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State Department Briefing, September 29

29 September 2005

North Korea, Algeria, Ethiopia, Palestinian Authority, Iraq, Syria, Uzbekistan

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack briefed the press September 29.

Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Thursday, September 29, 2005
1:50 p.m. EDT

Briefer:  Sean McCormack, Spokesman

-- Conclusion of Most Recent Round of Six Party Talks/Statement of Principles/Discussions at IAEA Should Compliment Talks
-- Tough Negotiations Ahead in November/Denuclearization of Korean Peninsula/Verification Procedures/North Korean Power Needs

-- Referendum on Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation/U.S. Respects decision of Algerian People as Reflected in Balloting

-- Follow-on to Elections/Important for Ethiopian People to Have Confidence in Election Results/U.S. Monitoring Situation

-- Ban on Public Use of Weapons/Responsibility of Palestinian Authority to Provide Secure Environment for People
-- General Ward's Views of Palestinian Authority Capability/Replacement for Ward

-- Sunni Views of the Iraqi Constitution/Ongoing Discussions in Iraq Regarding Changes or Amendments

-- Visit of Syrian Defense Official to Moscow
-- Update on Mehlis Investigation into Hariri Assassination

-- Possible EU Sanctions due to Andijan Massacre/U.S. Hold on Aid



1:50 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I don't have any opening statements, so I'd be happy to jump right into questions.  Mr. Schweid.

QUESTION:  Well, at CSIS early this week, and now in Vienna, there are persistent reports of disagreement between China and its partners in the six-party talks.  The Chinese wanting stability, wanting an agreement above all, are more lax, more inclined to throw a bone or two North Korea's way.  Now, the Chinese are going there, top level.  I don't know if you feel you can talk about this, but is there -- I know everybody had to walk a long step, but is there some disagreement, or at least some different view, of, for instance, reactors?  Are all five partners pulling together on this?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Yes, yes.  We concluded the most recent round of six-party talks in Beijing with two things:  one, a Statement of Principles, which I think you have all seen, it's available in public; and also, at the closing plenary session, each of the participating delegations made closing statements.  In the statements of the United States, South Korea, Japan, Russia and China, they were all to, in different language, statements about their understanding of sequencing related to this question of a light-water reactor.  And those -- what those statements did was clarify from the individual point of view of each state their understanding of what sequence North Korea would have to make in order to be eligible for a discussion about a light-water reactor.  And there is no change in those understandings.  There are discussions underway now -- and you alluded to those -- at the IAEA.  People are taking up the topic of North Korea.  Those are ongoing diplomatic discussions.  I think that, you know, we're a full participant in those discussions.

I think that from our point of view, the only thing that we would watch is that anything that is produced by the IAEA or out of Vienna at this time be complementary to what was done at the six-party talks and not in any way try to change any understandings or what was agreed to at the six-party talks.  And you know, I think we are confident that that will, in fact, be the case.

QUESTION:  Two weeks ago, Mr. Joseph, Under Secretary Joseph, spoke publicly in a breakfast with defense writers about a desire for China to put more pressure on North Korea.  With the talks coming up in Beijing, the side talks, is China doing all it can to bring home this agreement?  It's got a long way to go.  There are a lot of things that have to be clarified, like when they get to do it, et cetera.


QUESTION:  You know, there are issues still out there.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Right.  No, absolutely.  And you rightly point out that there is a lot of work left to do in the six-party talks.  What we have achieved thus far is a good first step, but it is only a first step.  There are a lot of very tough negotiations ahead of us if we are to succeed in coming to a diplomatic resolution finally resulting in a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, issues of dismantlement, how to verify that dismantlement chronologically, exactly in what sequence actions take place, and how good faith acts are met in turn by good faith acts by the other members of the six-party talks.

So those are all questions that need to be -- that will need to be addressed in the context of the six-party talks.  And that's what is on the agenda for this next round, I think the beginning of the discussion about verification measures, which we expect will be as difficult, if not more difficult, than this previous round that we went through.  But we are going there with a seriousness of purpose and we believe all the other parties are there as well, operating on the basis of the Statement of Principles.

QUESTION:  Last thing.  Is there any talk or any planned talks before November between the U.S. and North Korea or the United States and China or any of the players?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Right now, Assistant Secretary Hill's only travel plans are for Beijing in November.  We'll try to keep you updated on his schedule as it relates to the six-party talks.


QUESTION:  Would you exclude a trip to Pyongyang?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Like I said, Chris's only scheduled travel right now is to Beijing.


QUESTION:  Can I ask you what exactly is the difference, if there is a difference of opinion, between the Chinese delegations and the U.S. delegations in Vienna right now?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, you know, these are ongoing diplomatic discussions so I don't have a sort of play-by-play for you.  I can certainly kind of try to explain for you a little bit where we left it in -- where everybody left it in Beijing.  Again, we have the Statement of Principles and the separate individual country statements.  I think the Chinese country statement referred to the fact that North Korea must be adhering to all its international obligations.  Well, that referred -- what that refers to is the Nonproliferation Treaty and having full IAEA safeguards.  We, in our statement, spelled that out a bit more clearly.  But again, the meaning is the same.

QUESTION:  So aren't they saying that they want a resolution that goes exactly with the Statement of Principles as it was agreed in to Beijing?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, again, I think that those statements, the individual country statements, refer back to the Statement of Principles and it's their understanding of the Statement of Principles, which means -- and what does that mean? That means that there is a sequence to these things.


QUESTION:  The agreement calls for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  Are you prepared to have inspectors running around South Korea looking for or attempting to verify that there are indeed no nuclear weapons programs in South Korea?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I think that would be part of the discussions, George, about verification measures and I think that's a matter for discussion in the six-party talks.

QUESTION:  It seems like a major concession that the --

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, I don't want to prejudge an outcome.  Certainly, that would be a matter, if that were brought up, for discussion in that venue.


QUESTION:  Sean, the (inaudible) North Korea is basically saying they need electrical power even though that may not be fully true.  Has there been talk with them concerning maybe bringing in foreign scientists to run those facilities to break that impasse?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, I think the South Korean Government has laid a very attractive proposal on the table that is part of the six-party talk discussion regarding North Korea's stated needs regarding power.  And we fully support the South Korean proposal as the way to eventually meet those stated power needs.

QUESTION:  Algeria?


QUESTION:  Do you have something on the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation that is being voted on today in a referendum by the Algerian people?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Yes.  We've followed the steps very closely that have led up to President Bouteflika's proposed Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation Referendum.  As many are aware, the Algerian people have suffered great losses over the past decade as a result of terrorism, more than -- most estimates say 150,000 people have died.  And the Truth and Reconciliation process, we believe, is critical to healing the wounds of this civil conflict.

While, in our view, it would have been important to have a full public airing of views on the vital issues of reconciliation, we will respect the decision of the Algerian people as it is reflected in the balloting on this referendum.  As for any other details about the balloting or the referendum, I think the Algerian Government can provide those details.

QUESTION:  But you say it was not a full airing of views; in other words, it was not preceded by a full debate.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, I mean, that's sort of the heart of this charter and, if it is approved, the Algerian -- it would be a decision by the Algerian people to move beyond this immediate past.  And, look, there are many, many different ways we've seen around the world where societies come to terms with civil conflicts, civil wars, terrorist groups, insurgent groups operating within their country.  And there are a lot of different mechanisms, there are a lot of different ways, to deal with the issue.  Each individual country has to find its own pathway in dealing with these issues.  If -- this is one particular pathway that, if the Algerian people approve it, will be the one best suited for Algeria.


QUESTION:  Do you have any update in what's going on in Eritrea regarding the USAID operation?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I don't have any update for you, nothing new.

QUESTION:  How about recently some opposition leaders in Ethiopia are being arrested, and do you have any comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Right.  This is, again, part of the unfolding electoral process.  What we urge is that all sides abide by the laws and the constitution and that all sides take steps not to encourage the use of violence.  It is important that the Ethiopian people have full confidence in the results of the election and how the election laws are applied.  So it's a situation that we are monitoring.  But again, we urge all sides to foreswear any actions that might encourage the use of violence to solve what are political questions.


QUESTION:  On another subject.  The Palestinian Authority announced that they are forbidding the use of weapons in the streets.  Do you have any comment on that?  Do you think it will be enough?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I think it's a positive step.  One of the most fundamental responsibilities of any government -- governing authority -- is to provide a safe, secure environment for its people.  That's important so people can go about their daily lives, so they can do the normal things that people do around the world, you know, go to school, go shopping, you know, go to work.

QUESTION:  Go to briefings.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Go to press briefings.

QUESTION:  But do you think it will be enough to ensure the security?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Again, it's a first step.  I think that the importance of this step is driven home by a recent example several days ago in which members of Hamas mishandled explosives in a open space and surrounded by people.  The result was that, you know, many innocent people lost their lives.  And so this is -- that, again, is a good reminder why there has to be one authority that maintains order and provides an atmosphere of calm, free from violence in any area.  So it's a positive first step.  The Palestinian Authority understands what its further obligations are with respect to security forces and terrorist networks.

QUESTION:  Can I follow up?


QUESTION:  Based on what you hear from General Ward, do you think that the Palestinians have the capacity to enforce this, to enforce the law and make sure that there's one --

MR. MCCORMACK:  The Palestinian Authority has a growing security force capability.  They started out at a -- this Palestinian Authority, this elected -- these elected representatives started out at a real deficit.  That deficit came about because of years of corruption and cronyism in the Palestinian Authority security forces under the rule of Yasser Arafat.

Now, you know, President Abbas and his team and Minister Yusef have made great strides not only in overcoming -- in starting the process of overcoming that deficit but also in working to address their responsibilities, not only to the Palestinian people but to the international community, regarding a safe, secure environment for the Palestinian people and stopping acts of violence and acts of terrorism.  There is work left to be done and that is what General Ward and other members of the international community are focused on in assisting the Palestinian Authority.

QUESTION:  One more.  I don't know if you've addressed this already, but when General Ward goes to take his new position in the Defense Department, in the military, are there plans to replace him?  Are there plans for other people that are already working with him to assume his duties?  What are your --

MR. MCCORMACK:  First of all, we think it's an important -- he has served -- his function is an important role in helping the Palestinian Authority address its security needs, what it needs to provide in terms of security.  General Ward has a new command coming up.  It will be this fall.  I think that's been announced.  He will be moving back to Europe.  And what we are doing right now is both internally in the U.S. Government and with our partners in the international community working to identify another individual to fill that role.

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

MR. MCCORMACK:  I have nothing to announce at this point.

QUESTION:  Would that be -- have you, you know, do you want that to be a U.S. commander or it could be someone from the international community?

MR. MCCORMACK:  We don't have any announcements at this point.

Yes, Joel.

QUESTION:  Sean, over with Iraq, the Sunnis are saying that there's no deal on the constitution and they're saying that until a referendum, it's still no deal.  And they're looking upon themselves as outcasts.  Do you have any comments concerning that?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I know that there are still -- there are ongoing discussions concerning any possible changes or amendments to the draft -- draft constitution.  If there is any agreement on amendments to the constitution, I think we leave it to the Iraqis to announce those.

What we have witnessed over the past weeks is -- or we have seen indications over the past weeks of a real interest among all quarters in Iraqi society in participating in this referendum.  Since January, we've seen more than a million Sunnis register.  And they will have an opportunity along with Shia, Kurds and other groups in Iraq to express their views on the constitution through the ballot box and we'll see in the coming weeks what their decision is.

Oh, late breakers.  Yes.

QUESTION:  There is a Syrian defense official right now in Moscow, trying to make the deals about the modernization of the Syrian army.  Do you have any comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK:  You know, I don't have the details of those discussions.  I would only hope that Russian authorities are making the same points to representatives of the Syrian Government that other members of the international community are making; that is, that Syrian behavior in several regards is unacceptable and it is primarily unacceptable to Syria's neighbors.  So we would hope that any officials from the Russian Government reinforce that message with representatives from the Syrian Government.

QUESTION:  Did you have any contact with the Russian officials about that?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I don't have any particular information on that.

QUESTION:  Also on Syria, have you heard anything new from Mr. Mehlis about his pending report?


QUESTION:  Do you think -- will the Secretary get a briefing of the report before it's released?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I don't know what plans there are to brief international officials on this report.  I really have to emphasize the fact that Mr. Mehlis has been -- is conducting an independent inquiry, and we respect that fact and we look forward to him delivering his report.  We think it's important for the international community, but most importantly it's crucial for the Lebanese people to understand who's responsible for the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri.  I think that's an important question that needs to be answered for the Lebanese people.


QUESTION:  The EU reportedly is imposing sanctions on Uzbekistan for disallowing an international probe.  Will we be joining them?

MR. MCCORMACK:  We understand the EU is considering measures to respond to Uzbekistan's refusal to allow an independent inquiry into the May 2000 events -- May 2005 events at Andijon.  And this is something that Assistant Secretary Fried brought up in his meeting with President Karimov in Tashkent.  He reaffirmed our call for an independent international investigation into Andijon.  And I would just note also that there is currently $20 million plus in potential aid that we are withholding pending Uzbekistan's compliance with its previous agreement with us.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Okay.  Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:10 p.m.)

(end transcript)

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

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