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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 9, 2007

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT/IRAN

Mrs. Levinson’s Meetings at the State Department
US Efforts Regarding the Welfare and Whereabouts of Mr. Levinson
Iranian-Americans Detained in Iran / State Department in Touch with Families / Motivations of Iranian Regime / Department Travel Warnings
Secretary Rice to Visit Iranian Art Exhibit at Meridian House
Status of Sports Exchanges with Iranians

BANGLADESH

Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s Return to Bangladesh
Bangladesh Special Envoy Visit to US

SRI LANKA

Travel by Assistant Secretary Boucher to Sri Lanka / Meetings
Secretary Rice’s Meeting with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister

IRAQ/IRAN

Status of Five Iranian Security Detainees in Iraq

NORTH KOREA

Status of Transfer of Funds from BDA

CUBA

Status of Fidel Castro’s Health

VENEZUELA

Case of Luis Posado Carriles

NIGERIA

Reports of Four American Oil Workers Kidnapped

MISCELLANEOUS

Al Hurra Oversight and Operations

SUDAN

US Contact with NGOs on Darfur


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:34 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Who wants to get into some questions?

QUESTION: Should I ask you about the meetings with Mrs. Levinson?

MR. MCCORMACK: You can. She had some meetings over here at the Department. She met with figures from the Consular Affairs Bureau as well as the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau. They talked about our efforts on behalf of Mr. Levinson. We have not heard anything new back either from the Iranian Government or from those other countries that we have asked to work on Mr. Levinson's behalf to try to determine his whereabouts. It's part of our ongoing conversation with Mrs. Levinson. Nick Burns is in frequent contact with her as well, keeping her updated and assuring her that we are working on her husband's behalf. We want to see him reunited with his family.

She's already had the meetings. I can't tell you exactly how long they lasted, but they are at the, I think, office director level. But Nick Burns would have met with her, but he is over in Berlin for some G-8 meetings.

QUESTION: Okay. Is it still three countries, non --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Three --

QUESTION: It hasn't expanded to more.

MR. MCCORMACK: It has not expanded. We're still at three.

Yeah, Sue.

QUESTION: Could you name exactly who she saw there -- which directors? And also was she accompanied by anyone, by a lawyer, by someone from the FBI, by --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll let her -- I'll let her speak for herself in terms of who is traveling with her to decide. You know, it's not my place to get into that. I'll see if I can get you the names. I'm not sure that they would be people that you guys would recognize. Not to say they're not important. It's not what I'm saying.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) set of issues.

MR. MCCORMACK: It's not, you know, kind of household names like Matt Lee or Sue Pleming.

QUESTION: Yeah, right. (Laughter.) Did she --

QUESTION: This is just deteriorating.

MR. CASEY: Very fast.

QUESTION: Did she -- did she request a meeting with the Secretary?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Not to my knowledge. It's a topic that -- we talk to the Secretary quite often, keep her up to date on what actions we're taking.

QUESTION: Sean, can you talk at all to what extent your work with her has been? I mean, what are you doing on her behalf?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we are -- we've talked about it a lot here from this podium and other places as well. Going to the Iranian Government I think we've had -- I can't keep track of the number right now -- of inquiries we've made to them. I think about five inquiries, separate inquiries to the Iranian Government, asking about his whereabouts. We've also worked with other governments to see if they can knock on a few doors in Tehran and elsewhere and find any information about Mr. Levinson's whereabouts. We try to follow up on any leads that we -- wherever they may occur.

The last communication -- one of the last communications we had with the Iranian Government, we included -- mentioned some press reporting about the fact that Mr. Levinson had been bundled off by people that appeared to be from Iranian security forces. We can't validate that, so we said -- we included by ways of saying, well, look, you say there's no information; this might be something that provides you a lead. So we are doing everything that we possibly can that we think is effective in trying to determine his whereabouts and to get him back as safely here with his family as soon as possible.

QUESTION: I wanted to also ask about this case of the woman, the Iranian-American woman who's been detained --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- as of yesterday. Do you have any further information on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a lot of information I can provide you. We are in touch with some of the families involved here. But you're referring to press reports who are out there today, about some individuals, Iranian-Americans, who have traveled -- traveled frequently back and forth to Iran, who on recent trips have had their passports confiscated by Iranian officials and not allowed to leave Iran. This is of a concern to us.

It's of a real concern to their families, and we want to do everything that we can that we think is effective - to work with the families so that we can see these individuals return back with their loved ones. These people don't pose any threat to the Iranian regime. You have an academic scholar -- expert on U.S.-Iran relations. You have a journalist included in there as well. These are grandmothers. I don't think that they're going to shake the foundations of the Iranian -- you know, the Iranian regime.

Beyond that, I'm not going to say too much. We want to certainly be respectful of the prerogatives of the family. We don't want to weight down these cases with -- you know, fate these cases with some of the other baggage in the Iranian-U.S. relationship. This is about people, and people that should be allowed to return back with their families as soon as possible.

QUESTION: There's been some suggestion that they may have detained her because of possible -- you know, her role in possibly contributing to these U.S. Government programs that are reaching out to Iranians inside Iran, even though, you know, her family here says that she had nothing to do with it.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: But there's been some suggestion that that's possibly what the Iranians are doing is trying to send a message to the U.S. Government.

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I can't tell you the motivations behind these actions by the Iranian Government. I can only repeat that these are people who don't pose any threat to the Iranian Government and, in fact, symbolize the kind of people-to-people interaction that we want to encourage. Whatever problems we may have with the policies of the Iranian Government, we don't want to put a chill in those people-to-people contacts. We think that those are really important.

And one example coming up here is the Secretary is going to visit an exhibition of Iranian artists. It's happening here at the Meridian House in the next couple of days. She's actually going to meet with some Iranian artists. We've had the American wrestling team that was well received in Tehran. We've had experts from the equivalent of the Iranian Centers for Disease Control visit the United States. So we want to encourage more of these kind of exchanges so that we can keep up contacts between the American and the Iranian people. It makes clear that we have no problem with the Iranian people. We want more interaction with them. It's a great culture. It's a great country and we shouldn't let any of the policy differences between the United States and this Iranian Government get in the way of those kinds of exchanges. So it would be a real shame if these actions by the Iranian Government in any way put a crimp in those kinds of exchanges. We don't want to see that.

QUESTION: Sean, two things. One, this is the second time just now that you've referred to these women as grandmothers.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Is there something about "grandmotherhood" in this case that makes them any less of a threat to, you know -- there are some grandmothers who are pretty spry.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, no, it's true. Yeah, and I don't want to get a lot of letters from grandmothers here, you know. They can be pretty testy.

QUESTION: Too late.

MR. MCCORMACK: Too, late -- (laughter) -- I'm in trouble already, George. I know. No, it's just -- look, I want to try -- people try to humanize this. This isn't about U.S.-Iranian government-to-government relations. This is about people who just want to get back and see their families.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: See their grandchildren, see their husbands and their children. That's really what I was trying to get at.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Not in any way trying to diss grandmothers.

QUESTION: Okay. And on the Secretary's visit to the -- these are artworks by Iranian artists.

MR. MCCORMACK: Iranian artists, right.

QUESTION: From Iran not Iranian American artists?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, from the --

QUESTION: And are the artists be there?

MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?

QUESTION: Will the artists be there?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. And she's going --

QUESTION: And then they will return to Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Are you in any way concerned given the press reporting in the Iranian newspapers about the threat that they say is posed by these two women who are detained?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: That an Iranian artist meeting with the Secretary of State won't also meet the same kind of fate when they get back to --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- wherever they are from in Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right. No, I would certainly hope not, Matt. And we're not going to alter our desire for these kind of interactions. And we don't think that the actions by the Iranian Government should be allowed to, in any way, inhibit these kind of interactions. Now of course, people will be free to choose whether or not they meet with the Secretary of State or U.S. officials. We're not going to try to force anything on anybody and if people aren't comfortable for whatever reason, of course they're not going to have to meet with the Secretary of State. But it is, at the very least, a way for the United States to demonstrate in tangible ways that we appreciate Iranian culture, we value Iranian culture, and we value these kinds of exchanges.

QUESTION: Can you give us a little bit more details on this exhibition? When? Where?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll get you some more details. Yeah, I think she's going to do this tomorrow. Let me check for you.

QUESTION: Could you also find out if she's going to continue her interest in Iranian art or the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, yeah. She, yeah, she's -- she has a great interest in music, so she has an appreciation for the fine arts. I can't tell you whether or not -- how many Iranian art exhibitions she's been to in the past. I mean -- but, you know, regardless, I'm sure that this is of high quality. I'm not an art expert, but the important thing here is the symbolism of the American Secretary of State reaching out and demonstrating for the Iranian people an appreciation for a product of Iranian culture.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: The women that were detained, can you tell us whether those were -- appear to be connected in any way, or if the reason -- and also, if the reason for their detention has been simply because they were Americans or is there anything else?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I -- Kirit, I can't tell you and I -- I'm not going to draw any particular connection with these. We'll deal with them as individual cases. That's our approach to it. I -- you can ask Iranian officials if they are drawing any particular linkage among these three cases.

QUESTION: Sean, does this further complicate an already complicated relationship with Iran? You're trying to get them to end their nuclear weapons program, you know --

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, as you point out, it's an already complex relationship. And it's -- and it is not unprecedented that we have seen this kind of behavior by the Iranian Government in the past, where the Iranian Americans have had their passports confiscated and not be allowed to exit around. So this is -- this has happened in the past before. I can't tell you how many cases per year we have of it, but it has happened in the past.

As for the motivations of the Iranian regime, I can't tell you.

QUESTION: But right now - just three cases plus Mr. Levinson, is that what we're talking about?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's what -- yeah, that's what we're aware of, yes.

QUESTION: Sean.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: You said this is the first -- you've seen this in the past. Is that just the detentions -- or, sorry, the passports have been taken or the actual arrests that you've seen in the past?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't speak to the latter. I know that we have had past cases of people with their passports being confiscated and there are people not being allowed to return for some period of time. It's not only American -- American citizens as well; I know that there have been, in recent years, cases of other foreign nationals that have been prevented from leaving Iran. There was recently a case involving a Canadian citizen as well, a Canadian academic. So this isn't -- this behavior on the part of the Iranian regime is not limited to American citizens. This is, unfortunately, something that they've done with others in the past as well.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Is this also a problem with other -- specifically for Americans of dual nationality? Hasn't this also been a problem with China -- with other countries where the country --

MR. MCCORMACK: It has for different --

QUESTION: The other country definitely does not recognize the dual nationality and says that -- claims them for their own to the point of imprisoning them?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, it has -- yeah, it has happened. I can't detail for you all the cases around the world. Certainly, China is a case. We've seen a number of those human rights cases. I'm not trying to -- I'm not going to try to draw any parallels between those cases and the Iranian cases. I think you have to deal with them each in their own right, but yeah, it has happened in the past.

Yeah.

QUESTION: So, would you advise Iranian Americans from traveling to Iran? And what about the wrestling team? Are they -- have they given you a reply yet? Are they coming?

MR. MCCORMACK: Whether to come here? I'll check for you. I don't know.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: I know that they express an interest in it and we encourage them to have a return visit here. As for any updates to the travel warnings, we'll keep you updated. The bureaucracy usually works on those and they land on my desk right before they go out to yours.

Yes, Goyal.

QUESTION: Another subject.

MR. MCCORMACK: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Sean, this former Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina has been allowed to return to Bangladesh.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And now here is Special Envoy from Bangladesh Mr. Farooq Sobhan is traveling the U.S. and meeting U.S. officials. Is anybody in that -- here at the State Department carrying this kind of special message about the situation in Bangladesh?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- I'll look into it, Goyal. I don't know if he's met with anybody here on his recent visit. It's positive action that the government has allowed Sheikh Hasina back into Bangladesh. We encourage that development. What needs to happen in Bangladesh is that this caretaker government needs to move as quickly and effectively as it can to elections so that you continue the momentum of Bangladeshi democracy. What you don't want to have happen is that we get stuck with a non-elected government for an extended period of time. That would be a setback for Bangladesh and Bangladeshi democracy.

So we are in contact with those officials who are essentially running the government right now and encouraging them to move forward with the elections. We're encouraging as much participation as possible by -- across the political spectrum in Bangladesh, including opposition parties.

QUESTION: Sean, (inaudible). Mr. Richard Boucher is now traveling to Sri Lanka. I see him traveling there; human rights problems and the problems between -- the fighting going on and all that.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: So where do we stand as far as -- or he's getting any special message from the Secretary as far as the situation in Sri Lanka is concerned?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, our concern is to try to get the government and the Tamil Tigers back to the negotiating table. That has been an on-and-off enterprise over the past several years. We very much appreciate the efforts of the Norwegian Government in this. They have taken a real lead and interest, as have we, in the issue. Unfortunately, the meetings that they have had hasn't -- haven't really resulted in any progress. It's a fight that's been going on for several decades now. So it's a real -- it's a very, very difficult problem. And in the meantime, you have a number of people that have lost their lives as a result of this fighting, and that -- that's a terrible tragedy.

So Richard is there to try to further our efforts in this regard. I can't tell you whether he's carrying a special message from the Secretary. She has, in the past several months, met with the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister and encouraged the government to do everything that it could to further the cause of peace, but at this point, Goyal, I don't -- sadly, don't have any breakthroughs to announce for you.

QUESTION: Do you know --

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, all right --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the president of Sri Lanka. Mr. Boucher was scheduled to meet with the President of Sri Lanka.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: You know, Goyal, you -- you know, inquire with our Embassy there to get a readout of his meetings. I'm not in touch with Richard as he's traveling around the globe.

Yeah, Sylvie.

QUESTION: If I can go back to Iran.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: The Iraqi Foreign Minister said today in an interview to The Independent of London that the five Iranians that have been detained by the coalition in Iran -- in Iraq would be detained -- would be released soon because you have some limitation in the -- legal limitation you cannot keep them more than 90 days, renewed once? Can you confirm that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you. What I can confirm for you is that they are still being detained and that they are going to go through the normal review process. They're being held under mandates -- Security Council mandates as well as Iraqi law. Under Iraqi law, there is a provision that security detainees, I think, can be held a maximum of six months and that -- at least every six months. You can check with the Iraqis, but at least every six months, there is a review of the status of all security detainees. They would fall under that review process. I can't tell you exactly when that date's going to be. Check with MNFI as to when that review date comes up.

But that would be an opportunity if there is a -- depending on the outcome of the review process, for them to be returned to Iran. I can't tell you that that is going to be the outcome. It's going to be up to the officials -- Iraqi and -- I believe Iraqi and American. I think there's a joint consultation that goes on there as to whether or not they are released.

Yes. Okay. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Thanks. North Korea insisted to have the North Korea funding in BDA be transferred to an American banking institution. Is it agreeable to the United States?

MR. MCCORMACK: They're still working with their bankers and if there's any requirement for an opinion from the Treasury Department as to whether or not this is a transaction that the financial institutions involved would feel comfortable doing, then the Treasury Department will take a look at that and see what it is that they can do.

You can speak to my colleagues over at Treasury as to whether or not they're looking at that or working on anything. But again, the main issue here is to get BDA over and done with, have it completed so we can get back to the six-party talks and focus on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, which is what everybody's major concern is here.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: Sean, don't you think that the North Koreans are just becoming really, really pretentious about where the money could go? I mean, they now can choose what bank to send the money to? I mean, is it -- when are you going to just crack down and just say, "I'm sorry, resolve your problems the way you can, but don't prolong this." It's been two months almost since the deadline.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: How long are they going to take? Italian banks, South Korean banks, American banks, where is it going?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you -- look, Nicholas, you can talk to them about where it's going. (Laughter.) Look, we all want this. You know, we all want this to be over and done with. As I've said many, many times over, it's a heck of a lot more complicated than anybody would have ever thought it. Everybody wants to see this transaction completed, over and done with, so that we can move on. And to my knowledge it hasn't taken place. We all look forward to the day, especially me, when this happens, so we don't have to answer questions about BDA and we can talk more about the six-party talks and what we're doing there.

QUESTION: But how realistic is it to think that any American Bank after what happened to BBDA, or the treasury did to BDA that any American bank would be willing to accept, you know, the money?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas, you would have to -- obviously individual banks regardless if they're American or Italian or Russian or whatever flavor, they're going to have to make their own decisions about risk and reward, about their -- any reputational risks that might come along with this. I would assume that as part of that calculation that they're going to look at what the reaction from the Department of Treasury might be. As I pointed out earlier, you can talk to the Treasury Department whether or not they're looking at any of these issues. That wouldn't be our call. And ultimately, it would come down to the parties involved, the North Korea, the Macanese authorities, I assume Chinese Authorities, the specific banks, other banks involved, non-Macanese banks involved. And ultimately if required, some opinion or signal from the Department of Treasury.

Lambros.

QUESTION: On Albania, Mr. McCormack.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: According to Associated Press in the Fort Dix military base in New Jersey for humanitarian purposes, 4,000 Albanians from Kosovo who were settlers as a refugee since 1999 -- I'm wondering if the Department of State was aware about that and why -- Albanian men and not women and children too?

MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, where did that question come from?

QUESTION: Here is the (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: What does that have to do with me and the State Department?

QUESTION: It's -- because it's a humanitarian mission and I can tell you that your embassy is over there in the area.

MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, if you have a question about the FBI case, talk to the FBI.

QUESTION: This is FBI issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: The fact that they arrested six people, yeah.

QUESTION: They arrested -- what I'm saying --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- we don't arrest people.

QUESTION: No, no, no. I'm not saying that -- I'm saying that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Actually, the DS might arrest people. I take that back.

QUESTION: Well, I'm --

MR. MCCORMACK: We didn't arrest these people.

QUESTION: I got the message yesterday. You said no. I'm focusing the question that in these days, you're -- 74,000 Albanians from Kosovo since 1999. I'm wondering why.

MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, you know, just -- I have no idea.

Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) question on Cuba and on Posada Carilles, too.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: On Cuba there is this letter that Fidel Castro signed a couple of days ago concerning those two people who tried to hijack a plane and blame the United States. More in the letter, the fact that he started -- he reappeared, do you have any hint or any idea that he may be going back or anything about his health?

MR. MCCORMACK: We don't have any more information than we have to my knowledge over the past several months about his state of health. He has not, as far as I know, assumed the duties again as leader of the Cuban regime. I think the experience over the past, you know -- six to nine months or so -- certainly does indicate however that there is some form of transition underway. We don't know how long that transition is going to take. We hope at the end of that transition that the Cuban people will have the opportunity to freely choose who leads them and who leads their government.

QUESTION: And Posada Carriles -- Congressman Delahunt seems that like he wants to start some actions to go back to the extradition issue. Has the State Department anything to do with this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it fundamentally is a Department of Justice issue. They are the ones who are taking a look at the judgment of this -- the federal judge regarding the immigration charges. They're taking a look at the ruling, deciding what their options are. And the Department of Homeland Security ultimately has jurisdiction about, you know, what foreigners are in the United States and whether are not they are allowed to remain. As a matter of foreign policy, yes, we do consult with the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security on the matter. But we are not the ultimate arbiters of either (a) what court case may be brought against Mr. Posada Carriles or (b) whether or not he remains in the United States.

Sylvie.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on this four U.S. oil workers abducted in Nigeria?

MR. MCCORMACK: Only that we are in contact with Chevron security officials who work -- there's a -- unfortunately, this is an all-too-common occurrence in the Niger River Delta area and we have a lot of experience working with officials from the oil companies. We consult with them, provide them whatever assistance -- appropriate assistance we can, whatever assistance they want. But beyond that, I don't have any information about the "who," as who took them. We want to, obviously, see them reunited with their families and to be able to return back to their jobs if they choose to do so as soon as possible.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Going back to the Posada Carriles case, what has happened with the Posada Corriles extradition request presented by Venezuelan on June 15, 2005? And also, what impacts will it have in other governments cooperating with the U.S. on the global war on terror?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, I don't think that there's any doubt about the U.S. commitment to fighting terrorism around the world. As for the extradition request, it's not something that's been acted on to this point. I know that we have done some due diligence with the Government of Venezuela. It was a process where there was a lot of back and forth requesting documentation. But it's not something, as of this point, that the U.S. Government has acted on.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: We have a couple more here. Yes.

QUESTION: What's the Department doing to reassure members of Congress who are seeking a greater oversight of the Al-Hurra network?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Thanks for asking that question. The -- Al-Hurra falls under the umbrella of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. In the Broadcasting Board of Governors there is -- there for a couple of different reasons. It provides some overall strategic supervision to the various entities that fall under its umbrella, including VOA and Al-Hurra as well as other U.S. Government entities. It's also there as a way of preventing -- as a firewall between a, you know, news organization and the United States Government so that it serves a couple of purposes. So they have the primary responsibility for day-to-day, you know, strategic management oversight of Al-Hurra. Karen Hughes is the Secretary's representative to that board.

Al-Hurra is a relatively new enterprise if you look at it, you know, against other longstanding organizations like Radio Free Europe and Voice of America, et cetera. And in the startup there were some problems, there were some problems about editorial content and there were some problems about the professionalism in the newsroom and the structure that they had in the newsroom, whether or not that led to good straightforward, honest reporting of events coming out of Al-Hurra. And so as a result we, the U.S. Government, took some steps. And one of the most important steps is about six months ago -- I mean, five, six months ago -- we hired a new managing director. I don't know if that's his exact title, but essentially managing director -- executive managing editor for Al-Hurra, actually hired him from CNN. His name's Larry Register and he -- we believe he's actually doing a pretty good job, a very good job. There had been some incidents that members of Congress have raised and written about in public. We know about those. And those actually occurred, I think, just about the time that Mr. Register came onboard and he has taken steps to ensure that those kinds of incidents don't happen again. So we think that this has become a more professional news organization. The United States does not benefit by trying to skew the flow of information to put out propaganda.

One of the reasons why VOA and Radio Free Europe were successful during the Cold War is because they provided what we believe is unbiased facts, people tuned in. And we hope that that is the case with Al-Hurra going forward. We've heard, you know, various reviews from the region states, you know, including Israel, saying that they thought that Al-Hurra was putting out a good product. Now, that isn't -- that's not the only metric you want to use, obviously. But it just goes to show you that some of the accusations that have been leveled against Al-Hurra may be ones that are reflecting some of the echoes of the past and not a new management.

QUESTION: Sean, one more thing. Sean, whether there's a connection -- al-Qaida connection or not for the terrorists arrested in New York, but according to U.S. intelligence agencies an article in U.S. News and World Report, once al-Qaida's top leaders or members were on the run, now they are regrouping in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Also the same article is saying that Usama bin Ladin is having a safe haven in Pakistan.

MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal, there are people who work every single day to find Usama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and the very top leadership of al-Qaida. One day we'll get them.

There is a -- there's also an effort to go after that level of leadership just under that uppermost level and we've had some degree of success in going after them. And that doesn't mean that they replenish -- don't replenish their ranks, they do. But over time, their ability to lead that terrorist organization diminishes, slowly over time you degrade their capabilities. So that's --

QUESTION: Can I follow up? In recent days, after all these articles and intelligence reports and all that, have you had on the State Department any (inaudible) with the General Musharraf or anybody in the Pakistan Government about all these reports of --

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you,

Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, yesterday a Darfur conflict prevention and resolution -- conference forum was held at Johns Hopkins, sponsored by a search for common ground and moderated by Charles Dambach, who is the CEO of Alliance for Peacebuilding. Officials from the State Department and USAID were in attendance and the groups that were featured were the Genocide Prevention network, ENOUGH and Columbia University. Are you now encouraging these groups to settle, or to attempt to settle this issue, and end this nightmare over Darfur?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Joel, I'll give you a very general answer here. We stay in contact with a number of the nongovernmental organizations that have an interest in seeing the violence in Darfur end and we have regular contact with them. The Secretary does on occasion. I know Jendayi Frazer, Andrew Natsios have, and I expect that Deputy Secretary will as well.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yep.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:07 p.m.)

DPB # 83


Released on May 9, 2007

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