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Daily Press Briefing

Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 11, 2007


BDA Issue / Status of Six-Party Talks
Assistant Secretary Hill's Meeting with Six-Party South Korean Counterpart
Status of Resolution to Bulgarian Nurses and Palestinian Doctor Case
Status of UN Security Council Resolution on Kosovo / Russian Position
Under Secretary Burns' Meetings in Paris with Political Director Counterparts
Iran's Nuclear Program / Prospects for Action at UN Security Council
IAEA Director General ElBaradei Comments on Iran's Enrichment Program
Status of Detained American Citizens in Iran / No Response to Request for Consular Access
Senator Lieberman's Comments on Use of Limited Military Strike Against Iran
Reports of Explosion in Istanbul
US-Mexico Counter-Narcotics Efforts and Cooperation
Reports of Killing of Journalists by Drug Cartels
President Musharraf's Decision to Reverse Media Restrictions
Possible Travel by Assistant Secretary Boucher to Region
Pakistan's Progress on Political and Economic Reforms / Upcoming Elections / US Assistance to Pakistan
Review of Al Hurra by Broadcasting Board of Governors
Resignation of Larry Register


12:51 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody.

QUESTION: Welcome back from Albania.

MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't go to Albania, Lambros. I'd like for you to be able to say that to me one day when I go to Albania, but you can't say it now.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Okay. With that merry welcome, we'll get into your questions.


QUESTION: Can you tell us what the deal is with the BDA and the -- and this Treasury has come out and said that yeah, you are in fact working with the Russians on this. So can you give us a --

MR. MCCORMACK: Can't get ahead of my friends over at Treasury. I know that they've talked a little bit about it, but I can't really offer any more details at this point other than to say and to repeat what I have said before, that we'd all like to see this behind us so we can get back down to the real business of the six-party talks, denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We have not yet received word from the North Korean Government to any of the six parties that they have received their money in a new bank account. So when and if that happens and they acknowledge it, then maybe -- perhaps be able to talk a little bit more about this and certainly in the sense that it is behind us at that point.

QUESTION: Right, but -- I mean, in terms of where you have been over the past couple months on this --


QUESTION: -- in the stalemate, is there some -- any sense of hope that it could finally really now be on the brink of being solved?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, this is one of those issues where until it is done, I'm not going to be laying down any bets. Certainly, we would like to see it done. I know that Treasury has talked a little bit about a possible mechanism to get this done. We'll see.

QUESTION: Someone had asked Tom if he had any sense of progress. Can you say whether you feel like you've made any progress on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think until it is done, that's -- that'll be the sign of progress we're looking for.

QUESTION: There was, I think, a Yonhap report which says that if you do resolve this, that the United States and North Korean officials would meet fairly soon thereafter, after a resolution. Is there anything to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing scheduled at this point. What we'd like to see is the six-party talks resume. We'd also like to see the North Korean Government fulfill its end of the bargain of the February 13th agreement. Any potential meetings, we'll have to take a look to see where we are in the six-party talks, where North Korea is in performing its end of the bargain, but nothing scheduled at this point.

QUESTION: You're not -- right -- sort of hostile to the idea, though, of those kinds of talks? I'm surprised that you didn't say, for example, "Look, when we hold such talks, we try to do them in the context of the six-party process" --


QUESTION: -- "Berlin notwithstanding."

MR. MCCORMACK: You anticipate what I was going to say.


MR. MCCORMACK: You know, any of these discussions, in the past, they have taken place within this context of the six-party talks. Well, we would argue that it is talking about the six-party framework, six-party issues. You may say it's a stretch; you know, we say it's within that framework.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: We can talk about that later. So we'll see. We'll see, Arshad. We have met with them in the past in that framework and we'll see if that happens again, but what's important is we start to actually get back to implementing the February 13th agreement.

QUESTION: One other thing. Why would you consider giving them a meeting absent their having met their end of the --

MR. MCCORMACK: All I'm saying -- I'm not saying they're -- that we are. I'm saying when -- if you rewind the videotape a little bit, I talked about, let's see where we are in terms of their performing on their end of the agreement and where we are in the six-party process before we start talking about those kind of meetings.


QUESTION: Sean, are you (inaudible) the Russians are involved in this, any possibility?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to go -- I know Treasury has talked about it. I'm not going to go beyond the Department of Treasury on this one.

Anything else on North Korea? Yeah.

QUESTION: Could you provide a bit of a preview on the talks that Chris Hill is having with his South Korean counterpart today and how much BDA is going to feature in these discussions?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think -- well, the framework is the six-party talks, so we'll talk about where we are and BDA figures into that at this point, talk a little bit of -- talk a little bit about, well, if this does work out, how might the process unfold, what would the next steps be. We're not there yet, but we want to be prudent and make sure that if it does happen that we are properly positioned as a group of five parties to resume the discussions and also to encourage the North Koreans to live up to their end of the bargain and see what else might be done in terms of sending messages to them -- driving home that point.

QUESTION: But are these discussions taking place because you think you're close to resolving the BDA issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: It closes when it's done.

Yeah. Anything else on North Korea? All right.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Sean, as far as this immigration issue is concerned since -- as far as the State Department is concerned, many countries are in a role where so many illegals (inaudible), where does Secretary stand on this issue? Does she support this immigration issue or?

MR. MCCORMACK: What is she -- well, it's not something that she directly plays in, but I think it probably goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, that she supports the President's - President's working with the Congress on the proposal, it's up on the Hill right now.

QUESTION: As far as the Senate has objected already and the President is going to take the issue when he comes back tomorrow night -- he go to -- on the Capitol Hill.


QUESTION: I mean, in that sense, in which sense Secretary supporting this issue? I mean, which part of the section?

MR. MCCORMACK: Which part? Well, actually, everything that the President supports, I can say with 100 degrees -- 100 percent of confidence that she supports as well.


QUESTION: Can we change the subject?


QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: You're getting out there on the edge. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You're obviously aware of the President having said that resolving the case of the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctors is a high priority for the United States. Can you point to any progress that has made in terms of resolving that matter and particularly creating a fund that would compensate the families of the victims?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you that. I'm not up on the latest developments in this regard. I know that there have been some discussions in the international system about putting money into such a fund, getting it established, making sure that those funds get to the families of the victims. This is another case where, until it's done, it's -- you can't really talk about close or progress. I know people are working on it, people are concerned about it; we are. We engage the Libyans on it whenever we have an opportunity to do so. But it's sadly not concluded at this point. We want to see those nurses and medics returned home to their families as soon as is humanly possible.


QUESTION: Albania?

MR. MCCORMACK: Albania, yes.

QUESTION: Mr. McCormack --

MR. MCCORMACK: A place I have not been, sadly.

QUESTION: Excuse me.

MR. MCCORMACK: A place I have not been, sadly.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Mr. McCormack, according to reports from Tirana, President Bush when he left Albania's Prime Minister Sali Berisha's residence going to Air Force One, complained that somebody from the Albanian crowd has stolen his beautiful watch. I'm wondering --


QUESTION: This is true, his watch.

MR. MCCORMACK: Are you kidding?

QUESTION: Yes, yes. Let me finish my question. I'm wondering if his watch found and under what circumstances, the stealing is taking place and did you spoke to your embassy?

MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, I can't even tell you if that story is true or not. Where did you get that?

QUESTION: From -- it's from (inaudible) today in (inaudible) on the internet.

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, you can talk to the folks at the White House. I have no basis to say -- on which to say that is an accurate story. But you can talk to the White House about it.

QUESTION: A follow-up. How do you explain the fact that --

MR. MCCORMACK: How do you find out --

QUESTION: On Albania, on Albania, right on the same issue.

MR. MCCORMACK: All right.

QUESTION: How do you explain the fact that the popularity of President Bush is higher in Albania than in Texas and the District of Columbia?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know, the good judgment of the Albanian people, I don't know. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You're insulting the Americans.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I am not insulting the good -- I'm praising them for their fine judgment, that's all -- yes, on Albania, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah, on Kosovo, I wanted to know -- the President said that it's time to move forward at the UN.


QUESTION: I wanted to know if U.S. is ready to confront a veto from Russia. What exactly are you ready to do if they don't want this to move?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're having discussions now at the political director level. Nick is -- Nick Burns is involved in some of those, I think, you know, today. Look, nobody wants it to get to that point. Everybody wants to move forward. They want to do this in a way that falls within the Security Council framework.

Nobody wants to see a veto. Nobody wants to see the region descend once again into violence. The Russian Government has a different view of the Kosovo issue and we are continuing to work on trying to accommodate some of the views that arise from that different approach to Kosovo. We're not there yet. But beyond that, the discussions are ongoing.

QUESTION: What kind of dateline are you ready to give? Because the President spoke about the limits in --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. It's an issue that needs to move forward. It's an issue that does not benefit from extended delays. This is something that has been unresolved for eight years and it's time to move forward and it's time to move the region forward so they can get on with better integration with Europe and moving beyond the sad chapter in the history of the region. So we would like to help them do it. The Europeans would like to help them do it. And I'm sure the
Russian Government would like to help them do it.

So we're trying to find a constructive way to accomplish what everybody wants to see happen and that is a settlement in that part of the world that will be lasting and one that will not lead us back down the pathway of violence.

QUESTION: But what is the date you are ready to --

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, we want to move this forward as soon as possible. I can't tell you what -- give you a date at this point.

QUESTION: And what about these discussions at the political director levels? It's supposed to be tomorrow, no? Tomorrow in Paris?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let's see. We have Nick is -- I can't tell you the date. He is -- we'll get you the exact date, but it's on this -- on this trip. It's either today or tomorrow. We'll get you the date.

Yeah, Nina -- no, Goyal, no.

QUESTION: Can we talk about Iran, ElBaradei's comments today saying the facts on the ground indicate that Iran continues steadily to perfect its knowledge -- knowledge relevant to enrichment. So how concerned are you with these comments and what's going to happen next regarding the Security Council?

MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of -- in terms of Iran?

QUESTION: Next steps.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, next steps, we're looking at what we might do within the Security Council. We're also going to be talking bilaterally with friends and allies around the globe about what actions we might take outside the Security Council in the financial area. Those actions have actually been quite useful in sending a strong message to the Iranians that this is not business as usual, that the world will not tolerate Iran developing a nuclear weapon. Everybody's in -- everybody except a small handful of outlier states is in agreement with that.

So Nick, I expect, is probably going to touch on this issue with his political director counterparts in his travels. It's something the Secretary has talked about over the past couple weeks when she's had the opportunity with some of her counterparts who are interested in the issue. It's going to be one that we talk about this summer. I don't have a specific timeline for you regarding action in the Security Council, but I expect that it is going to be something that will result in more active discussion in the coming weeks up in New York and in capitals.

QUESTION: A P-5+1 meeting soon? Any dates or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing scheduled to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Also, ElBaradei specifically referred to this brewing confrontation which seems to echo, you know, a lot of reports lately that, you know, the U.S. and Iran could be heading towards -- you know, some kind of more serious confrontation. What do you make of that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well -- you know, as the Secretary has talked about before, in the absence of any diplomatic initiative, you're left with two options that nobody wants to see come about, either of them. So the idea here is how can we resolve this through diplomatic means so that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon and so that the Iranian people can, if they so choose, realize the benefits of peaceful nuclear energy in such a way that the international community has confidence that those efforts aren't going to lead to a nuclear weapon.

So that's what this is -- that's what all this is about. That's where people's energy should be focused. I can tell you that's where the Secretary's energy is focused as she works on the issue and she is carrying out the President's policies. As for the Director General's remarks, I haven't seen them in their full context. But I can tell you where she's focused.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up on --

QUESTION: Sorry, still on this or -- well, still on Iran, but, this is about Esfandiari.


QUESTION: We've heard from an Iranian cleric, he's the Iranian judiciary's chief advisor -- he's called Larijani, but a different Larijani. He's saying that he's heard that she's in good health, that her -- you know, her case will be resolved soon. He says, "I've been given reassurances of her health and well treatment and any opening in the near future of access to her, I think it will be resolved in one or two weeks." What do you make of that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's all well and good. I'm happy to hear that she's in good health. But she should be returned immediately to her family and allowed to return here to the United States along with all the other American citizens that the Iranian Government has acknowledged that it is not allowing to leave Iran. So while we may be gratified by the news of her good health, she shouldn't have to stay in detention or not be allowed to leave for one day more.

QUESTION: Are you optimistic you'll be able to resolve this soon?

MR. MCCORMACK: We would like to -- we would have liked to have seen this not have occurred at all. I can't tell you the motivations behind the Iranian Government in taking these actions, but it's -- it is a kind of -- the kind of action and this isn't isolated to Americans. We've seen other stories of other so-called dual citizens being -- not allowed to leave Iran previously. It just -- it casts a cloud over this Iranian regime. I mean, let's put aside for a second the not inconsiderable inconvenience and hardship placed upon these individuals and their families. But look at the kind of damage it does to the reputation of the Iranian Government and what does it say about the nature of this particular regime, that it takes these kinds of actions. These are people most of whom are visiting family, attending to sick relatives, who pose no threat to the Iranian regime, so any sort of assertion to the contrary, you know, is really just trumped up.

QUESTION: Can I ask --


QUESTION: Iran over the weekend I believe confirmed for the first time that it is in fact holding Mr. Ali Shakeri, the California businessman. Do you have any comment on that fact that they have at least acknowledged that they have him and he hasn't just been entirely disappeared? Two: Have any of your efforts to gain consular access through the Swiss borne fruit yet or is it still the same position that you have had no access? And then, three: Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi is being quoted as saying that she has been told that Dr. Esfandiari does not require access to her as her lawyer and that she's not going to get access. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: On one, I'll have to check for you, Arshad. I need to check to see where we are, vis--vis the family and all the rest. And on the second one, consular access, not to my knowledge.

MR. CASEY: We have not had any response to our requests.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Yeah, so no response to our requests. And then on the last of those, you know, again, one would expect that she would be able -- she's been charged-- she would have access to her lawyer. It's just another step in the sad pattern of this particular case.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: On Iran? Yeah.

QUESTION: Have you replied yet to Iran's note of last week on Mr. Levinson and his whereabouts?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not to my knowledge. No, not to my knowledge, no.



MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on Iran?

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, can you just respond to Senator Joe Lieberman's comments this weekend where he said the U.S. should consider a limited military strike against Iran for its interference in Iraq?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the President and Secretary Rice have spoken to this particular issue many, many times. Our focus is on the diplomatic efforts. No President of the United States will ever take any option off the table. You don't want him to. That said, our focus is on a way to identify a diplomatic pathway that will result in Iran not getting a nuclear weapon and the international community being assured of that fact and allowing the Iranian people to benefit from nuclear energy. In the course of that, the Iranian Government can bring up any issue that it wants to. It just has to meet certain conditions. We hope they can take yes for an answer in terms of that.

Yeah, Lambros.

QUESTION: On Turkey. Mr. McCormack, anything to say about a new explosion today in Istanbul, Turkey carried out by terrorists (inaudible) injured -- 14 innocent Turkish people?

MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen those reports, so --

QUESTION: And one more -- according to reports, the Turkish military last tried to establish, "battle zone" along the Iraqi borders and a bunch of local politicians stated, "The military's decision was a declaration of Marshall law. In order to block the elections of July 22nd." Are you concerned about the type of military movements against democracy in Turkey?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Lambros, let's try to establish the facts there. I can't attest to those facts. And if we can -- if there's anything to it, then we'll get you an answer.


QUESTION: According to Silvestre Reyes, Congressman Silvestre Reyes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mexico and U.S. are negotiating a sort of plan to attack the drug cartels. Can you tell us if Mexico have requested more support to -- for this struggle?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we've been talking about ways that we can increase our cooperation, increase our effectiveness. We have talked about what it is that would be needed in order to accomplish our mutual goals of: (a) getting at the transit of illicit narcotics across that border and as a result cutting down on levels of violence in Mexico as well as in the United States. Those are active, ongoing conversations right now. Can't offer you too many details at this point, but there is an active channel of communication that we're working on -- trying to get at those very issues.

QUESTION: But this is like a sort of Plan Colombia, maybe without the military --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to -- again, I'm not going to try to apply any particular label to it. I'm not going to put a bumper sticker on it, but it's a serious discussion of what might be done to get at the source of that illicit narcotics transit from Mexico into the United States and then also to talk about ways to get control of the rising levels of violence on both sides of the border.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) as you know, too many journalists have been killed in Mexico, especially by drug smugglers when they started to do some deep stories about drug smuggling. There is a journalist from the Northern - in Mexico, Claudio Tiznado who requested asylum, political asylum to the U.S. Is there any possibility that a journalist that is facing threat of the drug cartels in Mexico can get asylum in the U.S.?

MR. MCCORMACK: We don't talk about asylum cases. That's our policy and don't talk about them in any way, shape or form.

QUESTION: Well, they're having a report about --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we don't talk about asylum cases. Yeah.


QUESTION: Sean, can you give any reaction to the decision by President Musharraf to rescind the media decree that had generated a lot of controversy there?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. It's a positive step. As we talked it about here in this briefing room and elsewhere in the U.S. Government, a free press is essential to any functioning democracy. It is -- it may at times cause heartburns for various -- heartburn for various governments. I've experienced that in some cases myself. But it's -- the fact of the matter is it is an essential part of a strong, healthy, functioning democracy, so this is a positive step that President Musharraf and his government have taken. I understand that right now there is the approximate cause, some of the demonstrations resulting -- surrounding the charging of Supreme Court Justice Chaudhry are going to be moving their way through the judicial system. That's positive -- that case should be resolved within the confines of the Pakistani constitution and their legal norms and the media should be free to cover it as they see fit.

QUESTION: Can you talk about what Richard Boucher intends to do? Apparently, he's going to be in Islamabad tomorrow. There's some speculation on his mediating this issue and running interference between Musharraf and Ms. Bhutto?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, the Pakistani people are more than capable enough of resolving any political differences they may have, striking any political bargains. They don't need our help to do so.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't. I don't know. I have no reason to dispute it, but I don't know where he is in the world at this point.

QUESTION: Could you check that he's not here?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sure. I could check for you.

QUESTION: Does -- do President Musharraf's steps against the chief justice, or former chief justice, the steps that he's taken against the media, and what would appear to be his reluctance to give up his currently dual role as president and chief of the armed forces cause the United States to give any thought to reconsidering its considerable, both moral and economic and military, support to his government?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have supported Pakistan, the Pakistani people and the Pakistan Government in their efforts in political and economic reform. They -- this particular government made a fundamental choice back in 2001 which direction it was going to be -- which direction it was going to go in. It was headed down a very dangerous pathway in our view. And they have made -- President Musharraf has made some progress in terms of political and economic reforms; some of the reforms of the schools, allowing for greater press freedoms, the recent order that was rescinded notwithstanding. The political system has opened up more. So there -- they have made some progress.

But along with that -- what I think what the Pakistani political system is learning -- as you open up, more of that brings with it heightened expectations for what might be done. And there are going to be some important elections coming up in the fall time for a parliament. The parliament will then choose who will be Pakistan's next president. I understand President Musharraf has said in public that he intends to run in that election. It's going to up to the Pakistani people to choose who will be their next president via the parliamentary elections.

The elections should be free, fair and transparent. They should meet international standards. Those are things, I think, that everybody can support. But in terms of the United States Government assistance to the Pakistani Government, it is done with -- because it is in our national interest to do so. A more stable, more democratic, more prosperous Pakistan is in our interest, it's in the interest of the Pakistani people, it's in the interest of the region.

But in providing that assistance, we are narrowing up our interest with our values. So this is not a case where a country is providing assistance and abandoning its values. We continue to work with the Musharraf government and others within the Pakistani political system to continue their process of political reforms.

You've mentioned the uniform issue. I know that he has pledged to make that choice and to -- if he continues in political life, to put aside the uniform. And we take him at his word at that and we would expect him to follow through on his commitments.

QUESTION: Sean, this is a follow-up. On Friday, there was a hearing -- I mean, conference -- at the SAIS -- at the John Hopkins University in Washington, as far as the elections and the situation in Pakistan is concerned. There were experts from Pakistan, also as well as from the think tank here in the U.S. They were worried about, as far as the elections are concerned, and also violence going on at the same time and they're also --

MR. MCCORMACK: Is there a question in here?

QUESTION: The question is that -- what they were saying that one, General Musharraf may not take off his military -- as far as -- won't give up his military powers. And second, they might want -- there may not be election to see this -- violence is going on at this time. So you think there are any discussions here at the State Department, and due to the violence, there may not be elections in Pakistan?

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

Anybody else? Nina.

QUESTION: This Al -- this proposed review of Al Hurra -- how this is going to work and what your concerns are about what's being broadcast.

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a review that has been initiated and will be sponsored by the Broadcasting Board of Governors. They thought it was a good idea, given some of the news reports about some incidents over a time that we've talked about over the past couple of weeks. They wanted to make sure that the journalistic practices within Al Hurra are up to the standard accepted journalistic practices, certainly, that we would hope to see in any organization that is funded by the United States Government. Beyond that, you can talk to the BBG folks about the who, what, when, and where.

QUESTION: Your assessment, do you think this was just purely human error that you didn't -- they didn't have sufficient Arabic speakers employed there at the time?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's -- this was a new enterprise that goes through a shakedown period. The real question, I guess, is was this part of that learning process or was it part of that shakedown period or was there something that was systemically wrong in Al Hurra and we'll see the answer. I think people have tended towards the answer of, "Well, this is just part of getting up a new enterprise, doing something that we haven't really done before." So we'll see.

QUESTION: What is your reaction to Larry Register resigning? You had expressed support for him very recently.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Look, he -- this is a tough job and -- you know, as far as I can tell, he did the job to the best of his ability. I think everybody should thank him for taking on what was a difficult assignment and to wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)

DPB # 104

Released on June 11, 2007

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