Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
September 12, 2007
|Secretary Will Travel to Israel and Palestinian Territories September 18-20|
|Secretary Wants to Build On Previous Progress Two Parties Have Made|
|Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas' Negotiating Committees Positive Step|
|U.S. Will Play Important Role To Help Two-State Process Move Forward|
|David Welch Has Also Been Talking To Counterparts In Region|
|U.S. Is In Discussions with members of P5+1 About Elements of Sanction Resolution|
|U.S. Is Committed to A Diplomatic Solution On Many Fronts|
|Germany Is Fully Supportive of A New UN Security Council Resolution|
|Whole Point is to Apply Pressure So Iran Changes Behavior|
|Iran's IAEA Agreement Does Not Address What They Are Doing Now|
|Resignation of Russian Cabinet Members is Internal Matter|
|U.S. Will Work With Whomever is in New Russian Government|
|U.S. Has Made Quite Clear Its Views on Russian Democracy|
|Readout of Deputy Secretary Negroponte's Meeting With Foreign Secretary Khan|
|Part of Strategic Dialogue and Has No Bearing On Political Events in Pakistan|
|U.S. Supports the Democracy in Iraq -- It is A Tough Fight to Achieve Stability|
|The Iraqi Government is Working On Practical Measures On How It Will Work|
|Will Provide Readout of Trip and Meetings of Special Envoy Natsios|
|State Department Doesn't Have Word Of Any Americans Affected by Earthquake|
|Consulate in Medan is Watching Situation Closely And Will Assist As Needed|
|Justice Department Has Info on Legal Proceedings Against Chiquita Banana|
|Japan's a Good Ally, And U.S. Will Work With Whomever Leads Government|
|U.S. Supports Continuation of Anti-Terrorism and Special Measures Law|
|Experts Visit Yongbyan Facility and Meet Officials in Pyongyang Friday|
12:35 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I have one travel-related announcement, then we can --
MR. MCCORMACK: It hasn't been that long, come on.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories from September 18th to the 20th, 2007. The Secretary will visit Jerusalem and Ramallah for meetings with officials from Israel and the Palestinian Authority in order to continue discussions on advancing the development of a political horizon and achieving the two-state solution.
QUESTION: Could you reread that? I think the mike was not on loud enough.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: Take two.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Rewind. Secretary of State -- this could be much better. (Laughter.) Now that I've had a chance to practice.
QUESTION: Once more with feeling.
MR. MCCORMACK: I have to emote and speak from the diaphragm.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories from September 18th to the 20th, 2007. The Secretary will visit Jerusalem and Ramallah for meetings with officials from Israel and the Palestinian Authority in order to continue discussions on advancing the development of a political horizon and the two-state solution.
QUESTION: On that, Sean --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: As you may or may not be aware, there is a book about the Secretary that's out by a Washington Post correspondent. And in that book, it talked -- and in relation to this trip, it talks about how -- it says that the Secretary was not completely convinced or sure of President Abbas' ability to -- as a leader. I'm wondering (a) if that is correct and whether it is or not, what are her -- what does she see his role now? Does she think that he's able to seal the deal for the Palestinians?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, she -- first, you know, on the issue of the book, you know, I'll let others do book reviews. In terms of President Abbas as an interlocutor, Secretary Rice and the President believe that he is a man of peace, that he has a vision for the Palestinian people which is a positive one, and that he is fully committed and capable of helping to achieve a two-state solution in which you have Israeli and Palestinian people living side by side in peace and security and that President Abbas is absolutely committed to trying to bring about a Palestinian state and that he is a good partner for the United States, for Israel, as well as other states in the region who have an interest in bringing about peace.
QUESTION: Does he -- does she think he's a strong partner?
MR. MCCORMACK: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Can you give us any more of a sense of what she actually hopes to achieve on this trip?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think in the days ahead, we'll probably talk about that a little bit more. It won't surprise you. We're not going to go into full detail, necessarily, of diplomatic conversations or -- that sometimes need to be kept in private. But I think, in a general sense, she wants to build upon some of the progress that the two parties themselves have made in their discussions.
Recently, as a result of the meetings between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas, they have decided to form some negotiating committees. And that's a very positive development. And this is -- these groups are intended to try to put down on paper some of the ideas and thoughts that had been discussed between the two leaders. And that's a very positive, positive symbol from the two sides that they are ready to move this -- move this process forward. And if we are going to succeed in this and succeed in bringing about a two-state solution, it's going to be fundamental that the two states themselves are ready to roll up their sleeves and come to the compromises, arrive at the compromises that are going to be in the -- that are going to be necessary in order to bring about that state.
We are going to do everything we can to help them achieve that. And I think the United States can play a very important role in that regard. So she's going to talk to each side, talk to Prime Minister Olmert, President Abbas, as well as other officials about how we can help move that process forward.
QUESTION: No plans for a three-way meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as I said in the days ahead, we'll try to keep you up to date on more of their activities. If we can be a little bit more detailed about what it is that she's going to be doing. I will certainly keep you filled in.
QUESTION: Sean --
QUESTION: And why the reversion to the political horizon language, which I thought you were trying to move away from because the horizon is a point that forever appears to -- you never quite get there when you're chasing it.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we --
QUESTION: That's a rainbow. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You haven't been using that term so much, and it's funny to see it come out.
MR. MCCORMACK: It doesn't -- it's not meant to signal any sort of change in policy or intent.
QUESTION: There seems to be some discrepancy between what these negotiating committees are actually going to be drafting -- I mean, the Palestinians say they want to, you know, get into the core issue -- the kind of core issues of Jerusalem, return of refugees, and borders, while the Israelis are saying they want to deal with issues that would deal with a comprehensive peace deal, but more about, like, sharing water, you know, electricity, those type of kind of services-based issues.
Do you think -- does the United States think that they should be discussing the full gamut, or kind of start small and then move --
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, they just started this process, so I -- and I assume that they are going to work through these various issues as to what are the parameters of the discussion, what is the desired outcome of the discussion. All of this is going to feed into the process of the international meeting that Secretary Rice is going to be hosting at a date yet to be specified.
So we're going to work out all those things, Elise. All of these issues eventually are ones that the two sides will need to address, and they will address them in the manner of their choosing and at the time of their choosing. But all the things related to, you know, economic issues, security issues and all the other issues that we know are attended to a potential resolution between the Israelis and Palestinians will need to be addressed at a certain time.
QUESTION: Usually, the Secretary, when she goes out there to deal specifically on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, she also touches base with some of the other key Arab leaders that are involved in the process. Is there a specific reason or -- that she isn't going this time, that she's focusing specifically on the Israeli-Palestinian leaders?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they're the two primary actors here and they have been making some progress in terms -- as a result of the discussions between the two sides. I fully expect that she's going to contact her counterparts in the Arab world at the right moment, and David Welch is obviously quite active in this regard. He has been talking to his counterparts and key interlocutors in the region as well. So that process is going to continue. I would expect prior to the international meeting that the Secretary will be out in the region at least more than one time.
QUESTION: Just since you raised it, the nonconference conference/meeting plus, we've seen in the last couple days both the Egyptians and the Saudis kind of say that they wouldn't be interested in attending unless there's some solid goal out there for -- but presumably, this is not a big part of her -- she's not had to -- she's not having to convince the Israelis and the Palestinians to attend, is she?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: So --
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, everybody agrees -- every -- the phrase has been thrown around: Nobody wants this to be just a photo op. We couldn't agree more. And look, in the coming weeks and months we're going to be talking to Israelis and Palestinians as well as other key Arab states about the meeting, about the preparations for it, what might be discussed and what might be potential outcomes for that meeting, and how we might use that meeting to move forward the entire process so you do end up with a two-state solution.
QUESTION: So at the end of her trip when she goes to the UN, is she hoping to have those -- a better idea of what the meeting might achieve that she can present to the Saudis, to the Egyptians, to the Jordanians -- to whoever it is that is being considered for invitations?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this --
QUESTION: And that --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, at this point, Matt, I think we're still doing some of the preparatory work, some of the foundational work.
QUESTION: Yeah, that's why -- isn't that what this --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. It's part of that process. And part of that process is also going to be discussion -- discussions with these Arab leaders.
I think at this point we're not ready to issue the invitations yet, so we're not looking for yeses or noes from people at this point. So there's still some work to be done. When we get to the point of issuing invitations, I think you -- that will be a signal that a lot of this foundational preparatory work has reached a -- reached a certain stage.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: I know that the Secretary is hosting the meeting, but what, if anything, is the role of the Quartet in kind of working through that process of setting up the meeting and drafting the agenda?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think the -- I don't know that we've had detailed discussions with the Quartet members yet. Obviously, they're going to be important players in moving the process as a whole forward, and Prime Minister -- former Prime Minister Blair is going to be -- is working with the Palestinians, working with the Israelis, on building those Palestinian institutions that will help form a basis for a Palestinian state. So quite clearly, he's doing important work.
Part of -- part of what Secretary Rice will do when she has a Quartet meeting up at the UN General -- or around the UN General Assembly is to talk about the process, how we see it unfolding and what role Quartet member-states might play in helping to set the right atmosphere and the right conditions for a successful meeting.
QUESTION: On Iran, please. Can you tell me where we are on the push for new sanctions? And in --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- particular, what do you make of reports that Germany is hesitating or pulling out of --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- supporting the sanctions and Iran sanctions altogether?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Still in discussions with members of the P-5+1 about what the elements of a sanctions resolution might be. We've been having those discussions for a while. It's no secret that we would have wished these discussions had reached a point where we actually could have a resolution down at the table and have a vote, but it -- things don't always work on our timetable. But we are still committed to a diplomatic solution that has many fronts. One of those fronts is working through the UN, working through the Security Council and coming up with a new sanctions resolution.
As far as Germany is concerned, I've seen the news reports. I have checked around with folks in terms of their contacts with the German Government and they've been quite clear. In the meeting -- recent meeting of the P-5+1 at the expert level, Germany once again reiterated the fact that it is fully supportive of a new resolution, new UN resolution with sanctions and we are all on the same page, in terms of substance as well as timing, moving this forward as quickly as we possibly can.
QUESTION: Let me just -- referring back to something you just said, you just said that you're committed to a diplomatic solution and one fount is the UN. What are other founts?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you can -- also, you can take unilateral steps as the United States has done in the past in terms of treasury designations. You know, one example of that is we had prevented new term transactions, which basically makes it much more difficult for one of the Iranian banks to deal with in dollars. That's an example of a unilateral step a state can take and we have done some -- we have done some of those ourselves.
For example, Germany has reduced its level of export credit support for trade with Iran. Other states have taken unilateral actions. We're also working on a bilateral basis with states in talking to them about how we might cooperate to make it more difficult, if not impossible for Iran to use the international financial system for illicit purposes.
And the whole point of this is to try to put and apply greater and greater pressure to Iran to get them to change their behavior, to come around to the demands of the rest of the world, and that is to enter into negotiations with the rest of the world to talk about how they might have a peaceful nuclear energy program while giving the rest of the world objective assurances that they're not going to use that program for constructing a nuclear weapon.
QUESTION: Are you confident that the momentum is really building, though, towards this new resolution and do you have any sense of the timetable? For example, will it come during the General Assembly, will it come before that? What do you expect (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I never -- I never predict when we're going to have a vote on UN Security Council resolutions. They -- as a rule of thumb, they usually come sometime after we would have liked them, but they do -- they do come and that's been the lesson -- that's what we've seen in this process over the past couple of years. So I don't have a specific timetable for you, but we want to try to move the process forward as quickly as we possibly can.
QUESTION: And Germany aside, are you -- are you confident of some kind of consensus or are you worried about any diplomatic wobbling or are you confident that -- you know, the EU-3 allies are strong and that you have support from the other members?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Yeah, absolutely. We are on the same page as the EU-3 members. I think with China -- China and Russia, we are trying to work through some different -- some tactical differences of opinion, but that's nothing new. That's been sort of the story all along with this process, but we're still confident that everybody is ready to talk about moving forward on a new sanctions resolution.
QUESTION: And just one last thing. Is the recent IAEA agreement -- is that complicating matters?
MR. MCCORMACK: We've made our views known about this. This is -- it's an agreement that if the Iranians did follow through in terms of talking about what they have done in the past, still doesn't address what they're doing right now. So it doesn't answer -- by any means, answer the questions.
QUESTION: Sean, you said, if I understood you correctly, that you -- that the United States and the German Government are agreed on the substance and the timing --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- for a new resolution.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: And then you said as soon as possible.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Not to split hairs, but if you're agreed -- I mean, their conception of as soon as possible may be radically different from your perception of --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no.
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: So what is -- even though I know you can't predict it, what is -- you know, if you agree with them on the timing, what's the agreement? I mean, they're looking for one in weeks or months? You're both looking for one in weeks or months or what?
MR. MCCORMACK: As soon -- as soon as we possibly can. Again, I'm not going to -- I'm not going to try to box myself or anybody else in. We all want to see this as soon as we possibly can and you can talk to the Germans, see if they want to refine that any further. But we are on the same page in terms of the substance and the timing.
Yes, anything else I didn't -- Iran? Yeah -- okay, yeah.
QUESTION: A change of subject. Today, early in the morning, it was announced very suddenly about the resignation of all cabinet ministers in Russia in Moscow. And it's a very sudden step several months before their elections. Do you have any comments about it? And would it -- any kind of effect of U.S.-Russia relationship?
MR. MCCORMACK: That this is an internal domestic political event and that we are going to be ready to work with whomever is in the new Russian Government. This happens all the time around the world. On the same day, we're going to have an -- we have an announcement that there's going to be a new Japanese Government. So again, we are going to -- we are going to be working with these new governments and have every confidence that we'll be able to work in a spirit of cooperation with this new government and work to resolve some of the real challenges that face both Russia and the United States around the globe.
QUESTION: But Sean, given your concerns in the past about democracy in Russia, I mean, you don't feel that this is, in any way, an opportunity to have President Putin put forward his candidate as prime minister so that he's more likely to be his handpicked successor?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I've read all the theorizing about what's behind this move and I'll leave it to political columnists and political scientists to theorize about it. In terms of Russian -- the development of Russian democracy, we've made known in public quite clearly our views about that, some of our concerns about it. The upcoming elections, we hope they'll take place in a climate that is free, fair and transparent. That means not just on election day, but in the run-up to election day. But I don't detect that today's events will affect that one way or the other.
QUESTION: Change of subject? Were you able to get any kind of readout on Deputy Secretary Negroponte's Strategic Dialogue conversations with the Pakistanis? Who'd he meet?
MR. MCCORMACK: I do. I have a very spare readout and -- but I understand he did talk to the press himself in Pakistan and I don't think I'll be any more spare than the Deputy Secretary.
QUESTION: That would be news in and of itself.
MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) His counterpart was the Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister* Khan. And as you noted, this was part of the Strategic Dialogue that's been set up between Pakistan and the United States. The timing of this meeting was set quite some time ago and has no bearing whatsoever on -- it was not affected in any way by the political developments
that are now ongoing in Pakistan. I understand they heard back from the working groups that had been established in areas related to education, economic affairs, science and -- science and technology. And I believe those are the working groups. Internal domestic politics in Pakistan didn't come up. That's not the subject of these meetings. The Deputy Secretary does have a meeting tomorrow with President Musharraf and I'm sure that he will either -- convey in some way his views of that meeting with President Musharraf after it happens.
QUESTION: And can you tell us if you would expect him to raise the case of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his inability to enter the country after he returned?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let's wait until after he has his meeting. Like I said, he in some form, either directly or through others, will convey his views about the meeting and we'll try to touch on the topics in general or try to be as specific as we possibly can.
QUESTION: On Iraq. The Secretary this morning has expressed certain optimism that not only can Iraq sort of stabilize, but that could lead to a more stable Middle East. I thought you had abandoned lofty goals such as having an example of a democratic country in the Middle East and you're just dealing with the situation on the ground, which is difficult, but are we going back to the grand visions and ambitions before the war?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Nicholas, I'm not sure -- if you can point out to me when we abandoned the freedom agenda or the democracy agenda in the Middle East or someplace else, I'd be happy to see it.
In terms of -- in terms of Iraq today, we do have a democracy. It is a struggling democracy. And the Iraqi Government is going through a period in which they are trying to answer some fundamental constitutional questions and some fundamental questions about the future of Iraq and how the Iraqi Government will operate. But they are also working on how to, in a practical sense, make that government work so that you do have actual full control of a central government and provincial governments and local governments over the population, and that those governments respond to the needs of the population, whether you're Shia or Sunni or Kurd or from what other religious or ethnic background you come.
So yeah, absolutely we are supporting that democracy. And it will be a -- it is a tough fight to try to achieve some strategic stability in Iraq. Ultimately, it's the Iraqis that are going to have to do that. We're working very hard to try to help them in that. And eventually, a stable, democratic, prosperous Iraq will be an example for others in the Middle East. That doesn't mean that the rest of the Middle East is going to wait on Iraq as it makes that journey. As a matter of fact, we are working very closely with a number of other populations as well as states to try to help them achieve their democratic aspirations, whether that's in Lebanon or the Palestinian area.
So no, there is no change in the vision that the President outlined in the Second Inaugural and that both he and Secretary Rice have talked about along the way.
QUESTION: Well, there is the point -- because this came after the two days of testimony by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. Did the Secretary see those as sort of proving the fact that there might be still the possibility of stabilizing the country? What is her reaction? Was she satisfied by what she heard from the ambassador specifically?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I don't know if it's a matter of whether she should be satisfied or not. They were charged with providing their views and she's confident that they did provide their views.
They -- she wasn't surprised by anything they said. She talks to Ryan Crocker virtually every single day and she was just out there with President Bush as well, talking to both of them as well as with some of the commanders and some of the Iraqi leaders in Anbar Province, so I don't think she was surprised by anything that they said.
QUESTION: So the conclusion of those reports, then, would be it's not lost yet, we still have the opportunity and the possibility to actually not only bring stability to the country, but help them on the road to democracy? Is that --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, absolutely, yeah.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have anything else on Iraq. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you have any -- can you give us any details about Special Envoy Natsios' trip to Sudan or can you endeavor to --
MR. MCCORMACK: You want details as to when he's going and so forth?
QUESTION: Yes, and what he's going to say specifically to his interlocutors and what the grand U.S. strategy is for ending --
MR. MCCORMACK: Absolutely, we will get you some -- we will get you something.
QUESTION: I'm not hopeful for all that, but just something about what he's doing.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: And who will he be leaving with?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we'll get you all that stuff. Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: Can you give us whatever the U.S. is doing to check in on Americans after the quake in Indonesia and any --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we're --
QUESTION: -- sort of updates on damage or deaths or anything?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we don't have -- at this point, we don't have any word of any Americans having been affected by the earthquake. I was told that the earthquake struck off the coast of the Bengkulu province in the area of southern Sumatra. And we went back and checked our records and we don't have any record of any American citizens currently in the Bengkulu area. So -- but our Embassy as well as our Consulate in Medan are watching the situation very closely and if we need to help out any American citizens, then certainly, we will. But we don't have any reports at this point of any need of assistance to American citizens there.
QUESTION: Does that -- that means that no one -- no American has registered with the Embassy as living in that area?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well -- yeah, we're not aware -- we're not aware of any Americans living in that province or there's no record of anybody having contacted us who is perhaps passing through the area.
QUESTION: The Government of Colombia is complaining that the Chiquita Banana Corporation is only getting slapped with fines for paying bribes and giving money to members of the Colombian paramilitary groups.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And they're saying that the U.S. has a double standard because in dealing with these groups, they call them terrorist organizations and they demand -- you demand a very high human rights standard --
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- in Colombia. But then you only slap companies like -- big corporations like Chiquita with fines and don't hold them criminally responsible.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I'm not -- I'm not fully up to speed on the details of this, but it sounds suspiciously like this was something involving the Department of Justice, so I would check with them first in terms of any legal proceedings.
QUESTION: On Japan. I know you were saying that they're internal domestic --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- political developments.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: But what does the U.S. hope for from the new Japanese Prime Minister once it's decided?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think what we have had over our -- over the recent decades and that is a good partner and I suspect that that will be the case. Japan's a good friend and ally and I expect that we are going to work very well with whomever is in the next Japanese Government as well as whomever leads that government.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, regarding the Anti-terrorism and Special Measures Law and with Abe's resignation, it looks like it could possibly be more difficult to get it extended. Is the U.S. a little bit concerned about this or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll let others do vote-counting in the Japanese Diet. We've made it clear that we support the continuation of that mission, that -- in support of OEF, but ultimately, it's going to have to be the Japanese people and their representatives who decide on that.
QUESTION: Sean, before the announcement of the resignation this morning, Ambassador Schieffer was called into the Prime Minister's office. Do you know if that's how the United States was informed of the intent of resignation or was it through --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. Don't know.
QUESTION: Just on North Korea. Do you have any more of a readout of these experts who have been touring Yongbyon?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I --
QUESTION: Or that it was -- determined anything on the declaration of their nuclear programs or anything like that?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of the declaration, that's not something that they were going to be covering in this visit. This is an experts-level visit. And Chris Hill heard this morning from the head of our delegation, Sung Kim, who is the head of the Korea office here at the State Department. And he reported that they visited the reactor facility at Yongbyon and they saw everything that they have to see. They are going to, tomorrow, be touring the rest of the facility. They're going to see the reprocessing facility, the fuel fabrication facility, and other -- any other parts of the facility that they want to see, including the power generation plant.
Friday, they are going to be going down to Pyongyang for some discussions with North Korean officials about some ideas that they have about how to disable the Yongbyon reactor consistent with the discussions that Chris Hill had with his North Korean counterparts.
That's all going to feed into an envoys level meeting that's going to take place in Beijing in the near future. They haven't announced exactly when that is going to be, but it's going to be in the near future.
QUESTION: So just to clarify, those talks in Pyongyang, they will have nothing to do with discussing other programs besides Yongbyon or --
MR. MCCORMACK: It's going to be focused on the disablement of the facility. It's -- if the North Koreans want to bring up the declaration, I'm sure that our people will listen to it, but that's not the intent of this particular visit.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:03 p.m.)
DPB # 161
Released on September 12, 2007
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