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Daily Press Briefing

Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 20, 2008


Military Exercises
Increased Diplomatic Pressure on Iranian Regime/U.S. Hope for Changed Behavior
Peaceful Resolution Through Diplomacy
P-5+1 Incentives Package/No Definitive Answer from Iran
Economy and Financial Consequences of Iranian Behavior
EU Lifted Sanctions /U.S. Dedicated to Political Freedom of Cubans
U.S.-EU Summit Declaration/International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights
EU Human Rights Benchmarks/U.S. Shared Objectives, Despite Different Tactics
Timeframe for North Korea Declaration/Six-Party Process
Removal from State-Sponsored Terrorism List
Opposition Party Status in Upcoming Election
Mugabe Government's Threatening Tactics/U.S. Hope for Move Forward
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Foreign Minister Zuma
Mediation Role with Zimbabwe
U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative Delays
Security Issue/Infrastructure
Basic U.S. Strategy
Berlin Conference in Support of Palestinian Civil Police and Rule of Law
Quartet Meeting in Berlin
U.S. Stance on Building Institutions of Governance
President Lee's New Appointees
Supreme Court Decision on Guantanamo Bay Detainees


12:37 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Anybody want to start? 

QUESTION: On the news today of a large Israeli operation – air operation training exercise that may be a demonstration project for future endeavors in Iran? 

MR. MCCORMACK: I would say you’d probably have to – you would have to go talk to the Government of Israel about any of their military exercises and what they intended to accomplish by those military exercises. We ourselves, as you know and as we have conveyed to Israel, as well as others in public and private, are focused on trying to make the diplomacy work. We believe that we can resolve the approximate issue at hand, which is the nuclear question and which the Israeli Government, I believe, sees as an existential threat through -- and that we can resolve these issues through diplomacy. We still hold out that hope; that despite the fact that Iran has not agreed to the international community’s demands, as expressed through the IAEA and through three UN Security Council resolutions. 

We are going to continue to increase the pressure on the Iranian regime to change its behavior. We have also kept open another pathway for them. Recently, Mr. Solana, on behalf of the P-5+1, conveyed to the Iranian Government a package of incentives, incentives for them to change their behavior, to change the course on which they have put the Iranian people at the moment. We have not heard back a definitive answer from the Iranian Government to that package of proposals. And again, I say that some of the initial responses, notwithstanding from the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, they said to Mr. Solana, that they would look at the package and provide a response. They have not provided a response. 

So that’s a long answer to a short question. 

We’re still working on the diplomacy. We believe that it can work. But again, as the President has said and as the Secretary has also reiterated, the United States does not take any options off the table. 

Yeah, Sylvie. 

QUESTION: These maneuvers seem to indicate that Israel is willing to act alone. Could they act completely alone or would you help them to – help them at least -- (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, talk to the Israelis. I’m not going to speak on behalf of the Israeli Government about what they intended to accomplish with these exercises. I’m not going to speak on behalf of the Israeli Government about how they see Iran and Iranian actions, other than to note that I think it’s quite clear from Iranian statements and Israeli responses in public that they do view Iran as a real threat. I can certainly understand that, given the fact the President of Iran has talked about wiping Israel off the map. So Israel does see Iran as an existential threat. 

But again, I – you know, I’m going to have to kick any questions about what was intended by this exercise, what its purpose was, what they hope to accomplish to the Israeli Government. They are the competent officials to talk about those issues. 

QUESTION: Sean, would the U.S. support Israeli air strikes against Iran? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we’ve made clear what our focus is. 

QUESTION: But would you support Israeli air strikes? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Our -- again, it’s a hypothetical question. We focus on trying to get the diplomacy to work. 

QUESTION: Well, you oppose -- your focus is on diplomacy in trying to get it to work. Presumably, you would oppose other people taking military action against Iran, right? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Arshad, again, it’s a hypothetical question. We are seeking a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to that. We’ve made that clear to the Israeli Government. We have made that clear to the Iranian Government. We have made that clear to anybody who will listen and who has asked about it. 

QUESTION: The Iranian --

QUESTION: Well, apparently, the Israeli warning shots to Iran will help increase the pressure on the European Union and others, Russia, China, to increase sanctions. Are you hoping that this story might do that? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I’m not sure --

QUESTION: Not the story, but the idea of Israeli air strikes.

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I don’t – there is no organized U.S. Government effort to kind of get this story out. That is certainly – you know, I can’t speak to the anonymous sources quoted by The New York Times in their assessments. I mean, they certainly don’t speak on behalf of the United States Government. 

QUESTION: But are you not concerned – are you not concerned on the other hand that this might be viewed as a provocation? 

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, again, I can’t account for every person with a telephone in the United States Government that, you know, picks up – picks it up and talks to reporters and what their intent may be. I -- you know, I can’t account for that. But --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) asking in a general sense, would the U.S. view this kind of military exercise, whether it’s -- you know, if it is indeed a rehearsal for this kind of attack, would you – wouldn’t you be worried that -- on Iran’s reaction to this, that that would be seen as a direct provocation? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you can talk to the Israelis, and I don’t know that they have spoken to it. I haven’t seen any particular response from them or any description from them about this military exercise or what it hoped to accomplish. Again, we’ve told the Israelis, we’ve told everybody who will listen, anybody who asks, what our focus is on in terms of the diplomacy, trying to make that work, trying to find a peaceful resolution to a very serious issue. 

We have laid out the two pathways here. There’s a positive pathway, which Mr. Solana conveyed. There’s a pathway of continued, steadily increasing diplomatic pressure on the Iranian Government, and it is having an effect. It hasn’t had the effect, at this point, of changing their behavior, but each and every single day, the Iranian Government is incurring greater and greater cost to Iran for its behavior.

Unfortunately, some of those – some of those costs potentially filter down to the Iranian people. Certainly, that’s not what we want. But they need to understand that it is their government that is acting in an irresponsible way that is clearly outside the mainstream behavior of the international community. And it’s a very serious issue and we are trying to act in a responsible way to bring about a peaceful solution to it, working with our partners in the international system. 



QUESTION: Would you feel that the – an Israeli action on Iraq, if they launched an attack, would derail your diplomatic efforts to a diplomatic solution?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Kirit, these are all hypothetical questions. You know, I haven’t seen – we’re talking about a report in the New York Times, based on anonymous sources, with their interpretation and description of an Israeli military exercise. I can’t speak to what the intent of those sources were or the accuracy of their description. I can’t. I can only talk to, as a State Department spokesman, where the Secretary of State’s efforts are focused, where the President of the United States’ efforts are focused, in trying to resolve a very difficult and very serious issue of deep concern to the international community. 


QUESTION: Real quick, just to – in principle, would you be concerned about an Israeli strike on another sovereign government? (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, in principle, that’s a hypothetical question.

QUESTION: I have one that’s not hypothetical. Was either the Secretary or was the U.S. Government informed ahead of time of the exercise?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know, Charlie.

QUESTION: Well, you wouldn’t – you don’t know if the Secretary had discussions on her many trips to the region?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t – no, I don’t know.

QUESTION: Don’t know?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know.

QUESTION: Well, Sean -- 

QUESTION: Would you take the question?

MR. MCCORMACK: If there’s – look, Charlie, if there – I can’t tell you. Right now, I don’t have the information. We’re not going to divulge every single diplomatic exchange that may occur between the Secretary or other officials in the State Department or the United States Government with other foreign governments.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know, you know. I don’t – you know, sorry, I don’t keep track of the schedule. 

QUESTION: But Sean, let’s say if there was some kind of strike or military strike from Israel and – is Secretary worried about that it could be consequence and could be leading to the World War Three, not only deceptions of international (inaudible) from the areas, but World War Three?

MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal, I think you heard my response to the other hypothetical questions from the other very real people in your role.

QUESTION: But really, how many countries were involved in this action, in the area.

MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal, I think I’ve – if you had been listening, you’ve heard my response to this and where our energy and where our focus is. 

QUESTION: (Inaudible) finally, is diplomacy working out?

MR. MCCORMACK: It has not gotten to the point that Iran and this regime have changed its behavior. We’re hopeful that there are those reasonable officials within the Iranian Government who will see that continuing on the course that they are on, continuing their enrichment and reprocessing related activities in the face of the demands of the international community, is not a good road for the Iranian Government to go down, because they will continue to incur greater and greater costs from – as a result of actions by the international community. It has already had an effect on Iran. The costs of their financing and borrowing money in the international financial system have gone up significantly. That, in turn, has had an effect on the Iranian economy, and I would say that the effect is really to only accentuate the mismanagement that is already occurring in Iran, by the Iranian Government, of the Iranian economy. 

So the answer to your question is it has not yielded the result that we and our partners in the P-5+1, as well as others, would like to see in terms of changed Iranian behavior. But is it our belief that if we do maintain this policy and consistently see increasing pressure on the Iranian Government, absent a change of behavior, that that policy will yield positive results. I point to you – I pointed out to you just recently the actions of the EU, where they announced their intention to enforce new sanctions on Iran as evidence that there is a great deal of concern and activity and in the international system to get diplomacy to work. And that is where our focus is.

Yeah --

QUESTION: You actually seem to think that this joint Israeli/Greek exercise is a harbinger of the coming apocalypse, right?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) Again, I would not – I would not --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) coming of apocalypse, World War Three here?

MR. MCCORMACK: I would not put it that way.

QUESTION: You mentioned early on that Israel views Iran as an existential threat?

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. That’s my --

QUESTION: Maybe I’m wrong, but I think they regard it as more than an existential threat. And does the U.S. regard Iran as an existential threat or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know --

QUESTION: -- or an actual tangible threat to Israel?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, existential as in meaning – threatening their existence, so I’m not sure that that --

QUESTION: That’s what you mean by existential?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. I’m not being philosophical here.


MR. MCCORMACK: No, as in a very real threat to their existence, and certainly we understand that. 

Okay. Anything else on this?



QUESTION: Yes. According to New York Times, the –

MR. MCCORMACK: I want to see how you (inaudible).

QUESTION: -- Israeli plane used the Greek airspace target in Iran in full cooperation --


QUESTION: -- with Athens. Since you’re concerned for Iran, the matter is political. And what countries are allied to the U.S.? I would like you to comment on that.

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, to the extent that there was, in fact, some military exercise involving Greek airspace in Greek territory, I think you can talk to the Greek Government about that.

QUESTION: I know, but does the U.S. Government, since you are very concerned for Iran, both are allies, I would welcome your comment. It’s not a hypothetical question, it’s a fact.

MR. MCCORMACK: It’s a fact, and having nothing to do with us, in terms of being involved in the military exercise involving Israel and Greece.

QUESTION: Did you hear the (inaudible)?


QUESTION: Another subject?


QUESTION: EU lifted their sanctions on Cuba. 


QUESTION: Do you have any reaction?

MR. MCCORMACK: I do. I have some words here for you, if you just bear with me and let me just read this for you. 

The U.S. and the European Union share common objectives in Cuba: freedom, democracy, and universal human rights. We are dedicated to the unconditional freedom of all political prisoners in Cuba. We reconfirmed our shared commitment to these values in the June 10, 2008 U.S.-EU Summit Declaration, urging the Cuban Government to ratify the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and demonstrate its commitment by unconditionally releasing all political prisoners.

From our consultations, and I know that the EU has yet to put these out, but from our consultations, we understand that the European Union will set human rights benchmarks for its dialogue with the Cuban Government, including: the unconditional release of all political prisoners; implementation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, freedom of – freedom of information and access for Cubans to the Internet; and a dual-track approach for all EU delegations arriving in Cuba, allowing them to meet both opposition figures and members of the Cuban Government. 

These benchmarks send the right message about what is important: the need for the Cuban Government to change the way it treats its citizens. If the Cuban Government intends to undertake meaningful change, it will take concrete steps to improve its human rights record, beginning with unconditionally releasing all political prisoners and ratifying and implementing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 

So that’s a long way of saying we share the objectives. We think it is constructive that they have – that they will – again, based on our understanding -- that they will set these benchmarks. 

Now is there a difference in tactics here? Yes, there is, but strategically, we share the same objectives and we’re going to continue to work closely with the EU on an issue of shared concern.

QUESTION: You are disappointed they took this decision?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, it’s a difference in tactics, okay? They have taken their decision. We’ve talked about it, but we do, and I would refer you back again to this June 10th U.S.-EU Summit Declaration, which is very good. And I think there’s more to this story as well that will come out in terms of the EU talking about its benchmarks and what it will require of the Cuban – Cuban Government for any interaction - and during any interaction with the EU.

QUESTION: Sean, even if you feel that the benchmarks send the right message, don’t you think that the decision to remove the embargo sends exactly the wrong message?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, like I’ve said, you know, there are different pathways to get to the same objective. We have strongly urged them to adhere more closely to a policy that they had in the past. That said, they’ve taken this decision. And it was after intense consultation within the EU. So what I would ask is for you to consider that there is going to be more to the story in terms of what the EU describes vis-à-vis its benchmarks, and what it will require of the Cuban Government. And that’s positive.

QUESTION: But you didn’t want them to do this and you had urged them to take a different path.

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll – I will stick with my description of our view of this.

QUESTION: And so you think actually it will be stricter than what it appears right now?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think there – let me just say I think there’s more to the story. I’ve already gone out a little bit and talked a little bit of what we understand from our consultations with the EU. I typically don’t do that, but in this case, I thought it was important to help provide a more full understanding of what we understand the EU policy will be.

All of that said, they are going to – they’re obviously going to announce for themselves what it will be. I’m just putting --


MR. MCCORMACK: I think early next week. So I just want to put that out there for you so that in writing your stories, you can consider that fact as well.

QUESTION: So early next week, you expect the EU to come out and say, “Well, we did this, but we really didn’t mean it?”

MR. MCCORMACK: And more to follow, but it will come from the EU. I’ve gone as far as I’m going to go.

QUESTION: So – but right now, you can say – you’re not willing to say that the U.S. is disappointed or you think they should have done something different, right? 


QUESTION: Based on what you know about what’s going to happen or what you previously said is going to happen?

MR. MCCORMACK: This is a tactical difference. This is a tactical difference.

QUESTION: Can I move to North Korea?


QUESTION: Previewing next week, we tried to get Tom to define “soon” for the declaration.


QUESTION: Wondering if you have any greater clarity. Do you expect to get the declaration next week?

MR. MCCORMACK: Next week?


MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll see. Again, you know, it’s difficult to predict timing with the North Koreans. We’re – we do hope that the North Koreans will hand over to the Chinese, who are chairs of the six-party process, a declaration. We hope that that will occur soon.

Yeah. Anything else on --

QUESTION: Do you have anything – do you have a draft?

MR. MCCORMACK: We’ve talked to them about it. That was what Sung Kim’s and Chris Hill’s discussions were, in large part, about with them, what the declaration would look like. And of course, we have the documents that are being analyzed now, the 19,000 documents. So I think we have a good sense of what might be in a North Korean declaration once they hand it over, but again, it’s not done until it is handed over to the Chinese.

QUESTION: Sean, did another, what, 800 documents suddenly just appear out of nowhere anonymously?

MR. MCCORMACK: Another 800?

QUESTION: Yeah. I know there was like, 18,200.

QUESTION: 18,282, I think.

QUESTION: All right, so it’s now --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) inflated it to 19,000 and the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Did we round it up?

QUESTION: We rounded it up, yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we rounded it up.

QUESTION: All right. What reason do you have to believe – the Secretary was pretty strong on this the other day, saying that you’re not – you don’t just hope that it’s going to be delivered soon, but that it will be delivered soon. What – why do you --


QUESTION: What reason do you have to believe that that is the case?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we’ve discussed this with them. We’ve discussed with them that --

QUESTION: But to your knowledge, have the North Koreans said to the -- or given some hint to the Chinese or to you that – or to Sung Kim or to who – you know, whoever that --

MR. MCCORMACK: We have indications that it will be soon. But again --

QUESTION: From the North Koreans or from the Chinese?

MR. MCCORMACK: From the North Koreans --


MR. MCCORMACK: -- as well as the Chinese. But we – I’ll give you one other hint here, is we do not yet have another head of delegation --


MR. MCCORMACK: -- meeting scheduled. And presumably, that would be the venue in which the North Koreans would hand over to the Chinese a declaration.

QUESTION: But the indications that you have are that it possibly could be in the next couple days?

MR. MCCORMACK: I would say soon.

QUESTION: Next week, end of the month, by the end of the month?

MR. MCCORMACK: Soon, soon, yeah.

Okay, anything else on North Korea?

QUESTION: Well, that’s what you said about BDA too, right?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) That’s one of the reasons why I never get pinned down on dates.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, you’ve already had one, Goyal. 

Why don’t you go ahead.

QUESTION: This is a new topic completely. It’s about the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in favor of Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Do you think that – do you feel that it’s the final nail in the coffin for the detention center?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that the President has responded in public to this. And I’ll --

QUESTION: Yeah, but how much of a setback do you think this is for the Bush Administration?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think I will let the President’s words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, this is for – a question directly for the State Department. Do you feel this will endanger the national security?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think the President has spoken to the issue.



QUESTION: Zimbabwe?

MR. MCCORMACK: Zimbabwe, sure.

QUESTION: Tsvangirai’s spokesman has said he is considering whether to pull out of the June 27 runoff. I would note that Secretary Rice yesterday, I think, made her most sort of definitive statement that she simply does not believe that this can be a free and fair election.


QUESTION: Given that that’s her assessment, is this the right thing for him to do, to pull out of a runoff election which presumably then just leaves Mugabe in the seat of power?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are a lot of – it’s a fluid situation, in that I know that President Mbeki is involved with both parties here, President Mugabe as well as Mr. Tsvangirai. So I – and I don’t have a read for you on those discussions at this point. There was a clear sense sitting in that room yesterday that others in the room shared Secretary Rice’s assessment. I think that the UN had a very strong assessment in terms of whether or not these could be free and fair elections, as well as others on the African continent, whether or not these could be free or fair elections.

All of that said, we are still going to continue with preparations for election observers in the event that an election does take place, so you do have a more definitive picture of what is taking place on the ground. All of that said, an election doesn’t just happen on one day. There’s a whole run-up period here, and the Zimbabwean Government has clearly demonstrated that it is not going to allow free access to media for Mr. Tsvangirai and his party. They are clearly using tactics of threat and intimidation, despicable things, like making a parent choose between feeding their child and voting their conscience. That is – well, words are hard to come by to describe that.

So there is a real, I would say, coming together in the international community that the situation in Zimbabwe is just intolerable, and that a solution needs to be found. And a solution needs to be found so that Zimbabwe can start to move forward from this sort of dark period that it has been in and one that avoids violence and bloodshed. Nobody wants to see that.

QUESTION: Is there not a danger, though, that if Mr. Tsvangirai – and I realize this is entirely the decision – his decision and those of his, you know, political allies, but if he pulls out, it simply allows Mugabe to, you know, declare victory. Whereas, if he contests it and the results look grossly skewed in favor of the ruling party, you know, then the international community, to the extent that it has observers, can declare it a fraud. I mean, there’s a danger when you sit it out.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right. And those are political calculations that we can’t make for Mr. Tsvangirai and his party. He will have to do that. But there are active efforts to try to find some resolution to this issue that again allows Zimbabwe to move forward and avoids violence and bloodshed.

QUESTION: What kind of (inaudible) --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, President Mbeki -- again, there are a lot of different reports out there, and we haven’t gotten a read from the South African Government about the most recent set of meetings. So I’m not going to – I’m going to withhold comment about what it – what was involved in their discussions.

QUESTION: But does it mean --

QUESTION: You’re (inaudible) with the South Africans?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, absolutely. As a matter of fact, Secretary Rice had a good conversation with Foreign Minister Zuma after the Zimbabwe session. She was going back up to have a meeting with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and they were able to have a five, ten minute conversation.

QUESTION: And you think that the South Africans are now heeding the call and they’re actually doing something?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, President Mbeki is actively – and it would seem actively --

QUESTION: Well, President Mbeki has been actively –

MR. MCCORMACK: I know --

QUESTION: -- allegedly actively involved in this for years. And you guys have been harping on – that the South Africans have to do more, they have to do more --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, right.

QUESTION: -- they have to do more. Are they now doing more?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. They -- I think if you look at some of what is being said by the South Africans, I think you’re seeing a different – a change in tone. And I think that that change in tone is starting to reflect a different posture.

QUESTION: And what --

MR. MCCORMACK: But again, I’m not going to – you know, I’m not going to speak to --

QUESTION: So what can you point to in this change of tone?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, some of the recent statements from the South Africans and a little bit of the Secretary’s conversation with the Foreign Minister Zuma.

QUESTION: But then why did he snub you yesterday? I mean, if the tone has suddenly changed and gone in a -- you know, a more positive direction, why send the deputy perm rep instead of the foreign minister?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think – you know, that’s their choice. I’m sure that it probably has to do with their internal – internal politics. But the end result was a very good session on Zimbabwe, with or without the South African Foreign Minister there.

QUESTION: But are you telling us that your position – the U.S. position to a national unity government is softening?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. I’m not – trying to presume the content or outcome of any discussions that President Mbeki has said. We --

QUESTION: But that’s what he is working on.

MR. MCCORMACK: We are looking for a solution, along with all the others that were in that room yesterday and others that were outside watching; looking for a solution that helps Zimbabwe move beyond this period and helps them move beyond this time and this crisis in a way that doesn’t result in loss of life and significant violence.

QUESTION: Can you tell us a little more about what – it seems that there probably aren’t going to be sufficient observers in the country in time for the election. Can you tell us what the Embassy is planning on doing over the next week to get in place and prepare for its own --

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me try to – I’ll try to get some more granularity for you as well. And one of the things we’re going to try to organize for you guys is next week another conference call with Ambassador McGee. And we’ll try to provide you information either today or Monday with a little more detail as to what the Embassy is doing. Then, also, he can give you a real sense for what’s happening on the ground, at least how he sees it. 

QUESTION: Broadly speaking, can you tell us what they’ve found?

MR. MCCORMACK: Kirit, I don’t have the information at my fingertips. 


QUESTION: Sean, you’re not speaking directly to the opposition to persuade them about - or dissuade them from dropping out?

MR. MCCORMACK: These are decisions that they are going to have to make. I’m sure we’re in contact with a wide variety of people in the Zimbabwean political system. But --

QUESTION: But you did not –

MR. MCCORMACK: Any decision about participation or not in the election is really and very clearly and emphatically only theirs to make. 


QUESTION: Sean, the Indian Government, the leaders of the Indian Government apparently --

QUESTION: But can I just –

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, please. Please. Yeah.

QUESTION: -- as the situation as it is in Zimbabwe, Sean, are you confident and trust the mediation as driven by South Africa?

MR. MCCORMACK:  Well, let’s just put it this way, there is a lot of focus and attention on this issue and that’s one of the reasons why the Secretary wanted to have this meeting yesterday, which was co-chaired by the Foreign Minister of Burkina Faso. So there is a lot of attention – a lot of attention on the issue. I think that there is a critical mass building within the international system for the kind of resolution that we’ve talked about to this issue. And I think the South African Government has an increasing awareness that the eyes of the world are not only on Zimbabwe, but also on them, because they understand that they have a unique – they are uniquely positioned, vis-à-vis President Mugabe, to try to bring about some positive outcome from a very dire situation. And we’ll see how they react to that, how they react to that attention. And the evidence of their reaction will either emerge or not emerge over the coming week. 

Yeah. Gollust. 

QUESTION: Yeah. The Indian Government, the leaders there are – they’re apparently meeting and contemplating a last-ditch drive apparently to get their end of the nuclear deal through their parliament. And I was wondering if you’re talking to them and do you think there is still time on the U.S. side to get this done in 2008? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we are talking to them about it in as much as we’re – they are briefing us on their efforts. I think it’s more – they’re coming to us to say this is what we’re trying to do to resolve internal political differences that are holding up the deal moving forward. I can only say that it’s a separate branch of government that is going to deal with this, as well as some other - international Nuclear Suppliers Group that would have to deal with this issue as well as the IAEA. And every single day that the Indian Government delays and has delayed is a day that makes it much more difficult to get this done. All of that – you know, all of that said, you know, we’ll of course continue to work very closely with Senator Biden, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as others on that Committee, should the Indian Government get to a different place. 

QUESTION: (Inaudible) delays and has delayed --

MR. MCCORMACK: It’s statement of fact.



QUESTION: One quick one on Afghanistan. When you first described the situation in Afghanistan, because one time Talibans are taking the religious and then make (inaudible) takes back and where the people do stand, what their security? And also Secretary also spoke at the Heritage Foundation as far as Afghanistan is concerned. And she said that the English are (inaudible) between Pakistan and Afghanistan, plus (inaudible) terrorism or Taliban. But here at the Atlantic Council this week, the newly appointed Pakistan Ambassador Haqqani said that we will close our border only after – if U.S. closes its border with Mexico. But what I’m saying, there is no relevance with this Mexican (inaudible), the Mexicans crossing the U.S. are not terrorists. But the people crossing from Pakistan to Afghanistan are terrorists.

MR. MCCORMACK: I get it, Goyal. But we and the Afghans and NATO are in a tough fight in Afghanistan. And it’s a fight that requires a concerted, integrated, civil-military effort. You have to have security, you also have to, as you pointed out, when you go in, help provide security for people in these villages and towns in Afghanistan. You also need to follow up with a government presence, infrastructure projects to demonstrate to them that their government and the international system is interested in their future and working on their behalf to help them build a better future. And at that point, they become invested in a better situation, whether that’s roads or other kinds of infrastructure or a government presence that is working on their behalf. 

So that’s the basic strategy that we have in Afghanistan. You know, I’ll let others who were more competent describe in more detail the precise military situation in different parts of the country. But I would say as a general matter that is not uniform, there are some areas that are much tougher with respect to the security situation than other places. That said, it – throughout the country, there are security concerns, including in Kabul. 

QUESTION: Sean, (inaudible) will be a Quartet meeting on the sidelines of the Berlin conference next week? And can you give us any more detail on what bilateral or more than bilaterals the Secretary might have with her counterparts when she’s there? 

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll try to get you something this afternoon. You know, of course, it won’t be a complete list. Sometimes you make audibles on the ground, you know, have ad hoc meetings. The intention is to have a Quartet meeting, I believe.

QUESTION: Is that Monday or Tuesday? 

MR. MCCORMACK: I think it’s – we leave Monday. I think we get there on Monday night, so it would be Tuesday. 

QUESTION: Okay. Can you say anything else about meetings with – I mean, the only things that are mentioned in the statement are European, German and other European --

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll – let me try to get you that. I don’t want to provide you an incomplete list, just based on my memory. 

QUESTION: And what will be the goal of this meeting with --

MR. MCCORMACK: The Quartet?


MR. MCCORMACK:  The Quartet meeting? Well, all of this takes place in the context of a conference in Berlin that is focused on helping -- the international system helping the Palestinians build up the security and legal institutions that will form part of the basis of a Palestinian state in the future. So whether that means police or building courts, helping build a judicial system that respects the rule of law, those are all components of it. And that’s going to be the focus of the discussions. The Quartet, I think, is really – the Quartet meeting is intended to talk about where we stand on the political track, as well as on the track that former Prime Minister Tony Blair is focused on help -- building up these institutions of governance. 

QUESTION: And the truce between Israel and Gaza, maybe, and Hamas? 

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m sure they’ll touch upon the wider situation. 

QUESTION: So can you enlighten us a little bit more about Ambassador Foley’s trip to the Middle East, specifically, his plans to go to Syria?  

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll try to get you some more on that, Matt. 

QUESTION: Any comment on the Saudi oil meeting and can you describe how the United States will be participating in that? 

MR. MCCORMACK: I think those sort of descriptions, as well as descriptions of who will be participating will come out of the White House. It won’t be a State Department person leading the delegation. We’ll probably have somebody on the delegation, though. 

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, hold on. We got a – try back here. 

QUESTION: Do you have any comment about the announcement of – USTR’s announcement yesterday about the export of beef to South Korea?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Well, in response to that question, I’m going to kick you over to my colleagues over at the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office. They will lead the negotiations. So they’re really the – the best position to talk about where they stand.

QUESTION: Also, did you begin delisting North Korea from terrorism sponsoring states? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Same answer as we’ve given before on that issue. 

Yeah. Arshad, you have something? 

QUESTION: Yeah. Just on South Korea, President Lee, I think, has dismissed most of his top aides and I wondered what you think about that?

MR. MCCORMACK: It’s an internal matter for South Korea. We’re going to work with the South Korean Government and any of the new appointees that – the new appointments that he will make. 

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)

DPB # 110

Released on June 20, 2008

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