, 2005
12:50 p.m. EDT

Briefer:  Sean McCormack, Spokesman

-- Nuclear Program/Safeguards Agreement with IAEA/Upholding the NPT

-- Alleged Syrian Hit List/U.S. Concerns over Syrian Interference in Lebanon
-- Syrian Intelligence Operatives in Lebanon/Compliance with Resolution 1559

-- U.S. View of Iranian Elections/Iranians Speaking Out/News Reports on U.S. Grant Proposals/Support of Freedom and Democracy

-- Security for Americans/Unfolding of Constitutional Process

-- U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo

-- Secretary Rice's Meeting with Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon
-- Discussion of Six-Party Framework/North Korea

-- August 15 Deadline/Meeting Deadlines on Writing of Constitution
-- Resolving Differences within Political Process

-- Issue of Freedom and Democracy

-- Secretary Rice's Upcoming Meeting with Foreign Minister Kurshid Kasuri


FRIDAY, JUNE 10, 2005

(12:55 p.m. EDT)

MR. MCCORMACK:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I don't have anything to start with, so I'll jump right into questions.  Mr. Gedda.

QUESTION:  Is there any concern about the Saudi nuclear program and are you aware of reports that that issue may arise at the IAEA meeting to begin on Monday?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I don't know if this is an item that is going to be on the IAEA agenda.  You can check with our mission there.  But what we have done with Saudi Arabia is that we have encouraged them to reach a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA.  They are signatories to the NPT.  And as part of -- and this would be as part of their obligation to upholding the NPT, their obligations under the NPT.  So we have had conversations with them about that in the past and those conversations continue.

QUESTION:  Does the U.S. have credible word that Syria has a hit list targeting opposition figures in Lebanon?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Thanks.  Thanks for the question.  I have a few points here and can follow up.

We are deeply concerned about Syria's interference and intimidation inside Lebanon.  Syria needs to comply fully with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559.  We are concerned that Syrian intelligence operatives are interfering in Lebanon's internal affairs.  We are working with the United Nations on the question of verification teams returning to Lebanon.  Yesterday, Secretary General Annan said that he was considering such an action.  It's important for the international community to send a clear message to Syria that they must comply with Resolution 1559.  Syria's long presence inside Lebanon has created an environment of intimidation and we want to see the elections that are now ongoing in Lebanon occur in a free and fair manner, without any outside interference or intimidation.

And let me just add that is our view, and I think it's the shared view of the world that in the wake of passage of Resolution 1559, it is not business as usual in Lebanon.  The situation has changed. The Lebanese people now have an opportunity to take control and define their own future, free of outside interference.  And I would just add that the eyes of the world are on Lebanon, that countries around the world, members of the Security Council, are watching what happens in Lebanon, and we are listening to the Lebanon people.

QUESTION:  Sean, is it true about this alleged "hit list" that the Syrians have?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I've seen these reports and, while I can't comment in any depth on intelligence matters, what I can say -- and the Secretary has said also in the past -- that we do see a pattern of the use of threat and violence to create an atmosphere of intimidation inside Lebanon.  And we believe that that pattern of threat and intimidation is designed to try to influence the Lebanese people as they continue their voting in the polls.

QUESTION:  When you say pattern and threat of -- when you say threat, you're saying by the Syrian Government?

MR. MCCORMACK:  What I'm saying is that we have seen a number of different actions.  We've seen the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri.  We've seen the assassination of a prominent journalist who, I think, by common reporting in many news reports, was well known for his anti-Syrian, pro-Lebanon views.  So while those investigations are still ongoing, what we do know is we have great concerns about the continuing presence of Syrian intelligence operatives inside Lebanon.



QUESTION:  You're raising this publicly.  Have you raised these issues in private recently with the Syrians?  Did you do it here or in Damascus and what was their response?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I think the Syrian Government, from our numerous public statements today and hearing our concerns over a period of time, as well as the concerns of Secretary General Annan, understand quite clearly what they need to do and the fact -- and I think they also understand quite clearly that the world is watching.  And I would just go back to --Secretary General Annan, when he first gave the report about the verification teams, did leave open the question about Syrian intelligence operatives in Syria.  And 1559 -- Resolution 1559 -- from the President on down and other leaders around the world -- means all forces, not just the military.  That means intelligence operatives as well.

QUESTION:  So, you are or are not raising this in private with them?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I'll see if there's any update in terms of any diplomatic contact, if there's anything we have to share.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  One of the reasons I ask is that I assume Ambassador Scobey is still back here; correct?

MR. MCCORMACK:  That's correct.

QUESTION:  And so, whether or not you're raising it privately impacts with whether you're still dealing with them on a diplomatic basis?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Right.  If there are any updates, we'll certainly let you know.

Yeah, Barbara.

QUESTION:  Any other steps that you're contemplating?  You've removed the ambassador from Damascus.  Is the United States looking at any new sanctions under the Syrian Accountability Act or, perhaps, some new steps at the UN if Syria does not heed this call?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, our focus is on making sure that they comply with this resolution and that all parties comply with this resolution.  As for anything further, I don't have anything for you on that.

QUESTION:  If there is a pattern of abuse and threat, are you concerned that that pattern will continue, that their other opposition figures will be targeted?

MR. MCCORMACK:  We're concerned about -- as you pointed out, this pattern that we see.  What we encourage is compliance with 1559.  This type of behavior has to stop, because what's important is that the Lebanese people have an opportunity to vote, and they have an opportunity to vote without fear of violence or threat.  So that's what our focus is on.

QUESTION:  Can you be more specific about what the interference in elections looks like?  What is Syria actually doing?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, Syria has -- they, as we all know, had a long presence in Lebanon.  That presence and the presence of intelligence operatives and their military there contributed to creating an atmosphere of threat and intimidation in which the use of threat and violence became possible.  So, again, our emphasis is on what Syria needs to do in order to comply with 1559.

QUESTION:  That doesn't really tell us what you think Syria is actually up to in this election.  I mean, threat and intimidation of whom?  How?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Again, I can't really get into intelligence matters but we do, as I said, have these longstanding concerns.  And we believe, as I said earlier, and that we are concerned that the intelligence operatives are interfering in their internal affairs.  Beyond that, I can't really go any further.  Any other on this topic?

QUESTION:  One more on -- I've nothing to quote you on that about whether or not additional sanctions are being considered.  You know, why on earth wouldn't you be looking at all the options at your availability -- at your disposal, including the legislative ones that were passed?  I mean, I can't understand why you wouldn't be looking at the Syria Accountability Act, which as you know, was first imposed sanctions last spring.  Are you not taking a look at that?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, we think the focus should be on Syria and their behavior and what they need -- what they need to do.

QUESTION:  Right.  But you have a variety of tools to try to change their behavior and it's exactly their behavior I'm talking about.  And your sort of public statements about this, you know, if they don't work, it seems a reasonable thing to look at the other things at your disposal, particularly those that the Legislative Branch has handed you.

MR. MCCORMACK:  This is not --

QUESTION:  It's not just talking about their behavior --

MR. MCCORMACK:  No, I understand.  This is not an issue between the U.S. and Syria.  This is an issue between Syria and the rest of the world.  And what we are doing -- and you mentioned the tools.  What tools do we have?  Well, we have the tools of speaking out and trying to speak as clearly as we can, as well as others, about what is happening in Lebanon.  So I think that that is, in fact, a tool at our disposal and that's one that we are using now, and that is speaking out about what is happening.

QUESTION:  So in your desire to paint this as Syria against the rest of the world, you're not going to look at bilateral tools that you have?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Again, Arshad, we are where we are right now and we're focused on Resolution 1559 and Syrian compliance with that resolution.

QUESTION:  Are you looking at international tools or sanctions through the UN?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Again, I've said what I'm going to say on the topic right now.  Any others on this?  Christophe.

QUESTION:  It's -- a different country?  On Iran, there is going to be a presidential election next week, next Friday.  I would like to hear your views on this election and to know whether you are helping the opposition there or if you are trying to help opponents abroad.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Again, this is, as you mentioned, an election that is going to be happening in the coming weeks.  Our views with respect to Iran and the role of the unelected few in actually making the -- being the true decision-making powers inside Iran are well known.  This goes back several years.  I would just refer back to something I think the Secretary mentioned about this.  It's -- there are questions about an election where it's the mullahs, the unelected few, who are really the ones that make the decision about who can actually run in the election, who the people actually have a choice.  So I think there's a real question of whether or not the Iranian people really have all the choices they might otherwise have if it weren't for the role of those unelected few in Iran.

QUESTION:  In your view, then, would the best outcome be a big boycott of these elections?  Would the United States like to see Iranians stay away from the polls and show their --

MR. MCCORMACK:  This is for the Iranian people to decide.

QUESTION:  What are you doing to try to maybe help the Iranian people to express their views about the regime?  I mean, that is a regime that was labeled as an outpost of tyranny by the Secretary a couple of months ago.  What are you doing in order to help promoting democracy and human rights in Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, again, there are a number of Iranians who have spoken out in favor for -- in favor of the freedoms that they say and they think they deserve, that are their right.  I would note that there's a -- an Iranian recently won the Nobel Prize.  So there are Iranians that are speaking out on their need, their desire and, frankly, their right to have these basic freedoms that many other people around the world enjoy.  And we ourselves speak out in support and in solidarity with the Iranian people.

QUESTION:  The U.S. is supporting any groups or any group Iranians in this country or outside of this country (inaudible) freedom and democracies concerning Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK:  There have been recent news reports about grants -- various grant proposals that we have that are out there.  They're well known.  Those are State Department programs.  I don't have the details on them right in front of me here, but that's what the State Department is doing.

QUESTION:  The reason why I'm asking the question, Sean, really was that thousands of Iranians here, as many of them I have been speaking, they are saying the time has come for the United States to support freedom and democracy in Iran before it is too late.

MR. MCCORMACK:  I think we have associated ourselves with freedom and democracy in Iran so I don't know what more I have to add.  The President has spoken out on this.  If you look back on his statement from two years ago, it's something he has spoken out numerous times.  The Secretary -- Secretary Rice has done so both as -- in her capacity as Secretary of State and when she was National Security Advisor.  So I think there's a lot of material out there for you to mine in that regard.

QUESTION:  In view of what you just said though, does the U.S. regard these elections as illegitimate?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Again, I think I have said what I'm going to say on the elections.


QUESTION:  You probably don't have these answers.  You indicated a minute ago that you didn't.  Could you take the question on stepped-up contacts with civil society groups directly related to the upcoming election or broadcasts pertaining to the elections?  Is that your call, describing what the U.S. is doing with respect to broadcasting to Iran before the election, or is that another address?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Let me -- I'll check for you, George.


QUESTION:  Change of subject?


QUESTION:  Bolivia.  Things seem to be settling down a little bit, the blockages eased now that Rodriguez has been sworn in as temporary President.  What's your view on that?  Is there indication that the threat that you felt Americans faced because of the demonstrations is now easing?

MR. MCCORMACK:  The matter of security and the security for the Americans, not only who are working at the Embassy at our mission there, but also who live in Bolivia, is something the people at the Embassy are looking at constantly on a daily basis -- and they are making evaluations about that.  I don't have any new information in terms of a new evaluation for you.  Clearly, there was a constitutional process that unfolded last night.  There is a new President in Bolivia.  There are future steps to come in terms of elections, according to the constitution.  And we would encourage the Bolivians to continue down that road in a peaceful, democratic, constitutional evolution with regard to resolving the tensions that are -- existing in Bolivia.

QUESTION:   Well, the U.S. had said that it was interested in process and not in who actually takes the helm.   When you say that clearly a constitutional process has unfolded, you think that things seem to be going smoothly then?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I'm not going to try to attribute any particular adjectives or adverbs to this, but what -- I think if you just follow the facts of what happened, this was according to the constitution.

QUESTION:  Are you still concerned about the role that people like Evo Morales, with the backing of Hugo Chavez, might be playing?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I don't have any particular comment on any individuals within the Bolivian political scene.

QUESTION:  Well, do you have any indication that Chavez is playing a nefarious role in this?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I think that this was a question that came up a couple of days ago and we posted an answer on that and I don't have anything beyond that.  Yes, over here.

QUESTION:  On Mexico, according to some reports, the State Department was planning to close, at least partially, the U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo due to the violence of the drug smugglers.  Do you have any report about it?  And also, Ambassador Tony Garza mentioned that he was going to recommend -- to place again the advisory for travelers, American travelers, to the Northern -- to the Southern border.  Is there something about it?

MR. MCCORMACK:  This question came up yesterday.  I gave an answer, if you would go back and look at the transcript.  I don't have anything to add to what I said yesterday and in terms of travel warnings, travel advisories, we try to keep you updated as soon as we have something new and I don't believe we have anything new at the moment.

QUESTION:  What about the consulate?  Is there any plan to close maybe partially --

MR. MCCORMACK:  Again, as -- if there are any updates with regard to -- you know, we do this all the time all around the world.  If there are any particular actions with respect to consulates, embassies around the world, we try to keep you updated in a timely manner.

QUESTION:  On the same topic, there was a story yesterday in the Dallas Morning News quoting officials from the Mexico -- well, your Mexico City Embassy saying that at least 1,000 American citizens disappeared last year in Mexico.  Even if they appeared, at the end, unharmed, can you confirm this?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I haven't seen the news story.  We'll check it out for you.  Yes, in the back.

QUESTION:  On Korea, this morning, Secretary Rice met South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon.  What is their topic?  What did they talk this morning?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, the meeting took place this morning in order to discuss some of the topics that President Roh and President Bush are going to be discussing in their meeting.  I think, very basically, they talked about the excellent state of the bilateral relationship.  We both reaffirmed the strong alliance ties that exist between South Korea and the United States.  Both Secretary Rice and the Foreign Minister talked about their belief that the six-party talk framework is the proper framework in which to resolve any questions with respect to North Korea's nuclear program and they both reiterated the fact that they urge North Korea return to the six-party talks at an early date without precondition and to engage in those talks in a constructive manner.

Okay.  Anything else?

QUESTION:  On Iraq, I'm sure you've seen that the Sunni political gathering or the gathering of Sunni people, said today that they have rejected a compromise on the number of Sunni seats in the group that's going to be writing the constitution.  They're apparently holding out for 25 seats and have been offered 15.   Are you getting worried that as the days dwindle down and it gets closer to the August 15 deadline that maybe it's not going to be possible for the Sunnis to have the kind of representation on this council that you'd like to see?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, as you point out, the August date is coming up.  We are encouraging the Iraqis and talking to the Iraqis about the importance of meeting the various deadlines that have set out -- set out for them in terms of writing a constitution, having a vote on the constitution, as well as elections based on that constitution.  This is -- the process that leads up to the writing of the constitution, as you point out, is ongoing right now.  There is a lot of back and forth among various groups, various leaders in Iraq.  This is to be expected, I believe, in a political process.  We encourage them to move forward and to settle on the composition and the rules for the constitution writing committee.  We believe that the committee needs to reflect Iraq in all its various aspects and to be as inclusive as possible.  Right now, they have not come to a final decision on these matters and I would just point out that this process is moving in the right direction.  If you go back all the way to the transfer of sovereignty, the Iraqis have met all the deadlines.  They have come to very difficult decisions and difficult compromises, but they have done so.  And that is very encouraging.  It's good for the Iraqi people and it's encouraging for their future.

I would just encourage people to step back and reflect a bit on our own history.  If you would go back to our own constitution writing process, there were bumps in the road.  There were people that stood up and said, you know, we refuse to make this compromise, we're leaving.  And there were a lot of threats along that way but ultimately they arrived at compromise and a solution.  So there are going to be bumps along the road, not only in the -- as they come to compromises on the composition of their constitution writing committee, as well as they move forward in writing that constitution and ultimately having these votes.  But ultimately the Iraqi people have demonstrated that they want a better future for their country.  They have hung together and they have stuck together and they have made the tough choices thus far that are putting them on the right pathway.

QUESTION:  Has the Secretary made any calls on this recently?  I mean, she raised these issues, I know, when she was in Baghdad about three weeks ago, but has she made any calls recently?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Let me check and see what calls she has --

QUESTION:  And a last one?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Go ahead, please.

QUESTION:  A last one for me on this.  Do you think that the violence which -- some of which clearly appears to be sectarian violence, one committed against another, that continues to erupt is going to make it -- make this progress just all the harder?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, I think that, again, there are -- we know that in Iraq that there are -- the good lives alongside sometimes the bad.  And we believe the -- we believe, and I think the Iraqis have demonstrated this through their actions, that ultimately differences will be resolved through the political process, and that is what will ultimately bind the Iraqis together in working for a better future together.  We saw when they voted on January 30th that they were defying those who wanted to undermine the progress that they had made.  They turned their backs on threats and fear and that was certainly very encouraging, so I think ultimately, the solution to the difficulties and any potential strife between different groups -- those who are rejecting the pathway that the majority of Iraqis have chosen -- will be through the political process.

QUESTION:  Sean, a quick question, one on China.  Talking about freedom and democracy, this need for marchings of the Chinese students who marched 16 years ago for freedom and democracy in China at Tiananmen Square, they were crushed by the Chinese.  What does the Secretary think about this freedom of democracy in China?  And now, millions are asking for their right to freedom in China.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, with respect to the --

QUESTION:  And they marched -- I'm sorry, they marched in Washington also.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Right.  Well, they -- with respect to the particular anniversary that you're talking about, I put a statement out last week and I -- the Secretary spoke on it just last night in an interview on the issue of China, so I would refer you back to her transcript for her most recent thoughts on those matters.

QUESTION:  And finally, this afternoon meeting between Secretary Rice and Pakistan's Foreign Minister Kurshid Kasuri, you think this issue of the arrest of father and son in California will be coming during their meeting?  Because if the U.S. or the Secretary of State feel that there are some al Qaida camps -- training camps or al Qaida still in Pakistan?  Because Minister Kasuri spoke about this at the Brookings (inaudible) this arrest.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Right.  Well, with respect to the arrest, that's a law enforcement matter and you can talk to the Department of Justice about it.  As for a meeting that hasn't happened yet, let's wait for the meeting to take place to see what they'll talk about.

Thank you.

(Ended at 1:20 p.m.)

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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