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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 6, 2008

INDEX:



^ ^ Sung Kim to Travel to Seoul June 8th and Pyongyang June 10th ^ ^ Economic and Energy Working Group Meeting in Seoul ^ ^ Sung Kim Will Talk about Disablement on His Trip ^ ^ U.S. Will Give a Fully Formed View After 18,000 Pages of Documents are Reviewed ^ ^ U.S. Wants to See North Korea Fulfill all of its Requirements Outlined in Six Party Talks ^ ^ Oil Shipments Are Proceeding at Pace ^ ^ Verification is Central to Process


^ ^ Secretary will Travel to Paris for Afghan Donors Conference, then Israel and West Bank ^ ^ Secretary Rice Is Attending Race for the Cure on June 7th


^ ^ U.S. Responds to Prime Minister Olmert's Statement on Strong Military Action in Gaza ^ ^ The Israeli Government Must Act in Best Interests of its People ^ ^ Most Palestinians Will Choose a Negotiated Peace and Turn Away from Terrorist Rejectionist Groups ^ ^ Israel Must Keep in Mind the Effects of Actions that it Might Take in Defending Itself ^ ^ Final Status of Jerusalem Must be Negotiated Between Israelis and Palestinians ^ ^ The U.S. is Obligated to Begin Process of Moving its Embassy to Jerusalem ^ ^ Israeli Officials Issued Exit Permits for Four of Seven Fulbright Nominees ^ ^ U.S. is Working with Israeli Government on Exit Permits for Other Three Fulbright Nominees ^ ^ Fulbright Program Sends a Strong Message to Palestinians that U.S. will not Forsake Gaza


^ ^ The Zimbabwean Government is Using Food as a Weapon ^ ^ Secretary Rice is Very Engaged on this Issue ^ ^ The U.S. will Work to Ensure there is an Atmosphere that Allows for a Free and Fair Election


^ ^ The U.S. to take a Reserved Approach in Terms of Engaging the UN Human Rights Council


^ ^ Administration Committed to Keeping Congress Abreast of Negotiations on Iraq ^ ^ The Iraq Security Deal will be a Transparent Agreement ^ ^ The Final Product will Respect the Interests and Sovereignty of Iraq, as well as U.S.



TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

DPB # 101 
1:55 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Let me just start off with a little – one housekeeping note. Somebody was asking this morning about Sung Kim’s travel. He’s going to be leaving Washington on Sunday, the 8th. He’s going to go to Seoul and he’ll have some consultations there with a South Korean delegation, the six-party talks, and his Chinese counterpart, who will be in Seoul for the economic and energy working group meeting, which is going to take place in Seoul and Panmunjom on June 10th through 11th. But that is not Sung Kim’s reason for going. He is then going to go on to Pyongyang on the 10th to talk to the North Korean six-party representatives about issues related to disablement. He’s going to go back – be back in Seoul on June 11th and is planning to be back here in Washington on June 12th.

With that, we can get right to your questions.

QUESTION: That’s an awfully short – an awfully long way to go for only four days, no?

MR. MCCORMACK: It is geographic realities, I guess you can --

QUESTION: And he’s going to be talking about disablement only --

MR. MCCORMACK: Disablement, yeah.

QUESTION: -- not – so the declaration is not his --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, he has previously gone there to talk about the declaration. This is going to be more focused on the disablement aspect. They’ve performed on about 8 of 11 areas, so he’s just going to talk to them about those remaining areas and how to finish out the tasks.

QUESTION: And is he going to be talking about the documents that he brought back last time? Is that going to be part of the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there’s still an ongoing evaluation of those documents. 

QUESTION: And is that the only North Korea-related thing happening next week?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have two. There’s Sung Kim going up to Pyongyang and then there’s that energy and – energy working group meeting that I mentioned -- the economic and energy working group. There’s – within the six-party talks they established some of these working groups.

QUESTION: But, okay, who are you – who’s after that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have the information on that. We’ll try to get it for you.

QUESTION: How many of the 18,000 pages have you gone through and what’s your initial impression of those 18,000?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I don’t think we’re going to give an initial impression. I think we’re going to give a fully formed view of the 18,000 pages. I don’t know. I can – happy to check for you. Maybe we can get answers for you on Monday about where we stand, I guess, to try to answer the process question of how far along our folks -- or try to attribute some percentage as to how far they are in evaluating the pages.

QUESTION: And in terms of the areas of disablement, the three areas that you want to discuss, because --

MR. MCCORMACK: I knew you were going to ask that. I don’t have them in front of me right now.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: There’s – we have a matrix and --

QUESTION: I’m sorry, you have a what?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have this matrix of the various areas of disablement. But I -- off the top of my head I can’t remember them. I didn’t bring it down with me.

QUESTION: Are they just not disabling the last three because they want --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they’re making progress on them. But we would look for the progress to be speeded up.

QUESTION: So your intention then, is to go there and to ask them to speed up the disablement process? 

MR. MCCORMACK: No. It’s more about how are they going – what do they have in mind in terms of the completion schedule and how are they going to go about completing the tasks.

QUESTION: You seem kind of loosey-goosey and conciliatory about this. Why don’t you just go in there and say finish up this last lot and get it done?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it’s one of these things – it’s action for action. So they, in fact, are not gaining the full benefits they can possibly gain by completing all these actions. If they do complete the actions and they do fulfill the requirements outlined by the other members of the six-party talks, then they’re going to get some benefits. So that’s why we would like this to proceed and proceed more quickly. We’re, frankly, into overtime. These things were supposed to have done – been done by the end of last year, beginning of this year. So of course, we would like to see these things done with some more alacrity. 

However, we do want to see them done correctly and completely, and want to see North Korea fulfill all of its requirements. And we’re going to continue – we, as well – we, meaning the five parties, are going to continue working with them to get them to that point. Once they do, we’ll look at fulfilling our requirements.

QUESTION: Do you know who he expects to – who, specifically, he expects to see?

MR. MCCORMACK: One of his – I’m not sure, off the top of my head. You know, he usually doesn’t deal with Kim Kye Gwan. You know, perhaps he’ll see him. But they’re members of the North Korean delegation. He has in the past, actually – I checked that. I know he has in the past talked to Kim Kye Gwan, yeah. So I’m not sure who his interlocutor is going to be on this one.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) follow-ups. Last time – lost my voice, I’m back now – last time Chris Hill was here, he was talking about how the disablement was tied to the oil shipments and that they were slowing them down because they didn’t think they were getting the oil shipments faster. Has that been sped up or is that on the table? And then I have another question following.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that – I haven’t gotten a recent update on the oil shipments, but I think there was, in fact, there were some contractual issues in terms of getting the oil and getting it there. That is, to my knowledge, proceeding at pace. The other obligations that the five parties have, including us, beyond the oil and it’s really those things that we’re going to take a look at once the North Koreans have completed what they have pledged to do.

QUESTION: So the answer is no? Or you don’t know or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I know the oil shipments are completing. I – you know, I suspect that the North Koreans in all of this, as with any sort of negotiation with the North Koreans or implementation of an agreement with the North Koreans, they are going to either speed up or slow down  according to how they perceive the process is going in terms of the benefits that they’re getting back. And it’s always a matter on the other side of calibrating your reaction to that.

QUESTION: And then the other question I had was if you had a certain date in mind for when the completion of the documents would be.
 
MR. MCCORMACK: We’llsee. We’ll – you know, when they hand them over we’ll make an evaluation. 

QUESTION: (Inaudible) anytime soon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, optimism is not necessarily the word that I would use with this process. The word I would use with this process is one of action for action and a healthy degree of skepticism. But we are going to continue working through this process. We are going to fulfill our obligations in good faith. And we’ll see if the North Koreans do that as well. So in terms of optimism, well, you know – I’ll let other people use that word. I think you heard the tone from the Secretary in terms of how she views the process and how she views the verification as being central to this process. So – and as I’ve said before, you know, we’ve heard the phrase “trust but verify.” Well, we’re still working on the verify part of that.

QUESTION: But, sir, my question is about the nuclear documents, if you had a date for when those would be done? Make an analysis of those?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check. I’ll see what – you know, where the intelligence community or the other experts are in looking at those.

QUESTION: But you’re saying of – in the “trust but verify” adage, you’re saying you don’t have verified – you have trust? Are you still working on the trust part?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, well, I think the logic chain there is that verify comes before trust. And we’re still working on the verifying. 

QUESTION: All right, so we’re not even close to trust yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: We’re working on verifying.

QUESTION: Right. Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have any announcement for us about the Secretary’s trip?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh. We should have that out today. We’ll get that out this afternoon. We’re leaving soon. We’re leaving next week, so there.

QUESTION: Is that your only --

QUESTION: To where? 

QUESTION: You said you had a couple --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, that was it.

QUESTION: Sean, can you say where you’re going?

MR. MCCORMACK: That was it.

QUESTION: Can you say where you’re going to yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the first stop is we’re going to go to Paris for the Afghan donors conference, and then we’re going to be heading off for stops in Israel and the West Bank.

QUESTION: And what is your – why is she going to Israel and the West Bank? What do you think you can achieve this time around?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it’s really to take stock of where they are, to continue pushing the process forward. I know there’s a lot of political turmoil in Israel and that will work its course according to the dictates of Israeli politics. That is not out concern. We’re focused on the process. We’re focused on the substance of this process and trying to move it forward with both sides. 

In terms of Paris, there’s an Afghan donors conference. She is going to be participating in that. She’s going to also have some bilateral meetings with French officials. And I suspect because this is a large international gathering there will probably be a number of other bilaterals on the margins of the Afghan donors conference. And of course, the President is going to be traveling to Paris, I think, Friday, Saturday time frame. She’ll participate in the President’s program for that period of time, and then we’ll head off separately to the Middle East. 

QUESTION: Go back to the Middle East. Prime Minister Olmert said yesterday, just before leaving Washington, that a strong military action in Gaza was closer than ever – do you think it’s a good idea? Do you –

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we think that Israel has a right to defend itself. But also, in taking any actions to defend itself it needs to keep in mind and make part of its calculations the day after. The effect of any actions they may take, on what is the real solution to the issue, and that is a political settlement with those responsible parties that are ready to come to a political settlement. 

QUESTION: Do you think it will be better for the situation to be solved politically? For an example, with discussions between Abbas and the Hamas?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, but we think that the ultimate solution to any disagreements between the Israelis and the Palestinians is through a political process regardless of that. And certainly defending oneself against terrorist attacks is a central function of any government, and it’s going to – those governments are going – the Israeli Government in this case is going to have to act in the best interests of its people and keeping them safe. But ultimately, one has to keep in mind the larger context here is that there is an ongoing, active political dialogue with the Palestinians to try to resolve differences between the Israelis and Palestinians. And ultimately, it’s our belief that should the Israelis and Palestinians achieve an agreement that brings peace between the two peoples, that you – that will be put to the Palestinian people and that the vast majority of the Palestinian people will choose peace, one negotiated peace, and turn away from any support for terrorist rejectionist groups.

QUESTION: So you mean that if there was a military operation against Gaza, it would be – it would affect the negotiations, the larger negotiations?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not going to – you know, Sylvie, I’m not going to try to, you know, hypothesize here.

QUESTION: No, I think I understand what you just said. 

MR. MCCORMACK: No, go back and take a look at what I said. Of course, Israel has a right to defend itself. But that is with respect to terrorist threat emanating from any point around the globe. But in acting to defend itself, to secure its borders, to protect its people, it needs to keep in mind the effects of the actions that it might take in defending Israel on the political process that is ongoing. I don’t – this isn’t really new language.

QUESTION: Well, speaking of new language, can you refresh us on just what the U.S. Government policy is on Jerusalem, the status? I’m not trying to draw you into any politics here, but what is the – what is the U.S. position?

MR. MCCORMACK: On Jerusalem?

QUESTION: Yes. 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the – in terms of – in the context of the Israelis and the Palestinians, it’s one that needs to be negotiated between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The resolution of the issue of Jerusalem there and scores of other issues like borders and refugees and a number of other associated issues, and those are things that all need to be negotiated --

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

QUESTION: But in terms of U.S. law, is it not U.S. law that Jerusalem is the un --

MR. MCCORMACK: -- is the capital.

QUESTION: Undivided Jerusalem is the capital?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think we’ve said that is it the – it is the capital. (Inaudible) in U.S. law. I don’t have the reference, Matt, as to anything else. And I know that under the law, we are obligated to begin the process of moving our Embassy to Jerusalem. This is something that’s longstanding. I – we’ve had numerous correspondences with Capitol Hill and the Congress on that, and I think you can take a look at that record.

QUESTION: Yeah. How is that process --

MR. MCCORMACK: As to – I think the process has begun.

QUESTION: It has?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that’s what we’ve attested to the Hill.

QUESTION: How far has it gone?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there’s a long record of correspondence with Capitol Hill --

QUESTION: Is there someone working every day on this issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m sure it is something that has the attention of people in the U.S. Government. 

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a question about the Fulbright students from Gaza?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: I’ve got a series of questions here. What is the status of the students from Gaza? Only four of them were allowed to come. Why is that? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Israeli officials issued exit permits for four of the seven. We’re still working with the Israeli Government on exit permits for the other three so they can go to Jerusalem for their visa interviews. Four of them have gone through the visa interview process, and those applications are currently being considered. And once we have a decision on those, we’ll notify those four and, hopefully, the other three if that’s done. And you know, if the decision is in the affirmative on the visa applications, then those students will be studying in the United States as Fulbright scholars.

QUESTION: Why did the breakdown in communications happen?

MR. MCCORMACK: What breakdown of communications?

QUESTION: I can’t really tell you. I’m just reading off these questions right here.

MR. MCCORMACK: Ah, I see. Well, look, the issue of exit permits for those students who have been sponsored by foreign governments, in this case the United States Government and the Fulbright program, has been one that we’ve worked on with the Israeli Government and there have been some issues there – it’s not a new story here – where the Israeli Government take a look at their policies. And they are now going to look more favorably on reviewing a lot of these applications. So, as I said several days ago, the past is the past. Look, we have a new opportunity to hit the reset button on this issue working with the Israeli Government. And I think now you’re going to have other governments have the ability to do that as well. And we’re going to try to get some of these students studying in places like the United States and Western Europe. We think that’s very important not only in terms of educational exchanges, have Palestinians studying here, getting to know the United States and having U.S. citizens get to know Palestinians, but it also sends a strong message to the Palestinian people that we’re not going to forsake Gaza just because Hamas engaged in illegal actions and violence in staging a coup in Gaza. 

So it’s important. That’s why the Secretary, when this came to her attention, decided to act immediately and got the machinery of the bureaucracy into gear. Into high gear, I guess you could say. And we’re quite pleased that we’re moving forward at least right now on those four applicants and working on the other three.

QUESTION: Don’t you mean going from -- into drive from reverse?

MR. MCCORMACK: We put it in gear. I’d say it was probably stuck in neutral.

QUESTION: One last question. Why didn’t the U.S. make sure that they were able to leave in the first place?

MR. MCCORMACK: Why didn’t – well, that’s not under our control. As I said, we’ve had – we as well as others have had a history of working with the Israeli Government on this issue. It hasn’t been the best one in terms of end results that we’d like to see. But we got a fresh start, and that’s positive. 

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Did the U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe go and see the Foreign Ministry -- go to the Foreign Ministry this morning? I’m sorry, did you answer this in the gaggle?

MR. MCCORMACK: Did he go to the Foreign Ministry?

QUESTION: Did he go to the Foreign Ministry this morning to express your, you know, anger and irritation with the arrest of the diplomats?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know if he specifically went there himself. I know you guys had a DVC with him. (Inaudible) acting Assistant Secretary here in African Affairs Bureau, contacted the Zimbabwean Ambassador by telephone here yesterday. I also talked a little bit about how our delegation sought out members of the Zimbabwean – or a member of the Zimbabwean delegation at the UN World Food Security Conference in Rome. And I would expect that there was some contact in Harare, but I don’t have any details on that.

QUESTION: Was there an interesting exchange in Rome between your --

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ve heard sort of secondhand about it. Nothing that I could relay in public, however.

QUESTION: You sure about that? That you couldn’t –

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m – I choose not to.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: A follow-up on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: You want a follow – okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can you confirm the reports that Secretary Rice, since at least yesterday morning, that she has been on the telephone to the leaders of Tanzania, Zambia and Angola at the AU headquarters with an aim of trying to postpone the runoff from the 27th?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. That’s not accurate. It’s not accurate. She has been – she has, of course, been following the situation very closely and deeply engaged in directing our response to it, but no, I don’t have any – certainly don’t have any phone calls to report to you.

QUESTION: And do you want to comment on the threat that the Zimbabwean police, after they released Tsvangirai this morning, told him that all the MDC rallies had been cancelled indefinitely? So – which means you’d have only one candidate campaigning. Would you like to comment on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, certainly, those kind of reports indicate that this government is willing to commit no end of outrageous actions in terms of rolling back people’s personal and political freedoms. There was another example of this, a really sad example of this that our Ambassador conveyed this morning to the press. And that is that the Zimbabwean Government is – has stopped the ability of foreign aid programs to distribute food in Zimbabwe. And the motivation for that, apparently, is a political one. They want to use food as a weapon, because they want to make the Zimbabwean government the sole source for any food aid for people. And of course they need this food aid because this government has wrecked the Zimbabwean economy. 

And in order to get food aid from the government rationing stations, they have to show their voter registration as well as other identification. And if they have – apparently, if individuals hand these things over and they are registered to vote for an opposition party, those credentials are kept and held by the government officials, thereby making it impossible for those people to vote in an election. Now, that is cruel in the most sinister kind of way. Using food as a weapon; using the hunger of parent’s children against them to prevent them from voting their conscious for a better kind of Zimbabwe; that’s outrageous. That’s an example of the kind of thing that is going on in Zimbabwe today.

QUESTION: And one of the leaders of Zimbabwe who had 8 percent of the vote, Simba Makoni, said that it’s impossible to hold this run-off on the 27th and he appealed that it be postponed. If the MDC after their meeting, due to the fact that their rallies have been banned indefinitely -- if they also support that view, will the U.S. be able to support the same view?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don’t know that we’ve heard that position formally from all the opposition parties. Look, it’s something that we would obviously have to take into account in evaluating our policy stance with regard to the run-off election. Right now, at the moment, we are, as well as others, are doing everything that we possibly can to ensure that there is some semblance of an atmosphere that would allow for a free and fair election. So we are focused on that, absent some other decision from the opposition, which, of course, we would have to take into consideration vis-à-vis our stance regarding the election. 

Yeah.

QUESTION: You know, the Secretary a couple of weeks ago did make this round of phone calls. I mean, what’s happening at the moment in Zimbabwe seems even more severe than a couple of weeks ago.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: So why is the Secretary not out there, you know, really trying to get something done with the neighbors? You keep complaining that the neighbors aren’t doing enough, but you don’t seem to be putting enough pressure on the neighbors, or she is not – doesn't seem to be --

MR. MCCORMACK: She is very --

QUESTION: -- expressing herself as much as she can now?

MR. MCCORMACK: She is very, very much engaged in this issue. I can tell you that from personal experience. She’ll, of course, engage in more public ways if she feels as though that is going to advance our diplomacy. We are very much engaged on this issue, as are others. And I’ll certainly keep you up to date on any phone calls or meetings that she may have.

QUESTION: Does she plan on calling any of those leaders this afternoon or over the weekend?

MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll keep you up to date. Yeah.

QUESTION: Did perhaps the resignation of Frazer left a void in terms of the issues of Africa in this?

QUESTION: Are you sure? She’s resigned? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, she’s at – no, she’s at the World Economic Forum in Cape Town at the moment.

QUESTION: Has she resigned, though, or does she intend to?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, there’s no resignation letter.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Another subject? Did U.S. decide to cut all cooperation with the Council on Human Rights?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. Look, our skepticism regarding the function of the UN Council on Human Rights in terms of fulfilling its mandate and its mission is well known. It has a rather pathetic record in that regard. Instead of focusing on some of the real and deep human rights issues around the world, it has really turned into a forum that seems to be almost solely focused on bashing Israel. 

In the – the Secretary has taken the decision that we will engage the Human Rights Council really only when we believe that there are matters of deep national interest before the Council and we feel compelled; otherwise, we are not going to. Part of our strategy is to take a look at any suggestions or thoughts we might have to improve the performance of the Council. There’s a five-year review period, and that review period is going to fall outside the term of this Administration, but of course, we’ll – we feel as stewards of the national interest, we are going to think about ways that might improve the function of the Council.

QUESTION: So what does that mean, and when was this decision made? 

MR. MCCORMACK: I can’t tell you what day, but recently.

QUESTION: Well, what does it mean that you will engage the Council only when there are matters of deep national interest? I notice that today – that, I mean, at the (inaudible) today, they were speaking about Burma. Isn’t that something of deep national interest to the United States? You didn’t speak to – they didn’t speak to that.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. You know, simply put, Matt, because we don’t think it is a serious institution in dealing with human rights --

QUESTION: No, no, I understand that. 

MR. MCCORMACK: -- human rights issues, we are going to take a more reserved approach in terms of engaging the Council, just because the – our ability and the ability of others to really influence this body is proven to be rather minimal over the past couple of years, and as a result we are just – we’re going to choose more selectively how and when to engage the Council.

QUESTION: So, well, can you give us an example of what --

MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, you know, it will be ad hoc. It will be ad hoc. I’m not going to try to tie our hands diplomatically one way or the other.

Yeah, (inaudible).

QUESTION: Yeah. Senator Biden has written a letter to Secretaries Rice and Gates --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- saying that the Administration has failed to live up to a commitment to consult closely with Congress throughout the entire process of negotiating these two agreements in Baghdad. Any reaction? Have you replied to him or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Not to my knowledge. I don’t think we have generated a reply. Of course, we will. I will point out we have done an extensive series of initial consultations with a number of interested committees up on the Hill and interested members up on the Hill. And we are committed to a transparent kind of cooperation with Capitol Hill to update them on where we are in these negotiations.

Part of the issue really has been simple logistics and geography. Some of the people who are most intimately involved in these negotiations and therefore most authoritative in speaking about them and briefing members of the Hill have been in Iraq. They’re working on these issues. So we are committed to keeping the Congress abreast of these negotiations. We’re not backtracking from that commitment. And we’re going to look for ways that are mutually acceptable to fulfill that commitment.

QUESTION: But, Sean, doesn't it seem to be a contradiction here? Here the most senior members of the committee, a bipartisan group, and they’re saying that it should be apparent that Congress requires much more detailed consultations. They’re pretty much saying that despite your words about transparency that they’re not getting anything like what they --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they’re two separate branches of government, and I’m sure that we are going to be able to come to some mutually acceptable solution in terms of briefing the Congress on this.

QUESTION: Just to follow up --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: There was a couple of Iraqi parliamentarian members that had a press conference just a little bit ago that indicated that the Iraq security deal violates Iraq’s sovereignty and the U.S. is actually there “bribing and threatening the Iraqi Government to sign the deal.” 

MR. MCCORMACK: Sounds like there’s a lot of politics going on in Baghdad. Look, we are committed to working with the Iraqi Government in coming up with an agreement that serves both our national interests. We are going to respect Iraqi sovereignty. This is going to be something that is a transparent agreement. There aren’t going to be any secret side deals. So once a deal is negotiated, it will be debated in Iraq and will be open to full view in the United States as well.

So, I would expect that there are going to be people with a variety of opinions within the Iraqi political space. But it’s an indication really of how politics in Iraq is maturing that you do have these different points of view and they’re able to speak out freely, even if they contradict the policies – stated policies of the government.

QUESTION: Just – if I might follow up?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. 

QUESTION: Just two things. First, they ask the secretaries to appear personally before the committee to discuss this, and what might happen there? And then secondly, there seems to be a suggestion among some members of Congress that this wouldn’t be legal without congressional approval. And just to clarify, you say that congressional approval is not necessary for something like this?

MR. MCCORMACK: That has been the position of the Administration. I don’t think there – you can point to a number of examples in the tens, if not more than a hundred, examples of SOFAs that are not ratified by the Congress or by the Senate.

QUESTION: And what’s --

MR. MCCORMACK: And the same would hold for these agreements.

QUESTION: And what would be lost there, just if – to put it before Congress? What would be the downside of that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what’s the upside to it?

QUESTION: And just the Secretary’s – the request for the Secretary’s appearance?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m sure that they will take that into consideration if they think that is the best way to deal with the issue. But, you know, again, we’re going to work with the Congress on some mutually agreeable solution here.

QUESTION: The letter also says that the Iraqis have asked for some substantial changes to the two – to the agreements that you’re looking at, and also that the United States won’t get – have the same sort of authority as it does with the UN resolutions, you know, governing their presence there at the moment. I wonder if you had any comment on that and whether you could illuminate us a little bit on --

MR. MCCORMACK: Absolutely not. (Laughter.) You know, this is probably going to be an ongoing dialogue that we have. You know, we’re not going to get into the minute details, the sausage-making process, the negotiating process. There are going to be ups, there are going to be downs, there are going to be people who are happy, people who are unhappy at various moments of time – moments in time. What matters is what the final product is. And it’s going to be one, as I said, that respects the interests of both states, that respects the sovereignty of both states, and that is transparent. Like I said, there are no secret side deals, no secret minutes, no secret understandings. It will be there for everybody to see.

QUESTION: But one thing that you’ll be seeking is to have the kind of authorities that you’ll need so that your troops are safe, right?

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, any agreement will be in our national interest.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: The Washington Post reported this morning that the Iraqis are considering, or would like to have the UN Security Council authorization extended past 2008, contrary to what Ryan Crocker said yesterday.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Has that been anything that’s been expressed to the United States? Is there anything to that report?

MR. MCCORMACK: There has not been anything expressed in that regard to the United States, no.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean. The Secretary is going to be up bright and early tomorrow.

MR. MCCORMACK: Race for the Cure. Yes.

QUESTION: But why isn’t she actually – why is she only doing the warm-ups? Why is she not doing – why is she not running?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, the Secretary certainly doesn’t want to inconvenience any of the other runners. And I don’t think anybody’s going to accuse her of being a slacker in terms of the exercise category, Matt. (Laughter.) I’m sure that you can still sign up. (Laughter.)

(The briefing was concluded at 2:28 p.m.)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



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