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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 16, 2007

INDEX:

SUDAN

Acceptance of Some Aspects of AU-UN Force Package / Some Caveats Still in Place / A Partial Step Forward / Deputy Secretary Negroponte’s Had Meetings with President Bashir
Sudanese Not Fully Committed to All Requirements / Details From Negroponte Will Feed into Policymaking Process
Darfur Peace Agreement / Further Splintering of Rebel Groups Makes Peace Process Complicated / More Stable Security Conditions Needed in Darfur / Valleys and Peaks in Violence / Window of Diplomacy Dependent upon Sudanese Government

LIBYA

Deputy Secretary Negroponte’s Visit to Be Determined / Query on Conference in Libya

IRAN

Update on Missing American Citizen Levinson / A More Formal Request Sent to Iranian Government Via Swiss Embassy / Request Asked Iranian Government for a Definitive Answer / No Evidence American Citizen Has Left Iran
U.S. Dependent upon Cooperation of Host Nation in Launching Investigation
Cannot Speak on Nature of Levinson’s Private Business / U.S. Embassy in Dubai
Hard to Get View into Iranian System For Information on Levinson
Russian Government’s Decision Not to Move Forward on Contract with Iran / UN Security Council Resolutions
General Caldwell’s Briefings on Iranian Activities / Activities Do Not Enhance Iraq’s Stability

PHILIPPINES

No Update on Situation

IRAQ

Iraqis to Configure Government / Time for All Iraqis to Make Every Effort to Work Together

NIGERIA

Allegations on Conduct of Elections

MISCELLANEOUS

Paul Wolfowitz / World Bank / Treasury Department Is Representative to World Bank

CHINA

Allegations By Gao Zhisheng / U.S. Concerned and Will Follow up on Allegations

INDIA

U.S. Fundamentally Changing Relationship with India on Issue of Nuclear Power
Negotiations Ongoing / Outlined a Pathway / U.S. Have Sought to Be Flexible

NORTH KOREA

Treasury’s Role in BDA Issue / Unaware of Changes from U.S. Treasury Department
The Ball is North Korea’s Court / BDA Issue is Resolved / North Korea Will Need to Act in Good Faith

MOROCCO

Closing of Consulate / Results of Investigation Have Not Led to Definitive Conclusion

ZIMBABWE

USAID Program Designed to Help Political Parties

RUSSIA

Protests in Moscow / Various Political Voices Across Spectrum in Russia Need to be Heard


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:40 p.m. EST

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. No opening statements. We'll get right into your questions. Who wants to start? Matthew.

 

QUESTION: Sudan.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

 

QUESTION: There appears to be a change and they appear to have accepted the hybrid force and all it entails, with a heavy support for the --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: That's the -- that's only part of it. What I've read in the press reports, and we haven't gotten a full report back from the field, is that they have accepted some aspects of the overall package that was agreed to in Addis Ababa when Secretary General Annan was there. There are still other elements and other caveats that I understand remain in place, particularly with respect to the command-and-control relationship between the AU and the UN, which is critically important to the effectiveness of this force working. There are also caveats that are still in place about what kinds of troops can perform what kinds of functions that the Sudanese have put out there and, to my knowledge, remain in place.

 

So while that is a partial step forward, it certainly does not meet all of the requirements of the AU/UN force in order for this force to be completely effective when it deploys on the ground.

 

QUESTION: Okay. Did you -- is this -- did Deputy Secretary Negroponte get any indication of this --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, we haven't gotten a full readout from him yet. I know the Secretary intends to speak with him by phone either later today or perhaps tomorrow morning to get a full readout of his meetings on the ground in Sudan. He did have a full ledger full of meetings with President Bashir on down. He was able to travel throughout the country in El Fasher, Juba, Khartoum as well, and he's now in eastern Chad and will spend the night in N'Djamena.

 

QUESTION: Okay. So the bottom line is that it's a -- you say partial step forward --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: A partial step. It does not fulfill all of the requirements for the AU/UN force to be able to move forward in all the three phases.

 

Sue.

 

QUESTION: So what's missing out of this? What are you pushing for now?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there -- as I went through some of the caveats that I understand are still in place with respect to the command-and-control, with respect to who was -- what kinds of forces can participate, out-of-Africa forces, what sort of role those forces can play. So there are still a number of caveats that the Sudanese had previously put in place that are still there. Now, this is one thing that they had objected to previously, but now it appears that that obstacle has been removed, but it is not a full commitment to all of the requirements for the AU/UN force.

 

QUESTION: So does your threat of imposing new sanctions or measures or using diplomatic levers, or whatever language you'd like to use for that, does that still remain?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: That certainly is still out there. And an important piece of information will be what in detail Deputy Secretary Negroponte heard while he was out in Sudan, and that will feed in to the policymaking process and Secretary Rice will be able to brief the President on that conversation.

 

Joel.

 

QUESTION: On the weekend, there was a video which can be seen in CNN and also your particular State Department website with Andrew Natsios going up in front of Congress. And he's spoken about some infighting with the rebel groups as well as the infighting with the Khartoum government within their constituencies. How critical is that to settle out this particular issue?

 

And also yesterday late afternoon Gayle Smith, formerly with NSA and the Clinton Administration and had long been a advocate in settling out this issue, was on TV as well as former Ambassador Prosper. Are there any updates or any significance you can give to these developments?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: As for the two individuals, I haven't seen their appearance, Joel, so I can't speak to exactly what they said.

 

You make a point about the fracture. You have some of the rebel groups that signed on to the Darfur Peace Agreement. Certainly, the further splintering of those groups does make it a little more complicated to press forward and implement the agreement. All the more reason why it is imperative to move forward with the implementation of that agreement now.

 

Now, in order to do that, you have to have more stable security conditions in Darfur, meaning you have to have the AU/UN force in there, you have to have the NGOs be able to operate there. And with those things done, it makes it -- the conditions are created such that you possibly can move forward with implementing more of the Darfur Peace Agreement than has been implemented to this point. Thus far they've made very limited progress.

 

But as time goes on and you have the situation in Darfur continuing to be quite unstable and in some cases having the violence get worse, it will possibly have the effect of further fracturing some of these rebel movements, some of these militias, which as I pointed out makes them more difficult to resolve.

 

Yeah.

 

QUESTION: Actually, in his testimony last week, Natsios said in fact that the violence had been decreasing, both violence against civilians and attacks by the Sudanese Government force, and he said there hadn't been any kind of an air attack since early February and raised some kind of hope that with the rainy season coming on that there could be a lull in violence that could last several months and provide an opening for, you know, more protracted peace efforts.

 

Now, is all that being taken into account in terms of when you're going to look at the Plan B or whatever? I mean, is that something that as long as there is this lull in violence, does that mean that you'd prefer to continue on the diplomatic front rather than going to more coercive measures?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you have these groups that continue to fracture. I was only making the point politically it makes it more difficult to bring everybody back to the table if you have less cohesive groups that are represented at a negotiating table.

 

In terms of the violence, you have seen valleys and peaks in the violence. There have been periods where it's gone down. There have been periods where it has spiked. However, our sense of urgency in dealing with the situation hasn't been diminished during these periods where the violence has diminished somewhat.

 

Whether this provides a window for the diplomacy to work is really dependent upon the Sudanese Government, whether or not they fully comply with all of the conditions that have been laid out necessary for the AU/UN force to go into Darfur and provide a better security environment. Certainly we all want to see a reduction in the levels of violence and for whatever reasons. But a precondition for stabilizing the situation in Darfur for having the NGOs being able to do the jobs that they are there to do, to help improve the humanitarian situation and ultimately come up with a political resolution to the conflict in Darfur, you need to have this force in there.

 

Yeah, Sue.

 

QUESTION: Do you have any details yet of Ambassador Negroponte's visit to Libya or who he's seeing? Is he seeing the leader?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: It's still to be determined. There have been a variety of requests in for meetings. We don't have the -- his agenda ready for you yet. I think he's going to be there Monday or Tuesday.

 

QUESTION: So in other words, you've requested a meeting.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Tuesday -- Tuesday, Wednesday. Today is Monday.

 

QUESTION: You've requested a meeting, but they haven't come back to you with a time or a yea or a nay.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Yeah, exactly. This is typically how things work, though.

 

QUESTION: And what do you make of the Libya announcement that they're going to host some kind of a conference?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen it Matt. I haven't seen it. I'll look into it. What is this, a conference on Darfur or Sudan?

 

QUESTION: Yes.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Look into it for you.

 

Elise.

 

QUESTION: Mr. Levinson?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

 

QUESTION: Can you talk about what you've heard back, if anything, from the Iranians? I know you spoke a little about this morning, but --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. We -- what has happened over the weekend is we have sent another request to the Iranian Government via the Swiss Embassy and that request asked the Iranian Government to give us a definitive answer or as definitive an answer as they can give us right now as to Mr. Levinson's whereabouts. After we've had an opportunity to go through the data or do some of our own due diligence, we're confident that he did travel to Kish Island in Iran and we are relatively confident that he did not leave Iran as far as we have been able to determine. So to the best of our knowledge he is in Iran. And we have given the Iranian Government what we think is a reasonable amount of time -- about a week -- to pulse their system and determine what his whereabouts might be. And so we have now sent a more formal request back through the Swiss Embassy to ask them that question: What have you found? And ask for a definitive answer back.

 

QUESTION: When you say that you're relatively confident that he didn't leave Iran and so thus he could probably be still in Iran, are you basing the fact that you think he's in Iran, based on the fact that you don't believe that he left or something that you believe places him in Iran recently?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we don't believe he's left. We haven't been able to find any --

 

QUESTION: But that's what makes you think he's still there.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. We haven't been able to determine or find any evidence that he left.

 

QUESTION: Okay. And when you send this more formal request or asking for information back to the Iranian Government, at what point would you ask the Iranians or the Swiss or perhaps with your help to launch a more formal -- is that what you did now or are you looking to launch a more formal investigation --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: We would have hoped that the formal request that we put into the Iranian Government a short time ago, a little over a week ago, would have been sufficient to launch a more formal investigation into the matter, as opposed to the previous request that we had with the Swiss Embassy just to see what they can determine about his whereabouts. That was in the month of March. So these are in fact formal requests. And so we're asking a formal answer back from the Iranian Government as to what they have found.

 

QUESTION: But right now you're just kind of asking them for any information that they had found. But at what point is not -- is a lack of sufficient information from the Iranians enough to ask the Swiss to kind of launch -- you know, you don't have any -- because you don't have any formal relations with Iran, generally, if you had an embassy in a country, your people would launch your own investigation as to what happened. And I think that it's probably more difficult in this case.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, regardless of the case, you know, we're a little bit more constrained by the fact that we're dealing with sovereign nations. And we are dependent upon the cooperation of the host nation in launching whatever investigation it is that gets launched. Now, that's in the best of circumstances where you have a good relationship with the local law enforcement or security authorities. In Iran, we are dependant on the Swiss and then furthermore the Iranians to look into where Mr. Levinson is and to make inquiries throughout their entire system as to what they may know about his whereabouts. As for next steps, we'll see what the answer is that we get back from the Iranian Government.

 

Yeah.

 

QUESTION: In your own due diligence, did that turn up what he was doing in Iran, who he was meeting?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: There are a number of reports. I've seen some of the news reports out there. I don't think at this point we can speak definitively as to what private business he was on. I think that's going to have to wait until Mr. Levinson gets back to the United States and he can explain exactly what sort of private business he was involved in.

 

QUESTION: Why do you think he's still -- why do you think he did not leave Iran? Because to leave Kish -- to go in and out of Kish you don't need a visa, so what evidence do you have that he didn't leave?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I guess the presumption is -- exactly that, you don't need a visa to go into Kish Island and presumably he would leave from Kish Island. He wouldn't travel elsewhere in Iran. We don't know that, but that's the presumption. And we have not been able to find any evidence that he retraced his steps in going in. So he didn't reverse his route out. And that's what leads us to the conclusion that he is Iran as far as we can tell.

 

QUESTION: And do you have any evidence at all to point to whether he's being held by some branch of the Iranian Government or some local authorities, the tourist police?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, we can't -- that's why we don't have any reliable information. That's why we're going back and asking the Iranians.

 

QUESTION: Do you still believe -- you believe he's on Kish still or do you think that he may have gone into Iran proper, mainland or whatever?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: We don't know. As far as we're able to tell he didn't -- you know, he didn't obtain a visa so that he means he would have been limited likely to Kish Island. He perhaps could have traveled to other locations in Iran. We don't know that. But as far as we can tell he hasn't exited. Again, we're --

 

QUESTION: Right.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: We're making a certain number of assumptions here that he would just retrace his steps on coming out.

 

QUESTION: I understand. But in response to when you first went to the Swiss with the request to the Iranians, the Iranians got back to you asking for more information.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

 

QUESTION: You gave them the information --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

 

QUESTION: -- and said can you tell us.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

 

QUESTION: Did -- at any point have they said that they issued him a visa to go to the -- onto the -- into Iran proper?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think we've gotten that piece of information.

 

QUESTION: But a visa --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Our folks in -- I'm trying to remember -- in Dubai did actually talk to him before he went into -- traveled to Kish Island.

 

QUESTION: I'm sorry, your folks -- you mean --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: In Dubai.

 

QUESTION: The U.S. Embassy in Dubai spoke to --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: The consulate, yeah.

 

QUESTION: -- Mr. Levinson before he left?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes,

 

QUESTION: So as far as --

 

QUESTION: And he told him he was going to -- they told them -- he told them he was going to Kish?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if he told them he was going to Kish Island. I don't know the extent of the conversation, but they did talk to him.

 

QUESTION: Why was he in contact with the Embassy to begin with? I mean, he was on private business. Most people don't just stop in at the Embassy.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: You can ask Mr. Levinson when he returns to the States.

 

QUESTION: He told them that he was going to Iran or not? Was that the purpose of his contact with the consulate?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know the extent of their conversations. I know that they did. I don't know what sort of detail they get into.

 

QUESTION: As far as you know, though, at this moment, the Iranians are not giving you any information at all. The only contact that you have had with them through the Swiss has been for them to ask for these questions. They haven't said we gave him a visa to go to the mainland or --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.

 

QUESTION: Okay.

 

QUESTION: And, Sean, you don't really know if he's dead or alive at this point? You have absolutely no information as to --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: We're looking forward to his being reunited with his family.

 

QUESTION: Just on the consulate -- just a clarification. Is it not the understanding that he went to talk to the consulate because he was going to?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas, I don't know.

 

QUESTION: Because Dubai is a watch post for Iran, so it would make sense --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Nicholas, I don't know why. I know that they had a conversation.

 

QUESTION: Right, because he --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Frankly, even if I did know the contents of the conversation, I wouldn't relay it here because I want to maintain a certain amount of privacy for him.

 

QUESTION: Right.

 

QUESTION: Basically, we've pretty much exhausted everything you have to say about --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Flagellum equus mortuus -- (laughter) -- yes.

 

QUESTION: Still Iran, but a different topic. They announced on Sunday, over the weekend at some point, that they were seeking bids for two more nuclear power plants.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

 

QUESTION: Is there anything the United States is doing, will do, could do to discourage specifics? And so it would be a commercial decision at some point by some European or Russian --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think at this point, given where Iran stands with respect to the rest of the international community and their nuclear programs, that any outside parties would have a healthy degree of skepticism as to Iran's true motives in seeking the construction of these two power plants. The Russian Government has made a decision at this point not to move forward with the completion of its contract on the Bushehr reactor. And the fact that Iran is now under two Chapter 7 resolutions, directly centered on its nuclear activities, I would think would give firms who are involved in the nuclear power plant business some pause in dealing with Iran on nuclear issues.

 

QUESTION: Is that against the -- the kind of nuclear power plant that they're looking to build, for firms to help them with that would that be against -- in violation of the UN Security Council resolution?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: There's a specific carve-out for Bushehr in the Security Council resolution. You know, I'd have to ask our lawyers and see whether or not, even at this early stage, even considering it in some way bumps up against Security Council resolutions.

 

QUESTION: If you could check --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I'll ask the lawyers.

 

QUESTION: Thank you.

 

QUESTION: I'm sorry, just to go back to the Levinson case.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

 

QUESTION: Are you satisfied that the Iranians, though, are cooperating fully with all of your requests or do you think that they are stalling and holding something back?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we think that -- we've given them a reasonable amount of time to check within their own system for any information on Mr. Levinson and that's why we're asking for an answer back. It's hard to get a view into their system how it works and what exactly they may or may not be doing. So at this point, I can't offer any insight other than it has been what we consider a reasonable amount of time for them to have done a good-faith search and develop information one way or the other about his whereabouts.

 

QUESTION: So you haven't decided whether they're stonewalling you or not?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I can only look at the outputs. I don't know what's going on within the Iranian system.

 

QUESTION: Because your relationship with Iran is pretty miserable, so one would assume that even when it comes to consular issues, you may have problems -- maybe not.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Sue, we'll see. This is somebody that, you know, we want to see reunited with his family and his family wants to see him back. And regardless of whatever political differences may exist between the United States and the Iranian Government, we wouldn't think that those differences would in any way impinge upon a good-faith search for an American citizen who may be on the territory of Iran.

 

QUESTION: Can we go to the situation in the Philippines?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

 

QUESTION: Is there any update there?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: No update for you.

 

QUESTION: That was quick.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

 

QUESTION: Move on to Iraq, please. Can I have a reaction to al Sadr pulling out his ministers?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. This is ultimately going to be a matter for the Iraqi Government to resolve how they configure their government, who's participating in it, who isn't. They -- I assume over a period of time, they will form different governing coalitions. The -- as far as I can tell, Sadr's party remains in the parliament and they will continue to participate in the debate about various issues like the hydrocarbon law, the finance law, the de-Baathification law. Just as a general statement, this is the time for all Iraqis who have an interest in a better and more stable, prosperous, secure Iraq to make every effort to work together to bridge differences. Whether they choose to do that from within the government or in the parliament is going to be a choice for them to make. But the Iraqi people voted for these representatives with the thought in mind that they would work on their behalf. And that's what the Iraqi people expect and that's the kind of thought in mind that these representatives should have when they're doing their work.

 

QUESTION: Still on Iraq, your -- some military commanders last week were saying that Iran is helping supply Sunni and Shia insurgents. What do you make of this?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: This is General Caldwell talking about the Iranian activities?

 

QUESTION: Yes.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I don't have much more information than he provided. But we have been for some time concerned about the activities of Iran, not only providing the material and the technology, but also some of the training to a variety of different groups. General Caldwell gave a pretty full briefing on it and don't really have much to add.

 

QUESTION: Why do you think they're doing this? Do you think they're just trying to promote chaos generally?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, you'd have to ask the leadership of the Iranian Government why -- why they have an interest in doing this. Certainly you can come up with a lot of different theories, but it's really only speculation. The one thing you can say is that it runs counter to their stated desire to have good, neighborly transparent relations with Iraq and play a positive role in Iraq's future. And that's certainly -- those kinds of activities don't enhance Iraq's stability. And in fact, you know, it only adds to the tensions that currently exist within Iraq.

 

QUESTION: Any updates on whether Iran will send representatives to this conference, the neighbors conference?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Don't know. Haven't heard. They're going to, I guess, RSVP to the Iraqis, not to us.

 

Yeah.

 

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the first phase of the Nigerian elections that took place over the weekend?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, there have been a number of reports that have raised questions about the conduct of the elections. There have been some incidents of violence. There have been some allegations of fraud or electoral misconduct. It's too early at this point to make a judgment about the validity of those claims. We haven't heard yet -- heard back yet from the various international NGOs and the European Union that are monitoring these elections. At the very least, however, these allegations do give one pause about the elections. And most certainly, these claims of electoral misconduct of other fraud need to be looked at and they need to be examined, according to Nigerian laws in a transparent manner in order to reassure the Nigerian people, as well as the international system that these elections did meet international standards.

 

Elise.

 

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Paul Wolfowitz. I know you said that this is an internal matter for the World Bank, but it seems to be becoming an international matter. And as you know, the board is of which the U.S., I believe, is a member, is that right?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Correct. And our representative is the Treasury Department.

 

QUESTION: Right. Right.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Secretary Paulson.

 

QUESTION: But given the fact that this is becoming an international matter, the United States is one of the largest donors to the bank and is also the nominating country of the president of the bank. Do you think it's possible, given the international kind of firestorm, for Mr. Wolfowitz to be able to lead the bank effectively and credibly?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: He said that he wants to continue in that mission and any sort of input we have to this process and considering his actions at the bank are really going to be led by the Department of Treasury and Secretary Paulson. They are the representatives to the World Bank, to the board.

 

QUESTION: Some people are -- still on this -- some people are saying that this isn't just about his stewardship at the bank. But more generally, it's about, this might be due to some lingering antagonism about his role in the Iraq war. What would you say to that?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I think you'd have to get a comment from people closer to the situation. I think by reading the newspapers clearly there's some tension within the bank. I can't tell you from where that springs. But that is -- it's a matter for the board to deal with. It's a matter for the World Bank leadership and President Wolfowitz to deal with.

 

QUESTION: Does the Secretary have any kind of official opinion on this?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't asked her about it. Let's move on here. Yes, ma'am.

 

QUESTION: Yes, Sean, switch the subject?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.

 

QUESTION: Beijing human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who was silent for eight months and recently revealed his current situation to his friend that he has been detained and kept in an iron chair for almost 600 hours, so is --the United States has anything to say about that?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're quite concerned about these allegations and this is a case that we have followed closely for some time, that we've raised at senior levels of the Chinese Government, and it's one that we're going to continue to follow very closely. But these most recent allegations are quite troubling and we are going to follow up on them.

 

QUESTION: It is reported that his daughter wants to seek asylum or help from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Do you have any --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: We don't comment on asylum cases.

 

QUESTION: Okay.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir.

 

QUESTION: This is about India-U.S. nuclear deal. Is it true that U.S. is not happy or in fact frustrated with the slow pace of things on Indian side especially?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have made great progress in, to this point, fundamentally changing the relationship between the United States and India on the issue of nuclear power. Those were tough negotiations. I think on both sides they would agree, however, that we came up with a good solution, an equitable solution.

 

Now, subsequent to those negotiations you had to have some other implementing steps that need to take place; for example, the negotiation of the so-called 123 Agreement which refers to the section of the Atomic Energy Act. Those negotiations are ongoing right now and our negotiators have, we think, put out some serious ways to come to a successful conclusion of the negotiations. I think we've outlined a pathway in order to achieve our mutual objective. And we'll see how the Indian Government reacts to that. There are currently discussions that are ongoing now and we'll see. I think we'll have a good idea in the not too distant future how the Indian Government is going to react to some of those suggestions and we'll have a good idea of how quickly we might be able to conclude the agreement, which is really going to be crucial to fully implementing the U.S.-India accord but also crucial to India realizing a different kind of relationship with the rest of the international system concerning peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

 

QUESTION: And there's one more question. There are some bits in the newspaper reports that there are some demands which U.S. is not happy with and they can make the whole deal can break.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a negotiation is about give and take, and we understand that. There are some areas that -- by which we are restricted under the law and I think the Indian Government needs to appreciate that. But we have sought to be flexible and we have sought to be a good negotiating partner, and I think the record will show that.

 

QUESTION: Thank you.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, ma'am, in the back.

 

QUESTION: On BDA. BDA issued a statement unhappy with the Treasury's final rule last month and they're asking for all the accountholders to regain access to international financial system. Have you seen this statement?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen it. I guess I'm not surprised that BDA is unhappy with the Treasury role inasmuch as it eliminates their ability to deal with the U.S. financial markets and therefore makes it very difficult for them to do business with the international financial system. I'm not aware of any changes in the intent of the Department of Treasury at this point regarding the rule.

 

QUESTION: And sorry, one more on North Korea. Ambassador Hill, as he left Beijing, mentioned that he had sent a message to the North Koreans through their Embassy in Beijing. Have you guys heard anything back from them?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of.

 

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) to do with BDA? Do you think this will affect your negotiations with North Koreans in any way?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Will it affect --

 

QUESTION: The -- I mean the BDA -- the ruling -- I'm sorry, BDA challenge would affect your negotiations with North Koreans in any way.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: In the six-party talks?

 

QUESTION: Yes.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we'll see. The ball is in their court. We are prepared to refocus our efforts and I expect that the other members of the six-party talks are ready to refocus their efforts on -- their efforts as well on the core issue at hand, and that is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We've made it clear that the BDA issue is resolved. We've gone the extra mile after implementing the Treasury rule in working with the parties to remove the obstacles for these accountholders. They can now access the accounts at the Banco Delta Asia. And any remaining issues are between North Korea and their bankers and it's for them to resolve.

 

Anything else on this?

 

QUESTION: Yes. IAEA said today they received no word from North Korea. Are you disappointed at that news or do you have any comment?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, of course we'd like to see the process move forward and we have said that -- as well as other members of the six-party talks that we are willing to give this issue some number of days to work out. The BDA issue was a lot more complicated than we expected and I think most people expected. So we want to show some flexibility in this, but certainly the patience of the six parties or the other five parties is not finite -- is finite, excuse me. It's not infinite. It is finite, not infinite. (Laughter.)

 

QUESTION: There was talk about the new deadline and I know what you've said about it, but the patience of the other five parties -- but what about your patience? I mean, yes, you've given them some days. You have said you'll be flexible. But a deadline came and went.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

 

QUESTION: There's no new deadline. So in your own Administration there are people who are very impatient about this, so how are you going to deal with this current -- as it currently stands?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that will be up to the President and the Secretary of State and the other senior members of the Administration to decide. Currently, where we are is we're going to give this process some time to work out. They don't have an infinite amount of time and the ball is in the court of the North Koreans. We would hope that they move it -- they move the process forward. In the meantime, they're not going to be able to see the 50,000 tons of fuel oil that they talked about. The South Korean Government has talked about the fact that they are going to hold up some shipments of rice to North Korea, and I think that sends a pretty strong message that North Korea will need to act in good faith in order to see good faith actions in return. That's the whole principle that underpins the six-party talks. And we'll see if that still holds. We'll have an idea in the coming days whether or not it does.

 

Matt.

 

QUESTION: New subject?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Go ahead.

 

QUESTION: Have you seen these reports out of France that French intelligence was aware of an al-Qaida plot to --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: I did. I read them. I'm not --

 

QUESTION: You don't have any --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information about it. I don't know if the 9/11 Commission had access to that information, or I can't even vouch for the validity of it.

 

QUESTION: Okay.

 

QUESTION: On the Consulate in Morocco --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

 

QUESTION: How long do you think that the Consulate will be closed? Is it indefinitely while pending this --

 

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I -- look, the current status is that it's closed to the public. There are personnel that are working there, essential personnel who are dealing with a lot of security related issues to make sure they have the proper security posture to protect people who work there and may be visiting at any given point in time. We have not yet been able to determine with Moroccan authorities exactly the target of these bombers. Some people have speculated that it may have been the consulate or it may have been an American center that is right near by. We can't confirm that. But the fact that the bombs did explode in relatively close proximity in the neighborhood of the consulate raises some real concerns and we want to make sure that we have the proper security posture with the American personnel, but also working with the Moroccan authorities.

 

QUESTION: Well, whether it was the consulate proper or an American center nearby, I mean, certainly it seems that American interests per se seem to have been targeted.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we can't say that. I know that there's been a lot of speculation about that, but we just don't know that as a fact. And the -- to this point, the results of the investigation have not led to that definitive conclusion. That said, of course, we're going to take into account the fact that these went off in the neighborhood. And I think it would be a real dereliction if we didn't take a look at our security posture and make sure that we were doing everything that we could to protect the people there.

 

Mr. Gollust.

 

QUESTION: Sean, the Zimbabwe Government said over the weekend that they canceled some sort of a USAID technical assistance program to the parliament suggesting that it was a vehicle for U.S. meddling in their legislative affairs. I wonder if you're aware of it.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: We're aware of it. It was one program under one of several USAID programs that are currently ongoing in Zimbabwe. It's just -- those allegations have absolutely no basis in fact. This is a program that is merely designed to help political parties learn how to build up their institutions, learn how to campaign in a contested electoral environment and that's really the focus of it. It's very similar to programs we have all around the world working with various political parties, working to build up democratic institutions in countries around the world.

 

Joel.

 

QUESTION: Sean, over the weekend, there have been reports as well as photographs and video of protests in Moscow against Vladimir Putin. And the reason for the protests are that many are saying that he stifled opposition. He's arrested, for instance, the directors of Yukos and also just bringing the whole country back to shades of the Cold War. What are you feelings concerning all this and is the Secretary concerned?

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what we are seeing over the past couple of weeks with Russian authorities breaking up sometimes with the use of violence, peaceful protests is disturbing. And at the very least, it's inconsistent with the Russian Government's stated democratic values. People need to be able to freely express their opinions. They need to be able to peacefully protest. They need to be able to fully participate in elections. That is at the heart of any democratic system. And the fact that the use -- there is an apparent attempt by the security services to stifle that freedom of expression, to stifle the ability of these opposition political parties to participate in that -- fully participate in that political process is disturbing. It was -- it's worth noting that just a day or two prior to the opposition protests in Moscow that were violently broken up that there was a pro-government political demonstration that was allowed to proceed unimpeded. These various political voices across the spectrum in Russia need to be heard from fully and equally.

 

QUESTION: Thank you.

 

MR. MCCORMACK: Thanks.

 

(The briefing was concluded at 1:16 p.m.)

 

DPB #66


Released on April 16, 2007

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