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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 3, 2008



Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s Security / Investigation
Secretary Rice’s Reaction to Assassination


On going Political Crisis / Urging Political Reconciliation
Encourage Sides to Open Lines of Communication
Secretary Rice Spoke with Javier Solana
Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer’s Trip


President Gul’s Upcoming Visit / Agenda for Meeting with Secretary Rice


Detained Internet Blogger
U.S. Communication with Saudis / Support for Freedom of Expression


Secretary Rice’s Meeting with Libyan Counterpart
Concerns of Pan Am 103 Victims’ Family Members


View Video

12:52 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don't have any opening statements, so we can get right to your questions. Whoever wants to start, the field is open.

QUESTION: And we're okay?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that open, Goyal. (Laughter.) Yes, go ahead, Goyal.

QUESTION: Happy new year.

MR. MCCORMACK: Happy new year to you.

QUESTION: Yes, sir. My question is that as far as so much has been written and said from here and from around the globe about the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto --


QUESTION: -- which was also known or called as the (inaudible) of India. My question is now that she had really -- I understand according to many reports and many Pakistanis here and in Pakistan, that she had the blessings from this building, from the Administration as far as going back to help and run the democratically elected government in Pakistan.

How come -- I mean, as for security, now so many questions are being raised that she was not provided security despite her call even here that she really needed security after her -- the first attack on her. And now President -- General Musharraf had said yesterday that there were no security lapse and she was provided all the security needed. So where are we heading now as far as this investigation is going on and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Is there a question in here?

QUESTION: Yes, sir.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Look, first of all, we all have mourned the loss of Benazir Bhutto. She talked eloquently about her reasons for wanting to go back to Pakistan. She spoke very eloquently about wanting to serve her country and to build up the democratic institutions within her country. Ultimately, decisions about security are going to have to be made by the individual most affected by it and the people around them. They are going to make their own decisions. Occasionally if asked, we provide our best advice. But it is not -- it is not for us to make those kinds of decisions for individuals who are foreign government officials or former government officials.

As far as the investigation, it is ongoing. President Musharraf has talked about the fact that he has asked for outside technical assistance. We think that's a good outcome. It's important for the Pakistani people to understand exactly what happened and who was responsible, to get to the bottom of that if it is at all possible. And we fully support President Musharraf in that goal. And he's chosen to take the route of seeking outside assistance in order to achieve that goal. It's a wise course that he's taken in the best interests of Pakistan and the Pakistani people. We'll see how that investigation plays out. I'm not going to try to jump in and handicap what the results of the investigation may be. I think from our perspective, for our purposes, it's best to let the investigation unfold and see what it brings.

QUESTION: Sean, just a quick follow-up, please. She met Secretary and Secretary really had good relations with her and I'm sure she had blessing from the Secretary. I have seen the statement from the Secretary also about her assassination. But how is Secretary taking this personally? How does she feel really personally because of the relations between the two ladies -- (inaudible) two ladies?

MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal, I haven't talked to her about it. I think Secretary Rice spoke about how she felt about it and the day after Benazir Bhutto's assassination. Like I said, we all mourn the passing of Benazir Bhutto. Now it's important to try to determine what happened so that that chapter of Pakistan's history can be closed and that the Pakistani people can move to build on what had been some progress in terms of building momentum for political reform in Pakistan.

QUESTION: Thank you.




QUESTION: (Inaudible) leader said he's going to hold a rally tomorrow in Nairobi. Can you bring us up to date on U.S. efforts to bring about some sort of reconciliation and --


QUESTION: -- what your position is on holding another massive rally tomorrow given the state of affairs?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, ultimately, the political leaders in Kenya are going to have to decide what is best for their own country. One of the things that was really extraordinary, pointed out to Secretary Rice by our Ambassador this morning, she had a phone call with him, was that the major -- two of the major Kenyan dailies had the same headline: Save Our Beloved Country. And that is directed at the political leaders of Kenya who currently are the key players in this political crisis that is ongoing, that has led to unfortunate loss of life and quite a bit of violence. And that sort of plea from civil society as reported by these newspapers was also echoed on radio and TV.

So there's really a groundswell coming from the grassroots in Kenya, calling upon these political leaders to do what is best on behalf of their country, on behalf of the Kenyan people, and that is a sentiment that we fully support. And that has been the Secretary's consistent message both prior to the elections as well as after the elections to both President Kibaki as well as Mr. Odinga. She conveyed those -- that message separately in a phone call yesterday to Mr. Odinga and this morning to President Kibaki. She urged them to take steps to try to reconcile the political situation and to reconcile the political differences that exist between them. We've talked about the fact that we believe that there were irregularities surrounding the election, but we are where we are at this point in time.

So what needs to happen is that these political leaders need to come up with a political agreement that's mutually acceptable, that resolves the political crisis. They need to do this within the confines of Kenyan law, Kenyan institutions, Kenyan constitution. So ultimately, any solution that brings about an end to the political crisis and the violence is going to have to be made in Kenya. This is going to have to be something that the Kenyans resolve for themselves.

Now what we as well as others in the international community can do is to try to encourage them to open up those lines of communication and ultimately come to a political agreement. They haven't gotten to that point yet. And the Secretary also spoke with Mr. Solana from the EU this morning. That was certainly a point of agreement that they need to -- the two political leaders in Kenya need to get to the task of political reconciliation and coming up with a political agreement. We're not going to try to dictate what that political agreement is. We can work to try to help them with ideas regarding their thinking and to try to create some space so that they can open these lines of communication.

As part of that effort, Secretary Rice has asked Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer to travel to Kenya and to meet with both of those -- both of the political leaders as well as others in Kenyan civil society to see what ideas they might generate in order to find a way out of this political crisis.

So that's a little update of where we are. Ambassador Ranneberger is going to follow up with President Kibaki as well as others in Kenyan civil society, Mr. Odinga, about the Secretary's phone calls that she has had over the past two days with them to see what might be done to get them to start talking; that's the first step and then to arrive at some political agreement.

QUESTION: Is Secretary Frazer's trip designed to try to -- I mean, does the Secretary think that her visit will enable the two sides to come together more easily?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, what you can do at this point is really meet with each side, see where they are, take an assessment of where they stand and not serve as a mediator, but maybe as a way -- her presence there could be a way to encourage them to get together. And it's also certainly a way that we can more directly try to encourage them to get together and open up that dialogue. The Secretary's phone calls are one way, certainly public statements are another way, but Secretary Rice decided this morning that it was important to send Jendayi out to Kenya to try to bring that message directly to the leaders.

QUESTION: Has she already left or what's her itinerary?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, she'll be leaving today, this afternoon sometime.

QUESTION: And how long is she going to be in the country for? Do you know?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a schedule.

QUESTION: Is it open-ended?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think it's open-ended. It will probably be a relatively short trip, but, you know, she -- if she's able to help them make some progress, I think she's going to make an assessment of how long her presence there is needed. It's a positive force and I'm sure she'll consult with Secretary Rice on that and see how long she needs to stay out there. But at this point, I think it's planned to be a relatively short trip.

Anything else on Kenya? Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Do you know if President Gul is coming to Washington next week? And he also had breakfast with Secretary Rice on Tuesday. Do you have anything on that -- what's the agenda of this trip?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are a lot of different things to talk about. We'll be talking about U.S.-Turkey bilateral relations, how to build on those. Turkey is a good friend and ally and a NATO ally. It's where they'll be talking about the various aspects of our bilateral relationship, also going to be talking about a lot of issues in Turkey's neighborhood. They'll be talking about Iraq. I expect that Iran will be a topic of conversation. So that's just -- that's a quick read of what you might expect. And as we get closer to the meeting which will occur next week, then we'll try to get you a little bit more detail about what they're going to be discussing.

QUESTION: Can you confirm the time or the day of their meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have the exact time, but we'll try to get that for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: Tuesday or Thursday.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Well, he's going to -- President Gul is going to be meeting with President Bush on Tuesday.

QUESTION: Tuesday, yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, that's correct.

QUESTION: Separately with Rice or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Typically, what happens is there's a meeting that the Secretary might have with a foreign head of state prior to that head of state's meeting with President Bush.

QUESTION: Does she plan on meeting with members of civil society as well or just the two parties?

MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect that she would meet with others in Kenyan civil society as well.

Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: Do you have an opinion on this blogger in Saudi that's being detained?

MR. MCCORMACK: Thanks for asking the question. We have raised this with the Saudi Government.

QUESTION: You have.

MR. MCCORMACK: And our understanding is that he's being questioned. I've seen some public comments from the Saudi officials. And our message to the Saudi Government was pretty clear. It's what you heard me talk a little bit about yesterday and that is that the United States stands for freedom of expression. It's an important element of any thriving society. It's a cornerstone of any democratic society. And wherever people are seeking to express themselves via the internet or via other means, whether that's in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere around the world, we stand for that freedom of expression and that was our message to the Saudi Government.

QUESTION: At what level was this message conveyed?

MR. MCCORMACK: It was conveyed back here in Washington at a relatively senior level.

QUESTION: Ambassador level or beyond that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll just -- let's just say at a senior level back here in Washington.

QUESTION: What response?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'll let the Saudis speak for themselves.

QUESTION: A relatively senior level, not the most senior level.

MR. MCCORMACK: Not the most senior level here at the Department, no.

QUESTION: Well, can we assume that would be an Assistant Secretary of State or someone of that ilk -- Deputy Assistant Secretary?

MR. MCCORMACK: In that range, yes.

QUESTION: Was there a reminder given that President Bush is on his way to Riyadh in about ten days?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't believe that was part of the conversation. I think everybody's aware of that.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I would assume you guys would hope that this could be -- he'd be released before Bush arrives.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they -- it's within the privy of the powers of the Saudi officials to address the situation.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Inaudible) all yours.

QUESTION: The afternoon meeting between Secretary Rice and her Libyan counterpart --


QUESTION: -- some families of Pan Am 103 victims have expressed regret about Secretary Rice having this meeting before the compensation has been completed by the Libyan Government. What's your response to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, I understand the sentiment from the families, absolutely. We understand where they're coming from. It's an ongoing -- beyond the emotional issues involved, there's an ongoing legal issue and we would like to see that resolved. And I know that the Libyan Government is working with the families as well as representatives of the families for these various compensation claims to work out a solution.

I would just note that this is not the first time the Secretary has met with the Libyan Foreign Minister on American soil. She's met twice before at the UN General -- in the context of the UN General Assembly up in New York, so it is not the first time that she has met with him. And she's going to take the opportunity to do a few things. One, talk about the state of U.S.-Libyan relations. They have over the past several years improved, gotten better, as we have made progress in practical ways on the various outstanding issues involved in the U.S.-Libyan relationship. There's still work to be done. And in that regard she will talk to the foreign minister about these outstanding compensation claims, urge the Libyan Government to resolve those outstanding claims.

She's also going to talk about the importance of instituting reforms within Libya so that Libyan citizens enjoy the basic human rights that we urge all states to accord their citizens. We believe these are basic fundamental rights that are inherent to each individual around the globe. So she'll talk about those issues. She's also going to talk about issues on the international agenda because Libya now sits on the UN Security Council. The Security Council is going to have to grapple with a number of very important fundamental issues in the coming year and she wants to talk to the Foreign Minister about where the United States stands on those issues and, of course, urge the Libyan Government to work very closely with us on the Security Council so that the Security Council can fulfill its mission to enhance peace and stability around the globe.

QUESTION: One family member I spoke to also said that she regrets that the group of families have not been able to meet with Secretary Rice, that they've made a number of requests and those requests has not been granted. Why is that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I know they have met with a number of different U.S. officials, so we have reached out to the families and we have stayed in close contact with them as well as their representatives. There are a lot of requests that come in to meet with the Secretary, take a look at each one of those very closely and certainly past decisions don't necessarily bear on decisions that may be made in the future. But at this point, we thought it was appropriate that other officials met with the family -- the families.

Yeah, David.

QUESTION: Will she raise individual cases? Human Rights Watch put out a statement --


QUESTION: Raising the cases of two Guantanamo detainees who were returned to Libya and apparently they have not reported on their condition and also at least three people who could be described as dissidents, who have disappeared, will she raise individual --

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me see. Let's let the meeting take place. We'll try to give you a readout in some form; that's via e-mail or some other form or fashion about what happened during the meeting and what she talked about and if she raised any specific cases. I know that she asked for some information about specific cases prior to the meeting. I don't know if -- we'll see if she raises them.


QUESTION: Can I ask you what you know about this human rights agreement that's being signed?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, that's right, we promised. We have to get you some more information on that. I don't have that available with me right now.

QUESTION: I was under the impression it's not a human rights agreement.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's a --

QUESTION: Science and technology --

MR. MCCORMACK: -- there's an agreement that's being signed. Let's get you some more information.

QUESTION: Is it a human rights agreement?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll give you some more information after the briefing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)

DPB # 2

Released on January 3, 2008

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