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Daily Press Briefing

Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 3, 2008


Secretary's Speech at AIPAC / Iran's Efforts to Develop a Nuclear Weapon / NIE
Negotiations in Sudan / Efforts of Special Envoy Williamson / Spiraling of Violence / Abyei
Ultimately, the North and the South will Have to Come Together to Fully Implement the CPA
U.S. and International Community Has Strong Interest in Seeing the CPA Implemented
President Karzrai's Statements / U.S. Works Closely with Karzai Government
Afghanistan Population Needs to Feel that Their Government is Working on Their Behalf
U.S., Afghanistan Dedicated to Helping the Afghan People Build a Different Kind of Afghanistan
Suspension of CARE / Step Taken While Mugabe Attends UN World Food Security Conference
Hardened Indifference by Government of Zimbabwe Toward the Plight of It's People
Zimbabwe's Proud History as a Net Exporter of Food / Breadbasket
Practical Effect of Banning CARE is that People Will Not Get Fed / Tragedy
Upcoming U.S.-EU Summit in Slovenia / Stability, Climate, Food Security, Transatlantic Alliance
Secretary's Upcoming Meeting with Foreign Minister Babacan / U.S. Strong Relationship with Turkey
Discussions between Turkey and Iraq on PKK
U.S. Interested in Encouraging Energy Diversity in Europe / Turkey an Energy Corridor
Turkey's Ability to Play Important Role in Convincing Iran to Change Its Behavior
Beef Import Agreement / U.S. to Continue to Work on Implementation of Agreement
Quality and Safety of American Beef
New Security Measures for Visa Waiver Countries / DHS
U.S. Wants to Make Sure America Remains a Welcoming Place While Protecting Its Borders
Possible Reciprocal Actions
U.S. Aid Efforts / U.S. Will Not Abandon People in Need / Assets Needed Elsewhere
No Rational Expectation At This Point That Asset Can Be Effectively Used
Differences on Politics in Burma Well-Known / U.S. Would Put Aside for Humanitarian Reasons
Decision-Making Process of Burmese Government a Contrast with Countries Affected by Tsunami


12:51 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Let’s get right into your questions, whoever wants to start off.

QUESTION: Yeah. Sean, in her speech this morning at AIPAC, the Secretary had some strong things to say about Iran --


QUESTION: -- talking about how they’re inching forward on a nuclear weapon under the guise of talks and that there aren’t any innocent answers --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think she said – I don’t have the text in front of me – “You don’t want them to inch forward under the guise of talks.”

QUESTION: Okay. And that there are no innocent answers to the outstanding questions of the IAEA and the international community, that kind of thing. Has something changed since the NIE came out that makes you think that they’ve resumed an atomic – a nuclear weapons – an actual --

MR. MCCORMACK: You can talk to the intelligence community about their assessment.

QUESTION: Well, she seems to suggest that they’re back to their old games.

MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, you know, I read the speech. Again, I don’t have it in front of me. I didn’t detect anything really different in that regard.

QUESTION: Okay. So not – the answer is: not that you’re aware of? That we are where – the findings of the NIE still remains --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t speak for the intelligence community. You can talk to them about it. Again, I mean, it’s really only rational that they, of course, produce the NIE and they can talk about intelligence projects, so I’m not going to do it. I mean, correct me if I’m wrong (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Inaudible) there’s an element of that, isn’t it?

MR. MCCORMACK: An element, but there is also an umbrella organization that we – the Director for National Intelligence is responsible for bringing together all of those elements. And that’s the appropriate person to address any questions about their products.


QUESTION: Do you have anything on the negotiations in Sudan, where Richard Williamson has told reporters that the United States is suspending these because neither side is interested in peace?


QUESTION: Or suspending their participation in these? Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: I understand he’s interested in trying to stay there a day longer to try to see what he could do to help the two sides come together. There has been a lot of violence recently. An example of a small incident spiraling into something more major recently in Abyei, which, again, is a key part of resolving the entire question of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. So we want to make sure that that process moves along again. Ultimately, it’s going to have to be the two elements of the government, the north and the south that come together and actually fully implement the CPA. And that’s what he was going to try to accomplish. I think he said he was going to stay there a day longer than he had planned, but I – you know, I have not spoken to him recently.

QUESTION: Do you mean that he’ll stay until tomorrow or --

MR. MCCORMACK: That’s my understanding, yeah.

QUESTION: And to try to --

MR. MCCORMACK: We want to see what we can do to help the situation. We have a strong interest, along with other members of the international system, in seeing that Comprehensive Peace Agreement implemented. Ultimately, though, it’s going to come down to the will and dedication of the two parties, the signatories of the peace agreement.

QUESTION: Do you know what – I mean, the story that we had signals, you know, some frustration on his part. Do you know anything more about the detail of what’s been going on?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven’t – again, I haven’t spoken with him. You know, I don’t want to try to interpret his remarks, but, you know, it’s a hard issue. It hasn’t been solved yet. We want to see it resolved.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Nazira Karimi, correspondent for Ariana Television from Afghanistan. Recently, President Karzai, during an interview with an Indian television, suggested that the wrong policies of international community in fighting terrorism in Afghanistan have caused violence to become – to be increased and people lose their confidence to the government in Kabul and to the international community. So the United States has been a leading force in fighting terrorism and those wider groups in Afghanistan appears as such. What’s your reaction, of United States’ reaction about President Karzai’s statements?

MR. MCCORMACK: I have seen neither the news report nor the text of his interview. And I want to reserve any full comment till I have the opportunity to do so. Look, we’ve worked very closely with President Karzai and his government on issues related to security and construction and building up the capabilities of the Afghan Government, not only in Kabul, but throughout the country. And we have -- we, together along with members of the international community, have made good progress in that regard.

There’s still a lot to do. And a big part of that is winning the support of the population, they need to feel as though their government and that the international community that is resonant there in helping the Afghan Government, is working on their behalf, that they’re going to help – they’re going to work to protect them, that their government is going to work to protect them, that their government is going to work to provide them basic services, that – you know, basically, that their government is working on their behalf.

And we are partnering, along with others in the international system, to help the Afghan Government do that. We haven’t and the Afghan Government hasn’t fully accomplished that task, but we’re dedicated to helping the Afghan people build a different kind of Afghanistan, one that is firmly rooted in democracy and greater prosperity.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Yeah, a question – wanted to get your comments on Zimbabwe and the suspension of CARE, specifically, if the United States is viewing this as an effort by the government to deny food aid to opposition supporters.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don’t – you certainly couldn’t define the motivations of the government in taking this step, you know, and one I would note that was taken while President Mugabe is at the UN World Food Security conference taking place in Rome. It just shows a hardened indifference on the part of the Zimbabwean Government to the plight of its people. This is – Zimbabwe is a place now that is a net recipient of international food aid and, quite frankly, couldn’t feed its people without that international assistance. That is a far cry from Zimbabwe’s proud history as a net exporter of food. It used to be one of the breadbaskets of Southern Africa.

And the practical effect, as we understand it, of banning CARE and not allowing them to do their work, is that 110,000 people or so will not get fed. That is a tragedy. It is a cruel irony that this is taking place while President Mugabe is in Rome feigning interest in the issue of food security.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: (Inaudible), Slovenia. My question is on EU-U.S. summit. I’m wondering what issues does the U.S. delegation plan to focus on and what outcome do you expect? And maybe some details as to the program of Madame Secretary?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the – we will talk a little bit more in the next couple of days about Secretary Rice’s travel schedule. The President will be attending the summit, and certainly we will have people from the State Department supporting the President in his travels. You have to remember this is a summit-level event and the White House will be able to provide more details about the agenda and some of the plans for the summit.

I would expect that the issues on the table at the summit between the U.S. and the EU will look identical on both sides. There are going to be issues broadly relating to security throughout the world. There are going to be issues related to climate change. And I’m sure issues related to food security are going to come up. And of course, the transatlantic alliance and the shared interests we have not only in maintaining and strengthening that alliance, but also in putting that alliance to work around the globe as well as in Europe.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you, Sean. Could you talk a little bit -- the Turkish Foreign Minister’s meeting with Secretary Rice on Thursday, what’s the agenda?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we’re going – we’ll talk about U.S.-Turkish relations. There’s a lot of there’s a rich (inaudible) of material there. The relationship is good. It is strong. And I would expect we’ll talk about issues of interest to Turkey, Turkey’s relationship to Europe, also talk about our common goal of fighting terrorism, fighting the PKK, talk about how that work relates to Iraq as well.

The Turkish Government and the Iraqi Government have had some good discussions on their common fight against the PKK. I would expect they talk about regional issues as well, peace in the Middle East. But that’s probably – that’s a broad summary of what they’ll talk about. We’ll try to get you more – a more detailed account once the meeting has taken place.

QUESTION: (inaudible) energy and Iran issues?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m sure both of those will come up. Of course, we’re interested in a diversity – encouraging a diversity of energy supplies for Europe as well as a diversity of means of transporting those supplies. And that, of course, is of great interest to Turkey which has served as, in part, an energy corridor between the states of Asia and Central Asia and Europe.

In addition to supplying their own needs, Iran will, of course, be a topic of conversation. It’s of great interest to us for a lot of reasons that you know about and, of course, to Turkey as well. Turkey’s a neighbor to Iran and they could play an important role in perhaps trying to convince the Iranian regime to change their behavior and really come in line with the mainstream of behavior in the international system with which they are not currently. And they’re apparently far outside that mainstream of behavior.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Could you (inaudible) on South Korea’s announcement that they will not accept the U.S. beef – U.S. beef imports from the (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we’re going to continue to work the issue of implementation of the agreement that we have. We understand that there are concerns on the South Korean side. We’re going to continue working through those. I would just add, however, that it is our firm belief -- and there are 300 million Americans or so are testament to the quality and safety of American beef.

QUESTION: Do you see it as disappointing?

MR. MCCORMACK: We’re continuing to work the issue with the South Korean Government.


QUESTION: The political opposition and protestors in South Korea are calling for a complete renegotiation of the agreement. Is that something that the U.S. would consider?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not going to jump into South Korean domestic politics. I would just say that we’re working to continue to work the issue with the South Korean Government.


QUESTION: I was wondering if you could maybe clarify the new visa waiver security measurements taken and announced, I think, today by the Secretary Chertoff.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. You know, I think my colleagues at DHS are probably best positioned to do that. If there’s a more general interest here, I’m happy to organize a briefing by the experts here concerning our role in this. I think that probably would be a useful thing to do.

QUESTION: Are they also the ones that are communicating with foreign countries regarding that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, certainly, DHS has their own means of communications and their own ties at the – these are issues of mutual concern. We want to make sure that America remains an open and welcoming place while protecting our borders.

QUESTION: Does State have a role?

MR. MCCORMACK: We do. We do have some role in this, Matt. Yeah. Well, I’m --

QUESTION: But other just – I mean, other than – I mean, this website where you can go, that’s a DHS website.

MR. MCCORMACK: It is a DHS website, yeah. But you know, any issues related to consular matters overseas, I think we – you know, informing publics and that’s certainly part of what we do. But in terms of once people get to our borders or the process of once a visa has been issued – or I guess in this case, Visa Waiver Program countries, once a person has left that country, it becomes a DHS issue. So they’re at the primary – they’re – I think they’re carrying the primary load -- burden on this, but we’re happy to organize something if you guys are interested.

QUESTION: Just generally --

QUESTION: Yeah. A lot of the countries in the program, mainly the West European countries are concerned with what happens to data, of how long it’s going to be kept for, what are you doing to assure them that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think, again, the colleagues over at DHS are in the best position to do that. Privacy concerns are something that is certainly well-known here in terms of protecting personal information. It’s something that’s always on the minds of American citizens. And I think it certainly stands to reason, it would be on the mind of the travelers coming into the United States. But I think DHS could probably best answer those questions.

QUESTION: And that some in the EU have threatened some sort of reciprocal mirror action, where they would require that for U.S. citizens who want to travel to Europe, do you have any particular response to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I – you know, I have to talk to our folks about what their discussions have been with the Europeans. Very often, that is the case in consular matters that there’s reciprocity. I don’t think that the idea of reciprocity in these kind of visa or consular affair matters is something new. It’s certainly not a revolutionary concept. I guess I’d talk to our folks to see if they’ve had any conversations in that regard, if they’ve heard back from the Europeans.

QUESTION: But would you oppose that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, you know, reciprocity, there are two sides to this, and reciprocity isn’t a new concept. I would have to – you know, talk to our guys to see whether or not they’ve heard this from the Europeans. But I think, in general, I think, you know, everybody has their own sets of regulations and their own responsibilities that they have in order to maintain a welcome posture to the rest of the world and protecting the borders. You know, that said, you want to try to do it in a cooperative way.

QUESTION: Do – what do you – what would you say to the argument that, you know, this is basically requiring a visa from these countries? I mean, someone has to fill out a – you know, an application and get permission to come over here.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as I understand it, it’s a matter of providing information. I’m not sure that there’s a judgment involved in that beyond that which already exists, even for people with visas or participants in the Visa Waiver Program. Ultimately, it comes down to the judgment of that border and security officer at the airport or other point of entry there. I mean, even if you have – have a visa that it comes down to that decision point at the point of entry, which, of course, falls within the purview and authority of the Department of Homeland Security.

Yeah, Charley.

QUESTION: Sean, as U.S. Navy ships prepare to leave the vicinity of Myanmar, does that also suggest that diplomatic efforts are ceasing to try to --


QUESTION: -- (inaudible) the regime?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, it doesn’t. I saw the – as a matter of fact, the UN, I think, came out with a recent estimate where they’re still – they estimate there’s still about a million people in need of assistance that haven’t been reached yet. So we are not going to abandon those one million people. We’re going to continue to try to get more aid in there, get experts in there. So it’s a matter of a humanitarian issue, and we’re certainly not going to give up. But, these are assets that are needed elsewhere and there’s no rational expectation at this point that we would be able to effectively use those assets in the humanitarian relief operation. That permission has not been forthcoming from the Burmese authorities. And at this point, we don’t have any rational expectation that it would be.

QUESTION: Is there a lesson learned here about what the international community can do in the future in a similar circumstance to try to get aid into a closed country?

MR. MCCORMACK: I suppose that our folks will do the forensics on that to see if there are any lessons learned. But you come up against, very quickly, once you start sorting through these issues, the hard and fast issue of getting the cooperation of a sovereign state. You know, this is – our differences regarding politics and the Burmese regime are well-known. That said, we put those aside in the interest of trying to save people’s lives. We’re going to – we continue that effort. We think that, to the extent that there has been significant loss of life, that we as well as others could have reduced that number had we been allowed to more quickly act with a large-scale intervention.

Certainly, the decision-making process of the Burmese regime stands in stark contrast to the decision making of those countries affected by the tsunami several years ago in the Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region. Very quickly, those countries made the decision that they were going to open up their borders to a massive influx of aid. And as a result, people’s lives were saved and the process of reconstruction was able to proceed more quickly. And because of that, also, I think – I would say the international system was prepared to offer even more assistance well beyond the date at which the natural disaster took place.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:12 p.m.)

DPB # 98

Released on June 3, 2008

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