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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 8, 2007

INDEX:

SUDAN

UN Force Deployment / Peace Efforts / Governor Bill Richardson Travel
Idea of a No Fly Zone Along Border with Chad / Violence Along Border

IRAQ

U.S. Communication with Allies on Policy / Possible Surge in Troops
Changes in the Situation on the Ground / Shifts on the Diplomatic Front

SOMALIA

Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer’s Travel
Somali People Have an Opportunity / International Community Focused
Islamic Courts / Query on Possible Negotiations with Transitional Government
Ethiopian Troop Withdrawal / IGASOM Force

BANGLADESH

Elections / Urge Caretaker Government to Create Conditions for Free, Fair and Transparent Elections

UNITED NATIONS

Query on Ambassador Khalilzad’s Priorities if Confirmed as U.S. Permanent Representative / Confirmation Process

MEXICO

Query on Possibility of Updating Travel Advisory Due to Events in Tijuana


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

1:43 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, you've already had your announcement for the day, so we'll just get -- that's it. Those are the only announcements.

QUESTION: Can you confirm it, though? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: I feel on solid footing, James, in confirming this one.

QUESTION: What's your reaction to it?

MR. MCCORMACK: My reaction? I welcome it.

QUESTION: Can you address the recent Sudanese statements and can you give us any greater
-- you suggested this morning that they have expressed a willingness to talk about the phase one and the phase two deployments.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.

QUESTION: I've searched our stories. Maybe they missed it, but I don't see anything that explicit in any of their comments. Have they told you that privately or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think within the past couple weeks -- it was maybe the week before last, the week between Christmas and New Year's -- there was a letter from President Bashir to representatives of the United Nations saying that they would -- they were ready to move forward or suggesting they were ready to move forward on phase one and two, left three unanswered.

And the indications that we have had thus far is that they are ready to move forward on phase one and two. As I tried to point out this morning, there is another half to this, and that is the UN being ready to actually deploy and get its preparations ready. And they have had representatives from that first phase on the ground in Sudan and even had some of them go out to Al Fasher. They subsequently returned back to Khartoum because I think there were some questions about what sort of facilities -- whether the facilities that they would occupy were ready. I don't think that that was one that we could put on the Sudanese Government. And so they are working to make sure that there are appropriate facilities for them to work out of. That's the first phase. It's on the order of 70 people thereabouts, but get the full numbers from the UN.

Then the second phase is about -- roughly about a thousand, a thousand people, which is essentially a headquarters element. And to my knowledge -- and you can check with the UN -- they haven't yet contacted the Sudanese Government about deploying that component to Sudan. So, in essence, we haven't tested that proposition yet fully, or the UN hasn't fully tested that proposition. Sudan has said that they are willing to work with them and get them in there so we don't -- we can't come to at least an early conclusion on the phase two. On phase one, I think they're working through it. Obviously, phase three remains, and that's the bulk of the force. That's thousands and thousands of AU UN forces in Sudan which is what you really need. That's where you need to get to. All of this is preliminary work.

So the Sudanese thus far have demonstrated at least on phase one the cooperation. I don't think the international system has yet tested them on phase two yet. I don't think it's fair to say that we have tested them on phase two. And Andrew Natsios also talked to them about some other items on his list, and I think the reaction on that was sort of mixed. So the bottom line is the process is moving forward slowly, in incremental chunks, and certainly we wish that it would go forward faster. But it isn't. But the way you keep it moving forward and the way you have a hope of increasing that pace of those deployments, at least from the Sudanese side, is to keep up the diplomatic pressure. And that's one reason why Andrew Natsios is in China now talking to the Chinese because the Chinese, I think everybody understands, have -- they have some leverage with the Sudanese because of their commercial relationships.

QUESTION: Why are you not talking about Plan B, the unspecified consequences that Special Envoy Natsios said the Sudanese would suffer if they didn't agree to the hybrid force in its entirety in writing, including phase three, by the end of the year. I mean, it's like you're talking about pressure but you're not mentioning the one thing that you guys were talking about as pressure.

MR. MCCORMACK: Of course we're thinking through those. Of course we're thinking through that. And part of what you do in diplomacy, you always have your Plan B. And if we come to the judgment that the diplomatic track that we are on right now, the tactics that we're employing at the moment, aren't producing the results that we want to see at an acceptable rate, then you move to Plan B. But you have already done -- once you get to that point, if you're doing your planning well you have already gotten to Plan B, you have already thought through what Plan B is and laid the groundwork for it. So, yeah, we are thinking about what happens if this current set of diplomatic tactics doesn't work, but we're not prepared at this point to talk about them.

QUESTION: Doesn't it undermine your credibility with the Sudanese when you make what was effectively a threat -- do this by the end of the year or else -- and then you don't yet carry through because they didn't it in full by the end of the year?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, this is -- we would have liked to have seen the whole force deployed some time ago. Let's pause at that. We would have loved to have -- liked very much to have seen this deployed some time ago, but that's not where we were. The Sudanese did make some steps in the direction of the international community not certainly steps that are sufficient to meet all the conditions laid out by the international community or the goals laid out by the international community. And I don't want to be in a position of trying to explain that away for the Sudanese Government because I'm certainly not. But what I'm trying to deal with is the reality of this process. The reality of this process is that it has moved slowly. But the only reason why it has moved forward in the direction that we and the rest of the members of the international community would like to see it move is through constant, consistent diplomatic pressure and we're in the process of continuing to do that.

There are outside efforts. The Save Darfur Coalition, for example, they have asked Senator -- Governor Bill Richardson to travel to Sudan. And we consulted with him prior to his departure and any of these outside efforts, anybody with some leverage or some "in" with the Sudanese Government that can possibly move them forward, certainly that is welcome.

Samir.

QUESTION: Sudan?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Salim Salim is the African Union mediator --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- is in Washington. Is he seeing anybody at State?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you. I'll check. Off the top of my head, I don't know, Samir. I'll check for you.

Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, each time there appear to be starts and stops and you've just highlighted -- I believe Arshad has just highlighted some of those.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Way back about a year ago, the Bashir government and President Bashir himself was, I guess, nominated as the worst dictator in the world. Now, there was a briefing or a forum at Brookings some weeks ago with both Andrew Natsios and the French envoy also to the Sudan. And it was pointed out then that if they had the camps in Chad along the border, those camps would have to move another 300 miles inland into Chad to keep it away from the border. And it's a disparity, it appears, with the amount of troops or force that the Janjaweed are using. Has this been taken into account and is there any thought to implement a no-fly zone around Khartoum so that any types of military weaponry -- of course, you have the helicopters and the bombers, Russian bombers -- to put that into place now?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, Joel, certainly -- you mentioned Chad. Certainly, in addressing the situation in Darfur, you need to work with the Government of Chad in some respect. They have a problem along the border. There is also some of the violence that occurs in Darfur emanates from areas along that border so you need to deal with that. And you mentioned a no-fly zone. Others have mentioned that as an idea. Prime Minister Blair has put that out as an idea. And certainly, it's something that needs to be considered in that serious people are putting that out there. But at the moment, we are focused on the diplomatic track that we are on right now. That doesn't mean you think about, as I talked about with Arshad, what is Plan B and what are the elements of Plan B.

Farah.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Anything else on Sudan? Okay.

QUESTION: I'm just wondering, I know you don't want to predict what the President's going to say in his speech, but I'm just wondering --

MR. MCCORMACK: I figure that's a safe place to be.

QUESTION: How much input has been sought from like traditional U.S. allies on the idea of a surge?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in general, talking about Iraq policy, of course we talk to our allies. The President met with Prime Minister Blair several weeks ago in the course of this review. Of course, we have contact with our close allies on the issue of Iraq in general. I'm not going to talk about any particular policy prescriptions that have been mentioned in the newspapers right now, but of course we've touched base with them.

QUESTION: Has anybody else -- I mean, are you hearing reactions? I mean, obviously, there are newspaper reports about a surge. Can you give us a sense of what reactions you're hearing diplomatically?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that the diplomatic reaction will come when the President gives his remarks and people will have something that they can hold, they can look at, they understand is the official proposal and position of the United States, as articulated by the President. I think at that point they will have something to react to. Before then they are reacting to newspaper reports.

QUESTION: I guess I'm just reacting to the fact that this has -- you know, a few years ago, this was a U.S. -- you know, we really talked about a U.S.-led coalition and there was a big push on having others involved in contributions. And now, this seems to be a U.S. change in the way forward and we're not -- I'm just wondering if there has been any attempt to elicit support from some of these allies for --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that, you know, the situation has changed somewhat on the ground. The period that you were talking about you actually had countries with significant forces on the ground and significant boots on the ground. You still do have multinational coalition partners with boots on the ground right now, but over time the emphasis has shifted to the Iraqis taking greater responsibility for their own security.

Now on some fronts, for example, with the army, that process has moved forward and you do have an army that is largely competent in doing what it has asked to do. Now, it is not able to do everything that a fully formed national army with long years of experience and training is able to do. For example, it still needs help with support, logistics, fire support, that sort of thing. But there are certainly elements -- if you talk to our U.S. military and they point out that they are very good and very competent. Now, they get better and better every single day as they get in the fight. So you've had a shift over time in responsibility for the security to the Iraqis. There's still a ways to go with that, as we can all see on the ground.

There is also similarly then a shift on the diplomatic front to try to have the international community help the Iraqis in other ways. Right now we have the International Compact for Iraq. That process has been underway. There was a meeting at the UN. There have been a number of meetings that we have had led by Deputy Secretary of Treasury Kimmitt. And the basic deal there is the Iraqis on one hand will take certain steps in terms of political and economic reform and in return members of the international community will pledge assistance of -- in a variety of different forms, whether that's debt relief or development assistance or diplomatic support or political support. So that's really the sort of basis of our efforts on the international front right now. So it has shifted over time as the situation has shifted over time and as the strategy in Iraq has developed. And you have also had over time various corrections to the tactics that we've been using.

Sue.

QUESTION: Has there been any renewed consideration of late of speaking to Iran over Iraq and using that channel?

MR. MCCORMACK: The Zal channel?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: Maybe we'll have to rename it some point, pending Senate confirmation, the Ryan channel or the Crocker channel?

QUESTION: Yeah. Crocker channel, yeah.

QUESTION: Crocker channel.

MR. MCCORMACK: We can put out a -- you know, have a contest here who can rename it.

No, there's nothing new to reporting that regard.

QUESTION: And the same with Syria then?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new to report there.

QUESTION: Also Iraq. Any reaction to Jacques Chirac's comments a couple of days ago essentially that Iraq had turned out exactly as he'd predicted, not so well?

MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't see them. I didn't see the remarks.

QUESTION: On Somalia, there were a lot of reports out of the region that Jendayi Frazer had planned to go to Mogadishu over the weekend and had to cancel at the last minute for security reasons after news of the trip leaked.

MR. MCCORMACK: There was some thought given to it, but there was never a formal plan that people were comfortable with in terms of an international delegation going there. She would have been just a part of an international delegation. But instead, they had a very good meeting in Kenya in which members of the TFG were able to come to Kenya and that same international delegation was able to meet with them, have a good meeting with them.

But you know, Somalia has a long way to go. They have an opportunity here. The international community is focused on Somalia. They understand the needs and there is some demonstrated desire to help the Somali people not only on the security front, though more needs -- with the deployment of IGASOM -- although you need a significantly larger force than is currently slated to go there, and on the humanitarian front we ourselves have put forward some money in that regard and I think you're going to see more money being pledged. But the Somali people need to step up and seize this opportunity if they're going to have a -- if they're going to realize a better future for themselves. But they got a ways to go.

QUESTION: Have there been any contacts or any attempted contacts between U.S. officials and moderates in the Islamic Courts movement since the --

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

QUESTION: Do you believe there are moderates in the Islamic Courts movement?

MR. MCCORMACK: We -- it's not a monolithic movement. Quite clearly, the most radical elements of the Islamic Courts were ascendant prior to the Ethiopian troops going into Mogadishu and we had some real concerns about the individuals that were exercising a leadership position over the Islamic Courts, some of whom had close ties to international terror. And that was a cause of deep concern for us, but they are not a monolithic grouping by reports that we have. And we talked about that when the Islamic Courts first emerged on the scene and we were hoping that a different element might emerge in the leadership of the Islamic Courts, but it didn't.

Sue.

QUESTION: Are you encouraging the Transitional Government to have contact with the Islamic Courts and to try and negotiate something with them?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're encouraging all parties who want to play a responsible role in Somali civil and political life to come together. Now is the time to do that. And whether that includes people who self-identify as members of the Islamic Courts, we leave that to the TFG and the Somali people. These have to be individuals that are dedicated to a peaceful -- a more peaceful, better future for Somalia, not individuals who are interested in providing safe haven for terrorists, for example. That is not obviously something that we would encourage, but there are some people who self-identify as members of the Islamic Courts. I don't think that that necessarily disqualifies an individual from participating and building a better future for Somalia as long as it is -- they do so on the basis and understanding that they're trying to build a more peaceful, stable future for Somalia, one that is not -- that doesn't resort to violence or consort with terror.

QUESTION: And are you confident that the Ethiopians will pull out when they said they're going to pull out and are you in close contact with them?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think the Somalia Contact Group is in touch with them and they have stated very clearly their desire to leave Somalia and Mogadishu, and that is appropriate. You also want to do that in such a way that you don't create a security vacuum in Mogadishu. And I understand that the Ugandan Government has talked about the fact that they -- pending receipt of the resources to do so, that they are prepared to deploy their troops towards the end of the month and that there's also a search on for more contributions to that IGASOM force, which they're going to need. So I think that's probably going to be a rolling discussion. But the Ethiopians understand that they do have to withdraw and the Somalia Contact Group understands that they do need to withdraw. You also don't want to create a security vacuum.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you, Sean. This is Arshad with the Daily Inquilab. A question on Bangladesh.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: In Bangladesh political crisis is looming. Caretaker government has lately come under controversy, election commissions utterly in disarray and controversial. In this circumstances, Sean, will election in Bangladesh be fair and acceptable, and what is the reaction of the state in the wake of the blockade by the grand alliance today? There are a lot of people in the streets of Dhaka have been came under police action.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: So what is your reaction to that, may I?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a free and fair transparent election not only on election day but in the run-up to the election day is a cornerstone of any democracy. And the caretaker government right now, we have urged them to create those conditions where all political parties and everybody who wants to be involved in Bangladesh's political -- democratic political life can do so and feel as though that when they cast their vote that it is going to be a vote that's recorded in the way that it should be and that their voice will be heard, whether or not they will -- their particular political candidate or political party wins is going to be up to those in the ballot box, but it needs to be free and fair. They need to have that opportunity.

And Under Secretary Nick Burns just last week spoke with the head of the caretaker government in Bangladesh to urge him to see that his government creates those conditions that would allow for a free, fair and transparent elections -- transparent election. I'm not sure to this point that we have seen them take those actions and we would encourage them to do so.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up to that. Ambassador Butenis on the ground met both the grand alliance leader Sheikh Hasina as well as the former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. Do you have any latest -- any deal that would really help them to come together? Is there any move by Ambassador Butenis on the ground to strike a deal between the two so that they come to an election process?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're -- the short answer is I don't have details of any meetings or any "deal" that may be emerging. Our Ambassador on the ground certainly is available to offer the good offices of that position to Somali* political parties, those involved in the political process who want to see a good election transpire in a peaceful environment. But ultimately, any of these decisions are going to -- any accommodations that are made are going to have to be among the Bangladeshis themselves.

QUESTION: Thank you, thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: On personnel changes, Sean. What will be -- if confirmed -- Ambassador Khalilzad's very first policy priority at the UN? You have your resolutions out on North Korea and Iran and you have the cease-fire functioning in Lebanon. What will be his very first area that he's going to have to tackle?

MR. MCCORMACK: That will be somewhat dependent on how the confirmation process goes forward. We are hopeful that this can be done in a speedy way. I'm sure Zal will do everything he can to provide all the information that he needs to provide it to the Senate so they can do so.

I would expect that all the issues that are currently on the agenda will remain on the agenda for some time. These are, I think, going to be hearty perennials for the international community and the Security Council for a time to come.

For example, Iran, North Korea, Sudan -- I am sure that during his tenure, if confirmed, he will have to deal with those. Management issues, management reform is going to be another issue that's at the top of his list. And then there are going to be other issues that from time to time will come to the attention -- need the high-level attention of the Security Council and other UN organizations, for example, like Somalia, like Burma. So I would expect that he will have his hands full while he's up there.

QUESTION: He'll have an easier confirmation process than Mr. Bolton did?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to try to predict how the confirmation process will go, but we hope that he has hearings scheduled at an early date and that he is able to proceed to a vote on the floor in a swift fashion. But again, that's the prerogative of the Senate.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Change of topic to Mexico. Mexico has sent 3,000 soldiers and federal police officers into Tijuana over the last couple days to crack down on drug trafficking and violent crimes. Given the situation in Tijuana, do you think there will be any plans to change travel advisories for U.S. tourists down there?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any plans right now, but what happens with these travel advisories is that the embassy, the relevant bureau back here, which would be Western Hemisphere Affairs, along with security folks and the Consular Affairs folks, will take a look at the situation and see if they need to update it. And that is a process that is done by the -- started out, certainly, by the professionals. They take a look at it with an objective eye as to the situation on the ground, and if we need to issue something, we will. But I don't have any particular information right now that we're going to.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Japan has upgraded its defense agency to a Defense Ministry Tuesday, so can I have your comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Japan upgraded its defense agency to a Defense Ministry on Tuesday. So can I have your comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that that's really a matter for the Japanese Government. I don't think we would really offer a comment on that.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? There were some press reports that the U.S. needed Japan to discuss an "emergency" in the Taiwan Straits and how Japan and China -- I mean, Japan and the United States -- to cooperate on that? Have you anything --

MR. MCCORMACK: No information on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.


*Bangladeshi political parties

(The briefing was concluded at 2:10 p.m.)

DPB #6


Released on January 8, 2007

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