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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 26, 2007

INDEX:

IRAN/IRAQ

Iranians Should Engage in Serious Negotiations with International Community
Chapter 7 Resolution / A Threat is Posed If Iran Continues Enrichment Activities
Iran Should Come into Compliance with Behavior
Possible Iranian Activities in Iraq / Evidence of Iranian Engagement in Activities / Possible Declassification of Information on Activities / EFD Networks
Cooperation Between the Multinational Forces / Iranian Activity is a Common Threat to All International Forces
Secretary Rice’s Participation in Discussions on Force Protection Issue / Protection of American Lives in Iraq / U.S. Working International Community to Address Various Aspects of Iranian Behavior / Upcoming Discussions with UN Security Council on Next Steps / Security Council Track / Diplomatic Strategy
IAEA Inspection Process and Iranian Demands / IAEA Track
Query on the Detainment of Iranians in Iraq

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

World Economic Summit / International Community’s Desire to Seek a Solution to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict / An Opportunity to Move Forward
Issue of Moving Forward / Finding Common Ground

SOUTH AFRICA

Frozen Assets of Two South African Citizens

KOSOVO

U.S. Supports a Solution to Unique Facts of Kosovo
Ahtisaari Briefing with Contact Group

GREECE/CYPRUS

U.S. Supports UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Efforts to Resolve Conflict

SOMALIA

Reports of Foreign Fighters in Somalia / Al-Qaida Involvement

NORTH KOREA

U.S. Treasury Department to Start Discussions on Financial Measures
Status on Next Round of Six-Party Talks / Issue on Specific Dates of Talks

DARFUR

Financing of AU Peacekeeping Mission
AU- UN Force / Three-Phase Agreement on Deployment of Forces


TRANSCRIPT:

Video

12:41 p.m. EST

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

QUESTION: Dave said we're over nourished today.

MR. MCCORMACK: Over -- who's this? Who's complaining?

QUESTION: Thank, God. I said, we're over nourished.

MR. MCCORMACK: We will have all -- the briefings will continue until you cry out in pain and say, "no more." (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, I can do that (inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) Okay. Who has questions?

Yeah.

QUESTION: Mohamed ElBaradei said the West and Iran should declare a sort of a time out under which Iran would --

MR. MCCORMACK: Let's go sit on the stairs --

QUESTION: Yeah. Iran would, you know, cease its nuclear work and then UN sanctions would be suspended at the same time. I wonder --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's the offer that's on the table. The -- well, it's not quite the offer that's on the table. But the Iranians come back -- come to the table, engage in serious negotiations, if they suspend their enrichment related activity. The ball is in their court. The international community has spoken. They've spoken with a unified voice. The international system has said very clearly to the Iranian regime that your rude behavior is across the line, that you are outliers at this point in time in the international system. They have a Chapter 7 resolution and they have brought upon themselves the Chapter 7 resolution. That's hard to do. It's hard to do because the international community tends to give countries every possible opportunity they have to come into compliance with behavior, answer various questions that are outstanding. But the situation is such that the threat posed by Iran being able to develop a nuclear weapon is that the international system said we can't allow that to stand. We can't allow Iran to continue to progress in developing a nuclear weapon because the threat is so grave. And that's -- they have brought this upon themselves, so the ball is in the Iranian's court at this point.

QUESTION: So the Iranians have to give up enrichment and then come to the table?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's what the Security Council has said.

QUESTION: This happening together, okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: All right. That's what the Security Council has said.

Yes. Libby.

QUESTION: Still on Iran, you talked a little bit about the gaggle about this evidence that you're working on possibly presenting to the American public about Iranian activities in Iraq. Can you talk about where that is in the process and why you're considering doing it?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, apparently, walk back a little bit, there was apparently a challenge put out there I believe from the Iranian Ambassador in Baghdad said, well, show us the evidence, show us the evidence that Iranian agents are engaged in these activities and Ambassador Khalilzad, rightly so, said, we will present that evidence. We will make it public.

Now, where we are in the process is taking a look at the mountain of evidence that we do have and seeing what it is that we can cull from that in a declassified form so that we can make very clearly connect the dots between these EFD networks and Iranian influence over them. So we are working through that progress -- that process. It often takes a lot of time. It's sort of a laborious process because you have to -- because you want to make sure that you are able to protect sources and methods, all the while painting as clear a picture as we possibly can for global publics
as to the involvement of the Iranian regime in these EFD networks.

QUESTION: Will this be in the form of -- like a national intelligence estimate, something like that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think it would be quite something like that because those tend to be highly classified documents and this would be more of something that is a public presentation. Now, I would caution that this is our intention and we are working through the process right now. At the end of the day you have to make a determination as to exactly how useful the information is that you are able to declassify. There are certain restrictions. You don't want to blow your sources and methods. You don't want to in any way harm your ability to continue to collect the information that is helping us protect our troops. So it is our intent to do this and we'll see exactly how long it takes us to work through that process and at the end of the day what the judgment is about the utility of the information that we're able to declassify.

QUESTION: Would you say that U.S. forces are being extra cautious given, you know, the controversy over Iraq intelligence and --

MR. MCCORMACK: No. No. You want to be cautious because you don't want to do any harm to our ability to continue to gather information that will help to protect our troops in Iraq.

QUESTION: Did you say -- (inaudible)

MR. MCCORMACK: George.

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) other adjectives like lethal or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Keep going. Lethal as in describing, what, the --

QUESTION: You said a "mountain of evidence."

MR. MCCORMACK: A mountain of evidence, yes, indeed. A substantial body, convincing, clear evidence. I mean, you know, we can keep on going down the line.

QUESTION: And will this come from the military side of things? Will this be announced in Iraq, will it be announced here? How -- what form will it take?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I don't think that anybody's begun to work through those modalities quite yet.

QUESTION: Did you say that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- what you guys are considering was this from intelligence you've received from this raid in Arbil or was this related to things from December?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the problem didn't just start in -- at the end of December. The problem goes back a ways and you can -- I think this first really came to public notice early -- earlier last year when the British MOD, Ministry of Defense, started talking a little bit about the threats that their soldiers in the south faced from these new type of more lethal IEDs and then traced that back to Iranian networks that were providing the know-how, the technology, and some of the resources to build these, so this goes back a ways.

As from where we collected this information, that would be something perhaps we could talk about when we actually have a presentation at this point. I think you can assume that it comes from a variety of different sources.

Yeah, Elise.

QUESTION: A little bit to follow up your comments this morning on this policy of going after some of the Iranian actors --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- in Iraq. Is this being done in consultation, cooperation, or coordination with the British who are facing the same threat? There are some reports that the British are also patrolling along the Iranian border and finding some suspicious activity.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, our guys in Baghdad, military folks in Baghdad are probably in a better position to talk about cooperation between the multinational forces in the north and then in the south. I can't speak specifically to it, Elaine. Certainly, we coordinate all the time on a whole matter of different topics. It's a common threat, it's a threat to their soldiers, it's a threat to our soldiers, it's a threat to all the international forces that are on the ground in Iraq. So there is a common threat. I can't specify for you the level of cooperation that we have.

QUESTION: And then -- and just one more also on the suggestion that Secretary Rice has objections to the idea of going after Iranian actors in the country, even though she said and others have said that that's not true.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Could you speak about Secretary Rice's reported seeking of assurances or specific people that could make sure that specific guidelines or conventions are followed to the letter?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, she, of course, participated in the discussions that led up to these decisions and she fully supports this effort, of course. This is a force protection issue. It's designed to protect our troops. Absolutely, she wants to do everything that we possibly can to protect our troops and she has full confidence that these activities are going to be implemented in such a way that maximizes the benefits to our forces in protecting them from these lethal networks.

QUESTION: So could you say whether she specifically sought a point person to make sure that -- you know, all the Is are dotted and all the Ts are crossed, to make sure that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Elise, she -- let's just clear up any questions here. She fully supports this effort, yeah.

QUESTION: What's the goal, then? To go after these guys and kill them or interrogate them?

MR. MCCORMACK: The goal here is to protect our troops and the military can talk about how exactly it does that. They will talk about their rules of engagement, but the goal here is to protect our troops.

Libby.

QUESTION: On this still, what do you say to critics that say this is just more of a political move to set up a confrontation between the U.S. versus Iran throughout the Middle East? And -- you know, you talk a lot about extremist forces versus moderate forces and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- really defining that.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: So what do you say to people that say that's what this is about?

MR. MCCORMACK: That this is more political than actually an effort to protect our troops?

QUESTION: Or at least -- yeah, the public -- you know, talking about now presenting evidence and that sort of thing.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I -- you know, I don't know who these people are. They just don't know what they're talking about. I presume that these are people on the outside looking in who have some time on their hands who just have no idea what they're talking about.

Look, this is a serious issue of protecting American lives in Iraq and the President laid out very, very clearly his reasons for the decision and what it is -- the latitude that is being given to make sure that our forces are protected in Iraq. He also made very clear, as recently as this morning, that these activities are taking place within Iraq. Chairman Pace made that very clear when this story first came out, that these activities of force protection are governed by existing Security Council resolutions as well as the fact that they are taking place within Iraq. We have full confidence that we can do so.

We are working on other fronts to -- with the international community to address different aspects of Iranian behavior, for example, on the nuclear front. We have -- you're well aware of what we're doing on the nuclear front with respect to our diplomatic activities. So this is a very particular issue with respect to force protection protecting American lives in Iraq.

Yeah.

QUESTION: On the next step regarding Iran's behavior, like if -- when Dr. ElBaradei present his report that the Iranians did not implement the resolution, what type of sanctions are you considering to impose on Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Samir, as for the next steps in the Security Council process, that's something we're going to talk about with the other members of the Security Council. We'll see. We'll see what Dr. ElBaradei has to say. Most importantly, we'll see what the Iranians do. They continue in provocative behavior, I've seen various news reports indicating -- saying that they have indicated they intend to install more centrifuges, certainly not the kind of response the international community is looking for. So our response as an international system will be guided by what the facts are on the ground in Iran, what their behavior is.

Regardless of the Security Council track, we continue to work with other governments on implementing the existing resolution. It is having some effect on the Iranian regime. They are starting to see the cost for their behavior, not only the actual costs now, but the opportunity costs down the road and I think that's worrying some in Iran. You're starting to see more of a public debate about whether or not they're really following the right set of policies.

And that is what this diplomatic strategy is intended to do. It's intended to elicit a change in behavior and it's intended to do so through application of increasing levels of diplomatic pressure and they're starting to feel it now. And you're starting to see, in public now, the conversations that we were all hypothesizing were taking place behind the scenes. We hope that they change their behavior. There is an opportunity here for them to change their behavior, but we're going to be consistent in continuing to apply that diplomatic pressure absent a change in their behavior.

Yeah, Sue.

QUESTION: Any specific comments on Iran's threat not to allow the head -- UN head inspector to go in and look at their nuclear work?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's outrageous. You know, it is -- it's outrageous that they find themselves in the position of a country under Chapter 7 resolution for their failure to cooperate with the international community and now they're trying to dictate, again to international bodies, what those international bodies can and can't do in the form of who they're going to send to inspect them. These are all highly qualified professional individuals and certainly to accede to this demand from Iran, really calls into question the integrity of that inspection process and I'm sure the IAEA will take a close look at that. And as a member of the Board of Governors we would have -- you know, we would have concerns about any agreement to accede to this demand by the Iranians. So this is -- this was proceeded by another demand earlier that they get a whole new set of inspectors to come in for this next round. They're inspector shopping.

As -- and put aside the specifics of it, just the tone of those kinds of actions are indicative of their continued defiance. And this is not what the international system is looking for or frankly what it was hoping for in terms of Iranian behavior.

QUESTION: That said, yesterday ElBaradei said it was -- we're still working, the jury is still out there, even if Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon there five to ten years from today. Can you anticipate any kind of disparity between your sense of momentum in getting this back to the UN and what the pace of the IAEA wants to go at, in terms of their inspections? It seems --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. I don't think there's any disparity. I mean, these are two separate tracks. The IAEA has its work. And certainly the Security Council resolution was informed by some of the Iranian reaction to the IAEA. But there are other factors that went into that resolution, so the IAEA track and then the UN Security Council track are two separate things and all of those are separate from the P-5+1 efforts. So the IAEA is continuing to do its work and they continue to send in inspectors. I think everybody has a healthy sense of the urgency of the need to get Iran to change its behavior, including Dr. ElBaradei. That sense of urgency is shared by the members of the -- most of the members of the Board of Governors as well as the P-5+1 and the Security Council. So I think the system as a whole is actually working relatively well in this regard in terms of applying some concerted pressure to Iran to change its behavior.

Yeah, Michel.

QUESTION: Why have you been waiting this long time to take the steps toward Iran to protect the U.S. army in Iraq? Why you didn't take it before a long time?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, frankly, because it's -- as the information is developed and as you see the threat emerge, it's based on the facts on the ground. And you start to see these facts on the ground emerge and to develop. And in reaction to that, you have to take steps to protect our troops. So it's -- the short answer is because it's in reaction to the realities as they developed on the ground in Iraq.

Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, also of Davos, there was the World Economic Summit and it's almost a love fest. You had Foreign Minister Livni sitting directly next to President Abbas in the audience and they seem to be engaged in some peace negotiations. And as far as the Davos summit, it looks like the world leaders are looking to resume the roadmap. Is that what you're gleaning from that summit?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I can't tell you, Joel. I don't think we've gotten any feedback from Davos, obviously. The Secretary is in there. We have I think some folks that have decided to go there. Look, there is -- you know, what you point out is indicative of the mood in the international community in its desire to seek a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I think that's shared by some of the leadership on the Palestinian side, certainly President Abbas, and on the Israeli side as well. You saw another example of it back in September around the General Assembly. They had that Security Council meeting which they talked about this issue. It was remarkable because it was really free from the kind of hurling of accusations back and forth in terms of a dialogue. It was more -- it had more of an atmosphere of trying to find common ground and seek solutions.

So there is what you point out as indicative of the existing atmosphere, I think, in the international community, and that's what Secretary Rice is talking about when she says that there is an opportunity here. It doesn't -- that doesn't guarantee you success, but there is an opportunity here to move forward. And that's why she's working so hard right now, working with responsible parties in the region to see how we can move forward.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: Sean --

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: A question on the detainees. On like al-Qaida or the insurgents, they're actually paid employees of a sovereign government. So does in any way raise any legal questions as far as detaining them?

MR. MCCORMACK: Talk to MNFI. They can, I think, speak in more detail as to how they view these individuals and their standing vis-à-vis international treaty obligations. I would point out that when the incident back in September when we scooped up several of these guys, it was brought to our attention that a couple of them, I believe two, had diplomatic status, formal diplomatic status inside Iraq, and in short order those individuals were released, turned over to the Iraqi Government, who then turned them back over to the Iranian Government and I think that they were asked to leave Iraq at that time. So we did abide by our Vienna Convention obligations.

As for the particular status of these individuals, I think talk to the folks in Baghdad. They can give you a better read on that.

Sue.

QUESTION: Have you been in contact with the South African Government today with respect to two cousins who were -- whose assets were frozen who were put on a terror list?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if we talked to them today. It has been a matter of some discussion back and forth between the United States and the South African Government. I can't tell you if we talked to them today.

QUESTION: So have they contacted you and was any -- have they complained at all about this or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I'm not sure if we've received any demarches or -- which is the nice diplomatic way of saying complaint.

QUESTION: Complaint, yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros.

QUESTION: On Kosovo, but I need your wise answer. It's a very -- (laughter) --

MR. MCCORMACK: What, as opposed to the rest of them? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: It's a very crucial question. Isn't the Greeks' (inaudible) less than 2 million people, are you sympathetic too for a Scotland independence, an area over 5.5 million people, supported even by 59 percent of a British paper in the Guardian (inaudible) today, "Scotland could…among the beneficiary of this week expected UN recommendation that Kosovo will be granted provisional independence from Serbia"?

MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, with respect to Kosovo, we're going to support a solution that is relevant to the unique facts of Kosovo and the situation on the ground there. We don't see any precedent in terms of the actions that may or may not be taken with respect to Kosovo. It is a unique situation.

Where we stand right now, Mr. Ahtisaari has briefed the so-called Contact Group about what he is going to be talking about with Kosovars as well as the Serbian Government. He has not yet made his plans public. He plans to do that, I think, towards the end of next week. So I think out of courtesy and respect for Mr. Ahtisaari, I'm not going to talk about any of the details. But we are supportive of his efforts. We think it is important to maintain unity within the Contact Group. We would urge all members of the Contact Group to support Mr. Ahtisaari in his work as well as in his proposals, so we'll see in the coming days, weeks and months how this plays out.

QUESTION: February 2nd (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's the date I think he has in mind, but I don't want to speak for him.

QUESTION: And one on Cyprus and then we'll (inaudible) -- it's Friday. Any comment on the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon statement in the process calling for Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders to implement, finally, the agreement of last July to find a solution?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he's -- I think he's picking up where Secretary General Annan left off in his -- using his good offices to try to find a solution to a longstanding conflict. We support the Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in those efforts. We'll do everything that we can that is appropriate to try to find a solution to the conflict, but he quite clearly has an idea of what he wants to do and we'll try to support him.

Kirit.

QUESTION: Do you have any information about that American who had been picked up in Kenya?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I've seen the news reports about it and we're following up to see if there are any Americans that are being held by foreign governments. Obviously, we have an obligation as the State Department to try to contact those individuals, but at this point, I don't have anything that I can offer you.

QUESTION: Do you have any information about the number, the degree to which Americans may have been involved with the -- you know, American citizens, not American military, but -- in this conflict with Somalia?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I don't. I can't tell you with any degree of certainty what number, if any, were involved. We do know, as a fact, that there were foreign fighters in Somalia and some of them were involved with al-Qaida, some of them were al-Qaida members. I'm not trying to hint that there were any American al-Qaida members in Somalia, but just -- I just mention that by way of saying there are foreign fighters in Somalia. We're trying to track down these news reports to see if -- get the ground truth and see if there were, in fact, any Americans that have been picked up by foreign governments.

We're going to move to the back here a little bit. Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: There are some reports that financial talks with North Korea will be held January 30th. Can you confirm that on the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Treasury Department is going to have something to say about that, I think, if -- they have already?

QUESTION: Yes, sir.

MR. MCCORMACK: They have already? There you are.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. MCCORMACK: So they're going to be in the lead on that. I think -- I'm not sure they have announced where they're going to take place. I think they were talking about Beijing, but I'm not sure if the venue has been set yet. This is all part of what -- we're following through on what we said we would do in terms of talking, addressing the issues related to financial measures with the North Korean Government.

QUESTION: How the talks could affect on upcoming, next six-party talks?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, again, we view these issues as separate. We agreed to start this discussion in Beijing at the last round of the six-party talks, but we believe that the issue of financial measures to defend ourselves, to defend our currencies, and to enforce our laws are separate from the six-party talks.

QUESTION: I'll ask you another question that you can't answer. The --

MR. MCCORMACK: Seriously --

QUESTION: The date of the next round of the six-party talks?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not yet announced yet. It's going to come out from the Chinese Government. We're -- I think they're kicking around some dates maybe towards the end of this month, maybe towards the beginning of February. We'll see. Again, nothing's done until you have an announcement, but --

QUESTION: Sean, is it just an issue of setting the date or are there still kind of snags or issues that you need to work out before you're ready to say there's been enough progress for another round?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think there's still some discussions going on. But you know, again no matter how much preparation you have, you don't know what you have -- what you actually have until you get around the negotiating table. That would be the proof in the pudding what emerges from the negotiations.

QUESTION: Right. But you did say that you want to continue to prepare the ground for successful talks, so I'm assuming that you have some kind of benchmark that says we're ready to go.

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a judgment call. You know, it's a judgment call. It's one that gets done collectively.

Yeah. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: There's reports from Japan that next round is going to -- is likely to start some time around February 8th.

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, in response to George's question that people are kicking around some dates, you know, some towards the end of January, some towards the beginning of February, you have to make sure that everybody's logistical details line up and everybody's sure that they've checked off that were ready to go for a next round.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Just regarding the timing, is the U.S. satisfied to have the BDA talks prior to their next round of the six parties or would they prefer to have them run parallel? Are you -- is there are any concerns that the North Koreans might do a dine-and-dash once they get the financial talks?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) No. I think that we're comfortable with the current timing of having these discussions on or around the 30th and then in the not-too-distant future thereafter possibly having the six-party talks.

QUESTION: One more. Supplementally you're going to be asking for more funds for Darfur to fund the UN-AU force because they're still obviously struggling.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. That is going to have to wait until the supplemental request comes out. We got some dispensation on these two issues, on Lebanon and Afghanistan, just because you have these -- you had these two events coming up, the donor's conference and then the NATO Ministerial in Belgium. So on all the other numbers we're going to have to wait for the budget season which will be upon us very soon.

Yes, Elise.

QUESTION: One more on Darfur. There's been some question as to whether President Bashir was going to accept phase three of this plan for the AU mission which would involve UN troops. And the Under Secretary for the Foreign Ministry today gave a roundtable discussion. He was pretty emphatic that there would be no "UN peacekeepers," and no non-African troops per se. Is that your understanding is that your understanding that while it would be a predominantly AU -- that it would be an AU force supported by the UN?

MR. MCCORMACK: Here's our understanding. You have out of Addis Ababa phase one and phase two of the so-called three phase agreement. Phase one and phase two basically deal with advance and headquarter support elements for a hybrid force, AU-UN force.

As for the so-called phase three, the Sudanese Government has not agreed to allow in yet those forces. That is the real bulk of this AU-UN force. What they have done is they have agreed in principle to the idea of a AU-UN hybrid force. I confess to you I don't know the particular theology of AU-UN force or an AU force supported by the UN. What we do know is it would be a joint operation of the AU and the UN, the AU forming the core of whatever forces would be deployed in Darfur. So while the Sudanese Government has agreed in principle to that, what you need now is actual follow-through in terms of action in allowing in that force, which is what we do not have to this point.

Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:11 p.m.)

DPB # 15


Released on January 26, 2007

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