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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 29, 2008

INDEX:

PAKISTAN

Sympathies Go Out to Victims of Earthquake / Working to Assess Damage
U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson Called to Pakistani Foreign Ministry
Cooperation Fighting Violent Extremism Has Been Very Good

IRAQ

Received Comments from Iraqi Government on Status of Forces Agreement
U.S. Will Assess and Respond to Iraqi Government

SYRIA

Possible Temporary Closure of U.S. Embassy Due to Protest
Status of Cultural Center and American School
Reports of Twelve Syrians Jailed Today
IAEA Discusses Return to Syria to Look Into Reports of Nuclear Reactor

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer’s Travel / Support UN in Diplomacy and Politics
Violence in DRC is of Deep Concern / 30,000 People Displaced

MEXICO

Possible Extradition Requests

RUSSIA

Support Russian Initiative on Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

MALDIVES

Maldives Election / Statement

ALGERIA

Political Process in Algeria should be Free, Fair, Transparent and Democratic

NORTH KOREA

Question Regarding Possible U.S.-North Korea Meeting in New York Next Week

BOLIVIA

Thirty Day Waiting Period to Suspend Bolivia from Andean Trade Preferences Act


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

10:39 a.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good morning, everyone. I just have a couple of remarks to start off with about the earthquake in Pakistan.

We’re deeply saddened to learn about the earthquake in southwestern Pakistan that occurred yesterday. Our sympathies go out to the victims of the tragedies, to the – of this tragedy, as well as to those who have been displaced by it. We are currently working with the Pakistani Government, the UN, and other potential donors to assess the damage. Once we’re able to make that assessment, and then also talk to the Pakistani Government about what their needs might be, we’ll stand ready to provide an assistance package. And at this point, we have no reports of any American casualties as a result of the earthquake.

So with that, I’ll be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Not on this, to New York. So I understand that you guys have finally received the --

MR. MCCORMACK: We did. We received some comments from the Iraqi Government.

QUESTION: I wasn’t even talking about Iraq.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, for the Iraqi Government.

QUESTION: The SOFA?

MR. MCCORMACK: The SOFA. Yes, indeed, we did. However, you will be disappointed, I expect, at my response, Matt. Since we’ve just received these today, we’re going to take a careful look at them, give it a thoughtful review. And once we’ve had chance to assess them, we’ll provide a reply to the Iraqi Government. So the process continues.

QUESTION: Okay. Did you get them here, there?

MR. MCCORMACK: In Baghdad.

QUESTION: And what is it? Just -- is it the form – what’s the form of it, just a list of we’d like this change, X change and X --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know. I don’t know, beyond the fact that they’re written comments – formal written comments.

QUESTION: Do you regard to them as substantive?

MR. MCCORMACK: I – you know, I haven’t looked at them. I -- you know, I guess --

QUESTION: The State Department – does it regard them as substantive --

MR. MCCORMACK: I guess any communications on the SOFA we regard as substantive. I can’t speak to what the contents of them are. You know, perhaps after we have a chance to take a look at them, we’ll be able to offer a deeper assessment – reply on each one.

QUESTION: Is it still your opinion, though, that the text that was originally agreed to was a good text?

MR. MCCORMACK: It’s good text. It’s still a good text. Indeed, it is.

QUESTION: But the fact that you are looking at that -- this – these proposals that the Iraqis have made, does that mean that you’re willing to consider possible revisions?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think what my colleagues at the White House have said is that the bar to any revisions is very high. You know, all of that said, this is a serious negotiation process on a serious issue, and we will take seriously any comments from the Iraqis. Like I said, we’ll do a thoughtful, thorough review of them, and then provide them a response.

QUESTION: And at what point -- since this does not appear to be close to a done deal, at what point do you start looking at – seriously at alternatives?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think – well, as the fact that there’s an exchange going on here, a continuing process on the SOFA, there’s still a lot of life left in this process, and it’s really the – the focus of our efforts. Look, you can never --

QUESTION: Well, you know, a two-month – you’ve got a two-month lifespan, and I think that’s close to insects.

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you know, look, negotiations --

QUESTION: Not a lot of life there.

MR. MCCORMACK: Negotiations can turn one way or the other very, very, quickly, so we’ll see. We’ll see what this process – you know, what this process yields.

QUESTION: Is it correct that you have not yet started work on a possible alternative and that alternative --

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not aware of any --

QUESTION: -- could mean an extension of the UN mandate?

MR. MCCORMACK: -- any substantial work at all on any alternative.

QUESTION: Well, “any substantial” implies that there might be some kind of work that has--

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I wouldn’t – I mean, nothing that I would -- you know, I don’t think anybody has put pen to paper on anything. I guess that’s – that’s what’s I would --

QUESTION: Have any of these comments referred to the U.S. raid in Syria, or alleged raid of --

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not a – I don’t know the contents of it, but I expect that it’s focused on the SOFA.

QUESTION: But it does focus on the SOFA because apparently the Iraqis say they will not allow their territory to be used to launch raids on neighbors.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, in terms of --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) U.S. troops will have a free hand --

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not going to – as I have – I and my colleagues have deferred any comments about these news reports concerning Syria, I’m going to maintain that stance. But in terms of the general issue of the ability of U.S. forces to operate in Iraq and what the rules of the road are, that’s part of why you have a SOFA.

QUESTION: Can we stay with Syria for a minute?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: The U.S. Embassy has said that it may close to the public because of security concerns. Can you elaborate on --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think – I believe what that refers to is there was a scheduled protest in Damascus, I think, late in the afternoon, early evening, Damascus time. And there have been other questions about the operation of the cultural center as well as the American school. As of right now, both are open and working, kids were at school today, and the cultural center was open for business.

We’ll – I’ve seen the Syrian announcements with regard to those two buildings and institutions. And if there’s any change in their status, we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Well, is it not correct that the Syrians summoned the Chargé?

MR. MCCORMACK: I believe that she is – she’s either there now or will soon be there. I can’t tell you what they’re going to tell her.

QUESTION: Well, the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Perhaps they --

QUESTION: Syrian -- the Syrian news agency, which is, you know, an arm of the government --

MR. MCCORMACK: An independent – fully independent news agency.

QUESTION: Right. It’s an arm of the government. So when it says that – well, it says he has been summoned, but it’s obviously “she” --

MR. MCCORMACK: Typo.

QUESTION: -- to receive the formal notification that the school and the cultural center have been closed. Do you have any reason to doubt that?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I’m just dealing in facts. I’m just – I am being Joe Friday with you, just the facts.

QUESTION: Can we --

QUESTION: What is the scheduled protest about? Is it against U.S?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know. Check your bureaus there.

QUESTION: Sean, just to go back to – I mean, the Embassy spokesman is quoted in our story saying that – essentially telling the American community that they should be aware that unforeseen events or circumstances may occur that could cause the U.S. Embassy in Damascus to close to the public for an unspecified period of time. And they said that they remain concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens. Is there anything beyond this scheduled protest that has caused --

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not aware of anything. The statement speaks for itself. If there are – I mean, we have a no double-standard rule. This is law, or at least – at the very least regulation, where if there are specific – specific threats against Americans, whether that’s official or unofficial, we have to make those public. So that is something that happens in a process separate from the public affairs channels. You know, I read about them when you do.

QUESTION: Is that – that was a Warden Message, then? That’s what it sounds like.

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not sure.

MR. WOOD: It was.

MR. MCCORMACK: It was a Warden Message.

QUESTION: Was it?

MR. MCCORMACK: It was a Warden Message.

QUESTION: There was a Warden Message on Monday?

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: I’m not sure I understand why (inaudible) today.

MR. MCCORMACK: Guys, I can’t tell you. I don’t issue Warden Messages.

QUESTION: Can we stay in Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Has there -- hold on one second. Can you – has there been something new today or yesterday?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m happy to check for you. I’m happy to check for you.

QUESTION: Do you know if they actually closed at any point?

MR. MCCORMACK: The Embassy?

QUESTION: Did it actually close or --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, they said, you know --

QUESTION: They said it might.

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing more – nothing beyond this. I said I am aware that there was some scheduled protest later this afternoon. You know, the Embassy is going to take the steps that it believes is necessary in order to address any security concerns there.

QUESTION: And the period where it might close has not ended yet, right? That’s --

MR. MCCORMACK: The way these things work is until further notice, that’s the – you know, our assessment of the situation. I assume that they will issue another Warden Message if there’s updated information or they see the situation different.

QUESTION: Sean, something I just want to make sure. Can you check to see whether this Warden Message that came out, and I’m pretty sure it came out on Monday, at least it’s got Monday’s date, just said – it’s a reminder that says that any embassy, or including this one --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- can close at any time given to --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I’m happy to check. I’m happy to check. You know, just so everybody understands, Warden Messages are issued by the Embassy completely separate from the Department back here in Washington. There is conversations back and forth, but these are intended for the local communities there. They don’t come out from Washington. I’m happy to check on what the Embassy has done in terms of issuing a Warden Message.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: In Syria, 12 opponents – Syrian opponents have been condemned to jail today.

MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Twelve opponents.

QUESTION: Dissidents.

QUESTION: Dissidents.

MR. MCCORMACK: Dissidents, yeah, uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- have been condemned to jail today. It’s the people of the Declaration of Damascus.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, let me look into it, Sylvie. But of course, you know our stance with respect to individuals’ rights in Syria or elsewhere to speak out and voice their opinion without fear of retribution from the government or security forces.

Yes.

QUESTION: Back to Pakistan?

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can I finish on Syria?

QUESTION: Still on Syria.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Also on Syria, a different subject. Do you have any comment on the IAEA yesterday talking about going back to Syria, wanting to go back and do more work in Syria on the nuclear site?

MR. MCCORMACK: Clearly, the book isn’t closed on the questions the IAEA has on these allegations of Syria having, at one point, a nuclear reactor, building a nuclear reactor outside of the declarations to the IAEA. So if they’re going to continue their work, I’ll let them comment on how they see the situation or the status of their work. But I think one can take from those comments that clearly the book isn’t closed on it.

QUESTION: I was --

MR. MCCORMACK: So wait a minute, hold on. Syria?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: Syria. Then, Libby, we’re going to Pakistan.

Yes.

QUESTION: Your understanding is that the demonstrations that are planned in Damascus were planned today, not tomorrow?

MR. MCCORMACK: That’s what I heard this morning, yeah.

QUESTION: You said something about tomorrow.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Anne Patterson was --

QUESTION: Still on Syria, sorry.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Clear it up.

QUESTION: This happened to me yesterday. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Apparently, there are reports that the Syrians are warning that they may actually close the U.S. Embassy, that they may try to kick diplomats out. Have you heard anything from them on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I mean, it’s sovereign – it is American territory. In terms of PNGing, persona non grata, diplomats and kicking them out, of course, that is every nation’s right. But I haven’t heard anything – anything of the sort, closing the Embassy. It’s not a decision for the Syrian Government.

QUESTION: Just – can you – I doubt you know this off the top of your head, but can you tell us approximately how many Americans live in Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have that. We’ll see if we can get you an order of magnitude estimate.

QUESTION: That would be helpful.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Libby.

QUESTION: Pakistan.

MR. MCCORMACK: Pakistan.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about Anne Patterson’s meeting at the foreign ministry today? She was apparently summoned in.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, she was.

QUESTION: And they protested U.S. missile strikes inside Pakistan.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I won’t comment on the substance of their discussion, but she was called in to the foreign ministry. I can certainly confirm that. It doesn't happen every day, but it’s not an unusual occurrence either. So I guess I would just leave it at that.

QUESTION: You wouldn't describe it as a protest?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll let the Pakistanis describe why they called her in.

QUESTION: Do you think, Sean, that the U.S. Government may have, in a sense, overplayed its hand in taking this more aggressive stance with regard to striking targets inside Pakistani territory, whether via drone or otherwise? I mean, the Pakistanis have said that the reason they called her in was dismay over a particular drone attack. It’s a public statement by them.

Can you – clearly, there’s got to be a balance somewhere between striking what you regard to be targets, and important targets, and maintaining a relationship with the government that, after all, you have described for seven years now as a close partner in the war on terrorism. Do you think you perhaps do not have that balance right?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you know, I’m in a position of not commenting on reports of these kinds of operations that you’re describing. It’s just not something I do. But all of that said, we work closely with Pakistan. That’s a true statement, I think, that the kind of cooperation we’ve had with Pakistan in terms of fighting violent extremism over the past seven years has been very good. Certainly, if you look at where we started in 2001, it’s just a completely different story on the positive side.

Does that mean that there is not more to do? No, it doesn't. Of course, there is more to do. But the President in his statements – and you go back, all the way back to those statements in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, his address to Congress and other statements – has made it very clear that his top priority is to protect the American people and to protect the United States. And you know, in the course of carrying out those duties, the President as well as other members of his cabinet are always confronted with tough decisions. We have to do – we’ve had to do a lot of hard things in the past seven years. Some of them, countries and people commenting have disagreed with. That’s their right.

But we always seek to try to, as best we can, given the circumstances, explain the reasons for our actions and the reasons behind our policies. We have – the President and his advisors believe they have pursued the proper courses of action, writ large. I’m not – again, I can’t comment on any specifics in this regard. The next administration coming in – they’re going to have to make their own decisions about these issues. But it is – nobody should be under the illusion that it isn’t a dangerous world out there and that there aren’t threats to the United States, our friends, our allies, and our interests. And it is the responsibility of a government, the most fundamental responsibility of a government, to protect its people.

QUESTION: A general point. How much friction do you have with the new Pakistani Government over the border regions? The Pakistanis – we’re certainly hearing protests from them, even if you’re not admitting you’re receiving them.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right. No, I’m not denying we’re receiving anything. I’m just not commenting on them. The Pakistanis as well as others are free to comment on these diplomatic exchanges.

As far as I can tell – I’ll give you my assessment – I think that the cooperation with the Pakistani Government has been good. That isn’t to say that if you look over the course of the past seven years there haven’t been bumps in the roads – bumps in the road or disagreements that are certainly – there certainly have been, and I am sure that going forward there will be.

But the Pakistani Government also understands that it is in their vital national interest to address the threat from violent extremists. And we’ve talked a lot – you know, I just talked a lot about the threats to the United States, our interest, and our friends and allies. Well, to shift the focus back to Pakistan, these violent extremists are as much a threat to Pakistan and where the government wants to take Pakistan and presumably where the Pakistani people want to take Pakistan, as expressed through the ballot box – these violent extremists, they’re as much a threat to that vision and that government as they are to us or others. So it’s in their interest to be in this fight.

And you have to do it a lot of different ways. You have to do it with security measures, intelligence, political measures, economic measures, development measures. So you know, we’ve discussed quite a bit over the past years counterinsurgency strategies, and at its root, that’s what you’re talking about. You’re trying to come at these problems from a lot of different angles.

QUESTION: Sean, if the cooperation is good, and if the Pakistani Government understands, as you say, that these alleged militants are as much – or these militants are as much a threat to them as to you, then why aren’t they going after them themselves; and would you not prefer that the Pakistani military conduct such operations rather than the United States having to be accused of violating their sovereignty and doing it itself?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, they have gone after these violent extremists in the FATA as well as the – in North and South Waziristan, there have been a variety of efforts at that. I can’t tell you precisely when the last offensive from the Pakistani military or the Frontier Corps has been. But they’ve taken a lot of losses in this fight, so they have – they have spilled blood, they have spilled treasure in this fight. And I expect that will continue. Like I said, I can’t tell you the last time they launched an offensive or what their most recent military operations were. I suspect that you could say within the past weeks there have been operations in those areas, but I’ll let the Pakistanis describe those for themselves.

Sir.

QUESTION: I’ve got two on Africa. One is what is Assistant Secretary Frazer going to be doing when she goes to Congo and Rwanda?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, she’s going to be in Kinshasa tomorrow. I know that. I’ll check – I’m not aware that she’s going to Rwanda, but I’ll check.

There’s a lot of violence that is ongoing in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and it’s of deep concern to us as well as the UN. There are – I have some figures here that because of the latest round of fighting, we have about 30,000 people that have been displaced. A lot of these people have been displaced for the second or third time now because of this fighting. And overall, if you look at that region, there’s over a million people that have been displaced because of this fighting over the course of the year. So the UN has – is – has a peacekeeping operation in the region, and the leadership of the UN effort in the Congo is looking for more forces. And so that’s being discussed in the UN.

Jendayi is going there to try to work the politics and the diplomacy of this, and I expect that she’ll be – she’s obviously going to be in contact with the leadership in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as with leadership in Rwanda. There – you know, you can probably draw the lines better than I, but a lot of these tensions result from various ethnic groups in those regions in the Great Lakes region there as well as tensions that exist between Rwanda and the DROC.

So we’re working to try to, as best we can, minimize or defuse those tensions, work the political side, support the UN in its efforts to get more troops in there and get more capabilities in there. That’s a UN process but we support them in doing that.

QUESTION: And – well, who does she plan to speak with?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, she --

QUESTION: I mean, going there and talking to the UN --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no --

QUESTION: -- and the Congolese Government is one thing. But I mean, is she going to be talking to the rebels?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don’t expect that she will, no.

QUESTION: Oh, and then I have another one on Africa.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Just these suicide attacks in Somaliland. Anything on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. We got some reports of this this morning in the morning staff meeting, and we’re investigating it. We’re looking into it. I understand that there were what at first blush seems to be some suicide bombers or some explosions, both in Somaliland and Puntland, and – directed at some of the institutions and the officials there. So we’re looking into it.

QUESTION: Were some of the institutions hit – did they receive U.S. aid money, like the Puntland Intelligence Services?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll check for you, see if there were any U.S. equities there.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: I want to change to Mexico.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you consider Eduardo Arellano Felix as the head of all of the most violent and important criminal organizations? Is the State Department or the Justice Department interested in requesting his extradition to the U.S.?

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, is this an extradition request? I’ll look into it for you, but typically we don’t comment on extradition requests until they are actually either made or executed.

QUESTION: Now, is there any assessment now in regards with the information that may have been compromised in the American Embassy due to the infiltration of the Mexican --

MR. MCCORMACK: I can’t offer any comment. It’s still an ongoing investigation, so I can’t offer any comment.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Moscow has launched an initiative to try to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The two presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan are going to meet next week in Moscow. Do you support this Russian initiative?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we do. We have been working on this issue for quite some time. I think a lot of you guys have catalogued those efforts over the years, and working through the OSCE and the Minsk Group. But I guess to bottom-line for you, we’re pleased by this initiative that Moscow is undertaking. We hope that the initiative succeeds. We are monitoring it very closely.

Yeah.

QUESTION: A couple of smaller things which, if you don’t have answers to, if you could look into.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Maldives – the leader of the Maldives today conceded defeat in an election, it would be the first change in power there for 30 years. Do you have any remarks?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have a statement that we’re going to be issuing for you on that.

QUESTION: Excellent. I look forward to that.

Secondly, in Algeria, President Bouteflika appears to – or has made some comments that have been widely interpreted as suggesting – the comments are about amending their constitution.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And the conclusion is that he wants to amend it so that he could run for a third term. Is that something that the U.S. Government would have an opinion on, or is it kind of like New York City and whether they want to keep Mayor Bloomberg? It’s sort of a local matter that’s up to them?

MR. MCCORMACK: It is – our interests, as I suspect mirror the interests of many other – many others around the world and in the region, are in seeing that any process that takes up this issue is one that is free, fair, transparent and democratic. So fundamentally, these are issues for the Algerian people and the Algerian political system to answer. So I can’t comment one way or the other on the outcome.

This has happened in a lot of places around the world: New York City, Colombia, and other places. So there are ways to do it, in which I think it can generate support or at least no criticism from the outside world; do it in a free, fair, and transparent way if that’s the will of the Algerian people, then that’s the direction they have decided to take their political process in. Absent that, I think you’ll see a different kind of reaction.

QUESTION: Given the history of democratic processes in Algeria and notably the cancelation of the election that (inaudible) was poised to win, do you have a lot of confidence that this going to be handled in a free, fair, and democratic, transparent way?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we’ll see. We’ll see. We’ll see.

QUESTION: I got one more.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. Okay, Arshad, then Matt.

QUESTION: Just two quick ones on North Korea. This is the daily sort of Kim Jong-il health question. You know, there are reports that he’s taken turn for the worse, and that he may be seeking treatment from a French doctor. Any comment on that? And also, any decision yet on whether U.S. diplomats or any other U.S. officials will meet with the North Koreans who are expected to come to New York next week to meet NGOs?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not aware that a decision has been taken yet. I know they’ll – I’ve heard that they’re going to be there – this sort of conference. We have in the past, I know, in these kind of conferences, you know, met on the margins.

QUESTION: Can you check?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Happy to check for you. On the -- Kim Jong-il’s health, I don’t have any comment for you.

QUESTION: Can I – Sean, I just follow up on the idea of meeting with North Korea? I mean, now that you’ve kind of gone through phase one and kind of on your way to finishing phase two --

MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll see.

QUESTION: -- of the agreement, which kind of established the fact that North Korea and the U.S. are going to have a better relationship. And I know you don’t have formal ties yet, but is it a big deal for – I mean, do you have to, like, make a policy decision on whether to meet with North Koreans on any given time, or is it just kind of a given that if they’re in town and you want to meet with them, you can? I mean, is it a big political policy decision at this point?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, I was actually – I was considering saying, and now I will say, when we’ve met with them at these track two conferences in the past, it’s been under a different set of circumstances. Either the Six-Party Talks didn’t exist or they were not functioning in the way that they are now. We’ll see. I don’t think that there’s – you know, is it a big deal for us to communicate with North Korea via established channels nowadays? No, it’s not. Of course, we take – you know, we stay within our policy guidelines, but you know, the act of communicating, that is not news so much anymore.

In terms of this kind of conference, since it’s an ad hoc kind of event, I’m sure people will consider what the pros and cons are. I’ll check into it for you and see if – see which way we’re going to break on it.

QUESTION: As you know, Sean, last month the President proposed to suspend Bolivia from the Andean Trade Preferences Act.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And I understand that there’s a long process – or not a long process, but there is a process that has to go through.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, 30-day waiting period. Yeah.

QUESTION: And last week, the Secretary when she was in Mexico, said we think it’s unfortunate that we have to separate Bolivia from the Andean – from this.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right

QUESTION: I’m just – there seems to be some confusion out there. Has this process run its course, which I’m not sure it has, I mean, at least in terms of time? Has the decision been made to suspend?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let me separate it out into two parts. I know that there’s this 30-day waiting period. I’ll check for you to see whether or not the clock is expired on that waiting period. The second part to it is I think if you’ve looked at those comments from the Secretary, I think you can see pretty clearly where she stands on the issue.

QUESTION: Well, which is that they should be suspended.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: But has the decision – but this is what I don’t understand. I’m just looking for a fact. Where is – where are we now in the process? Has Bolivia been suspended?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll check for you. Whether or not, you know, according to the – you know, according to the requirements of the law and, you know, the 30-day clock expiring, I’ll check to see if that clock has expired. If it hasn’t already, I think you can tell pretty clearly from the Secretary’s comments where she stands in terms of once the clock has expired

QUESTION: And can you just say what that is? Where does she stand -- that Bolivia should be suspended?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, her comments – yeah. Yeah, you can see it from her comments. Yeah.

QUESTION: And is there any way that the Bolivians can now, at this point, do something to change that?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, they haven’t given any indication that they’re changing course, Matt.

QUESTION: So as soon as – the position of the Administration is that as soon as the waiting period is over, they will be suspended and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check that. Let me find – let me get the facts for you, in terms of the clock and the 30-day period. I think her comments speak for themselves. I’ve tried to be as clear as you – as I can be, without knowing exactly where we are in that 30-day waiting period.

QUESTION: The same day she made those comments, there was a hearing on exactly that at the U.S. Trade Representative. And then there was a comment period after that hearing until October 30th or 31st. So my question is who makes the final decision? Is it --

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll find out for you for what – yeah, what the law says. I think it – well, I think it’s her, but I don’t know.

QUESTION: Because it’s the Administration recommendation, and they have the hearing and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Let me check for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else? Great.

(The briefing was concluded at 11:09 a.m.)

DPB #183



Released on October 29, 2008

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