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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Press Relations Office > Daily Press Briefings > 2005 > December
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 21, 2005

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Saddam Husseins Claim of Abuse While in Detention


Legislation on Non-Governmental Organizations


US Communications with the Lebanese Government Regarding Mohamed Ali Hamadi
US Contact with German Government Regarding Hamadi
Query on the Whereabouts of Hamadis Accomplices


Meeting between EU-3 and Iranian Representatives Regarding Irans Nuclear Program


Scheduled January 25 Palestinian Elections


Macedonia Name Issue


Secretarys Meeting with Indian Foreign Secretary
US-India Bilateral Relations


Actions Taken by US to Prevent Counterfeiting and Other Illegal Activities by North Korea


12:35 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. No opening statements, so we'll jump right into questions. Who's got the first one? Anne Gearan.

QUESTION: Saddam Hussein came to court today and accused Americans of beating him in custody. Can you discuss this at all and --

MR. MCCORMACK: I have no evidence that would substantiate that claim. I would refer you to MNFI in Baghdad for a substantive comment on that.

QUESTION: You can't even say without -- you can't even say that you don't believe that he would be --

MR. MCCORMACK: I find it highly ironic. (Laughter.) But I know of nothing that would substantiate such a claim. You know, look, he's been -- he's been given to grandstanding in this trial. But where the focus should be is on the testimony of those people who were victimized by the tyranny, the oppression, and the violence of Saddam Hussein. That's what people should be listening to.

QUESTION: Is anyone looking into it at all or, I mean, is it --

MR. MCCORMACK: Check with the Embassy. Check with MNFI.

QUESTION: Another subject? Russia? It seems that they have softened the legislation on the NGOs, but they've kept up restrictions that would target Russian based NGOs, so how do you react? Have they gone far enough?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me take that question, Saul. We've been -- we have been talking to the Russians about that legislation and our concerns about it. I think at this moment, what we want to do is take a close look of exactly what was passed by the Duma. I know that there was some amendments proposed by President Putin that were accepted, so we're going to take a close look at the entire piece of legislation. And as soon as we have a final analysis of it, we'll get back to you on it. I know it did address -- it did go some way in addressing the concerns that we had talked about, but I want to withhold final judgment on it until we have a chance to analyze it in depth.

QUESTION: I was going to ask the same question.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Yes. New subject?

QUESTION: Lebanon seems not very keen to send you Mohammad Hamadi. Apparently, they don't understand why you didn't ask first to the Germans and then why now you go to -- you ask Lebanon? Do you think you will get a good answer from the government of Mr. Siniora?

MR. MCCORMACK: You didn't. Well, we'll see. We have been in contact with him on the issue and at this point I think what I can assure anybody who's listening, including Mr. Hamadi, is that we will track him down, we will find him and we will bring him to justice in the United States for what he's done. We will make every effort, working with the Lebanese authorities or whomever else, to see that he faces trial for the murder of Mr. Stethem.

QUESTION: But will you have to track him down if the Lebanese Government is cooperating with you?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have, like I said, we have had contacts with them on this. We have talked to them a couple of times about this. The issue is from a legal standpoint, somewhat complicated by the fact that we don't have an extradition treaty with Lebanon. So it is a matter about which we are going to continue to be concerned at a diplomatic level. We're going to do -- make every effort that we can to make sure that he is brought into custody and that he stands trial in the United States for what he's done.

QUESTION: The situation is clarified that he's in custody or not with the Lebanese?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think, on that score, I'd refer you over to the Lebanese authorities.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the government seems not very keen, but did you have any contact, diplomatic contact? And did you have any sense of positive response from them?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we'll just have to see how this plays out -- plays out diplomatically. I can't predict at this point how it's going to -- how it will evolve.


QUESTION: Isn't another complication that he has somehow something to do with Hezbollah?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not fully briefed on his associations. I do know that he's a murderer and he's a terrorist.


QUESTION: So the whole goal is to -- well, the goal is to bring him for -- to justice, as you say, for what he did in the past. But he was a member of a militant group. Is he considered still a threat?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think based on his past actions, I think we have to consider him a threat.


QUESTION: Would you say this caused any tension with the Government of Germany? I mean, obviously, it's been going on 20 years.


QUESTION: So it's not, maybe, so heightened. But was it -- is this a problem between the U.S. and Germany, something that you're just disappointed in Germany's behavior?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that the German authorities acted within -- well within the confines and the boundaries of their legal system. They -- you know, they have a different legal system than we do. We respect that. We did initially when he was -- when he was first arrested some, you know, 18, 20 years ago, we did ask that he be extradited to stand trial in the United States. The German authorities took a different decision on that score.

We, over the years, did repeat that we would like to see him stand trial in the United States. We also did emphasize that we thought it was important that he serve out his entire term, which in this case would have been 25 years. That didn't happen. But again, that occurred within the confines of normal judicial practice in the German system.

We did -- when we became -- we've been tracking this, following this, for some time. We knew that it was possible that he was -- that he had come up for parole hearings a couple of times. Those were denied. We knew that he was coming up for another parole hearing. We did at senior levels at the U.S. Government contact the German authorities to emphasize that we thought it was important that he serve out his entire term, but we did so with the full understanding that under German law it was highly likely that he was going to be released. So we did continue to make representations to the German Government that he should serve out his full term.

QUESTION: Do you know when the last time the U.S. brought this up with Germany and at what level, the last contact --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have the exact date, but I think within the past month or so.

QUESTION: The U.S. asked them not -- asked the Germans not to release him within the last month or so.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right. In the last month or so.

QUESTION: At the Secretary's level?

MR. MCCORMACK: I believe it was at the level of the Attorney General in contact with their Justice Ministry.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Today the round of negotiation is going to start between three European countries and Iran regarding its nuclear program. My question is did they talk before starting talks with Iran, with the Secretary of State?

MR. MCCORMACK: Did they --

QUESTION: If the foreign minister of Germany, France and Britain talking with the Secretary before going to talk with Iran, or not?

MR. MCCORMACK: They didn't. But we have been in contact with representatives of the EU-3, you know, on a nearly continuous basis throughout -- over the past months on this issue, so I think we have a good understanding of where all the parties are on this issue. I know that the Iranians are scheduled to or have already met with representatives from the EU-3 concerning the issue of whether or not Iran was going to return to the negotiating table in a serious way, as the Secretary has talked about. We haven't seen any indication from the Iranians over the past months that they have any intention of returning to the negotiating table. That said, we have been supportive of the EU-3 process. We will talk to our friends in the EU-3 to see what they -- to determine what they heard from the Iranians. I don't have a read-out of that particular meeting. I don't know if they've commented in public about it yet.

QUESTION: Are they going to meet again in Vienna in January?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) that fact, they've agreed to meet again in January or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to try to take it one way or the other. What needs to happen is the Iranians need to get serious about negotiating in good faith with the EU-3 on this issue.

I'm not sure that they have heard -- that they understand quite yet what they are hearing from the rest of the world. The rest of the world has made it very clear that they will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, and that Iran should not be allowed to protest -- to have enrichment technology on their soil. The world has spoken very clearly about this. The IAEA Board of Governors has already found them in noncompliance with their Nonproliferation Treaty obligations, so we'll see if they get the message. The message has been sent loud and clear from the IAEA to the EU-3 to others.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Hamadi?


QUESTION: His three accomplices are still at large. Is the U.S. actively looking for them and do you have any indications that they may also be in Lebanon?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check. I'll check for you.

Yes, Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, the Israeli Government has just said that they will not allow Palestinians to vote in the elections on January 25th. Meanwhile, the Europeans are getting cold feet that if Hamas becomes a part of the Palestinian Government directly, they will possibly put on hold some of the economic incentives that they're working for loans and discretionary spending. And what does this also do with James Wolfensohn's plans for economic development to the Palestinian Authority and their forward progress?

MR. MCCORMACK: As to the date of the Palestinian elections, that's going to be a decision for the Palestinian people to make. Right now it's scheduled for January 25th. The Palestinian people need to have confidence that these elections will be free and fair and transparent, that the elections will represent the will of the Palestinian people through the ballot box. At this point, we see no obstacles to those elections taking place as scheduled on January 25th with concerted effort and focus on the part of the Palestinians to see that those elections take place. But again, that is going to be a final decision for the Palestinians to make.

QUESTION: So in that context, can you address this question of whether or not Israel may block some voting in East Jerusalem?

MR. MCCORMACK: This has been an issue that has come up periodically when you do have Palestinian votes. It is an issue that the Palestinians and the Israelis have worked through before and I would expect that they would work through once again this issue, find a solution that is acceptable to both sides. We have told both sides that they should work together to resolve any issues in that regard, but I would note that in the past they have been able to resolve any issues about voting in that area.

QUESTION: You don't see any particular cause for concern on this issue versus ones that they've worked through in the past?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, I don't know -- at this point I don't know that there is really any difference in the details of this from the past. They should be able to work through this issue. They have in the past and we encourage them to resolve any differences through dialogue that they may have on this issue.

Yes, Lambros.

QUESTION: On the Balkans. Mr. McCormack, yesterday more than 40 members of the Congress, via Resolution H.R. 521, are expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, FYROM, should cease its distribution of negative and nationalist propaganda, should work with the United Nations and Greece to find a mutually acceptable official name for the FYROM. Do you agree on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, our position on this hasn't changed.

QUESTION: And one more?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're going to move around. There are a lot of other people here. Dave.

QUESTION: I was going to ask for a read-out on the Secretary's meeting with the Indian Foreign Secretary.

MR. MCCORMACK: She did meet with the Indian Foreign Secretary. He is in town for -- at the invitation of his counterpart, Under Secretary Burns. He's going to be here today and tomorrow. He's also going to be, in addition to meeting with Under Secretary Burns, he's going to be meeting with Under Secretaries Bob Joseph, Josette Sheeran Shiner, and Paula Dobriansky. I expect he'll also see Mr. Zelikow as well as officials from the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, and the NSC.

She did have a 20-minute meeting or so with the Foreign Secretary. They talked about the planning for the President's upcoming trip to India. I think that was the focus of their discussions. It was a very general discussion. I would expect that the more detailed discussions about the trip, issues like the civil nuclear issues as well as other issues that would be part of the trip, get taken care of at the Under Secretary as well as lower levels in terms of the working level. I think there is the hope and desire on both sides that the President's trip be a historic trip that really signifies a changed relationship between the U.S. and India that we have been working with the Indian Government on for the past several years, and I have every expectation that it will be the historic visit that everybody wants.

QUESTION: Sean, this week the Secretary is supposed to meet the Foreign Minister of India, Mr. Natwar Singh, who resigned over the scandal of UN Food-for-Scandal program. Was there any discussion about his resignation and how she feels about her counterpart?


QUESTION: And also, if you can just give a little bit more on that? Where do we stand today on U.S.-India relations in her viewpoint and some of her achievement as we enter the new year?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as I described it, that we have over the course of the past several years worked very hard to have a different kind of relationship with India, to forge a new strategic relationship with India across a number of different areas -- in the economic sphere, in the trade sphere, in the technology-sharing sphere. Part of -- an important part of being able to take the next steps in this relationship is working on this -- working on the nuclear issue. We have a pathway forward that we have worked with and agreed to with the Indian Government.

Under Secretary Burns and Under Secretary Joseph are working very hard on this issue. They've testified before the Congress on it. I expect that there's going to be a lot more discussion with our Congress on this issue in order to move forward on the agreement. There are things that have to happen both on the Indian side as well as the U.S. side, on our side. There would be some changes to the law that would need to be made. Obviously, the Congress is the only body that can do that. We're going to be working closely with the Congress on that. And we're also going to be working very closely with the Indian Government on the steps that they need to take and that they have agreed to take on this issue.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow -- I'm sorry. This is the first time after President Clinton's Administration but also this Administration following the attacks -- relations between the two countries, the world's largest two democracies. But now, the Secretary has shown more interest in India-U.S. relations, as well as President Bush. What I'm asking is, what do you see the future? Do you see a bright future between the two countries as far as the relations are concerned in many areas, including terrorism, and working together as far as fighting against global terrorism?

MR. MCCORMACK: Fighting terrorism is certainly going to be an important component in the relationship. We share the desire to fight terrorism. We've both been -- both our countries have been victims of terrorism. I think that the Secretary is quite optimistic about a bright future for the U.S.-India relationship, in order to realize that different kind of relationship to take next steps in that relationship, so certain things need to happen. And we are going to be working very closely with the Indian Government in the coming months on those things.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: On North Korea. It is reported that the United States has wanted to impose additional economic sanctions on North Korea. Would you tell us what kind of sanctions would be imposed?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of, at this point, any sanctions that we are planning to apply against North Korea. We have taken some actions, recently, to stop or prevent some illegal activities that we believe that the North Korean Government is involved in, including counterfeiting. Those are well known. We published -- made those announcements in public out of the Department of the Treasury. But as for any new actions, I don't have any information for you on that.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:55 p.m.)


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