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Daily Press Briefing

Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 9, 2008


EU Statement Consistent with U.S. Policy
UN Security Council Sanctions / Other Bilateral Measures
P-5+1 Briefing to Iranians on Refreshed Incentives Package / Solana
Purpose of Sanctions / Behavior Change
Relations with Iran / Third Country Relationships
SOFA Negotiation / Replacement of Current UNSC Council Mandate
U.S. Welcomes Strong Messages to Zimbabwe Leadership to Change Course
U.S. to Contribute Several Million to Election Monitoring Efforts
Donor Pledges at Paris Conference / Ongoing International Efforts
Karzai's Leadership / Future For the Afghan People to Determine
First Lady Laura Bush's Visit
Venezuela Should Follow Hugo Chavez's Words with Concrete Actions
Government Should Distance Itself from FARC
Shared Sense of Optimism with Turkey on Cyprus
Lessons Learned from Breakup of A.Q. Khan Network
Mediation Between Fatah, Hamas / No Change in Abbas's Conditions
Secretary Rice Travel / Trilateral Meetings
Tragedy of Stabbing Incident


12:44 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don’t have any statements to start off with, so we can get right to your questions. Who would like to jump in?


QUESTION: The European Union and the U.S. have (inaudible) stated today jointly that if Iran doesn’t, you know, play ball, and agree to your conditions or won’t take on these incentives, then you’re going to – you’re ready to take extra measures outside of the Security Council. But together, you’re ready to impose additional sanctions. Do you have anything on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, from our point of view that is a statement of fact and perfectly consistent with what we have said over time; that we’re working on a variety of different tracks here. We’re working the Security Council track, which is obviously multilateral-based sanctions that individual states would implement, unilateral sanctions that states would themselves decide to take, and then also working with the private sector to inform them and educate them about the Iranian Government’s activities. Secretary Rice also – always cites Secretary Paulson’s remark about Iran: “If you’re doing business with Iran, you’re really not sure with whom you are doing business in the Iranian Government or Iranian society.”

So that’s absolutely consistent with our – certainly, with our point of view. And I’ll leave it to the EU to describe their previous policy positions.

QUESTION: But is there anything special in the works? Secretary Rice said on the trip to Palo – to Palo Alto --

MR. MCCORMACK: Palo Alto, yes. Out West.


QUESTION: But we never actually got to Palo Alto. 

QUESTION: No. (Laughter.) Anyway, she said that the United States would aggressively impose sanctions against Iran. And obviously, we --


QUESTION: Are we still on track for that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Absolutely, absolutely. We’re always looking at what further might be done based on the facts. Of course, all of these things have to be based on Iranian actions. If the Iranians are engaged in illicit activities or using the international financial system for – in improper ways, then of course, we are going to: (a) speak out about it and (b) take action. And we’ve demonstrated that we’re prepared to do that, as have other states. And in the recent speech the Secretary gave to AIPAC, she also talked about this as well, encouraging others to have strict enforcement not only of UN sanctions, which have the force of international law, but also to look at what they might do bilaterally.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: So what type of measures are you looking at -- are you considering imposing if they do continue to ignore --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I’m not going to talk about what various options are out there in terms of actions we might take. These are traditionally things that are not made public before there is an actual formal announcement for a variety of different reasons.

QUESTION: Is that going to be a part of the presentation that’s made to the Iranians so that they know what the cost might be?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. This is – what they are going to receive is a briefing on the refreshed incentives package that has been agreed to by the P-5+1. I would expect that probably mid-June they will – Mr. Solana and his delegation will meet with the Iranians so he can convey that. He can convey the fact – the idea to the Iranians that they have an opportunity here. They have a choice. And the refreshed incentive package is meant to reinforce for them that there is a different pathway from the one that they have chosen up until now.


QUESTION: Iran and Iraq today are agreeing to boost its --

MR. MCCORMACK: Charlie, you have something?

QUESTION: Just a follow-up on the same thing.

MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll get to that. 

QUESTION: Is it safe to say that the Bush Administration still does not favor any sanctions on Iran that would affect import their oil – imports of refined oil products?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Charlie, again, we always take a look at what options are out there. I’m not going to – you know, go beyond where the President and Secretary Rice have in terms of talking about various sanctions. Again, we are going to look at those actions and those things that are going to be effective in changing Iran’s behavior.

QUESTION: But why do you think that more sanctions are really going to have an impact? I mean, they haven’t had a big impact so far. So unless you – you know, hit the oil industry, what else is going to work?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they have had – they have had some effect. And the effect of the sanctions is really to use the Iranian Government’s own mismanagement of its economy against them.  The sanctions that they have in place – that we have in place now and others have in place, increase the cost to the Iranian Government to doing business in the international system. Now, the lesson to them is that if they are going to persist in using the international financial system, the international systems set up for Congress – Commerce for illicit purposes, then the cost for trying to engage in those activities, as well as any other activities that they are going to engage in, are going to rise. And it makes it much more difficult for them to get loan guarantees, to get letters of credit, and to use the international financial system for any purpose that they want.

So while it has not up until this point changed their behavior – you are correct – we are mindful of the idea that we are going to consistently increase the pressure on the Iranian Government in an effort to get them to change their behavior if they – and that each point along the way, we will assess whether or not they have – there’s any indication that they’re willing to change their behavior or if, in fact, they have changed their behavior. If they have chosen not to change their behavior, then there are going to be greater and greater costs to them for their continued defiance of the international system.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Hold on. I said I’d go to Sue.

QUESTION: Thanks. On Iran -- Iran and Iraq today are saying they’re going to increase their defense cooperation and their energy cooperation. Are you worried that the Maliki government seems to be, you know, warming up to this government in Iran that you accuse of backing attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, they’re neighbors. They’re going to
have – they’re going to have a relationship. We would encourage them to have a good, open, transparent, neighborly relationship. The fact of the matter is that their – that border isn’t going to change. It’s going to be there. And so the Iranian Government and the Iraqi Government are going to need to find a way to work together in an open way.

 We’re confident that this Iraqi Government is going to act in the best interest of the Iraqi people. And certainly that does not mean that they’re going to be taking their – taking their policy decisions based on what they hear in Iran. They are going to take their decisions based on what is in the best interests of the future of Iraq and the Iraqi people. That’s what the Iraqi people have – expect.

QUESTION: But they expect U.S. forces to stay there and then, you know, warm up to this government that – that you say is backing attacks on U.S. forces?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, there are a lot of governments around the world that have diplomatic relations and commercial relations and other kinds of relations with Iran and we have perfectly good relationships with those nations. It’s the same – the same goes for Iraq. 
We are negotiating with the Iraqi government, a SOFA agreement, (inaudible), a strategic framework agreement that will be in the best interests of both of these countries. It’s going to be transparent and one that is not meant in opposition to anything – any other country or neighbor of Iraq but is intended to be a statement of the good and close ties and cooperation between the United States and Iraq, and one that very clearly demonstrates that in – that Iraq is a sovereign country and – that is going to take its decisions in the best interest of its sovereignty and its security.

QUESTION: Perhaps another way to read their actions is that they would like for U.S. troops to go home?


QUESTION: The Iraqis.

MR. MCCORMACK:  The Iraqis? I haven’t seen any indication of that. There’s a lot of politics, obviously, in Iraq. But this government quite clearly is working closely with our military and our troops. Our troops are there currently under UN Security Council mandate, and we are working, as we’ve just discussed, a – various set of arrangements and documents that would replace those understandings. But, no, this new government has given no indication that it wants anything other than a good, working relationship with the United States military and with the United States.

That said, of course they want to take greater and greater responsibility for their own security in Iraq. That’s been something we’ve seen demonstrated more and more each day with the progress made in Anbar, with the progress made in Basra by Iraqi forces, with the progress made in Sadr City by Iraqi forces. And while a lot of these gains are still fragile, they are real. And they demonstrate, as you’ve heard from our military officials, an increasing level of competence on the part of Iraqi forces. That said, there’s still a need for that partnership in fighting determined enemies of Iraqi democracy.

QUESTION: But Sean – change of subject. The EU and U.S. in addition to this document on Iran, are going, also, to publish a common document on Zimbabwe, calling for international observers to be sent to Zimbabwe before the run-off. Can you confirm that? And what do you expect exactly –
MR. MCCORMACK:  I can’t – I can’t Sylvie, I – I don’t – I suspect all of these documents are being prepared in the run up to the U.S./EU Summit that President Bush is going to be attending, so the White House will probably have more insight to exactly what will come out of the President’s summit. But certainly we, as a general principle, we welcome the – any cooperation and strong message sent to the leadership in Zimbabwe that it needs to change course.

QUESTION: Sean, you’re saying you’re not happy to preview the EU-U.S. summit declarations? Preview for us? You don’t want to do that?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, what I’m saying –

QUESTION: On Iran, Zimbabwe, anything –

MR. MCCORMACK:  I guess what I’m saying is that, you know, as this is the President’s trip, and you noticed that we -- me and Secretary Rice are actually here, not on the President’s trip, but you might talk to the folks at the White House about this trip. I mean, the meetings and what might be produced out of those meetings. 


QUESTION:  Do you have any updates on the situation in Zimbabwe, what’s going on with your Embassy? If they’ve spoken to the foreign ministry? Have there been any developments over the weekend?

MR. MCCORMACK:  No qualitative change in status. We continue to – our folks on the ground are going to continue to do their work, continue to do their work outside of the Embassy. I’m not sure what beyond sort of the routine communications we might have had with the Zimbabwean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

QUESTION: In terms of the poll – I mean, the tensions seem to be really rising ahead of the June 27 polls. Is it still your opinion that it would be the right thing to go ahead with this runoff?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, there is not a change in our position. We haven’t heard a change of position from the MDC or other opposition political parties in Zimbabwe at this point. I think certainly their views would be very important in making some reassessment. Absent that, we are – we are trying to put resources behind an election observer effort. I think – I’ll try to get the figures for you. Maybe we can post them later. I don’t have them here with me right now. But we are going to contribute several million to the election observer effort. Not only to ensure that there are proper, sufficient numbers from countries that are going to supply the observers but there are – but that they have the resources to do their job on the ground, should the run-off election take place. We believe it will but we have seen no indication from the MDC, no, that there’s been a change of heart.

QUESTION: In the March election, of course, the election monitors were picked up at the airport and elsewhere and detained and harassed. I just wondered, are you looking at sending more American monitors from the various organizations who went last time? Are you reaching out to them to ask them to go and what protections would you –

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let me – let me look into exactly where we stand with the election monitoring efforts. 

QUESTION: Okay. Can you also see if you can find out how much you contributed toward --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I mean, -- well, we’ll – I’ve seen the figures. I just don’t want to give you something that I’m not a hundred percent sure of. We’ll put that – put that out for you. 


QUESTION: Just – the mechanics of this, is it – will the money go to SADC or some, you know, NGOs?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, David, we’ll get you – we’ll get you info on that. 

Yeah, Sylvie?

QUESTION: Another subject? In – the Secretary is going to attend the international meeting in Afghanistan? 


QUESTION: And already their government, the Afghan Government, has prepared its program and they are asking for $50 billion from the international community. And so I was wondering if you – well, since this Government has not been able to fight the – efficiently corruption and poppy crops and a lot of problems that really affect the economy, aren’t you concerned that the international community will be reluctant to give all this money?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think they’ll be generous. I don’t have an estimate – probably the organizer of the conference would be better positioned to give you an estimate of the total donations that will be pledged at the conference. I guess I wouldn’t paint such a grim picture of Afghanistan certainly, and the efforts of the Afghan Government. We do focus a lot with the Afghan Government on issues of capacity building, good governance and, as part of that, fighting corruption. That’s also interlinked with a strong effort to halt the production of poppies, as well. So they’re – and that is also linked in with issues related to economic development and building roads. All of that is to say, all of these various pieces fit together. 

And what we have now is a concerted international effort on the ground, on the security front, to fight the Taliban and fight terrorists, to find al-Qaida who might be trying to turn the clock back on Afghanistan, but also a increasingly integrated effort on the part of the civilian agencies and civilian efforts to try to help construct, not reconstruct, construct a lot of Afghanistan. You mentioned the $50 billion aid figure. It’s indicative of the needs of Afghanistan. This is a place where there are – they still need to build a road network to connect the entire country which is, of course, important to economic development. You still need to complete a process of electrification of the country. I mean – and this is – never mind in rural areas, but actually in urban areas. And in all the other kind of infrastructure developments that we just take for granted here in the United States or in Western Europe. So their needs are great. 

So I guess I would sum it up by saying they have come a long way in Afghanistan. Just the fact that we are talking about issues of good governance and fighting corruption is one indication of how far we’ve come, and it’s also an indication of the fact that the Afghani Government and the Afghan people have a long way to go. But we won’t lose – we are not going to lose faith with them. And this conference in Paris is one way of demonstrating that the International Community is not going to lose faith in the Afghan people and the Afghan Government. We did that before. They’ve seen that when we abandoned Afghanistan and we saw the results of what happened. So certainly, the United States is not going to repeat that. 

QUESTION: Do you still think that President Karzai is the right person to lead this effort?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, those are questions for the Afghan people to answer, President Karzai has been a strong leader for Afghanistan and for the Afghan people. And like I said, he has helped take Afghanistan a long way from where it was several years ago. Thinking about – thinking back to the Bonn conference and just trying to organize how you are going to elect a president. Remember those days? So he and Afghanistan have come a long way together. 

You know, as to the future of the elected leadership of Afghanistan, it’s not for us to say. That’s for the Afghan people to determine, but we are working closely with President Karzai and his government on issues that are of mutual concern to us.  But most importantly, ones that will -- if we get them right -- help benefit the Afghan people. 


MR. MCCORMACK: Just to follow up, do you have any comments on this surprise visit by the First Lady in Afghanistan is going to change as well as this donors conference is concerned, if her visit or the way she expressed her views in Afghanistan, that the U.S. has a long way to go? Is going to change in any way? 

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not sure I get the point. For --

QUESTION: Her latest visit –

MR. MCCORMACK: I – I know. She’s --

QUESTION: She’s getting (inaudible) from the State Department or from Secretary Rice? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, like I said, it’s certainly the fact that she went to Afghanistan, and it’s not the first time she has gone to Afghanistan. It is yet another indicator of the strength of the relationship between Afghanistan and the Afghan people, and as an indicator of our commitment to Afghanistan. 


QUESTION: Sean, over the weekend, the president of Venezuela –


QUESTION: -- seemingly reversing years of policy, called for – basically, called on FARC to end its insurgency to release its hostages without conditions. He says, that in this day and age in Latin America, an armed guerilla movement is out of place. Any response to that or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I mean, this is certainly – you know, certainly good words. And we would encourage Venezuela to follow those good words with concrete actions and seek to – and the Venezuelian Government should make every effort, public and in private, to distance itself from any relationship it may have had with the FARC and I say that based on the news reports that we have seen, concerning a relationship in the past between Venezuela and the FARC. So we’ll see whether or not these words from President Chavez are just that – words. We’ll see if those words are followed up by concrete action. 

QUESTION: And just to -- additionally, he also basically said that they would pull back and take another look at a intelligence plan -- that domestic intelligence plan that was widely criticized domestically and here also. 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think the most important of those criticisms came from within Venezuela. I thought that the reaction was sharp and immediate. And one quote I – one critical quote I saw came from a Supreme Court justice. So certainly, that’s something in Venezuela that merits the attention of the Venezuelan officials as well as the Venezuelan people.

QUESTION: But what kind of action do you expect from Venezuela? You said you – we hope these words would be followed by actions. What kind of actions? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. Well, that – obviously that would be up to them to dictate. We can only go in public on the news reports that we’ve seen about these linkages between the FARC and Venezuela. I think everybody in the region, the Columbian people, the Columbian Government, those in the region who stand against terrorist organizations would like to see Venezuela take concrete actions to put to rest any idea, whether in theory or in fact that there was a relationship between -- an ongoing relationship -- between the FARC and Venezuela.

QUESTION: Are you saying that you don’t have any indication that there – on your own, that there is –

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I said in public we have discussed, based on the news reports --
QUESTION: Yeah. You’re not saying that the U.S. Government doesn’t have any – has no information of its own –

MR. MCCORMACK: We have our own means. But –

QUESTION: In terms of your own means, what about these laptops? Is there more information coming out of the laptops? Is that what you were referring to?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have, obviously, we have a significant apparatus in which we collect and analyze information. We’re taking a look at the information that has been gleaned in recent months from a number of the operations that the Columbian Government has launched. They, of course, are in the lead on any assessment of information that they have, but it certainly is a party interested in fighting terrorism. And we are going to take our own look at the information to see what we might add.


QUESTION: President Sarkozy announced the decision to send two envoys in Damascus. What do you think about this rapprochement between France and Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll get you something on that. 


QUESTION: On Cyprus. Mr. McCormack, last Thursday, Secretary Rice told us in the Treaty Room that she discussed the Cyprus issue to – with the Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan. May we to know to which extent?

MR. MCCORMACK: Whether they had discussed the issue?
QUESTION: Yes, the Cyprus issue.

MR. MCCORMACK: I can’t give you a percentage. But they had a good discussion. It went on for several minutes about Cyprus. I think that there’s a shared sense of optimism, mutual optimism about Cyprus, and that there appears to be some momentum there. Certainly, we would -- both sides, I got the sense, would encourage that momentum. But ultimately any sort of real critical mass to finding a solution is going to have to come from -- on the island itself. That isn’t to say that those on the outside and in the international system aren’t prepared to help, should we see that momentum really take hold.

QUESTION: One on Kosovo?


QUESTION: According to reports, last Friday there was an attempt in Pristi8na by a man to kill the Kosovar leader, Hashim Thaci. I’m wondering do you have anything to say on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: This about the house? Yeah. I don’t have any information that that was anything other than a simple criminal act.


QUESTION: On Iran, Sean. Going back to Iran. Do you have any comments recently A.Q. Khan made statements that he had never given any nuclear or missile technology to any any country, including Iran. Do you think as far as Iranian issue is concerned, going to change in any way because U.S. officials and the international community and UN been saying that A.Q. Khan had a connection with a number of countries, including Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, A.Q. Khan – A.Q. Khan’s network, which was focused on supplying nuclear – the technology as well as the information that could help a country develop a nuclear weapon is -- that network has been busted, broken up. And as a result of that international effort that took place over a number of years, we know a lot more about the spread of this – these kinds of technologies around the globe. I won’t say that we have perfect knowledge, but we’ve learned a lot more as a result.

I don’t think that there’s any doubt that A.Q. Khan and – I don’t think there’s any doubt about what A.Q. Khan and his network were up to. These more recent comments notwithstanding coming from him.


QUESTION: Just to follow-up on that, what do you make of the -- his comments saying that he was essentially set up by the Pakistani Government to be an agent for them?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I don’t have anything either – no particular comment on that.


QUESTION: Sean, any reaction to an announcement from Saudi Arabia that they’re moving ahead with an international conference of oil producers and oil consumers about oil prices they say are too high?

MR. MCCORMACK:  I will leave it to those who comment on commodity prices to comment on – or commodities to comment on those things.


QUESTION: Can you comment on the mediation by Senegal between Hamas and Fatah?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I don’t have really much to share about it. I think the Palestinians can probably fill you in on the mediation of this particular effort. We understand that there is no change as we have said over the past weeks here. There is no change in President Abbas’ conditions he has laid out for any dialogue between Fatah and Hamas.

QUESTION: About the – Mashaal spoke about dialogue with Abbas after a meeting with the foreign – the Syrian Foreign Minister Mualem -- in front of Mualem. He said he was ready to have a more extended dialogue with Abbas. Do you think Syria is behind that and --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know. I’m sure that – you know, unless they’ve changed their behavior patterns, that they’re not engaged in any helpful behavior in this regard.

Yeah, Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, in the Mideast, can you give us any additional details on Secretary Rice’s planned activities scheduled?

MR. MCCORMACK: She is going to be – well, first, to start off with, I’ve seen some reports about trilateral meetings. Yeah, she does plan to have some trilateral meetings. One set with Foreign Minister Livni and Abu Allah and then another set with Prime Minister Fayyad and Defense Minister Barak. She’ll also have her usual slate of meetings on the Israeli – on the Israeli side and the Palestinian side.

QUESTION: A quick one --

QUESTION: A different subject, please? Secretary Rice has any comments on Senator Obama’s victory?

MR. MCCORMACK: You heard her the other day. You heard her the other day, Goyal. 


QUESTION: And does she expect him to win or --

MR. MCCORMACK: We’ve got one more back here. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Any reaction on the Tokyo stabbing incident again, or the comment really on camera?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it’s a – you know, it certainly is a tragedy for the families of the victims and I’m sure also for the families and friends of the person who committed this act.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Sean, did you get anything fresh on the Sudan murder of the USAID official?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:13 p.m.)

DPB # 102

Released on June 9, 2008

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