State Department Briefing, October 27
27 October 2005
Iran, United Nations, Israel/Palestinians, Cuba, Cyprus, North Korea, Syria, Greece
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack briefed the press October 27.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Thursday, October 27, 2005
12:38 p.m. EDT
Briefer: Sean McCormack, Spokesman
-- U.S. Response to President Ahmadi-Nejad's Remarks on Israel
-- International Concerns About Iran's Pursuit of Nuclear Weapons
-- Issue of Bushehr Nuclear Reactor/Fuel Take-Back Provision
-- Aspirations for a More Free Democratic State/Democracy Programs
-- Iran's Cooperation with the IAEA/Investigation into A.Q. Khan Network
-- Volcker Report/Findings on Oil for Food Program
-- Importance of Implementing Management Reforms
-- Indications of Individual Behavior & Systematic Problems
-- U.S. Position on the Current Situation/Discussions & Phone Calls
-- Need For a Political Solution to Solve Differences
-- Fostering Mutual Trust & Understanding Between Parties
-- Acceptance of U.S. Humanitarian Assistance & Assessment
-- Secretary Rice's Meeting with a Leader of the Turkish Cypriot Community/No Change in U.S. Policy on Cyprus Issue
-- Status of Six-Party Talks/U.S. Working with Other Parties to Set a Date
-- Visit of North Korean Delegate to Washington, D.C.
-- Possible UN Security Council Ministerial Meeting
-- Purpose of Resolution/Message to Syria
-- Query on Larsen Report
-- Meeting Between Under Secretary Burns & the Mayor of Athens
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2005
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
12:38 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I would just open by saying as a Red Sox fan, I'd like to congratulate the Chicago White Sox and their fans on a great win and our thoughts and prayers are with Cub fans everywhere.
QUESTION: There's no way I can follow that. (Laughter.)
The statement by the Iranian leader, I wondered, of course I can image the U.S. reaction to it, but has the U.S. used its contacts with Iran to follow up in any way?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have spoken out quite clearly in public from this podium as well as from the White House, Barry, regarding our thoughts on the President's statement, as I said yesterday. I think when you take President Ahmadi-Nejad's speech at the UN in combination with his speech yesterday, you start to collect some data points here about really what the true face of this regime is, its underlying thinking and its underlying attitudes. And I think what all of this does is underscores the validity of our, and the world's, serious concern about Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, as well as its continuing support for terrorism and oppression of its own people.
QUESTION: Did this trigger anything on the U.S. side beyond your statements?
MR. MCCORMACK: I will check, Barry. I don't know if we have passed any formal diplomatic messages, but we have spoken out quite clearly on the matter in public.
QUESTION: Do you sense that the rest of the world is as straightforward in opposing what was said as the U.S. Government is? And if it isn't, is the U.S. trying to rally allies, at least, to look at it the way you look at it?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that you can look at the public comments for yourself. I saw that Foreign Minister Lavrov had some very strong comments in reaction.
MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect that there are others, although I don't have a catalog of them. We have also made it very clear that our posts around the world should make very clear where we stand on this kind of rhetoric coming out of Iran and from the head of state.
QUESTION: Should Iran be kicked out of the United Nations for this comment?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I've seen the news reports suggesting this. Again, Iran is a member of the United Nations. What I think we would encourage instead is Iran to start behaving in a responsible manner as a member of the international community, cease its pursuit of nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, end its support for terror and stop oppressing its own people.
QUESTION: So if you're saying the pursuit of nuclear weapon under the guise of a civilian program, is that also -- are you also throwing in the Bushehr project?
MR. MCCORMACK: As we have talked about it before, our concern is with Iran's having the know-how, the technology and the capability to enrich or reprocess on its territory. We have said that that is an important step that would allow, we believe, it to develop a nuclear weapon, which is a shared goal -- which all share the goal of preventing: Russia, the United States, the EU-3.
We have pointed to the Bushehr deal as a deal that addresses the central concern of Iran not having the nuclear fuel cycle on its own territory. It has a fuel take-back provision. We think that that demonstrates clearly Russia's discomfort with the idea of Iran having the nuclear fuel cycle on its territory.
QUESTION: But given that agreement with Russia, this is not a backing off of your support for Bushehr -- with the proviso that the Russians take back their --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, the deal as it is structured, I think, was -- it evolved to -- at the current point where you do have the fuel take-back provision, as a result of Russia's concerns about Iran's behavior and Iran's intention to seek nuclear weapons, as well as discussions over the years with the international community about their concerns regarding the Bushehr deal. And as a result, they have structured it in such a way to address the concerns -- their own concerns as well as the concerns of the international community.
QUESTION: Why you were working over in that other building --
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on -- it's Iran.
QUESTION: Yes. While you were working in the other building, there was a persistent theory in the State Department by many people, I think the Deputy Secretary of State, in fact, said let's start talking to them and that there are really two Irans -- that there's a more liberal Iran, there's a democratic inclined segment of the population. And of course, there was hope that it would take hold and have influence. Can we throw that theory in the trashcan by now or do you guys still think that there's another -- there is another force in Tehran that you hope will come to the fore that can be cultivated, that there's hope for Iran taking a different world view?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what we have consistently stated over the years is that the United States stands with the Iranian people and their aspirations for a more free democratic state. Those aspirations have not been realized, as we have seen the unelected few stand in the way of those aspirations. We recently have offered -- we have accepted requests for proposals regarding promotion of democracy programs. It is our Bureau of Democracy, Rights and Labor has put out requests for proposals that would help fund programs promoting democracy in Iran. We think that that is an important step. I would expect that at some point this fall that we actually are able to award those grants on the amount -- in the order of about $3 million or so.
So our support for the Iranian people in their aspirations for democracy are steadfast. We believe that it is the unelected few which we now see represented by the current government, President Ahmadi-Nejad, that stand in the way of those aspirations. You are starting to see reports -- news reports coming out of Iran of steps -- steps to sort of increase the oppression within Iran, you know, mobile courts going throughout the country that are, you know, quite disturbing. So this is a regime, again, that is out of step with the general trends in the region towards greater freedom, greater democracy and more openness.
QUESTION: You said that Russia expressed its concern, but actually the Russian Foreign Minister said this doesn't change anything in Moscow position on the nuclear program. He says the position is the same, so I don't see where is the concern.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think again when the Iranian President speaks in terms of wiping another state off the map, that is a source of concern for the international community. I think Foreign Minister Lavrov stated his concern and the Russian Government's concern about this issue.
QUESTION: Yeah, but --
MR. MCCORMACK: With regard to the nuclear issue, this is -- that is a matter for continuing discussion among the members of the Board of Governors. I think that right now there is -- the IAEA is going to produce a report that goes to the Security Council regarding Iran's cooperation with the IAEA. We will see what is contained in that report. What is contained in that report depends upon Iran's actions. And I think we are in discussions with the EU-3, as well as Russia and the other members of the Board of Governors, about Iran's behavior, what further steps that the IAEA might be required if Iran continues to fail to cooperate with the IAEA. It is a matter for continuing discussion among all the members of the Board of Governors.
QUESTION: But he says -- he said these declarations ring forth the arguments of people who don't want Iran to get nuclear civilian program, but it doesn't change Russia's position. So actually, they don't express any more concern today than yesterday.
MR. MCCORMACK: Of course, Foreign Minister Lavrov is free to speak on behalf of his government, obviously. I would only add that, you know, the issue of Iran's nuclear program is a matter of continuing discussion within the Board of Governors. And in fact, what conclusions the IAEA comes to with this next report, it's going to be up to Iran and how it is that they cooperate or do not cooperate.
QUESTION: As for Iran's nuclear program is concerned, Iranians are saying that they will continue to develop no matter what, under any circumstances, as far as their nuclear program is concerned. Now, recently India working with the European Union in Vienna, in Austria at the IAEA meeting against Iran. Visiting Indian officials here are saying that India had never given its nuclear technology to anywhere to any country. And on the one hand, A.Q. Khan has been given nuclear technology to many countries, including Iran. My question is that have anybody spoke to A.Q. Khan what and how much he has given to Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, our concerns about the A.Q. Khan network are well known. We are working very closely with the Pakistani Government to dig into all of the activities of the A.Q. Khan network. This is, as many of you have reported, a widespread network that was providing nuclear weapons technology and know-how to a variety of different states. And we have stated our concerns about what A.Q. Khan may have provided to a variety of different states. I think the IAEA is looking into this matter, exactly what A.Q. Khan might have provided to Iran. I think is an open -- that's still an open question for IAEA investigators. And we are looking to Iran to provide -- to come clean on these issues and provide the information to IAEA investigators so all of these questions can be cleared up.
QUESTION: But Sean, the U.S. never had any direct access to A.Q. Khan or neither the IAEA, so we are still relying on what A.Q. Khan is telling the Pakistani authorities and what Pakistani authorities are telling the U.S. and IAEA.
MR. MCCORMACK: We are working closely with Pakistan on these questions and I understand that IAEA authorities are working closely with the Pakistani Government. We certainly encourage their continuing cooperation as a matter -- as this is a matter of intense international interest, and so we look forward to that continuing cooperation.
QUESTION: Sean, the Volcker investigation on the oil-for-food scandal has just concluded. The report says that Kofi Annan failed, also the Security Council failed and it involves illegal surcharges and kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime. Do you have any further comments?
MR. MCCORMACK: I understand Mr. Volcker and his commission issued their final report today. We just received our copy of it, so what we're going to do is we are going to take some time to read it, to analyze it, see what it says. We are going to reserve judgment on all the findings. There may be some that we agree with; there may be some that we disagree with. We have to take a look at it.
What I think as a sort of general comment about the oil-for -- what Mr. Volcker has found up until this point in the oil-for-food program is that Saddam Hussein gamed the system. Saddam Hussein successfully gamed the system in order to enrich himself, his regime, as well as to pursue various illicit activities, all at the expense of the Iraqi people.
And I think what it also underscores is the importance of UN reform, reform of the UN Secretariat and implementation of important management reforms. This is something that we have been very interested in. The U.S. Congress is very interested in. It is an issue that the Secretary raises frequently with her counterparts, as well as with Secretary General Annan. It is going to be an issue that we -- as the issue of UN reform continues to be discussed in the wake of the High Level Event Outcome Document -- we are going to continue to be pushing for management reforms at the UN. And I think a first read of the Volcker report indicates how important those management reforms are.
QUESTION: Sean, doesn't it also, I mean, this isn't really your area, but doesn't it also highlight the need for kind of reform on U.S. regulations in this country in terms of working with the UN on these types of projects? I mean several high level U.S. companies are named in the report for paying kickbacks. So do you think that there needs to be kind of reforms in, not only in terms of the UN and its own structure, but in terms of regulations regarding U.S. companies dealing with programs like this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are certainly laws that would govern such potential illicit activities. I am not making a judgment here right now whether there were illicit activities or not. Those are judgments for the Department of Justice and law enforcement authorities to make. We do have in place laws that would -- that regulate activity, trade activity, payment of illicit monies overseas. So there are laws in place that govern those things and it is up to the law enforcement authorities to make the judgments about whether or not any laws were broken.
QUESTION: And then also, do you think it requires a kind of look at the U.S. role and officials that were dealing with this program, because as you know, there were certain officials that were dealing with the program that perhaps there's implications that they knew about it and weren't -- maybe didn't taken enough stronger measures to ensure that this was kind of curbed when it was happening? I mean it didn't come really as a major surprise.
MR. MCCORMACK: If there are any individual acts of wrongdoing, certainly we would expect those people to be held to account, regardless of nationality. Within the Sanctions Committee, the United States very frequently opposed the awarding of various contracts because the Sanctions Committee operated by consensus. Oftentimes as well, those concerns were overridden. But again, getting back to your point about individual wrongdoing, if there --
QUESTION: Or just the strengthening of -- or just the strengthening of U.S. -- of regulations regarding U.S. participation in committees and --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, if there are any changes to the law that are needed in the views of our elected members of Congress, certainly they will take up those issues. I would point out only that there are existing laws governing illicit behavior in terms of providing monies to foreign governments in order to gain contracts. So there are already laws in place governing that. If there are any laws that are required, that is an issue for really the Congress to take up.
Yes. Libby, you had a question.
QUESTION: I'm just wondering, you know, what if this report -- you know, we talked about the need for management reform. But what does this say about the confidence that the U.S. has in the UN, having such a report that is, you know, damning of the management of --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think the very fact that you do have a report, it is an important step, that you do have transparency in following -- first of all, picking up on the allegations and questions surrounding the oil-for-food program and then following up on it. That's positive. And the fact that you have someone with the stature of Mr. Volcker doing this in an open transparent way, issuing a report I think is very positive. I do think it does highlight that there are certain management practices within the UN that need reform and we have spoken to those. We are going to continue to urge and to push for management reform at the United Nations. I think that this report is one more data point that indicates that it's needed. But I think the fact of the report itself is important.
QUESTION: And does the U.S. have confidence that these reforms can take place?
MR. MCCORMACK: We think it is a necessity that these reforms take place and that management reforms take place. It is a matter of -- as we have talked about before, intense interest by our Congress and not only that, the Executive Branch also believes that it's important to pursue the issue of management reforms. We want to have the most effective United Nations that we can and to have the American people feel as though they can continue to support the UN in all of the important work that it does. I think in order to help build that confidence and maintain that confidence on the part of our Congress and the American people, you need to have these management reforms -- the American people need to understand that the resources that they devote to the United Nations are being used in the most effective way to the ends that everybody wants them to be used.
QUESTION: These practices don't originate spontaneously, you know, like the "big bang" theory of bad practices. Don't you -- hasn't the State Department concluded that any specific individuals in authority at the UN were not on the job at least?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think -- Barry, I think this all takes place within the context of the Volcker report. So what we're going to do -- and I'm going to reserve judgment again on individual --
QUESTION: I mean the State Department has been doing that for months.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Reserving judgment of individuals, as if there's some mechanical self-determining way of doing things at the UN that's apart from the people who are running the UN. You don't seem to have anything critical to say --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's take a look at the report. You know, I think -- and we're going to take some time to read it and to analyze it. But I think what it does is, again, the initial read and I'm not going to get into specifics, because we do want to take time to analyze it. An initial read indicates that there are individual circumstances of wrongdoing that get to individual behavior. But I think also what it does is it points to systemic problems. And so those are two different kinds of problems that need to be looked at.
And what you -- if there's systemic problems, what you need to do are you need to come up with specific management reforms and fixes for those types of things. So you know, again we're going to take a look at the report, analyze it and see what it says and see what kind of specific response we need for the problems identified by the report. But in general, we think that the report underlines the need for management reform at the UN.
QUESTION: Sean, one more?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Don't you think also that not only about the UN Secretariat and its kind of administration of the programs of this nature, but don't you think that individual countries on the Sanctions Committee who are overseeing -- had an oversight role on this program need to take a look at their own departmental or administration procedures to make sure that they can spot things like this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, to the extent that there are lessons to be drawn from the behaviors of individuals or individual countries, certainly we would hope that they would use this opportunity to reflect on their own procedures and practices because, again, the UN comprises its member-states.
QUESTION: Does that include the United States?
MR. MCCORMACK: And -- we, of course -- like I said, if there are cases of individual wrongdoing, of course, we will -- we would expect all those to be help to account, regardless of nationality.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: George, do you have anything else on this or --
QUESTION: Different topic. It better be good. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: The pressure's on, the pressure's on now.
QUESTION: It's on the Middle East. The Secretary spoke to President Abbas today. Could you please give some details of that telephone call?
MR. MCCORMACK: She did.
QUESTION: And also of whether she has made a similar call to Prime Minister Sharon, asking him to maybe temper his response to some of these attacks?
MR. MCCORMACK: She did speak with President Abbas and I would expect that she would also speak with Israeli officials. Also at the level of Assistant Secretary, there have been contacts to interested parties.
Regarding the current situation, yesterday we condemned the terrorist attack in Hadera. There's no political cause that justifies the use of terror. We also talked about the importance of the Palestinian Authority acting to prevent terror and also to dismantle terrorist networks. And that is certainly a roadmap obligation, as well as something that it needs to do in order to provide the kind of security and atmosphere for their own people that we think they deserve and desire.
We have also -- we make it clear that Israel, of course, has a right to defend itself, that's well known and well understood. We also encourage Israel in deciding what actions it needs to take in order to defend itself, to consider the consequences of its action on the overall -- achieving the overall goal, that both -- that all share, and that is two sides living side-by-side in peace and security.
The Secretary spoke in general terms about these matters with President Abbas. She urged the Palestinian Authority to act against terrorist groups. There are -- it is very clear that there are some groups, there are some individuals, who are intent upon derailing any hope of moving towards the overall goal of Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security.
We think it is incumbent upon all in the international community -- and I would note that President Abbas spoke out very clearly against this act of terror and talked about the fact that it is not in the interest of the Palestinian people -- we think it is important that all members of the international community come out and condemn acts of terror and to cease any support that they may be providing to terrorist groups, and especially those who would subvert the aspirations of the people of the region for a more peaceful, more free and more secure future for them and their children.
QUESTION: And on the Israeli side, what was the -- who did you speak to from the Israeli side and what was the U.S. message?
MR. MCCORMACK: We have had working level contacts with the Israeli Government on this issue. And, again our message to them is, as we've stated in public, is important to -- we recognize your right of self-defense. That is a fundamental right for any state, but we also encouraged them to take into consideration the consequences of whatever actions they may take in the acts of self-defense on the overall goals of the process.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, just one more. Did the Secretary ask to speak to Prime Minister Sharon and she couldn't get through to him or --
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you updated on her contacts.
QUESTION: What about -- how does the U.S. feel, how does the Secretary feel about the -- that despite it all, as awful as it is, that terror attacks kill civilians, that Israel should plunge straight ahead and try to reach some agreement -- in other words, that this should not deter peace process, that the peace process should exist, irrespective of violence? Do you feel that way or do you feel Israel should -- is justified in slowing down in response to such attacks?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think, Barry, there are pages and pages from the
Secretary and the President on just this question. I think that fundamentally that we believe and I think that -- you talk to the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority, as well as members of the Quartet -- that the solution to differences between the Israelis and the Palestinian people lie in a political solution. We don't think that there is no -- ultimately any violent solution to the differences that they have. And I think what you have seen is a commitment by the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority to work together to resolve through dialogue, through political process, with the encouragement of outside parties any differences that they may have and to resolve the tough issues that we know -- we all know are out there. These are very difficult issues. One thing that I think we in the international community have been encouraged by is the cooperation that we saw between the Israelis and the Palestinians during the Gaza withdrawal process.
The key to being able to build on that I think overall positive experience is continuing to build up trust and to understand that both share the same goal and that is a more peaceful, more secure future for their own people. We believe that President Abbas wants that. We believe that Prime Minister Sharon wants that and that there is a common struggle against those groups, those individuals who want to disrupt and subvert that process -- terrorist groups.
QUESTION: And Abbas is struggling against terrorist groups?
MR. MCCORMACK: We believe that they share a common goal and that it is a common struggle to fight against those groups trying to -- it is in the common interest of all to fight against those terrorist groups who would try to subvert progress towards the ultimate goal that they both share, as well as to undermine the aspirations of all the people in the region, including the Palestinian people.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Sharon said again today, I think, that he would have no contact with President Abbas until there's a crackdown. Do you think this attitude is merited? Do you think Abbas warrants this or are you going to try to do anything to encourage again the resumption of summit talks that haven't occurred since Gaza?
MR. MCCORMACK: The discussions and the arrangements for meetings between President Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon have always been done directly through -- between the two sides. We certainly encourage more contact rather than less contact to work through issues, to work through problems, to resolve them. That, we believe, is the way in order to foster mutual understanding, to foster mutual trust and to arrive at solutions that work for both sides. We, of course, encourage that. We play a role in it. On the security side, General Ward plays an important role. I think that one of the things that General Ward has been able to do is he's been able to win the trust of both sides to try to work together to build more robust security forces for the Palestinian people, for the Palestinian Authority.
Mr. Wolfensohn has an analogous mission on the side of the sort of economic issues, if you will, regarding border crossings and such similar things. So ultimately resolve any differences through contact, through discussion, through dialogue, through mutual compromise, so we encourage that.
In terms of contacts between Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas, certainly we encourage those contacts. We encourage those contacts that move the process forward, that lead to effective solutions, so I think that that's how we would view the question of contacts between the two.
We'll go to Sylvie. Yes.
QUESTION: I wanted to know -- it's a change of subject.
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, well, let's -- is there any more? Well, Teri hasn't had one.
QUESTION: Well, I have a change of subject, too.
MR. MCCORMACK: All right. Sue.
QUESTION: Okay. In her discussions today with President Abbas, did the Secretary indicate that she would like both sides to get together as soon as possible in face-to-face talks?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think without getting into the specifics and preserving her ability to have diplomatic conversations, I would say that the general message of her discussion with President Abbas was to encourage President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to act against those groups who would seek to subvert the process and the progress that the two sides had been making -- that have made over the past months.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. I have to ask the other side, too. In her working-level discussions with the Israelis, whoever that may have been with --
MR. MCCORMACK: David Welch has been in contact. He has been in contact with the parties as well as -- and people on the ground as well have been in contact with both sides, but --
QUESTION: Was the same message given to that side as well?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Yes and they also -- I have to add that Assistant Secretary Welch has been in touch with members of the Quartet as well, and I would expect there to be continuing discussions among the Quartet to address the issues related to recent developments.
QUESTION: Sean, can I just follow up just to get clarity on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sure.
QUESTION: So you said that the Secretary specifically asked the Palestinians that they have to rein in the violence and they have to try keep --
MR. MCCORMACK: She encouraged the Palestinian Authority, President Abbas, to act to stop terror attacks as well -- as well as ultimately to meet their roadmap obligations, to start dismantling those terrorist networks that are responsible for these acts of terror.
QUESTION: Okay. So that's clear. On the other hand, if she, whoever she speaks to on the Israeli side, asking or going to ask them to stop the targeted killings that the Palestinians do claim are some of the triggers?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you up to date on her conversations. She hasn't had those conversations yet. I anticipate that she will.
QUESTION: The Israelis, I'm sorry --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- you said she has not had those yet?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not yet. It's just a matter of --
QUESTION: All right. Okay. Still working on it.
MR. MCCORMACK: -- sequencing. Yes.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, Joel.
QUESTION: Yesterday --
MR. MCCORMACK: Hold on a second. George, did you have something on this?
QUESTION: New subject.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Joel, did you --
QUESTION: In Jenin, the Israelis didn't have a targeted killing but they did a targeted arrest of a high Islamic Jihad leader. Now, under the circumstances, could you -- since he's under arrest, going to court -- could you foresee a Palestinian-Israeli court to try that person and to put an end to this?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure I'm familiar with the incident, as you're describing it, Joel, so --
QUESTION: This morning.
MR. MCCORMACK: But again, I don't have any details, as you describe it.
QUESTION: Another subject.
MR. MCCORMACK: George.
QUESTION: Has Cuba said yes to the U.S. hurricane relief offer?
MR. MCCORMACK: The United States -- the short answer is yes. Let me describe the process that has transpired over the past couple of days. The United States offered on October 25th, via diplomatic note, to send an assessment team to Cuba as part of our offer of initial and immediate assistance to the Cuban people, following the damages cased by Hurricane Wilma.
Late in the day, on October 26th we received word, also via diplomatic note, that the Cuban Government has accepted the offer. A three-person assessment team from the USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, the acronym is OFDA -- O-F-D-A -- is on standby to survey damage from Hurricane Wilma and recommend further assistance if appropriate. These teams typically what they do is they provide assessments of a country's needs and, if necessary, recommend assistance the United States can effectively provide. In the case of Cuba, any assistance would be provided through independent non-governmental organizations.
QUESTION: What does standby mean?
MR. MCCORMACK: Standby -- they're just waiting to make the logistical arrangements to travel down.
QUESTION: Was there any aid offered with that initially, automatically?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. What happens is you have to do the assessment first and then based on the needs assessment you would maybe make a specific offer of aid.
QUESTION: Well, Sean, in other instances you've kind of said to the government, you know, whatever you need let us know and we'll send this kind of assessment team for further assistance. Is there a reason why you didn't, you know, ask the Cubans what they need or offer any kind of emergency like, you know, how some -- I don't know if your Interests Section has that kind of emergency money at their disposal?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that the officials involved in this discussion decided that this was the appropriate course of action in this case.
QUESTION: You don't have history of Cuba saying yes, do you?
MR. MCCORMACK: I was actually going to ask you this, George. (Laughter.) Doing a survey around the building here, I think that this -- in everybody's memory, this was the first time that they have accepted an offer of assistance.
QUESTION: Do you think this says something --
MR. MCCORMACK: At least in the collective memory banks here at the State Department.
QUESTION: Does this have something to do with the fact that Cuba generously offered to help after Katrina?
MR. MCCORMACK: You'd have to ask the Cuban Government for their motivations.
Let's move back. Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Any comment on tomorrow's meeting between Secretary Condoleezza Rice and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat?
MR. MCCORMACK: Secretary Rice is going to meet with Mr. Talat. She's going to meet with Mr. Talat in his capacity as a leader of the Turkish Cypriot community. I believe Secretary Powell has previously met with Mr. Talat. I don't have the exact date but I think it was up at the United Nations, so I think that this indicates our continuing support for a solution, a resolution to this issue. We continue to support Mr. Annan in his plan in seeking a solution and we encourage a solution.
QUESTION: Who requested the meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: It was through, I think, mutual -- the mutual desire to have a meeting. I don't know specifically who requested the meeting.
QUESTION: Do you consider this meeting official, semi-official or casual?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me cut to the underlying point of your question and that is there's no change in our policy with respect to recognition --
QUESTION: -- on Tuesday, the Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli answered the question of (inaudible) on the two leaders to have a serious and honest discussion on the Cyprus issue. My question is, if the two leaders agree to substantive changes to the Annan plan, will the U.S. accept them? Is your position that the Annan plan should be accepted as it is or with marginal changes?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think I have anything to add to Mr. Ereli's response to your previous question.
QUESTION: North Korean Ambassador came to Washington this morning and told the press that North Korea is not going to abandon nuclear weapon programs and -- unless they are given the light-water reactor. Do you have any comment?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen those comments. I understand that he was here for a conference. I think the North Korean delegation was there, along with the other five delegations. I know what they agreed to and we expect that -- and at that point all delegations agreed to a statement of principles. They agreed to return to the six-party talks without preconditions and to work on the issue of North Korea's nuclear program. So we look forward to the six-party talks reconvening at an early date in November. We don't have a date yet. And we'll continue to work with the other parties involved to set a date.
QUESTION: On the North Korean Ambassador's visit to Washington, any comment on the protest by a State Department official that he had given this press conference?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think there was a protest. As a matter of fact, we agreed to their request to travel to Washington in order to have this -- attend this conference. Our understanding was that there was a desire on the North Korean delegate's part not to participate in any media. We certainly -- our position was if that was the desire of the representative then certainly we would acquiesce to that. So there wasn't any protest.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, Sylvie.
QUESTION: Do you still make plans for a ministerial meeting of the Security Council on Monday --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think right now things are -- there's no formal announcement on that, but I think things are shaping up. We've been in contact with a number of different delegations. The Secretary has spoken with a number of her counterparts and I think that right now, if there is a meeting on Monday at the ministerial level, I think we'll have the vast majority of the countries on the Security Council represented at the foreign minister level. So there's not a formal announcement of a meeting yet, but I think that things are shaping up that way.
QUESTION: Okay. And to follow on that, if -- would U.S. be ready to drop the reference "opening the door to economic sanctions on Syria," if it was enough to gain broader support to the resolution?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, that's not part of the draft resolution that's on the table. What the draft resolution talks about specifically are individual sanctions.
QUESTION: But at the end, there is mention of possible sanctions, further sanctions.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, the issue on the table in this resolution is individual sanctions. But we're looking -- what we're looking for with this resolution, I think, what the world is looking for is Syria's cooperation and cooperation of individual members of the Syrian regime. I think that that's the one goal of this resolution. The other goal is to send a very clear message to Syria that the world is watching very closely, that the use of threat, intimidation, violence or terror is something that the international community will not tolerate.
And we think that this resolution is an appropriate mechanism to make that very clear to the Syrian Government. And also we hope to compel Syrian cooperation, which has not been to this point forthcoming, to compel Syrian cooperation with the Mehlis investigation, which is ongoing.
QUESTION: The Larsen report -- yesterday you said you guys would be reading it. Have you read it yet and is there a reaction from the U.S.?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think what we'll -- I'm going to reserve public comment on that until there is -- the international community has an opportunity to have a public discussion about it. We have it. I've seen press reporting about the report, but I think at this point, we're going to reserve discussion on that, until we can have an open public discussion about the document.
QUESTION: Is there a reason for that? I mean, you commented after the Mehlis report.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we commented after the Mehlis report because it was released in public. Right now, the Larsen report has not been publicly released. As soon as it's publicly released, we'll have an open public discussion about it.
QUESTION: Sean, could you (inaudible) is reporting that Usama bin Laden is dead. Do you have any reports about his whereabouts?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have not seen those reports and I don't have any updates for you.
QUESTION: (Anything on the meeting before yesterday between Mayor of Athens Dora Bakoyannis and Under Secretary Nicholas Burns, which lasted almost an hour?
MR. MCCORMACK: They did, in fact, meet. I don't have any details for you. As you well know, Under Secretary Burns is a former U.S. Ambassador to Greece, so he -- when he has the opportunity, looks forward to welcoming visiting Greek officials and he's --
QUESTION: -- a new subject. Do you know -- if you know if President Bush during his meeting with the Prime Minister of FYROM Vlado Buckovski discuss inter alia the issue between Greece and FYROM over name?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'd, you know, refer you to my colleagues at the White House. It's a White House meeting.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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