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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
September 11, 2007

INDEX:

ISRAEL/SYRIA

Reports of an Israeli Air-strike Inside Syria

NORTH KOREA

North Korean Diplomats Visit to Washington / No USG Contacts
U.S. Inspector’s Work in Pyongyang / Yongbyon
Representatives from Russia, China, U.S. / Ideas for Permanent Disablement
Details to be Worked Out on the Ground

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

Upcoming International Meeting on the Middle East
Diplomacy Leading up to Meeting / Possible Upcoming Travel by Secretary
U.S. in Touch with Other Partners Working Toward Peace

DEPARTMENT

Secretary’s Phone Calls

IRAQ

President’s Message to America on the Way Forward in Iraq

IRAN

Iranian Government’s Official Position is to Play a Positive Role in Iraq
Our Military Will Act to Protect Our Troops

MEXICO

Details of Explosions at Pipeline / Intelligence Sharing

GREECE

Discussions About Visa Waiver Program with the Greek Government


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:07 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don't have anything to start off with, so we can get right into your questions. Who would like to begin? Sylvie?

QUESTION: Can you confirm that Israel carried an airstrike inside Syria last week, targeting a shipment of arms?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I think you should talk to the Syrian Government or the Israeli Government about that.

QUESTION: Did -- the Israelis didn't inform you of any operation in --

MR. MCCORMACK: If -- any questions -- any questions about this story you can talk to the Israeli Government about.

Okay, good. We're done. (Laughter.) Ah, there you are.

QUESTION: Last Saturday, North Korean delegation (inaudible). Kim Myong-gil, he visited Washington, D.C. Do you know what his purpose of his visit?

MR. MCCORMACK: I believe there were some North Korean diplomats who came down --

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- to Washington for some nongovernmental meetings. I think it was a Korea cultural day celebration or something of that sort. There weren't any U.S. Government contacts while they were down here, but they were granted permission to come down to D.C. for that celebration, I think.

QUESTION: It's private purpose?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, exactly.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas.

QUESTION: Speaking of Korea, do you have anything back from the people who went into that area?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we don't.

QUESTION: It's very recent and it happened literally hours ago, but I just --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. They're in Pyongyang now and we expect that they are going to be traveling up to Yongbyon tomorrow, staying the night up there. The plan is that they would then come back down to Pyongyong and at some point, Thursday likely, exit. But the details in terms of the, you know, the walkthroughs that they do up in Yongbyon are going to be worked out on the ground. There's only so much micro-managing you want to do (inaudible).

QUESTION: Do you know how many Americans are there among the group and the overall --

MR. MCCORMACK: Did we check? Seven.

QUESTION: Seven? Are they all experts?

MR. MCCORMACK: Seven. Mixture. A mixture of people. We have a policy person that's leading the team, Sung Kim, who is the Director of our Korea Desk here at the State Department. You have reps from State, NSC and DOE. DOE would likely be the expert types rather than the policy types.

QUESTION: Right. And is there anyone from the Embassy in Seoul?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I'd think they'd probably be in a support role if there were.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: When the North Koreans close the Yongbyon site, the IAEA inspectors went, had a look at it and all that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- how does this differ from the IAEA inspections in that sense?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is -- you're going to have representatives from Russia, China and the United States, and these are -- these are all countries that have experience with nuclear weapons facilities. How best -- they can offer some recommendations on how best you might go about disabling a facility. So the IAEA is really there in a monitoring capacity to determine what is happening there, monitoring what is going on at the Yongbyon facility. They can also offer some expertise, but this was just an additional set of eyes, if you will, that can offer some ideas on how you might go about permanently disabling a facility.

QUESTION: Sean, just one more on that. Do you know if -- how unfettered is the access they're going to get? I mean, can they visit any site they want? Can they go and see where the spent fuel rods will have been processed in the past, or do they have limits to what --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they're going to be -- the idea, the going-in idea, is that they would focus on Yongbyon and that there are, within that complex, separate facilities, I think three separate facilities. There's a reprocessing, there's a power-generation plant, there's a reactor there. So the idea is that they would be ranging through that complex.

Like I said at the beginning, they're going to work out all the details on the ground. There's only so much micro-managing we want to do from Washington in terms of, you know, the where and the when and exactly what they're doing. So they'll work those things out on the ground.

QUESTION: And you expect that they will have access to also documentation rather than just seeing things?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure that's part of the plan. I don't know if that's something that the experts need to look at. I don't know. I can't tell you if -- if they think they need to look at something, they'll probably make a request. I can't tell you whether or not it would be fulfilled.

Yeah, Sue.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about the diplomacy that's taking place on preparing for the Middle East meeting, or conference or whatever you may like to call it? Who is the Secretary speaking to these days? What are her plans? How far ahead have you gotten towards planning it? There was a meeting yesterday where negotiating teams were drawn up. Are you --

MR. MCCORMACK: Between the Israelis and Palestinians, right.

QUESTION: Between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Are you hoping that there's going to be some sort of paper that's drawn up before the meeting? Or maybe you can just bring us up to date.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, well -- we'll see. Look, there's going to be a lot of diplomacy between now and whenever we have this international meeting. We haven't issued invitations yet. I can't tell you when the -- where or when at this point. We're going to be working those things out in the coming weeks.

One of the diplomatic activities you see at various levels -- between us and the Israelis, us and the Palestinians, Israelis and Palestinians, us with the Quartet, the Quartet with others -- this all feeds into this meeting right now. And we're working through and defining the modalities: What are going to be the outcomes of the meeting; what are going to be the things that might be on the table prior to the meeting? That's all part of the diplomacy that we have ongoing.

In addition to what the Israelis and the Palestinians are doing, I would expect the Secretary is going to be traveling out there probably next week. We'll get the dates and all the logistical details for that soon. There's just going to be meeting with both sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to try to move the process forward, do a little review of the progress that they've made, see how we can help move the process forward.

I would expect at the UN General Assembly, the Secretary will have a number of meetings dealing with this topic as well. So there's going to be a lot of diplomatic activity that you see unfolding over the coming months. And from that you will see emerge some results that will feed into this international meeting and we'll see what the results from the international meeting are.

QUESTION: What about the Saudis? Has the Secretary been in contact with, you know, the Saudi Ambassador or the Foreign Minister, or have you been pulling in Saudi officials to try and work out --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're in touch with the Saudis, as well as others in the region who have an interest in moving forward a peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. I can't point to any one meeting right now. Remember, the Secretary was working from home for the last couple weeks in August. She came in for a couple days towards the end of August, so she had some meetings with her staff. Her staff has been busy. David Welch has been quite busy, as he always is, working with officials throughout the region, trying to move this process forward. Not something I'm -- I'm not going to get into the details of exactly what he's doing. There's a lot of this stuff behind the scenes -- better that way, oftentimes. So we'll try to keep you up to date (inaudible).

QUESTION: Are you optimistic that you're going to have a substantial enough meeting that the Saudis will attend?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see. We haven't issued invitations yet. Okay.

QUESTION: Sean, can you bring us up to date on the Secretary's phone calls, since -- I don't know, since when?

MR. MCCORMACK: Since when?

QUESTION: Oh, the last four months' worth? No, I don't know. (Laughter.) I don't know if she's been busy this week, but --

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing. Just looking at the list here, Charlie, nothing really that --

QUESTION: She hasn't made a single phone call? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, can I follow up on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: No.

QUESTION: On the phone calls. (Laughter.)

Do you anticipate that after the President makes his speech to the nation and forwards his report that the Secretary will be reaching out to allies to explain the President's way -- the Administration's way forward in Iraq?

MR. MCCORMACK: She might, inasmuch as she needs to. I would expect the President will probably be pretty clear. But inasmuch as there is a need to do that and have the diplomatic contact at the level of ministers, I'm sure she'll be willing to do that.

Yeah.

QUESTION: If I could follow up on Sue because I'm still catching up from vacation. But have you now decided officially whether to host this meeting here or to take place -- for it to take place somewhere else in the region?

MR. MCCORMACK: You should expect it will take place in the U.S.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

Sylvie.

QUESTION: A question about Iran. The new head of the Revolutionary Guard --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- said today that Iran had -- has identified the soft spots of U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan and they --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- will strike in soft spots in case of a U.S. strike on Iran. Is --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, hardly constructive rhetoric, is it? Look, the Iranian Government -- the Iranian Government's official position is that they want to play a positive role in Iraq's future and Afghanistan's future. And certainly, that is what the United States and its allies are doing in both of those countries.

I'm not sure if the quotes that you just gave me represent official Iranian Government policy. If so, then it certainly would be quite a contradiction from the previously stated policy. As for -- you know, as for these threats, you know, our military has made it very clear that they are going to act to protect our troops in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Yes, it's a question on Mexico.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Yesterday, there were a new series of acts of sabotage against gas infrastructure in Mexico, which would be the second of these kind of events in less than two months. Has the U.S. offered any kind of intelligence help to Mexico regarding this or the U.S. is worried, considering that one of the companies affected by this export to the U.S.?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, I think that you can talk to Mexican authorities about the, really, details of those two explosions. But I think the causes are quite different. One was perhaps an accident; the other was not. It was a deliberate act to try to destroy the pipeline.

I don't have any particular information about any intelligence we have shared about these activities. Surely, if there is information that we have that might help prevent a terrorist attack in Mexico, of course, we're going to share that with Mexican authorities. We have a good working relationship, especially in the wake of 9/11, in increasing that security relationship and that intelligence-sharing between the United States and Mexico. But as for these particular incidents, I don't have any information.

QUESTION: And about the companies, are you worried about the exports to the U.S. because of the paralysis of some industries?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, frankly, I'm not an expert in terms of how these explosions may have affected the ability of the Mexican oil and gas company to export to the United States. I really don't know.

Yeah, Lambros.

QUESTION: On this, Mr. McCormack, do you have anything on the Visa Waiver Program for Greece too, since Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice highly recommended that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I think we're -- I think we're talking about that particular issue with the Greek Government. You can talk to DHS for any more details about that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:18 p.m.)

DPB # 160



Released on September 11, 2007

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