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Military

Daily Press Briefing

Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 22, 2007

INDEX:

MEXICO
Readout of Secretary's Meeting with Mexican Foreign Minister Espinoza / Bilateral Issues, Immigration, Border Issues, Drugs Discussed
TURKEY
Reaction to Bombings in Ankara / Embassy Gathering Information / No Reports of Americans Involved / U.S Condolences to Families of Victims
LEBANON
Request for Increased Assistance to Lebanese Security Forces
Violence in Refugee Camp / Group Associated with Al Qaeda
Aid to Lebanon in Response to UN Resolution 1701
UN Security Council Activities on Tribunal Resolution
IRAN
Jailing of Iranian-American Scholar / Arrest Unwarranted
U.S.-Iran Meetings Will Focus on Iraq / Wants Iran to Follow Through Words with Action on Peace in Iraq, End Support For Militias. Play Positive Role
IAEA Report on Iran's Compliance with UNSC Resolution Forthcoming / Two Pathways Available to Iran
Iran Likely to Be Discussed at G8 Summit
KOSOVO
Concerns over Ahtisaari Plan / U.S., International Community Will Work With Russia and Serbia to Address Concerns
Time to Bring Resolution to Kosovo Situation
MIDDLE EAST
Escalation of Violence in the Region / Forces of Violence vs. Freedom, Democracy and Prosperity
SYRIA
Cooperation with Iraqis on Border Control, Cooperation
KUWAIT
Readout of Secretary's Meeting with Foreign Minister / Discussed Iraq, Israel-Palestinian Issues, Iran
OMAN
Readout of Secretary's Meeting with Omani Foreign Minister
BURMA
Arrest and Intimidation of Youth Activists
KAZAKHSTAN
Political and Constitutional Reform / Not What U.S. Would Have Hoped, But Step in the Right Direction
MISCELLANEOUS
Leadership and Reform at Al Hurra / Broadcasting Board of Governors Responsible


TRANSCRIPT:

1:20 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody.

QUESTION: Good afternoon.

MR. MCCORMACK: Afternoon, Lambros. How you doing?

QUESTION: I'm well, thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: All right. Thanks for that greeting -- that personal greeting. I don't have any opening statements so we can get right into your questions. Who wants to start?

QUESTION: Would you have any comment on or readout of the meeting with the Mexican Minister, what she was doing here?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, they had a good conversation talking about a number of U.S.-Mexico bilateral relations, bilateral issues in the relationship. They talked a little bit about immigration. They talked a little bit about the President's immigration proposal. The Secretary briefed Foreign Minister Espinosa on the proposal. They also talked a little bit about the border and the importance of cooperative efforts along the border to control the flow of illicit drugs as well as to control some of the violence that has sprung up around the flow of illicit narcotics across the border. That was really about it.

It was a relatively short -- brief meetings, about 25 minutes or so.

QUESTION: But it was a scheduled meeting or it was only because of this immigration law?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, it was a scheduled meeting.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. looking to provide more assistance to deal with the drugs issue in particular? Are you considering --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are some ideas about how together we might work to get at the root cause of the problem, which is the flow of drugs across the border. Now, this isn't a new problem, but it is one that is continuing. We have made some progress and especially with President Calderon's administration in working to control some of that. Also to work together to control some of the violence, as I talked about, that had erupted along the border. This is an issue, along with immigration that's acutely felt in the U.S. Border States. So it's important. And it is important that we work together and cooperatively as it is really the only way that we are going to get at it and really eliminate it so that it is not a major factor in the relationship and also in people's daily lives.

QUESTION: So do these ideas translate into dollar terms?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I think, again, it's too early to talk about that. I think we're really at the stage now talking about the ideas. There will be some discussion, I expect, on how do you take a framework of ideas that I know President Calderon has thought through, that Foreign Minister Espinosa has thought through and how to turn that into realities. What in practical terms, in terms of resources of all different kind, you might need in order to further bilateral cooperation to really get at these issues.

QUESTION: Did the question of extradition come up?

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

Yes, Zain.

QUESTION: Any reaction to the explosion in Turkey, in Ankara?

MR. MCCORMACK: We are really just gathering information at this point. Right now I know that our Operations Center has been on the phone with our Embassy in Turkey to gather information about it. The Embassy at this point now is on the ground trying to determine whether or not there were any Americans or American citizens in there. We don't know that yet, so we are going through the process that we usually do when we have these types of incidents whereby we account for all the official Americans and then also look at our rolls of any Americans who might be visiting there to see if there's anybody involved. At this point we have no reports. I want to caution everybody against that -- we have no reports of any Americans involved at this point. So it's very early on.

I understand that there have been some fatalities as well as a number of injuries. And certainly we wish all of those who were injured a speedy recovery and our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones and friends in the explosions. We don't have, at this point, any idea who might be responsible or what was responsible for the blast. I have to caution we don't what the cause of the explosion was.

Yes.

QUESTION: New topic. Sean, Tom was asked about whether or not there's been any new U.S. assistance to the Lebanese military in the wake of the fighting against Fatah al-Islam.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Do you have any guidance on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I talked to Jeff Feltman, our Ambassador there, and right now we are considering a request for additional assistance coming from the Lebanese Government. They are -- the Lebanese Armed Forces are engaged in a tough fight against a brutal group of violent extremists that have embedded themselves in this Palestinian refugee camp. I see a lot of headlines about fighting between the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese -- and a Palestinian refugee camp.

Let's be clear. This is a separate violent extremist group that has embedded itself in that refugee camp. It is a group that is affiliated with al-Qaida. The leader of this group was tried in absentia in Jordan for the murder of American diplomat Laurence Foley. So this is a very, very brutal group of people that the Lebanese Armed Forces are dealing with and they're doing a good job. And it is their responsibility, along with the Lebanese Government, to bring law and order and maintain law and order in Lebanon.

Let me go through a little bit, as I assume that this will be the next question on your list, what assistance --

QUESTION: Well, I was going to follow up.

MR. MCCORMACK: What assistance we have provided in the past to the Lebanese; over the past couple of years, there has been a ramp-up in the level of assistance and some of this has to do also with implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, helping out with getting better capabilities for the Lebanese Armed Forces.

In FY 2006, the U.S. Government provided about -- a little over $40 million in military assistance to support the Lebanese Armed Forces. We have, in FY 2007, provided about $5 million in assistance -- additional assistance to the LAF and we currently have a $280 million request in to the Congress as part of this supplemental.

And the breakdown of money in 2006 is roughly $30 million in Foreign Military Financing and the Lebanese Government has used this money on things like small arms ammunition, humvees, five-ton trucks, vehicle repair parts, small arm repair parts, individual soldier equipment, things like protective vests and helmets and boots, as well as training. Then there's some other funding, about $10 million that they've used for repair on equipment, helicopters, land vehicles. There's some military training, IMET assistance, there is some demining assistance we've provided. Again, that's mostly for the South and some other odds and ends here.

But that's the rough breakdown. The bulk of it has been in FMF financing and the -- I don't have an exact breakdown of the --

QUESTION: FMF is Military Financing?

MR. MCCORMACK: Foreign Military Financing, yes, FMF. And I don't have a breakdown of the FY 2007 or the supplemental funds, but it's roughly the same. You have a mixture of training as well as FMF financing, as well as other money that can be used for vehicle repair, that sort of thing.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up anyway? Did Ambassador Feltman specify what they're going to be asking for?

MR. MCCORMACK: That I'm just going to keep in diplomatic channels. They have a request in and we're going to take a look at it.

QUESTION: It would be part of this supplemental or it would be more?

MR. MCCORMACK: It'd be separate -- separate because the supplemental is, of course, tied up in the debate currently ongoing on the Hill right now and you don't know when that is -- going to breakthrough - break loose.

Yes.

QUESTION: And is the supplemental all military because you also have, I think, was it $750 million promised in reconstruction aid?

MR. MCCORMACK: Separate, separate issue.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: The -- it's about -- the supplemental is about 220 for the Lebanese armed forces and about 60 for the other security forces, mainly the police.

QUESTION: So is this current request that Feltman told you about -- is this immediate help?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know the timeline for it. I would assume it has to do with the current situation.

QUESTION: Right.

QUESTION: And would this be -- come under the gamut of emergency funding?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you, though you're getting beyond me now. You have to ask the green eyeshade guys where the money comes from and what pot of money it will come from.

QUESTION: And when did you receive the request?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think it's been over the past day or so, I don't know exactly when.

QUESTION: Would it run in the tens of millions, hundreds of millions --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have an estimate.

QUESTION: -- gazillions?

MR. MCCORMACK: If in fact we do -- gazillions. Is that a technical term? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: Oodles -- are we going to get into oodles now -- (laughter) -- bunches of stuff.

QUESTION: I'm trying to get sort of a --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have the figure for you. You know, look, if we are able to provide some or all elements that are requested, I'll do my best to fill you in on exactly what it is.

Yes.

QUESTION: Sean, can I ask you about this Iranian-American scholar that's been jailed in Tehran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Have you confirmed the charges against her? I know yesterday there was a statement from the Wilson Center --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- about what was said on state TV and they believe that to be true. Do you guys believe that to be true?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm informed that typically what happens with the -- in these kinds of situations is the state-run media will attribute to anonymous sources that some charges will be forthcoming. And typically within a day or two afterwards, there's an official announcement from whatever ministry is responsible for these things that the charges are official. So at this point, to my knowledge all we have to go on is what has been reported in the Iranian state media. Regardless, whether or not the Iranian Government actually follows through with these charges or not, they're just utter nonsense.

You know, look, this is -- this woman, along with another woman that has been spoken about in public from RFE, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, these are people that are interested in building bridges between the American and the Iranian people, and to talk about them in terms of a threat to the Iranian Government is just really nonsense. You know I don't want to offend grandmothers who may be either here or in the listening audience, but these are women who are grandmothers who were there to visit sick relatives. That's what they were going over there for. They are notable individuals in their fields of pursuit, whether it's journalism or in academia. So I can't tell you what the motivations are if the Iranian Government -- indicating that they're going to be pursuing these charges. You'll have to ask the Iranian Government. But any sort of hint or statement that these individuals were a threat to the Iranian Government is just really poppycock.

QUESTION: About Ms. Esfandiari's case, what is the State Department doing, as much as you can say?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're - you know, look, we -- in commenting on this, too, I'm not interested in freighting down this whole -- this issue with the entire U.S.-Iranian relationship. I don't think that that really is appropriate because this is really about two human beings being allowed to get back and to be reunited with their families. Whatever differences we may have with the Iranian Government, the plight of these two people -- three people -- or four people, including Mr. Levinson, shouldn't play into it. We have been in close contact with the family, so we're going to do whatever we think is effective. The Swiss Government, which is our protecting power in Iran, is monitoring the legal proceedings on behalf of the family and on behalf of Ms. Esfandiari. So beyond that, I don't really have anything else that we're doing. We haven't made any formal approach to the Iranian Government at this point.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Kirit.

QUESTION: Would you -- I know that these are separate issues, but does this incident give you any sort of pause with regard to meeting with the Iranians next week?

MR. MCCORMACK: The issue at hand in the meeting between Ryan Crocker and the Iranian representative, I don't know who that might be at this point -- I don't know if they've made any announcements yet -- is going to be focused on Iraq and stabilizing Iraq. The Iranian Government has talked about the fact that they want to see an Iraq that is more stable. Well, they can further that goal by cutting off support for these EFD networks that are building roadside bombs and go after our soldiers. They can stop support for militias that are stoking sectarian tensions in Iraq. So they can play a positive role, if they so choose. They've stated that they wanted to. They've indicated at the latest neighbors' conference in Sharm el-Sheikh that they want to play a positive role. So what we want to see is them follow through those words with actions and that's going to be the topic of discussion that Ryan has on the 28th.

QUESTION: But you don't -- this is not going to give you guys as any sort of pause at all?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. This is -- they're separate issues.

QUESTION: So you're saying they're not going to raise it?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't expect -- I don't expect it will come up. The issue that Ryan is going to be talking about in his discussions with the Iranians has to do solely with Iraq and Iraqi security.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: Sean, there has been some talk that Larijani and Solana might meet next week. I think it --

MR. MCCORMACK: Toward the end of the month.

QUESTION: Right. The -- what I saw was in Madrid the day before the Secretary goes to Madrid. I'm just making sure there is no -- there are no plans for her to bump suddenly into Larijani or anywhere in Madrid.

MR. MCCORMACK: No.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Sean, going back -- one more. Do you have any reason to believe that the Iranians would hold this woman in connection with the five American -- or the five Iranians that are being held in Iraq?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen anybody suggest such a linkage. I can't tell you why they're harassing this woman.

Yes, Lambros.

QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, on Kosovo once again, Russia and Serbia together with a new statement reject the Ahtisaari plan for Kosovo. Any comment?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think we've had the same discussion over the past week or so. We know Russia has some concerns about the Ahtisaari plan. We know Serbia has some concerns about the Ahtisaari plan. What we, as an international community, are trying to do, and especially the Europeans, is work with the Russians, work with the Serbians to try to address their concerns. They have -- in Secretary Rice's discussions with the Russian Government, they had some suggestions about things that might be done to add to, to modify the Ahtisaari plan that might be useful. We're going to take those on board.

But the core of the Ahtisaari plan is important and we think that it is the best way -- basis on which to move forward with a Security Council resolution and I would expect that those discussions on the Security Council resolution are going to play out over the next couple of weeks. It is time to bring a resolution to the Kosovo situation.

QUESTION: One more question, Mr. McCormack.

MR. MCCORMACK: Hold on, it's time -- it is time to bring a resolution to the situation because it is inherently unstable. There has been a lot of effort that has gone into this over the past eight years, but our belief is that the status quo, if it is allowed to continue, will ultimately result in more and greater violence in the region and nobody wants to see that.

People want to see the Balkans become a more stable place. We want to see those Balkan countries integrated into Europe, to have a European horizon. So that is going to be the focus of our discussions, all the while talking with the Russian Government and working very closely. They have a lot of sensitivities about the issue.

QUESTION: One more question, if I could. Albania is supporting independence for Kosovo on the basis of geography, not ethnicity. Since the Kosovoar are Albanians, why does your government support the creation of a separate Albania with different names instead of (inaudible) for union?

MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, it's the same question with a lot of tendentious rhetoric wrapped around it. You know the answer to the question. You've heard it. If you didn't hear it today, go back and look at the transcripts. I've talked about it a lot over the past couple of weeks.

Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Lebanon and this call for assistance. Is it purely financial that they're asking for or are they asking for any immediate help with artillery or equipment or anything that --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to get into the details of it, but it does -- it is connected with the current situation. We're going to take a look at it.

Yes.

QUESTION: How concerned are you that -- given the whole situation in the region, Lebanon, Iraq, Gaza, that there's a potential for it getting worse and spiraling even more out of control? What's the feeling at the State Department?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what it points out is that there are forces of violent extremism who want to derail any effort for the people of the region to realize a better life, whether that is the Palestinian people to realize a Palestinian state, for the Lebanese people to truly realize their independence and sovereignty and to build a better state free of outside influence from its neighbors or Iraq that simply wants a reduction in the level of violence and to get back to some semblance of a normal life. So it's a real threat and we've talked previously about this dividing line that we've seen in the region that really came into higher relief after last summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah.

And there are two sides to this conflict and there are two pathways. And I think Tony Blair, when he was in the Rose Garden, put it very, very well. We have a choice which kind of world we want to live in. There is a choice of a world of nihilism in which there's no real rule of law except for the brutal rule of a few, in which suicide vests and car bombs are the means of dialogue, or there's another kind of world. And that is the kind of world that we, as well as others in the Middle East who want greater freedom, greater democracy, greater prosperity are fighting for. We are going to have to fight for that on a lot of different fronts. We're going to have to confront those who are irreconcilable to any political process, any political reconciliation and we're going to have to help build the institutions that will support democracy and freedom in the region. But it's a struggle and we see evidence of it on our television screens every single day.

QUESTION: Do you see Iran and Syria as the forces of violent extremism, the spoilers in this region --

MR. MCCORMACK: Look --

QUESTION: -- and make it worse?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, without drawing any direct connection between what's going on in Tripoli now and any other outside force I can't draw that connection for you. You know, perhaps at some future date, if other information develops, we'll see something else, but at this point I can't.

Clearly, Syria and Iran are state sponsors of terror. Their proxies are Hamas, Hezbollah, various other Palestinian rejectionist groups. And they seek a Middle East that is completely different from the kind of Middle East that most in that region are calling for and most around the world would like to see. Certainly, we would like to see Syria and Iran make different decisions. They have an opportunity to. The Secretary met with the Syrian Foreign Minister recently in Sharm el-Sheikh and put it to the Syrian Government that they have an opportunity to better control their border. We would like to see that; Iraqis would like to see that. We would like to -- we would hope that the Syrian Government takes up the Iraqis, most importantly, on that offer. With the Iranians, we're going to have a discussion with them in about a week and a half to talk about their support for violent extremists in Iraq. We would hope that they change their behavior. We'll see; the choice is theirs.

Yes, Kirit.

QUESTION: Have you seen any positive response coming out of the Syrian meeting yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check for you. I haven't -- not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: They have any sort of progress? Have they made any changes at all?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check for you, Kirit.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: I know that the folks at MNFI when we were at Sharm el-Sheikh had seen some changes along the border. I can't tell you whether or not they've seen any qualitative change beyond what they saw a few weeks ago. And let me check to see if the Syrians have made any approaches to the Iraqis about better cooperation. I'll check on that for you.

Yes, Gollust.

QUESTION: Same subject. Irrespective of linkage with what's going on in northern Lebanon, there are reports that the effort to get the tribunal resolution through the UN Security Council have kind of stalled. I was wondering what's your take on that.

MR. MCCORMACK: Quite the opposite. I believe that that's a discussion that's moving forward with some energy up in New York. I don't know if they're talking about it today exactly, but that is a -- that is a conversation that is moving forward. I expect that -- I anticipate in the next week or two that we're going to see some action in the Security Council on moving forward with the tribunal per the request of Prime Minister Siniora to the UN Secretary General.

Yes.

QUESTION: Sean, could you give us a readout of the Secretary's meeting with the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can give you a general description of the topics they discussed. They talked a lot about Iraq. And the Secretary encouraged the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister to work with his neighbors in the region to provide whatever support that he possibly could or that Kuwait possibly could to the Iraqi people and to this Iraqi Government. They have a common interest in seeing a stable, secure Iraq. They talked a little bit about the Israeli-Palestinian issue. They talked a little bit about Iran as well. It's just part of our ongoing dialogue, the types of topics that you would expect they would discuss within the GCC+2. The Secretary said that at some point she would very much like to visit Kuwait again; they didn't schedule it yet - haven't scheduled a date. And she said that she'd be back.

QUESTION: Regularly scheduled meeting this one?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: What about the Omani Foreign Minister meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: A lot of the same topics. A lot of same topics, as you might expect. They're not-too-distant neighbors, so they have a lot of the same concerns talking about Iraq, Iran, Israeli-Palestinian issues.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Ah, Gollust.

QUESTION: On Burma, also late last week, youthful activists in the National League for Democracy had been doing demonstrations -- actually kind of prayer-in sorts of things at Buddhist temples. The bottom line is the government appears to have responded to that by arresting a fair amount of them. Do you have anything on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a well-worn tactic for the junta in Burma to use arrests, intimidations, threats, violence in order to try to quash any sparks of freedom of expression in that country, whether it be on the issue of HIV/AIDS or democracy or political reform. So it is a sad state of affairs for the people of that country. They have so many natural resources and they have so much potential in that country but it's a -- the behavior of their leadership really holds them back from the kind of integration with the rest of the world that we would all like to see.

Yes.

QUESTION: Could you comment on the constitutional amendment in Kazakhstan that would allow the potential for their president to stay in office for life?

MR. MCCORMACK: I know that the Kazakh Government has taken very seriously our discussions with them about the importance of political reform, and there are at least two sides to the story. You mentioned while there's an amendment that would effectively allow the president allegedly to stay in office for quite some time, but there are also a whole host of other political reforms that we believe move the country in the right direction. It's a step, ultimately, when you look at the balance of these things, in the right direction.

Is it all that the rest of the world would like to see? No, it's not. But again, this is a country that we're -- we have high hopes for, that we're working closely with, they have a lot of potential. But it's important. It's important that they focus on the issue of democratic reforms -- democratic political reforms so that all the benefits of the Kazakhs' natural resources can flow throughout Kazakh society to all people, and that they can not only think at work but they can think at home. And that's very important; it's a fundamental pillar of our policy with respect to Kazakhstan.

QUESTION: Do you know what some of these other reforms were?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have the listing for you. We're happy to get some for you.

Yes, Nicholas.

QUESTION: Sean, I don't know how you read this decision the other day, but I read the statement they issued and it sounds exactly like the Soviet statements used to sound back in -- during the early Cold War. How can you possibly support reforms that are -- because they're sort of democratic but through the prism of one same person? I mean, there's no opposition in that country, there's no tolerance of opposition or different views. How can you support that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again -- and I'm happy to get you a breakdown and description of all the things that were passed in the constitutional reforms. Look, I'll admit right up front, is the state of political reform in Kazakhstan exactly what we would have hoped? No, it's not. But they're going to have to deal with these issues on their own terms. We're not going to impose it on them. We're not going to lay out the template for them and say: You have to follow this exact path to Kazakh democracy. It's not the way it works.

We, as well as the Europeans, have been working very closely with them to urge them in the right direction. It's not going to happen all at once, and the important thing is that we are -- we do have a good discussion with them. And we believe we have some form of commitment for them -- from them to work together on how Kazakhstan could move along the pathway to political reform so they can also realize a different kind of relationship with the rest of the world.

QUESTION: But have they given a commitment to free democratic elections, fully free and democratic, because this person's been in power, as you know, for almost 17 years now?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I understand, Nicholas. Look, there's no greater supporter of the freedom agenda than Secretary Rice.

QUESTION: I know.

MR. MCCORMACK: And she had this conversation with the president. And Assistant Secretary Boucher has gone back there numerous times. Like I said, is it overall on balance, moving in the right direction? We believe that it is starting to move in the right direction. We're not going to be able to determine the pace. If we were able to determine the pace, of course, it would move forward more quickly. That isn't the case.

Yes.

QUESTION: You said that it's moving in the right direction. Would you at least like to say that this one instance where he would become president for life essentially would be moving about in the wrong direction?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we think -- look, we think it is important in Kazakhstan to develop a pluralistic democracy. And that in order for that to happen, there'd have to be a number of different voices that are heard and eventually you have to have the Kazakh people be able to choose whomever they want to lead Kazakhstan. And again, this has to emerge from Kazakh society and from a discussion within the Kazakhstan political elite, as well as with the people. That's something that has to develop. It hasn't developed to the extent that we would have wished by now. But it is overall moving in the right direction; as I said, not at the pace we would have hoped.

Yes, Sylvie.

QUESTION: A new subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that the Administration launched an investigation for possible irregularity at Al Hurra after they aired an interview live of the leader of Hezbollah?

MR. MCCORMACK: Launched an investigation?

QUESTION: Yeah. Apparently, there was an investigation launched. Can you confirm that?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. I mean, by whom? By --

QUESTION: By the Administration into -- an official investigation after the Congress complained.

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I don't know, Sylvie. We've gone over this topic before. I know that there were a couple of instances that -- two -- one, Nasrallah speech and then the Holocaust denial conference in Tehran -- that keep getting replayed over and over and over again. But they're the same two incidents and the leadership of Al Hurra took this very seriously. They said, "Look, this shouldn't happen." You know, we're not a propaganda tool, but we're also not in the business of airing these lengthy versions of the speech as well as the Holocaust conference.

And there were actions that were taken to correct that, not only within the newsroom, but personnel actions that were taken to correct it. And that's important. Look, Al Hurra is a new enterprise, it is -- have, in the past, some growing pains. I know that there's some people that are really critical of the leadership still. You know, I understand that. But the Broadcasting Board of Governors, who is really responsible for Al Hurra, has expressed support for the work of Larry Register as well as some of the reforms that he has put in place.

I'm sure if there are other comments or there are other corrections that need to be made, everybody's open to that. But this is -- we keep seeing these same two incidents replayed over and over again and it sort of leads to this perception that somehow there's something new, so that I want to correct. I don't want to diminish the fact that everybody had real serious concerns about the fact that those two instances, the speech as well as the conference, were aired in the way that they were aired. So I don't want to diminish that, but it's also important to take a look here at exactly what happened.

Yes.

QUESTION: On the Iranian nuclear issue, tomorrow, IAEA is going to submit a new report and -- but so far, we haven't seen any major progress on halting the program. So what's going to be the U.S. view or the U.S. plan to move forward on the next steps?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a couple things. Let's wait for the report to actually come out. At this point, I don't think anybody expects the report to say anything other than Iran is still not in compliance with the requests of the IAEA and that they're continuing to move forward with their program in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. So I don't think that -- if that's what the report says, nobody's going to be surprised by it.

Mr. Solana is going to, once again, be able to offer the Iranian Government, via Mr. Larijani, the two pathways that exist for them. It can go down the pathway of continued isolation and costs, real costs for the Iranian people. Or they can go down the pathway of cooperation with the international community. They can realize negotiations with the United States in the context of the P-5+1, something that they didn't have -- that they haven't had for 27 years. We'd reverse 27 years; we offered to reverse 27 years of U.S. Government policy if they just take one simple step.

So we'll see; the choice is the Iranian Government's. It's -- if they continue down the pathway of defiance, then the international community has made it clear that they are going to find themselves further isolated and with that further isolation will come greater and greater and greater costs to the Iranian people. And there are some who feel it already.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. going to react immediately or wait until the G8 foreign ministerial meeting late this month?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I would expect that the topic of Iran would be right at the top of everybody's agenda at the G8. It is, by no means, going to be the only thing that they discuss, but it will be at the top of the agenda. And I -- in the wake of Mr. Solana's meeting, depending on what he hears, I'm sure that we will discuss what course of action to follow. We -- I hope -- we all hope that that's a positive course of action. We all hope that we're, at the beginning of June, talking about where the P-5+1 are going to meet with the Iranian Government because they have made a commitment to suspend; whether or not that meeting takes place is going to be up to the Iranian Government.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:53 p.m.)

DPB #92



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