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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 11, 2008



Referendum on Proposed Constitution
Regime’s Refusal to Engage Democratic and Ethnic Minority Representatives
Regime Defies Desires of Burmese People


Statement by Secretary Rice / Death of Tom Lantos
Death Penalty Sought for 9/11 Suspects / Department of Defense Has Details
U.S. Is Transparent About Procedures Governing Military Commissions
Readout of Secretary’s Meeting with Finnish Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva


Talks / No Agreed Upon Date / Working on Mutually Acceptable Date


Deputy Secretary Negroponte’s Meeting with Sudanese Foreign Minister


Fulbright Scholars and Peace Corps Are Not to Act on Behalf of U.S. Government
U.S. Does Not Ask Peace Corps Volunteers to Serve as Intelligence Assets
U.S. Policies Are Clear / Anything Different is Out of Line


Prince Bandar / Ongoing Civil Litigation Matter/ State Department Not Involved
U.S. Has Ongoing Cooperation with Saudi Government in Fighting Terrorism


Any Matter of Alleged Sexual Assault Taken Very Seriously / U.S. Working with Authorities on Issue


Gazprom / U.S. View on Using Commercial Levers to Achieve Political Gain is Clear


12:55 p.m. EST

View Video

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I have a couple of opening statements here. The first one is from me. We’ll have the full statement out for you after the briefing regarding the Burmese regime announces referendum.

“The Burmese regime insistence on proceeding with a referendum on a proposed constitution, which was drafted in a closed process by a handpicked committee dominated by senior regime officials, is further evidence of its refusal to pursue a meaningful and time-bound dialogue with Burma’s democratic and ethnic minority representatives.”

And we also – there’s also some other material on it we’ll release to you after the briefing, but I think that’s really the guts of it.

The second one is a statement from the Secretary. And I know that you have already heard from her in person upstairs regarding the death of Tom Lantos, but I wanted to read for you a written statement from her that we’ll have out after the briefing as well – a record of that.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing early this morning of Tom Lantos. Tom Lantos was a genuine American hero. He came to America as a refugee from totalitarianism and he became a remarkable contributor to American political, civic and cultural life. Tom spoke to the best of American ideals. He was a staunch defender of freedom and an implacable foe of tyranny. No one could miss the compelling moral force of his vision, and yet he spoke unfailingly in an open and inviting and gentlemanly manner. America has lost a most eloquent voice and a true foreign policy leader, and I have lost an inspirational mentor and a dear friend.”

With that, I’m happy to take your questions. Sylvie.

QUESTION: Do you have any detail on the talks, the Iraq – the talk with Iran on Iraq which are supposed to start next week?

MR. MCCORMACK: I checked into that. We don’t yet have an agreed-upon date. I think the Iraqi Foreign Minister will be institution that announces a date. If I become aware of one even before such an announcement that’s agreed upon, I’ll be happy to tell you about it. We do not yet have an agreed-upon date, but I think we’re now trying to work on one that is mutually convenient and acceptable.

QUESTION: Have you agreed on the level?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that will – that falls into the category of nothing’s done till everything’s done. It’s quite likely that this would be at the Ambassador Ries level, which is one – at the working group level, one step below Ambassador Crocker. But again, nothing’s done till everything’s done. We’ll let you know, you know, all the details of this – the date, location and who’s going to be attending.

QUESTION: Just to kind of go back to the Burma statement --


QUESTION: -- is it much longer than what you read?

MR. MCCORMACK: A couple paragraphs. Do you want to hear it?


MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Here again:

Than Shwe’s regime continues to arrest, prosecute and imprison peaceful political activists. No referendum held under these conditions – a pervasive climate of fear in which virtually the entire population, including Aung San Suu Kyi, is under detention, and the Burmese people have not been allowed to participate in or even discuss the drafting of the constitution – can be free, fair or credible. For the Burmese political process to have any legitimacy and any hope of creating conditions for the resolution of the country’s many problems, it must be made fully inclusive and open to genuine participation.

“On October 11th, 2007, the United Nation Security Council called on the regime to cooperate with Secretary General Ban’s Good Offices Mission to release all political prisoners and to create the necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all concerned parties and ethnic groups.

“Than Shwe’s regime continues to defy the desire of the Burmese people and the international community for a credible transition to democracy in Burma.”

That is the whole thing, the whole statement, nothing but the statement --

QUESTION: So you --

MR. MCCORMACK: -- and nothing but the statement.

QUESTION: And – okay.


QUESTION: Has Deputy Secretary Negroponte met with the Sudanese Foreign Minister, and did he raise the attacks -- the new attacks in Darfur?

MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't check with him before I came down here because I think they were scheduled to have a lunchtime meeting. I'm not sure if it's over or not. But I did speak with the Deputy Secretary this morning, who assured me that this was going to be on his agenda. And I would expect also that when the Secretary has a meeting with the Sudanese Foreign Minister tomorrow that she will do the same.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Do you have -- this came up last week on Friday, the Bolivia situation with a Fulbright scholar saying that --


QUESTION: Well, President Morales now says that this security officer who was involved in this is an undesirable person.


QUESTION: Can you -- what's the status of this whole situation and where is this guy now?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you exactly where the individual in question is. Tom, did you talk about this on Friday? I didn't --

MR. CASEY: No, I did not.

MR. MCCORMACK: All right. Very -- well, we'll check to see exactly where the individual was. But quite clearly, this was not in the parameters of the kind of briefings that we give to Fulbright scholars or Peace Corps volunteers. Very clearly, we have a policy with respect to Fulbright scholars that they are not to act in any way on behalf of the United States Government. They are there on an exchange program. It is not our policy to ask Fulbright scholars to act on behalf or in any way, shape or form on behalf of the United States Government. They're there for a very specific reason. That's an educational exchange.

With respect to the Peace Corps, the United States Government has a very clear policy that we do not ask Peace Corps volunteers in any way, shape or form to serve as intelligence assets, to in any way have a relationship with our intelligence community. That applies worldwide and that should be very clear. It's unfortunate that in this particular case that there have been questions raised about those policies. But those policies are clear. These are guidelines, and anybody suggesting any modification or even playing close to those lines is themselves out of line.


QUESTION: Did you have time to check if the State Department is in any way involved in the situation of the former Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar?

MR. MCCORMACK: I did an initial check on that and the preliminary response indicates that this is an ongoing civil litigation matter and we have not played a role in it. If there's any modification to that, anybody comes to me with some new information or I dig up some new information, I'll be happy to pass it along. But at present, it would seem it's a civil matter that we have not yet been -- that we have not been involved in.

QUESTION: A follow-up to that. But are you concerned about it because there have been suggestions, I think -- I've read reports that the MI6 warned that if, you know, these inquiries continue that the Saudis would stop, for example, their intelligence cooperation with the United States.

MR. MCCORMACK: This is coming from the United States?

QUESTION: That's what I read in the paper.



MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I -- look, you know, I can't comment on what the MI6 is saying. We have good cooperation ongoing with the Saudi Government on a number of different areas in fighting terrorism, whether that's cutting off the finances for terrorists or breaking up terrorist cells. The Saudi Government has much at stake in fighting the war on terror as we do. It's as much a threat to them as it is to us. They clearly understand that, so we have good ongoing cooperation with the Saudi Government on it.

It's not to say that in every respect it's perfect. But it is ongoing. It is robust and we're always looking for ways that we can improve the cooperation.


QUESTION: Any comment or reaction on the alleged rape of the 14-year-old girl in Okinawa by a U.S. Marine?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I’ve seen – I’ve seen the reports about this and I understand that this – there are accusations that are out there that have been – let me check on the status of the individual. I think he’s in our – I think he is in our custody* -- pre-indictment custody, yes.

*Spokesman meant to say, “in Japanese custody”.

And look, any matter of alleged sexual assault is one that we take very seriously and we are working very closely with the authorities, the local authorities, on the issue.

QUESTION: Following up your comments this morning about the United States’ decision to push ahead with prosecution and seek the death penalty of suspects of the 9/11 attacks, what impact will this have on U.S. diplomacy and also anything that you said you might be able to add as far as enhanced security concern?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, first of all, the Department of Defense, which is running the process, can fill you in on the details of military commissions and these particular indictments and these particular cases. We have endeavored, as best we can, to be transparent about the rules and procedures that govern these military commissions. You can talk to the Department of Defense about what sort of ongoing access they are going to have to the proceedings, how open they are going to be able to do. There’s a need to balance security issues with according these individuals the rights given to them under the Military Justice – Military Commission’s rules, regulations, and laws.

I guess – and I don’t know that we have heard back from anybody at this point, if there has been any official reaction from states around the world. The one thing that I would say is, inasmuch as these individuals were involved in the plot that resulted in 9/11, the deaths of 3,000 not only Americans, but foreign – foreign citizens, these individuals are being accorded a measure of justice that they did not accord those 3,000 people that were killed on that day, not to mention the other innocents around the world that – whose killings they were, in some way, shape were involved in.

So this is our attempt to try to have a fair, rational judicial proceeding that is dealing with individuals that have absolutely no regard for innocent human life or any of the accepted norms of international civil behavior.

QUESTION: Anything about enhanced security at U.S. embassies?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check; not that I’m aware of. Not that I’m aware of.


QUESTION: Sean, the Russian gas company Gazprom is engaged in some, I would say, sort of brass knuckle negotiations with the Ukrainian Government in recent hours about past debts, threatening to shut off supplies. Is that anything that’s caught your attention?

MR. MCCORMACK: I know – I know it’s something that we have been monitoring. It’s a situation that we’ve been monitoring. At this point, we’ll see how that negotiation process plays out. We’ve made it quite clear in the past our views as to the use of commercial levers to try to achieve some political purpose in the end. But at this point, I’m not going to get into any further reaction. Let’s see how the discussions turn out, and we may have something further to say at the conclusion of those discussions or not. We’ll see how they turn out.


QUESTION: Very briefly, find out anything about how many people will be involved in election observer teams from the United States?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I didn’t. We’ll try to get that for you. Sorry.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout of the Finnish foreign ministers meeting with the Secretary?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. They had a good discussion. They talked to – talked about Kosovo. They talked about Afghanistan and the NATO commitment to Afghanistan, the importance of supporting that mission; talked about Russia, the state of Russia -- politics in Russia, the U.S.-Russia and European-Russian relations. They all talked a bit about the OSCE and the important role -- he is Chairman-in-Office for the OSCE -- talked about the various functions and roles of the OSCE and the importance of election monitoring function and the other work that the OSCE does. And that was really it. It was a good, good conversation.

QUESTION: Can you share any specifics on the Russian elections, for instance, (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, they just – it’s very common when the Secretary gets together with her counterparts, if somebody has a particular interest, has recently been to Russia or has some reason to follow the state of politics in Russia, that she asks them for their assessment, how they see things, and she shares her views as well. But those are private conversations that we’re not going to divulge any details of in public.

QUESTION: Did they come to any consensus on Kosovo, the when and the how?

MR. MCCORMACK: They talked about Kosovo.

QUESTION: Did they come to any consensus on it?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know what our policy is.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:06 p.m.)

DPB #256

Released on February 11, 2008

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