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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 3, 2007

INDEX:

IRAQ

Execution of Saddam Hussein / Iraqi Process
Iraq Followed Own Laws and Procedures
Saddam Trial Met International Standards / Iraqi Government Investigating Leak of Recording of Execution
U.S. Raised Issues of Procedure and Timing Prior to Execution
Pirate TV Broadcasts of Anti-American Propaganda from Egypt Ceased

CUBA

U.S. Looks Forward to Day When Cuban People Can Define Own Political Future

SOMALIA

Contact Group Meeting Scheduled for Friday / A/S Frazer to Lead Meeting
A/S Frazer Meetings in Addis Ababa / Active in Talking to Interested Parties in Region
U.S. Concerned About Humanitarian Situation / Aid Donations Imminent
U.S. Working to Ensure Individuals Involved in Terrorist Activities Do Not Escape
External Forces Funded and Supported Islamic Courts / U.S. Supported Negotiated Solution
Ethiopian Government Support of Transitional Federal Institutions

NORTH KOREA

Death of Foreign Minister / Condolences to Family

SUDAN

Status of UN-AU Hybrid Force in Darfur
Twenty Civilian Advisors in Darfur Under Addis Ababa Accords / Larger Deployment of Logistics, Command Element Next / Third Phase is Deployment of Actual Forces.
Implementation of Addis Ababa Accords in Early Stages
Indications From President Bashir That Sudan Prepared to Move Forward

TURKMENISTAN

Succession Process / People of Turkmenistan to Moderate own Political Process / U.S. Hopes Process Will Be Free and Fair / U.S. Stands Ready to Assist

CHINA

Obligations Under “One China” Policy and Taiwan Relations Act
Requests For Transit Consistent with Safety, Convenience, and Dignity of Traveler


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:15 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Happy New Year. I see some new faces here who don't show up all the time. It's good to have you here. No opening statements, so we can get right into your questions. Who wants to start?

QUESTION: I have on one Iraq, as futile as it might be. The Times managed to find an American willing to talk on background. I don't know about this building providing anybody, but we were given the impression last week that the U.S. steered clear in the final hours, maybe the final days of Saddam Hussein; it's an Iraqi event, let the Iraqis take care of things. And this account suggests, for instance, that the U.S. said, "Don't execute him on a holiday. There's some legal questions remaining."

Can you address any of these assertions and allegations, whatever you want to call them, that the U.S. intervened and tried to change a few things?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I didn't see everything everybody said last week, Barry, I have to confess. But the fundamental point that you make that this is an Iraqi process from start to finish, from the trial process all the way through the carrying out of the sentence, was an Iraqi process. This is a sovereign state that will make its own decisions and a sovereign government that will make its own decisions concerning the interpretations of the laws, its own laws.

That said, we did go to the Iraqis last week and we raised a couple issues with them with respect to adherence to -- strict adherence to the procedures and the timing. They listened to our comments, took on board our comments, but ultimately, they made their own judgments about the manner and the timing and in what ways they were going to comply with their own laws and their own procedures, as is their right. And that really is the story, Barry.

QUESTION: Could you explain a little bit what you mean by strict adherence to --

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, this -- there's a set of -- they set out for themselves a set of procedures and they set out for themselves those procedures in accordance with their own laws. And so these things were established prior to Saddam Hussein being sentenced and they --

QUESTION: No, but the procedures -- execution procedures, it's a process that started --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's -- in terms of -- no, the appeals procedures, as I understand them, were followed. This was just a matter of questions of who would be signing which documents, for example, that would allow the process to move forward. Nothing, I think, that was done in any way should detract from the fact that there was a very solid criminal procedure in which the defendant, in this case, Saddam Hussein, had access to evidence, to -- he had the right to his own counsel. And it was a trial that met the standards of international justice, so none of what happened should in any way detract from that fact.

And also, the Iraqi Government themselves have raised some questions about the way in which the final moments unfolded. Clearly, they were not pleased with the way things unfolded. They launched an investigation into it, as they should.

QUESTION: You mean the crowd and the jeering of --

MR. MCCORMACK: The -- I think there were questions that have come out about some of the comments made during the actual final moments before the execution.

QUESTION: Comments made by?

MR. MCCORMACK: Comments made by people in the room.

QUESTION: Spectators?

MR. MCCORMACK: Spectators, yeah -- well, I can't say who. I don't know who.

QUESTION: The Iraqi government?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, I don't know who. And also, the fact that there was apparently some tape made on a cell phone.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: Or images recorded on a cell phone and that those got out. The Iraqi Government themselves launched an investigation into that.

QUESTION: They didn't approve of that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Clearly, they didn't. They launched an investigation into it.

QUESTION: And now (inaudible), this account says that Maliki sort of said, "Enough." In other words, he was the final word and that did it.

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a sovereign state with a sovereign government, Barry. They are going to -- they ultimately are going to be the ones that apply their own laws and interpret their own laws and will make decisions about this kind of matter.

QUESTION: My last question, because I've taken a lot of time, would the effect of the questions the U.S. raised be to delay -- would have been to delay execution for a while?

MR. MCCORMACK: Barry, again, I'm not going to go any farther into it other than to say we did raise questions. We did raise with them issues related to procedure and timing. Now again, in this case, justice was done. Saddam Hussein was responsible for the murders of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis who did not enjoy the right to a free and fair, open trial. They did not enjoy the right to see the evidence presented against them. They did not enjoy the right to their own counsel in defense. So none of these were rights that were afforded these innocent Iraqis by Saddam Hussein and his government.

So again, let's not lose sight of the fact that in this case, justice was done, that this was a trial that met the standards of international justice, and that nothing that occurred in those final days or hours in any way brings into question the legitimacy of that judicial process or the final verdict. I don't think you're -- I don't think that anybody is questioning --

QUESTION: No.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- based on the evidence that was presented, the final verdict and the sentence.

QUESTION: That hasn't come up?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: The absolute last question.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Was there any reference in the U.S.'s conversations --

MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Was there any reference to the fact that it was a Muslim holiday or a festival, I'm not sure?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's what -- we were talking about the timing, Barry. We --

QUESTION: That's what you meant by timing?

MR. MCCORMACK: We raised some issues, yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: So you wanted it to take place after the holiday?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we -- I'm not going to get into exactly those conversations, but we raised issues with respect to (inaudible).

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: You could have read (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: But ultimately, again, these are decisions that the Iraqis -- that were for the Iraqis to make. And we went into those conversations with that understanding and that was our tone in talking to them.

Yes, Jonathan.

QUESTION: You said that, you know, that questions had been raised about the manner in which the execution was taken place. I mean, how concerned are you about the manner in which the execution was taken place?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, those are questions -- those are questions for the Iraqis to answer.

See you, Barry.

QUESTION: This is a slight.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. I know. (Laughter.) I was just saying goodbye. You got up and walked out. I just wanted to say goodbye.

The -- look, this is something that the Iraqis have said that didn't comply with the way that they had hoped this would unfold. They've launched an investigation. Is it the -- is it, as General Caldwell said, the way that we would have done it in those final moments? No, probably not. But again, this is ultimately Iraq's justice to deliver to somebody who was responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of their own citizens.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary of State seen the video?

MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't ask her about it. I don't know.

QUESTION: Are you concerned about the impact that video is going to have in the Arab world as far as fueling more sectarian tension, perhaps a revolt from --

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, the Iraqis have said that that was not in their plan. They were not going -- they had not planned to release any video of this. They wanted to record it for history's sake to make sure that in case there were any questions that were raised about the procedures or how this unfolded, that there would be an objective record of exactly what happened. So I don't think that they planned on this happening.

But again, people who might see the images on their television screens or read accounts of it should not forget about the hundreds of thousands of people -- women, children, mothers, fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, friends, loved ones -- who lost their lives at the hand of Saddam Hussein. And they should also not lose fact -- sight of the fact that once Saddam Hussein was captured, that the Iraqi Government in place made sure that there was the best possible judicial process that they could possibly have to bring forward evidence in an objective manner, to provide all the protections that should be afforded a defendant in this criminal trial.

And I don't think anybody who listened to even one day's worth of the testimony, from people who lost loved ones at the hands of Saddam Hussein's government or from -- or testimony from those who escaped just by the hand of fate the execution by Saddam Hussein just by chance -- there are stories of people making miraculous escapes -- testimony about what they witnessed would have any questions about the judgment and the verdict that was rendered on Saddam Hussein.

QUESTION: But that doesn't really answer the question. I mean, the question relates to how this is being perceived, how the thing that wasn't supposed to happen happened.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And how that's being perceived in the Arab world by some and whether that will devolve to the detriment of the U.S.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, Charlie, I don't know how it will be perceived by individuals who happen to see a videotape that's played over Arab TV. I can't control that. This happened. It wasn't supposed to have happened, but it happened and the Iraqi Government is launching an investigation into it.

I was trying to make -- only make the point that as people watch the tape, you know, in whatever manner -- on the internet or over the TV -- that they not lose sight of what led to that point: (a) a judicial process that met the standards of international judicial processes; but (b) the fact that Saddam Hussein was in the dock because he was responsible for the murder of countless numbers of -- countless numbers of innocent people. And that's the only point that I was trying to make.

QUESTION: Will the U.S. be helping the Iraqis with the investigation at all? Will the U.S. play any role in that?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I think that this is -- I don't -- to my knowledge, there were no U.S. personnel present at this. There was only Iraqis. I can't tell you who else was present. You can ask the Iraqis. So it's really a matter for the Iraqis to look into.

QUESTION: And what about the forthcoming executions of Saddam's co-defendants slated for tomorrow. Has the U.S. been talking with the Iraqis in trying to prevent the same kind of thing happening again?

MR. MCCORMACK: I assume that they would not want the same sort of thing to happen again in which you had these sort of images released. Our only concerns again would be the proper procedures that the Iraqis themselves have laid out be followed.

QUESTION: Just one more thing on this. Caldwell said in an interview with Fox News Radio today it was an ongoing dialogue going on between the State Department and the governments in terms of sharing thoughts and ideas. Is this just an informal advisory thing to help with these procedures?

MR. MCCORMACK: I have to admit, I didn't see General Caldwell's comments. We do talk to the Iraqi Government as I just talked about. We talked to them last week about certain issues and I expect that we will continue to do so. But again, fundamentally at the end of the day, these are Iraqi decisions to make.

Yeah, Ilene.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary, or those in her immediate circle, received or made calls to leaders in Iraq or in --

MR. MCCORMACK: No.

QUESTION: -- what parts of the Arab world about this whole matter?

QUESTION: Has this been a matter for her attention this week?

MR. MCCORMACK: She's aware of it. Certainly not herself she has not made any phone calls or been in contact with any Iraqi leaders or anybody else in the region on the matter.

In terms of contact with the Iraqis, that is happening -- that's taking place between personnel in our embassy, our wider mission there, and the Iraqi Government.

QUESTION: So were the U.S. officials involved -- when you say we brought up questions of timing and procedures, was that --

MR. MCCORMACK: People from our embassy.

QUESTION: Were taking instructions from the Secretary and Stephen Hadley and others in Washington or what was the procedure there?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, obviously the Secretary was aware of these events unfolding. I can't tell you specifically what instructions she may have conveyed or not conveyed. But people in our embassy were in contact with people back here in Washington, including the State Department, and our embassy then conveyed our thoughts to the Iraqi Government.

Jonathan.

QUESTION: Just with procedure. So are you saying that you were urging Prime Minister Maliki to get the approval of the President of Iraq to sign off on the execution?

MR. MCCORMACK: There are a number of different steps that they laid out for themselves. I think one of them involved the President of Iraq making some signatures on some documents. Now, as any lawyer will tell you, there are numerous interpretations of the law and how you can comply with the law. The Iraqis have talked about the fact that they, according to their interpretations of the law have followed all the procedures that they need to follow. At the end of the day what they need to be able to do is to stand up and tell their own people that they did follow through on all the procedures. We ourselves just encourage them to do that, to make sure that they followed scrupulously everything that they needed to do and to, in no way, let those final few steps mar what had been a very good judicial process from the standpoint of having protections for the defendant and for presenting evidence in an objective manner.

QUESTION: So was it marred?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you know, we have -- we raised the issues with the Iraqis at the end of the day -- at the end of the day justice was served with Saddam Hussein.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Another subject about Iraqi. Are you concerned about the comments of Prime Minister Maliki when he said this weekend he wishes his term as prime minister would be shorter and that he could do something else with his life?

MR. MCCORMACK: I have to admit, Sylvie, I didn't see --

QUESTION: You didn't see that.

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen those comments. But look, this government and Prime Minister Maliki are working hard on behalf of the Iraqi people. They are working under enormous pressures and they're doing the best that they possibly can for their country. And as long as they are committed to those same ideals then we are going to be committed to working with them.

Michel.

QUESTION: I have another Iraq-related question.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: The Sunni insurgent television station led by a man named (inaudible) and they have a contract with Nile TV, to be sending this material back into Iraq which are anti-American propaganda, pro-insurgency and I wonder what the U.S. has done about that with the Egyptians?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I had heard some of these reports before I looked into them and here is my understanding -- that there were some -- there was a pirate TV operation or multiple pirate TV operations, one of which was operating out of Egypt. Now the Iraqis raise this issue with us, expressed their concerns. What we did in response was to facilitate contact between the Government of Iraq and the Government of Egypt about these concerns. And my understanding as of this weekend was that the broadcast had ceased. Now, I don't know if that -- they have ceased permanently or not, but at least in the immediate term, the Iraqi Government's concerns have been addressed.

QUESTION: And did you -- I mean, were U.S. diplomats in Egypt raising this in separate conversations or you were just facilitating it?

MR. MCCORMACK: We were just facilitating.

Yes.

QUESTION: I have a non-Iraq related question, if you want to move on it.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: The Revolutionary Defense Committee in Cuba are a major cornerstone of their political process. Cuban administration says that they are -- their main purpose is mass organization of political parties and sort of rooting out enemies of the revolution. How does the U.S. administration view their role in the scheme of things?

MR. MCCORMACK: I have to admit I'm not terribly familiar with that grouping within Cuba. But fundamentally, this has been a regime that has repressed its people for 60-odd years. And we look forward to the day when the Cuban people have the opportunity to define for themselves what their own future is going to be including who is going to lead them. They haven't had that choice. As for these particular committees and groupings, I can't speak to them, but the Cuban regime has a number of different mechanisms that it uses to repress its own people.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Somalia?

MR. MCCORMACK: Somalia.

QUESTION: Can you give us an update on -- was there a U.S. presence at this meeting in Brussels with the Contact Group and have there been any contacts between U.S. officials and members of the Islamic Courts since the fall of their control over Mogadishu?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. In terms of meeting in Brussels, my understanding was that this was just -- this was a meeting of only EU countries and EU representatives. We didn't have anybody there. What we expect to happen is on Friday, that there's going to be a Somalia Contact Group meeting in Kenya and Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer, our Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, will be co-hosting that meeting. It was at our request.

She's currently in the region. She is in Addis Ababa right now. She either has met or will meet with Prime Minister Meles and also with President Museveni of Uganda, who just happens also to be in Addis Ababa as well. After the Kenya meetings, I expect that she's probably also going to travel throughout the region, perhaps to Yemen and Djibouti as well. So she's very active in talking with interested parties, both in the region and more widely through the mechanism of the Somali Contact Group, about what are the next steps in Somalia.

As you mentioned, the Ethiopian forces went in, in support of the Transitional Federal Institutions and the Islamic Courts no longer control Mogadishu. I can't tell you whether or not they control any other areas in Somalia, but what happened, my understanding, is that the leadership of the Islamic Courts fled. They left untrained fighters behind to stand up to the Somali forces, so that tells you what sort of leadership there was of many elements of the Islamic Courts.

We are -- we would be concerned that no leaders of those -- or members of the Islamic Courts, which have ties to terrorist organizations including al-Qaida, are allowed to flee and to leave Somalia. So that is of great concern to us and we, of course, have a presence off the coast of Somalia in the Horn of Africa to make sure that there's no -- there are no escape routes by sea where these individuals could flee. We're also concerned about the humanitarian situation in Somalia and in response, we are also going to be talking in a little bit, probably later today, about some donations of humanitarian assistance. There will be some immediate donations in which we will be able to release some food aid that we'll get to the Somali people. And we'll have some more information for you either later today or early tomorrow on that.

And then also, we're going to be getting together with other members of the donor community, humanitarian assistance and the donor community to talk about (a) what are the needs here, what are the scope of the needs and then (b) who can help fill those needs. And certainly, we'll be part of that.

QUESTION: Is Uganda still prepared to provide troops for the peace --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's -- as far as I know, they haven't backed off of that commitment. I expect that that's going to be one of the issues that Jendayi talks about with President Museveni. So I don't have a full read for you, but we would expect that there will be some need for that kind of presence and thus far, I haven't heard anything from Uganda stating otherwise.

QUESTION: Could you say more about the efforts to prevent people from fleeing?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a lot of specifics for you, George, other than our military has a task force that is based out of the Horn of Africa and one of their missions is to ensure that there is -- that individuals involved in terrorist activities can't transit through that area. And we, of course, are going to be working closely with states in the region to ensure that these individuals aren't able to transit those borders and exit Somalia. The countries in the -- other countries in the region don't want to see that any more than we do.

QUESTION: Do they routinely stop ships that leave --

MR. MCCORMACK: You'll have to talk to the military about the procedures, but they do have a presence off the -- in the Horn of Africa.

Yeah, Janine.

QUESTION: Yeah, two Somalia follow-ups. One, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said today after the Brussels meeting that an international presence would mostly likely be of African origin. Is that the U.S. position?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that that has been the assumption all along. Now, of course, we're dealing with a different situation in which the Ethiopian troops have forced out the Islamic Courts, but I think the idea all along has been that this would be an African force presence helping out the Transitional Federal Institutions.

QUESTION: And second thing -- sorry, I was away last week, so sorry if you went over this.

MR. MCCORMACK: That's all right. I was away last week, too. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I was confused about what the U.S. position was looking back about Ethiopia going in, because when we had a briefing with Assistant Secretary Frazer I got the sense that she was not supportive of the Ethiopians going in, it's time for diplomacy and all that, and yet the guidance from the State Department subsequently seemed to endorse it.

MR. MCCORMACK: Here's the situation. It was a complicated situation in which you had a number of different external forces in Somalia -- and I'm not talking about the Ethiopians here -- who were funding and supporting the Islamic Courts for their own purposes, either through arms or through money, infusions of money, or allowing personnel -- people from outside Somalia -- to flow into Somalia in support of the Islamic Courts.

We supported a negotiated solution between the Transitional Federal Institutions and the Islamic Courts. The Transitional Federal Institutions are the ones internationally recognized. It is -- it has been up until this point a relatively weak set of institutions that has not been able to extend its control over all of Somalia, but we supported nonetheless negotiations and political dialogue between the Courts and those Transitional Federal Institutions.

Over time, the Islamic Courts demonstrated behavior that was inconsistent with those -- with that policy of trying to see those sorts of negotiations. We tried to get together the parties in Khartoum but the Islamic Courts walked out because they felt -- it appeared that they believed that they could gain an upper hand through use of force, through taking over territory, basically backing the Transitional Federal Institutions into a smaller and smaller corner.

So the Ethiopian government initially made some moves, moved their forces into position to try to support politically the Transitional Federal Institutions and to make it clear that the Islamic Courts could not win through the force of arms what they couldn't win via the negotiating table.

And gradually that situation got to the point where the Ethiopian government made the decision in consultation with the Transitional Federal Institutions that the Islamic Courts had no interest in negotiating and that they weren't going to negotiate and that they were actually going to try to overrun all of the Transitional Federal Institution positions leaving the Islamic Courts in total control of Somalia. And it was -- and they decided that they weren't going to let that happen. They weren't going to let the internationally recognized government in Somalia fall to the Islamic Courts through the use of force and that's how we got to the position where we were. We always were in support of a negotiated solution, but the Courts were benefiting materially from outside support.

QUESTION: When -- so did the U.S. -- did the Ethiopians call the U.S. and say we're going in or did --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware --

QUESTION: -- the Ethiopians do it, despite U.S. -- UN negotiated solution.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any calls that were made to the United States or anybody else concerning the Ethiopian actions.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) anything but endorse what they did? They have struck a mighty blow against the Islamists and it would seem to me that we would hear a welcoming attitude on your part.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you had a situation where there were some very difficult and hard choices. You had an Islamic Courts, which was by no means a monolithic grouping of people, that over time more and more fell under the control of those that had links to al-Qaida and other terrorists groups and that quite clearly were interested in imposing Draconian types of interpretations of Sharia law on Somalia in contravention of the wishes of the internationally recognized Government of Somalia; admittedly a very weak Government, but nonetheless the internationally recognized government.

We certainly would have hoped that there could have been a negotiated political dialogue but it was -- it became apparent over time and certainly very apparent in the recent weeks, that that wasn't going to happen and that the Islamic Courts were intent upon trying to seize control over all of Somalia through use of arms. And yes, there were real concerns about the composition of the leadership of those Islamic Courts.

And I would just, again, reiterate one note about the leadership of those courts, the nature of that leadership, where the top leadership fled in the face of the Ethiopian army and they left behind teenagers and others to fight the battle with the Ethiopians. That's the kind of people that we're dealing with.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Meles addressed the parliament yesterday in Ethiopia and he said that mostly he didn't get any support from the international community and he's not going to stay more then two weeks in Somalia and also he appealed for international community to support in the peacekeeping. But what's your position in terms of -- for Ethiopia to pull out in two weeks?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you don't want to have a situation where you end up worse off than where you began. Mogadishu has suffered and Somalia writ-large has suffered greatly over the past decades under the rule of warlords and basic -- essential lawlessness. So part of the efforts that are underway now in the international community, and we're participating in those, is to see how you can strengthen the governing institutions in Somalia and to help move that country forward and to move Somalia out of the category of a failed state. And that is part of what Jendayi Frazer is doing in the region and Secretary Rice is following this very closely. And we want to try to break this down into its component parts. We're trying to address the humanitarian situation. We also want to try to address the security situation and that's part of the what the Somalia Contact Group is going to be talking about in Kenya on Friday. And you also want to talk about how you strengthen those political institutions in Somalia, the Transitional Federal Institutions. So those are all the very basic components that we're going to be talking about.

QUESTION: And if the foreign -- the Transitional government insists the Ethiopian force to stay, basically, and parliament says they don't have the capacity or the financial resource so --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I understand and that's part of what we're going to be talking about with Ethiopia and other members, Somalia's neighbors as well as members of the international community about what are the next steps, whether there is perhaps an opportunity to try to help the Somali people move forward and get out of the very dire situation in which they found themselves for the past two decades.

Yeah, Michel.

QUESTION:   Is the U.S. going to offer a lift or any logistical support for the Ugandans or for anybody else that would be willing to send in?

MR. MCCORMACK:   I'll check. I don't think that we're on the books to do any of that, but I'll check for you.

Yeah.

QUESTION: The EU (inaudible) 15 million euros to back up this African Union force. Will the U.S. -- got any plans for --

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll, keep you up to date. I don't have any figures for you. We will have something on the humanitarian assistance, I think probably later this afternoon. But in terms of the AU force going into Somalia nothing new; we'll try to keep you to date on it.

QUESTION: Another subject.

MR. MCCORMACK: Couldn't say you're quick on the trigger early in the year, Charlie. That's good.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment about the death of the North Korean Foreign Minister?

MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen the reports obviously, you know. We send our condolences to his family.

QUESTION: Do you think it will have an impact on the six-party talks?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I can't speak to that. I mean, that really gets to the internal workings of the North Korean regime. I can't tell you one way or the other.

QUESTION: Darfur?

MR. MCCORMACK: Darfur, yeah.

QUESTION: It is January 3rd. We are at D-day plus three. How are they doing in terms of fulfilling their promises?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, There's been some communication, I believe, last week from President Bashir with the UN concerning the UN force, a UN-AU hybrid force getting into Darfur. My understanding of where this stands now is that there is a -- there's a small group -- and you can check these numbers with the UN because they would have a better idea. You have about 20 people who are civilian advisors actually in Darfur. They're part of the initial deployment of this effort. I won't say the force because they're just civilian advisors. We have another 50 or so that are in country but not in Darfur. That's -- that was under the Addis Ababa agreement that was envisioned as being the first phase of this. The second phase of this would be a larger deployment of a few hundred sort of logistics, command element types of personnel. We're -- I believe the UN and others are working with Sudan on the deployment of that particular phase. But again, check with the UN to see where they are in terms of making various requests of the Sudanese Government.

I'm not aware that at this point they have made any requests regarding that second phase. They were working on that first phase. Then there's a final third phase which is the deployment of the actual forces. So where we are is we're still very early on in the implementation of the Addis Ababa accords, but there is some progress. There are some indications from President Bashir that they are prepared to move forward. But what we need to see now is the Sudanese Government actually acting on what it is they said they might do. So that's where we stand.

QUESTION: Isn't that well short of the milepost that Natsios set out? I mean, he wanted 60 people in and 2,000 approved?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Right. Well, you could say that about this whole process. Would we have hoped that there would be a robust security force presence as envisioned under UN Security Council Resolution 1706 deployed in Darfur already? Yes, we would have. But that's not where we are right now. And as frustrating as this may be at times, we continue every single day to try to move this process forward. And you do -- and I'm not trying to trumpet this as a great success, but we are moving forward right now. We are moving this process forward, we as well as others. And you're not going to get to a situation in which we are satisfied with this particular phase of the crisis in Darfur, until you do have that hybrid AU-UN force in there. And then once you have that force in there, you can also start talking about addressing on a more permanent basis some of the root causes of the conflict in Darfur and you do have the framework there, you have the Darfur Peace Agreement. And we believe that deployment of this AU-UN hybrid force would actually move that process forward. So there are a lot of different moving pieces to it. Would we have hoped that we would have more progress by now? Absolutely, yes. But that doesn't mean that we are at this point giving up on this process and moving it forward.

Mr. Gollust.

QUESTION: Sean, some of the exiled political figures of Turkmenistan are urging the United States to sort of go to bat for them in the face of a situation where they think that the succession process there is rigged. I wonder if you have any feelings about it?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, ultimately, this is -- the Turkmen people and the Turkmen Government is going to have to -- Turkmenistan Government is going to have to moderate their own political process. We would hope that as part of this succession process that there would be free, open, fair elections. Now Turkmenistan has a long way to go from where it stands right now to that goal. And they are going to have to make their own decisions about how their political process unfolds. We would hope and encourage and stand ready to assist in any way, should they want to move to a political process that is inclusive of all the voices among the Turkmen political spectrum. We believe that that is to the benefit of Turkmenistan and the Turkmen people and to the rest of the world. But ultimately at the end of the day they are going to have to do these things for themselves.

QUESTION: Have you offered this advice to them directly through channels?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, we have. Yeah. Yeah, and we've stated it in public as well. Yeah.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: I wonder do you have any comment on President Chen Shui-bian's New Year message and China's strong reaction to it? And also, how will you handle the request of Chen Shui-bian's possible transit in U.S. next week?

MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of the New Years message, I haven't seen it so I can't offer a reaction, a reaction to it. In terms of the transit, it's the standard policy that we have consistent with our obligations and our "one China" policy and the Taiwan Relations Act and the three communiqués. We look at requests for transit consistent with the safety, convenience and dignity of the traveler. I know that he has talked about traveling to Nicaragua, so we'll take a look at whatever request is made in accordance with that -- those policies.

QUESTION: So have you decided the city, the location for Chen Shui-bian to transit this time?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you up to date.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you up to date, yeah.

All right, thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:51 p.m.)

DPB #1


Released on January 3, 2007

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