2:27 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. How is everybody? How was everybody's weekend? It's all right. Good. Excellent. Sorry, Teri, I don't want to disturb your conversation. (Laughter.) Okay. All right. We'll give you a review later.
I don't have any opening statements, so we can jump right in to Barry Schweid's first question.
QUESTION: Sean, when the Secretary said that Iran, on the one hand, should be referred to the Security Council; on the other hand, she spoke of not acting necessarily right away. What -- could you fill in the space?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think she did when she talked about -- the space that you're talking about, she talked about the fact that we all believe in the international community that there is a possibility for a diplomatic solution to the current situation in which Iran has put itself in the international community. And our hope is that once Iran is referred to the Security Council, that that provides a context in which a diplomatic solution can be found.
Currently, they have rebuffed the attempts of the EU-3 has well as others to find a diplomatic solution to the issue. And the issue very simply is they are trying to build a nuclear weapon under the cover of a civilian nuclear program. So the question before the international community is how to deal with that? And the EU-3 has made an attempt; their negotiations reached a dead end. The IAEA has repeatedly asked Iran for information about its nuclear program. Those requests for information have, time after time after time, been met with silence or obfuscation.
So we now find ourselves in the position of having an emergency IAEA Board of Governors meeting on February 2nd, at which time the Board of Governors will vote to refer Iran to the Security Council. We hope that that next phase of the diplomacy -- Iran finding itself before the Security Council, an action which it has sought to avoid vigorously over the past several years, will provide the needed diplomatic context so that we can arrive at a diplomatic solution. So that's the blank that you were talking about, Barry. But I think if you look back at the transcript, the Secretary did say just that.
QUESTION: Are you -- yeah, it is on Iran. Are you disappointed that the IAEA will not provide a fuller accounting of Iran's nuclear activities at the February 2nd meeting, which is what you were hoping for? And also, secondly, did the Secretary speak to the Chinese and the Russians over the weekend and where do they stand at the moment in terms of referral?
MR. MCCORMACK: Over the weekend, no, on both of those.
MR. MCCORMACK: No. Nope, did not speak with either of those foreign ministers.
On your first question about the report from Director General ElBaradei or from the IAEA, we asked for a written report. We had hoped that there would be a written report, but I understand that there will be some conveyance of the information to the Board of Governors. I don't know if that's going to be an informal oral briefing or what form it will take, but the important part is that there will be some series of findings as to where we stand right now with Iran for the Board of Governors. I think that's very useful. It will be very helpful in helping the various states on the Board of Governors make their decision about how they'll vote. But as we've said before, we believe we have the votes for a referral.
So while we would have preferred and would have thought appropriate a written report from the IAEA, I think that the Board of Governors will have the benefit of hearing from the IAEA, whether that's from the Director General or one of his assistants about where the IAEA stands now in its investigation.
QUESTION: Do you think that this really amounts to the (inaudible) of holding back on providing full information on Iran? They want to sort of stall any action? Would you perceive that --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, that's not how I'd characterize it.
QUESTION: If I could come back to -- go back to Barry's question. If -- do we have to understand that there could be a referral and then a delay of, say, several weeks during which there could be space for negotiation? And then the Security Council would be -- would actually meet, gather on the Iranian issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, at this point, we're not going to lay out any particular timeline as to what might happen once the issue goes to the Security Council. Those are some of the discussions that we're having right now with other members of the IAEA Board of Governors, as well as other members of the Security Council. So as the Secretary talked about, we believe that we have the votes for a referral and we're now talking with other members of the Security Council about what might be the appropriate next steps, so I'm not going to prejudge at this point in time what those next steps might be.
Now, as for some potential diplomatic solution once Iran has arrived at the Security Council, of course that's what we hope for. But quite frankly, the ball is in the Iranians' court on that score. They are the ones that have been found in noncompliance with their IAEA obligations. They are the ones that have broken their promises to the EU-3 in terms of resuming conversion activities, in terms of resuming enrichment-related activities.
So the Iranians, at this point -- the Iranian regime, at this point, has eroded the trust of the international community to the point at which it's barely visible. That is why the Iranian regime finds itself on the verge of being referred to the Security Council, because time after time they have not lived up to their obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty. They talk about their rights. They talk about their rights to civilian peaceful nuclear purposes. That's not what is the debate here. The debate is whether or not they have lived up to their obligations. And at this point, the judgment of the international community is that they have not.
So as to whether at some future point the regime decides that it is going to in good faith live up to its obligations and provide objective guarantees that it will live up to its obligations, then certainly I think the world will take a look at what is the possible diplomatic solution. But at this point, they have not demonstrated that willingness.
QUESTION: Sean, on Iran.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Under Secretary Burns was in Delhi. He had discussions with a number of officials, including, I understand, the Prime Minister of India. Where does India stand because India's vote at the IAEA in Vienna is very important as far as Iran's case to the UN Security Council is concerned? So do we know where India stands now at this final vote?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you're asking the wrong guy, Goyal. You should be asking the spokesman for the Indian Government as to where they stand on their vote.
QUESTION: They are not commenting.
MR. MCCORMACK: And you're asking me to comment on their behalf when they're not going to comment? That's not fair, Goyal.
QUESTION: I mean, does Secretary have any -- has any kind of assurance from India, let's say, -- during her -- any conversations with (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: What we understand from the Indian Government is that they take this issue very seriously. You know, we understand that they take it seriously. Under Secretary Burns has heard from the Indian Government. In that regard, Secretary Rice and her conversations over the past months on this topic with the Indian Government has taken away that impression as well.
They did at the last Board of Governors meeting vote to find Iran in noncompliance with its treaty obligations. I think all the members of the Board of Governors who voted in a like manner appreciated India stepping up and voting with them on this issue. It is a serious matter. And but -- as for how India might vote at this Board of Governors meeting or in other fora down the line, I'm not going to speak on behalf of the Indian Government. But we certainly appreciate their willingness to discuss this issue in a serious and forthright manner with us, as well as others.
QUESTION: Iran has said this morning that a referral will make it put even more effort into moving forward to a full enrichment program. Does that cause you any concern and do you think that this kind of threat would lead other countries possibly to fall back from completely supporting a referral --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this has been the Iranian regime's tactic for quite some time. What they have been -- if you look back at the arc of their diplomatic efforts, say they have attempted to obfuscate the issue and where they can't obfuscate the issue, they attempt to face down the international community with a variety of threats. I think you have heard from every corner of the international community that the time has come for the international community to unite and to speak to Iran in a unified voice, that their actions, the actions of this regime are not acceptable. It is not acceptable to go back on your obligations, international treaty obligations. It is not acceptable to go back on the obligations you have given to your negotiating partners.
If those actions are taken, there will be consequences for those actions in the diplomatic arena. That is what the world is telling Iran. You just heard it from Foreign Minister Fini not two hours ago that Italy, despite the fact that they enjoy very strong trade relations with Iran, they have a lot at stake, but they understand that this issue is serious enough that they support referral to the Security Council because they want to find a diplomatic way out. And that's what the United States, working with the international community, is working on.
But let me just add one more point and that is the Iranian people need to understand that the actions of the international community and the way that we are talking about this issue is not meant to cast the Iranian people in a negative light. The reason why Iran finds itself in the position that it does right now is because this regime has chosen to confront the international community in a way that says we don’t' have to abide by our international obligations. And the international community in good faith has offered a variety of possible solutions. I don't know if the Iranian people are fully aware of what has been offered them. I don't know if the Iranian people know that the EU-3 and the Russian Government have gone to them with ways in which they could realize their desire for peaceful nuclear energy while giving objective guarantees to the international community that those technologies and that know-how won't be used to develop a nuclear weapon. That's what has been offered the Iranian regime, and the Iranian regime has rejected those offers. So we'll see what happens at the next step, and we believe that is going to be referral to the Security Council in early February.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I think we have more, more on Iran. Yeah.
QUESTION: The fact that Mohamed ElBaradei is not going to produce his report, isn't that -- I mean, doesn't this give other countries the excuse to say this matter has not been resolved yet, we must wait to see what he says? In other words, give more time. I mean, are you prepared to accept that there will be countries who will ask for more time on this issue, who want to see his final report before making a judgment?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that the international community has seen plenty enough proof that Iran is attempting to face down the international community. They're betting on the fact that through use of threat that they are going to be able to avoid answering the long list of questions that are before them. And it's not as if these questions have just popped up. These questions have been before the Iranian regime for quite some time, and time after time the Iranian regime has made the conscious decision not to answer those questions. And in fact, in the course of further investigations, more questions have come up as the IAEA digs further and further into what the Iranian Government is really up to in its nuclear programs.
So it's not as though the list of questions here is getting smaller. It's actually getting bigger. So I think that at this point the international community has proof aplenty about the fact that Iran -- it is time to refer Iran to the Security Council based on its actions and based on the fact it hasn't complied with its international obligations, based on the fact that it has not engaged the international community in good faith on this issue.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice earlier today met with the Secretary General of the Turkish National Security Council. How does the United States view Turkey's position on Iran, and what else was discussed?
MR. MCCORMACK: They did touch on the issue of Iran. They talked about a variety of other issues as well. They touched on the Cyprus issue. They touched on Iraq. They touched on Turkey-EU relations. They did talk a little bit about Iran.
I'll let the Turkish Government speak about their views of Iran, but I think that certainly Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon is a source of concern to the Turkish Government, as it is as source of concern to all of Iran's neighbors as well as the rest of the world. Introduction of an Iranian nuclear weapon into the region would be a very destabilizing act.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on --
QUESTION: Well --
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll get to you. We'll get to you.
QUESTION: You said the international community has enough proof that it doesn't need this full report to make a decision on February 2nd, but from your conversations with allies on the Board of Governors, for example, do they feel that they have enough proof or is it your assessment that they have --
MR. MCCORMACK: As I said -- look, we will get -- we will, I'm certain, get a more complete report from the Director General at some point down the line, maybe at the scheduled March meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors. But we have said repeatedly, for quite some time, that we have the votes to refer Iran to the Security Council, and that would indicate that those countries, those members of the Board of Governors, are satisfied that they have reason enough at this point, without any further report, to refer Iran to the Security Council.
Anything else on Iran?
QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have the votes at the Security Council to act on Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, right --
QUESTION: You keep -- you know, the confidence that you have the votes. Will you have the votes --
MR. MCCORMACK: For referral.
QUESTION: -- to discuss it --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: That doesn't strike me as -- and delay, that doesn't strike me as a very hard --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not using the word "delay," Barry. I've seen that pop up in a lot of news stories. But --
QUESTION: I'm saying delay only because she is saying action may not be taken right away. That to me --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what the Secretary of State has said is that -- and I'm paraphrasing here. You can go back and look at the transcript -- previous transcripts -- is that she did not believe that sanctions would be the first action taken. That doesn't mean there would be an absence of action. What that means is that we are currently discussing what action to take, once we get to the Security Council, so that's a matter of diplomacy. I expect that it will be a topic of discussion this week as well as next.
QUESTION: So if we don't -- if there's no decision on what action, I guess, it's not a fair question to ask if you have the votes, right?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, then, you know --
QUESTION: I'd have to have a specific course of action to know if you have the votes.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's starting to become a tautological conversation here.
QUESTION: Yeah. Exactly.