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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 18, 2008

INDEX:

IRAN

Conversations on Upcoming Ministerial Meeting in Berlin
Status of Resolution on Iran
Solana Channel Useful in Communicating with Iranian Regime
Time Left in Administration Irrelevant / Tasked with Trying to Solve Problem

NORTH KOREA

Comments Made by Jay Lefkowitz, Special Envoy on Human Rights
U.S. Policy on Six-Party Talks / U.S. Concerns on the Issue of Human Rights
Breaking New Policy Ground / Working with North Koreans on Declaration
Deputy Secretary Negroponte in Beijing

MIDDLE EAST

Use of Violence by Hamas / Israel Acting in Self-Defense
Negotiating Track Best Way for Peace Between Israel and Palestinians
Humanitarian Situation in Gaza / Significant Humanitarian Aid Program
Hamas’ Failure of Governance and Leadership in Gaza
Importance of Focusing Energy on Getting an Agreement for the Two Sides
Loss of Innocent Life Underscores Importance of Peace
President Bush’s Full Weight Behind Helping Israel and Palestinians Achieve Peace at Negotiating Table

KENYA

Issue on the Signing of Joint Statement to End the Killing of Unarmed Civilians
Not Familiar with Statement / No Information Available on this Effort
Clear Message that Political Leadership Needs to Find Resolution to Differences

MISCELLANEOUS

Query on Upcoming Meeting in Davos, Switzerland / Status of Bilateral
Secretary Rice’s Remarks to Focus on American Foreign Policy

DEPARTMENT

Departure of Under Secretary Nick Burns
Nomination of Ambassador Bill Burns as Possible Replacement
Senate Confirmation Pending on Nomination
Issue of Bill Burn’s New Title / Iran Portfolio
Special Provisions Within the Law on Limited Periods of Time for Work on Specific Functions


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

11:58 a.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to Friday. I don't have anything to start with so who wants to lead off?

Sue.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary had any conversations about the Berlin meeting and how's the resolution shaping up?

MR. MCCORMACK: I have to be -- bear with me. Let me check my list here. She spoke on Wednesday with Foreign Minister Steinmeier, she spoke today with EU High Rep Solana but that was not on Berlin, and I think those would be the only things that you might even think were tangentially related to Berlin.

In terms of this issue, you know, no change. We're working away at it. We don't yet have agreement on the elements. We're going (inaudible) a resolution, but we're pushing forward on it and we're optimistic that we will eventually be able to get a resolution. We would have wished that we had had one by now, but that's multilateral diplomacy for you.

QUESTION: So if she didn't speak to Solana about Berlin then what was the conversation?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think they talked about Kosovo.

Yeah. See, we can do more then one thing at once.

QUESTION: Really?

QUESTION: Is Solana going to attend the P5+1?

MR. MCCORMACK: I believe so. All the ministers are going to be attending and he usually does attend those, but check with his office.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

MR. MCCORMACK: He typically does, yeah.

QUESTION: Are you hopeful that you'll come up with a resolution on Tuesday or do you think that it might take a little longer?

MR. MCCORMACK: Might take a little longer, might take a little longer. As I've been talking about the meeting is divided essentially into two parts, and this doesn't mean it's going to be 50/50 in terms of the time spent, but talking about the resolution, the elements of it as well as what happens afterwards once you get a resolution, what's the diplomatic way forward. And having a free-flowing open discussion, you might term it a brainstorming session, about what are the diplomatic pathways available to us so that we can pressure the Iranian regime to make a different set of choices regarding its behavior in the international system. That's the whole object of the exercise here.

QUESTION: And in terms of what happens afterwards, are you looking at whether the Solana channel will still be useful and whether it's going to be useful to continue with -- is it Jalili? I'm sorry, I've forgotten.

MR. MCCORMACK: Jalili, yes. I haven't heard --

QUESTION: Since Larijani has gone or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I haven't heard any discussion saying we should put that channel into the deep freeze. It's still a channel of communication with the Iranian regime in which Mr. Solana can speak on behalf of the P5+1 directly. That is useful. I think it's always very useful to have these kinds of channels of communication that are available if one or either side wants to avail itself channel.

QUESTION: But are you looking at any new sort of structures that could go into place to deal with Iran or -- I mean, you've only got a year left in office --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, that's not driving anything. I mean, what we want to do is to try, you know -- if you're a policymaker you solve -- you're tasked with trying to solve the problem and to act in the interest of your country and your foreign policy and national security interest, and in this case, acting in concert with a number of other friends and allies who have a similar set of interests. So what we want to do is try to solve the problem. At the very least, what you want to do is leave it in a better situation than you originally received the issue or took on the issue.

So the timing in terms of how long you have in the Administration is really irrelevant. You want to do the right thing and that's what the Secretary's going to do up until her last day here at the Department.

QUESTION: Which will be like exactly one year from today work wise.

MR. MCCORMACK: Why don't we -- oh, work days, yeah, the 19th.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) be working until her last day, Matt.

QUESTION: I'm sure she will.

MR. MCCORMACK: That wouldn't surprise me.

QUESTION: Can I ask -- you've got something else?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Have you been able to figure out what Mr. Lefkowitz was talking about yesterday when he did his --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Or why he was --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I don't know. You can talk to Jay. I don't know if he'll want to, but let me make it very clear. He is the envoy for issues related to human rights in North Korea. I know Jay is a very bright, dedicated person, a public servant who has taken on this responsibility on behalf of the Secretary of State. He is not, however, somebody who speaks authoritatively about the six-party talks. He -- his comments certainly don't represent the views of the Administration. We believe that the six-party talks provides a forum, a mechanism and an opportunity to realize the goal of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. So I can only say that he must have been expressing his own opinions when he was speaking about his assessment of the six-party talks.

QUESTION: Well, he was -- you know, he was asked directly if he was representing the Administration position and he kind of waffled on that answer.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I can tell you he was not.

QUESTION: But -- well --

MR. MCCORMACK: I can tell you categorically --

QUESTION: You know, considering the --

MR. MCCORMACK: You'll hear the same thing from the White House.

QUESTION: Okay. But considering the sensitivity of this issue and the fact that the North Koreans often take comments from U.S. officials, whether they are speaking authoritatively for the Administration or not, they take them seriously. Is it -- are you worried that this is going to complicate the whole process?

MR. MCCORMACK: It shouldn't. It shouldn't if North Korea truly intends to follow through on all of its commitments to a --

QUESTION: But how do they know what to believe?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they -- as you would --

QUESTION: You (inaudible) speak about the opaque nature --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- of their regime. Well, they don't have anyone here who is looking in – you know, they could say the same thing about you guys.

MR. MCCORMACK: I hear you, Matt, but they read the AP, they tune into CNN and they read reports from your news organizations. So if you faithfully report my comments here and accurately reflect them, I think they'll get the message.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, so did Mr. Lefkowitz get a little talking-to about --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to talk about any internal --

QUESTION: Would you expect him to be making comments --

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Would you expect him to make similar -- be making similar comments in the future?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'd be surprised, but again, this is -- there is a first amendment here and one can express one's own opinion and I have to emphasize that those were his own opinions and not the views of the Administration.

QUESTION: Did he make that clear to people in this building today or last evening?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think he understands where we stand on the matter.

QUESTION: Did he seek authorization before speaking out like this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm -- not that I'm aware of. Again, let me repeat the only thing that I can say --

QUESTION: Is he going to in the future?

MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?

QUESTION: Is he going to in the future if he didn't this time?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Arshad, I don't know. You know, I don't know. Look, he has a job to do and with respect to being the envoy on the issue of North Korea and human rights. That's his lane. His lane is not talking about the six-party talks, the status thereof, his assessment for the prospects of success. I don't know if I can make it any more clear than that.

QUESTION: Well, except that he did speak about the six-party talks. So he was out of his lane?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. He was expressing his own opinions.

QUESTION: And can you tell us, has he been told that he was out of his lane?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to -- I'm not going to get into that.

QUESTION: Why is that such a sensitive question? I mean, if you're really trying to convince the North Koreans that this Administration isn't split down the middle --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- that there are some hawks who agree with the kind of John Boltons of the world who are fighting against what Chris Hill is trying to do or arguing against it.

MR. MCCORMACK: All I can tell you is --

QUESTION: You should say -- this guy has been told he was speaking out of turn.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Matt, you know, we don’t inquire every time your editors yell at you. (Laughter.) So --

QUESTION: I'd be happy to give you the details of all --

MR. MCCORMACK: I (inaudible) we would be quite busy, I know.

QUESTION: Well, I'm willing to --

MR. MCCORMACK: (inaudible)

QUESTION: I'd like to share those, if you're willing to tell me -- (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Perhaps we can have a future discussion about that. But let me tell you that if you listened to what the President of the United States says, the Secretary of State says, and Ambassador Hill said, those are the people who are involved in the policy process who speak authoritatively. Of course, you hear from people like me as well. I’m speaking on behalf of Secretary Rice. Those are the people who have -- are sitting at the table making decisions about the policy. And at the end of the day, the only voice that matters is that of the President of the United States and this is his policy and I think you’ll hear that from the White House. Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, does Mr. Lefkowitz -- does he still have his job?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) He is still the envoy, yes.

QUESTION: For the moment.

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) He’s still the envoy.

Yeah, Elise.

QUESTION: I mean, were these ideas that he’s tried to advance in the Department? Or is this like the first --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Elise, I don’t know. I mean, it doesn’t really matter because it’s --

QUESTION: I mean, are these views that shared that he shared with you?

MR. MCCORMACK: It’s irrelevant. That’s not his job. His job is to work on issues related to human rights in North Korea, not the six-party talks.

QUESTION: Well, part of his comments are saying that -- listen, we’re not getting any -- we're not really going to get anywhere on the nuclear issue. I understand that’s not part of his portfolio. But he’s saying that the issue of human rights is not in the six-party talks. It should be and this needs to be more of a comprehensive dialogue with North Korea on the issue of human rights. I mean, specifically on his portfolio, he’s saying that there’s not enough attention put to human rights.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. But yeah, I don’t think you’re going to find anybody else who is more adamant in speaking out about the issue of human rights in North Korea than the President of the United States, followed by a close second by the Secretary of State. The fact of the matter is if you are successful in the six-party talks in reaching a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, you have a much different relationship between North Korea and the rest of the world. And certainly that opens up many, many different potential possibilities for North Korea as well as the North Korean people, on top of the fact, you have a much more stable security situation in the region. So any idea that somehow this President and this Secretary of State are not concerned about human rights in North Korea just couldn’t be further from the truth.

QUESTION: So you would reject the idea that in an effort to rush to "yes" -- to get a "yes" on the agreement on security, you’re not, you know, kind of giving them a pass at least for the foreseeable future on human rights?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is the first time that we’ve been accused of rushing the six-party talks. I think most of the questions that I’ve gotten over the past year in this room have talked about, well, why is this thing going so slowly. Well, we’re going through this in a very deliberate way. We’re not lowering the bar for anybody and we have made a lot of progress. We are now to a point where we’re breaking new policy ground. You have the North Koreans. They are disabling the Yongbyon facility -- never happened before. We are working with them on a declaration. They haven’t yet come forward with a complete declaration, but it’s still our hope that they will and we’re going to keep working with them on that. Once we have that, that is completely a new policy ground. And from that point on, you can think about a lot of other elements of that September 2005 agreement that you can implement, including getting to work on dismantling the entire North Korean nuclear program.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Can I change subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: On the Middle East, Israel has made, as you’re aware, a series of incursions into Gaza this week. Prime Minister Olmert yesterday said that this war would continue. I believe that the crossing points have been closed today.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It would seem as if since the President left the region, that things have gone pretty negatively in terms of events on the ground, including the deaths of the -- you know, the mother and the child yesterday.

Two questions; one, what, if anything, are you doing to try to make things better on the ground and two, do these events, particularly the deaths of -- you know, civilians, including a child -- you know, suggest to you that the President and the Secretary’s efforts to push forward on peace are not going anywhere?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, not at all. I’m not sure how you make that connection, but look --

QUESTION: Or hypothetically?

MR. MCCORMACK: The use of violence by Hamas is not new; didn’t begin last week, the week before, or two years ago, it began well prior to that. The fact of the matter is that Israel is acting in its self-defense. There are -- there is a steady stream of rockets that is falling on Israeli territory. Israeli citizens are being injured. Israel has a right to defend itself.

We have made it very clear and we have been very consistent in stating our counsel to the Israeli Government that in acting in its own self-defense, that it take every possible precaution to avoid harm to innocent life. You know, all of that said, nobody can bring back those innocent victims, who might -- may have been lost in these actions. And no one mourns the innocent -- loss of innocent life more than we do.

The best way to get to a point where you do have peace between Israel and the Palestinian people is through the negotiating track that the President and Secretary Rice have been working very hard on. And those efforts, by the way, continue even in the wake of the President’s trip while these events are ongoing in Gaza.

Now on the crossing points, the Israeli Government has said that they are going to take, as one of their utmost priorities in calculating their actions, the humanitarian situation in Gaza. And they have stated that they do not want to, in any way, degrade the -- an already very difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza. And we take them at their word and we expect them to live up to that word.

Now as for our specific efforts, I can’t give you a read on what Jake Walles or Dick Jones have done over the last 48 or 36 hours, but I think the Israeli Government understands pretty clearly where we stand. We have a very significant humanitarian aid program, along with many others of the international community, that is directed at Gaza and we would expect that we would be able to continue to deliver that humanitarian aid as it’s in nobody’s interest, first and foremost, on the ground in Gaza to see the humanitarian situation in any way, shape or form, degrade because of it.

But also one other final point, yet, you do have to remember that the unfortunate people of Gaza have found themselves in this situation because of the mismanagement and the decision making of Hamas. You don’t see a similar situation in the West Bank. There are difficulties in the West Bank, but you don’t see anything of the scale or the type in the West Bank as you see in Gaza. And while there may be a variety of different factors that go into that, I would point you to the back of the envelope analysis, probably the primary factor is Hamas and their failure of governance and leadership in Gaza.

QUESTION: And you don’t think any of these events makes it harder to get peace talks going?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, you’re always going to have events that arise that make things more difficult. You always hope to create events that will make things less difficult, but sometimes you do have events that will make things more difficult. What it does -- in the view of the Secretary, these kinds of events are just the kind of thing that underline the importance of putting every ounce of energy and focus into getting an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians so you don’t have the small groups of individuals from Hamas or terrorist organizations bent on the use of violence or terror able to any way negatively affect the course of peace. You don’t want that. So for us, the lesson we take away from this is, these are all the more reason why you have to keep the focus and energy on solving the problem.

QUESTION: And you’re acknowledging that these things -- that they just do make things --

MR. MCCORMACK: Anytime you have use of violence, I’m sure from the launching of rockets into Israel by Hamas, I’m sure that that in some way, shape or form makes things more difficult for those who are interested in trying to bring about a peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.

QUESTION: And the Israeli response.

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you know, anytime you have loss of innocent life, that is something that is absolutely to be regretted. And I’m sure that that -- I’m sure that that has an effect on opinion, public opinion. I don’t know that as a fact and I haven’t done any scientific polling, but I’m sure it does. Again, all it does is underscore the importance of supporting those who have an interest in peace and winning a Palestinian state via the negotiating table.

QUESTION: Last one from me on this. Is rhetoric like Prime Minister Olmert's using the term "war," is that helpful?

MR. MCCORMACK: Because everybody understands what President Olmert -- Prime Minister Olmert's dedication to the cause of peace. He has very clearly dedicated himself 100 percent to the cause of seeking a negotiated political settlement with his counterpart President Abbas. And I -- you saw that in Annapolis. You saw it on the President's recent trip. I don’t think there’s -- certainly no question in our minds about that.

QUESTION: Right, but that wasn’t my question. My question was whether the same rhetoric makes it -- you know, makes it harder.

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I’d leave it to others to judge those things. We know what his policies are, we know what his intents are.

Yeah.

QUESTION: I think one of the things that President Abbas has tried to express in -- with all these -- with the attacks by Israel into Gaza is that this whole process was, in part, to kind of build him up and make him the obvious choice for the Palestinians in Gaza. And how can Palestinians in Gaza even see -- you know, a future if they’re being -- if they’re being attacked by Israel and President Abbas is powerless to do anything to help them?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think, just juxtapose the -- you know, the headlines and the pictures of, say, this week and last week. On one hand, you have the President of the United States pulling his -- putting his full weight behind bringing -- helping the Israelis and Palestinians achieve a peace across the negotiating table. That’s a vision of hope.

You see today pictures of Hamas launching rockets, the effects in Israel, the effects of Israel acting in self-defense. That’s not a vision I would assume that the majority of the Palestinian people want to pursue. They don’t want to pursue a vision of further occupation, of further violence, and unclear possibilities for a better future for their children. There are two very distinct visions here and I think the Palestinian people understand that. There may be some that don’t, but we’re going to keep driving home that message. We’re going to keep our focus and energy on trying to bring -- help these two sides bridge the differences that’s between them.

Yeah, Sylvie.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you -- in Kenya, nine Western government, including Australia, Britain, and Canada called in a joint statement for an end of killing unarmed civilian.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I wanted to know why U.S. didn’t sign this joint statement.

MR. MCCORMACK: I have no information about this particular effort, but I think if you roll back the videotapes of my talking about this, the Secretary talking about this, Tom Casey talking about this over the past couple weeks, I think you’ll hear a very clear message and that is that the political leadership needs to find a political accommodation and resolution to their differences, because this political tension leads directly to further violence and killing. We’ve already seen too much of it already and the two parties need to act with haste and seriousness in seeking a solution between them.

QUESTION: Sean, are you familiar with this statement?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I’m not. I’m not.

QUESTION: So you don’t know if there was something in it that you guys objected to?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know. It sounds like something that was happening on the ground in Nairobi.

QUESTION: Right.

QUESTION: But there is a very strong wordage. They say, "We have seen clear and disturbing footage of the use of lethal force against unarmed demonstrators."

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Again, Sylvie, I said I’m not aware of this particular effort. It sounds like something that was generated on the ground in Nairobi. I’m not aware of it.

Yeah, Sue.

QUESTION: Another change of topic. Do you have any details of what the Secretary plans to say in Davos and also what her bilaterals will be?

MR. MCCORMACK: You’ll have to stay tuned. We’ll get you more info on the bilats, that’s evolving. You can expect her, in her remarks, to talk about American foreign policy, the values on which it is based and the importance of our pursuing those policies based on those values in a world that is increasingly complex in a number of different ways, whether that’s in the political front or the security front or the economic front. So that’s only the briefest and most general of descriptions. I’m sorry; it’s still being drafted. She’s going to take a close at the draft over the weekend. She’s going to -- she’s spending a lot of time on it, looking at it, looking at the words, thinking about what she wants to get across, so stay tuned.

QUESTION: But in this very broad -- sort of broad-brush approach that you’ve given us --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- is she going to look specifically at Iran, at the Israeli-Palestinian issue or is she looking more at security challenges of the day or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m sure she’ll talk about the Middle East a bit. I would be surprised if she didn’t, but again, I’m not going to go any further than that. This is a work in progress. She has her own very distinct thoughts about it and she’s going to put a lot of those on paper over the weekend.

QUESTION: And then in terms of bilats, President Musharraf is there, the Afghan president is there, Salam Fayyad is there --

MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll get you a list pretty soon here.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Arshad.

QUESTION: On the departure of Under Secretary Burns --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- do you have anything to say about who the Secretary may recommend to be his successor?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, yeah. I don’t know if the White House has put out the intent to nominate, but I’ll break with -- I’ll break the rules a little bit. We’re going to substitute one Burns for another and while we’re all sad to see Nick go -- he’s an enormously talented and capable individual dedicated to the policies of this President and this Secretary, we’re going to be -- we hope, pending Senate confirmation, going to have him replaced by another enormously talented and experienced individual, Bill Burns.

I think many of you are familiar with Bill. He’s currently our Ambassador to Russia, previously Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. I would expect he and the Secretary will, of course, talk about the specific portfolio and areas of emphases, but I did talk to her this morning. She intends to keep the Iran portfolio with Bill Burns when he -- again, pending confirmation, when -- once he’s confirmed.

QUESTION: But there was -- as you probably remember, there was a slight interregnum between the departure of Mark Grossman as P and the confirmation of Nick Burns in that job. And Bill Burns served -- wasn’t technically acting, but on a temporary basis. Who is going to do that between the departure of Nick Burns and the eventual -- you know, possible confirmation of Bill Burns?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, our hope is not to have a gap. Again, this is pending the machinery of the Senate working through what it legitimately and legally needs to do. Nick is not scheduled to leave his current job until, I think, March. So we hope that we can actually get Bill in here, get him through the confirmation process and in place. You know, ideally, you’d like to have even a little bit of overlap. I don’t know if that’s going to be possible, but the hope is that we can have Bill in place just as Nick is departing.

QUESTION: Just -- last thing on this, you know, the Secretary said that she had asked and Under Secretary Burns had agreed to retain a role on working on the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Do you expect that role to extend through its eventual passage in Congress or through the end of the year as you keep trying to get it passed or is there some timeline on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: No timeline. I would expect it to continue as long as it’s in an interest of the Secretary to have Nick doing that. And it’s -- Nick is able to do it with whatever comes next in his professional life.

QUESTION: And he would be a special envoy?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know that we’ve settled on a title yet, but he would remain focused on that particular issue. I think he’s uniquely positioned given his role in negotiating it.

QUESTION: And he’s committed to putting in the adequate amount of time?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, I’m sure. You know, Nick is one of these guys that manages to find 27 hours in the day, you know.

QUESTION: He’s promised a half-hearted and lackadaisical –

MR. MCCORMACK: That’s right.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) six-party talks?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I wanted to say, I just had one last thing on this. Is there any hope that Bill Burns, when he takes over the Iran portfolio, might be able to with his recent experience in Moscow, might be able to really ride herd on the Russians a little bit more than --

MR. MCCORMACK: He certainly has insight to their thinking. Look, you know, Bill is an enormously talented person. I’m sure he’ll bring all of those skills to bear, as well as his persuasive powers on all the other members of the P5+1. And --

QUESTION: But aside from his many other qualifications that you -- is he being nominated, you know, in part, because he’s got some deep insight into Russia and how they might feel about this issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. It had more to do with the last names, so we didn’t have to change the speed dial on any of their phones. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Is there anyone else named Burns in the Department, actually?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) No. Look, that certainly is something he brings to the table. But look, he has long experience in the Middle East. I mean, this is one of our most talented diplomats that we have and the Secretary is very grateful that he has agreed to accept the assignment.

QUESTION: Just for the record and for everybody reading the transcript and wondering out there in this world of many billions of people, can you state for the record, that the two men are not related?

MR. MCCORMACK: They are not related.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything more about on what basis Nick Burns would be staying on? Is it -- it would be part-time, presumably?

MR. MCCORMACK: There are special provisions within the law that allow people for discrete periods of -- or limited periods of time, not necessarily measured by the calendar year but by the number of days you spend doing something, that allow people who are not part of the government to work on specific functions.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. Okay and are there any plans for replacing Bill Burns’ ambassador --

MR. MCCORMACK: Stay tuned. Stay tuned. We have somebody in mind.

QUESTION: And what -- can I ask one more thing? Turn back to North Korea and Jay Lefkowitz’s comments, has the Department made any contact with China and South Korea in relation to --

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not sure. I know Deputy Secretary Negroponte is in Beijing. I don’t know if he spoke to them about it or not. But I think they -- they usually tune in one form or another to what we say in public. So I don’t know if we’ll communicate that privately. I’d assume we probably will.

QUESTION: Is it embarrassing that he went out there and said that? I mean, does it make your job that much more difficult?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sue, there are so many things that make my job difficult. That is way down on the list, let me tell you that.

All right. Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:26 p.m.)

DPB # 13



Released on January 18, 2008

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