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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 4, 2008



American Citizens in Chad / U.S. Embassy Status / Security Checklist
Plans to Re-inhabit Embassy / Sovereign U.S. Territory
Cooperation with French
Sudanese Government Support for Rebels


President Boris Tadic’s Election Victory
Working Towards a European Future for Serbia


Condemnation of Suicide Bomb Attack
Israelis, Palestinians Must Work Toward Political Agreement
Urging Regional States to Call for Cessation of Rocket Attacks
Structured Dialogue is Continuing


Egypt-Iranian Talks / Egypt to Relay International Community’s Message


Concern for Iran’s Space Launch / Ballistic Missiles / Uranium Enrichment
Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program
Draft Resolution Circulated to EU-3 on Friday / Strong Message for Iran


View Video

12:49 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Nothing to start with, so we can get right to your questions.

QUESTION: Were you able to get any figures for Americans to have left Chad and Embassy status, et cetera?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. We have -- in terms of the specific numbers of Americans, we don’t want to get into an exact number. I’ll give you an order of magnitude – tens of -- fewer than a hundred Americans have been evacuated from Chad. I would just say that there are several hundred Americans in Chad at the moment -- well, let me put it this way -- several hundred that were in Chad when this began. As we have seen over several crises elsewhere, what happens is you don’t have every American, every time registering with the Embassy, so you’ll start to see sort of rolling registrations. But we are attempting to stay in close contact with everybody who has contacted us. We would encourage anybody with family members from Chad who have not yet contacted the Embassy or the State Department to do so. And we can get you some numbers and an e-mail address how to do that after the briefing.

In terms of embassy status, went by the book. The Ambassador made a call that it was in the best interest of the safety of the personnel given this fluid security situation in N’Djamena to move personnel out to the airport. The French are providing some security perimeter projection there. We work very closely with them to ensure safe transit of our people from the downtown area out to the airport. At the moment, we have four official Americans from the Embassy remaining on the ground. We have our Ambassador, our defense attaché, our political counselor and our security offer. So those four remain on the ground to monitor the situation. There are – there remains the capability for flights to come and go. Commercial flights, you’ll have to check whether or not those are still flying -- I don’t think so. But they have the ability to have at the moment C-130s land and take off from the airport.

QUESTION: Of the fewer or hundred or so or less than a hundred –

MR. MCCORMACK: Fewer than a hundred --

QUESTION: -- who half who have left, do you know how many have left on French flights or how many –

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have that sort of breakdown for you.

QUESTION: And there is a – it is correct that was no Marine guard presence at this --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I was not able to track that down, Matt. I asked a question and for a lot of different reasons, I wasn’t able to get an answer at this point that I can share with you. If – I’ll --

QUESTION: Of course, it’s not a secret, is it?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know anytime you mention security in the sentence, and sometimes you run up against security classification issues.

QUESTION: Oh, well, you might tell the people who have a problem with this that, you know, anyone who drives by an embassy anywhere can see if there are Marine guards there.

Can I just ask one more thing? Is the Embassy – is it closed? I mean, what exactly --

MR. MCCORMACK: It remains American sovereign territory. It is our Embassy. There is a security checklist that people go down anytime you have embassy personnel leaving an embassy. There are no American personnel left at the facility, but it still remains sovereign American territory. Items, the building, the facility is secured according to the procedures that are laid out for people. Those have all been followed.

QUESTION: Does that mean there’s local staff there?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know that there’s local – local staff there right now. You have a situation where the rebels were in town, they went into N’Djamena. I believe that they’ve withdrawn, but there’s every indication that they will come back into N’Djamena. You don’t want a situation where locally engaged staff -- who may not be armed or, if armed, lightly armed -- are up against heavily armed rebels who have heavy armaments, who have armor, other types of weaponry.

So what we would tell anybody who has any thoughts of entering Embassy grounds is to say that that is American territory, leave immediately and do not attempt to enter any of the buildings. Now, in terms of – for practical purposes, if you have a government that is dealing with this rebel force, I’m not sure that they’re going to be able to protect the facility. But I fully expect that once this episode has resolved in some way or fashion, that our people will be able to re-inhabit the Embassy and continue their work.

QUESTION: So you don’t know if anyone is protecting it now?

MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly, no Americans are protecting it.

QUESTION: No Marines? No --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. As valuable as a facility is, we’re not going to put any of our people in harm’s way trying to protect a building like that. The – as I said, the list of security precautions in terms of documents and --

QUESTION: Shredding paper?

MR. MCCORMACK: -- other types of sensitive items that may be in an embassy, those are secured, have been secured in one way or another. I’m not going to get into the who, what, where and when.

QUESTION: Not anyone just shredding?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not going to talk about any of that.

QUESTION: Do you know or is it possible to find out when the last time an embassy was abandoned like this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, it’s not – you know, you have to be careful in the use of terms like “abandoned” because the lawyers --


MR. MCCORMACK: -- the lawyers will come swooping down upon you.


MR. MCCORMACK: And this is still American territory. It is an American building. It is American sovereign territory. I can’t tell you, Matt. I mean --

QUESTION: Anything in recent memory that you can think of?

MR. MCCORMACK: Off the top of my head, I wouldn't even try to hazard a guess. But let me make it clear: We fully expect and intend to re-inhabit the Embassy grounds as the American Embassy and sovereign American territory.

QUESTION: Sean, do you know the number of Americans who have contacted you saying they want to leave the country but still have not been able to do so?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have an exact number. I don’t. We have been in contact, as I said, with more individuals than we originally – or different individuals than we originally had on our Embassy warden sheet -- the list of people that we have registered in the country. And we are working with them as well as others to make sure that they are safe. Probably the best advice now for people is not to try to move on your own, to stay where you are as the situation is quite fluid. Again – but again, you are going to have to make your own decisions based on what you see going on around you in terms of the threat environment.

But we are working with – working with groups and individuals to make sure that they are as safe as they possibly can be. If that means getting them from where they are out to the airport or some other safer area, we are going to do everything that we possibly can do to make that happen.

QUESTION: And then at this point, is the plan for this to be using French military assets or is this going to be – or is there going to be an American plane going in to pick these people up or --

MR. MCCORMACK: We’re working cooperatively with the French right now. Certainly, we have a lot of different – a lot of different capabilities and we are, of course, in contact with EUCOM, which has responsibility for this area of operation.

QUESTION: And then finally – all right, how concerned are you about reports that the Sudanese are backing (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: It’s very worrying, very worrying. And we have gone in directly to very high levels of the Sudanese Government to say that if there is any support from the Sudanese Government to these rebels that that should end immediately and that any influence they might have with the rebels, they should use in order to tell them to withdraw. We’ve done this at the highest level of our Embassy in Khartoum directly into the presidency as well as to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


QUESTION: I would think you wouldn’t give us the exact number, but when the Embassy was at full strength, can you give us a rough idea of how many people – I mean, roughly dozens would have been working there or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Embassy staffing – think about it for a while and we’ll come back to you, okay?

MR. GALLEGOS: A couple dozen, several dozen.

QUESTION: Several dozen, okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Was it several dozen?

QUESTION: With – and that’s American – U.S. nationals or everybody?

QUESTION: Everybody --

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, we’ll come up with an answer. Let me know – give me the high sign when you guys have the answer and we’ll come back to you.


QUESTION: Serbia. Mr. McCormack --

MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, I have an answer for you. I can read it for you now.

QUESTION: Okay. Any reaction to yesterday’s presidential election in Serbia with President Boris Tadic again in charge?

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. I can read it for you again. Some of you may recognize this from the morning.

We understand that Boris Tadic has won reelection as President of Serbia. We congratulate him and his party on their victory. Following a vigorous campaign, we understand that the second round of voting for Serbia’s president took place in an orderly manner. The extraordinarily high voter turnout was remarkable. This election had important implications for Serbia’s future. We look forward to continuing our efforts to build a productive relationship with Serbia on matters of common interest. President Tadic promised voters a European future for Serbia. We will work with President Tadic and Serbia and the Serbian people to see that promise fulfilled and to see that Serbia is firmly on a path toward European integration.

QUESTION: Any communication between Department of State and Belgrade?

MR. MCCORMACK: In Belgrade, I – you know, I can’t tell you. I don’t know.

QUESTION: And one more question. Former Secretary Lawrence Eagleburger, former Ambassador John Bolton and former DOD Under Secretary Peter Rodman wrote an article in The Washington Times January 31st on Kosovo stated, “The partition of Serbia’s sovereign territory is not in the interest of the United States and we believe that the U.S. policy on Kosovo must be reexamined.” How do you respond?

MR. MCCORMACK: Our policy is well-known and unchanged.

QUESTION: Oh. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Let the groan and outbreak of emotion at that sad news be registered on the part of Lambros. (Laughter.)


MR. MCCORMACK: No, that’s it.


QUESTION: Would you have any reaction to the news of a suicide bombing in Israel? And also, there is – on the other side, in Gaza, there is also violence and Palestinian (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, certainly, that was terrible news to hear. I think it’s the first suicide – successful suicide bombing in about a year from people believed to have originated, in some form or fashion, from Palestinian areas and ended up in Israel. We condemn the attack and greatly regret the loss of life and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims and certainly wish a speedy recovery to those who were injured.

All of these incidents point to the fact that we need to do everything that we possibly can, along with our partners in the international system, to help the Israelis and the Palestinians come to a political agreement and accommodation on the issues that separate them. At that point, the Palestinian people will be able to decide which pathway they want to go down; do they want to go down the pathway of having a Palestinian state or do they want to continue down a pathway represented by Hamas and other rejectionist groups that’s a pathway of violence and that does not lead to a state.

So our focus – that is, our overall focus, in the meantime, we are going to do everything that we can to urge any states in the region that may have influence with the Palestinians, the Palestinians in Gaza to cease – have those rocket attacks that are emanating from Gaza cease. That is critically important.

QUESTION: And what is coming next in terms of the agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians? When is the Secretary planning to go there and to try to push a little bit?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you can expect to see her back there many times in the coming months. I don’t have anything to announce for you at this point in time, but the parties are continuing their dialogue, continuing their discussions. They have a structured dialogue now in place in which they are talking about all issues. I’m not going to try to update you beyond what they themselves have already done, but there is an ongoing process. It does have a certain momentum to it and we are doing everything that we can to encourage them to continue that. We check in with them often, whether that’s at the level of the Secretary or lower, David Welch, our Ambassador, Jake Walles. So we’re very carefully monitoring the situation. We’re also in contact with Arab states in the region who have an interest in seeing this process move forward. So we are deeply engaged in the process. Sometimes you see that manifested by things like the Secretary traveling to the region. Other times it’s in ways that you don’t necessarily see on a daily basis.


QUESTION: Sean, there have been quite a few Iranian officials visiting Egypt in the past couple of weeks talking about reestablishing relations between the two countries. Are you encouraging that or do you think there is a sort of potential danger of the Iranians having some influence in Cairo?

MR. MCCORMACK: Completely up to the Egyptian Government and the Iranian Government to decide upon whether – what sort of relationship they have and whether that involves diplomatic relations. We’re confident that the Egyptian Government, however, will relay to the Iranian Government in any of these meetings or interactions what the international community has been saying: Play a positive role in the world, whether that is stopping your support for terrorism, treating your people better, or adhering to the lawful demands of the international community.

QUESTION: Do you get anything about the Iranian (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: This was the space launch --

QUESTION: Satellite.

MR. MCCORMACK: Satellite, yeah. I did look into it, and it is just another troubling development in that the kinds of technologies and capabilities that are needed in order to launch a space – a space vehicle for orbit are the same kinds of capabilities and technologies that one would employ for long-range ballistic missiles. And of course, the UN Security Council and other members of the international system have expressed their deep concern about Iran’s continuing development of medium- and long-range ballistic missiles. The reason for that concern is tied to their continued development of – to continued search to perfect enrichment of uranium, which can, of course, be used in a nuclear weapon.

So you know, we have talked oftentimes about the three parts that are needed for an Iranian nuclear weapons program. You know what our intelligence estimate has said about the active part about their military efforts to build a nuclear weapon, but there are two other parts to being able to successfully deliver a nuclear weapon. Part of that is a ballistic missile program, which they are continuing on with, their medium-range ballistic missile program, which they say can now reach a distance of 2,000 kilometers, can hit Europe. They’re clearly marching ahead on the development of a long-range ballistic missile and, of course, you have the enrichment program which they are continuing to engage in.

QUESTION: How are your efforts at getting the elements of the resolution that were – was agreed by the P-5 plus Germany through or accepted by the ten non-permanent members at the UN?

MR. MCCORMACK: My understanding is that on Friday the EU-3 circulated the draft resolution – so that’s not just the elements but that’s the actual text of a resolution – with the other members of the Security Council. The EU-3 are going to be sponsoring the resolution.

I can’t tell you what sort of reaction they’ve gotten yet. I would expect if this situation holds to past practice, that you will have a variety of different reactions from, “Where do we sign,” to “Well, we’d like to discuss a few of these elements or some of this language,” all of which are acceptable and to be expected in the Security Council process.

I can’t tell you how long it will take. I wouldn't be surprised if it took a few weeks for this process to complete itself. But we believe we have a good, strong resolution, a Chapter 7 resolution which, again, sends a message to the Iranians, once passed, that: Continue to defy the international community and you will find yourself further and further isolated from that international system.

QUESTION: Who are in the, “Where do we sign,” category, would you say?

MR. MCCORMACK: What’s that?

QUESTION: Which countries are in the, “Where do we sign,” category?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m just – I was speculating. I was just speculating, Matt, that you can have a range of possible reactions based on past experience.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:08 p.m.)

DPB #21

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