State Department Briefing, November 3
03 November 2005
Secretary's Travel/Possible Meetings During Trip, Secretary Prepared to Discuss Syrian Behavior During Trip, ICRC's Presence at U.S. Detention Facilities/U.S. Treaty Obligations, Carrying Out the War on Terror Without Compromising U.S. Values, Questions from Other Governments Regarding Reported Detention Facilities, Secretary Not Traveling to Japan/Future Meeting with New Japanese FM, Tanzania, Iran, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Israel/Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, European Union, North Korea, Kosovo
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack briefed the press November 3.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Thursday, November 3, 2005
12:54 p.m. EDT
Briefer: Sean McCormack, Spokesman
-- Secretary's Travel/Possible Meetings During Trip
-- Secretary Prepared to Discuss Syrian Behavior During Trip
-- ICRC's Presence at U.S. Detention Facilities/U.S. Treaty Obligations
-- Carrying Out the War on Terror Without Compromising U.S. Values
-- Questions from Other Governments Regarding Reported Detention Facilities
-- Secretary Not Traveling to Japan/Future Meeting with New Japanese FM
-- U.S. Deplores Violence in Zanzibar Following Elections
-- Iranian Maltreatment has put Jailed Activist Akbar Ganji's Health at Serious Risk
-- United States Call for Release of All Political Prisoners
-- Investigation into Role of Iranian President In 1979 Hostage Crisis
-- UNSC Meeting on Recent Escalation of Tensions along Border
-- U.S. Prepared to Assist in Resolving Disputes/Need for Dialogue
-- Contacts with U.S./Efforts to Reduce Tensions
-- Secretary's Visit/Areas Where Both Sides Can Resolve Issues
-- Responsibilities of Each Side Under the Roadmap
-- Palestinian Security Forces/Sharm el-Sheikh Understandings
-- Secretary's Visit/Inaugural Meeting of the U.S.-Saudi Arabia Strategic Dialogue
-- Strategic Dialogue/Security/Regional Issues/Terrorism
-- Political Reform in Saudi Arabia
-- Secretary's Visit/Attendance at Forum for the Future
-- EU to investigate Allegations that CIA maintains secret Prisons in Eastern Europe
-- Next Round of Six Party Talks/Ways to Move Forward/Statement of Principles
-- A/S Hill Travel Plans/Meetings
-- Kosovo Contact Group Meeting with U/S Burns/UN Special Envoy Ahtisaari
-- U.S. Goal for Parties to Reach Agreement Through Negotiations and Compromise
-- Possibility of Nominating an American as NATO Special Envoy
-- NATO's Role in Negotiations
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2005
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
12:54 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I have a couple of opening statements for you, then we can get right into questions. In the interest of not burying the lead, I'll start with the Secretary's travel to the Middle East and Asia and we'll put out a paper statement on this.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to the Middle East and Asia from November 10th to November 21st, 2005. She will visit Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian territories before returning -- continuing on to Asia. The Secretary will proceed from the Middle East to Busan, Republic of Korea, to lead the U.S. delegation at the Ministerial Meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Following the APEC leaders' meeting in Busan, she will accompany President Bush on his visits to the People's Republic of China in Mongolia. And then we'll have -- there are some more details contained in the written statement.
Also, I have a statement that we'll put out after the -- a written statement that we'll put out after the briefing concerning the results of the Zanzibar elections. The United States deplores political violence in Zanzibar in the wake of October 30th elections. We deeply regret the tragic loss of life. We call on all parties to show restraint. The Tanzanian Government should establish an independent inquiry to investigate voting irregularities and discrepancies reported by the National Democratic Institute, NDI, and U.S. Embassy observers.
We also call on the Tanzanian Government to release all political detainees, particularly the many opposition supporters arrested in recent days, and to withdraw the extensive security forces surrounding the opposition, Civic United Front, CUF, headquarters in Stone Town. This massive police presence is hindering the exercise of basic civil rights, such as freedom of speech and assembly. The opposition must refrain from inciting civil disobedience during this time of heightened tension. The best way forward for Tanzania is through peaceful participation of all political groups, including elected members of the opposition.
And one final statement that we will be putting out after the briefing in written form, concerns the imprisoned Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji. Over the past week the United States has received reports that jailed Iranian activist, Akbar Ganji's health is at serious risk. This is consistent with his wife's charge in late October that Iranian authorities are continuing to beat Ganji, and similar nongovernmental organizations report that he was abused, even while hospitalized, following his August 2005 hunger strike. Mr. Ganji has spent more than five years in prison due to his peaceful advocacy for free speech and democracy. His imprisonment and any inhumane treatment are serious violations of fundamental human rights.
The United States calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Akbar Ganji as well as his immediate access to medical assistance and legal representation. Ganji is one of many courageous Iranians like Ahmed Batebi, Hoda Saber, Taghi Rahmani and Reza Alijani who have challenged the clerical regime's repressive policies and who have suffered dire consequences for their efforts to advance the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people. The United States calls on the international community to continue to press for the release of all political prisoners in Iran.
And with that, I'd be pleased to take your questions.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) wants to do follow-up on the statements?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: On her travel, I'm sure with the Secretary being in Asia and South Korea there will be speculation that she will take the opportunity to meet the -- her North Korean counterpart a matter of (inaudible) speculation. Is that -- do you want to rule that out?
MR. MCCORMACK: We don't have any such meetings planned.
QUESTION: Is it a possibility, given the diplomacy --
MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't count it as a possibility.
QUESTION: You wouldn't count it.
MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't count on it as a possibility.
QUESTION: Does she come to -- when she's in Jerusalem, does she plan to go also to meet the Palestinians?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. There will be -- she will be also traveling to the Palestinian territories.
QUESTION: You're not stating this, but --
QUESTION: Can we do Ganji?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: I just want to be clear what accusation you're making against the Iranian authorities. His health is at risk, serious risk you say. And you say his wife has claimed that there have been - he's been beaten. Are you saying that his health deterioration, his bad health at the moment is because of beatings or is it unrelated, he just happened to get a lung infection or something?
MR. MCCORMACK: What we are saying, based on the reports from his wife and other sources that we cite, similar nongovernmental organization reports that his maltreatment at the hands of his captors has led him to the point where his health is at serious risk.
QUESTION: And do you know what the health risk is? Is it that he's got breathing problems or (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- I'll check to see if we have any more information on that for you, Saul. I don't right here.
QUESTION: Is his life in danger?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, I would characterize it as his health is at serious risk. If we have any updates on his condition or information on his condition, I'd be pleased to share that with you.
QUESTION: In a couple of hours, the Security Council is expected to meet on the situation involving Ethiopia and Eritrea. UN Officials are expressing rising concern about the prospect of bloody conflict. Does the U.S. State Department have a view of the situation? Is it as dire as that? Might the U.S. have something to say about this -- some initiative that it would like to see happen?
We are very concerned about the recent escalation and tensions along the border area between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Secretary Rice spoke yesterday with Secretary General Annan and this issue did come up. They did talk about it. The Secretary -- I think, both of them shared a concern about the escalation and tensions along that border area. We are going to work closely with the UN on this issue. We are also in contact with both governments to underline the fact in strong terms that the way to resolve any political differences that they may have and I understand that on the side of one of the parties, the Ethiopian party, that they do have some differences about the border that was demarcated by the UN. The way to resolve any of those differences is through dialogue, working through the UN process, and certainly, we will be -- we are prepared to offer our services in trying to help resolve any disputes they may have, but I have to underline the way to resolve those disputes is through political dialogue and not through violent action or threat of violent action.
QUESTION: Any contacts with the government? Can you tell us, first of all, who's been making the calls from here or is it at the embassy level? And then what sort of response have you got from the government, any assurances that after this escalation in tensions, they are now prepared to reduce tensions? Have they offered to do anything concretely to reduce the tensions?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that the conversations with the government are -- the two governments are continuing. I don't think we've received any assurances yet. We continue to emphasize the point with them that they should use the political devices, the international political devices at their disposal to resolve these differences. And the contacts at this point, to my knowledge, have been at the embassy level.
QUESTION: A follow-up on the Middle East? I want to go back to that one.
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this? Okay, yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: We have these -- we have in the Middle East between the Palestinians and the Israelis, what is the message that she's going to bring there? Is there anything new that she's going to bring to both parties?
And also, visiting Bahrain, Saudi Arabia -- could you elaborate more on the intentions of the visits?
MR. MCCORMACK: The first part. While she is in Israel she will also attend the tenth commemoration of the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and she'll also make a speech at the closing session of the Saban, S-a-b-a-n, Forum. So aside from her -- the issues of the Israelis and Palestinians, those are a couple of the other things that she's going to be doing.
I think the message that she will bring to the Israelis and the Palestinians is something that you have heard me say, that you've heard her say and that she has repeated in her meetings and telephone calls with President Abbas and then just yesterday with Defense Minister Mofaz, and that is looking for ways and looking for concrete areas where the Israelis and the Palestinians can work together to resolve existing issues between the two of them.
Yesterday, there was a good discussion with Defense Minister Mofaz about steps that the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority, along with the Egyptian Government and Mr. Wolfensohn, are taking to work out a deal that is acceptable to all parties involved regarding the Rafah crossings and those crossings between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. I think the sides are making good progress in those areas but still there are some remaining issues to be -- I think technical issues to be worked out. So that's one area to try to come to closure on some of those -- some of these areas where they have been making progress.
I think also to talk about ways to address some of the concerns that the Palestinians have about transportation of goods at crossing points, how through the use of technology the two sides can work to modify the existing system, which is kind of a back-to-back transfer system that is not very efficient for the transfer of goods, while maintaining the security that the Israelis rightly want to ensure.
So those are a couple of areas, I think, that she'll -- concrete areas that she'll get them to focus on.
More broadly, she will talk to each side about the other responsibilities that they have under the roadmap. With the Palestinians, I think the -- issue one will be security and how to -- how the Palestinian Authority can increase the effectiveness of the existing security services in the immediate term and also over the long term, and how to put those security forces to use in protecting the Palestinian people as well as in the service of preventing terror attacks and dismantling terrorist organizations.
On the Israeli side, I think, certainly she will be talking to them about those concrete projects that I just discussed as well as their other obligations under the roadmap as well as what they might do with the Palestinians under the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings. So that's sort of the general -- sort of playing field of the discussion she'll have with them.
QUESTION: Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, any specific issues probably in the Gulf region -- terrorism, women rights, probably?
MR. MCCORMACK: On Saudi Arabia, this is going to be the initial meeting of the U.S.-Saudi Arabia Strategic Dialogue. So as the title would hint, it is a broad-ranging discussion about a variety of different issues: security, advancing greater freedoms and political reform, economic issues, regional issues. So that will be -- that's sort of the general playing field of the discussion with the Saudis and the Strategic Dialogue. This is the first meeting of that Strategic Dialogue -- will take place between Secretary Rice and the Saudi Foreign Minister. There will be other meetings under the rubric of that Strategic Dialogue that I would anticipate will continue at working levels as well, once this has been launched.
In Bahrain, she will attend the Forum for the Future. The Forum is part of our ongoing efforts to empower people in the region as they seek to reform and improve their lives and better their futures. A big part of the Forum for the Future is to serve as a mechanism to create a stable lasting mechanism where civil society groups from across the region can come together and to discuss ways that they can advance their agenda of greater political freedoms, political reforms throughout the region and in their individual countries and also to bring together governments with those civil society groups.
We'll also be talking about -- with the European governments, with the European Union -- as well as other governments in the region, how we can look to funding mechanisms to ensure that this is a lasting device, a lasting political forum where those groups can come together.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the subject of Syria will come up either in one of those visits in the area? I mean, I understand it's a lot of dialogue and so -- but there are real issues in the Middle East. Widespread idea now in the Middle East that next will be Syria, whatever we can say.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure what "next will be Syria" means. But --
QUESTION: Well, many comparisons are being drawn right now between Iraq and Syria and that's the mood in the area a little bit. It starts with resolutions, goes through sanctions and a military invasion. That's the vision from there. So that's what I'm trying to say if the Syrian issue will come up, probably in one of those meetings, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, or Israel, Palestinians.
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, inasmuch as there are discussions about regional issues among -- at each of these stops, I'm sure Secretary Rice will be prepared to discuss Syrian behavior and how Syrian behavior has gotten to them to the point where they have had two Security Council resolutions passed in a relatively short period of time concerning their behavior.
Certainly, this will be, the Palestinians themselves have expressed concerns about Syria's continuing support for Palestinian rejectionist groups. That is very possibly a topic of discussion that will come up in a meeting with the Palestinians. The Forum for the Future is not directed to address these kinds of issues, inasmuch as Syria is not a place where there is open political dialogue and that there are repressions of certain freedoms -- freedoms of speech, freedom of assembly. It could possibly come up. But this is -- the Forum for Future is not a forum, it's a not a meeting that is specifically directed at issues related to Syria.
QUESTION: In the European Union --
QUESTION: Can we stay on this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Is this a different topic, George?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Then we'll come back.
QUESTION: On Saudi, can you talk in more detail, if you can, about the Strategic Dialogue? I know that it was announced when we were there in June, but is it -- this meeting going to focus more on sort of internal issues in Saudi Arabia, about reform? Is it going to focus on perhaps issues like the fact that many of the foreign fighters in Iraq come from Saudi Arabia? What exactly is she going to --
MR. MCCORMACK: This is -- it's a bilateral --
MR. MCCORMACK: Bilateral dialogue. The issue of political reform, the ongoing process of political reform in Saudi Arabia, certainly will be a topic. It's part of the discussion that we have with Saudi Arabia. It was part of the discussion when Secretary Rice visited Riyadh several months ago. So I expect that -- that it is going to be part of the dialogue.
As for regional issues, I think they probably will come up. I think we will talk about -- through the broader issue of fighting terrorism and our cooperation with Saudi Arabia in fighting terrorism. This is an issue because terror -- you know, it's a -- clearly a threat to the United States and our interests but it's also a domestic concern in Saudi Arabia as well. And we have had excellent cooperation with the Saudi Government on the law enforcement, the information-sharing front, as well as in trying to cut off the cashflows that finance these terrorist networks. So there's been, I think, excellent cooperation. It has -- you know, it has improved markedly, I think, over the years. That said, there's certainly more that can be done and we'll talk about those ways that we can improve the cooperation.
QUESTION: And so what is the goal? What can the regular meetings and contacts we have with the Saudis -- what can they not do that you need this framework of a Strategic Dialogue? What is the point or the goal of moving things forward and what's sort of the strategic reason for having this dialogue?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have these kind of meetings, these kind of Strategic Dialogues, with a number of different countries -- with China, for example, we have what we call a Senior Dialogue. And what it is, it is a mechanism to be able to, you know, at predictable points in time, bring together senior policymakers to try to advance the ball on any number of different issues in which we have a common interest in moving forward on those issues. So it is a diplomatic mechanism, a useful diplomatic mechanism to keep the focus on the issues that we want to talk about, engage with various states, in this case Saudi Arabia, on. And I think that that sort of diplomatic device is very useful in pushing forward on our agenda, which includes the issue of political reform. That said, political reform in Saudi Arabia is going to have to be homegrown. We have encouraged them to take their steps -- take certain steps. King Abdullah, while he was Crown Prince, started a number of initiatives and we will talk to the Saudis about how they intend to follow through on those initiatives.
QUESTION: Sean, a very last quick one. I assume she's going to the West Bank when you said the Palestinian territories, but any chance she might venture into Gaza?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not on the schedule.
QUESTION: All right, thanks.
QUESTION: The European Union says they're going to look into the allegations that the CIA had set up secret jails in Eastern Europe and I was wondering whether the State Department is going to cooperate with their work.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I have seen that same news report. We have not, at the State Department, received any requests at this point from the European Commission, European Union, on this matter. If we do receive such a request, I am sure that we will take a close look at it. But at this point, we have not received such a request.
QUESTION: Is the International Red Cross welcome to see any detainees that the U.S. Government may be responsible for around the world?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the ICRC, of course, has the opportunity for continuous presence at Guantanamo Bay. They have a longstanding presence there and they have the opportunity to be there on a continuous, 24-hour-a-day/7-day-a-week basis and we work closely with the ICRC on Guantanamo Bay. We also work very closely with the ICRC in trying to address any other questions that they may have. The Department of Defense and the ICRC, I think, have had a long and good working relationship. And in terms of the description of cooperation in particular areas, whether that's Guantanamo or elsewhere with the ICRC, I think the Department of Defense is in the best position to respond to those questions.
QUESTION: I was actually asking just a very general question, worldwide I said, and you cited one example, Guantanamo. Just as a principle, is the Red Cross welcome to be at any facility that the United States may have where there are detainees in the world?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, again, the Department of Defense, as I said, works closely with the ICRC on the issue of detainees. And you know, I expect that that cooperation will continue wherever DOD and the ICRC are able to -- well, wherever DOD has detainees that are covered by treaties in which the ICRC would have a role in monitoring their activities.
QUESTION: So it's only those who are covered by treaties, meaning the Geneva Convention and this Administration has said that in some circumstances, the Geneva Convention doesn't work. By that, I'm taking it that you're saying, no, they're not welcome at all facilities where there may be detainees. Is that right?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's get to the issue that you're really getting at and these, I think -- correct me if I'm wrong -- yesterday there were reports -- there was a report in The Washington Post about making allegations about facilities where terrorist captives were held -- made clear at that point that those -- that those news reports talked about these detention facilities being run by the American intelligence community. With regard to those reports, I -- you know, again, I talked about them yesterday. I don't have anything to add to what I said yesterday concerning --
QUESTION: Well, that's not my question. You're just rephrasing my question. My question is about the principle because you are -- and the Secretary goes out and talks about championing human rights and democracy now. In light of the report, people wonder around the world about how much of a champion the United States is. So why don't you state a principle that most governments in the world would totally accept and be free from any spokesman's podium to say and that is: the ICRC can come into any detention facility that we run.
MR. MCCORMACK: Saul, the -- you know, our policy is to treat all detainees in accordance with international obligations and the principles of the Geneva Convention. We've talked about Guantanamo Bay and how detainees there are treated. It's a facility run by the Department of Defense.
More broadly, this is -- the question of how to deal with terrorist enemy combatants is a difficult issue. It is an issue that, you know, a variety of -- many different countries are trying to deal with. How do you deal with individuals and groups of people that abide by no laws, they abide by no regulations, they don't respect any treaties, their sole purpose and sole intent is to try to kill innocent civilians? So how do we, as a country of laws, a country that respects our international treaty obligations, how do we deal with those individuals?
We have talked a lot about our solutions to how to deal with those people so that once they are -- these people are no longer a threat to the American people that they are taken off the street, how do you deal with them? And the -- you can see at Guantanamo Bay our -- you know, our solution to that. We are continuously looking at, you know, this issue, how we're dealing with these individuals and how do -- how to fulfill the expectations of the American people to -- that their government is going to try to protect them, try to protect them within the confines of our laws, our Constitution and our international treaty obligations. That is the issue that we are dealing with.
We work very closely with the ICRC in -- as we fulfill our treaty obligations, as we treat enemy combatants consistent with our international treaty obligations. But this is not an issue that the United States deals with alone. It is an issue that European countries and other countries around the world deal with on a daily basis.
QUESTION: I still take that as a no, and you're saying you're not alone in dealing with this. Do any of your allies actually refuse to say that the ICRC is not welcome to go into any of its detention facilities?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you'd have to talk to those governments about their dealings with the ICRC.
QUESTION: Sean, as you say, if the United States is a country of laws and respects laws, including international conventions, surely if these prisons did exist, you could acknowledge them and explain how they do conform with these laws.
MR. MCCORMACK: I talked about this yesterday. Steve Hadley talked --
QUESTION: But you didn't answer it yesterday.
MR. MCCORMACK: Steve Hadley talked about it yesterday at the White House as well. Inasmuch as there are these reports and inasmuch as they make allegations concerning classified information or potentially classified information, I certainly could not from the podium discuss anything that would be potentially classified. I'm not in a position to confirm or deny these reports. What I am trying to do is to provide a broader context to step back and to help the American public and foreign publics understand the issue with which we, as well as other countries, around the world are confronted and that is fundamentally how to deal with killers who respect no boundaries, no religion, no treaties, no laws. And how do we as a country of laws and a country of values that respects human life, how do we deal with this issue, while not losing our way, not betraying our values?
And we have seen the ways in which we have tried to address that issue -- we've seen it in Guantanamo Bay where -- and I think one of the sort of important elements of a democracy is that when there are questions raised about the government's policies, there are venues in which individuals, even these individuals which are being held at, you know, Guantanamo Bay who are there for a reason, have an ability to appeal. They appeal through the United States court system.
As a result of those appeals, the procedures at Guantanamo Bay were modified. So again, it's an issue that we, as a government and I think as a country, are continuously looking at to make sure that we come up with the best possible solution so that this government can fulfill the utmost mandate of any government and that is to protect the people of this country while respecting our laws, being true to our values, respecting our -- and doing that within the confines of those laws, that constitution and those treaty obligations which guide us.
QUESTION: Several countries were mentioned in these articles and have come out now and said that they do not have such facilities in their territory. Have any of these governments -- Poland, Romania, Russia -- come to you and said would you please be more specific and deny the reports that you have facilities in our countries?
MR. MCCORMACK: I checked on this before I came out, and the reports back that I have received is -- that the State Department has received -- has not received any queries or questions or demarches at this point concerning those news reports.
QUESTION: North Korea? Can we stay on (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: I have one more question, please.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Well, we'll go to Saul and then we'll come back to you.
QUESTION: The European Union was moved to say that they wanted to investigate the reports. Was the State Department moved to check with the CIA whether this report in The Washington Post was true or false?
MR. MCCORMACK: Saul, again, this gets back to the issue of yesterday's reports. And I, you know, tried to address this as in forthright a manner as I can. Inasmuch as those news reports yesterday and today refer to anything that may be potentially classified, I certainly am not at liberty -- would not be at liberty to discuss those things from the podium. I can only speak for the State Department. And in terms of what interactions we have had with foreign governments on this, as well as any other issues, in terms of questions for the intelligence community or the CIA, those are questions that have to be -- should be put to the CIA.
QUESTION: No, I wasn't asking whether it was true or false and for you to answer that. I was just asking about the interagency process. Did you approach the CIA and ask them?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any questions that we've put to them.
Yes. You had a follow-up on this.
QUESTION: Yes, a follow-up question. On the State Department, we understand you're not CIA, so you're pretty much far from the operational side of the war on terror around the world, where many help also, we should mention. But how concerned at the State Department level are you with those stories coming up in U.S. media being broadcast to the rest of the world, about the image of the United States, much more credible story coming from The Washington Post than, let's say, a Middle Eastern newspaper or an Asian newspaper over there. How concerned -- at your level, true or not, that's not an issue, but how concerned -- I mean, what can you do again here?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I certainly can't vouch for the credibility of The Washington Post. Look, these are reports that are out in the public. People certainly are discussing them as is evidenced by our conversation here today. I've talked to Karen Hughes about this issue, talked to a variety of different people in the Department. It is an issue that certainly we need to address. We try to address it in the best way that we possibly can, either here or at our posts abroad. Certainly, none of us here wish that we had to deal with the issue of fighting terrorism. We just wish that that weren't true, but it is a reality that we have to face.
And what we, here at the State Department, try to do is we try to explain as best we possibly can to the American public and foreign publics how it is the United States is approaching this issue and that is -- that is my interest. That is what Karen Hughes is focused on as well. And we try to get out the best possible information that we can out to our posts abroad so that they can engage foreign news media as well as foreign publics on the issue.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) position is to not say anything. How helpful is that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well --
QUESTION: If it's not true, why can't you deny it?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think we've gone around on this issue. I don't -- and it's getting back to the same question in a different way and I don't have anything to add -- or anything new to add.
QUESTION: But if there is something -- if there are stories out that are damaging to the U.S. image, one of your jobs is to try to deflect that. And surely this story could be damaging to the U.S. image and you would want to stop that from happening, if you could.
MR. MCCORMACK: Part of -- I think our job here from this podium, as well as other places, is try to explain American policies, explain the views of the U.S. Government concerning U.S. policies, to explain the values that underpin those policies as best we can. You know, in terms of others' judgment on how we do that job, I leave that to others to assess. But, you know, our job here is to engage with the news media, engage with and through you, engage with publics around the world. And all we can do is try to talk about the world in which we live, how we have -- how we, working with others, are trying to address the challenges of the world in which we live and why it is that we take many of the actions that we do.
QUESTION: North Korea. Could you -- can I take up a couple of things with you?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: This is -- my question is honestly based on the quoted remarks by DeTrani -- Joseph DeTrani. I'd like to hear you say whether the U.S. will promote in the talks in Beijing -- the retraining of thousands of North Korean nuclear scientists and engineers, and also an estimate please, how long it would take North Korea to denuclearize, should they go ahead with that promise?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, on the first question, Barry, inasmuch as it's based on some remarks that I have not seen, I'll --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) I wouldn't be asking you about it, but circumstances have just changed so you're the one I'm asking.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Sorry you got stuck with me.
QUESTION: We lost an interview or I would have asked the question. Go ahead.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, all right. We'll work on that for you. Let me take a look. I'll take a look at the remarks, Barry.
QUESTION: If you wouldn't mind, Sean. It's an important matter.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, obviously a matter that merits a serious answer and we'll try to get that for you.
QUESTION: This is not nothing new. This is part of the June '04 -- right. So I'm just quite surprised that you can't say anything about...
QUESTION: Well, it would mean double efforts.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, inasmuch as Barry is referring to some remarks that I have not seen, allow me to take a look at the remarks so I understand exactly what it is that was said so I can provide an informed answer to you.
QUESTION: Well, do you know without looking at -- just irrespective of the remarks, next week is the next round. Do you -- can you talk whether that particular issue is going to be part of the agenda?
MR. MCCORMACK: I expect that the next round, which the Chinese Government as the hosts have announced, will begin on November 9th, I believe -- yes. And I expect that this round will be relatively -- a relatively short round. I expect that it would probably end prior to the beginning of the APEC summit. So I think that the next round is going to be one where they begin a discussion about how to move forward on the Statement of Principles that all agreed to in the previous round.
What those Statement of Principles talk about, the shared goal is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, I think that we will talk to all the parties there about how to accomplish that. But it will really be, I think, the beginning of that conversation. I expect that to -- that conversation to continue on into the next round. These negotiations -- this is -- you know, in terms of the denuclearization, this is a very important component of that discussion so I would expect that it will take some very tough negotiations. I think we've seen the tough negotiations getting us to this point. I expect that -- that to continue.
What we hope is that the North Korean Government comes to the table ready to seriously follow through on the commitments that they made in the previous round, outlined in the Statement of Principles. So inasmuch as there are specific steps -- you know, Barry has talked about a couple of those -- let me check on the remarks. I'll check with Chris Hill and see what we can provide you.
QUESTION: Will he make any stops? Is there any more consultation, face-to-face, necessary before being in Beijing on the 9th, do you know?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't --
QUESTION: He's been around a lot.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, he has been around a lot. I don't know specifically what his travel plans are. He's going to be leaving in the near future. We will try to get him out to talk to you so he can talk a little bit about what he hopes to accomplish in the next round.
His usual pattern is that he does some consultations in advance of the formal start of the six-party talks. Whether that is in Beijing or involves stops along the way, we'll have to talk to him about it.
QUESTION: Could you give us a read-out on the meeting on Kosovo that was held last night?
MR. MCCORMACK: Be happy to. Let me get the information here for you.
Under Secretary Nick Burns hosted the political directors from the Kosovo Contact Group. That would include the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Russia and the EU. This also included representatives from NATO and the UN. They obviously discussed the situation in Kosovo. They also discussed with Martti Ahtisaari, whom the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan intends to appoint as a special envoy for Kosovo status talks, the process for beginning negotiations on Kosovo's future political status and principles that should guide this process.
I think among the read I got out of the meeting, George, was that the group reaffirmed its commitment to be centrally involved in the future status talks while recognizing the leading role of the UN special envoy.
I think that, from our point of view, the status outcome has to -- our goal for this entire process is for the parties to reach an agreement through negotiation and compromise that will provide the people of Kosovo and their neighbors with a secure and democratic future and that Kosovo's future status must aid in stabilizing this region while advancing the region's Euro-Atlantic integration.
QUESTION: Under Secretary Burns at one point said that there will be a U.S. envoy to guide this process. Has that been decided on yet?
MR. MCCORMACK: It has not finally been decided. I can say that it won't be him, that he is -- he will look to -- he, in consultation with the Secretary, will look to name somebody in the near future. We'll keep you updated when we've got a name for you.
QUESTION: President Rugova of Kosovo, as I understand it, he sent Mr. Burns a letter on Monday saying that independence is the only way out of this situation. What do you have to say about that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I have to -- let me talk to Under Secretary Burns about the letter. I hadn't talked to him about that. I kind of outlined how we view the outcome. It has to be a negotiated outcome that fits the criteria that I just talked about.
QUESTION: The Secretary's trip to Asia. Is she visiting Japan?
MR. MCCORMACK: She will not be visiting Japan. We are going to be -- because of the timing of our trip to the Middle East, we are going to be meeting President Bush in Korea. President Bush will have visited Japan prior to his coming to Korea. Once the Secretary's delegation and the President's delegation marry up in Korea, then she, along with a few aides, will continue with the President to go to China and Mongolia, then back to the United States.
QUESTION: Is she planning to meet with the Japanese new Foreign Minister?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any meeting time scheduled now, but she looks forward to working with him and meeting him.
QUESTION: To follow on Kosovo, please. Last night was -- at the meeting was president representative of NATO.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: You remember that's the first time that NATO representative has taken part in a meeting of the Contact Group. What was the reason to invite him and do you see any special role for NATO for NATO representative in forthcoming process?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of it being the first time, I'll have to check on the history of that. I'm not familiar with that being the first time. But --
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, I'll take your word for it.
You know, NATO certainly, as an important organization in the region, has a voice to lend to whatever final solution is arrived at. Again, that has to be worked out among the parties with the help through the UN process and with the help, we hope, of Mr. Ahtisaari. You know, again, NATO has -- NATO has certainly groups of very skilled -- have very skilled people in dealing with, you know, technical issues and we think that they may be able to certainly add something to the discussion. But again, this is a process that will be led by Mr. Ahtisaari.
QUESTION: Ambassador James Pardew was a representative of NATO on last night's meeting. Do you see him as a possible future representative of NATO in the forthcoming process?
MR. MCCORMACK: I am not aware of any particular designation of an individual at this point.
One more. One more.
QUESTION: Thank you. Tomorrow early will be November 4th in Washington time when Iranian student for Khomeini attacked the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and hold the diplomat -- American diplomat hostage. You said and White House said that the Ahmadi-Nejad, the President of the Iranian Government, is -- was at the time a leader of the student organization organized that attack. My question is do you continue the investigation regarding this matter, or the investigation has been closed by the U.S. Government?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think we got to the point where there were still unanswered questions and the only way to completely resolve those unanswered questions was -- were from definitive statements from President Ahmadi-Nejad as well as the Iranian Government. To this point, we have not heard from them. We have heard from them sort of in only the most general terms. There are certainly different memories of his potential participation, I think, that in terms -- in the interview process that's the conclusion we arrived at. We in no way want to discount the recollections of those who say that he was -- he was involved in some fashion in the questioning and the holding of the hostages. So we have arrived at a point where really it is only -- it is -- the ball is in the Iranians' court in order to answer these unresolved questions.
Certainly we have not forgotten the events of that date and the subsequent 444 days. The act of taking that embassy was a criminal act. And certainly we think that it is incumbent upon President Ahmadi-Nejad and the Iranian Government to answer these unanswered questions.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 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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