Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 11, 2008
Possible International Criminal Court Arrest Warrant Against Bashir
UNSCR 1593 / U.S. Role in Any Investigation
Possible Sudanese Response to ICC / Obligations of Sudanese Government
Determination of Genocide
Meeting Between Presidents Uribe and Chavez
Doctored Photos of Missile Test
Discussion on Completeness of Declaration
Talks Between Parties / Conditions for Talks
United Nations Security Council Resolution on Sanctions
Formation of New Cabinet
Secretary Rice’s Meeting With Foreign Minister / Agenda
12:38 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don’t have anything to begin with, so you guys are welcome to start with your questions. Who wants to go first?
QUESTION: Should the International Criminal Court seek an arrest warrant against the leader of Sudan?
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. Should they? Are you asking me our opinion of that?
QUESTION: Yes, please.
MR. MCCORMACK: We are not a member of the ICC. And I would refer that question to, you know, the prosecutor or the judges involved or other members of the ICC. Now, on the issue of holding responsible individuals for genocide or atrocities committed in Sudan, absolutely, the United States is committed to that. But in the Security Council resolution that addressed this issue— and it was passed— the United States abstained because of the issue of the ICC. We have made our views known-- clear on the ICC and there’s no reason to revisit those, but they remain and they hold in place. So I am not pointing fingers at any particular individual.
You know, there are press reports about the intentions of the ICC prosecutor. I’d refer you to the ICC prosecutor for any comment on either (a) individuals or the rationale for bringing charges. I have seen-- I saw that there was press release coming out from the ICC, saying that there was going to be a case presented on Monday. So I expect that the facts, at least as viewed by the prosecutor, will be presented to the judge-- judges and other countries, as well as other interested parties, will be able to make their own assessment separate from the judges at that point in time.
QUESTION: Is the United States participating in any investigation in relation to this case? Will it participate? Will it offer any evidence?
MR. MCCORMACK: We are not participating in any investigation. Again, we are not part of the ICC and we did not sign the treaty. As a matter of fact, we withdrew from the treaty. There was a lot of news reporting about that.
We said, at the time that the UN resolution passed, that if there were requests for information then, of course, the United States would consider that request for information, and the – that situation has not changed. I don’t have anything further to report beyond that and I’m not trying to indicate that the United States has provided any information or evidence.
QUESTION: Sean, I’m sorry I missed the top. Were you meaning this morning – maybe you answered this already, but were you intending this morning to confirm that the United States knows that Ocampo will ask for a warrant for Bashir on Monday?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. It’s reacting to two things. You know, first of all –three things – first of all, the questions were (inaudible). Second of all, there was a press release from the ICC saying that there’s going to be some presentation of evidence and requests for warrants from judges by the ICC prosecutor. And there are a lot of news stories out today that that request for a warrant will involve President Bashir of Sudan.
Now, it’s not my intention to confirm anything of the sort. As a matter of fact, the ICC – the United States doesn’t have anything to do with the ICC. So certainly, we wouldn’t be the ones to be confirming anything.
QUESTION: Do you have reason to believe that that may be the case, though?
MR. MCCORMACK: I refer you to the ICC.
QUESTION: Let me ask another question about this. The Sudanese Ambassador of the United Nations just said that all options are open as far as his country’s reaction to this. And then an anchor asked a question: Does this include taking international peacekeepers hostage? And the ambassador to the United Nations said all options are on the table. I tell you. Are you concerned about that, and are you concerned about, in a more general way, how this will play out?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, first of all, people should deal with the facts as they are before them. We don’t have a new set of facts at this point. We have news reports and people reacting to news reports.
All of that said, the Sudanese Government has obligations under Security Council resolutions as well as the Vienna Convention. The international system expects them to abide by those obligations. Violence serves the purpose of no party. There’s been far too much violence in Sudan. And certainly, violence perpetrated by the government against those on the ground performing humanitarian missions, performing duties on behalf of their governments serves-- certainly does not serve the purposes of the Sudanese Government.
And I think it – you know, it should go without saying that the international system would strongly urge, in the strongest possible terms, Sudan not to consider any such reaction, certainly not in reaction to press reports, and certainly not in reaction to any change in the facts as they are before us.
QUESTION: Just thinking of Colombia --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let’s exhaust the issues related to Sudan first, then we’ll get to you.
QUESTION: Is Secretary Powell’s September 2004 determination of genocide in Darfur, is that still the operative U.S. depiction of what happened there?
MR. MCCORMACK: It is. Nothing has changed in that regard. Look, we can apply a lot of different legal labels to it. And the finding of genocide is, you know, essentially a legal finding. It’s a legal definition. That doesn’t change the humanitarian horror that has occurred in Sudan.
So whatever you want to call it, it is something that is unacceptable to humanity, unacceptable to the international system. That is why the United States has acted with the persistence and the energy that it has in trying to help resolve the numerous conflicts ongoing in Sudan, whether that is the North-South conflict or the violence being perpetrated against innocent people in Sudan.
QUESTION: Just –
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Very briefly on that, outside of Khartoum and the South around – in and around Juba – does the U.S. have any people, official – are there any official Americans in --
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check. Let me check for you, Matt, to see whether or not, as part of the deployment of the peacekeeping operation, we have any planners or any logistical support on the ground. Before I commit to an answer, being categorical one way or the other, let me check for you. We’ll try to post an answer for you.
QUESTION: And then – I think I’m correct in saying the only two diplomatic posts that you have there are in Khartoum and Juba, right?
MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.
QUESTION: The Consulate in Juba and Khartoum?
MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.
MR. MCCORMACK: Let’s get to Colombia and then I’ll come back to you, Nina.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Today, President Uribe and President Chavez are meeting in Venezuela for the first time in about eight months since they’ve been arguing and verbally attacking each other. How does the United States see this move from these two neighboring countries in South America?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it’s really an issue for the two neighbors to deal with. Certainly, the decision to have a meeting to discuss whatever issues might exist or issues that might have existed between Colombia and Venezuela are up to the two leaders and the two governments to take.
We have been staunch supporters of President Uribe and his government in fighting terrorism and fighting the FARC, and staunch supporters in President Uribe speaking out against and acting against those forces that may have sought refuge outside the borders of Colombia --
QUESTION: And a follow-up --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- that would do harm to Colombia citizens.
QUESTION: So then a follow-up would be, has – should the United States be invited to meet with President Chavez in Venezuela, what would your reaction be?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have diplomatic representation in Venezuela, so we have – we are perfectly capable of everyday diplomatic commerce with Venezuela. I haven’t heard of any invitations forthcoming to more senior officials to travel to Venezuela, and I’m pretty sure we’re not going to be receiving any in the near future.
QUESTION: And my last question, Colombia, Mr. McCormack.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: Has to do with – do you have any updates on the extradition requests, was sent to Colombia a couple of days ago?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t. No. Any extradition matters should be referred over to the Department of Justice.
QUESTION: Just a quick on the photos, the missile photos that I’ve just – what’s your reaction to that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I imagine that Iranian officials are supremely embarrassed by the fact that they have been caught red-handed doctoring these photos to try to play up or deceive the rest of the world in terms of their missile-launching capabilities. If there’s any dispute that – what’s today, Friday? On Wednesday, they launched some missiles with a potential range of-- potential medium and long range, you know, striking throughout the region as well as outside the region. But I imagine that this is a pretty embarrassing episode for the Iranian Government.
QUESTION: On Six-Party Talks, were you able to get details about energy assistance?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new. I know they’re talking about it, and we are working to – we, the other five parties – are working to fulfill our obligations in terms of energy assistance, whether that’s providing heavy fuel oil or heavy fuel oil-equivalent assistance, which South Korea and China have done.
The issue of completing the obligations that the five have is a topic of continuing discussion at the Six-Party Head of Delegation Meeting that’s ongoing in Beijing.
QUESTION: Right. And there have been press reports about comments both from Chris Hill and South Korean officials about differences or disagreements among the parties on verification. Can you add any insight into that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not really. I saw that Chris talked about it a little bit and he really didn’t – he didn’t get too far going into it. He was asked about it. He said that there was a discussion about the completeness of the declaration within the Heads of Delegation Meeting, but I’m obviously not there, so I’m going to let his comment stand.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sir.
QUESTION: If I can ask you on Zimbabwe, yesterday the Security Council delayed the sanctions, vote on sanctions, on Zimbabwe because of the ongoing talks in Pretoria right now. And Morgan Tsvangirai was quoted saying that it is another (inaudible) talks; it’s just a meeting to set out conditions for talks. So this could be a very long, long thing. Do you see now, now that these – this vote has been delayed, do you see it as the end of the road for the sanctions against Mugabe and his people? And secondly, do you have confidence in these talks taking place right now in Pretoria?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, Mr. Tsvangirai has characterized the talks and characterized the conditions in which the MDC and ZANU-PF could have talks. I guess you could characterize these as talks about talks. And certainly, the conditions that Mr. Tsvangirai has set out make a lot of sense, and I think that any reasonable person looking at them would agree that they make sense.
In terms of the vote, my latest information is that one is scheduled today at 3 o’clock in the Security Council on the proposed resolution on Zimbabwe. And let us just hope that we have everybody around the table raising their hand. I don’t see how anybody, any country in good conscious could vote against this resolution after witnessing what has gone on in Zimbabwe. So we’ll see what the outcome of the vote is. Certainly, those who vote for this resolution are going to be on the right side of history, but it’s going to be up to each individual country to take their own counsel and decide which way to vote.
QUESTION: Can I just quickly follow up? I just wanted to know if you are confident in the talks going on because one of Morgan Tsvangirai’s conditions is that they must first recognize that he is the rightful winner of March 29 elections, which is true. Which, as Mugabe say, is a no-no.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well again, like I said, Mr. Tsvangirai laid out some conditions. I think they – the reasonable man in the street test would dictate that those are reasonable conditions.
QUESTION: Sean, the – those who vote in favor of this resolution are going to be on the right side of history. What do those who vote against or abstain, what side of history are they going to be on?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let’s see which way they vote, Matt. You know, certainly, an abstention doesn’t – wouldn’t preclude the resolution from going forward. Certainly, a vote – a no vote, under the rules of the Security Council, from a permanent member would preclude the resolution from being passed. Again, they --
QUESTION: Those who vote no?
MR. MCCORMACK: -- those countries– those --
QUESTION: Are they consigned to the--
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think there are a lot of different ways to assess it, but yeah, they will be on the wrong side of history. They will, certainly given what has gone on in Zimbabwe.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Siniora in Lebanon announced the formation of a new cabinet today.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: What’s the U.S. reaction to the formation of --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we welcome the formation of this new cabinet. It is a long political process that has led us to this point. And it is a process that ultimately was a Lebanese one. There were a lot of instances along the way where there was evidence of outside interference. But ultimately, the Lebanese, with the assistance of some of their fellow Arab states playing a useful role, were able to resolve their differences to mutual satisfaction.
Now, of course, this cabinet does include members of Hezbollah, as did the last one. We will not deal with those members of the cabinet. But we look forward to working with the Prime Minister as well as his new Foreign Minister.
QUESTION: Could you give us a readout on the meeting with the Pakistani Foreign Minister, and again, whether the Secretary may have raised with him some of the concerns vented by military officials here that the tribal areas are becoming kind of a gathering point for militant testing.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. I think that statement was in a meeting. It was a pretty small meeting with the Foreign Minister and the Secretary. I know that she did intend to talk about issues related to fighting terrorism, whether that was in the FATA or cross-border infiltration both ways. She also intended to talk about issues related to the precipitous rise in food and energy costs in Pakistan. We were going to take a look at what we could do. I don’t have any numbers to report for you, but we’re taking a look at what else we might do. Of course, we do have an ongoing aid program. She also intended to talk about regional issues within India-Pakistan relations. And that was – those were really the top items on the agenda.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:38 p.m.)
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