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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 27, 2008



Recent Rocket Attacks in International Zone / Casualties
Treatment of Prisoners in Iraqi Jails
Department of State’s Role in Congressmen’s 2002 Trip
Reconstruction Efforts
Evidence of Iran Funding Militias


Violence and Protests in Tibet / Diplomacy / Urge Restraint
Urge Dialogue with Dalai Lama
Ability of U.S. Mission Personnel to Travel to Lhasa and Other Affected Areas


Deputy Secretary Negroponte’s Travel / Meetings


Comprehensive Settlement for Victims of Terrorism
Waiver for States No Longer Designated as Sponsors of Terrorism


Ambassador Nimetz’s Proposals on Name Issue


Roadmap / Obligations of Both Sides / Settlements and Outposts


Secretary’s Meeting with Foreign Minister Mukherjee
India’s Relations with Countries in Region
Civil Nuclear Agreement


Efforts in Transferring Detainees


View Video

12:33 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don't have any opening statements to begin with, so we can get right to your questions. Who wants to start?

QUESTION: I have nothing.


QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Kirit. We'll go into the second row, Kirit.

QUESTION: But we're moving backwards. Do you have anything --

MR. MCCORMACK: Some may say the quality actually increases as you move back. (Laughter.) I said, some may say -- some may say, I don't know. I'll leave --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)


QUESTION: Do you have any update for us on the attacks in the Green Zone? Do you have any injury updates, any --

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me give you what I know as of now. I'll go back a few days here. And please excuse me if you've heard this from our Embassy, but this is information that we've received in from the Embassy.

We've seen rocket attacks on March 23rd, March 25th, March 26th and March 27th. Rockets were fired into the International Zone and I don't have anything more than extremist criminal elements. During this period, a total of five U.S. Government employees have been injured seriously. One of those five has died from his injuries, and that was on March 24th. And beyond that, I don't have a whole lot more substantive information. I mean, I have some actual -- some times during the day, but that's really the broad outlines of it, as I have it right now.

QUESTION: The one who died was one of the five who was injured?


QUESTION: What about anything from today's attacks? Do you have anything else?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything new, new today.


QUESTION: Do you have any breakdown of those injured? Are they Embassy personnel, are they military personnel, are they contract personnel?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the individual who died, I think, was a contract personnel, under contract to the U.S. Army. I don't have any further breakdown. I'll try to find that for you guys.


QUESTION: A different question. Anything on the U.S. strikes in Pakistan?


QUESTION: Any strikes there -- some military strikes inside Pakistan.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure to what you're referring.

QUESTION: As far as al-Qaida and terrorism is concerned, there's some strikes have taken place.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not in a position to confirm any such thing.

QUESTION: And second, as far as China and Tibet is concerned, (inaudible) also spoke and also Dr. Rice has spoken when the Minister of --


QUESTION: India was here.


QUESTION: Chinese have now the most -- there have been now killing more and more Tibetans and also (inaudible). They have closed down all the foreign media. They are attacking the foreign media there and also more restrictions on the Tibetan region and Buddhism and all that. So why can't the U.S. and the international community and the UN Security Council bring any resolution against China, even though China is a member of the UN Security Council and they have veto power? But at least to show the world that's what the -- now the call from the international community that there should be a resolution against China, what they are doing, not only in Tibet but elsewhere against Muslim people.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Goyal, there are a lot of different ways to achieve a result that, I think, everybody shares; and that is, we don't want to see any violence. Violence serves nobody's purposes on either side. And we have engaged in the kind of diplomacy that we think is effective in not only addressing the current circumstances, but also the long-term circumstances, or the longstanding circumstances, that have led to this -- to these protests and the violence that has surrounded these protests.

President Bush and Secretary Rice have strongly urged the Chinese Government to act with restraint when it is dealing with the protestors. And we -- I would underline again, we have urged all sides to turn away from violence. It serves nobody's purposes.

We have also urged, as the President did yesterday in his phone call, for the Chinese Government to, out of this difficult situation, take an opportunity and to reach out to the Dalai Lama to engage in dialogue. We believe that the Dalai Lama is a man of peace, that he is a man of reconciliation, and that a dialogue with him could help be part of the long-term solution to Tibet. Everybody wants to see a long-term, stable solution to the question surrounding Tibet and its status. The Dalai Lama is not somebody who has called for independence. So we would urge the Chinese Government to take this moment to reach out to the Dalai Lama and engage in a dialogue.

Now, in terms of -- I do have one update in terms of the ability of our Embassy personnel, or our mission personnel -- that's a more appropriate term -- to travel to Lhasa. We repeatedly asked for access to the areas in question. And we -- just today, one officer from our Embassy in Beijing was invited to join a government-led trip to Lhasa. The trip will take place on March 28th and 29th. We do not yet have an itinerary for that trip. We see this as a step in the right direction, but it's not a substitute for the ability of our diplomats as well as others to travel not only to Lhasa but into the surrounding areas specifically. And I'll just go through a list of the provinces -- excuse me if I don't get the pronunciation right.

We would like to have, and we will continue to press for free and full access to the affected areas, including currently closed areas outside the Tibet Autonomous Region in Sichuan, S-i-c-h-u-a-n; Gansu, G-a-n-s-u; Qinghai, that's Q-i-n-g-h-a-i; and Yunnan, that's Y-u-n-n-a-n. So the trip by our one officer to Lhasa on travel sponsored by the Chinese Government, as I said, is a step in the right direction, but it does not fulfill the requirements of our requests as we see them. I just outlined some of the areas in which we'd like to have our diplomats be able to travel to assess the situation, to be able to provide any assistance to U.S. citizens who may be in those areas, and also to try to gain a greater understanding of exactly what chain of events led to the point at which we find ourselves right now.

QUESTION: So is he going to accept the invitation?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we are. We are. But again, I would underline, we don't see that as fulfillment of our request for our diplomats to be able to travel not only to Lhasa but to those other areas I talked about.

QUESTION: And they've been specifically -- or maybe they haven't, but there hasn't been an answer for the other areas? You asked?

MR. MCCORMACK: There has not. The only --

QUESTION: Does one generally need special permission to go to those?

MR. MCCORMACK: To those areas, yes.

QUESTION: Including Tibet?


QUESTION: And this --

MR. MCCORMACK: In some of these areas --

QUESTION: This official is only going to Lhasa? It's not going to any of these --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's our understanding, although we don't have a full itinerary yet. We'll try to keep you updated as to what exactly they saw -- either we here or at the Embassy can keep you up to date.

QUESTION: And this is going to be a trip with other diplomats --

MR. MCCORMACK: Presumably.

QUESTION: -- of other countries?

MR. MCCORMACK: Presumably.

QUESTION: Sean, can you give us details about who the person is, who's going from Beijing, and then also, what he hopes to do there? I mean -- or what he plans -- I don't know if you know what he plans to do, but at least what he hopes to do.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a basic reporting function, and to the extent we're able, to provide any assistance to any American citizens who may be in the area. So those are the two primary functions of any State Department officer posted overseas: to be able to report back accurately what is it that they see, convey their views and thoughts about the situation; and then also, to provide any assistance that might need to be provided.

QUESTION: So are you seeing any movement in another regard on China? When you asked China to engage in a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, are you seeing any movement from them on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Thus far, I haven't seen any public pronouncements from the Chinese on that.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: What is the level of this person or how high was --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure. We'll try to find out for you.


QUESTION: A report released by the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq, Major General John Kelly, released a report saying that there's unbelievable overcrowding, minimal levels of hygiene, food or water, ventilation for prisoners being held in Fallujah, Anbar and different areas in Iraq. He says that these jails should only hold about a hundred prisoners, but they’re crowding over a thousand people --

MR. MCCORMACK: Are these Iraqi jails?

QUESTION: Yes, Iraqi jails.


QUESTION: And he says that they’re not receiving any support from the Iraqi Government or from U.S. forces in other areas. Is the U.S. -- are they planning on taking care of this situation?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m happy to ask the question. I’m not aware of these reports. I haven’t seen his comments. Happy to look into them for you. As a general statement, we would, of course, urge humane treatment according to international standards for any criminals -- prisoners that are being held by the Iraqi Government or any other -- or any other entity in Iraq.


QUESTION: Can we go back to Pakistan? Do you have any update on Boucher and the Deputy Secretary’s visit? Who are they -- who have they met with this week and what -- what do they --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he just gave a press conference there, as promised. You guys doubted not only me, but the Deputy Secretary that --

QUESTION: No, we weren’t doubting you.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- that he would have a press conference. He did. I believe it was in Karachi. And I have not had a chance to see a transcript of the press conference, so I would refer you to the transcript of the press conference for any impressions that he might have had about his visit. I don’t have the full list of people with whom he met, but he met with political leaders, Mr. Nawaz Sharif. I know that he met with Prime Minister Gillani, met with President Musharraf. I believe he met with General Kayani. But again, I don’t have a full list. We’ll take a look and see if we can post one up for you.

QUESTION: But would you say the goal of this visit is simply to get a handle on the new government and to reach out to the new government, or --

MR. MCCORMACK: At its core, yes. There is a new government in place. They just came into -- I don’t even know if they have the full cabinet in place this week. But just this week they came into being. Prime Minister Gillani was chosen -- selected and sworn in. And very basically, at its core, this was a mission to start a dialogue with this new government, to talk about what our interests happen to be, to hear from them what their plans are going forward, and certainly to talk about areas of mutual interest overlap. And fighting terrorism is one of those.

QUESTION: It just seems like Pakistani newspapers and -- you know, are playing the visit as, you know, U.S. interference or that it’s come so early. And I’m just wondering if there’s any concern that this new government is going to distance itself a bit from the United States.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, there’s your first mistake is actually believing what you read in newspapers.

QUESTION: But sort of -- you know, it’s sentiment and opinion. So is there --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t --

QUESTION: Is there any concern that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you know, I’m sure the Deputy Secretary took the opportunity to provide his views, his thoughts, on the trip. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him, so I don’t know what he has taken away from his meetings. So I’m not in a position, really, to try to, you know, expand on what it is that he has said.

Look, I’m sure anywhere around the world you’re going to find editorials on both sides of whatever issue happens to be at hand. We are going to do what we think is right in pursuing our national interests, and also in working with this new Pakistani Government to help them in some of their stated objectives: to expand political and economic reform in that country; to fight terrorism. Those are interests that we share. We’re going to do what we can to help in those regards. Fundamentally, that is a Pakistani project and that is something that they are going to have to really shoulder the burden to try to accomplish. That doesn't mean we are not going to try to help them out. And at the same time, we are going to pursue our national interests as we form our policies and we work with that new government.

QUESTION: Anything new on Libya from this morning about the substance of the talks between David Welch and his Libyan counterpart?

MR. MCCORMACK: I have a couple points that folks have given me to help describe what it is that we are trying to accomplish. Let me just run through these.

Libya has promised to respond to the American court cases brought against it in good faith, and we expect that Libya will honor this commitment. Libya has retained legal representatives and is fully participating -- fully -- and is participating fully in the U.S. judicial process. Recently, however, Libya has raised concerns of its own and suggested a way to expedite resolution of these cases through a comprehensive settlement agreement. The Administration is exploring this possibility with Libyan representatives to determine if it would help American victims receive fair compensation in the shortest possible time and with greater certainty.

We remain committed to helping American victims of terrorism attain justice through fair compensation.

So that’s the half of the issue that David Welch was dealing with in London. That’s just -- this has been provided as a brief description as to what he was trying to accomplish there. He’ll report back to the Secretary when -- I think he arrives back today, and he’ll talk to her either today or tomorrow.

The second part of what we’re trying to do has been reported as well, is the letter that’s been signed by the three cabinet secretaries -- Secretaries Rice, Gutierrez and Bodman -- up to the Hill to talk -- to start a dialogue with the Congress to try to get at this issue of the Congress writing into law the provision for a waiver that would allow us to determine in our national security interest for -- that we can provide a waiver for states that are no longer designated as state sponsors of terrorism.

Now, the way this is worded and the specific conditions in this case, it would only apply to Libya, although one can imagine other cases down the road in which the condition would (inaudible). That was the same case for Iraq as well, but because of the need to quickly pass a legislation that contained this provision for an Iraq waiver, we moved forward with the Congress on that. Now, we’re trying to go back and address the specific case of Libya. So we’re trying to work both halves of the issue: work with the Libyan Government on this idea of a fair, just, efficient, speedy, comprehensive settlement for victims of terrorism and their families; and working with the Congress as well so that, on the other side of the equation for the Libyan Government, there’s some certainty about this particular issue looking forward.


QUESTION: So how recently is this?

MR. MCCORMACK: The letter?

QUESTION: No, how long -- how long have you been exploring this comprehensive settlement idea?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have the exact timeline, Matt. I think it’s been something they’ve been thinking about -- certainly, while they’ve been working on settlements in each of these --


MR. MCCORMACK: -- in these cases for quite some time, I can’t tell you what the particular origin in time is of this idea on the Libyan side. So you’ll have to ask them about what their thinking was. But it’s something that, in the interest of getting some compensation and justice for these American citizens, we thought it worthwhile exploring with them.

QUESTION: Who did he meet with?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know exactly with whom he met. We can try to find that out for you. (Inaudible)

Yeah. Who hasn’t had one? Everybody -- oh, Lambros. You threw me off. You’re over on the left side.

QUESTION: That is because somebody (inaudible) from the other side. (Laughter.) That is nice. Thank you.

Mr. McCormack, anything to say on the new proposal submitted by Matthew Nimetz March 25th in New York City on the name issue between Athens and Skopje?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he is working hard. I think that -- I know that he was working on a proposal that he was going to put to both sides. He is working in good faith, and we would hope that both sides would work with him in good faith to try to bring about a resolution to this difficult, emotional issue.

QUESTION: A follow-up? The President’s National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley told us yesterday in a special briefing in the White House that the so-called “Macedonia,” Albania and Croatia are ready to join NATO. I am wondering is Secretary Rice aware about his statements since Mr. Hadley said nothing about the crucial name issue problem which exists? Could you tell us what is going on, if you know something?

MR. MCCORMACK: I am sure Mr. Hadley is well aware and well briefed and shares the same concerns that we do here at the State Department in seeing this issue resolved.

QUESTION: And the last one. Any initiative on your part to this effect?

MR. MCCORMACK: Any what?

QUESTION: Initiative on your part.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we support the -- we’re supporting the Nimetz process. And Acting Under Secretary Dan Fried and Ambassador Nuland lent their good offices to try to move the process forward. But fundamentally, this is a process that is being shepherded by Ambassador Nimetz. We fully support his efforts and we urge both parties to use his effort to bring about a resolution to -- a mutually acceptable resolution to the name issue.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. McCormack.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Nina.

QUESTION: Anything new on this congressional delegation to Iraq a few years ago? Any more information?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, I did look into this, and we don’t -- I guess I don’t have, like a complete answer. What folks have told me is that certain activities with a country under U.S. sanctions, and at the time Iraq was under U.S. sanctions, that certain activities might have required a license from the Office of Foreign Asset Control at the Department of Treasury -- Treasury. Typically, OFAC asks the State Department for foreign policy guidance before issuing such a license. We are looking into whether the State Department played any role whatsoever in this trip.

So it require -- you know, faces, names and faces have changed since then, so we have to go back and take a look in the archives. But if we’re able to dig up anything that provides a more definitive or clearer answer for your question, then we’ll provide that.

QUESTION: Can you take it as a taken question?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we will. And since it requires people looking back through the records, it might take a little bit of time. But we’ll provide an answer for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Farah.

QUESTION: The person who was indicted in this issue -- Al-Hanooti I think is his name -- is the registered lobbyist for Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. Does the indictment prevent him then from speaking on behalf of the Sunni party?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not going to have any comment on any individual that’s under indictment.

QUESTION: But you don’t know whether it prevents him legally from representing --

MR. MCCORMACK: You can talk to the Justice Department about those questions.


QUESTION: Do you have any more of a readout from the U.S.-Russia talks?

MR. MCCORMACK: We’re going to -- was it, 5:30?


MR. MCCORMACK: 5:30. 5:30 -- I thought you were interested in the news, my friend. It doesn't matter what time the news is made, right? (Laughter.) At 5:30, we’re going to have John Rood and Dan Fried to do a little on-the-record briefing for you guys, giving a readout of their day-plus worth of talks.

QUESTION: Anything else you can say at this point for the benefit of the camera?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, no, no. I’ll save it for 5:30.

QUESTION: Since the Secretary --

QUESTION: Not for cameras?

MR. MCCORMACK: No plans at this point for cameras.


QUESTION: Since the Secretary is going tomorrow to Israel, what about Prime Minister Olmert’s vow to continue the settlement-building process?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know our views on this matter. The President has spoken to it. The Secretary has spoken to it. We expect that both sides would comply with their Roadmap obligations. And there are obviously provisions within the Roadmap concerning settlements and outposts, and we would expect that both sides -- Israel and the Palestinians -- comply with those obligations. You recently heard from us that we didn’t think either side was doing enough to comply with the Roadmap obligations. So I expect that during this trip, the Secretary will talk not only about the political process with both sides and how that is proceeding, what we can do to help them move it forward, but also talk about the importance of moving forward with compliance on the Roadmap obligations.

QUESTION: Thank you, Sean.


QUESTION: Sean, Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Mukherjee was here at the State Department, met with Dr. Rice, President and (inaudible). One, is there any breakthrough in the civil nuclear agreement between the U.S. and India and if he had set any position of Indian Government to Dr. Rice privately? And second, NATO meetings (inaudible) in Afghanistan is in trouble, really, I mean, as far as al-Qaida and terrorism coming back. Did Dr. Rice ask more of Indian Minister as far as working – doing more in Afghanistan and Indian troops or any Indian position as far as --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, I’m not sure I would share your assessment of the situation in Afghanistan. I wasn’t in on all the meetings with her. She had a private dinner and she also had some one-on-one time with Foreign Minister Mukherjee. But in the meetings that I attended, the issue of Afghanistan did not come up. Now, generally speaking we have encouraged all of the regions – all the countries in the region to do what they can to improve relations with one another, but also within the region. There are some real possibilities there if you look at a – at the very least a North-South access running from India up through Central Asia – opportunities for trade and energy cooperation that would really benefit all the peoples of the region. So as a general matter, we have encouraged that. We have encouraged greater economic integration and trade within the region.

What was the first one?

QUESTION: On the – civil nuclear --

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, well, I’ll let the --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) India’s position why they are not doing it.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let’s let the Indian Government describe for themselves where they think their own politics stand on the issue.

QUESTION: Did Dr. Rice mention anything, what to do or he ask anything to her what to do?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they had a discussion about where we stand. We made it clear that we are fully prepared once the Indian Government has taken certain steps to submit the agreements to the Congress so that they can be passed. The Indian Government has some decisions to make and with respect to the agreement and its own domestic politics and those are decisions only the Indian Government can take and solely for them. We are still committed to doing what we can to move the agreement forward, but again the Indian Government is going to have to make some decisions for itself.

Yeah, Farah.

QUESTION: Just on Guantanamo. It seems like the State Department has been given the tough responsibility of persuading countries to accept the cleared Gitmo detainees that can’t go home, like the Uighurs, and there are others. And I’m just wondering how – is this effort stalled or – you know, can you give us a sense of how many – you may not be able to answer this now, but how many countries have been approached and how recently, because there are some who feel like this effort is stalled.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Let me – I don’t have the figures in front of me. And off the top of my head, I can’t offer anything authoritative. Let me do this, let me talk to the people who are involved in this effort, Clint Williamson and others, to see if they might talk to you about where we stand, because there – I know generally speaking and you can also get this from DOD -- there has been progress in reaching agreement with countries to have detainees that were held at Guantanamo transferred. Now, I know you’re asking a separate question about those who -

QUESTION: The Uighurs and the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, exactly.


MR. MCCORMACK: But it’s -- I think it’s worthwhile probably talking about the entire situation and the efforts there and some other qualitative changes that have taken place in terms of the numbers and people overseas because, look, we have no desire to be the world’s jailor as you know and we look forward to the day Guantanamo is shut down. And part of that solution is working with other countries to take people back under the right circumstances. So let me see if we can arrange something for you in that regard.

QUESTION: I appreciate that.


Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Your comments on President Bush’s speech in Ohio today, regarding the recent violence in Southern Iraq.

MR. MCCORMACK: I thought it was a great speech. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, it’s mainly in regard to the surge contributing to stabilization in Iraq and helping with the reconstruction efforts. But two weeks ago, the commissioner of the CPI in Iraq, Judge Radhi Hamza confirmed that there is no reconstruction effort. It’s been completely devastated because of the level of corruption and money embezzlement and a list of other things in his testimony here. He’s --

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven’t seen the testimony, but I think – look, you know, I’ve been on the ground in Iraq myself and I’ve seen evidence of reconstruction and the aid money put to good use in Iraq. So I’m not sure exactly to what he is referring without having had a chance to look at it, but I can assure you that taxpayers’ dollars are being put to good use in Iraq. In those circumstances where there have been problems, where there has – if there have been problems of corruption or mismanagement, we are committed to seeing that those are rooted out and that anybody who is responsible for those who have broken rules or laws or regulations are held to account.

QUESTION: Okay. I have one last question regarding that same speech. He mentioned that a lot of the militias fighting, U.S. forces and Iraqi forces, are funded by the Iranians. Do you guys have any evidence for that claim or is --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. We do. I’m certainly not in a position from up here to detail that for you, but you know, our commander -- you’ve heard recently from General Petraeus reaffirming the fact that Iran continues to fund some of the militias at a relatively steady rate. So you know, MNFI and others are probably in a better position than I am to detail that evidence. But I can tell you from what I have heard that people are quite certain of what they have seen.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:02 p.m.)

DPB # 55

Released on March 27, 2008

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