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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 > March
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 8, 2006

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Test Launch of Two Short-Range Missiles / Activities Threat to Region and International Community / Deployment of Active Missile Defenses / Cooperative Relationships with Various Countries / Denuclearization and Six-Party Talks / Moratorium Concerning Missile Tests / Intelligence
Money Laundering / Counterfeiting / Illicit Activities
Return to Six-Party Talks / No Preconditions


Security Council / Sanctions / Board of Governors Meeting / Different Diplomatic Options / Presidential Statement / Pattern of Behavior / Trust of International Community / Foreign Minister Lavrov and Sanctions / International Consensus / International Treaty Obligations / Change of Behavior / Activities in New York
Iran's Activities in Iraq / Source of Concern / Resolutions on Terrorist Activities
Peaceful Nuclear Energy / Objective Guarantees


Secretary Rices Trip to Latin America / Inauguration Activities of President-Elect Bachelet in Chile / Meetings in Peru
Personnel Process of Ambassadorial Announcements


Kosovo Status Talks / Under Secretary Burns Meeting with UN Special Envoy Ahtisaari / Efforts to Reach a Settlement / Ambassador Fried Traveling to Region / Discussion between Secretary Rice and Foreign Minister Lavrov / Conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia


Deputy Secretary Zoellick Meetings in Brussels / Need to Strengthen AU Mission / Transition to a UN Mission
Protests in Khartoum / Foreign Presence in Darfur
Abuja Talks / Comprehensive Peace Agreement


Secretary Rices Meeting with Walid Jumblatt / Security Council Resolution 1636, 1595, 1559


12:35 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everyone. How are you? I don't have any opening statements, so I'll be happy to jump right into whatever questions you may have.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about reports of the North Korea missile test?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we've seen those -- we have seen the reports about the North Koreans missile tests. Reports indicate that on March 7th, the North Korean Government launched two short-range missiles. We understand that North Korea has, in the past, conducted similar types of tests. As we have continued to point out, North Korea's missile program and activities are a threat not only to the region, but the international community at large. And as you well know, we are working with our friends and allies in the region on deployment of active missile defenses. We have cooperative relationships with a number of countries around the world on missile defense and that would also include in the northeast Asia region.

The United States believes that the six-party talks remain the best way to deal with the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And I would also note that it is also the forum in which issues of missile proliferation and missile technology can also be addressed. So we would call upon North Korea to abide by the moratorium concerning missile tests. And I think that's about it.

QUESTION: Sean, is there any kind of confirmation -- you're just citing reports as in media reports or do you have reports from military intelligence?

MR. MCCORMACK: I would never get into intelligence matters or intelligence reporting, but I would note that it is -- that we have seen these reports. I think they're very specific in talking about two missiles being launched on a certain date. And I went through an extensive response, so I think it would indicate a certain level of attention that we have paid to the matter.

QUESTION: And confidence that the reports are correct?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you know, I went through and talked extensively about the matter, but I am not going to talk about our own intelligence capabilities or information.

QUESTION: Sean, just to be clear, you cannot independently confirm?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not -- like I said, I'm not going to get into intelligence matters.

QUESTION: What's was the timing of this exercise?

MR. MCCORMACK: What's that? The timing of what?

QUESTION: Is there a message with the timing of this exercise?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I just talked about -- it was March 7th in which they launched the missiles, which was just yesterday.


QUESTION: Also, the North Koreans have said that they will not return to six-party talks until this issue of counterfeiting and other financial -- and financial sanctions is resolved.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, two things. One, the issues of the actions that the Department of Treasury took under Section 311 in the Patriot Act with regard to the Bank in Macau, completely separate from the six-party talks. These are actions that any government would take in order to protect itself. In this case, the issue had to do with money laundering. There are also a number of other illicit activities that the North Korean Government is involved in. Another one of those is counterfeiting. It's well within the purview of the North Korean Government not to engage in illicit activities. It's very simple. If they want to address the issue, they can do so very easily, not engage in those kind of activities. That aside, the six-party talks deals with the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, as well as some other issues I just spoke about, missile technology, missile proliferation. So that's the forum to address those issues. If North Korea wants to address issues related to illicit activities, they can do so by not engaging in them. And I think that any country is going to -- I think it's understandable any country is going to take actions to protect itself.

QUESTION: But would you say that you're at a complete stalemate now in terms of the resumption of talks because they're saying one thing, you're saying the other? And neither of you seem to be moving much closer?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, this is not a U.S.-North Korea issue. I think they'd like to make it a U.S.-North Korea issue. This is a matter of getting back to the six-party talks. There are five other parties ready to come back without precondition and at an early date. We're one of them, Japanese, the South Koreans, Chinese and the Russians. We're all ready to go back. It's only the North Koreans that are not at this -- at this point, apparently prepared to return to the talks. We continue to encourage them to do so and to return to the talks without preconditions, to be ready to engage in serious negotiations. During -- as part of the briefing that the Treasury Department officials provided to the North Korean officials up in New York, just yesterday, we reiterated that same message to them.


QUESTION: Change of subject?




QUESTION: Yeah. Can you respond to comments that Iran will cause harm and pain to the U.S.? And also, Russia's Foreign Minister up at the UN is saying that he doesn't believe sanctions would be effective, seeming to rule it out even before you bring it up?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, at this point, Iíll take the second of those first where, as you heard from the Secretary, I believe yesterday, and then many times previous to that, as a first step in the Security Council, we are not going to be seeking sanctions as a first step. As a matter of fact now, what I would expect over the coming days is that the conversation will now shift from the IAEA, which has just concluded its Board of Governors meeting, to the Security Council. I would expect early next week that this is a matter that the Security Council takes up for discussion. And there are a number of different diplomatic options that are available as a first step, but I think one in which we will concentrate and are now concentrating on with our partners in the Security Council is on a presidential statement laying out exactly what the Security Council is calling on Iran to do. We're having some initial discussions in that regard up in New York and I would expect that those discussions would continue over the next several days, so what you have now is diplomacy shifting to a different phase. It's moving from Vienna to New York. And right now, Iran finds -- is going to find itself the subject of active discussion by members of the Security Council concerning its behavior.

QUESTION: But the U.S. --

MR. MCCORMACK: This is not a place where Iran wants to find itself. They have worked very, very hard over the past years to avoid just this moment. They've been throwing up -- they throw up a lot of chafe. They've done that over the past weeks. We've seen it -- trying to change the subject with comments like you just mentioned coming out of Tehran. It's all meant to change the subject. It's all meant to make this an issue between Iran and the United States. It's not. This is between Iran and the rest of the world.

And the reason why Iran -- the only reason why Iran finds itself in the position of being a subject of active discussion before the Security Council is because of its behavior, because of its behavior over the past several years and you can argue going back for a couple of decades. Iran has eroded its level of trust with the international community to zero. The international community no longer trusts Iran when it says it is living up to its obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty.

QUESTION: But the U.S. is very careful never to take anything off the table. Whether sanctions is the first step or not, you want to leave sanctions on the table just like you always leave military action on the table. And with Lavrov saying he doesn't believe that sanctions would work at any point, is that lowering the chance for a unified approach?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think what we heard -- what you heard from the Foreign Minister yesterday when he was here talking to the Secretary of State is that you take each situation based on its merits as they are before you. We're not talking about sanctions at this point.

QUESTION: Well, you're certainly not talking about taking them off the table.

MR. MCCORMACK: We're -- exactly, exactly. It certainly remains a diplomatic option and I would expect that the other members of the Security Council, if it gets to the point where Iran's behavior merits further diplomatic steps, we'll certainly take a hard look at what those diplomatic next steps might be. And certainly, that is an option that remains on the table. It's a diplomatic lever at the disposal of the Security Council.

But right now, what we're focused -- what we're going to be focusing on are the discussions that will begin early next week in New York in the Security Council. And like I said, there are a number of different diplomatic options that are available. Right now, I think we are focusing some of our discussions on a presidential statement by the Security Council concerning Iran's behavior.


QUESTION: Why a presidential statement? Is it an admission there is no unanimity in the Security Council, because the presidential statement doesn't need a vote, but an adoption by consensus?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. You've seen a very clear pattern to the diplomacy here and that has been -- it's in a couple of different dimensions; one, to build greater and greater international consensus concerning Iran's behavior and its failure to live up to its international treaty obligations. I think if you look back just two years ago, it was the United States and maybe a very small number of nations that was expressing a heightened level of concern about Iran trying to develop a nuclear weapon.

Now look at where we are. We now have Iran before the Security Council with -- you know, 20-plus nations voting in February to refer -- to report Iran to the Security Council. The other aspect to the diplomacy has been to gradually -- to try to increase the pressure on Iran to try to get them to change their behavior, to use diplomatic levers, to get Iran to abide by its international commitments and return to those commitments and to suspend all enrichment-related activities, as well as a number of other requirements that are listed by the IAEA. So, you've seen a gradual ratcheting up of the pressure on Iran. And I think right now, the Iranian regime finds itself in a very uncomfortable position; there is going to be a bright spotlight that shines on the behavior of the Iranian regime up in New York, starting next week and that is not a place where they want to find themselves. So, this is absolutely part of our diplomatic strategy in working with other members of the international community.

QUESTION: But why not a resolution?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we -- there are a whole variety of diplomatic levers that will be available to the Security Council and it's going to be up to the Security Council working in a concerted manner to decide upon which of those levers it wants to use at a given time, which is most effective in changing Iran's behaviors. That's the whole point here, is to get the Iranian regime to change its behavior, because everybody agrees, there is absolutely no difference of opinion on the fact that Iran should not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. Everybody agrees that that is a destabilizing -- that would be a destabilizing event for the region as well as the world. So, the task then is how to bring about a change in behaviors. That's where Iran is headed. It is headed towards development of a nuclear weapon. So how do you change that behavior?

And that's what we've been working with the international community on over the past couple years and I think what you've seen is a very effective implementation of our diplomatic strategy and now, we'll see how Iran reacts. They have an opportunity to react. They have an opportunity to return to its previous commitments. They have an opportunity to heed the call of the international community. So, we'll see how they react.

Yes, anything else on Iran?



QUESTION: Sean, aside from the nuclear issue, you've mentioned that Iran has been a sponsor of terrorism and apparently, there have been reports nearly confirmed that Iran is introducing light conventional weapons that are very deadly into the Iraqi theater. Many of them are sophisticated, the improvised exploding devices and other type weapons. Will that also be brought to bear against the Iranians at the Security Council or is that a separate topic?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not sure that that's part of the immediate discussion starting next week, Joel, but it is certainly a topic of conversation. There is a great deal of concern about Iran's activities in Iraq and we have spoken publicly to the Iranian -- we have spoken in public about this issue. I think the Iranian regime understands our concerns. I think the Iraqis have spoken in public about this, as well as other countries, including the British, who have lost soldiers as a result of some of the know-how that has been introduced by Iran into Iraq, so it is a real source of concern. And you don't -- at this point, you don't need another resolution to call upon Iran to not engage in terrorist activities. There are resolutions on the books already that call upon countries to not engage in terrorist activities.

We, the Iraqis, as well as the international community have called upon Iran to have good, transparent neighborly relations with Iraq. I think thatís what the Iraqis are looking for as well. They're not looking for Iran to meddle in their political affairs. They're not looking for Iran to try to cause destabilization in Iraq, so we would call upon the Iranian regime to heed the call of the international community to play a positive role in the future development of Iraq. Iran and Iraq are neighbors. They are going to have to have some kind of relationship and we have heard from the Iraqis that they want that to be one of mutual respect and transparency between the two countries and that's what we would also join in the call for.

Yes, Teri.

QUESTION: New subject. Do you know if any of the people taken hostage in this armed attack today in Baghdad of the security company are Americans?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information for you, Teri. If we -- anything develops in the afternoon, I'll let you know.


QUESTION: Do you have any additional details on the Secretary's trip to Latin America, number one? And secondly, do you have any idea of who she's -- have the bilaterals been settled yet, who she's going to meet?

MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of the bilaterals, I'll try to get you a list in the next day or so. We're still working on some of those. Thank you for bringing this up. It was scheduled that we were going to be stopping in Peru. At this point, I think what we're going to do is we're going to extend the stay in Chile, surrounding the inauguration activities of President Bachelet, or President-Elect Bachelet at this point. President Toledo, with whom the Secretary was scheduled -- was going to be meeting with in Peru now has a meeting at the White House on March 10th. So, he's going to be up here on March 10th.

He's going to then fly immediately down to Santiago for the inaugural activities. So in talking about the issue with the Peruvian Government and looking at some scheduling issues, we decided that the Secretary would just extend her stay in Santiago and that President Toledo would have his meeting with President Bush up here on March 10th.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary have any plans to meet President Morales, which would be her first meeting with him, or President Chavez, who will be there at the same time?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you updated on the bilats.

QUESTION: So, she won't see Toledo because he'll be seeing the President --

MR. MCCORMACK: He's going to be back --

QUESTION: She won't meet him in Chile?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if they -- I'm sure they'll see each other in Chile. I don't think that they're going to be having a meeting. I'm sure that they'll -- if they have an opportunity to catch up, they will, but President Toledo, as I understand it, is going to be here in Washington on March 10th, then fly directly down to Santiago for the inaugural activities which begin March 11th.


QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, it was reported extensively yesterday that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is going to visit Turkey. Do you know when?

MR. MCCORMACK: I will keep you updated on her travel schedule. Nothing for you on that now.

QUESTION: And also, it was reported today in the New York Times -- actually, the front page, that your government is placing small teams of special forces in a number of American embassies to gather intelligence on terrorists, to disrupt, capture, or kill them and I'm wondering if your embassy in Athens is included.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as for any Department of Defense activities, I would refer you over to the Department of Defense. I would only add that from the State Department perspective, we work very closely with the Department of Defense, work very well with them on all types of activities. And in doing so, all operate under the Chief of Mission authorities.

QUESTION: So, as far as for Greece, I have to ask to refer my question to the DoD to get --

MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of any DoD activities, then yeah, talk to the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: And the last one, why did you recall your Ambassador to Armenia, Mr. John Evans? Are you going to replace him?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware that we have recalled anybody -- our Ambassador to Armenia.

QUESTION: Not in Germany, in Armenia.

MR. MCCORMACK: What's that? I'm not aware that -- I believe that he's still serving as Ambassador in Armenia.


QUESTION: On the subject of ambassadors, are there any plans yet to fill the vacant spot in Australia in Canberra? Because there's -- I think it's -- I believe it's still vacant, isn't it? There is not a U.S. Ambassador?

MR. MCCORMACK: I believe -- yeah, I believe you're right. These are -- the personnel process sometimes works on its own schedule. It's an important appointment, it's an important post, and I don't have any announcements for you. Those come out of the White House, in terms of ambassadorial announcements. But I know it has been a topic of discussion and we're very anxious to get somebody nominated and then before the Senate so they can start their work.

QUESTION: Not before the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Don't have any names for you, don't have any names for you.



MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Dave.

QUESTION: Yeah, a couple issues that you may not be armed with at the moment, but Nick Burns apparently is meeting with Ahtisaari, the Kosovo UN Rep and it would be good to get a readout on that if you could.

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, ye of little faith.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Under Secretary Burns is meeting with UN Special Envoy Mr. Ahtisaari over lunch today and to discuss the situation in Kosovo and progress in the Kosovo status talks. Special Envoy Wisner as well as Rosemary DiCarlo are going to be there. They are going to -- at this meeting, I would expect Nick would reiterate the United States' support for Mr. Ahtisaari's efforts to reach a settlement on Kosovo's status during the year 2006 and to emphasize the importance for both Kosovar and Serbian leaders to engage constructively throughout this process.

QUESTION: Number two.

MR. MCCORMACK: What else you got? Bring it on.


QUESTION: Apparently, the U.S. is hosting this week a group -- the Minsk Group having to do with Nagorno-Karabakh. Similarly, if you have anything on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Concerning --

QUESTION: Ambassador Mann, I believe.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, concerning meetings here, I don't have any information for you, but I do know that Ambassador Fried will be traveling out to the region, I believe, next week. He will have some meetings in Azerbaijan as well as in Armenia concerning a follow up to the recent discussions that the two presidents had in Rambouillet to sort of -- I think a couple of weeks ago.

QUESTION: You pulled that one out.


QUESTION: On Kosovo?

MR. MCCORMACK: This gentleman back here has been very patient. We'll come back to you. Okay.

QUESTION: Let me ask two quick ones on this North Korean missile thing.


QUESTION: Do you know where they fired at? Is it fired over to the east?

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

QUESTION: Do you have -- what do you think -- that this missile firing will have any effect on the six-party talks? Is it going to be an adverse effect on it or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that you have heard from us and I expect that you will hear from other parties in the region as they are more directly affected by such missile firings. I would hope that it would underline the importance of returning to the six-party talks and that I would hope that you would have a renewed call from states within the region for North Korea to agree to a date certain to return to the six-party talks without preconditions and to engage while they're in the serious negotiations.


QUESTION: This week, you were planning, I believe by Friday, to also bring the subject of (inaudible) and there's been (inaudible) talks. They can't agree amongst themselves. Will this basically begin to stall this out? And also, there have been recent protests in Khartoum with -- not thousands, but very ample support in support of the government, saying that they want, of course, foreign presence out of all of Sudan and they're obviously against the rehatting of the AU force.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, actually, Deputy Secretary Zoellick is now having meetings in Brussels and beginning tomorrow in Paris on this very matter. We've had a number of good discussions. I think that certainly, the other members of the EU delegation and Deputy Secretary Zoellick are of one mind on these issues. I think we've had -- they've had good discussions about the need to strengthen the AU mission and also, they've had good discussions about the importance of making a transition to a UN mission, of which the AU would form the core.

So, these are ongoing discussions, Joel. It's something that we have been working on, as you noted, over -- intensively over the past month and we hope, in the coming days and weeks, to see some acceptance of that transition from an AU mission to a UN mission, but you're going to need to hear from the AU on this matter. So, there's going to be an effort, as Deputy Secretary Zoellick is now doing, to engage the AU on this issue.

As for the protests in Khartoum, you know, again, you don't -- these are not protests that pop up spontaneously. I don't think that this was a group of Sudanese citizens of their own volition who decided that they were going to come out and protest against the UN mission. I would note that there already is a foreign presence in Darfur and that they're playing a very important role, and that is the AU mission and their presence there has saved lives. And that is -- they're going to continue to perform that important mission. We hope to expand that mission to a UN mission.

But ultimately -- you mentioned the Abuja talks -- ultimately the way that you are going to address the issues that exist in Darfur, as well as throughout Sudan, is through political dialogue. You saw that with the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. We believe that that agreement can serve as a model for resolving other conflicts that exist between parties in and around Sudan. So one of the focuses of Deputy Secretary Zoellick's discussion is on that -- getting the Abuja process moving forward. I believe that he is going to be meeting in Paris with Mr. Salim, who is the AU chair of the Abuja talks, to talk about ways to move that process forward.

QUESTION: Will he be talking with the French about establishing a no-fly zone over Darfur?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know that that's part of their discussions. I haven't gotten that level of detail. If we have anything for you on that, we'll let you know.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Samir. Yeah, we'll come back to you.

QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Welch met yesterday evening with Lebanese Druze leader, Jumblatt. Do you have any readout on this meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: Don't have a detailed readout for you, Samir. There was a follow-up conversation to Mr. Jumblattís meeting with the Secretary, which happened on Monday. And I think they talked very generally about the ongoing issues in Lebanon. There's a lot of intensive political dialogue going on inside Lebanon. All of this focuses around compliance with the outstanding Security Council Resolutions 1636, 1595, 1559, so it was just a follow-up conversation.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. We'll come back to you and go to Kosovo.

Okay. You're up. Batter up.



QUESTION: The one name, U.S. think tank, Mr. McCormack, Stratford released a report, by which evaluates in a negative way the Kosovo talks in Vienna of February 20th and predicts chaos, violence and instability in the Balkans, even prior to the new round of talks of March 17th. And I'm wondering what is going on and maybe you could say something to this effect.

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen the report. I don't know. I do know that we're spending an awful lot of time and effort on the issue. It was a topic of discussion between the Secretary -- Secretary Rice and Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday. I know Nick Burns has been deeply involved in this issue and we now we have a special envoy, Mr. Wisner who is engaged on this issue, working very closely with Mr. Ahtisaari. Everybody wants a peaceful outcome and that's what everybody's working on.

QUESTION: Since you mentioned the meeting between Secretary of State Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Mr. Lavrov, according to Council on Foreign Relations, Russia's President Vladimir Putin warned that granting independence to Kosovo might set a very dangerous precedent for (inaudible) in the former Soviet Union, including Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia. Since U.S. is playing a leading role, along with the UN, how do you respond to this question?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think, again, these are issues that are unique unto themselves that have to be taken on their own merits and be dealt with as separate issues. You mentioned conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia. Each of those have unique characteristics that need to be dealt with on their own merits and that's how we view the issue.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: On Iran. ElBaradei today said -- he called on both sides, you know, all sides of the issue to lower the rhetoric as it relates to Iran and also, you know, sort of warned of confrontation being dangerous. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think if you back look upon the record, just going back the past weeks, months, over the past year, it is Iran that has sought to confront the international community. It is Iran that has laid out demands and conditions under which it would negotiate. So it's really the international community that has, I think, been very accommodating in terms of trying to meet the desires of the -- the stated desires of the Iranian regime for peaceful nuclear energy, while also seeking to put in place some objective guarantees that would reassure the international community that Iran is not going to try to develop a nuclear weapon while having access to peaceful nuclear energy. Sadly, Iran has not chosen to take up the international community on these very generous offers.

So I guess I would turn it around. It really is Iran that has sought confrontation and it has been the international community, including the United States, the EU-3 and the Russians that have sought to resolve this matter through diplomatic processes and that's what we're continuing to do, but we are entering a new phase of diplomacy in which Iran is going to have a big, bright spotlight focused on its activities up in New York. And I think they donít like that and I think they find that a very uncomfortable position, so we'll see how they react over the coming days, weeks, and months.

QUESTION: So you think Dr. ElBaradei didn't mean you?

MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of the --

QUESTION: Lowering the rhetoric?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that what I have done is laid out a very factual case as to what the real source of confrontation in the international community has been. It's been Iran's behavior.

QUESTION: Thank you.


(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)

DPB # 39

Released on March 8, 2006

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