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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 27, 2006

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INDEX:

ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS

Reaction to Outcome of the Election / President Bush / Secretary Rice / Quartet
New Government to Form / President Abbas Current Caretaker Government
Hamas is a Terrorist Organization / U.S. Does Not Deal With Terrorist Organizations, Does Not Provide Money to Terrorist Organizations
Palestinian Authority Under Yasser Arafats Rule
Period of Transition for Palestinians / Encourage Palestinians to Respect Their Tradition of Tolerance / Elections Free and Fair, Fee of Violence / Election Was Will of the People
Topics of Discussion at Quartet Meeting / Assistance to Palestinian People
U.S. Assistance to Palestinian Authority / Direct Assistance / Aid Channeled to NGOs by USAID / Money Given to UN, UNRWA / Full Review of Aid Programs
Change in the Middle East
General Dayton / Work in the Region

GUATEMALA

Query Regarding the UN Commission for Investigation of Illegal Armed groups and Clandestine Security Organizations in Guatemala (CICIACS)

IRAN

U.S. Support for Russian Proposal
Iran Should Not Engage in Conversion Activities / Violation of Paris Agreement
Referral to the UN Security Council

MEXICO

Exchange of Diplomatic Notes between the U.S. and Mexico
Incident with Local U.S. Law Enforcement / Border Incursions

UNITED KINGDOM

Query Regarding Neil Entwistle


TRANSCRIPT:

12:45 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. Don't have any opening statements, so Iíll be pleased to jump right into your questions.

QUESTION: Well, let's start with the obvious. Mr. Abbas has asked Hamas to form a government. Any reflections on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think the -- in terms of the outcome of the election, Barry, the President and Secretary Rice spoke very clearly on this matter. I'd also refer you to the statement put out yesterday on behalf of the Quartet, which states, "The Quartet reiterates its view that there is fundamental contradiction between armed group and militia activities and the building of a democratic state. A two-state solution to conflict requires all participants in the democratic process to renounce violence and terror, accept Israel's right to exist and disarm as outlined in the roadmap." And the Secretary also spoke in public yesterday with some news organizations about this issue, so --

QUESTION: Well, you've all been saying hopefully that Abbas remains in charge of the government. Is it too early for you to determine if that's still true, since he asked the opposition to form a government?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as president of the Palestinian Authority, under Palestinian law, he does retain certain powers. I can't go through those with you. I'm not an expert in Palestinian law. There is also -- the law also governs the process of government formation. That process has now started with President Abbas asking the party that won the majority of seats in the recent parliamentary elections to form a government. We'll see how the government formation process unfolds and what government emerges and what policies that government decides to pursue. But at this point, given the results of the election, it is likely that Hamas will lead a Palestinian Government.

QUESTION: Do you mean that you will deal with President Abbas and not with Hamas if it doesn't reject the struggle, whatever, against Israel?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's be clear for the basic ground rules here, as the Secretary has said, as the President has said, "We donít' deal with terrorist organizations." Hamas is a terrorist organization. We continue our contacts with President Abbas as well as the current caretaker government. We will continue -- certainly continue those contacts in this interim period. But let me restate as clear as I can be: We do not deal with terrorist organizations and Hamas is a terrorist organization.

Yes.

QUESTION: Were you surprised by the outcome of this election?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think a lot of the pollsters were. Again, I think I warned everybody here on Wednesday to caution them against watching the exit polls in that manner.

Going into this election, I think everybody expected that there was going to be a significant vote for Hamas and that they were going to have a significant presence in the Palestinian Legislative Council. As the President said yesterday, the Palestinian people have spoken; they voted for change. And every indication is that this election was free and fair, reflected the will of the Palestinian people with regard to the particular question that was before them, and that it unfolded in an atmosphere of relatively free from violence. So again, I think that there was an expectation that Hamas certainly would gain some seats in this election. They have, as we see today, gained a majority of seats.

QUESTION: Are you disappointed with the government and with -- with -- unhappy at all with Fatah?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, President Bush talked about this yesterday and the Secretary also addressed this. The democratic process is one that allows the people to express their opinions very clearly. The Palestinian people had some strongly held views with respect to Fatah and members of the Palestinian Authority. Let's remember that President Abbas and many members of his cabinet have worked very hard over the past year since President Abbas came in to office to address many of the severe questions raised by the corruption over the past decade under the rule of Yasser Arafat. Under Yasser Arafat's rule, the Palestinian Authority essentially dug itself a very deep hole in terms of lack of transparency in government -- governance, in terms of -- in terms of corruption. President Abbas has made real efforts to turn that around, but I think it was very clear from the results of the election that the Palestinian people have demanded change and clearly the issues of corruption and good governance were at the top of their list.

QUESTION: Are you disappointed today or alarmed to see the violence that's breaking out now, I think sparked by the Fatah -- outgoing Fatah members?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, President Abbas spoke to the Palestinian people last night on this matter and we would encourage all Palestinians to respect their tradition of tolerance for one another, tolerance for different views, freedom of worship and to maintain and atmosphere of calm, free from violence during this period. This is a period of transition for the Palestinian people. They proved, yes, on Wednesday that they could have a free and fair election free from violence. I think all the world would hope that that would continue, that that atmosphere of calm, free from violence, free from threat of violence, would continue.

QUESTION: Aren't you alarmed when you see the pictures, though?

MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly, whenever there is violence such as we have seen some in the Palestinian areas -- the reports that I have heard is that the situation is relatively calm, there have been some outbreaks of violence -- it is a source of concern. But the Palestinian Authority retains the responsibility to maintain an atmosphere of calm and security and to prevent any further violence being done.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Did you talk -- did you talk about the assistance with the Europeans because Europe -- the Europeans -- and the American Administration, they assist the Palestinian Authority and the territories. So did you talk about this with the Europeans? How are you going to give aids to the Palestinians if you don't talk to Hamas?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I expect at the upcoming Quartet meeting that the Secretary will participate in this coming Monday that the forward-looking topics like the issue of assistance to the Palestinian people will be a topic of discussion. The common basis for this discussion is, you can see in the Quartet, in the Quartet statement, and Secretary Rice talked about this yesterday. If any Palestinian government that hopes to engage the international community in peaceful development or on issues related to peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people based on the roadmap, which is the common basis for the international community, the Quartet, to proceed on, they will need to abide by certain demands of the international community. Those were outlined very clearly in the Quartet statement. A two-state solution to the conflict requires all participants in the democratic process to renounce violence and terror, to accept Israel's right to exist and to disarm terrorist organizations, as outlined in the roadmap.

Now, it will -- as the process of government formation proceeds, it will be up to Hamas. They will face decisions about how they meet the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a more peaceful future. We saw a manifestation of that desire for peace in the election of President Abbas, who got more than 60 percent of the vote.

QUESTION: But if you stop aids, I mean, wouldnít it be punishing the Palestinian people for choosing Hamas?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as Secretary Rice said yesterday, the international community understands that the Palestinian people have humanitarian needs; they're a poor people. But let us be very clear. The law and policy of the United States is that we do not provide funding, money, to terrorist organizations. Hamas is a terrorist organization. So again, if any future Palestinian government wishes to engage in peaceful development, that must take place at the international level in the context of the requirements of the international community. And I've outlined those twice here already in the briefing.

QUESTION: Do you (inaudible) that law? Does it preclude assistance that doesn't go through the governing body that goes -- this has been done before -- it goes directly to help develop projects that are clearly in the interest of the people?

MR. MCCORMACK: The way to think about this, Barry, and I know that you've studied this carefully, is the current U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority and this is in -- FY 2005, 2006. There are three basic kinds of assistance. There's direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority. Now that has been done three times over the past two years, to my knowledge. There -- and in the last fiscal year I believe the total was $70 million. The President issued seventy -- 7-0 -- and that required some waivers from the U.S. Government. Now, I believe that $20 million of that was used to -- for the Palestinian Authority to reimburse the Israeli Government, I think, for some infrastructure costs -- electricity. Another 50 -- the other $50 million of that was allocated to go through AID for small-scale infrastructure projects. Some of that money was spent; there's still some of that money in the bank. The other part to this that you were -- well, there are actually two other parts.

The second way is USAID the money that is channeled through NGOs that is -- goes directly to the Palestinian people and this is a number of different purposes that it's put to. The third part is money that is allocated and given to the UN and then that is given to UNRA, for humanitarian assistance projects. So those are the three basic pots of money.

Again, in terms of looking forward, Barry, the -- our policy is very clear. The law and our policies state that no money goes to terrorist organizations. Hamas is a terrorist organization. As for if there is a Hamas government which now appears likely, we're going to have to review all aspects of our aid program, based on our policy and our law. So standing here right now, I can't give you the full implications of that. There will have to be a review of all those aspects of our aid program.

QUESTION: You know, we're both saying the same thing; that there are projects that are assisted directly.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Yeah. I just want to go through --

QUESTION: And (inaudible) a fact, there could be a -- Hamas runs the government, but then there are these projects.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: I'm just trying to determine, if there's a conclusion (inaudible). Those projects, too, must go by the board -- the board -- is that a possible vehicle for helping the people -- continue to help the people?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's why I gave you the last part of the answer. It is because in the case of a Hamas government, there will have to be a full review of all aspects of our aid programs. And I've outlined for you the spectrum of the kind of aid programs that we have.

Saul.

QUESTION: Can you just explain a technicality?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Is it possible to give aid to the presidency and by that way, you'd be bypassing the Hamas government?

MR. MCCORMACK: These are -- these are questions -- there are two questions here, Saul. There's a legal question and a policy question. And as for the law, I'm not a lawyer. I couldn't get into the ins and outs of what the legal requirements are. So again, that's --we're two days away from an election that will likely put Hamas into a governing position in the Palestinian Authority. So we're going to take a look at all the aspects of our aid programs. But I have to underline the fact that we won't provide money to a terrorist organization.

QUESTION: Sean, (inaudible) do you feel like you're giving the same kind of assistance, money, to the Palestinian people as you were, whether -- who it goes to? I mean, for instance, in China, when you stopped funding UN projects that went to certain clinics that, you know, did abortion -- you know, family planning, you funneled the money to other groups also for, you know, population type of projects and you said that it still went to the same issue, it just was a case of who it went to.

So are you saying that your commitment to the Palestinian people and funding their projects and helping with infrastructure and those type of rebuilding, Gaza, things like that, is unwavering?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think I said what I wanted to say and I think it was pretty clear. We don't provide money to terrorist organizations. In the case that there is a Hamas government, which now appears likely, the United States will have to review all aspects of its aid programs.

QUESTION: I understand you have to review the aid programs, but --

MR. MCCORMACK: I guess the short answer -- the short answer, Elise, is you can't answer that -- you can't answer that question right now. We will have to do a review of all those aid programs based on the law and our policies. And the bedrock of our policy is that we do not provide money to terrorist organizations.

QUESTION: But isn't the bedrock of your policy also that you want to help the Palestinian people in the wake of this Israeli disengagement and helping move them towards a Palestinian state?

MR. MCCORMACK: Elise, I think I've answered the question.

Libby.

QUESTION: I'm wondering, Sean, can you characterize how much of a setback Hamas's victory was to U.S.-negotiated peace efforts in the roadmap? And also, is this a challenge to President Bush's vision that democratic elections will lead to peace, seeing that a terrorist group has now taken power?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. On the first part of that question, Secretary Rice has addressed it. You heard from the President as well. The Palestinian people have spoken in this election; they voted for change. But they also voted in an election a year ago for peace. Now it is going to be up to those who the Palestinian people who have elected -- that the Palestinian people have elected to govern them to make choices. The international community and the Quartet has made it very clear that in the international context, if a Palestinian government wishes to engage in peaceful development or wishes to engage in a process that leads to peace between Israel and the Palestinian people, the basis for that is the roadmap. And the international community has further laid out very clearly what the conditions for that type of engagement in the international context would be; that any Palestinian government would have to renounce terror, end violence and recognize Israel's right to exist. That's a fundamental requirement.

Now, as for the broader picture of change in the Middle East, this is a time of real change in the Middle East. For 60 years, we didn't have any change. The basic choice was for people in terms of the political process and expressing their points of view was either through authoritarian controlling governments in which the rights of individuals for freedom of expression, freedom of worship and other freedoms were not able to be realized. The other choice, the other outlet, was violence. President Bush, in his Second Inaugural, laid down a marker that as far as the United States was concerned, that was going to -- that would change, that the United States would work for and promote a freedom agenda.

We all understand that change in the Middle East is going to take some time. We are seeing the beginnings of change. We have seen in Iraq, in a period of a year, three elections. We have seen in Egypt two elections, in Lebanon one, in the Palestinian areas an election as well, and the Kuwaiti women have now -- have the right to vote. That's -- in the space of a year, that is dramatic change, but it's only a beginning. And the democratic process is sometimes a messy process. And what you are seeing now are the beginnings of people being able to express their will not through use of bombs, not at the end of a gun, but through the ballot box.

Now, in terms of the Palestinian election, this was the will of the Palestinian people. They voted for change and what we saw, the lesson, I believe, that can be drawn from that, is that the Palestinian people voted for change because they voted against corruption, they voted against bad governance. They voted against institutions that did not serve them. So in terms of, you know -- in terms of how the United States and the international community will deal specifically with the Palestinian elections, I've outlined that.

But in terms of the broader sweep of history and our policies in the Middle East, those will continue because ultimately, we believe that the desire for peace, the desire for freedom, the desire for a better way of life is something that every person wants -- whether that's in the northern hemisphere or the southern hemisphere or the Middle East or South America or Asia. So that will be the basis of our policies. We have put into place programs. We have put money behind those programs. I point to the Forum for the Future and Foundation for the Future for the promotion of democratic institutions and the ability of people throughout the Middle East to realize a better way of life and greater freedoms.

QUESTION: Sean, it's a little early, to (inaudible) you with technical questions. But there's a roadmap and it's the bedrock of your policy in the Middle East and, in fact, the Quartet spoke yesterday -- and they meet in London on Monday, so I think it's timely to ask you. It imposes obligations on both sides and both sides have accepted the roadmap. This may sound strange to you, but it's a real question: Does the U.S. feel that Israel is still obligated to proceed with its obligations under the roadmap? Because there's a sense also of simultaneity, you know, you do something, you do something, we both move together. Do you have an opinion of that? You know, even before this happened, they were going to -- Omert was going to disband certain outposts. There's been some talk of movement, even before the Israeli elections. Do you have -- does the Department have a view of that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the -- again, the roadmap is still the basis on which we are all operating. There is still -- President Abbas is still in office. There is a caretaker government. Hamas is not in power. Secretary Rice yesterday in her phone call with Foreign Minister Livni assured Foreign Minister Livni that the basis as far as the United States is concerned, for any Palestinian government that wishes to engage in a -- moving along the pathway to peace with Israel would be based on the roadmap. And the roadmap requires that that government renounce terror, renounce violence, as well as recognize Israel's right to exist. So those obligations from our perspective are still operative.

Now, as for a Hamas government, I think that certainly that, given the current circumstances, they have not done any of those things and it would be up to them to make those choices. So as for moving forward down that process, it would seem to be a choice for Hamas and what choices it makes.

Yes.

QUESTION: Analyzing the vote, you said, in part, it was because the institutions didn't serve the Palestinian people. What's the U.S. Government going to do to strengthen those institutions?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we continue to work with President Abbas. General Dayton is continuing his mission. He is just recently in the region. Now as for -- this gets back to the aid question -- as for what is possible in a Hamas government and we have to -- we will abide by our principals in terms of not providing any assistance or aid to a terrorist organization and I've outlined what -- the fact that we would have to take a look at the entire perspective of what our aid programs are now, in the event of a Hamas government.

QUESTION: General Dayton is staying in place for now?

MR. MCCORMACK: He is there currently.

QUESTION: And open-ended?

MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldnít say that.

QUESTION: But it sounds like you won't give any assistance that strengthens the institutions because (inaudible)

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Saul, this all gets back to the central question that you were asking and I appreciate that question. We are dealing with a unique set of circumstances here. And what we will do is we will go through very carefully and review the law and -- review the law and in the context of our policies and we will take a look at the full spectrum of our aid programs.

QUESTION: I would like to go back to the figures. Can you tell us how much in 2005-2006 USAID channeled through NGOs and how much was gave to UN for UNRWA?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're currently in FY2006 so --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: That was budgeted at $150 million.

QUESTION: What? USAID?

MR. MCCORMACK: USAID.

QUESTION: Hundred and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Fifty. One-five-zero. Now, as for FY2005, the total there was $225 million in assistance to the Palestinians through USAID. That was 2005. In addition to that, the U.S. Government provided a contribution of $88 million to the General Fund in 2005. This is for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA. The acronym for that is U-N- R-W-A. So for -- then, in addition to that, in 2005 you had the $70 million that I talked about. That was direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

So you had three -- in 2005, three different, I guess, channels, if you want to think about it that way: 70 million direct assistance; 225 in USAID money; and then 88 million to UNRWA.

In 2006, the planned contribution -- our intention has been to contribute $84 million to EUNRWA. And the FY06, as I have said, AID intention was $150 million.

QUESTION: So there are (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: This year, the current year.

MR. MCCORMACK: FY06, right.

QUESTION: FY06 there was no direct PA assistance budgeted; is that what you're saying?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, that's correct. Yes. Yeah. And again, that requires a positive action. A waiver has to be granted in order to do that, and that was done -- and I can give you the dates. It was, for the three times that I mentioned that that occurred, was once in August 2003, once in December 2004 and then once in August 2005.

QUESTION: And can I just be clear on one number? For Fiscal Year '05, what you classed as the second category as USAID giving to NGOs, it was 225?

MR. MCCORMACK: 225, right.

QUESTION: That is over and above the $50 million that was allocated through USAID to go to directly to the PA?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's my understanding.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: And just to tie that up with a little ribbon, the '06 planned contributions are now -- how would you describe?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I said the intention was 84 for UNRWA and then --

QUESTION: Not the numbers, but --

MR. MCCORMACK: I would refer back to you -- to my several previous answers about reviewing all aspects of U.S. aid programs.

QUESTION: I mean, is contribution ongoing? Has it been disbursed, dispensed?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you exactly where the money is in the pipeline, Barry.

QUESTION: But you are saying those two categories, which are not categories going directly to the government, are also under review?

MR. MCCORMACK: I would say that in the event of a Hamas government, that we would review all aspects of our aid programs, based on the law and our policies. And again, to reiterate, to be very fair, we don't provide money to terrorist organizations.

Dave.

QUESTION: You're including UNRWA. I mean, UNRWA is not going to fold up and it's going to continue these humanitarian things. But even the UNRWA money will come under review?

MR. MCCORMACK: I said all aspects of our aid programs. Everybody understands that the Palestinian people have humanitarian needs and they're a poor people, but we will base our actions on our law and our policies.

QUESTION: May I? Just one?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: How do you balance your need to address those needs and not punish the Palestinian people but at the same time --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think this is the same question you asked before, Elise.

QUESTION: Well --

MR. MCCORMACK: Saul.

QUESTION: Your review of all aspects of the aid, from what you're doing with the Europeans, obviously you've got your own law and your own policies, but are you trying to influence what they do as well or at least trying to coordinate a response regarding aid?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it'll be a topic, I'm sure, that's discussed at the meeting in London, Saul. I think we're all proceeding on the same basis. We have a common basis of moving forward in terms of policies. And I would expect that we have -- we will have discussions about how those policies manifest themselves in programs or any -- and how that would affect programs that are already on the books.

The United States and the EU are, I think combined, the biggest donors to the Palestinian people. Ultimately, those decisions will be, you know, clearly for the EU to make, but we would hope that we could have a discussion about how we move forward based on the common understanding that we have.

QUESTION: Just one more on this, if you don't mind. So a key job of the special envoy Wolfensohn was this aspect, how, you know, you helped the Palestinians. Has Secretary Rice been in touch with him or has anyone been talking to him since --

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check. Let me check for you, Saul.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: I mean, this is another topic having to do with Guatemala.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Anything else on this? Okay, we're done on that. Guatemala.

QUESTION: Thank you. The Guatemalan Vice President Eduardo Stein has been in Washington recently to drum up support for the so-called United Nations Proposed Commission for the Investigation of Illegal Armed Groups in the Clandestine Security Apparatus. Your predecessor Boucher came out in favor of it some time ago. Today, there's a story in the Guatemalan press saying that the Guatemalan Vice President has, in fact, secured support from the Bush Administration for this effort. Can you tell us or clarify whether or not that's the case, whether any funds may be earmarked for that? And also, originally the CICIACS, as it's known, or the UN Anti-Crime Commission, was envisioning Guatemala as an effort to investigate the alleged intellectual authors of human rights abuses in Guatemala. But there's been an effort to expand it to include organized crime and drug trafficking, and I wonder if the Administration supports it and wants to devote funds to it, if it would also see it playing that broader role to include drug trafficking.

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll have to get you an answer on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Maybe post it?

MR. MCCORMACK: We will post it.

QUESTION: Including all of the questions? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Can't promise that the answer will be as long as the question, but okay.

Yes, Teri.

QUESTION: Iran. I wanted to go back to a question we started in Nick's briefing, and that is something I hadn't thought of until now, and that is: Is accepting the Russian proposal or is even your -- what you know call limited support for the Russian proposal, is that accepting that the work at Isfahan that was begun under protest from you is a foregone conclusion that that is not going to stop or be reversed?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have -- again, as Nick said in his answer to this question, I think it was a couple of times, we expressed our support for the Russian proposal. Is it the proposal that we might have written? I don't know. We have made very clear that we don't think that because of Iran's past behavior that they should be able to engage in conversion activities. You have to remember under the EU-3 Paris Agreement, conversion activities were not allowed; the Iranians had promised to suspend those activities. We think that that is appropriate.

Now, in terms of the Russian proposal, it addresses what we believe is the most critical part of the nuclear fuel cycle, and that is taking the UF-6, enriching to a highly enriched uranium. That technology, that know-how, is the critical pathway because it would allow a state to obtain what is one of the most difficult parts of building a nuclear weapon and that is amassing the fissile material. So while we think that it would be appropriate that Iran not engage in conversion activities, we have supported the Russian proposal.

QUESTION: But it doesn't accept that you are -- that you're giving up on Iran. I mean, isn't the U.S. perspective that Iran shouldn't even be able to get to the point where it has something to send to Russia to convert?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we have made it very clear that -- and the EU-3 in the Paris Agreement has also agreed on this as well, that it would -- we would prefer the optimal solution would be that Iran would not be able to engage in those activities. That said, we have expressed support for the Russian proposal which again, gets at the most critical pathway in our view. So while we support the Russian proposal, the -- certainly the preference would be that Iran not be able to engage in those conversion activities. All of this said, the Iranians have yet to give any tangible indication that they are going to be -- that they are serious about the Russian proposal and I think that the latest statements from Mr. Larijani about the proposal. And I think every single day I read something different coming from him and he's like a sailboat tacking in the wind. One day he's for it, one day he has a problem with it. So this is just more -- more evidence of Iran trying to gain the international system, trying to avoid referral to the Security Council.

Yes.

QUESTION: New topic?

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.

QUESTION: No.

MR. MCCORMACK: No? A latecomer.

QUESTION: I know you said that a referral is a referral is a referral. But John Bolton said that, according to a report and a referral are the same. And there are a lot of discussions right now between -- about a report for information or a referral.

MR. MCCORMACK: No. There's -- you know, if we want to start getting into word games, what the Russians have talked about is "informing" the council. What Mr. Bolton was saying is, as a policymaker, he wasn't going to make any distinction between "report" and "refer." So that's one side of the issue. The other side of the issue is "informing" the Security Council. We still believe that it should be "referred." That is the terminology that we're using. Nick put it -- used the technical language that is usually in Security Council resolutions and that is to "remain seized of the matter." That's the equivalent of being referred to the Security Council.

QUESTION: So you don't agree with "informing"?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's right. We think it should be a referral.

QUESTION: And -- but you would agree, just so that we understand for reporting, you agree that "report" and "referral" are the same?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, John addressed the topic. He's a lawyer. He's at the Security Council. The terminology that I will use is "refer," to remain seized of the matter. It's a technical term in the Security Council.

Elise.

QUESTION: This is on Mexico. The Mexican Foreign Minister gave a news conference yesterday and said that he believes that -- has some evidence to the effect that men along the border between Mexico and the U.S. have been protecting drug smugglers and he believes that they could be Americans disguised as Mexicans and then he sent a diplomatic note to Secretary Rice asking her to investigate the matter and also asking the U.S. to tamper down its strong comments about Mexico and immigration. Are you aware of the diplomatic note and are you aware of the incident? Can you --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm aware of the diplomatic note. I'm aware of Ambassador Garza's diplomatic note to the Mexican Government, which I think, in turn, spurned the -- who spurred the diplomatic note to us concerning the same incident. The Mexican Government on this particular incident, I think, I can only say would have a unique interpretation of the events. I don't know -- donít know of any facts that would substantiate this particular theory of what happened.

We have called upon the Mexican Government to seriously investigate this matter, which involved some of our people who were responsible for controlling the border on January 23rd, apparently there was an incident in Hudspeth, H-u-d-s-p-e-t-h County in Texas. And the outlines of the incident is as you outlined it. There seem to be an encounter. The individuals, based on the information we have, appeared to be engaged in drug smuggling and they fled the scene. As for the specifics of it, we -- as I pointed out, Ambassador Garza has asked the Mexican Government to look into it and to investigate it seriously.

As for the theory of the Mexican Government in turn, as to what happened, I don't believe that there is any basis to that and that we believe that they have primary responsibility, the Mexican Government, for investigating what actually happened on the Mexican side of the boarder. And I would only note that we have enjoyed with the Mexican Government good cooperation on these issues. I think that over the past year, there have been a number of these -- a number of different types of incidents involving the border. I think over the past year, it -- our cooperation with the Government of Mexico on border issues has improved. It's come some way. There's still more work to do. And I think that this particular incident highlights that fact.

QUESTION: Just one more on this. A lot of the incidents that you talk about also were kind of followed by an exchange between Ambassador Garza and the press and then an exchange between the Mexican Foreign Minister in response. Do you think that Ambassador Garza has -- while following U.S. policy, kind of been antagonistic to the Mexican Government? He seems to create a lot of controversy.

MR. MCCORMACK: I think he's an outstanding ambassador who's doing a great job on behalf of the American people.

QUESTION: Same subject? Have you seen the reports of that huge tunnel that was built between Tijuana and --

MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen the news reports. I don't have any particular information on it.

QUESTION: Is that something that you'll be raising with the Mexican Government, that they need to do -- I mean, obviously the U.S. side needs to do more, too, since it was built on both sides. But is that something that you'll be talking about and trying to work cooperatively --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure the folks at DHS who have responsibility for border issues, have talked to the Mexican Government about that and will continue to engage with them on issues related to this particular incident as well as others.

George.

QUESTION: Just to clarify the incident in Hudspeth County four days ago or so, involved people who were dressed as what -- as police agents or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me see what I have for you here. The reports that we received were that some Texas state troopers as well as some local law enforcement officials encountered some vehicles. The vehicles were guarded by persons in Mexican military uniform who were armed. Those are the basic facts that I have here -- or the basic report that I have here, George. What we've done is asked the Mexican Government to look into this matter.

Elise.

QUESTION: One more on a different subject. This is about a British citizen that was living in the U.S. His name is Neil Entwistle and apparently living in Boston. His wife and daughter were killed in Boston and then he fled the country back to the UK and there's a warrant out for his arrest. Do you know anything about the case and whether the U.S. is trying to seek his extradition back to the U.S.?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information on that.

QUESTION: What about reports that he'll be going to the U.S. Embassy in London today to be questioned?

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, I don't have any information on it. If there's something we can share with you, I'd be happy to. But I don't have any information on it.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:31 p.m.)

DPB # 15


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