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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 6, 2007



Assistant Secretary Chris Hill’s Activities in New York / Meetings on Chapter 7 Resolution
Department of Justice has Lead on Banco Delta Asia Issue


U.S. Will Not Seek a Seat on the Human Rights Counsel / Counsel Needs to Expand Its Focus to Gain Credibility


American Citizens Hospitalized in Moscow / Russian Authorities Investigating


ElBaradei’s Comments on Iran’s Nuclear Program


Readout of Secretary Rice’s Meeting with Elias Murr, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of Lebanon / Assistance to Lebanese Armed Forces


View Video

12:08 p.m. EDT 

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I don't have any opening statements, so I can get right into your questions. Okay, where's Charlie when I need him? 

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) 


MR. MCCORMACK: Somebody please jump in. Okay, pressure is on Arshad. 

QUESTION: Do you have anything about Secretary Hill's meetings in New York today? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Ongoing. He had a meeting yesterday with his counterpart, Kim Gye Gwan. He had dinner last night with Kim Gye Gwan. They are having a larger delegation meeting today. I don't have any update on the meetings. I haven't spoken with him. But we do intend to have Chris go to the Foreign Press Center in New York to give a readout of the meetings. 

QUESTION: And are you making any progress or are you getting any closer on securing agreement among the P-5+1 on an Iran resolution?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're chipping away at it. It's up with the perm reps now in New York. There was another -- there was a meeting yesterday among the P-5+1 ambassadors or representatives from the countries and there's another one again today. We believe that the conversations are taking place within a constructive atmosphere, that all among the P-5+1 have reaffirmed their intent to seek a second resolution. I expect that this will be an incremental resolution, but it nonetheless will be a Chapter 7, Article 41 resolution. I'm not going to predict exactly when we're going to submit the -- a draft resolution to the other elected members -- to the elected members of the Security Council or when that might pass, but we are pushing for a resolution as quickly as we can. 

QUESTION: I remember you saying you hoped to do it this week. 

MR. MCCORMACK: Table a draft resolution. 


MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, I would expect that we will either have a draft or get close to a draft this week that we can circulate to the E-10. 

QUESTION: The last one from me; has the U.S. Government made any decisions about whether it will seek a place on the UN Human Rights Council? 

MR. MCCORMACK: We have made a decision in that regard and our decision is that this year, we do not plan to run. The United States supports the concept of promotion of human rights globally. We will remain a forceful advocate in the promotion of human rights in every corner of the globe, as well as shining a spotlight on -- in those areas where human rights are lacking. While we will continue to remain very engaged on the issue of human rights within the UN system, whether that's in the General Assembly or the Security Council, we do not plan this year to run for the UN Human Rights Council.  

We believe that the Human Rights Council has thus far not proved itself to be a credible body in the mission that it has been charged with. There has been a nearly singular focus on issues related to Israel, for example, to the exclusion of examining issues of real concern to the international system, whether that's in Cuba or Burma or in North Korea.  

So we are going to remain as observers to the Human Rights Council and we hope that over time, that this body will expand its focus and become a more credible institution representative of the important mission with which it is charged. But nonetheless, the United States will remain actively engaged not only in the UN system but also outside of the UN system in promoting human rights. 

QUESTION: Do you think that if the U.S. were to take -- were to about-face and take a greater leadership role, run for the Council, take more of a leadership role in the deliberations, that it could forge some kind of change in the body? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is always a question, whether or not it is -- you would be more effective in working outside to try to change the behavior of an institution or a body, in this case the Human Rights Council, or to work from within. Secretary Rice has made the decision that in this particular case it is better to try to work for change from without and to serve as an example within the UN system of the kind of promoter of human rights, the kind of mechanism or enabler of promotion of human rights within the UN system that the Human Rights Council should be.  

It is unfortunate that it has not proven to be that since its inception a couple of years ago. So while we hope that it will expand its focus and will be a credible body for the promotion of human rights within the international system, we just have made -- come to the conclusion at this point that it is not and that the interest of human rights are better served by our actively working outside of the Human Rights Council while remaining an observer to it. 

QUESTION: Do you think that as the world's leading -- or only super power -- that your absence from the Council makes it irrelevant? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you have to flip -- we would hope that if we do come to the day when we decide to run for the Human Rights Council, it will have gotten to the point where it is a credible institution and that we could, in fact, lend our diplomatic weight to the council as a participant. But at this point we can't. 


QUESTION: Have you (inaudible)? 

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we have not. We have not run for it. 

QUESTION: It's been around for about a year and -- 

MR. MCCORMACK: Two years, I think. 

QUESTION: Two years? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, this would be the second election coming up. I can't tell you exactly when the inception date was, but this would be the second opportunity to run for the Council. 

QUESTION: So you've turned it down both times? 




QUESTION: Change of topic? 


QUESTION: Do you have anything on the two women, American women, in Russia that have been hospitalized? 

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have too much information for you. I was provided some information that there were two American citizens -- Marina and Yana Kovalensky -- a mother and daughter that are hospitalized in Moscow with possible thallium poisoning. I don't have any information as to their exact condition right now. They are receiving medical care, however. Russian authorities are now conducting an investigation to try to determine when and how this happened and our Consular officers are in direct contact with the Kovalensky family to offer whatever assistance we can while they are hospitalized in Russia as well as helping them return back to the United States. 

QUESTION: Do you know what they were doing there? 

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I don't have any further information. 

QUESTION: And you don't have any reason to -- do you have any reason to believe that this is one of the kind of acts of intimidation and harassment that you mentioned today in Russia in your Human Rights Report? 

MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't -- at this point, I couldn't draw any connections to any other particular actions or any other particular motivation, although the Russian authorities are looking into it. 





QUESTION: Mohamed ElBaradei saying today he has information that Iran has slowed down its enrichment of uranium, but the Foreign Minister Motaki says that's not true; they're going full speed ahead. Can you shed any light on that? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not sure that's exactly what Mr. ElBaradei said. I know that there was a news report out to that effect, but I'm not sure that that was an accurate characterization of what Dr. ElBaradei said. 

There are a lot of remaining questions concerning Iran's nuclear program, and that's exactly what the IAEA is trying to determine the answers to -- what exactly is Iran up to with respect to its nuclear program. But the international system has come to the conclusion that the Iranians are -- that their concerns are great enough concerning Iran's nuclear program, that it is subject to Security Council resolutions right now.  

We are convinced, as are others, that Iran is using the cover of a civilian nuclear program to pursue a nuclear weapon. The fact of the matter is, as you stated, that Iran does still have an active program, that they have not suspended their enrichment or reprocessing-related activities.  

QUESTION: Well, what do you suppose the -- it was a little vague -- slowed down or postponed or delayed or put it up -- you know, their production process -- you don't have any information about a change in their -- 

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have -- I'll refer you back to the IAEA as to the state of their program. They are the ones that are on the ground. The basic fact, though, is that Iran has not made the political decision to suspend its enrichment or reprocessing-related activities. I can't tell you whether or not the questions about the current state of the program and level of activities there are related to technical issues, engineering issues, or some other issue. But regardless of that, the important fact is they haven't made a political decision yet to suspend that program and that's what matters. 

QUESTION: And then P-5+1 and -- I don't know if I missed this, but have you covered that? 

MR. MCCORMACK: We did briefly. The perm reps are up in New York chipping away at the -- you know, putting together a resolution and we would hope that this week, we would either have or get very close to having a draft resolution that we could begin circulating to the other members of the Security Council so we can put it to the vote. But all the P-5+1 members remain committed to seeking a second resolution.  


QUESTION: Sean, can you give us a readout of the meeting of the Secretary with the Lebanese Defense Minister? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, it was -- I wasn't in the meeting, but I know that on the agenda, very basically, were a couple of things. One, an update talking to the Defense Minister regarding implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and the ability of the Lebanese armed forces to meet the mandate that has been laid out for it in terms of exercising control over all of Lebanese territory. She is also going to talk to him about the Hariri tribunal and how to move that process forward within the Lebanese political system. 

QUESTION: Is there any project to give assistance to the Lebanese forces -- financial assistance or -- 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have already given the Lebanese armed forces some assistance in terms -- in the form of humvees. We have also provided them with some training. I know that we had in mind in our budget request some further training, but we can get you more on that with exactly what it is that the United States is -- intends to do. But at the minimum, we have already provided them some equipment and some training. 


QUESTION: Back to Iran for a second. Did you have anything on the ex-defense minister who apparently is missing? And there are plenty of speculations about where he might be. The theory is that the Israelis kidnapped him, that he might have gotten asylum in the United States. Anything at all to say on that? 


QUESTION: I had to try. 

MR. MCCORMACK: Good try. Lambros. 

QUESTION: On Kosovo. 

MR. MCCORMACK: On Kosovo, yes. 

QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, according to today's Washington Post, an international war crime prosecutor said yesterday that the so-called -- the "so-called" is mine -- permanent prime minister of Kosovo Albanian Ramush Haradinaj, 38 years old, who was a gangster in uniform who committed cruel and violent crimes against innocent Serbs, that Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte declared that Ramush Haradinaj has bloodied his hands and faces 37 charges of murder, rape, and torture. Do you have any comment on that? 

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen those news reports. 

QUESTION: And one more? 

MR. MCCORMACK: You're limited to one today. 


QUESTION: On North Korea, Treasury Secretary Paulson in Japan and he mentioned that U.S. and North Korea should be able to come to a resolution of the BDA issue, an agreement that both the U.S. and North Korea would be happy with. How close are you to a resolution of the issue and what kind of compromise would the U.S. be willing to make to accommodate North Korea to -- 

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm going to leave that to my colleagues at the Treasury Department. It is an issue that has been worked in that channel directly between the Department of Treasury and North Korean officials, as well as Macanese officials, so I'm going to leave it to them to describe exactly where they are in that process. I know that they are working toward a resolution of the situation within the confines of our legal requirements, so I will just leave Secretary Paulson's remarks where they are and if any of my colleagues at Treasury choose to expand on those remarks, I'll let them go ahead and do that.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:20 p.m.) 

DPB #39

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