Briefing with Department Spokesperson Sean McCormack on Media Comments by Iranian Officials (Excerpts)

June 15, 2006

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QUESTION: What do you make of the two different responses coming out of Tehran today on willingness to talk from Ahmadi-Nejad and Khamenei? Do you think you have an answer?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think we have a final answer yet. We're going to be looking for a definitive response from the Iranian Government via Mr. Solana. We haven't received that yet. We certainly continue to hope that the Iranian Government would take the opportunity presented to it -- two pathways presented to it, take the pathway of negotiation, which is certainly the positive pathway. There is a pathway of disincentives which leads them --leads towards further isolation.

I would point out that today at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting, there was nearly unanimous consensus that Iran should cooperate with the IAEA and urging Iran to take up the offer that was presented to it by the P-5+1. There's a long list of states that came out with that message for Iran.

Interestingly, many of the non-aligned movement board members did that as well. There were national -- individual national statements from India, Singapore, South Africa, Ghana, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador. They called upon Iran to cooperate with the IAEA and to respond positively to the P-5+1 offer. The only out wires were, not surprisingly, Syria and Cuba.

So what you see here is the world speaking with one voice telling, telling Iran cooperate with the IAEA and take up the offer that has been presented to it. There is a positive pathway. The world, through this P-5+1 proposal has offered that pathway. And we continue to urge the Iranian Government to take up that offer.

QUESTION: Doesn't Iran have to speak with one voice, or do you take it in (inaudible) bad find that you've got conflicting statements?

MR. MCCORMACK: Since the Foreign Secretary Beckett came out and made the announcement in Vienna that there was a package, that it would be presented to the Iranian Government, you've heard a number of different comments coming out of Tehran. What we have yet to hear is a definitive response. So I'm not going to comment on every utterance that comes out of Tehran. We, the P-5+1, will wait for that definitive response, which we have not yet received.

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QUESTION: Can you comment on a report this morning that -- we talked about this before in briefings, but that Solana only presented disincentives to the Iranians and that -- I'm sorry, incentives to the Iranians, and only verbally talked about disincentives with them?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. We have talked about this in the past. The P-5+1 agreed among themselves that Mr. Solana was empowered to go into whatever level of detail he felt appropriate, both on the incentive side and the disincentive side. And it was up to him as a matter of diplomacy how he would present it. We are confident that the Iranian regime has a full sense that there are two pathways, both the incentive side as well as the disincentive side. So we're very comfortable that Mr. Solana conveyed that sense of two pathways and where those two pathways would head.

QUESTION: But they won't know the details of the pathways. I mean, the incentives obviously they know. But do you think that Iran understands the gravity of the possible disincentives? I mean, just the idea of disincentives doesn't really make clear that they could be serious.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I think that both with the public statements as well as with that private message to the Iranian Government that they have a full appreciation for both sides of this package, the incentive side and disincentive side and where those two pathways may lead.

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QUESTION: Recently -- this week a Fox news representative was in Tehran speaking with officials from the leadership of both Khamenei and Ahmadi-Nejad and an aide to Ali Khamenei said that Iran actually wanted to help the United States in Iraq, wanted to be more helpful. That they said they had some common goals and considered this somewhat of an overture, another overture following the letter. Has the U.S. received any such signals through your lines of communication and how do you view this?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check to see exactly what kinds of communications we may or may not have received from the Iranian Government. Look, we and the Iranian Government as well as all of Iraq's neighbors have an interest in Iraq being stable, secure and prosperous and certainly we would encourage good transparent neighborly relations between the Iranian Government and the Iraqi Government. There have been visits back and forth between the Iranian and the Iraqi governments and we have expressed our concerns previously about Iranian meddling in Iraq. And the way to help out the Iraqi Government, should the Iranian Government have an interest in that, is to cease that meddling in the affairs of their neighbor and have good transparent neighborly relations with them.

QUESTION: But at one point, of course, as we've discussed many, many times, you were considering talking directly to them and also there was the desire to hold off until the Iraqi Government was in place. Now that is completely in place as of last week. Are you ready to move forward on those bilateral talks?

MR. MCCORMACK: That channel of communication on that narrow set of issues remains open. I believe, however, the Iranian Government has recently in the past couple of weeks come out and said that they weren't interested in that channel of communications right now on that particular topic. So the channel remains open, but thus far, there have been no discussions in that channel.

QUESTION: Just one more on this. They expressed to our person there that they were -- they continue to be disappointed that there's been no further response to Ahmadi-Nejad's letter. Is that basically a dead issue with you guys or not, considering a response?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing -- nothing new for you on the letter.

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QUESTION: No, no, no. It's the Shanghai organization, you know, Shanghai group. Iran was -- attended the group meeting, and I wanted to know if you have any comment on their decisions to expand their economic and security links?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they were -- they attended this cooperation dialogue, I believe, as an observer. Now, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has a stated goal of increasing cooperation and furthering national goals, of fighting terrorism, improving infrastructure, increasing the prosperity of the nations in the region, and fighting narcotics. Certainly, those are goals and a concept that we can certainly support. And in fact, the organization has had some positive developments. China, for example was able to resolve in this framework some pre-existing border disputes with countries like Kazakhstan and Tajikistan and Russia, as well as others. So there's positive things. And as I said the concept of this organization is positive in that it is -- attempts to address certain goals.

Now in practice there have been a couple of things, developments that would seem to run counter to those stated goals. The Astana Declaration in which they called for a set timetable of pulling out multinational forces from Afghanistan when, in fact, Afghanistan was not a state that signed up to that particular statement. We think that that was a counterproductive statement. And certainly counter -- it would run counter to the idea of fighting terrorism in the region. And certainly, having Iran there as an observer -- Iran, the world's largest or most significant state sponsor of terrorism, again runs counter to the idea that this is a group dedicated, in part, to countering terrorism in the region.

So you know, the concept of the organization I think certainly we can support that. But -- and there have been, as I said, some positive things, positive developments that have come out of these meetings. But in practice, there also have been some developments that we view as running counter to the stated goals of the organization.

QUESTION: So you think it couldn't have been positive if Iran became a full member of this organization as they wish?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, if this is an organization that is intended to do a lot of different things in terms of fighting trafficking of narcotics, fighting terrorism, increasing regional prosperity and you apply equal weight to those goals, certainly Iran, at least in our view, wouldn't qualify on the fighting terrorism score. Then again, we're not members of it. We haven't sought membership or observer status to the organization.

QUESTION: Do you view this organization as anti-American?


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