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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 > 2006 > January
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 19, 2006

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Secretary Rices Trip to the UK for London Conference on Afghanistan / International Partnership with Afghanistan / Political and Financial Support
Confirmation of Authenticity of bin Laden Tape by CIA / Bureau of Intelligence and Research Involvement
Use of Force Against Terrorists


Abiding by Commitments Outlined in Algiers Accord / Regime Isolating Iran / Standing with People of Iran and Their Aspirations / Call for a Change in Behavior / Presidential Election Issues
Under Secretary Burns Discussion of Nuclear Issue in Travels


Oppressive and Authoritarian Regimes / State Sponsors of Terrorism / Thwarting Will of the Palestinian People for Better Future / Isolation from Rest of the World / UN Security Council Referral / Call for Great Freedoms from Region


Implementation of Russian Law on NGOs / International Commitments Concerning Freedoms of Assembly and Association
Encouraging Greater Promotion of Democracy, Freedoms and Participation Within Political Space / U.S. Relationship with Russia


Visit of Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon / Six-Party Talks / Iran Nuclear Issue / U.S.-South Korea Strategic Dialogue / Military to Military Relationship / Encouraging on Contact Between and South Korea and North Korea / Moving Beyond Historical Differences


Assistant Secretary Hill Meetings on Six-Party Talks / Prepared to Resume Six-Party Talks / Framework Agreement / Meeting Suggested by Chinese
Assistant Secretary Hills Discussion on Sanctions / Preventing Illegal Activities / Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering
Moving Through Issues Expeditiously / Moving Through Six-Party Talks Mechanism / Attendance at U.S. Briefing in New York


Tel-Aviv Bombing / Reports of Palestinian Islamic Jihad Involvement / Prevention of Terrorists Attacks by Palestinian Authority


Italys Intention to Withdrawal Troops from Iraq


2:26 m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I have one brief opening statement for you and then we can get right into questions. And this concerns the Secretary's travel. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will lead the U.S. Delegation to the London Conference on Afghanistan hosted by the United Kingdom January 31st through February 1st of this year. The conference will mark the beginning of a new phase in the international community's long-term partnership with Afghanistan. At the conference, the elected Government of Afghanistan will outline its goals for security, development, governance, human rights and counternarcotics. The international community will commit politically and financially to supporting these goals. With that, I'll be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Is this is a pledging conference?

MR. MCCORMACK: I believe that there are going to be various expressions of support for the Afghan Government, George. I expect that there will also be dollar figures attached to some of those pledges of support. And as for the specific figures, I don't have anything for you right now, but we encourage all the countries that are participating in the conference and that have an interest in a stable, prosperous and secure Afghanistan to support the Afghan people and the Afghan Government in the best way that they possibly can, whether that's professional expertise or financial assistance or other kinds of assistance.

QUESTION: What about additional stops?

MR. MCCORMACK: Any additional stops to this trip, we'll keep you informed. I have nothing to announce at this point.

QUESTION: She's doing intense diplomacy on the Iran issue, when she's in London. Will she carry that on?

MR. MCCORMACK: I expect that there will be meetings on that topic as well, Saul. And I wouldn't be surprised if there are more stops attached to this trip. At this point, we're not prepared to make any announcements about additional stops, but I would expect that as part of this trip, there's going to be a healthy portion of it devoted to discussion concerning Iran -- and diplomacy surrounding that -- the issue.



QUESTION: Still on this?

QUESTION: We go to Iran (inaudible.)

QUESTION: Oh, okay. A question on the trip. I just wanted to quickly ask, since the State of the Union is on the 31st, is she going to be in town for that?

MR. MCCORMACK: She will be back in time for that.

QUESTION: She will be back in town for that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Yes, she will.

QUESTION: So when does she leave again? Maybe I missed the times.

MR. MCCORMACK: This conference is on the 31st and the 1st of February. In terms of when she might be leaving for the trip, we'll keep you updated on what additional stops there might be. Charlie, but --

QUESTION: So she will only take part in the first day of the conference?


QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: The United States and Iran signed an agreement on January 19, 1981, exactly 25 years ago regarding the release of 52 hostages held in Iran at that time for more than 14 months. One of the general principles of that agreement was the pledge of non-intervention in Iranian affairs by the U.S. Government. My question: Is that pledge still valid and is there any contradiction between this pledge and supporting the aspiration of the Iranian people by the United States Government, as President and Secretary of State said many times that they're supporting the Iranian people?

MR. MCCORMACK: We continue to abide by our commitments by outlined by the Algiers Accord, but I don't see any contradiction between that commitment to abide by our treaty commitments and supporting the aspirations of the Iranian people. They have gotten a regime that they don't deserve.

Iran for centuries was at the crossroads of civilization. It is a great culture, it is a great people and it is a great country. And what they have now is a regime that has taken steps over the course of the years and accelerated those steps in recent months that have served to isolate Iran from the rest of the world. And that isolation is continuing to increase to the point where in the near future, I expect that Iran will find itself -- the Iranian regime will find itself before the Security Council for violations of its obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty. So this Iranian regime is taking the Iranian people 180 degrees opposite where the rest of the region is headed. The rest of the region is headed towards a direction of greater political freedoms. Those include opening up political systems for greater participation. It's a greater investment by those populations. Freedom of speech, freedom of press and economic freedoms. These are all things -- these are all things that we believe all people desire, including the Iranian people.

So we have made statements in the past you can go back to, beginning with President Bush's statement on July 12th of 2002, saying that we stand with the Iranian people in their aspirations for a better way of life, for greater freedoms, greater economic prosperity. But that is for the Iranian people to determine what course their political system takes.

QUESTION: Are you going toward change in the political system in Iran, a change of regime, or just you want some -- I mean, you want radical change or --

MR. MCCORMACK: What we've called for is a change in the behavior of the Iranian regime. This is a regime that is, as I said, 180 degrees opposite where its neighbors are headed. It's a state sponsor of terror. It continues to oppress its own people. One recent example is the regime has forbidden the playing of classical music, Beethoven, in Iran. And it is also pursuing weapons of mass destruction, in this case nuclear weapons, in contravention of its treaty obligations.

So what we're looking for from the Iranian regime is a change in behavior. And you know, the Iranian regime points to the fact that it had an election. Well, this is an election where even before anybody was able to put a piece of paper in a ballot box, more than 1,000 candidates that said that they wanted to run in the presidential election were taken off or forbidden from running. They were forbidden from running by a small group of people who actually run Iran, who actually control the levers of power in Iran. That isn't a democratic -- that is not the democratic way of governing.

QUESTION: Then you're not calling for an overthrow of the regime?

MR. MCCORMACK: What we're calling for is a change in the behavior of the Iranian regime.


QUESTION: Iranian President Ahmedi-Nejad is in Syria today and the two countries seem to close rounds. They said that they reject the pressure exerted on Iran about nuclear -- its nuclear program and they support the resistance against -- the Palestinian resistance against Israel. Do you have any comment on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think the general comment that I made about Iran finding itself -- the Iranian regime finding itself in complete -- going in completely the opposite direction from the rest of the region, there's actually one exception to that, and that's Syria. Syria is going right along with them, 180 degrees opposite from where the rest of the region is headed.

These are both oppressive, authoritarian regimes. They both support -- are state sponsors of terror. You mentioned the fact that they apparently -- I haven't seen the statement -- apparently take pride in the fact that they are continuing to support Palestinian rejectionist groups. Well, this is, again, in direct contradiction to where world opinion is headed. I would refer you back to recent statements from the Quartet, which includes the United States, the EU and the UN. These statements call upon Damascus to close down the offices of Palestinian rejectionist groups and to shut off support for those groups.

So instead, what we see -- what we see from these two -- the leaders of these two regimes is actually taking pride in that. You know who is actually suffering the most from the Syrian actions and the actions of the Iranian Government? It's the Palestinian people, the people that they supposedly say that they are fighting on behalf of. What they are doing, in effect, is thwarting the will of the Palestinian people for a better future, for a more peaceful future, for a democratic future.

So again, I think that all you can say about the fact that these two -- the leaders of these two regimes have gotten together is the fact that all it does is highlight the fact that they themselves are isolated from the rest of the world. Syria is currently under UN Security Council resolution and I expect in the not too distant future, Iran will find itself before the Security Council. So in essence, they do have a lot in common but it's a sad comment on the fact -- it's a sad comment that these two great peoples now find themselves increasingly isolated from the rest of the world because of the actions of their leaders.

QUESTION: But don't you think that Iran and Syria can influence what's going on in the area? I mean, they have many -- they have influence in Iraq, in Lebanon and, of course --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think, certainly over time, we have seen that the march of freedom is stronger than any oppressive authoritarian regime and that ultimately the fact that you have people around the region calling for greater freedoms, calling for more investment in their own political processes so they can elect leaders that reflect their will, will ultimately have much more influence over Syria and Iran than vice versa.


QUESTION: Change of subject.

MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this?

QUESTION: Can we stay on Iran, please?


QUESTION: Secretary Robert Joseph discussed Iranian nuclear problems today with Russian officials in Moscow. Any details on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I haven't talked to them, so I don't have any particular readout for you. Under Secretary Joseph is traveling to the -- he has been to Vienna. He's currently in Moscow, and I believe he's also going to Tokyo. There may be additional stops that he is making. Under Secretary Nick Burns traveled to London where he had discussions about the Iranian issue -- the Iranian nuclear issue. He's currently in India, where he is having -- the primary focus of his discussions is on US-India civil nuclear agreement and implementation of that agreement. But I expect he's also going to talk about Iran as well. That's on the agenda. And then he'll be continuing on to Sri Lanka.

That's a long way of saying that there's a lot of diplomatic activity concerning next diplomatic steps, regarding Iran. And what happens after the IAEA emergency Board of Governors meeting and what next steps would be taken in the UN Security Council. That's a big part of what he's talking about, but I don't have any particular readout of his discussions with the Russian Government.

QUESTION: Just for the record, isn't Nick Burns also going to Pakistan?


QUESTION: Okay. You didnít say that option* (inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Left that out. Didn't mean to leave it out. Yes. Anything else on Iran? Okay, back to you.

QUESTION: Russia -- what's the U.S. position on the new Russian law on NGOs, recently signed into effect by President Putin? And what messages, if any, will be conveyed either by the State Department or by the Embassy in Moscow to the Russian officials on this issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we just put a statement out on the Russian NGO, but I'm happy to read it for you here, if you like.

QUESTION: If it's possible.

MR. MCCORMACK: "The United States urges the Russian Government to ensure that implementation of the Russian law on nongovernmental organizations, NGOs, which President Putin signed January 10th, not restrict the space for civil society in Russia. We have repeatedly conveyed our serious concerns about the legislation to the Russian Government and will continue to monitor implementation of the law and its impact on Russian civil society closely. In accordance with the Russian Government's international commitments concerning freedom of assembly and freedom of association, we urge it to enact regulations that eliminate the possibility for arbitrary implementation and facilitate rather than hinder the vital work of NGOs."

QUESTION: If I may follow up, Secretary Rice said in Georgetown yesterday that America can try and help those in Russia who want to return it to a more democratic path. How can the U.S. help and how will the U.S. help those groups and organizations in Russia? And does the U.S. envisage preventing President Putin from chairing the G-8 summit this year?

MR. MCCORMACK: Now, on the latter, no. I have no expectation that that will happen. As a matter of fact, Secretary Rice talked about the responsibilities that come along with chairing such a meeting of democratic states.

In terms of what the United States does concerning promotion -- the greater promotion of democracy in Russia, we speak out about it. We also provide funds to NGOs that operate throughout Europe, as well as in Russia. But ultimately the course of democracy in Russia is going to be determined by the Russian people. We certainly encourage freedom -- and important to that is freedom of the press, expanding rather than contracting the political space so you have greater investment and greater dialogue and debate within the political space. So these are all things that we encourage the Russian Government to promote themselves, but ultimately these are going to be questions that the Russian people have to answer for themselves.

QUESTION: And what penalty is there, if the Russian Government doesn't respect those principles?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of punitive measures, with respect to the slide, I'm not aware of anything that people have in mind. And the Secretary talked again -- has talked recently about the trajectory of relationships between the United States and various countries, between the United States and Russia. We have an excellent relationship with Russia.

Now, of course, there's always room for improvement in those relationships. But in order to realize the full potential of any relationship, including ours with Russia, it's going to depend upon the, you know, behaviors and intersections of interest between the United States and Russia. So the area of promotion of freedom of speech and increasing, rather than contracting, the democratic space is one of those areas which we would encourage improvement and certainly we'll continue to talk to the Russian Government about.

Yes, Teri.

QUESTION: Can we change subjects?


QUESTION: Just as a matter of course, do you have anything to say about the new bin Laden tape the CIA has within the last hour confirmed its authenticity?

MR. MCCORMACK: I understand that they have confirmed the authenticity. I know that Scott over at the White House in his briefing spoke at length about the tape, its contents and the questions surrounding its contents. I don't think I have anything particular to add to what he's said already.

QUESTION: Is the State Department doing its own analysis? I understand that CIA tests the voice, but there are other things that are also examined in these tapes. Is the State Department doing a separate analysis?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we do have the Bureau of Intelligence and Research here. I'm sure that they are involved, as is the rest of the intelligence community, in an analysis of the tape. And whenever you have these kind of tapes, the analysts look for any threat indicators that may be in there, any clues that might help us in our hunt for members of al-Qaida. Those things I expect are going on. I don't have particular information regarding those activities here in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, but as a matter of course that is what happens when you do have these tapes.


QUESTION: Pakistani officials have said that around four al-Qaida militants were killed in the U.S. air strike and they believe that one of them could be the son-in-law of Zawahiri, a bomb expert wanted by the U.S.?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I don't -- I can't confirm or deny those reports. I don't have anything to add beyond what I've said on the subject before.


QUESTION: I have a French question to ask you today.

MR. MCCORMACK: How appropriate.

QUESTION: President Chirac announced a change in the French nuclear policy today. He said now that nuclear bomb could be used against any state with a large terrorist attack, so I wanted to know if you have any comment on that and what is the U.S. position on that? Is U.S. ready to launch a nuclear bomb on a terrorist state?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, concerning questions of the United States right to defend itself, those are questions for the national command authority, which does not include the State Department. That includes the White House and the Department of Defense. And these are -- I would just say as a general issue, and I haven't seen President Chirac's comments or the statement, that decisions and actions that involve use of force and the military are the greatest decisions any leader can take in defense of a country and defense of a people. But those decisions are for that country to make and those leaders to make, but beyond that I don't think I have any specific comment.


QUESTION: Can you give us a basic readout on today's rather lengthy meeting between Secretary Rice and Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they -- it was actually in two parts. They had a one-on-one meeting that lasted about 40 minutes. It did go on for some time and it was just Secretary Rice and Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon. They talked about the six-party talks. They talked about a variety of other global issues, including Iran. You heard public comments from the Secretary and Foreign Minister on that issue. There was also a working lunch which served as the kickoff session, if you will, of the U.S.-South Korean Strategic Dialogue. They talked about a variety of issues, bilateral issues. They talked about the military-to-military relationship. They both commented that implementation of the agreement between the U.S. and South Korea concerning the expansion of military capabilities, conventional military capabilities, on the Korean Peninsula and the shifting of forces and shifting of military assets was proceeding very well, that there was very good contact between the two militaries and the two governments on the issue. There was a great deal of understanding on it. There are no problems there.

They also talked about issues in the region, South Korean-Japanese relations, South Korean-Chinese relations, how the Foreign Minister viewed those relationships. They also talked about human rights issues in the region. They touched upon the six-party talks as well. They talked about human rights issues in North Korea. So overall, all in all, it was a good discussion. I think if you total it up they spent more than an hour and a half together, and I expect -- I don't know when the next round of these Strategic Consultations take place, but I would expect they probably would take place in South Korea.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?


QUESTION: Any details on Mr. Hill's meetings, overnight meeting with his colleague -- North Korean and Chinese counterparts?

MR. MCCORMACK: He did -- there was a meeting on his return trip back to the United States that involved Assistant Secretary Hill, Mr. Wu from the Chinese Foreign Ministry and Kim Gye Gwan from North Korea. It was a meeting concerning the six-party talks. It was the idea of the Chinese Government. Assistant Secretary Hill thought it was a good idea. Secretary Rice endorsed the idea, as well as the White House.

Assistant Secretary Hill sent a strong, clear message that we are prepared to resume the six-party talks and start work on implementation of the Framework Agreement that was agreed to on September 19th and that we would hope the North Korean Government was ready to return to those talks without precondition as well at the earliest possible date. I think that all the other five parties are ready as soon as a date is set up to show up for talks, to engage in a serious manner, to get to the what will be tough work of coming up with a plan to implement the Framework Agreement that has been agreed upon already.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) basically the sanctions U.S. had imposed on North Korea over the alleged counterfeiting and money laundering activities in North Korea. And that was the issue that seems to be the stumbling block. Has there been anything done during this meeting to resolve this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Assistant Secretary Hill made clear again that these issues are separate and that the United States, as any country would, has and is going to continue to take steps to prevent illegal activities that may affect us or any other country, whether that's involvement in drug trafficking or money laundering or counterfeiting. These are issues that are separate from the six-party talks. These are issues, I think, that nobody should be surprised that the United States or any other country would take action to prevent. These are illicit activities. It's not as though these are legal activities that somehow the United States or others are unjustly cracking down on.

So we view these efforts as completely separate and that we remain ready to return to the six-party talks without precondition at the earliest possible date and we encourage the North Korean Government to do the same, to return without preconditions.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?


QUESTION: How did this meeting come about and who initiated it?

MR. MCCORMACK: It was the Chinese Government that suggested it. What happened is Chris was already on a trip to the region. He had already stopped in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing and traveled on to Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia. He was on his way back to the United States for the meetings today with Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon and along the way the Chinese Government, because he had to transit back through Beijing, the Chinese Government suggested this meeting. We took them up on that suggestion and we had the meeting with the three participants in it.

QUESTION: What was the North Korean response to Secretary Hill's suggestions?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we still don't have a date for the six-party talks although we continue to be hopeful that there will be one.

QUESTION: Were they positive? Were they -- I mean, was there any signal given?

MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, you know, I don't put too much stock in signals until you actually have the facts on the ground. A fact on the ground would be an agreement to a meeting date, so until we have a meeting date I don't think I'm going to speculate about whether there will be one. We continue to be hopeful.

Yes, you had a follow-up? Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Can you describe what was the recognition of both minister in the issue of South Korea and Japanese relation?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure -- in today's meeting with the Secretary?


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have always encouraged the contacts between South Korea and North Korea. I know that they -- there's a great deal of interest among the people of South Korea and the South Korean Government on those contacts and we have never discouraged those contacts.

QUESTION: No issue of Yasukuni shrine, visiting the Yasukuni shrine by Prime Minister of Japan?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, those are issues for the Korean -- South Korean Government and Japanese Government to resolve. As a general statement, our position is that there are historical differences, there are old wounds here, and that we would encourage all the parties in the region to move beyond their own particular histories with one another. We understand there are sensitivities and we would hope all the parties would be respectful of the actions of the others and to take steps to move beyond any of these historical differences or put any of these grievances behind them. But that's going to be up to the parties in the region to do.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. Anything else on -- we'll come back to you. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Yes. Do you think will the North Korean nuclear issue be resolved within by the end of this year at the latest?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a timeline for you. We are very hopeful that we can move through the various issues expeditiously, but I'm not going to undersell the fact that these are tough issues. And I think if this -- if these issues were easy, they would have been solved a long time ago. But we're committed to doing so through the mechanism of the six-party talks.

And I would just add one thing that we have said in the past. Through this mechanism, if we are able to resolve the issue of North Korea's nuclear program and arrive at a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, we have always said that this is a way for North Korea to realize a different kind of relationship with the rest of the world and we would hope that North Korea view this process in that way. There are real concerns on the part of the United States as well as, more importantly, North Korea's neighbors regarding their nuclear weapons program. So we would hope that North Korea would view these negotiations in that light and, as we have said before, and it's part of the Statement of Principles that we understand that there are issues that are of concern to North Korea. The immediate focus of the six-party talks is North Korea's nuclear program and arriving at a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. But we also understand that there are issues of importance to North Korea and this is the mechanism, this is the negotiating forum where they could realize a different kind of relationship with the rest of the world.

Yes. Anything else on North Korea? Yes, sir.

QUESTION: So did Ambassador Hill not have a bilateral meeting with Mr. Kim Gye Gwan?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. My understanding is that the --

QUESTION: Trilateral --

MR. MCCORMACK: -- the three of them in there.

QUESTION: And the issue of financial measures have never come up?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think the North Korean Representative did raise it, but, again, Assistant Secretary Hill reiterated in private what we have said in public about this issue, that they're separate and that we would hope that the North Korean regime -- the North Korean Government would return, without preconditions, to the six-party talks.

QUESTION: Was there any indication that the North Koreans are coming to attend the briefing offered by the United States in New York?

MR. MCCORMACK: We offered an expert briefing on the issue and they did not take us up on the offer.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: What's your reaction on Tel Aviv's bombing earlier this morning, especially that it comes right before the Palestinian elections?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we -- it's an act of terrorism that unfortunately has, I believe, wounded 16 people --

QUESTION: One killed and 16 (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, one killed. I think it was the bomber who lost his life -- his or her life. I don't know which it was. It's an act of terrorism and it is a reminder, once again, that there are some who would act at the expense of the Palestinian people. These are acts that only have the potential to undermine the Palestinian people's hopes for a more peaceful, stable, secure future.

I understand from the news reports that there is a group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, that has taken responsibility for this act. They have been responsible for, I think, two other recent bombings that have sadly claimed innocent life. So again, this is a group of people, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, that has -- first of all, a terrorist group and far outside the mainstream of what the Palestinian people want. I think that you have -- they have reiterated over and over again, the Palestinian people want what everybody else wants. They want to be able to send their kids to school and not have to worry about their safety. They want to be able to have a better life for themselves. They want to realize a state where they can provide the services for their fellow countrymen that they see other places. Those are the kinds of things that the Palestinian people want.

And these kind of acts, perpetrated by terrorist groups, stand in stark relief to that vision. And I think it also underlines the fact that it is incumbent upon the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian security services to act to prevent terrorist acts. And that it is important the Palestinian Authority and the leaders of the Palestinian Authority act in accordance with their roadmap obligations to dismantle terror groups. That is the way forward to achieving the two-state solution.

If you're going to achieve -- the only way to potentially achieve the two-state solution of two states living side by side in peace and security is through -- at the bargaining table. It's not going to come about at the point of a gun or because of suicide bombers.

We have one more. George.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on Italy's decision to withdraw its troops from Iraq by the end of the year?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. So we're taking care of your question, too? Okay. George, we certainly appreciate and are very grateful for Italy's contribution to Iraq and the provision of these troops. Italy is one of the largest contingents in the coalition and they have previously indicated that they were going to take these steps to withdraw -- to draw down their security presence in Iraq, based on the security commissions that they see there and the functions that their troops were performing and the ability of Iraqi security services to take over those functions that the Italian troops were performing.

All coalition partners, including the United States, are interested in returning their troops home as soon as possible, again, consistent with the abilities of the Iraqis to take over the duties that those troops are performing. Italy expects to increase their civilian training and reconstruction support as combat force levels adjust. And Italy will also continue to contribute to training Iraqis through the NATO training mission, which reflects our shared priority of helping the Iraqis provide for their own security.

QUESTION: Sean, on Nepal, the Nepali Government has launched another crackdown on -- it arrested about 100 activists and cut off more land phone services. And it comes just a year after the crackdown in which the U.S. expressed much concern and, in fact, imposed military aid

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see if we can get you something on that. Okay. Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:59 p.m.)

DPB # 10

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