State Department Daily Briefing, July 29
29 July 2005
Kyrgyz Republic, Serbia, Korea, Russia, Miscellaneous, China, Department, Lebanon, Iran, Zambia, Israel/Palestinians, Mexico
State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack briefed reporters July 29.
Following is the State Department transcript:
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Friday, July 29, 2005
12:58 p.m. EDT
Briefer: Sean McCormack, Spokesman
KYRGYZ REPUBLIC Humanitarian Transfer of Uzbek Asylum Seekers to Romania
SERBIA Call for Radovan Karadzic to Surrender to the ICC
KOREA Six-Party Talks / Assistant Secretary Hill's Meetings / Statement of Principles / Bilateral Meetings / Agreement Regarding Nuclear Weapons in South Korea / Denuclearized Korean Peninsula / HEU Program
RUSSIA Chechen Rebel Leader Shamil Basayev / ABC Broadcast of Interview
MISCELLANEOUS American Media Coverage of Usama bin Laden
CHINA Expanded Global Role
DEPARTMENT John Bolton's Interview with a State Department Inspector General / Letters from Senator Biden / Fitzgerald Investigation / Permanent Representative in New York / Need for an Up or Down Congressional Vote / Preparation for UN General Assembly / UN Reform Resignation of Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega
LEBANON International Obligations / UN Security Council Resolution 1559 / Aspirations of Lebanese People
IRAN President Elect of Iran and Investigation of Reported Connection to 1979 Hostage Taking of Americans in Tehran
ZAMBIA Zambian Officials and Who They May Have in Custody
ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS U.S. Position on Settlement Possibility of Secretary Rice Meeting with Dov Weisglass
MEXICO New Consular Information Sheet / Violence in the Border Region
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2005 (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
12:58 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I have two statements that I'd like to read to you and we'll release paper copies after the briefing, then we can get into questions. The first one is respect to the Kyrgyz Republic facilitating humanitarian transfer of Uzbek asylum seekers. Secretary Rice called Kyrgyz President-Elect Kurman Bekiyev this morning to express appreciation for the Kyrgyz Government's decision to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to transfer 439 asylum seekers from the Kyrgyz Republic to Romania today.
The asylum seekers who had sought initial refuge in the Kyrgyz Republic will remain in Romania on a temporary basis while the UNHCR arranges Permanent resettlement in third countries. By providing sanctuary for the asylum seekers and allowing today's humanitarian transfer, the Kyrgyz Republic has demonstrated its commitment to support international efforts to assist individuals who seek protection from persecution. The Kyrgyz Republic deserves the thanks of all those in the international community who are committed to the UN's humanitarian principles.
We in the UNHCR continue to strongly advocate for the transfer of the remaining 15 Uzbek asylum seekers to a third country for resettlement processing. We hope the Kyrgyz Republic will take immediate steps to ensure that the remaining asylum seekers' human rights are fully protected. We welcome the Kyrgyz Government's pledge to consult with the UNHCR before taking any action on any one of the Uzbek asylum seekers in the Kyrgyz Republic.
I have one more brief statement. We welcome and echo the statements of Mrs. Ljiljana Karadzic calling on her husband Radovan Karadzic to surrender to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and The Hague. We admire Mrs. Karadzic's courage to call for what is right and what is needed for both the Karadzic family and all the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro and throughout the entire Balkans region. We urge politicians in the region to support and echo this call to surrender. We urge Radovan Karadzic to heed these calls and surrender. We also call up on Ratko Mladic and Ante Gotovina to do the same.
So with that, I am happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: So assuming on that, on Korea nuclear, the Secretary last night said any agreement would require all six parties. But in a sense, that begs the question, the negotiating apparently is being done by the Americans one-on-one, another meeting. I can't -- what do you make of all this? I mean, the Bush people didn't want one-on-one negotiations. In fact, they didn't even want -- they delayed it even getting back to starting the talks when they first came in. They object to the Clinton approach, said it was a failure, the White House said yesterday.
Isn't it one-on-one negotiations that is going on?
MR. MCCORMACK: What we have here is a multilateral negotiation. That's the whole point of the six-party forum. President Bush made an important decision in trying to bring other parties into the region into this process -- the Chinese, the South Koreans, the Russians, the Japanese -- to arrive at a solution and what is -- to a problem that concerns all of them: North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons and their nuclear weapons program. All the parties in the region find this, North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons, destabilizing.
So what we did is we got together a multilateral process to try to come to a solution that is a problem for all of North Korea's neighbors. And what we have, and we've gone through, you know, the history, we've gone through three previous rounds, we have this fourth round that's ongoing now. And what you have is, you know, you have a multilateral forum but you have bilateral contacts that go on. That happens, I think, in any multilateral negotiation that you'll find if you look back through the history books.
Assistant Secretary Hill has had some, I think, 20 full delegation bilateral contacts. Four of those have been with the North Korean delegation. The other 16 have been with the other delegations. He has had numerous pull-asides with South Korean delegation members one on -- and Japanese delegation members, Chinese delegation members. He's had working dinners. So what you have -- and that's just the United States. You also have the other members of the six-party talks having bilateral discussions among themselves as well. So this is truly a multilateral negotiating forum. You know, we have in the past had bilateral contacts, including with North Korea in the context of the six-party talks and that's what you have today.
QUESTION: So you wouldn't say, in one of those terrible sports analogies, you wouldn't say he's the point man, you wouldn't say he's carrying the ball of the U.S.? It's just what? Everybody's got equal input. The Russians have as much to say as the U.S. about the shape of this agreement --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as I think --
QUESTION: Ambassador --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think Ambassador Hill did talk a little bit about this in some comments to the press while he was coming into his hotel today. And the stage that we're at right now is we're trying to develop a statement of principles, lay the foundation to -- we hope -- move forward and make progress towards the shared goal of the six-party talks. And Ambassador Hill talked about the fact that people are starting to put pen to paper. We have some ideas that we are -- in terms of the statement of principles that we have shared with the Chinese. It's the mechanism that we decided to use so the Chinese can distribute those to other delegations in the talks.
The Russians have some ideas that they've put on paper as well as the South Koreans, the Japanese and even the North Koreans. So what you have -- you have various inputs that are regarding the statement of principles that are now starting to get down on paper. And you're getting to an essentially new phase in this round where some of the preliminary discussions are now moving into a phase where people are talking about actual text of the statement of principles. So that's where we are -- where we are right now in the process.
QUESTION: So this text evolved into an actual text?
MR. MCCORMACK: In the statement of principles.
MR. MCCORMACK: What Ambassador Hill has talked about is for -- what they're concentrating on this round is getting to a statement of principles, that if we make sufficient progress in this round and all the parties agree that there is -- enough progress has been made for another round, that statement of principles might serve as a framework or a basis for moving towards an agreement. But we are at the very early stages, have talked to Ambassador Hill and he has emphasized that this is tough multilateral negotiating work. This is, in these types of negotiations, you make progress inch by inch, if you do make progress.
QUESTION: Sean, can I follow up, please?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Peter.
QUESTION: Sean, you seems to indicate that this is not a departure from previous rounds of negotiations and yet we've had five direct one-on-one meetings between the North Koreans and the Americans, which is probably about four times more -- four more than I think Secretary Kelly had. You've had meetings going on for several hours. It would seem to me that you have more hours spent head-to-head with North Koreans and Americans than they've had in plenary sessions or any other bilaterals. How can you not say that this is not a departure from previous procedure?
MR. MCCORMACK: Because I think the principal remains the same. We have always had, in all of it -- if you look back, I think in all of the previous three rounds, if not all of them then most of them where you've had bilateral contact between the North Korean delegation and the American delegation. That principle continues. This is within the context of the six-party talks. I think you'd also note that this round is a bit different or at least the atmosphere is a bit different than the previous -- in the previous rounds. I think that all would agree that we have a continuing good atmosphere in this round. You have all parties agreeing what the goal of the six-party talks is now, a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. You are now to the point of, actually putting down on paper, the text of the statement of principles. It might serve as a foundation if we do make progress for an eventual agreement. So I think that you'll see a bit of different atmosphere in these talks, but the principle remains the change. There's no change in the principle of having bilateral context in the context of the six-party talks.
QUESTION: Just as a point of information if I could follow up. In previous rounds did you have five meetings, direct meetings in the space of three days? And did you have meetings that lasted several hours, as a couple of these meetings have lasted?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. You'd have to go back and check your records. That's before my time.
QUESTION: Is the statement of principles essentially the result of a closed meeting with the North Koreans?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I think this is -- the statement of principles that we're working on is a result of a multilateral diplomatic effort in consultations with the Japanese delegation, the South Korean delegation, the Chinese delegation, the Russian delegation as well as in the North Korean delegation.
QUESTION: Were there any nuclear weapons in South Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: The South Korean Government, as the Secretary talked about last night in the interview, has said that there are not there. There was an agreement signed in -- I think it was 1991 or 1992 -- between the North and the South. And at the time I believe that that agreement -- the South Korean President stated that there were not. And South Korea stated that it continues to abide by that agreement.
QUESTION: So there are no South Korean nuclear weapons? Are there any U.S. nuclear weapons?
MR. MCCORMACK: That's an issue that, at the time of the agreement, the U.S. addressed and Assistant Secretary Hill was recently asked that question. He gave a response to it, and I don't have anything to add to it.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what the response was?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think you can go back and check the transcript.
QUESTION: Does that mean you don't know?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. You can check the transcript, just as I --
QUESTION: So -- well, you know, he's over there; we're here. If you know the answer, why won't you say it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. You can go back and check the transcript. It hasn't changed.
QUESTION: But why won't you say what Hill's answer was?
MR. MCCORMACK: Because --
QUESTION: Is it because public diplomacy doesn't allow you to repeat what an Assistant Secretary said on this issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. What he said is correct and it stands.
Yes. Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: This is a new subject.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I think we're still on this one.
QUESTION: There are some indications Assistant Secretary Hill has given some indications there that the United States might be willing to allow the North Koreans to maintain some level of civilian nuclear energy as part of the settlement. Can you comment on that please?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I've seen some of these press reports and it hint -- you know, it talks about -- hints at, you know, the sort of thing, I think. He was very clear and we're very clear that we do not think that North Korea should retain the civilian nuclear capability. He talked about a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and what does that mean. No nuclear weapons -- no nuclear weapons programs in the Korean Peninsula and no nuclear programs that could conceivably be nuclear weapons programs. And none of this takes place outside of a historical context, and we've seen North Korea in terms of the 1991 agreement, the NPT in the 1994 agreement framework in which they have not lived up to their nuclear obligations. So any nuclear program in North Korea could potentially be a nuclear weapons program.
QUESTION: So you're not even willing to go back to like an earlier formulation where lightwater reactors or non-military -- you're ruling that out.
MR. MCCORMACK: We've been very clear and very consistent in this.
QUESTION: The U.S. has been emphasizing a lot about the 1992 agreement and denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. There are terms in there that I would think the U.S. is reluctant is accept, specifically two things. It does mention not allowing the HEU the uranium enrichment part. That's okay, probably. But it also calls for mutual verification to make sure that there are no nuclear weapons in South Korea. And that would also include opening possibly U.S. military facilities in the South for outside inspection.
And the second thing that Washington might be reluctant to accept is that it does allow North Korea to have peaceful use of nuclear program. Now, you say U.S. saying that they will accept those two terms, if --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, on the third part, I think I just addressed that with Peter's question. In terms of questions of verification of dismantlement of programs or the absence of programs, certainly that would be a matter for negotiation within the context of the six parties, so I expect that that as well as other questions would be one that is raised within the six-party context and addressed by all the members.
QUESTION: Did Chris Hill or other American negotiators share with the North Koreans as part of these one-on-ones intelligence, suggesting that the A.Q. Kahn network had supplied the North Korea with uranium technology?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, certainly during the course of our contacts and this goes back, I think, to 2002 Assistant Secretary Kelly's visit in Pyongyang, we have talked to the North Koreans about their HEU program. And Assistant Secretary Hill did raise the issue in one of his bilateral contacts. When we talk about a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, we mean all programs, all possible paths to a nuclear weapon, whether that's plutonium or HEU.
So he did raise that with them in terms of the source of whatever information we may have about that program, that's not something that I'm prepared to get into at this point. But we did talk to them about it.
QUESTION: Is that information, though, that A.Q. Kahn has provided that they did forward that kind of information to the North Koreans?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of -- again, as to the sources of whatever information we may have about the North Korean HEU program, I'm not going to get into that.
QUESTION: Change the subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, I don't know. Are we ready to change the subject? It looks like we are.
QUESTION: Good. So can you confirm that Russia actually summoned the U.S. DCM over an ABC interview with a Chechen leader?
MR. MCCORMACK: We did talk to the Russian Government about this issue. They asked to speak with us about it. Concerning, you know, concerning this broadcast, I would make the following two points that, in our view, Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev is a terrorist, who has claimed responsibility for the seizure of the school in Beslan last year and for the seizure of the Dubrovka Theatre in Moscow in October 2002 as well as other acts of terrorism resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people. Basayev was a designated terrorist threat to U.S. security and citizens in August 2003.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms any act of terrorism. And, you know, we have said before. And, you know, we have said before specifically with regard to the issue of Chechnya that no cause can justify actions that take the lives or risk the lives of innocent civilians.
With respect to the issue of the broadcast of this interview, the U.S. Government has had no involvement in ABC's decision to air the interview. The U.S. Government has no authority to prevent ABC from exercising its constitutional right to broadcast the interview.
QUESTION: When you say they asked to talk, was it with Daniel Russell, the DCM? Did they ask him to come in?
MR. MCCORMACK: I believe that's the case, Saul. Let me confirm afterwards with the name for you, just to make sure that that's correct --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- but I believe that's the case.
QUESTION: Thanks. And did the U.S. express any opinion about the ABC interview, whether or not ABC should have done that?
MR. MCCORMACK: As I've said, this is a constitutional right of an American media outlet to broadcast an interview and we did not have any role to play in the decision to air the interview.
QUESTION: On this issue, I mean, you know, you're constantly -- U.S. Government officials are constantly complaining about what Al Jazeera airs or doesn't and so on. So do you express the same kind of concern with ABC in this case, promoting, inciting, and so on?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not going to try to draw any equivalence between what --
QUESTION: No, I'm not --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- between what Al Jazeera has aired in the past in different places concerning the actions in Iraq, concerning misleading broadcasting -- misleading information, misrepresenting different activities. It's a completely separate issue from an American media outlet deciding to broadcast this interview.
QUESTION: Would the U.S. Government have any objection to a U.S. network interviewing Usama bin Laden?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I think that different networks, American media networks, have aired portions of tapes released by Usama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, as well as others. Very, very early on, after September 11th, we asked broadcast networks to take into consideration that these messages might contain signals or other types of information to other terrorist cells, but we made it very clear at that time that that was a matter for and solely the decision of the broadcast networks and the media outlets to decide what it was that they were going to -- what it was that they were going to air. To my knowledge, that's been the extent of our conversations with the media concerning broadcast of tapes, messages, et cetera, from Usama bin Laden and al-Qaida members.
QUESTION: Is there any concern that there could have been such a signal involved in the ABC interview with the Chechen?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any, Saul.
QUESTION: What did the Russians expect you to do?
MR. MCCORMACK: You'll have to talk to the Russian Government about what their expectations were for the U.S. Government in terms of what it may -- might have or might not have done.
QUESTION: Change of subject? The other day, you said you would try and get us something on Mugabe's trip to China. After there were several people in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony, including Tony Wayne, that said that there was concern about China's embracing rogue regimes such as Zimbabwe, Sudan and Iran. And I was just wondering if the Administration is concerned about these type of meetings.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as China expands into a different kind of role on the global scene, I think we have seen much more economic activity and I think in terms of its political activity, the beginnings of a different type of role. As it does have contacts with various countries in Africa -- you've mentioned a few -- or around the world, we would certainly encourage the Chinese Government to encourage responsible, democratic behavior among these types of regimes, encouraging greater freedoms for their people and greater economic opportunity for their people.
With respect to Zimbabwe, certainly we have made our views clear with Sudan and the other places, I think that you know where we stand on those issues.
QUESTION: So are you saying that if China is going to take a more expanded global economic role that it should also balance that with a political responsibility to send messages -- not necessarily on behalf of the United States, but messages that these countries should change their behavior?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think we would encourage any country, as they interact with other nations around the world, especially places where we see a deficit of freedom, a deficit of respect for human rights. But we would encourage those countries to engage those government on the basis of encouraging greater freedoms for their people, respect for human rights and certainly more economic opportunity for their people.
QUESTION: On a different issue. Mr. Bolton, his memory seems to have been jogged into remembering another case of talking to investigators. Can you bring us up to date and tell us if the situation has changed or if you're providing any more information to the senator?
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, thanks for that question, Charlie. I was asked about this question yesterday in response to a letter Senator Biden had sent. Yesterday he provided another letter, sent it to the Secretary asking about whether or not Mr. Bolton had been interviewed by a State Department Inspector General in July of -- July 18th, 2003, in connection with a joint State Department and CIA Inspector General investigation.
Mr. Bolton, when he originally submitted his forms to the Senate as part of the confirmation process, did not recollect that he had spoken with the State Department Inspector General. As a result, when asked the question yesterday whether or not the nominee, in this case Mr. Bolton, has been interviewed or asked to supply any information in connection with any administrative, including an Inspector General, congressional or grand jury investigation within the last five years, except routine congressional testimony, his response was no.
After receipt of this letter and reviewing his records, reviewing his records again, Mr. Bolton did recollect, in fact, that he had spoken with the State Department Inspector General. Therefore, his original submission was incorrect and he will correct his form. I don't know if he's actually resubmitted that particular question to the Senate or not, but he certainly intends to.
QUESTION: Are there any other investigations or anything that he recalls now being questioned to support it?
MR. MCCORMACK: There was also a question in Senator Biden's original letter whether or not he had been interviewed as part of the Fitzgerald investigation, and according to Mr. Bolton, he has told us that he was not interviewed regarding -- as part of the Fitzgerald investigation.
QUESTION: Would that cover -- interview. Would that cover depositions and all sorts of things?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Would that -- sorry. Would that cover any --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, to the best of my knowledge, Barry, any sort of interview as part of that investigation.
QUESTION: Well, are you specifically saying about Fitzgerald's investigation? Because, presumably, the investigators started before Fitzgerald was appointed.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are two separate things here. There's a State Department-CIA Inspector General investigation that looked into the question of potential procurement of Niger uranium by Iraq. There was a separate -- there was another question about whether or not Mr. Bolton had been interviewed as part of the Fitzgerald investigation. The answer, according to Mr. Bolton, to the second of those is no. On the first of those questions, he now has a new submission for the Senate questionnaire.
QUESTION: Sean, the issue of the first investigation, the State Department-CIA one, how many times did Mr. Bolton interview in that and what was the focus of it?
MR. MCCORMACK: To my knowledge, and according to the records that Mr. Bolton has reviewed that I am aware of, it was an interview. As for the specific questions that were raised as part of that Inspector General investigation, I don't have the answers to that, Saul, and I'm not sure that because of the rules surrounding Inspector General investigations that we could get into that. But the topic, the subject of the State Department's investigation -- Inspector General investigation was with respect to alleged Iraqi attempts to procure uranium for Niger.
QUESTION: But was he the object of the investigation?
MR. MCCORMACK: Saul, I don't know the answer to that. I think the subject of that is -- and I don't know if those -- that terminology applies. I don't know specifically the terminology with respect to Inspector General investigations.
QUESTION: And just one sort of side issue on this. Senator Biden wrote two letters yesterday. In reviewing the letters and the sequencing of them, does the State Department know that, in fact, Senator Biden already knew the answers to the questions he was looking for and had already consulted the State Department for those answers?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- you'd have to check with Senator Biden.
QUESTION: But you don't have any records of the State Department, the Inspector General's Office, giving him the answers previously?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to -- not to get into any sort of exchanges between the -- potential exchanges between an Inspector General's Office and Senator Biden's office. You'd have to talk to his office about what information he had that went into writing the letters.
MR. MCCORMACK: Tammy has more.
QUESTION: Two quick ones. One is, is the change in Mr. Bolton's statement on this, is that any cause of concern for the Secretary? And also, likelihood of a recess appointment, given that the House has gone out and the Senate's going out today?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think the Secretary talked a bit about this yesterday in an interview and I know some of you have looked at the transcript. But very basically, she stated that decisions about presidential nominees are at the discretion of the President. Those are his decisions, certainly. We need a Permanent Representative up in New York.
Ambassador Patterson is doing a great job up there with her team on the issue of UN reform, but the United States, at this important moment in the debate about UN reform and what areas we move forward on, we need a Perm Rep up there and we're certainly disappointed to this point that Mr. Bolton has not had an up-or-down vote. We have called on the Senate to give him an up-or-down vote. We have -- the State Department and Mr. Bolton has tried to provide all the possible information that we could to the request. We have provided volumes of information to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senators regarding this nomination. And we think that Mr. Bolton does deserve an up-or-down vote.
QUESTION: Any cause for concern based on the new information?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we are still looking for an up or down vote on Mr. Bolton. We think that he's the person to go up to New York to represent the United States at the United Nations.
QUESTION: Okay. Now I have a quick follow-up on that. How and when did the Secretary learn that there had been a mistake in the forms?
MR. MCCORMACK: We talked to her about it yesterday afternoon.
QUESTION: Before the NewsHour interview was taped --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, it was after.
QUESTION: She learned about it after the two o'clock --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I think the letter came up afterwards. The NewsHour interview was early in the afternoon.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Secretary emphasized how much hard work has to be done in preparation for the September meetings at the UN. Could the U.S. Government prepared properly for the UNGA meetings if there's no approval of the nomination during August?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, certainly the men and women of the State Department are accustomed to taking on added burdens and rising to the challenges put before them. And, as you point out, the preparation for a UN General Assembly -- a regular UN General Assembly -- certainly is an "all hands" effort at the State Department. But this is also a little bit different in terms of the fact that we have a number of heads of state coming in to talk specifically about important issues of development and fundamental issues of what the UN is going to look like.
We have a UN now that was based largely on structures and relationships dating from the immediate post-war period. We need to update those. We believe that that's important. We've made our views clear on the UN reforms. So it's an important time for the UN and certainly I think that while the men and women of the State Department can rise to the challenge, that they would -- we would all certainly benefit as a country by having Mr. Bolton up in New York working these issues on behalf of the American people.
QUESTION: The Secretary was in Lebanon and met with the Prime Minister Designate Mr. Fuad Siniora just last week and issued declarations of support for him. Mr. Siniora was quoted as telling his parliament yesterday that he -- defending the right of Hezbollah to resist Israel. Can you comment on that, especially in the light of the talks that the Secretary had with him last week?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen his exact comments but it -- certainly in discussions with the Secretary and subsequent discussions that we have had with members of the incoming Lebanese Government, he made very clear that Lebanon intends to -- has always and intends to live up to its international obligations. And that includes UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for the disarming of all militias, including Hezbollah.
Now, the question of the forward progress in the Lebanese political space and the development of those political relationships is a matter for the Lebanese people. Beyond that I'd hesitate to comment, as I know that there's a vote of confidence coming up for this government. I think it's this coming weekend. So in advance of that vote, I hesitate to offer any comments beyond that. But we heard very clearly that the incoming Lebanese Government intends to fully live up to its international obligations, including Security Council 1559.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: I suppose that the Lebanese Government is unable to disarm the militias, and so they are really in breach of 1559. Will Lebanon be then concerned that (inaudible) or someone who is not supporting the international terrorism. What's going on? What is your view on this issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, the Lebanese leaders that we spoke with said that they fully intend to live up to their international obligations and certainly we believe that they will. We think that right now is the moment to support the process of economic and political reform in Lebanon. And it's an important moment for the Lebanese people, after actually having the opportunity after decades of Syrian military presence in their own country. They have a real opportunity now before them to realize the aspirations of Lebanese people. We saw that as people gathered in the streets of Beirut calling for elections, calling for freedom from the oppression of the Syrian military in their country.
So right now the focus of the international community and the Secretary has spoken with the French Foreign Minister about this as well on the phone, is to focus on supporting this Lebanese Government as it moves forward on the process of economic and political reform and reflects the will of the Lebanese people for a better future.
QUESTION: Change of subject. Has the administration --
MR. MCCORMACK: Does anybody else have anything on this?
No. Okay. Teri.
QUESTION: Has the administration come to its conclusion yet on whether the new or President of Iran was involved in the hostage taking? There are some indications there has been a decision.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. With regard to that question, no conclusions have been reached as of today. But I would say that we remain very concerned over charges regarding President- Elect Ahmadinejad. The taking of the American Embassy is something many Americans remember with both outrage and disgust. And let me once again stress that it is the responsibility of the Iranian Government to respond to these charges frankly and clearly.
We still have out in public the very clear statements from some of the former American hostages and I think, at this point, although the investigation has not been fully completed, we have found nothing that -- as of yet -- that I could say would contradict what the former hostages said. But, again, as this -- as I said -- this investigation is still ongoing. It hasn't been completed yet.
QUESTION: And how far along has the State Department gotten in its interviews with former hostages?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check with you on the exact number on that.
QUESTION: You said you found nothing as yet to contradict what the former hostages have said. Have you found anything to support what they have said?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I would put it the way that I did and this is still an ongoing investigation. But this could greatly benefit from the Iranian Government very clearly and definitively and in detail speaking to what these former hostages have said.
QUESTION: Sean, unless I'm wrong, I though the Iranian Government has very clearly and very forcefully said he was not involved.
MR. MCCORMACK: To what I've -- I've seen some very general statements talking about the photograph that I've seen on TV. But the former hostages have talked very specifically about what they remember as his participation in interrogations. And I don't think that we have heard definitively from them on that score.
QUESTION: No. I believe that the President himself in his official bio and members of the student group have said that he was a member of the -- I don't remember the exact name of the group, but the College of Sciences or something -- that organized the student takeover, but that he was not a physical participant in the capture or the holding of the hostages.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we have at this point not come across in our investigation anything that would contradict what these former hostages have said.
QUESTION: So are you saying that you don't believe the Iranian Government or you feel that they haven't made a specific enough explanation? And is the word of the Iranian student group, the organizers that were a student group at the time, even if they weren't in the government, is their word enough for you?
MR. MCCORMACK: As I said, we believe that it is the responsibility of the Iranian Government to respond to these charges frankly and clearly and that remains.
QUESTION: Change subject?
QUESTION: Can I ask you something else?
MR. MCCORMACK: On this Barry?
QUESTION: No, on another (inaudible.)
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: Why don't we change the subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Joel.
QUESTION: Following yesterday's U.S.-Muslim peace press conference, a vocal -- WMAL Radio talk show host was suspended. And in Pakistan President Musharraf now is saying that all foreign students attending these madrassas schools must leave the country even if they're dual nationals. Do you want to see a similar clamp down for counterterrorism by other governments and entities elsewhere?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think I have anything for you on that Joel.
QUESTION: There are reports that the Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere, Roger Noriega has resigned and will be replaced by Tom Shannon from the NSC. Can you confirm that and if you can, why?
MR. MCCORMACK: Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega confirmed this morning that he will be leaving the State Department and going to the private sector in September. Assistant Secretary Noriega had a distinguished career in government for more than 20 years and has served in the current administration for four years, first as Ambassador to the Organization of American States and now as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
And the Secretary very much appreciates his distinguished service, not only over the course of those 20 years, but during her time here as Secretary of State. And as for any follow-on personnel announcements, those are presidential nominations and I'm going to leave it to the White House.
QUESTION: It's a follow-up. Is the new Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere going to handle the policy towards Cuba or that will be handled exclusively by Caleb McCarry?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that Mr. McCarry, as well as the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, is going to work very closely on these issues. There's an office at the State Department that deals with Cuban affairs and I expect that they are going to work very closely on issues related to Cuba and Cuba policy.
QUESTION: And is the Noriega resignation related in any way to the designation of McCarry yesterday?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: It's a little bit off the wall, but in Zambia there's been an apprehension of a man allegedly and possibly connected with the London bombings. And there's -- some questions have been raised whether the U.S. is involved in some way in trying to facilitate this investigation. I know that doesn't tell you a lot, but I thought it might trigger something you might know about U.S. involvement.
MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen these news reports, Barry, and I think, with regard to these questions about the Zambian authorities and who the Zambian authorities might have in their custody, I would have to refer you over to them.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. involved at all?
MR. MCCORMACK: And I'm going to -- with regard to these questions about who they may have in custody, Barry --
QUESTION: Oh, (inaudible) custody.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: I'm wondering if the United States is of any help in this.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I'm going to refer you over to the Zambian authorities, Barry.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Peter, you have a different subject?
QUESTION: A different subject, yes.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, well, Peter and then back here.
QUESTION: The UN Human Rights Commission or Committee in Geneva has been asking the United States to submit a special report by October on its anti-terror measures, including, I think, Guantanamo, the Patriot Act. And one committee member says there's been a lack of responsiveness by the United States and they're waiting for this by the end of October. Are you familiar with the situation? Can you respond to the charge of lack of responsiveness and will the United States be submitting a report to the Human Rights Commission in Geneva on this issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check for you on that, Peter.
QUESTION: All right. Can you get back to me?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll give me a response. Yeah, we'll endeavor to get you -- we'll work to get you a response this afternoon to try post it up.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Sean, very quickly. I mean, know every time the issue of the Jewish settlement on the West Bank is brought up or the expansion issue, we hear that our position is very clear on the settlement. But then the Israelis, you know, the land grab or the expansion settlement goes unabated. I mean, the day before yesterday they got a good chunk of (inaudible). So I wonder if you could tell us or you could share with us if you have any contingency plans or any other plan to stem that, to stop the settlement activities. It seems that the Sharon Government does not really take your position very seriously.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think they understand very clearly what our position is on this matter. It's something that the Secretary has raised with the Prime Minister as well as other Israeli officials. And our position in this regard is clear. It's unchanged. I'm not sure exactly which incident that you're referring to.
QUESTION: Well, almost all of them, on all issues.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: I mean, they seem to be expanding. Could you share with us -- have they stopped any expansion as a result of your position?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, our position is clear. It's unchanged on that matter.
QUESTION: Is Sharon's senior aid Dov Weisglass coming to meet with the Secretary on Monday?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check the Secretary's schedule. I know that there's a possibility of some Israeli officials coming here next week. Let me check on the schedule for you.
QUESTION: And I'm going to change the subject -- is Mexico -- the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico this week said that even though President Fox has sent hundreds of federal forces to the border area, since June there have been an increase in murders. He said there's been a hundred violent deaths and that Mexico needs to do much more to bring safety and security to the boarder. He doesn't say what Mexico needs to do. They've already sent many forces there. What is it that the U.S. Government expects Mexico to do?
MR. MCCORMACK: We have reissued, I believe, there's a Consular Information Sheet.
MR. CASEY: There's a new consular information sheet.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. There's a new Consular Information Sheet out on this, which replaces one, I think, that we had issued maybe about a month before. The continuing violence in this -- along this border region is a real source of concern for us and we have outlined those concerns for potential travelers to that region.
I'll check for you, Saul, in terms of what specific actions we have been working with on the Mexican Government in order to address the violence in that region.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:42 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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