Briefing with Department Spokesperson Sean McCormack on U.S. Policy towards Nuclear Negotiations (Excerpts)

June 7, 2006

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QUESTION: Okay, change to Iran. Is the U.S. now willing to accept Iran enriching uranium on Iranian soil if it follows a period in which they do suspend and try to regain the international community's trust?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let's bring it back to the present day. Here's where we are. Mr. Solana just has recently met with Iranian representatives to lay out for them a package that the Permanent Five, plus one, P-5+1 members have come to agreement on. This package comprises both incentives and disincentives and it presents the Iranian regime with a choice, two pathways. Mr. Solana made that presentation to them. They -- the Iranians responded that they would need some time to review the package. We and our colleagues in the P-5+1 think that that's certainly a reasonable request. We're going to give them some time to review the package. We've talked about the fact that, in terms of the timetable for their consideration of the package, it's a matter of weeks not months.

And part of that package is that they need to -- the Iranians, in order to realize negotiations with the P-5+1 on this package, realize any negotiations in which the United States would be involved, they would need to meet the conditions laid out for them by the IAEA very -- in it's most simple state, that is, they would need to suspend all enrichment and reprocessing-related activities, all enrichment and related reprocessing activities. So that's the prerequisite for negotiations.

That is -- let's suppose just for a second, take it one step further, that there were negotiations. That condition would have to hold throughout any negotiating period. And beyond that I am not going to speculate. Beyond that we are truly into the realm of the hypothetical and theoretical. So I just want to, you know, reel you back in, bring you back to the present day where we are. I know that there's been a lot of -- there's a lot of reporting going on about this, a lot of blind quotes from anonymous sources. Some of those anonymous sources I would urge you to consider might be speaking from a partially informed or uninformed position.

The ministers of the P-5+1 level made an agreement among themselves that we were not going to talk in public about the contents of this package, either on the incentive side or the disincentive side and ask yourself why. The reason for that is because all the ministers and our governments want to give this negotiating diplomatic track every opportunity to succeed. And once you start, as a government, talking about the details of this package and you start having a debate in public about it, it probably makes it a little bit more difficult to do the sensitive diplomacy that needs to be done. We want to give the Iranian Government some time to consider what's in this package. It's an important choice. Which pathway are they going to go down?

So we think in the interest of letting the diplomacy play out, letting the diplomacy work, we're not going to talk about the details of what's in the package.

QUESTION: Sean, I didn't say this was part of the package.


QUESTION: You did.

MR. MCCORMACK: I was referring to --

QUESTION: I just asked about U.S. policy --


QUESTION: -- on whether you would be -- you would agree to allow Iran enrichment eventually. I didn't say that was part of the package.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I assumed that the question arises because there was a Washington Post story printed this morning, which talks about this as possibly a part of the package. So I --

QUESTION: But -- so, you can't answer that as U.S. policy?

MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?

QUESTION: You can't answer that separately as whether that would be U.S. policy?

MR. MCCORMACK: What U.S. policy is and it's laid out very clearly by the Secretary, by the President and as well as others, is that as a prerequisite for any negotiations in which we would be a part of the P-5+1 would be a part, Iran needs to suspend all enrichment and reprocessing-related activities. That's at the core of what the IAEA has asked them to do. It's at the core of what the P-5+1 has asked them to do. It's at the core of what the United States is asking them to do.

QUESTION: Can I just try one more? To suspend or end the program? It used to be to end their uranium enrichment activities. And now is it suspend, without a finite end?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I talked about the fact in order -- as a prerequisite for negotiations, that's a condition. I did take it one step farther in the interest of trying to talk you through this a little bit. In the -- let's assume that they did meet that condition, that you were in negotiations. That condition would have to hold throughout the period of negotiations. I'm not going to presume an outcome to the negotiations at this point. Beyond that simple step that I talked about that you start to get into the realm of the hypothetical and the theoretical, and I'm just not going to do that.

QUESTION: But implicit in the -- implicit in that if it is that if that suspension holds during negotiation, that it itself is a -- is on the table, it is a subject of negotiation. Otherwise, I mean, as in do we have to continue -- from the Iranian perspective -- do we have to continue the suspension or is that a bargaining point?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, and it's a good point. Let me explain to you why, is what you don't want to -- what the members of the P-5+1 don't want to see happen is you don't want to get into a situation in which you have a negotiation and there's talk and talk and talk and talk, and that at the same time you have the Iranian Government continuing to move down the pathway of developing a nuclear weapon, in this case mastering the techniques, the science, the engineering behind enrichment. It's a very complicated process. It takes time to learn how to do it. What's happening right now is the Iranian Government is learning how to do that.

What the world doesn't want to see is the world doesn't want to see them master those techniques because it's a critical pathway to obtaining the know-how to build a nuclear weapon, not only the know-how but the materials to build a nuclear weapon. The international community doesn't want to see that. We're united in that. That's been the point of the diplomacy that Secretary Rice and Under Secretary Burns as well as others have been engaged in over the past year and a half. You have built that consensus that the international community doesn't want to see the Iranian regime be able to master those enrichment techniques which would lead directly to development of a nuclear weapon.


QUESTION: On the suspension, your condition is the suspension has to hold throughout the negotiations. So during those negotiations, would Iran be able to receive any benefit even before the final deal?

MR. MCCORMACK: Saul, we're not at the point of negotiations here. What has been laid out for the Iranian regime is a package, is a proposal. I'm not going to prejudge an outcome of negotiations. I'm not going to prejudge any particular negotiating points. I don't think that anybody would expect that any individual country or groups of country to tip their hand on what a negotiating strategy might be, Saul.



QUESTION: You said Mr. Solana laid out a package of incentives and disincentives. There is at least one report coming out of Vienna that says he withheld the disincentives because he didn't want to ruin the positive atmosphere. Can you confirm that he laid out both sets, both sides of the package?

MR. MCCORMACK: He had -- and this was an agreement among the ministers and the political directors. He had leeway to go into whatever level of detail he thought was important to go into on either side. The Iranian regime is well aware of the potential disincentives and what generally those disincentives might be. They are also aware of the incentives. So I frankly, Charlie, don't have an exact readout of everything that he told them, but the Iranian -- the Iranian regime, I think, has a full sense of the package and what the two pathways are.

QUESTION: But you can't confirm that he laid out both sets, both sides of the --

MR. MCCORMACK: He gave them a full sense of the package, Charlie, as well as what the two potential pathways are.


QUESTION: Some of -- well, there are reports of some of the things out there, but presumably if the United States were to sign on to allowing Iran to have some kind of civil nuclear energy program, which the Secretary said they could have, that could fall into U.S. laws and regulations and legislation. Has the U.S. -- has the Administration briefed Congress on the package and some of the things that might need to be looked at in terms of legislation?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's a good question. The Secretary, as an initial part of our talking about this proposal, did contact members of Congress. I think that we have plans to do more in-depth briefings to members of Congress. I don't have a full list for you, but we certainly are going to be briefing members of Congress on this.

QUESTION: Well, can you at least acknowledge that there will be some aspects as to U.S. laws, regulations and legislation that might need to be reexamined?

MR. MCCORMACK: Is that a tricky way of trying to get me to talk about what might be in the package? Elise, I'm not going to -- I know there are a lot of reports about --


MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, good. At least you're up front about it. Look, again, I'm not going to get into talking about any element, any particular element of the package, either coming at it straight on or from the side. So good try.

All right. Saul.

QUESTION: Do you rule out the U.S. ever agreeing to allow Iran to enrich on its own soil?


QUESTION: Would you rule out that? You know, Iran, you can never enrich on your own soil.

MR. MCCORMACK: Look -- (laughter).

QUESTION: They didn't like your question.

QUESTION: I even wrote it down. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Saul, I think, you know, that that's another way of trying to get me to come at, I think, the question that Ann and Teri and everybody else asked me here. All I can do is bring you back to the present day where we are, and I think I've talked about that as much as I can at this point.

Okay. Anything else on Iran? Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) suspending the enrichment, the Paris Agreement was only regarding suspension of the enrichment. Are you referring only to the Paris Agreement on 2004 or anything else?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, what we're referring to is the conditions outlined in the February 2006 Board of Governors meeting. That's the common understanding. I know that under the Paris Agreement there were some additional understandings that related to conversion and some other things. What we're referring to and what the P-5 is referring to is the IAEA Board of Governors statement.

QUESTION: Are you prepared to be any more specific today about how long you think is an appropriate time for Iran to consider the package, and then going forward from that, how long before you would assume maybe that there could be negotiations if it takes that path?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nope. Weeks, not months.

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Nothing --

QUESTION: -- how long do they have to say yeah --

MR. MCCORMACK: Weeks, not months.

QUESTION: I have a question about the package, but not what's in it. Has there been any -- is any consideration being given to making it public? I mean, is this something that is not going to happen until Iran comes forward with an answer or --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's a good question. Look, at a certain point in the future I hope that we are able to talk about this in more detail, in-depth. I've explained to you the reasons why we're not doing that right now. I think that you understand them and I think our publics understand, at least I hope they do, that this is being done in the spirit of trying to give this every opportunity to succeed.

Yes. Anything else on Iran? Okay. Lambros. Do you have another bottle for me? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yes, of course. There's plenty, plenty for all of you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Good. I need it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay, I will bring one tomorrow.

On Turkey, the Turkish press reported today specifically DOS Spokesman Sean McCormack said that the American side will welcome discussion on Iran but the specific proposal for Turkish liberation is not yet on the table. Do you know what is on the basis the report is connected is your statement with the upcoming visit to Washington, D.C., by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan to meet President Bush and the Secretary Condoleezza Rice?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think I'd make any particular connection there, Lambros. Look, Turkey as well as a number of other of Iran's neighbors are very concerned about what's happening inside Iran and Iranian behavior. Certainly we would encourage Turkey as well as other countries around the world to contact Iran directly and urge them to take the pathway of negotiation, to urge them to consider very carefully the proposal that has been laid out before them.

As for who is engaging Iran in a formal sense with regard to this package, that really right now at present stands with Mr. Solana as well as the representatives of the EU-3.

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