|Daily Press Briefing|
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 3, 2008
|Hunt Oil / Former A/S Bergners Letter to Senator Levin|
|Advised to Defer Deals Until a Hydrocarbons Law Was Passed|
|Missile Defense Negotiations Are Not Finished|
|Secretary Rice to Travel to Sign Agreement on Missile Defense|
|P5+1 Refreshed Proposal / Look Forward to Receiving the Iranian Response|
|Iranians Must Suspend Enrichment Activities in Order for Direct U.S. Negotiations|
|Have Not Heard Anything Back From Iranians Regarding Refreshed Proposal|
|Kidnapping Victims Rescued / U.S. Supporting Role|
|Consular Officials Have Been in Contact With The Families|
|IDPs Taking Refuge on Sidewalk Adjacent to Embassy / MDC / Not A Threat|
|U.S. Working With NGOS to Assist|
|Taken Dramatic Steps Toward Completing Disablement Phase|
|Step By Step Process / Action For Action|
|U.S. Disablement Fund / Disablement Checklist|
|Denial of Visas for Bushman|
|U.S. Efforts to Repatriate GITMO Detainees|
1:29 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don’t have anything to start off with, so we can get right to your questions.
QUESTION: Sean, can you explain --
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, wow. Chomping at the bit. Okay, good afternoon.
QUESTION: -- what the State Department role in the Hunt Oil deal was?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, all – what I can, Matt, is that it is very clearly our policy that we advise anybody who, Matt, came to us that absent a hydrocarbons law, they should defer signature of any contracts with any sub-regional institutions in Iraq. In this case, it would mean the Kurdish regional government.
We have sent letters previously to the Hill in this regard. And I think there was a previous inquiry on this matter from Senator Levin. Assistant Secretary Bergner – or, Former Assistant Secretary Bergner -- sent a letter up to Mr. Levin.
QUESTION: That would have been when?
MR. MCCORMACK: It was about six months ago, I think. Was it six months ago?
MR. CASEY: I believe it was more like four months ago. It was in March.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, March, okay. So four months ago. And I know Congressman Waxman has been concerned with this issue. Now beyond that – now, I can’t be a fact witness for any and all conversations that have taken place in the State Department. I’ve seen a lot of quotes from various e-mails. I can’t speak to those. But I can tell you at the least, those – that policy was conveyed. Now, I don’t know if there were any other conversations around that. I can’t attest to that and I’m not going to be a fact witness to --
QUESTION: So they knew that they should defer any -- (inaudible) and that was through Hunt?
MR. MCCORMACK: Correct. That’s what Jeff Bergner’s letter said.
QUESTION: By -- his letter to Levin?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: So how did – how was Hunt advised that they should defer until a hydrocarbon law was passed?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know. I’d refer you back to that correspondence, Matt.
QUESTION: Do you know who advised Hunt that they should defer the deal that they subsequently did?
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, we had the correspondence with the Hill on it. And I’m not going to be a fact witness for any other facts beyond what has been already conveyed in that letter.
QUESTION: Do you think that mixed messages were sent, based on the e-mails that have been released by Waxman’s committee?
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, Arshad, I can’t attest to any conversations beyond that conveying that policy. I don’t know. And certainly, if there are any other further inquiries from Congressman Waxman, I’m sure that we will answer those appropriately.
QUESTION: But can I just say, the letter that Bergner sent to Levin in March --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: -- repeated the wording of what you just said?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know if it’s word for word, but the essence of it, yeah.
QUESTION: So he said --
MR. MCCORMACK: Why don’t we see if we can make that letter available to people? Be happy to convey that – make that letter available to you guys.
QUESTION: But you don’t – but you don’t know, or you’re not aware of, how Hunt was – or any other company was told that was --
MR. MCCORMACK: I do not – I don’t know. I don’t know.
QUESTION: So if, as it appears, there was a mixed message from someone on the ground or from a couple of people on the ground in Iraq, anyone who was giving a message other than “you should defer until the hydrocarbon law is passed,” was not speaking for the State Department or --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, I can’t attest that somebody did that. I can’t attest that that didn’t happen. So, I’m not – to use a phrase from yesterday – I’m value neutral, and I’m not going to be a fact witness.
QUESTION: Can I (inaudible) --
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not going to be a fact witness either way on that.
MR. MCCORMACK: I can tell you what our policy has been and is --
MR. MCCORMACK: And that should have been what was conveyed to anybody who made any inquiries about this.
QUESTION: Well, if there was a mixed message, then it was off message, correct? If Hunt somehow got the impression that you were – that State Department was encouraging them or was not opposing or was not suggesting that they defer, that would have been the --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, not attesting --
QUESTION: I know --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- that that had happened. If such a thing happened, yes, that would not – that would have been contrary to what the policy was.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) e-mails are – you know, that were released by the committee quote Hunt officials as saying that they were not advised not to proceed with this – you know --
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Can you square why they think they weren’t advised of it --
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: -- but you think they were?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I can’t – I can only refer back to what Mr. Bergner wrote to Senator Levin. And that’s the basis of my responses to you.
QUESTION: No, I understand. And is it not somehow inappropriate that a company led by a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board should choose to defy what is State Department – U.S. Government policy by making such a deal?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, I’m not going to attest to the set of facts that are inherent in your question or – implicit or explicit to your question. Again, I’m not here to be a fact witness. In terms of – in terms of the PFIAB, I have no reason to question the integrity or the ethics of anybody who has served on the PFIAB.
QUESTION: But I think two facts --
MR. MCCORMACK: Have, or has.
QUESTION: Right, I think two facts that are not in question, though, are that (a) an individual of concern did indeed serve on the PFIAB and (b) Hunt did indeed go ahead and do this deal. And the third fact is that your policy is that companies should not do such deals.
MR. MCCORMACK: I have answered both questions as far as I can in terms of the basis of Mr. Bergner’s letter. And I’m in no way raising any questions about anybody’s ethics.
QUESTION: The State Department said yesterday that the United States reached a tentative agreement with Poland on anti-missile shield and is waiting for Polish Government to accept it, to approve it, to accept it. So what is American administration going to do if Polish Prime Minister Tusk does not accept this deal, and to what extent it might harm Polish-American relations?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we’re – you know, the U.S. and Poland have a good relationship, and we’re NATO allies. We’re involved in a negotiation with the Polish Government, and we have -- the reports I’ve received back from those negotiations are that we have made good progress. They’re not done yet, because everything is not yet completed. To the extent there are any questions involving politics on the Polish side, you can talk to the Polish Government about that. But we have a very good relationship with Poland – they’re a good friend and they’re a good ally. And, you know, whatever the outcome of these negotiations, that will continue to be the case.
QUESTION: Yeah, what are you going to do if Poland does not accept this deal?
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said before when asked about -- do you have in mind other options. You always have --
QUESTION: Like Lithuania?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not going to talk about any particular option. You always have – you always have other options. And this is an issue that’s important to NATO. NATO has stated as such. We’re going to move forward with the Czech Republic and we – as is evidenced by our negotiations with the Polish Government, would like to move forward with the Polish Government. We’ll see if that’s possible.
QUESTION: But you say that the negotiations have not been completed yet, right?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing’s done till everything’s done, and everything isn’t done.
QUESTION: So --
QUESTION: But --
QUESTION: Don’t you have a travel announcement for us?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t yet, but the Secretary will be traveling next week to Europe. There are going to be several stops. And we’ll talk to you a little bit hopefully, before you all get on an airplane, on Monday – on Monday evening, exactly what all those stops will be. But she will be traveling to Europe next week, to include the Czech Republic. It’s been announced that we are going to be traveling to the Czech Republic.
QUESTION: For the purpose of?
MR. MCCORMACK: For the purpose of signing an agreement -- (laughter) – for the purpose of signing an agreement on missile defense, yeah. I think that’s been previously announced.
QUESTION: And then can you pick the date of that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Off the top of my head, I don’t know which day it is. We’ll include all of that information in the trip announcement whenever it emerges.
QUESTION: You think that’ll be today?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, that was my betting. We’ll see.
QUESTION: Will the Secretary also visit Warsaw?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we’ll see. But I’ve stated one stop on her trip to Europe. We’ll see if there are others that we have to announce.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) talk about Iraq and the oil thing for just one second. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Now I’ve forgotten what it was. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Jet lag.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: I’ll come back to it, sorry.
QUESTION: So there’s no final agreement between Poland and U.S. on missile defense. You can confirm that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think I just said that, didn’t I? Nothing’s done till everything’s done, and everything isn’t done.
QUESTION: Sean, apparently, there was a (inaudible) between the six and – well, the P-5+1 and Iran on renegotiations with the Europeans in exchange of – not suspension of the enrichment, but of leaving the enrichment to the same level for awhile. Do you have anything on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think – I think that’s a bit of a garble. There’s a proposal that is before the Iranians that is agreed upon by the P-5+1. It was refreshed, enhanced, if you will, but it was built on a foundation that had been previously agreed upon by the P-5+1, conveyed to the Iranians, which the Iranians rejected. Now, we’re at a point where that refreshed proposal is before the Iranians. They have indicated that they are going to give a response to that proposal in the near future. We look forward to receiving that proposal.
On one hand, we have seen some positive remarks from Prime Minister – not Prime Minister -- Foreign Minister Motaki, while he was up in New York. On the other hand, we have a history of Iran not following through on previous positive remarks or in any way taking any steps forward towards complying with the demands of the international community. We all await the Iranian response to that proposal.
QUESTION: But keeping the enrichment at the same level for awhile would be a – do you think it could be acceptable?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I’m not going to get into the details of the negotiations or proposed negotiations. We have talked to the Iranians previously via the P-5+1 and Mr. Solana, about various ways to get to full-blown negotiations.
QUESTION: You do it then via the EU-3, right, not the P-5+1?
MR. MCCORMACK: Via Mr. Solana.
MR. MCCORMACK: Via Mr. Solana, about getting to those full-blown negotiations. The Iranians understand full well what is required of them to – in order to do that. And the bottom line is, in order to get to those full-blown negotiations where you have the U.S. and the other five members of the P-5+1 present at the table with the Iranians, they’re going to have to suspend their enrichment-related activity. And of course, with the suspension of activities in the Security Council during that --
QUESTION: Can you just – and would you agree with negotiation between the EU-3 and Iran and no suspension, but only the same level of enrichment?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, there’s a proposal before the Iranians. We’re going to --
QUESTION: But I think there is a new agreement.
MR. MCCORMACK: There is – there’s a proposal before the Iranians. We – to my knowledge, we have not heard anything back formally from the Iranians concerning the proposal that’s before them.
QUESTION: Well, is there anything new? Is there anything new?
MR. MCCORMACK: What’s that?
QUESTION: Has there been a – has there been a subsequent communication with the Iranians about the refreshed package that might have included a new --
MR. MCCORMACK: Not to my knowledge. Mr. Solana conveyed the full proposal to the --
QUESTION: I think what Sylvie’s referring to is reports that there is some kind of – that there is some kind of new proposal that would allow them to continue to enrich at the current level. Do you know, though, if, setting that aside --
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m confident in my answer that I’ve given, Matt.
QUESTION: That there is nothing new to the refreshed proposal?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m confident in the answer that I’ve given.
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: Yeah, but you made distinctions between – a distinction between the P-5+1 and the EU-3. So maybe it could be only between EU-3 and Iran and not the others?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’ve given the answer I’m going to give you. We’re awaiting the response from the Iranians.
QUESTION: Just so we’re clear with regard to full-blown negotiations between the P-5+1 with the United States at the table and Iran, the definition of the word suspension is cessation of uranium enrichment and reprocessing?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, no centrifuges – yeah. No centrifuges spinning.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Okay. Do we have anything else on Iran?
QUESTION: On the same topic.
MR. MCCORMACK: Samir.
QUESTION: The senior adviser to Khamenei, Ali Akbar Velayati, he reversed earlier statements today. He said no, he didn’t mean to say that they’ll accept the proposal incentives, but they will accept to negotiate based on the previous principles that they won’t give in to the U.S. and to the P-5+1.
MR. MCCORMACK: We didn’t take anything that they had said as accepting the proposal. As a matter of fact, we were very neutral in our response while remaining hopeful that they would respond in a positive way. We’ll see. We’ll – like I said, we await their response.
QUESTION: Sean, can you say that the United States would not accept, would not agree to sit down and negotiate with Iran unless it suspends? I mean, in other words, can you just flatly state that is not just the current U.S. policy, but that is going to be the Bush Administration’s policy that you can’t – that it simply would not cave or relax on what has been a policy of many years now to sit down with them? You know --
MR. MCCORMACK: That is our policy.
QUESTION: That is our policy?
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But can you --
MR. MCCORMACK: Suspension (inaudible). That you would be in negotiations (inaudible) Iranians.
QUESTION: Can you rule out – can you rule out the possibility of relaxing on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’ve given the answer I’m going to give on the matter.
QUESTION: Sean, can you tell us whether negotiations between the Europeans and Iran will be substantively different from negotiations in which the United States is going to take part? In other words, can negotiations between the Europeans and Iran achieve what negotiations between Iran and the P-5+1 would achieve?
MR. MCCORMACK: They haven’t in the past.
QUESTION: Can I --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: On North Korea, North Korea said the cooling tower has been destroyed but it doesn’t mean giving up their nuclear programs. What is your comment on this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we’ll see, I think. We haven’t gotten to the abandonment phase. We have nearly completed the disablement phase. I have to see if they’ve completed all the items – 12 items on the checklist. But they’ve taken dramatic steps towards completing the disablement phase. Dramatic, I mean, blowing up the cooling tower. It’s also very practical. At the moment, they can’t produce more plutonium because the reactor is disabled.
The word, disabled, implies that that is a reversible step. We want to get -- meaning the five members of the P-5 – of the six-party talks want to get to the step where this is abandoned. They have given up their nuclear program, meaning Yongbyon is abandoned. It’s gone. All the various elements of their program are gone. We haven’t gotten to that stage yet. That’s the ultimate endpoint. We’ll see. We’ll see if North Korea is willing to do that. This is a step-by-step process, action-for-action.
And this – you know, the – when they do have a head of delegations meeting, that will essentially begin to answer your question, will they give up their nuclear program; will they abandon, in full, their nuclear program as they stated and committed to back in October – the fall of 2005?
QUESTION: Why don’t --
MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll see.
QUESTION: Why don’t they say there’s (inaudible) nuclear --
MR. MCCORMACK: We shall see. That’s what the negotiations are about.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: On North Korea - I think yesterday, Washington Post (inaudible) U.S. Government to agree to pay North Korea $2.5 million for --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I --
QUESTION: -- cooling tower, and then agreed to – Sung Kim, Director of the Korean Affairs Desk, had told on Saturday in Korea that we haven’t been paying for the cost of disablement and collapse of the cooling tower is no different. Can you tell me that – yeah, how much, bottom line, do you agree to pay North Korea for the cost of disablement?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I can tell you what we’ve done thus far. And we’ve talked to the Congress about this and the Congress has authorized us to spend this money. And I actually had this question. I was going to post it up for you, but I can read the response that I’ve been given.
The Department of State’s nonproliferation disarmament fund is currently funding disablement measures at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear facility. This fund has $20 million in available funds and has obligated, thus far, approximately $19.5 million for disablement measures there. And I see here that – I have a note here that we’ve actually – they have completed nine of twelve disablement measures.
QUESTION: Is it right for U.S. Government to pay North Korea for cost of disablement for their – because I – disablement is their responsibility or action – based on action-for-action?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: So doesn’t – so why does U.S. pay for that --?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think in terms of – if you look at it in terms of returns on resources spent on this, not only by the U.S., but by the other -- other members of the Six-Party Talks, it’s been a pretty good return on that investment.
MR. MCCORMACK: You remember?
QUESTION: Oh, I did remember, but I have a question on this one. So you got only half a million left --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- on this fund.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: And three steps to go?
MR. MCCORMACK: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Can you do three steps and – within perhaps (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I don’t know, Matt. I’m sure that if – you know, we will obviously comply with agreements made with Congress, which we have been fully transparent in this regard.
QUESTION: I’m not suggesting --
MR. MCCORMACK: I know. I know. I know. And I’m sure if there are any other funds that are required to fulfill our end of the bargain in the Six-Party Talks. I’m sure that we are going to be in discussions with Congress about that. I can’t tell you that that is the case. I don’t want to set off any alarm bells on Capitol Hill that we’re going to be going back to them for more money. I can’t say that. But obviously, if there are more funds required, then we will.
QUESTION: Do – does the 19.5 include the roughly 2.5 for blowing up the --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
QUESTION: Just so that we got – was that just for fiscal year ’08, or when was it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, gosh. Now, you sound like him. (Laughter.) They’re all good – they are all good questions. I can’t tell you. I honestly don’t know the so-called color of money in terms of fiscal years and so forth.
QUESTION: Going to miss Ken --
MR. MCCORMACK: What?
QUESTION: As are we.
MR. MCCORMACK: What’s this?
QUESTION: You’re going to miss Ken Bailes, as are we.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, well, you know—absolutely, a good man.
QUESTION: Any clarification on Hunt Oil? The U.S. State Department advises the companies not to do it, warns of the risk. But it does not direct the companies not to do it. So if Hunt Oil goes ahead against the advice of the State Department, but it is not in defiance of any State Department requirement – is that correct?
MR. MCCORMACK: I am not aware of any legislative or legal requirement in this regard.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) there are no consequences for them --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t --
QUESTION: -- blatantly disregarding the advice of the State Department?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t, you know – first of all, it’s an agreement that is taking place in Iraq.
MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, I’m not aware of any legal – any laws that were broken.
QUESTION: And just getting back to the reason that you had been advising (inaudible), because you thought that it would complicate the – the hydrocarbon?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Yeah. Basically, we thought it would complicate – if you have separate deals made with separate – with regional entities that that complicates an already complicated negotiations regarding a hydrocarbon law that made a lot of progress in terms of the hydrocarbon law, but it would complicate matters. So that was the basis?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can’t tell you. I don’t know. Check with the Iraqis in terms of the negotiations. It’s still ongoing. I mean, it’s hypothetical. I can’t tell you in the absence – in the absence of such a deal whether or not there would be a hydrocarbon law or not. I think that is a question that’s impossible to answer.
QUESTION: What was the level of involvement of the U.S. yesterday in the FARC Colombian rescue?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can tell you what I’ve been told, and that we played a supporting role in that. I – beyond that, I don’t know. I have been told that this was a Colombian planned and executed operation, but I don’t know what sort of support the U.S. provided.
QUESTION: So not necessarily technological or logistical or intelligence.
MR. MCCORMACK: I couldn’t provide you any greater level of detail.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I think the Justice Department is working on an extradition request to the Colombians for one of the FARC guys that was picked up yesterday in the operation. This was some senior commander. Do you know if the State Department has transmitted such a request to the Colombians yet?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know. I don’t know that is our role that we play in these things. We’re basically a transmitter of these kinds of requests. I don’t know if we’ve done so or not.
QUESTION: Sean, do you know if there was any contact between the State Department, either in -- at the Embassy in Bogota or here, with the families?
MR. MCCORMACK: I know our Bureau of Consular Affairs has been in contact with the families, so certainly at the level of Washington, the State Department here. I don’t know about the Embassy. I don’t know if anybody from the Embassy has been in contact with the families, but we here in Washington have been.
QUESTION: Sean, can you give us an update on just what exactly transpired in Harare with regard to these roughly 200 people?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think it’s still – yeah. It’s still – it’s still ongoing. I did clarify where these folks were, or are. They are on a sidewalk adjacent to the Embassy, so they’re not actually in the Embassy compound, they’re not in the Embassy perimeter. All of that said, these people are not a threat. They’re not – we don’t perceive them as a threat and they are not a threat, in fact. What we are trying to do, as we have done in past similar cases, is to work with NGOs and other third parties to see if they can provide assistance to these people. I guess they were – as I understand it, there were about 200 people – men, women, and children – who were in the MDC headquarters, in Harare. They’re resident there. I don’t know they received – all the reasons why they were there. I think it’s fair to assume that they were seeking some form of refuge.
They were forced out of the MDC headquarters. I can’t tell you by whom or under what circumstances. But anyway, they came to the Embassy. We’re seeking to assist them. They’re not a threat to our Embassy; just the opposite. We’re seeking to help these people.
QUESTION: And just another thing to clarify. This morning you were asked were they – you know, seeking refuge in the embassy or to enter the embassy, not suggesting they’re trying to storm the embassy.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right, right.
QUESTION: And I think Mr. Weinberg, the spokesman at the embassy, is quoted as saying, yes, they were trying to come into the embassy, that’s why they were there.
Is that your understanding?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have no reason to dispute that, Arshad. I didn’t talk to him about that, whether or not that’s the case.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Colombia --
QUESTION: No, can we stay on this for a second --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: -- before we change to 17 subjects here. But I just wanted to ask --
MR. MCCORMACK: (Inaudible.)
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, go ahead, Nicholas.
QUESTION: Do you know where these people are now or where they went in the evening when the embassy closed or – and was any one of them granted access to the embassy at all, to the compound?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not aware that anybody has been granted access to the embassy. The information that I was provided was that they were on the sidewalk adjacent to the embassy. You know, our embassy operates essentially 24 hours a day, so I can’t tell you who’s still there. You know, we’re going to continue to try to help these people out. But I can’t tell you how many have been helped out or whether or not there all – 200 are still there.
QUESTION: Was it – I mean did someone –
(PA – announcement)
QUESTION: Was it determined that it was safe for them to be where they were? And they were obviously followed by – I imagine, if they were forced out of the headquarters, there were people after them.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: So were they – was it safe for them to be – to stand outside there?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have any indication to – I have nothing to demonstrate otherwise.
QUESTION: Did they request asylum, or simply help of the Embassy?
MR. MCCORMACK: We never comment on asylum requests. I’m not sure – I can’t – again, Arshad had a quote there from the Embassy spokesman. I don’t have any information beyond what I have.
QUESTION: Do you –
QUESTION: I don’t believe he was quoted as saying that. Just so we’re clear --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, no, no.
QUESTION: I don’t think he said they were seeking asylum. I think all he said was that they were trying --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- to enter the embassy.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Yeah, that they were trying to embassy, right. No, I understand.
QUESTION: Sort of seeking refuge.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. Government consider the declaration North Korea made last week complete and correct?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think I talked about this issue yesterday, yeah
QUESTION: This is off topic. Senator Warner’s office has complained that visas were not allowed for three West African bushmen who were wanting to enter this country to work at a culture museum in Virginia.
MR. MCCORMACK: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Are you familiar with any of this? Can you have any --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think I got the question this morning. I don’t have any further information right now than I did this morning. I would be happy to post an answer for you.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: Please do, because there is some – especially if you could find out exactly what the embassy or consulate in Nigeria had – what exact role they played in denying these visas. Because it looks like – it looks like it was a bit capricious – the denial. And the suggestion that if they want to reapply, that they should go and do so online seems to be a bit ridiculous considering these people are bushmen and they live in mud huts, which was what they were supposed to be coming here to do at this museum. I brought this up years ago, when they – and not in terms of bushmen, but when embassies went to this online appointment-making thing.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There are places in the world, believe it or not, where people do not have internet access and can’t do this. So a suggestion by the Embassy or the consulate in Nigeria that these people reapply via the internet when their very lifestyle is antithetical to that is a bit shocking.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Matt, now that you’ve asked the question, we’re certainly going to get an answer. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Just kidding, just kidding.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) something other than bushmen too? I mean, it would be nice to know what --
MR. MCCORMACK: Your characterization, not mine.
QUESTION: Not mine, but --
QUESTION: You are saying that the U.S. cooperated with the Colombian Government, but was there any plan that was agreed to ahead of time or that you were aware of?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have any more information than, say, Ambassador Brownfield has talked about in public; played a supporting role. This was something the Colombian Government and military planned themselves and executed themselves.
QUESTION: So they would be the ones to be able to say why the Americans were separated from the other hostages as they came off the airplane – aircraft?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I can’t – you know, I don’t have any insight to that. Look, our concern, as the U.S. Government, is that these people and their families control – have full control over how next they appear in public. That is absolutely up to them, so I can’t get inside the decision-making loop that – to their being separated out and then taken back to the U.S.
We’re just overjoyed that they’re back and back with their families and then, you know, any further questions about their detention, their rescue or any of their life after the rescue, they’ll be able to handle.
QUESTION: This – we’ve bounced all over the place today --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: -- let me throw one more out of left field. Yesterday, you were asked by a reporter who I think is not here today about whether the United States had any plans to apologize for the Iranian airliner incident. Did you end up checking into that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think we posted it.
QUESTION: Did you? Forgive me, I missed it.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, that’s okay.
QUESTION: My apologies.
MR. MCCORMACK: Is that it?
QUESTION: Sean, this is related to (inaudible) --
MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, (inaudible).
QUESTION: -- bushmen.
QUESTION: Well, I don’t want to hear about it. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: But in light of the stuff filtering around now about Guantanamo, I noticed that there is a delegation of which the State Department is part of that’s in Yemen right, now talking to the Yemenis about repatriating about 104 --
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- Yemenis who are now in GITMO? Is that – can you --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know that there – I wouldn’t be surprised that there is one. I don’t know as a fact. We – Clint Williamson, who has the lead from the State Department -- Ambassador Clint Williamson, who has the lead from the State Department on this issue, I know is a frequent flier around the globe, talking to governments about having their – either their nationals or accepting third country nationals under a certain set of conditions, you know, that – you know, (a) these people won’t be allowed to do any harm to either our citizens or anybody else, and that (b) we receive assurances that they will be treated in a humane manner. So we’ve had a number of transfers from Guantanamo to foreign countries.
Yemen – there are a large number, a high percentage of the remaining detainees in Guantanamo actually are Yemeni nationals.
QUESTION: And getting an agreement with them and then repatriating them to Yemen would go a long way – would get rid of a big chunk of the people who need to be --
MR. MCCORMACK: A significant --
MR. MCCORMACK: A significant portion, yeah.
QUESTION: So are you familiar with this specific visit that’s going on right now?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I’m not. No, I’m not. I thought I – sorry, thought I made that clear up front. But it’s an ongoing effort and, you know, I know you catch this in the – in terms of recent stories about the Supreme Court decision and so forth. Just to be clear, this has been an effort that’s been going on for a number of years to reduce the population at Guantanamo.
All right. Happy Fourth of July, everybody.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:02 p.m.)
DPB # 119
Released on July 4, 2008