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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 25, 2006

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INDEX:

IRAN

Russian OffSite Enrichment Proposal / IAEA Board of Governors Meeting
Votes for Referral to the UN Security Council / Broken Promises from Iran
Actions Iran Should Take to Address Concerns of International Community

DEPARTMENT

Update on Secretarys Travel Schedule

MEXICO

Reported Announcement by Mexican Government on Issue of U.S. Immigration
Incident with Local U.S. Law Enforcement / Border Incursions / Senator Kyl Letter
Principle of US Sovereignty in Protecting Borders

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY

Palestinian Elections / Historic Moment
Obligations Under Roadmap / Quartet Statement / Commitment to Roadmap
Palestinian Cabinet Formation / Potential Hamas Involvement in Government
Ability of Palestinian People to Invest in Political Process
Ambassador Jones Remarks on Hamas

LEBANON

Hezbollah Cabinet Member / U.S. Aid Levels to Lebanon

ISRAEL

Rafah Crossing / Agreement Signed by Palestinians and Israelis
Implementation of Agreement / EU Assistance

MISCELLANEOUS

Incident with Lucia Pinochet at Dulles Airport / Homeland Security

INDIA

Vote within IAEA and Irans Nuclear Program / Embassy Comments
Agreement on Civilian and Military Nuclear Programs

CHILE

Pinochet / Arrest Warrants Issued by Chilean Government

VENEZUELA

Hugo Chavez / US Concerns on Practice of Good Governance

SOUTH KOREA

US View on Illicit Activity / Counterfeiting


TRANSCRIPT:

12:10 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I don't have any opening statements so I'll be pleased to get right into questions. Who's got the first one? Ann Gearan.

QUESTION: What do you make of the latest from Iran on the Russian offsite enrichment proposal and is -- do you think this is a stalling tactic or is it likely to stymie the push to the IAEA meeting next week?

MR. MCCORMACK: There are no changes in our plans and our views on the matter. We believe that at the February 2nd Board of Governors meeting that there should be a vote for referral to the Security Council. As we've said many times before, we believe we have the votes for that referral. Iran, time and time again, has been given chance after chance in order to answer the questions of the international community, the IAEA and to assure -- give objective assurances to the international community that Iran is not seeking to build a nuclear weapon under cover of a civilian nuclear program. They have been found in noncompliance with their treaty obligations. They have broken their promises to the EU-3 in an agreement that they made with the EU-3. So there's a long trail here of broken promises on behalf of the Iranian -- from the Iranians.

Now, what I have seen -- I have seen the news reports about what Mr. Larijani has said resulting -- as a result from his talks. He offers more words. The quote here, I believe from an AP story, is, "Our view of this offer is positive and we tried to bring the positions of the sides closer. This plan can be perfected in the future during further talks that will be held in February." He went on to say that if Iran is referred to the Security Council that they would not engage in discussions with the Russians on this matter. This, frankly -- and all the while they're doing this, they are continuing to get their centrifuge operation up and running.

All of this is to say they, again, want to have it both ways: They want to continue down the road of the behaviors that are the exact source of concern for the international community while they continue to try to draw out discussions on those very same concerns without actually getting to any agreeable diplomatic end point.

QUESTION: Are they going to forestall the vote?

MR. MCCORMACK: Over the years, they have made every effort to try to avoid being referred to the Security Council. I think that this is just one more move that they're making. I would expect that you'll probably continue to see these, this kind of behavior. A lot of rhetoric without any action, and that's what we have again here.

QUESTION: One more follow on that. You said you have the votes. Do you have assurances from Russia that even with this sort of half on the table or whatever state it's in, that Russia will vote for referral?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we encourage the Russian Government to vote for referral. We believe it's time. Many other members of the international community believe it's time as well. Ultimately, how the Russian Government decides to vote will be up to them on this particular matter. But there is a baseline of common understanding among the United States, the European Union states, Russia, China, that they all believe that Iran should not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon and that Iran, through its recent actions, has crossed a line.

So that's a common base of operating assumptions. Right now, we're talking with the Russians as well as others about what the diplomatic next steps should be. We believe those next steps should be a Board of Governors meeting on February 2nd followed by referral to the Security Council, and we are currently discussing with the Russians as well as others about once the issue does arrive at the Security Council how it will be -- how it should be dealt with.

Yes.

QUESTION: You say Iran is all word, no action. What kind of action they should take?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I guess I should say action in the wrong direction. The direction that they're taking is starting up the centrifuges, machining parts -- replacement parts -- for their centrifuges, getting this cascade up and running so they can introduce the uranium hexafluoride, which after time and once you've perfected the techniques, you can produce highly enriched uranium which can be used to build a nuclear weapon. So the Secretary has talked about this previously. If, in fact, they are serious about arriving at a diplomatic solution, they should take actions to address the concerns of the international community concerning their behavior. We have seen none of that so far and, in fact, they're headed the other direction.

QUESTION: What action? What exactly?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the source of concern for the international community is their -- there are many sources of concern. We are concerned -- continue to be concerned about the conversion program, but the main critical point -- technological point -- in the process for developing a nuclear weapon is the enrichment technology and perfecting how you do that: getting the materials for it, getting the know-how to perfect the techniques to enrich uranium, so ultimately you can have the highly enriched uranium. Our concerns and the world's concerns center primarily around their activities concerning enrichment.

QUESTION: So there is no specific measure Tehran could take to avoid --

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, this is not for the international community to say, well, if you do x, y, and z. This has gotten to the point where it is up to Iranians now to demonstrate to the international community that they are ready to engage in a diplomatic solution that will arrive at a mutually agreed solution to this problem. They want to make this an issue of their rights. Well, it's not about their rights; it's about their obligations. And continuously, over the course of time, they have sought to undermine what they have committed to do under the Nonproliferation Treaty. They have sought to develop a nuclear weapon under the cover of a civilian nuclear program.

So we believe that the appropriate diplomatic next step, which we and others hope will lead to a diplomatic solution, is to go to the Security Council. And perhaps the weight of going to the Security Council, the context of discussing this issue in the Security Council will provide some incentive for the Iranian regime to reconsider the steps that it has taken, in the direction and the path that it has followed.

QUESTION: If I can have another one, can you give us some details about what you expect from the meeting on Monday in London?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, thanks for bringing that up. Update on the Secretary's schedule: We'll be leaving this weekend to go to London for the previously announced visit to the Afghanistan conference. Also while in London there will be a Quartet meeting as well as a dinner at the ministerial level of the P-5, at which time they'll talk about Iran and diplomatic next steps. So that's what's on the agenda of the P-5 dinner.

Saul.

QUESTION: So what are you doing about what happens at the Security Council? Just now you said, you know, the weight of the Security Council to discuss it is important. I just wonder if you're opening the door to the possibility that the Feb. 2 meeting won't actually be for a formal referral but will be a report to --

MR. MCCORMACK: We made clear referral is referral is referral.

QUESTION: New subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. Everybody agreeable to that?

All right, Nicholas, you have the floor.

QUESTION: The Mexican Government has announced that it's going to be issuing maps of dangerous places along the border with the United States, of places with cell phone coverage. I wonder what do you think about that and is that not going to basically encourage people to cross the border illegally?

MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen these reports and we're trying to verify them. Let me just say that no government, including the Government of Mexico, should facilitate or encourage its citizens to try to enter the United States outside established legal procedures. We have worked for some time with the Mexican Government on these issues. The President has made his views clear on these issues in terms of trying to deal with this question of immigration. He has outlined his views on the matter and it's a source of continuing discussion, not only in the United States but also with the Mexican Government.

That said, every government around the world should expect the United States is going to take whatever steps it deems necessary to protect its own borders and to protect the sovereignty of the United States and uphold the laws of the United States. So while there is this ongoing discussion concerning the issue of immigration, it's certainly in the news --while that discussion is going on, certainly we in the United States Government will watch carefully other governments' attitudes towards respect for our border.

QUESTION: And that includes -- when you say to protect the borders, that includes use of force?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, how and what way the borders are monitored is a question for the Department of Homeland Security.

QUESTION: Just one more thing. I'm sorry. Do you have anything to say on the incident a few days ago with Texas police and the Mexicans who were dressed like policemen, but apparently now the Mexican Government is saying they were drug smugglers, drug traffickers?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, on that, there have been some preliminary reports from local U.S. law enforcement. And the Department of Homeland Security has also been apprised of this incident. We have communicated at the diplomatic level with the Government of Mexico on the matter and request that they investigate the matter and that U.S. authorities are already investigating the incident. So on our side, people are already looking into it and we've asked the Mexicans to look into it as well.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? This is in relation to a letter that Senator Kyl sent to the Secretary about the military incursions. Is there any reaction to what he's proposing and -- I mean, what kind of action are you considering on the part of the U.S.?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen the letter that Senator Kyl sent the Secretary, but I think I've stated clearly a general principle that reflects our view concerning borders and the issue of immigration.

QUESTION: Well, but this is particularly about the military. This is particularly about military incursions by the Mexican military crossing the border to go after Mexican citizens. I mean --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you bring this up in the context of the letter from Senator Kyl. I haven't seen what's in the letter from Senator Kyl. I do -- I am aware of the fact that there have been reports of these kinds of incursions. Certainly, these reports are a source of concern and I would expect that the Department of Homeland Security would look into each and every one of these. I know that they would be concerned by these reports.

As for the validity of and the particular circumstances surrounding these alleged incursions, I don't have the information for you and that's really a question better posed to the Department of Homeland Security.

QUESTION: But at the same time, I mean, you talk about that you should respect U.S. sovereignty in terms of U.S. -- Mexican citizens crossing the border. I mean, wouldn't something like that be an also a kind of egregious violation of U.S. sovereignty if another military is crossing the U.S. border?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I just talked about the fact that these are reports. The Department of State is not the cabinet agency responsible for monitoring the U.S. border. I have talked about generally the principle of sovereignty and the importance of that to the United States Government and the American people. Now, in terms of any particular incidents that are alleged to have occurred and the details surrounding that and the context in which they may or may not have taken place, that's the Department of Homeland Security.

QUESTION: Can you check, Sean, whether -- make sure that the letter's been received here that the Senator -- Senator Kyl sent?

MR. MCCORMACK: If there's anything I have to add, I'll -- we can find out. I'll let you know. we don't comment on every piece of correspondence that comes in from Capitol Hill.

QUESTION: Well, he said he sent it so, I mean, I'm sure it's been received.

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I have no doubt. But what I'm also saying is that we do not offer comment on every piece of correspondence that comes in from Capitol Hill, as a rule.

QUESTION: Only when you want to.

QUESTION: Well, I understand, Sean, but he's --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you only ask about it when you want to, so there's two sides to that.

QUESTION: He's calling specifically for an investigation into these particular matters, so -- of the military incursions.

MR. MCCORMACK: If we have anything to add on that, I'll let you know.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Saul.

QUESTION: Can I take you back to the Quartet meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: The last Quartet statement, if I remember rightly, was very clear about the makeup of any Palestinian Authority, saying that there shouldn't be a cabinet member who belongs to a party that hasn't renounced violence. Is that --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's right.

QUESTION: Is that still the case? That's still valid even though we've --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: -- we've got these elections where Hamas may do well?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Well, certainly, we have the issue of Palestinian elections before us. I think that, first off, I would say that it's a great day for the Palestinian people. This is a historic moment for them. And the violence -- the elections, as I understand it, have unfolded in a way that has been relatively free from violence. Turnout has been high. And this should be a day for celebration for the Palestinian people. They are able to express their views and express their will through the ballot box.

As for the results of the election, we'll see. I think that in some places the polls are still open, so we'll see over the next 24 to 48 hours what the results of the election are, what government results from those elections and what policies that government pursues. So that's several steps down the line.

But what I can tell you is that our policy reaction to any policies that might be pursued by a future Palestinian Authority at this point will be guided by -- I would point you to three things.

One, the roadmap. All the parties in the region have signed up to the roadmap. And one particular part of that, of the roadmap, calls for the -- calls upon the Palestinian Authority to act to prevent acts of terror, as well as to dismantle terrorist networks. That is an obligation that the Palestinian Authority has committed itself to and one that the international community -- not just the United States, the international community -- expects them to live up to.

The second is the Quartet statement that you mentioned, Saul. And in that statement there are a couple of sentences that I would refer you back to specifically.

The Quartet -- on behalf of the Quartet, that "Ultimately, those who want to be part of the political process should not engage in armed group or militia activities for there is a fundamental contradiction between such activities and the building of a democratic state. In this regard, the Quartet calls on all participants to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist and disarm."

And the second sentence is the one you cited, "In particular, the Quartet expressed its view that a future Palestinian Authority cabinet should include no member who is not committed to the principles of Israel's right to exist in peace and security and an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism."

And the third I would refer you to, the third statement I would refer you to, is the Secretary's January 11th statement about Palestinian elections in which she refers back to the Quartet statement of December 28th which I just read from. And she also goes on to add, "Development of a Palestinian democracy based on tolerance and liberty is a key element of the roadmap. To participate in a peace process of Israelis and Palestinians, the Palestinian partner must at least accept Israel's right to exist. To implement agreements on movement and access for the Palestinian territories, the Palestinian partner must be committed to preventing violence. In short, the Palestinian partner must be committed to peaceful development."

So these are the essential elements, which will be guiding us as well as other members of the Quartet as we move forward in this process. Today is a day of celebration for the Palestinian people. We will see what these elections bring, what government, what the composition of that government is and what the policies are that that government pursues.

QUESTION: Can I just -- you said they're the essential elements that are going to guide you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But is it tantamount to laying down conditions for how Hamas could join a government?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we are several steps away from what -- who might comprise a Palestinian government. But the sentence that you refer to and the one that I just read in the Quartet statement is still operative. In our view, and the Secretary said this over and over again and it's in the January 11th statement, the Palestinian people need to resolve the fundamental contradiction of groups and individuals who want to have one foot in the camp of terror and one foot in the democratic political process. You can't have that. There needs to be a choice that is made.

President Abbas has stated very clearly that the Palestinian Authority is committed to the rule of one law and one gun, that the Palestinian Authority should be the sole authority that provides security for the Palestinian people and that secures a better future for the Palestinian people. You can't have armed militias running around in a democracy outside the rule of law, which is the situation that you have now. That, of course, needs to change; that is, of course, what is called for in the roadmap. That is what the Quartet has very clearly stated.

So again, as for what the future Palestinian Authority looks like, we'll see. But in terms of our views of the matter, we'll be guided by the principles that have been outlined in the Quartet statement as well as the roadmap and the statements from the Secretary. As for Hamas, we view Hamas as a terrorist organization. We don't deal with Hamas. And under the current circumstances, I don't see that changing.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: There was a similar situation, as you know, in Lebanon with some members of Hezbollah becoming part of the cabinet. And what did the United States do in terms of U.S. aid to the particular ministries that they run? And there have been some reports that the U.S. might reconsider or, you know, kind of review and take another look at the aid that it's giving to the Palestinians should Hamas become part of the cabinet. How do you think this will affect U.S. aid to the Palestinians directly?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as for the situation in Lebanon, I believe there's one cabinet minister who's a member of Hezbollah and I think, actually, at the moment, they are not active in the cabinet because of some political disagreements in Lebanon.

As for aid levels to Lebanon, I don't have those facts in front of me. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. We don't deal with Hezbollah. We certainly have continued to deal with Prime Minister Senor, as well as other members of his cabinet who have been democratically elected, who are committed to the course of a peaceful democracy.

As for what potential future policy actions the United States or the Quartet takes, we'll see. Again, those -- any particular policy course will be guided by what decisions the Palestinians make concerning their cabinet, concerning their government and the policies that they pursue. We certainly stand prepared to work with a Palestinian government that is committed to achieving the two-state solution through peaceful means, across the bargaining table, across the negotiating table, not at the point of a gun.

Yes.

QUESTION: I mean, but do whatever arrangements or accommodations the U.S. had to make in order to steer clear of the one Hezbollah cabinet minister in Lebanon provide any model for how you might proceed with the Palestinians?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think the Quartet statement is very clear on this matter, that the Palestinian Authority cabinet should include no member who is not committed to the principles of Israel's right to exist in peace and security and an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism. Those are two conditions currently that Hamas does not meet.

QUESTION: For sure. But the fact remains that if, even in the face of that statement, such cabinet ministers exist, is the Hezbollah situation in Lebanon any sort of a model for how you proceed?

MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't point -- necessarily point you in that direction.

QUESTION: I think the question is, Sean, that that's a recommendation from the Quartet. There's no condition put on it. There's no, "There should not be a minister or else." And so I'm wondering, if your recommendation is ignored, then what do you do?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that's what I've been trying to convey here is that what I've outlined is a set of principles that will guide us, that will guide the Quartet. As for any policy reactions to any changes in the Palestinian Authority or different policies that they might pursue, these are the principles that will guide us. Currently, you have a Palestinian Authority that is committed to the roadmap, that is committed to be a peaceful partner with the Israeli Government in seeking to resolve differences between the two across the negotiating table in a peaceful manner. Certainly, if there are any changes in that policy, which I have not heard from President Abbas, these principles would guide us.

QUESTION: There's one phrase that you've used which is: "We don't deal with Hamas and I don't see that changing." Can you just --

MR. MCCORMACK: I say given the current circumstances, I don't see that changing. I don't see any material change in their actions --

QUESTION: Yeah. Just --

MR. MCCORMACK: -- or their charter.

QUESTION: Just to clarify sort of the parameters of that, the way you might interpret that is you can still deal with a Palestinian Authority that has a Hamas cabinet member.

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you know, that's getting several steps down the line here. That's not the -- those aren't the facts, as we have right them now. The Quartet has made it very clear that the Palestinian cabinet should not include any member who does not recognize Israel's right to exist or has not renounced violence.

QUESTION: But are you conditioning U.S. aid on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I have been saying several times over here that these are the principles that will be guiding us. As for what policies the United States and the Quartet pursues, based on what kind of Palestinian Authority there is, what kind of policies they pursue, we'll see. We're not there yet. Today is election day. The polls haven't even closed in every place so we don't have results of the election. We don't know what the Palestinian Authority cabinet is going to look like. We don't know what the policies are that they are going to pursue. President Abbas has said that he is committed to pursuing the policy -- pathway to peace through negotiations, based on the roadmap.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, but itíll be just one more. You say that your policies will be guided by that, but is there something to be said for making it clear what you will do if certain policies by the Palestinian government are or are not pursued? I mean, are you going to make it clear to the new Palestinian government that this is what you expect to see and your policies will be guided by that? I mean, the way you talk about it is you're going to be reactive rather than preventative or proactive.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, our assumption is the Palestinian Authority will continue to pursue the policies -- the course that it has followed. Certainly, that is our hope, that is our encouragement. That is the way for the Palestinian people to realize a better way of life -- commitment to the roadmap, commitment to fight terror, commitment to dismantle terrorist organizations, a commitment to build the institutions, democratic institutions, that could form the foundation of a state. That is the current pathway that the Palestinian Authority is on.

QUESTION: Can you clarify something Ambassador Jones is reported to have said in Israel? Haaretz says that he actually did cite the Hezbollah situation as a model for how the Administration would deal with a Hamas cabinet member.

MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen these news reports. I hadn't talked about it. I don't know if that's an accurate quote or not. I think what I have done here is outlined what our thinking is on the matter.

QUESTION: Do we have to understand that the meeting of -- the Quartet meeting this weekend will be organized to coordinate the positions of the Quartet on Hamas?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that the issue isn't Hamas. The issue is the Palestinian people, what does the Palestinian Authority look like, what are the decisions that that cabinet takes in terms of its policies. This is a transitional period for the Palestinian people, for the Palestinian political process. I think we're seeing that. And what the Quartet has done is they have gotten together on a regular basis to exchange views and to coordinate those views and coordinate our policies so that we can all make those policies and our subsequent actions, based on those policies, helpful in getting to the end state that we all desire, and that is the two-state solution. And that's going to be the topic of discussion at the London meeting.

Yes, Libby.

QUESTION: I just -- Reuters is reporting that 40 percent -- exit polls show 40 percent of the vote going to Fatah and 30 percent going to Hamas. I know that's early exit polling, but is there any initial reaction to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first thing, you know, citing Reuters -- (laughter) -- Sorry, Saul, just joking.

QUESTION: Sorry. I'll just say wires.

MR. MCCORMACK: Just joking, just kidding, just kidding. Look, I think the media in the U.S. and certainly this Administration, I think, is a bit wary of exit polling, so we're going to wait to see what we have in terms of a little more solid information concerning the results before we have any particular comment on the outcome.

QUESTION: Differently about the elections, you've encouraged that the Palestinian Authority to hold elections today, you've even celebrated the fact that they're happening.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Isn't there a logic that you have to accept the results?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the results, we hope, will reflect the will of the Palestinian people. There evidently was among the Palestinian people some support for Hamas and that wasn't created by these elections; it existed. Now, what the reasons were for individuals choosing Hamas in the vote or choosing to support them, you know, I'm not going to get into trying to analyze those. But we'll see what the international observers have to say about the elections and whether or not they were free and fair, whether or not they reflect the will of the Palestinian people. We have every expectation at this point, based on what we have seen, that they will.

Now, in terms of, you know, in terms of who is seated in the Palestinian Legislative Council, that will be based on these elections. Now, in terms of what cabinet the Palestinian officials choose to form and the policies that that cabinet pursues is an open question; they have a choice in that regard. And certainly, we have demonstrated that we are committed to working with a Palestinian Authority that is a partner for peace and that it is committed to its obligations under the roadmap and the other obligations that it has made. It is certainly our hope that we will continue to work with such a Palestinian Authority, but we will see what the outcome of these elections brings in terms of a Palestinian cabinet and the policies that it pursues. Our policy response to any changes in those regards will be guided by the principles that we've talked about during this briefing.

QUESTION: Can I just go on a more philosophical note? You said this is a day for celebration, but there's one element I don't understand why we should celebrate, and that is a group that you say is a terrorist group, that vows to destroy Israel, that is proud of having killed people with suicide bombs, is out in the streets campaigning, has people, you know, having political rallies and celebrating their, you know, election votes. What's good about that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it gets back to a little bit of what I was just saying, and that is that support for Hamas among a certain quarter of the Palestinian people existed before and it wasn't created by this election. But what you have now, in terms of an election, is the ability of the Palestinian people to participate and invest in a political process. And we have seen, time and again, that the opening of a political process and getting individual citizens to invest in that political process can have a transformative effect on a society, on a political class. Our view is that democracy, a well-governed democracy, is the way for the Palestinian people to realize their goal of a Palestinian state. Having democratic elections where there is open, peaceful debate about the future for the Palestinian people is a positive development.

Now, what the Palestinian people do with this opportunity that is presented to them, in part through these elections, is going to be up to them. What decisions their leaders take in terms of what the government looks like, what policies they pursue, is a choice. They have a choice before them. And certainly, we would look forward to working with a Palestinian Authority that is committed to its obligations under the roadmap and its previous obligations to be a good, serious partner for peace with the Israeli Government and the international community.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you extend that analysis at all, though, to what Abbas has said that participation in the government could have a transformative effect on Hamas itself?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we've gone over this ground before in terms of what our views are of a group that is committed to the destruction of Israel and committed to the use of violence participating in the cabinet.

QUESTION: A group that has support within -- as you've just said, some significant swath of the Palestinian people presumably share some of those same goals.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Again, I can't --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) elections transformative for them.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Well, let me just make one point about this. And I can't go through a political analysis of why the Palestinian people may or may not support Hamas, but it is interesting that Hamas, a group that we consider a terrorist group, has not been campaigning on the basis of use of violence. They've been campaigning on the basis of good governance. That has been -- that is what they have -- that is where they have focused their efforts. So again, this is -- it's a transitional period for the Palestinian political class.

The Palestinian people now have opportunities to express themselves that they never had before, and they have certain choices before them. There is the -- a pathway open to them where they have the opportunity to realize what they have been dreaming of, and that is a state of their own, Palestine. That pathway, though, is only along the pathway to peace. It is via the negotiating table and not through the use of violence.

QUESTION: So can I follow up, Sean?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: If you say that they're not campaigning on the use of violence, but on good governance, are you -- then you -- are you suggest --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's just an -- it's an observation.

QUESTION: But is it -- when you observe that, like, what are you saying? Are you saying that perhaps that's the path they want to go down or are you saying that they're using that campaign tactic because they know that the rest of the Palestinian population wants to pursue peace?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think what it could reflect is the fact that the Palestinian people yearn for institutions that serve their needs. They had more than a decade's worth of the corrupt rule of Yasser Arafat and they suffered under institutions that did not respond to their needs; that instead of providing services for the Palestinian people, resources were siphoned off to provide for a few, not for the greater good.

So I think what the Palestinian people want is they want a government that is well-governed, that is transparent, that works on their behalf and that is non-corrupt. And we have been working with the Palestinian Authority to try to encourage the building of those kind of democratic institutions. They have made some progress in that regard. There's certainly some ways to go. And we would hope we have the opportunity to continue working with them in that regard.

Yes.

QUESTION: I wanted to go back to Iran. Is everybody going to shell me?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas has one more.

QUESTION: Yeah -- I'm wanting to ask about (inaudible) of the Rafah crossing. But before I do, I think we made a mistake earlier when we talked about the Mexican issue. I think it's not Senator Kyl, but a member of the House from Arizona.

QUESTION: No, it's Senator Kyl.

QUESTION: I thought it was -- okay. I just wanted to --

MR. MCCORMACK: So use congressional correspondence. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Yeah, on the Rafah crossing and the agreement that was signed and reached when the Secretary was there in November, the Israeli Home and Foreign Affairs and Security Committee has been actually coming very hard on the Defense Minister for the lack of the security protocol that the Palestinians rejected and Israel signed with some objections. And they say that the lack of that protocol which would have (inaudible) the document of enforcing the agreement that was signed, the general agreement, is the reason for continued smuggling and other activities going on through the Rafah crossing. I wonder if you've been in touch with the Israelis and the Palestinians on measures to -- or perhaps even some sort of a document to -- that would enforce the agreement because clearly there are many deadlines that have been missed and I was just wondering.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not aware of this particular issue, Nicholas, that's been brought up. Let me just say, both sides agreed to a text; both understood what they were signing up for.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: Both committed themselves to it. Both fully understood what was contained in the text. And as in any agreement, neither party was completely happy with it; that's the nature of compromise.

As for the regulation of the Rafah crossing, I think there was a very clear understanding among all the various parties as to how that would work. And it is being implemented with the assistance of the EU, who has devoted a great deal of resources to making this work. And I would say only that in terms of the implementation, work continues on making improvements in that. It was a built-from-the-ground-up enterprise and they have gotten off to a good start. Is it perfect? No. Are there improvements that are needed? Yes. Are people committed to seeing that those improvements are made and that all parties are satisfied with how the agreement is implemented? Yes. That's what we, the EU, the Israelis and the Palestinians, as well as the Egyptians, are committed to.

Yes. In the back, sir.

QUESTION: Can you comment on the situation of Lucia Pinochet who was arrested today with her three sons at Dulles airport and she's a fugitive of justice? Will she be deported in the next few hours or days?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, at this point, and the folks over at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversee the Customs and Border Enforcement folks, they're in the best position to give you a real-time update. My understanding of it is where it stands right now, is that she is still being interviewed by the Customs and Border officials and I don't believe that Homeland Security has made the decision one way or the other regarding her case.

QUESTION: Can I ask an Iran question?

MR. MCCORMACK: You can, yes.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. I don't know if you guys covered this. The U.S. Ambassador to India is being quoted as saying that this landmark civilian nuclear program that they've agreed to would die -- in the quote -- if India does not vote against Iran at the upcoming IAEA meeting. Can you confirm that that's true?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I didn't sit in the interview so I didn't --

QUESTION: No, I don't care if the interview is true. Is the issue that if Iran -- if India votes against Iran, is that true that --

MR. MCCORMACK: If you look at the news stories that have come out on this, the various wire reports, it includes comments from Ambassador Mulford's spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. What he said is the Ambassador was expressing his personal opinions about what the potential political outcome might be. He was giving his personal assessment of how the Congress might react to such an action by India.

Let me be clear. Ultimately, how India votes on this matter is going to be a decision for the Indian Government. They voted to find Iran in noncompliance the last time around and we certainly would encourage and hope that they vote for referral this time around. But I think what the Ambassador was doing was talking about and reflecting the view that on Capitol Hill there are very strongly held feelings about Iran and the need to -- need for the international community to act decisively and firmly and with a single voice concerning Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

And we -- you know, not to go through Civics 101, but we've got three separate branches of government here. We're in the Executive Branch. And Congress and Senators and Representatives will have views of their own. And I think what Ambassador Mulford was doing was expressing an opinion about how the Congress might react, given that outcome.

QUESTION: So what is the Executive Branch's view on that as far as the understanding?

MR. MCCORMACK: Our view is that we would certainly encourage and we would hope that India would vote for a referral to the Security Council.

QUESTION: And if it doesn't?

MR. MCCORMACK: We continue to work with the Indian Government on implementation of the agreement that President Bush and Prime Minister Singh signed during the Prime Minister's recent visit here. We would certainly hope that we would be in a position to -- before or as part of the President's visit to India to make progress on this issue. Part of making progress on this issue is for the Indian Government to present a workable plan that would separate the Indian civilian and military nuclear programs. We're still talking about that issue with the Indian Government and I expect that those discussions will continue.

QUESTION: And is there any relevance between progress on that issue related to their needing to give you a program and their vote at the IAEA?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that what Ambassador Mulford was doing was offering some political analysis about how the Hill might react.

QUESTION: Right, but leaving Mulford alone, is there --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's why we're talking about this.

QUESTION: It is but -- it is because that's where it came up. But is there any relevance between how India votes at the IAEA and how their civilian nuclear agreement with the United States proceeds?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we deal with the Indian Government on these two issues as separate issues. Certainly, they come up in the same conversations, I'll tell you that. And we continue to encourage the Indian Government to vote for referral. Ultimately, that is going to be their decision. And we also have been talking to them about the importance of making progress on their implementation plan for separating the civilian and military nuclear programs.

Yes.

QUESTION: I have a quick follow-up on the Pinochet question. Is there any U.S. policy towards the handling of the children or the spouses of deposed leaders in the case that there might be political considerations?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the -- I think the relevant and pertinent issues here are the fact that there are some arrest warrants that have been issued by the Chilean Government and that are related to some charges that have been made against her. I think that is the issue in question here and not what her ancestry is.

Joel.

QUESTION: Any comments concerning Venezuela? Hugo Chavez appears to be both hosting and has enabled a huge world social forum with 80,000 attendees. And in recent days, you've spoken about Harry Belafonte in Venezuela and now Cindy Sheehan is there. It's a very anti-U.S. forum.

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I can only say what I've said before, Joel, and that is that, you know, we're prepared to work with left-of-center governments, right-of-center governments, governments that are right down the middle. Our only concerns are how those democratically elected governments govern: Do they practice good governance; do they fight corruption, do they encourage and promote economic opportunities for their people expanding trade? That's what our concern is.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.

QUESTION: I have a -- sorry, I have another question about --

MR. MCCORMACK: A late-breaking question. Yes.

QUESTION: -- South Korea.

MR. MCCORMACK: South Korea.

QUESTION: South Korea apparently warned today the U.S. that there could be some friction with Seoul if U.S. was pushing too hard against North Korea, especially on this counterfeiting --

MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen those comments, but you know we've made very clear our views with regard to illicit activity. The United States is going to take steps to protect itself in this regard, whether it's counterfeiting or drug smuggling or money laundering, and we would expect any state would act in a similar manner.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.


(The briefing was concluded at 12:58 p.m.)


DPB # 14



Released on January 25, 2006

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