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State Department Briefing, July 27

27 July 2005

Israel, Cuba, Algeria/Iraq, Iraq, Iraq/Syria, Secretary Rice's Involvement in Encouraging Congress to Ratify CAFTA Agreement/Attempts to Build a More Prosperous Hemisphere/Free Trade, Deputy Secretary Zoellick's Announcement of a Climate Pact in Laos, North Korea, Iran

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack briefed the press July 27.

Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
12:32 p.m. EDT

Briefer:  Sean McCormack, Spokesman

-- James Wolfensohn and General Ward's Trip Back to the Region
-- Arms Sales to China
-- Query on the Israeli Defense Minister's Delayed Travel Plans to U.S.

-- Call for the Release of Unjustly Jailed Dissidents

-- Kidnapped Diplomats

-- Quality of Training of Iraqi Security Forces
-- General Casey's/Secretary Rumsfeld's Comments on the Potential to Reduce
-- U.S. Troop Presence/U.S. Commitment to the Iraqi People

-- Concerns for Syria's Behavior
-- Oil for Food Program/Call for Return of Funds to the Iraqi People

-- Secretary Rice's Involvement in Encouraging Congress to Ratify CAFTA Agreement/Attempts to Build a More Prosperous Hemisphere/Free Trade
-- Deputy Secretary Zoellick's Announcement of a Climate Pact in Laos

-- Six-Party Talks/Assistant Secretary Hill's Meetings in Beijing
-- Shared Goal of a Denuclearized Korean Peninsula/June 2004 Proposal

-- Expectations of Compliance with the Paris Agreement
-- Intelligence Briefing to the IAEA/Concerns About Iran's Intentions to Acquire Nuclear Weapons



12:32 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK:  Good afternoon.  I don't have any opening statements, so let's jump right into questions.


QUESTION:  Just as a follow-up to the Secretary's visit to the Middle East.  I wonder if you can say if any officials, Palestinian or Israeli, are coming over to carry on with the talks?

MR. MCCORMACK:  We'll keep you updated on any visits over here.  I don't have anything to update you at this moment, but we'll keep you updated.  I think Mr. Wolfensohn is going to be heading back to the region later this week as well as General Ward.  He was just here in Washington testifying up on the Hill yesterday with Assistant Secretary Welch.

QUESTION:  Do you have anything on the Israeli Defense Minister actually canceling the trip?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I saw those news reports, Saul, and the news reports were centered around this -- discussions about MOU between the Department of Defense and Israeli concerning some arms sales issues that we have talked about in the past.  These talks continue.  It's an issue of continuing discussion and we have -- you know, Israel's a close friend and ally so those discussions continue in an open and frank way.  As for the reports that he has delayed travel plans here, I'd have to refer you over to the Israeli Government to talk about his travel plans.

QUESTION:  Can you explain then, I thought -- I mean, you said we talked about this in the past.  I thought the whole subject was in the past, especially after Silvan Shalom, you know, made his very humble apology on the record in the previous visit back in June.  What is there still to be discussed on the issue?  I thought the Israelis said, "Okay, we're not going to sell arms to China in this way."

MR. MCCORMACK:  There are a few -- I understand and again, this is a DOD lead -- Department of Defense lead on this issue.  So those discussions are ongoing.  I assume that they have several technical matters that they have to resolve still and I think that's about as far as I can go at this point.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Thanks.

QUESTION:  Wait, but just a follow-up.

MR. MCCORMACK:  On this one?  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Do you presume that there's just some technicalities to take care of it and that the decision was made?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I think that they are -- refer to them as "technical issues" and I don't think I would describe them any other way.

QUESTION:  On monetary issues on how much the package might be worth or something?

MR. MCCORMACK:  This is -- I'm not sure questions of dollar figures enter into these discussions.

Okay.  Anything else on this topic?

QUESTION:  Something else.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Something else.

QUESTION:  Yes, something else.  On Cuba, there was yesterday the anniversary of the 26th of July this big revolutionary thing, it was much more subdued and also whether you have anything about the situation of those political dissidents jailed this month?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I do.  We put a statement out on Saturday with -- well, with regard and I'll just -- let me make a couple of summary points and I'd refer you back to the statement put out on Saturday by Mr. Ereli.  But I would -- I'll summarize for you.  We understand that a view of the more than 18 dissidents detained on July 22nd were released this past weekend, including Martha Beatriz Roque.  We call on the Cuban regime to immediately free all of those still being detained.  A token release of unjustly jailed dissidents is not sufficient.  We continue to demand the release of over 300 prisoners of conscience in Cuba and we urge other countries to join us in condemning these acts.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION:  Can we go to Iraq?


QUESTION:  Two questions:  The first one is about the killing of the Algerian diplomats.  As you know in the news that Zarqawi group has declared responsibility for that.  Would that, do you think, that will dissuade more representative to be sent to Baghdad, having the Egyptian and now the Algerians been killed there?

And secondly, I wanted to ask you about the statements from General Casey and also from Prime Minister Jaafari that the U.S. might withdraw substantially its troops by next spring or summer, whether you have confidence that the Iraqi security forces or the government will be able to handle the situation after that.

MR. MCCORMACK:  On the first of your questions, I know there's some recent wire reports and potential developments coming out of Algiers regarding the question of the Algerian diplomats.  We have not had an opportunity to consult with the Algerian Government on this issue.  I think it is safe to say though that certainly our thoughts are with those two people held hostage and with the Algerian people.

With respect to your second question, General Casey's comments, he and Secretary Rumsfeld and the Prime Minister had extensive comments in Baghdad today.  I think that those remarks speak for themselves.  You've heard from the President regarding this issue.  Very basically, we're focused not only on the quantity but the quality of training of Iraqi security forces, including police and the army and the national guard.  And as those forces become more capable and as they take on more responsibility, we will have the potential to reduce our presence in various ways in Iraq.

So as the President put it, simply, as Iraqi forces are able to stand up, we will stand down.  But, you know, in any discussion of this it has to be clear that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Iraqi people and our commitment to the Iraqi people in helping them achieve a more secure, stable and prosperous future is unwavering.

QUESTION:  Just a follow-up on the Algerian thing.  I mean do you still urge Arab Government to send ambassadors and representatives to Baghdad?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, I think when we were at the Brussels conference that the Secretary attended recently just a couple of trips ago, we heard from the international community, as well as from Arab Governments, real solidarity with the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Government.  I think that they understand that this is an important moment for Iraq.  It's also an important moment for the Middle East as well as the rest of the world because by showing support, and one way of doing that is having your diplomats present in Baghdad, it makes a statement to those who are fighting against democracy, who are fighting against greater freedoms.

And I think that we have sadly seen recently that these acts of terrorism and those who are trying to spread an ideology of hate make no distinction between regions, whether it's in London or Sharm el-Sheik or other places.  So we certainly do think it's important to keep solidarity with Iraq and the Iraqi people as they work through this very difficult time.

Let's go to Teri and work from there.

QUESTION:  A little bit different though.  This morning on the Hill there was a hearing on Syria and the Oil-for-Food Program and there they talked about the money that still is expected to be returned by Syria from, among other things, oil imports.  How big a concern is this?  Does this still come up in discussions with Syria that have seemed to focus so much more on terrorism lately?  I remember Secretary Powell bringing it up on trips where Bashar said he would bring the pipeline under UN control, never happened.  I mean, how big -- does this still rank pretty high on your agenda with Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK:  It's a continuing concern.  Our concerns regarding Syria and its behavior that is out of step with the rest of the region are well known and they continue.  This is part of it.  And I'll have to check in terms of what the exact amounts are remaining, that are owed back to the Iraqi people, but certainly we call on those funds be returned to the Iraqi people.  Those funds are needed by the Iraqi Government to help them rebuild their infrastructure and help build a better life for the Iraqi people.

QUESTION:  And is this something that our -- that the U.S. Envoys are bringing up consistently or has it been on the backburner?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I'll check to see what our latest contacts on that are.  Okay.  Saul.

QUESTION:  I understand that the Secretary was on the Hill today and she's talking about CAFTA.  Can you just tell us what the basic reason for her going over there is?  And obviously, the Bush Administration wants it to be supported but what's the, sort of, the foreign policy angle that she's pushing?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, this is an important vote for U.S. trade policy as well as for the region.  And the Secretary has been deeply involved, along with Deputy Secretary Zoellick and other members of the Administration in encouraging members of Congress, first the Senate and now the House, to vote for and to ratify the CAFTA agreement.  This is not only important for U.S. trade policy, but it's important for the region as well.  As we try to build a more prosperous, more free hemisphere, the Secretary in the past has talked about the linkage between encouraging good governance and governing in a democratic manner as well as opening up the region to more free trade.  So we view those two things as linked and CAFTA is an important part of those efforts to bring a more prosperous and more free hemisphere about.

QUESTION:  Did she see individual members today?  I was on the other side of the Hill.

MR. MCCORMACK:  I'll try to get you a listing.  I don't have a listing right here --

QUESTION:  You got a curbside estimate?  It doesn't -- did she speak to individuals?

MR. MCCORMACK:  She did speak to some individuals, but I hesitate to comment beyond that, Barry, in terms of, you know, to what extent that was in a group setting and to what extent those were one-on-one contacts.


QUESTION:  Just about the content.  Is the State Department making the argument to the Hill that a vote against CAFTA is in some way a vote for Venezuela because Venezuela has been really pushing the idea that this is a bad deal?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I haven't heard that argument, Saul.  You know, we have a -- we try to put these things in the positive and this would be a, we believe, a positive development for the hemisphere.


QUESTION:  Do you have informations about negotiations between U.S. and Australia?  And maybe Japan on an environment package, which would be qualified as a post-Kyoto Agreement.  Do you have any informations on that?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I think Deputy Secretary Zoellick, who has just arrived in Laos, will -- for the ASEAN meeting -- will have more to say about this tomorrow, local time, later on today, our time.  So I would hesitate to pre-empt the Deputy Secretary at this point.

QUESTION:  Sure, but can you just tell us what the principle is?  It's a climate pact?  It's the - India, China, U.S. and Korea, I think --

QUESTION:  Probably, Australia.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Australia.

QUESTION:  Australia.

QUESTION:  The five.

MR. MCCORMACK:  I'll have to -- let me check on some of the basic details and we can get back to you on those.

QUESTION:  Are you trying to make the other -- Kyoto Agreement irrelevant?

MR. MCCORMACK:  No, we've -- Barry, we've made our concerns and the President has been quite clear in our views on the Kyoto Agreement, but that is, you know, just because we have expressed our concerns about the Kyoto Agreement, does not mean that this President hasn't been at the forefront in pushing for technologies that would help, not only U.S. companies but companies around the world, deal with environmental issues so that they are able to build more prosperous economies in a way that also has a positive effect for the environment.

QUESTION:  We're willing to leave everything to Mr. Zoellick.  He's gone many miles, but do you think there is an agreement?  This will -- it's another step toward the repairing of relations with other countries, not that you have any problem with certainly Australia -- some of the others.  But do you think they've gone more -- second-term Bush seems to be more multinational than first-term Bush.  No?


QUESTION:  No?  (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK:  I don't know.  That was the rap, Barry, that -- we weren't interested in multilateralism, but I think we showed over the -- certainly the President demonstrated over the first term on many, many occasions that he was building multilateral coalitions on a variety of issues.  I'll point to one:  Proliferation Security Initiative.  This was a different type of approach in which there's not an Executive Secretariat or there's not an annual meeting of the Proliferation Security Initiative.  But it was spurred by the United States to try to address a problem and that is the spread of weapons of mass destruction technologies and materials and know how.  So that's just one example of the way in which we worked during the first administration -- first part of the Bush administration in a multilateral way.  And certainly I think you see that those efforts continue in a variety of different forms.

QUESTION:  Absolutely.


QUESTION:  Can you just say what the principle of the -- what the basic of this agreement is?  I think we know that it's a climate agreement but --

MR. MCCORMACK:  Right.  We'll get you some more on that, Saul.

QUESTION:  Well, can you say please why he's doing it and why he's announcing it in Laos?  What exactly -- why not here?  Why not here?  Why in Laos?  I know that ASEAN is there, but why at ASEAN?

MR. MCCORMACK:  These things are worked out according to his travel schedule and the travel schedule with others, and we thought that this was the -- he thought that that was the most appropriate place to do it.

QUESTION:  In this -- I know that you don't want to spend too much time talking about this, but is it, Barry mentioned, Kyoto, China and India are in Kyoto, Australia is not in Kyoto.  While negotiating with these countries, have you tried to assure them that you're not going to demand that they -- that that not hamper their commitment to Kyoto, joining this agreement now?

MR. MCCORMACK:  This all falls in the category of not preempting the Deputy Secretary of State, and I'm going to stand by that.

QUESTION:  Well, he has been preempted.  It's on the wires.  And you know, everybody knows about it, so what's the point of not talking about it when --

MR. MCCORMACK:  There's a difference between something "being on the wires" and then the Deputy Secretary --

QUESTION:  Well, Australia's leaking it.  I mean, it's you know.  Anyway.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Next question.  Yes, sir.

QUESTION:  Change the subject?


QUESTION:  Turkish Prime Minister and British Prime Minister met in London today and talk about a lot of -- about Cyprus.  So is there any new initiative about a Cyprus issue?  And what is the latest U.S. position on the issue?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, I think our position hasn't changed.  Just yesterday I talked about Cyprus and our support for Under Secretary -- Secretary General Annan's efforts and don't have anything to add today.


QUESTION:  It's on Turkey (inaudible) you.  But I did get to talk to the visiting German parliamentarian who will either have seen Secretary Rice or has seen him and he spoke about Turkey among other issues.  Do you happen to know if Turkey is on the agenda for the session with the Secretary?

MR. MCCORMACK:  That meeting was -- has, either ongoing now or just taken place, so I haven't had a chance to talk to the Secretary about it.

QUESTION:  Okay, because I'm interested in knowing if their views coincide on Turkey's membership in the EU.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Right, as I said, I think the meeting may have just ended just before I came out here.  If there's anything we can share with you, Barry, we'll try to get it to you.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION:  Sean, may I switch topics to North Korea?


QUESTION:  Okay.  It's been reported that Ambassador Hill had mentioned at the six-party talks that the talks should include other topics.  Is that an accurate report?  And can you also tell me if that included the United States' explicit support of Japan's efforts to get their abductees back from North Korea?

MR. MCCORMACK:  This is a topic that came up during the Secretary's trip to the region, and we have talked about it since then as well.  The focus of the six-party talks, at this point, is achieving a shared goal of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.  However, we have said that the six-party talks are also a forum where other issues can be raised certainly, and the issue of abductees is one of them.  However, the focus of this round of talks and our energies, as well as the energies I believe of the other parties, are focused on trying to move forward, build a foundation so we can move forward and make progress in this round of talks towards the ultimate goal of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

QUESTION:  Just a follow-up, Sean, but did Ambassador Hill bring that topic up explicitly?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I didn't -- I talked to him but I didn't talk to him about that topic.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Can I ask about China?  Also --

MR. MCCORMACK:  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  -- according to our South Korean wire service, Hill said that he was going to start working on normalizing relations.  Can you --

MR. MCCORMACK:  I don't think that that is what -- he was asked about this.  He did a short on-the-record press availability, and I don't think that that is what he said.  What he said is the topic of these talks is, as I said, a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.  Our approach to these discussions as is contained in our June 24th, 2004 proposal is that good-faith actions on the part of North Korea will be met in turn by good-faith actions from the United States and other members of the six-party talks.  And before North Korea is a fundamental choice, they can have a different, a fundamentally different relationship with the rest of the world and the United States.  But first, they have to make a choice and that choice is to give up their nuclear program.

QUESTION:  And there is all the press reports that shows that in their conversation yesterday between Hill and North Korea, they denied that they had any uranium enrichment capability.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Right, well, we've talked about this issue in the past in public and our view is that North Korea would need to give up all of its nuclear programs and that would include plutonium as well as highly enriched uranium.


QUESTION:  Are you confirming that they've denied having the program yesterday?

MR. MCCORMACK:  No.  Oh, no.  No.


QUESTION:  Thank you.  The Secretary met with Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan this morning and after the meeting, Mr. Tang told the reporters he had a very good discussion with the Secretary, especially on those ongoing six-party talks.  Do you have a readout for their meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK:  They did have a good meeting.  They talked about a number of different topics, bilateral topics.  They talked about trade; they talked about economic issues.  The Secretary underscored the importance of China maintaining its WTO obligations, as well as looking out for intellectual property rights issues.  They talked a great deal about preparing the way for President Hu's visit to the United States.  They did touch on the six-party talks as well.  I think both agreed that the initial meetings of the talks have proceeded in a good atmosphere.  And they compared notes in terms of the talks and what we have seen thus far.

QUESTION:  And it -- sorry, a follow-up.  Were their discussions kind of like a coordinate, how to respond to a specific proposal or statement in the six-party talks?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I wouldn't say that they were that detailed.  They were not that detailed.  It was more general conversation.

QUESTION:  Is there any updates about the President Hu's visit here?  So far, about a date or were he be invite -- you know, will he be invited to Crawford for a state visit?

MR. MCCORMACK:  That will -- those details would come out of the White House.

QUESTION:  Did they touch upon Taiwan?

MR. MCCORMACK:  They did touch upon Taiwan and I think that it's safe to say they didn't break any new ground on that issue.  Both sides reiterated their long-standing and well-known positions.

QUESTION:  Sean, just to follow-up.  Did they discuss the Chinese currency?

MR. MCCORMACK:  It did not come up.

QUESTION:  Did not come up.  Thank you.


QUESTION:  On Iran.  There are new announcements from Iran that it is, in fact, going to resume some of its uranium enrichment or uranium reprocessing activities.  Have you heard anything about this?  I believe the French Government has already responded by saying that if this is true and if they go through with it, that there should be a rapid referral to the United Nations.

MR. MCCORMACK:  I have not seen those particular press reports but we have made and made very clear in the past that we expect Iran to live up to its Paris Agreement obligations, into which it entered with the EU-3.  So beyond that, I would defer any comment until I have a chance to see exactly what was said and, you know, and see what consultations we've had with the EU-3.

QUESTION:  But if there is -- if there is a confirmation from your EU colleagues, could you take that as a TQ --

MR. MCCORMACK:  If there is anything that we can add this afternoon, we'll put that up for you.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Yes.  Elise.

QUESTION:  There seem to be some developments with the Northern Ireland peace process and the IRA.  And apparently some officials from Sinn Fein are coming here to talk to the American officials about their new, kind of, solely political agenda.  Can you -- do you have anything to say on that?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I've seen those press reports and I think I'm going to leave any comment directly to the parties that would be involved in those discussions at this point.

QUESTION:  Well, when you say the parties that are going to be involved in those discussions, apparently they're coming here to meet with American officials.  So are you saying, you're going to leave it to the American officials that are involved in these discussions?

MR. MCCORMACK:  No.  What I said is I'm going to leave it to any parties that would be involved in such discussions, not here in the United States.  So again, I've seen those press reports but at this point, I don't have any comment on them.

QUESTION:  You can't confirm that there are officials from Sinn Fein coming to meet --

MR. MCCORMACK:  I don't have any comment at this point.

QUESTION:  Back to Iran for a quick sec.  There's a report that there was a briefing last week by Bob Joseph to the IAEA on Iranian nuclear missile technology or missile technology.  Can you confirm that meeting and what was discussed?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, I can -- there are a couple of things I can say and a couple of things I can't say.  First of all, we can't comment on intelligence matters and the content of any intelligence information we may or may not have shared with others.  But we have made clear our serious concerns about Iran's intentions to acquire nuclear weapons and what we conclude are Iran's active clandestine efforts to develop the capability to make fissile material for such weapons.

We have also long made clear our concerns about Iran's efforts to develop long-range missiles capable of carrying conventional and non-conventional warheads.  We fully support the ongoing investigation and verification work of the IAEA.  When we have information that we believe can help the IAEA in its efforts, we make an effort to provide it, as we believe do other IAEA member states.  And, as I said, we don't comment in public about any sharing -- potential sharing of intelligence information.

QUESTION:  So does that mean that the effort to provide it didn't occur last week or it did occur?

MR. MCCORMACK:  We, as do other members of the IAEA, on a regular basis, try to provide the best, most timely information we can to the IAEA to assist it in its investigations.  And we, as I said, support the IAEA investigation currently ongoing with respect to Iran and its nuclear program.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:51 p.m.)

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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