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Daily Press Briefing

Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 8, 2006


Death of Jeane Kirkpatrick
Visit of President Bush / Meetings on Iraq
U/S Burns Meeting with P-5+1 / Status of Resolution Going to the Security Council
Discussion on Resolution Moving to New York / Timing of Vote
Iran Conference on the Holocaust
Fingerprinting of Americans Visiting Iran
Readout of Foreign Minister Ivanov and Secretary Rice Meeting / Further Meetings in Washington / Position on Iran Resolution
Date for Start of Six Party Talks
Implementation of UN Resolution 1706 / Special Envoy Natsios' Travel to the Region
Status of American Pilots
Foreign Minister Livni's Schedule in Washington
Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Issues / U.S. Working with UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Badr Brigade and Other Extra-Governmental Armed Groups
Saudi Arabia Funding for Charitable Organizations and Humanitarian Aid
International Assistance under Hamas-led Government
Qatar Payment of Palestinian Salaries
Readout of Secretary's Meeting with Amre Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League / Possible Reconciliation Conference on Iraq


12:28 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Before we start, I just want to note the passing of Jeane Kirkpatrick, who was our former Permanent Representative to the United Nations. The Secretary will have a written statement out later this afternoon. I did talk to the Secretary and she wanted to express her deep sadness at the passing of Jeane Kirkpatrick. She was an outstanding diplomat, a trailblazer for women in diplomacy, somebody who was our first female United Nations Permanent Representative. Like the Secretary, somebody who has been both an academic and a practitioner in the realm of foreign policy.

This is somebody that the Secretary knew quite well. She looked up to her as a role model, somebody who as a more senior policymaker and a senior academic always had time for more junior people, people like Condoleezza Rice, who was then coming up through the ranks of academia. So the Secretary is greatly saddened to learn of her passing and we will have a formal written statement from the Secretary later this afternoon so you can have all those things in her words.

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

QUESTION: Sean, can you shed any light on these conflicting reports of what happened in Iraq with a strike that the U.S. military says killed 20 suspected al-Qaida members and which Iraqi officials say included five children?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything for you, Arshad. Check with the military on those things.

QUESTION: Any readout on the Secretary's meeting this morning with Russian Ivanov and any update on the Iran nuclear resolution discussions?

MR. MCCORMACK: Last part first, the action is now shifting up to New York after Nick Burns meeting with the other P-5+1 political directors. I think at this point that the sense is that any differences among the P-5+1 over the text of the resolution are starting to narrow. We remain hopeful that in the near future we will be able to get a resolution that everybody can vote for, that you will be able to maintain unity on the Security Council. As we have said over the past couple of weeks, that is the optimal solution. We would certainly want that in the best case. But it is also time to start working towards a vote. So they had some discussions on that -- very general discussions.

Under Secretary Bob Joseph prior to the meeting between the Secretary and Mr. Ivanov had the discussion with Sergei Kislyak, his counterpart on the Russian side, so they were able to get into some of the details. I think those discussions will continue as well. So they did talk about the Iran issue. They talked a little bit about North Korea. They talked a little bit about Iraq. They also talked about the bilateral relationship, the state of the bilateral relationship and also they talked about the importance of the United States and Russia working together to strengthen a nuclear global nonproliferation regime. That was really the genesis of this meeting. President Bush and President Putin when they last met in Hanoi agreed that the two of them should get together, Mr. Ivanov and Secretary Rice, to really start a conversation on this matter. Mr. Ivanov's going to be over seeing Steve Hadley, National Security Advisor later in the day. Secretary Rice will probably stop by that meeting as well, so they'll continue the discussions.

QUESTION: On the Iran resolution that's shifting in New York, are there -- do you know when those discussions are planned or are they already taking place?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think they've started quite yet. What they will do is they will start off at the experts level. There was some indication that they may meet today. I'm not sure that that will actually happen today, but we would hope that next week, that you'd start to get into some end-game discussions on this resolution.

QUESTION: So when would you expect a vote?

MR. MCCORMACK: Never predict. Never predict when the Security Council is going to vote, but we would hope that it could be in the near future. The time is coming when we need a vote.

Yes, Kirit.

QUESTION: The difference is starting to narrow. Is this still as strong as you would like to see a resolution?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, look, is it going to look like a resolution that we have written ourselves? No, it won't, but that's the nature of the multilateral, diplomatic process. We believe that it will be a strong resolution and it should be.

Anything else on Iran?

QUESTION: On Russian-U.S. bilateral, I think Russian sherpa Igor Shuvalov was here a couple of days ago and then he made quite a few interesting statements. The first one was that Russia had chosen European -- the Airbus actually, a partner instead of Boeing. And the second thing was in regard to Shtokman, where he said that definitely, the international cooperation in connection with Shtokman will be needed.

Now was there anything in regard to those issues --

MR. MCCORMACK: Didn't --

QUESTION: -- between Ivanov and Rice?

MR. MCCORMACK: Didn't come up.

QUESTION: It didn't?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, it didn't come up in the meeting I was in. I don't know -- they may talk about them over at the White House.

QUESTION: And another question, was there any discussion in regard to Litvinenko's case?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, didn't come up.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: North Korea?


QUESTION: As there were rumblings among diplomats in Beijing that the December 15th option is still alive and well. What do you have to say about that?

MR. MCCORMACK: No announcements yet. We're still hopeful that we will be able to have a round that convenes this year within the next week or so.

QUESTION: Where is Mr. Hill?

MR. MCCORMACK: He's here. He's in his office. I just spoke with him.

QUESTION: Does he have any plans to travel in the near future?

MR. MCCORMACK: He always has his bag packed.

QUESTION: That's not my question, though. My question is does he have any plans to travel?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you apprised of his travel plans, if any.

QUESTION: That's not no.

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you apprised of his travel plans.


QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: You're welcome.

QUESTION: On Cyprus, Mr. McCormack, according to Los Angeles Times today, representatives of the Republic of Cyprus said Eastern Mediterranean University of San Diego State University is open illegally in the occupied territory of Cyprus on property owned by Cypriots displaced by the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation and they warned trustees of potential liability. What is the Department of State position on this issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know that we have one. I'll check into it.

QUESTION: But the green light was given by DAS Matt Bryza, who, in a letter dated October 20th, 2006, to Dr. Alan Sweedler, Assistant Vice President for International Program of San Diego State University, giving his full blessing, wrote, inter alia, "Eastern Mediterranean University is the most prestigious university in the northern Cyprus and one of seven major universities in Cyprus." How do you comment since this action, Mr. McCormack, is against the reunification of the Republic of Cyprus?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to look into the whole issue for you. I have to admit that I don't have the facts, so I can't give an informed answer.

QUESTION: It's a taken question?

MR. MCCORMACK: Somebody will get back to you, unless there's more general interest in it; then we'll certainly post it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir, in the back.

QUESTION: There are reports that South Korea has indicted a U.S. citizen (inaudible) as being the leader of a five-person North Korean spy ring. Do you have any comments on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll look into it and see if we have anything to say about it.


QUESTION: Sean, President Bashir of Sudan is now saying that the United Nations is making unreasonable demands. And also, this coming Sunday, December 10th, is UN Human Rights Day throughout the world.


QUESTION: Do you have any comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, with respect to Sudan and President Bashir, we continue to work with them on implementation of Resolution 1706. There is an understanding that was reached at Addis Ababa, so we're working to implement the resolution on the basis of that understanding. To further those efforts, Special Envoy Andrew Natsios is going to be leaving today for stops in Sudan as well as in Chad and then on to London and back home. That's the schedule as it stands now.

The idea is that in Sudan he would travel to Khartoum. He would also be able to travel down to the south as well as to Darfur before moving on to Chad.

QUESTION: What's the purpose of (inaudible) why he's going to Chad?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as you know, some of the violence has spilled over into Chad and that with any implementation of 1706, when we're talking about an AU-UN hybrid force, being able to work closely with Chad in terms of the deployment of those forces would be quite important, we believe, especially since it's a little bit different than deploying the forces down to the south and some of the other areas of Darfur where you have the existing forces, so talking to them about that, also talking to them about how to address some of the violence that is ongoing in the border regions between Chad and Sudan.

QUESTION: Thank you. And is he expecting to meet President Bashir?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if that's on the agenda. I'll look into see if -- what specific meetings he has scheduled, but we know there are various stops at least that he has on his plan right now.

QUESTION: Did he have any difficulty obtaining a visa to go to Sudan?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Is there not an Ethiopia stop in that tour?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware, no. His travel plans I think are somewhat flexible. You know, of course, he wants to be able to travel to those places where he might need to, based on his discussions. But right now the travel plan as I understand it is Sudan, Chad, London and home.

QUESTION: Well, why the trip to London? Are the British playing any particular role or are they envisaged to play any particularly special role if this hybrid force gets done?

MR. MCCORMACK: They are a permanent member of the Security Council so they're -- we work closely with them on it. I don't know if it's also a convenient place to meet with others. We'll try to get you some more info on his other meetings.


QUESTION: Do you have a plan B in the event negotiations on a hybrid force are not completed by December 31st?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we're working to make sure plan A works.


QUESTION: You may not be aware of this because I think you came out just -- just before you came out. But Brazilian police have charged two U.S. pilots with endangering air safety. This is connection with the crash of the Brazilian airliner over the Amazon in which 154 people died. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll look into it for you. But my understanding was that we were working to some sort of conclusion with respect to the detention of these two pilots. I know the Brazilians were doing some questioning of them today. I'm not aware that that was the -- I'm not aware of the particular outcome of what they were working on.

QUESTION: Could you take that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. We'll see if we can get something on that.

QUESTION: The Israeli Foreign Minister in town today at this meeting. Is this a scheduled trip which it implies, since she's giving a speech tonight, although it doesn't appear on anyone's agenda?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think she's in town for some events at the Saban Center.

QUESTION: Is she meeting with the Secretary?

MR. MCCORMACK: They may see each other socially. It's not a working visit as far as I know. You can check with the Israelis in terms of her schedule. But they may see each other socially.

QUESTION: There will be a meeting next week, Monday or Tuesday, in Tehran on the Holocaust.


QUESTION: And after several declarations of President Ahmadi-Nejad on the Holocaust in the last month, I was wondering if you had anything to say on that.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as I understand it, this meeting is really focused on highlighting those people who deny that there was, in fact, a Holocaust. So in that regard it's just yet another disgraceful act on this particular subject by the regime in Tehran. It is just flabbergasting that they continue -- that the leadership of that regime continues to deny that six million-plus people were killed in the Holocaust.

QUESTION: Sir, did you say disgraceful?


QUESTION: Did I hear that right, thanks?


QUESTION: The State Department has been talking to the UN High Commissioner for Refugee's office to try to increase its intake of Iraqi refugees, especially (inaudible) Christians. Could you give us more details on this? Plus on Lebanon, the PM -- Lebanese PM Mr. Fuad Siniora accused today a leader of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah of trying to topple his government. Any comment on this as well?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of the activities of Nasrallah and Hezbollah, we would put to you at the behest of others outside the country they're actually working to destabilize the Siniora government. We have made clear what our position is on that.

With respect to the refugees, yes; we're working very closely with the UN Commissioner -- High Commissioner for Refugees on this issue. There are a number of Iraqis that are in neighboring countries as well as some minorities of which about -- about which we as well as others in the international community have some concern with regard to their being able to safely return to Iraq. So we're working closely with them on providing humanitarian assistance to these people. There are also a number of internally displaced people in Iraq and we're working closely with the Iraqi Government on those issues.


QUESTION: Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah said from Tehran that Hamas government will never recognize Israel. Do you have any reaction?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, it's another -- it's a break with past practice of the previous Palestinian Authority governments. And while the leadership of Hamas and the leadership of this Palestinian Authority government persists in maintaining this position, the international community is not going to deal with them, not going to deal with them in terms of providing the international assistance directly to a Hamas-led government. If they want to change that position, reassess their position, then the international community is certainly open to reassessing their position.

But they find themselves quite isolated; and as a result of their actions and their decisions, they have found themselves unable to govern. And it is -- that is not just the judgment of the international community on the outside looking in, but it is the judgment of the Palestinian people. And while we have a deep concern for the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people, the international community is not going to change its position as long as this Hamas-led government continues in these -- to hold these policy views.

QUESTION: A follow-up, excuse me, on -- have you got any clarification from Qatari Foreign Minister regarding the money they will provide to the --

MR. MCCORMACK: The Secretary raised it with the Foreign Minister yesterday. He was aware -- he was obviously aware of the issue. And I think he took on board the Secretary's comments and our concerns about exactly how this money was going to be delivered and to whom it was going to be delivered, and he promised to take a look at it. So we're going to continue working with the Qatari Government on that issue.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary been in touch with Mahmoud Abbas this week on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, she has not. No.

QUESTION: Can you tell me what message Amre Moussa brought from the Arab League yesterday?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the Secretary and Mr. Moussa had a discussion. It was centered -- it centered on all the topics you would expect that they would talk about. They talked a lot about Iraq. They talked a lot about Iraqi internal efforts at national reconciliation among the various groups and sects. They talked about the Israeli-Palestinian issue. They talked about Lebanon, how to move forward the negotiating political process between the Israelis and the Palestinians; and also the same on Lebanon, how to defuse the current political crisis that's ongoing in Lebanon.

QUESTION: Just to follow up, in his event at CSIS yesterday he was talking about a national reconciliation conference in Iraq that would be under the auspices of the Arab League. Do you have any response to that? Did they discuss --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they did talk a little bit about this idea of -- I think the -- our response just to the general concept is that, first and foremost, this has to be an Iraqi process. And I think that Mr. Moussa and the Arab League understand that: There can't be any imposition of any sort of solution or reconciliation between the Iraqis; they need to come to whatever political accommodations they are going to come to among themselves.

So it was more of a -- as I understood it, it was more of a offer to help assist where requested by the Iraqis. So the idea was this is an Iraqi-led process. Our views, I think, would mirror the Iraqis, that they have to do this themselves. If there's any way that we or others can help in that process and move it forward, then of course we're ready to do it. But I think the Iraqis have to be comfortable with whatever mechanism there might be in order to achieve that goal.


QUESTION: There was a question yesterday somebody asked and I just wanted to know if you have anything on it. You didn't have anything yesterday on whether the Badr organizations were involved with sectarian killings or not.

MR. MCCORMACK: We're concerned about the activities of the Badr corps, as we are about any of the extra-governmental organizations that are involved in the armed extra-governmental organizations in Iraq. So it -- how this issue gets dealt with, again, is one for the Iraqis to deal with. And I know it is on the mind of Prime Minister Maliki. There's been a lot of talk about the Jaish-i-Mahdi, but there are others of these groups and they need to be dealt with. And we have made that clear, others have made that clear, and the Iraqis themselves know they have to deal with it as well. You can't continue to have these armed groups outside of the central control of the government.

QUESTION: Do you consider the Badr brigades within that -- what you were just talking about?



QUESTION: The Iranians announced that they will start taking fingerprints of Americans who will visit Iran. Do you have any reaction to this?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I -- you know, I'm not sure what their reasoning is behind it. We ourselves do that here for visitors. It's not intended to be an onerous requirement, but one that our Homeland Security people decided was necessary to help maintain free travel, yet safe travel into the United States. I can't tell you exactly what the requirements are that the Iranians announced.

QUESTION: Back to Russia, if I may. Do you know if Minister -- if Secretary Ivanov gave any assurances to Secretary Rice that Russia will be on board with the U.S. on Iran in New York?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that we're still working on the resolution, but Mr. Ivanov made it very clear that we are all in this process together. Back in May, we all talked about joining the EU-3, the United States as well as Russia, and so we are working together in that spirit. We are all in this together and as I mentioned, I think the sense is that differences are narrowing on a resolution, you know, among all the various parties. I'm not trying to single out one particular member, but --

QUESTION: I think you had the sense for quite a long period of time and nothing happened.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there is, I think, probably a little bit more turbulence over the past couple weeks in terms of being able to work through these issues, but I think now we're heading towards a convergence of views. We hope that we're able to come to full agreement on a resolution. That's important and Mr. Ivanov mentioned that as well and Secretary Rice echoed those comments.

QUESTION: And the last one on that subject, it was hard for me to find if Mr. Ivanov's trip to Washington was scheduled beforehand. Was it?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I can't tell you when it was scheduled. I know that, sort of, in their discussions upstairs, they pinned it back to -- at least the idea for it back to meetings between -- a meeting between the two Presidents.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.


QUESTION: One more on Cyprus. Mr. McCormack, as you're aware from yesterday's statement, Turkey offered, with a new proposal, to open one of its port, an airport "to the Greek Cypriots," otherwise, not to the Republic of Cyprus. In return, Ankara warns the airport of Tymbou and the Port of Famzusda in the Turkish-occupied area of the Republic of Cyprus "open to domestic traffic."

Since this Turkish move means clearly, the partition of Cyprus and the creation of two mini states, I'm wondering, Mr. McCormack, what is the U.S. position since you are concerned too for the reunification of Cyprus, not for its distraction or its division?

MR. MCCORMACK: Our position hasn't changed.

QUESTION: And what is your position?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll post it in great detail for you.


QUESTION: The President is going to come here on Monday?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's right.

QUESTION: Is that related to Human Rights Day?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. It's more related to the ongoing review of Iraq policy.

QUESTION: Who is he going to meet?

MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Who is he going to meet?

MR. MCCORMACK: He's going to have some meetings with senior officials here at the State Department who are involved in Iraq policy review. I think there's probably also going to be a connection, a video connection with our folks in Iraq as well so he can get some briefings from people there.

QUESTION: Who here? Mr. Satterfield or Mr. --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think -- I would expect that there -- I don't think we've set the final list of who's going to have table cards, but I would expect David Welch, David Satterfield, as well as others.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: is quoting Iraqi officials as saying Saudi citizens are financing Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Any details on this and have you been engaging the Saudi Government on that issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I know the Saudi Government has been quite attentive to trying to ensure that the flows of private money outside -- from Saudi Arabia to outside groups actually get to those for whom they are intended for charitable purposes and that they aren't diverted to other kinds of purposes; for example, army insurgents aiding terrorist groups. So, we worked very closely with the Saudi Government on that. I don't have any information with respect to the flows of private money to insurgents in Iraq, but I do know that that is something that the Saudi Government, along with other issues, they take a close look at to make sure monies actually go to humanitarian purposes and aren't diverted elsewhere.


QUESTION: Sean, Somalia is reporting fighting in Dinsor with the Ethiopian troops against Islamic fundamentalists. Do you have any updates?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any updates for you, Joel.

QUESTION: On Kosovo?


QUESTION: Yes. It was reported today that U.S. and Russia are in a diplomatic fight over Kosovo, which is awaiting a final UN recommendation on whether it will become an independent state or remain part of Serbia. Do you have anything to say, Mr. McCormack, since the day of independence is approaching with full support of U.S., Great Britain, and NATO?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to prejudge the outcome of what Mr. Ahtisaari's work -- but suffice it to say, the U.S. and Russia are not the only participants in this review. There are a lot of others, so I wouldn't make this a U.S.-Russia issue.

QUESTION: And according to the same reports, U.S. support conditional independence for Kosovo and wants to set a timetable. Any comment on that?


QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:54 p.m.)

DPB # 198

Released on December 8, 2006

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