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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 2, 2008

INDEX:

SUDAN

Murder of Two State Department Employees: Granville and Rahama
Joint DS, FBI Team to Investigate / Details Still Unclear
Warden Message / Travel Warning / Urge Vigilance
Embassy Operations Continuing as Normal

KENYA

Secretary’s Calls to Kibaki, Odinga / Urging Political Reconciliation
Concerns about Irregularities in Vote Counting
Election Commission Has Spoken
Importance of Acting within Kenyan Law, Constitution
Joint Statement with FM Miliband / International Pressure to Stop Killing
Embassy Contingency Plans / No Evacuation Request
Possibility of Political Differences along Ethnic Lines
Calling on Both Sides to Come Together / Not Pointing Fingers

PAKISTAN

Pleased at Announcement of New Election Date / Election Preparations
Scotland Yard to Assist Bhutto Investigation / U.S. Ready to Assist if Requested
U.K. Assistance is Positive / Concerted International Response
Happy to Work with Whomever Will Help Solve Problems

EAST AFRICA

Process of Building a Democracy
Uganda / Ethiopia / Kenya / Continuous Political Process

SAUDI ARABIA

Comments on Detention of Blogger / Importance of Freedom of Expression

NORTH KOREA

A/S Hill Plans to Visit Northeast Asia
Declaration / Slow Pace of Disablement / Not Lowering the Bar
Delay Caused by Technical Questions over Cooling of Fuel Rods
U.S. Obligations / Heavy Fuel Oil / In-Kind Assistance

LIBYA

Secretary Meeting with Libyan FM / Bilateral Relationship / International Issues
Human Rights and Democracy in Libya / Political Dissidents
U.S.-Libya Energy Dialogue

IRAQ

Refugee Admissions / Goals Remain Unchanged


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:45 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the first briefing of the new year. And it's with great sadness that I note at this first briefing the murder of two of our employees in Sudan: John Granville, 33, worked for the Agency for International Development in Khartoum; as well as a Foreign Service National Abdelrahman Abbas Rahama, 39. Both were employed at the Embassy in Sudan and they were murdered yesterday. Certainly, a note of sadness for all of us. We like to begin the year on a hopeful note, and this was a sad note that we began the year with. And our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of these two individuals.

We are taking action to determine, working with the Sudanese Government, who is responsible for these murders. We have Diplomatic Security and the FBI are going to be sending a joint team to Sudan to investigate the murder, collect any evidence they possibly can, to work closely with the Sudanese Government to determine who is responsible for these murders and bring them to justice. There's going to be an initial team comprised of people who are in the region, stationed in the region, going to Khartoum to -- that will comprise the initial wave of the investigation. Then you're going to have people for -- from Washington who are going to be traveling there as well. They are going to be right now in the process -- they are right now in the process of getting their visas, so we'll try to keep you update as we know more on that investigation.

And also just one other note for you. The Secretary did speak -- Secretary Rice did speak with Mr. Odinga and President Kibaki in Kenya, and she urged both -- well, she did speak with Mr. Odinga. She will speak with President Kibaki. That is a scheduled call. We're working to put that together now. She's going to urge both gentlemen to do everything that they possibly can in the name of political reconciliation in Kenya to bring an end to any political tensions that might give rise to violence in that country. We have seen a number of people that have died in the wake of the decision by the election commission to declare a victor. We still have some concerns about the irregularities involved in the vote counting.

That said, it's important for Kenya to move beyond this. It's important for the Kenyan people and for their democracy to work within the confines of the law and constitution to find a political way forward and most importantly to put an end to the violence.

And with that, I'm happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Can I -- just on Sudan, before we go into Kenya.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Where are these people going to be coming from? Presumably, not Nairobi since they might be otherwise occupied or unable to --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know exactly which posts they are coming from, Matt. But we will have DS people as well as FBI people. For example, we have legal attaches that are posted around the world. The FBI has legal attaches that are posted around the world. So they're going to draw on the appropriate resources so we can get people in there as soon as we possibly can. It's important to get to these locations, interview these people while -- interview any people while memories may be a little bit more fresh and collect any evidence before, over time, it dissipates.

And then we're also going to -- and immediately following on, we're going to have people coming in there from Washington. It's just a matter of physically getting there, getting them their visas, et cetera. So we wanted to make sure we had people in there as soon as possible.

QUESTION: And the Sudanese have agreed to allow them to come in?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: And do you have any indication, any preliminary indication as to what actually happened?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we don't. There are a lot of different reports out there. I can't vouch for any of the specific details. I think we're going to wait until we have the investigators on the ground, they're able to go through, look at the evidence, talk to people and try to determine -- put it -- put together a picture, first of all, of what happened, and then use that to try to determine who's responsible and then bring those individuals to justice.

QUESTION: At the moment, though, the Embassy staff is going to remain at this -- there isn't going to be any drawdown?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. There is -- we did issue a Warden message and we also issued a Travel Warning, again reminding people that these sorts of things can happen in places like Khartoum and just to be vigilant in their travel. But the embassy operations consider -- continue as normal. Of course, any time you have something like this happen, you're going to have the embassy take a look at its security procedures and take any appropriate steps that they think they might need to take in order to best protect their people.

QUESTION: Have there been any threats against Americans, either government or non-government personnel in Sudan?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of anything specific.

QUESTION: Sean, are you able to say at all whether it was at least not random? I mean, have you concluded yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, Libby, we can't tell. We don't know. We don't know what the motivation was behind -- behind these individuals committing these murders. So we're just going to have to wait to see what the key results of the investigations tell us about that.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you know if any witnesses have come forward?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any details in the investigation at this point beyond what I shared with you.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Yes sir, but you are concerned about the vote in Kenya?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you don't accept the outcome?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. The election commission has spoken on this matter. It is now up to the individuals in the political parties involved to come to some political reconciliation, to negotiate a political settlement to what are very clear differences. And it's very important for the Kenyan people that this happened and that these leaders take this opportunity and this moment to stand up and do what is best for the Kenyan people and for Kenya.

I know it's a hard circumstance and I know that there are a lot of historical tensions that have led them to this point, but there have been too many people who have died as a result of this violence which has sprung from these political differences. And it's important that these political leaders do what is best on behalf of the Kenyan people and for -- behalf of Kenya.

QUESTION: Can I just quickly follow up? Do you think (inaudible) it would be wise for Mr. Odinga to hold this political rally tomorrow?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I am not going to -- I'm not going to try to dictate specific events for one side or the other what they should or should not do. What -- they are going to be in the best -- they are going to be in the best position to determine what is best for Kenya, for the Kenyan political system, for Kenyan democracy and to help bring about a peaceful resolution to these differences. So that is not going to -- that is not for me to say. Certainly, peaceful political expression is the fundamental right, but it's not for the United States to endorse a particular rally or not. It's -- what we're looking for is a political reconciliation between these two parties led by these two men.

QUESTION: Will Secretary Rice request a vote recount in her talks with the president?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think what needs to happen now is that within the confines of Kenyan democracy and their laws and their constitution, that you have a political settlement of this. Surely, while the differences may be great between these two political parties and these two individuals, they can, on behalf of their country and in the best interests of their country, come up with a political settlement.

QUESTION: Sean.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: I'm a little bit confused as to how -- what the U.S. position is on the election and on the president being sworn in for a second term. If you do have these problems or concerns about serious irregularities, was it appropriate for the president to be sworn in to a second term while these – while these things are outstanding?

MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, you know -- Matt, that has happened, okay, and we are at the point now where the election commission has spoken and you have certain events that have taken place as a result of that. What needs to happen now is that these two individuals need to find a way to bridge the political differences that remain between them, meaning we know – we know that there were some irregularities with respect to the election. That comes not only from us. It comes from the EU as well as others.

But we are where we are right now. We are at this point and the critical issue is that you have people that are dying as a result of these political differences. That needs to stop. That needs to come to an end. And we believe the way you get to that is to have these two leaders work together to bridge these political differences, to resolve the political differences in a way consistent with their laws and constitution so that you don't have people in the streets dying.

QUESTION: But -- well, fair enough, but I mean, it's not just political differences we're talking about here. It's possible criminal --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- you know, manipulation of the vote.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, if there are, in fact, cases of that, Matt, then we would urge the Kenyan officials to deal with those within the confines of Kenyan law.

QUESTION: Well, the --

MR. MCCORMACK: And that the process will play out according to their laws and according to their political system. We can't dictate an outcome and we certainly, from this distance, cannot dictate people turning back the hands of time. We are where we are. That said, there needs to be some mutually acceptable political reconciliation and political solution to the differences between them.

QUESTION: But does the United States regard Mr. Kibaki's reelection as a legitimate reelection?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the Kenyan political process has unfolded as it will. It is not for us to play a role of supra electoral commission or to try to play a judicial role in this particular matter. We are where we are. And what is most urgent right now is that there be some political steps within the political arena to try to bridge differences to stop this killing.

QUESTION: Well, does the United States regard President Kibaki as the legitimately elected president of Kenya?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Matt, the -- I'm not going to -- I'm not going to get into trying to -- trying to make judgments from this far away. The election commission has spoken. The election is finalized.

QUESTION: Well, it sounds like when you say that it's time for the Kenyan people to "move beyond this," that you want them to move beyond this with the results that were announced by the commission with everyone -- with people accepting them?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we're not trying to dictate in any way, shape or form what the solution will be.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, short of dictating what the solution should be, do you accept the results?

MR. MCCORMACK: The election commission has spoken and I'm not in a position --

QUESTION: Well, the election commission in North Korea speaks too, but you don't --

MR. MCCORMACK: I would hardly compare the two --

QUESTION: Election commissions around the world -- forget about North Korea. Election commissions around the world speak.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: The United States does not always agree with what they have to say. It's not -- and I'm not asking, and I don't think anyone asked you for what the solution should be.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: But if you -- just saying that the election commission has spoken doesn't mean to me that you have concerns about what they said.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think at this point, Matt, saying anything beyond that is going to -- can be construed in a lot of different ways both here as well as, more importantly, in Kenya. And I'm not going to go beyond that. I am not going to in any way from this podium say anything that might possibly play into the hands of anybody who wants to try to obstruct a political reconciliation between these two parties. So that's the reason why I'm not going to say any more than I have at this point. What's important is that there be action from leaders in Kenya to stop the killing.

QUESTION: Apparently, Senator Obama spoke with Secretary Rice about Kenya yesterday. Can you tell us who called who and what they spoke about?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't talked to her about it. So if she wants to have me talk about it or if she wants to talk about it herself, we'll pass that along to you. I haven't talked to her about that.

QUESTION: I'm just wondering whether he had any sort of special role to play given his Kenyan heritage.

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, she talks to a lot of United States senators.

Charlie.

QUESTION: In addition to the telephone calls the Secretary is making, she pledged full diplomatic and political efforts to defuse what's happening in Kenya.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Can you say what additional measures she and others are taking on behalf of the United States?

MR. MCCORMACK: Her Ambassador is hard at work on the ground and she has also been in touch with Foreign Secretary Miliband. They issued a joint statement last night. We are also working with African leaders to see what can be done on the continent so that the leader -- political leaders in Kenya feel the pressure from all sides, from the wider international community as well as from their neighbors, to try to reach some political accommodation and to bring about an end to this killing.

Yes. No, I pointed to this fellow here.

QUESTION: The Pakistanis have announced an election date. Do you have a reaction to that? And secondly, do you have concern this -- concerns about this election being free and fair, as Musharraf says it will be?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're pleased that they have scheduled an election date, a firm date that everybody within the Pakistani political system can have confidence in that the elections are going to take place. It's terribly important in the current circumstances where you have so much political turbulence within the Pakistani political system -- we have talked about that from the very beginning -- the importance of scheduling that date.

What the Pakistani Government and the Pakistani officials need to do now is to make best use of that time between now and February 18th when these elections are scheduled to take place to make sure that independent media is able to operate, to make sure that those who want to peacefully participate in the political process can do so, that any restrictions on political parties are lifted. You need to allow those candidates and those who -- those who are legitimate participants in the political process to access that free media, and to make sure that you have the most free, fair, and transparent electoral process in the run-up to the election, on election day, as well as after election day as votes are being counted. So we're pleased that the Pakistani electoral commission has scheduled February 18th as the date.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: The party of Benazir Bhutto has demanded an inquiry by an independent commission under the United Nation. What is the position of the United -- position of United States Government on this request?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I believe that President Musharraf has announced that the Pakistani Government is going to seek the assistance of Scotland Yard in conducting an inquiry into Benazir Bhutto's assassination. And certainly, that is a positive step. We stand ready to assist if we are requested to do so. If we can provide technical assistance and that is wanted, of course we are going to do so. But I think it's within the competence of that and -- competence and the scope of that investigation to determine all of the facts and to determine who is responsible for this assassination.

QUESTION: Sean, can I --

MR. MCCORMACK: On the same topic?

QUESTION: Still on Pakistan.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. We'll go here and then there.

QUESTION: Was the U.S. involved in these discussions at all with -- that led to Scotland Yard being tapped for the investigation?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a decision by the Pakistani Government. We are, of course -- we, of course, have been in contact with the Pakistani Government on a nearly continuous basis over the past week or so. But this is a decision by the Pakistani Government.

Yeah.

QUESTION: And just to clarify that, the offer has been made, was -- but there's been no response or the --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, it's early days here. There was only an announcement what, two, three hours ago, looking down at my clock here. So I think in the days ahead, if there is a -- days or weeks ahead, there's a request for assistance, certainly, we're going to offer it up and make sure that we are -- we actually follow through on that pledge.

QUESTION: And just to follow up, Musharraf says that terrorists were to blame for the assassination of former Prime Minister Bhutto. Does the United States agree with that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, look, since we do actually -- we have an announcement of this investigation with the assistance of Scotland Yard, I'm not going to comment on any particular claims that the Pakistani Government has made or the evidence that they have offered up. I think that that will be very important in the course of this investigation that that evidence be made available to Scotland Yard as well as the Pakistani officials who are conducting the investigation.

I certainly have no reason to contradict the claims, but I certainly would not draw any conclusions at this point, especially in the -- considering the fact that you have, just within hours, the announcement of this investigation, let's wait for that to take place and see what the results are.

QUESTION: Sean, has it occurred to anyone in this building or perhaps in the Secretary's conversations that both these two situations in Pakistan and Kenya are unfolding in former British colonies?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know -- it's certainly --

QUESTION: Well -- I'm sorry, the --

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a simple fact. I don't know if we've drawn any particular linkages.

QUESTION: Well, you're welcoming Scotland Yard's involvement, the Secretary put out a joint statement with Foreign Secretary Miliband; is the U.S. happy to let Britain take the lead in dealing with its -- with these problems that are coming up in its former provinces?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I guess the electrician's made a judgment on your question. Look, I don't think we draw any particular linkages in history here with what we're doing in the present day. We work with the Brits, we work with others on all variety of international issues and we're trying to be international problem-solvers and we're going to work with those partners who may be in the best position to help resolve various issues and who share a common vision. Very often, that's the Brits for a lot of different reasons that have nothing to do with their particular past and history.

QUESTION: Well, they were also both members of the Commonwealth.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: At least Pakistan was.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: I'm not sure if they still are a member in full standing or not, but I mean, is the United States happy to let Britain or the Commonwealth play a significant role in two countries that -- yes, that are former British colonies, but are -- you know, key --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think they're --

QUESTION: -- U.S. allies and have made, you know, no secret about that -- of their support for -- especially the war on terrorism?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I'm not sure where you're going with this, Matt, but we're happy to work with whomever shares our interest in trying to, in each separate and distinct case, resolve a problem. In the Pakistan case, there's a problem you* need to resolve in terms of conducting the most thorough possible investigation with the best possible technical means. In Kenya, you have a clear political crisis that's resulting in a lot of violence and death. And we want to do what we can in order to help solve those problems.

In every single case, it is not going to be the United States that is necessarily in the best position, for a variety of different reasons, to either take the lead or to be the primary problem-solver. In those cases, we're going to -- we're going to assist, we're going to play a different kind of role, but it's going to be on a case-by-case basis.

QUESTION: Okay. And leaving Pakistan out of this for a second, in East Africa over the past two or three years, there seems to be a disturbing trend and I'm wondering if anyone here has picked up on it, in that serious U.S. allies, starting with Meles in Ethiopia and Museveni in Uganda and now Kibaki in Kenya, have all held elections on which the voting day was okay and then there were serious questions, serious allegations of irregularities in the results. And all three of the -- all three of these people have stayed in despite -- and in Ethiopia the violence was extreme, perhaps not as extreme as in Kenya now. But what does the Africa Bureau make of this turn away -- apparent turn towards authoritarianism?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, I haven't talked to Jendayi about any particular linkages. Look -- and I certainly don't sign on to your use of the idea of authoritarianism. Look, the process of building a democracy doesn't happen overnight. And as you noted, there is progress in terms of the days before election day being acceptable, being better than they had been. There are still some problems on election day, as it may turn out.

And I haven't educated myself really about the case of Uganda, so I can't speak to that. I understand the Ethiopia situation and I think that there have been some political discussions within the confines of their law and their constitution that have at least in part resolved some of those political differences. I think that's an ongoing process.

And in Kenya, it's going to be part of a continuum. It's going to be part of a process. This -- you know, this violence and the irregularities certainly do not move forward the process. The hope, though, is that you can have a mature political system in which these -- in which the major political actors can, within the confines of their law and their democracy and their political system, take a step back and do what is best on behalf of their country. That's what we're hoping to see in Kenya. I can't draw any of these particular linkages that you're drawing, Matt. I certainly haven't talked to Jendayi about it. I'm not sure that she would share that opinion, but I'm not going to speak for her at this point.

QUESTION: On Kenya again?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Any plans to evacuate nationals, U.S. nationals from Kenya? Any contingency plans?

MR. MCCORMACK: At this point -- we always have contingency plans. In that regard, we're a little bit like the Pentagon. We have books and binders on the shelf, you know, to deal with a lot of different contingencies.

At this point today, the Embassy was open. Tomorrow -- open to the public. It will continue to function tomorrow with Embassy employees reporting there and working there. It will be closed to the public tomorrow, I believe, because of the planned peaceful demonstration that is taking place. But we're going to take it on a day-by-day basis.

QUESTION: But I mean other nationals, not just government personnel.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. At this point, there has not been. But you know, look, at any time if an ambassador after convening his or her top people in the embassy decide that they need to go to ordered departure or authorized departure, they're going to talk to Washington. And I think nine cases out of ten, they're going to get the green light to do that. I am not aware of any request from Ambassador Ranneberger to do that in this case. If he does have such a request, of course, we're going to talk immediately with him.

Yeah.

QUESTION: A question about both Kenya and Pakistan, separate questions. On Kenya, what indication do you have, if any, of the -- of any ethnic element to this or tribal element to the conflict there?

And on Pakistan, was there -- in any discussions involving the U.S. related to a potential investigation, was there any discussion that perhaps the UK would be in a better position to be viewed as more impartial in an investigation in Pakistan than the U.S., and maybe that would be the better route for --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let me -- on the latter question, let me just say this is a good outcome. It's a decision that the Pakistani Government has made. The UK obviously offered this assistance and we believe that this outcome is a good outcome. Like I said, we're going to offer any assistance that might be needed if people want to draw upon our technical capabilities.

In terms of -- in terms of the first, that starts to get a little bit into Kenyan politics, but I think keen observers of Kenyan politics know that there is some -- there are identity politics that occur within their political system and that you're seeing the political differences play out in some cases along ethnic lines. And that's clearly a dangerous mixture, and that is the reason why the Secretary has been on the phone before the elections, after the elections, and you have a concerted international response to the situation so that you do not -- you do not have this situation getting to the point where you have even more death and violence. Now is the time to try to stop that.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Just back to Pakistan. You said it would be -- it's a good outcome that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- Scotland Yard is investigating. Do you acknowledge, then, that --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think they're assisting in the investigation.

QUESTION: Assisting. Do you acknowledge, then, that a greater U.S. role would have been viewed unfavorably in Pakistan amongst the people?

MR. MCCORMACK: What I -- I'm going to say that the outcome, as it is, is a good one.

QUESTION: You just mentioned the Secretary speaking to Kibaki and Odinga. When was it before -- was it Christmas Day that she called them?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me see if I have --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) tied down in terms of the actual day that -- before the election.

MR. MCCORMACK: We have -- we have -- it is on Saturday, December 22nd, so before -- that Saturday before Christmas.

Yeah, Charlie.

QUESTION: Another topic for you?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Did you have Kenya, sir? Were you still asking about Kenya?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.

QUESTION: Just the last one on Kenya. President Kibaki has currently asked the opposition to talk about this situation in Kenya and Raila Odinga refused. Are you aware if the Secretary had asked him to reconsider that decision?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, you're asking me to start pointing fingers about who is responsible for not doing what. Well, what we're doing is both sides -- we're calling on both sides to come together. It's not important what the differences may have been between them or what -- you know, what political slights may have been brought upon one party by the other. That's not important. What's important now is doing what's best on behalf of Kenyans in Kenya and that is to come together, reach some political settlement and some political compromise that really diffuses some of the political and ethnic violence that you're seeing take place right now.

Yeah, Charlie.

QUESTION: Any reaction, please, to the Saudi Arabian detention of a popular blogger?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I saw that and let me talk to folks about that to understand the details of it a little bit better. Clearly, freedom of expression is cornerstone to any democracy. Now, you know, Saudi Arabia is in a -- undergoing a process of political reform. It's going to move at its own pace, but clearly, freedom of expression is something that is a cornerstone of our democracy and we speak out on behalf of wherever we see it inhibited. And that said, let me understand a little bit better some of the details of this particular case and we'll get you something.

Yeah.

QUESTION: New topic, I guess?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: North Korea; we know what happened on January 1st and didn't happen.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Can you sketch out for us what Chris Hill has -- maybe has already done or will be doing this week?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, he's going to be headed out to the region to do his Northeast Asia tour, leaving at the end of this week. I can't tell you whether that's Thursday or Friday. We'll try to get you some details on that. I don't know his stops, but I would anticipate that he's going to do the usual tour. I will see if he has any planned interactions with North Korean officials at this point. I don't have the details of the Chris Hill January 2008 Northeast Asia tour yet, but we'll get them to you.

QUESTION: On the same note, do you have any more details about the itinerary and agenda for Deputy Secretary Negroponte's trip to China in the middle of the month?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not yet. We'll -- more to follow on that.

Yeah, Gollust.

QUESTION: Would you say you're becoming increasingly --

MR. MCCORMACK: Sorry about the Browns, man.

QUESTION: No, it was a good season.

MR. MCCORMACK: It was a good season, (inaudible) since.

QUESTION: Would you say that you're becoming increasingly apprehensive about the lack of a declaration?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I think everybody knows that -- a healthy appreciation for the pace at which this process moves. Sometimes it moves according to schedule, sometimes it moves in what some might consider tectonic or glacial fashion, but it does move forward. But the fact that it doesn't progress at the pace that we would perhaps desire doesn't mean that people aren't working hard to try to make it work. Sometimes, the reason why it moves a little bit more slowly than we would have hoped is because we're doing new things and we're doing hard things.

The fact that the North Koreans have agreed to provide a full and complete declaration is something new. This is groundbreaking, just as it is new that they are disabling these facilities at Yongbyon. And that process continues. The reports we get back from the team are that that process is continuing. Now there are some technical questions about the cooling of the fuel rods. We want to make sure that that happens, it happens in an appropriate way. So that was the reason behind the delay in terms of the disablement that it is not completed by December 31st.

In terms of the declaration, we're going to keep hammering away on it. And we're not lowering the bar. North Korea has to come out with a full and complete declaration. Nobody is holding them to an unfair statement. They set out to provide a full and complete declaration, not to the United States but to the other five members of the six-party talks. And the other members of the six-party talks are going to hold them -- hold them to that. No standard, no higher, no lower, but just what they said that they were going to do.

QUESTION: Is the Deputy Secretary heading to the region as well?

MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Deputy Secretary Negroponte --

MR. MCCORMACK: He's going to -- that's what Kirit was talking about. He's going to be headed out there. I don't have a date for you, but he will be headed out to China, I believe. I think there was some discussion of that.

QUESTION: Before the bell rings --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, we got plenty of time.

QUESTION: Are you guys still encouraged, though? Are you still encouraged by the North Koreans? I mean, is -- though they haven't finished the declaration, are you still seeing a positive trend towards one?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, yeah, you still have the continuation of the disablement process. The teams on the ground there who are engaged in the disablement process helping with technical assistance. The disablement process -- that's continuing. That continues to move forward and that's -- and that's good. That's a good sign.

We're trending in the right direction. I mean, remember where we were, what, not quite a year ago with the Banco Delta Asia. Well, that took a lot longer than everybody would have hoped, but it did get resolved. And again, we're trying to do new things here, new things in a positive sense and a responsible way. It's not as though we're -- we are adhering to the pathway that was laid out back in September '05. And you know, would we have hoped that we could have been further along in this process? Yeah. We do. We do.

QUESTION: Without a declaration itself?

MR. MCCORMACK: A declaration itself? Well, again, we'll see. You know, we'll see what the final declaration says. That's what really matters. And we'll make a judgment once the North Koreans say this is our final declaration. We'll see what gets handed over to, I would expect, the Chinese as the chair of the six-party talks and we'll make an assessment at that point -- a final public assessment, at least.

QUESTION: Are there any U.S. -- any measures the U.S. is considering in response to the failure to meet the deadline on the declaration, or are there any corresponding measures such as the fuel shipments that you would sort of hold back on at this point till they produce something?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's going to be action for action. And they are doing things. They are making positive steps in some areas, as I noted with the disablement. There are some areas where they're still working on it.

I didn't -- I'll check for you what exactly -- check for you where exactly we stand in terms of our obligations as well as the other parties providing fuel, heavy fuel oil or in-kind assistance. I haven't read up on that recently. So we'll -- you know, we'll check for that. But we are still committed to fulfilling our obligations under the agreement, under the idea of action for action. So, but we'll check for you where we stand on that.

QUESTION: A switch in topics? On Turkey, the Turkish president is coming tomorrow to see Bush. What are the latest in conversations to cool things down on the border, across the border?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check for you. I haven't -- that's one I had not checked in on. I know that there's been a lot of activity involving our Ambassador on the ground, Ross Wilson, Ryan Crocker in Baghdad, Secretary Rice, obviously. So let me check for you to see where -- what the latest is.

QUESTION: Two brief ones along the same lines. The Secretary is going to be meeting with the Libyan Foreign Minister here tomorrow?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: You care to talk about that a little bit a day ahead of time?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. The thing is, you have to write a story a day ahead of time? Absolutely.

A lot of the same topics that they discussed when they got together last up in New York. Going to talk about the state of the bilateral relationship. It is evolving. It is changing in a positive way. There's still a lot to be done. There's still a lot to be done with respect to instituting basic freedoms within Libya. There's some -- there are still some outstanding issues with respect to claims by U.S. citizens. Those need to be resolved. These are things that need to be resolved in a constructive manner, and in order to realize the full potential of a changing U.S.-Libya relationship, these things need to be addressed.

They're also going to talk about a number of issues that are on the international agenda. Libya is now on the Security Council, so the Secretary is going to be talking to him about our agenda for the Security Council, what we hope to accomplish in the coming month as well as the coming years on the Security Council. So I expect that will be part of the conversation as well.

QUESTION: Will you raise the issue of Fathi El Hahmi, who's a --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) has written something in the Post today.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I noted that this morning. I would expect that the Secretary is going to talk about the importance of basic principles of human rights and democracy in Libya, including freeing political dissidents.

QUESTION: So she will mention --

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't talked to her on whether or not she will mention that specific case.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: But she has in the past talked about the importance of political and economic reform in Libya.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: The Foreign Minister is also supposed to be meeting with Sam Bodman, I think either today or tomorrow. Do you know -- can you tell us how much the -- energy will factor into her discussions with the Foreign Minister and what the --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. Usually -- I've been in, what, three meetings, two or three meetings now with her and the Foreign Minister. I haven't heard that come up once. That's -- obviously, there is a dialogue on energy that's taking place between the United States and Libya, and more importantly, between U.S. private sector firms and Libya. But I haven't heard it come up once. I'll let you know if it does tomorrow.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Matt.

QUESTION: One last one. Back in September, Sean, when the Secretary and Secretary Chertoff appointed the two bureaucratic brick-breakers for the Iraqi refugee situation, the Administration said that it was going to admit 12,000 in fiscal 2008.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: That's an average of about a thousand a month.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Since then, the numbers have steadily declined. Numbers of admissions are going down by about a hundred a month. So you got last month there was only 245. What exactly is the Administration doing to pick up the pace? Is it still trying to -- is 12,000 still the goal?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, goals are still the same. I just saw Jim Foley right before many of us departed for a holiday break and I know he's still on the job and it's actually a good point; we'll try to get him down or somebody down here to talk to you and give you a regular update on where we stand on that. I haven't checked in on it, Matt, this morning. I'll be happy to -- to see where we stand vis-à-vis the numbers. We haven't lowered the bar, though.

QUESTION: You can't confirm that under the (inaudible), though?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't, no.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: All right. Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 p.m.)

DPB # 1



Released on January 2, 2008

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