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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 11, 2008

INDEX:

IRAQ

Progress Made in Certification Process for Moving Staff into Embassy

NEPAL

Assessment from On-the-Ground Monitors on Elections
Appears That Nepal Has Taken a Real Step Forward

NORTH KOREA

Six Party Talks / Declarations
Secretary Rice Emphasized Importance of Verification of Any Declarations

AFGHANISTAN

Governors of Afghan Provinces Visit U.S.
Governors Working on Behalf of Afghan People

TURKEY

Court Case on Secularism Currently Underway
U.S. Views Turkey’s Democracy as Thriving

ZIMBABWE

Reports of Violence and Intimidation Against Individuals Who Voted in Opposition of Government
Important that Election Commission Release Results of Elections
U.S. Talking with Other Interested Parties Throughout the Region
U.S. Believes SADC Has Leverage with Zimbabwe

AFGHANISTAN

Afghanistan Has Had Elections Under Difficult Circumstances

MISCELLANEOUS

Issue of Ambassador Khalilzad’s Future Plans

CHINA/TIBET

Dalai Lama Has Spoken Out About His Views
U.S. Maintains Regular Contact with Dalai Lama


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:56 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. God, it's a rowdy bunch for a Friday afternoon. That's what I like to see, a lot of energy. All right, I'll let you talk amongst yourself for a while. (Laughter.) Okay, just let me know when you're ready. Okay, we're ready. Matt, do you have anything -- these guys in the front row?

QUESTION: No, I -- well, maybe just one, but it's not particularly urgent. Ambassador Crocker said this morning that he expects that people will start moving into the Embassy in Baghdad at the end of May or beginning of June. Does that square with what Shinnick and others are saying?

MR. MCCORMACK: We've made a lot of progress in terms of the certification process here. Let me check for you exactly what the timeline is. I know that we were down to really weeks here. And by weeks, I wasn't -- I don't mean to imply, like, three, four months down the road. I think it's relatively soon. We can post an answer for you on that.

Yeah, but they're working through the, you know, the fire system and security and all those sorts of issues, making sure that all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed. Like I said before, we're not going to take possession of something that is substandard or in any way endangers our people.

QUESTION: Anything more on this incident in the Gulf with Iran this morning?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing more.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Goyal.

QUESTION: Sean, elections in Nepal, finally looks like the monarchies are now over and democracy comes to Nepal. Is President Carter -- was carrying any special message from the Secretary or from the President?

MR. MCCORMACK: No.

QUESTION: Because he was a witness in the elections there.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. I think there will be an assessment from some of the on-the-ground monitors in the next day or so in terms of what they saw and whether or not they viewed these elections as free and fair. The counting process is underway. I think they're probably about a third of the way through the counting process right now. At first glance, it would appear Nepal has taken a real step forward here. And -- but we all know that democracy doesn't end on election day; that's only the start of it. It's important to govern in a democratic manner once you've won the election and govern on behalf of the people who elected you.

QUESTION: In this connection --

MR. MCCORMACK: But even those who voted against you as well.

QUESTION: Yes, sir, thanks. In this connection, there are still many dictatorships and monarchies around the globe and people are crying in those countries for freedom and human rights. Is still State Department working to bring democracies in those countries also?

QUESTION: No. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, we are.

Gollust.

QUESTION: Could you give us -- bring us up to date on the state of the six-party process? And the Secretary made clear that the U.S. is willing to live up to its obligations if North Korea does.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: What about those reports floating around that North Korea is prepared to make some indirect declarations of its nuclear holdings and --

MR. MCCORMACK: What part of the Secretary's answer didn't you record? (Laughter.) Look, I don't really -- I don't have much to offer beyond what she has told you in that regard. She did emphasize the importance of verification and verifying any declarations that are made. There is actually a subgroup as part of the six-party talks which is charged with that task of verifying any declarations. And as she said, that we are ready to live up to our obligations once North Korea has fulfilled its obligations.

Yes.

QUESTION: My name is Nazir (inaudible). I work for Ariana Television. I'm from Afghanistan. As you know --

MR. MCCORMACK: Welcome.

QUESTION: -- a group of governors, they are meeting --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- and visiting with the U.S. authority. Of course, there is a lot of issue and problem in Afghanistan. What topic and what problem, specifically, they discussed with the U.S. authority and what was the U.S. authority's -- especially U.S. Department of State reaction and commitment? Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, I think it’s extraordinary that you actually have the fact of a tour of governors of Afghan’s provinces coming here to the United States and talking about a lot of the governance issues that they see. They talk about progress that they’ve made, they talk about what they need in order to really fulfill their mandate of working on behalf of the Afghan people to build a better state that functions and serves the interests of the people.

Secretary Rice was quite impressed by her meeting with these individuals and the fact that they are focused on their mission. And their mission is to work on behalf of the people of Afghanistan in their provinces, bring them services -- extend out through the country the central government and a central authority. It’s crucially important. We have underlined this to President Karzai, as well as others. He understands it. We took the opportunity during this trip to underline it. It’s important that the people have the -- returned to them the trust that they have placed in their government. And this group of governors really understands that. They know that they have to deliver roads and services and education and opportunities for their people, create an environment in which they can realize their full potential.

Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes, on Turkey. Mr. McCormack, President of the EU Commission, Jose Manual Barroso, speaking in the Turkish parliament yesterday, expressed his surprise at the closure case opened against Recep Erdogan political party. He also said, “Secularism cannot be imposed as a religion. There is no religion of secularism. What is important is the separation of state and religion affair.” Any comment, since you support secularism in Turkey?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there currently is a court case underway, as you have mentioned in referencing that quote. Our firm view is that democracy is thriving in Turkey, that the laws and constitution of Turkey need to be interpreted in a way that is free from political influence and that should -- in any interpretation of those laws and constitution, should abide by the fundamental principles of democracy and the ability of people to freely assemble and express themselves within the confines of the laws and the constitution.

Matthew.

QUESTION: Do you have anything more -- anything new to say about the situation in Zimbabwe?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have seen some press reports of violence and intimidation since the election period. And I asked the question of our Africa bureau whether or not we've been able to confirm some of those cases. And apparently, our Embassy feels as though there have been credible reports of violence and intimidation used against individuals who may have voted in opposition to the government, voted for the MDC -- Mr. Tsvangirai or the MDC slate of candidates, and that's quite disturbing.

We will call upon, and have called upon, the Mugabe government to cease using the tactics of violence and intimidation against those citizens who only want to peacefully exercise their political rights. They want to participate in a political process. They want to have their vote registered and they want to have the results of the election reflect the will of the people as expressed by the ballot box.

And it's crucially important that the Election Commission, without any further delay, release the results of the election. There is currently a court case underway that is -- been brought by the MDC, calling on the Election Commission to release those results. The Election Commission shouldn't wait for any court case or anything else. They need to release those results.

So the -- in essence, you have seen a continuation, unfortunately, of the use of some of the kinds of tactics we've seen in the past by the Mugabe government against those people who are in the opposition, in the political opposition.

QUESTION: Well, are there any plans at all for any U.S. engagement on this, other than from the Embassy in Harare?

MR. MCCORMACK: You're talking about any people traveling there --

QUESTION: Well, not necessarily traveling there, but traveling anywhere to --

MR. MCCORMACK: At this point--

QUESTION: -- to deal with it.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything other -- to report, other than what we are doing on the ground in the Embassy, talking with other interested parties throughout the region. There is going to be an SADC summit this weekend. And we are communicating with the leaders who have organized that summit and we would call upon them to take a firm stand, and take a firm stand for democracy in Zimbabwe.

QUESTION: Have they --

MR. MCCORMACK: And we'll see what comes of the summit. But it's in their interest, it's in the interest of the region to do just that.

QUESTION: What do you make of SADC's activity thus far on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to -- look, each state and each group is going to have to -- according to their own views and their own -- the views of their own leverage and capabilities, act. We believe that the SADC does have leverage with Zimbabwe and that they can use that leverage to positive effect on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe, who sadly have suffered as a result of the way that President Mugabe has decided to rule. The economy is wrecked and he has made a shambles of democracy in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe can, we believe, get back on the pathway to democracy and to taking its rightful place among the international community. That has to start with these election results being released.

QUESTION: Sean, just to follow up from my yesterday's question. The mistreatment of the Indian workers --

MR. MCCORMACK: We posted an answer for you, Goyal.

QUESTION: Yeah. What -- I have seen the one, but this is a Mississippi (inaudible) international. My question (inaudible) that, one, if this matter is under investigation by the State Department or are going to take any action against those who are involved in the mistreatment of these workers? And second, if Indian Embassy has been in touch with this matter with the State Department, if they have brought up this issue or not?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I -- Goyal, I don’t have anything to offer beyond what we have posted in our answer.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Yes, again, election in Afghanistan, presidential election (inaudible) very close. What do you think in view of all these problem in Afghanistan, lack of security? Are you -- think that it going to be happen?

MR. MCCORMACK: Will the elections take place? I have no doubt that they will take place. The -- from -- everybody in the government, from President Karzai on down, is committed to the elections taking place. And I would just note that Afghanistan has had elections before under even more difficult circumstances. And it’s important to take note of that fact because it’s an indication of the determination and grit of the Afghan people that they have come as far as they have in the face of individuals who – and groups – who want to turn back the clock on Afghanistan and, you know, return them back to the dark period of the rule of the Taliban. And the – consistently the majority of the Afghan people have said no, and they have expressed that in a variety of different ways. Some of them through the ballot box, during the last election. And we have full confidence that the election will proceed and that it will be another step forward for Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Yes. Also Mr. Khalilzad, the U.S. Ambassador to UN, announced that he going to resign soon and it will be (inaudible) to Afghanistan’s situation because he is so popular among Afghan people. What do you think about his resign -- about his announcement?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, folks up there and I think he himself has said he has no immediate plans to resign. And Zal has spoken to his future specifically with respect to Afghanistan. I can’t really add anything to his own words about what he intends to do, once he leaves government. We’re all going to be leaving here at some point. There’s a maximum tenure date of January 20th, 2009 for those of us who were appointed by the President. So we are all going to be moving on. And I’m sure Zal is thinking about – thinking about not only what he is charged with doing on a daily basis, but what he will do in the future as well.

QUESTION: Well, are you saying that he has retracted what he said in this interview, that he’s not going to be leaving, resigning? Forget about what he’s going to be doing afterwards.

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m just repeating what he and his spokesmen up in New York have said. I think they – and again, talk to them directly. I’m just reflecting back to you what it is that I have been told by them and what I have seen from Rick and Zal in public on this, and that is he has no immediate plans to resign. You can talk to them about whether or not they had any issues with the translation as it was reported. I’m not going to wade into that. I think that that’s probably best addressed by the folks up at USUN.

Lambros. Look at this, it's a true bounty for you today.

QUESTION: Carla Del Ponte, senior figures in Kosovo Liberation Army, who were aware of the affair in which hundreds of young Serbs were taken by trucks from Kosovo to Northern Albania, where their organs were removed for sale in the international market. Any comment?

MR. MCCORMACK: What are you talking about? (Laughter.) I’m sorry. I have not heard any such thing. I’m happy to look into it to see if there’s anything that would substantiate that claim.

Goyal.

QUESTION: Sean, a quick one on Tibet, please. Any updates, number one. Number two –

MR. MCCORMACK: Wait – wait, Goyal. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: On Tibet.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And the crackdowns have been going on because in the view of the Olympics -- because Chinese authorities feel that Tibetans will create some troubles and problems during or before Olympics and the crackdowns are still going on. Is anybody in touch with the Dalai Lama or what he – if he has sent any kind of message that they – he needs help?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think the Dalai Lama has spoken out about his views, concerning what is going on in – with respect to the Olympics as well. Yeah, of course, we maintain contacts with the Dalai Lama. But he is a man that speaks his own mind and is certainly a well respected international figure who knows his own mind. Beyond that, I don’t know what there really is to add to it, Goyal. I know that he’s spoken out on his own and I think those words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: You’re not aware of any contact?

MR. MCCORMACK: With us? Yeah, of course, we – I don’t know specifically if we have spoken with the Dalai Lama recently, but we are in regular contact with his people. We have a special envoy, Paula Dobriansky, who remains in regular contact with the Dalai Lama and his people.

QUESTION: She planning to go to – where is he now -- Seattle?

MR. MCCORMACK: He is in the United States on a private visit. I don’t know. I’ll check with you. I’ll check to see if she is going to see him on this visit.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:12 p.m.)

DPB # 66



Released on April 11, 2008

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