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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 > November
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 9, 2006

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President Bush and Secretary Rice’s Travel to Vietnam / APEC Meetings and Issues / Bilateral Meetings / Trip Schedule


Violence in Gaza a Tragedy / Israel’s Investigation and Actions / President Abbas Committed to Peace
Assistant Secretary Welch and Elliott Abrams Travel to the Region / Readout of Meetings
Secretary Rice’s Phone Calls with Palestinian Authority President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert
UN Security Council Special Session on the Middle East
President Bush and Secretary Rice Committed to Peace in the Region
Responsibilities of Palestinian Authority and Israeli Government


Prospects for Confirmation of UN Ambassador Bolton / Agenda of the Security Council


Secretary Rice’s Calls to Congressional Leaders
U.S. Foreign Policy after Mid-Term Elections


Civil Nuclear Deal at Top of President’s Agenda
Query on North Korean Ship Detained by India


Multilateral Talks with Iran
Secretary Rice’s Calls with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov


Query on Possible Nuclear Weapons Talks


Secretary Rice’s Breakfast Meeting with Mexican President-Elect Calderon


Resolution 1706 / Options for Makeup of International Force / AU at Core of UN Force / Force Must be Effective and Funded / Discussions Taking Place on Multiple Fronts


U.S. Support for Political and Economic Reform


12:00 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Don't have any opening statements, so George, you want to lead us off?


MR. MCCORMACK: No? All right.


QUESTION: Do you have any project for the Secretary in Vietnam?

MR. MCCORMACK: Any project for her?

QUESTION: Yes. Does she have any --

MR. MCCORMACK: Like what? Is she supposed to build something?

QUESTION: -- meeting when she goes in Vietnam to meet --

QUESTION: A projection maybe?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, she's going -- there's going to be a bilateral component to this visit overall when the President visits Vietnam. She's going there primarily for the APEC meetings. There are going to be a lot of bilateral meetings including with, I expect, Vietnam officials on the sidelines of APEC. We're going to try to get you a little more full schedule here. Maybe over the weekend we can email something out to your guys, a little bit of an idea of what she -- the meetings that she's going to be having there. It is going to cover the whole waterfront of issues that APEC looks at, from security to trade to political relations. You name it; they're going to talk about it if it pertains to the Asia-Pacific region.

QUESTION: And when is she leaving?

MR. MCCORMACK: She'll be leaving Monday afternoon, Monday afternoon. And then she'll be there -- she'll have her own program with the foreign ministers at APEC. The President will arrive. She is going to stay -- continue on with the President, continue traveling with the President when he goes from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City to Jakarta and then back here to Washington.

It's a lively group this afternoon.

QUESTION: We could give an early (inaudible) --

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) No such luck, Charlie. You tried.

Okay, Sue and then we'll go back to David over here. Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the latest violence in Gaza? Israel has expressed remorse over the incident --


QUESTION: -- which they say is probably the -- sort of a technical kind of malfunction.


QUESTION: Are you concerned that there's going to be a new round of violence sort of -- within Gaza and that there'll be an escalation? Are you -- what are you hearing on the ground?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, of course, anytime you have this much emotion in the air, this is a tragedy. You know 18 people lost their lives and many others were injured. It's a tragedy and there's nothing we can do to replace those people. There's nothing we can do to assuage the grief that friends and family are feeling. But the answer and the response is not more violence, not more rocket attacks, not retributions against America or anybody else. The answer is to do what you can to work for a better way of life for the Palestinian people and for the Israeli people. The way you achieve that ultimately is through a political horizon. We're not at the point where that is possible where you can actually make progress on that right now. We all know the reasons for that.

But it is a terrible tragedy. It is an awful thing for the family members and the Palestinian people, but we understand that the Israeli Government has come out and done a few things. One, they have apologized for this and they have done a preliminary investigation. I think Prime Minister Olmert just today said that he in his investigation has found that this was not intentional and that something went wrong, something went dreadfully wrong, and that the Israeli Government obviously is going to take steps to see that this kind of thing isn't repeated again, that you don't have these sorts of terrible accidents.

I would just point out that people are put in these terrible dilemmas because of the acts of a few people who want to use violence to try to disrupt any hope for a better way of life. So it is -- ultimately, the way you don’t see these kinds of events in the future is getting back to some political horizon.

QUESTION: Did you accept Israel's explanation of what happened, or do you think there should be further investigations?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that they are continuing to do their look into exactly what happened, but Prime Minister Olmert, himself, personally came out and said that in his investigation in the couple of days since this happened was that there was some error, technical error, that this was not intentionally -- it was not done intentionally.

QUESTION: After this tragedy, the Palestinian President Abbas and the Prime Minister Haniyeh went together to give blood. And then there was this phone call with Khaled Mashaal from Damascus? So aren't you afraid there is a risk of radicalization of the president himself, who will have to reach out to the rest of the population?

MR. MCCORMACK: We believe President Abbas is a man of peace and that he is committed to peace, that he is committed to a better way of life for the Palestinian people, and that he is committed to doing what he can to provide security for the Palestinian people, and in the course of that doing what he can to stop the terrorist attacks or the -- and the rocket attacks that have emanated from Gaza. But we believe that President Abbas is committed to peace and that he is committed to a political way to resolve differences with the Israelis.

QUESTION: And also concerning -- David Welch was in the region last week. Did you have any -- do you have any readout of his --

MR. MCCORMACK: I didn’t -- he and Elliott Abrams traveled to the region. They met with Israeli officials, Palestinian officials and Jordanian officials. I didn't have an in-depth conversation after -- with him about his trip. They talked generally about the situation in the region, talked about the possibilities, what are the possibilities for getting back to some political horizon to resolve differences between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And they also had more general conversations about the region, about how to deal with the dividing line between those who are looking for a political horizon to resolve differences, whether that is in Lebanon or the Palestinian areas, and those who don't -- you know, Iran, Syria, groups associated with them.


QUESTION: Sean, I saw at least one account that the Secretary made a condolence call to Abbas. Was that true?

MR. MCCORMACK: She did speak with President Abbas yesterday. She spoke with Prime Minister Olmert yesterday. She spoke with President Abbas yesterday. Yes. And she of course expressed her deep condolences for the loss of innocent life to President Abbas.

QUESTION: Is that the extent of U.S. contact after this issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure that our people from our Consulate in Jerusalem have been in touch with Palestinian officials but -- and I can't speak for David whether or not he's been in touch with Palestinian officials or not. But certainly our people on the ground have been in touch with the Palestinian side as well as the Israeli side.


QUESTION: Is there discussion now on this subject in New York at this point?

MR. MCCORMACK: There is a discussion in the Security Council as we speak. There is -- I think the emotions surrounding this event in the Palestinian areas is being reflected in some quarters in the Security Council. We understand that. That said, we don't think that any sort of one-sided resolutions are really the most productive way to address this issue. Certainly it's an issue that we understand that people want to talk about in the Security Council, although the Security Council is not traditionally the forum where Israeli-Palestinian issues are resolved. In the past, they have been discussed, they have been dealt with there. So there is a discussion that's ongoing right now. We're participating in that discussion and I would expect that it would either end today or maybe go into tomorrow.

QUESTION: Emotions don't seem to be coming out only from the Security Council. Emotions are all over the Islamic world, the Arab world. Hearing you just describing this as a tragedy only is -- they don't feel it is enough there because when an Israeli person is killed, you will certainly take much more reaction toward that. And a lady -- I was, you know, shocked when I -- when I saw a lady, a mother who lost a few of her children in this incident -- not incident -- this aggression of Israel yesterday, she cursed the Israelis and, strangely, America, you know.

And I felt like the United States should probably take an extra step other than just saying this is a tragedy to prevent the circumstances that make an American President say they hate us, because this is exactly what Israel is doing today, the Israeli killing of many ladies a few days ago, mothers, old mothers, you know, peacefully protesting. This is an ongoing aggression that I think and many people are talking on the Arab TVs now that America should show that it is really doing something to prevent what causes the hatred that comes out from the Middle East which is caused by Israel.

Are you -- is the United States doing anything to dismantle this cause of hatred more than just expressing, you know, a few mild words?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, first of all, we don't differentiate in terms of value of human life between the Palestinian life and Israeli life or any other kind of life. It is -- and for Israeli mothers and Palestinian mothers it feels just the same to lose a child, to lose a family member. We know that. And we can't replace those people, and there is nothing that we can do to fill the void that is left when innocent life is taken.

There is a difference between something that is an awful accident in which innocent life is lost, a terrible tragedy, and people going out and intentionally taking innocent life in the name of some political cause. There's no political cause that justifies that. Now I understand, again, for those Palestinian mothers and those Israeli mothers, you know, they don't differentiate. They've lost somebody that they loved. But what we are trying to do, and what the Secretary is committed to, and what the President recommitted to when he was up in New York at the Security Council -- at the General Assembly -- was to try to explore the possibilities for finding a political horizon that allows Israelis and Palestinians to live together in two states, side by side in peace and security.

This President has been, from the very beginning of his tenure in office, committed to seeking peace in that region. We are also working on trying to find ways to bring -- to address the various tensions between Israel as well as other Arab neighbors. There is a real interest among other states in the region, among Arab states, in trying to find a way forward and we are standing with them in that. They are committed to that; we are committed to that.

Ultimately, though, what you need is a Palestinian government that is a partner for peace. We don't have that right now. The Israelis don't have that right now. Other Arab states realize we don't have that right now. It's very clear the simple preconditions -- the simple conditions that a Palestinian government must meet in order to realize a different kind of relationship with the rest of the world and to realize that political horizon. They had it before when you did have a Palestinian government that was committed to seeking peace via the negotiating table as opposed to at the point of a gun.

So we are committed to that. Secretary Rice is committed to it. She has traveled recently to the region to talk about what the possibilities are. You heard from the President of the United States in his own words speaking to the world at the General Assembly that he is committed to that. And we are going to do what we can.

There are certain things that, however, we can't do for others. We can't resolve some of the central contradictions within the Palestinian political system. Those are things that need to be resolved by Palestinian political leaders and by the Palestinian people. We're ready to help. We're ready to do what we can to help out. But ultimately we -- neither we nor anybody else can make those decisions for the Palestinian people.

QUESTION: A follow-up, please?


QUESTION: I mean, you sound like as if you were convinced that this is not a pattern, an Israeli pattern of killing children. And we see every day in Lebanon to this day the Israeli ordnance are killing children to this day in Lebanon. Those cluster bombs, you know. Israel has killed women a few days ago as well as been killing in Gaza for a long time now.

The United States -- you just said that you would help if you could. Do you think you could help at least in investigating this and bringing to the surface the reality that this is not an incident, this is a pretty much -- it looks like it is pretty much a program action by Israel to scare people, to kill the Palestinians. Somebody is -- many people are calling it now as a, you know, that Israel is trying really to scare the Palestinians and get them to escape from Palestine to have, you know, more land, and it is ridiculous.

Can you help with finding the truth? You are the defender of freedom, of dignity of people -- the United States is -- and it has -- that brings responsibility on its shoulder. Show us that you are really taking that seriously. Show the Palestinians. Show the Middle Eastern people that you are taking your responsibility seriously. That's what the people really need in there if you want to help the cause of peace in there.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Are you getting to a question here?

QUESTION: I need to know what else, what extra steps are you taking other than just expressing sympathy.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, we or nobody else can do an investigation. Israel is a democracy and as such it will look into these matters and determine what exactly happened. They have done that in the past. We, as well as others, when there have been terrible accidents around the world because of military actions, have investigated these things. If there were mistakes that were made that contravene regulations, we have held our own people to account and I expect that that is the same type of approach that the Israeli Government would take. That is the way democracies work.

So it's not up to the United States or anybody else to investigate this matter on the Israeli side. We have full faith that they will investigate it. They take this very seriously. They have -- I think they understand exactly what happened and they are taking it seriously.

QUESTION: I respect what you're saying but I don’t think that democracies kill children and women the way Israelis killing them every day.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, all right.


QUESTION: New subject. Do you --

QUESTION: I have one on --

QUESTION: Oh, sorry.

QUESTION: On Palestine.


QUESTION: Okay. The Israeli Defense Minister previously said that the Gaza attacks would not stop until they destroy Hamas's infrastructure. Are there any red lines that you would advise Israel not to cross in this stage?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I can say it over and over again. What we want to do is get back to the point where these are not the kinds of questions that come up; that you actually have a Palestinian Authority that seriously addresses issues of terrorism. We have talked about the responsibilities that the Israeli Government has as well to deal with the daily plight of the Palestinian people. Some of the -- Secretary Rice has referred to some of the humiliations that they endure. So we are mindful of the responsibilities of both sides in this conflict and we will do whatever we can do in order to get back to some political horizon.

Yes, Janine.

QUESTION: Has Secretary Rice reached out to Senator Lugar or Senator Biden about John Bolton's nomination and how you foresee that playing out?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think Tony talked a little bit about this at the White House briefing in terms of outlining what the President's priorities are for this lame duck session. A lot of those priorities are very much at the top of our list here -- Vietnam PNTR, the India civ-nuke deal, as well as John Bolton's confirmation. We believe that he deserves an up or down vote, that if he gets such a vote that he would win it in the Senate. He has been extraordinarily effective up there at the UN and now is not the time to have a gap in your UN ambassador. Just look at all the items that are on the agenda of the Security Council that are fundamental to peace and security around the world: Iran, Iraq will be coming up, North Korea, Sudan, issues involving the Middle East. So there's a whole list of crucial issues that are now before the Security Council and it's important that we have our Ambassador up there and John Bolton's the right guy to be up there right now.

QUESTION: This is a follow-up. Senator Biden on a conference call with reporters yesterday said that the nomination was pretty much dead. Has the Secretary or anybody else in the Department reached out to the key senators on the Foreign Relations Committee?

MR. MCCORMACK: She's done a number of different phone calls yesterday talking to leaders on the Republican side as well as the Democrat side. I can't tell you what exactly she talked about. I didn't get a readout of it. She's ready to do whatever she needs to do in order to help John get confirmed.

Yes, Sue.

QUESTION: Who else did she talk to?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll get you a list, Charlie. So off the top of my head I can give you a few of them, but I want to -- I'll give you a complete list.

QUESTION: Give us the top of your head for now.

MR. MCCORMACK: The top of my head? She talked to Speaker Hastert, she talked to Nancy Pelosi, she spoke with Senator Biden, she spoke with -- let's see -- Mr. Boehner --


MR. MCCORMACK: I think she did but I have to confirm that. We’ll get you the whole lost.

QUESTION: If Senator Biden says that John Bolton's nomination is just going nowhere, then what options are open to you? You must be looking at options. Could he -- one option that was thrown out there --


QUESTION: -- was that he could work without pay. Is that a possibility?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, I don't know how enthusiastic he would be about working without pay. I haven't asked him that. I haven't asked him that question. That's kind of a personal question.

Look, we think that he should -- he deserves a vote. He should get his moment before the full Senate to have people cast their votes one way or the other on him.


QUESTION: Kind of a similar question on the India nuclear deal.


QUESTION: Has the Indian Government given a call to anybody over here with any questions about what the change-out on the Hill might do for the nuclear deal?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you. I don't know if they've called over here. But the President has put it at the top of his list of things he'd like to get done in this next session or the lame duck session coming up here that I think is scheduled -- I don't know how long it's scheduled for.

Yeah, okay, who wants to --

QUESTION: Russia says that Larijani is going to be coming in the next -- I think it's tomorrow he's going to be visiting, and Lavrov was saying that multilateral talks with the major powers is the way to go forward in terms of Iran. I just wondered what your comments were on that.

MR. MCCORMACK: Multilateral talks --

QUESTION: Multilateral talks with Iran would be the way to go forward.

MR. MCCORMACK: We would agree with that as long as Iran meets the condition. It's a pretty simple condition.

QUESTION: And what do you think about Larijani going to Moscow for talks? Do you think this is a --

MR. MCCORMACK: He's gone there before. We would hope he'd go there with the message saying that they're ready to suspend all enrichment-related activities. That would be welcome news.

QUESTION: I heard that Secretary Rice has had a couple conference calls with Foreign Minister Lavrov this past week. Do you have any readout of those?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think she --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) regarding Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, she talked to -- I believe she talked to him yesterday, and I think she also spoke with him last week as well. It's just designed to start talking through some of the issues. We are going through this negotiating process up in New York. So we're -- she's doing her part to get this resolution over the goal line.

QUESTION: Was there any progress? Was there any progress made on the call? Do you have any readout of it?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, the issues -- we're starting to chip away at some of the issues. But, you know, this is multilateral diplomacy, it takes a little bit of time.

QUESTION: On Lebanon.

MR. MCCORMACK: You've already had your -- given your time.

QUESTION: On North Korea?


QUESTION: I just want to ask quickly have -- is the U.S. in talks now with India regarding a ship they detained? And I want to ask specifically about an AP report that Indian officials are having trouble finding Korean translators. Have we attempted to reach out to them on that point?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information for you on that. I'd be happy to look into it. The Indians stopped a North Korean ship, that's the report?

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, they stopped it on the 29th but they still have it. It's empty and they're trying to question the crew, but they don't have enough translators.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that would seem to be something that they would have to deal with.

Anything else on North Korea? We've got a couple more. We've got a couple more. We can -- yes, ma'am, back there.



QUESTION: Japan's Prime Minister Abe said yesterday that the discussions for Japan having nuclear weapons capability should be acceptable. Do you have any comments? Just that having such discussions should be acceptable?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure -- what's the question?

QUESTION: Prime Minister Abe said yesterday that the discussions on Japan having nuclear weapons capability is acceptable -- should be acceptable. Do you have any comments? Just having such discussions.

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen his full comments. What we have heard from the Japanese Government, you know, in recent weeks is that they didn't have any intention to change their current status.


QUESTION: Change of topic?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, that's fine.

QUESTION: Yesterday on the President press conference, news conference, no one talking about the changing -- the possibility of changing anything in the foreign policy, U.S. foreign policy regarding impact of changing the power of the House of Representative.

Are you seeing anything regarding any change at all in the policy, U.S. policy, foreign policy?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know I haven't heard of anything with respect to either out of the House or the Senate different ideas. I think that in terms -- obviously Iraq is an issue where people have a lot of different thoughts. The President has made it clear that he's willing to listen. People have good ideas on how best to succeed in Iraq.

On the other important issues that are facing us, I'm sure that people will have various ideas. We're, of course, willing to listen to what they have to say. I don't anticipate any major changes in policy, any major course corrections. We believe that on the topics that are in the headlines, whether it's North Korea or Iran or the Middle East, that we have in place the right approaches to deal with those issues.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, the President said yesterday that he wasn't happy with what was happening in Iraq --


QUESTION: -- and that things were not moving fast enough --


QUESTION: -- and not enough was being done. So what are you looking at specifically to speed things up in Iraq so that troops can come home when there's a more stable environment? Are you rethinking how you're doing Iraq within the State Department?

MR. MCCORMACK: We always --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah -- as the President said, you always take a look to see how you can do things better. And that is something that is a continuous process from the Secretary on down to the desk officer. So that's something that happens on a continuous basis.

QUESTION: But nothing specific that you're looking at differently?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, it's something that happens on a continuous basis.

Yes, Kirit.

QUESTION: Do you have any readout from the Secretary's meeting this morning with the President-elect of Mexico, specifically whether they brought up the border fence issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: They talked very broadly about the U.S.-Mexico relationship. The President-elect talked about his positive vision for U.S.-Mexican relations in all its various aspects, from immigration to fighting organized crime to trade. So he has a very broad agenda and he's going to be talking about it with the President later on this afternoon. They talked about immigration. But you know, again, this was – it was a breakfast meeting and on our side you had Secretary Rice, you had Secretary Paulson, you had Trade Representative Schwab, so there were -- that would indicate to you it was a pretty broad discussion.

QUESTION: Did they discuss actually a fence?

MR. MCCORMACK: They talked about immigration, I think, very broadly and how it also relates to the other issues of development and trade and security and how you give people a better horizon for their lives and both in terms of economic as well as other kinds of outlooks.


QUESTION: Was Secretary Gutierrez there? He was supposed to be.

MR. MCCORMACK: He was not there. He was not there, no.

QUESTION: Just one on Sudan. The Sudanese Government says it's willing to have unconditional talks with the National Redemption Front and that they see no need for -- to renegotiate a peace deal. I just wondered if you had any comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Any sort of engagement that helps reduce the current as well as future levels of violence in Darfur is a positive thing. The Darfur Peace Agreement is still there to be implemented. It is, I think, a centerpiece from which to work on how to deal with the multitude of issues that really are -- that exist in Darfur right now.

QUESTION: And just to follow up on that, are you looking at a sort of UN/AU kind of hybrid arrangement for Darfur now? This is being discussed at the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I've seen a lot of reports about this. Look, the sort of center point here is 1706, Resolution 1706, which talks about -- it talks about a UN role in an international force in Darfur. We continue to believe that that is critical for a variety of different reasons.

We're taking a look at how we can address the various concerns that have come up from the Sudanese Government as well as others in the region about the nature of this international force. So we are working with governments in the region, working with other Arab governments, to try to think about how can we have the most effective force in Darfur. The UN force is -- we would expect be central to that. But we are looking -- taking a look at how to make this an effective force that can actually get in there.

QUESTION: So would the UN force be in charge of sort of command-and-control or would the AU be -- have overall sort of control --

MR. MCCORMACK: There -- the AU -- it was always envisioned would be at the core --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: -- really at the core of this UN force. So we're just -- we're looking at a variety of different options. But none of this compromises -- nothing that we might do or might propose would in any way compromise in our view the effectiveness of this force, that it has to be an effective, capable force that has all the capabilities that you need as well as a reliable source of funding. You can't keep going through these ad hoc arrangements that you have now with the AU force where every six months or every nine months you have a cash crisis in order to keep the AU force going.

We have obviously contributed a great deal of money -- hundreds of millions of dollars -- to that effort and we are certainly willing and prepared to do our part to keep an international force in there -- it's critical. But you need a bigger presence there. You need a more robust presence there. But you also need to get the force in there. And we've run into -- the world has run into some obstacles in that regard and we're working with others to try to surmount those obstacles.

QUESTION: So the fact that you're adjusting your thinking on this, is this recognition that Khartoum is just not going to come round to having a full-fledged UN force and that this is the only way to go if you actually want to get more people on the ground -- because, for example, Natsios was refused a meeting with President Umar Hassan al-Bashir when he was there because of U.S. sanctions and other issues.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Khartoum's obstinance on this has been an issue. And you -- it has been an issue and the result has been you can't -- you have not been able to get an international force in there. So we are -- and they've had a number of stated concerns about why they have refused to accept this force. Some of them have centered around what the mission of the force will be. Is it intended to, you know, hunt down members of the government and put them before international tribunals? We have tried to make it clear that that is not part of the mandate of 1706. So -- and there have been other issues that have come up, but that's one that has been publicly stated and we're working to try to address that and try to address their concerns, try to address the concerns of some of the other states in the region. But again this is not in any way compromise on the need for this force and the need for an effective international force that would have UN involvement as central to it as well as AU involvement as central to it.

Yes. Dave.

QUESTION: Sean, in these discussions, where are they centered, up at the UN, bilaterally with the Sudanese?

MR. MCCORMACK: There's -- it has a number of different, I guess, different focus points. But certainly up at the UN there's a lot of activity there. But there's a lot of bilateral contact between capitals as well.


QUESTION: Mr. Nabih Berri, the Speaker of the House of Lebanon was exerting lots of efforts in order to prevent a political chaos is meeting with the different political groups in there. Can I have your reading of this, what your comment is about his efforts and the progress of these meetings?

MR. MCCORMACK: About Nabih Berri's meetings?

QUESTION: Yes, sir.

MR. MCCORMACK: That's a foul, asking me to comment on internal domestic politics in Lebanon.

QUESTION: You see the real (inaudible) involved, I mean and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Look there's a lot of ferment in the Lebanese political system. It comes about as a result of a lot of different things, one of which is they are emerging from 20 years of -- more than 20 years of Syrian occupation. So they're trying to deal with some pretty fundamental issues, a lot of them centering around how can you have a political party that has its own militia and that drags us into regional conflict. That's a pretty central issue that they're dealing with.

So look, we support efforts at political reform and economic reform and Prime Minister Siniora's government. There's a lot of discussions being had in Lebanon right now. But we -- how those turn out are for the Lebanese people to decide. Our problem is -- our problem as well as the problem of others arises when you have external forces, either directly or indirectly through proxies, trying to manipulate the outcome of those political discussions in a way that's detrimental to Lebanese democracy, the growth of Lebanese democracy. That's when you get into a problem. So in terms of political bargaining, it's going to be up to the Lebanese people and the Lebanese political leaders to decide.


(The briefing was concluded at 12:40 p.m.)

DPB # 182

Released on November 9, 2006

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