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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 15, 2008

INDEX:

ASIA

Secretary Rice’s Travel to Region
Assistant Secretary Hill’s Travel to Region

UNITED NATIONS

Secretary Rice’s Dinner with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

LEBANON

Ban Ki-Moon’s Announcements on Funding for Tribunal

PAKISTAN

Upcoming Election / U.S. View of Electoral Process
Encouragement for Moderate Forces
Electoral Observers / Assessing Election Fairness

GREECE

Secretary Rice’s Meeting with Foreign Minister

KOSOVO

U.S. Policy on Independence / Ahtisaari Plan

KENYA

Secretary Rice’s Schedule for Upcoming Trip


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:37 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I do have something to start with today -- travel announcements, long awaited. Secretary Rice will travel – she’ll travel to South Korea, China and Japan. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel February 23rd to the 28th to the Republic of Korea and the People’s Republic of China and Japan. Secretary Rice will lead a presidential delegation to attend the inauguration ceremony and inauguration dinner of incoming President Lee Myung-Bak on February 25th.

While in Seoul, she will also meet with senior officials to discuss regional security and bilateral relations, including the six-party talks and the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. In Beijing Secretary Rice will meet with senior Chinese officials to discuss a wide range of international, regional and bilateral, political and economic issues, including the six-party talks and Iran. And finally, Secretary Rice will arrive in Tokyo on February 27th to meet with Foreign Minister Komura and other officials. Consultations with this close ally will include exchanging views on a broad set of issues, including our security cooperation and the six-party talks and other global, regional and bilateral matters of mutual concern.

And for anybody who missed it, the White House did put out this morning the list of the official presidential delegation that will be attending the inauguration of the new President of South Korea. With that, I’m happy to take your questions.

Samir, you’re the winner.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary – did Secretary Rice meet with the Saudi Foreign Minister yesterday and if so, can you give us a readout?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not sure if she had a meeting with him. I know that there is – he is in town. He is having some meetings. I don’t have any particular readout of those meetings, though, Samir.

QUESTION: Can you give us a readout on the dinner yesterday with the Secretary General of the UN? Have they touched on the Lebanon tribunal?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, just very generally. They did talk about the tribunal and I know that the Secretary General made some very important announcements yesterday. We also made some very important announcements yesterday, concerning funding for the tribunal. I know that others are making contributions to the funding of the tribunal. This is a very important step forward and I would draw your attention to the announcement of the Secretary General yesterday regarding the tribunal. As for the dinner, they talked about a whole host of issues. I don’t – I’m not going to get into the specifics because they had a private conversation, but they did talk about Kosovo, they talked about Sudan, talked about Iran, Afghanistan, global climate change. And I’m sure there are a few other things that I’m missing here. But it was a really wide-ranging discussion. Of course, the Secretary General had a meeting with President Bush this morning as well.

QUESTION: Sean, just for the – just for clarification, you don’t know if the Secretary had a meeting with the Saudi Foreign Minister?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check to see. We’ll take a look at her schedule.

QUESTION: Would you and, you know, give us an answer one way or the other?

MR. MCCORMACK: I will.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: I will.

QUESTION: Could you tell us what the U.S. hopes and concerns are for the voting in Pakistan on Monday?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we talked about this for a few weeks. And ultimately the bottom line measure is for the Pakistani people to make. This has to be an election in which they have confidence. And we all will look for the election to produce a government in which the Pakistani people can have confidence.

As for the electoral process, we would say about this election what we would say about virtually any other election around the globe and that is you want to see the candidates have access to media. You want to see people be able to freely express themselves in a peaceful manner – free from threat of violence or intimidation. They should be able to peacefully assemble. There should be a set of procedures surrounding election day, which the Pakistani people can have confidence that their ballot will in fact be faithfully reflected as part of the results of the election. And of course, we are all hoping that the electoral process can play out in a way that is free from violence. Nobody wants to see – nobody wants to see that violence.

The election will take place on Monday. We have observers out on the ground. We have embassy observers that will be fanning out to various locations throughout the country. Statistically speaking, there’ll be a relatively small number of places that they are able to visit. When you look at the entire universe of polling places, there are going to be some members of Congress that are going to be on the ground there. They’ll be part of the observation mission, if you will.

The United States Government has provided quite a bit of funding for the training of the Pakistani election observers. And we were working with the Government of Pakistan to ensure that those observers would have access to polling places and be able to do their jobs. And of course, the international system has a number of different efforts underway as well.

QUESTION: I think Secretary Rice said the other day that she hoped that moderate voices would be represented in the new government. I wonder if you can elaborate on what she meant. Was that a reference, perhaps, to the late Benazir Bhutto’s party or any elaboration --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don’t want to go much further than what she said because I don’t want to, in any way, lend – give the perception at all that we are trying to influence the composition of the future Pakistani Government beyond encouraging moderate forces within the Pakistani political system to bond together, work together to help govern that country and put it back on the pathway to democratic rule, a democratic rule that is committed to working on behalf of the Pakistani people and to broadening and deepening political and economic reform.

Of course, prior to her assassination, we were encouraging President Musharraf and former Prime Minister Bhutto to work together in her political party, to work with his political party. I think that we would certainly continue to urge that as well as all other moderate voices within the Pakistani political system to work together for a better future for Pakistan.

QUESTION: Same subject?

QUESTION: You have the same subject? Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Pakistan’s Ambassador was observed coming into the building this morning. I wonder if you knew who he saw.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know. It wasn’t the Secretary. I’m not sure whom – with whom he met.

QUESTION: And (inaudible) I mean, the recording of the Pakistani attorney general predicting the elections will be rigged, are you following that up in any way?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven’t seen the report. Of course, if we would --

QUESTION: He says massively rigged.

MR. MCCORMACK: We have talked to the Pakistani officials and we have talked to – in public about the fact that these are elections in which the people need to have confidence. You need to – you need to – Pakistani people should have a reasonable degree of assurance that their ballot will, in fact, be reflected in the results and that they’re – the overall will of the Pakistani people is reflected in these results. Look, you know, there have been, in the past, irregularities within the Pakistani electoral process. One would hope that they can improve upon past performance in a sort of subtly increasing trend line. That is certainly our hope for all elections around the world in developing democracies. You hope that one election is a little bit better than the next. We’ll see. We’ll see what the results of this election yield.

QUESTION: Are there any foundations for hoping that they will be a bit better?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let’s see. I don’t want to prejudge the outcome of an election. We’ll see what happens on election day. We’ll, of course, have our – some of our own resources in – that will feed into making that judgment. We’ll be talking to others who are on the ground there and able to observe what occurs. And I would expect in the days that follow the election, we’ll have our own assessment of what kind of election this was, our own assessment of whether or not there were irregularities in the election and if there were, what were the extent of those. And I would fully expect that the participants, the Pakistani political parties, will have their own assessment of the electoral process as well.

QUESTION: Sean –

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Charlie.

QUESTION: -- you made reference to -- that we have spent a lot of money or funding for training of Pakistani elections or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you know how much, how many were trained?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me find out for you, we -- how much money we spent. I think roughly we trained about 20,000 electoral -- Pakistani electoral observers. It's a, you know, give or take. But we'll find out how much money we spent on the program.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you feel like you -- I mean, you also said you -- statistically, you wouldn't have that many people, you know, watching the election, although there are --

MR. MCCORMACK: U.S. Government employees.

QUESTION: Right. Do you feel, though, that you will be able to adequately assess how fair this election is?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll -- you know, we'll see. I think that taken as a whole the observation effort will probably provide a pretty good picture that will allow us to make some judgments about the process as a whole. I emphasize the fact that, you know, we're going to get input from our U.S. Government employees. We'll get input from Pakistanis as well as others in the international system who have observation efforts underway. So I think, taken as a whole, when you are able to collect all that data and observations and anecdotes, you'll probably get a pretty good picture of what kind of electoral process they've had.

Charles.

QUESTION: Well, I was going to say thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, no. We've got Lambros here, waving his hands behind you.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, any readout on yesterday's talks between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, including her talks with the Deputy Secretary John Negroponte and Under Secretary Nicholas Burns?

MR. MCCORMACK: I talked to neither the Under Secretary or the Deputy Secretary about their meetings.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: And Secretary Rice and the Greek Foreign Minister had a one-on-one meeting for about half an hour, then they called the staff in and they recapped their conversation in brief for about ten minutes afterwards. It focused on the issues that you would expect: They talked about Kosovo; they talked about NATO accession for Macedonia, as well as the sub-issue of the so-called name issue. And regarding that issue, the Secretary, as she did with the Macedonian Foreign Minister, urged the Greek Government to work in good faith with Ambassador Nimetz in that process.

QUESTION: And the last one. The UN Security Council yesterday failed to reach an agreement in order prevent the Serbian province of Kosovo from declaring independence soon. Any comment on this decision?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's been an ongoing two-year effort to try to find some mutually agreeable solution between Pristina and Belgrade. You know what our policy is. We support the implementation of the Ahtisaari plan. It's an issue that is, I would expect, going to be much discussed in the coming weeks. At this point, however, I don't have anything further to add than the simple restatement of what our policy is, and you know what that is.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Do you have any more clarity on the Secretary's schedule in Kenya yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't, other than the elements that were -- that we talked about yesterday: meeting with the president, meeting with Mr. Odinga, meeting with civil society, and of course former Secretary General Annan, some press component there. I’m sure – look, there’s probably going to be some on-the-ground changes, I would expect, and she’s going to remain flexible in her schedule. She’s going to do what she thinks she needs to do in order to be effective and support Secretary General – former Secretary General Annan in his efforts to bring the two parties together.

QUESTION: Flexible, like staying overnight or something?

MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't – at this point, I wouldn't foresee that. But I think the overall stay is now scheduled for about six hours, something on that order. You know, it could go – you know, it could go longer. You know, again, she views this as an important effort to support the mediation efforts of former Secretary General Annan and to bring these two parties together so there’s a political solution and therefore an end to the violence and an end to the risk of further outbreak of violence. So she’s going to – she’s going to do what she thinks she needs to do in order to accomplish those goals.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, in the back, yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any updates on Chris Hill’s schedule?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, yes, I’m glad you asked. I have it right here. You’re going to be sorry you asked; it’s sort of long. (Laughter.)

Okay, Chris’s travel schedule: Leave this Sunday, February 17th, for travel to Beijing; February 18th and 19th Seoul; February 20th in Tokyo, February 20th and 21st; then he’s going to come back to the U.S., go to Los Angeles for a speech at the Pacific Century Institute and on February 22nd, he’ll speak at the University of San Diego School of Peace Studies. He will leave from there, depart on the 23rd to go to Seoul to join with Secretary Rice and her traveling party and be with her at all three stops – Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo. Then from Tokyo, he will travel to Bangkok February 28th to March – through March 2nd; Hanoi, March 2nd through – and March 3rd; Ho Chi Minh City, March 3rd and 4th. The discussions there will be – will center on matters of bilateral and regional concern.

So my advice to you, if you want to talk to Chris Hill, catch him either today or tomorrow, then you can try to follow him around the globe.

QUESTION: He won’t be coming back to Washington --

MR. MCCORMACK: What’s that?

QUESTION: He won’t be coming back to Washington for --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don’t think we’re going to see him – see him for a while. March – he’ll be back in Washington on March 5th. But he’ll be back in the U.S., as I stated, for those stops in California. So we’ll put out an APB for him.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:52 p.m.)

DPB #29



Released on February 15, 2008

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