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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 28, 2007

INDEX:

ITALY

Possible Extradition Request

NORTH KOREA

North Korea’s Admission of a Highly Enriched Uranium Program
Declaration by North Korea about All Nuclear Programs / Down the Road
March Working Group Meeting / New York
Ultimate Objective of Normalized Relations Between U.S., DPRK
Banco Delta Asia Discussions / Separate Channel / Treasury DAS Glaser
Kim Gye Gwan’s Schedule in the United States

IRAQ/TURKEY

U.S. Fully Supports Territorial Integrity of Iraq
Need for Turkey and Iraq to Work Together on Issue of PKK

GREECE

Incident Involving Plane

MISCELLANEOUS

Dispute Between Greek Patriarchate and the Israeli Government

IRAN/SUDAN

Meeting Between Ahmadi-Nejad and Bashir

BELARUS

U.S. Forthright in Public Statements About Political Freedoms in Belarus


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:30 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. No opening statements, so we can get right into your questions.

Looks like it should take about 30 seconds or so. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Totally off topic, the Italian extradition request --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: What's the status of that and the American position?

MR. MCCORMACK: Haven't received one from the Italians and I think John Bellinger talked about what our response would be should we receive one.

QUESTION: Which would be?

MR. MCCORMACK: Which would be that we would not extradite them back.

Okay, Nina.

QUESTION: North Korea?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: As a practical matter, how would the Administration or Chris Hill get North Korea to admit to a highly enriched uranium program? I mean, they've been denying this for years.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they already admitted it.

QUESTION: Yeah?

MR. MCCORMACK: They admitted it back in 2002 in Pyongyang when Jim Kelly, then Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, led a delegation to Pyongyang and they asked them -- they asked them about this issue, they confronted them with this issue. The North Koreans, for a period of time, admitted under repeated questioning that they had a highly enriched uranium program. The 2005 Agreement talks about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, so that would mean a Korean Peninsula that would be free from all nuclear programs, which everybody understands would also include any highly enriched uranium programs.

Part of the agreement that was signed just a few weeks ago in Pyongyang was that there would be a declaration made by the North Koreans about all their nuclear programs. That is something that is down the road, so we will see what it is that is in that declaration, but we would expect it would also include whatever programs they have that are based on highly enriched uranium.

QUESTION: Are you expecting this to be outlined in this meeting coming up in March?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, this is -- the working group meeting that is going to take place up in New York is really -- it's an opening meeting. This is mandated by the agreement that was signed a few weeks ago. There is a U.S.-North Korea working group, there is a Japan-North Korea working group and several other working groups. So this is the agreement unfolding, the implementing agreement unfolding. We are going to engage in this working group in good faith. I would expect that since it is just an opening meeting, that they are really going to discuss the form and function and what are the potential agenda items.

QUESTION: So you won't be getting too specific in this first meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I haven't talked to Chris as to exactly what he is going to raise, but I think a big part of the meeting is just going to be organizational issues, how is this working group going to meet, what are the modalities of it. Don't expect anybody to come out the front door on March 6th waving a piece of paper with breakthrough agreements. That's just not the kind of meeting that this is going to be.

Yes, David.

QUESTION: And just (inaudible) they are supposed to list their things. Is that -- would that take place in the context of a six-party meeting in Beijing? Is that where they'll put that information forward?

MR. MCCORMACK: It takes place within the context of the six-party talks.

QUESTION: Yeah, but physically at a meeting of the --

MR. MCCORMACK: You know I don't know exactly how it would happen. I suppose that that would be a topic for discussion among the six parties at the next meeting, which I think would probably be March 19th. I think that's the next scheduled one.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Do you have the location for the talks on --

MR. MCCORMACK: It's going to be up in New York. We are hosting. It's going to be at one of our U.S. Mission facilities. I can't narrow it down any more than that for you, but we will be host for this meeting.

QUESTION: Between now and Monday you will be able to define that a little bit?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll see if I can. I'll see if I can. You have a particular interest in sending some reporters outside the front door there?

QUESTION: Well, mostly photographers.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, that's right. AP does have a photography division, yes.

Okay. North Korea? Yes.

QUESTION: Can you expect when would be diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and North Korea?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't predict that. That ultimate objective is outlined as part of the agreement that was signed, but I can't tell you how -- give you a timeline for that. I can tell you that we will abide by our commitments as outlined in this agreement and then hopefully subsequent agreements that we sign as part of the six parties. But this meeting on March 5th-
March 6th, is the first step in addressing the variety of issues between North Korea and the United States.

Zain.

QUESTION: Why not address the BDA issue in this first step? And when are the next substantive discussions on that topic?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. That's taking place in a separate channel. The Treasury Department is handling it, as they are the regulatory agency within the U.S. Government that is responsible for these kinds of issues. The rule that was issued under Section 311 of the Patriot Act is something that is administered by the Department of Treasury, so they have the lead on it. They have established a separate channel working with the Macanese as well as with the North Koreans to gather information. They've gathered a real mountain of information. They've gone through it and they are working through the process of resolving this issue.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Treasury Danny Glaser, who is the day-to-day point man on the issue, was just in Macau. I think he had some good meetings there. He'll be back here in Washington to brief his people at Treasury on what it is that he heard, and I expect in the coming period of time the Treasury will be addressing the issue of how they have resolved the issue related to Banco Delta Asia.

Yes, ma'am, in the back.

QUESTION: I know you already mentioned it this morning, but do you have any further information on Kim Gye Gwan's schedule while he's in the States?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing beyond what I talked about this morning, which would be the general outlines of it are that he arrives in San Francisco, I think tomorrow, March 1st; would at some point travel to New York, probably March 2nd; be in New York for consultations, internal consultations, I suspect; and then we have the meeting scheduled for March 5th and 6th, the bilateral working group. As for any more detail on what he's going to be doing, you can check with the North Korean representatives.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: During her testimony at the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday, Secretary Rice at some point referred to the PKK as a terrorist group operating "on the border between Turkey and Kurdistan." I was wondering why she did not say Iraq but said Kurdistan. Was she just referring to a geographical area?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, yeah. I think --

QUESTION: The reason I'm asking is that the Turks are quite sensitive on this matter, on terminology.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, I understand. No, we -- it should be understood that we fully support the territorial integrity of Iraq and the Iraqi Government represents all of Iraq. There are regional governorates in Iraq as well, and I think they refer to themselves as the Kurdistan regional government. But it's a sub -- it's a provincial governing unit of the overall federal system.

QUESTION: So she was referring to a geographical area; is that right?

MR. MCCORMACK: Correct, yes, the border between Iraq and Turkey.

Lambros.

QUESTION: And now on Greece. Mr. McCormack, do you know under which capacity the U.S. Air Force General Lee McFann, acting actually as Under Secretary for Political Affairs, did not allow a civilian plane's AWACS to approach the Greek island Agios Efstratios -- allow me to spell A-g-i-o-s, E-f-s-t-r-a-t-i-o-s -- saying that it's demilitarized area except in Turkish areas against the Aegean Sea without any explanation for which the Greek Government strongly protested to the political and military authorities and NATO.

MR. MCCORMACK: You know I have no idea. You're asking me about an Air Force General and about why he did something?

QUESTION: But about a General who's taking a political action, not a military action.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, I don't know that as a fact. You're saying it's a political action. You know, why don't you go -- why don't you ask him the question?

QUESTION: It's relevant because the Treaty of Lausanne, for which you are a signatory, too, or any other treaty does not say that this specific island, Agios Efstratios, is not demilitarized area. Could you please, however, clarify the U.S. position vis--vis to this matter then -

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm --

QUESTION: -- from a political point?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm happy to look into it for you.

QUESTION: Excuse me?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have an answer right now.

QUESTION: Can you take this question because --

MR. MCCORMACK: Mr. Gallegos will get back to you with an answer.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Gallegos.

MR. MCCORMACK: All right. Charlie or Zain. (Laughter.) Okay, Zain.

QUESTION: Completely different topic. President Ahmadi-Nejad of Iran is in Sudan meeting with President Omar Hassan al-Bashir criticizing the U.S. and blaming the U.S. for the mess in Iraq, blaming the U.S. for Lebanon, the Palestinian territories. What do you think of his trip there and what do you have to respond to?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen any particular remarks that have come from him and his travels through Sudan. It is up to governments whom they host. The Government of Sudan has chosen to host President Ahmadi-Nejad. That is up to them. That's their decision. I don't think I would try to impute any greater significance to the visit than they have decided to --

QUESTION: Do you see them as some sort of Islamist alliance that's anti-U.S. --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I --

QUESTION: -- which is how they cast themselves --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I wouldn't try to read anything else into it -- anything more into it than that. I mean, he -- President Ahmadi-Nejad has traveled around the world trying to generate political support, diplomatic support for his regime and its policies and thus far he hasn't had a whole lot of luck. They find themselves very isolated from the rest of the world. I suppose he's trying to do the same thing in Sudan. We would encourage the Sudanese Government to tell the Iranian Government that they should comply with their international obligations.

QUESTION: But he's specifically trying to cultivate U.S. -- you know, countries that the U.S. has been critical of and doesn't have the best relations with - Sudan, Venezuela.

MR. MCCORMACK: I -- you know, again, he's looking for support where he thinks he might be able to get it. I don't know if he's -- I don't know what sort of support he thinks he can generate from Sudan. But suffice it to say, the number of countries to which he can travel and try to generate some sort of support for the policies of his regime, it's a pretty small group.

QUESTION: A question on Belarus.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Besides the additional financial -- round of financial sanctions on Belarusian leaders that were imposed yesterday, can you comment on or give us an update on any other political efforts or discussions to try to pressure the government to release political prisoners or undertake any reforms?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'd have to look into it for you. I know that we have been very forthright in our public statements, talking about the importance of political freedoms in Belarus. Sadly, that is just not the case in Belarus where you have a free and open discussion about politics and differing points of view there. But beyond what we have said in public and what you've just mentioned, I don't have any information. I'm happy to look into it for you.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, again.

QUESTION: On Turkey. Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi asked Turkey yesterday to stop threatening cross-border military operations against Turkish Kurds, a rebel base in northern Iraq, saying unilateral action would not help resolve those problems. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what we think is that Turkey and Iraq need to work cooperatively together on the issue of the PKK and the cross-border raids into Turkey. Retired General Joe Ralston is our special envoy on the matter and it's something we take very seriously. So we would urge Turkey and the Iraqi Government to work closely together to -- on a problem that's very difficult to resolve. The PKK is a terrorist organization and they've killed a lot of innocent civilians in Turkey and they have also engaged the Turkish military, so we understand the concern of the Turkish Government. So we're doing what we can to help them resolve it without any use of -- resort to any use of force.

QUESTION: Any answer to my pending question regarding the Greek Patriarch head in Jerusalem?

MR. MCCORMACK: I looked into this and this appears very generally to be more of a dispute between the Greek Patriarchate and the Israeli Government. I understand there's a little bit of history here about involving a land sale and a dispute within the Greek Orthodox Church about whether or not the former Patriarchate was allowed to make that land sale. And then there was an appointment of a new patriarch and I think that there are some unresolved issues, shall we say, between the Patriarchate and the Israeli Government. Beyond that I can't really offer any comment. We have met recently with the Greek Patriarch on the issue. It's listed in our International Religious Freedom report. There's a short explanation of what transpired but this is an issue between those two parties not really involving us.

QUESTION: You don't oppose the (inaudible) or the freedom of religions?

MR. MCCORMACK: Of course, we support freedom of religion. But I would submit to you that this is -- there's a little bit more to this dispute involving, shall we say, more earthly issues and that it is up to the Patriarchate and the Israeli Government to resolve those differences.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:44 p.m.)

DPB # 35



Released on February 28, 2007

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