White House Press Secretary Dana Perino Briefing on Outcome of P5+1 Talks (Excerpts)

July 21, 2008

MS. PERINO: Hello. Couple of announcements, then I'll take your questions.

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Q One related question, one more. Given the recent contacts with North Korea and the weekend presence at the talks with Iran, are North Korea and Iran still part of the axis of evil?

MS. PERINO: We've worked very hard to make sure that our diplomatic efforts are multilateral in nature and that we can bring to bear international scrutiny on issues of nuclear weapons programs. And we've done that, and we are pleased that we are starting to see some fruits of that labor, especially in terms of North Korea.

Iran is a different story. Iran -- they met with the P5-plus-1 this week. We thought that they would have a response; they didn't. The Secretary of State thought that they came up well short and that they're missing an opportunity for a very generous incentives package, and that sanctions -- additional sanctions could be on the way.

Q The other question was, are both those countries still part of what the President defined as the axis of evil?

MS. PERINO: I think that until they give up their nuclear weapons programs completely and verifiably, I think that we keep them in the same category.


Q Dana --

MS. PERINO: Sorry, she was still on the same thing.

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Q What if anything was accomplished at the P5-plus-1 talks in Geneva over the weekend?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think that what Secretary Rice said is that it reinvigorated the diplomatic process, and that the P5-plus-1 recognized that the Iranians continue to play a game of stall tactics, and that they should continue to be united and make sure that there's no cracks in our position; of which I think that we resolidified the position of the P5-plus-1, that Iran should suspend its uranium enrichment; that we provided a very generous incentives package that they apparently are going to miss the opportunity to accept. Secretary Rice agreed with the other members to allow Iran to have two more weeks, but after that I think that Iran could be looking at -- possibly looking at additional sanctions.

Q So what we gained here was more support for additional sanctions?

MS. PERINO: I would also think that -- I think we gained support for additional sanctions and we gained clarity in the Iranians' position.

Q We expected a formal response this weekend. We had already shrugged off Ahmadinejad's informal rejection of the package. We didn't get a formal response this weekend, and we gave them another couple of weeks. Your critics say that you are not being tough enough on Iran.

MS. PERINO: Well, there are some people that think that we should actually be talking to Iran, too, so I think you're going to get critics from all sides, no matter where you are, as the Commander-in-Chief. But I think that we have developed a good system with the diplomacy that we have engaged in. The fact that there is a multilateral framework with the P5-plus-1 that is united in its efforts to get Iran to halt its uranium enrichment so that we could then have negotiations with them, is one that has paid off because the international community recognizes that the best way to do that is through tightening these sanctions, which is hopefully something that we will be looking at over the next week or two.

But they did give them an additional two weeks, and I know that there would be critics about that -- critics on that, but when we say that we're serious about solving this diplomatically, we mean it. And we did expect Iran to come to the table with a response on Saturday, because that's what they said they were going to do. And the fact that they didn't just proves once again that they're playing a game of stall tactics.

Q So where does it go from here?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think we have this two-week period, but at that same time, I think that the secretaries and the political directors will be talking with one another to see about what the next steps would be if, in fact, Iran does not respond favorably to the offer.

Q Two weeks, then, is a hard and fast deadline?

MS. PERINO: Well, as far as I know --

Q Is the offer removed at the end of two weeks?

MS. PERINO: I don't know how -- I don't know that, but I'll check and see.


Q Related to that, in the mix of sanctions that will be examined then over the next week or two, would gasoline imports be one of those --

MS. PERINO: I don't know.

Q -- in the mix of sanctions?

MS. PERINO: I don't know. Look, we'll see if -- we usually never get that specific when we're talking about possible sanctions. But I'll check on both questions.

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