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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 20, 2007

INDEX:

IRAQ / EGYPT

Secretary’s Travel to Sharm El Sheikh for the launch of the International Compact with Iraq and the Expanded Neighbors of Iraq ministerial
Whether she will meet With Iranian or Syrian Foreign Minister

IRAN

Nothing New to Report on Missing American Citizen

GERMANY

Warden Message Issued / Security Threat

NIGERIA

Elections

IRAQ

Senator Reid’s Comments on Secretary Rice’s Support for U.S. Policy

INDIA

Foreign Secretary Menon’s Upcoming Visit / Will Meet with Under Secretary Burns
Ongoing Negotiations on Civil Nuclear Agreement / Discussions in Cape Town
India’s Relationship with Iran

CZECH REPUBLIC

Secretary Rice’s Meeting with Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg / Missile Defense Plan
Importance of Working with Russia on Issue of Missile Defense

IRAN / AFGHANISTAN

Iranian Arms Found in Afghanistan / U.S. Concerns

NORTH KOREA

BDA Fund Issues

COLOMBIA

U.S Assistance / Concerns that Aid is Focused too Much on Military Assistance

SUDAN / LIBYA / MAURITANIA

Deputy Secretary Negroponte’s Trip

DEPARTMENT

Responsiveness to Congressman Waxman’s Questions / Possible Congressional Subpoena
Secretary Rice’s Record of Working with Congress

MISCELLANEOUS

Foreign Students Coming to the U.S. in Light of Virginia Tech Tragedy


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:37 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: One quick announcement for you, just an official announcement of the Secretary's travel to Egypt for the upcoming International Compact with Iraq and expanded neighbors meeting. She'll leave for Sharm el-Sheikh and be there for meetings May 1st through the 4th, depart on the 1st, back on the 4th. She's also going to have a bilateral agenda while she's there. We'll keep you up to date on those as the schedule develops. It's not settled yet.

That's about it in terms of opening stuff. We can get right into your questions.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary have any plans to meet the Iranian Foreign Minister while she's there?

MR. MCCORMACK: First of all, I don't know if he'll be there. I'm not sure he's RSVP'd to the Iraqis at this point. Whether or not he goes is going to be up to him. Same answer as for the envoys level meeting; I'm not going to rule out any particular diplomatic interaction, I'm not going to point you in the direction of any particular meeting with the Iranians or the Syrians. You know, she -- obviously, the Secretary has latitude to choose targets of opportunity if she feels as though something presents itself, but I'm not going to point you in the direction of anything in particular.

QUESTION: Targets of opportunity? That's an interesting phrase for talking about the Iranian Foreign Minister.

MR. MCCORMACK: I also mentioned the Syrian Foreign Minister as well.

QUESTION: On Iran, unless there's anything more on this trip. No? I take it that there's nothing yet back from the Iranians again or anything through your extended contacts.

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new to report.

QUESTION: Is there anything more you can tell us about this security threat in Germany?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm constrained in terms of specificity of the kind of threat, but suffice it to say it is serious enough and credible enough that we believe that we were obliged to put out the Warden message warning Americans in Germany to be vigilant and exercise extra caution. Our Embassy will, of course, take the steps that it deems appropriate to meet a heightened security threat situation. But beyond that, I don't really have much more information for you.

QUESTION: And this applies to not just the Embassy in Berlin, right --

MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.

QUESTION: -- but to all diplomatic missions there?

MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.

QUESTION: How many -- there are five?

MR. MCCORMACK: American presences in Germany, right.

QUESTION: Do you know how many there are?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can get it for you. I don't know.

QUESTION: And you said it is serious and it is credible enough. Does that mean there was a single specific piece of information that they were operating on?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you, Matt. I don't know whether it's a single piece or whether or not it's something that is out there that was corroborated by other information they received either contemporaneously or prior. You know, so I can't tell you.

QUESTION: I just want to figure out -- which -- is it -- should the word "threat" be plural or is it just singular?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, regardless of how many different reporting streams you have coming in, it constitutes a threat. And it's a threat seriously -- serious enough so that we think we have to take steps to protect our personnel but also to make those announcements publicly to urge others extra caution and vigilance.

QUESTION: Right now it's late Friday afternoon, if not already evening there, so I assume that nothing was closed down.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: And on Monday, does that depend on a review of the security posture and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Our guys will take whatever steps they think are necessary. At this point I haven't heard anybody talking about that.

David.

QUESTION: New topic? You spoke earlier this week about hoping you'd see some activities in Nigeria to improve the electoral situation between the two rounds of elections.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And they're voting tomorrow. Have you seen signs of the kinds of actions you would have liked to see ahead of that? I know that the President has been speaking quite a lot about this.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. At this point, I think it's too early to tell, David. I'm not going to offer an assessment right now. We're going to have for you, obviously, a reaction after the elections take place about the electoral process as well as how the votes are counted. We haven't had a report back from IRI or NDI or any of the other international organizations there. There have been sporadic reports about irregularities in the vote and we take those seriously -- in the previously election. We take those seriously.

We would expect the Nigerian authorities would take every step that they possibly could to rectify any of those problems that occurred in the previous election. We've talked about the fact that this is an important election for Nigeria -- it would be the first civilian transfer of power -- but also an important election for Africa. Nigeria is a leading state in Africa because of its history, its population, and its control of resources. So we would hope that the Nigerian authorities -- not only for the Nigerian people, but also for the continent, would take every step that they possibly could to smooth out any problems that may exist in the election system so you have a free, fair, transparent election such that the results reflect the will of the Nigerian people.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Sean, Senator Reid made some interesting comments in which he apparently said that -- well, no, he didn't apparently say, he did say that the Secretary of State was among several senior officials in the governmental cabinet level of people who knew that the war in Iraq was lost. Has the Secretary told him of her thinking on this? Is he -- is that, in fact, her thinking?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, thanks -- first of all, thanks for allowing at least me to correct the record here. Senator Reid is a legislator. He should stick to that and not try to be a mind-reader. The Secretary has, in no way, conveyed any such idea to Senator Reid or anybody else. Secretary Rice would never countenance continuing to send young American men and women to Iraq in pursuit of a strategy that she didn't think had a chance of success. She would never continue to commit resources to a strategy that she thought wouldn't work. So to suggest otherwise is just flat untrue.

QUESTION: Has there been any contact with -- between her and the Senator on this that you're aware of?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. Not that I know of, no.

QUESTION: Do you have -- and you're not aware of any conversation that she might have had with him in which -- that would have led him to come to this?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, absolutely not.

George.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on Secretary Burns' visit to India forthcoming? And I understand the Indian Foreign Secretary is due here as well.

MR. MCCORMACK: That's right. Foreign Secretary Menon plan -- has planned to come here for some time next Monday and Tuesday.* He's going to meet with Nick. They're going to talk broadly about U.S.-India relations, but most specifically, they're going to discuss the India civil nuclear deal, the state of the negotiations, and say that there's probably some frustration on the part of the Administration as well as the Congress on the pace of these negotiations. Nobody is questioning the Indian Government's goodwill and good faith in this regard and it's a useful opportunity to bump up the level of discussions to take stock of where we are right now, so you have essentially a political-level discussion as opposed to just the experts-level discussion and they're going to explore ways that we can energize the discussion so that we can get this done.

We still have faith that we're going to be able to get this agreement done and we believe that the Indian Government is committed to that, but we're at a stage in these particular negotiations where we think we need to raise the level of dialogue to a political level in order to move it forward.

QUESTION: Sean, could you turn to -- jump the one step further? You said there is probably some frustration on the --

MR. MCCORMACK: There is frustration, yes. There is.

QUESTION: And how much frustration would that be?

MR. MCCORMACK: You want to get the frustration meter?

QUESTION: The level, yeah. I mean, obviously, you said you don't believe that all hope is lost, but --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I wouldn't put it quite as that -- you know, in fact, I would put it in the positive. I would say that we believe that these negotiations will ultimately yield an agreement that will allow us to move forward and fully implement the deal previously.

QUESTION: Can you talk about what the cause of your frustration is?

MR. MCCORMACK: There -- well, I don't want to get into specific issues because it's a negotiation, but the Indian Government has raised a series of issues in these negotiations concerning our laws and -- you know, suggesting solutions that would require us to change our laws and we just -- we're not going to do that, we can't do that. So we would suggest that we set aside that group of issues and let's focus on areas where the two governments can negotiate and come to agreement.

And it's -- it has been our suggested tactic that we focus on defining what is that -- what are those baskets of issues, what are the basket of issues that would require changes to the U.S. law and put those aside. Let's define and work on those issues that we can actually negotiate on that would necessitate changes to law. We've already passed legislation and this is -- this would require -- this is an implementing agreement that itself would also have to be approved by the Congress, but we're not willing to consider at this point any further changes to our laws.

QUESTION: The past couple of days, you've been asked about this, you or your surrogates have been asked about this. And I wanted to at least, to the best of my recollection -- you know, long -- as far as you have today --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Talking about the frustration, what's the issue? Has something changed over the course of -- since Monday that now --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's why you ask -- that's why you get to ask the questions every single day, Matt, and write stories every single day.

QUESTION: But has something changed that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well --

QUESTION: I mean, have they -- have you told them, "Look, we're not going to change our law, just drop this, it's a dead end," and they have not taken that hint?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we had -- we -- it's a good question, it deserves a fair answer. And there were a series of discussions at the expert level in Cape Town and those discussions moved forward, but they didn't yield -- quite yield the results that we had hoped for. So we're going to take this up to a higher -- take the opportunity of Foreign Secretary Menon's visit here to the United States to have a political-level dialogue.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Why were they in Cape Town? Because the --

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you. You know, Sue, I can't tell you. I don't know. Maybe they like the hotels there. I don't know.

QUESTION: That could be it. Are you going to start setting a deadline for --

MR. MCCORMACK: Halfway -- I mean, it probably has more to do with the travel, I assume.

QUESTION: Are you going to start looking at a deadline or realistic timelines as to when you can get closure on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we hope to move it forward as quickly as we possibly can, but there are certain realities of the legislative calendar here and certain realities. This Administration has about 20 months left in office, so we would very much like to conclude this agreement in the Bush Administration. President Bush has been responsible for fundamentally changing the -- at least on the U.S. side, the U.S.-India relationship.

QUESTION: You'll give them as long as -- what is it?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you. You know --

QUESTION: Twenty months?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we'd like to have it done well before then.

QUESTION: Sixty days?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, yeah, I'd like to have it done well before then.

Goyal, I suspect you want to follow up on this.

QUESTION: Yeah. Sean, thanks. Sean, one, the U.S. Congress has not yet finalized or voted the final vote up and down work, but I understand. And second, also there is an arms race between India and Pakistan, and now India tested the missile and Pakistan tested it before, now Pakistan may follow. You think that will also come on as a hurdle or on the way of -- as far as this treaty is concerned?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure I gather what you're saying.

QUESTION: As far as testing the missiles and this missile test will be on the way of this deal.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any potential impact. You know, India and Pakistan have a formal agreement where they --

QUESTION: No, no, as far as testing by India missiles, as far as U.S. Congress is concerned, you think this missile test or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you how it'll affect the mood in Congress, Goyal. You can ask them.

QUESTION: And one more just quick.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: As far as the frustration is concerned, like Matt said, you said it's serious and all that. But it is so serious because Prime Minister of India and the Indian Government said that they will not go farther until and unless they have the right of certain things which they have already told the U.S. that they want to make some changes or -- in the treaty. My question is that -- how does now Secretary Rice feel, say, if you can make some changes or not? How will this -- Mr. Menon's visit will make a difference?

MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal, I'm not going to conduct the negotiations here, but we've made it clear we're not going to change the laws. Let's focus on what's doable in terms of negotiations.

QUESTION: When did this South -- the Cape Town --

MR. MCCORMACK: It was this week. It was over this --

QUESTION: Do you know who was involved in it?

MR. MCCORMACK: It was working-level. I can't -- I don't know exactly who.

QUESTION: On both sides?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is the Indian military relationship with Iran a cause of concern here?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't specifically heard it as a mention of concern in these negotiations, George. You know, we've talked to the Indian Government about various aspects of their relationship with Iran. We -- you know, we fully comprehend the fact that Iran and India are in the same neighborhood and that they are going to have a certain kind of relationship. We have urged the Indian Government to take a look at what sort of ties that they have with Iran and take into consideration the behavior and fundamental orientation of this Iranian Government when they look at what sort of interactions that they might have with the Iranian Government, and including the Iranian military.

QUESTION: Can you just find out for us when the Cape Town talks ended?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Yeah, it --

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that they broke down?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, no, no, no. Not at all. No, they -- I think I said they did make some progress, but not the kind of progress that we had hoped they would make.

QUESTION: Sean, one more, please.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: As far as Iran-India relations are concerned, India had already voted at least three times for the U.S. or with the U.S. at the United Nations as far as nuclear deal of Iran is concerned. Another thing, some lawmakers are saying in India that what happens if U.S. and Iran comes (inaudible), then what will happen to the U.S. and India and Iran's relations. What they're saying is really that Iran and U.S. may come (inaudible), but why can't they have relations with Iran, which we have already voted against their nuclear program?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the conditions for a different kind of relationship or the potential for a different kind of relationship between the United States and Iran are well known. They're out there. They have to meet certain conditions, stopping their enrichment-related activities, in order to realize negotiations with the United States and its P-5+1 partners. In those negotiations they can bring up whatever they want to.

Certainly, we will focus on getting to a solution of how the Iranian people can have access to peaceful nuclear energy while giving the world assurances that they're not going to use that peaceful nuclear energy program to develop a nuclear weapon. That's at the heart of the matter. But if there are other issues that the Iranian Government or others want to raise in those negotiations, they certainly can.

Now, we're not going to dictate Iranian-Indian relations. That course is going to be defined by Iran and India together. We have, however, in public counseled them to consider the nature of the regime and the behavior of the regime in their decision-making process about what sort of interactions they have with the Iranian Government.

Now, certainly, we are pleased that the Indian Government has in the past voted with the majority in the IAEA. We think it's an important message to Iran. But it was also an important step by the Indian Government on the world stage in taking its place as an important voice in the international system for responsible behavior. And I'm sure that that was as much as anything else a motivation by the Indian Government in deciding how it cast its vote.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout on the Secretary's meeting today with the Czech Foreign Minister? Did they look at missile defense --

MR. MCCORMACK: They talked about it.

QUESTION: -- in details? Did they negotiate over it?

MR. MCCORMACK: No.

QUESTION: I mean, what -- at what stage are they in terms of -- are you --

MR. MCCORMACK: It was a general discussion about the -- I guess the political situation in Europe, given some of the recent Russian statements about missile defense. They both talked about the importance of working together not only between the U.S. and the Czech Republic but also the U.S. and European countries as well as the U.S. and Russia on the issue of missile defense. Both of them were quite heartened by the discussion yesterday in NATO about missile defense. We thought it was quite positive.

The Secretary underlined for the Foreign Minister that the United States is quite serious about working with the Russian Government on missile defense. John Rood just the other day made a serious presentation to Sergei Kislyak about missile defense and what the possibilities were for U.S.-Russia cooperation on missile defense. And certainly we hope that the Russian Government takes a serious look at it because it was a serious offer.

They also talked about Kosovo, talked about the upcoming NATO ministerial meeting. They talked a little bit about the agenda there, talked about Afghanistan. They talked a little bit about Cuba and EU Cuba policy. That was really -- that was the bulk of the conversation.

QUESTION: Did the Czech Foreign Minister express his concerns over Russia's opposition to this or --

MR. MCCORMACK: They talked in general about it. I'll let him speak for himself. You heard from them a bit upstairs, but he can speak for himself on it.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary provide any assurances, you know, over the U.S. wanting to use their -- is it an intercept transfer? I can't remember the technical term of what they've asked for -- some radar station or something.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I confess I can't remember. There's -- one, there would be the test bed, the interceptor platform in one country and radar in another. I think it's radar in Poland and then an interceptor in the Czech Republic, if that's the right term. It wasn't a detailed discussion about the technical aspects of this in any regard. It wasn't a negotiation.

QUESTION: So when does that begin, the negotiation?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's -- well, the technical discussions have been ongoing for some time. We didn't just send them a letter and, you know, they decided that they'd take us up on the offer. There have been careful consultations all along the way here. The Pentagon is heavily involved in this, as are we, and the discussions are at the working level. I can't tell you who's leading them.

Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: General Pace said a couple of days ago that the U.S. forces in Kandahar intercepted some Iranian-made weapons.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: We've had these earlier reports of similar kinds of weapons going to Iraq to both -- populations on both sides. Now, how concerned are you that this is all part of a very broad, an increasingly broad, you know, covert Iranian effort to destabilize American forces in the entire region?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's a real source of concern not only with regard to U.S. forces but Afghan forces as well as the NATO forces. We all know that NATO has a heavy presence in Afghanistan. And this is a situation that bears careful watching. It's not something that I can, you know, elaborate beyond what General Pace said.

But we are quite concerned that this could signal a change in Iranian policy with regard to Afghanistan and its support for the Taliban as well as other violent extremist groups that seek to undermine the progress that has been made by the Afghan people. So it is something that we're watching very carefully and it's something about which we are concerned. And I would expect that others would be concerned as well since this is a truly international effort in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Do you have sense what Iranian entity is responsible for sending these arms? Would it be the Quds Force --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- or the Iranian leadership itself?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, in terms of the details of this, I can't really go beyond what General Pace offered.

QUESTION: This is very new information -- this Afghanistan, Taliban involvement?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you how far back it goes, but I think it's, relatively speaking, new.

QUESTION: And are you surprised? I mean, the Taliban are a traditional enemy of Iran.

MR. MCCORMACK: There certainly are a lot of questions, outstanding questions, about this, none of which I can get into talking about here. But we are concerned that this could possibly signal a change in Iranian policy. They had previously actually played a constructive role in Afghans' future, especially in areas of counternarcotics as well as other areas, and certainly we'd like to see those -- that cooperation continue. But this certainly is a troubling sign.

Anything else on this? Okay, let's move back and we'll come back. Yeah.

QUESTION: Sean, do you have any idea why the North Korea did not take out their BDA fund yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I saw a statement from the North Korean Government just this morning talking about how they were briskly working on the issue with bankers. And I can't tell you -- I'm not going to presume to get into the middle of those discussions. We've stated previously we've taken the ball to the one yard line here and it's going to be up to the North Koreans and their bankers to get it over the goal line.

We certainly would want to see -- we want to see this BDA -- them be able to resolve this BDA issue with their bankers and have us get back to the issue at hand, and that is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The North Korean Government in the same statement talked about the fact that they remain committed to the February 13th agreement. We have all talked about how we are showing some flexibility with regard to the deadlines of that agreement, and this is an indication that the North Korean Government is taking steps in order to try to move that process forward. And that's positive.

QUESTION: So excuse me. There is 52 named BDA funds.

MR. MCCORMACK: Accountholders?

QUESTION: Yeah, accountholders. As far I know, a couple, maybe 20 or more people is dead so they don't have anybody, you know, name on there. So is that possible to, you know --

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, you're going to have to talk to them. You know, certainly you can presumably sign over authority to other people in order to access accounts, but you should talk to the Macanese and the North Koreans about exactly what they're doing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this BDA? Yeah.

QUESTION: So the U.S. doesn't know what the problem is or you just can't say?

MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?

QUESTION: The U.S. doesn't know what the problem is in terms of withdrawing the funds or it can't say at this time?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I think it's better for the parties directly involved in the matter to talk about it if they want to talk about it.

Yeah. Anything else on BDA? No? Okay, we'll go -- yes, in the back.

QUESTION: Can you comment on the Washington Post article today saying that human rights groups say the United States is giving Colombia too much money for its armed forces and too little for social and economic problems? And Senator Leahy has placed a hold on $55 million in aid to Colombian security forces because of their alleged links with death squads.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we talked a little bit yesterday about the Colombian Government's activities in bringing to justice those individuals related to paramilitary organizations and extrajudicial killings, and we believe that the Uribe government is serious about this effort. It's something I know he's talked about with Secretary Rice and he's talked about with President Bush. And we believe President Uribe and his assurances that no matter where the evidence may lead, he is going to allow investigations to go forward. And there have been a number of people who have been arrested as well as questioned by judicial authorities.

Now, in terms of the balance between -- balance in assistance, I can't speak to exactly what their differences may be with us. But it is a program that has proved very successful, Plan Colombia, over the years in helping the Colombian Government get a handle on a number of different issues: the production of illicit drugs, working to prevent human rights abuses, and then working to bring under control a violent insurgency. So we're looking at how we might further assist the Colombian Government. Again, if you can later on bring up some of the specifics of the differences that people may have, maybe we can give you a more detailed answer.

Yeah, yes.

QUESTION: Going back to the threat level in Europe, the terrorist threat level, do you see any connection between the ongoing trial in southern Germany against Ansar al-Islam members and the fact that the level has been raised right now?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't draw in public for you any particular connection. To do so, we would start to get into intelligence-related matters. But as I said before, we're taking the steps that we think are prudent based on what we believe is a serious threat.

Yeah, Gollust.

QUESTION: Have you --

MR. MCCORMACK: Caught you off guard there.

QUESTION: Have you heard anything from the Cuban and Venezuelan governments diplomatically about the re-release of Luis Carriles?

MR. MCCORMACK: I should have checked on this beforehand. No, I -- let me -- we'll post an answer for you, Dave.

QUESTION: Okay. And I just have one more that you'll probably to post also. A leading newspaper editor in Azerbaijan was imprisoned apparently for strictly editorial activity and I can provide you with --

MR. MCCORMACK: You're right. I have to check on that.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: I think Mr. Negroponte is back in Washington. Do you have any --

MR. MCCORMACK: Not quite yet.

QUESTION: Not yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: Soon.

QUESTION: Oh.

MR. MCCORMACK: Very soon. I'm looking at my clock, which I've taken Matt's advice and I got the correct time up here. But no, he will be back soon and he is going to eventually* sit down with the Secretary of State -- again, Matt will be gratified by this -- to give a full and complete report of his trip.

QUESTION: You got the right year on the clock, though, right? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: We have not turned back the clock here, Matt, no.

Yeah, I'm sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I was wondering if he was back and if you have m(inaudible) on his contacts in Mauritania and Libya.

MR. MCCORMACK: Not yet. Not yet. We're going to get those.

QUESTION: Do you think he'll be briefing the press on his trip after he briefs the Secretary?

MR. MCCORMACK: It is a possibility, Charlie.

QUESTION: Can I ask something that's related to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Sean, in addition to your guys who were at these secret negotiations with the Indians in South Africa, you have a --

MR. MCCORMACK: Secret negotiations? This --

QUESTION: -- not so secret mission to South Africa by a senior diplomat trying to -- you know, talking to the South Africans about the --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's right. Yes, here's the update on that. She's leaving Monday. She postponed it by a couple of days because she wanted to have some more discussions here with Secretary Rice before she went out.

QUESTION: All right. So -- and do you know how -- is it still just going to be a couple days --

MR. MCCORMACK: It's just going to be --

QUESTION: -- only on Security Council and Darfur?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Representative Waxman is apparently going to hold a vote on Wednesday on whether to subpoena Secretary Rice to go and testify on the Niger claims and other issues. Do you have any reaction to that? Is the Secretary prepared to go up and testify on this, or what?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not sure -- I'm not sure what Senator Waxman's motivations are here, honestly. It seems in his most recent -- in the most recent letter, he seems to be asking questions that have been thoroughly answered not only by Secretary Rice but several different commissions -- the 9/11 Commission, the Robb-Silverman Commission and various inspector generals. So I think members of Congress would really question Chairman Waxman's motivation in spending not only the time of his committee and the resources of his committee and the Congress, not to speak of the resources of the Executive Branch to revisit questions that have been answered many, many times over.

QUESTION: He doesn't think you've answered them sufficiently and that's why --

MR. MCCORMACK: We have been -- I think the Secretary has been quite serious in answering his questions. There has been multiple correspondence on this, lengthy correspondence offering detailed responses. Now, if there are additional questions that he has, and I think we've started to narrow this down. It started with -- I think it was on the order of 50 plus questions and I think we've narrowed it down to about three. I think it's an absolutely reasonable process to go through and try to chip away at these questions with the Chairman. And Secretary Rice and the State Department have been very responsive to these questions.

So there are a couple of -- I think there are a couple outstanding questions that he has. I think we're down to about three. And we're going to endeavor to get him an answer in a speedy manner on this. And we'll see what his response is. I mean, certainly the Secretary is carving time out of her schedule, one that is dealing with questions of war and peace on a daily basis, to respond to Chairman Waxman. So I think she's been quite serious in devoting resources to answering his questions. So I can't tell you what his motivations are. I'm -- you know, if his motivations are to determine the facts, certainly we have provided him the facts.

QUESTION: Do you think it's possible that his motivations could be political?

MR. MCCORMACK: You're going to have to ask Chairman Waxman. I don't know.

QUESTION: I mean, does -- the Secretary does not think that this is a good use of her time to go up there and answer questions --

MR. MCCORMACK: Secretary Rice spends an incredible amount of time visiting with members of Congress, briefing members of Congress, talking on the phone with members of Congress about a whole gamut of issues. That's in addition to all the testimony that she gives. And I think if you look at the -- look at her record of working with Congress and being respectful of the role that the Legislative Branch of our government plays, I think you would find that it's a sterling record. I think it's hard to argue with the amount of time and effort that she has put in to working with the Congress on important foreign policy issues. And she has a great deal of respect for the views of many of the congressmen and representatives up there.

QUESTION: Well, the questions that Representative Waxman is asking are really very sensitive questions that the Bush Administration is quite sensitive about, all the Niger questions.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sue, this has been an open book. You know, over the past four or five years, I don't know if there's been a foreign policy intelligence topic that has been more investigated and looked into than that topic. You know, if there is one, I'm open to suggestions, but the amount of time that has been spent looking into this topic and the fact that all the answers are out there and known in public, if -- you know, if Chairman Waxman hasn't found them, then we're happy to provide the citations, many of which are in the letters that we sent to him. So again, I don't know what his motivations are. You can talk to Chairman Waxman.

QUESTION: Sean, all in all, it's been a banner week for relations between the Secretary and Democratic -- people on -- Democrats on the Hill?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't get your --

QUESTION: Well, you have Senator Reid, now you're going after Senator -- Congressman Waxman.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm certainly not going after Congressman Waxman.

QUESTION: Yeah, you're questioning his motivation.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm just pointing out the facts, Matt, that if you look at the record, if you just look at the facts of the number of times and the depth in which this question has been examined, Niger uranium, I don't know of any other topic over the past four or five years related to foreign policy and national security that has been examined more than that one. And you can look at the -- you know, various commissions that have looked into this, so I'm just -- I think it's a legitimate question, you know, given the lengthy record on this issue. So you know, I don't know. We're going to continue to try to respond to Congressman Waxman's -- Chairman Waxman's questions.

QUESTION: If I could ask two quick questions, please. One, as far as shootings at Virginia Tech is concerned, among the dead are one Indian student and also a professor. Recently, Under Secretary Karen Hughes was in India and she was discussing about the U.S.-India students exchange program and all the -- also, she said over there that the U.S. will be more open to Indian students in the future.

My question is that, why is she not talking this -- and this incident took place and now, there is some kind of anger in India among the parents how and if they should send their students -- their children to the U.S. for higher education. My question -- and if this will be discussed with the Secretary when Mr. Menon comes here? And also, how does the Secretary feel or if there's a change of any -- between India and U.S. Government on this issue as far as the shooting is concerned?

MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal, look, this was an unspeakable tragedy and we know that the -- that India lost some people in this and we're deeply saddened by that and we send our condolences to the families and the Indian people. This is an unprecedented event in American history and certainly on American college campus.

America is going to continue to be a destination where students from around the globe, professors, those seeking knowledge from around the globe, come to our universities and we have had record numbers of students come to the United States and want to study here. And that openness to people from overseas who want to come to study here is very important to us, and we're going to do everything that we can to maintain and promote that. That said, you know, these are very, very difficult issues to deal with. I know that the state of Virginia has appointed a panel to look into the circumstances that surrounded this and to make recommendations and so we'll all certainly be looking towards that. And I'm sure that, you know, college administrators, college professors all around America are looking at, well, what else might they do. But I think at the end of the day that foreign students are going to continue to want to study in the United States.

Thank you.

* The dates for Indian Foreign Secretary Menon's visit are April 30 - May 1.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)

DPB # 70



Released on April 20, 2007

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