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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 13, 2007

INDEX:

LEBANON

Explosion of Bomb in Beirut / Issue of Syria’s Possible Involvement
Ongoing Program of Working with Lebanese Military / U.S. Assistance
Undermining of Lebanese Democratic Progress / Middle East Progress
Confronting Terrorism in a Variety of Ways

IRAN

U.S. Talks with Austrian Government and OMV / OMV’s Preliminary Deal
Potential Applicable U.S. Laws Could Be Triggered Under Iran Sanctions Act
Under Secretary Burn’s Comments on Iran’s Possible Transfer of Arms to Taliban
Iran’s Pattern of Past Behavior / Cannot Provide Chain of Evidence / Intelligence Community Will Put Together the Pieces
No Meetings Scheduled at Ambassador Level / Iran Should Change Behavior
Issue of an Afghanistan Channel to Iran
Reports of an Alleged Secret UN Report
Importance of UN Security Council Resolutions

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

Ongoing Violence in Gaza / Attacks by Hamas Military Wing
U.S. Call for others in Region to Express Support for President Abbas
Attacks on Legitimate Palestinian Institutions / Ending of Violence in Gaza
Governments on Other Side of the Line That Want Peace and Stability

EGYPT

Reports on Police Prevention of Voting in Muslim Brotherhood
U.S. Looking into Reports / U.S. Has Talked to Egyptian Government at Highest Level
Vote by Congressional Appropriations Committee

INDONESIA

Issue of an Arrest Made by Indonesian Authorities

FRANCE

Under Secretary Burn’s Meetings

NORTH KOREA

BDA’s Transfer of Funds / U.S. Working with Russian Bank
Chris Hill’s Tentative Travel Plans

VENEZUELA

Hugo Chavez’s Visit to Cuba

KOSOVO

U.S. View Clear on Proper Process for Kosovo

SUDAN

AU/UN Force / Agreement Has to be Open to Forces Outside of Africa
U.S. Skepticism Well Placed


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:21 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Just let me start off by noting the car bomb that exploded in Beirut just a short time ago. We condemn this act of terrorism and I understand that there was one -- at least one person who lost their life and then possibly a Member of Parliament. This act of violence is clearly meant to undermine and subvert the resolve of the Lebanese people and the Lebanese democratic process to try to build a more prosperous, stable, free Lebanon that is free from outside influence.

If the recent history is any example, this act of terror is only going to serve to strengthen the resolve of those people who are on the front lines of Lebanese democracy and we stand with them as they work to advance the cause of Lebanese democracy and the cause of freedom throughout the Middle East. And we have full confidence that Prime Minister Siniora and his government are going to continue to be strong defenders of Lebanese independence and sovereignty.

QUESTION: Sean, if recent history is any guide as well, do you think that Syria may have had a hand in this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Can't say, too early to tell. Our -- it is an indication of Syria's, thus far, lack of recognition of Lebanese sovereignty that when you do have an incident like this, that's the first question that people ask; is Syria behind it. I can't tell you at this point, but very clearly, this is the work of those who intend or want to undermine Lebanese democracy.

QUESTION: Do you intend to do anything further to try to strengthen the hand of Prime Minister Siniora, notably by providing additional military equipment?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have the program of working with the Lebanese military that is ongoing. And that involves training, it involves equipping where we can help out, and also in the cases of extreme need, witness the Lebanese Armed Forces fighting in the -- over at -- fighting Islamic extremists around the Palestinian refugee camp around Tripoli, we're going to come to their assistance, as have others -- as have others interested in supporting the Siniora government. At this point, I don't know of any other planned programmatic assistance beyond what we have. We will, of course, if there are incidences of extremists, then we will attempt to come to their aid as we have done in the past.

Yeah.

QUESTION: What about the additional money you wanted to spend in this for Siniora? There was 30.6 million that were pending -- it was pending the approval of the Congress last Friday. And so since last Friday, the Congress didn't block this money. Did -- this money was --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check for you, Sylvie.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: Off the top of my head, I don't know (inaudible).

QUESTION: It was supposed -- the meeting was on last Friday, so --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I have no reason to dispute that the money has gone forward, but I don't know it as a fact. It's not something I've tracked on a daily basis.

QUESTION: And so you don't know if there are some planes full of weapons that would --

MR. MCCORMACK: I do know that we have provided assistance. Whether or not there is any additional assistance --

QUESTION: This week for --

MR. MCCORMACK: -- tied to that 30 million, I don't know. But we have --

QUESTION: Can you check?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I'm happy to check. But we have had multiple flights going into Lebanon over the past, I think, couple of weeks --you can check with DOD on the exact schedule -- helping provide ammunition as well as other materials that are needed in the fight against the violent extremists that are in that Palestinian refugee camp.

Yeah, Michel.

QUESTION: Sean, the whole Middle East is in flames now from Iraq to Gaza to Lebanon. How do you view this situation and what are you trying to do?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, each of these individual cases have their own particular circumstances. But there is one common thread, I think, that you see that runs throughout all of these circumstances, whether it's in Iraq or Lebanon or the Palestinian areas, and that is that there are those in -- those people in the Middle East who are seeking to undermine the progress that has been made in various areas in expanding human freedom, expanding the right of people that freely choose who will govern them, the right of people to speak freely about their opinions on no matter what subject, the right of people to worship as they wish. This is a fight that we are in, and that the -- those people who seek to promote freedom and democracy in the Middle East are in.

I think Tony Blair spoke pretty eloquently about this on his last visit with the President in the Rose Garden. These people who seek to use violence in the name of some alleged political agenda, when they wake up in the morning, they know what they are going to do. They seek to, in any way they can, undermine any nascent democracies or movement toward democracy or greater freedoms in the region they seek to undercut and damage and ultimately destroy our system of freedoms and economic prosperity that we have built up in the postwar period. Our choice is do we wake up every morning and make the choice that we are going to defend freedom and defend democracy? I can tell you that for this government and this administration the answer is yes, absolutely.

We will confront those who seek to undermine those advances, who have a world view that is 180 degrees contrary to our world view and we have to do that in a variety of different ways. You sometimes have to confront them with the use of force, various counterterrorism techniques. You confront them through exchange programs. You confront them through support for those in the region who want greater freedom and democracy. So that's what you're seeing. This is the struggle of our time. It is going to be a multigenerational struggle because this did not just arise over the past couple of years. This has been something that's built up over the decades. And it is a -- it is oftentimes as we've seen on our TV screens and our newspapers a brutal struggle but make no mistake where we stand on these issues. And I expect that this is going to be also a struggle that future U.S. administrations will have to confront.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Sean, turning to Iran, Nick Burns just said that the U.S. is now planning to get tougher with our international energy companies to doing business with Iran. Now, one of them is a big Austrian company that is engaging in what could become the biggest European Iranian gas project. Now, did you guys talk to them at all and what did you tell them?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have talked to I think -- the company is OMV. We've talked to the Austrian Government about these negotiations. I understand that OMV has recently signed a preliminary deal and that there are still many steps left in this process, but it's a preliminary deal. Certainly from a political standpoint, we would question why at this point given Iran's behavior in the international community its negative behavior across a whole variety of different fronts, why you would want to encourage these sorts of business dealings with Iran at this -- with the Iranian Government at this particular time.

It's going to be a choice that each individual state, each individual business is going to have to make. We have also talked to them about the fact that there are potentially applicable U.S. laws that could be triggered under the Iran Sanctions Act for basically over a certain dollar amount for investment in the Iranian oil and gas sector there's a possibility of looking at applying sanctions to the relevant companies. I'm not saying we're at that point, by any means, but it is something about which countries around the world, businesses around the world need to be aware of.

QUESTION: But are you thinking about imposing sanctions and then could this be a way that you're pursuing a path?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not trying to indicate a particular action one way or the other. We've talked to the Austrian Government as well as this company about the fact that there are U.S. laws and we are obliged as a government to take a look at any deals that are -- meet certain thresholds vis--vis the applicability of those laws and the penalties that come with those laws. I'm not trying to indicate a decision one way or the other or even the fact that there is a review underway. Just the fact that those laws do exist and you have certain -- you could have the development of certain facts regarding a future deal, of course, we're going to take a look at it.

QUESTION: Anything new on this? I mean, I thought we talked about this a couple of months ago when they initially signed the preliminary deal. To your knowledge has this gone any further in terms of hardening up the agreement?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think they're -- you know, I don't think that they are any closer at this point.

QUESTION: On the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Charlie.

QUESTION: -- related subject to Nick Burns and comments he's made to various news organization. What is the Administration view on Iran supplying arms to the Taliban?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, here are a few things. One, we know for a fact that these arms are Iranian-origin and that they're flowing to the Taliban. I don't think anybody disputes that. At this point, I can't tell you the extent of Iranian Government involvement in that. But given Iran's past behavior and the nature of this regime, I think that Nick was giving voice to the concerns that everybody has, that you have a shift in Iranian Government policy from one that has been from either benign, neutral to somewhat helpful in Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of 2001, 2002 to something quite different that does not promote stability in Afghanistan.

That would be of deep concern not only to us but the Afghan Government as well as our NATO allies who are fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. So that's where we stand at the moment. I can't at this point draw a link -- a hard link for you between an Iranian Government-approved program and the transfer of those arms. But as I said, given the nature of this regime, given their past behavior, whether that's in Iraq or Lebanon or the Palestinian areas, I think we have deep concerns about this transfer of arms from Iran.

QUESTION: Do you know if they've gone from --

MR. MCCORMACK: At this point we can't make that assessment. But the fact that you do have these Iranian-origin arms showing up in Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban raises that question, is there now -- has the Iranian Government made a decision to change its previous policy on Afghanistan. That would be troubling.

QUESTION: Sean.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Secretary Gates has just spoken about this as well and he said something along the same lines as you, but went -- he went -- but he went a little further than you. He didn't go as far as Nick Burns did, but what he said was that there is no specific intelligence that -- linking the government -- the Iranian Government to these transfers. But given the number of shipments and the size of those shipments and the types of weapons involved, it would be hard for him to believe that there was -- it wasn't happening either with the knowledge of the government or with their help.

Do you share that, that it would be hard to believe that no one -- that the government institutions in Iran are not aware?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, that's what I was trying to get at, is when you're talking about the nature of this regime -- you know, the fact that this is, at best, an authoritarian regime and the fact that they have engaged in these kinds of arms transfers in the past that everybody acknowledges have happened, and you can draw a direct link between Tehran and some of these arm transfers to Lebanon, to the Palestinian areas, to Iraq, yes, absolutely, it is -- it certainly is hard to believe that the Iranian Government isn't involved in some way, shape, or form in this.

I can't tell you -- I can't give you the chain of evidence to indicate that, but I think that's what we're all getting at here, is given the nature of the regime, given their behaviors in the past, given the fact that you have these weapons showing up in the hands of the Taliban, it naturally raises very troubling questions.

Yeah.

QUESTION: How do you reconcile that with Nick Burns saying he has irrefutable evidence that it's coming from the IRGC?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I think what Nick was doing was giving voice to all of these concerns and suspicions that all of us have.

QUESTION: But in the same vein, but how can such a senior official come out and draw -- you know, this link and say it's certainly coming from the Government of Iran and you can't back him up?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, we have -- we know that there are weapons showing up in the hands of the Taliban. We know that those are coming from Iran. And as Secretary Gates has said, General Pace has said, I have said, Secretary Rice has said, it's -- given the nature of this regime, it really is hard to believe that they don't know about it. And if they don't know about it, that raises other troubling questions about what is going on inside Iran.

QUESTION: How are you going to determine whether this is true or not? Will there be some kind of investigation or how can you really --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think, you know, what's -- what I would expect is going to happen is that we are going to continue to watch this very closely and our intelligence community is very good at putting together pieces of evidence, create a picture for policymakers. And I expect that that over time as you're able to put together more pieces of the puzzle, we'll have more definitive answers.

QUESTION: Will the -- can I just finish? Will there be another meeting coming up between -- at ambassador level between the Iranians and the Americans and will this issue be brought up?

MR. MCCORMACK: With the --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Crocker one a couple of weeks ago.

MR. MCCORMACK: The Crocker one, well, he -- I don't know that he would be talking about Afghanistan. As for whether or not this is going to be another meeting between Ryan and an Iranian counterpart at this point we don't have anything scheduled. I think we'd like to see some change in behavior on the part of the Iranian Government. They say that they want to play a positive stabilizing role in Iraq. We haven't seen any evidence that they have made any of those changes. And it's not as though you can be a la carte about this -- say, now we're going to stop one kind of behavior, but continue to engage in other kinds of behavior. It's the whole spectrum of the things that they are doing in Iraq that is troubling and that leads to further instability in that country.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

QUESTION: Will there be any -- will you be asking the governments of Iran through perhaps the Swiss channel, if they have any -- if they can defend themselves against these accusations?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, again, they -- if they are involved in these arms transfers, they know that they're involved and they're fully capable of stopping it. They don't need us to say, hey, stop it. It would be clearly troubling behavior viewed from our perspective as well as the Afghan Government which is make great progress in actually extending the authority of the Central Government across all of Afghanistan. If this is in fact true, then that would be in direct -- a direct effort to undermine those efforts.

QUESTION: But are you still convinced of the wisdom of your policy of excluding from those discussions, the ambassadorial level discussions with Iran, any consideration of non-Iraq matters, notably excluding Afghanistan, excluding the cases of the four American citizen -- the five American citizens that four of which of these we know are detained and a fifth we don't know about --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely because you have an established channel with the P-5+1 on the nuclear issue and it doesn't -- we don't see any benefit to lumping all of those issues together in this ambassadorial channel. It should be in the interest of the Iranian Government to change the behavior in Iraq. I can only assume that they do not want an Iraq that is increasingly unstable on their border. That doesn't benefit anybody. It doesn't benefit them, it doesn't benefit any of Iraq's neighbors. It doesn't benefit us. It doesn't benefit the Iraqi people.

So it shouldn't be a matter of horse-trading other issues to -- for them to do something that they should be doing anyway in Iraq. So we firmly believe that we have the proper channels and the proper diplomatic strategy to deal with these various issues.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: You're not being completely black and white about this yet. You said that you can't tell the extent of Iranian involvement and you said you can't draw a hard link. Can you rule out any, I mean -- or would you say that there was absolutely no Iranian Government involvement?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I can't tell you that. Like I said, I can't provide you the chain of evidence that links these arms to a specific approved Iranian Government program. But as I said -- as I said, Secretary Gates has said, it's hard to believe that they're not, you know, given the -- their pattern of behavior, given the nature of their regime. And if they don't know about it, then that raises other troubling questions -- that they don't fully control what's going on inside their own country.

QUESTION: And then, one final one, is there any consideration of giving the U.S. Ambassador in Afghanistan the same privilege that Ryan Crocker would have to speak to his Iranian counterpart?

MR. MCCORMACK: That has been -- I'll have to check for you, but I know in the past that it has been a channel that we've used. I don't what the -- the last time that our ambassador has had -- encountered a meeting with his Iranian counterpart, either in a individual setting or a group setting. I'm happy to check for you, but that has been a channel we've used in the past. I know, certainly, when Zal was there, they did that.

QUESTION: And it would still remain available then (inaudible?)

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check. I assume so, but let me check to make sure that that's still an authoritative active channel.

Yeah, Zain.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. Anything else on Iran? Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: My apologies as well if I'm taking you back a little bit, but there's a secret UN report that was leaked to The Guardian newspaper and it was by Alvaro de Soto and essentially he said that the U.S. is to blame for the failure in the Middle East. The U.S. and American pressures pummeled into submission the UN's role as an impartial negotiator. I'm wondering if you can respond to some of those allegations in this report.

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a -- an alleged secret UN report. You know, I haven't seen it. I'll leave it to the UN to comment on whether or not these are the personal views of the former envoy or the corporate views of the UN.

QUESTION: He said it was his own view and it was an End of Mission report and he said it was just, you know, the failed diplomacy in the region and the breakout of the Palestinian government, you know, really led to much of the feeling of the internal violence.

MR. MCCORMACK: Put it down to the views of an individual.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Sean, any update on the situation in Gaza and are you concerned about the Palestinian Authority?

MR. MCCORMACK: An update, there's still violence ongoing. The "military wing" of Hamas is still attacking legitimate security institutions of the Palestinian Authority and particularly those who report to President Abbas. It's a -- you know, it is a fluid situation as I understand it now. Everybody wants to see the violence end. But let's be clear about who triggered this latest wave of violence and the context in which they did that. As I said, it is this so-called military wing of Hamas that launched these attacks, started these rounds of violence that has swept up innocent civilians in firefights and gunfights and the shelling and the mortaring just as Egyptian envoys were working to try to bring together elements of Hamas and Fatah -- political elements of Hamas and Fatah to come to some sort of political accommodation so they can lower the violence. It also came in the context of not a stop but a reduction in the number of Qassam rockets that were being fired out of a Gaza.

Quite clearly there are those who are irreconcilable to any political process that would result in negotiations with Israel to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They're quite clearly trying to undermine that by undermining any sort of political accommodation within the Palestinian political process. It's -- you know, the victims -- the real victims in all this are the Palestinian people and the Palestinian people who want their children to be able to take their high school exams, to take their university exams, want to go to work, who just want to be able to provide a better living for their family and for those Palestinians who want to live in Palestine. So we are continuing to support President Abbas.

We have called on others in the region to express their support for President Abbas and those Palestinian moderate political elements who have foresworn the use of violence and who have an interest in reaching a political settlement with Israel via the negotiating table and we're going to continue to support those elements and we're going to continue to support President Abbas.

QUESTION: Are you concerned about his authority?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is -- thus far you have not seen any spread of the violence to the West Bank. You know, certainly everybody welcomes that. You want to see an end to the violence in Gaza. It's an attack upon those legitimate Palestinian institutions that are struggling to provide some law -- some semblance of law and order in the Palestinian areas, who are trying to come up to international standards of behavior whether that's in the areas of finance or governance or security. These are extra governmental groups who want to put an end to that and want to reverse course and who are committed to the use of violence not only against Palestinians but against Israelis.

QUESTION: Sean, twice today you've -- once this morning and once just now, you said that everybody wants to see an end to the violence.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: But isn't that inaccurate because obviously not everybody wants -- there wouldn't be any violence if everybody wanted to see the end of it.

MR. MCCORMACK: True enough.

QUESTION: And based on that, or given that and what you said earlier --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll -- let me revise and extend, all of those who have an interest in a more peaceful Middle East and --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- who want to see a political settlement to the Israel-Palestinian track.

QUESTION: But -- so given that and what you said earlier about there being a common thread when you were asked about the conflagration today of extremists is there not also a common thread in that all of these places where there has been this outbreak -- it's been severe outbreak today -- Iran and Syria have played to your own accounting of it extremely unhelpful roles and bad roles. Is that also not a common thread? Obviously, Samarra probably -- is unlikely to have anything to do with Iranian people but --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, yeah. Right, right. In general, yes, we have made this -- made a distinction between the governments of Iran and Syria and other governments throughout the region. Now there are going to be -- there are -- they come in various stripes and colors, but in essence, you have a group of governments on the other side of the line from Iran and Syria who have a general interest in greater political freedoms and economic freedoms in the region and who fundamentally have an interest in a more peaceful, stable region and who have turned away from the use of violence to try to settle the political differences among states or groups of people.

Iran and Syria find themselves on the other side of that divide and as you point out, they, in each of these individual cases, have in the past played a negative role, the Syrians and Palestinians meddling in the affairs of the Palestinian people, arming -- providing cash and arms to those Palestinian rejectionist groups. The role of Syria and Iran is well-documented and goes back decades and we believe Syria continues to play a negative role in terms of the situation in Lebanon and in terms of Iraq. It's again pretty obvious, our views on the negative role both of those countries have played in Iraq; you know, witness our discussions with the Syrian Government in -- at Sharm el-Sheikh about the negative role that they have been playing, asking them to see it as in their interests and the interests of the Iraqi people to stop that.

Now as for any -- you know, specific role that they may have played either in encouraging or directly giving a green light for any of these particular activities, whether that's in the Palestinian areas or the bombing in Beirut today or any particular action in Iraq, I can't do that right now. That's not the link I'm trying to make. But very clearly overarching the situation, they have played a negative role that the views and policies and actions of those governments are 180 degrees off of what we are trying to promote in the region and what many -- and many people in the region are working to promote.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Iran, if I may.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: The Iranian President has today said that he doesn't attach any value to UN Security Council resolutions. Would you care to comment on that, please?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he may not attach a lot of value to Security Council resolutions, but the rest of the world certainly does and I think that the international financial community and the business community attach quite a bit of importance to those resolutions. You've seen governments in reaction to these resolutions take steps in order to comply with them. You've seen a reduction in the export credits and lending going to Iran as a result of their behaviors. You have seen an Iranian economy that is, in many -- by many measures, headed in the wrong direction, whether it's -- you measure that in terms of inflation or you measure that in terms of things like gas -- gas rationing.

So while the president of Iran may not have a lot of respect for Security Council resolutions, I can assure you other countries around the world do and he -- this isn't -- you know, a complete surprise coming from him. He's talked about the Security Council resolutions as just a piece of paper that can be torn up. It's that kind of cavalier attitude that is only going to lead the Iranian Government towards further isolation from the rest of the world and that has real world costs. It has real world costs to the Iranian people, unfortunately, and certainly to this regime.

Yeah, Arshad.

QUESTION: There are, I believe, have been some reports that Egyptian police may have prevented people from voting in Muslim Brotherhood majority areas. Can you comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: We've seen the reports and they're troubling. And the complete results of these elections are not in, but it is of great concern to us that people who should be able to vote in an election aren't allowed to vote, are prevented from voting in a variety of different ways. I've seen reports ranging from -- you know, physical coercion, you know, police standing in the way of people trying to get to polling places who -- telling people they're trying to vote on the wrong day, the voting's tomorrow, so a whole variety of -- you know, accusations of ballot-stuffing and so forth.

These are of deep concern. While the Egyptian Government has made some progress in opening up their political system, there have been some troubling incidents such as have been reported recently regarding the Shura Council elections as well as the parliamentary elections, there have also been concerning elements of -- in the political system that seek to reduce the role of the judiciary as a independent check on the actions of the government within the democratic process and specifically with respect to elections.

So at this point, I can't say that we have all the facts. We are looking into many of these reports. We take them quite seriously. And I can assure you the issue of opening up the Egyptian political system is one that we've talked to the Egyptian Government at the highest levels about and make it clear that look, this is not -- this is not just some -- this is not some U.S. hobbyhorse. This is in the interest of the Egyptian people and we believe it's in the interests of the region.

Egypt is a leading country in the region. It has, in many cases throughout the long history of the Middle East, played a leading role in setting trends for that region. And that's why we are encouraging them to serve as an example. And when we talk to them about these things, we don't talk to them about it in a berating or scolding tone. We are friends, we are close allies, and we do it in a manner that is respectful.

And we also make it quite clear that we're not trying to impose a particular set of specific behaviors on Egypt or the Egyptian people. It's a proud culture. It's a proud country with a long history, but -- and they will adapt democratic freedoms, greater freedoms within their political and economic systems in their own way. But it's important that they do continue to make progress.

QUESTION: Can I ask you just two things directly related to this? Obviously, the United States Government has a very large embassy in Egypt. I've got to imagine that they have people out actually looking at some of the polling stations themselves.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Do you have any kind of independent corroboration that this took place? Do you have any reason to doubt that it took place?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, again, I don't want to lead you -- I don't want to indicate that I'm, in any way, skeptical of these accusations.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you that we have had eyes on these things. I'll check for you to see if we have any reporting in from Cairo about how they solve things. I'm happy to -- you know, tomorrow, we can talk about it some more or if I get something later on today, we can post it for you.

QUESTION: Great, thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: And then the second thing is a congressional appropriations committee yesterday voted to trim some money for Egypt because of exactly these kinds of concerns.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Do you support -- I realize it's just one committee and we're a long way from -- you know, it becoming law. But do you support or oppose Congress's use of its power of the purse to try to send a signal to the Egyptian Government?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check to see what amount we requested and what step this committee has taken. I want to understand what our -- what the mark was and whether or not this was a reduction in something that was over and above what we requested or something that takes from what we requested. So let me understand the specifics of it and we can take --

QUESTION: If you can post --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we can post an answer for you on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: I just wanted to know if you were able find out -- or give us what you know about this arrest in Indonesia.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I checked into it and I can't say -- we're trying to follow up with Indonesia authorities. We've seen the reports and if true certainly this is a significant set of captures for the Indonesian Government. I can't confirm this -- the capture at this point for you. We're following up with the Indonesians.

QUESTION: Under Secretary Burns is in Europe. Is he there to consult with the P-5+1 on Iran and further sanctions maybe?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, he -- the primary reason for his visit to Paris and traveling through Europe was to talk about Kosovo and to follow up on President Bush's meetings with his counterparts at the G-8 summit. They had good meetings, a good set of meetings in Paris, you have the Europeans and American allies united around moving forward with what is the heart of the Ahtisaari proposal and that is independence for Kosovo subject to some international period of supervision and working together within the Security Council to that end.

Everybody understands that the Russian Government has differences, they have a different view and it's rooted in a long set of historical ties with the Serbian people. So we're going to continue working with them on the issue. It's going to be over the coming days and weeks. Ambassador Frank Wisner who's our Special Envoy for Kosovo is going to be in Pristina today to follow up on those meetings, and in Paris to follow up on President Bush's statements about support for Kosovaran independence. So it's just part of the diplomatic activity that you're seeing around Kosovo.

I think he did have some informal conversations with respect to Iran and what actions we are going to be taking. I think although Mr. Solana is scheduled to have some further meetings with Mr. Larijani about whether or not the Iranians are going to respond positively or negatively to the P-5+1 offer. It has every appearance of heading toward a Security Council resolution at this point. It's not our -- that's certainly not our first choice. But that is likely where we are headed now and I think you're going to see more discussions centered around that fact in the coming days and weeks.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: On BDA and North Korea. The reports about the Russian Government has said that they'd be willing to allow Russian banks to accept the transfer of funds.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Have you heard about this from the Russians directly and also surely there is a positive step so what if any obstacles remain for the final resolution of the issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'll let the parties most directly interested in this issue speak to whether or not there has been a completion of fund transfers. I think the Department of Treasury has spoken earlier this week about the fact the U.S. Government is working with the Russian -- a Russian bank on the matter. Once -- when and if this issue is behind us, I'll be happy to talk a little bit more about it. To my knowledge it is -- as of this point not behind us. But I do look forward to that day so that I can stand up here and talk to you more about the six-party talks and hopefully what the North Koreans are doing to meet their commitments and their February 13th agreement. One -- a little bit of news is that Chris Hill is probably going to tack on visits to Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing to his trip over the weekend to Mongolia. So we are looking forward to BDA issue -- to the BDA issue being finally resolved. I can't tell you that that is the case right now.

QUESTION: Is he going to (inaudible) it to the resolution will be (inaudible) and he's probably going to go -- is he going to go regardless of whether it's solved or not?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we'll see. He has tentative plans at this point to go to Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul.

QUESTION: Does that mean if it gets solved he goes, if it doesn't get solved, he doesn't go or?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if he's drawing that hard linkage, but I think that if BDA is resolved, I think you have a different set of conversations with those fellow members of the six-party talks about what next steps there might be.

QUESTION: But if he's planning this trip, it means he is more hopeful than he was last week?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see, Sylvie.

Yeah. Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, how troubling is the behavior of again Hugo Chavez? He's visiting his good buddy Fidel Castro. There have been Venezuelan student protests. And also is he undermining nearby the Government of Colombia and what can you say about the trial of Ricardo Palmera here in Washington?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sorry. I'm not afraid with that -- not familiar with that particular trial. Look, you know, it's not -- it's hardly surprising Hugo Chavez is going to go embrace Fidel Castro. I've seen it before. I expect that we'll see it again. You know, he's facing a lot of unrest, domestic political unrest based around his decision to shut down the independent television station and he is probably surprised by that. I can't tell you the reasons for his visit. We're going to focus on trying to promote a positive agenda throughout the region. I think that that message is resonating throughout the region. I think you saw that most recently during President Bush's visit to the region, so that's where our focus is going to be.

Yeah, Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes, Mr. McCormack, on Greece. Any readout on the Under Secretary Nicholas Burns visit to Athens since he was planning to discuss a lot of issues, but mainly Kosovo and the disputed name with FYROM?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't.

QUESTION: One more on Kosovo? One more on Kosovo, please?

MR. MCCORMACK: Quick.

QUESTION: Quick, very quick. According to the press from (inaudible) the Albanians in Kosovo, have (inaudible) with the United Nations and they threaten now to proceed independence unilaterally (inaudible) Albanian using force. Any comment?

MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, we've made our views very clear in what we think the proper process is.

QUESTION: I have a question on Sudan. Yesterday you expressed doubts about the agreement for Bashir for an hybrid force, do you have more details today?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think we have the full set of details, but thus far we haven't seen anything that would do anything but reinforce those doubts that we had concerning the nature of what he has agreed to. You know, we talked yesterday about the fact that some of the caveats and reservations had to do with this being an all-African force. Well, given the capabilities of the forces in -- on the continent, I think it's everybody's considered judgment that they wouldn't be able to fill out a force of 17 to 19,000 which, again, everybody agrees is what's needed for this AU/UN force.

It's not a matter of desire or will, it's there for the African countries. But there's just not that -- at that capacity; it's understandable. So in order for this force to be effective, you have to -- it has to be open to forces from outside of Africa, so that if you do have an alleged agreement that has this poison pill in it, you're not going to have an effective force and it's not really an agreement to what the international community has asked Sudan to agree to.

QUESTION: Okay, but do you know for a fact that they don't accept any --

MR. MCCORMACK: We don't have -- we don't have the full details. We're still trying to get it. But again, we haven't seen anything that would indicate that our skepticism isn't well placed.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:02 p.m.)

DPB # 106


Released on June 13, 2007

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