Background Briefing With Senior State Department Official in Angola

Hotel Tropico
Luanda, Angola
August 9, 2009

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, if there is anything you guys want to hear about it. If you're not interested in hearing about anything, I'm happy to go upstairs. So let me know what, if --

QUESTION: Well, she seemed to go pretty soft on -- or lightly -- on the foreign minister, on the corruption (inaudible).


QUESTION: -- public, what was --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes. So she -- in the bilat, democracy and human rights was the first area that came up, actually. The minister, foreign minister, brought it up, and talked about the progress that he thought that they had made, and their efforts to court the church, civil society, the work especially on women's rights, workers' rights, and so on.

And the Secretary had a basic posture in private that was fairly similar to what she did in public. I mean, it was a little more direct, but it was essentially starting from the premise that they're moving in the right direction, so it's better to encourage them along than, you know, than -- yes.

I mean, basically, it's push to say, "Okay, that's great, the steps you've taken so far. You've got more steps to go, keep going, keep moving." She is --

QUESTION: Does she have any particular steps in mind?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, what she ended up focusing on, with respect to democracy, was strengthening the parliament, strengthening the other institutions. She spoke publicly at the second event about independent judiciary, and a series of other things. We can get you the transcript of what she said.

Her message in the public event was pretty similar to her message in the private events, as well, which was, "In order to crack down on the financial corruption, in order to hold the government accountable, in order to ensure that the government is delivering for the people of Angola, in order to ensure that resources are being used and spent wisely, you need to strengthen all the institutions beyond the presidency, one. Two, we've got to move to a" --

QUESTION: I'm sorry, you need to what?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Strengthen all of the institutions beyond the presidency. And she actually spoke in her public remarks in some length about having been on both sides, and how even a majority party in the parliament has to hold the government accountable, the way that she did when she was in the majority party of Congress.

And she also talked about the need for there to be a presidential election. I think the formulation she used was "in the near future."

And then she talked at some length about the constitution, and making sure that, in working on the constitution, good government was reaching out broadly, kind of talked from the U.S. experience, that you get the best buy-in for a durable constitution if you have consulted the people and all of the relevant constituency groups, but was sort of very clear that the constitution was an important step, and holding presidential elections as soon as feasible is an important step.

And I think her sort of formulation was, you know, "I'm encouraging you to keep up the momentum, and these are the things you should do to keep it up."

So, in her private, brief private meeting with the head of the National Assembly, a lot of this -- these -- this same ground was tread, basically. The president of the National Assembly was saying, "It's our job, in a sense, to be a watch dog, and to try to stand up the government, and push them," and her point was you -- that's absolutely critical, probably the best device we have now to kind of ensure the government is being held accountable in everything from corruption to human rights and so forth, is a strong kind of independent, questioning, tough-question-asking parliament.

QUESTION: He is from (inaudible) --


QUESTION: The speaker --


QUESTION: -- of the assembly.




QUESTION: That wasn't the woman (inaudible) --

QUESTION: The woman sitting next to her?

QUESTION: They had a private meeting before that?


QUESTION: When she said those things?


QUESTION: Wait. She is the president of the National Assembly? I thought she was just head of the human rights --

QUESTION: She's head of the foreign relations commission. She wasn't -- the woman in --

QUESTION: (Inaudible?)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Wait, which woman are we talking about, here?

QUESTION: The woman with the "interminable" thing. At the very beginning of that, she spoke. She was sitting --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: She's the -- right, okay. Yes, she's the chair of the foreign relations --

QUESTION: And she is also friends with the president.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. So she is a -- there was a separate meeting with --


QUESTION: Who is also (inaudible) National Assembly.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes, I can get you the names. So, all right. So that's kind of how she approached the whole issue -- the related sets of issues around democracy, governance, human rights, and so forth. And --

QUESTION: I'm sorry, before you go any further, are you --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Oh, this is on background.

QUESTION: Background?


QUESTION: What was the -- your conversations with the opposition, was that (inaudible), in terms of what they're asking and what she was --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, Mary Beth can tell you as well as I can about what UNITA had to say. They were -- she, the woman representing UNITA was very direct, in challenging the government on a range of things, everything from eliminating control over state media to quoting Obama, saying, "We don't need strong men, we need strong institutions," to -- so here is a few of the things that she said.

This is all public, but -- so she said, "You need to face there has been a step back in the rule of law, illegitimate exercise of the presidential function, and we need to reach an institution's normalization by holding an election." They think the election commission is heavily influenced by the ruling party. There was some (inaudible) challenge in last year's elections.

She thinks that, on national reconciliation, the government hasn't done enough to uphold its end of the bargain, that current growth hasn't translated into improvement for the life of the people, that corruption is institutionalized, that you've got extreme poverty, and half of the (inaudible) population unemployed. And while you have $30 billion in fiscal revenue, you have some overwhelming percentage of the population subsisting on a few dollars a day.

Those were some of the main elements of her public message, which was (inaudible) Angolan (inaudible). The Secretary's response was general to everyone. She didn't respond directly to anyone, and that's where she got into this whole business of talking about the institution of the National Assembly being kind of a live player.

QUESTION: (Inaudible?)


QUESTION: Yes, I have -- apart from the strategic dialogue --

QUESTION: Oh, can I ask you on that, how many countries do you not have a strategic dialogue --


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, this one is different. So this one is different from some of the others, in that this is not -- this will be led. The Secretary will launch it, but will not lead it. It will be delegated to another level. It hasn't been --

QUESTION: That's actually not as important as some of the other --


QUESTION: She's not leading it.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It could be fully -- yes. I mean –

QUESTION: Then I'm going to delegate it out.


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Her -- she will end up right now, I think, chairing the equivalent of a binational commission, or a strategic dialogue with India, China, Russia, South Africa, Indonesia.

And that's it, in terms of -- I believe, in terms of the ones that she sort of personally invested in already. Now, there are others -- Bill Burns, for example, is running a strategic dialogue with Egypt. But this, the one with Angola, well, you know, obviously it's going forward and she wants to kind of kick it off, to create a mechanism for the cooperation (inaudible).

QUESTION: So what -- did you offer any goodies to the Angolans? I mean, did you -- was there anything new that you offered up?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Not in terms of specific dollars. But she made a number of offers to the Angolans on different sorts of U.S. technical assistance or financial assistance, both on the economic development side, including, you know, obviously, money for agriculture, and also in terms of helping them develop both -- to both further develop their oil and LNG industries, and their renewable industries.

There was a lot of discussion in the second meeting about helping turn Angola into an exporter of renewable energy, as well as an exporter of natural gas, and that the U.S. was already playing some role in hydro -- I think we're getting up to, like, 25 mini-hydro plants, in terms of technical assistance we will be providing. But her offer was for pretty extensive --

QUESTION: What do you mean, you are getting 25? What do you mean by that? You mean you're offering a --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So, I think they have signed off on -- there will be -- U.S. TDA right now is tied in to do 2 mini-hydro plants, work with the Angolan government, or public utility on 2, but they've kind of laid the ground work for 25, up to 25.

QUESTION: But isn't that date back to the previous administration?



SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The two does. But the expanding it up to 25 (inaudible). And that's just -- that hasn't been signed off on, that's kind of -- they're in negotiation on that draft.

So, she came with a kind of open set of offers around different sorts of assistance. Some of them, obviously, would be in dollars. But a lot of them would be in terms of technical help. The foreign minister was very interested in getting help, in terms of financial sector reform and, you know, kind of working through the financial regulatory system here, in coming out of the global economic crisis. So, things along those lines.

QUESTION: What do you mean, in terms of the Obama administration has implemented post-crisis (inaudible) --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don't -- he didn't get to the level of specificity about, you know, exactly what types of controls you would be talking about, but I mean, the idea, I think, would basically -- the idea that he was pitching was that they could use technical expertise from the States to improve their regulatory capacity in the financial sector.

QUESTION: Was there any talk about China?


QUESTION: (Inaudible?) Talk about China, they're getting special systems from China, (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That's very possible. That was all public. I'm not responsible for that.


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I'm actually looking to see if the foreign minister raised China. It did not come up with the energy minister or the petroleum minister, and I don't recall it coming up with the foreign minister. I don't see it reflected in my notes.

One thing that did come up was a lot of talk about Angola playing a bigger role in the region. They've got a professional, highly-regarded military. They have military (inaudible) in the Congo already, so they talked a fair bit about the Congo, Somalia, Zimbabwe.

And so, one of the other sort of small deliverables, but you know, it was kind of an important signal about what we're trying to do, is kicking off a process to potentially have a Peace Corps program (inaudible) --

QUESTION: Kicking off what?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The process to potentially have a Peace Corps program come in to focus on English education. So, basically, Peace Corps volunteers to come here to help teach as many kids English as possible. And Angola is very interested in that. I don't believe there ever was one, but don't quote me on that. It's possible there was one in the 1960s and then it left. But I guess that's unlikely.

QUESTION: Did they give any indication they might be willing to send troops to Somalia, to join the --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The conversation wasn't actually about them sending troops. I think it was more --

QUESTION: Training?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: -- training military advisors, that kind of thing. They didn't give any indication that they would. We sort of -- she sort of raised the prospect of them taking a role in things like --

QUESTION: Would that be this jubilee thing that's going on, the training --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It didn't get to that level of specificity, no.

QUESTION: They are -- I think they provide (inaudible).

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: They actually do, yes. They are very (inaudible). Apparently, they also -- there are a number of kind of elements in the Congolese military that's getting military advice and training from (inaudible). Let's
see --

QUESTION: Jack, was she -- is the Secretary the first Secretary of State to visit Angola since 2002?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: 2002 was the last visitor. That was Powell, yes.

QUESTION: And does she (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I have no idea, but it's very possible.

QUESTION: He did (inaudible) --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Albright --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Albright was here in the 1990s.

QUESTION: And any time from 1975 on -- well (inaudible) --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: They rolled out -- so the meeting with the foreign minister was interesting, in that they had the minister of environment, the minister of energy, the minister of health, the minister of agriculture, the ambassador to the UN, and all at the table, which is -- like they basically rolled out half the cabinet, and he turned it over to different people at different points to be able to talk about their stuff. Their big focus was on really having a truly comprehensive relationship, which is why he was driving this. You know, he was really into this dialogue.

So, here are some of the things (inaudible). Yes, they want some advice, some help, on how to strengthen and protect their currency, how to work with multi-lateral institutions, to undertake whatever kind of reforms, whether it's (inaudible) or other types of things (inaudible).

And then, in the minister of petroleum meeting and minister of energy meeting, like I said, there was a good amount of talk about renewables. There was also a good amount of talk about transparency, and improving transparency in the oil sector, both with respect to the process of contracting out oil leases and so on, and also with respect to oil revenues coming into the government, and how they're allocated and spent. That was sort of her main message there.

QUESTION: I can't write (inaudible).


QUESTION: Was there anything about them agreeing to supply the U.S. with (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. I mean, no. But I don't know exactly what form that kind of an agreement would take. They --

QUESTION: Doesn't China get preferential access to their oil, or no?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I mean, that's one of the things about a system -- well, let me tell you -- [off the record portion].

QUESTION: More in general terms about the oil (inaudible). There was talk about having -- making sure Angola continues to be a (inaudible). I mean, in more general terms, (inaudible) --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I mean, you know, the Secretary recognizes the importance of Angola as an energy supplier, and the importance of ensuring that Angola has the necessary technical capacity and the right kind of transparent mechanisms to, you know, facilitate the production and export oil. And all of that drives towards what one of our short-term priorities is, which is to ensure that the U.S. has access to stable and affordable energy supplies.

So, and that was kind of the background of the conversation with the petroleum minister. But-- [off the record portion].

QUESTION: Companies do it.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It's companies all choosing to do it. So there is no tidy kind of, "Make sure you're supplying us oil." "Yes, we will supply you oil." It's a bit of a messier thing. But it's certainly fair to say that part of the purpose of sitting down and talking to the petroleum minister was to be clear that the U.S. has an interest in ensuring that this market is conducive to ensuring that the U.S. has continued access to supplies (inaudible).

And one of the other elements was they are -- they do this gas flare thing, where they basically burn off the natural gases there, refining the oil. And they are just now at the beginning stages of really being able to transport that into LAG, which will both be much better for the environment, but will also allow them to actually have a greater supply of fossil fuels. So that's also something where the Secretary talked to him about potential U.S. technical advice and help to get them up on that stuff.

QUESTION: Anything else on oil, that you can think of?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think those were the main components. The petroleum minister gave some pretty arresting statistics about the importance of oil to the economy. I mean, I can't validate these, but it's since 95 percent of their exports, it's 65 percent of their national revenue, 57 percent of their GDP.

QUESTION: Sixty percent?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sixty-five percent of their national revenue, fifty-seven percent of the GDP. There are about 2.1 million barrels a day, and they've got something like 13 million barrels in reserve.



QUESTION: Thirteen million in reserve?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thirteen million barrels in reserve.

QUESTION: You mean they have 13 million barrels that are waiting to be shipped some place? Otherwise, they're going to run through the 2.1 million barrels a day in 7 days.

PARTICIPANT: No, it must mean out of the ground but not --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. In reserve. Not like left -- to go. Like, in a -- so if there was a supply interruption, they would have a week's worth of oil.

QUESTION: In a warehouse, like the U.S. strategic –

QUESTION: No, there should be more than that, I would think. That's 2.1 million barrels a day. They must have more than 13 million in reserve.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I -- that is the -- that is what he said. That's the number I have.

QUESTION: It's probably very expensive to maintain, even then. Plus you have --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes, it's -- I mean, that's pretty limited reserve capacity, but --

QUESTION: So, the idea, then, is -- you know, (inaudible) when you're talking about the dangers of the one (inaudible) case of that.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes, which is why this was actually a joint meeting with the minister of petroleum and the minister of energy, because, in speaking to the minister of petroleum, she was saying, "Look, obviously, the oil sector is going to continue to be important. And you shouldn't give up on that, and you should make it more efficient, more transparent, and so on. At the same time, you have to make sure that you're also pursuing transparency on the revenue side, so that you're (inaudible) your revenues back into (inaudible) both buy infrastructure, investments, human capital investments, and so forth. And also by developing the renewable sector, which is the grief of the minister of energy.

So, a substantial amount of the conversation was about having the (inaudible) into an exporter of wind, hydro, solar, especially in the southern Africa region, and having renewables kind of start to take the place of some of the oil revenue over time, because obviously oil is not going to be a sustainable means of powering the economy forever.

So, I think it was actually pretty consistent, her talk both with the foreign minister, and in this oil meeting, was consistent with this theme that, obviously, they shouldn't give up on a very important natural resource, but they should use it wisely, and use it to (inaudible) their economy, especially in the areas of agriculture and renewable energy.

There was a lot of talk, just over the course of the day -- at lunch, everywhere -- on agriculture.

QUESTION: The fact that they don't have any?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: But that they have a huge amount of untapped capacity for it. Our ambassador is a -- like, grew up --

QUESTION: Second generation --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Farmer in Iowa, and he was --

QUESTION: -- called him a farm boy.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And he was describing the soil in Angola, as compared to a lot of other places in southern Africa, and kind of talking through exactly what is available there.

QUESTION: It's bad?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, no. It's better than adequate. And, as such, presents a huge opportunity, if they could tap it. But they're just, you know -- I think he gave a number which -- again, don't quote me on -- I think he said 95 percent of the arable land in Angola is not used.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) land mines.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That's (inaudible) question. Maybe that --

QUESTION: Did you discuss land mines at all?


QUESTION: Did she apologize for U.S. support of (inaudible)? Did they seek an apology?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: She didn't. The one interesting thing that the UNITA person said was that the U.S. -- right at the top of her remarks she said, you know, "The U.S. has a special obligation to press for real democracy and (inaudible), given their history (inaudible)," which was kind of interesting. But no, she didn't apologize for -- UNITA did not come up, aside from the UNITA person talking (inaudible). But otherwise, there was no real talk of the past.

QUESTION: So, thanks to our crack research team in the back, she is the fourth Secretary of State to visit Angola, and the first (inaudible).

QUESTION: And maybe, depending on what happens, the last. No one will ever come back here and spend the night. Everyone will be going to (inaudible).

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, we should try to get you her remarks from this -- what's that?

QUESTION: We came back.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: You got back (inaudible). Okay, good job.

Yes, if you have -- that's basically all I've got.

PRN: 2009/T11-41