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State Department Briefing, August 16

16 August 2005

Spain/helicopter crash in Afghanistan, Iran, Mexico, Iraq, North Korea, Japan, Israel/Palestinians, Germany, Cuba

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack briefed reporters August 16.

Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
12:40 p.m. EDT

Briefer:  Sean McCormack, Spokesman

SPAIN/AFGHANISTAN
-- Condolences to the families of the victims of the Spanish Helicopter Crash

IRAN
-- U.S. Support of EU-3 Efforts to Negotiate with Iranian Government
-- President's Comments/No Options Off the Table
-- Focus on Iranian Behavior/IAEA/EU-3
-- U.S. Support for Iranian Democracy and Human Rights

MEXICO
-- Actions Taken by the Governor of New Mexico/Border Security
-- Travel Warnings for Border Area/Increase in Violence
-- Obligations to Stop the Production and Transit of Drugs

IRAQ
-- Extension of Deadline for Drafting of Iraqi Constitution
-- International Community Present in Baghdad to Offer Advice and Support

NORTH KOREA
-- Status of Six-Party Talks

JAPAN
-- Positive Working Level Discussions on Defense Transformation

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
-- Gaza Withdrawal/Philadelphi Strip/Border Crossing Areas
-- General Ward and A/S Welsh's Meeting with Palestinian Security Officials
-- U.S. Aid to Israelis and Palestinians
-- Third Country Assistance for Israel and Palestinians

GERMANY
-- New U.S. Ambassador

CUBA
-- Suffering of the Cuban People/Nearly 50 Years

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

TUESDAY, AUGUST 16, 2005
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

12:40 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK:  Good afternoon.  I have one opening statement and then I'll be pleased to take your questions. 

The United States is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of 17 Spanish soldiers and crew in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan today.  Secretary Rice has called Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos to express our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the government and the people of Spain.  

The Spanish soldiers and crew serving in the NATO mission in Iraq are part of a humanitarian mission to bring peace and stability to the Afghan people.  The United States salutes their sacrifice and values their partnership.  Together, we remain committed to supporting Afghanistan.

And with that, I'll be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION:  Do you have any suspicion about it?  I hadn't read about it, frankly.

MR. MCCORMACK:  I don't have any other information.

QUESTION:  Was it an accident? 

MR. MCCORMACK:  I couldn't say at this point, Barry, what the cause of the crash was.

QUESTION:  Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Yes.  Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION:  In Guardian newspaper, dated August 15 yesterday, an article has been (inaudible) with this title:  "How Bush Would Gain From War With Iran."  This is a small part -- 

MR. MCCORMACK:  Which newspaper is this?

QUESTION:  Guardian.

MR. MCCORMACK:  The Guardian newspaper?

QUESTION:  Yes.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Okay.

QUESTION:  President Bush has reminded us that he's prepared to take military action to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.  On Israeli Television this weekend, he declared that all option are on the table.  Could you please tell us your comment or reaction?

MR. MCCORMACK:  In reaction to a newspaper article?  No, I don't think so.  We talked about this a lot yesterday and the fact of the matter is that we are strongly in support of the diplomatic efforts that the EU-3 has to negotiate with the Iranian Government concerning its nuclear program.  The President reiterated longstanding U.S. policy on this issue.  No U.S. President can take any option off the table, that's the - I think if you look back through history, you'll find American Presidents, Republican and Democrat, saying the same thing about a variety of different issues.

Where the focus needs to be on is Iranian behavior.  The fact of the matter is that they have begun converting uranium in contravention of their agreement under the Paris accords and they are -- the IAEA is looking at whether or not they have contravened their obligations under the IAEA.  Anything else is trying to change the subject.  The focus needs to be on Iran and its behavior.  That's where our focus is, that's where the focus of the IAEA is and that's where the focus of the EU-3 is.  And we're pursuing diplomatic steps, through the EU-3 process, with Iran to try to resolve this issue.  If the EU-3 efforts do not come to a positive conclusion, then the next step would be to take the issue to the Security Council.  And that's where we are right now, so our focus is on the diplomatic efforts.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION:  The new government in Iran said today will not any resumption of ties with the United States as long as U.S. fails to respect the greatness and interests of the Iranian people.  Do you have any reaction?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, I think, actually, the United States stands with the Iranian people.  We stand with the Iranian people in their aspirations for greater freedom and greater democracy and greater human rights in their own country.  So I think that certainly we stand with the Iranian people.  The problem is the behavior of the Iranian Government, frankly. 

QUESTION:  Where do the Iranian people stand if they produce this kind of government?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, Barry, I think that if you look at the election and look at the atmosphere in which the election took place, I think that we have seen the Iranian process, political process, take a couple steps backwards in terms of the composition of the Majlis and the composition of the government.  There was a moment several years ago when the Iranian people saw an opportunity with the election of a new government for greater freedom and greater democracy; unfortunately, that government was not able to fulfill the expectations and the aspirations of the Iranian people. 

Yes.

QUESTION:  Different continent, Sean.  Is the issue of Mexico, the problem in the border, I know you talked about -- you spoke about it yesterday.  But today, the State of Arizona declared a state of emergency in four counties.  My question to you is, besides the decisions of the states --

MR. MCCORMACK:  This is New Mexico's declaration?

QUESTION:  Yeah, and the next one today was Arizona. 

MR. MCCORMACK:  Okay, but the state of New Mexico.  I just want to make clear.

QUESTION:  Yeah, the state of New Mexico.  Besides the decisions of the states, it's really -- you really, guys consider a threat to the U.S. security, the level of violence of Mexico?  And have you guys take a look at the increased violence is because the increased consumption of narcotics in the U.S.?

MR. MCCORMACK:  A couple things.  With respect to New Mexico, I have a couple points on that and then the larger issue of violence along the border.  With respect to the action that Governor Richardson of New Mexico took, he is a chief executive of a state and he's responsible for protecting the well being of his constituents as he deems appropriate.  The Department of Homeland Security heads the federal government's border enforcement efforts and any questions with respect to federal border enforcement programs DHS would have address. 

Now with regard to the larger issue of border security, we're working very closely with the Government of Mexico on this issue.  Ambassador Garza has gone in to senior levels of the Mexican Government to work this issue with them.  It certainly is a concern of ours and the government in response to these discussions and working together, the Government of Mexico has taken significant steps to address border violence, launching Operation Secure Mexico, which is a federal law enforcement initiative to combat organized crime in communities along the border and other cities in Mexico. 

So it's an issue that is certainly of concern to us.  I know it's an issue of concern to the Mexican Government and we're working together on it. 

QUESTION:  You didn't respond to my question.  It's really that level of violence in the border of Mexico a threat to the U.S. security? 

MR. MCCORMACK:  Again, we have put out warnings to Americans who may be traveling in those regions from the State Department.  That's something that we believe obligated to do, given the situation along the border area.  There has been an increase in violence.  Governor Richardson, with respect to Mexico, has taken the steps that he deems appropriate in order to protect the citizens of his state.  And along the entire border area, the federal government works through the Department of Homeland Security and they would be best positioned to answer the questions about what steps they are taking and how exactly they view the situation right now along the border. 

QUESTION:  Last question on this issue.  Do you really consider that the increased violence, especially between the chiefs of the cartels in the northern border of Mexico, is because of a failure of the Government of Vicente Fox to combat narcotics.  At the beginning of his Administration, the U.S. Government started to praise him saying he's having a lot of good work on the war on narcotics.  Now it seems like you guys are critics of his policies on narcotics.  What's your assessment of that?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I haven't seen any critical statements from the U.S. Government. As a matter of fact, what I've just been talking about is the fact that we're trying to address violence stemming from organized crime along the Mexican border.  This is certainly a concern for the Mexican Government and it's a concern for us and we're working closely with them.

In terms of our efforts to stem the flow of drugs across the U.S. border, certainly the United States and the President talked about this, about the obligation here to address what is a demand issue.  But also we are working closely with our partners in the hemisphere to stem and stop the flow, not only of production but the transit of these drugs as well.  And we are working with Mexico as well as other countries in the hemisphere on this issue.  And with regard to critical remarks, I haven't seen any of these so-called critical remarks and if you can come back to me later and point out something specific, I can try to get you a specific answer.

QUESTION:  Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Ben.

QUESTION:  As a follow up and related to one part of the earlier question, is it the answer to whether or not the U.S. considers it enough of a threat to issue a warning, yes?  I mean why --

MR. MCCORMACK:  We issued statements based on the situation on the ground, and we felt obligated because of the level of violence and the increased level of the violence along the border area to issue those warnings.  So, you know, you issue the warnings in response to a change in facts on the ground.  That's what we did.

QUESTION:  Could we turn to Iraq if we're good?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Anything else on Mexico?

QUESTION:  Yesterday, with the confidence of the President, Secretary of State, the job would be done in a week, maybe a couple days past that.  Has anything -- have you had a closer look now at the delay?  Have you come to any conclusions of what's causing it?  Are you still as upbeat on the job getting done, it being such an enormous job.  It does take time.

MR. MCCORMACK:  It does take time.  And the people working on drafting the Iraqi constitution have been working very hard over the past months and weeks to draft a constitution that the Iraqi people can vote for that addresses all of the major issues that we've talked, addresses the issues of federalism and the role of women in society and the role of religion in Iraq, how Iraq is governed, as well as a variety of -- the sharing of revenues between the center, the federal -- a central government, and some of the outlying areas.  These are all very tough issues.  We've seen -- you know, we struggled with similarly difficult issues in writing our Constitution.  Other countries have dealt with similar tough issues.  They will arrive at a solution that is, that meets the needs of the Iraqi people.

The Iraqis have said -- you know, the people drafting the constitution have asked for an extension of seven days to get their work done.  They've made substantial progress in the past weeks and months.  They think that they need a little more time.  As you've heard from the President and the Secretary, we think that we certainly understand that.  And as we said yesterday, this is the democratic process at work and they have said that they intend to meet their deadline.  We certainly support them in that.

QUESTION:  Can you say whether the Secretary or anybody, any senior official, has been in touch in the last day or two to just get a better handle possibly or even to offer advice?  I know it's their job and you say that, but the U.S. is not exactly a bystander and has a great stake in the outcome.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Right.

QUESTION:  Any --

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, Ambassador Khalilzad, as well as other members of the international community present in Baghdad, are ready to offer any advice and support, as requested by the Iraqis.  And on many occasions the people drafting the Iraqi constitution have asked for input from Ambassador Khalilzad.  He has offered that to them.  I expect that over the coming days he'll continue that.  In response to Iraqi requests, the UN is also offering similar advice and support.

As for any calls from Washington to officials, Iraqi officials, I don't have anything to report on that.  We'll try to keep you updated on that.  But Secretary Rice has been in contact with Ambassador Khalilzad several times yesterday and I believe she's also spoken with him again today. 

Saul.

QUESTION:  As you prepare for the second part of the six-party talks, this latest round, have there been any contacts --

QUESTION:  Can we stay on Iraq?

QUESTION:  Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Okay.

QUESTION:  Go ahead.

MR. MCCORMACK:  We'll come back to you on six-party talks. 

QUESTION:  Would you say, though, that it's just a matter of fine-tuning the language?  I think those were -- one phrase that the Ambassador used in terms of what still remains to be done. 

MR. MCCORMACK:  I think that that's certainly part of it, looking at, you know, in that the language reflects the various ideas and coming together of the various groups -- the Shia, the Sunni, Kurds and others -- in this.  There are still differences that they need to resolve and I expect that they'll resolve those differences through the language in the draft constitution. 

They've made substantial progress on a number of different areas, but you don't have a final draft constitution until all these issues are resolved.  So we are again standing in support of the Iraqis as they move towards that goal and they have expressed that they would like to finish this effort within the span of a week, the week extension that they have been given, and we support them on that.

Tammy.

QUESTION:  Ambassador Khalilzad today talked about a number of issues that he said had been resolved, specifically the role of women, the role of Islamic law, et cetera.  Is that an assessment that's shared back here?  You just made the point that until you have everything together, you don't have it. 

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, we are in contact with Ambassador Khalilzad and he's our person on the ground, along with the rest of Embassy, so we are getting our assessments on where the process stands from him.  And I think his comments reflect the fact, as the Secretary said yesterday, that they've made substantial progress on all areas.  But again, you don't have a final draft constitution until all of these issues are resolved.  I expect over the course of the next week there are going to be more ups and downs in this process.  That's the way political process works.  So we will again, as we have, stand ready to assist and support the Iraqi people as they move forward in this process. 

Peter. 

QUESTION:  Sean, from a legal and a political point of view, is this delay the last delay that can be had or is there a possibility of further extensions if it doesn't happen by next Monday?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I'll have to look into that question, Peter.  I don't know exactly.  Well, we'll certainly look into it.  I don't know what exactly the TAL provides for.  If it's one, you know, one extension or if they can continue doing that, as a matter of law. 

QUESTION:  How about politically?  I mean, do you see that they can just keep rolling over the process?

MR. MCCORMACK:  That's a decision for the Iraqi people. 

QUESTION:  Okay.  Can you look into the first one? 

MR. MCCORMACK:  Sure.  Yeah, as a factual matter.  I'll certainly look into it. 

QUESTION:  But it still stands, the Secretary's judgment yesterday that it will be done?

MR. MCCORMACK:  You know, our judgment, which is based on what the Iraqis have said, is that they want to get this done.  They have asked for a seven-day extension and we support them in that and we will do everything that we can within the bounds of what they want to help them get that done. 

Yes. 

QUESTION:  If I could follow up on that political angle.  How do you respond to people that are saying, you know, the delay in itself of a couple of days isn't a big deal, but because this Administration held so firm on the importance of sticking to this deadline and now it's gone over, but it's really -- it's a bigger deal than it needs to be because of your insistence on sticking to the deadline in the first place.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, what we were doing is we were echoing what the Iraqis wanted.  Certainly we support that and certainly we think it's important for the political process to continue moving forward as it has since the very beginning of the transfer of sovereignty, with the drafting of the TAL, you know.  We went through a similar exercise where there was a lot of very spirited political back and forth in drafting that document, which has actually served as the basis for Iraqi law throughout that entire period.

I think they went over their deadline by three days in doing that.  But again, from the drafting of the TAL through the election and through the formation of the government and through the appointment of the Constitutional Committee, this process has continued to move forward.  I think our comments and our actions indicate that we think that that is important for Iraq to demonstrate to the Iraqi people their government is keeping faith with what they have asked for and the confidence that they have placed in them.  And I think more than anybody else, the United States or any other of the coalition partners, it's the Iraqis who want to continue this process moving forward.

QUESTION:  So just to kind of encapsulate what you just said, are you saying that when you were talking about meeting the deadline, it wasn't necessarily the actual kind of day and time that they needed to be done, but your comments, we're just trying to encourage the Iraqis to keep the political process on track?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, the deadline was something that was enshrined in the TAL and that was something that they laid out for themselves and that was the point on the calendar that they said that they wanted to meet.  We support them in that and we thought it was -- we think it was important that they work towards that deadline to getting something done.  As the case stands now, they said that they need seven more days.  And we think that is important that they took the legal procedural way to try to resolve the differences that were before them rather than try to go around what was enshrined in the TAL or to try to steamroll one party or another in the process.

Okay.  We'll come back to six-party talks.

QUESTION:  All right.  In the recess, has Assistant Secretary Hill had contacts with members of the other parties and particularly has he had any with the North Koreans or does he have any plans to have any?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I'll have to check for you that, Saul.  I didn't check before I came out on that.  We'll post an answer on that this afternoon.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Yes, sir.

QUESTION:  About military transformation of U.S. troops in Japan.  Yesterday, I was asking.  Did you check with something?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I did and we did, in fact, receive a letter from Foreign Minister Machimura and what I would say about that is that U.S. and Japan continue to engage in useful positive working level discussions on defense transformation issues to ensure our alliance remains strong in the coming decades.  And we look forward to continuing high-level discussions at an early opportunity, following the Japanese elections.  I think that on both sides there's a desire to move the process forward.  And we look forward to resuming the high level discussions that we'll have at an early opportunity after the election.

Yes, Peter.

QUESTION:  On Middle East? 

MR. MCCORMACK:  Middle East.

QUESTION:  Just one question on the Middle East.  Now that we have the withdrawal starting, two of the issues that were most outstanding were the Philadelphi Road and also access between Gaza and Israel and Gaza and the West Bank.  We have no sense really, exactly to what extent that these have been resolved to alleviate Palestinian fears that they might end up sort of trapped in a box after the withdrawal.  Can you tell us to what extent these have been resolved or are they being resolved or what are your hopes for that?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, my understanding on the Philadelphi Strip is that the Israel and Egyptian Governments have come to an agreement on that issue and I think that they are going to be working through steps to implement that agreement.  In terms of border crossings, that's an issue that we continue to work.  And specifically, as we talked about yesterday, how can it -- these border crossing areas, how can we ease the passage of the Palestinians in those border-crossing areas.  But also how do we logistically expedite the flow of goods through those border-crossing points while maintaining security?  You know we're working closely with the Israelis on that, making some investments in technology as an initial step, and I expect that those efforts will continue. 

In terms of the larger issues that we talked about of transit, yes, those are things that the Secretary talked about with Israeli and Palestinian officials, and I think you saw her comments when she met with President Abbas last.  She talked about the importance of these issues.  That if there is a successful Gaza withdrawal that we -- she emphasized our commitment to continue working on those issues.  So there is a horizon for the Palestinians as well as the Israelis on these issues.

But right now, our intense focus is on making Gaza withdrawal a success.  And one thing I have to fill you in on is that as part of that effort, General Ward and Assistant Secretary Welch made a trip into Gaza.  It lasted about two hours.  They met with Nasser Yusef as well as the responsible Palestinian security officials.  This was a pre-scheduled meeting that General Ward had arranged with Minister Yusef.  Assistant Secretary Welch went with General Ward and what they did is they took the opportunity to underline at this important moment in the withdrawal process the importance of Palestinian security officials ensuring that the withdrawal take place in an atmosphere of calm and free from violence.  So I think that they had a good meeting and this was, I think, the second time that General Ward has gone in.  He went in several days ago as well to meet with security officials to review the preparations.

QUESTION:  Is this meeting today?

MR. MCCORMACK:  The Ward and Welch?  Yeah, yeah, it happened this morning, our time.

QUESTION:  Do the Palestinian authorities have enough guns to be able to keep calm?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I think that what we have is we're -- and what the Palestinians need to do is work with the security force that they have, they have at present.  We have worked closely with the Israelis as well as the Palestinians in terms of getting them the types of equipment that they need to do the job in terms of transportation and communication and actual outfitting the security forces. 

The issue of lethal assistance is one of the things that certainly has been an issue of continuing discussion between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and certainly we have been part of those discussions and I expect that those discussions will continue. 

The withdrawal process is going to take place over several weeks and the Palestinian Authority is certainly going to have a continuing responsibility throughout the withdrawal and after the withdrawal to provide for security for the Palestinian people in Gaza.  So our focus now is working to make the forces that are on the ground with the equipment that they have the most effective forces that they can be in terms of providing security during this withdrawal period.

Yes, Elise.

QUESTION:  I know you spoke a little bit about this yesterday, but if you could expand, at all possible, on what areas you think that the U.S. is going to help aid financially in the withdrawal.  I know that there's going to be an assessment team, as you said.  If you could -- maybe you have a little bit more detail on that today?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, the issue of the assessment team had to do with something -- you know, with respect to Negev and Galilee, so that's a separate issue, and the President and Secretary Rice have spoken with Prime Minister Sharon about that. 

With respect to aid to the Palestinians and the Israelis, tied in a sense to this withdrawal, we have already talked about in public funds, the supplemental funds that we already have committed and we're thankful to the Congress for providing those funds and we're putting them to, we hope, effective use.  One of those issues I talked about was on the issue of border crossings and working to provide the technology that would allow for a more efficient and secure transfer of goods and people across those border crossings.

Mr. Wolfensohn is going to continue working on an assessment of what the Palestinian economic needs will be as they move forward beyond the withdrawal period.  I don't want to put a timeline on exactly when he's going to complete his assessment, but I would expect in the coming weeks and months he'll have that assessment and certainly, we'll take a look at that. 

But I would also urge you to consider the fact that this is also a wider responsibility, you know, not only from the European Union countries, but also the countries in the neighborhood that they have a responsibility along with the United States and the Israelis and the Palestinians.  But they have an important responsibility to help the Palestinian people and help make this withdrawal a success. 

QUESTION:  Can I follow up?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Yeah. 

QUESTION:  On the Israeli side, you haven't really kind of said anything about where your assistance would be targeted.  Israel is asking for upwards of, like, 300,000 or 350,000 per family.  Is that something you think you're going to help pay for or are you going to help start giving them bulk money to give to every family?  Do you think it's in the best interest of the U.S. to fund that kind of thing? 

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, as I said, we'll certainly, with respect to the Negev and Galilee to take a look at what the needs are.  The President talked about in his television interview with Israeli TV the fact that we, with respect to Negev and Galilee, would send out assessment teams to take a look at what the needs are, but there's no commitment to funds at this point. 

QUESTION:  You've heard before about the obligation of other countries.  Now even more than ever, oil-rich Arab countries have made huge pledges.  Congressman Lantos has been on the subject at a hearing saying they ought to pony up what they promised, at least.  Any time you're able to give us any facts to demonstrate that the U.S. is actually, besides making statements from the podium, is actually doing something to loosen them up and have them fulfill their obligations, their promises to their fellow Arabs, it would be gratefully received. 

And should we forget forevermore about all the money that passed through Arafat's hands, are they lost forever?  The U.S. taxpayer keeps replenishing this fund.  But there's a lot of lost money.  Is that simply a lost cause?  You may not be able to do that off the top of your head.  But those two things, there's lots of money out there promised and there's money delivered by the U.S. and it ain't helping the people.  It ain't getting to them.  In fact, it isn't on its way to them from the oil-rich folks who are having a great time while we're being gouged for ever-increasing oil prices.  So anything you can do on that I think would be of interest to the American public. 

MR. MCCORMACK:  I know that the Secretary in her last trip raised this issue along some of her stops the importance of supporting this process, not only rhetorically, but in a material way.  And I expect that it's something we will continue to talk with countries in the neighborhood about.  You know, from the level of the Secretary on down.

QUESTION:  Are any countries -- can you single out or do you know of any countries that are assisting the Palestinians in the region? 

MR. MCCORMACK:  I would leave it to those countries to talk about what assistance they are providing to the Palestinians in this process.

QUESTION:  So the embarrassment factor isn't in play here?  You don't think making public statements that such and such a country -- I mean, you're happy to tell us how generous Japan is in other contexts and that, I think, is partly designed to compliment Japan, which is number two to the U.S. in contributing to causes, and also to encourage other countries by example.  Can you pull an Arab country out of the air and say the UAE or somebody has come through on their pledge and hey guys, you other guys, why don't you follow that example?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I think that I'll leave it to the countries involved to talk about it, Barry. 

QUESTION:  The silence out there is deafening now. 

QUESTION:  What about the European Union?  Do you think the EU is doing enough?  You mentioned that, you know, there's a wider responsibility, including the EU.  Do you think they should be giving a lot more?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, I think that they have been deeply involved and they -- I know that they are considering a number of different commitments.  And I think that they -- I would say that they have been involved and very responsible in this regard.  Certainly, they're going to be continuing these as we move forward.  I know that there are a lot of demands for assistance in a variety of different areas, but I think that they are giving serious consideration to what is needed in this regard.

QUESTION:  But you think they're giving enough?  You said serious consideration.  Is it enough?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I think -- again, I think that Mr. Wolfensohn is looking at exactly what needs might be out there as we move forward and I think that we'll all take a look at what it is that he comes up with.

QUESTION:  Sean --

MR. MCCORMACK:  Let's move around a little bit.

QUESTION:  I'll be brief.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Okay.

QUESTION:  Just to get my facts straight.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Okay.

QUESTION:  Yesterday, you referred to assistance teams going out there and I took it in a plural sense because --

MR. MCCORMACK:  Assessment.  Assessment teams. 

QUESTION:  I'm sorry, I meant assessment.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Assessment teams.

QUESTION:  I don't know what I said.  But you pluralized teams.  Today, we're talking about a team.  Just to keep my facts straight --

MR. MCCORMACK:  I expect that this will be an iterative process.

QUESTION:  A multiple --

MR. MCCORMACK:  Yes.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Yes. Nicholas.

QUESTION:  A different subject.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Sure.

QUESTION:  There's been quite a controversy in Germany about the new American Ambassador there.  Apparently, his own company was involved in some anti-dumping cases with German companies some time ago.  And the Ambassador's company apparently was the beneficiary of whatever the resolution of the dispute was.  Do you have anything at all to say about this?  It's been in the press in the last few couple of days.  And if you don't, can you take another question?  Is there a conflict of interest in --

MR. MCCORMACK:  I haven't seen these reports, Nicholas.  I'd be happy to look into it for you.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Okay.

QUESTION:  Cuba.  A few days ago, Fidel Castro celebrated his birthday and he seems he's on his way to accomplish 50 years in power.  Taking a look back to those years, it seems like he's more successful, at least in political terms, over the U.S. policy towards Cuba.  What's your assessment on that?  I mean, especially in the first years of the Bush Administration, his promise was to convert Cuba in a more democratic country and liberty for the people.  So what's wrong?  It's almost 50 years of Fidel Castro in power and he seems he's having success over you guys.

MR. MCCORMACK:  I don't know.  I think the real victims here are the Cuban people.  And I think that --

QUESTION:  But at least politically, I'm talking on political stands.

MR. MCCORMACK:  This is really a matter of, you know, who's suffering here.  And the people that are suffering are the Cuban people.  They've suffered for 50 years and, unfortunately, it looks like they continue to suffer.  They suffer from economic deprivation.  They suffer from a deficit of political freedoms.  And I think that we all look forward to the day when the Cuban people have an opportunity to realize a better, brighter future for themselves. 

The Secretary announced recently, as part of the President's Cuba policy, a transition coordinator for Cuba and there are a variety of other efforts that are ongoing.  Again, the victims here are the Cuban people.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)

(end transcript)

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



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