|Daily Press Briefing|
Gonzalo R. Gallegos, Acting Deputy Spokesman
August 7, 2008
|Iranian Response to P-5+1 / Next Steps|
|Reports of Impeachment Proceedings Against Musharraf|
|U.S.-Pakistan Bilateral Relations|
|Embassy Communications with Interlocutors from all Parties|
|Any Actions Should Be Consistent with Pakistani Laws and Constitution|
|Secretarys Communication with Pakistani Officials|
|U.S. Policy on Kosovo|
|Visa Revocations and Denials|
|Protester Injured at Chinese Consulate in San Francisco|
|Human Rights / U.S. Engagement and Dialogue|
|State of U.S. Foreign Assistance in Light of Coup|
|U.S. Diplomatic Actions / Demands for Return to Constitutional Government|
|Adjournment of Iraqi Parliament|
|Status of Kirkuk / Local Elections Law|
|Democracy in Iraq|
|Status of SOFA Negotiations|
JAPAN / NORTH KOREA
|U.S. Support of Japan-DPRK Dialogue|
|Delisting of North Korea / Verification Protocols|
|Congressman Bermans Letter to the Secretary / Civil Nuclear Agreement|
|Chavez Enacts New Laws by Presidential Decree|
|Reports of Americans and Albanians Convicted of Planning a Rebellion|
GEORGIA / RUSSIA
|Update on Situation in South Ossetia|
12:52 p.m. EDT
MR. GALLEGOS: Good afternoon. Thank you for coming. I’ll take a point of privilege here as this – as we’ll be continuing our practice of not briefing on Fridays. Unless there’s something substantial that happens that causes me to need to do it tomorrow, this will likely be my last day at the podium.
I’d like to, first of all, thank my staff, who’ve worked very hard and supported me throughout the two years that I’ve been here. Secondly, I couldn't have done this job without my family, and I give them many thanks. And I want to thank you all, the working press, who have made this an enjoyable time and one of the most interesting jobs I’ve had in the Foreign Service.
So with that, I will take your questions.
QUESTION: We’ll miss you, Gonzo.
MR. GALLEGOS: Thank you, Matt.
QUESTION: That’s all I have. (Laughter.)
MR. GALLEGOS: Thank you.
QUESTION: So, any movement on these possible outlines of a resolution? You know, have you had consultations? Have you managed to speak to the Russians, who say that, you know, the Iranians need to be given more time for dialogue and that they don’t agree with this sanctions suggestion of yours?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, our allies agreed that the Iranian answer was not adequate, that it was not really a serious answer. The political directors agreed in their call that the Iranian answer was not adequate and it was not serious.
While the incentive track remains open, the political directors agreed that in the absence of a clear and positive response, we have no choice but to pursue further sanctions, and we’re discussing next steps and beginning to consider the possible outlines of another sanctions resolution. We continue our discussions. We will move forward with this. And that’s where we are.
QUESTION: So what discussions have you had? Has Bill Burns been on the blower speaking to people or --
MR. GALLEGOS: I don’t have any particular information about any calls he may have made after Wednesday’s call or that he may have made today. But this is obviously something that we can do over telephone, sharing information via e-mail and other communications. So it’s a process that’s begun.
As we said, the incentive track remains open; however, the door is also opened to the disincentive track, and that is where we’re headed.
QUESTION: Hi. The ruling coalition in Pakistan has decided to impeach President Musharraf. Your comments on that? And was this discussed – the issue discussed during the Pakistani Prime Minister’s visit to Washington last week?
MR. GALLEGOS: I don’t have any information that this was discussed. In terms of meetings with the President, you’ll have to go to the White House. I don’t have any information that it was discussed with the Secretary.
We are aware of the reports. We have consistently said the internal politics of Pakistan is an issue for the Pakistani people to decide. Our expectation is that any action will be consistent with the rule of law and the Pakistani constitution. It is the responsibility of Pakistan’s leaders to decide on a way forward to succeed as a moderate, modern, and democratic country.
QUESTION: But, do you realize that by saying that it is an internal affair of Pakistan, you are sending a huge message? I mean, basically, you’re saying that they can do whatever they want to do with him? They can hang him. They can, you know, whatever --
MR. GALLEGOS: Our message to Pakistan has been consistent. We expect that any action will be consistent with their rule of law and the Pakistani constitution.
QUESTION: You aren’t concerned losing – of losing an ally, as Musharraf?
MR. GALLEGOS: We remain close allies in the war on terror, and we’ll continue our close ties with the democratically elected Government of Pakistan.
QUESTION: Are you not concerned, though, that such political uncertainty created by this move will create even more instability in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, which has become much more of a headache for the U.S. in terms of, you know, your own national security and the troops that are at risk there?
MR. GALLEGOS: No, we understand what is happening. We are following it closely. We’re discussing it with our interlocutors there in Pakistan, watching. And our message is that we expect any action is going to be consistent with the rule of law and with their constitution.
QUESTION: First of all, we will really miss you, as Matt said, and you have been a wonderful source of information and always very smiling and helpful.
MR. GALLEGOS: Thank you.
QUESTION: And the question is that -- since you are going to Pakistan, I understand --
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.
QUESTION: And one of the most dangerous regions on the earth today as far as terrorism is concerned. And like my colleague’s question as far as Musharraf is concerned, U.S. has been protecting Musharraf even though he was wrong on many occasions. But what kind of message you think you’re carrying to Pakistan from the Secretary of State or from the U.S. Government as far as your presence in Pakistan? Very important.
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, the message I’m going to carry to Pakistan will be consistent with the message that I’ve tried to express, and that my bosses have expressed consistently while I’ve been here the last two years, and that is: Any actions that occur in Pakistan we would expect will be consistent with their law and with their constitution.
QUESTION: Did they consult the U.S. Embassy before coming to this conclusion to impeach Musharraf?
MR. GALLEGOS: I don’t believe they would have felt it necessary to consult. Now, our Embassy people and our – at the Embassy do have conversations with interlocutors from all parties throughout most, if not all, regions of Pakistan. That is what we’re there to do: know and understand as well as possible what is happening. And so we are communicating with those interlocutors that we have to get a better understanding of what’s happening and why it’s happening.
QUESTION: Gonzo --
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes, Elise.
QUESTION: Even though you’re saying that this is an internal Pakistani matter, during the last time when Musharraf imposed the state of emergency, before he did that, you were very public about the fact that he shouldn’t do it and urged him very publicly not to do it. Is – are your interlocutors in Pakistan urging him not to impose a state of emergency, as he could under his powers?
MR. GALLEGOS: I’m being very public about the statement that we believe that any actions in Pakistan be consistent with the rule of law and with their constitution.
QUESTION: Well, but I mean, under the rule – under the constitution, he is entitled to impose a state of emergency --
MR. GALLEGOS: Any action –
QUESTION: -- and dissolve the parliament.
MR. GALLEGOS: Any action should be according to the rule of law and consistent with their constitution. And this is a matter for the Pakistanis to decide.
QUESTION: But do you see imposing a state of emergency and dissolving parliament --
MR. GALLEGOS: I’ll refer you to my – I’ve made the comment that I’m going to make about the actions that are going on.
QUESTION: This is (inaudible), who I believe read the exact same thing.
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, as he will be working for me in Pakistan, that was probably a good thing for him to do.
QUESTION: And the Secretary has been informed of the current situation in Pakistan?
MR. GALLEGOS: My understanding is that she is aware of the situation.
QUESTION: But has the Secretary reached out to anyone in Pakistan, you know, Musharraf or anybody else, given him a quick phone call?
MR. GALLEGOS: Not that I have -- I don’t have any information --
MR. GALLEGOS: -- that she had.
QUESTION: Would you take that question?
MR. GALLEGOS: Why would I take that? I don’t have any information. I do not have information that she has made a call.
QUESTION: But I mean, if she does today, could you tell us, please?
MR. GALLEGOS: I will discuss that with them and see if I can share that information with you.
QUESTION: Mr. Gallegos, (inaudible) new assignment in Pakistan, I would like to thank you very much for your kindness and your efficiency --
MR. GALLEGOS: Thank you.
QUESTION: -- for the last two years.
MR. GALLEGOS: Thank you.
QUESTION: May I go to Albania? (Laughter.)
MR. GALLEGOS: One of these days. Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. According to reports, charges have been filed against the mayor of Himare of Northern Epirus, Vasilis Bolanos. And a bunch of European organizations denounced the Albanian Government of Sali Berisha for the attack in the Greek mayor for removing road signs saying that they should be – have been in Greek as well as in Albanian language. Any comment from the human right point of view?
MR. GALLEGOS: I’m not aware of the situation. I’ll be happy to take that question.
QUESTION: And one more?
MR. GALLEGOS: Sure.
QUESTION: Thank you. Upon the completion of the recent visit in Washington of Fatmir Sejdiu and Hashim Thaci of Kosovo, a report the other day from Pristina is saying exactly, quote, “Kosovo is a beach head into the rest of Europe for radical Muslims and terrorist elements,” unquote. Are you concerned?
MR. GALLEGOS: Could you repeat the question?
QUESTION: The question is that the report is saying that Kosovo is a beach head into the rest of Europe for radical Muslims and terrorist elements.
MR. GALLEGOS: No, I think our position on Kosovo is well known and often repeated from the podium. It remains the same.
QUESTION: Today, Radio Free Asia condemned the Chinese Government for denying an entry visa to the Tibetan service broadcaster, a U.S. citizen, Dhondup Gonzar. The RFA president said that he deplored this stonewalling by the Chinese authorities. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. GALLEGOS: We’ve seen some revocations and denial of entries from – of American citizens and others by the Government of China. This concerns us, and we have expressed our feelings about that to the Government of China. Our Ambassador has spoken to their Foreign Ministry about it. You know, our position, as repeated by the President as recently as yesterday – this morning, is that we believe that it is important that we engage the Chinese officials on this issue. We do it every time we meet with them, regularly. We’ll continue to do that and believe that it’s important that they know and understand our position on human rights and on freedom of speech.
QUESTION: Related to that, do you know anything about DS involvement in an investigation into the injuries sustained by a woman protestor who fell from the roof of the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, I believe, yesterday?
MR. GALLEGOS: I’m going to refer you to the San Francisco authorities on that one, the police. I – we’ve heard about it. I understand it’s an ongoing investigation, and I’d refer you to the San Francisco Police Department on it.
QUESTION: Yeah, but is DS involved?
MR. GALLEGOS: I would have to see what their involvement was in that.
QUESTION: Well, we’re told that DS is involved, so I’m just wondering if you can --
MR. GALLEGOS: I’ll be happy to take that question.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. GALLEGOS: Thank you.
QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have an answer to the question from yesterday on Mauritania and whether the U.S. has suspended financial aid to Mauritania, and how much that aid is, and also the MCC’s threshold deal that you had?
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes. Well, I’ll tell you we condemn in the strongest possible terms the military’s overthrow of the democratically elected Government of Mauritania. At present, all non-humanitarian U.S. foreign assistance is suspended and under review. This includes more than $3 million in developmental assistance; more than 4 million in peacekeeping training; 805,000 in nonproliferation, antiterrorism, de-mining and related assistance; and 15 million in military-to-military cooperation.
They had also been approved for a multi-million dollar Millennium Challenge Corporation threshold program. The amount, which I don’t have a specific amount for at this time, would have been awarded under this – that would have been awarded under the program, will be suspended for now. However, there are 4 million – there are $4.9 million in Public Law 480 food assistance that remains unaffected.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. How much? Can you repeat that? You were going very fast.
MR. GALLEGOS: There are – which – oh, there are $4.9 million in P.L. 480 food assistance remains unaffected.
QUESTION: And all of this money, this – I don’t know how much it came to, it was 600 and something million – is that all for 2008 funding or --
MR. GALLEGOS: My understanding is that it’s for 2008 funding.
QUESTION: That’s not 600 million.
QUESTION: That’snot 600 million.
QUESTION: No, 300 million in development aid, 300 million in --
QUESTION: Three, not --
MR. GALLEGOS: Three million in development assistance, 4.1 going to peacekeeping.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MR. GALLEGOS: Sorry about that.
QUESTION: Hold on one second there again, Gonzo? You said 480 million in – in food aid?
MR. GALLEGOS: 4.9 million.
QUESTION: No. That – what was Public Law?
MR. GALLEGOS: P.L. 480.
QUESTION: Oh, P.L. 4 – oh, okay.
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes, 4.9 million in P.L., which is Public Law 480. Food assistance remains unaffected.
QUESTION: Gonzo, can you describe any U.S. diplomacy on this issue to try to get the Mauritanian authorities to --
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, we’ve seen that the African Union and the European Union and other governments have also condemned this event and are demanding a return to constitutional government. We are discussing this with the countries in the region. We are seeing what we can do and how we can help to bring back a – bring a reversal of this and to reestablish the democratically elected government there.
QUESTION: The elections have been postponed in Iraq. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. GALLEGOS: I believe I have something. Okay.
We continue to urge the Council of Representatives to seek a compromise that can be adopted promptly. We regret that the Iraqi parliament adjourned yesterday without finishing its work on a local elections law. The parliamentarians have made great strides towards finishing the closing agreement on most of the more difficult issues.
We recognize that the election law brought to the floor important questions regarding the status of Kirkuk. The status of Kirkuk is, indeed, a sensitive issue that needs to be addressed in a serious fashion, but it is an issue that cannot be solved through the legislative mechanism of the election law. The election law should not be held hostage to that problem.
QUESTION: But you think this is a setback for the democracy in Iraq?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think even the most established democracies can take time to produce agreements on tough issues. We see this as a proof positive that the democratic process is working in Iraq. We urge them to continue, and believe that they can and will ultimately reach a decision -- a solution on that.
QUESTION: Proof positive the democratic process is working in Iraq? You just said that it wasn’t working. You were you – you regret that the parliament adjourned without having –
MR. GALLEGOS: We regret that they adjourned, but nobody --
QUESTION: So that’s part of the democratic process --
MR. GALLEGOS: I would say that part of the democratic process is –
QUESTION: -- parliament taking vacation?
MR. GALLEGOS: -- is different sides coming together, working through difficult issues, and ultimately resolving them in a peaceful manner through their elected officials.
QUESTION: Do you have any --
MR. GALLEGOS: That’s a process that we see continuing in Iraq.
QUESTION: Do you have any updates on the SOFA negotiation?
MR. GALLEGOS: Updates on the SOFA – my understanding is that they’re continuing. I don’t have anything particular to say about the process right now. We haven’t discussed those publicly before; I’m not going to here. As we said, we’ll provide you with details when we get through with this.
QUESTION: Do you have any timeline for that?
MR. GALLEGOS: I would not be prepared to provide a timeline for that.
QUESTION: Two on North Korea. The first is, do you know how the – when the Japanese and North Koreans officials meet on August 11th and 12th, what impact that will have on the timing of delisting?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, we strongly support the dialogue between Japan and the DPRK, as they make efforts to improve their relationship. We’ve repeatedly urged them to address Japan’s outstanding issues of concern, including the abductions issue. Concerning the possibility of any meetings between them or the meetings between them, I’d refer you to the Japanese.
QUESTION: But – but what about in terms of the impact on delisting?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think that we are keeping an eye on what is happening, taking a look at what the North Koreans are doing. We are continuing to discuss with them the need for a strong verification regime. As we’ve noted before, the 45-day period is a minimum time period. And we will see – we continue to make that evaluation about what they are doing, how they are progressing, their interactions with other countries. And we will see what happens when the 45-day period is over. However, I do want to make clear that we’re looking at a minimum time period.
QUESTION: And were you ever able to get information on the technicalities of delisting, such as whether Secretary Rice has to sign something?
MR. GALLEGOS: I’ll have to talk to you later. I don’t have that with me.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that. So you’re saying that if North Korea doesn’t agree to the verification protocols, that the U.S. won’t take them off the list then?
MR. GALLEGOS: I’ve said – what we’ve said in the past is that we are taking a look at how they are interacting with us, what measure they are taking. The verification process is very important. We need to have a strong verification regime before taking action to remove them from the list. And we’re going to take a look at where we are at the end of the 45-day period. However, I’m going to remind you that the end of the 45-day period is a minimum time, not the actual time when something actually must happen or will happen.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the radiation leak from the Navy submarine Houston?
MR. GALLEGOS: No, I’d have to refer you to DOD. I don’t have any information on that.
Yes. In the back.
QUESTION: Does the State Department have any comment on Congressman Berman’s letter to the Secretary of the State?
MR. GALLEGOS: Let me see what I – hold on. Let’s see. We’re working hard to get the India civ-nuke program through this year. We’re working with Congress to discuss the issues and resolve any outstanding concerns that they may have. We’re working through the Nuclear Suppliers Group to obtain their approval by early September. We hope, at that time, to present the package to our Congress and we hope that it – after discussions with them that they will be able to pass that and we will be able to proceed with this very important program.
QUESTION: Congressman Berman wanted some conditions attached to the waiver.
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about that?
MR. GALLEGOS: Let me get you something on that specific point. I want to stress the fact that we believe this is an important program. We believe that we can get it through this year. We’re going to work towards that end. And obviously, anything that we proceed with will be consistent with U.S. law.
QUESTION: The President of Venezuela in recent days has enacted a number of decrees that consolidate his power, in a sense, achieving some of the things that he wanted to get in a referendum last year that was voted on. I wonder if you’re watching that, if you have any --
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, the President of Venezuela was operating under a decree for many months. We believe that transparency and open debate are pillars of democratic governments, and end enacting laws by presidential fiat runs counter to these fundamental principles to which Venezuela committed itself in signing the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The text of these 26 laws were not made available until August 4th -- several days after their enactment on July 31st, just as President Chavez enabling powers expired. Under these circumstances, neither Venezuela’s citizens nor the national assembly were afforded the opportunity to participate in a debate on these changes. This is especially worrisome, because many of these new laws appear to mirror proposed laws that were rejected by the Venezuelan people during the December 2007 constitutional referendum.
Yes, Mr. --
QUESTION: On Montenegro. Mr. Gallegos, according to press reports, four Americans of Albanian origin from Michigan are among 12 ethnic Albanians convicted yesterday of planning a rebellion to establish a homeland of approximately 40,000 Albanians within the Balkan republic of Montenegro in the framework of the so-called “Great Albanian Plan” promoted by Sali Berisha of Tirana. Any comment?
MR. GALLEGOS: I saw reports on that. Our concern with them was that they received a fair trial. My understanding is that we were able to have consular visits with them. We were able to see that they received proper trial and care. And that’s where we are.
QUESTION: Do you consider all of them terrorists or freedom fighters, like in the case of Hacim Thaci of Kosovo?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I wouldn’t – I wouldn't be able to make that declaration.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.
QUESTION: Gonzo, do you have anything about Ossetia?
MR. GALLEGOS: South Ossetia?
MR. GALLEGOS: I think so.
QUESTION: President Saakashvili -- you know, there were some victims, some fighting last night. And President Saakashvili said that the – he’s – he called several world leaders asking them for their help in maintaining peace. I wanted to know if he called Secretary Rice.
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, we’re – I don’t believe – I don’t have any further information. I don’t have it that he spoke to Secretary Rice. But we’re in close contact with senior Russian and Georgian officials. We’re urging Moscow to press South Ossetia’s de facto leaders to stop firing. We’re urging Tbilisi to maintain restraint. We’re very concerned about the situation. We call for an immediate end to the violence and for direct talks between the parties.
QUESTION: Do you think the South Ossetian people started the fighting, or who do you think is responsible?
MR. GALLEGOS: We think it’s important that both sides stop firing, that they sit down and they discuss this in a peaceful manner.
QUESTION: Going back to China, human rights records and all that, for years, Chinese have been getting away with murders and torture and human rights violations and all that, including Tibetans. But many groups are calling now that even though China has veto power, why don’t you bring them under UN Security Council there are all these crimes they’re committing against – humanitarian there against their own people, even though they may veto it? And they’ve been getting away with this.
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, we believe that – President Bush said – has repeated what he’s often said yesterday; he believes it’s important that we engage the Chinese, that we have a dialogue with them, that we continue to press them on their human rights situation there. This is something that he has taken the opportunity to do recently, and my understanding is we’ll continue to do in the days to come.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. GALLEGOS: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)
DPB # 140
Released on August 7, 2008