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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 30, 2008



Jendayi Frazer Comments
Thousands Have Been Displaced for a Number of Different Reasons
Ambassador Clint Williamson Collecting Information on Reported Atrocities
Political Leaders Need to Come Together, Work with Annan to Find Solution
Working Level Review of USAID Funding Ongoing
Nobody Wants to Cut Off Humanitarian Assistance


Will Discuss Internally Jones-Pickering Study Findings and Recommendations
U.S. Supported Ashdown for Envoy to Coordinate Civilian and Military Efforts
U.S. Will Work With EU, UN and Afghan Partners to Identify New Candidate
Afghanistan Today is Not Afghanistan of 2001 / International Help Still Needed
Appreciate NATO Contributions to Military Efforts
Secretary Rice Lobbying NATO Counterparts for Additional Contributions
Afghanistan’s Future Has Direct Bearing on Global Security


Query on American Citizen Reportedly Detained in Pakistan, Safdar Sarqi
Readout of Secretary Rice’s Meeting with Musharraf in Davos
Assistant Secretary Boucher / Comments on Pakistan Elections
Important that the People of Pakistan Have Confidence in Election
No New Information Related to Death of DHS Agent


Readout of Meeting between Secretary and Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri
Importance of Passage of FTA / Discussion of Maghreb and Western Sahara


Khalilzad Position on Panel at Davos
No Iran Policy Shift by U.S.


Query on Upcoming UN Human Rights Report
U.S. Efforts to Promote Freedom and Democracy


Obligations of North Korea and U.S. Six-Party and North Korea


View Video

12:50 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don’t have anything to start with, so we can get right to your questions.

QUESTION: Can you clear up for us what exactly the Administration’s characterization or assessment is of the situation in Kenya?

MR. MCCORMACK: You’re referring to --

QUESTION: In the Rift Valley, referring to ethnic cleansing.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, Jendayi – Jendayi Frazer, our Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, was reflecting back to the press corps her firsthand view of the situation in the Rift Valley based on her travel there, I think, two or three weeks ago – a firsthand visit. You know, I don’t have anything to modify Jendayi’s statement. I can provide a bit of context, I believe, for perhaps her reasons, in addition to her firsthand assessment for making such a statement; that is, that we do know – you talk to experts within the government – we do know that there are thousands of people that have, for a variety of different reasons, been displaced in Kenya. Some of those people have been displaced because they were fleeing violence, they perceived some threat to themselves, to their families, so they fled violence. There is evidence that there are individuals that were forced to move out of various areas for a variety of different reasons, some based on ethnicity.

So it is a situation that is of deep concern to us, one that we are following very closely. We have an office here in the Department headed up by Clint Williamson, Ambassador Clint Williamson, who is charged with documenting any circumstances of atrocities wherever they may occur, whether it’s Kenya or around the world, collecting information, documenting any atrocities that may have occurred, and then following up in the appropriate manner and bringing to justice those responsible for any atrocities. He’s in the process now of collecting any information that may indicate any crimes, any atrocities that may have been committed. It will be an issue that is dealt with down the road. And very often, the case with these kind of circumstances is that you don’t have a full understanding, a complete picture of what happened, until after the situation is over and things have calmed down.

All of this points to the need for the two political leaders – President Kibaki and Mr. Odinga – to come together, work with former UN Secretary General Annan, find a political solution. Because the violence springs from the political tensions that have arisen in the wake of the election, the contested election, and it is incumbent upon these two individuals and the political leadership in their political parties to come to some political accommodation within the framework of Kenyan laws and Kenyan constitution so that they can move beyond this sad and violent chapter in Kenya’s history.

QUESTION: Recognizing that ethnic cleansing, the term, is not a legal phrase like genocide is --


QUESTION: -- does the Administration believe that what has happened in some instances there constitutes ethnic cleansing?

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, I don’t have anything more to add to Jendayi’s comments. I think they stand on their own.

QUESTION: Well, what does that mean? Is that her personal --

MR. MCCORMACK: She made some comments based on her firsthand assessment from the trip several weeks ago. I provided some – I tried to provide a little context for you here, and that is that there’s a serious issue. There’s a serious issue of people being displaced for a variety of different reasons, including being forced from their homes based on ethnic identification.

QUESTION: But you are not prepared to use the same term that she did?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I’ll let her statement stand on its own.

QUESTION: Sean, I mean, it’s an emotionally charged phrase. Would you – you know, when it’s been used in the past, it’s --

MR. MCCORMACK: Understood. Understood. And Jendayi has made some comments based on her firsthand assessment to the Rift Valley. I can’t --

QUESTION: So does that mean that it’s a personal assessment of herself and not an assessment of the Administration?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not going to try to modify her statement, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, I just don’t understand. Is she speaking on behalf of the Administration when she says this or is she speaking on behalf of herself?

MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, I’ve tried to provide you some context for her comments. I’m not going to offer any sort of modification for it. Her comments stand --

QUESTION: Do you understand --

MR. MCCORMACK: They stand on their own.

QUESTION: Do you understand why I’m harping on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Of course. Of course, I understand. I’m not calling into question – I’m not calling into question the reasons for the question. I understand perfectly. I understand perfectly why you’re asking the question. I understand that – I understand the history behind this phrase. I understand what comes along with it. And what I’m trying to do is provide you a – the best answer with all the context that I possibly know.

QUESTION: You understand the history of the phrase and what comes along with it, but you’re not prepared to repeat it?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you know, her comments stand – stand on their own.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a question about Ambassador Wilkinson? Just – you said that he’s in the process of --

MR. MCCORMACK: Ambassador --

QUESTION: Clint --

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, Williamson?

QUESTION: Williamson, excuse me.


QUESTION: You said he’s in the process of gathering information on this.


QUESTION: Does he or his office have people on the ground actually doing this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that – not that I’m aware of. I think they rely--

QUESTION: On the Embassy?

MR. MCCORMACK: At this stage, on the Embassy, yes.

QUESTION: So it’s sort of the same data set? In other words, they don’t do this independently? They rely on existing --

MR. MCCORMACK: If he feels as though he needs to send people in the field, he will. It’s a relatively small office, but they’re quite capable.

QUESTION: And his office has not yet made any determination or any characterization or any assessment of the – of what’s been going on in terms of the – what’s happening specifically to --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, it’s still an evolving situation. It’s still very fluid. We obviously have a number of different ways of assessing what has gone on and looking at what has gone on and is going on. And we’re focusing our assets and capabilities on following the issue.

QUESTION: Okay. And did – same thing, I just want to know if you’ve gotten any— the figures that – the number – the aid numbers and what’s going on with this review and what’s on the table and what’s off the table. Is it --

MR. MCCORMACK: There is a working – here’s what I understand. There’s a working level review that is ongoing and the – as I said several weeks ago, the bulk of our aid program is – comprises our PEPFAR, HIV/AIDS funding as well as humanitarian aid. That’s several hundred – several hundred million dollars worth. I think it’s safe to say there’s a working level review, looks at everything. We have said, however, we’re – nobody’s going to cut off anybody’s antiretroviral treatments. I can tell you that. And most of our humanitarian assistance is delivered directly through NGOs. It doesn’t – it doesn’t cycle through Kenyan Government coffers.

So while you do have this review that’s going on, I can tell you, from the Secretary on down, nobody’s going to do anything that – especially given the current political crisis and the violence that’s ongoing – to, in any way, worsen the humanitarian situation in Kenya. There is – there are some small amounts, relatively small amounts when you look at the total size of our assistance package to Kenya that could fall under review and could be subject to some sort of withholding, some sort of action. They have not yet determined what that number is yet.

QUESTION: Does it -- will that – those small – those programs, that’s IMET, FMF and counterterrorism?

MR. MCCORMACK: It’s a relatively small. There’s --

QUESTION: Yeah, I know, but are those the categories?

MR. MCCORMACK: That’s basically – those are basically the categories.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn’t say it’s exhaustive. I don’t want to get caught with somebody coming back to me and saying, “Well, what about this one, other one,” but that’s essentially it, yeah.

QUESTION: Well, the list that I got – I don’t know if you saw that.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm, I did.

QUESTION: Is that accurate?


QUESTION: Okay. And so that list, on it has things like – things that are labeled as development assistance. Is that something that could be --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have – the basic answer is I don’t have the breakdown of all the budget lines and I can’t answer the question of what falls in, potentially, or what falls clearly outside –


MR. MCCORMACK: -- for the review, other than to say nobody’s cutting off anti-retrovirals. Nobody wants to cut off humanitarian assistance. Part of the reason why I can’t do that is I don’t think they’re done with this review yet. They’re still at the working levels.

QUESTION: Can you put any further precision on small amounts under review?

MR. MCCORMACK: Several millions of dollars.

QUESTION: Sean, does the assessment that – does any of the work being done by Ambassador Williamson’s office have anything to do with an assessment that could feed into this aid review? I mean, is – are you – when you’re documenting cases, are you trying to make some assessment of the situation on the ground, whether there’s ethnic cleansing, which would affect your aid review?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know if formally he feeds it, how he relates to the process. I don’t know that he formally has a seat at the table in the process. But of course, if he comes across any information that would be useful to people in making assessments, of course, he’s going to provide it. But I suspect what the case is at this point, sort of the pool of data and information from which he is working is probably the same pool of data and information that most others have access to at this point.

QUESTION: And just with the aid not withstanding, is there some assessment that’s going to be made in this – in the Administration or in the building of what exactly is going on, whether it’s ethnic cleansing, whether it’s something else?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I mean, it’s not – it’s not a legal term. You know, there are other terms that have standing in law and are enshrined and trigger certain things – certain actions by the government. Look, people have been watching this. People have been monitoring it very closely. It’s part of the reason why we have expended quite a bit of energy and focus on trying to get a political solution to the current crisis in Kenya. That’s the root cause of the violence that you’re seeing right now – the political dispute. And far too many people have lost their lives as a result of this political dispute. And it’s time now – it’s well past time to end it. And that’s why we’re supporting Secretary General Annan and his efforts to bring about – help broker a solution. He said that he’s not going to leave until there is a solution. We fully support him in his efforts.


QUESTION: You said that there are some movement of populations based on ethnicity. What --


QUESTION: What is the ethnicity which is especially targeted by these – or what are the ethnicities? Do you know that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t. Off the top of my head, I don’t, Sylvie. I don’t. I don’t know how it breaks down exactly.

QUESTION: Can we go to Afghanistan?

QUESTION: Hold on, I just have one more on this one.


QUESTION: The – in the review, the aid review, is there – are there any – is there anything else being looked at or – either as part of the review or aside – you know, separately from the review in terms of sanctions, in terms of any kind of change in --

MR. MCCORMACK: Like travel bans and that sort of thing?


MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, I don’t know that anybody’s settled on anything in particular. I think people will – people will look at the policy steps that we think we need to take to bring about – bring about a solution. I -- at this point, Matt, I can’t tell you anything in particular that people are looking at other than to – other than to say we want to do what is effective in trying to bring about a solution.

QUESTION: Well, what does that mean? That it’s being --

MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll take a look at all the various policy steps that we might take that we think will help bring about a solution. I don’t want to specify anything at this point.

QUESTION: Is that the same as – is that part of the – an overall review? Is that, then, separate and distinct from the aid situation?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think the aid is – aid situation is part of it.

QUESTION: So it’s a whole --

MR. MCCORMACK: Part of it – we want to --

QUESTION: This is not a review just of U.S. assistance; it’s a review of – it’s a whole review of U.S. policy for --

MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn’t – no, I wouldn’t – I wouldn’t couch it exactly like that, Matt. You’re always – in a policymaking process, the question is, you have a problem; how do you solve the problem? What are the steps that you take to solve the problem? So, you know, review has a certain connotation. There are people who are set up in interagency committees working – working through the nights and they’re going to produce nice, bound volumes of conclusions. That’s not – that’s not what we’re doing. What we will look at is, are there any things that we might do that will help bring about a solution. The aid review is part of that.


QUESTION: Do you think it’s helpful to use such terms as “ethnic cleansing” when the situation is so incendiary at the moment in Kenya? Isn’t it your role to try and lower the tensions?

MR. MCCORMACK: Our role is to try to help bring about a solution and it’s incumbent upon the individuals and the primary players in this political crisis to bring about a solution. Nobody can do – nobody can bring about a solution for them. If we could have brought about a solution for them, this would have been solved three weeks ago. It’s not the case. So our – what we’re trying to do is help create an atmosphere where they can come together. Secretary General Annan is trying to do that as well and part of our efforts are to support what he’s doing.

You know, we went through a long discussion about Jendayi’s statement. I don’t have anything to add to what she said. I don’t have anything to modify it. I’ll try to provide some content – context, I think, for her remarks and to try to bring you in a little bit into what we’re seeing on the ground. There are thousands upon thousands of people that have been displaced in Kenya. It’s a tragic and sad situation for a proud nation and they have been displaced for a number of different reasons. Some, as I said, have fled the violence. They felt threatened; they felt the need to flee. Some, we understand, have been forced out for a variety of different reasons, including ethnicity.


QUESTION: We talked about this a little bit this morning, but this Jones-Pickering study --


QUESTION: Have you seen it yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know that we’ve thumbed through the copy, but these are two very serious individuals, Tom Pickering and General Jones. Anything that they produce and put their name on bears close scrutiny in terms of the policy process. At this point, we haven’t had a chance to assess the full report. We’ll take a look at it, assess it, talk internally about if there are any suggestions or views in there that merit further consideration and discussion. I know that there’s – you asked earlier about this position of a senior American envoy --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) in Washington, not a UN –



MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, I understand. At this point, we have a very-- extremely capable U.S. ambassador in Kabul. He works very closely with his American counterparts in the military, his counterparts in NATO, as well as others involved in the international effort in Afghanistan.

Now, we have clearly identified the need for a senior civilian envoy that would help coordinate the multitude of international aid efforts and to help coordinate those international aid efforts with military efforts ongoing in Afghanistan, both U.S. military as well as NATO military efforts there. We’ve learned the lessons of counterinsurgency and it’s critically important that you coordinate civilian and military efforts, reconstruction as well as security efforts, in a country. And inasmuch as you have a very significant international presence in Afghanistan, it’s really important to make sure that all of those efforts are internally consistent on the civilian side and also that you have complementarity between the civilian efforts and the military efforts there.

We supported Paddy – Lord Ashdown, Paddy Ashdown, for that role. He decided for his own reasons, which he has stated, not to take the job. That’s unfortunate. He’s a very capable individual. We thought that he would have been a good pick for that role, that senior civilian envoy role. It’s not to be, so we will work with the UN as well as others in the international system, our partners in Europe as well and Afghanistan, to find a person who can fill that job.

At this point, in terms of senior civilian envoys, I’m not aware of any discussions that we’ve had internally about somebody else to fill that role. If the Secretary and the President think it’s the right thing to do, of course, we’ll talk a little bit more about it. But I’m not aware of any internal discussions we’ve had on that point yet.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) expected to say that stabilizing – the effort to stabilize Afghanistan is faltering. Is that something – do you agree with that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, there are real challenges in Afghanistan. We’re in a fight. We’re in a fight in Afghanistan, with the Afghans, against violent extremists. And there are a lot of different challenges that we have on the military side and on the civilian side, but I can tell you that Afghanistan of today is not the Afghanistan of 2001. Afghanistan of the years 1999 and 2000, 2001, was a failed state. We know what a failed state looks like. It was Afghanistan under the Taliban. The – while Afghanistan of today has a variety of different challenges, it is not Afghanistan of 2001. They’ve made a lot of progress. They have a ways to go. And while it is a sovereign country, it’s a proud country, they need the international community’s assistance. And we’re ready to continue our assistance. It’s important for the future of the Afghan people, it’s important for the region, and it’s important for global security that we succeed both on the security front but also on the front of civilian reconstruction.

QUESTION: One quote actually says or is expected to say that – well, I mean, like everybody, we have it – you know, is a failed state. I think it says that it’s at risk of becoming a failed state. Do you concur with that assessment that it is at risk of becoming a failed state?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I haven’t read the report. I don’t know the basis for the conclusion. I’d have no reason to doubt that that’s an accurate description of the report. I haven’t read it, so I don’t – I can’t tell you whether or not that’s an accurate depiction of what is says in the report or the reasons why they might say that. I can only say that it’s an ongoing fight on the military side and on the civilian side, its challenges are on the civilian side.

And there’s nothing to say that if we don’t help the Afghans succeed, that they will not continue to make progress. As a matter of fact, if the international community doesn’t help them, they probably won’t continue to make progress. I think it’s very likely they won’t. But as I said, the Afghanistan of today is not the Afghanistan of 2001.

QUESTION: Can you take just one last one on this? Is it not troubling to you that now six years after the toppling of the Taliban and the injection of, you know, significant numbers of U.S. troops into the country of 29,000 at the moment, significant amounts of U.S. economic assistance that a report by two, you know, leading former diplomat, former – you know, retired general should have such a sort of dour view of the American enterprise in Afghanistan six years after it began?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a couple things. It’s not an American enterprise. It is an Afghan and international enterprise. And I think one of the great overlooked stories of the past several years is the fact that you have NATO involved very deeply in Afghanistan in – Secretary Rice has called it an out-of-area effort where, in fact, that was unimaginable in 2001, that you would have NATO forces on the ground in Afghanistan engaged in a fight. That is really something that was inconceivable just several years ago.

But you have to understand where Afghanistan started here. We’re in the process of helping the Afghans not reconstruct an infrastructure in large part, but construct an infrastructure. We are helping the Afghans create institutions that are recognizable parts of a thriving, functioning democracy. And we’re trying to help them overcome decades, if not more, of violence and fighting and fractiousness along ethnic and religious lines. So Afghanistan has a ways to go, but they’ve come a long way. And they had a lot of history, a lot of obstacles to overcome. This is not a country that is endowed with an abundance of natural resources. They don’t have oil and they don’t have, you know, the kind of fertile farming ground that you see between the Tigris and Euphrates in Iraq. They have a gritty, tough, determined people. They have been blessed with that certainly. But they didn’t – it’s not a country that came along with a lot of those kinds of natural resources.

So they have a lot of challenges. They start off at a plateau where there are a lot of challenges to building up a thriving, democratic state. And just because there are those challenges, doesn’t mean that we’re going to abandon them in midstream. As a matter of fact, all it does is underscore the fact that we need to continue to help them, that we need to rally the support of the international community in helping the Afghan people build a different kind of nation, a different kind of state.

QUESTION: How would you rate NATO contributions at this point? There’s been a lot of talk about --

MR. MCCORMACK: There’s been a lot of talk about that. Well, I’ll let the folks over at DOD talk about what sort of military needs they might have, in terms of NATO contributions. I know Secretary Rice has been deeply involved in, I guess – what’s the right term, lobbying her NATO counterparts to provide forces, to provide training assistance and also to look at what sort of caveats they might have on the use of their forces in Afghanistan. And we’ve seen some change. But I think you can probably take it from the remarks of Secretary Gates as well as others -- Under Secretary Nick Burns here -- that NATO needs to do more. NATO needs to do more.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?


QUESTION: One of the complaints of a lot of NATO officials and officials in NATO countries is that when they signed up to this effort, it wasn’t supposed to be a counterinsurgency that they’re not trained – that a lot of them aren’t trained for that. They didn’t sign up to do that and they don’t want to do that. And it’s perfectly acceptable that the United States still has this counterinsurgency mission in Afghanistan. But it’s overlapping with what they signed up to do, which is really kind of more of the, you know, stability, keeping the peace and nation building.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, individual states are going to have to make their own determinations in the context of NATO of what their forces do and what they don’t do, what they signed up for and what they didn’t sign up for. The fact of the matter is that Afghanistan’s future fate has a direct bearing on global security. And there are violent extremists who are fighting in Afghanistan, fighting along that border area with Pakistan, who want to turn the clock back on the progress that has been made in Afghanistan. They want to turn the clock back on the progress that's been made in Pakistan. We've seen that. And as a baseline, I think there is an understanding in NATO that what happens in Afghanistan does affect their security at home. It does affect the security in that region. It does affect security globally.

We had to learn -- we had to relearn -- our military had to relearn a lot of the lessons of counterinsurgency. And I suspect that there are going to be other states that need to do the same along the way. We appreciate very much the contributions and the sacrifices that our NATO allies have made. They've paid -- they have paid, not only in terms of monetary terms, but they've paid in terms of lives of their citizens and their soldiers and the Afghans appreciate that. Certainly, we appreciate that and we more than anybody else understand the kind of sacrifice it takes to win this kind of fight. But it's a fight that is worth fighting. It is a fight that is worth winning and it's essential that we do.

QUESTION: So you're saying that you appreciate their contribution, but they've kind of made sure of the mission has changed a little bit and they need to readjust.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, everybody -- they're all going to have to make their own decisions about what it is they contribute. Nobody can make those decisions for them. We can strongly urge them to live up to the commitments of the alliance in this regard, whether that's security or reconstruction efforts. But it's important that everybody understands this is a fight. It's a fight.

QUESTION: Are you implying that they don't quite understand that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think they understand that.

QUESTION: You mentioned that this -- the fact of the matter is it's about global security. Is there not a recognition of that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think people do understand that it is a matter of global security. Look, these are hard decisions for countries. It's a hard decision to send your citizens and your soldiers into harm's way and a lot of countries have done that. And I think that there is a strong commitment to help the Afghans and help the Afghan Government work.

QUESTION: Change the subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, anything else on this? Please, wait a second. Comments on my answers, sorry. (Laughter.) Gosh, it hurts my feelings.

QUESTION: What is the U.S. doing about the incarceration of Dr. Safdar Sarki? He's a U.S. citizen who's been in prison in Pakistan for, I think, about 18 months now. And recently there's reports that he's taken quite ill.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll get you an answer on that. I don't, off the top of my head, have one for you.

QUESTION: All right.


QUESTION: Could you please provide the readouts of the meetings this morning by the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation with Ms. Rice and Under Secretary Burns.

MR. MCCORMACK: The Secretary -- the meeting with Under Secretary Burns, I don't have a readout for you. I don't know what they talked about. I wasn't in that one. But I was in the meeting with the Secretary and the Foreign Minister. They talked a lot about U.S.-Moroccan bilateral relations. It's a strong relationship. I think there's a desire and a will on both sides to strengthen and deepen those relationships. The Secretary and Foreign Minister both noted the importance of the passage of the FTA and how that is one vehicle to strengthen and deepen those ties. They talked a lot about the Maghreb and efforts to reach out across boundaries and previous conflicts among the states of the Maghreb to come together. They talked a little bit about the Western Sahara and the UN's efforts to find a solution to that. Secretary Rice expressed her -- the U.S. Government's strong support for the efforts of the UN to try to find a solution. They talked about -- a little bit about the common counterterrorism fight that we have in the Maghreb and that was about it.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: I realize it's a week late, but I wonder if you had a readout --

MR. MCCORMACK: Is it a dollar short?

QUESTION: And a dollar short, probably. But do you have a readout of the Secretary's meeting last week in Davos with President Musharraf? What they discussed? What they came up? Because we didn't really get a full readout.

MR. MCCORMACK: They talked a lot about the internal situation in Pakistan. They talked about -- the Secretary talked to President Musharraf about how he saw the situation in Pakistan and how he saw the election process playing out and politics playing out. She urged President Musharraf to conduct these elections in such a way that the Pakistani people have confidence in the elections, it's going to be important that candidates have access to media, that they're able to campaign, that they're able to express their views. President Musharraf also talked about the importance of having an atmosphere surrounding the elections that is secure so that people felt as though they could freely express themselves and participate in the elections. And talked a little bit about the U.S.-Pakistan efforts on counterterrorism and that's generally it. I mean, I don't have my notes in front of me, that's just from memory.


QUESTION: Sean, looking at your language today and Assistant Secretary Boucher’s language yesterday, it almost sounds as if the U.S. Government has given up on the possibility of Pakistan having a truly free and fair election. You’ve talked about how, you know, this should be an election that the Pakistani people have confidence in, but you didn’t say free and fair. Yesterday, Assistant Secretary Boucher said it should be as free and fair as possible, implying that free and fair really isn’t possible. You know, given the restrictions on the media, given the detention or incarceration of opposition lawyers, given the house arrest of the supreme – some of the supreme court justices who were dismissed from their jobs last November, does the Administration think a free and fair election is actually possible here? And did she, in fact, urge President Musharraf to have a free and fair election?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I’m not trying to walk away from any of – you know, any of the standards. We want – basically, in – when you have a country that is involved in a process of democratic and political reforms, you want to see each succeeding election get a little bit better in terms of how free, how fair it is, and the level of confidence that the population has in the election that the result reflects the will of the people. You know, Pakistan, as we know, has a – throughout its history has had various irregularities to a greater or lesser extent in their electoral process. We don’t have perfect elections. I don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect election.

So yes, we do encourage them to do all of those things that will result in a sum total that the people feel as though that they have confidence in the election that the results of the election reflects their will. There are a lot of different elements that go into that. You talked about some: access to the media; the ability of individuals to campaign, freely express themselves; the population to express themselves in a variety of different ways in a peaceful – in a peaceful manner.

We’ll see. We’ll see how the election comes out. We’re not trying to lower the bar here. But ultimately, you know, we can have our assessment. Various countries around the world can have their assessments of the election. But what finally matters in the context of Pakistan’s political development is that the people have confidence in this election. That confidence will be based on a variety of different factors and we shall see how the election turns out. It’s an important election for Pakistan. They have come through recently a very difficult period in their political history, and it is our hope that the Pakistani Government can get back on that road that we had seen it on previously, one of increasing political and economic reforms and increasing political and economic freedoms.

QUESTION: In her discussions with President Musharraf, did the Secretary point out concern, you know, among lawmakers over democratic progress in Pakistan and that aid should be tied to this? There’s been a lot of noise in Congress over aid and what Pakistan needs to do to get the aid that the U.S. supplies.

MR. MCCORMACK: They had a little bit of a one-on-one session. They kicked some of us out – all the straphangers – after a while, so they had a one-on-one discussion. I don’t know if that – they touched on that topic during that portion of it. I don’t recall – off the top of my head, I don’t recall it coming up during the part of the discussion where various others were present.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. Government have any intention to make U.S. aid to Pakistan conditional on electoral reforms or on the outcome of this – the fairness and freeness with which this election --

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not aware of any particular review effort to look at what we’re doing right now in – connected to this particular election. I mean, obviously, we’ll see how things unfold and evolve, but I’m not aware of any effort, at least in the Executive Branch, to do that.

QUESTION: Sean, I want to go --

QUESTION: Pakistan?

QUESTION: Yeah – no, go ahead.

QUESTION: Still? This is a different --

QUESTION: This is different, too.


QUESTION: Just – do you have any reason to believe that the death of the DHS guy was anything other than – or that there was any suspicious circumstances of it?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing at this point would change what I said on Monday or what the Embassy said on Monday. It’s a sad event. It’s a tragedy for this man’s family. I’m not aware of anything on our side that would cause us to change our assessment at this point. If anything develops, of course, we will talk about that. But I’m not aware of anything.

QUESTION: But you know of the reports --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I know what you’re talking about.

QUESTION: -- from Pakistani officials?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah – no, I know what you’re talking about, yeah.

QUESTION: But you don’t – they haven’t – do you know if they – if Pakistani authorities have been in touch with you guys to --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know – I don’t --

QUESTION: -- relay those same --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I don’t have any specific knowledge of a particular contact. I would be surprised if there weren’t a lot of contact between our folks in the Embassy and Pakistani officials.

QUESTION: Just to get one thing clear and sort of absolutely on-the-record. The fact that Ambassador Khalilzad sat next to Iranian Foreign Minister Motaki over the weekend in Davos, does that, in any way, shape or form signal any kind of a change in U.S. policy toward Iran or contacts with Iranian officials?


QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: There you go.

QUESTION: Change of subject? The Human Rights Watch report is, I understand, going to be released tomorrow, but it accuses the United States of --

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me guess, you have an advance copy?

QUESTION: Well, who doesn’t?

MR. MCCORMACK: How did that happen?

QUESTION: (Laughter.) But it – among many things, it accuses the United States of undermining human rights by allowing autocracies like Kazakhstan and Nigeria to pose as democracies. I would suspect that you disagree with that statement.

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me – you know, let us look at the report and actually read it before we respond to it.

QUESTION: But would you agree that Kazakhstan and Nigeria are autocracies? Do you think they’re democracies?

MR. MCCORMACK: They’re – both of these – both of these countries are – have unique challenges in terms of where they stand along the pathway to thriving, stable, vibrant democracy. Their histories are quite different and they’re – the challenges, therefore, that they face are quite, quite different. That’s, I guess, the first point, that you have to take each case on its own merits.

In terms of the United States and this Administration, speaking up in defense of and advocating for and putting its effort behind its rhetoric, I don’t think it’s – I don’t think there’s any question about where we stand in terms of promotion of democracy, whether it’s in Kazakhstan or Nigeria or anywhere else around the world. Secretary Rice, just in a speech in Davos at the World Economic Forum, talked about – on this topic that we are matching our values with our interests, and we’re matching our values with our power, and we advocate using all elements of our national power for the advancement of freedom and democracy around the world.

That’s just a general comment. I can’t comment in particular or specifically about this report, not having read it.


QUESTION: Yeah, what is the U.S. decision about whether to remove the North Korea from the state sponsor of terrorism list?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we have the answer to that. I think we’ve answered that question a million times, or pretty close. It feels like a million.

Look, it’s going to be action for action. This is something I know that the North Korean Government is interested in. It is part of the current phase of the agreement that we are all working on. North Korea is working on some of their obligations. We will work on our obligations. We certainly intend to fulfill our obligations, as to other members of the six-party talks, as North Korea makes progress on its obligations, fulfilling its obligations.


(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m.)

DPB # 19

Released on January 30, 2008

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