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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 4, 2007



President Putin’s Comments on Missile Defense Program
Russia’s Relationship with EU and U.S / Rhetoric out of Step with Current Realities
U.S. Will Continue with Program / Attempts to Alleviate Concerns
Gorbachev’s Comments on Relations Between U.S. and Russia


Query on Public’s Support for Missile Defense Plan


Issues Coming Up Before UN Security Council


Status of Six Party Talks / BDA Issue


Recent Actions Against Media a Topic at OAS Summit


Upcoming Meeting Between Olmert and Abbas
Detained BBC Reporter Alan Johnston in Gaza
U.S Administration’s Efforts to Bring Peace / Build Up Palestinian Institutions


President Calderon’s Comments on U.S. Immigration and Drug Policy


Skirmishes in Refugee Camps / U.S. Supports Government’s Effort to Maintain Law and Order


Query on Castro’s TV Appearance / Future Transition


Reports Government Trying to Discourage Media Coverage of Judicial Process Involving Ousted Supreme Court Chief


Under Secretary Burns’ Meetings


U.S. View of President Mugabe’s Government / Comparisons to Charles Taylor


Idea of Linking Darfur with Upcoming Beijing Olympics
China’s Role in Using Its Leverage


View Video

12:36 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don't have anything to start with, so we can get right into your questions.


QUESTION: Do you have any comment on President Putin's latest missile (inaudible)? NATO's already put something out on it, but I wondered whether you had any --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I know the White House has talked about this a little bit. It's just not helpful, certainly surprising. They have more of the ring of 1977 than they do 2007. So, you know, I don't know quite what to make of it. I can certainly make the obvious point that, of course, our security alliance with NATO is strong and sound and so forth. But it's just very surprising, especially given the -- you know, the new realities of not only the Russian relationship with the United States but also the Russian relationship with Europe.

This is -- Europe is Russia's number one trading partner. There's $258 billion of annual trade that goes back and forth between Russia and Europe; that was for last year. And Russia is Europe's number three -- when I say Europe, the EU's number three trading partner, so that's the reality of the European-Russian relationship. So I'm not quite sure from where this emanates.

QUESTION: You seem to be surprised by the -- by Russia's response. Do you think you miscalculated when you started drawing up the plans for the missile shield? Do you now regret not having possibly brought them in sooner? I know that you brought them in on multiple occasions --


QUESTION: But do you think somehow you could have done this better?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, you can always do things better. But that isn't to say that a lack of information is at the root of this. You know, even if you assume -- and I'm not subscribing to this -- even if you assume that somehow we got off to the -- on the wrong foot with regard to the missile defense plans for Europe, that doesn't really account for this continuing rhetoric that Russia keeps harping on. So I'm not sure where it comes from, Sue. We talked about the fact that we have had close consultations with Russia on this. We want Russia to participate in this program. We've made that offer. It's going to be up to them whether or not they participate in it.

The United States and Europe and its European allies are going to be working together on this to defend against missile threats, not emanating from Russia but coming from states like Iran and North Korea. On top of it all, this is a limited missile defense designed to protect against single-number or low -- double-digit number missiles coming in. Certainly, the initial capabilities would be for single-digit missiles coming in. As President Putin himself made the point, the Russian Government could easily overwhelm such a missile defense system. We agree. It's not designed to defend against Russia.

So just getting back to my original point, I can't tell you the reason for the rhetoric. It's certainly not helpful and it -- that sort of rhetoric doesn't add to public's understanding of not only the U.S.-Russia relationship but the Russian-European relationship. We work together with Russia quite well on a number of different issues of mutual concern. We're going to keep doing that. But it's a -- as with any great power relationship it's a big complicated relationship and there are going to be areas where we butt heads -- I'm sure -- where we disagree. There are going to be areas where we work quite well together and we're working on issues of nuclear nonproliferation, working well on Iran, working well on North Korea. So we're going to try to reap the benefits in those particular areas, where there are areas where we have to manage the relationship, where there isn't a perfect coincidence of views, we'll continue to do it.

QUESTION: But you're both using rhetoric. I mean, you're saying that these have the ring of 1977 rather than 2007. I mean, that's rhetoric too, so you're both guilty of it.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You said Cold War mentality is what you're basically saying by saying 1977. That's what you're referring to.

MR. MCCORMACK: What I'm saying is -- (laughter) -- don't put words in mouth. But what -- I'm just trying to make the point that that sort of rhetoric is out of step with the current realities of Russia's relationship with the rest of the world and that's why I talked about the trade figures. I think that really it's very striking, you know, the EU is Russia's largest trading partner. And so how does that rack up with this particular rhetoric and I think it's a little bit -- it's slightly discordant. And the reason -- as for the reasons of that disconnect, I can't tell you. You can talk to the Russian Government about that.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) that the European cities are threatened. Do you think about canceling this program? Is it something you even envision?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. And just to make a practical point, with the technologies involved in retargeting missiles, this is not something that is hard to do. When you talked about missile technology from 50 years ago, perhaps it would have taken a lot more time to do it, but in the modern era, those are things that could happen within minutes, and nobody would even know.


QUESTION: So it's only threat --

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a --

QUESTION: -- verbal?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, as a practical matter, Sylvie. I mean, you don't have to announce this type of thing. You can do it very quickly.


QUESTION: By raising the importance of the trading partnership, the broader partnership with Europe, are you suggesting that Russia's rhetoric could be threatening the basis of some of its relationships?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I'm not trying to imply that. I'm not trying to make that case. The -- I point out, it's a European trading data, so they can -- if they want to go down that road, they can. I was just using that as a way to put into relief the sort of rhetoric on missile defense and the reality of the relationship between Europe and Russia today.



MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this?



QUESTION: It seems that you don't take this threat really seriously, actually?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, you have -- there's clearly something on the President of Russia's mind about missile defense. And, of course, you take that seriously. Our response to that is to say, yes, we are absolutely going to work closely with you on this. And to the degree that Russia and the Russian Government and the Russian people need to be reassured that this is not aimed in any way, shape or form at Russia then of course we're going to do that. Does that mean that we're not going to continue on with what believe is an important program to help defend against the actions -- possible actions of rogue states, or states that are outside the norm of international behavior. Of course, we're going to continue to do that. It doesn't make any sense to subject yourself to a threat if there is a way to defend against that threat. Now, I know that there are those who argue that this leads to a sort of escalation in an arms race. Well, I think the fact that the ABM Treaty has gone by the wayside several years now, that you don't see that sort of explosion in the development of nuclear arsenals or these missile arsenals on the part of those who already possess them, it sort of refutes that argument. So of course -- yes, of course, we're going to continue on with this program. And there are enthusiastic partners in Europe. I think that there was -- the initial reaction in Europe on missile defense, I think there were -- public reaction was a bit nervous about it -- but if you just look at the news coverage. But I think that once there's actually been an open rational discussion of it, the public opinion has actually turned pretty solidly in favor of it, as far as I can see. That's just -- it's a non-scientific observation.


QUESTION: But what sort of additional practical steps are you going to take or are you talking about to try and cool down some of this rhetoric on both sides, other than telling the Russians, you know, we're going to work with you closely, other than telling the Russians this is about Iran and North Korea? What kind of practical steps --


QUESTION: -- additionally are you discussing --


QUESTION: -- if any?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, part of what you do is you just -- you -- it's almost sort of the Socratic method, you just keep asking the questions: Well, what is the source of concern? You keep trying to address any sources of concern and answering all their questions. President Bush is going to have an opportunity to see President Putin at the G-8 summit in Germany. They're also going to have an opportunity at the beginning of July to have a more relaxed conversation up in Kennebunkport, Maine. And Secretary Rice, of course, is going to see Foreign Minister Lavrov, I'm sure, several times over the coming months, which we can talk about all of these things.

Secretary Rice and Foreign Minister Lavrov, when she visited Moscow, talked about cooling some of the rhetoric. Certainly from our point of view, we're going to abide by that. We're going to try to manage any disagreements we might have on tough issues. Give the example of Kosovo -- I know that the Russian Government has some issues with the plan that has been laid out by Mr. Ahtissaari. They have some issues with the Security Council resolution that has been circulated. And we take those seriously. And we're continuing to discuss with them ways that we might accommodate some of their concerns as well as the concerns of others about moving forward, but we are going to move forward with a Kosovo resolution. So it's just a matter of working through these things. If they have concerns, if they have issues, then we're going to work with them. It's a big relationship. It's a complex relationship as you will have between any two major world powers.

QUESTION: If I may, just one more on the same topic?


QUESTION: The former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is also weighing in on this, really blaming the U.S. for the state of what is described as bad relations -- state of relations between the U.S. and Russia. He says Russia is ready to be constructive; the U.S. isn't being helpful, and he also accused the U.S. of empire building, the way he puts it.

MR. MCCORMACK: Empire building --

QUESTION: Do you have a response to it?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know -- I hadn't seen those comments. You know, I can't tell you the reasoning behind his comments, what exactly he has in mind. You know, look, in any relationship, I'm sure there are faults, perceived slights on both sides. The way you get around those things is -- overcome those obstacles is to keep talking, have the dialogue open, work together constructively. There are real issues of mutual overlap here. I talked about a couple of them: fighting terrorism, fighting the proliferation of missile technologies, fighting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction technologies. So there are a lot of areas that we're going to work together on and where we disagree or have differences, then we can talk about it.

Anything else on Russia? Okay, yeah.

QUESTION: There's been in -- at least in the Czech Republic, the popular opinion on this hasn't necessarily been favorable and the other day there was a referendum in Czech villages near the missile sites that rejected the proposal. Are you worried that following through on this, despite -- you know, unpopular views among the citizenry is going to derail the process or potentially harm the U.S. image?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I can't tell you what the latest is within the Czech Republic about the support for the missile defense system. We're talking to the Czech Government about it. Look, you know, in any -- on any political or national security question, you're going to have a difference of opinion within a population. We understand that. I'm sure not everybody is going to agree with this. The fact of the matter, though, is we as well as our interlocutors think that this is the right thing to do to protect these populations; not only our population, but the populations in Europe.

So to the extent that there are concerns that remain that are outstanding among the Czech population, the Polish population, or any European population, we're going to try to talk about it in an open, rational, coolheaded manner and to try to answer questions as they come up, try to anticipate those questions, get information out to people. That's the way to help turn around public opinion. We -- as I mentioned to Sylvie, I think that initially, this public debate wasn't really breaking in our favor. I think if you just did an unscientific survey -- you know, six months ago in the European press. But I think if you look at the European press now, it's a different story.

Yeah, Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, we're heading the UN Security Council this month. What are some of the priorities of UN Ambassador Khalilzad and will China and --

MR. MCCORMACK: You're a month late. We were president of the Security Council last month.

QUESTION: Right. Well, will -- has -- have China and Russia cooperated? Now there is going to be a UN radio show this Thursday. And what pressure do you see coming forth from what we have proposed, and also the outstanding issues of Darfur, and also, lesser degree, of Burma and Zimbabwe are still in the mix?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, well, those are all important issues. We have a long list of things that's going to be -- that are going to be coming up before the Security Council. You mentioned a couple of them -- Kosovo, Sudan. Burma will, of course, remain a matter of concern to the Security Council. Sudan is something that's going to be important coming up here. So there are a lot of issues out there of concern to the international system. And because of the way the international system is set up, many of them land before the Security Council. So we're going to work with Russia. We're going to work with China. And we're going to work with the other 12 members of the Security Council.


QUESTION: On North Korea --


QUESTION: Can you give us an update on where we are in implementing the deal, I mean --

MR. MCCORMACK: Did someone put you up to that question?

QUESTION: (Laughter.) No, but I --

MR. MCCORMACK: From back here.

QUESTION: No, but I saw that Yongbyon is getting -- I don't know of its significance -- but they restarted Yongbyon.


QUESTION: And that it just looks like maybe in, you know -- did diplomats overstep -- over-promise? Did they promise something that couldn't be done? What's going on?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I think that as many have heard me say before, the whole issue related to BDA was a lot more complicated than anybody could have possibly anticipated. The rules, regulations and traditional behaviors in the international financial system make this sort of resolution very complicated. We took -- we have taken the steps that we officially think that we need to take in order to resolve this. It's clear that it becomes -- it has become clear that in order for the transactions to be completed, it's a complicated matter. We want that to be over as soon as we possibly -- as it possibly can, and so that we can get back to implementing the February 13th agreement.

QUESTION: So is the State Department still working on helping the North Koreans set up their own bank account or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the basic issue is one between North Korea and its bankers. Now, certainly, we, of course, as well as other members of the six-party talks, have an interest in seeing this be resolved. But again, as I've responded to many questions in the past about this, it's not something that lends itself to a play-by-play analysis.

So once it's all resolved, perhaps we'll have more to say about it. But at this point, we will say only a few things. One, a lot more complicated than anybody could have imagined, like to see it resolved as soon as possible so we can get back to the Six-Party Talks --

QUESTION: Can we --

MR. MCCORMACK: -- the main business.

QUESTION: Can we then conclude that using this 311 section of the Patriot Act is like a far more powerful tool than anybody imagined? That it's one that people just can't turn off once you turn it on?

MR. MCCORMACK: It is a powerful tool.

QUESTION: But it can't be turned off though. It can't be -- once you designate someone 311, it's difficult to reverse the stigma that you've put on their money.

MR. MCCORMACK: Difficult, yes. Impossible, no.


QUESTION: Just on the same topic, thank you. Bill Richardson said yesterday that he expects the BDA issue to be resolved around in about two weeks. Do you know what he might be basing this on?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure. I don't get into those sorts of timetables. I can't tell you what he was basing that on.

Anything else on this? Oh, you haven't had one. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about the OAS meeting.


QUESTION: Rice is due to speak shortly. Will she be speaking specifically about Venezuela in her speech, and will she reiterate her call to Chavez to reopen the TV station as she did last week?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'll let you stay tuned for her remarks. We should be able to pick them up here. But certainly, the issue of Venezuela, I think, is going to be looming over the OAS summit; the non-democratic actions that the Venezuelan Government has taken. Our call to reopen that television station stands. I understand that protests are still ongoing in Venezuela. It seems to have really sparked something among those people in Venezuela who still want to preserve some semblance of democratic rights within that country. So as for her remarks, we'll have them out here pretty soon.

QUESTION: Also, are you -- what other kind of diplomatic activity is going on to echo the U.S. position on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's not just the U.S. position. You have, among the members of the OAS, states that are quite concerned about developments in Venezuela as well as the rest of the region. I don't expect that that is the only thing that they're going to talk about during this OAS summit. It's not going to consume everything. It'll probably get a fair amount of news coverage, but it's not going to be the only thing they talk about.

There's a lot of concern, though, about the actions both within and outside of Venezuela, the effect of the actions inside of Venezuela on neighboring states and states in the region. The Secretary, I think you can expect, will reiterate the importance of political economic reforms and the importance of those reforms being realized for issues related to social justice, which are of real concern to states in the region. But beyond that, we'll see what she has to say.

QUESTION: Can I change topics or --


QUESTION: Can you preview this Olmert-Abbas meeting later in the week? Is it still happening? Where is it happening? What day?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll let them talk about the logistics. As far as I know, it's still happening. I expect that they're going to talk about issues related to the -- alleviating the sort of daily problems that exist on the Israeli side as well as the Palestinian side. I expect security's probably going to be a big topic for both sides.

QUESTION: This week?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a date. I didn't check for you.

Yeah, okay. Let's move around back here. Yes, sir, right there.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. doing anything to help secure the release of Alan Johnston of the BBC being held in Gaza?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't -- I can't tell you in particular any steps that we may have taken. We'll, of course, do anything that the folks in the UK Government might find useful. We have called for his release, unconditional release, his immediate release. But beyond that, I can't detail anything -- any steps we may have taken.


QUESTION: Yes, today in Rome President Calderon of Mexico blast again the U.S. immigration policy, saying that instead of focusing resources to stop the people in the border, U.S. should compromise more resources to fight the drugs on your side and also stopping all the illegal traffic in the (inaudible) going to Mexico. Do you have any response to such criticism?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen his remarks. I can't, you know -- I probably want to read them closely before I offer a detailed response. But in general I can tell you that we are as interested as the Mexican Government in stopping the flow of illegal activities across the borders as well as on both sides of the borders, whether that's in the trafficking of persons or fighting the trafficking of narcotics, illegal narcotics, as well as fighting the violence that usually grows up and surrounds those two activities.

Look, our immigration policy, it's a complicated debate here in the United States right now -- one that is ongoing. There are strong feelings on both sides of it. I can only say that this president is a friend of Mexico. He is a friend of coming up with a solution to a problem that has bedeviled our country for quite some time -- how to deal with the flow of people into this country who enter illegally, and how to work together on both sides of the border to help build up a better economic situation so you don't have the lure of people coming here just to try to provide a better future for themselves and for their families.

QUESTION: Do you feel that such a statement will have a negative impact in the current debate on the Senate?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I haven't seen his remarks, so I'd really rather not offer an assessment based on something I haven't seen yet. But you know, of course, we understand President Calderon's thoughts on -- with respect to immigration as well as the fact that it's a sensitive, emotional issue for many Mexicans.

QUESTION: Also, may I have -- going back to the issue of Venezuela, a couple of weeks ago, Venezuela pushed for a resolution before they were asked regarding the fight against terrorism and they focused that resolution on the Posada Carriles case. I wonder if the U.S. is considering to present or push for a resolution on the issue of the RCTV television in Venezuela?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware that we're pushing an OAS resolution. I hope somebody doesn't prove me wrong, but I'm not aware of one that we're pushing in the OAS.


QUESTION: May I change subjects?


QUESTION: Lebanon. I wanted to know what is your reading of the events in Lebanon where the Lebanese Army is fighting against another extremist group in another Palestinian camp.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I've seen some press reports about some skirmishes both in and around another camp. I'm not in a position to provide you any detailed information about who might be involved, the extent of those skirmishes. I think the Lebanese Government is probably better positioned to filling you in on that. I can say only that we support the Lebanese Government in its efforts to maintain law and order in Lebanon. The fact that you have these kinds of armed militias operating without regard to the rule of law in Lebanon underscores the importance of implementing Security Council Resolution 1559. You don't want to be in a position where you have, you know, these extra-governmental groups that are able to not only -- to destabilize the domestic political situation as well as to potentially threaten the -- certain violence between countries, like you saw with Hezbollah last summer.

So it's a difficult fight that the Lebanese Government is involved in here. They are fighting and struggling for -- to preserve their gains over the past couple of years, in terms of pulling itself away from the influence of Syria, trying to rebuild Lebanese democracy. And they're fighting against violent extremists who don't want to see that happen. And the fact that we have come to -- we as well as others have come to Lebanon's aid underscores our commitment to this Lebanese Government, underscores our commitment to Lebanese democracy and underscores our commitment to Lebanese independence and sovereignty.

QUESTION: Recently you said that U.S. is considering sending more military aid. Did this project go forward? Did you --

MR. MCCORMACK: That was a couple of weeks ago.


MR. MCCORMACK: And I think we have provided assistance to the Lebanese armed forces, yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, but the Congress had two weeks to oppose this new -- the supplemental aid. Did you get --

QUESTION: The one element of the (inaudible) 29 million?


MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check for you, Sylvie.


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm happy to check. I know we did provide some assistance --

QUESTION: And there was also an extra one too --

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, we'll check.

QUESTION: -- $40 million.

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll check for you.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.


Yeah, Zain.

QUESTION: How do you think Fidel Castro looked on TV?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) I'm not going to --

QUESTION: His red, white and blue track suit? How do you --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, somehow I don't think it's representing the stars and stripes. Look, you know, I can't assess his health from sitting here in Washington, D.C.

QUESTION: What's your reaction generally?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, at some point, there is going to be a transition from a dictator to what we hope is democracy. We -- it would be a shame to see this be a transition from dictator to dictator. We don't want to see that. The rest of the world doesn't want to see that. And for some of our differences over tactics, for example, the Spanish Government doesn't want to see that.

I can't predict for you when that transition is going to take place, but clearly, Fidel Castro is not playing that same kind of role right now that he was, say, one year ago or two years ago. What exactly that means for Cuba's immediate political future, I can't tell you.


QUESTION: Back on the Middle East. Today, the Arab American Institute released a poll that showed overwhelming majorities of both Jewish Americans and Arab Americans ranked the Bush Administration as not effective in dealing with the Arab-Israeli issue and conflict. And I'm just wondering if you have a reaction to that.

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen it. Look, this Administration has been deeply involved in trying to bring peace to the Middle East, and trying to bring peace to -- bring an end to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which has been going on for decades. There have been a lot of different approaches over that period of time that have tried.

But let's remember exactly the situation that this Administration came to. You had the intifada, which was still ongoing. You had Yasser Arafat still in charge of the PLO, who had been offered a very attractive deal up at Camp David but couldn't bring himself to sign it. You had the PLO taking in arms from Iran. So President Bush decided to take a different approach. He decided to put as much emphasis on what would go on inside the borders of a Palestinian state as what those borders might be. And that has taken some time and it's still a work in progress, to try to help build up the Palestinians institutions that might actually form the basis of a Palestinian state. You also have, during that period of time, the only return of territory from Israel to the Palestinians with the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. So it is -- while there are fundamental issues that need to be resolved, for example, how do the Palestinians deal with the fundamental contradiction of having a terrorist group saying it's going to keep its rights to engage in terrorism, but it still wants to engage in domestic democratic politics. But you know, we believe that we're -- you know, we are on the right course. I can't tell you how long this is going to take, but we believe that we are on the proper course. These things always take longer than anybody wants. Would we, of course, wanted to have this resolved by now? Yes. But let's remember it's been going on for some time.

QUESTION: Well, the 40th anniversary of occupation is like next month. But do you think that it -- that this has improved, you know, under this Administration, that the Palestinian institutions have been in fact built up?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you -- I'll give you one example. Salaam Fayyad, he actually put in place a -- you know, pretty respectable financial measures to get control of Palestinian finances. Now, there was some regression during the period of the Hamas-only government, but he has taken some steps to get them back on the right track. The fact that you now have a funding mechanism that would flow through him into PLO accounts I think is testament to the fact that the international system has confidence in him and the financial controls that he has put in place. That's a real step forward. You have gone from the era when people were paid under the table in brown paper bags and brown paper envelopes to actually having a more functioning financial system that the rest of the world would recognize. The Palestinian security forces were just -- you know, just a flat mess. Under the era of Yasser Arafat where you had these multiple conflicting change of command, he wanted it that way. He had a sort of divide and conquer attitude towards the security forces, so not one could get too powerful and threaten his hold on power. So there has been progress in making those forces more professional. There's a long way to go in that. Having a rational command and control structure, making them more professional in their behavior, their standards of contact -- conduct, equipping them as you would a professional security force, so yeah, there has been progress.

But is it done yet? No. And it's going to take more effort. I think you can -- we can certainly see that, but we believe that we are on the right course. I can't tell you when we're going to get to our destination, but we are on the right course.


MR. MCCORMACK: Joel, you've already had a question. Yeah, Gollust. Oh, wait a minute. Is there anything else on the Israeli-Palestinians?


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Well, yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Sean, independent broadcasters in Pakistan are complaining that the government is using coercive tactics to try to discourage coverage of the -- you know, basically the controversy surrounding the ousted Supreme Court Chief and I'm wondering if this is a matter of concern to --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're watching it closely, Dave, of course. This is an issue that the Pakistani people and the Pakistani Government need to resolve within the confines of their law. I understand that there's a judicial process that is underway and the media should be free to cover that process. It's an important element of making sure that the Pakistani people are informed of what their government is doing. So it is a situation that we're watching closely.


QUESTION: Can you give us any readout from Nick Burns' trip to India and where the talks are on the nuclear issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I don't have a detailed readout for you. I know that they did make some progress, but there's still work left to be done. And I can't -- let me do a little research for you and see if I can get back to you on exactly when the experts will reconvene. But they did make some progress, but there's still work left to be done.

Yeah, Sue.

QUESTION: Britain's minister in charge of Africa, David Triesman says that Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe should, you know -- may face the same sort of fate as Liberia's Charles Taylor, who's being charged for crimes against humanity. Would you classify Mugabe in the same sort of category as Charles Taylor?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure. I'm not sure we have done that as a government.

QUESTION: What he's basically saying is that if he doesn't change course, then he could face the same kind of fate.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Sue, I'm not sure that we have come to that conclusion as a government. If I'm proven wrong, I'll get back to you and I'll let you know. It certainly is a tragedy what has happened in Zimbabwe in which this government has essentially wrecked the economy. This is a country that used to be a breadbasket for sub-Saharan Africa. Now, it relies on humanitarian assistance to provide for its own people. You know, and that's not to even get into the rollback of basic democratic rights in that country. So it's certainly a tragedy what has happened in Zimbabwe because of the rule of President Mugabe and his government. I'm not sure we've taken that next step though that you've talked about.


QUESTION: Do you think there should be a boycott of the Olympics in China because of China's policy in Darfur?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's a -- that's a private effort that is underway that arose from some people's deep concern over what is going on in Darfur and their perception of the ability of the Chinese Government to influence the behavior of the Sudanese Government. It is not a U.S. Government effort. It is not something that we have supported. It is a private effort underway. For our part as a government, we are working with the Chinese Government to see that they bring all the possible leverage to bear on the Sudanese Government that they possibly can. It's terribly important that the Sudanese Government change its position with respect to letting in the AU/UN force. They haven't done that yet. But if the Sudanese Government is to do that, certainly, China will play an important role in using its leverage to change their behavior.


QUESTION: Do you think that it is premature to call for the boycott of the Olympics?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, that is not something that the United States Government has subscribed to.

QUESTION: So you disagree with it then.

MR. MCCORMACK: It's not something the U.S. Government has subscribed to.

Yes, in the back, sorry.

QUESTION: Finally, thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sorry, I didn't see you back there. I had to lift my head up a little.

QUESTION: Yeah, I thought the red tie might give me a -- (Laughter.) The Government of Iran -- is this on? -- has asked the United States Government for landing rights at JFK. Iran Air is their government carrier.


QUESTION: I have two questions in that regard.


QUESTION: They've formally asked the United States Government for landing rights. Given the recent talks, I have two questions. One is how does that work? You know, how does the United States Government approve those landing rights? And secondly, if you're aware of this issue, where is that in the process because they have, as I understand it, formally asked an air link to be established after all these years.

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you where it is in the process. I'll have to do some research. I know it's been out there for some time. I remember hearing about this some time ago. I can't tell you exactly when, but months, if not years ago.


MR. MCCORMACK: So I'll try to find out for you; find out where it stands.

QUESTION: You'll take the question, then, is that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, absolutely.


MR. MCCORMACK: We'll take the question for you. And I can only assume that is a multi-agency effort that would be involved in that decision-making process. I'm sure the FAA would have something to do with it. I'm sure that we played a role --

QUESTION: Does the State Department have a role in that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure that we do, yeah. I'll check it out.

QUESTION: Thank you.


(The briefing was concluded at 1:16 p.m.)

DPB # 99

Released on June 4, 2007

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