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Daily Press Briefing (Corrected)
Gonzalo R. Gallegos, Acting Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
August 4, 2008



Response to P5+1 Negotiations


Moving Forward on Trade Talks in Geneva / Not Placing Blame


Urging Serbia to Return Kovacevic to U.S. / Interpol Arrest Warrant Issued
Contacts with Serbian Officials


Putin Comments on Stronger Ties with Cuba
Cuba’s Bilateral Relationships with U.S., Russia


Evacuation of Jerusalem Buildings / Settlement Issue


Condemnation of Violence Against Police in Kashgar, Xinjiang Province
Tiananmen Square Protests over Olympics Construction / Human Rights Concerns


Support for Civil Nuclear Deal
IAEA Vote / Nuclear Suppliers Group
Hope to Present Decision to Congress in Upcoming Session
Riot over Human Trafficking Issues / U.S. Response


Update on Elections Law / Status of Kirkuk
Hope to Proceed with Provincial Elections This Fall


Death of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


Violence in South Ossetia / Call for Direct Talks
Need for More OSCE Monitors


View Video

12:38 p.m. EDT

MR. GALLEGOS: Good afternoon. I don’t have anything for you right now.

Matt, what can I do for you today?

QUESTION: You want to elaborate a little bit on anything that you said this morning about Iran and the P5+1 offer?

MR. GALLEGOS: Yesterday, I said we --


MR. GALLEGOS: Oh, excuse me, this morning. We, the P5+1, are disappointed that we’ve not yet received a response from Iran as requested in Geneva on July 19th. Iran’s nuclear negotiator, Jalili, has told Javier Solana that Iran will provide a written response tomorrow. We remain committed to both tracks of the P5+1 dual-track strategy. Accordingly, we agreed, in the absence of a clear, positive response from Iran, we have no choice but to pursue further measures against Iran as part of this strategy.

QUESTION: So you don’t have – in other words, the answer to the question was no, you don’t have anything to add to what you said this morning?

MR. GALLEGOS: No, I don’t have anything to add. But thank you for the opportunity. I appreciate it.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: Two questions on as far as these global trade talks were concerned, the third, finally, after lots of work and the United States was hoping that this time it will be a success, where do we go from here and who do you blame now? Because they were talking about unless India and China --


QUESTION: -- are parties, then nothing can be done, so --

MR. GALLEGOS: I don’t think we’re looking at placing blame as much as trying to draw the parties together to come to an understanding, where we can move forward and have successful talks. It’s something that we’re going to have to address in the future. We’ll be discussing this with our friends and allies, trying to come to an understanding. And hopefully, we can move forward soon in the near future.

Yes, Kirit.

QUESTION: Senator Schumer has called for aid to Serbia to be cut because they’ve missed a deadline to send over this guy who beat up the kid in New York. Do you have any comment on his – well, first of all, on their failure to send him over, and then on Schumer’s proposal?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I’ll tell you, August 1st was the last day that Miladin Kovacevic could appear in court in New York without potentially facing legal sanctions. We continue to urge the Government of Serbia to find a solution that will lead to the return of Kovacevic to the United States. We continue – we take this seriously. An Interpol arrest warrant has been issued for him. And we hope that we can continue – we can work with the Serbians to come to an understanding and that he can eventually – or will eventually return to the United States to face justice for any criminal acts.

QUESTION: Thanks. What kind of conversations are you having with the Serbs on this?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, the Ambassador as well as other senior mission members have gone and spoken to the Serbian Government about this. We’ve made it very clear to them that we believe that this is an individual that should and needs to face justice here in the United States. We continue to work the system there. And we’ve described how important we believe this is and we’re going to continue to have those discussions with them.

QUESTION: Then what about, finally, on Schumer’s proposal?

MR. GALLEGOS: In terms of Schumer’s proposal, I think – well, this is an issue, like I said, that we take very seriously; that we’re working with the government. And we believe that we will continue to have these conversations with them.

In terms of the particulars of Schumer’s proposal, I don’t have any details for you on that, so –

Yes, Elise.

QUESTION: What do you make of reports that Russian President Putin --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: I’m sorry, Prime Minister Putin.

MR. GALLEGOS: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: -- that Putin said that Russia needs to reestablish positions in Cuba and is going to work for stronger ties with Cuba. Does that concern you?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I haven’t seen the comments. But I would say that our relations with Cuba are not – the relations that we don’t have for Cuba are well known. We believe that that is a country that continues to oppress its citizens, that continues to squeeze them for all the resources that it can to maintain the regime there. We don’t see dealing with the Cuban Government as particularly productive. However, we understand that other countries will have bilateral relations as they seem fit.

QUESTION: Well, but – just to follow up, I mean, this in some ways – this response to the whole idea of, you know, Russian concerns of U.S. missile defense. I mean, the idea that Russia is saying that it wants to rebuild links with your former Cold – with this Cold War ally of theirs, I mean, militarily does that concern you about the security of the United States --

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think that --

QUESTION: -- I mean, this sort of building military cooperation?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think that – you know, if having bilateral relations with Cuba was going to do anything to free the Cubans, and the many countries that it’s had bilateral relations with over the last 40 years would have sufficed to have provided for a free society for the Cuban people. That doesn’t – that hasn’t happened. We don’t believe it’s going to happen in the near future, until the Cuban Government itself decides it needs to change. We’re going to continue working to bring that change about, working with the Cuban people so that they can have freedom of expression and work towards a free society.

In terms of, you know, the bilateral relationship that Russia’s going to have with – may or may not have with Cuba, that’s up to them. And as it moves forward, if it moves forward, we may have comment at that time, but for now I don’t have anything for you.

QUESTION: Well, but I mean, the – when he was -- Norton Schwartz, the Air Force Chief of Staff, when he was being – during his confirmation hearing, said that that would be crossing a red line for America and urged the Russians not to do that. Do you not share that approach?

MR. GALLEGOS: I understand the question. And when and/or if the Russians move forward with the relationship with Cuba, I may have a comment on that, but I don’t right now. 


QUESTION: Israel is continuing in its attempt to evacuate Jerusalem as many people, as many Palestinians from Jerusalem as possible. They’ve got many civilians out of their building last week, destroyed the building – civilians, women, children.  And now they have new announcement of destroying another 50 buildings in Jerusalem. Now, obviously, this goes against Annapolis, mocking the Administration policy and Secretary Rice efforts, and goes also against Geneva Conventions of protecting the civilians under occupation. Now, what do you have to say, or what are you doing anything about this?

MR. GALLEGOS: Are you talking about the settlement issue in general?


MR. GALLEGOS: The settlement issue in general, our policy --

QUESTION: Settlement, but I mean, Jerusalem in particular. Now, what’s taking place?

MR. GALLEGOS: The settlement issue in general, our policy is well known and has been often repeated from here. I’ll leave it at that for now. 


QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the attacks, this new attack in China in which a dozen of policemen were killed?

MR. GALLEGOS: This was an attack on a police station in Kashgar, Xinjiang Province?


MR. GALLEGOS: We strongly condemn acts of violence such as the August 4 attack in Kashgar. We’re saddened at the loss of life and injuries caused by the attack and extend our condolences to the victims and their families. The Chinese authorities have detained suspects in the attack, but we don’t have any further information at this time.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that real quick?


QUESTION: The Chinese were calling it a terrorist attack. Do you think this was a terrorist incident?

MR. GALLEGOS: I don’t have any information right now to lead to that, but they’re calling it that. I’d have to take a little further look into this to see.

QUESTION: And then one other note. There were some protestors in Tiananmen Square who clashed with police after their – they’ve been evicted from their homes and were being razed in order to build a strip mall. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. GALLEGOS: Mm-hmm. We’re aware of media reports that a group of Chinese citizens in Beijing’s Chongwe District protested against being evicted from their homes to make way for Olympics-related construction, leading to a scuffle with police and members of the local neighborhood committee. I don’t have any information – any more information on that, but we don’t have any reports that any U.S. citizens were involved.

QUESTION: But what do you think about this in the terms of your human rights concerns?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think we make our human rights concerns with China known on a regular basis every time we meet with them. We have said publicly and will continue to say that the Olympics are an opportunity for them to put their best foot forward. We hope that they take that opportunity to share it with the world. 

QUESTION: But is this an instance of human rights abuse?

MR. GALLEGOS: I wouldn't be able to tell. I don’t have enough information on that. But as I would say, we would urge them to continue to put their best foot forward during this time of the Olympics when so many eyes of the world are going to be upon China.


QUESTION: Yes. There’s video footage of – excuse me – the IDF at checkpoints interrogating patients. And according to the Palestinian bureau of statistics, two patients have died during these interrogations trying to get to medical facilities. So are you guys pressuring the Israeli Government to do – you know, to do something about the IDF interrogating sick patients?

MR. GALLEGOS: Just in terms of them discussing – having conversations with people at the checkpoints? 

QUESTION: Yeah, so interrogating them.

MR. GALLEGOS: I haven’t seen anything on that, but I’ll be happy to take the question.


QUESTION: Do you think that that’s --

QUESTION: On FYROM, Mr. Gallegos. Acting Assistant Secretary Matthew Reynolds, in a letter to Senators Robert Menendez and Olympia Snowe removed a major obstacle to (inaudible) to the FYROM’s name issue. Do you have anything on that?

MR. GALLEGOS: I haven’t seen the letter, but I understand that we have sent a response to the Hill regarding some questions that were spurred by Ambassador Phil Reeker’s confirmation. Our position on the name issue hadn’t changed. We’ll support any compromise agreed to by the parties. 

QUESTION: One more question?


QUESTION: It is true that Mr. Reynolds’ wrote that the Administration also reverse its refusal to communicate the context of congressional legislation that highlights FYROM’s violation of the UN (inaudible) interim agreement with Greece?

MR. GALLEGOS: I don’t have any information on that, but I can tell you one more time that our policy has not changed on that.

QUESTION: Wait. When was this letter sent? Friday, after the confirmation?

MR. GALLEGOS: I’m not sure when it was, but my – the information – it appears that we have sent a response. So I’ll have to get back to you.

QUESTION: But this was to the response to the questions that were posed during the hearing or shortly after the hearing --

MR. GALLEGOS: That is my understanding --

QUESTION: -- or in response to new questions?

MR. GALLEGOS: That is my understanding, but I’ll have to follow up on that. I have word that we responded to a letter. I’m not sure if there was one letter or multiple letters, so I can get some information for you on that.


MR. GALLEGOS: Yes, Goyal.

QUESTION: As far as the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement is concerned, IAEA in Vienna, they approved the – what they call -- security deal or whatever (inaudible). So where do we go from here now, or how the U.S. is now going to go farther, and since also in New Delhi, the new parliament, I mean, the new coalition government is also now ready to ratify the deal.

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, we’ve stated often that – our support for this deal and we believe that it’s important not only for the bilateral relationship, but also for nuclear security to the rest of the world. Now that the IAEA has voted, we’re going to look to discuss this issue with the members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. We’re hoping to get a positive result out of that sometime in the next month. And then, hopefully, we’ll be able to present this to Congress September 8th – on or about September 8th. Sometime during the upcoming session of Congress.

QUESTION: You think the U.S. Congress will approve 123 before they – really go final for the elections?

MR. GALLEGOS:  Well, we’re going to be working with our contacts on the Hill to explain why we believe this is important. And hopefully, we’ll be able to have a positive outcome of this.


QUESTION: The F-16s?

MR. GALLEGOS: A question about them?


MR. GALLEGOS: Oh, in terms of the status of the funding?


MR. GALLEGOS: I’ll have to check on you. Our position hasn’t changed. As far as I understand, is that we still support this –

QUESTION: But I just want to know, the money has been released?

MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, I’ll have to check on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. GALELGOS: Yes, Lambros.

QUESTION: On Kirkuk. Mr. Gallegos, yesterday, Iraqi authorities failed to settle a dispute over the city of Kirkuk and pass a provincial elections bill, despite pressure from the United States and the United Nations. Do you have anything on that?

MR. GALLEGOS: Let’s see. This is the Iraqi efforts to pass an election law?


MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah. My understanding -- that the Iraqi parliament did not convene on Sunday. However, it has not yet recessed and lawmakers remain ready to reconvene once a new bill is ready for them to consider. 

The Iraqi political leaders are continuing to discuss the elections law. Ambassador Crocker and Embassy officials continue to encourage Iraqis to work towards compromise and consensus, and to develop an elections law that will allow for provincial elections this year. 

QUESTION: A follow-up: According to reports, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan voiced his concern to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani about Kirkuk local council request to annex Kirkuk to the Kurdistan region. Any comment?

MR. GALLEGOS: I think we said something about that last week, I believe. And our position is that we believe that this is – now is not the time to be making such a decision. We believe that the parties need to leave themselves open to all appropriate or – all options in order to come to an understanding so that they can proceed with provincial elections this fall.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: Do you know if the Embassy is in contact with the Kurds about the – this Kirkuk issue? Do you know if they are doing something?

MR. GALLEGOS: I couldn’t tell you the exact contacts. However, it is -- you know, the mission of an embassy overseas, a United States embassy overseas, is to have contact with as many elements of a society as possible. So it wouldn’t surprise me. 

QUESTION: No, I was thinking about trying to convince them to reach an agreement on the Kirkuk –

MR. GALLEGOS: Oh, in terms of that, I wouldn’t be discussing our internal communications with different members of a society.


QUESTION: Yes. I was wondering if the U.S. Government has any reaction to the death of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn?

MR. GALLEGOS: Thank you for asking. My understanding, we’re working on a statement. And I hope to have that out for you soon – this afternoon.


QUESTION: Russia has accused Georgia of using disproportionate force in this violence that took place there last week, where six people were killed in South Ossetia. And the Georgians say they were just returning the fire. Do you have any comment on this flare-up of violence in that region?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, we’ve seen reports that at least six people have been killed and 21 injured in the Georgian region of South Ossetia in the last few days. We call for an immediate halt to violence and call for direct talks between the parties. Understand that the OSCE is investigating the incident and looking forward – and we’re going to look forward to their report. 

These incidents underscore the need for an immediate increase in the number of OSCE monitors in South Ossetia, as well as joint Georgian-Russian monitoring of the Roki Tunnel to stem the flow of illicit arms, ammunition, and armed groups into the region.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. GALLEGOS: One more time.

QUESTION: Human traffic subject.  The Gulf States have been having problems with the human trafficking (inaudible) and a riot erupted last week in one of the countries who was one of the closest allies of the United States, (inaudible). Authorities (inaudible) graciously acknowledged the problem and committed themselves to work on it, while the U.S. Ambassador (inaudible), she considered that as an internal problem, didn’t want to give more sympathy to these workers. Do you have any different kind of comment that would agree with the values of the United States and the – your annual report on human trafficking?

MR. GALLEGOS:  Well, no, I think -- we put out an annual report on human trafficking, where we describe the situations as we see and as they are reported to us in these different countries. It clearly describes the situation as we know and understand it at that point in time. We’re going to continue to do that. We believe it’s an important report and believe that it’s important to try and protect the human rights of these individuals who may be taken advantage of. 

One last one. Yes. 

QUESTION: This is a bit of an old story, and maybe you talked about it a while ago. But any thoughts on the close to $6 million awarded to Steven Hatfill to drop his case against the Justice Department and also, the recent developments with the suicide of Bruce Ivins – or Irvins, excuse me? 

MR. GALLEGOS: Bruce Ivins is the anthrax? Was that the –


MR. GALLEGOS:  I’d refer you to Justice for that. And the other case, I don’t have any information. 

QUESTION: Okay. And -- all right.

MR. GALLEGOS: Thank you. 

(The briefing was concluded at 12:56 p.m.)

DPB # 137

Released on August 4, 2008

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