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



Andrew Natsios to Lead Delegation to Sudan for Darfur Conference
Political Reconciliation is Key to Solving Darfur’s Problems
Secretary’s Efforts on Darfur Issue / Other U.S. Officials’ Involvement


President Putin’s Comments on Missile Defense / U.S. System Defensive
U.S. Discussions with Russians / Innovative Proposals Addressing Concerns
U.S. System Not One that Can Defend Against Russian Missile Capability
No Analogy with Cuban Missile Crisis


Status of Convicted USS Cole Bomber


Upcoming P-5+1 Meeting / To Be Held in Europe
New Sanctions Against Iran / Efforts by Europe to Address Issue


Rice, Gates Meeting / Deputy Secretary Level Meeting with DoD / PSDs
Secretary’s Meetings with U.S. Officials on Personal Security Detail Issues
Tensions Between Iraq and Turkey/ Focus on Diplomacy


Secretary Rice’s Meetings / Pelosi / Former President Carter
Secretary’s Preparation for Upcoming Middle East International Meeting
U.S. Fulfillment of Obligations to Brief Congress on Full Variety of Issues


Lessons of History / U.S. View that Situation is Different than in the Past


DPRK Nuclear Declaration / U.S. Expects Full and Complete Declaration


Incident with Mexican Consulate in New York


View Video

12:34 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. Welcome to Friday.

QUESTION: Friday is half over, Sean.

MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?

QUESTION: Friday is half over.

MR. MCCORMACK: Welcome to Friday afternoon. (Laughter.) I don't have anything to start off with, so we can get right to your questions.

QUESTION: Have you been able to determine who is going to the Darfur conference?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Andrew is going to lead the delegation. There are going to be about six others, mainly from Embassy Khartoum in Washington here, staff, local folks, to support him, but he's going to be the head of the delegation.

QUESTION: Do you know when they get there?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, stump me. Let me see here. I don't have that. They're scheduled to begin on the 27th, so sufficient time to make sure they make all the meetings.


QUESTION: You said a couple of weeks ago that those who hindered the political process in Darfur would be subject probably to more U.S. sanctions. These two leading Darfur rebel groups are not attending the talks.


QUESTION: Does this mean that you're looking at imposing a new round of sanctions on them?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, right now we're concentrating on trying to get as many people to the conference as we possibly can. I'm not going to at this point talk about any further steps we might take because the effort should now be on making sure that we have as wide as possible representation at the conference to make it as effective as we possibly can. The political reconciliation is going to be key to resolving Darfur's multitude of problems. You can address the -- some of the issues that we all know about in terms of security, in terms of humanitarian assistance. But if you really want to solve the problem in Darfur, you're going to have to go to political reconciliations. We're going to be very much focused on trying to make this conference one that moves the process forward and we want to have as wide a representation as we possibly can.

QUESTION: But you see these rebel groups as spoilers in the process?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, Sue, we're going to focus right now on trying to make it a success. Let's assess the meeting, people's roles in the meeting, once that takes place. And if they don't show up to the meeting or they don't play a constructive role at the meeting, then we'll have more to say at that time, but let's now focus on getting people there and making it a good use of everybody's time to push the process forward.

QUESTION: And how are you trying to get them there? Andrew's being -- Natsios has been trying to speak to these --

MR. MCCORMACK: A variety of different diplomatic contacts.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary reached out to anyone and told them that they should go and do a bit more?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, she has not. She has not.

QUESTION: Is this something she might consider? Is Sudan still a big issue for you or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Absolutely, absolutely. It's an issue that she follows on a regular basis. She's briefed up on it, but she has not made any phone calls. If Andrew or Jendayi think that it's important that she makes (inaudible) phone calls, absolutely, she's going to.


QUESTION: Obviously having the most -- doing the most work on the issue, Andrew would be part of the delegation. But could you talk a little bit more why Deputy Secretary Negroponte isn't going, particularly since he went to Libya a few months ago to talk to the Libyans specifically about the Darfur issue.

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't talked to the Deputy about, you know, why he chose not to go to this particular conference. But if he thought that his presence there was going to make a difference in moving the process forward, absolutely, he would be there. But Andrew is fully briefed up, fully capable; he has the confidence of the Secretary and Deputy Secretary, as well as the President, on the issue. So we're fully confident that he's the right guy to go to this conference.


QUESTION: This morning there were reports that rebels in Darfur attacked a Chinese oil field and does this further your difficulties to get the conference --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of those reports, Joel.


QUESTION: New topic?


QUESTION: Russian President Putin is comparing the possible deployment of a missile defense in Europe akin to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Could you --

MR. MCCORMACK: I saw those comments. I think -- let's just say that there are some very clear historical differences between our plans to deploy a defensive missile system designed to protect against launch of missiles from rogue states such as Iran and the offensive nuclear tip capability of the missiles that were being installed in Cuba back in the 1960s that were targeting the United States. I don't think that they are historically analogous in any way, shape, or form.

QUESTION: Wait, can I -- just one more. I mean, have you -- there's been a lot of talk in the last week about how the U.S. might be prepared to not activate the missile system if there were -- was new evidence that Iran (inaudible) impose a specific missile threat.


QUESTION: Have you just -- and possibly kind of folding it into some of your other missile defense in other areas in Europe, have you talked to the Russians about this? I mean, it just seems as you're making a little bit more conciliatory comments, the comments from Russia are getting even harsher.

MR. MCCORMACK: We have talked to -- we talk to the Russians about a number of different steps that we might take in moving forward on the missile defense plans for Poland and the Czech Republic that might address some of their concerns. As the Secretary said during her visit with Secretary Gates in Moscow, we'll see if the Russians are serious now about cooperation as they say they are. We have made what we think are a number of innovative proposals with respect to missile defense.

The Russian side is still evaluating those proposals and we are still talking to the Russians about those proposals, so we'll see in the coming weeks and months whether or not Russia does truly want to cooperate on the issue of missile defense. And getting back to the earlier comments from President Putin, it is important to underline the fact that this is a defensive measure. It is not an offensive system. And as we have said many, many times, so it bears repeating now, this is not something that could defend -- not a system that could defend against a Russian missile capability in Central Europe. Quite simply, the 10 interceptors that we're talking about would be very quickly overwhelmed by Russian forces.

QUESTION: But you know, the whole -- I think where Putin may be coming from is the whole idea of the Cold War and MAD was that, you know, defense is offense --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.

QUESTION: -- or vice versa.


QUESTION: Are you saying that he is historically challenged in his comparison?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I just don't think that there's any historical analogy there. I mean, he --

QUESTION: So he can go back and bone up on his Khrushchev-era --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, he can -- I'll stick with the words that I have -- that I have --

QUESTION: I'm not trying to get you to say that.


QUESTION: I just wanted -- I mean, what is it -- what is it that --

MR. MCCORMACK: You aren't? Good. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: What is it about his historical analogy that you find --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first -- look, there -- you can find a lot of scholars around who have studied the Cuban Missile Crisis and who probably know something about our missile defense plans in the Czech Republic in Poland who can go in more depth to why these things are not analogous. But if you just look at the surface facts, the system in the Czech Republic and Poland is designed to defend against missile launches from Iran as well as other countries that might be developing medium to long-range ballistic missile capabilities; doesn't have an offensive capability.

When you're talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis, these were offensive nuclear tip weapons that were targeting the United States.


MR. MCCORMACK: So in terms of the basic facts of the situation, they're quite different.


MR. MCCORMACK: There is no -- there is no analogy there.

QUESTION: Except that the Russian point of view would be that they were defensive in nature because they were --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, these -- the fact is that --

QUESTION: Perhaps the Russian history books on this and the U.S. history books differ slightly.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think anybody -- anybody would seriously compare the kinds of missiles that they had deployed in Cuba during the 1960s with the kinds of interceptors, defensive missiles that we are planning for the European (inaudible).


QUESTION: May I change subject?


QUESTION: In Yemen, one of the convicted USS Cole bombers is being released, Jamal al-Badawi. Have you got any comments on that or reaction?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's -- we're looking into this. And if that is, in fact, true, certainly that would be disturbing and we are going to follow up with the Yemeni Government on the issue.

QUESTION: Have any calls been made so far?

MR. MCCORMACK: I suspect that our Embassy has been in contact with the Yemeni Government.

QUESTION: Do you have any detail on this P-5+1 meeting scheduled soon?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can narrow it down to towards the end of next week, not the location yet. I'm going to let the host country announce that first, but it will be in Europe.

QUESTION: You cannot say it will be in London?

MR. MCCORMACK: To my knowledge, there has not been an announcement from the host government. So out of courtesy to them, I'm not going to announce the venue.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Libby.

QUESTION: When is Secretary Rice scheduled to meet with Secretary Gates about the security contractor issue? Has that been scheduled yet or what?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're working to schedule a meeting. They have a -- I believe that they have a lunch -- regularly scheduled lunch early next week, I think Tuesday. In the meantime, Deputy Secretary Negroponte and Deputy Secretary England from the Defense Department are meeting to talk about the issue. As a matter of fact, I think they're talking about it today. Any further updates on those discussions we'll certainly try to keep you clued in on it.

QUESTION: I mean, this is about coordination between the State Department and the military on the ground as far as contractors go?

MR. MCCORMACK: This is talking about the issue of the contractors, personal security contractors, in Iraq and sort of the strategic-level coordination issues.


QUESTION: Are you also looking at the legal status of these -- of the contractors with the Pentagon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're working very closely with the Congress on that issue. It was something the House brought up. They passed some draft legislation. The Senate is scheduled to take that up in a couple of weeks, maybe the next week or two. And we're working very closely with the Senate on it. The Secretary talked yesterday about the fact that there were some areas that need to be addressed with respect to this (inaudible). Now, the Department of Defense has this -- had this issue addressed for it by the Congress previously. Their civilian contractors are -- I believe this is correct -- their civilian contractors, or at least their security contractors, would be subject to the jurisdiction of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

QUESTION: The Secretary also met Nancy Pelosi yesterday.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, she did.

QUESTION: Could you provide some details on those discussions: why did she go and see her, is it about contractors, is it about trade or Armenia?

MR. MCCORMACK: They've had several meetings over the past several months. They talk about a variety of different issues. From our perspective, talking about issues related to FTAs and trade was high on the agenda.

QUESTION: But, I mean, did she take the opportunity to reiterate that the State Department doesn't feel that the relationship with Turkey would be benefited by a passage --

MR. MCCORMACK: Everybody up on the Hill knows where we stand on that one.

QUESTION: Well, but specifically in this meeting did they talk about it?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you exactly what they talked about. I wasn't in the meeting. But I do know that they were talking about trade issues as one of the agenda items.


QUESTION: The Secretary this week also apparently met with President Carter.


QUESTION: What can you tell us about that meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I wasn't in on that one. And they had a fairly good discussion about a variety of different issues. They talked about our efforts in the Middle East. It was a good cordial meeting. She was talking to President Carter about what we were doing.

QUESTION: Compared to what he did?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. This isn't a game of one-upsmanship.

QUESTION: No, no, no, no. That's not what I meant. I mean, was she asking him about, you know, as Annapolis approaches, you know, was she looking to him for some kind -- I mean, information, inside view of what happened in the run-up to his Camp David talks and --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure -- I'm not sure that was the purpose of this meeting, although she has been actually looking back at the historical record of various efforts to bring together leaders of the Israeli side and the Palestinian side to try to move forward the peace process. She's talked to over the past several months a number of different individuals that have been involved in those processes, most recently President Clinton's efforts up at Camp David and then the follow-on efforts that the Israelis and Palestinians and the Egyptians engaged in at Taba. So she has been looking at the historical record, not only the written record but also reaching out to individuals to talk to them about their experiences with these kinds of efforts.

QUESTION: Has she talked to President Clinton or with Secretary Albright?

MR. MCCORMACK: She has spoken with President Clinton. She sees former Secretary Albright on a fairly regular basis. They have a relationship that goes back a number of years to when Secretary Albright's father was Secretary Rice's professor at the University of Denver.

QUESTION: And when her conversations with those two have been about the Middle East and about the --

MR. MCCORMACK: With President Carter it's Middle East as well as other issues.

QUESTION: No, I'm talking about Clinton and Albright.

MR. MCCORMACK: Clinton it is Middle East as well as other issues.

QUESTION: Can you give us a rough timeframe of those? And they're meeting in person or are there phone calls?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, with President Clinton it was a phone call recently. It was the past several weeks. I can't remember exactly when, Matt.

QUESTION: And Carter was Wednesday is that correct?


QUESTION: If it wasn't specifically about the Middle East, was it -- did it have to do with some of -- the former President's recent disparaging comments about the Administration and its foreign policy?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, no.

QUESTION: So what was -- if it wasn't the Middle East or that what --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm going -- I've told you about the meetings. I've generally described them. I think that's where I'm going to draw the line. I'm not going to get into it much more out of courtesy to the former presidents. If they want to speak more about, obviously they will.

QUESTION: Would you like to --

QUESTION: Can you give us more details on the people she met with or she called and -- because you spoke about Clinton, about Madeleine Albright? Is -- are there others?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll see what I can share with you. A number of other -- a number of other folks, I'm sure that you've recognized their names. She does -- she does regular -- regular meetings and outreach with people that she has worked with over the years. You all know that the foreign policy-making circles are --

QUESTION: A revolving door?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I wouldn't say it's a revolving door, but those people who have served at the highest levels, I think, have an appreciation for the jobs that current -- current and former officials have done and they talk to each other on a regular basis.

QUESTION: But Sean, you're not saying that in the lead-up to Annapolis, that she's seeking the counsel of others who have --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, she does.

QUESTION: But I mean --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's what I'm trying to get at here, is she's trying to draw on the historical record and the experiences of others to see what she can glean and how that may be applicable to the current day. We view the situation as some -- qualitatively different than it has been. History moves on, people change roles, situations change.

That said, you can take the lessons of history and apply them. She is a student of history and has a keen appreciation for how we can apply the lessons of history, what we can learn from those who have gone before us.

QUESTION: And where her consultation of the historical record is --


QUESTION: -- concerned, can you tell us what she has found most surprising or revealing or helpful or applicable from the -- her consultation of the old documents?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll let her speak to that. Maybe you can -- you guys will, at some point, get a chance to ask her that question, so I'll let her speak to it.


QUESTION: Speaking of that conference that you've possibly scheduled for late November in Annapolis --


QUESTION: -- (inaudible) conservative was on GW campus. He sponsored, at 18 universities, Islamo-Fascism Week and there's counter-talks. President Carter was there in March and that caused an uproar. Has the university in any way contacted you prior to these particular --

MR. MCCORMACK: Not -- not aware that they have, Joel.

QUESTION: And no policy type tidbits?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, universities are places that are supposed to be venues for free exchange of ideas no matter what they may be. It's up to the individual universities to make the decisions about who they provide a venue to express their views.

Yeah, Matt.

QUESTION: Going back to yesterday's big topic, Iran.


QUESTION: Have you -- you or Treasury that you're aware of, been able to determine if, in fact, any of these entities that were hit with sanctions yesterday have more than zero dollars in any U.S. jurisdiction?

MR. MCCORMACK: I am -- I don't have any new information for you on that.

QUESTION: Sean, with these new sanctions, especially those against the banks, are you trying to exert pressure on the Europeans for them to do the same thing? Is it something you tried to convince them to do?

MR. MCCORMACK: The European -- the European -- individual Europeans as well as the EU has taken up this issue on their own and we have been talking to them. We've been working with them. But they understand the powerful effect that these kinds of tools can have on making sure that the international financial system isn't used for illicit purposes. So we talk to them. I wouldn't put it in the vein of pressuring them. We have talked to them about how working either together or in a complementary fashion. We might increase the pressure on the Iranian Government to come to the table. But they are coming to their own decisions on this.

QUESTION: Some countries did take some decisions, but the EU as a whole is still speaking about it --

MR. MCCORMACK: They're still considering it.

QUESTION: They didn't take any decision as a whole.

MR. MCCORMACK: They will operate on their own timeline. It is something that is being actively discussed within the EU. I know the French have brought up the issue and they think it's very important to take a look at it and see what it is that the EU as a whole might do. Certainly, that could have a very powerful effect. But whether or not they decide to take any actions, either sanctions or other kinds of actions like reducing export credits, it's going to be a decision that they have to take. But we're talking to them about it.


QUESTION: Turkey. Turkish helicopters sort of bombed or hit part of the border areas with Iraq to hit Kurdish areas. And Turkey also complained today that Iraq is still not doing enough and that they want all PKK people handed over. I just wondered has the Secretary reached out recently to Turkey and Iraq or in recent days to try and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new. Her last contact with Iraqi representatives was when she saw Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih just the other day. She hasn't had any other phone calls. But we do have representatives at the meetings in Ankara that are ongoing now between the Iraqis and the Turks. Marcie Ries, the Political Military Counselor from Embassy Baghdad is in Ankara for those discussions, and I think we have some other representation from Embassy Baghdad, maybe MNFI, as well as Embassy Ankara at those discussions.

So I mention that just because it's an indicator of where our focus is, is on the diplomacy getting the Turks and the Iraqis to sit down across from one another and talk about how to address what is a common threat.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, even as these talks are going on --


QUESTION: -- the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister was saying today that they're in the middle of lunch, conducting a bombing raid on targets in the north. I mean, do you think there's any point in having talks while they're -- I mean, they're continuing -- even while the talks are going on they're doing it.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of the military action, we've made clear that we don't believe that unilateral military ground action is the way to come to a durable lasting solution to this. We understand how sensitive this issue is for the Turkish people and the Turkish Government. They've lost nearly 50 people in the past several weeks due to PKK terrorist attacks, so we understand. We understand how the Turkish people feel about this, which is why we're devoting so much energy to try to bring Turkey and Iraq together to find a common solution.

Yeah, James.

QUESTION: Change of subject if we can?


QUESTION: In regard to the six-party talks, during his last briefing -- the conference call with reporters -- Ambassador Hill was asked what -- how things will play out --


QUESTION: -- if North Korea provides a declaration that is seen to be something less than complete and correct on New Year's Eve. And his response was to the effect that this process is not going to start on New Year's Eve. So with that in mind, has the United States Government or any members of the six-party talks received any indication so far as to the progress of the declaration and its completeness and/or correctness?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check for you, James. I haven't spoken with Chris recently about where we are with respect to the declaration. We would expect that when we do receive it, that it is going to be full and complete and that it is acceptable not only to us but the other members of the six-party talks.

That said, I have not talked to Chris about where we stand on the declaration or where we -- for that matter, where we stand on the disablement process.

QUESTION: Is the sole -- is it true that the sole reason to believe that the declaration will be correct and complete is that North Korea has recently assured you it will be?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. We're not going to buy a pig in a poke. We have our own ways of certainly looking at the declaration and matching it up against what we as well as others know or suspect about the North Korean nuclear program. Now obviously a lot of that gets into the intelligence field. I'm not going to discuss that.

But nobody is going to sign off on a declaration as acceptable if they believe that it is not -- it does not meet the standards that we have set for ourselves and that others have set for them.

QUESTION: I was actually only asking about your anticipations about it not your review of it. But on a potentially related subject --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's interesting.


MR. MCCORMACK: A potentially related subject.

QUESTION: I'm glad you're intrigued. Commercial satellite imagery, the evidentiary foundation of which is unassailable, appears to show --

MR. MCCORMACK: You just like using those big words, don't you?

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Like "modalities"?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) question on Mongolia. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Commercial satellite imagery, the evidentiary foundation of which is unassailable, appears to show that Syria some time between August 6, 2007 and September -- and the present day destroyed some buildings located in a remote corner of northeastern Syria. Do you attach any significance to that fact?

MR. MCCORMACK: James, we've talked about these news reports for many, many weeks now and we give you the same answer. Of course, we would be very concerned about any activities that attempted to further the development of weapons of mass destruction in countries like Syria, countries like North Korea, other places around the Middle East. So it's -- those are things that we watch very, very closely. And beyond that, I really can't offer you much of anything else beyond what we've said on the topic before.

QUESTION: Ambassador Hill testified before the Joint House Subcommittee yesterday. And as you probably are aware, there was some fairly blunt talk from both sides of the political aisle about the refusal so far on the part of the Bush Administration to provide more expansive briefings to members of Congress on the subject at hand. Why is it that Secretary Rice opposes the provision of such briefings to people who do in fact possess the proper clearances?

MR. MCCORMACK: James, you can be assured that the Executive Branch fulfills its obligations to the Legislative Branch, with respect to briefings on all variety of topics.

QUESTION: That wasn't the sentiment on the Hill yesterday, though, was it?

MR. MCCORMACK: As we say, we have certain obligations that are spelled out to brief the Hill on all variety of different topics and we've fulfilled those obligations.

QUESTION: But do you not have a political problem on your hands when you have members from both sides of the aisle complaining that they don't see that you are fulfilling those obligations?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's part of the discussion, I'm sure, that will take place in the weeks and months ahead between these two branches of our three branches of government.

QUESTION: Who is handling those discussions for the State Department? Isn't that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not sure that it's a matter that is focused solely on the State Department.


QUESTION: Do you have any details on Chris Hill's travel plans next week? Who is he seeing in Beijing? What's he going to do?


QUESTION: Could you please find some out then?

MR. MCCORMACK: I will try.

QUESTION: Maybe after you finish talking about the Red Sox, you could squeeze in a question about -- (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I don't know. That might take too long, Matt. I'm not sure that we -- Nick and Chris and I have a lot to talk about in terms of analyzing the past two games and what lies ahead for us in Colorado. Three tough games -- and three tough games. We're going to go into hostile territory and a different kind of environment. And I expect our guys to give it their all and perform well. Now, we need two more victories. We need two more. We're halfway there.

QUESTION: Are you looking for another job? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) I don't know -- if the Red Sox are calling, I don't know. (Laughter.)


QUESTION: I don't know if you have anything on this. It might be a little out of your lane, but if you -- whether you -- the Department's been advised of anything about what's happening with the Mexican Consulate in New York? Do you know that happened --

MR. MCCORMACK: I saw the press reports just before I came down here. I haven't had a chance to talk to any of our folks. Typically, what would happen if there were any sort of incidents or suspicions that the NYPD would be working with the consulate and we would help make those connections. Obviously, we would do whatever we would need to do in order to help the folks up there.

QUESTION: But you don't have any information about the circumstances of --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't, no.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, great.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:03 p.m.)

DPB # 189

Released on October 26, 2007

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