Briefing with Spokesperson Sean McCormack on U.N. Security Council Negotiations (Excerpts)

March 26, 2006

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I don't have any opening statements, so we can get right into the questioning.

QUESTION: Any back and forth diplomatically involving the Secretary or Nick Burns and the effort to get a consensus on the Iran nuclear thing?

MR. MCCORMACK: We are continuing to work the issue, Barry, both up in New York as well as in capitals. Nick Burns is, I would say, in daily contact with his political director counterparts on this issue. I know Ambassador Bolton is engaged in informal consultations up in New York as well. Secretary Rice, I think in the past several days, has spoken to Foreign Secretary Straw on several occasions. At this point, I don't have any other phone calls to read out to you, Barry, but we are continuing to work the diplomacy in a focused and patient manner.

QUESTION: You know accounts in New York speak of an impasse or a deadlock and the view here is that it'll take time, with patience, working in the right direction. I can't square these two. Is it just a matter of perception?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think, Barry, it is a matter of just the daily news cycle. You know people are reporting on this on a daily basis. There are discussions going on and clearly we haven't reached a final agreement on text, so we are going to have to continue with our diplomacy. We believe it is moving in the right direction. You heard from the Secretary yesterday that she's optimistic that we will find the right language on this issue that sends a strong, clear message to the Iranian government that they need to comply and heed the will of the international community.


QUESTION: To go back to what the Secretary said, you said that she said "we'll find the right language." The word she used was "vehicle."

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. That's right. Right language and vehicle. We talked about that yesterday.

QUESTION: The vehicle might be something other than the language in a presidential statement. It could be interpreted different ways. Was she alluding to something away from the idea of a presidential statement that the U.S. might look at as an alternative to putting pressure on Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Saul, right now our focus is on a presidential statement. That was our going in position when this matter arrived in New York in the Security Council in the wake of the March 6th IAEA Board of Governors meeting took it up. So that's what our focus is right now and, as the Secretary said, we are confident that we will find the right language and the right vehicle. Obviously there are a lot of different ways that the Security Council can act, but at the moment we are focused very much on a presidential statement. That is the focus of Under Secretary Burns' discussions with his counterparts and it is also the focus of discussions between Ambassador Bolton and his counterparts up in New York.

QUESTION: And included in those "a lot of different ways the Security Council can act," is that a resolution, a Chapter 7 resolution?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, certainly resolutions, as we talked about yesterday, are one way that the Security Council can choose to act. We talked about presidential statements and there are a variety of different types of resolutions. But as I said, I would reiterate that at the moment we are focused on a presidential statement. That is the focus of our efforts.


QUESTION: New topic?

QUESTION: No, I want to still stay on Iran.


QUESTION: Ambassador Bolton seemed to say that ministers at the level of Secretary Rice will be having conversations today. You said you don't have a readout yet on phone calls, but do you know who she plans to call?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right now we don't have any calls on the books, Saul, and I know that Nick Burns is going to be talking to his EU-3 counterparts at the political director level. As I said, I know Ambassador Bolton is engaged in consultations up in New York. At the moment we don't have anything on the books for you, Saul, in terms of further phone calls between the Secretary and any of her counterparts on this issue, but I'll certainly try to keep you updated on that.

QUESTION: Okay, and then a related issue. There's a report; maybe you can confirm or deny it. It's out of Japan that Deputy Secretary Zoellick and Under Secretary Joseph have asked Japan not to go ahead with the development of an oil field in Iran. It's a two-year-old deal, it's a billion dollars, but that here have been recent conversations that said please don't go ahead with it because we want a united front against Iran.

MR. MCCORMACK: I saw those news reports and we checked with the Deputy Secretary's and the Under Secretary's staffs, and on both counts they did not raise this issue. And while they did not raise this issue, we have raised this in the past with Japan. As you note, that this is a deal that has been under discussion between Japan and Iran for some time, for several years now, and that we have raised our concerns with Japan about investment in Iran's petroleum sector and we've made consistently clear to Japan as well as other countries that such investment runs into trouble with U.S. law and policy and we asked them to take a look at it. But it's not an issue that they brought up in their meetings, but it is an issue that we have raised repeatedly in the past.

QUESTION: Real quickly on the past. Do you know how recently there has been a conversation about this? Are we talking about months ago or weeks ago, days ago?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check, Saul. I know that there have been a number of different occasions on it, but I'll see if I can get the most recent case where we've raised it.

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