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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 8, 2008



Secretary Rice Travel to Panama, December 9-10


Pakistani Government Investigation into Mumbai Attacks / Positive Steps
Those Responsible must be Brought to Justice
Focus on Prevention / Information is Key / U.S. Experience after 9/11
U.S. Offer of Assistance to India


Blackwater Indictments / Refer to Department of Justice
Importance of Security Protection for Diplomats around the Globe


Human Rights Watch Report / U.S. Interested in Working with All Parties Who Want to Work Towards a Better Future for Somalia
U.S. Humanitarian Efforts in Somalia / Ensure Flow of Humanitarian Goods
Withdrawal of Ethiopian Troops / Working with EU, UN to Have a Responsible International Force in Somalia


Six Party Talks / Encourage All Parties to Work Together
Issue of Japanese Abductions Needs to be Dealt With


U.S. Separates Humanitarian Assistance from Political Differences
U.S. at Forefront of Getting International System to Act / UN Security Council
Regional States Need to Step Up
Root Cause of Problems is Political / Mismanagement, Misrule by Mugabe


Meeting with Deputy Prime Minister General Mofaz
Discussion of Political Situation in Israel / Regional Issues / Efforts between Israelis, Palestinians


View Video

10:25 a.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good morning, everybody. I have just one trip announcement for you. This is on the order of just-in-time delivery. On December 9th and 10th, Secretary Rice will travel down to Panama. The trip has two purposes. One, to attend the Pathways to Prosperity Ministerial meeting. There was an announcement about the Pathways to Prosperity at the UN General Assembly meetings this past September. But she’ll also have a chance to meet with President Torrijos of Panama to talk about bilateral issues. We’ll have a longer printed statement out for you after the briefing. You can read about all the people that are going to be traveling with the Secretary.

And with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: How’s the investigation going as far as the Pakistanis are concerned into the Mumbai bombing? What steps have you seen over the weekend, and how much more do they have to go?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I’ve seen a lot of news reports this morning, and I think what we’re seeing are some positive steps. I’ll let the Pakistani Government describe in more detail what those are and what actions they are taking. But we’re seeing some positive steps taking place, and we’re going to be following that situation very closely.

As you’ve heard from Secretary Rice, both on her trip as well as over the weekend, what’s important here is that those responsible for the attacks in Mumbai be brought to justice, that they not be allowed to in any way plan further or participate further in any violent actions, any terrorist actions. And also, there needs to be a focus on prevention. What we don’t want to see are future attacks coming – emanating from Pakistani soil. And we would urge cooperation among all interested parties to make sure that that doesn't happen.

QUESTION: Sean, is it your understanding – you said they’ve taken positive steps. Do you believe that that – they’ve seized one of the masterminds of the attacks?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m going to hold off on any specific comments. I know I’ve seen a lot of news reports that are out there. Let’s let the Pakistani Government describe for the public exactly what steps they’re taking and what it is that they’ve done, then perhaps we might have something more to say afterwards. But at the moment, I’m just going to keep it where I am – where I have left it.

QUESTION: More on prevention, though, what specific steps would you like the Pakistanis to take to prevent their soil, as Secretary Rice says, or appears to – well, is no doubt being used?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, look, as we ourselves learned through the experience after 9/11, information is key in preventing future terrorist attacks and to breaking up terrorist networks. So getting that information and sharing that information so that it can possibly be acted upon to prevent future attacks is critically important.

Now, we had to learn how to do this ourselves, or learn how to do it much better. And we have since 9/11. And that’s part of what Secretary Rice did during her trip to India: She offered to the Indian Government any assistance that they might be willing to accept and, you know, listen to any advice that we might be able to provide as we, again, have built this experience up over time
and we have had some success in that regard.

QUESTION: But isn’t it more than information? Isn’t it providing militants training in Pakistani territory to launch attacks?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, also, you know, it’s also incumbent upon the Pakistani Government to act to prevent any future terrorist attacks, to break up those networks that may be responsible for perpetrating acts of violent extremism. It’s – the Pakistani Government understands this, and Secretary Rice heard that very clearly from – during all of her meetings while she was there. Because they understand that this is as much a threat to Pakistan as it is to Pakistan’s neighbors or others, including the United States, so they understand how critical it is that they act in this regard.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Any word or any comments on the recent indictments for Blackwater guards?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll refer those over to the – any questions about that over to the Department of Justice. But you know, let me just say one thing about the people who provide protection for our diplomats in Iraq as well around the globe. They do, in many cases, heroic work and important work that allow us to do our jobs. All of that said, if there are individuals who have broken rules, regulations, or law, they need to be – laws – they need to be held to account. And I’ll just stop there and not offer any further comment. If the Department of Justice has anything further to say about actions they may be taking, I’ll leave it to them to say it.

QUESTION: And I was just wondering if I could follow up with that. Does this mean the FBI investigation is over, or is this still going on?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll let DOJ handle any questions about what they may or may not be doing.


QUESTION: There’s a new Human Rights Watch report on Somalia that’s very critical of the U.S. Government’s support, or what they call unconditional support, of the government, which they say is exasperating the political situation and aiding human rights abuses.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, where to start with such an assertion? Look, I think you can go back and look at my transcripts, look at the transcripts from Jendayi, where I say we’re interested in working with all parties and have an interest in working with all parties who want to have a – work towards a better future in Somalia. That has been the case. It just so happens that the Transitional Federal Government is such an institution. It’s not exclusive. Those who want to make a constructive contribution to Somalia’s future, we’re willing to take a look at how we might work together.

The people with whom we won’t work are terrorists. So I’m not sure what the suggestion of Human Rights Watch is in that regard. The United States as well as other countries have also made extensive efforts to ensure the continuing flow of humanitarian goods into Somalia. So not only have we contributed to humanitarian relief, but we have also helped ensure that those humanitarian goods get into Somalia.

So, yeah, I’m not sure, you know, what Human Rights Watch is trying to do with this report, what points they’re trying to score. But Somalia is a deeply tragic place and has been for some time. We have been working with others to try to make it a less tragic place and a place that has a better future.

I want to start --

QUESTION: What do you mean by scoring points?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know. I mean, I – you give me these sort of quotes talking about the United States and criticizing the United States -- I’m not sure – for its efforts in Somalia. I’m not sure really even the basis for making those kinds of statements, those kinds of assertions. It’s just ridiculous on its face.

QUESTION: Same topic, Somalia?


QUESTION: Is the United – is the State Department assisting the FBI in searching for these Somali Americans who apparently have gone back to Somalia and are at risk of participating in terrorism?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not sure. I’ll --

QUESTION: Can you take it?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll have to take the question, yeah.

QUESTION: Same subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Dave.

QUESTION: The Ethiopians have announced that they’re going to leave the country within weeks. They’re certainly reporting that if that happens, Somalia will have, you know, an all-out, ungoverned, failed state. What sort of diplomacy are you involved in, I mean, to try to – are you trying to talk the Ethiopians out of leaving or trying to increase other foreign forces there?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what we’re taking a look at and we’re trying to work through the international system, that is, trying to find a way that you can have a responsible international force in Somalia to help provide some security and therefore some stability, and allow some of these weaker institutions to start to take hold in a positive way. So we’re looking at a variety of different ways of doing that, working with the AU, working through the UN.

Thus far, I don’t have the answer for you, but I – this is something that Secretary Rice, just on her last trip in the UK, she spoke with Foreign Secretary Miliband about. And so we’re continuing to look for a solution. There clearly needs to be an answer to this question. We just haven’t found the right one yet.


QUESTION: A transition question. When do you expect the first meeting between Secretary Rice and Senator Clinton? Or has it happened already and we don’t --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, it hasn’t happened. We’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Will that be here?

MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll let you know. We’ll let you know the details, as many details as we can provide.

QUESTION: Yeah, after the fact.


QUESTION: Six-Party Talks. What do you make of North Korea’s refusal to deal with the Japanese?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you know, we’ve – we encourage all the parties in the Six-Party Talks to work together. I’ll leave it to Chris to describe the dynamics in the room – you know, their statements and their interactions. I don’t know what the interactions have been in Beijing.

But the issue of abductions needs to be dealt with. It – you know, we have said that over and over again. We will continue to say it. And we will continue to work within the Six-Party framework to – with the Japanese to find some answers to the questions that they – that they have and try to help bring some closure for those families that have been waiting years, if not decades, for answers.


QUESTION: France’s Foreign Minister said today that international intervention was urgently required in Zimbabwe to deal with the growing, worsening cholera epidemic. Is that something you would back? And if so, what form do you think --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I know that we would – we have always and will continue to separate out humanitarian assistance from any political differences we may have with the government. We have had a continuing involvement in trying to assist on the humanitarian front in Zimbabwe. I haven’t seen this particular suggestion from France, but, you know, you heard last week the Secretary speak out about Zimbabwe when she was asked about it. And frankly, the United States has been at the forefront with – along with several other countries in trying to get the international system to act with respect to Zimbabwe. We made extensive efforts in the Security Council to get the international system to act, and we’re going to continue those efforts. But quite frankly, some of the states in the region need to step up. They need to use their leverage. Because what you don’t want to see is a tragic situation compounded, compounded by the sad state of political affairs in Zimbabwe.

So we’ll take a look at specifically what might be done. I’ll try to get you some details if I have them.

QUESTION: Well, I know Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga said yesterday he wanted the AU to hold an emergency summit to authorize troops to be sent there.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know – well, again, the root cause of the problems there are a political one, and that stems in large part from the mismanagement, the misrule by Robert Mugabe. They had a sham election. It was – that was compounded by a sham effort at a power-sharing agreement. And sadly, we continue to see Zimbabwe go downwards, spiral downwards. And it’s because of that. And that’s – once you are able to resolve that situation, then you can truly start to resolve in fundamental ways some of the problems in Zimbabwe. That isn’t to say, however, we’re not going to look at what might be done to help the humanitarian situation that’s ongoing there now.


QUESTION: Can you give us a readout about the Secretary’s meeting with General Mofaz?

MR. MCCORMACK: It hasn’t happened yet.

QUESTION: It’s going to happen --

MR. MCCORMACK: It will. It will happen. It will happen.

QUESTION: I mean, what’s on the agenda?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they’ll talk about the political situation in Israel, I’m sure. There’s a lot going on there now. Talk about the situation in the region, as well as where efforts between the Israelis and Palestinians to resolve their differences are.

Okay, good.

(The briefing was concluded at 10:37 a.m.)

dpb # 206

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