|Daily Press Briefing (Corrected)|
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
October 21, 2008
|Transition Appointees/Ensuring Successful Transition|
|Incoming Administration to Determine New Personnel|
|Experienced Bureau Management in Place for Transition|
|Current Administration will Govern until the New President Sworn-in|
|Seamless and Professional Transition|
|Secretary Rice will be Available to Meet with New Team|
|Bureau Management Readying for a Responsible Handover|
|Briefing Books Seek to Provide Factual Information|
|SOFA Process Continues|
|Congressional Approval Not Required for SOFA|
|SOFA is an Executive Branch Responsibility/Will Brief Congress|
|Focused on Completing SOFA by Years End|
|Secretary Rice Trip to Mexico/Wide Range of Issues/Merida Initiative|
|Secretary Rices Trip to Mexico|
|U.S. and Mexican Government Cooperating to Support Narcotic Trafficking|
|Visit of Jacob Zuma|
|Zimbabwe President Mugabe should adhere to Recent Agreement|
|Status of Nuclear Dismantlement|
|No Update Regarding North Korea Making an Important Announcement|
|Poland Withdrawal from Iraq/Poland Not Included in Visa Waiver Program|
|Russia is Responsible for Providing Heavy Fuel Oil|
|Consulting with Six-Party Members on Providing Heavy Fuel Oil|
|Japans Participation in North Korean Nuclear Verification Process|
10:34 a.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good morning, everybody. Let’s have --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) over?
MR. MCCORMACK: What’s that? It was a good – it was a good season. They put up a good fight. You have to tip your cap to the Tampa Bay Rays.
I want to start with one little housekeeping note for folks. I plan on doing periodic transition updates for you as we get closer to election day and then get closer to January 20th when we hand the keys over to somebody else. A lot of you probably already know this, but just to put it down on the record --
QUESTION: Will you tell us who the next Secretary of State’s going to be?
MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Or are you going to be working --
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, that’s a different podium, Matt.
The Secretary has appointed three individuals to head up the Department-wide transition effort. They are Under Secretary Bill Burns, who is Under Secretary for Political Affairs; Under Secretary Pat Kennedy, who is Under Secretary for Management; and the Executive Secretary, Dan Smith. So these three individuals sit atop the Department-wide structure that’s going to be responsible for making sure that there is a professional, efficient, smooth transition from this team to the next team as they come in. At some point along the way, we’ll take you all – for anybody who is interested – a tour for the transition spaces that are already being set up on the first floor of the Department. I think you all know where they are, down in the southwest corner.
These things are designed to help people out with everything from administrative to security to policy support. The Department is already starting the process of generating all the papers that are required for a transition if – for any of you out there who don’t know the State Department, this is a Department that still runs on paper. So it’s – we do a lot of things well and one of them is produce paper. So we’re producing a lot of transition papers for the incoming team. And I would expect that on November 5th, we will have our first set of books ready to hand over to whomever the incoming transition team leads will be.
All of that said, we still have a lot of work left to do between now and January 20th, and the Secretary is certainly concentrating on that, but I also wanted to let you know that we are also concentrating on the fact that we are going to be turning over responsibility for the Department as well as U.S. foreign policy to a new team coming here in a few months.
QUESTION: Sean, just –
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: I believe Secretary Gates earlier this year, sent a memo to his senior aides noting the fact that this would be the first wartime transition since, you know, ’68, I guess, and I think sounding people out about staying on so that there is no – you know, so that you actually have decision-making capabilities.
Has Secretary Rice – I realize this is – you know, it’s maybe a little different at the Pentagon than it is here, but is there – has Secretary Rice – does she foresee any interest? And obviously, it depends on who the president is, whether he wishes to retain any of these people, but in reaching out to any of the people with sort of hot diplomatic dossiers that they’re now handling, like, say, Assistant Secretary Hill or Assistant Secretary Boucher or Welch and, you know, asking them to stay on for a period so that the Department isn’t entirely decapitated on January 20th.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. She hasn’t sent out anything like that. And the situations between the Pentagon and here are a little bit different. Decisions about personnel – who stays, who goes – are going to be entirely up to the incoming administration. Political appointees from one administration don’t automatically carry over into the next administration. As a matter of fact, the rule is that they do not. So it will be completely up to, you know, (a) the incoming team, and then (b) people, if they’re asked, making a personal decision.
I think if you look across the various – the various bureaus, everybody is making sure that in leadership in a bureau, and for example, in my bureau as well, you want to make sure that you do have a good, solid leadership team and management team in place that can stay over into the next administration. These would be either professional Civil Service personnel or Foreign Service personnel who don’t hold political appointee appointments, but have deep experience in their bureaus and in their areas so that we can address just those kinds of issues that you’re talking about, making sure that there is some continuity in terms of experience and being able to handle any issues that may come up as a new administration staffs up.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: There’s been some talk, and I think it pertains mostly to the economy, but also to kind of several other important foreign policy issues like Iraq or --
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- Pakistan or the Middle East, that there’s some talk that because there are so many unique challenges, like Arshad said, about the war and the SOFA and things like that, that the new president perhaps should – obviously will be briefed and be involved in like, a transition period, but should have some hand in kind of policy decisions that are made between now and the end of the year. Is that something that you are taking into account, or do you think that it’s – this Administration, until January 20th, is the Administration making foreign……
MR. MCCORMACK: No, and I don’t think anybody would really expect that. You know, presidents are elected for four-year terms, they’re definite terms, and the people who serve them are appointed for definite terms. And we know when this term ends: January 20th at 12:01 in 2009. Up until that point, you have a commander-in-chief and cabinet secretaries who are officially responsible for a set of duties and a set of cabinet agencies.
You know, there’s an interesting tradition, you know, with incoming presidents on inauguration day, and it’s symbolic but I think it speaks to your point. The – with the – during the inauguration ceremony, just beforehand, the Marine salutes the outgoing president, turns around and then salutes the incoming president. And I think that’s symbolic of the fact that, up until that point, you do have a definite commander-in-chief one moment, and the next moment there’s a new one, just as there will be cabinet heads who are in place until 12:01 on January 20th, and then after that there will be new people coming in to take their place.
But I think, you know, of course, we are conscious of the fact that we are stewards of America’s foreign policy and we have responsibility for it for a set period of time. And as I – my comments today indicated, we also have a sense that there are going to be others who have responsibility coming up here in the next few months. But it’s our responsibility, and nobody’s else’s up until that point in time.
QUESTION: I understand. But for instance, you had said earlier in the week that Secretary Rice had called Senator Obama, and Secretary Gates had called Senator McCain, about the SOFA. Are these the kind of discussions that will happen with the next president between now and then merely, kind of, briefing them and letting them know? Or is there any kind of consultation?
MR. MCCORMACK: It’s briefing.
QUESTION: It’s briefing.
MR. MCCORMACK: It’s briefing. And this is typical of these periods of times when you have a Republican and Democratic nominee. I remember back in 2004 the same thing happened in terms of briefing Senator Kerry and Senator Kerry’s campaign on significant national security and foreign policy issues. I think that’s important.
And the President also recently signed, I think, within the past two weeks, a new executive order that sped – that was designed to speed the process of security – granting security clearances and having individuals in transition teams, both transition teams, be able to access sensitive information so that, you know, on November 5th, you know, there is a president-elect – well, not – well, there will be somebody the American people have chosen as the next president, and a transition team, and so they can start their work immediately. And the idea is to make sure that it is as seamless and is efficient and as professional as possible.
QUESTION: A quick question about the books you plan to put together by November 5th, and there’ll probably need to be more, obviously.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, there’ll be more. Yeah.
QUESTION: What are the initial, sort of, books going to be? Are they -- can you describe those a little bit more?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll have more for you on that. In terms of what are the topic areas, there are going to be some basics in terms of, well, here’s how the Department is currently structured and some of the very basics about all of the bureaus in the Department. I would expect that there would also be subject matter papers. And I’ll try to in the days – I guess, we’re getting down to days now – talk to you a little bit about what are going to be those initial issues that we brief the incoming team on.
QUESTION: And what role will Secretary Rice play? Can you say at this point?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I mean, she’ll, of course, be available for any inquiries in briefings that we set up with the incoming transition team. I think that’s typical. It will probably take some period of time for the president-elect to designate those individuals that they choose to serve in their cabinet. The Secretary, of course, will make herself available to the incoming team for briefings and handovers. But I would expect that that is something that probably won’t take immediately, but probably a little bit – as we get closer to January 20th.
QUESTION: Sean, do you know if the three people that have been named to head up this transition team are all career Foreign Service people?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, that’s correct. Yes.
QUESTION: And was that the same in – are you – do you know --
MR. MCCORMACK: For the last one --
QUESTION: -- when there has been a – well, it didn’t really matter so much last time. But when there is a change – if there is another change in the party – in terms of transition teams coordinators, is this the normal --
MR. MCCORMACK: I --
QUESTION: -- to be headed --
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I honestly don’t know, Matt. We can try to do some research for you. We’d have to go back to 2000, I think, to see who was heading up the transition teams then.
But there’s a tradition in the foreign policy national security agencies, I believe, to make sure that the heads of the – the overall transition team are either, you know, career Foreign Service or Civil Service people.
Okay, now we’re back to the --
QUESTION: Actually, just one more.
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, yeah, sure.
QUESTION: Can you say whether the – you have all the – the kind of deputy assistant secretaries in place? I mean, are all the bureaus ready to be transitioned over at this point, or not?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they – they’re getting ready. I think people are in place. I haven’t done a survey of all the bureaus and whether – kind of their personnel charts at this point in time. But look, as a responsible manager for a bureau, you want to make sure that you are fulfilling your duties on a daily basis, serving the Secretary and the President, but also keeping an eye on the bureau and handing it over to somebody else. I think every – you know, every manager in this building is aware of those responsibilities.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) maybe to try to conserve.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Yeah, I’m happy – like I said, I want to try to do these on a periodic basis between now and January.
QUESTION: In terms of -- Sean, on the --
QUESTION: Is there more? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yep. Just a number perspective. How many posts change hands normally in a -- is it dozens or scores?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll have to – you know, I’ll have to check for you.
QUESTION: But it’s --
MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll have to get a – probably a baseline is the number of political appointments, both – well, I guess you have all the ambassadorial jobs which are political appointments. They’re representatives of the president. But also the Washington jobs that are political appointments. The composition of that will vary a bit from administration to administration. But there’s sort of rough order of magnitude that we can get you.
QUESTION: So one thing that you’ve been hoping to have wrapped up before the next – before, I think, even election day -- you wanted it wrap up by the end of July, so you’d be going south pretty quickly -- the Iraqis – the Iraqi cabinet now has formally said that it wants changes made to the – what was being called the final draft of the SOFA.
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven’t called it that. I called it a text, Matt.
QUESTION: No, they called it that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the process clearly continues.
QUESTION: Well, is this something that --
MR. MCCORMACK: As we have been saying, the Iraqis are considering the text. I’ve seen the press reports about – from the Iraqi Prime Minister’s spokesman, but we have yet to receive any formal comments back. I think we’ll withhold any reaction until we have comments – formal comments back from the Iraqi Government.
We believe that this is a good text. We wouldn’t have had the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense making phone calls about this text if we didn’t think it was a good text. So we’ll see what the Iraqi comments are.
QUESTION: Right. Well, as a general principle, though, are you willing to look at alterations or changes in it? Or was this – what was presented to them, whenever it was, last week, ten days ago, was that a take-it-or-leave-it proposition?
MR. MCCORMACK: We believe it’s a good text. We believe it’s a good text.
QUESTION: So is it – so is it --
QUESTION: Right. But I mean, if the Iraqis aren’t going to sign onto it, I mean, you may not have much other choice than to work with them on some kind of amendments.
MR. MCCORMACK: Let’s see – let’s see what their comments are. But we believe that this is a good, solid text.
QUESTION: The fact that it was unanimous, that all of them want changes, means that – don’t you have to give?
MR. MCCORMACK: Like we said, we think it’s a good text.
QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean, Sean, the Iraqis are saying that they don’t think it’s a good, solid text. So isn’t there some kind of meeting in the middle of the two?
MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll see what the Iraqi comments are. And I can repeat that it’s a good text if you --
QUESTION: Do you know if Ambassador Crocker or anyone has plans to – you say you haven’t heard or seen the comments that – or at least formally officially seen them?
MR. MCCORMACK: We haven’t gotten that. We have seen the press reports.
QUESTION: Do you know if there are meetings? Right, I know. But do you know if there were any meetings or calls set up --
MR. MCCORMACK: Does he have a meeting set up?
QUESTION: -- to receive those --
MR. MCCORMACK: I imagine that he does. I’ll check for you. I imagine that he does. I don’t know.
QUESTION: In terms of the Secretary’s outreach on this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new on that since the calls that we reported.
QUESTION: There’s also a briefing of the Hill and various members of Congress going on. Have they expressed to you that they think that there’s any need for amendments?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you – I’ve seen various comments in public from, you know, important congressmen and important senators. I’ll let those speak for themself.
QUESTION: Hoshyar Zebari says that it’s unlikely it will be passed by the parliament by November 4th.
MR. MCCORMACK: We’re working to get it completed and finally agreed upon as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: Is it still your intent to have it done by the end of the year when the UN Security Council mandate expires?
MR. MCCORMACK: We’re focused on getting this done.
QUESTION: Wouldn’t it be nice, though, for – in terms of if you didn’t have to prepare an extra SOFA briefing book for the transition team? I mean, if this thing was done and taken care of, presumably, there wouldn’t be that much need to --
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, we’re – we are working as assiduously and with as much energy as we can to get this done.
QUESTION: And have you – and I know I keep asking this, but some (inaudible) a response may be a little different. So no consideration is being given to the possibility of seeking an extension for the Security Council mandate?
MR. MCCORMACK: Focused on getting the SOFA done.
Okay. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: I understand Secretary Rice is about to travel to Mexico.
MR. MCCORMACK: That’s right.
QUESTION: I would like to know what is the main focus of the trip? I mean, she’s going to speak about the Merida Initiative and the implementation of the --
MR. MCCORMACK: I expect that she will have some extensive conversations about the program of cooperation that’s represented by the Merida Initiative, talk about regional issues. Secretary Rice has not visited Mexico in her tenure as the Secretary of State taking an individual trip, so she looks forward to doing so and sitting down with Foreign Minister Espinosa. There’s going to be a wide range of issues that they touch upon. I’m sure they’ll talk about the global financial and economic situation, and all the issues that exist between two close neighbors.
QUESTION: The director of ONDCP have mentioned that many drug smugglers from Mexico are coming across the border and kidnapping and murdering U.S. citizens. Do you have any reports about that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have anything that would add further to those comments.
QUESTION: The case of this 12-year-old boy from Las Vegas can be maybe one of them?
MR. MCCORMACK: I --
QUESTION: And somehow they were relating the grandfather --
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m going to let the comments of the ONDCP director speak for themselves.
QUESTION: No other countries in the region will be represented at the talks and --
MR. MCCORMACK: No. It’s a bilateral meeting.
QUESTION: She’s really never been to Mexico as Secretary of State?
MR. MCCORMACK: On an individual trip.
QUESTION: You mean without the --
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: She’s been with the President?
MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly --
QUESTION: Well, what took so long?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can’t – (laughter) – she’s had a lot of meetings with Foreign Minister Espinosa.
QUESTION: I know. I seem to remember the – going to Canada for some of them.
MR. MCCORMACK: Those were trilateral meetings. So she looks forward to a bilateral meeting in Mexico.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: I wonder if you have any readout at this point on Secretary Rice’s meeting with Jacob Zuma just very recently?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t. Actually, they moved the meeting time to 11:15.
MR. MCCORMACK: So, no readout yet.
QUESTION: Is Secretary Rice looking for any kind of indication that the SADC countries may be willing to step up the pressure on the Mugabe regime?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, obviously, South Africa has been deeply involved in trying to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe. And I would expect that they’ll continue their involvement. So you know, we are looking for all of Zimbabwe’s neighbors, and any other interested countries in the international system to apply the pressure required to have President Mugabe live up to the agreement that he signed on to.
QUESTION: Sean, can you – rather than pressing you for previewing her meeting --
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- with Mr. Zuma, can you do your best to get us a really solid readout --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: -- and particularly on --
MR. MCCORMACK: On Zimbabwe?
QUESTION: On Zimbabwe, yeah.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: What is your understanding of what’s going on in North Korea right now? And have you heard anything new in terms of the reversing of – from – have you heard anything new from the people on the ground in Yongbyon?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have anything new, no. I just didn’t ask any – I didn’t ask for any new information. The last time we checked in, the trendlines were positive, but I don’t have a new read for you. I’m happy to check in to see what the latest is.
QUESTION: Have you heard anything more about some kind of announcement coming out from North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’ve seen the press reports about it. I don’t have any greater insight to it than that, though.
QUESTION: But – like, you have people on the ground. I mean, have they heard anything about any kind of a --
MR. MCCORMACK: Not that – not that I’m aware of, no.
Yes. In the back.
QUESTION: Marcin Wrona, TVN Poland. Sir, Poland is going to withdrawing its troops from Iraq after five years of service.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: And basically, at the same time, President George W. Bush announced a list of countries included in the Visa Waiver Program, and Poland, yet again, is not included in this program. Do you think this is a good way of saying thank you to the Polish troops in Poland?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it’s – look, the Visa Waiver Program is not a gift to anybody. There are legal requirements, and each country is evaluated based on those legal requirements. And there was an initial announcement, as you noted in your question. We continue to work with a number of other countries, including Poland, that may be included in the Visa Waiver Program at a later date. This in no way detracts at all from the sacrifices Poland and the Polish military have made in Iraq. We all honor their service. We’re grateful for their service. They were there at the very beginning. And we’re quite proud of the work that they have done there and the sacrifices that they have made.
QUESTION: Back on North Korea, do you have anything new on the heavy fuel oil aid to North Korea? Are you guys bringing in Australia to make up for Japan’s part of the --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think – I think Russia is next up in the queue in terms of heavy fuel oil. There’s a overall amount that was committed to – I think it was about a million tons of heavy fuel oil or in-kind assistance. And the working group that is responsible for following through on those commitments has met, I think, four or five times. It’s going to continue to meet, and we are all, as a group, going to look for ways to continue to meet our obligations. But I think Russia is next up in the queue on the heavy fuel oil.
QUESTION: Is there an agreement about what to do for Japan’s portion of this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly, we are talking to all the five. All the five are consulting on how we meet those obligations.
QUESTION: Are you looking into the possibility – even if Russia is next up, are you looking into the possibility of the other members providing the heavy fuel oil, or people outside the Six-Party process providing some of the heavy fuel oil or equivalent?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, like I said, first things first. Russia is next up. I think there’s a high degree of confidence among the five that we will meet our obligations.
QUESTION: And one other thing. Japan today has suggested -- or the Japanese Government today suggested that it may help North Korea in other ways, and notably on eliminating or dismantling or disabling its nuclear facilities. Is that assistance that you would welcome, and do you have reason to believe that they’re considering providing that type of assistance?
MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn’t heard that. Happy to look into it for you. I think the extent to which Japan wants to participate in the verification and disablement process is going to be one that’s completely up to them. But the way the verification regime was designed was to have participation from all the members, should they want to participate, as well as from outside sources.
QUESTION: I just have one more --
MR. MCCORMACK: Matt.
QUESTION: I’ll try to make this brief. Going back to your opening comments, though, on these briefing books that are – or papers that are going to be prepared, are these things going to be just, straight out, factual things? Or will they also include arguments for continuing the current Administration’s policies? The reason I ask is because the Secretary this morning made a pretty impassioned --
MR. MCCORMACK: She did.
QUESTION: -- appeal in defense of the increases – large increases in foreign assistance, development assistance that this Administration has made over the last eight years.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: So I would assume that development assistance would be one of the topics covered by these – by the – whatever the transition team puts together. Will that include an argument in favor of carrying on this Administration’s plan?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you heard her specifically in that speech, I think, lay out a strong intellectual argument, as well as a moral argument, for what we have done in this Administration, as well as calling upon the next administration to continue development assistance.
QUESTION: And so the development that goes into these briefing books, is that something between her and --
MR. MCCORMACK: In the briefing – well, that’s separate. I mean, the – you can look at her speech as a policy pronouncement and opinion for those going forward who come after us. In terms of the briefing books, I’ll check for you, Matt. They tend to be very factual, because the idea here is to provide the incoming team information that they need in order to make decisions about, you know, the structure of the Department, what programs they want to emphasize, what policy areas they want to emphasize. They’re going to come in with their own ideas. Everybody knows and expects that. That’s going to be set from the president-elect on down.
So the idea is to try to provide as much factual information as possible. I suspect that probably papers will vary from bureau to bureau. I’ll give you an example from my bureau. I have asked that the papers just be very straightforward and factual. People are going to make their own decisions who come in about --
QUESTION: So they aren’t necessarily arguments to continue, to carry on her policies? They’re not – yes, we tried everything else and this is the only thing that’s working and you should --
QUESTION: There isn’t an impassioned appeal for me attending the briefing, for example, at 10:30? That’s not part of your --
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, like I said, I’m responsible until January 20th, and after that I turn the keys over to somebody else and it’s up to them. I’ll check for you, Matt. I’ll try to do an informal survey with the folks who are running the overall process. But I think the papers tend to be factual. Now, that doesn't mean you can’t lay out context for people talking about what worked, what didn’t work, what we’re doing right now, and what people might expect in terms of others outside of the U.S. Government, what foreign reactions might be, you know, what important dates might be out there on the horizon, what to look for. But again, it’s all in the context of providing them information so that they can make their own decisions.
QUESTION: Do those – is the information contained in those papers at a certain classified level and --
MR. MCCORMACK: It’ll vary. It’ll vary according to need. Look, like I said, you know, the President took steps to try to make sure, to the extent possible, that classification isn’t an impediment to a transition team coming in and hitting the ground running, you know, kind of really being able to start up work as soon as they possibly can. In terms of classification, that’s going to be a case-by-case basis. It’s going to be based on the information contained in the papers.
QUESTION: Last weekend, the Mexican police have captured about 15 members of the Cali cartel in Mexico City. It shows that the Colombian cartels are now operating in Mexico. Does it make the issue more concerning?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, for some time – and the Mexican Government and we are in complete agreement on this – is that, you know, there’s an issue in Mexico that we need to try to deal with, and we want to do that cooperatively. We want to support the Mexican Government in that. But there’s also been an understanding all along that this is not an issue that starts and stops in Mexico; it has a longer tail than that. And in order to really address the issue of narco-trafficking, production of narcotics and some – and the violence that attends that and tends to surround those efforts, you need to – you need to look beyond just Mexico.
QUESTION: But the fact that now they are moving to Mexico makes the problem maybe worse? Are they reinforcing the Mexican cartels and maybe --
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, that’s a – it’s – that’s a level of detail that I just don’t possess. I couldn't give you that kind of assessment. Perhaps on the trip we can have some experts who could speak in more depth to that, those kinds of questions.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) about the SOFA, would legislative approval from both the parliament – Iraqi parliament and Congress be required to finalize the elements of the Status of Forces Agreement?
MR. MCCORMACK: For the U.S. side, no. For the Iraqi side, they will have their own laws and procedures that govern what they do.
QUESTION: I’m just curious. Why wouldn't congressional approval be required? I know they’ve held a couple of hearings probing into why, you know, they’re not included in finalizing the agreement. Why aren’t they?
MR. MCCORMACK: Typically, SOFA agreements aren’t subject to congressional approval.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: It’s clear that there’s no congressional approval needed.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: But are you willing to – obviously, it seems that the Iraqis will need to have some amendments made to the text. Even if you say that you think it’s a good text, obviously, the Iraqis want to reopen it. Are you willing to take the considerations of Congress into account when you’re negotiating this? Or, you know, are you – again, is it clearly like a, we’re briefing the Congress on what our text is and that’s it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, this is an executive branch responsibility. All of that said, we have briefed the Congress on this. And you know, of course, people on our side of the table hear what they have to say; but first and foremost, this is an executive branch responsibility.
QUESTION: I understand. But are they briefings or consultations?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would say it’s – they’re briefings. They’re sold and advertised as briefings.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 11:04 p.m.)
 Secretary Rice first visited Mexico while Secretary of State (on an individual trip) on March 10, 2005.
dpb # 177