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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 18, 2007

INDEX:

PHILIPPINES

Death of Peace Corps Volunteer Julia Campbell / Effects on Peace Corps Operations

LIBYA

Deputy Secretary Negroponte’s Meetings

SUDAN

Possible UNSC Resolution on Sanctions
Assistant Secretary Silverberg’s Travel to South Africa
AU/UN Hybrid Force
Implementation of Darfur Peace Agreement
Ongoing Dialogue with the Chinese Government
NGOs Accusation that the U.S. is Acting Irresponsible
Responsibility for the Situation in Darfur

MIDDLE EAST

Arab Minister’s Working Groups / Dialogue with Israel
Encouraging Broader Dialogue between Arab States
Saudi Arabia’s Participation in Discussions
Secretary of Defense Gates Comments

IRAN

UNSC Resolutions
Efforts to Locate Missing American Citizen

IRAQ

Update on Today’s Violence
Possible Loss of Confidence by Iraqi People
Origins of Baghdad Security Plan
Regional Neighbor’s Conference

DEPARTMENT

Secretary Rice’s Involvement in Search for a new War Czar

NORTH KOREA

Transfer of Money from BDA Accounts
Reported Activity at Yongbyon

AUSTRALIA

Resettlement of Persons in Need of Protection


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:45 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. One brief opening statement for you and then a bit of housekeeping.

We are deeply saddened to learn that the body discovered yesterday in the Philippines was that of missing Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family at this very difficult time, as well as to her colleagues at the Peace Corps who have lost a fine colleague.

And one other bit of housekeeping regarding the Deputy Secretary's trip to Libya. I had talked to you earlier this morning about the fact that he had not met with the Libyan Foreign Minister. He had, in fact, met with the Libyan Foreign Minister, so I wanted to correct that for the record.

And with that, I can get into your questions.

QUESTION: Just to start with the Philippines situation, do you have any information -- the Embassy there, have you heard from them about a possible cause or what exactly happened to her?

MR. MCCORMACK: We haven't yet. That has not been finally determined. I know there is an ongoing investigation. We're working very well with the Philippine authorities. They're taking this case quite seriously. And we are going to work with them until we are able to get to the bottom of this and get all of those answers for Julia's family.

QUESTION: All right. And is this going to have any effect on the Peace Corps operations or programs?

MR. MCCORMACK: Check with the Peace Corps. Obviously, in these kinds of circumstances, I'm sure that they do a review to make sure that they take all the appropriate precautions that they can. These people are out living beyond the cities, living in some places where they face a variety of different threats, and they're fully aware of all of those. But that said, I'm sure the Peace Corps is going to take a look at any other steps they might take. But you should check with them.

QUESTION: All right. You mentioned various threats, though. Is there any reason to believe -- do you have any reason to believe this might not be -- it might not have been an accident?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, that's just a general statement about the fact that these people are living in some places that are really quite undeveloped.

QUESTION: And I haven't seen yet -- or if there is one, but do you know if the Embassy put out a Warden Message or anything?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware that they have.

Libby.

QUESTION: Change of topic? On Sudan.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: I know the President mentioned a draft resolution, a resolution for sanctions if Bashir doesn't act. Tony Blair said that discussions could begin tomorrow. Is that your understanding as well?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is going to be a joint effort between the U.S. and the UK and we have already had discussions between our two countries about what might be in such a resolution. There are going to be ongoing diplomatic discussions that get launched as early as tomorrow; for example, Assistant Secretary Kristen Silverberg, who is responsible for International Organization Affairs, is going to be traveling to South Africa, who holds presidency of the Security Council through the end of this month. And that kind of diplomatic interaction is going to be replicated all around the globe with the thought in mind that we may well have to act on a Security Council resolution.

Everybody hopes that it doesn't get to that point and President Bush made it very clear that President Bashir does have some time. He has weeks. He has weeks in order to fully meet the commitments that he signed on to in Addis Ababa and we are going give Secretary General Ban some time to work with the Sudanese authorities as well as others in the hope that they will follow through on those commitments because it's absolutely critical that that AU/UN hybrid force get into Darfur. We talked a little bit over the past few days about the importance of that and how that will help stabilize the situation and will help allow humanitarian workers to do their job, to bring some relief to the people in that region, and ultimately help provide an environment where you can move forward in implementing the Darfur Peace Agreement. So you're not going to have an end to the large-scale violence and the humanitarian catastrophe that we've witnessed in Darfur until you have implementation of that political settlement.

QUESTION: Where do you stand in securing troop commitments for -- you know, if Bashir said tomorrow I'll accept this force?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's been slow going and there has -- the response from the international community in that regard up until this point has not been heartening, but that is not entirely the fault of these potential individual donor states. President Bashir has, through his unwillingness to state clearly in public that the Sudanese Government would allow in these forces, even for the heavy support package, has been a stumbling block for these countries who might possibly pledge troops. The bottom line is they don't want to go into a non-permissive environment. I think everybody understands that.

So it is -- it ultimately comes back to President Bashir and the Sudanese Government clearly stating that they accept all three phases of the Addis Ababa agreement and acting on those words, as the President made clear just today.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up about one aspect of President Bashir? Do you think that he's going out of his way to discourage countries from contributing because several months ago there was kind of --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure, Anne.

QUESTION: -- feeling that he was purposely going out of his way to, you know, threaten or, you know, make it clear to countries that it's best that they not --

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I can't speak out of firsthand knowledge of any steps that they may have taken. But at the very least, the fact that they have made it very clear that the Sudanese Government wouldn't allow or welcome in these forces is a clear message to those potential donor countries. It's a clear message to them that they would be sending their troops into an uncertain situation and they understand in many places the difficulties that that might raise in the minds of decision-makers. So a clear, unambiguous set of statements and actions on the part of the Sudanese Government is what's needed. And we believe that that would also have a follow-on effect of helping to generate the necessary forces for the AU hybrid force. We're talking, you know, upwards of 13,000 more troops that will be needed.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Are you expecting difficulty getting this passed in the UN? Do you have the support from China for these sanctions and is Kristen Silverberg's trip to South Africa an indication that the South Africans will not be completely on board?

MR. MCCORMACK: I expect that we're going to be talking to all the members of the Security Council. And we expect that in the absence of action by the Sudanese Government that it would be very difficult for members of the Security Council, given the humanitarian catastrophe that is ongoing in Sudan, to vote against such a resolution. And the whole object of this exercise is to get the Sudanese Government to change their behavior. It would be unfortunate that we all got to the point of punitive diplomatic measures. Nobody wants that. But certainly, the ongoing circumstances in Darfur would dictate and really require that kind of action and response by the international system.

QUESTION: Have you received any assurances from the Chinese that they would go along with what President Bush was talking about this morning?

MR. MCCORMACK: Kirit, I can't tell you exactly what the Chinese response will be to the President's remarks. They have recently sent an envoy to Sudan in which they appear to have stepped up the pressure on the Sudanese Government. We're going to need to see more of those kinds of actions not only from the Chinese Government, but from other governments.

QUESTION: And you have been in contact with them leading up to this, though?

MR. MCCORMACK: The Chinese Government? We have a regular dialogue on this matter with the Chinese Government. Recently, Andrew Natsios was in China talking about this, but we -- and I know Deputy Secretary Negroponte has also been in touch with Chinese interlocutors prior to his trip. So there's an ongoing dialogue with the Chinese. They potentially could be a key player in convincing the Sudanese Government to change their position.

Yeah, Nicholas.

QUESTION: Is the resolution the only item on Kristen's agenda when she goes down to South Africa or is it a broader set of meetings connected to the --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, it's going to be tightly focused on this.

QUESTION: And it is not a regular practice that the Assistant Secretary would visit the president of the Security Council every month, right? This is not something that's usually done?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, what it -- typically, when you have new members come on to the Council, she'll make a tour.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, right, exactly. She'll make a tour. No, this is designed to send a clear message of the seriousness of our intent in trying -- doing our part to make the diplomacy work, but it's going to require more than just us.

Yeah, David.

QUESTION: You said that Bashir had weeks to honor his commitments.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.

QUESTION: Could you just elaborate on that a bit?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think -- I'm not going to get into setting hard and fast deadlines, but we are talking about a matter of weeks that President Bashir would have to act as -- in a way that was described by President Bush today?

QUESTION: Well, why are you giving him so much time? It seems to me this has been going on for --

MR. MCCORMACK: It has been and President Bush made clear this afternoon -- or this morning that this was, in part, due to Secretary General Ban's call for more time to work the diplomacy. And we think -- Secretary Rice had a couple of conversations with him. She had one with him yesterday afternoon as well as --

QUESTION: With who, with Ban?

MR. MCCORMACK: With Ban Ki-Moon, yes, and then one again this morning to talk about this. And it was his position that the Sudanese Government had taken a step with the approval of the heavy support package and that perhaps, diplomacy -- further diplomacy should be explored to see if the Sudanese Government would, in fact, agree to the full phase-three deployment of the hybrid force. We'll see. Let's be honest here that the Sudanese Government to date has not demonstrated that it is going to meet its commitments under the Addis agreement to the full deployment of the AU/UN hybrid force. We would certainly hope that's the case.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: All would hope that's the case, so we are going to allow some more time. But as I said the time's limited and it's limited to a matter of weeks.

QUESTION: And you're comfortable with that position knowing that within weeks -- I mean, that people are suffering and dying and continuing to be displaced, you are comfortable with allowing another couple of weeks?

MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, we've been at the forefront of bringing world attention to this issue and trying to rally the resources of the international community to address the issues of Darfur. Deputy Secretary Zoellick was tireless in his efforts to try to negotiate a Darfur Peace Agreement. We all would have liked to have seen this issue resolved, the humanitarian catastrophe, the humanitarian crisis, end in Darfur years ago. We all would have hoped for that. That is not the situation with which we are dealing right now. So that's where we are and we're going to do the things that we think will help us best achieve everybody's shared goals.

QUESTION: Okay. I don't know if the White House has already spoken to this. But this morning you mentioned that Deputy Secretary -- the current Deputy Secretary Negroponte -- has spoken with the President directly --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- about Darfur and that his --

MR. MCCORMACK: He did.

QUESTION: Do you -- I don't know if they've already talked about it, but do you have anything? Do you know what his impressions were from his talks with Bashir and the other government officials there or -- and the rest of the principals?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if the White House has talked about it or not. But I -- look, this is a conversation between the Deputy Secretary and the President. Far be it for me to start to get into what he relayed to him. But it was an important factor in the President's speech, I believe, in really demanding that President Bashir not just make verbal commitments but actually demonstrate action.

QUESTION: The readout that the President got from Negroponte was --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- important.

MR. MCCORMACK: That we need to see action.

QUESTION: Sean, I know you guys, you know, want to give it a little more time. Ban Ki-moon wants the diplomacy to play out.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: But is it your judgment that Bashir is stalling on this? I mean, did Negroponte come out of those meetings and say he's not serious about this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's just put it this way. You have a verbal commitment to part of what the Sudanese Government had previously said it would do. That verbal commitment is untested and the Sudanese Government has to this point not demonstrated that it is going to follow through on those verbal commitments. We shall see in the coming weeks whether or not they do, not only on the heavy support package portion of the agreement but also the most critical part of that. And that is agreeing to all the conditions that will allow an AU/UN hybrid force to be effective in Darfur.

QUESTION: So -- I know Ban Ki-Moon said it was a very positive signal that he had agreed to at least a small number of UN peacekeepers. Do you guys see it that way or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we want to see action.

QUESTION: Sean, these deliberations that you're talking about -- about the UN Security Council, is it your goal to have a UN Security Council resolution ready to go at which point if you decide that these weeks are up you can vote on it right away. Or do you anticipate that deliberations will go beyond those?

MR. MCCORMACK: In the absence of action, it would be our view that the international community should move with some dispatch, move quickly. So the idea would be to move as quickly as we could to get agreement on a resolution in the event that we would need to vote on such a resolution.

Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: Groups like Save Darfur Coalition, they held a big rally today -- seem to always point the finger of blame squarely on the U.S. Do you think this is fair? And if not, who does bear responsibility? Is it the UN, the AU?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we're not going to duck our responsibility as a leading member in the -- of the international community. Absolutely not. We are standing up and saying this is a problem that needs to be addressed. It needs to be resolved. So I think we are acting in a responsible manner.

All of that said, we cannot do this ourselves. The Sudanese Government has proved itself intransigent on this issue, so we have taken the approach of trying to rally the international community to this issue to convince the Sudanese Government it needs to change its behavior, to rally the resources in order to affect a real solution in Darfur. That has taken longer than anybody would have liked.

So this is yet again an attempt by the President to push the issue forward and to demonstrate U.S. leadership.

QUESTION: So ultimately, you're saying it's the world's problem and it has to be --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think this is -- you have -- you have a humanitarian tragedy of this scope, this -- what we have called genocide. That's the world's problem. And that isn't to say the United States is in any way shirking its responsibility or wants to slough off its responsibilities as a member of the international system. Absolutely not. But this is humanity's problem.

Yeah, Michel. Anything else on this? Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, this group Save Darfur Coalition intends to picket the Fidelity building on April 25th for disinvestment of monies to the Sudan. Do you recommend that? And also, there'll be further rallies such as in front of the White House on April 29th.

MR. MCCORMACK: Joel, it's not for the government to dictate what private organizations involved in a legitimate part of the public discourse about an important issue should do or not do. It's for them to determine.

Yeah, okay. Anything else on Sudan/Darfur? Okay. Michel.

QUESTION: Arab ministers have formed a working group today consisting from Egypt, Jordan and Palestinians to contact Israel to try to persuade it in the Arab peace initiative. This delegation will visit Israel soon. Do you have any reaction on this issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: It would be a start. And the Arab League has talked about the fact that they would reach out to the Government of Israel and that they would form these working groups, so it's a start. Certainly, we would like to see a broader dialogue between neighbors in the region of issues of mutual concern. The pace of that dialogue is going to be one for the two parties to determine themselves. We can encourage them along, and we have been and will continue to do so.

So we say all that with the thought in mind that this could be -- this would be a first step in that kind of dialogue.

QUESTION: When you say that you'd like to see a broader dialogue, do you mean broader than simply these groups that already have relations with Israel, or is this the broader thing you'd like to see?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we've talked about for some time about the fact that, of course, we would like to see an initiative in which there were more participants in some form of direct dialogue discussion with Israel. We've talked about the fact that you have the whole spectrum of kinds of relationships between Arab states and Israel, going all the way from full diplomatic relations -- countries like Egypt and Jordan -- all the way to other groups of countries which have absolutely no contact or diplomatic relations with Israel whatsoever.

You want to get to the point where you start expanding out that group of countries that can have some form of diplomatic interaction with Israel. So we would view this as a first step in that regard and we would encourage that it expand. It is going to have to expand at a pace that is comfortable for both sides. Secretary Rice has made it very clear that just as Israel and the Palestinians need to work on day-to-day very practical issues regarding that sort of tension and friction between Israelis and Palestinians, you also need to have what she refers to as a political horizon as well.

The same -- you can make the same case on the other side between Israel and Arab states that it would be an important part of this process in trying to bring peace to the Middle East in which you have some form of political horizon for Israel with Arab states. Now the Arab League has come up with its own initiative and we have commented that that is a positive thing. It's their initiative. And perhaps that initiative, the re-launch of that initiative can serve as a starting point for discussion and that's how we would view this effort.

QUESTION: You just pointed at some of the -- you said the Gulf states who have the kind of nominal relations, trade ties with Israel that aren't -- weren't included in this?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know. Well, the --

QUESTION: I mean, the Mauritanians who I believe have diplomatic relations and where you have a very senior person today --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Look, ultimately, that's going to be -- that's going to have to be their decision. We have encouraged as wide and thorough participation as we could among the Arab states in these working groups. So we would hope that this is just a step and that you would actually see the expansion over time of the membership of these working groups, as well as an increase in the intensity of the kind of discussions that they might have. But you know, this is a first step.

QUESTION: Did you ask or suggest to any of these countries with -- that are not at virtual war with Israel --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- that have some contact to --

MR. MCCORMACK: We have encouraged contact. But ultimately, we have left it to them to make the decision about how they would participate in this working group and what kinds of contact they might have.

Yeah, Michel.

QUESTION: Are you expecting that Saudi Arabia will be in this delegation?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, that's -- you know, that's really something for the Saudi Government to decide. I would note that it was the re-launch of this initiative of the former Crown Prince, now King Abdullah's previous initiative took place at the Arab League Summit in Riyadh. And that, I think, was an important signal, but the pace of any sort of engagement between Saudi officials, Saudi Arabia and Israel is going to have to be a decision for both of those parties to make.

Charlie.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) today in Israel, I believe, Secretary of Defense Gates made some comments about some -- seeing some forward movement or said something to the effect that the diplomacy is working with Iran and the nuclear issue. I mean, are you aware of those comments? Do you agree with those comments? And can you tell us why you think it is?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen his comments, Charlie. You know, I'm not going to try to interpret them for you. I can tell you that in our view the diplomacy has moved forward in the sense that you -- if you turn back the clock to 2005, the United States found itself in a position of being relatively isolated on the issue of Iran and its nuclear program. We don't have -- when we looked around, there weren't too many people standing to either side of us, telling Iran that it has to meet the conditions of stopping their enrichment and actually get into negotiations so that they can realize a peaceful nuclear program and not a nuclear weapons program. The Europeans were -- came onboard early on in that regard.

But now we have gotten to a point where we have a -- two 15-0 Security Council resolutions, Chapter 7 resolutions that have made it quite clear to Iran that their behavior is unacceptable, that they need to take up the P-5+1 on their offer of negotiations and that you have had strong support in the IAEA Board of Governors, including among -- including from those states that count themselves as members of the Non-Aligned Movement. So in that sense, absolutely, the diplomacy has moved forward and in that sense, it has worked. Now, have we gotten to the point where Iran is stopping its enrichment-related activities? No, we haven't. But we are hopeful that the diplomatic strategy that we're pursuing of gradually increasing pressure on the Iranian Government to get them to change their behavior will yield positive results. And by that I mean actually getting them to the negotiating table under the conditions the international community has set out. We're not there yet.

QUESTION: Sean, on Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you enlighten us a little bit further as you said you would try to do about the new outreach on Mr. Levinson?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. I don't have numbers for you. I'll try to get those for you guys this afternoon. We'll post an answer for you. But just to recap a little bit, we have -- we have not yet heard from the Iranian Government regarding our request about Mr. Levinson and his whereabouts. We put in a request over the weekend, you know, reiterated our request for information about his whereabouts. We have not yet heard back from them. We think that they've had sufficient time to pulse their system, look everywhere that they need to look, talk to all the people that they need to talk to in their system and come up with an answer.

So as a result of that, we're going to continue pursuing that track. But we are also going to try to work with other states who might have some diplomatic entrée to the Iranian Government add their resources, all the resources to make inquiries with the Iranian Government or Iranian officials to try to determine Mr. Levinson's whereabouts. We're going to start that effort today and I'll try to get you some more information as to, you know, sort of the numbers of states that are going to participate in --

QUESTION: And which ones would be nice, too, if you can.

MR. MCCORMACK: If we can at this point, we'll certainly try to provide those for you.

Yeah, Libby.

QUESTION: Sean, on Iraq. It was a very bloody day there today.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on numbers as far as the U.S. Government knows and any reaction to the violence?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, it was just an absolutely horrible series of attacks. I don't have specific numbers for you. We'll try to get those for you. But the latest that I have seen is over a hundred dead, over a hundred wounded, well over. And it's just terrible I understand to watch that. It is quite clear that these attacks are perpetrated by individuals who don't want to see Iraq make any progress and they are designed to try to exacerbate an already tense situation among various sects in Iraq and in Baghdad and that -- you can talk to the military folks, but I expect that they would tell you that this is also a reaction against the joint efforts of the multinational forces and the Iraqi security forces to try to implement the Baghdad security plan, bring a greater sense of order to Baghdad and a greater sense of security to the Iraqi people. Those efforts will continue.

I expect that we will see continuing attempts on the part of those who want to derail that -- those efforts in the future and you will see future spectacular attacks such as this in which there's large-scale loss of life. We don't accept that as a continuing condition and we are going to do everything we can, working with the Iraqis, to try to prevent them. But it is a very difficult security environment in Iraq now.

QUESTION: To what extent does it worry you -- I know you said and the Secretary said that this is early on in the process.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: But to what extent does it worry that the Iraqi people will continue to lose confidence in, you know, the U.S. -- you know, given that these bombings keep going on despite the surge?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they as well as others need to understand that you still have the flow of inputs to the Baghdad security plan ongoing now. That all of the resources are not yet in place, that those resources will continue to be put in place over the course of the next months. The Pentagon can fill you in on the exact timetables. I don't have those right now.

One of the origins of the Baghdad security plan, or the point to which you can trace this effort back to I think pretty directly, is Prime Minister Maliki's meeting with President Bush in Jordan in which he brought to the President the outlines of a potential plan and he said this is a starting point; we'd like to get your thoughts on it and work together with you on it. And he understood at that moment that it was important that the Iraqi people felt a greater sense of security in their country, but most especially in Baghdad where you had the greatest potential for sectarian tensions. And it was very important to address that -- those tensions at that moment, because they had been steadily increasing over the year 2006.

So the Iraqi people should understand that the Baghdad security plan is an attempt to act on the desire of the -- desires of the Iraqi people to see a more stable, secure, prosperous Iraq and to see their government working on their behalf. And we want to try to help the Iraqi Government do that, as it's going to be important for Iraq's future that people build confidence in Iraqi institutions, that they have faith in them.

Yeah, Elise.

QUESTION: Do you expect Ambassador Crocker to take the same kind of hands-on approach in trying to help forge a political settlement that Ambassador Khalilzad did? Or do you think that now that you're having this regional neighbors' conference, it'll take more of kind of an international dimension?

MR. MCCORMACK: Ryan's going to have his own style. I don't expect he's going to be any less involved in encouraging the Iraqis to work on those political benchmarks that they have laid out for themselves: implementation of the hydrocarbon law and the associated revenue-sharing, action on a de-Baathification law, as well as work on a budget. I expect that he will continue to be very much involved in efforts to encourage the Iraqis to come to the political accommodations that they need to in order to pass that legislation. But ultimately, it's going to be up to the Iraqis to pass that legislation, to cut the political deals that they think they need to cut.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: One more on this. I don't know if you talked about this idea of the war czar for Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't know if you've addressed that here, but --

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, right -- no.

QUESTION: I'm wondering what the State Department role is as -- trying to find somebody. Is Secretary Rice part of the process of interviewing or talking to people?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. You know, I haven't asked her about it, so let me ask her. I know that there's been -- the White House has talked a little bit about the fact that they're looking for a person to replace Meghan O'Sullivan, who's going to be leaving at some point in the next couple months. Let me talk to her about it. I'll ask her. I just -- it hasn't come up.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Going back to your housecleaning item, can you give us, to the best of your ability and knowledge, a run-down of what the Deputy Secretary discussed with the Libyan Foreign Minister that was not Darfur-related?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have -- he did a little availability with the press in there and we're going to try to get the transcript of that out for you. He did address and bring up some bilateral issues between the United States and Libya that are outstanding, specifically the importance of the Libyan Government coming to agreement with the families and victims of the Pan Am 103 bombings as well as the La Belle disco bombings.

He also urged them to resolve the issue of the Bulgarian nurses and medics as an outstanding issue and important to really continuing the work of a changed relationship between Libya and the outside -- and the rest of the world.

Anything else?

QUESTION: I have one more.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. We have one more back here. Yes.

QUESTION: Quickly on North Korea, the Treasury ruling on BDA came into effect today. How do you think this might impact the bigger picture of the six-party talks, given the criticisms that the other parties have made and the fact that the North Koreans haven't transferred the money yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, again, the issue of gaining access to the accounts and transferring any funds is an issue between the North Korean account holders and their bankers in Macau. We have done everything that we need to do in order to fill our obligations under the February 13th agreement. I know that there's been some misunderstanding of that, but let's be clear. The United States has done what it needs to do and more under the February 13th agreement and the ball is the North Koreans' court with regard to BDA and access to those accounts.

QUESTION: Sean, are you aware of an agreement that was signed apparently today between you guys and the Australians on refugees? And if you are, do you have any brief comment you would like to --

MR. MCCORMACK: There is no formal agreement between the United States and Australia. There is an informal arrangement for mutual assistance that provides that each will consider resettlement of people interdicted at sea and found to be in need of international protection. The arrangement does not create legal obligations. In the spirit of our humanitarian -- mutual humanitarian traditions and commitment to assist individuals in need of international protection, the U.S. and Australia are willing to consider resettling up to 200 individuals in a calendar year referred by the other country under this arrangement.

The United States and Australia will each consider individuals for resettlement in accordance with our own regulations and procedures respectively. These may include individual interviews and security background checks. No referrals have been accepted by either country at this time. The arrangement does not call for an exchange or a swap of individuals and no person is referred -- who is referred would be forced to accept a resettlement.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas.

QUESTION: Still on North Korea. The South Korean intelligence service was quoted as confirming today that there has been some activity in Yongbyon. I know that yesterday you couldn't -- you said that you weren't aware of anything, but have they shared anything with you?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, what I said yesterday is what I'll say again today, and that is that we haven't received any formal notification from North Korea that they have taken steps to shut down and seal Yongbyon. Beyond that, any discussion of what may or may not be happening there would involve discussion of intelligence-related materials, and that's not something I can do.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:18 p.m.)

DPB # 68


Released on April 18, 2007

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