State Department Briefing, June 29
29 June 2005
Japan/European Union, Secretary Rice's Meeting with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Officials, US Representation at Upcoming ASEAN Meeting, Secretary Rice and Deputy Secretary Zoellick's Travel Schedules, GAO Report on "Improvements Needed to Strengthen US Passport Fraud Detection Efforts", Israel/Lebanon, Lebanon, Allegations of Detention of Terrorist Suspects on Prison Ships, Executive Order on Proliferation Financing/Weapons of Mass Destruction, UN Special Rapporteurs Request for Access to Guantanamo, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Israel/Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Kyrgyzstan/Uzbekistan, North Korea, Pakistan, Greece, South Korea
State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack briefed the press June 29.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
12:40 p.m. EDT
Briefer: Sean McCormack, Spokesman
-- International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Partners Reach Consensus on Site for ITER
-- Secretary Rice's Meeting with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Officials
-- US Representation at Upcoming ASEAN Meeting
-- Secretary Rice and Deputy Secretary Zoellick's Travel Schedules
-- GAO Report on "Improvements Needed to Strengthen US Passport Fraud Detection Efforts"
-- Reports of Hezbollah Strike at Israeli Army Posts
-- Inaugural Session of Parliament and Election of Speaker
-- US Embassy Message Regarding $5Million Reward for Information Regarding Whereabouts of Hijackers of TWA Jetliner
-- Allegations of Detention of Terrorist Suspects on Prison Ships
-- Executive Order on Proliferation Financing/Weapons of Mass Destruction
-- UN Special Rapporteurs Request for Access to Guantanamo
-- Government's Destruction of Shanytowns
-- US Humanitarian Assistance to Sudan and Darfur
-- US Support for Iraqi Government
-- Other Countries' Reaction to President Bush's Speech
-- Newly Elected President of Iran and Reported Connection to 1979 Hostage Taking of Americans in Tehran
-- Violence in Gaza/Effect on Israeli Withdrawal
-- Travel to Gaza by Special Envoy Wolfensohn and General Ward/Meetings with Israelis and Palestinians
-- Trail Begins Against Ayman Nour
-- Welfare of Uzbekistan Asylum-Seekers in Kyrgyzstan
-- Issue Raised During Secretary Rice's Meeting with UN Secretary General
-- New York Conference/Ambassador DeTrani Expected to Attend
-- Mukhtar Mai Case
-- Greece to Assume Presidency of UN Security Council in July
-- Republic of Korea Unification Minister Chung Dong-Young Visit
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 29, 2005
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
12:40 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I'd like to start with a brief statement about a decision that was announced yesterday concerning the ITER. We are pleased that Japan, the EU and other ITER partners have reached consensus on a site for ITER. We congratulate Japan and the EU for reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. Now the six ITER partners must work to resolve various technical and legal questions so we can move forward on this critically important energy experiment.
With that, I am pleased to take your questions. Mr. Gedda.
QUESTION: The Secretary met with ASEAN representatives today.
MR. MCCORMACK: She did.
QUESTION: Could you tell us what was discussed, please?
MR. MCCORMACK: They had a brief exchange. The Secretary thanked the officials from the various ASEAN countries for all their work. She underscored the importance of ASEAN and the important contributions that it makes to the region.
On the issue of U.S. representation at the upcoming meeting, she assured them that there would be high-level State Department representation at that meeting. And I think that was really the extent of it, George.
QUESTION: As in someone below her level?
MR. MCCORMACK: This gets into the issue of travel, travel schedules, and we are going to keep you updated in the days and weeks ahead concerning the Secretary's as well as the Deputy Secretary's travel schedule, what stops they will be making and what meetings they will be attending.
QUESTION: Well, I was trying to find a way around it, if you'd be comfortable answering, because it's significant, of course, who represents -- who heads the U.S. delegation.
MR. MCCORMACK: And I couldn't agree more, Barry. We're going to have -- and as I said, we're going to have high-level State Department representation at that meeting.
QUESTION: Sean, there were reports around last week that she wasn't going to go. I think they came out of the region. Are those reports wrong?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, this gets into the issue of travel schedules and on those issues we will have announcements on the Secretary's travel as well as the Deputy Secretary's travel, so I'm going to keep it where I have it right now.
QUESTION: Are the issues that are due to come up of the kind of significance that the Secretary would be an appropriate one to delve into them?
MR. MCCORMACK: That's an excellent try, Barry. I think I'm going to stay where I am. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Will either the Secretary or the Deputy Secretary represent the U.S. at the meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think it's safe to say that when I talk about high-level representation, it would include one of the two.
QUESTION: Can you comment on reports that Dr. Rice has written a letter to all ASEAN foreign ministers saying that she'll not be attending the meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, same answer as I've given. Anything else on this?
QUESTION: Can we go to the Shebaa -- Shebaa Farms?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: You're obviously aware that there are reports that Hezbollah guerillas struck Israeli army posts and that Israeli aircraft have hit back. Do you have any comment on those events?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have seen these news reports, Arshad, and I think information is still coming in with respect to these events and exactly what happened. But I think that based on what -- the information that we have now I would just make clear that, in our view, Israel has a right to defend itself. And beyond that I'm not able to offer any further comment because, as I said, we still have information coming in concerning these attacks.
QUESTION: While we're at it, Syria has elected to retain the speaker of their parliament, who is known to be very friendly to Syria to be the Amal guy but also a Hezbollah -- has Hezbollah backing. Do you have an opinion of that? Although it's part of the, you know, traditional sharing of ethnic or whatever it is -- religious division of labor, do you have an opinion of his selection?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think, Barry, we'd note that he was elected speaker of the parliament and that I would just add that we support Lebanon in pursuing free and democratic political process and believe the Lebanese people deserve a government capable of leading them forward without fear of violence and intimidation and without foreign interference.
In the wake of these elections, the Lebanese people are putting together a government, deciding on who it is that will lead them. And I think that what is encouraging is, in the wake of the implementation of parts of UN Security Council 1559 is that for the first time in decades the Lebanese people have an opportunity to select a government and a government that will make decisions from Beirut and not anywhere else on behalf of the Lebanese people.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Shebaa Farms just for one second?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Normally, if I'm not mistaken, you guys, even when it's triggered by Hezbollah and you guys have some kind of language about restraint or -- because you don't want clashes like this to sort of get out of hand. So if you could check once you've got more clarity on the reports and take the question or see if you will have anything further to say. Because I think normally there is that kind of language.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, again, the --
QUESTION: I'm just asking you to take it to see whether you've got more information.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. We will -- if there's more to share on it this afternoon, we'll certainly keep you updated on our reaction based on a greater understanding of what actually occurred.
QUESTION: Do you have -- I don't mean to take all your time --
MR. MCCORMACK: Please, Barry.
QUESTION: Do you happen to have a reaction to a UN human rights investigation into an intention to investigate U.S. detention sites, considering the composition of the UN Human Rights Commission?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not that I've seen those reports, Barry. I'd be happy to follow up.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, just so you have what we have, Manfred Novak, or Novak, the UN Special Expert on Terrorism, said some undeclared holding areas could include Navy ships cruising blah-blah-blah.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Right. With regard to this specific allegation of the ships -- thank you for pointing that out -- yeah, I have seen those reports and I think that Mr. Novak himself said that these allegations are based on rumors and I have no information that would substantiate those rumors.
QUESTION: Intelligence reorganization. As you know, the White House announced today that the Administration is going to accept a number of the WMD Commission recommendations. And I'm wondering if there's any specific impact on the Intelligence and Research Bureau or anything else at the State Department.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we will have -- the State Department will have -- let me back up -- did have a role in the drafting of the executive order. This was an interagency process and there's a briefing now going on over at the White House by Fran Townsend. So we were involved in this process in putting together this package in response to the Silberman-Robb recommendations.
Going forward, the State Department will play a role in the implementation of the executive order that's been -- that the President has signed. And what this does is it goes after the financial aspect, trying to undercut the finances of those who might be engaged in WMD proliferation. You have seen our efforts in fighting terrorism, to go after the financing. It's important to go after the financing, the financial aspect of those who would seek to acquire WMD.
This is something the President talked about in his NDU speech and talking about the importance of going after the financial aspects. This is something -- this is, again, a U.S. action. This is something the President decided it was important for us to do. And the Secretary will be working to implement those executive orders, along with the Department of Treasury and other U.S. Government agencies.
And we would encourage other governments to follow suit, to come forward and work aggressively to go after the finances of those who might try to acquire WMD. And we will continue those discussions in that regard within a variety of fora, including in the context of PSI, the Proliferation Security Initiative.
QUESTION: Can I follow up? Can you talk about any ways that you think the State Department's operations or activities might be changed by this? Surely, you've envisioned them if you helped in drafting them. I mean, is it going to change things in embassies or here in Main State?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information on any sort of administrative or bureaucratic changes that might be required for this. If there are, I'd be happy to share those with you. I'll look into it. Sure.
Yes. On this topic? Okay, let's move around a little. Yes.
QUESTION: Sean, this morning, there was a policy attitudes forum at Brookings, sponsored by PIPA -- it's a group up at Massachusetts Avenue -- and also through GlobalScan, a Toronto group. And they're saying that 71 percent of the American population would be for instituting further police monitoring in Darfur.
And also, over the week, the African Union said, concerning Zimbabwe, that they don't have the -- either the UN sanction and/or the abilities to counteract what Robert Mugabe has done with tearing down the villages or shantytowns and all the other type of upheaval he's caused.
Do you have any comments concerning that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, on Zimbabwe, this is something that the G-8 addressed. They were -- Jack Straw, on behalf of the G-8, and the Secretary concurred and associated herself with the remarks, expressed our concerns about outrage at what happened in Zimbabwe. And again, we have -- I know Adam has talked about this last week as well, so I think our views on that are very clear.
With respect to Sudan, we are working very hard with -- not only bilaterally in terms of food aid, humanitarian aid, but also working through NATO to provide the airlift for the AU mission so they can get into Darfur. I think we have seen a substantial reduction in the levels of violence where we do have the AU mission. And we are working very closely with the EU as well to transport the AU battalions into the area so we can see a further reduction in violence.
Why don't we move it around? Yeah, (inaudible).
QUESTION: Yesterday, Secretary of State Rice was asked about the Sunni insurgency and the possibility of talking to some of them, whether the U.S. Government is talking to Sunni insurgents. And she said, "I could have been a part of that. I could have been involved in that." That was her language. And I'm wondering, was she trying to say she was involved in that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't recall -- I don't recall that part of the transcript. I'll have to go back and look at it. But she did talk about it. General Casey talked about it.
QUESTION: Right. But she mentioned her own involvement and I just wanted to clarify whether, in fact, she was revealing that she had been involved. I --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I think that -- I think what she, you know, what she did talk about in (inaudible) -- what -- if you could point out the specific part of the transcript, we will look at that.
But I think that what she did point out was the fact that the State Department and our U.S. Embassy does have a wide variety of contacts with Iraqis, including many Sunnis. We are supporting the Iraqi Government in its efforts to be as inclusive as possible, not only in the constitution writing process but just as they move forward in their political process to try to bring in as many Sunnis as possible into this process. Part of that involves people who will come to us on occasion, who say that they either know of or know people involved in the insurgency. We meet with those people. And our message is very clear every single time, and that is that the way forward to address any grievances or concerns that they may have is to participate peacefully in the political process and to lay down arms; violence is not the way forward. And that is really at the core of what she was saying.
The transcripts from yesterday are available. And again, on the particular question that you have, I'll take a look at the transcript and see if I can get something for you.
Anything else on this?
QUESTION: Can we actually get a copy of that transcript? I don't think that --
MR. MCCORMACK: The morning --
QUESTION: The Wall Street Journal. Is that what you're talking about?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. These are the morning -- she was on the morning shows yesterday.
QUESTION: Right. Well, I saw that one.
MR. MCCORMACK: She was on NBC, on the Today Show.
QUESTION: I thought you were --
MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't ask you to admit that you were watching Fox, Fox & Friends. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I did watch it.
MR. MCCORMACK: Even though you are sitting right next to the correspondent for Fox.
Okay. All right. George.
QUESTION: There are pictures circulating suggesting that President-elect Ahmadinejad, or however you pronounce his name, was in 1979 with the American captives in Tehran, suggesting that he was part of the hostage-taking enterprise. Do you know anything about these pictures or do you know anything about his past which would suggest such a link?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any such link, but I have not -- I'm not aware of these photographs. If there is anything, I'd be happy to look into it for you, George.
QUESTION: There have been a series of clashes in Israel and in Gaza related to Gaza withdrawal, and to cite just the most recent of them in Israel itself, (inaudible) used water cannon to scatter ultra-nationalists who were trying to block the main highway entering Jerusalem as part of a way to protest against withdrawal in Gaza itself, Israeli troops fired into the air to try to stop rock-throwing between Palestinians and Jewish settlers.
In this case -- it's always hard to tell who starts what, but I think in this case it was actually the settlers who were throwing rocks first. We're still six weeks away, but it is already beginning to get ugly in terms of protests. Do you have anything fresh to say about how it may be possible to try to quell these kinds of protests or actual violence ahead of a withdrawal?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that I would reiterate what I have talked about and what the Secretary has talked about and others have talked about, and that is the importance of each side making the maximum effort to see that this withdrawal process succeeds. And part of that success is that the withdrawal take place in a peaceful manner and without violence.
To that end, we are working very closely with the Palestinian side as well with the Israeli side on their plans, both independently and encouraging them to talk together about what their separate plans are so that they mesh and so that there is a complementary and cooperative effort in the withdrawal process.
This is an historic decision that Prime Minister Sharon has taken to withdraw from Gaza and the designated areas in the West Bank. And these are -- and I think you've heard the Secretary say this -- these are big historic changes. And when you do have these sorts of changes, there will be the need to adjust.
And it is important on both sides -- Israelis, Palestinians -- that everybody make the maximum effort to see that this withdrawal takes place in a atmosphere of calm, free from violence. And that is what General Ward is working on with the Palestinians on the -- and Mr. Wolfensohn is working with the Palestinian side on the non-military, non-security side of the withdrawal plan.
And that is, I expect, Assistant Secretary Welch will be traveling out to the region in the coming weeks to continue our efforts to encourage the two sides to work together. There have been continuing contacts after Prime Minister Sharon's meeting, Prime Minister Sharon's meeting with President Abbas. Those contacts have continued both in person and over the telephone and at the working level and we have every expectation that they continue.
QUESTION: I asked you, just to follow up, I asked you on Monday if, following Special Envoy Wolfensohn's visit to Gaza last, I think, Tuesday, whether General Ward had made such a visit. Has he?
MR. MCCORMACK: He has not.
QUESTION: He has not?
MR. MCCORMACK: He has not.
QUESTION: And why is it -- why not? I mean I'm aware that the restrictions were in place until Tuesday and I gather that they were lifted because Wolfensohn wanted to go. Why doesn't he feel it's necessary to see the terrain, to see the ground or to see the people who presumably are going to be responsible for ensuring security in Gaza once the Israelis pull out? Why doesn't he feel it's necessary to go visit them?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that up until this point he has worked on certain discrete tasks with the Palestinians and he has decided that the locations of his meetings and his interactions with Interior Minister Yusef, where he has met with him, have been sufficient to move forward on the Palestinian planning. He, after all, is not going to be the one who actually implements these plans. It is going to be the Palestinians.
With respect to any future travel plans for General Ward, he is based in the region, he is active, and I told you that we would, to the best of our ability, keep you updated retrospectively because of security concerns about his travels. So we will endeavor to keep you updated on that.
QUESTION: Okay, and can you --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't want to -- I don't want to presuppose any of his travel plans.
QUESTION: Yeah. And can you tell me if he has had any meetings with Israelis and Palestinians in the same room at the same time?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would have to check the facts for you on that, Arshad. But part of his mandate is -- the main part of his mandate is to work with the Palestinians on their plans. But certainly, it is not limited only to meeting with the Palestinians, if there is a need to link up the Palestinians and the Israelis to further the cooperation towards the goals of a peaceful withdrawal.
QUESTION: Would you check if -- retrospectively -- he's had any such meeting with both sides in the same room?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I'll have to check the facts for you on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Excuse me. Is there any fallout from the President's speech, whether other countries' governments have registered opinions that you could share with us? He, of course, stressed an aggressive, strong U.S. determination to keep fighting on. I notice the French Foreign Minister -- the new Foreign Minister asserted his belief in a multi-polar world, which is very French. Have you heard from anybody? Anybody saying, "Good show," or, "Slow down," or anything in between?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't checked around the regional bureaus here in the Department, Barry, to see if there was any particular reaction from -- that we have received privately through diplomatic channels regarding the speech.
QUESTION: There's a GAO report out today that finds apparent shortcomings in the U.S. passport application process. Do you feel that the process is secure or what are you doing to address any potential shortcomings?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me just -- I have a few points I'd go through, but let me just say at the top that, you know, our attitude and the attitude of the Bureau of Consular Affairs in the State Department to the challenges presented to the Department and to the country with regard to passports and our borders has been to aggressively work to implement the laws and to try to assist other government agencies in doing the best we can to protect the American people and to make our borders secure and therefore make our documents secure, travel documents secure.
Where there are shortfalls, where there are gaps, we try to immediately identify those shortfalls or gaps and act to try to close those gaps. There has been a great deal of effort expended by the -- on the part of the people of the Bureau of Consular Affairs working with other government agencies that close those gaps. One in particular I noticed that was on a news program last night talked about some who are on a fugitive list who had obtained passports. And in that regard, we are working very closely with the FBI to obtain all FBI federal warrants and integrate them into our passport lookout system. So we're working to address that gap.
We have already nearly 50,000 names of law enforcement fugitives or individuals of interest in the passport -- what we call the "CLASS" system. That's an acronym that stands for Consular Lookout and Support System. About half of these were entered individually as a result of our outreach efforts to the law enforcement community. The other half of the law enforcement entries represent U.S. Marshals Service, federal fugitive warrants, which we obtained as part of the Bureau of Consular Affairs initiative.
So these are issues that we take very seriously here, the Secretary takes very seriously, and we have been working very hard to see that we have the best possible system in place. Where we need to make changes, we identify what changes we need to make and we act to implement those changes as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: Are you aware of any instances, aside from this GAO where the inspectors came in, where they actually found that true violations had occurred?
MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen the reports of the GAO report. But beyond that, I am not aware of any. I have not been aware -- I have not been made aware of any.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about a memorandum of understanding that has now been signed between the State Department, I believe, and the Terrorist Screening Center? I think this happened yesterday.
MR. MCCORMACK: The Terrorist Screening Center?
MR. MCCORMACK: The State Department has had officers at the Terrorist Screening Center since its inception and as the TSC, Terrorist Screening Center, builds its capacity, we have sought to the highest degree of information sharing possible.
We have, as you noted, taken that cooperation to the next level. We have always had access to information on known or suspected foreign terrorists and we have now reached an agreement to share information on American citizens identified as "persons of interest" due to a possible nexus to terrorism. So we are -- we do have an agreement in place with them.
QUESTION: And it was -- was it just signed yesterday? Do you know?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have the information. I don't know exactly when it was -- as I said, we'll check to see if --
QUESTION: And what that does is basically give you -- it adds more names to the database, I think, maybe lowers the threshold which would make a name eligible to be checked? Do you know any specifics like that?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of more names, I think that we can certainly take that from what I have here. In terms of lowering the threshold, again, I would have -- the practical effect of it, I'd have to check for you.
QUESTION: But there already is -- there already is an effort to put more names -- to convert the databases better. I just want to know what this new agreement -- what specifics this new agreement --
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll check to see if can get you some more information on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can you explain what the Terrorist Screening Center is, what part of the U.S. Government? Is it part of DHS? Is it part of the intelligence community? If so, what branch? Do you know --
MR. MCCORMACK: On that, actually, I'm going to have to follow up with you and get some more information.
QUESTION: Do you know anything about efforts -- I mean, suppose somebody is identified as a person of interest. Is there anything that allows them to appeal that status, I mean, if your name is Bob Smith and there happens to be a Bob Smith who is a person of interest and you're not that Bob Smith? It's not usually going to be people named Bob Smith who are going to have this problem, but that said, I'd be interested in anything you have on -- since you're talking about sharing information about U.S. citizens who might be persons of interest, on what they can do to appeal that designation if they happen, say, not to be a terrorist.
MR. MCCORMACK: We will try to follow up on all of these questions, which I think are questions with the Bureau of Consular Affairs.
All right. In the back.
QUESTION: Sean, do you have representatives at the Ayman Nour trial in Egypt and do you have any reflections on it? It would seem to bode not well for the kind of presidential election there that they would like.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't -- we will see how the presidential election unfolds. We have made very clear that it's not only election day that matters, but the run-up to the election, access to media and all those things that go into an election.
As for the beginning of the trial that you mentioned, it's a trial that we watch closely. I will -- I can't say that we have, actually, somebody every day at the trial itself, but it is something that we are watching very closely. I would add that we expect and we would hope that any proceedings take place in a transparent, impartial and fair manner, and that I would reiterate our view that the Egyptian people should be free to speak, assemble and choose their leaders in an atmosphere free from intimidation. So that gets to your point about the presidential elections.
QUESTION: Do you -- Sean, do you not know whether you have somebody there every day or do you know that you don't have somebody there every day?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would have to check with the Embassy to see if they had somebody there every day.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. George.
QUESTION: The U.S. Embassy in Lebanon is reminding Lebanese that there is a $5 million reward available for information on the whereabouts of those who hijacked the TWA jetliner 20 years ago. This is the first time such a reminder has been issued. Does this suggest that there's higher hopes for a resolution of the case, someone coming forward with information now that the Syrians have left, the Syrians having been the protector of the militants in Lebanon?
MR. MCCORMACK: George, on that particular issue, we'll have to see if there's any additional information we can offer. But in general, we have made clear through our actions that we will not -- we will be persistent and we will be tireless in our efforts to bring to justice those who have committed acts of terrorism, no matter when they were committed. If you go back and look at our actions over the past several years, there are a number of instances where we have acted to bring to justice those who have committed acts of terrorism in the past.
As for this new information that you say has come out, I will check to see if there is anything else that we can offer.
We'll moving around, Arshad. Yes, Jonathan.
QUESTION: Yeah. I realize you might not be able to answer this. This is another question from the question from Barry. It's about Mr. Novak from the UN, who not only is repeating these allegations of secret prison ships but also saying that he's been trying to get access to Guantanamo Bay for the last three years. And I just wondered if there was a particular reason why they haven't been given access to Guantanamo.
MR. MCCORMACK: On this issue, I would note that four UN special rapporteurs have requested access to the facilities at Guantanamo. They include Mr. Novak. Our Ambassador Pierre Prosper, who works on these issues for us, has met with the four special rapporteurs at the Commission for Human Rights meeting in Geneva in April of 2005. And we receive numerous requests for a wide variety of groups and organizations for access to Guantanamo. And we asked the special rapporteurs to specify the scope of activities in which they wish to engage at Guantanamo.
As for the status of their request, the issue of a visit and possible modalities of any such visit are a matter for continuing review in the U.S. Government. And our role here at the Department of State in this matter is to interface with the international committee and provide its advice through the interagency process. Guantanamo is a facility that is operated by the Department of Defense and access to the facility from that perspective raises a number of operational security concerns.
And as for, you know, details of that kind of access, what is required for access to the facility, I'd refer you to the Department of Defense.
QUESTION: But it wouldn't be because, I mean, he's part of the Human Rights Commission, the UN Human Rights Commission, which the U.S. doesn't particularly approve of?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I just -- I guess I would note the fact that there have been a number of visits already to Guantanamo. We have -- the Department of Defense has provided information that we have nearly -- we have had nearly 400 separate media visits to Guantanamo by more than a thousand journalists, and 180 congressional representatives. We have continuous access to the facility by the International Committee of the Red Cross. These representatives meet with detainees privately on a regular basis.
So there is quite a bit of access already and ongoing access on the part of the ICRC to Guantanamo. And as for the issue of this particular request, as I said, it's a matter of ongoing consideration within the United States Government.
QUESTION: What are the security operational issues that such a visit would raise? I mean, you've just noted that ICRC people have come there so --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. On those questions, Arshad, I'd refer you over to the Department of Defense. They could detail what security and operational issues are entailed in terms of visits.
QUESTION: On the question of undeclared prisoners, or secret prisoners, you know, this keeps on up popping up, including by Mr. Novak today. Can you deny that such prisoners exist?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he made an allegation about prison ships and as I answered before, you know, he himself has said that these allegations are based on rumors. I told you that I have no information that would substantiate those rumors.
QUESTION: That means you have checked, yes? You have checked and asked if there's any information to substantiate?
MR. MCCORMACK: I did check, yes. Yes. I've not been made aware of any information that would substantiate those.
QUESTION: Can you -- sorry, but just -- because I think this is an important thing and I realize, you know, certain rumors are very hard to pin down and may be completely false, but rumors about whether or not the U.S. Government has secret prison ships ought to be ones that you guys can flatly deny because you have ships and you know what they're doing. So can you deny flatly that there are any such -- not to say that you personally have no information to substantiate it, but say, speaking on behalf of the U.S. State Department, no, we don't have any secret prison ships, this is false?
MR. MCCORMACK: I've said what I'm going to say on this matter.
QUESTION: Can you see if you can deny it? And, again, the reason I ask -- and it's, I think, a serious reason -- is that there are certain things, rumors that you can't knock down but, you know, the U.S. Government knows how many ships it has and what it's doing -- what they're doing if they're military ships and, therefore, it ought to be possible for somebody to deny it. And if it's a canard, one -- I would think it would be in the U.S. Government's interest to deny it.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, if there is anything more to say on the matter I will share it with you. I've said what I'm going to say on the matter.
QUESTION: On Uzbekistan, you put out a statement last night saying that you were pleased that the 29 refugees will not be returned. But today, out of Kyrgyzstan the refugees are still saying that they are worried and they're not convinced that they will not be returned to Uzbekistan by the Kyrgyz Government. What assurances have you gotten or has this all been through international discussions?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we -- this is an issue that came up during the Secretary's meeting with UN Secretary General Annan. We are watching this situation very closely. The bottom line on this is that we believe the Government of Kyrgyzstan needs to live up to its commitments and to international standards. And part of that is working with the UNHCR to see that international obligations as well as treatment of those who would be refugees is consistent with the international standards that exist.
My understanding is that there is a UNHCR UN commission -- UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Assistant High Commissioner Morjane who visited on June 26 and is continuing discussions with the Kyrgyz Government with regard to the disposition of these individuals.
QUESTION: So what you're saying is you heard through Kofi Annan or through the UN that Kyrgyzstan was not going to be returning these refugees?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, what we heard is that it's an issue of continuing discussion with the Kyrgyz Government. My understanding is that they have not been returned to Uzbekistan and that Secretary General Annan underlined that it was an issue of concern that they were watching very closely and that they were working the Kyrgyz -- the Kyrgyz Government. And it's an issue that we ourselves are watching closely as well.
QUESTION: Okay. Have we raised it bilaterally with Kyrgyzstan?
MR. MCCORMACK: I know the Secretary in her meeting with the Kyrgyz Foreign Minister -- I can't remember the date but it's been within the past couple weeks -- did raise this issue and underscored the importance of Kyrgyzstan living up to its international obligations, adhering to international standards and, most importantly, working with the UNHCR on these issues. So she -- and as for contacts after that, I don't have a list of contacts that may have been made through the embassy.
Yes, in the front.
QUESTION: On the situation in the Philippines where President Gloria Arroyo is under pressure to quit after she admitted to improperly calling on an election commissioner amid a vote count last year.
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything for you on that.
Okay, yes, in the back, yes.
QUESTION: North Korea. Can you say if Ambassador DeTrani or any other Administration representatives will attend tomorrow's conference in New York?
MR. MCCORMACK: There is a -- just for people's background, the issue did come up -- did come up last week. Mr. DeTrani and Jim Foster from the Korean Desk are expected to attend this meeting. It's a meeting that was -- a similar one, I think, was organized in August of last year, and Mr. DeTrani did attend it.
QUESTION: A conference?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's a conference. Yeah, it's a conference by, I believe, a professor -- if my information is correct -- at Hunter College. Mr. DeTrani and Mr. Foster expect to attend the meeting, yes.
QUESTION: Do you expect them to have any dealings with North Korean official Li Gun at the meeting, any substantive exchanges, if I can put it that way?
MR. MCCORMACK: There are no meetings scheduled with Mr. Li outside the context of the conference. I suspect, since they will be at the conference, that they will be in the same room together but there are no planned meetings or exchanges.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, as you -- yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: One other one that's sort of hanging over from yesterday. Pakistan's Supreme Court yesterday ordered the re-arrest of -- our latest information says 13 men -- I thought it was 12 but I guess it's 13 now -- men accused of involvement in the gang rape of Mukhtaran Mai. I think six of them are actually accused of actually having carried out the rape. And the others, I think, may have been on the village council that ordered it, although I'm not certain.
Do you have any comment on that ruling?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think, Arshad, that we would say that we call on Pakistan's judicial authorities to bring the perpetrators of what we see as this crime to justice. The use of rape or sexual intimidation as a means of punishment or retribution, whether by individuals or by groups, is unacceptable in our view and we will continue to follow this case closely.
QUESTION: And one other thing. Ms. Mai is quoted as having said that the Pakistani Government had returned her passport to her on -- I think it was Sunday. Is that accurate, to your knowledge?
MR. MCCORMACK: It would be consistent with the assurances that Foreign Minister Kasuri has provided directly to the Secretary of State in a recent telephone conversation, which we've talked about before. As for whether she is actually in possession of her passport right now, I don't have the facts on that, Arshad.
QUESTION: Could you check? You don't have to repeat my name every time. You know who I am. I mean, if you feel a need to it's okay but it's -- I find it odd. But can you check on that? And the reason I ask you to check is that, as you're well aware, there have been very conflicting signals out of the Pakistani Government about who had her passport, where it was, whether she had access to travel, whether she was on the -- you know, this control list. And so it would be interesting to know if, indeed, it's your information that she does have it back.
MR. MCCORMACK: We will check on it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Same subject.
MR. MCCORMACK: Teri.
QUESTION: Also, (inaudible) in the last couple of days that the minders that she has been given, which some reports have said were for her own protection, are not letting her speak and that people have requested meetings with her and have not been allowed to meet with her. And she says that if the Pakistani Government is going to say she's free to speak and she's free to move about, this does not match up with the reality that she's facing. She's basically under house arrest by these guards.
And we've asked -- we've asked you -- well, you and Adam about this and you haven't been critical at all of the people that are said to be -- I don't know -- the minders that she's been given. Have you also asked for assurances that these people are, in fact, protecting her and allowing her to speak as she wishes?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I haven't -- I don't have the facts at hand that would be able to clarify or shed any light on her particular circumstances at this point. But we have made it very clear, as I have just talked about, that we expect that she would be able to travel and speak freely.
QUESTION: Right. But if that's not happening, isn't that something you should check on, rather than just living by the assurances that you've been given from the Pakistani Government? There have been persistent reports that that's not happening.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we -- you know, we've made our views very clear. I think we have spoken out in very strong terms. You have seen some changes in her situation in that we have been told that she would be able -- she would be able, if she wanted to, to travel to the United States. You have seen that the Pakistan Supreme Court has taken up this issue again.
So there is more than talk going on. And as I said, as for the specific facts with regard to her at this particular moment, I don't have those in front of me and I'd be -- we'd be happy to check to see what we might be able to provide by way of those facts.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, here. Why don't we move to the back. I'll come back here. I'll come back here. Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes, on Cyprus. According to the reports there is an initiative on behalf of the U.S. Government to invite here in Washington, D.C. the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus Georgios Iacovou. Do you have any idea when are you planning to do that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information on that and perhaps we can check on that for you later.
QUESTION: And also, July 1st, Greece is resuming the presidency of the UN Security Council. Any comment?
MR. MCCORMACK: Can you repeat your question?
QUESTION: July 1st, Greece is resuming the presidency of the UN Security Council. I'm wondering if you have any comment.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that we certainly look forward to the Greek presidency of the UN Security Council and look forward to working closely with our colleagues from the Greek delegation as well as other members of the Security Council.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: The Secretary has said she has (inaudible) Iran as an election. What happens in institution like that? Do you recommend (inaudible) when elected? Or what are the processes?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, we don't have diplomatic relations with the Iranian Government. As for the election, I've said everything I'm going to say.
QUESTION: And also, she used the word "regime." Is it the practice of the State Department to use the word "regime" for governments that you do not recognize or is it generally used very loosely?
MR. MCCORMACK: With regard to the Iranian election, I think that we have said all that we're going to say at the moment. We'll look to see what behaviors actually come out of the Iranian Government.
QUESTION: Do you have a readout on Friday's meeting between the Secretary and the Sudanese Foreign Minister?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me get something for you on that.
Yeah. In the middle here.
QUESTION: The South Korean --
MR. ERELI: We did -- we did it on Friday.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Adam?
MR. ERELI: Actually, look at the briefing transcript from Friday.
QUESTION: No, no, this is the Friday that --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) 3:00-something on Friday evening -- afternoon, I think.
MR. MCCORMACK: We will either repeat the information you were given on Friday -- (laughter) -- or we will actually provide the information, one of those two things.
Okay. Yeah, in the middle here.
QUESTION: The South Korean Unification Minister is coming to visit Washington tomorrow. I'm wondering if you can tell us who he is going to meet with and what time the meeting will be.
MR. MCCORMACK: He will be visiting -- the Republic of Korea's Unification Minister will be visiting Washington June 30th and July 1st. Right now, we're still working out all the complete details of his schedule. Right now, here in the Department, he is going to be meeting with Assistant Secretary Hill and I also expect that he will have other meetings with senior U.S. Government officials as well as on Capitol Hill. So we'll keep you updated on any other meetings he might be having here in the Department.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Greg.
QUESTION: Can you give us anything on the status of the Travel Warning on Kenya and a Public Announcement for East Africa which expired yesterday?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll have to check with the Press Office on that. I don't have any new information.
QUESTION: It was a situation where you don't have a Travel Advisory in between?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.
(This briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m.)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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