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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 17, 2008



Levinson Family Presses Iran on Case
Urge Iran to Increase Efforts to Investigate Case


U.S. View of Khmer Rouge Tribunal and Operations / Funding Decision Not Yet Made


Development Coordination Group Statement
Review of Current Aid Programs


Ministerial Meeting in Berlin Next Week / Status of Resolution


Fully Support President Uribe’s Efforts to Deal with FARC
FARC’s Ability to Move Throughout Territory They Control Has Diminished
Want to See Hostages Released Immediately, Unconditionally, and Returned to Families


Comments by Serbian President on Kosovo Independence / Political & Diplomatic Solution


Arrest of British Council Official / U.S. Fully supports British Government


No Change in U.S. Policy in Recognizing Somaliland
U.S. Contact with Officials from Somaliland


View Video

12:41 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I don’t have anything to start off with. We can get right into your questions, whoever wants to be the leadoff hitter. I say that because it’s 30 days till pitchers and catchers report.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) have you found out anything about Mrs. Levinson in Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: I did. I looked into and have some information here for you with me. I’ll flip to it. American citizen Robert Levinson disappeared about 10 months ago on March 9, 2007 during a business trip to Kish Island, Iran. Mr. Levinson’s wife, Christine, their son Daniel and Christine’s Sister Susie visited Tehran to press the Iranian Government on his case. They also visited Kish Island during their December 18th through December 23rd trip. Diplomats from the Swiss Embassy in Tehran accompanied the Levinson family during the trip. We understand that Mrs. Levinson was able to confirm that her husband checked out of the Maryam Hotel on Kish Island on March 9th and departed by taxi for the airport located only about five minutes away. And it’s really at that point that his – the trail goes cold after he leaves the hotel. We – they don’t – the Levinson family and we don’t have any additional information.

We urge the Government of Iran to increase its efforts to investigate this case and to share information they have uncovered with the Levinson family and the Swiss officials, so it can be communicated back to the United States Government and through official channels. And our last contact with Mrs. Levinson was on January 9th. And Under Secretary Burns spoke with her.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: Under Secretary Burns. Yeah. He spoke with her, yes. Yeah, he has spoken with her multiple times. I don’t have details of the conversation. Anything else here in the front here?



QUESTION: Cambodia. Do you have any confirmation that U.S. is ready to play a role in the tribunal?

MR. MCCORMACK: Some information here for you. The U.S. strongly supports bringing to justice senior leaders responsible for the atrocities committed under the Khmer Rouge regime. The Department is currently reviewing all the facts about the tribunal and its operations, including whether or not it is capable of meeting international standards of justice prior to making a decision regarding funding. As the Department is currently examining these issues, we have not yet requested specific funding for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. And the acronym is ECCC. My understanding is that most of the funding for the tribunal comes through the UN via the UNDP. And I think France and Japan are two of the bigger funders. So we have not yet made a funding decision. We’re looking at it.

QUESTION: But you are considering it.

MR. MCCORMACK: We’re taking a look at it. Taking a look.

QUESTION: Unfinished business first. Were you able to find out if the United Sates did sign on to some kind of a statement about Kenya and --

MR. MCCORMACK: After multiple phone calls on the issue to the Africa Bureau, I was able to determine the following. Yes, Ambassador Ranneberger did sign on to a joint statement issued in Nairobi by the Development Coordination Group, DCG. The DCG serves as a mechanism for likeminded international donors to coordinate on assistance programs and policy issues in Kenya. According to the DCG statement, it is crucial that the underlying cause of the conflict and division are addressed and that all parties remain committed to a peaceful resolution. The U.S. concurs with this provision. And in terms of – there was a – some citation in a news article this morning that we’re on the verge of cutting off aid. That’s just not true. I had some conversations about sort of the rough outlines of our current fiscal year aid program for Kenya. It’s roughly 700 million. It’s about 723 or so million dollars. Now roughly, these are --

QUESTION: I’m sorry, that’s ’08?

MR. MCCORMACK: The current fiscal year, yeah. Roughly -- and these are all rough numbers, roughly 500 million-plus of that is for PEPFAR and related programs, so AIDS treatment and prevention, so the PEPFAR programs. Then – and I don’t have a specific figure on this next tranche, the other substantial tranche of money that we give is humanitarian assistance, food aid, that sort of thing, programs to help fight malaria, et cetera.

There are remaining programs having to do with, you know, peace and security, fighting terrorism, good governance, capacity-building, for example, training for the police and that sort of thing. Those comprise a very small portion of the assistance. So, you know, although there has not – there have not yet been any internal discussions that I am aware of talking about what effect, if any, this statement will have on our existing aid programs, I have a hard time believing that anybody would cut off any of the – in any way diminish the humanitarian aid program.

So I think it’s pretty safe to say anything dealing with trying to improve the humanitarian situation in Kenya, including the AIDS funding, is just off the table. That’s not going to happen. So you know, if there is any discussion about some of our assistance programs in Kenya, it hasn’t begun yet and I think the total universe of programs that you’re looking at is a pretty small one right now.

QUESTION: But does the statement that the ambassadors signed onto say that these countries -- that people who have signed it are going to be reviewing their assistance?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, it does. And I would expect, just as I have described, they probably will, internally to the U.S. Government, have a review of the assistance and take a look at it. What I’m trying to communicate is -- a couple things. One, that hasn’t begun yet. Two, I’ll take a flyer here and go out on my own and say that I would bet that none of the humanitarian assistance is going to be on the table in that review. I just can’t imagine that that would be the case. And so what you’re really left with is looking at a pretty small proportion -- pretty small portion of the overall aid program to Kenya that would be looked at. But that review has not yet begun.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, is it possible to find out what the non-humanitarian --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we can try to break it down for you.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, it took some --

QUESTION: IMET and whatever --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, it took some doing to get what I’ve given you, so --

QUESTION: I’m sure it did.

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) So we’ll see what we can get for you.

QUESTION: Essentially, this statement appears to have been signed a couple days ago, right?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, yeah. Well, sometimes – you know, sometimes it takes a while for the headquarters to catch up with the field, so that may be what’s happening here.

QUESTION: Well, Sean, as long as you’re in a mood to take flyers, just out of – to pick something out of the air, you want to talk about the Iran resolution at the UN? You want to take a flyer on when that might be ready?

MR. MCCORMACK: Never. (Laughter.) No, we wish – no, we wish that it would have already been passed, as you all know, and I can torture you with my --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) torture.

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) Well, with my rap on this, but there’s going to be a ministerial meeting next week in Berlin. I’m sure that they’re going to – the ministers are going to do two things. One, they’re going to talk about the elements of a resolution and then also have a brainstorming discussion, a wide-ranging discussion about what follows, what’s the strategy that follows on that. But no, I will never say never, but virtually never predict when we will have an actual vote in the Security Council on a given resolution.

QUESTION: Just wanted to test your flying skills.

MR. MCCORMACK: There we are, reached my limits.

Yeah, sir.

QUESTION: Yes, on Latin America. Yesterday, President Chavez again denounced

(inaudible) plot between U.S. and Colombia to destabilize Venezuela and also try to kill him. I wonder if you have an official reaction to --

MR. MCCORMACK: I didn’t see what he said. What was it that he said?

QUESTION: He says that again U.S. and Colombia, both governments are trying (inaudible) to kill him. He says that in – yesterday in Managua.

MR. MCCORMACK: Do you really want me to provide a reaction to that? No, that’s just --

QUESTION: No, in the other hand, he --

MR. MCCORMACK: -- without any --

QUESTION: He also talks about the situation in Colombia and he says that there was – he doesn't see any chance that the Colombia Government will have a military victory over the FARC. His view, the only way to resolve that conflict is through negotiations, political negotiations. I wonder if you share that point of view, I mean, if this – that conflict – the only solution for that conflict is only through negotiations and there’s a chance that the Colombia Government may have a military victory over the FARC.

MR. MCCORMACK: I can tell you our point of view is that we fully support President Uribe and his government’s – and his government’s efforts to deal with this organization. You know, in terms of their success, I think it’s pretty easy if you look back at the situation six years ago and you look at the situation right now, the FARC’s ability to move throughout territory that they control is greatly, greatly diminished. It’s not – it’s a qualitatively different situation and it has redounded to the favor of the people of Colombia and to the Government of Colombia exercising more and more and more control over the territory of Colombia.

So, I’m not sure – I’m not sure that’s the most sound analysis.


QUESTION: On Colombia, there is some information saying that the release of one of the American is going to be announced in the same – in the next hours in Caracas. How do you receive this information and does it mean any – I mean, anything for the condemnation (inaudible) is going to receive next week?

MR. MCCORMACK: We want to see all the hostages released. And certainly, most importantly, we want to see the American hostages released immediately, unconditionally, and returned to their families.

Yeah, Lambros.

QUESTION: On Kosovo. Mr. McCormack, Serbian President Boris Tadic stated yesterday at the UN, “Serbia will never recognize Kosovo’s independence and will preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty by all democratic means. Serbia will not resort to violence and war.” Any comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t think anybody wants to see anybody resort to violence in this situation. There should be a political and diplomatic solution. We have outlined a pathway to that political and diplomatic solution. It’s quite clear. We’ve talked about it for many, many months. And certainly, the endpoint, as we have stated, is known; it is now a matter of just going through the diplomatic steps to get to that endpoint.

QUESTION: Anything to say about the arrest of a British Council official at the British Council in St. Petersburg yesterday in connection with Kosovo issue –

MR. MCCORMACK: We put a statement out.

QUESTION: -- by Russian authorities?

MR. MCCORMACK: I put a statement out about this last night.

QUESTION: But there are a lot of developments in this – in your statement and (inaudible) condemned by the British Government.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. We fully support the British Government.

QUESTION: Sean, Assistant Secretary Frazer met earlier this week with the gentleman who is the president of the -- I guess it's a self-declared independent part of Somalia, Somaliland.


QUESTION: I was wondering whether this conveys any move by the United States toward recognizing that entity. Reportedly there are some in the U.S. Government who think maybe we should start over and recognize Somaliland.

MR. MCCORMACK: There's no change in our policy position vis-à-vis recognition of Somaliland. We are not on the verge of recognizing Somaliland. There's a process underway that the AU is engaged in and we are going to be watching very closely that situation, but there's no change in our policy.

QUESTION: Well, but even if there's no kind of official policy to recognize Somaliland, do you see more contacts with Somaliland, maybe not as a, you know, official bilateral between two nations but more contacts could help the overall situation in Somalia?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we think it's important to have as many political contacts as we can with responsible individuals in Somalia who have an interest in building up the democratic structures and institutions of Somalia and trying to take it from where it is to a much more hopeful future. Certainly, Jendayi's meetings just last week fall solidly in that category and it's a policy that we are going to continue to pursue. We have interest in fighting terrorism in Somalia as well as in the Horn of Africa. Part of trying to bring about some greater stability in Somalia writ large is -- involves working with the political parties, encouraging the political parties -- political leaders in Somalia to come together.

QUESTION: Do you think that the leaders of Somaliland should play a bigger role and a larger --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think anybody who has an interest in a more peaceful democratic Somalia has a role to play in this process.


QUESTION: On that, can you just check to see when the last time Jendayi or someone at a senior level met with Somaliland -- with either the President or other officials from Somaliland?

MR. MCCORMACK: Prior to last week?

QUESTION: Yeah. Because I know that AID is active up there --


QUESTION: -- and that there had been meetings before -- between U.S. officials and Somaliland officials.


QUESTION: But I was wondering what the last time that there --

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, we'll check for you.

QUESTION: -- had been one with the Assistant Secretary.

MR. MCCORMACK: Check for you.

QUESTION: This is last week while she was in Kenya? When was this meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm trying to remember exactly when it was. It might have been earlier this week or last week. Let me check for you.


MR. MCCORMACK: I'm losing track of the days.

Yeah, one more back here. Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you. (Inaudible) the Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations supported by UN, Turkey and Spain. What is the U.S. position on that forum? Is there any U.S. role or support on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I'll have to check for you. I don't know -- off the top of my head I'm not aware of any formal policy position that we have.


QUESTION: In Colombia, has the situation -- do you know of any impending release --

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I would never -- I don't talk about the status of those individuals, only to say that we want to see them released immediately and unconditionally.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:56 p.m.)

DPB # 12

Released on January 17, 2008

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