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Daily Press Briefing

Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
September 17, 2007


Secretary Rice Plans To Call Prime Minister Maliki On Blackwater Firefight
Diplomatic Security Is Working With MNFI on Investigation of Incident
Have Not Received Notification of Any Punitive Measures By Iraqi Government
State Department Regrets Any Loss of Innocent Life; No Details to Share Now
State Does Not Provide Numbers of Security Contractors In Iraq
Will Post More Info on Licenses, Chain Of Command, and Rules Of Engagement
This Fiscal Year, State Has Processed More Than 900 Iraqi Refugees As of August
Secretary Rice Wants to Do This Right; We Have Obligation To Refugees
State Wants To Designate A Person to Solely Work On Iraqi Refugee Issues
Legal Considerations and Obligations Guide Refugees Process
Syria's New Visa Requirement for Iraqi Refugees Raises Questions
Syria's Proposed Actions Must Be Consistent With International Law
Chris Hill Expects To Travel To A Six-Party Talks Envoys Meeting Next Week
China Informed Us They Were Going to Postpone the Discussions
The Goal of the Six-Party Talks Is A Denuclearized Korean Peninsula
Democracy Agenda and Spread of Freedom Is Responsibility of Who We Are
More Open, Free, Democratic Middle East Will Be Better For Everyone
Congratulations to Prime Minister Karamanlis on Victory of His Party in Elections


12:45 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don't have anything to start off with, so I can get right to your questions.

QUESTION: Do you have anything more to say about the incident involving Blackwater in Baghdad?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not much more than I said this morning, Matt.

QUESTION: You don't.

MR. MCCORMACK: As I indicated to you, Secretary Rice intends to call Prime Minister Maliki about it and regret – express regret for the loss of innocent life. At this point, we are still investigating what happened. Our Diplomatic Security Bureau is taking the lead on that investigation. They are working with Multinational Forces - Iraq, who are going to support them in that investigation. I won't try to draw any conclusions here. As we know, Iraq is -- can be a very difficult place for our diplomats to operate in. And certainly people need to realize the environment in which our people operate.

That said, anytime there's loss of innocent life that is deeply regretted by us and everybody involved in the State Department mission in Baghdad and in Iraq. And we take every possible measure we can in order to avoid the loss of innocent life. But as I said, this is a matter that is being investigated. We want to determine all of the facts as best we can. We have committed to sharing those facts and the results of our investigation with the Iraqi Government. So with all of that in mind, I'm not going to leap to any particular conclusions at this point.

QUESTION: Have you been informed that the company has, in fact, lost its license, if it had

one in the first place, to operate?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have not, Matt. I've seen the comments from the Iraqi Ministry of Interior. We have not received that notification.

QUESTION: Are you aware if they did have a license?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I don't. I don't. I don't know what the requirements are for operating in Iraq like that. You might check with the company in question.

QUESTION: Can you speak to the larger question of contractors providing security in Iraq, how many there are, to the extent you can tell us?

MR. MCCORMACK: I asked that question about the overall numbers. Apparently, it's not something that we give out. And I think you can understand why these people can start doing calculations backwards and potentially gain some insight into how those contractors operate to protect our personnel. And obviously, we don't want to do anything that might endanger those personnel further.

QUESTION: Can you talk about how much money is involved in the contracts?

MR. MCCORMACK: Good question. I didn't ask that. I will see if that's something we can offer up.

QUESTION: And lastly, can you talk about what would happen if a private contractor's license is lost, whether it's Blackwater's or somebody else's, what will that do --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's a hypothetical question. I'm sure, however, that in every instance we will be able to ensure that our people are protected and able to do their jobs.

QUESTION: Sean, are you able to provide any details about the incident itself -- how many cars were in the convoy, where exactly it was? Can you confirm any of those details?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any details at this point that I can offer in public. It was a chief of mission convoy that was going outside the international zone. And as you know recently, there have been some car bomb explosions outside the international zone. So again, I urge people to keep that in mind. We are going to make this as open and transparent an investigation and inasmuch as we can, share the results, so that people know what we know.

QUESTION: Who is the Chief of Mission (inaudible) because as I understand it, Ambassador Crocker is in --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. The Chargé I believe is Ambassador Butenis.

QUESTION: And okay -- and that --

MR. MCCORMACK: It's not -- when I say Chief of Mission convoy, it's a term of art that I should explain. It doesn't mean the chief of mission was in the convoy. That just means that it is a convoy that was a State Department convoy, essentially, and it falls under the authority of the Chief of Mission -- under the authority of the Chief of Mission, as opposed to the (inaudible) from the military.

QUESTION: Doest that mean that a -- that it has flags on it or --

MR. MCCORMACK: No. It's a -- all it is is a bureaucratic indicator. It's an indicator that this was a State Department convoy as opposed to a military convoy.

QUESTION: Okay. And the Secretary didn't call Maliki yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, not yet. The schedules haven't lined up, but I expect that that will happen in the not-too-distant future. Don't have a time yet for you.


QUESTION: When incidents such as these happen, do you suspend the services briefly of the company you're investigating or does it just continue as normal, until you've completed the investigation?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's a call for the security officials on the ground in terms of their operational tempo and what they do in response to a particular incident. If they feel as though they need to take some action, I'm sure that they will. But again, that's a call that the folks on the ground are going to make. We have full confidence that they're going to do the right thing, not only to ensure that our people are protected, but that any operations that we conduct fully comply with our rules and regulations.

QUESTION: Sean, (inaudible) individual --

QUESTION: Have other incident -- sorry.

MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?

QUESTION: Have other incidents of this nature been reported about Blackwater in recent months?

MR. MCCORMACK: I -- you know, I couldn't tell you, Sue.


QUESTION: Do you know if the individual contractors involved in this have been suspended or what's happened to them since then?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't. I don't have any insight to that. Again, I don't -- I caution everybody -- let's not leap to conclusions. There was a loss of life here. There was a fire fight. We believe some innocent life was lost. Nobody wants to see that. But I can't tell you who was responsible for that. So again, let's not jump to any conclusions here. It seems as though there was an incident and there was innocent loss of life. But I'm not going to, at this point, attribute any particular -- responsibility to any particular group. I think it's important for all involved that we allow the investigation to take place, establish the facts and then we'll be able to come to some conclusions. But our people, wherever they may be, want to make sure that we operate in as safe a way as we possibly can and also in a way that protects innocent life.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that the contractors acted inappropriately?

MR. MCCORMACK: Kirit, you have to listen to what I'm saying here. There's an investigation that's underway here. And what I'm urging people to do is wait for an investigation to take place. So let's not leap to conclusions here. Okay.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Maliki was a quoted as saying that a crime was committed. Is Secretary Rice going to dissuade him of that? I mean, you're saying let's wait.

MR. MCCORMACK: What we have said is exactly what you're hearing from me. There's an investigation underway and that all along the way, each step along the way, we're going to share what we know with the Iraqis. We're going to share the progress of the investigation. We're going to share with them what we have found.

So again -- look, it's a terribly emotional issue. I understand that. I think -- you know, any person would if there's innocent life lost. Everybody understands that. But in terms of understanding what happens, let's establish the facts, let's do it in a sober-minded way, and let's use the results of those investigations to attribute responsibility. If any actions need to be taken as a result of that, then of course, we're going to take them. But let's establish the facts first.



QUESTION: I just want to make sure. I think if you go back and then look at the transcript, at one point, you said "An innocent loss of life," as -- and you've been saying before that, "A loss of innocent life." I --

MR. MCCORMACK: Loss of innocent life, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. Then I want to -- who is in charge of these people? The question was asked, you know, do the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. They weren't --

QUESTION: If they were suspended, if there's an investigation going on, like a police officer would in a -- you know --

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you -- I can't tell you exactly --

QUESTION: Because the letters here are really murky in terms of --


QUESTION: -- who these people report to. Does the State Department have the authority, if there's an investigation going on --

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you what the -- I can't tell you exactly what the contract specifies, Matt, but our -- these people work as part of our security operation there. They report to the Regional Security Officer there.

And look, if they -- if our Regional Security Officer doesn't want somebody going out or a certain group going out, they're not going to go out. If the Ambassador or the people at the Embassy don't want somebody to go out or a group to go out, they're not going to go out. I'm not saying that's the case right here, but these folks work in support of our people at the Embassy and we appreciate what they do. They're taking real risk to allow us to be able to do our job. But in terms of the specific contractual arrangements, in terms of discipline, you know, I don't know, Matt. I really don't.


QUESTION: Many Iraqis think that these security contractors operate outside the law and that they're not held accountable when incidents such as -- such as these happen. Under what law would they be held accountable? Would it be U.S. law because they're operating --


QUESTION: I mean, what are the rules of engagement? Sorry, that's three questions. What are the rules of engagement here and under what law would they be held accountable? Iraqi --

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a good question. You know, I could -- I could probably give you an answer that is a common sense, man-in-the-street answer, but that wouldn't necessarily have been run by our lawyers first, so I'd want to actually consult with the lawyers before I give you a definitive answer.

QUESTION: Can you check that?

QUESTION: Yeah, can you find that out?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sure.


MR. MCCORMACK: I'll be happy to, yeah.


QUESTION: If, actually, the group has been -- the authorization to work for this group has been cancelled, do -- are they authorized to stay in the International Zone? Is it --

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I'm not --

QUESTION: -- done as a U.S. territory or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we haven't been -- again, we haven't -- well, it's not a U.S. territory except for the Embassy. But we, to my knowledge, have not been informed of that. So that's getting one step down the road beyond where I know that we are.

Yeah, anything else on this?

QUESTION: Yeah, can we stay on Iraq?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wonder if you can explain how does that work if every private contractor needs a license from the Iraqi Government to work there. Since when? Since the city transferred power to the government?

MR. MCCORMACK: You'll have to -- you will have to ask the -- maybe the Iraqi Embassy or your folks in Baghdad will have to ask the Iraqi Government about what it is under their laws and their regulations that they require for security contractors or other private businesses to operate in Iran.

QUESTION: But why only it was CPA that was there? Did they require that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Why it was the CPA that was there? The program or is there -- at that time, did they need a license from Iraq, any kind of -- like, when did they --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, at that point, CPA was the governing authority, if you will, in Iraq, then there was a transitional government. You'll have to ask the Iraqis about their licensing requirements. I don't know off the top of my head. You might ask the company as well what's required of them to operate in Iraq.

QUESTION: And just following up on the question of under which law are they going to respond to --


QUESTION: Isn't it true that one of the last orders signed by Bremer was to prohibit -- to have them not answering to any kind of process or due process in Iraq?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, like I said, I could give you probably what would -- what would be a common sense answer from the man-in-the-street perspective, but again, I have to check with the lawyers because the details matter. So we can post an answer for you. We can ask our lawyers exactly what the rules and regulations, what the law dictates.


QUESTION: Given that the convoy was fired on, do you anticipate any change of security procedures for diplomats leaving the International Zone?

MR. MCCORMACK: They're always -- they're always taking a look at that. They're always taking a look at, you know, what protective measures might need to be taken, do they need to vary routes, do they need to cut down on the number of visits. I can't tell you. Our security folks are going to, in consultation with the Embassy leadership, are going to make those decisions. They're going to do what they think is right in protecting our people.


QUESTION: Can we stay on Iraq?

QUESTION: I had one more.


QUESTION: One clarification. Do you know if there's any sort of diplomatic immunity for these guys? Do they carry a black passport, do you know?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Kirit, I don't know. I suspect not. I don't know.

Yeah, Sylvie.

QUESTION: About the refugees, did you get any details on the number of refugees? Were you able to --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, since -- in this fiscal year, meaning to date, and we still have a couple more weeks, we have processed 900, I believe -- let me verify that for you -- 900. Nine hundred Iraqi refugees have been admitted to the U.S. thus far, and that's as of the end of August. And we expect to have more before end of the fiscal year, so --

QUESTION: But the goal was 7,000?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, that was -- that was not -- that was misreported as the goal. It said that we would be able to perhaps interview a large number, perhaps up to 7,000. But in terms of admitting refugees into Iraq*, it was a lower number than that.

QUESTION: And of those 900 refugees, how many worked for the U.S. Government?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a further breakdown for you, Sue. We'll try and -- you know, as we move through here and these are rolling numbers, we're going to try to get you more of a breakdown. It's probably easiest to be able to do that at the end of the fiscal year, at some point after September 30th, to get you a full breakdown of who came in.

QUESTION: And does Secretary Rice share Ambassador Crocker's frustrations as expressed in this memo?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, you know, it's part of life in Washington once you get leaked internal communications. I am not going to comment on the specifics of it. That doesn't surprise any of you.

Secretary Rice's attitude is that she wants to get this right. She believes that we have an obligation here, as we do to refugees around the world. We also have an obligation to ensure that the American people and American laws are upheld; the American people are protected and the American laws are upheld.

DHS has a responsibility, as do other components of the U.S. Government. Her focus is on making sure that we get this right. And it's not about finger-pointing, it's not about who didn't do what or who needs to do what better. It's about coming up with an effective, efficient process so that we can meet all of our obligations. That means to refugees, that means to protecting the American people. And she's taking a look at how we might designate somebody who can be a bureaucratic brick-breaker, if you will, somebody who is going to get rid of any bureaucratic logjams or misunderstandings that might occur, that you're going to keep the folks in place who do the policy, Paula Dobriansky and Ellen Sauerbrey, but some -- it's clear, if we want to make sure we get this right, that we're going to need to have somebody whose full-time job and whose preoccupation is to make sure that there is an efficient, effective functioning of the U.S. Government operations.

QUESTION: Sean, just to follow up on this.


QUESTION: I followed it out there. I think what I had asked you this morning was how many you had -- not just admitted to the United States, but it was how many, given your 7,000 target --


QUESTION: -- you have actually interviewed.

MR. MCCORMACK: That I don't have, Arshad. I'll --

QUESTION: Could you get it to me?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll continue to try to get that. You know, I'll -- look, I'll admit to you that the -- our numbers that we have given you in the past on this have not been up to the standard that I would want, so I want to make sure that we get you good, solid numbers on that.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. And the reason I ask that is it would at least give us a barometer of how well you have been able to meet even your own --


QUESTION: -- internal goals --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I understand.

QUESTION: -- of the interviews. And if that number's a thousand, then you're not doing it.


QUESTION: If that number's 605 -- 6,500. Okay.


QUESTION: This special person you're talking about, someone who would be in the State Department or another --

MR. MCCORMACK: It would be a State Department person.

QUESTION: That would work with all --

MR. MCCORMACK: This -- yeah, with others, yeah.

QUESTION: And when you talk about an efficient, effective process, you mean this person would solely work on the Iraqi refugee issue?


QUESTION: I mean, you already have -- as you pointed out, Under Secretary Dobriansky and Assistant Secretary Sauerbrey both -- you know, briefed us on this and both work on this. You already have an Under Secretary working --


QUESTION: -- on it. Why is another person going to be --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, these individuals, while they have devoted quite a bit of time and energy and focus to this, are -- you know, also have wider policy responsibilities and it's a different -- it's a different set of job responsibilities to be on the policy side as opposed to making sure that, operationally, things are working, that the wheels are turning in the way that they should.

QUESTION: Were you able to check on the timing of that memo, whether it --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I didn't. Sorry, Matt. No, sorry.

QUESTION: And the whole thing on the numbers that you just gave, the 900, the date on those is August 31st, so they're the --

MR. MCCORMACK: As the end of -- as of the end of August. I don't have a precise date for you, but the end of August, essentially.

QUESTION: Do you have any update for the first two weeks of September?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. No, they don't -- they don't calculate them in that way. They do them in this 34-day cycle, oddly enough, so we --

QUESTION: Right, but it had been -- I remember at the time when those -- that 900 figure came out, there was some optimism or at least some happiness being expressed by people in the -- refugee advocates that the number had gone up and it would be -- and that it was -- it would be difficult, but actually possible to get to the -- about the 2,000 number if everything went full speed ahead by the end of this fiscal year.


QUESTION: So the reason I ask if you have another two weeks is to see if --

MR. MCCORMACK: To see where we're -- to see where the trend line is?

QUESTION: Does it look like you're going to be able to meet the goal?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see, Matt. We'll see. It's certainly our intention to do everything we can to meet the goal. We'll see.


QUESTION: How many State Department people or interagency teams are dedicated to looking at the issue of Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries such as, you know, Jordan and Syria and elsewhere? I mean, you must have a set number who you have out there at the moment.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't understand the question. To do what? Beyond people working in the embassies?

QUESTION: How many -- yeah, looking at --

QUESTION: How many interviewers? That might be --

QUESTION: How many people do you have out there looking at --

MR. MCCORMACK: How many -- well, (inaudible) off the top of my head. I don't know.

QUESTION: Could you find out, because that was an issue with --


QUESTION: As far as interviews, do you make it a priority to interview those that have worked with the U.S. Government, U.S. military? Do you make it a priority to interview those people first?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have instituted a number of different changes in the way we deal with those people, from internally in the embassy setting up a committee to look at people who feel as though that they and their families are in danger as a result of having worked for the U.S. Government and who want to leave Iraq and who have met certain -- met certain requirements to making sure that when they arrive at a destination where they can be considered for a refugee or other kinds of processing, that people have all of their information. So in that sense, they are a priority, yes.

In terms of the issue of refugees, you have to treat everybody equitably. They have to go through a process where they're designated as potentially refugees by the UNHCR and been looked at for resettlement. But those people who have worked for us in the U.S. Embassy, they are a priority for us.

QUESTION: Sean, are they even part of that 900 number? Because I thought -- I didn't think they were part of the 900 number – the FSNs that you're talking about --

MR. MCCORMACK: This is -- Nicholas this is what I have. Yeah.

QUESTION: Can I change topic?


QUESTION: Thanks. The -- given that one of the major problems is that Syria doesn't allow -- won't allow these DHS people in there, isn't there any thought to moving the refugees to Turkey or to Jordan or a place where DHS agents have access to move along the process?

MR. MCCORMACK: I have not heard anybody talk about that. Again, that is primarily in the purview of the UN and the UNHCR in terms of once there, they're helping to provide some support infrastructure to these individuals in terms of their humanitarian needs. But I have not heard anybody discuss that at this point.

QUESTION: And how about just getting more DHS people to Syria? How much of a problem has that been? What have you been able to do --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, yeah, again, we want to make sure that this process works. Right now, it's not working the way it should and we want to make sure that it does.

QUESTION: One more on this.


QUESTION: If I read the reports correctly, one of the report -- one of the issues has been the -- you know, the inability to interview people inside Iraq. I understand the logic of that. Nobody is a refugee until they've gone out of they country. Conceivably, if you did it, then you'd have tens of thousands of internally displaced people who might seek refugee status locally.


QUESTION: But the question is, as part of putting a priority on the Iraqi nationals who have worked for the U.S. Government, military or civilian, why could you not make an exception for that category of people so you could interview them locally and expedite the process?

MR. MCCORMACK: This is -- you know, it very quickly descends into a complicated discussion of, you know, laws that govern refugees and international obligations that govern refugees versus our immigration law and our ability to process people under U.S. immigration law. I'm certainly not an expert in this. I have talked to people about some of the differences. But there are real legal restrictions, legal obligations and legal considerations that come in to play when you're talking about that decision.

Yeah, it's not an easy one, I know. You're dealing with people's lives. And I can assure you that that's how Secretary Rice approaches this. She knows that she has certain responsibilities under the law, under U.S. regulations. But she also knows that you're dealing with people's lives.

QUESTION: Can I ask something related to this, which is not about the U.S. Government?


QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the Syrian Government's decision to delay until after Ramadan the requirement for Iraqis to have visas? Or were you aware of that?

MR. MCCORMACK: That they -- I had not heard that. I knew that they had imposed a new visa requirement on Iraqi citizens and that's -- that raised real questions about whether or not they were meeting their obligations under international law. If, in fact, it is the case that they have eased that restriction during the period of Ramadan, certainly that's welcome. But again, that's only -- that would only be a stopgap measure and they would, I think, need to take a look at whether or not -- what their -- proposed actions are consistent with international law.


QUESTION: Can I just have a reaction to the postponement of the six-party talks, please?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, you may. Chris Hill expects to travel to an envoys level meeting of the six-party talks, probably next week. We'll see. I mean, we'll see if it's next week. The Chinese Government informed us that they had intended -- that they were going to postpone the discussions. I -- let's make it clear it was not us that was desirous or seeking a postponement. Chris' bags were ready to pack. I think he had his plane tickets.

QUESTION: When did they tell you?

MR. MCCORMACK: It was -- I think it was just this morning. Just this morning, yeah. But we fully expect that there will be an envoys level meeting of the six parties coming up here, maybe as early as next week. It's going to be up to the Chinese to announce the date.

QUESTION: Did they say why they're delaying it?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think -- I don't think we've got a clear read on that. Check with the Chinese. They're the ones that are --

QUESTION: Something technical, scheduling-wise, or did they feel that North Korea is not ready yet to --

MR. MCCORMACK: Check with the Chinese, Nicholas. I don't know.

QUESTION: Won't this push back the ministerial even farther?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't -- I don't think so. We don't have yet a date that is finally agreed upon for the ministerial, but I -- you know, a week here or a week there I don't think will delay it. The important thing is getting the work done and getting started towards fulfilling those phase two requirements, disabling the Yongbyon facility as well as getting a full declaration from the North Koreans.

QUESTION: Does this have anything to do at all with the reports on Syria or North Korea helping out Syria a bit on nuclear issues?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think you should talk to the Chinese about what the reasons for the delay were. I wouldn't necessarily attribute it to those news reports --

QUESTION: I just wondered whether the U.S. had raised this and maybe this had caused a problem.

MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?

QUESTION: These reports on Syria -- on North Korea --

MR. MCCORMACK: That we raised news reports with somebody? I don't think we've raised news reports with anybody.

QUESTION: Yes. Well, I'm sure that you have more than news reports. I'm sure you have intelligence reports --

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you know, as Chris talked about and I talked about last week, the goal of the six-party talks is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula in all its aspects. And that means getting rid of North Korea's nuclear program. That means getting rid of North Korea's nuclear program as it exists on the Korean Peninsula and that means eliminating any potential threat from non -- from proliferation of the materials, technology or know-how from missiles or weapons of mass destruction from North Korea to other places. And that underscores the importance of moving forward with the six-party talks so that you are able to eliminate that threat in all its aspects.

QUESTION: The September 19th statement and the February 13th agreement don't talk much in detail about proliferation. They talk about dismantlement and irreversible and all of that. Do you think now the focus might expand to cover any --

MR. MCCORMACK: It's always been -- nonproliferation has always been part of the discussion. I think it gets -- in terms of --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: No, it has been part of the discussion and I would expect that going forward it will continue to be.


QUESTION: Gates is making a big speech in Williamsburg shortly about push for democracy, The future of democracy, (inaudible) Middle East. Rice made a similar speech in Cairo in 2005. Can I just ask comparing the two speeches if democracy in the Middle East is still as much of a priority as she laid out --

MR. MCCORMACK: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- in the Cairo speech?

MR. MCCORMACK: Absolutely. And I would also -- I know that Secretary Rice saw the -- talked to Secretary Gates and saw the speech in advance of its delivery. She also gave a speech I would urge you to take a look at up up in New York just a while ago, this past year, talking about American idealism and the importance of moving forward with the democracy agenda but also pursuing our interests, and how those two things are coincident.

The -- we believe that the promotion of a democracy agenda and the spread of freedom around the globe is not only in our interest, but it's a responsibility as part of who we are. So we believe that a Middle East that is more free, more open and more democratic ultimately will be better not only for the people of the Middle East but for the United States, and that the only way to truly get at the cancer that is violent extremism that emanates from the Middle East is to get at its root causes. And we believe that, as you've heard from President Bush and Secretary Rice, that a big part of that is ensuring that the people of the Middle East have all the opportunities that people around the globe have to realize their full human potential.

Lambros, you've waited us out. Yes.

QUESTION: On Greece. Mr. McCormack, anything to say on the reelection of Kostas Karamanlis as Prime Minister of Greece?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we congratulate Prime Minister Karamanlis on the victory of his party in the elections. We look forward to working with his government.

QUESTION: Any communication between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Athens for the elections?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let's see here. Any phone calls? No, there are not any -- not any phone calls. But certainly, we offer our congratulations.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Do you have any explanation for this obvious snub? (Laughter.) Does she plan to call and --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure -- you know --

QUESTION: -- be in touch with her Greek counterparts?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure she will -- I'm sure she will see her Greek counterpart in New York City and offer her hearty congratulations in person. I'm doing it on her behalf here today.

QUESTION: It's confirmed, Sean?

MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?

QUESTION: The meeting --

MR. MCCORMACK: The meeting? No, we'll talk more about her UN schedule as we get closer to --

QUESTION: But my question is it's confirmed? Because already you are talking in a positive way.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Like I say, we will talk about her UN schedule as we get closer to the event, Lambros.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:21 p.m.)

DPB # 163

* the U.S.

Released on September 17, 2007

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