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Daily Press Briefing
Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
August 26, 2008



Possible Trip by Secretary Rice / Nothing to Announce


Possible Meetings with North Koreans
Possible Suspension of Disablement / Verification Package / Delisting
Next Steps in Six Party Process


U.S. Policy on Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity of Georgia
Status of Russian Forces
U.S. Discussions with Russians
U.S. Monitors / Ceasefire Agreement
U.S. Vessels in Black Sea / Refer to Pentagon
Humanitarian Assistance Update
Next Steps / Multilateral Discussions


Negotiations Among Parties
Harassment of Opposition


Bilateral Relations / Cooperation with Government
Internal Political Situation
Ambassador Khalilzad’s Comments


Status of Civil Nuclear Agreement
Concerns from other Countries / Discussions


View Video

12:35 p.m. EDT

MR. WOOD: Well, good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the temporary briefing room. So I don’t have any statements for you, so why don’t we get right to your questions.


QUESTION: Do you have a confirmation of – sorry. Can you confirm the Secretary is going to Libya very soon, next week?

MR. WOOD: What can I say, Sylvie, is that when we have something to announce about a trip, we’ll let you know. You know, the Secretary has been planning to go to – has wanted to go to Libya for some time. And you know, at some point in the future if we have something to announce, we’ll announce.

QUESTION: Yeah, but a network is announcing it.

MR. WOOD: Well, I --

QUESTION: The date and everything.

MR. WOOD: Well, I – the only thing I can tell you is that if and when we do have something to announce, we will.


QUESTION: Do you have any details on who from the State Department will be meeting with what officials on the North Korean matter? You mentioned that you’ll be reaching out to the other parties. Do you know who’s going to be doing the reaching out and when the meetings will be and who they’re going to be talking with?

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t have any times or dates for when meetings might take place. But this is part of, you know, a number of meetings that we’ve had with North Korea to discuss issues such as verification. But I’m not going go into names of officials, you know, that we may be having meetings with at this point.

QUESTION: It will be with North Korean officials, though?

MR. WOOD: Well, we’ve had discussions with North Korean officials in the framework of the Six-Party Talks and we will – I can see that we will have talks with them in the future as well.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Mr. Wood, on Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In a move many see as retaliation for the February recognition of independence for Kosovo, both houses of Russia’s parliament voted yesterday unanimously to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Any comments?

MR. WOOD: I would just say, as I said earlier, that, you know, what the Russian Government has decided to do in terms of recognizing these two entities that are, in our view, you know, part and parcel of Georgia is unacceptable. And we would – what I would say is that our policy has been very clear on supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. And I’d just leave it there. I think our policy has been very clear on that.

QUESTION: A follow-up. The Georgian Foreign Ministry condemned today the vote as a continuation of – quote --“Russia’s aggression in violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territory” – unquote. Anything to say about that?

MR. WOOD: Well, we’ve said very much we’ve concerned about Russian aggression in Georgia and we’ve wanted to see Russian forces pull out. They’ve made a commitment to do that under the ceasefire agreement that was recently reached. And Russian forces are supposed to pull back to the status quo ante of August 6th. That’s very clear. We’ve made that case over and over again to the Russians. We want to see them comply.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: Why don’t we go to Sue and then Charlie. Sue and then Charlie.

QUESTION: On that subject, what are some of your options for action in response to what Russia has done? Are you, for example, talking to the British about it. Miliband says he wants to build some kind of international coalition on this subject. So what are you – what conversations have you had with other countries today? And what are your options to respond to the Russians?

MR. WOOD: Well, we’ll be discussing various options with our allies. I mentioned that this morning at the gaggle. I don’t want to get ahead of the diplomacy. But clearly, this is not business as usual with Russia. And so there will be discussions, as I’ve just said, with our allies to discuss how we go forward vis-à-vis our relationship with Russia. But I don’t – as I said, don’t want to get ahead of the diplomacy at this point.


QUESTION: Have there been any calls from any officials, whether -- Secretary Rice, I know is traveling -- but Deputy Secretary Negroponte, Under Secretary Burns? Has anybody been in touch with the Russians directly other than the Embassy from Washington?

MR. WOOD: Well, various officials at various levels have had discussions with the Russians and will continue to have those types of discussions. I don’t know if the Secretary has had any conversations because she, of course, has been in the region in the Middle East. But let me just say that we’ll continue to make our views known to Russia, and not just the United States, but other countries. We want to see Russia live up to its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions. And that’s where I’d leave it.


QUESTION: North Korea may suspend to disable their nuclear facility in Yongbyon. Do you know what is the North Korean intentions?

MR. WOOD: It’s very hard for me to stand here and be able to give you an exact understanding of what North Korea is doing. But our policy remains the same. We want to see the North Koreans produce, you know, a complete and satisfactory verification package so that we could move forward toward delisting North Korea. This is not just something the United States would like to see happen. The other members – the other four members would like to see that as well. That’s what we’re waiting on, and we expect North Korea to live up to its agreement.

QUESTION: Why they announced right after the Sung Kim’s meeting in New York?

MR. WOOD: You’ll have to ask them. I don’t know the answer to that.


QUESTION: Just still on North Korea. How serious is the North Korean threat to halt or reverse disablement?

MR. WOOD: Well, it’s a concern we have. Again, we want to see North Korea live up to its obligations. It’s committed to producing this verification package. It’s part of our action-for-action activity. And the only thing I can say is that we’re sitting and waiting, the other members of the Six-Party framework, for North Korea to produce this verification package.

QUESTION: But while the United States sits and waits is there a risk, though, that the long months of negotiation are unraveling?

MR. WOOD: Well, we’ve had discussions with the Chinese and the South Koreans, as I mentioned, a couple of days ago, and so we’re not sitting here just waiting. We are having discussions with other members of the Six-Party framework. And again, the message is the same: North Korea needs to produce that verification package.

Please, and then we’ll go there.

QUESTION: This morning you said that the disablement delay seems temporary. What evidence do you have for that?

MR. WOOD: That’s our assessment at this point, that it’s – you know, based on what the North Koreans have said. But we want to see them take – instead of taking a step backward, we want to see a step forward in terms of meeting their obligations, so --

QUESTION: And were you able to find out about the U.S. monitors on the ground in Yongbyon?

MR. WOOD: I’m still working on trying to get an answer to you on that one.


QUESTION: If I can change the topic --

MR. WOOD: Let’s see. Were you finished on North Korea?

Okay, please.

QUESTION: Very well. This morning, the Zimbabwean parliament opened amid members of parliament booing President Mugabe and a total chaos in parliament. Do you think this is a seed of instability in Zimbabwe since President Mugabe went ahead with opening parliament while negotiations are still underway?

And secondly, do you – does the U.S. – is it talking to the parties in Zimbabwe, both the MDC and the ruling ZANU-PF and other mediators? And what’s your assessment of the situation?

MR. WOOD: Well, our Embassy in Harare talks to a number of officials across the political spectrum. Look, there are lots of happenings going on within the Zimbabwean political system right now. And what we want to see is negotiations among the parties that will, in essence, bring about an electoral – let me just say, we would like to see the Zimbabwean Government sit down with its – with other members of the opposition and come to some sort of agreement. But our basic policy is we want to see the will of the Zimbabwean people fulfilled. And we would like to see the results – that should be based on the March 29 election results. 

You know, Zimbabwe is a country in crisis right now. The international community is willing to support the country as it goes through this. But it’s important that the Mugabe government stop harassing the opposition, that it take serious the opposition’s commitment to having a democratic government in Zimbabwe. And again, the parties need to sit down and negotiate and negotiate constructively, so that, you know, the Zimbabwean people can have a government that they so well deserve. 

QUESTION: Are you talking to the ZANU-PF and the MDC? And do you support the ongoing negotiations?

MR. WOOD: Well, what we want to see, again, is an outcome that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people. And our Embassy talks to a wide variety of political figures in the country.


QUESTION: There are reports that Aung San Suu Kyi might be staging a hunger strike. Do you have any details on this? 

MR. WOOD: No, I haven’t heard it. That’s the first I’ve heard of that.


MR. WOOD: Charley.

QUESTION: Can we just go back to the Georgia story --

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: -- a little bit? What is the United States’ participation in the OSCE monitoring ranks?

MR. WOOD: Well, we have – as I mentioned yesterday, we have two monitors that arrived, I believe – I believe yesterday. And they’re unarmed and their responsibility will be, of course, observing implementation of the ceasefire agreement. That’s about all I have on it for you.

QUESTION: Will they be joined by other Americans?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know if there will be other Americans. I don’t know the actual makeup of the overall monitoring force that’s going – that’ll be going in.

QUESTION: And are these two individuals U.S. military?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know if they’re military, but they’re U.S. Government employees.

Charlie, then go back to --

QUESTION: On the same general subject, what’s the status of U.S. Naval vessels or Coast Guard vessels into the Black Sea and the update on humanitarian aid?

MR. WOOD: Charlie, in terms of where the vessels are, I’d have to refer you to the Pentagon. But I think since yesterday – regarding humanitarian – humanitarian assistance, we’ve had – I believe it’s 51 flights that have gone in since yesterday, and a little over – I believe it’s $20 million in humanitarian assistance that we’ve had in total since our humanitarian program began.

Sue, please.

QUESTION: Can you tell us whether you’re looking at unilateral responses to Russia as well as multilateral ones together with your allies; for example, withdrawing the nuclear 123 Agreement with Russia?

MR. WOOD: Well, as I said earlier, Sue, we’re looking at various options within the U.S. Government. We’ll be having interagency discussions about next steps vis-à-vis Russia, as well as discussions with our other G-7 partners about next steps. But I’m not going to get ahead of the diplomacy at this point.

QUESTION: Yeah, there’s a October deadline approaching that the Six Parties made to complete disablement. I’m wondering right now if disablement or verification protocol is a priority.

MR. WOOD: Well, right now, the next step in our process, the Six-Party process, is the verification package, you know, as I said earlier. So again, we wait for North Korea to produce this verification package so that we can move on to the next steps.

QUESTION: And do you have a sense of how many of the – of the fuel rods have been discharged successfully to this point at Yongbyon?

MR. WOOD: I don’t at this point. I don’t, sorry. 


QUESTION: Is there anything new on Turkey’s Caucasus initiative? What is the U.S. position on this (inaudible) countries cooperation pact?

MR. WOOD: I think we’re still looking at and studying the proposal. But I don’t have anything to give you right now on that.

Okay? Here, and then we’ll go here.

QUESTION: There are news in Turkish media saying that U.S. is not happy with the existent Montreux – conditions of existing Montreux Straits Treaty and wants some changes. So do you have any comment on this?

MR. WOOD: No, I don’t have any comment. That’s the first I’ve heard of it.


QUESTION: Robert, first of all, congratulations.

MR. WOOD: Thank you.

QUESTION: The question is that – power struggles still in Pakistan goes on and that is hampering them as far as the coalition government is concerned. Are you in touch with any – in any way as far as the presidency and overall, the government structure right now – democracy in Pakistan?

MR. WOOD: We have discussions, our Embassy has discussions, with you know, a variety of Pakistani officials. With regard to the Pakistani presidency, that’s really very much an internal Pakistani matter. The Pakistani people will have to determine who their next president will be. And the relationship between the United States and Pakistan, as you know, is a very important one. They’re engaged in very serious efforts to battle extremism in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. And we look forward to, again, continuing our cooperation with the current government on, you know, battling extremism.

QUESTION: Second, if I may --

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: -- as far as an India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement is concerned now, everybody is busy in this U.S. elections. And I don’t know if now – if you are still working on this deal, if it’s going to go through before the elections or the (inaudible) administration, or what is going on now?

MR. WOOD: Well, we’re working very hard. We would like to see this agreement come into fruition because it’s critically important for both the United States and India. And we are aware that the congressional clock is ticking and we are going to be consulting with other governments, particularly governments in the Nuclear Supplier Group, to try to move this process forward as quickly as we can. There are a number of concerns that some countries have about what’s been – about the agreement, but they’re good questions and we think we’ve got good answers to those. But -- we are aware that the clock is ticking, but it is a very important agreement for both countries and we want to see it happen. 


QUESTION: How did – the Ambassador was concerned (inaudible) in the Nuclear Suppliers Group?

MR. WOOD: Well, we addressed them in a number of ways, through discussions; certainly, during the Vienna NSG meeting that was recently held and we have discussions with governments about these issues. We’ll do our best to address those concerns, as the Indians are trying to do to address concerns that other governments may have about the agreement. 

QUESTION: Will you be changing any of the agreement at all or -- 

MR. WOOD: There are no plans that I know of to change the agreement. But you know, in life you never rule things out. But it’s obviously got to be something that both the United States and India can agree, you know, can agree to if there were going to be changes. But I – I’ve heard no mention of a need to, you know, adjust the agreement in any way. 


QUESTION: Another topic? Just elaborating on your comments earlier today about Ambassador Khalilzad, was he out of line with his contact with Mr. Zardari? 

MR. WOOD: It’s not for me to characterize – to characterize it in any way, really, except to say that, you know, as I said earlier, Ambassador Khalilzad has many contacts in the South Asia region and, you know, in the Middle East as well. And, you know, he talks to various leaders. The Secretary and the President respect his counsel. And, you know, these are not unusual conversations to have with other leaders, so I wouldn’t make more of it than it is. 

QUESTION: Did he muddle the message that the United States was trying to send to Pakistan --

MR. WOOD: Not at all. Our message to Pakistan is very clear. They’re an important ally. We need to work together on a wide range of issues, most notably, the war against extremism. 

QUESTION: Will there be any disciplinary action against the Ambassador? 

MR. WOOD: I don’t know if there will be or not. I just – I don’t have anything for you on that. 

QUESTION: And can you say anything about the confidence that the Secretary of State has in Ambassador Khalilzad?

MR. WOOD: The Secretary has confidence in Ambassador Khalilzad, no question. 

QUESTION: May I go back on northern India and U.S. civil nuclear deal, please?

MR. WOOD: Sure. 

QUESTION: Let’s say this deal doesn’t go through during this Congress – during this Administration before the elections or by December. You think you have – are you in touch with anybody, like Senators McCain or Obama, if they will go ahead with this agreement or what is the future if this doesn’t go through now? 

MR. WOOD: I really don’t want to speculate. I think we have to see how this plays out. It’s very important, as I said, to come to fruition on this agreement. And so it wouldn’t do any good for me to speculate on what may or may not happen at this point. 

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: Thank you, Charlie.

QUESTION: Thank you. 

(The briefing was concluded at 12:53 p.m.)

DPB # 141

Released on August 26, 2008

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