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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 28, 2008



Press Accounts of Possible Shipment of Russian Nuclear Equipment to Iran


Attempted Assassination of President Karzai / U.S. Condemnation
Terrorists Only Have to Be Right Once, Those Opposing Them Have to Be Right Always
Process of Reconstruction in Afghanistan is Going to Take Time


U.S. Efforts to Counter Rising Food Prices / Food Aid / UN Meeting


U.S. Continues to Call for the Release of Election Results
Delays Cause Questions About the Security of Ballots in the Ballot Box
Efforts of Assistant Secretary Frazer / Zimbabwe’s Neighbors Need to Speak Out in Public
Zimbabwe’s Ongoing Downward Spiral


Former President Carter’s Editorial / Meeting Hamas Will Not Further the Cause of Peace
Significant Difference Between Meeting with a Former President and a Current One
Visit of Israeli Deputy Prime Minister / U.S.-Israel Strategic Dialogue / Meeting Secretary


Upcoming Signing Ceremony for Missile Defense Agreement / Scheduling Difficulties


View Video

12:44 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don’t have anything to start off with, so we can get right to your questions.


QUESTION: Do you know anything about this shipment of Russian nuclear equipment that was destined for Iran. It’s been held up by Azerbaijan for the last three weeks?

MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, not – at least to my knowledge, not a whole lot more than we’ve seen in the press accounts. I don’t know if there’s anything else going on behind the scenes. But in our view, this is something that the Azerbaijan and Russian governments need to work out consistent with everybody’s UN Security Council resolution obligations, enforcing those obligations in terms of the transshipment of materials potentially for illicit purposes. I’m not suggesting that at this point. So, those two countries need to work this out.

QUESTION: Yeah, but do you guys have any reason to suspect that there’s some --

MR. MCCORMACK: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: -- there’s some (inaudible) to this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not to my knowledge unless there’s something that is – information about which I cannot talk about in public, but I have no knowledge of that.

QUESTION: You have no knowledge of something you can’t talk about?

MR. MCCORMACK: No knowledge that there is anything else. I have no knowledge that there is anything else at this point, Matt. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. You’ve confused me.

MR. MCCORMACK: I have nothing else to offer on this topic. How’s that?

QUESTION: I understand, but are you saying that you don’t know about anything that, if you did know, you wouldn’t be able to tell us about? What --


QUESTION: I’m not sure I understand it.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it’s actually -- at this point, I don’t know anything that I wouldn’t be able to tell you about. (Laughter.)


QUESTION: Nor do you (inaudible).

QUESTION: I hope everyone else understands that, because I don’t.

QUESTION: It’s an unknown --

MR. MCCORMACK: What’s that?

QUESTION: This is an unknown unknown.

MR. MCCORMACK: To my knowledge, it is an unknown unknown, yes.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Yes, Nazira Karimi, correspondent for Ariana Television from Afghanistan. As you know, to that last incident in Afghanistan, unfortunately, there is so many people get injured. And what is your opinion about that, although there is heavy international forces presence in Afghanistan, but it clearly shows that there is no tight security in Afghanistan. And also, the Taliban took the responsibility and Hekmatyar included.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, I don’t know. I’ll leave it to others and security experts to read something more into this or not. All I know is that there are determined foes that are attempting to turn back the clock in Afghanistan that don’t like the progress that has been made in the past several years under the government of President Karzai and the Afghan parliament. And, you know, all I can say is, at least one lesson in dealing with terrorists and violent extremists, is that they only have to be right once. People who are protecting democracies have to be right all of the time. So, in terms of the attack, we obviously condemn this attack and our condolences go out to those who lost loved ones in this attack and we wish a speedy recovery to all of those who were injured in the attack.

QUESTION: Were all U.S. diplomats safe? Were any of them in this incident?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Ambassador Wood was – I can’t tell you exactly where he was in the grandstand, but he was there on site and he’s safe. He was safe. He left the site uninjured.

All right. Charlie, come on, man.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).


QUESTION: Sean, the Secretary General is – has convened a meeting today in Switzerland on the issue of the food crisis and the food prices rising.


QUESTION: Do you – what’s your participation in that meeting and is the United States planning to do anything in terms of aid, increasing aid? Because the UN is estimating that about a hundred million people now will not be able to afford basic food supplies.

MR. MCCORMACK: That’s a deep concern for us and we already have taken some steps in terms of releasing hundreds of millions of dollars or equivalent in food aid, and we’re very much concerned about those around the globe who are the most vulnerable, especially in circumstances like this. We’re taking a look at what other steps the United States might do in leading the way to address this situation where the rising prices might cause severe and drastic shortages for those who can least afford it.

Was there a second part to the --

QUESTION: What’s the participation (inaudible) meeting --

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, let me check for you. Let me check for you. Yeah. Don’t know.


QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about Zimbabwe? I think the results are -- we’re expecting those tomorrow, at this point.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have been for some time looking for the results. We -- you know, we have deep concerns about whether or not results that are released this far after the election are results that the Zimbabwean people can have confidence in. We shall see. There has been -- in the results released to this point for the parliamentary elections, there have been -- there has been a clear trend in a vote for change, and we shall see what the final election results yield.

QUESTION: So are you saying, essentially, that these could have been tainted in the period sine the election?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Any time you have this kind of -- these kinds of delays, questions arise as to the chain of security for the ballots and the ballot boxes.

QUESTION: Is Jendayi Frazer getting a firmer regional position regarding --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think she’s on her -- she’s either back here today or on her way back today. I mean, thus far, you have not seen the countries in the region being dramatically more outspoken in this regard, and this is really a case where the -- Zimbabwe’s neighbors really do need to speak up more clearly in public.

QUESTION: But that’s what she was trying to do? That was one of the --

MR. MCCORMACK: That’s part of what she -- trying to assess the situation --

QUESTION: With little or no success, then?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, you know, it’s been -- Zimbabwe has been on a downward spiral for quite some time under the rule of President Mugabe. This isn’t new. The economy has been wrecked; the political environment there has really been poisoned by the way President Mugabe has ruled there. And you haven’t heard much from the region, so that’s not something new. Now is the time, really, for them to step up, though.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Again, what do you think of NATO increasing the forces in Afghanistan? It’s going to be useful to, like, stop this crisis situation in Afghanistan?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think the process of reconstruction and construction in Afghanistan is going to take quite some time. It will take some time to root out those who are irreconcilable to any democratic political process. And in terms of the numbers of troops that are there, I leave that to the military commanders to describe what they think is sufficient in order to meet the mission goals.

Yeah, Elise.

QUESTION: It’s on your favorite topic, Jimmy Carter and Hamas.


QUESTION: He has an op-ed in the New York Times today, kind of reconfirming (a) that Secretary Rice never asked him not to go, never warned him anything about the trip except the dangers of Gaza. He also talked about how trying to encourage Hamas could bring in -- you know, could actually lead to peace, and he ticked off about five or six agreements that he secured from Hamas; for instance, Hamas will accept an agreement negotiated by Israel and the Palestinians if a referendum accepted it, that it’ll disband its militia, that it’ll allow international control of the Rafah crossing, which is what the U.S. has been arguing for, and that it will have a ceasefire in Gaza. I was just wondering --


QUESTION: -- what you think of the fact that he is continuing to make this argument that bringing in Hamas, as he says is evident by these things that he’s secured from Hamas, could actually help?

MR. MCCORMACK: We disagree with that point of view. We said prior to his meetings with Hamas that we didn’t think that those meetings would further the cause of peace and we still believe that’s the case.

QUESTION: Well, can I follow up?


QUESTION: You know, a lot of times he comes out and says Hamas says something and then Hamas has kind of disagreed with his characterization. Do you think that, in some way, President Carter has kind of weakened the power of a former president by these type of meetings?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not going to comment on that. He’s a private citizen, who is going to make his own decisions about with whom he meets and what causes he chooses to talk about in public.

QUESTION: Well, he is -- yes, he’s a former citizen. He’s a -- well, he’s actually a current citizen so far. But he’s a former president. I mean --


QUESTION: -- isn’t there a difference from a private citizen than a former president? Doesn’t that almost kind of have an air of U.S. legitimacy, of meeting with someone and if it doesn’t work out --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, no. No, not at all, because people around the world and the United States understand quite clearly that he is a former president. There is a current Administration policy. And in this case, the views of President Carter and this Administration on this particular question are dramatically different.

QUESTION: Just one more on Israel. (Inaudible)? Do you have anything on the recent Israeli raid in Gaza that killed a woman and a --

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m still gathering some facts about that.

QUESTION: I was going to ask about this, but is this in any way complicate the Secretary’s mission this weekend when she goes to the region?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. I don’t think anybody confuses what she’s doing with President Carter’s mission

QUESTION: Well, no, no, no. I mean, the – you know, the recent events with the violence.


QUESTION: Apparently, what happened today was a response to –


QUESTION: -- several raids coming from Gaza into Israel over the last couple days.

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, let me look into the facts here.



QUESTION: Can you give us a readout of the visit of the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister today?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he’s here for the U.S.-Israel Strategic Dialogue. It happens every six months. We have these meetings, alternate – we alternate home and away games here. This is a home game for us. And he’s going to be meeting with the Secretary, I think, about 1:30 this afternoon just to talk about the state of play in U.S.-Israeli bilateral relations and then also to talk about issues of general interest in the region, Israeli-Palestinian track, as well as other security related issues in the region.

QUESTION: What about the Syrian track? Is he going to promote the Syrian track?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know. You can talk to him.

Yeah, Lachlan.

QUESTION: The Czechs. Are the Czechs concerned – do they still have concerns about the Russian presence at their sites? Is that delaying a deal, for example?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. There’s a scheduling conflict. The Secretary --

QUESTION: So other concerns have been met, regarding the site --

MR. MCCORMACK: As far as I –

QUESTION: -- regarding the Russian presence there?

MR. MCCORMACK: As far as I know. I don’t know of any substantive differences here. This is really a matter of just working out the Secretary’s schedule and schedule for Czech officials to have a signing ceremony.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.


(The briefing was concluded at 12:54 p.m.)


Released on April 28, 2008

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