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State Department Briefing, August 25

25 August 2005

Libya, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Korea, China, Iran, Morocoo/Algeria, Israel/Palestinians, United Nations, Pakistan/North Korea

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack briefed the press August 25.

Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Thursday, August 25, 2005
12:45 p.m. EDT

Briefer:  Sean McCormack, Spokesman

LIBYA
-- David Welch Discussions in London Regarding Libya
-- Status of Bilateral Relationship/Outstanding Issues of Concern for the United States
-- Issue of Alleged Libyan Plot to Assassinate Then Crown Prince Abdullah
-- Senator Lugar's Visit to Libya

IRAQ
-- Status of Constitutional Process/Timeline for Referendum/Parliamentary Procedures/United States' View of Missed Deadline
-- Recent Violence Between Shia Groups

ITALY
-- Reports that Italian Red Cross Treated And Hid Iraqi Insurgents From the United States as Part of Negotiations to Free Italian Hostages

JAPAN
-- Relations Between The United States' Military Presence in Okinawa and Local Community

KOREA
-- Six Party Talks/Query on Date for Resumption of Talks
-- Preview of Ambassador Hill's Meeting with Japanese Counterpart

CHINA
-- Report that Hackers Using Chinese Websites are Targeting State Department Websites/State Department Network Security Measures

IRAN
-- Reports that Iran wants to Expand Negotiations with EU-3 to Include Other Countries

MOROCCO/ALGERIA
-- Possibility for Improved Relations Between Morocco and Algeria in Light of Polisario Releasing Prisoners

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
-- Israeli Military Operation in Tulkarm
-- Preview of Secretary Rice's Meeting w/Israeli Justice Minister
-- Settlement Expansion in West Bank

UNITED NATIONS
-- United Nations Reform/United States' Position on the Draft Outcome Document

PAKISTAN/NORTH KOREA
-- President Musharraf's Comments that A.Q. Khan Network Provided Centrifuge Machines and Parts to North Korea/Implication for Six-Party Talks

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

THURSDAY, AUGUST 25, 2005
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

12:45 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK:  Good afternoon.  Welcome to the last briefing of the week.  I don't have any -- that's true, last planned briefing.  I don't have any opening statements, so we'll jump right into your questions.

QUESTION:  Is that -- traveling David Welch in London, talking to the British about Libya?

MR. MCCORMACK:  He --

QUESTION:  How is he going on to the area, which was the original suspicion --

MR. MCCORMACK:  He --

QUESTION:  -- in the Middle East?

MR. MCCORMACK:  He did, in fact, have some discussions in London today concerning Libya.  He is -- this is another in a series of ongoing discussions he has.  It's a follow-up discussion to a continuation of his discussions in Tripoli on June 14th, when he talked about a wide range of bilateral topics, including Libya's policies on terrorism, human rights, and ways to strengthen our cooperation on the outstanding issues we have between -- also, as we develop a different kind of relationship with Libya.  We talked about that over the past couple of days.

We've come quite a ways and have a different relationship with Libya than we had three, four years ago.  But there are still issues that need to be resolved and we're working on those issues.

QUESTION:  Which is status quo.  You said that a few days ago.

MR. MCCORMACK:  That's right.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Does he go on to the Middle East from there, the seventh trip --

QUESTION:  Can I stay on Libya for a second?

MR. MCCORMACK:  We'll change -- we'll stay on Libya.  I'll answer just those questions.  We'll check on his travels.

QUESTION:  Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK:  I don't have an update on that.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK:  So, let's go to travel and stay on Libya.

QUESTION:  Yeah. When you said that we've come a long -- quite a ways -- and have a different relationship, but you say there's still some outstanding issues.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Right.

QUESTION:  And do you mean before we get to the full normalization?  Is that -- you didn't say that, but is that --

MR. MCCORMACK:  Certainly, I think that that is -- that is along the continuum of what we're talking about with Libya.  I think that that is something that is on the agenda of both sides.  We do have diplomatic representation in Tripoli at the moment.  This is the result of a strategic decision that the Libyan Government has taken to give up its weapons of mass destruction program and to take responsibility on issues -- some issues related to terrorism.

So, step by step, the relationship has changed.  There are still outstanding issues regarding human rights, terrorism, democratization that we're talking to them about.

QUESTION:  Sean, Libya?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Tammy, do you have Libya?

QUESTION:  Libya.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Okay. Well, Tammy and then Samir.

QUESTION:  Is one of the major outstanding issues the question of a Libyan plot to assassinate then Crown Prince Abdullah?

MR. MCCORMACK:  That's -- it's an issue and that's an issue within the context of the fact that Libya is still on the terrorism list.  There are -- let's say, a sponsors of terrorism list.  There are certain criteria that are in the law that are listed out that get you on that list.  And the lack of -- you know, lack of facts related to those or a different situation related to those criteria would mean that you would not be on the list, so this is something that we constantly evaluate.  At this point, there's no change in the status of the Libyan Government's -- Libya's presence on the terrorism list.

QUESTION:  Yeah, I guess I was just -- if I can quickly follow that up, now that Saudi Arabia has pardoned Libyans implicated in that, to what extent does that adjust U.S. thinking?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I think certainly, we encourage Libya and Saudi Arabia to resolve any differences and issues that they had in this regard on this issue, but as I said, on the -- in there lies -- there are a series of criteria and you have to look at those criteria on a periodic basis.  And that is something that we do -- you know, we review -- we review all states with respect to their presence on this terrorism list on a continuous basis and see where we are.  At this point, Libya is still on that list and we'll keep you updated if there are any changes to that.

QUESTION:  But on that plot, Sean, there was an evolution in U.S. thinking as we gathered -- as the U.S. gathered its own information on the plot and at the beginning, it was thought that it wasn't that credible and at the end, most recently last week, I was told that it is now believed to be credible.  Where do you stand on that?  It was so recent.  You know, it's not like we're talking about ancient history.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Right.  This has, I think, occurred a year or more ago.

QUESTION:  Right.

MR. MCCORMACK:  And it's a serious issue that we have looked at closely and we continue to -- you know, we continue to look at.  It's also an issue that the Libyans and the Saudi Arabians talked about.  As Tammy pointed out, there have been some actions on the part of Saudi Arabia, some discussion between Libya and Saudi Arabia on the issue.  It's certainly something that factors into any appraisal of whether or not Libya still merits being on the State Sponsor of Terrorism list.  And certainly, we look at all variety of factors, including this very serious incident.

QUESTION:  Does the State Department believe it's true that and Qadhafi is involved?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Again, this is -- it's certainly an issue of serious concern, something that we looked at closely, something that we continue to look at closely, something that we would -- in our examination of the issues, something that we would factor into the whole question of the State Sponsor of Terrorism.

Samir.

QUESTION:  Do you have any assessment from Senator Lugar about the result of his visit with Qadhafi and is there any expectation for the Libyan Foreign Minister to come to Washington?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I think that we're going to be following up with Senator Lugar in the days ahead talking about his trip.  We certainly -- there are different parts of that.  He went himself, as a U.S. Senator to Libya, had discussions with Mr. Qadhafi. He was also -- the front part of the trip was also a presidential mission related to a return of prisoners back into Algeria that were then returned to Morocco.  So it's -- and we certainly welcome Senator Lugar's willingness to take on that presidential mission and we're looking forward to talking to him in more depth about not only his presidential mission, but also his discussions in Libya as well.

Saul.

QUESTION:  Slightly technical question.  As you move along, hopefully, toward normalization, do you have to -- what's the sequence?  Do they have to off the State Sponsor list before you set up an Embassy there or --

MR. MCCORMACK:  I think this is -- again, all these various issues, issues of human rights, democratization, issues related to terrorism, combating terrorism, cooperation in fighting terrorism, all of these things will factor into decisions about how the relationship and at what pace the relationship with Libya changes.  At some point along the way, certainly the question of an embassy, I'm sure, will come up.  It's something that we've heard from the Libyans in recent days, at least some parts of the Libyan Government talking about possibly establishing embassies.  We're not at that point, but certainly, it's an issue that we're willing and open to discussing with Libya.

But in answer to your question, there's not a sort of cookie cutter here.  It's going to be -- it will be, certainly, a policy review, ongoing policy review with a number of different factors going into the decision about what's the next step in the relationship with Libya and at what pace that relationship changes.

QUESTION:  Can I ask you about Iraq and your --

MR. MCCORMACK:  I think we still have interest in Libya and then we'll come back to you, Barry.

QUESTION:  I didn't realize it was that (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK:  You started something here, Barry.

QUESTION:  I'm just asking about (inaudible) (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK:  All right.  Yes.

QUESTION:  Is there a link between the visit of Senator Lugar and the visit of Mr. Welch?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I wouldn't see any particular link between the two.

QUESTION:  There is no link?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I wouldn't see any particular link between the two, no.

Nicholas.

QUESTION:  Sean, if I can come back quickly to a terrorist question on the plot to assassinate the Crown -- the then Crown Prince.  As you know, there are some people who have been in jail that were released earlier this month in Saudi Arabia, Libyans who were released because of -- whatever the Saudis decided was not enough evidence to keep them any longer.  Does that mean that there are questions about that alleged plot back last year or what -- how do you interpret the release of those people?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I'm going to leave it up to the Saudis to comment on their reasons for releasing these individuals.

QUESTION:  We know, because you say it continues to be a concern and it sounds to me like if you release people accused of that, clearly the concern is not as big as it was last year at this time.  And these -- and it sounded, by what you said, that -- that what you -- the concerns you had last year remain exactly the same as they were last year.

MR. MCCORMACK:  The issues related to the Saudi decision to release people that they were holding related to this issue.  Those are decisions that the Saudi Government made.  This issue was an issue of concern.  It's an issue we continue to look at.  But I make the point that it is only one factor that goes into looking at the question of Libya and its status on the State Sponsor of Terrorism list.

Okay.  Anything else on Libya?

Then Europe, Barry.

QUESTION:  Good.  Following a bouncing ball is very hard.  What is the U.S. handle on whether the constitution is going to be completed and when?  And I have a question about procedure that I hope you can answer.  Is it the U.S. understanding this -- the constitution must be submitted to the legislature October, by the 5th, and then must there be a national referendum or is there some shortcut way?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Okay.  Let's start with your procedural question first.  And I have to caveat this by saying that I am not an expert in the legal interpretations of the TAL.  But my understanding is this:  That there is a -- in the TAL, there is a referendum scheduled for, I believe, October 15th, to vote on a constitution.  And as to where the Iraqi people will have an opportunity to vote for the constitution -- the draft constitution that has been put together by the drafting committee and then had some input from the Iraqi Transitional National Assembly.

As for what action -- the parliamentary procedure from this point on, from the point at which the constitutional drafting committee has submitted their draft to the Transitional Assembly, which has already happened -- that happened three days ago -- that the parliamentary procedures on how to move forward from this point are not laid out in the TAL.  It is up to the Parliament to decide on -- the Iraqi parliament to decide on what steps they take next.  So, the short answer to your question is the Iraqis will decide on that issue.

As for the status, before I came out here, I checked with the Embassy in Baghdad.  There is still high-level political discussions ongoing, talking about a couple of remaining issues and that the -- I'll let the Iraqis describe for you out of their -- the state of play on where they are on those issues.  At the same time, there are also groups that are meeting to finalize language on the other issues that have been resolved. And again, I leave it to the Iraqis to describe those.

So -- and I talked to our embassy about whether or not all Iraqi groups -- Shia, Sunni, Kurds and others -- are involved in these discussions.  And there are -- they have all been involved in these discussions throughout the day.  So, the discussions continue.  People are working on finalizing text.  People are working to resolve outstanding political issues.  So, that's my understanding of where we stand.

QUESTION:  Sean, the last time I think we've checked, the Secretary had not spoken with any Iraqi officials, only in touch with the Ambassador and --

MR. MCCORMACK:  Right.

QUESTION:  -- while he was at the Embassy.  Has that changed?  Has she spoken with any Iraqi officials in this process?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I will double-check, but I don't have any phone calls with the Secretary -- from the Secretary to Iraqi officials.

Okay.  Anything else on Iraq?

QUESTION:  A side --

MR. MCCORMACK:  Sort of, kind of?

QUESTION:  Yeah, a sidebar.  What do you think of reports that Italy's Red Cross hid -- treated insurgents and hid them from the U.S. as a payment, sort of, for getting their hostages free?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Yeah.  These are issues -- questions.  I've seen these reports.  These are questions for the Italian Government.  My understanding is that the Italian Government said that such things are not accurate, but again, that's a question for the Italian Government to answer.  You know, beyond that, our views, the United States policies, with respect to negotiation with hostage-takers are well-known.  We don't do it.

QUESTION:  Well, have you --

MR. MCCORMACK:  But let me just add this.  This was -- the incident involving Mr. Calipari and his tragic death is one that we understand was very painful for the Italian people and certainly for his family.  The United States and Italy are very close friends.  We're allies in the war on terrorism.  Italian carbonari have shed their blood in Iraq alongside American soldiers.  So, we appreciate the commitment and the efforts of the Italian Government and the Italian people in supporting the Iraqi people as they build a new country.

QUESTION:  The Calipari issue has been only tangential to this, though, obviously.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Right.

QUESTION:  We don't -- have you asked the Italian Government yourself for explanation?  When you said, "These are questions for them," did you put the questions to them, as the U.S. Government?

MR. MCCORMACK:  No.  I suggest if the press has questions related to these --

QUESTION:  Don't you have questions?

MR. MCCORMACK:  -- related to these news reports, I think that those are best put to the Italian Government.

QUESTION:  But does the U.S. Government have questions?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I think this -- any questions related to this are best put to Italian Government.  Yes.  I know you have an interest and it's -- oh, behind you.

QUESTION:  Have there been any contacts between the Secretary and her counterpart in Italy --

MR. MCCORMACK:  No.

QUESTION:  -- about this revelation?

MR. MCCORMACK:  No.

QUESTION:  And --

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, I would say these news reports.

QUESTION:  Well, no --

MR. MCCORMACK:  I'll leave it to you to judge whether or not this is a revelation --

QUESTION:  The Italian Government denied that it knew about it.  It didn't deny that it happened.  I think it's taken -- they said they acted autonomously, which -- it means they did it.

MR. MCCORMACK:  You know, I just want to make clear that's your characterizations.

Okay.  Yes.

QUESTION:  Can we go back to the Iraqi constitution?  You are not frustrated by the lack of progress and the fact that they set deadline after deadline and they missed deadline after deadline?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, I think, you know, we've talked about this a little bit before.  And you know, these people are putting together probably the most important document in Iraq's recent history.  You know, they have a long history, so I won't say Iraq's history going back 5,000 years.  But this is crucial to this process.  It's crucial to the Iraqi people emerging from 20 years of oppression and tyranny and the threat of the secret police knocking on your door at midnight and dragging you out and sending you to prison without telling your family where you are.  This is emerging from a history of Saddam Hussein gassing his own people.

So, this is an important moment for the Iraqi people and they are dealing with, you know, fundamental issues about the future of their country.  Previously, their most recent history has been one in which the -- at the top, the country was and the different groups were held together through coercion and oppression; now it is one -- now, they have a future where they will define themselves as a country through political bargaining and the cohesion there will be done through political dialogue and, we hope, through peaceful discussion.

So, it's no small feat to try to deal with these fundamental, weighty issues about the future of a country of millions of people, under the klieg lights of television cameras and the internet and global 24-hour cable news.  There's a lot of -- you know, I think we lose sight of exactly how long they've been going at this.  It's been only a few months and, sort of, the endgame negotiations and political bargaining has only been going on for a couple of weeks with respect to the constitution.

So, you know, I know that the, sort of, new cycles that we are now all accustomed to have only sort of increased in their number of revolutions each particular day.  But I think that the progress that the Iraqis have made to this point and the process that they have followed to this point has really been pretty extraordinary.

QUESTION:  If I might follow-up?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Sure.

QUESTION:  And I have another -- also another question on Iraq on a different matter.  That is all true.  However, wasn't it the Administration that kept sticking to the importance of the deadline?  I mean, then what -- if that is true and indeed it does take a lot of time to kind of, you know, work on a process like this, then why did you hold so much importance on making the actual deadline if you knew that it was such a weighty process and it would take, you know, a certain amount of time for them to work these things out?

MR. MCCORMACK:  No, because these are the deadlines that the Iraqis have set for themselves.  And we have done everything that we can to support them in meeting those deadlines.  My only point in my previous comments was to point out that, you know, in fact, the relatively brief, short period of the extensions, that they have -- that they have, in fact, granted themselves not that long, when you look at the kind of issues that they're dealing with and the amount of time in which they are dealing with them.

And I would point out that, you know, in taking this time beyond their original deadline, they did so through processes that were laid out in the laws before them, so they followed the law that was before them in the fall.  And I think that they should be commended for that.

QUESTION:  And I have another question on --

QUESTION:  Can I just say for the record, Sean, you keep blaming the pressure of the 24-hour news cycle and all that, but --

MR. MCCORMACK:  No.  I'm not blaming -- I'm just saying -- I'm just bringing up --

QUESTION:  Well, the Iraqis themselves, as you said, set those deadlines and, you know, that's sort of an ambition that then creates high expectations on the part of the media.  And it's -- and again, they're setting those deadlines by themselves, so I don't know why the news cycle has anything to do with it when the expectations are raised by the Iraqis themselves.

MR. MCCORMACK:  No, again, I'm just talking about people's time horizons and their perceptions.

QUESTION:  All right.

MR. MCCORMACK:  I'm certainly not blaming the news cycle at all, but I think it is --

QUESTION:  It's the fact that (inaudible) -- right.

MR. MCCORMACK:  I think you would acknowledge that we're living in a different world today than the framers of our Constitution were in 1789.

QUESTION:  Right.

QUESTION:  I have another question on Iraq.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Sure.

QUESTION:  About the violence among Shiite Shia in Iraq today, I know the Ambassador has -- the U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad has been very busy working with the Iraqi political parties on the constitution.  Is he doing any kind of mediating or speaking to the various Shia groups in order to tamp down this violence?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I haven't talked to him about that, but certainly, we would encourage all groups in Iraq to resolve their differences peacefully, not through a resort to arms.

Yes.

QUESTION:  Do you have any sense how close they are to -- you know, resolving the outstanding issues?  Is there any sense of timing as to when they may come up with something they can agree upon?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I appreciate the question, but I'm going to let the Iraqis talk about that.

QUESTION:  Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Saul.  On this?  Okay.  We'll move back here and then we'll come back.  Yes, sir.

QUESTION:  I'd like to ask about Okinawa, Japan.  In Okinawa, at military exercise area, a range for -- close to local residential area -- the training, fire training continues against local protest.  And, you know, last month, there was a gathering opposed -- protest gathering including the Governor Inamine of Okinawa.  And so, he is saying to stop the exercise, but it can't be.  Now -- and the friction between local people and the U.S. troops becomes bigger and bigger, day by day.  So, how do you think about this situation?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, first of all, with respect to the activities of the troops on Okinawa, U.S. troops on Okinawa, and the base there and the local community, I think the Department of Defense is in the best position to discuss those issues.

I do know it's something that the Secretary spoke a bit about on her trip to Japan.  Certainly, we're very sensitive to the importance of good and harmonious relations between our U.S. military presence and the local community on Okinawa.  I know it's a subject of discussion at high levels and something that we work hard on.  But in terms of specifics, I would refer you over to the Department of Defense.

Yes.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK:  All right.  We'll come back to you, sir.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) North Korea (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK:  You were first.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Thank you.  Do you have a date yet?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Still working on that.  The Chinese are still -- are in consultations, bilateral consultations with the other members of the six-party talks.  I know that they're having discussions with North Koreans today and we'll -- I expect in the coming days that we will hear a date on which the talks will resume.  Ambassador Hill is ready to go back to Beijing.  I don't know if he has his bag packed, but he is ready to go back, as is the rest of our team, and engage in constructive negotiations with the other members of the six-party talks and we hope have a successful round.

QUESTION:  Have the North Koreans, in the recess, actually said they will definitely return to the talks?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, when the groups recessed, when the delegations recessed in Beijing, they all committed to returning back to the talks in this round.  The week they set for themselves was the week of August 29th and so far, we've had the two contacts through the New York channel that we have talked about previously.  We haven't heard anything that would contradict that.

QUESTION:  Right.  So nothing to contradict it, but they haven't actually reaffirmed it?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Right.  That we still, you know -- I think everybody still thinks that the positive affirmations at the end of the last session still stand.

Okay.  We'll come up to you, Teri, afterwards.  Sir.

QUESTION:  Speaking of Ambassador Hill, he's got a meeting with his Japanese counterpart today.  Can you give us a preview of that meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK:  It's related to the six-party talks.  I expect they'll be talking about the diplomatic way forward, but beyond that, I don't have anything for you.

QUESTION:  Thanks.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Yeah.  Teri.

QUESTION:  Any more New York channel contacts today?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I didn't check today.  We'll check for you.

QUESTION:  Can we presume these aren't going to start on Monday?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, we'll wait to see what the date is.

QUESTION:  There was a story in The Washington Post today that websites in China have been targeting U.S. Government website -- U.S. Government networks, kind of like hackers.  Is the State Department one of the agencies, do you know, that's been targeted?  Are you receiving any kind of cooperation from the Chinese Government on the matter and do you think that they might be involved?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I'm not aware of any targeting of the State Department websites, but let me get a more full answer for you and we'll post the answer for you guys.

QUESTION:  What kind -- can I just ask you --

MR. MCCORMACK:  Sure.

QUESTION:  -- a question just in general about this kind of stuff?  What does the State Department do, in particular, to protect its networks against hacking?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, I think that we have the standard things throughout government and corporate America that most networks have in terms of firewalls and other security measures.  We'll -- I'll try to include something a little -- elaborate on that a bit more, if we can, in the answer we post for you.

QUESTION:  Can I ask you about Iran's nuclear negotiator?  You may have heard about this, of saying that the talks with the EU-3 should be expanded -- hasn't specifically, as far as know, asked for any individual specific country's involvement, but he does seem to want wider talks.  Does the U.S. have a view on that?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Our view -- while we've talked a lot this week about the EU-3 and Iran's negotiations with the EU-3, we encourage Iran to take the deal that's on the table.  It's a good deal.  We support the EU-3 in their negotiations.  We believe that that is the proper forum with the right modalities to -- if Iran wants to resolve this issue, to resolve it.  Any discussion of trying to change with whom they negotiate or who is on the other side of the table is really, I think, an attempt to change the subject again.

This is a typical -- this is a, sort of, typical tactic for the Iranian Government.  They will come up with proposals like this to try to change the subject from what the real issue is, and that is their continued pursuit of nuclear weapons.  So, we would encourage, you know, encourage them to resume their discussions with the EU-3 and, in doing so, take the deal that's on the table.

QUESTION:  So the answer's no?

MR. MCCORMACK:  What's that?

QUESTION:  So the answer's no?  You don't think expanding beyond the EU-3 --

MR. MCCORMACK:  I'm going to stick with the way I put it.

QUESTION:  That would be the yes or no answers. (inaudible)

QUESTION:  Change of subject.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Anything else on Iran before we change the subject?

QUESTION:  So you alluded to it earlier, the Polisario released prisoners last week.  And I just wondered, now that all of that went off as planned, how do you see -- do you see it as any kind of spur for improved relations between Morocco and Algeria?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, we certainly encourage good, neighborly, transparent relations between Morocco and Algeria.  There has certainly been issues between those two countries, and we certainly would encourage them to work out and resolve any differences they may have in a peaceful manner.

QUESTION:  But not -- but that's sort of a general "that's what we encourage, what we want," not that you see this as any form of catalyst.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, it is certainly a positive development.  And any time you have a positive development and you have a success like this, it does help build trust where there may previously have been differences or there may have been some lack of trust.

QUESTION:  Without going through the whole scenario of who shot who and who has threatened who, is there concern here about the ceasefire in the Middle East and do you fault anybody?  Israel went after the terror group, the militia are talking -- the militants are talking again about getting tough themselves.  I just wondered if there's -- you know, any nervous concerns about new --

MR. MCCORMACK:  Concerning what specifically, Barry?

QUESTION:  Well, the sequence is not -- you know, the Israelis went after the Islamic Jihad over a suicide attack and then I can't recall who said -- which group said that they would -- maybe they wouldn't keep the ceasefire.  It's all right.  It's all been rather recent and incomplete, but I just wondered if there was a message here through a lay* or --

MR. MCCORMACK:  Is that about what happened in Tulkarm?

QUESTION:  Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, we think that -- right now, we're trying to get a clearer picture of what happened in Tulkarm.  Certainly we, as we have said before, Israel has a right to defend itself.  As I said, also, we are trying to get a clearer picture of what actually happened in Tulkarm.  What I think is important is that -- and especially at this time, where we have a withdrawal taking place in Gaza and the West Bank, that both sides refrain from actions that could inflame tensions that would -- that might exacerbate the situation and make the environment in which we do have an ability of trust and confidence more difficult.

We think that President Abbas made an important statement in speaking out against any escalation of the situation and that we'll be in contact with both sides to underscore that message to maintain an atmosphere of calm and free from violence.

QUESTION:  Have you contacted the Israeli Government to ask for their side of what happened there or if local -- if the civilians were killed or --

MR. MCCORMACK:  Again, this is something we are trying to get a clear picture of now and our folks on the ground in Israel will be working to get a clear picture of exactly what happened.

QUESTION:  Can I have another question?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Yes.

QUESTION:  On the United Nations, the U.S. has come -- come to the table with a bunch of changes that it wants to the document being worked on, on UN reform and some members are saying that this could unravel the entire deal and that nothing would be ready in time.  Why did the U.S. wait so late to bring its suggestions in?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, a couple of things.  We went through a very deliberate and considered process here in looking thoroughly at the document that was in draft form.  And anytime you have these sorts of multilateral discussions about these kinds of high-level documents, you start to see, towards the end of the negotiating period, a flurry of activity.  And I think that you'll probably see a lot of input from other countries as well, as they look at -- they have an opportunity to look at this document back in capitals and then have their principles react to what's in there.

We have said for some time that we think the issues of UN reform -- you've heard from Secretary Rice and you've heard from Nick Burns as well as others, Ambassador Bolton -- that we think UN reform is an important issue.  So, we decided to take the time to look at the issue carefully.  John Bolton is up there doing a great job on behalf of this Administration.  He's doing exactly what Secretary Rice has asked him to do in terms of engaging his fellow Perm Reps as well as the President of the General Assembly Ping in working through and making this document an effective document.

So, that's the process that we're going through right now.  I expect that there are going to be a lot of discussions in the coming weeks, not only up at the UN, but back in capitals.  We're going to work this issue hard in a serious manner in order to make this a good, effective and meaningful document that really gets at issues -- important issues of UN reform that will, in the end, strengthen the UN, because that's what we're working towards.

QUESTION:  Was it because Ambassador Bolton got up there so late?  Or what would you say took so long for the U.S. to make up its suggestions?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, again, I think that we went through -- and you've heard this from our mission up at the UN -- we went through a very careful process in considering all of the issues that are contained in this document.  They're important issues and they're important issues for the future of the United Nations.  So, we went through a careful interagency process in taking a look at the issues.

There are several weeks in front of us now in which I expect that there's going to be intense diplomatic activity, not only in New York, but around the world in capitals as we work to, like I said, get a good document and get an effective document and get a document that is meaningful to help reform and shape the UN for the 21st century and beyond.

Nicholas.

QUESTION:  So, Sean, are you saying that if the Ambassador had gotten up there in May or June, that the timeline would have been the same and you would have waited until now to table these suggestions?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Those are historical "what-ifs."  What we went through was a careful process and Ambassador Bolton is up there now, representing our views based on that process.

QUESTION:  So, these -- in other words, these suggestions were not ready to be presented to the other UN partners until now?

MR. MCCORMACK:  That's right.

QUESTION:  Okay.  And my second question is, are we to understand that getting an, as you say, "meaningful" and "effective" document is more important to you than meeting the deadline of the summit in September?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Again, I think that we have every expectation that we'll have something ready for the summit in September.

Elise.

QUESTION:  Back to Israel.  Can you just preview the meeting the Secretary is going to have with the Israeli Justice Minister, please?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I expect that they'll have a broad discussion of issues, bilateral issues, though I'm sure they'll talk about issues related to the disengagement, the roadmap, the barrier -- the separation barrier, and issues related to Israel's obligations under the roadmap as well as the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings.

QUESTION:  Specifically, Israel is saying that it's going to expand one of the largest settlements in the West Bank.  And they say that this is legal; this is not, kind of, illegal under the roadmap or any other agreements because these plans were put forward 20 years ago.  What is your opinion of this?  And do you think that the Secretary will be discussing this with the Minister?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I'm sure that they will touch on Israel's obligations under the roadmap, under the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings, with respect to the issue of settlement expansion.  As I went through yesterday, you know, we have understandings with the Israeli Government -- President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon have understandings.  From time to time, we discuss those understandings and their meaning.  And beyond that, I don't have anything to add.

Yes.  One more.

QUESTION:  President Musharraf of Pakistan has given an interview with a Japanese news agency in which he said that the A.Q. Kahn network provided North Korea with nuclear centrifuges and perhaps even raw material to be processed into enriched uranium.  And I'm wondering, do you feel this will have an implication for the six-party talks, given that North Korea has maintained that it doesn't have an enrichment program, yet they appear to have gotten all the raw materials for it -- necessary equipment for it?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, we have, for some time, said that North Korea needs to dismantle its nuclear programs and that means the plutonium-based program as well as the highly enriched uranium-based program.  It's something we've talked about with other members in the six-party talks.  So, I think that President Musharraf's comments concerning provision of centrifuges, centrifuge parts, as well as feed stock for those centrifuges reinforces the idea that there is a highly enriched uranium program.  So, in as much as our approach to the six-party talks is that North Korea needs to dismantle all of its nuclear programs, I don't think that this really changes anything from our perspective because we've always said that they have a HEU program.

QUESTION:  This story has also raised suggestions that given that the Kahn networks' exports were so significant, that perhaps the Pakistani Government could not have but known about these sorts of things.  Are you still -- is the United States still confident that the Pakistani Government has been completely up front about this?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, President Musharraf has said that his government and the military did not have knowledge of these shipments and we take him at his word.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 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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