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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 21, 2008



U.S Statement Calling on Iran to Cooperate on the Case of Robert Levinson
U.S. Trying to Keep Profile of Case in Public View / Met with Levinson Family
No New Information on the Case / Supportive of Actions Taken by Senator Nelson
U.S. Contacted Iranians Early This Fall Requesting Information Again


Issue of National Intelligence Council Report on Global Trends
U.S. Will Continue to Be a Critically Important Part of the International System / Goal is to Increase Prosperity of Others
U.S. Values and System Sets This Country Apart / Will Not Offer Assessments
Bloom Energy Technology


Ambassador Sung Kim’s Travel Schedule / No Plans to Meet with North Korean Officials or Travel to North Korea / Issues on the Agenda
Ambassador Marciel’s Travel Schedule / Will Meet with ASEAN Officials
Confirmation of Ambassador Gene Cretz
Status of Transition Team


Howard Krongard’s Travel to Cuba / Met with Officials in U.S. Interests Section
No Initiatives from Secretary Rice to Reach Out to Cuban Government


Working with Security Council on Renewal of Resolutions Dealing with Piracy
Taking a Look with Other Countries on How to Modify Resolutions


View Video

10:07 a.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good morning, everybody.

QUESTION: Good morning.

MR. MCCORMACK: I have one short statement for you and then we can get to your questions. This concerns the – concerns the case of Robert Levinson.

The United States continues to call on Iran to cooperate with U.S. authorities on the case of Robert Levinson, an American citizen, who has been missing since disappearing from Iran’s Kish Island over 19 months ago. The U.S. Department of State remains committed to determining Mr. Levinson’s whereabouts and returning him safely to his family, that includes seven children, one grandchild, and a second grandchild on the way. We once again urged Iran to share any and all information uncovered about the Levinson case, and we ask anyone else who may have information about the case to contact us or the Levinson family via their website.

And with that, I’m happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: For some reason --

MR. MCCORMACK: Because we’re trying to keep awareness of the case out there, trying to provide people a forum wherever they may be, so if they have information about his case, they can provide it. We met recently with the family. Just last week, we have, as recently as this past – early this past fall, sent yet another note to the Iranians via the Swiss. And I know that there’s also congressional interest in this case. So it’s all in the interest of keeping the profile of this case in public view, in the hopes that that generates information. I think the Iranian Government, we believe, still has it within its power to help with more information concerning Mr. Levinson.

QUESTION: Sean, would you describe the investigation as status quo, that you kind of aren’t going anywhere and you’re looking to jumpstart it with new information?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, we don’t have any new information and we’re looking for – we, the family, the U.S. Government – we’re always looking for ways to maybe break loose that vital piece of information or vital lead that may help us.


QUESTION: What’s your reaction to Senator Nelson resolution about Mr. Levinson?

MR. MCCORMACK: We’re very supportive of the action that Senator Nelson has taken, and we’re certainly aware of it.



QUESTION: Good morning. Jeff Blue, Al Jazeera.

MR. MCCORMACK: Good morning.

QUESTION: I just wanted to reflect on yesterday’s NIC, National Intelligence Council, report on global trends. It paints a pretty bleak picture about U.S.’s influence going into 2025. Are you concerned about the role of future powers, and especially U.S.’s future power, as it relates -- how it’s painted in this report?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I – look, I haven’t read the NIC report. I saw some headlines concerning it. So I don’t know what assumptions that they’re making. It’s, I guess you can say, one view of the world peering into the future. But you know, staring into the crystal ball is also – obviously a difficult thing. You know, you tend – people tend to view things in a linear fashion and I don’t – certainly don’t think linear is a -- history is a linear thing.

Look, the United States has been, is, and will continue to be a critically important part of the international system. There are periodically challenges to the international system. We’re going through one right now with the global economic crisis. But what’s interesting in terms of the reaction that you’re seeing right now are that the major economies important leaders within the international system are banding together to formulate a response. And the – and there will be turbulence, there will be difficulties, but ultimately the international system, as it is structured, can deal with these challenges.

QUESTION: And that – I’m sorry, go ahead.

MR. MCCORMACK: Politically, diplomatically, economically and securitywise to reflect back a little bit, back in the immediate postwar period, the United States made a choice. It was not trying to be a hegemon. It was not going to try to merely collect rent from others within the international economic system, even though it was, by far and away, the dominant economic power in the international system. And instead, they chose to help construct an economic and political system that had as its goal to increase the prosperity of others within that system, as well as to increase the freedoms around the world in the political systems, and that has worked. We have, you know, more democracies throughout the world than we did, looking back into the end of the World War II period. You have much, much greater prosperity around the world, as compared to the middle of the 20th century. That isn’t to say there isn’t a long way to go. There are still areas – if you look at maps – a map of the globe, a view from space at night, and you look at which parts of the world are lighted at night, which would indicate some degree of development, there are still large areas of the globe where you don’t have that. So it’s – that’s just sort of one physical indicator of how far there is to go. And I would expect the United States is going to play an important role in that regard.

And as Secretary – just one last point – as Secretary Rice likes to say, you know, certainly around the world, our economic power is admired, if not a little bit envied. Our military power is, again, admired, if not, in some places, somewhat feared. Our political and diplomatic power is certainly something that is sought out. But what really sets this country apart are our values and the system that springs from those values. And that certainly isn’t anything that is going to change, you know, in the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years.

QUESTION: So you don’t --

QUESTION: So just as a follow-up, you don’t see that the systems or those values or that influence waning in any way, shape, or form, especially as it relates to countries like China or Russia or India, which --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, you know, the --

QUESTION: -- the report says is --

MR. MCCORMACK: China is going to – China and India, two examples, are going to be important countries within the international system. Clearly, they are growing economic powers. But, you know, again, I’m not going to try to peer into the crystal ball and offer assessments. That’s one view. I’m sure that there are other views.

QUESTION: Are you trying to say that the United States is not going to rest until the earth is lit up like a Christmas tree from (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, no. No, it was one – no, it was one – that’s silly, Matt.

QUESTION: There was (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: I mean, that’s just a silly question. What I was – what I was – no, what I was referring to is, we actually took a trip out to – this past summer, last summer, with Secretary Rice out to a place called Bloom Energy. And they’re – and they’re working on these really innovative technologies concerning energy production using different – you know, different technologies for energy production. It was very striking. They had this map – this world map up there and --

QUESTION: I’ve seen it.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, you saw it. And it was quite striking. You know, it showed – it showed how far the world has actually come in terms of development and, you know, progress in terms of bringing greater prosperity around the world. But there are large areas that haven’t – that don’t have access to that. And you know, it’s just – I just use that as an example to demonstrate how far we have to go.

QUESTION: Glaciers are also melting. Glaciers are also melting with that new technology.

MR. MCCORMACK: Bloom Energy technology?

QUESTION: No, I was just – you were talking about lighting up the world and that’s progress, but the --

QUESTION: It’s obviously a problem.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, yeah, no kidding. No, look, it – of course, there are challenges, you know. You point out one: dealing with the – dealing with the environment. And there are effective responses, we hope, to dealing with that. Now, there are varied ones. You know, some say Kyoto is the right way to go. You know, we have – we have a different vision of that. But we are trying to deal with that effectively.


QUESTION: Can we go back to Levinson for a second?


QUESTION: I know you don’t have diplomatic relations with Iran, but I’m --


QUESTION: -- just wondering, what was the last sort of bit of contacts with them you had on this case, or information? How did it come and, you know, what was the last thing that they told you about this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we contact – like I said, we contacted the Iranians earlier this fall via the Swiss requesting information once again. To my knowledge, we haven’t received anything new from them.

QUESTION: So that was --

MR. MCCORMACK: From the Iranians.

QUESTION: When was that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Earlier this fall.



Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on Sung Kim’s travel? And also, Scott Marciel is supposed to be traveling?

MR. MCCORMACK: Ah. Well, you guys are interested in these guys. Yes, Ambassador Kim will travel November 24th through 28th, I will note, giving up his Thanksgiving to be on travel and do the work of America overseas. He will travel to Seoul and Tokyo. He will be in South Korea to take part in the United Nations-Republic of Korea Joint Conference on Disarmament and Nonproliferation Issues. The conference will take place on Jeju – that’s spelled J-e-j-u – Island in South Korea. That will run from November 24th to the 26th. He will meet with South Korean officials on the margins of that conference.

And your next – the answer to your next question is no, there will not be any North Korean officials there, to our knowledge. He will travel to Tokyo on November 27th for consultations with Japanese officials. And he has no plans to meet with North Korean officials or to travel to North Korea on this trip.

And Ambassador Marciel will be traveling to – will meet with officials from ASEAN countries in Singapore December 3rd to the 6th to discuss U.S.-ASEAN cooperation. Burma will also be discussed. He will travel to Tokyo to consult with Japanese officials regarding human rights, democracy, and other concerns in Burma on December 1st and 2nd. He will return to Washington on December 7th. So, any of those – any of you interested in stalking either of those gentlemen via commercial airline flights, there’s your chance.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: When Sung Kim meets with his South Korean counterparts, what will be the main agenda? Will he talk about verification issues and --

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m sure they’ll – they will talk about the Six-Party Talks, they’ll talk about verification issues and the hoped-for next head of delegation meeting which is yet to be announced.


QUESTION: Sean, something on Cuba. Jim Hoagland wrote in The Washington Post the other day about a trip that Howard Krongard took when he was – I guess it was when he was State Department IG last year.


QUESTION: Do you have any information about what that trip – what his intention on that trip was? Who did he meet with? Did he meet with people in the Cuban Government? And was there an initiative that Secretary Rice was looking into, at least, about greater engagement with --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, there was not; no initiative, no. It was -- no initiatives from Secretary Rice. This was – he met with our officials in the Interests Section down there. And it was really to – as part of – if you remember the timing about a year ago, a little over a year ago, we were doing a lot of planning in the case that there were – that there was a transition in the structure of the government in Cuba, increased democracy in the shift of power from Fidel Castro to others. And it was just prudent planning and looking at which might need to – what might need to be done in terms of the structure of our Interest Section personnel or resources in the case that something like that happens. So it was basically a planning – a planning visit.

QUESTION: Did he meet with anyone in the Cuban Government?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I’m aware of. I don’t know everybody with whom he met. But that was the intent of the meeting. It was not an initiative to reach out to the Cuban Government.


QUESTION: Apparently Somalia’s Islamist insurgents are hunting for these pirates. They say that they, you know, want to take them on --


QUESTION: -- for attack – for attacking a ship from Saudi Arabia.


QUESTION: And I just wondered what – has your thinking advanced any more on this, on what the United States can do about this crisis?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we are working – as I’ve said – I will repeat, working within the Security Council to take a look at the renewal of the Security Council – one of the Security Council resolutions that deals with piracy emanating from Somalia. And we’re taking a look with other countries as to how we might modify that resolution to better enable responsible state naval assets to deal with the issue of piracy in the region. I won’t repeat for you here all that I have said before about this, working with other states to generate the assets to (a) not only get the humanitarian shipments – it is truly Friday here, isn’t it – get the humanitarian shipments into Somalia, but also to deal with this issue of piracy, which has very real economic implications.


QUESTION: Gene Cretz.

MR. MCCORMACK: Gene Cretz, yes.

QUESTION: How do you measure up his confirmation prospects, being the first possible --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think --

QUESTION: -- ambassador in 35 years?

QUESTION: He was confirmed.

MR. MCCORMACK: Done deal.

QUESTION: He was confirmed? It’s done?

MR. MCCORMACK: Done deal, yes.

QUESTION: Because I didn’t see – I didn’t see the --

MR. MCCORMACK: We’re very pleased, very pleased.


QUESTION: When did this happen?

MR. MCCORMACK: Last night. Yeah, last night.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Gene Cretz.

MR. MCCORMACK: What’s that?

QUESTION: When will he go there and take up his post?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know. We’re anxious to get him out there. I don’t know --

QUESTION: So it has the potential to be probably the shortest lived ambassadorship ever if he --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it depends.

QUESTION: Presumably, he’s not going to go out until after Thanksgiving, and then you got Christmas coming up –


QUESTION: -- and then he has to resign, right?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what’s happens – (laughter) – is ambassadors – all -- as we’ve gone through before, all political appointees, including ambassadors, offer their resignation. It is up to the next administration to decide upon which of those, especially the ambassadorships, which of those ambassadors’ resignations they decide to accept and which ones they ask to – which ambassadors they ask to stay on.

QUESTION: Well, because he could be an ambassador without ever setting foot in the country, it looks like, at this point.

MR. MCCORMACK: We’re going to try to get him out there. Yeah.


QUESTION: Since Sue’s not here -- (laughter) – has Secretary Rice spoken to Hillary Clinton at all?


QUESTION: Okay. Hillary has not sought her advice?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) No. No, she has not.

QUESTION: What about any more policy discussions with the transition officials? Has Secretary Rice had any?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, she hasn’t had any more. They’re ongoing. I mean, they’ve asked for, you know, appointments with various officials in the building. They’re working systematically through their process, and we’re doing everything we can to help them out.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 10:23 a.m.)

dpb # 198

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