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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 14, 2008



Elections / Run-up to Elections / Denial of Equal and Open Access
Iranian People not Given Full Slate of Choices that they Deserved
Department Will Issue Statement After Polls Close


Protests in Tibet / Reports of Violence / Urge Restraint
Urge Respect for Tibetan Culture / Urge Dialogue
U.S. will Continue to Engage China on Human Rights Issues / Olympics
Ambassador Randt’s Meeting with Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui
No Indication of American Citizens Being Involved in Protests


Assistant Secretary Daniel Fried’s Trip


Independence not a Precedent for Other Situations / Unique Situation


Assistant Secretary Hill’s Meetings in Geneva with Kim Kye-Gwan
Director of Korean Affairs Sung Kim’s Meetings


General Petraeus’ Comments on Political Progress


Federal Court Case Involving Indian Embassy Worker and Arms Conspiracy / Refer to Department of Justice


View Video

12:10 p.m. EDT

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

QUESTION: Anything smart to say on Iran?

QUESTION: Anything smart to say on Iran? You said this morning you’d have something smart to say on Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think I had something smart to say on Iran in the morning, just more smart things.


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what we’re going to do is we’re going to issue a statement once the polls have closed, as they are, in Iran and I think that is some – scheduled to be sometime in the afternoon, our time, here on the East Coast. So we’ll have some statement about the election itself. It is fair to say and comment on the run-up to the election that the government acted in such a way to deny equal access and open access to those who are running in opposition to the regime, that those running in opposition to the regime were subject to intimidation. And that is just the number who actually made it through the government-controlled vetting process.

As in past years, there were a large number of individuals who wished to run for office, registered to run for office, yet were denied the opportunity to run for office by the government. That is quite unfortunate and certainly is something that undercuts democracy in Iran as it is. And fundamentally, regardless of the results of the election and the outcomes of the election, which we shall see, I suspect, in the days ahead, real power in Iran is concentrated in an unelected few.

And that does not constitute a real thriving democracy and that’s unfortunate for the Iranian people because they are the keepers of the great culture. And the world would benefit from having greater interactions with Iran. They would benefit from the Iranian people to fully be able to express themselves not only on matters of politics and art and culture, but also on the way that they are governed. Sadly, they are denied that right under the current regime.

QUESTION: You’ve given quite a sort of damning description of the run-up to the election.


QUESTION: So does that mean that because of the run-up to the election, that people who wanted to be on the ballot couldn’t be? Does that --


QUESTION: -- indicate that this cannot be a free and fair election?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it certainly is one that does not give the Iranian people the full slate of choices that they deserve. So, you know, in essence, the results -- whatever they may be and whatever the processes are and how they are judged on election day, in essence, the results are cooked. They’re cooked in the sense that the Iranian people weren’t able to vote for a full range of people. It’s – you know, essentially, they’re given the choice of choosing between one supporter of the regime or another supporter of the regime. They weren’t given the opportunity, in a very large number of cases, to be able to choose somebody or vote for somebody who may have had different ideas from the regime.

So that speaks to the elected portion of the regime in Iran. And as I said, and as I would stress again, the willpower in Iran is held by an unelected few. At the top of that power structure is the – I think what they refer to as their Supreme Leader. Again, this is – if you look at it, these are not the constituent elements of a thriving democracy and that’s a shame for the Iranian people, that they are denied the ability to choose truly who will lead them and to be able to freely express their choices through the ballot box as well as through other means.

QUESTION: So if you’re saying the election – the results are cooked, then you’re saying it’s a sham, basically?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, I constructed a response there, so you have to look at all the elements of the response. We will have a final statement coming out after the polls are closed. We’ll have a comment on the actual electoral process itself.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there anything new from an hour and a half ago? And if not, can – for the benefit of television cameras, can you give us what you know about the situation?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have anything new. Ambassador Randt took the opportunity in the meeting with the senior Chinese official to urge that the Chinese Government in responding to protestors turn away from use of force or violence. There have been reports coming out via the media and that we have received through our embassy of violence in Lhasa. I can’t confirm those reports for you. But as we do not have anybody on the ground at the moment, we will be looking into those reports and to try to get as full a picture as we possibly can about what has happened and what is ongoing.

We have urged also the Chinese Government to respect Tibetan culture, as well as the multi-ethnic nature of China today. It is very important in our view and President Bush has expressed this view that the Chinese Government open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama and we continue to urge that. Nobody benefits from violence, so nobody wants to see that. But we believe that it is very important that in responding to these protests that the Chinese Government turn away from use of force or force or violence in responding to the protests.

QUESTION: Did you receive any assurances that they would use restraint?

MR. MCCORMACK: I didn’t get any feedback from what Ambassador Randt heard. And he did convey those – that urging to the Chinese Government on this meeting.

QUESTION: And do you anticipate any change in U.S. policy towards the Olympics, you know, based on this response in Tibet?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I’m aware of, Libby. Let me – our view very consistently is expressed by the President as well as other cabinet officials has been. We view the Olympics as a sporting event, an important international event. And it has been our counsel to China, both in public and the private, to use this international event to put China’s best face forward. We will continue to, as we have in the past, be at the forefront of engaging Chinese officials, engaging the Chinese Government on important issues related to the fundamental universal freedoms in human rights.

We will do that in broad strokes, but also in terms of individual cases as the Secretary did on her last trip. And I think on basically every opportunity that she has or senior officials have, we do raise individual cases as well as talk about the wider issue. I would expect that we will continue that in the run-up to the Olympics and we’ll continue it after the Olympics. But it is our counsel to the Chinese Government to put their best face forward to the world as they host this important international sporting event.

QUESTION: And – do you think they’ve done so, thus far?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we just issued a human rights report. I think that that’s probably the best way to – you know, the best official judgment to – from the United States Government in terms of our view of Chinese human rights record going back over the past year.


QUESTION: Could you be anymore specific about who the Ambassador met with? Do you know?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui. And I apologize here for (a) the pronunciation and the spelling here. I’m not sure if I’m going to get the spelling right. But Z-h-a-n-g, Zhang, and then Yesui, Y-e-s-u-i.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up.


QUESTION: Sean, Human Rights Watch and also Dalai Lama also calling on India, Tibet and China to stop all this – so many people have been killed also. Have you heard from Dalai Lama directly here in the State Department, calling on the U.S. to intervene in this bloodshed?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I’m aware of. Not that I’m aware of.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) as far as American involvement in the protests? Have you got anything more?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Nothing changed from this morning. We don’t have any reports of Americans involved, Americans injured or Americans arrested.

Yeah, Charlie.

QUESTION: And will U.S. officials be traveling to --

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check for you, Charlie. I’m not sure our consulate in Chengdu is responsible for that area and reporting on that area. I’ll have to check with our guys here to see if anybody’s going to be traveling there.

QUESTION: Are we talking with the Indians?

MR. MCCORMACK: On what? I mean, we are in touch with the Indians through the Indian Government.

QUESTION: No, no. I thought these protests are coming, but --

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

Yeah. Lambros.

QUESTION: Balkans. Mr. McCormack, last Saturday Assistant Secretary Daniel Fried visited Skopje and inter alia, met separately with Albanian leader Menduh Thaci of the DPA party, who is in the coalition of government of FYROM, as you know. I'm wondering why Mr. Fried met him separately. Is there any particular reason?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I don't have any -- you know, I don't have any specific information on Dan's trip. But typically, when our diplomats travel from Washington to foreign capitals or other locations, we meet with a spectrum of political leaders.

QUESTION: But since he’s Assistant Secretary, could you check for me?

MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Can you check for me? As a taken question.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll be happy to look into it and see if there's anything more we have to say about it.

QUESTION: One more on the Balkans. The Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria Ivaylo Kalfin is afraid for the potential spillovers in neighboring countries of the Western Balkans, which the international community “must clearly not allow,” as he said specifically. Mr. McCormack, since the entire Balkans Peninsula is facing Albanian territorial claims similar to those when the Albanians were (inaudible) under Benito Mussolini and Adolfo Hitler. And (inaudible) the other day (inaudible) new totalitarian regime. May we have your comments?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure what you're asking me to comment on. But, look, to get to, I think, the root of your question, we view Kosovo as a unique situation. It was sui generis. It is not a precedent for anything else. We took the steps that we did because we thought it was in the best interest of long-term stability in the Balkans. They have a long history of violence and instability. It is our hope, by taking the steps that we have over the past decade, that we have increased the prospects of a better, more prosperous and democratic Balkan region. We think now that the Kosovo -- this diplomatic phase has ended regarding Kosovo, that all the parties look forward. They look forward to a different kind of relationship with the rest of the world, that Serbia and other countries in the Balkan Peninsula look to their relationship to the EU, look to their relationship with the United States. Because we believe that that is the way for the people of the Balkans to have a better, more prosperous and free way of life and future.

QUESTION: But I'm not asking you -- excuse me, Mr. McCormack.

MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, you got your answer.

Yes, sir, in the back.

QUESTION: Sean, did you have a chance to check with your bureau about that incident of bombing in the tribal area?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, I did not. I'm sorry. We'll post an answer for you.

QUESTION: Okay. But today, again, there are reports by the media that missiles are falling in the tribal area, so if you could check that also.

MR. MCCORMACK: We will post an answer for you, indeed.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Can you give us some readout of U.S. and North Korea Geneva meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing beyond what you have already heard from Chris Hill in public.


MR. MCCORMACK: Sung Kim, the Director of the Korea office, stayed behind in Geneva in case there was any addition work that needed to be done. Chris traveled on as previously scheduled to Warsaw. And you can read for yourself his words and his assessment of the substance as well as the tone of the meeting. But my take away was that he believed it was a good constructive meeting, that they left the meeting in a better position than they had started in vis-à-vis the declaration issue, but that they had -- it was not a decision-making meeting and that the issue would require some follow-up work.

So we'll see. We'll see how -- if and how the process moves forward, it is our hope that it does. And I expect that we'll be in contact with our six-party talk counterparts to talk about how to move that process forward.



QUESTION: Please, anything further on reaction to Petraeus, the failure of the Iraqi Government to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the surge?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I looked into this a little bit, and check with MNF-I and General Petraeus' folks. But I think it's their argument that the characterization of General Petraeus’ words in the newspaper wasn’t quite what either he intended or what he actually said. But I’ll let you check with him on that point; basically, that there was a mischaracterization there.

I think, generally speaking, the view of the United States Government is that the Iraqis have made use of the time that they have had with the reductions in levels of violence to try to move forward the political process. It’s undeniable that they have made progress there.

Can they and should they continue to press forward as rapidly as they possibly can on the remaining significant outstanding political issues? Absolutely, and that’s what we continue to urge them to do. Could they have done more during this period? It’s conceivable, yes, but their political process is moving along. They’ve passed the budget, they have passed a so-called de-Baathification law, they have passed a law with respect to provincial powers and provincial elections. Their hydrocarbon – there’s a hydrocarbon law and other issues that are on – still on the – on the dock and they need to move forward with those, not for – not for our benefit, ultimately, but for the benefit of the Iraqi people who elected these individuals to do the business of the Iraqi people to help build those democratic institutions that will serve as a foundation for the future Iraqi state – the Iraqi state of the future.


QUESTION: Just very quickly, do you have any comment, Sean, about this missile case, the Indian Embassy was involved in one of the missile technology yesterday at federal court in Washington according to the (inaudible). Any comments (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, only to refer you to the Department of Justice. It’s an ongoing legal matter.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Great, thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:29 p.m.)

DPB # 47

Released on March 14, 2008

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