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 The State Dept., Speeches, News, Etc.
mynameis
Posted: Apr 16 2007, 07:24 PM


If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.


Group: Members
Posts: 4,823
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06



Press Statement
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 16, 2007


Use of Excessive Force Against Protestors in Russia

We are deeply disturbed by the excessive use of force against and detention of peaceful protestors and journalists in Moscow and St. Petersburg on April 14 and 15 by Russian law enforcement authorities. These actions raise serious concerns about Russians' ability to exercise their basic rights of freedom of assembly and speech, concerns magnified by the fact that protest organizers faced significant difficulties in their attempts to receive permits from the government to hold these peaceful demonstrations.

Peaceful marches and protests that air differing viewpoints are a cornerstone of democratic society. We have consistently raised our concerns about freedom of assembly and speech in Russia with the Russian government. We welcome the call by some Russian officials for a thorough investigation into the use of force against the protestors on April 14-15, and urge Russian authorities to respond to these requests. We also call for the Russian government to reiterate its commitment and intention to respect fully international standards involving freedom of assembly, speech, and press.

2007/292

Released on April 16, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83109.htm



Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 16, 2007


Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky Leads Senior Level Delegation To UNHCR Conference in Geneva, Switzerland April 17-18

Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky will lead a senior level delegation to Geneva for a conference hosted by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Addressing the Humanitarian Needs of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons inside Iraq and in Neighboring Countries. Members of the delegation include Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration Ellen R. Sauerbrey; Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Lawrence Butler; Director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance Ky Luu; U.S. Ambassador to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva Warren Tichenor; Director of Episcopal Migration Ministries Richard Parkins; and Director of Education Programs, Relief International and Schools Online, Zoya Naskova. The focus of the Conference is to raise awareness of the needs of displaced Iraqis, promote concrete actions by the international community to mitigate the suffering of displaced Iraqis and support host governments.

On February 5, 2007, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice established the Iraq Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Task Force. Under Secretary Dobriansky leads this effort to coordinate refugee and IDP assistance to the region and refugee resettlement. The Task Force also draws on the multidisciplinary expertise in the U.S. Government to devise strategies for Iraqis at risks because of their employment with the United States Government.

For further information on U.S. participation in the conference and media opportunities, please contact the Public Affairs Section at the U.S. Mission in Geneva, 022-749-4359 / 4360.

2007/286

Released on April 16, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83072.htm



Remarks Upon Arrival in Khartoum

John D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State

Khartoum, Sudan
April 16, 2007

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: I have a brief statement and then I’d be pleased to try and answer some questions. This is my first trip to Sudan and only my second trip abroad since becoming Deputy Secretary of State two months ago.

Over the last four days I have had a series of meeting in Khartoum with President Bashir and several of his top advisors, including Foreign Minister Akol and Special Assistant to the President Minni Minawi. I also had an opportunity to visit Juba where I met First Vice President Salva Kiir and General Deng of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

In Juba I reiterated United States support for the historic Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended this country’s civil war and I reaffirmed our continued assistance to the Government of Sudan. The day before yesterday I traveled to Darfur, where I reviewed humanitarian and peacekeeping issues with Internally Displaced Persons, as well as United Nations, African Union, and Sudanese officials. I want to extend my thanks to the Government of Sudan for the hospitality and everyone who has made the excellent arrangements for my trip.

The principal propose of my trip has been to convey the US’s commitment to the complete and urgent implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. I focused in particular on the situation in Darfur, a situation of intense interest on the part of the American people and our government. There is widespread concern …. The crisis in Darfur has three components: humanitarian, political and security. All these components deserve the prompt attention of the Sudanese government.

On the humanitarian front, the United States has done a great deal to try and ease the suffering of the people of Darfur. The US is the single largest donor to Sudan, more than 2 billion dollars in aid since 2005, and we are working hard to protect vulnerable populations there. Visiting an IDP, or Internally Displaced Persons camp in Darfur the day before yesterday, I was able to see how important it is that the civilians have full access to humanitarian aid.

When it comes to humanitarian access, the Government of Sudan’s record is not encouraging. The denial of visas, the harassment of aid workers have created the impression that the Government of Sudan is engaged in a deliberate campaign of intimidation. The Government of Sudan’s recent agreement with the United Nations to facilitate humanitarian operations is an encouraging sign, and we will be watching carefully and expect prompt implementation.

With respect to the security situation, our focus is on supporting the ongoing AU and UN efforts to contribute to peace and stability in Darfur. The AU and UN are on the ground and working hard. But they face serious challenges. In fact, there are more Internally Displaced Persons in Darfur than when the DPA was signed in May 2006. We must move quickly to a larger hybrid African Union and United Nations peacekeeping force with a single united chain of command that conforms to UN standards and practices.

In addition to the United Nations and the AU, others have a critical role to play in security. The Government of Sudan must disarm the Janjaweed, the Arab militias that we all know could not exit without the Sudanese government's active support. The non-signatory rebel groups must stop their attacks, put down their arms, and come to the negotiating table.

Turning to the political situation, I found widespread agreement that more must be done to bring the non-signatory groups into the DPA. The US supports the work of UN Special Envoy Eliasson and African Union Special Envoy Salim. I also encouraged First Vice President Salva Kiir in his efforts to convene a conference of the non-signatory groups. The United Nations-African Union peacekeepers are essential to security but it is difficult to see a satisfactory long-term outcome unless these political efforts bear fruit.

It is also necessary to support the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority and other DPA provisions designed to provide the people of Darfur with the political and economic opportunities they deserve. We expect the Sudanese government to fulfill its obligations in this regard.

The Darfur Peace Agreement offers great promise and opportunity to the people of Sudan. It can only be realized through the active efforts of the Sudanese Government. A quick transition to a UN-AU force, an improvement in access for humanitarian workers, and support for the TDRA would improve the situation in Darfur ad could pave the way for better relations between Sudan and the international community. If these improvements do not take place, the alternative for Sudan is continued and perhaps even intensified isolation. Thank you very much, and I‘d be pleased to answer a few of your questions.

It’s eight o’clock now. I would propose that we would have about 15 minutes for questions because then we must continue on our trip.

Yes.

QUESTION: You said that your main idea is to deploy UN forces with UN support. What is the outcome that you reached with the Sudanese government about that? Also, today in New York , Mr. Kenare agreed to the UN Secretary General to have a statement from the UN issued to finance the second package. What is, any comments on that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Right. First of all, while we had discussions during the past three days, the question of the hybrid force is being negotiated and discussed between officials of the UN and the AU and as you correctly point out will no doubt also be a subject of discussion in New York today between Mr. Konare and United Nations officials. What we have stressed and what has been our consistent position throughout, is that, whatever the arrangements between the United Nations and the African Union, there must be a single, united chain-of-command for these forces and that the forces will carry out their mission in accordance with United Nations standards and practices. On the other hand, we acknowledge and have agreed that the preponderance, the majority of this force will be recruited from African countries and the commander of this United Nations-slash-African Union force will also be from Africa. So, no matter what the final arrangement for this unified command, there will be a strong African voice.

QUESTION: My question is, the United States is seeking to have a resolution issued at the United Nations to impose sanctions on the Sudan. If the Government of Sudan does not respond to the issue of the hybrid force, the Secretary General has asked for more time to give the diplomatic work its course. Also President Bashir has spoken with the King of Saudi Arabia and confirmed the success of the Arab initiative and the approval of Sudan on the second package of heavy equipment and also the deployment of aircraft. Do you know about that and do you think that from that the United States may change its position?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: As I mentioned in my statement, the security situation in Darfur continues to be extremely challenging. And in fact there are even more internally displaced people today than there were at the time the Darfur Peace Agreement was signed in 2006. So our position has been that there is an urgent need to deploy additional forces to the Darfur area in order to help stabilize the situation. Otherwise we could be faced with a situation where the humanitarian crisis deepens and there will no solution, or end in sight, to this situation. So our focus is to work with the United Nations and all the member states concerned to mobilize additional peacekeeping forces as soon as possible. I would note that there have been some indications that steps are being taken towards creating such forces. But as all of you know there have been disappointments in the past where there have been agreements made but then not necessarily carried out. So what I would stress, stress at this particular point is that it is the actions that are required and words are not sufficient.

QUESTION: You have spoken a lot about the humanitarian situation and about the increase of the number of the IDPs. However the UN envoy during his last visit spoke about an improvement in the situation. And in the meantime the United States continues its sanctions and don’t you think these sanctions only affect the Sudanese citizens and not the Sudanese government?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: As I said in my remarks, there are three different elements of the situation: the humanitarian, the security and the political. I also noted that there has been, and I have noted this in the conversations that I have had here in the past three days, some stabilization in certain aspects of the humanitarian situation, particularly with respect to nutrition, on the one hand, and the mortality rate on the other. But also as I noted there has been an increase in the number of internally displaced people, so that situation has not improved. And because of insecurity and a lack of political agreement among the various parties, the situation remains very precarious and very unpredictable. And I would say it continues to be fraught with danger.

We believe that with additional peacekeeping forces that progress can be made towards stabilizing the security situation. And we consider such an increase an indispensable element towards making progress on the issue of Darfur, while efforts are also made to find some kind of political solution between the signatory and non-signatory groups to the Darfur Peace Agreement.

There’s a gentleman who has been waiting very patiently here. This, this will be my last, last question.

QUESTION: My question, uh, do you think the agreement of war in Darfur they can make smooth landing in The Hague.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: You have to repeat that.

QUESTION: Do you think the agreement of war in Darfur, they can make smooth landing in The Hague? and why not America one of the members of the High Court? The last question, what about on the table between Khartoum and Washington in this meeting?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: That’s not one question. (laughter) Well, there are, there are several people under indictment by the International Criminal Court and as you know when that matter was brought before the United Nations Security Council the United States abstained, therefore allowing that resolution to pass so I think there is a possibility that at some point in the future these people who are under indictment may well be brought before the Court. I can’t recall the other two questions you had. What was the other two?

QUESTION: (inaudible)

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Why we are not members of the High Court? Well, that was a decision that was taken by the United States a number of years ago at the time of the negotiation of the International Criminal Court and is not, is not a new situation. But we certainly believe that our own domestic legal procedures are very adequate for dealing with these kinds of situations and we believe that we have a judicial system in the United States that is second to none in dealing with crimes that might be committed.

2007/290


Released on April 16, 2007

http://www.state.gov/s/d/2007/83107.htm




Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 16, 2007


Middle East Partnership Initiative Invites Applications for Three-month Democracy Fellowships in the U.S.

The U.S. State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) invites young democratic reform leaders from the Middle East and North Africa to apply for three-month fellowships in the United States, where successful candidates will complete academic coursework and a practical, skill-building experience in their fields of choice.

The 2008 MEPI Leaders for Democracy Fellowships will begin with a six-week course on leadership and democracy at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University in New York. The Syracuse portion of the fellowship will include a capstone project by each participant, focusing on a topic of professional interest.

After the academic program, each participant will gain practical experience and professional contacts in a four- to five-week fellowship with a political, non-governmental, or public policy organization in Syracuse, NY, or Washington, DC. Possible placement opportunities include working with a city council, local elections commission, non-governmental organization, issue advocacy group, political campaign, media outlet, grassroots organization, or think tank. Fellows will earn a certificate upon successful completion of the three-month program.

The Leaders for Democracy Fellowships are open to people between the ages of 25 and 40 with a bachelor’s degree and English language fluency to function successfully in an American academic and professional environment. Applicants also should have five years of work experience, as well as demonstrated leadership skills, and the availability to be in the United States unaccompanied from March 15 through June 15, 2008.

Applications are due to U.S. embassies in the region by May 31, 2007. Please see www.mepi.state.gov/82860.htm for detailed application instructions.

The Middle East Partnership Initiative supports the aspirations of people in the Middle East seeking greater freedom and opportunity. In four years, MEPI has devoted more than $293 million to reformers working so democracy can spread, education can thrive, economies can grow, and women can be empowered.

2007/287

Released on April 16, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83073.htm



Taken Question
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 16, 2007
Question Taken at April 16, 2007 Daily Press Briefing

Iran: UNSC Sanctions Resolution

Question: If corporations were to help Iran in construction of nuclear power, would it violate either of the UNSC Resolutions?

Answer: We would need to look at the circumstances of any specific case, but corporations that assist Iran in the construction of nuclear power facilities could be in violation of the measures taken by States to implement UNSC resolutions 1737 and 1747.

These resolutions require UN Member States to implement measures for preventing: certain nuclear-related transfers to Iran; provision to Iran of technical and financial assistance related to such transfers; and provision of any financial assets or other economic resources to designated individuals and entities, including many associated with Iran's nuclear program.

The unanimous adoption of two UNSCRs makes clear that now is not the time for business as usual with Iran. Full and swift implementation of UNSCR 1737 and 1737 is critical to signal to Tehran the costs of its defiance. All members of the United Nations must fully implement the provisions of UNSC resolutions 1737 and 1747, which we believe can be an effective means to persuade Iran to change course and respond constructively to the international concerns about the nature of its nuclear program. Iran's failure to completely, verifiably suspend enrichment related and reprocessing activities and engage in subsequent direct talks with the U.S. and our European partners continues to be a missed opportunity.

2007/291

Released on April 16, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83108.htm


Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 16, 2007


Fine Arts Committee Meeting, Friday, April 20, 2007

The Fine Arts Committee of the Department of State will meet on Friday, April 20, 2007 at 2:30 p.m. in the Henry Clay Room (8th floor, Department of State). The meeting will last until approximately 3:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

The agenda for the committee meeting will include a summary of the work of the Fine Arts Office since its last meeting on February 20, 2007 and the announcement of gifts and loans of furnishings as well as financial contributions from January 1, 2007 through March 31, 2007.

Public access to the Department of State is strictly controlled and space is limited. Members of the public wishing to take part in the meeting should telephone the Fine Arts Office at (202) 647-1990 by close of business on April 16, providing their name, date of birth; citizenship; ID number, i.e., U.S. Government ID (agency), U.S. military ID (branch), passport (country) or driver's license (state) in order to arrange admittance. All attendees must use the "C" Street entrance. One of the following valid IDs will be required for admittance: any U.S. driver's license with photo, a passport, or a U.S. Government agency ID. Attendees should expect to remain in the meeting for the entire session. The public may take part in the discussion as long as time permits and at the discretion of the chairman.

2007/288

Released on April 16, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83076.htm




Top
mynameis
Posted: Apr 17 2007, 07:49 PM


If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.


Group: Members
Posts: 4,823
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06



Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 17, 2007


Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky Announces Administration’s Draft Legislation on Special Immigrant Visa

Today in Geneva, at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' international conference on Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons, the U.S. Head of Delegation, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, announced that the Bush Administration is sending to Congress draft special immigrant visa (SIV) legislation. The proposed legislation gives the Secretary of State the worldwide authority, under exceptional circumstances, to lower the number of years a Foreign Service National (FSN) must work in order to be eligible for the existing SIV program from 15 to 3 years. The Under Secretary also endorsed the intent of Senate Bill 1104 introduced by Senators Kennedy and Lugar, and H.R. 1790 introduced by Representatives Berman and Fortenberry. Both Bills seek to expand the existing law on SIV to allow as many as 1,500 interpreters under Departments of Defense and State authority, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, access to the SIV program.

Dr. Dobriansky is the Chair of the Secretary of State's Interagency Task Force on Iraqi Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, which was established on February 5, 2007.

2007/293
Released on April 17, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83118.htm




Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 17, 2007


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Address InterAction 2007 Annual Forum

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will deliver remarks at 6:00 p.m., on Wednesday, April 18, to the InterAction 2007 Annual Forum, in the Grand Ballroom of the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, 480 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Washington DC. The Secretary will take questions from the audience after her remarks.

This InterAction Annual Forum brings together over 600 participants from 160 member organizations, including non governmental organizations, government agencies and international organizations to discuss this year's theme: "Setting a Bold Agenda for Relief and Development."

The conference will be open for press coverage. Media attending this event should enter through the main entrance, and must register at the press table.

Pre-set time for cameras: 4:30 p.m. from the main entrance
Final access time for writers and still photographers: 5:15 p.m. from the main entrance

PRESS CONTACTS:
Robyn Shepherd
InterAction
Media Specialist
(202) 667-8227 ext 535
(267) 230-7651
rshepherd@interaction.org

Office of Press Relations
U.S. Department of State
(202) 647-2492

2007/294
Released on April 17, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83136.htm

Taken Question
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 17, 2007
Question Taken at April 17, 2007 Daily Press Briefing

North Korea -- Return of the USS Pueblo

Question: Have we received an offer from the North Koreans to return the USS Pueblo? Are there any conditions? Would we consider such an offer?

Answer: We have not heard officially from the D.P.R.K. about the USS Pueblo. The D.P.R.K. did not offer to return the ship during the Richardson-Principi visit, and the U.S. government members of the delegation declined an offer of a tour of the vessel.

As we have said previously, the USS Pueblo is the property of the United States government and it should be returned to the United States. North Korea's seizure of the vessel and its detention of the crew were in violation of international law.

2007/295

Released on April 17, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83156.htm
Top
mynameis
Posted: Apr 18 2007, 05:46 PM


If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.


Group: Members
Posts: 4,823
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06



To Read all press transcripts for the Month of April Click Here: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/


Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 18, 2007


Secretary of State Rice and Under Secretary Burns to Address Young Global Leaders on April 19

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns will address the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders U.S. Policy Roundtable on Thursday, April 19, 2007 at 9:45 a.m. in the Department of State's East Auditorium. The event is hosted by Young Global Leaders and Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Dina Habib Powell in partnership with the World Economic Forum. Both remarks are OPEN for press coverage and begin at 9:45 a.m.

The Forum of Young Global Leaders is a foundation set up in partnership with the World Economic Forum to bring together outstanding leaders in business, politics, academia, the media, and civil society from every region of the world to collectively work towards a better future.

Press coverage for this event:
Pre-Set for Cameras: 7:30-8:00 a.m., 21st street entrance
Final access for all press: 9:30 a.m., 21st Street entrance

Media representatives must present one of the following: (1) a U.S. Government-issued identification card (Department of State, White House, Congress, Department of Defense, or Foreign Press Center), (2) a media-issued photo identification card, or (3) a letter from their employer on letterhead verifying their employment as a journalist, accompanied by an official photo identification (driver's license or passport).

For questions on the event or on the Forum of Young Global Leaders, contact Nicole Deaner, 202-203-7613 or Darlene Kirk, 202-203-5060.

2007/297
Released on April 18, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83183.htm




Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 18, 2007

INDEX:

PHILIPPINES
Death of Peace Corps Volunteer Julia Campbell / Effects on Peace Corps Operations

LIBYA
Deputy Secretary Negroponte’s Meetings

SUDAN
Possible UNSC Resolution on Sanctions
Assistant Secretary Silverberg’s Travel to South Africa
AU/UN Hybrid Force
Implementation of Darfur Peace Agreement
Ongoing Dialogue with the Chinese Government
NGOs Accusation that the U.S. is Acting Irresponsible
Responsibility for the Situation in Darfur

MIDDLE EAST
Arab Minister’s Working Groups / Dialogue with Israel
Encouraging Broader Dialogue between Arab States
Saudi Arabia’s Participation in Discussions
Secretary of Defense Gates Comments

IRAN
UNSC Resolutions
Efforts to Locate Missing American Citizen

IRAQ
Update on Today’s Violence
Possible Loss of Confidence by Iraqi People
Origins of Baghdad Security Plan
Regional Neighbor’s Conference

DEPARTMENT
Secretary Rice’s Involvement in Search for a new War Czar

NORTH KOREA
Transfer of Money from BDA Accounts
Reported Activity at Yongbyon

AUSTRALIA
Resettlement of Persons in Need of Protection


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video
12:45 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. One brief opening statement for you and then a bit of housekeeping.

We are deeply saddened to learn that the body discovered yesterday in the Philippines was that of missing Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family at this very difficult time, as well as to her colleagues at the Peace Corps who have lost a fine colleague.

And one other bit of housekeeping regarding the Deputy Secretary's trip to Libya. I had talked to you earlier this morning about the fact that he had not met with the Libyan Foreign Minister. He had, in fact, met with the Libyan Foreign Minister, so I wanted to correct that for the record.

And with that, I can get into your questions.

QUESTION: Just to start with the Philippines situation, do you have any information -- the Embassy there, have you heard from them about a possible cause or what exactly happened to her?

MR. MCCORMACK: We haven't yet. That has not been finally determined. I know there is an ongoing investigation. We're working very well with the Philippine authorities. They're taking this case quite seriously. And we are going to work with them until we are able to get to the bottom of this and get all of those answers for Julia's family.

QUESTION: All right. And is this going to have any effect on the Peace Corps operations or programs?

MR. MCCORMACK: Check with the Peace Corps. Obviously, in these kinds of circumstances, I'm sure that they do a review to make sure that they take all the appropriate precautions that they can. These people are out living beyond the cities, living in some places where they face a variety of different threats, and they're fully aware of all of those. But that said, I'm sure the Peace Corps is going to take a look at any other steps they might take. But you should check with them.

QUESTION: All right. You mentioned various threats, though. Is there any reason to believe -- do you have any reason to believe this might not be -- it might not have been an accident?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, that's just a general statement about the fact that these people are living in some places that are really quite undeveloped.

QUESTION: And I haven't seen yet -- or if there is one, but do you know if the Embassy put out a Warden Message or anything?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware that they have.

Libby.

QUESTION: Change of topic? On Sudan.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: I know the President mentioned a draft resolution, a resolution for sanctions if Bashir doesn't act. Tony Blair said that discussions could begin tomorrow. Is that your understanding as well?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is going to be a joint effort between the U.S. and the UK and we have already had discussions between our two countries about what might be in such a resolution. There are going to be ongoing diplomatic discussions that get launched as early as tomorrow; for example, Assistant Secretary Kristen Silverberg, who is responsible for International Organization Affairs, is going to be traveling to South Africa, who holds presidency of the Security Council through the end of this month. And that kind of diplomatic interaction is going to be replicated all around the globe with the thought in mind that we may well have to act on a Security Council resolution.

Everybody hopes that it doesn't get to that point and President Bush made it very clear that President Bashir does have some time. He has weeks. He has weeks in order to fully meet the commitments that he signed on to in Addis Ababa and we are going give Secretary General Ban some time to work with the Sudanese authorities as well as others in the hope that they will follow through on those commitments because it's absolutely critical that that AU/UN hybrid force get into Darfur. We talked a little bit over the past few days about the importance of that and how that will help stabilize the situation and will help allow humanitarian workers to do their job, to bring some relief to the people in that region, and ultimately help provide an environment where you can move forward in implementing the Darfur Peace Agreement. So you're not going to have an end to the large-scale violence and the humanitarian catastrophe that we've witnessed in Darfur until you have implementation of that political settlement.

QUESTION: Where do you stand in securing troop commitments for -- you know, if Bashir said tomorrow I'll accept this force?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's been slow going and there has -- the response from the international community in that regard up until this point has not been heartening, but that is not entirely the fault of these potential individual donor states. President Bashir has, through his unwillingness to state clearly in public that the Sudanese Government would allow in these forces, even for the heavy support package, has been a stumbling block for these countries who might possibly pledge troops. The bottom line is they don't want to go into a non-permissive environment. I think everybody understands that.

So it is -- it ultimately comes back to President Bashir and the Sudanese Government clearly stating that they accept all three phases of the Addis Ababa agreement and acting on those words, as the President made clear just today.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up about one aspect of President Bashir? Do you think that he's going out of his way to discourage countries from contributing because several months ago there was kind of --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure, Anne.

QUESTION: -- feeling that he was purposely going out of his way to, you know, threaten or, you know, make it clear to countries that it's best that they not --

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I can't speak out of firsthand knowledge of any steps that they may have taken. But at the very least, the fact that they have made it very clear that the Sudanese Government wouldn't allow or welcome in these forces is a clear message to those potential donor countries. It's a clear message to them that they would be sending their troops into an uncertain situation and they understand in many places the difficulties that that might raise in the minds of decision-makers. So a clear, unambiguous set of statements and actions on the part of the Sudanese Government is what's needed. And we believe that that would also have a follow-on effect of helping to generate the necessary forces for the AU hybrid force. We're talking, you know, upwards of 13,000 more troops that will be needed.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Are you expecting difficulty getting this passed in the UN? Do you have the support from China for these sanctions and is Kristen Silverberg's trip to South Africa an indication that the South Africans will not be completely on board?

MR. MCCORMACK: I expect that we're going to be talking to all the members of the Security Council. And we expect that in the absence of action by the Sudanese Government that it would be very difficult for members of the Security Council, given the humanitarian catastrophe that is ongoing in Sudan, to vote against such a resolution. And the whole object of this exercise is to get the Sudanese Government to change their behavior. It would be unfortunate that we all got to the point of punitive diplomatic measures. Nobody wants that. But certainly, the ongoing circumstances in Darfur would dictate and really require that kind of action and response by the international system.

QUESTION: Have you received any assurances from the Chinese that they would go along with what President Bush was talking about this morning?

MR. MCCORMACK: Kirit, I can't tell you exactly what the Chinese response will be to the President's remarks. They have recently sent an envoy to Sudan in which they appear to have stepped up the pressure on the Sudanese Government. We're going to need to see more of those kinds of actions not only from the Chinese Government, but from other governments.

QUESTION: And you have been in contact with them leading up to this, though?

MR. MCCORMACK: The Chinese Government? We have a regular dialogue on this matter with the Chinese Government. Recently, Andrew Natsios was in China talking about this, but we -- and I know Deputy Secretary Negroponte has also been in touch with Chinese interlocutors prior to his trip. So there's an ongoing dialogue with the Chinese. They potentially could be a key player in convincing the Sudanese Government to change their position.

Yeah, Nicholas.

QUESTION: Is the resolution the only item on Kristen's agenda when she goes down to South Africa or is it a broader set of meetings connected to the --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, it's going to be tightly focused on this.

QUESTION: And it is not a regular practice that the Assistant Secretary would visit the president of the Security Council every month, right? This is not something that's usually done?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, what it -- typically, when you have new members come on to the Council, she'll make a tour.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, right, exactly. She'll make a tour. No, this is designed to send a clear message of the seriousness of our intent in trying -- doing our part to make the diplomacy work, but it's going to require more than just us.

Yeah, David.

QUESTION: You said that Bashir had weeks to honor his commitments.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.

QUESTION: Could you just elaborate on that a bit?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think -- I'm not going to get into setting hard and fast deadlines, but we are talking about a matter of weeks that President Bashir would have to act as -- in a way that was described by President Bush today?

QUESTION: Well, why are you giving him so much time? It seems to me this has been going on for --

MR. MCCORMACK: It has been and President Bush made clear this afternoon -- or this morning that this was, in part, due to Secretary General Ban's call for more time to work the diplomacy. And we think -- Secretary Rice had a couple of conversations with him. She had one with him yesterday afternoon as well as --

QUESTION: With who, with Ban?

MR. MCCORMACK: With Ban Ki-Moon, yes, and then one again this morning to talk about this. And it was his position that the Sudanese Government had taken a step with the approval of the heavy support package and that perhaps, diplomacy -- further diplomacy should be explored to see if the Sudanese Government would, in fact, agree to the full phase-three deployment of the hybrid force. We'll see. Let's be honest here that the Sudanese Government to date has not demonstrated that it is going to meet its commitments under the Addis agreement to the full deployment of the AU/UN hybrid force. We would certainly hope that's the case.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: All would hope that's the case, so we are going to allow some more time. But as I said the time's limited and it's limited to a matter of weeks.

QUESTION: And you're comfortable with that position knowing that within weeks -- I mean, that people are suffering and dying and continuing to be displaced, you are comfortable with allowing another couple of weeks?

MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, we've been at the forefront of bringing world attention to this issue and trying to rally the resources of the international community to address the issues of Darfur. Deputy Secretary Zoellick was tireless in his efforts to try to negotiate a Darfur Peace Agreement. We all would have liked to have seen this issue resolved, the humanitarian catastrophe, the humanitarian crisis, end in Darfur years ago. We all would have hoped for that. That is not the situation with which we are dealing right now. So that's where we are and we're going to do the things that we think will help us best achieve everybody's shared goals.

QUESTION: Okay. I don't know if the White House has already spoken to this. But this morning you mentioned that Deputy Secretary -- the current Deputy Secretary Negroponte -- has spoken with the President directly --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- about Darfur and that his --

MR. MCCORMACK: He did.

QUESTION: Do you -- I don't know if they've already talked about it, but do you have anything? Do you know what his impressions were from his talks with Bashir and the other government officials there or -- and the rest of the principals?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if the White House has talked about it or not. But I -- look, this is a conversation between the Deputy Secretary and the President. Far be it for me to start to get into what he relayed to him. But it was an important factor in the President's speech, I believe, in really demanding that President Bashir not just make verbal commitments but actually demonstrate action.

QUESTION: The readout that the President got from Negroponte was --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- important.

MR. MCCORMACK: That we need to see action.

QUESTION: Sean, I know you guys, you know, want to give it a little more time. Ban Ki-moon wants the diplomacy to play out.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: But is it your judgment that Bashir is stalling on this? I mean, did Negroponte come out of those meetings and say he's not serious about this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's just put it this way. You have a verbal commitment to part of what the Sudanese Government had previously said it would do. That verbal commitment is untested and the Sudanese Government has to this point not demonstrated that it is going to follow through on those verbal commitments. We shall see in the coming weeks whether or not they do, not only on the heavy support package portion of the agreement but also the most critical part of that. And that is agreeing to all the conditions that will allow an AU/UN hybrid force to be effective in Darfur.

QUESTION: So -- I know Ban Ki-Moon said it was a very positive signal that he had agreed to at least a small number of UN peacekeepers. Do you guys see it that way or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we want to see action.

QUESTION: Sean, these deliberations that you're talking about -- about the UN Security Council, is it your goal to have a UN Security Council resolution ready to go at which point if you decide that these weeks are up you can vote on it right away. Or do you anticipate that deliberations will go beyond those?

MR. MCCORMACK: In the absence of action, it would be our view that the international community should move with some dispatch, move quickly. So the idea would be to move as quickly as we could to get agreement on a resolution in the event that we would need to vote on such a resolution.

Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: Groups like Save Darfur Coalition, they held a big rally today -- seem to always point the finger of blame squarely on the U.S. Do you think this is fair? And if not, who does bear responsibility? Is it the UN, the AU?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we're not going to duck our responsibility as a leading member in the -- of the international community. Absolutely not. We are standing up and saying this is a problem that needs to be addressed. It needs to be resolved. So I think we are acting in a responsible manner.

All of that said, we cannot do this ourselves. The Sudanese Government has proved itself intransigent on this issue, so we have taken the approach of trying to rally the international community to this issue to convince the Sudanese Government it needs to change its behavior, to rally the resources in order to affect a real solution in Darfur. That has taken longer than anybody would have liked.

So this is yet again an attempt by the President to push the issue forward and to demonstrate U.S. leadership.

QUESTION: So ultimately, you're saying it's the world's problem and it has to be --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think this is -- you have -- you have a humanitarian tragedy of this scope, this -- what we have called genocide. That's the world's problem. And that isn't to say the United States is in any way shirking its responsibility or wants to slough off its responsibilities as a member of the international system. Absolutely not. But this is humanity's problem.

Yeah, Michel. Anything else on this? Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, this group Save Darfur Coalition intends to picket the Fidelity building on April 25th for disinvestment of monies to the Sudan. Do you recommend that? And also, there'll be further rallies such as in front of the White House on April 29th.

MR. MCCORMACK: Joel, it's not for the government to dictate what private organizations involved in a legitimate part of the public discourse about an important issue should do or not do. It's for them to determine.

Yeah, okay. Anything else on Sudan/Darfur? Okay. Michel.

QUESTION: Arab ministers have formed a working group today consisting from Egypt, Jordan and Palestinians to contact Israel to try to persuade it in the Arab peace initiative. This delegation will visit Israel soon. Do you have any reaction on this issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: It would be a start. And the Arab League has talked about the fact that they would reach out to the Government of Israel and that they would form these working groups, so it's a start. Certainly, we would like to see a broader dialogue between neighbors in the region of issues of mutual concern. The pace of that dialogue is going to be one for the two parties to determine themselves. We can encourage them along, and we have been and will continue to do so.

So we say all that with the thought in mind that this could be -- this would be a first step in that kind of dialogue.

QUESTION: When you say that you'd like to see a broader dialogue, do you mean broader than simply these groups that already have relations with Israel, or is this the broader thing you'd like to see?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we've talked about for some time about the fact that, of course, we would like to see an initiative in which there were more participants in some form of direct dialogue discussion with Israel. We've talked about the fact that you have the whole spectrum of kinds of relationships between Arab states and Israel, going all the way from full diplomatic relations -- countries like Egypt and Jordan -- all the way to other groups of countries which have absolutely no contact or diplomatic relations with Israel whatsoever.

You want to get to the point where you start expanding out that group of countries that can have some form of diplomatic interaction with Israel. So we would view this as a first step in that regard and we would encourage that it expand. It is going to have to expand at a pace that is comfortable for both sides. Secretary Rice has made it very clear that just as Israel and the Palestinians need to work on day-to-day very practical issues regarding that sort of tension and friction between Israelis and Palestinians, you also need to have what she refers to as a political horizon as well.

The same -- you can make the same case on the other side between Israel and Arab states that it would be an important part of this process in trying to bring peace to the Middle East in which you have some form of political horizon for Israel with Arab states. Now the Arab League has come up with its own initiative and we have commented that that is a positive thing. It's their initiative. And perhaps that initiative, the re-launch of that initiative can serve as a starting point for discussion and that's how we would view this effort.

QUESTION: You just pointed at some of the -- you said the Gulf states who have the kind of nominal relations, trade ties with Israel that aren't -- weren't included in this?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know. Well, the --

QUESTION: I mean, the Mauritanians who I believe have diplomatic relations and where you have a very senior person today --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Look, ultimately, that's going to be -- that's going to have to be their decision. We have encouraged as wide and thorough participation as we could among the Arab states in these working groups. So we would hope that this is just a step and that you would actually see the expansion over time of the membership of these working groups, as well as an increase in the intensity of the kind of discussions that they might have. But you know, this is a first step.

QUESTION: Did you ask or suggest to any of these countries with -- that are not at virtual war with Israel --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- that have some contact to --

MR. MCCORMACK: We have encouraged contact. But ultimately, we have left it to them to make the decision about how they would participate in this working group and what kinds of contact they might have.

Yeah, Michel.

QUESTION: Are you expecting that Saudi Arabia will be in this delegation?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, that's -- you know, that's really something for the Saudi Government to decide. I would note that it was the re-launch of this initiative of the former Crown Prince, now King Abdullah's previous initiative took place at the Arab League Summit in Riyadh. And that, I think, was an important signal, but the pace of any sort of engagement between Saudi officials, Saudi Arabia and Israel is going to have to be a decision for both of those parties to make.

Charlie.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) today in Israel, I believe, Secretary of Defense Gates made some comments about some -- seeing some forward movement or said something to the effect that the diplomacy is working with Iran and the nuclear issue. I mean, are you aware of those comments? Do you agree with those comments? And can you tell us why you think it is?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen his comments, Charlie. You know, I'm not going to try to interpret them for you. I can tell you that in our view the diplomacy has moved forward in the sense that you -- if you turn back the clock to 2005, the United States found itself in a position of being relatively isolated on the issue of Iran and its nuclear program. We don't have -- when we looked around, there weren't too many people standing to either side of us, telling Iran that it has to meet the conditions of stopping their enrichment and actually get into negotiations so that they can realize a peaceful nuclear program and not a nuclear weapons program. The Europeans were -- came onboard early on in that regard.

But now we have gotten to a point where we have a -- two 15-0 Security Council resolutions, Chapter 7 resolutions that have made it quite clear to Iran that their behavior is unacceptable, that they need to take up the P-5+1 on their offer of negotiations and that you have had strong support in the IAEA Board of Governors, including among -- including from those states that count themselves as members of the Non-Aligned Movement. So in that sense, absolutely, the diplomacy has moved forward and in that sense, it has worked. Now, have we gotten to the point where Iran is stopping its enrichment-related activities? No, we haven't. But we are hopeful that the diplomatic strategy that we're pursuing of gradually increasing pressure on the Iranian Government to get them to change their behavior will yield positive results. And by that I mean actually getting them to the negotiating table under the conditions the international community has set out. We're not there yet.

QUESTION: Sean, on Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you enlighten us a little bit further as you said you would try to do about the new outreach on Mr. Levinson?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. I don't have numbers for you. I'll try to get those for you guys this afternoon. We'll post an answer for you. But just to recap a little bit, we have -- we have not yet heard from the Iranian Government regarding our request about Mr. Levinson and his whereabouts. We put in a request over the weekend, you know, reiterated our request for information about his whereabouts. We have not yet heard back from them. We think that they've had sufficient time to pulse their system, look everywhere that they need to look, talk to all the people that they need to talk to in their system and come up with an answer.

So as a result of that, we're going to continue pursuing that track. But we are also going to try to work with other states who might have some diplomatic entrée to the Iranian Government add their resources, all the resources to make inquiries with the Iranian Government or Iranian officials to try to determine Mr. Levinson's whereabouts. We're going to start that effort today and I'll try to get you some more information as to, you know, sort of the numbers of states that are going to participate in --

QUESTION: And which ones would be nice, too, if you can.

MR. MCCORMACK: If we can at this point, we'll certainly try to provide those for you.

Yeah, Libby.

QUESTION: Sean, on Iraq. It was a very bloody day there today.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on numbers as far as the U.S. Government knows and any reaction to the violence?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, it was just an absolutely horrible series of attacks. I don't have specific numbers for you. We'll try to get those for you. But the latest that I have seen is over a hundred dead, over a hundred wounded, well over. And it's just terrible I understand to watch that. It is quite clear that these attacks are perpetrated by individuals who don't want to see Iraq make any progress and they are designed to try to exacerbate an already tense situation among various sects in Iraq and in Baghdad and that -- you can talk to the military folks, but I expect that they would tell you that this is also a reaction against the joint efforts of the multinational forces and the Iraqi security forces to try to implement the Baghdad security plan, bring a greater sense of order to Baghdad and a greater sense of security to the Iraqi people. Those efforts will continue.

I expect that we will see continuing attempts on the part of those who want to derail that -- those efforts in the future and you will see future spectacular attacks such as this in which there's large-scale loss of life. We don't accept that as a continuing condition and we are going to do everything we can, working with the Iraqis, to try to prevent them. But it is a very difficult security environment in Iraq now.

QUESTION: To what extent does it worry you -- I know you said and the Secretary said that this is early on in the process.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: But to what extent does it worry that the Iraqi people will continue to lose confidence in, you know, the U.S. -- you know, given that these bombings keep going on despite the surge?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they as well as others need to understand that you still have the flow of inputs to the Baghdad security plan ongoing now. That all of the resources are not yet in place, that those resources will continue to be put in place over the course of the next months. The Pentagon can fill you in on the exact timetables. I don't have those right now.

One of the origins of the Baghdad security plan, or the point to which you can trace this effort back to I think pretty directly, is Prime Minister Maliki's meeting with President Bush in Jordan in which he brought to the President the outlines of a potential plan and he said this is a starting point; we'd like to get your thoughts on it and work together with you on it. And he understood at that moment that it was important that the Iraqi people felt a greater sense of security in their country, but most especially in Baghdad where you had the greatest potential for sectarian tensions. And it was very important to address that -- those tensions at that moment, because they had been steadily increasing over the year 2006.

So the Iraqi people should understand that the Baghdad security plan is an attempt to act on the desire of the -- desires of the Iraqi people to see a more stable, secure, prosperous Iraq and to see their government working on their behalf. And we want to try to help the Iraqi Government do that, as it's going to be important for Iraq's future that people build confidence in Iraqi institutions, that they have faith in them.

Yeah, Elise.

QUESTION: Do you expect Ambassador Crocker to take the same kind of hands-on approach in trying to help forge a political settlement that Ambassador Khalilzad did? Or do you think that now that you're having this regional neighbors' conference, it'll take more of kind of an international dimension?

MR. MCCORMACK: Ryan's going to have his own style. I don't expect he's going to be any less involved in encouraging the Iraqis to work on those political benchmarks that they have laid out for themselves: implementation of the hydrocarbon law and the associated revenue-sharing, action on a de-Baathification law, as well as work on a budget. I expect that he will continue to be very much involved in efforts to encourage the Iraqis to come to the political accommodations that they need to in order to pass that legislation. But ultimately, it's going to be up to the Iraqis to pass that legislation, to cut the political deals that they think they need to cut.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: One more on this. I don't know if you talked about this idea of the war czar for Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't know if you've addressed that here, but --

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, right -- no.

QUESTION: I'm wondering what the State Department role is as -- trying to find somebody. Is Secretary Rice part of the process of interviewing or talking to people?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. You know, I haven't asked her about it, so let me ask her. I know that there's been -- the White House has talked a little bit about the fact that they're looking for a person to replace Meghan O'Sullivan, who's going to be leaving at some point in the next couple months. Let me talk to her about it. I'll ask her. I just -- it hasn't come up.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Going back to your housecleaning item, can you give us, to the best of your ability and knowledge, a run-down of what the Deputy Secretary discussed with the Libyan Foreign Minister that was not Darfur-related?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have -- he did a little availability with the press in there and we're going to try to get the transcript of that out for you. He did address and bring up some bilateral issues between the United States and Libya that are outstanding, specifically the importance of the Libyan Government coming to agreement with the families and victims of the Pan Am 103 bombings as well as the La Belle disco bombings.

He also urged them to resolve the issue of the Bulgarian nurses and medics as an outstanding issue and important to really continuing the work of a changed relationship between Libya and the outside -- and the rest of the world.

Anything else?

QUESTION: I have one more.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. We have one more back here. Yes.

QUESTION: Quickly on North Korea, the Treasury ruling on BDA came into effect today. How do you think this might impact the bigger picture of the six-party talks, given the criticisms that the other parties have made and the fact that the North Koreans haven't transferred the money yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, again, the issue of gaining access to the accounts and transferring any funds is an issue between the North Korean account holders and their bankers in Macau. We have done everything that we need to do in order to fill our obligations under the February 13th agreement. I know that there's been some misunderstanding of that, but let's be clear. The United States has done what it needs to do and more under the February 13th agreement and the ball is the North Koreans' court with regard to BDA and access to those accounts.

QUESTION: Sean, are you aware of an agreement that was signed apparently today between you guys and the Australians on refugees? And if you are, do you have any brief comment you would like to --

MR. MCCORMACK: There is no formal agreement between the United States and Australia. There is an informal arrangement for mutual assistance that provides that each will consider resettlement of people interdicted at sea and found to be in need of international protection. The arrangement does not create legal obligations. In the spirit of our humanitarian -- mutual humanitarian traditions and commitment to assist individuals in need of international protection, the U.S. and Australia are willing to consider resettling up to 200 individuals in a calendar year referred by the other country under this arrangement.

The United States and Australia will each consider individuals for resettlement in accordance with our own regulations and procedures respectively. These may include individual interviews and security background checks. No referrals have been accepted by either country at this time. The arrangement does not call for an exchange or a swap of individuals and no person is referred -- who is referred would be forced to accept a resettlement.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas.

QUESTION: Still on North Korea. The South Korean intelligence service was quoted as confirming today that there has been some activity in Yongbyon. I know that yesterday you couldn't -- you said that you weren't aware of anything, but have they shared anything with you?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, what I said yesterday is what I'll say again today, and that is that we haven't received any formal notification from North Korea that they have taken steps to shut down and seal Yongbyon. Beyond that, any discussion of what may or may not be happening there would involve discussion of intelligence-related materials, and that's not something I can do.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:18 p.m.)

DPB # 68

Released on April 18, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/
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Posted: Apr 19 2007, 10:12 PM


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Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 19, 2007


Department of State Ranks Sixth Overall and First Among Women in 2007 Best Places to Work

The Partnership for Public Service and American University's Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation have announced the results of the 2007 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government ranking, and the Department of State has placed sixth among the 30 large Federal agencies, up from last year's tenth place ranking, and first among women.

Rankings are based on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's Federal Human Capital Survey of nearly 150,000 executive branch employees in over 250 federal organizations, conducted in 2006.

Under Secretary for Management Henrietta H. Fore said: "We feel we are one of the best places to work. I am particularly pleased with our third place ranking for support for diversity. This year we have focused on recruiting, mentoring, distance learning, training, assigning and promoting."

Presented in association with US News and World Report, Best Places to Work is the most comprehensive ranking of federal government organizations on overall employee engagement, as well as in ten work environment categories. The rankings are designed to offer job seekers unprecedented insight into the best opportunities for public service and to provide managers and government leaders a roadmap for improving employee engagement and commitment.

Out of 30 large agencies, the Department of State ranked third on support for diversity, third on effective leadership, third on performance based rewards and advancement, and fourth on teamwork.

To view all the rankings and analyses of the results, please visit
www.bestplacestowork.org.

2007/302
Released on April 19, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/




Press Statement
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 19, 2007


Resumption of Northern Uganda/Lord's Resistance Army Peace Talks

The United States Government welcomes the agreement between the Government of Uganda and Lord's Resistance Army to extend the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and to resume peace talks on April 26. A durable peace agreement that puts an end to the 21-year old conflict and the suffering of hundreds of thousands of displaced northern Ugandans is vital to the region and to the future of Uganda.

2007/301
Released on April 19, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/apr/83242.htm



Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 19, 2007

INDEX:

IRAN
Iranian Response to Request for Information Regarding Missing US Citizen / U.S. Will Continue to Pursue with Iran and Other Countries

PHILIPPINES
Death of Peace Corps Volunteer Julia Campbell / Ongoing Investigation

LIBYA/SUDAN/MAURITANIA
Deputy Secretary Negroponte’s Travel / Meetings in Libya / Issue of Imprisoned Bulgarian Nurses Raised
Deputy Secretary’s Travel to Sudan and Mauritania / Meetings

RUSSIA/EUROPE
Russian Criticism of Missile Defense System in Europe
Secretary Rice’s Possible Travel to Russia

IRAQ
Al-Qaida and Threats to Security in Iraq

COLOMBIA
Congressional Concern Regarding Human Rights Situation / U.S. Aid

NORTH KOREA
North Korea’s Obligations / Banco Delta Asia Issue / Six-Party Talks

EUROPEAN UNION
Proposed New Rules for Combating Racism and Hate Crimes


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video
12:48 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. You have any -- no opening statements. We can get right to your questions.

QUESTION: Sean.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Were you able to find out what exactly the Iranian response was? Were you able to get a look at it or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I took a look at it. It's brief. It's very matter of fact, straightforward, and they said that they didn't have any information regarding the individual that we described. And our thoughts on that are we're going to continue to pursue it with the Iranian Government. We have assured ourselves to a reasonable degree that he is actually in Iran. We know that he went there. We're pretty sure that he didn't leave.

We're also going to take some other steps. We're going to reach out to some European states that have diplomatic relations with Iran, see if they can knock on a few doors with their government contacts in getting more information about Mr. Levinson's whereabouts. So that's really where we stand right now.

QUESTION: Okay. And when you say -- and I realize you're going to -- you're probably going to dismiss my question, but I would like to ask you --

MR. MCCORMACK: Never in any way.

QUESTION: When you say that the response was brief, literally like, one paragraph saying "Sorry, we don't have any?"

MR. MCCORMACK: Which paragraph do you see -- I can't remember --

QUESTION: Does it say, "Sorry, we don't have any?"

MR. MCCORMACK: It's not the way these things go. You know, five or six sentences, pretty short with all the accompanying diplomatic language.

QUESTION: Language --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, it's actually --

QUESTION: So we have the honor of accepting ourselves to --

MR. MCCORMACK: It takes the -- exactly, it takes a while to clear the throat when you -- in the diplomatic language-speak mode.

QUESTION: I will drop it, then.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you find it plausible that the Iranian Government should have no information whatsoever about this man?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's what they said thus far. We're -- let me just put it this way. We're going to continue to pursue it with them and, as I pointed out, with others who might have some entrée into -- with their own sources in Iran to maybe discern where Mr. Levinson is.

You guys asked me earlier about the question of, well, have there ever been any American citizens in recent memory who have gone missing in Iran that we have made inquiries about that are still missing, but we don't know of their whereabouts. And I checked with our Consular Affairs Bureau and in -- to their memory, there aren't any other cases. On average, it's about two to three a year where we have these kind of inquiries where family members or friends might make an inquiry about somebody who's traveling in Iran or who has gone to Iran for business or other purposes and they haven't heard from them in a given period of time, so we've made inquiries to the Iranian Government, "Do you know where this person is?"

And in every -- any -- every case in recent memory, we've been able to find them, either gotten the information or the person has called their friends and family, so the question's been cleared up.

QUESTION: So this is an unprecedented situation here?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's unique in recent memory, in that thus far, we have not been able to locate Mr. Levinson.

QUESTION: When the Iranians said -- just taking a look at it, when they said, "We have no information about him," did they not even have information about his arrival in Iran? Are they questioning the -- you know --

MR. MCCORMACK: They said -- you know, I'm not quoting exact words here, but essentially, "We don't have any information regarding the person that you've described."

QUESTION: And what other European countries that you are reaching out to?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're not going to get into who might be assisting us, but we're going to talk to a couple of them now. We may, depending on what sort of information they're able to turn up, we may expand that out. But we're going to start with a couple right now.

QUESTION: Sean, is it your information that when Mr. Levinson checked into his hotel he checked in under his own name?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure that we -- I don't know, Charlie. I can't tell you. I believe that's true but let me check -- see if we know that bit of information.

QUESTION: Sean, I know it's a delicate situation. I know your hands are tied. But there's a lot of speculation out there that he's been picked up, he's being held in Tehran as some kind of potential prisoner exchange.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: For either, you know, the Iranians in Iran -- or in Iraq -- or possibly this guy that was picked up in Turkey a few months ago by the CIA. Have you any reaction to that, those kinds of --

MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen a lot of that speculation in the press reported in various places. I can't say anything other than it's speculation. We don't know where he is. We don't know his whereabouts and that's the reason why we're asking all these questions. And we are going to do absolutely everything we can as a government to work on behalf of an American citizen and his family, make sure he gets back safely and sees his family and friends.

QUESTION: Can you give me the theme of Americans overseas, individuals --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Is there any update? Have you heard anything from the Philippines? Is the embassy there gotten any more information about the death of the Peace Corps volunteer?

MR. MCCORMACK: And the circumstances -- not that I'm aware of. I don't think we've had any updates. I believe it's an ongoing investigation.

Yes, Nicholas.

QUESTION: Sean, you talked briefly yesterday about the Deputy Secretary's meetings in Libya.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: You did say he brought up the Bulgarian nurses --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- in his meeting with the Foreign Minister. Do you know today more about sort of what exactly he asked or -- how he brought it up?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't have anything

QUESTION: You don't have any more than you did yesterday?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. He'll be back -- he's going to be on his way back from Mauritania soon, leaving today. He'll be back here in the office I think late tomorrow afternoon. I think we'll have an opportunity to get a full debrief on his trip. He's going to sit down and talk to the Secretary.

QUESTION: A full brief?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, he's not going to give you a full briefing personally, Lambros. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) humanitarian mission (inaudible) for 126 children with HIV virus. It's a very important issue -- to discuss this issue.

MR. MCCORMACK: It is a very important issue, which is the reason why he brought it up and it's the reason why the Secretary brings it up whenever she has a meeting with a Libyan official.

QUESTION: Sean, have you heard -- has he reported back to the Department yet or has he still only reported back to the White House about his Sudan meetings?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, he's --

QUESTION: And the reason --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, he's been --

QUESTION: I actually have a non-obnoxious reason for asking this -- and that's news. (Laughter.) And that is that in Mauritania I presume that he'll have discussions with the President-elect or I guess he's now the president.

MR. MCCORMACK: Now the president --

QUESTION: And yesterday you were talking about --

MR. MCCORMACK: Depending on when he has the conversation, if it's before or afterwards, yeah.

QUESTION: Broader Arab League dialogue with the Israelis on this. And I'm just wondering if that is something -- considering Mauritania is one of the few that has relations with Israel, if that's something that he has or will or was planning to bring up with the new president?

MR. MCCORMACK: He has called back to the State Department. He has reported back. He just hasn't had an opportunity to give the Secretary a full, detailed briefing of his travels.

On that, let me ask the question, Matt. I haven't asked, so I'll be happy to look into it for you.

QUESTION: Sean, just to follow up on this --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Since there is another trial or part of it scheduled for next month, are you aware of any new or recent efforts by the State Department to bilaterally, since you have now an office or some sort of a mission in Tripoli, to work with the Libyans to try to get a resolution soon?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you what the most recent contacts have been, but it's something that we consistently bring up. The consistent message is that these individuals need to be returned back to their home countries as soon as possible.


Yes, David.

QUESTION: The Russians have pretty firmly rebuffed some offers and proposals put forward to them about cooperating with the missile defense thing. Do you have any kind of response to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen their rebuff.

QUESTION: Sergey Ivanov --

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a serious offer for cooperation on missile defense. This is a threat that is common to us, the Russians, the Europeans and others. John Rood, who is Assistant Secretary responsible for these matters, was just having conversations with his counterpart, Sergei Kislyak, on this as well as other matters. So he reiterated our offer for cooperation on missile defense and I guess this is the response to it. We're going to keep hammering away at it because we think it's important. We think it's important for Europeans. We think it's important for us. We think it's important for the Russians. And this idea that somehow this poses a threat to the strategic balance with regard to Russian rocket forces is just far-fetched, frankly. But we're -- you know, that said, we're going to keep working with the Russians on this.

QUESTION: You say it's important to -- you know, to try and reach some kind of understanding and agreement with them. Is it important enough that you could put the moves towards actually placing this -- elements of the shield in the Czech Republic and in Poland in order to facilitate those talks?

MR. MCCORMACK: That we would delay those efforts?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't foresee that, no. It's just a false choice that they're presenting out there with respect to the missile defense efforts. (A) We have offered deep cooperation with them on this and we would like to make this a cooperative effort. It doesn't pose a threat to Russia. In fact, we believe Russia might even benefit from these efforts. So you know, I -- you'll have to Russian -- ask the Russians for -- questions about their motivations for making this is an issue. I can't explain it to you. But this is not something that poses a threat to the strategic balance with regard to Russia.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. feel that the missile threat, the potential missile threat from rogue states or whatever, is so imminent that there is no time to waste in terms of putting this in place?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you already have -- you already have the ability of Iran with its missile forces to reach Europe. This is -- and they show no signs of letting up in developing longer-range missiles that could eventually reach further into Russia, further into Europe and eventually the United States. It's not only a threat that emanates from the Middle East. We have concerns about North Korea's missile program development. In response to that, we have in Alaska put out a test bed system that provides a rudimentary ability to perhaps intercept some of these missiles, but is also a test bed.

And this is an architecture and technology that's going to develop over time and we think it's important. I just can't buy the argument that you just allow yourself to be threatened by potential missile launches from rogue states such as Iran and not do something about it, not make every attempt to protect yourself against those kind of efforts. And that's our view and I think it's shared by a lot of others in Europe as well. Apparently, the Russians haven't quite come around to that view. We're going to try to talk to them and bring them around to that point of view.

QUESTION: Do you have any plans for Secretary Rice to actually meet with her Russian counterpart to try and do this?

MR. MCCORMACK: I expect she'll probably be traveling to Russia in the next month or so. And Secretary Gates, I think, is scheduled to -- either has gone or is going to go there.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can I switch to Iraq, these attacks?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: You said this morning that bore all the hallmarks of al-Qaida. Would you say now in your assessment that, you know, al-Qaida in Iraq is a bigger threat now to security than, say, the Mahdi army?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I'm going to leave that to the commanders out there. They're the ones qualified to make those kind of military judgments. Clearly, they pose different kinds of threats. The Mahdi army obviously is a sect-based organization that's designed to try to protect certain Shia populations from outside threats and there have been allegations that they have been engaged in sectarian-based violence, and given cause to the rise in sectarian tensions in Iraq. Al-Qaida is a different kind of -- it's a different kind of threat. In some cases no less deadly, but they have different modus operandi, different bases of support.

It's our view -- it's the view of the military professionals that many of these spectacular vehicle-borne attacks that you see, for example yesterday the series of bombs that went off that resulted in just horrific casualties there, are the work of al-Qaida. And they, too, are designed to exacerbate sectarian tensions in Iraq. We've seen a consistent strategy that Zarqawi articulated several years ago and that really came into high relief with the Samarra mosque bombing back in 2006.

QUESTION: Do you have the sense some of these are homegrown fighters or whether they're coming from different countries?

MR. MCCORMACK: You can check with MNFI for their most recent assessment, but I think that there is a -- it's hard to draw some of the lines. There's a corps of fighters that are coming in from overseas from outside Iraq's borders. It seems as though there are also Iraqis who have joined in. I can't from here paint the picture for you of exactly all the relationships between al-Qaida and Iraq and then other perhaps independent yet associated groups. But they do -- as a whole, they pose a serious threat to not only Iraq but to our forces as well as potentially to Iraq's neighbors.

QUESTION: And there have been reports that Maliki has ordered the arrest of the colonel that was in charge of security of that area, the market area. Can you confirm that and --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I heard -- I've heard that as well. I'm not in a position to confirm it for you.

Lambros, we'll get to you. Yeah, just behind you. Yeah.

QUESTION: A question on Colombia.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Senator Patrick Leahy has blocked the aid for Colombia and I am waiting for full explanation from the State Department on how you cleared Colombia in human rights. Are you going to provide that explanation or what's your reaction about the Senator's action?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you the particular state of play right now. I know it's been an ongoing concern for him. We've had a dialogue with him for some time on this. You know, of course we want to work with the Senator to address whatever concerns he may have. I can say that we have had very good conversations with President Uribe as well as other Colombian Government representatives on this matter.

We believe they're pursuing these questions in a serious manner and that the Colombian justice system is dealing with those paramilitary organizations that have been accused of human rights violations in an open, transparent manner consistent with Colombian law. President Uribe has talked about the fact that he is going to let these investigations proceed and play out no matter where they may lead. And we have seen, in public and in private conversations, evidence of that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Still on North Korea, when we passed the deadline, you mentioned that you'd be willing to wait a few days on North Korea to take actions as soon as possible. It's already been a few days. How much longer are you willing to wait? And what next steps are being considered at the moment?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, I think there's no change in our position. Any remaining issues are issues that are between North Korea and its bankers. We -- they have stated themselves that they remain committed to the February 13th agreement. We expect them to meet their obligations. We explained the reasons for our flexibility on this matter at this time. BDA was more complicated than anybody could have imagined. That said, we expect North Korea to live up to its obligations and once this banking matter is concluded, perhaps everybody can get back to the real business of the six-party talks, which is the denuclearization issue.

QUESTION: But how much longer are you willing to wait, really, until you begin to take more concrete steps and still --

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, we're waiting to -- we're willing to wait some days.

QUESTION: Do you have any (inaudible) up to access as to the money in the BDA accounts or to check whether they can do so?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think I'm going to let -- allow the North Korean Government to speak to that.

QUESTION: Was it --

QUESTION: Thanks for (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: You can ask at their daily briefing, Matt.

QUESTION: Sounds like you have (inaudible) going out. Do you have any reason to believe that any --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, that's not -- that's not what I'm trying to say. No, you were talking about whether or not they've tried to access --

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- the stuff. I'll let them speak to that. Yeah.

QUESTION: Who determines when the banking matter is concluded?

MR. MCCORMACK: Who determines when the banking matter is concluded? I expect the North Koreans probably will --

QUESTION: So it's come on their timetable, in other words?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, sure. It is in -- yes, I guess you can say that it is, but also remember that they are not going to see the 50,000 tons in fuel oil and they are not going to be able to realize the potential benefits of engaging in six-party talks if they fail to act on the core issue, which is denuclearization.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) or are you going to wait forever?

MR. MCCORMACK: We said that we don't -- Matt, do you have something to add?

QUESTION: No.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Something you'd like to share with the class, Matthew?

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: It's been noted. Look, there is not an infinite amount of time, but we're willing to give this some days, yeah.

And we're down to you, Lambros.

QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, on FYROM I need your special attention.

MR. MCCORMACK: Ah, yes.

QUESTION: According to a bunch of reports in the entire Balkans, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sent a letter to Skopje which has been released by the authorities in Skopje saying, inter alia, that here there is no agreement with Athens on the name issue, then the U.S. Government will proceed to support FYROM to enter NATO with the so-called constitutional name Macedonia. Could you please clarify for us the U.S. policy?

MR. MCCORMACK: I read the line, Lambros, and there's no change in U.S. policy. And I think if you read it, you won't discern there's any change in U.S. policy. We continue to support Greece and Macedonia coming to a solution under the aegis of the UN. There's a process underway. We encourage both sides to come to a resolution of the matter.

QUESTION: And as far as for the NATO issue, what the letter is saying since you saw the letter?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, there's no change in our policy.

QUESTION: Sean, your friends in Europe appear today to have adopted some sweeping new hate speech laws that would include punishments for Holocaust deniers.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: I'm wondering if you have any comment on this, if you think it's a good idea or if you think it's a violation of the freedom of expression that the United States enshrines in its constitution.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Look, it's going to be a matter for your individual European states at the EU to come up with their own laws. We've talked a lot about the fact that while we share the same set of values regarding freedom of expression, different states are going to draw that line -- the line in a different place. The U.K. has a completely different set of laws with respect to what can be printed in newspapers that -- information based on classified materials. That would never -- I suspect that would never fly with the AP or any of the other news organizations here. And we ourselves in our set of laws have drawn the line in a different place.

So it really is up to those states to define for themselves where they draw those lines. And everybody understands from where this springs. The European states are trying to deal with a particular issue in their history and they have chose to deal with it in this way. So we -- whereas these states are going to deal with it in their own way, we do share a common set of values. How that is actually manifested in laws is going to vary from place to place.

QUESTION: Right. No, I understand that. But do you think that this is an infringement on freedom of speech, freedom of expression?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's not --

QUESTION: I mean, you have said that these Human Rights Reports every year that talk about --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I understand --

QUESTION: Is this something --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I understand where you're coming -- look, we're not going to play the Constitutional Court for the EU or these European states. It's for them to decide. We think that these states have a fundamental commitment to the same values that we share regarding freedom of expression and, you know, participation in the political process and to trying to deal with difficult issues like the Holocaust. How they deal with that ultimately is going to be for them to define.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: All right, thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:08 p.m.)

DPB # 69

Released on April 19, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/apr/83232.htm
Top
mynameis
Posted: Apr 20 2007, 09:24 PM


If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.


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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 20, 2007

INDEX:

IRAQ / EGYPT
Secretary’s Travel to Sharm El Sheikh for the launch of the International Compact with Iraq and the Expanded Neighbors of Iraq ministerial
Whether she will meet With Iranian or Syrian Foreign Minister

IRAN
Nothing New to Report on Missing American Citizen

GERMANY
Warden Message Issued / Security Threat

NIGERIA
Elections

IRAQ
Senator Reid’s Comments on Secretary Rice’s Support for U.S. Policy

INDIA
Foreign Secretary Menon’s Upcoming Visit / Will Meet with Under Secretary Burns
Ongoing Negotiations on Civil Nuclear Agreement / Discussions in Cape Town
India’s Relationship with Iran

CZECH REPUBLIC
Secretary Rice’s Meeting with Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg / Missile Defense Plan
Importance of Working with Russia on Issue of Missile Defense

IRAN / AFGHANISTAN
Iranian Arms Found in Afghanistan / U.S. Concerns

NORTH KOREA
BDA Fund Issues

COLOMBIA
U.S Assistance / Concerns that Aid is Focused too Much on Military Assistance

SUDAN / LIBYA / MAURITANIA
Deputy Secretary Negroponte’s Trip

DEPARTMENT
Responsiveness to Congressman Waxman’s Questions / Possible Congressional Subpoena
Secretary Rice’s Record of Working with Congress

MISCELLANEOUS
Foreign Students Coming to the U.S. in Light of Virginia Tech Tragedy


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:37 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: One quick announcement for you, just an official announcement of the Secretary's travel to Egypt for the upcoming International Compact with Iraq and expanded neighbors meeting. She'll leave for Sharm el-Sheikh and be there for meetings May 1st through the 4th, depart on the 1st, back on the 4th. She's also going to have a bilateral agenda while she's there. We'll keep you up to date on those as the schedule develops. It's not settled yet.

That's about it in terms of opening stuff. We can get right into your questions.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary have any plans to meet the Iranian Foreign Minister while she's there?

MR. MCCORMACK: First of all, I don't know if he'll be there. I'm not sure he's RSVP'd to the Iraqis at this point. Whether or not he goes is going to be up to him. Same answer as for the envoys level meeting; I'm not going to rule out any particular diplomatic interaction, I'm not going to point you in the direction of any particular meeting with the Iranians or the Syrians. You know, she -- obviously, the Secretary has latitude to choose targets of opportunity if she feels as though something presents itself, but I'm not going to point you in the direction of anything in particular.

QUESTION: Targets of opportunity? That's an interesting phrase for talking about the Iranian Foreign Minister.

MR. MCCORMACK: I also mentioned the Syrian Foreign Minister as well.

QUESTION: On Iran, unless there's anything more on this trip. No? I take it that there's nothing yet back from the Iranians again or anything through your extended contacts.

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new to report.

QUESTION: Is there anything more you can tell us about this security threat in Germany?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm constrained in terms of specificity of the kind of threat, but suffice it to say it is serious enough and credible enough that we believe that we were obliged to put out the Warden message warning Americans in Germany to be vigilant and exercise extra caution. Our Embassy will, of course, take the steps that it deems appropriate to meet a heightened security threat situation. But beyond that, I don't really have much more information for you.

QUESTION: And this applies to not just the Embassy in Berlin, right --

MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.

QUESTION: -- but to all diplomatic missions there?

MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.

QUESTION: How many -- there are five?

MR. MCCORMACK: American presences in Germany, right.

QUESTION: Do you know how many there are?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can get it for you. I don't know.

QUESTION: And you said it is serious and it is credible enough. Does that mean there was a single specific piece of information that they were operating on?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you, Matt. I don't know whether it's a single piece or whether or not it's something that is out there that was corroborated by other information they received either contemporaneously or prior. You know, so I can't tell you.

QUESTION: I just want to figure out -- which -- is it -- should the word "threat" be plural or is it just singular?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, regardless of how many different reporting streams you have coming in, it constitutes a threat. And it's a threat seriously -- serious enough so that we think we have to take steps to protect our personnel but also to make those announcements publicly to urge others extra caution and vigilance.

QUESTION: Right now it's late Friday afternoon, if not already evening there, so I assume that nothing was closed down.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: And on Monday, does that depend on a review of the security posture and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Our guys will take whatever steps they think are necessary. At this point I haven't heard anybody talking about that.

David.

QUESTION: New topic? You spoke earlier this week about hoping you'd see some activities in Nigeria to improve the electoral situation between the two rounds of elections.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And they're voting tomorrow. Have you seen signs of the kinds of actions you would have liked to see ahead of that? I know that the President has been speaking quite a lot about this.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. At this point, I think it's too early to tell, David. I'm not going to offer an assessment right now. We're going to have for you, obviously, a reaction after the elections take place about the electoral process as well as how the votes are counted. We haven't had a report back from IRI or NDI or any of the other international organizations there. There have been sporadic reports about irregularities in the vote and we take those seriously -- in the previously election. We take those seriously.

We would expect the Nigerian authorities would take every step that they possibly could to rectify any of those problems that occurred in the previous election. We've talked about the fact that this is an important election for Nigeria -- it would be the first civilian transfer of power -- but also an important election for Africa. Nigeria is a leading state in Africa because of its history, its population, and its control of resources. So we would hope that the Nigerian authorities -- not only for the Nigerian people, but also for the continent, would take every step that they possibly could to smooth out any problems that may exist in the election system so you have a free, fair, transparent election such that the results reflect the will of the Nigerian people.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Sean, Senator Reid made some interesting comments in which he apparently said that -- well, no, he didn't apparently say, he did say that the Secretary of State was among several senior officials in the governmental cabinet level of people who knew that the war in Iraq was lost. Has the Secretary told him of her thinking on this? Is he -- is that, in fact, her thinking?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, thanks -- first of all, thanks for allowing at least me to correct the record here. Senator Reid is a legislator. He should stick to that and not try to be a mind-reader. The Secretary has, in no way, conveyed any such idea to Senator Reid or anybody else. Secretary Rice would never countenance continuing to send young American men and women to Iraq in pursuit of a strategy that she didn't think had a chance of success. She would never continue to commit resources to a strategy that she thought wouldn't work. So to suggest otherwise is just flat untrue.

QUESTION: Has there been any contact with -- between her and the Senator on this that you're aware of?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. Not that I know of, no.

QUESTION: Do you have -- and you're not aware of any conversation that she might have had with him in which -- that would have led him to come to this?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, absolutely not.

George.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on Secretary Burns' visit to India forthcoming? And I understand the Indian Foreign Secretary is due here as well.

MR. MCCORMACK: That's right. Foreign Secretary Menon plan -- has planned to come here for some time next Monday and Tuesday.* He's going to meet with Nick. They're going to talk broadly about U.S.-India relations, but most specifically, they're going to discuss the India civil nuclear deal, the state of the negotiations, and say that there's probably some frustration on the part of the Administration as well as the Congress on the pace of these negotiations. Nobody is questioning the Indian Government's goodwill and good faith in this regard and it's a useful opportunity to bump up the level of discussions to take stock of where we are right now, so you have essentially a political-level discussion as opposed to just the experts-level discussion and they're going to explore ways that we can energize the discussion so that we can get this done.

We still have faith that we're going to be able to get this agreement done and we believe that the Indian Government is committed to that, but we're at a stage in these particular negotiations where we think we need to raise the level of dialogue to a political level in order to move it forward.

QUESTION: Sean, could you turn to -- jump the one step further? You said there is probably some frustration on the --

MR. MCCORMACK: There is frustration, yes. There is.

QUESTION: And how much frustration would that be?

MR. MCCORMACK: You want to get the frustration meter?

QUESTION: The level, yeah. I mean, obviously, you said you don't believe that all hope is lost, but --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I wouldn't put it quite as that -- you know, in fact, I would put it in the positive. I would say that we believe that these negotiations will ultimately yield an agreement that will allow us to move forward and fully implement the deal previously.

QUESTION: Can you talk about what the cause of your frustration is?

MR. MCCORMACK: There -- well, I don't want to get into specific issues because it's a negotiation, but the Indian Government has raised a series of issues in these negotiations concerning our laws and -- you know, suggesting solutions that would require us to change our laws and we just -- we're not going to do that, we can't do that. So we would suggest that we set aside that group of issues and let's focus on areas where the two governments can negotiate and come to agreement.

And it's -- it has been our suggested tactic that we focus on defining what is that -- what are those baskets of issues, what are the basket of issues that would require changes to the U.S. law and put those aside. Let's define and work on those issues that we can actually negotiate on that would necessitate changes to law. We've already passed legislation and this is -- this would require -- this is an implementing agreement that itself would also have to be approved by the Congress, but we're not willing to consider at this point any further changes to our laws.

QUESTION: The past couple of days, you've been asked about this, you or your surrogates have been asked about this. And I wanted to at least, to the best of my recollection -- you know, long -- as far as you have today --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Talking about the frustration, what's the issue? Has something changed over the course of -- since Monday that now --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's why you ask -- that's why you get to ask the questions every single day, Matt, and write stories every single day.

QUESTION: But has something changed that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well --

QUESTION: I mean, have they -- have you told them, "Look, we're not going to change our law, just drop this, it's a dead end," and they have not taken that hint?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we had -- we -- it's a good question, it deserves a fair answer. And there were a series of discussions at the expert level in Cape Town and those discussions moved forward, but they didn't yield -- quite yield the results that we had hoped for. So we're going to take this up to a higher -- take the opportunity of Foreign Secretary Menon's visit here to the United States to have a political-level dialogue.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Why were they in Cape Town? Because the --

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you. You know, Sue, I can't tell you. I don't know. Maybe they like the hotels there. I don't know.

QUESTION: That could be it. Are you going to start setting a deadline for --

MR. MCCORMACK: Halfway -- I mean, it probably has more to do with the travel, I assume.

QUESTION: Are you going to start looking at a deadline or realistic timelines as to when you can get closure on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we hope to move it forward as quickly as we possibly can, but there are certain realities of the legislative calendar here and certain realities. This Administration has about 20 months left in office, so we would very much like to conclude this agreement in the Bush Administration. President Bush has been responsible for fundamentally changing the -- at least on the U.S. side, the U.S.-India relationship.

QUESTION: You'll give them as long as -- what is it?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you. You know --

QUESTION: Twenty months?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we'd like to have it done well before then.

QUESTION: Sixty days?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, yeah, I'd like to have it done well before then.

Goyal, I suspect you want to follow up on this.

QUESTION: Yeah. Sean, thanks. Sean, one, the U.S. Congress has not yet finalized or voted the final vote up and down work, but I understand. And second, also there is an arms race between India and Pakistan, and now India tested the missile and Pakistan tested it before, now Pakistan may follow. You think that will also come on as a hurdle or on the way of -- as far as this treaty is concerned?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure I gather what you're saying.

QUESTION: As far as testing the missiles and this missile test will be on the way of this deal.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any potential impact. You know, India and Pakistan have a formal agreement where they --

QUESTION: No, no, as far as testing by India missiles, as far as U.S. Congress is concerned, you think this missile test or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you how it'll affect the mood in Congress, Goyal. You can ask them.

QUESTION: And one more just quick.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: As far as the frustration is concerned, like Matt said, you said it's serious and all that. But it is so serious because Prime Minister of India and the Indian Government said that they will not go farther until and unless they have the right of certain things which they have already told the U.S. that they want to make some changes or -- in the treaty. My question is that -- how does now Secretary Rice feel, say, if you can make some changes or not? How will this -- Mr. Menon's visit will make a difference?

MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal, I'm not going to conduct the negotiations here, but we've made it clear we're not going to change the laws. Let's focus on what's doable in terms of negotiations.

QUESTION: When did this South -- the Cape Town --

MR. MCCORMACK: It was this week. It was over this --

QUESTION: Do you know who was involved in it?

MR. MCCORMACK: It was working-level. I can't -- I don't know exactly who.

QUESTION: On both sides?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is the Indian military relationship with Iran a cause of concern here?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't specifically heard it as a mention of concern in these negotiations, George. You know, we've talked to the Indian Government about various aspects of their relationship with Iran. We -- you know, we fully comprehend the fact that Iran and India are in the same neighborhood and that they are going to have a certain kind of relationship. We have urged the Indian Government to take a look at what sort of ties that they have with Iran and take into consideration the behavior and fundamental orientation of this Iranian Government when they look at what sort of interactions that they might have with the Iranian Government, and including the Iranian military.

QUESTION: Can you just find out for us when the Cape Town talks ended?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Yeah, it --

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that they broke down?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, no, no, no. Not at all. No, they -- I think I said they did make some progress, but not the kind of progress that we had hoped they would make.

QUESTION: Sean, one more, please.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: As far as Iran-India relations are concerned, India had already voted at least three times for the U.S. or with the U.S. at the United Nations as far as nuclear deal of Iran is concerned. Another thing, some lawmakers are saying in India that what happens if U.S. and Iran comes (inaudible), then what will happen to the U.S. and India and Iran's relations. What they're saying is really that Iran and U.S. may come (inaudible), but why can't they have relations with Iran, which we have already voted against their nuclear program?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the conditions for a different kind of relationship or the potential for a different kind of relationship between the United States and Iran are well known. They're out there. They have to meet certain conditions, stopping their enrichment-related activities, in order to realize negotiations with the United States and its P-5+1 partners. In those negotiations they can bring up whatever they want to.

Certainly, we will focus on getting to a solution of how the Iranian people can have access to peaceful nuclear energy while giving the world assurances that they're not going to use that peaceful nuclear energy program to develop a nuclear weapon. That's at the heart of the matter. But if there are other issues that the Iranian Government or others want to raise in those negotiations, they certainly can.

Now, we're not going to dictate Iranian-Indian relations. That course is going to be defined by Iran and India together. We have, however, in public counseled them to consider the nature of the regime and the behavior of the regime in their decision-making process about what sort of interactions they have with the Iranian Government.

Now, certainly, we are pleased that the Indian Government has in the past voted with the majority in the IAEA. We think it's an important message to Iran. But it was also an important step by the Indian Government on the world stage in taking its place as an important voice in the international system for responsible behavior. And I'm sure that that was as much as anything else a motivation by the Indian Government in deciding how it cast its vote.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout on the Secretary's meeting today with the Czech Foreign Minister? Did they look at missile defense --

MR. MCCORMACK: They talked about it.

QUESTION: -- in details? Did they negotiate over it?

MR. MCCORMACK: No.

QUESTION: I mean, what -- at what stage are they in terms of -- are you --

MR. MCCORMACK: It was a general discussion about the -- I guess the political situation in Europe, given some of the recent Russian statements about missile defense. They both talked about the importance of working together not only between the U.S. and the Czech Republic but also the U.S. and European countries as well as the U.S. and Russia on the issue of missile defense. Both of them were quite heartened by the discussion yesterday in NATO about missile defense. We thought it was quite positive.

The Secretary underlined for the Foreign Minister that the United States is quite serious about working with the Russian Government on missile defense. John Rood just the other day made a serious presentation to Sergei Kislyak about missile defense and what the possibilities were for U.S.-Russia cooperation on missile defense. And certainly we hope that the Russian Government takes a serious look at it because it was a serious offer.

They also talked about Kosovo, talked about the upcoming NATO ministerial meeting. They talked a little bit about the agenda there, talked about Afghanistan. They talked a little bit about Cuba and EU Cuba policy. That was really -- that was the bulk of the conversation.

QUESTION: Did the Czech Foreign Minister express his concerns over Russia's opposition to this or --

MR. MCCORMACK: They talked in general about it. I'll let him speak for himself. You heard from them a bit upstairs, but he can speak for himself on it.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary provide any assurances, you know, over the U.S. wanting to use their -- is it an intercept transfer? I can't remember the technical term of what they've asked for -- some radar station or something.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I confess I can't remember. There's -- one, there would be the test bed, the interceptor platform in one country and radar in another. I think it's radar in Poland and then an interceptor in the Czech Republic, if that's the right term. It wasn't a detailed discussion about the technical aspects of this in any regard. It wasn't a negotiation.

QUESTION: So when does that begin, the negotiation?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's -- well, the technical discussions have been ongoing for some time. We didn't just send them a letter and, you know, they decided that they'd take us up on the offer. There have been careful consultations all along the way here. The Pentagon is heavily involved in this, as are we, and the discussions are at the working level. I can't tell you who's leading them.

Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: General Pace said a couple of days ago that the U.S. forces in Kandahar intercepted some Iranian-made weapons.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: We've had these earlier reports of similar kinds of weapons going to Iraq to both -- populations on both sides. Now, how concerned are you that this is all part of a very broad, an increasingly broad, you know, covert Iranian effort to destabilize American forces in the entire region?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's a real source of concern not only with regard to U.S. forces but Afghan forces as well as the NATO forces. We all know that NATO has a heavy presence in Afghanistan. And this is a situation that bears careful watching. It's not something that I can, you know, elaborate beyond what General Pace said.

But we are quite concerned that this could signal a change in Iranian policy with regard to Afghanistan and its support for the Taliban as well as other violent extremist groups that seek to undermine the progress that has been made by the Afghan people. So it is something that we're watching very carefully and it's something about which we are concerned. And I would expect that others would be concerned as well since this is a truly international effort in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Do you have sense what Iranian entity is responsible for sending these arms? Would it be the Quds Force --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- or the Iranian leadership itself?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, in terms of the details of this, I can't really go beyond what General Pace offered.

QUESTION: This is very new information -- this Afghanistan, Taliban involvement?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you how far back it goes, but I think it's, relatively speaking, new.

QUESTION: And are you surprised? I mean, the Taliban are a traditional enemy of Iran.

MR. MCCORMACK: There certainly are a lot of questions, outstanding questions, about this, none of which I can get into talking about here. But we are concerned that this could possibly signal a change in Iranian policy. They had previously actually played a constructive role in Afghans' future, especially in areas of counternarcotics as well as other areas, and certainly we'd like to see those -- that cooperation continue. But this certainly is a troubling sign.

Anything else on this? Okay, let's move back and we'll come back. Yeah.

QUESTION: Sean, do you have any idea why the North Korea did not take out their BDA fund yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I saw a statement from the North Korean Government just this morning talking about how they were briskly working on the issue with bankers. And I can't tell you -- I'm not going to presume to get into the middle of those discussions. We've stated previously we've taken the ball to the one yard line here and it's going to be up to the North Koreans and their bankers to get it over the goal line.

We certainly would want to see -- we want to see this BDA -- them be able to resolve this BDA issue with their bankers and have us get back to the issue at hand, and that is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The North Korean Government in the same statement talked about the fact that they remain committed to the February 13th agreement. We have all talked about how we are showing some flexibility with regard to the deadlines of that agreement, and this is an indication that the North Korean Government is taking steps in order to try to move that process forward. And that's positive.

QUESTION: So excuse me. There is 52 named BDA funds.

MR. MCCORMACK: Accountholders?

QUESTION: Yeah, accountholders. As far I know, a couple, maybe 20 or more people is dead so they don't have anybody, you know, name on there. So is that possible to, you know --

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, you're going to have to talk to them. You know, certainly you can presumably sign over authority to other people in order to access accounts, but you should talk to the Macanese and the North Koreans about exactly what they're doing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this BDA? Yeah.

QUESTION: So the U.S. doesn't know what the problem is or you just can't say?

MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?

QUESTION: The U.S. doesn't know what the problem is in terms of withdrawing the funds or it can't say at this time?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I think it's better for the parties directly involved in the matter to talk about it if they want to talk about it.

Yeah. Anything else on BDA? No? Okay, we'll go -- yes, in the back.

QUESTION: Can you comment on the Washington Post article today saying that human rights groups say the United States is giving Colombia too much money for its armed forces and too little for social and economic problems? And Senator Leahy has placed a hold on $55 million in aid to Colombian security forces because of their alleged links with death squads.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we talked a little bit yesterday about the Colombian Government's activities in bringing to justice those individuals related to paramilitary organizations and extrajudicial killings, and we believe that the Uribe government is serious about this effort. It's something I know he's talked about with Secretary Rice and he's talked about with President Bush. And we believe President Uribe and his assurances that no matter where the evidence may lead, he is going to allow investigations to go forward. And there have been a number of people who have been arrested as well as questioned by judicial authorities.

Now, in terms of the balance between -- balance in assistance, I can't speak to exactly what their differences may be with us. But it is a program that has proved very successful, Plan Colombia, over the years in helping the Colombian Government get a handle on a number of different issues: the production of illicit drugs, working to prevent human rights abuses, and then working to bring under control a violent insurgency. So we're looking at how we might further assist the Colombian Government. Again, if you can later on bring up some of the specifics of the differences that people may have, maybe we can give you a more detailed answer.

Yeah, yes.

QUESTION: Going back to the threat level in Europe, the terrorist threat level, do you see any connection between the ongoing trial in southern Germany against Ansar al-Islam members and the fact that the level has been raised right now?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't draw in public for you any particular connection. To do so, we would start to get into intelligence-related matters. But as I said before, we're taking the steps that we think are prudent based on what we believe is a serious threat.

Yeah, Gollust.

QUESTION: Have you --

MR. MCCORMACK: Caught you off guard there.

QUESTION: Have you heard anything from the Cuban and Venezuelan governments diplomatically about the re-release of Luis Carriles?

MR. MCCORMACK: I should have checked on this beforehand. No, I -- let me -- we'll post an answer for you, Dave.

QUESTION: Okay. And I just have one more that you'll probably to post also. A leading newspaper editor in Azerbaijan was imprisoned apparently for strictly editorial activity and I can provide you with --

MR. MCCORMACK: You're right. I have to check on that.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: I think Mr. Negroponte is back in Washington. Do you have any --

MR. MCCORMACK: Not quite yet.

QUESTION: Not yet?

MR. MCCORMACK: Soon.

QUESTION: Oh.

MR. MCCORMACK: Very soon. I'm looking at my clock, which I've taken Matt's advice and I got the correct time up here. But no, he will be back soon and he is going to eventually* sit down with the Secretary of State -- again, Matt will be gratified by this -- to give a full and complete report of his trip.

QUESTION: You got the right year on the clock, though, right? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: We have not turned back the clock here, Matt, no.

Yeah, I'm sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I was wondering if he was back and if you have m(inaudible) on his contacts in Mauritania and Libya.

MR. MCCORMACK: Not yet. Not yet. We're going to get those.

QUESTION: Do you think he'll be briefing the press on his trip after he briefs the Secretary?

MR. MCCORMACK: It is a possibility, Charlie.

QUESTION: Can I ask something that's related to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Sean, in addition to your guys who were at these secret negotiations with the Indians in South Africa, you have a --

MR. MCCORMACK: Secret negotiations? This --

QUESTION: -- not so secret mission to South Africa by a senior diplomat trying to -- you know, talking to the South Africans about the --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's right. Yes, here's the update on that. She's leaving Monday. She postponed it by a couple of days because she wanted to have some more discussions here with Secretary Rice before she went out.

QUESTION: All right. So -- and do you know how -- is it still just going to be a couple days --

MR. MCCORMACK: It's just going to be --

QUESTION: -- only on Security Council and Darfur?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Representative Waxman is apparently going to hold a vote on Wednesday on whether to subpoena Secretary Rice to go and testify on the Niger claims and other issues. Do you have any reaction to that? Is the Secretary prepared to go up and testify on this, or what?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not sure -- I'm not sure what Senator Waxman's motivations are here, honestly. It seems in his most recent -- in the most recent letter, he seems to be asking questions that have been thoroughly answered not only by Secretary Rice but several different commissions -- the 9/11 Commission, the Robb-Silverman Commission and various inspector generals. So I think members of Congress would really question Chairman Waxman's motivation in spending not only the time of his committee and the resources of his committee and the Congress, not to speak of the resources of the Executive Branch to revisit questions that have been answered many, many times over.

QUESTION: He doesn't think you've answered them sufficiently and that's why --

MR. MCCORMACK: We have been -- I think the Secretary has been quite serious in answering his questions. There has been multiple correspondence on this, lengthy correspondence offering detailed responses. Now, if there are additional questions that he has, and I think we've started to narrow this down. It started with -- I think it was on the order of 50 plus questions and I think we've narrowed it down to about three. I think it's an absolutely reasonable process to go through and try to chip away at these questions with the Chairman. And Secretary Rice and the State Department have been very responsive to these questions.

So there are a couple of -- I think there are a couple outstanding questions that he has. I think we're down to about three. And we're going to endeavor to get him an answer in a speedy manner on this. And we'll see what his response is. I mean, certainly the Secretary is carving time out of her schedule, one that is dealing with questions of war and peace on a daily basis, to respond to Chairman Waxman. So I think she's been quite serious in devoting resources to answering his questions. So I can't tell you what his motivations are. I'm -- you know, if his motivations are to determine the facts, certainly we have provided him the facts.

QUESTION: Do you think it's possible that his motivations could be political?

MR. MCCORMACK: You're going to have to ask Chairman Waxman. I don't know.

QUESTION: I mean, does -- the Secretary does not think that this is a good use of her time to go up there and answer questions --

MR. MCCORMACK: Secretary Rice spends an incredible amount of time visiting with members of Congress, briefing members of Congress, talking on the phone with members of Congress about a whole gamut of issues. That's in addition to all the testimony that she gives. And I think if you look at the -- look at her record of working with Congress and being respectful of the role that the Legislative Branch of our government plays, I think you would find that it's a sterling record. I think it's hard to argue with the amount of time and effort that she has put in to working with the Congress on important foreign policy issues. And she has a great deal of respect for the views of many of the congressmen and representatives up there.

QUESTION: Well, the questions that Representative Waxman is asking are really very sensitive questions that the Bush Administration is quite sensitive about, all the Niger questions.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sue, this has been an open book. You know, over the past four or five years, I don't know if there's been a foreign policy intelligence topic that has been more investigated and looked into than that topic. You know, if there is one, I'm open to suggestions, but the amount of time that has been spent looking into this topic and the fact that all the answers are out there and known in public, if -- you know, if Chairman Waxman hasn't found them, then we're happy to provide the citations, many of which are in the letters that we sent to him. So again, I don't know what his motivations are. You can talk to Chairman Waxman.

QUESTION: Sean, all in all, it's been a banner week for relations between the Secretary and Democratic -- people on -- Democrats on the Hill?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't get your --

QUESTION: Well, you have Senator Reid, now you're going after Senator -- Congressman Waxman.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm certainly not going after Congressman Waxman.

QUESTION: Yeah, you're questioning his motivation.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm just pointing out the facts, Matt, that if you look at the record, if you just look at the facts of the number of times and the depth in which this question has been examined, Niger uranium, I don't know of any other topic over the past four or five years related to foreign policy and national security that has been examined more than that one. And you can look at the -- you know, various commissions that have looked into this, so I'm just -- I think it's a legitimate question, you know, given the lengthy record on this issue. So you know, I don't know. We're going to continue to try to respond to Congressman Waxman's -- Chairman Waxman's questions.

QUESTION: If I could ask two quick questions, please. One, as far as shootings at Virginia Tech is concerned, among the dead are one Indian student and also a professor. Recently, Under Secretary Karen Hughes was in India and she was discussing about the U.S.-India students exchange program and all the -- also, she said over there that the U.S. will be more open to Indian students in the future.

My question is that, why is she not talking this -- and this incident took place and now, there is some kind of anger in India among the parents how and if they should send their students -- their children to the U.S. for higher education. My question -- and if this will be discussed with the Secretary when Mr. Menon comes here? And also, how does the Secretary feel or if there's a change of any -- between India and U.S. Government on this issue as far as the shooting is concerned?

MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal, look, this was an unspeakable tragedy and we know that the -- that India lost some people in this and we're deeply saddened by that and we send our condolences to the families and the Indian people. This is an unprecedented event in American history and certainly on American college campus.

America is going to continue to be a destination where students from around the globe, professors, those seeking knowledge from around the globe, come to our universities and we have had record numbers of students come to the United States and want to study here. And that openness to people from overseas who want to come to study here is very important to us, and we're going to do everything that we can to maintain and promote that. That said, you know, these are very, very difficult issues to deal with. I know that the state of Virginia has appointed a panel to look into the circumstances that surrounded this and to make recommendations and so we'll all certainly be looking towards that. And I'm sure that, you know, college administrators, college professors all around America are looking at, well, what else might they do. But I think at the end of the day that foreign students are going to continue to want to study in the United States.

Thank you.

* The dates for Indian Foreign Secretary Menon's visit are April 30 - May 1.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)

DPB # 70


Released on April 20, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/apr/
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mynameis
Posted: Apr 23 2007, 09:26 PM


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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 23, 2007

INDEX:

UNITED KINGDOM
Reported British Intelligence on Possible Al-Qaida Attacks/No Info

IRAN
Update on Missing American Citizen / New Note Sent to Iranians Requesting New Avenues of Inquiry / No New Information from European Allies
U.S. Will Talk to Austrian Government on Private Firm’s Oil-Gas Deal with Iran / Iranian Sanctions Act

MISCELLANEOUS
Wolfowitz Case / Issue of Security Clearances and Access for Ms. Riza

NORTH KOREA
Chris Hill’s Meetings / Six Party Talks
North Koreans Working with Bankers to Conclude BDA Issue
Commitment to the February 13th Agreement / Chris Hill’s Schedule


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:45 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Good. I'm glad to see you all haven't just gotten up and left. That's good. We can get into whatever remaining -- I spoke too soon. (Laughter.) Whatever remaining questions you might have on various other topics.

Mathew, anything?

I notice that you were at a loss for words.

QUESTION: I've forgotten what it was. So Arshad, go ahead. I'll have to remember it.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) which purports to describe British intelligence suggesting that al-Qaida plans to make a large scale terrorist attack on Britain and on other western targets with the help of supporters in Iran. Do you have any reason to believe that this -- there's any veracity to this report?

MR. MCCORMACK: You'll have to check with British intelligence sources on that. I'm not going to --

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: You don't care about your ally there? You're not worried about that? You don't --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, no. Of course, we're concerned.

QUESTION: You issue worldwide cautions all the time on --

MR. MCCORMACK: Of course we're concerned about them. You cited the sources in the quote. I suggest you go check with them. I'm not in a position to comment about British intelligence reports. Of course, we're concerned about the ongoing threat from al-Qaida. I think everybody understands that they are continuing to plot and plan and would like nothing better than to execute further spectacular attacks whether here in the United States or in London or elsewhere. But on this particular report, I don't have anything off the top of my head. If -- I'm happy to look into it for you, but I suggest that the answer will probably be not much more than I've given you already.

QUESTION: Okay. I was looking for mostly was if you had no reason to believe there was anything to this, maybe you could tamp it down slightly, but --

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't speak to it, can't speak to it.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, Kirit.

QUESTION: The fact that they haven't put out a travel warning or Warden message, it's implied that you wouldn't find this to be a threat to -- in the country.

MR. MCCORMACK: No. I mean, the embassy takes its -- the steps that it deems are appropriate. I can't tell you what it is that they've seen or haven't seen. We haven't issued any new warning messages or public warnings out of the U.K. so again, I can't speak to the specifics of the report that Arshad is citing. But of course, travelers need to always be aware, be vigilant wherever they may travel around the world.

QUESTION: Are you aware of it or have you heard of --

MR. MCCORMACK: I had read about it, but I don't have anything for you on it.

Mr. Kessler.

QUESTION: If I could just change the subject.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: On the Levinson case, do you have any clearer sense as to whether or not he's in Iran and whether or not he's been held -- being held or been captured by any particular part of the Iranian Government?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have sent a new note to the Iranians over the weekend. If you recall, for those of you who have been following this story closely, we had received a reply from the Iranian Government last week saying that they didn't have any information about his whereabouts. And we have spoken in public about the fact that we know that he entered Iran. We have the flight, we have the time when he entered Iran. We have no evidence to suggest that he has actually left. So we've gone back to the Iranian Government and restated that, said we have no evidence that he's left Iran, told them again, "Here are the flights, here are the time -- here's the flight, here's the time that he came in there."

At this point, we don't know where he is and that's the whole point in going into the Iranian Government and asking them about his whereabouts. Now there have been a lot of press reports about suggesting that he may have been arrested by various factions of the Iranian Government and the Iranian security apparatus. At this point, I can't validate those press reports, but certainly, they do raise questions in our mind about where exactly is Mr. Levinson. And so we have gone back to the Iranian Government once again -- this is our fifth communication with them on the matter -- and asked them to look once again to do every possible check they can with their security forces, other -- with all of their departments and provide us the information where he is.

We've also asked a couple of the European governments last week to go in and essentially knock on doors and see if they can determine any information about his whereabouts. At this point, we don't know. I can't conclusively say where he is or under what circumstances he is staying in Iran at the moment.

QUESTION: The questions did raise in the minds of U.S. officials -- is that based on more than just the fact that you know that he entered Iran? I mean, are you looking at patterns of Iranian behavior or what Iran might -- or certain factions that Iran might possibly gain by having an American hostage at this point?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you can theorize. Obviously, there was a lot of speculation about the British hostages, why were they taken at that time, at this particular -- and at this particular moment and to what end. So I can't tell you exactly what the internal politics in Iran might be. One thing you might take a look at is at the beginning of the British hostage crisis, that there are a lot of different reports coming out of the Iranian Government and that suggests that this might be -- might have been the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing situation; it took them a few days to regroup. So I certainly can't discount, at this point, the idea that there may be some part of the Iranian Government that is acting without the knowledge of the other part of the Iranian Government. I just can't tell you that that's not true. But I also can't tell you that we know, as a fact, the specific circumstances under which Mr. Levinson has gone missing.

QUESTION: On the same subject?

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: What's different about this latest note to Iran than the previous one? Is anything -- or it's just the date?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we did --

QUESTION: Is it pretty please this time?

MR. MCCORMACK: As a matter of fact, in the note we did go through and suggest to them that there have been these various news accounts out there, some of which have been printed in Iranian press about Mr. Levinson and suggested to them that they might pursue these avenues of inquiry, suggesting that he met with an individual on Kish Island that is well known to the Iranians. And there was another press account which it was said that he was taken by the Iranian security forces. Now, again I underline I can't vouch for the validity of these accounts, but certainly it does raise questions. And we have gone back to the Iranians not only with the information we had provided them before, but also asking them to look into and pursue any leads that might arise from these press accounts that have been out there.

QUESTION: So then that's something new? You did --

MR. MCCORMACK: That is something new, yes.

QUESTION: And is there any -- you think that -- why weren't they in the initial -- your initial contacts? Why is this something that's just coming in now? I mean, these stories -- at least the Iranian accounts were several weeks ago.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we thought it was reasonable given the fact that the Iranians had come back from our initial formal inquiry and said that they didn't have any information. And we thought it was reasonable to bring it to their attention that there have been these press accounts concerning the circumstances of Mr. Levinson's disappearance and that it might be useful for them to track those down.

Yeah, Charlie.

QUESTION: On the part of this puzzle about asking your European allies to help --

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Have they not gotten back to you or have they gotten back to you and said we --

MR. MCCORMACK: The Europeans?

QUESTION: The Europeans.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I -- to my knowledge, they haven't gotten back to us with any new information. They, of course, gotten back to us and said they'd be happy to help, but not with any information about Mr. Levinson.

QUESTION: Again, a quick one on (inaudible). You said it's the fifth communication. Have those five communications all been in writing or was the first one just a verbal thing?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, the first ones were through the Swiss asking them to get with the Iranians.

QUESTION: They've all been through the Swiss, obviously.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right, they've all been through the Swiss. The first couple were --

QUESTION: Through verbal?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, the first couple were verbal.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Just on the European allies again. They have -- you understand that they have already started their inquiries and at this point if there's any inclination to add any more countries to the list that you're asking?

MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, yeah, I believe they have.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: They have started and we'll add on others as we think is appropriate and effective. I think we might wait to hear back from these (inaudible) to see if they turn up any information.

Yes.

QUESTION: Sean, another follow-up on Iran. A big Austrian oil company just --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- made a huge gas deal with the Iranians which they claim is the biggest gas deal ever with a European Union country. Now you guys can't be happy about that. What's your response?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we've seen the press reports about it and, as we have with previous such announcements, we're going to talk to the Austrian government and talk to the firm involved and raise with them the idea that, while perhaps this is not the most appropriate time to be making, or committing to making, large investments in the Iranian oil and gas sector, given where Iran is vis-à-vis the rest of the international community. Now, specifically 1737 and 1747 don't cover the oil and gas sector, I understand that. But we think that the behavior of this regime and their pursuit of nuclear weapons as well as their continuing support for terrorist activities, including trying to -- participating in destabilizing actions in Iraq, isn't really the right time to be talking about making large investments in the oil and gas sector, in effect, supporting this regime. So we're going to talk to them about that.

Obviously, at the end of the day, it's going to have to be their decision about whether they move forward with it. But I do understand that this is not an actual commitment to transfer funds or to start moving resources into Iran. This is really one of these preliminary announcements. And in the past, the Iranian Government has made the best possible public relations use that they can of them, trumpeting these as important achievements. And again, we question whether or not this is the right time to be giving -- handing the Iranians those kind of, at the very least, public relations victories.

QUESTION: Are you going to take certain like concrete steps, especially as the Foreign Minister of Austria said, you know, it's not covered by any general economic ban? I mean, you are basically allowed to do that. I mean, which -- what can you do?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first, of course, the question always arises when you get over a certain amount of investment in the Iranian oil and gas sector. Everyone has taken a look at the Iran Sanctions Act. I'm not saying in this case that we have looked at the facts or that it would necessarily apply. But if you do have companies moving forward with those kinds of investments, we're obliged under the law to take a look at whether or not those transactions would merit any action under the Iran Sanctions Act.

Yeah, Nicholas.

QUESTION: I know you've been reluctant to talk about the case of Mr. Wolfowitz and Ms. Riza. There have been reports now about -- to something that concerns the State Department, more specifically about her security clearance as a foreign national when she was working here.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you tell us, or if not maybe you can ask DS, what sort of checks did they do before she got a pass for this building? I understand that she was not escorted at all at any time. She had a pass that allowed her to go anywhere she wanted. Was that clearance transferred over from the Pentagon or was it a new clearance that was done? And if you can --

MR. MCCORMACK: She went through all the normal clearances that somebody might go under -- undergo when they come to this building. She did not have access to classified information, so did not have a "security" clearance. She did have a building pass that allowed her to walk in the building, enter into the building. But -- as do many other contract employees, she wasn't a contract employee. She was seconded here. But there are others who have access to the building here but who do not have security clearances and, therefore, don't have access to security information, confidential information.

QUESTION: So as far as you're concerned, all of the regulations that are needed for a foreign -- a foreign citizen to work in this building were met?

MR. MCCORMACK: As far as I know, yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: If she didn't have access to classified information, how could she then contribute to the State Department's work when much of its work, I believe, in fact almost everything, I think, is reflexively classified until it's not, right? So how --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. I differ with you on that, especially with respect to the issues that she was working on: support for democracies in the Middle East and specifically working on issues related to building up communities of NGOs in specific countries as well as across borders. So that work really doesn't necessitate any access to classified information. You know, she's now, I understand, working over at the Foundation for the Future, has been seconded over there again, an environment where you're not really -- it's an independent international NGO. It doesn't require access to classified information.

Yes.

QUESTION: Just very quickly on North Korea. South Korea negotiator is in D.C. He'll be meeting with Christopher Hill later on --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Could you give any indication about what they'll be talking about and to what kind of outcome you hope for from the meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. They're going to be talking about the six-party talks, the state of play with respect to the six-party talks, what exactly the North Koreans have pledged in public regarding the six-party talks, their continued commitment to it. The BDA issue, I'm sure that will be a topic that they discuss and that's really about it. No real surprises as to what they might be discussing.

QUESTION: Who is he meeting, Sean? Sorry, I missed it.

MR. MCCORMACK: It's his counterpart. Six-party talk counterpart Chun Young-woo, C-h-u-n, Y-o-u-n-g -- dash-- w-o-o.

QUESTION: Have you gotten any indication that they have withdrawn any money from the Macau bank?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they did put a statement out at the end of last week that they were briskly working with their bankers to access the accounts. So at this point, I'm -- we haven't heard from them in any formal way that they have completed their transactions with their bankers.

QUESTION: It's been, I think, nine days since a senior State Department official briefing us after the deadline passed and said that you'd give it a few days -- she thought it was prudent to give this a few more days.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You're quite happy to just let this keep rolling and let them keep trying to put --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, there's not an infinite amount of time. But it's clear that the North Koreans are working with their bankers to conclude this particular episode so that we can get back to the real work of the six-party talks which is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. So last week's statement was an indicator not only that they're working to resolve their issue, but it is an issue that -- really that they need to take control of working with BDA. And also they reiterated their commitment to the February 13th agreement. So those were all positive statements in our view. But again, there's not an infinite amount of time that we are willing to give it some time, nor for these things to work themselves out.

QUESTION: In the coming weeks, not months?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir. One more.

QUESTION: Do you have any information on the schedule of these meetings between Christopher Hill and his counterpart?

MR. MCCORMACK: The schedule?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: He's meeting -- he's just meeting later today. I don't have -- Chris will see his counterparts from his particular area of expertise quite frequently. It just so happens that this is a -- this one's a bit more prominent, but this is an everyday occurrence here.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 p.m.)

DPB # 71


Released on April 23, 2007
U.S. Department of State

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/apr/83393.htm
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Posted: Apr 24 2007, 11:46 PM


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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 24, 2007

INDEX:

IRAN
Missing American Mr. Levinson
Background on David Belfield / Association to Mr. Levinson
Working with Other Countries to Determine Mr. Levinson’s Whereabouts
Iranian Security Apparatus / Monitoring of Individuals on Kish Island
Diplomatic Interaction not Ruled out Between US & Iran at Upcoming Neighbors Conference
Explanation of Initial Release of Mr. Levinson’s Name to Press
No Evidence to Indicate Mr. Levinson cannot communicate

IRAQ
Iraq Neighbors Conference / International Compact for Iraq Meeting / No Quartet Meeting Planned for Upcoming Trip to Middle East

INDIA
U.S. Seeking to Expand & Deepen Ties with Indian Government
Watching the Bangladesh Situation Closely

ETHIOPIA/SOMALIA
Readout of Secretary’s Meeting with Ethiopian Foreign Minister / Message on Somalia
Violence & Intense Fighting in Mogadishu
Regional Politics
A/S Frazer Meeting with Ethiopian Foreign Minister
Role of Ethiopian Forces in Somalia / Stabilizing Security Situation
Stabilize Security Situation / Workable Political Situation

TURKEY
Presidential Elections

ARMENIA
Nomination of U.S. Ambassador Pending Confirmation by Senate

DEPARTMENT
Secretary Rice’s Thorough, Complete Responses Sent to Chairman Waxman
Secretary’s Upcoming Travel Schedule
Answers to Chairman Waxman’s Inquiries Were Also Provided During Confirmation Process / Part of Public Record

RUSSIA
Secretary Traveling to Moscow Mid-May
Aware of Russian Government’s Reservations of Ahtissari Plan
Time to Craft Durable Solution


TRANSCRIPT:

12:10 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Don't have any opening statements, so we can get right into your questions. Who wants to start? Anybody up here?

Okay, good, all right, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can you give us the latest on Levinson, what outreach you've made to other governments, that kind of thing?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, let me recap for the folks. Over the weekend, we sent another note via the Swiss to the Iranians reiterating our request for information regarding Mr. Levinson's whereabouts. We also cited in that note various news stories that have popped up in the past couple of weeks concerning meetings with an individual that he might have had on Kish Island, the fact that he may have been arrested by Iranian security forces. Again, these are news reports that we can't validate, but we thought that they certainly merited the Iranian authorities looking into them and perhaps they could provide the Iranian authorities some leads as to where Mr. Levinson might be.

We have also asked two European countries to work on Mr. Levinson's behalf, knock on doors in Tehran to see if they can determine any information that might lead to determining Mr. Levinson's whereabouts. We've also contacted another country outside of Europe to assist in that regard, so that's where we stand. We still don't have what we would consider reliable information about his whereabouts and that's why we're working so hard to try to get out of the Iranian Government anything that they might know about where Mr. Levinson is.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: This individual that's mentioned in these news reports, he's spoken to the Financial Times, he's also spoken to Fox News.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: This is David Belfield.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: He's an FBI fugitive.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Can you tell me a bit more about him and whether you can give any credence to his accounts?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, he's, as I understand it, wanted for murder in the United States and he's a long-time fugitive. The FBI's had some interest in seeing him return back to the United States to stand trial. We don't, as far as I know, have any contact with Mr. Belfield. You might check to see the FBI -- check with the FBI to see whether or not they have had any recent efforts to get him to return back to the United States. I can't vouch for the account that Mr. Belfield provided to the Financial Times as well as others that he met with Mr. Levinson. I can't invalidate it, but I can't confirm it for you. We sent along to the Iranians a citation from a news report that mentioned that Mr. Levinson might have met with Mr. Belfield, so again, that's an avenue that the Iranian authorities could pursue themselves.

QUESTION: Do you have reason to believe that they did not pursue these leads --

MR. MCCORMACK: We don't know, Matt. You know, we --

QUESTION: -- based on your original request?

MR. MCCORMACK: We don't know, Matt, but it certainly -- they came back to us and said, "Well, we don't have any information about the person that you mentioned." I find that hard to believe, but you know, again, in doing everything that we can to seek out information on behalf of Mr. Levinson's family, to make sure that he is returned safely to his family, we're going to do everything we can. If that means going back to the Iranian authorities and citing news stories suggesting that the Iranian authorities -- to the Iranian authorities that they might provide some leads as to Mr. Levinson's whereabouts and what might have happened to him, then we're going to do it. We're also going to work with other countries to see what we can do to determine whatever information we can find out about where he may be.

QUESTION: Why won't you disclose who you're asking for help? What's the reasoning behind that?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, at this point, we don't think it really helps the situation. There are a couple -- there are some countries that are willing to help us out. We don't really think that it furthers the cause of their being able to perhaps obtain information in an informal way via their contacts in the Iranian Government, for us to cite them in public.

QUESTION: Have you found out any more information as to why Mr. Levinson met with the U.S. consulate in Dubai before going on to Kish Island? And secondly, why do you find it so hard to believe that the Iranians can't find any trace of him? I mean, you don't need a visa to go into Kish. Why would they know anyway?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, just given the nature of the Iranian security apparatus, we find it hard to believe that even though you don't need a visa to arrive on Kish Island, that they don't in some way monitor the comings and goings of individuals on Kish Island, including foreign nationals. That may be making an assumption that gives them too much credit in terms of their ability to monitor those things, but I would find it surprising, given the nature of the Iranian security apparatus, that they don't have some idea about the comings and goings of foreigners on Kish Island. As for his meeting at the consulate, I don't have any particular information to offer, Sue. I can't tell you the exact nature of the conversation.

QUESTION: So what -- do you have any other information that you can give us? Have you managed to work out exactly what he was doing on Kish Island?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we have not. No.

QUESTION: Sean --

MR. MCCORMACK: There have been a lot of newspaper reports speculating about it. But I think that until we have a chance to talk to Mr. Levinson, we're not going to know exactly what his private business was.

QUESTION: So is this for privacy reasons, though, that you're not releasing the information or because you just don't know?

MR. MCCORMACK: About what he was doing for --

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we just don't -- I can't -- we've had fragmentary accounts of what he may have been doing there on private business. But you know, again, it's not something that I would feel solid enough about offering to you as a definitive explanation of why he was going to Kish Island.

QUESTION: But can you say definitely that he was not doing the business of the U.S. Government?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, he was working -- he was there on private business.

QUESTION: Can you rule out the possibility at this stage of being -- he's in Iranian custody?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I can't. No, I can't rule it out. We don't know where he is. As we have said before, we suspect that he is in Iran and we make that assumption based on the fact that he did not come out from Kish Island the way he went in, that in order to get into Iran you would need a visa and to our knowledge he did not have a visa to go into Iran proper.

QUESTION: Sean, at the Iraq conference next week with the Secretary, if she happened to run into the Iranians on the sidelines of the conference, would she raise this issue with him?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I haven't ruled out any particular diplomatic interaction. I don't know if the Iranians are going to be there. They haven't confirmed to the Iraqis that they are going to attend the neighbors' conference. It would be too bad if they didn't show up. It would be an opportunity for them to express their support for Iraq -- something that they said that they would like to do. Again, we will see what diplomatic opportunities there are. I'm not going to point you in the direction of the Secretary seeking out a conversation with her Iranian counterpart or the Iranian representative at the meeting. I'm not going to rule it out.

QUESTION: Would you consider this case at the top of an agenda that she might have, you know, to present to the Iranians?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are a lot of issues between Iran and the rest of the world and we, of course --

QUESTION: Right. Beyond the other -- I mean, obvious one.

MR. MCCORMACK: There are a number of different issues and this could be something that would be -- that would merit a U.S. representative bringing up with the Iranian Government should the opportunity present itself. But I'm not going to state that that is, in fact -- that would, in fact, be the case.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a technical question?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: I'm assuming -- and please correct me if I'm wrong -- that Mr. Levinson has not signed a Privacy Act waiver. And so I'm just wondering then when exactly did the point get reached in this case where you decided it was okay to use his name and start speaking about things that in the early stages of this that you --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- weren't willing to do?

MR. MCCORMACK: It came about because his name started appearing in the press and others cited -- anonymous sources cited the fact that he was, in fact, the person. And typically with these sorts of cases, when you do get to that point where it has been commonly -- where it is a common knowledge in the press and has been reported many times over in the press that that is, in fact, the person then we decided to take the step to go ahead and acknowledge that that was the person.

QUESTION: You said that these third countries are knocking on certain doors.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: What doors are they knocking on? I mean, where are they trying to find the information? Are they looking at morgues, for example? I mean, are you exploring the possibility that maybe he died when he was there?

MR. MCCORMACK: We look forward to seeing him back reunited with his family. I can't tell you exactly what resources these embassies might have. They're there on the ground and I'm sure that they have a number of formal and informal contacts with members of the Iranian Government. And we're asking them to use those contacts to see what they can find out.

QUESTION: What makes you so confident that he's alive?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we have no evidence to the contrary of that. And, you know, we need to operate on the basis that he will be reunited with his family in the near future, we hope.

QUESTION: The longer that he's missing is it the more likely is it that he's possibly involved now in a hostage situation, that he's being held hostage by someone or is that something you think is a possibility?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I will say it over again, we don't know where he is. That is why we are going through this exercise with the Iranian Government and as well as other governments now to try to determine his whereabouts. I can't rule out for you that he is, in fact, being held by the Iranian Government. We don't know. We'd like to get to the bottom of it.

QUESTION: Is it a fact that in any case like this, in the absence of any evidence suggesting that the person is -- the missing person has passed away, you go with the assumption that they are alive?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that you have to operate on the basis, as you point out with any of these cases, that the person is being held or in some circumstances beyond their control where they can't reach out to their family.

QUESTION: Well, what I'm getting at is there isn't something in this particular case that makes you think that this is just an assumption that goes to all cases like this.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, and there's no evidence to indicate otherwise.

QUESTION: Well, is there evidence to suggest that --

MR. MCCORMACK: We don't know --

QUESTION: -- something to the contrary?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we don't know where he is. But there is no evidence to suggest that he isn't in a situation where he just can't communicate with us or with his family.

Yes, Goyal.

MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this? Okay.

QUESTION: Sean, as far as the India-U.S. relations are concerned, many trips are taking place to India and from the U.S. to India, including Secretary -- Energy Secretary and Under Secretary Burns and FAA Administrator is now there and also came here with them and the other -- and (inaudible) rather than wait for a trade and (inaudible) delegation. So what's going on now? All these trips are taking place not only (inaudible). Is there something going on between the two countries more than what has taken place in this civil nuclear agreement?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have as you know, Goyal, we've sought to expand and deepen our ties with India and that covers a lot of different areas, from energy to transportation to diplomatic contacts. You mentioned Karen Hughes to the arena of public diplomacy. So it's an overall effort by our government as well as the Indian Government to expand and deepen our relationship. It's been part of the strategy outlined by President Bush early on in his administration and we're starting to see some of the results of those efforts right now.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow -- entertainment question. Actor Rick --

MR. MCCORMACK: Richard Gere.

QUESTION: Richard Gere, he's in trouble in India because of the public stage.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: My question is a quick one because there's anger among Indians there because what had taken place by him there in India on a public stage. Is the U.S. Embassy has flooded with any angry phone calls or the State Department?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know, Goyal. I really don't know.

QUESTION: I have a couple different things. First, sorry if I missed it. Did you give a readout of the Secretary's meeting with the Ethiopian Foreign Minister yesterday? Can you give a sense of her message on Somalia? It's my first a question.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they had a good discussion about Somalia and the situation there. And the Ethiopian Foreign Minister underlined what the Ethiopian officials have underlined to us several times over and that is that they have no desire to stay there any longer than they are needed. They want to have an AU force in there that is capable of providing a secure environment where you can actually get to a political situation. And those two things are mutually reinforcing -- having a stable security environment as well as an open and inclusive political dialogue. I think progress along both of those tracks will help the other.

But we also don't want to see and they don't want to see a vacuum open up in Somalia in the wake of a precipitous withdrawal by Ethiopian forces. So what is needed now is for the AU to generate the forces necessary to go in there and supplement the Ugandan forces. And part of our job as well as the job of others with an interest in seeing a different kind of Somalia is to help with the resource end of that because you may have willing AU forces, but they don't have either the equipment or the required training in order to go into Somalia and perform the kind of mission that the Ethiopians are performing.

The Foreign Minister talked about the fact that there has been violence in Mogadishu, but he believes that the levels of violence are becoming more sporadic in that there are pockets of some of the former members of the Islamic courts who are continuing to fight Ethiopian forces. There have been unfortunately some civilians who've lost their lives in that and the Ethiopian Government assured us that they take every possible step to -- in all of their operations to ensure that there's no loss of innocent life. The Secretary emphasized that that is quite important when you're engaged in these kinds of operations. They also talked a little bit about the regional politics and they talked about the -- the Secretary underlined the importance of working with the Eritrean Government to define the border between the two countries. That was really -- those were sort of the high points.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Did they talk about a timeframe for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, they didn't talk about a timeframe. No.

QUESTION: Do you agree with the Ethiopian Foreign Minister's assessment as you just said that the violence in Mogadishu is becoming more sporadic? That seems to be a (inaudible) stretch --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's --

QUESTION: -- considering what's happened over the last three days.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it is more -- it is -- the violence is centered in Mogadishu and other parts of Somalia. It is more stable and more calm. There are still intense exchanges between the former members of the Islamic Courts, other associated with them, and the Ethiopian forces. But that isn't, you know, to say that it is more sporadic is not to say it is any less intense.

QUESTION: Does it concern you at all that your little -- your opening readout -- your opening statements with the exception of some -- of the proper names could have applied exactly to the situation in Iraq? Does that bother -- does that concern you at all?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure I see your point, Matt.

QUESTION: That the Ethiopians say that they don't want to stay there any longer than they're needed, but they don't want to leave a vacuum. It just sounds --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- an awful lot like they're taking a page from the Administration's thoughts on what to do in Iraq.

MR. MCCORMACK: No. I mean, they're --

QUESTION: But I guess -- so my question is, are you concerned that they might be seeing the beginning or the -- in fact, the middle of an Iraq-style insurgency going on maybe -- obviously not directed at U.S. soldiers, but the same kind of thing. Are you concerned about that?

MR. MCCORMACK: The situations are completely separate. They are -- each is sui generis but you are in each case concerned about leaving the field to a group of violent extremists who do not have an interest in building up the institutions of a democratic state, so in that sense, there are similarities. I think certainly the specifics of each situation are quite different and the histories are quite different. And I think the level of intensity of the fighting in Iraq is quite different than you're seeing in Somalia and the scale of it is a lot smaller.

That said, certainly, the types of operations that the Ethiopian troops are engaged in and the kind of outreach to communities and the importance of the political component to resolving the underlying circumstances that lead to violence are the classic counterinsurgency kinds of operations and certainly, the Ethiopians understand that as well.

QUESTION: I still have problems with your saying that it is -- or the Ethiopians saying it's more sporadic. I mean, there's been seven days of intense fighting, shelling in Mogadishu, half a million people have been forced out of the city, they're sheltering under trees, a humanitarian crisis is evolving.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that there are a lot of differences over that number, Sue, over the number of displaced persons. You know I'm not in a position to tell you exactly the numbers, but I think the Ethiopians would tell you it's a quite different number. Now I point that out not to say that I know exactly what the number is, but I'm not sure that the people generating the half million figure are actually in Mogadishu at this point.

Look, there's intense fighting. It's -- I meant to -- perhaps I used the wrong word, but I meant to try to convey to you that this is not -- or as we understand it, fighting that is throughout all of Mogadishu, that it is intense fighting, yet it is limited to certain areas of Mogadishu. That doesn't mean that it hasn't created displaced -- that it hasn't resulted in displaced persons going to the outskirts of Mogadishu.

QUESTION: Did you discuss the humanitarian, sort of, crisis, as some people are saying it, with the Ethiopians and how aid could reach those who need it because there have been reports the Ethiopians have been, you know, holding up aid getting to the right people and --

MR. MCCORMACK: It wasn't a topic of conversation with the Secretary, but Jendayi Frazer had a lot of -- had extensive meetings with the foreign minister both before and after the meeting with the Secretary. And the humanitarian aid is always at the top of our list and we are quite concerned about the humanitarian situation. We have been for a couple of decades in Somalia, so that is not, in fact, new, that you have people who are wanting and suffering as a result of violence.

Look, the Ethiopian forces went in there to assist with a problem of violent extremism that was growing in Somalia. It was becoming more of a threat to the Somali people, it was becoming more of a threat to the region. And if you're going to actually get to the root causes of the problem, you need to help stabilize the security situation, which is what the Ethiopian troops are doing, but most importantly, you need to get to the underlying political conflicts that result in this kind of violence, the clan warfare.

You heard from Jendayi Frazer yesterday -- that's why she went to Baidoa, that's the message the Ethiopians are sending, that is the message that the Somalia Contact Group is sending. That the they need -- the TFG, the Transitional Government, needs to reach out and be as inclusive as it possibly can and to all of those who have an interest in a different kind of Somalia, in building up institutions of governance that are responsive to the people as opposed to dictating to the people and serving only their interest, the interest of the government.

QUESTION: Are you calling for a ceasefire in Somalia or are you urging the Ethiopians to go for these insurgents with as much intensity as they could?

MR. MCCORMACK: You don't want to see any more violence in Somalia. Everybody would like that to be the case, but there are clearly people there, individuals who are intent upon using violence in order to further a so-called political cause. And we have seen that in other areas around the world. And what can't be allowed to happen is for those forces to gain a foothold to develop a safe haven from which they could possibly launch attacks against other states in the region and further.

QUESTION: So you're not calling for a ceasefire?

MR. MCCORMACK: We want to see an end to the violence. But the real way to get an end to the violence is (a) stabilize the security situation and (B) find a political situation that is workable for the major political factions in Somalia life that have an interest in actually building a different kind of Somalia as opposed to the one we've seen for the past few decades.

Yes, Nicholas.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sean, Jendayi Frazer was very frank yesterday about Eritrea's role in opposing just about everything that Ethiopia does. I wonder if they came up with the meeting with the Secretary. And Jendayi said that she hadn't talked to Eritrean officials about this, but is there anything the United States is doing to use perhaps international, multinational fora to get Eritrea to be a more responsible player in African affairs?

MR. MCCORMACK: The most recent effort at that was I know the boundary conference discussions in London -- that was -- I can't tell you how many months ago. I'm not aware of any recent efforts, Nicholas.

QUESTION: And it didn't come up -- Eritrea as --

MR. MCCORMACK: They discussed generally the relationship with Eritrea, but it focused mostly on the demarcation of the boundary and that whole process and trying to get that process rolling again.

QUESTION: There's a delegation of the Cambodian national police chief Hok Lundy telling us at VOA Khmer that they're meeting with State Department officials today. Can you tell us who they're meeting with, what they're discussing and whether Hok Lundy will be rebuked for his poor human rights record?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check for you.

QUESTION: Turkey's Foreign Minister today was nominated by the ruling party as their candidate for the presidency. He has worked closely with the United States in the past four years and he's likely get elected. Any comments by any chance?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to jump into Turkish domestic politics. The Turkish people will choose the person that they think is best to lead them as president.

QUESTION: Speaking of Turkish domestic politics, the White House just in the last ten minutes put out its annual statement about the deaths of Armenians at the last stages of the Ottoman Empire. And there was a story about a former Ambassador to Armenia losing his job for using the "g" word in reference to this. What can you -- can you tell us anything about this situation?

MR. MCCORMACK: As far as I know, he's either retired or retiring from the Foreign Service and there's a new ambassador that is nominated to take over as our representative in Armenia.

QUESTION: So his departure from Yerevan had nothing to do with the --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying that he's no longer in that job.

He's -- I can't tell you --

QUESTION: Can you explain to us to perhaps why he is no longer in that job?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, every person here, every political appointee -- Assistant Secretary, I -- serve at the pleasure of the President and the Secretary of State. And it is their right to choose who will represent the United States not only in these jobs, but abroad.

QUESTION: You're speaking for the Secretary of State, right?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: I mean, can you tell us why she decided that he should no longer stay on the job?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas, this is history. I'm not going to -- we've talked about this in the past. As far as we are concerned, it is an issue that is in the rearview mirror. We have a nominee for ambassador to Armenia. It's currently up on the Hill, pending nomination by the Senate and we look forward to having him be able to -- again, pending confirmation, by the Senate -- be able to take up his duties in Yerevan.

QUESTION: Well, I'm sorry, what is history? What happened back in 1915 or what happened with this specific person?

MR. MCCORMACK: This specific person.

QUESTION: Oh, it's been discussed before?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: It has? I didn't know that. I wasn't aware of that.

MR. MCCORMACK: Michel.

QUESTION: Sean, do you expect any Quartet meeting in the Middle East soon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Soon, as in next trip to the Middle East, no. I expect that there will be a Iraq neighbors' conference and an International Compact for Iraq meeting. But there's no Quartet meeting that's planned for that trip. But I expect that at some point, there will probably be a Quartet meeting in the region that's been planned and discussed. But we have not yet set a date or a venue for the meeting.

Janine.

QUESTION: Sean, Congressman Waxman is having a hearing tomorrow to decide whether to subpoena Secretary Rice.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Any comments on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this has been an ongoing story for some time. Congressman Waxman has had a series of questions for Secretary Rice. And we started out at some 50-plus questions. I think we've narrowed it down to about three. And we will be providing a response to those last three questions I expect later this afternoon to Chairman Waxman and his committee. Look, I can only assume that members of Congress would rather have the Secretary of State be focused on issues of war and peace.

Just to go over her calendar a little bit in the coming month here, she's going to leaving tomorrow for Oslo for a NATO Foreign Ministers meeting which they're going to talk about issues like Kosovo and Afghanistan and the support for our NATO allies' efforts -- efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. She's going to be traveling to the Middle East for the Iraq neighbors' conference and the International Compact for Iraq. She's also going to -- in May -- going to be traveling to the Middle East to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials to see if we can find a way forward to try to bring peace to that region. She's going to be traveling to Moscow to talk to Foreign Minister Lavrov about issues related to Iran and U.S.-Russia relations.

So she can be doing those things or she can be testifying before Chairman Waxman's committee about an issue that has been about as investigated as an issue can possibly be investigated and all the answers are out there and a number of different commission reports, whether that's in Department of Defense Inspector General reports or the Silverman-Robb Commission. So these -- this is a four-year old issue that has been as investigated as any in the past four years. If you can find one that has been more investigated on the national security front, more than this one, I'm certainly open to ideas, but I don't think you're going to find one.

QUESTION: Sean, are you saying that you -- that if she is subpoenaed that she won't appear?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we'll deal with that question if we actually get to that point. I would hope that Chairman Waxman, when he has an opportunity to review the response from the State Department --

QUESTION: This afternoon.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- this afternoon, that he'll see that all of these questions have been in fact answered before. I know that, for example, the questions on Nigerian uranium, that seems to be a focus of Chairman Waxman in this regard, are questions that were answered by Senator Levin at the end of Secretary Rice's confirmation process and we have provided answers to, I think, almost precisely the same questions in detail to Senator Levin. So we will be providing all the information. Secretary Rice is committed to providing the Congress the information it needs to do its job. She is -- spends a lot of time up on the Hill, spends a lot of time with members of Congress, talking about various issues. She's up there today talking to members of the Finance Committee and that's not unusual to find her up there or having members of Congress down here to work on issues related to foreign policy at the State Department.

QUESTION: So it's your view that a rational, right thinking mind would see that your answers to be provided this afternoon would obviate any need for a subpoena?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we're --

QUESTION: This is a simple yes or no.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- we're giving thorough answers. We're giving complete answers and certainly we -- I don't think it -- I think it would be hard for a member of Congress to take a look at the body of information that we have provided on a four-year-old issue and decide that this is worthy of a subpoena for the Secretary of State.

QUESTION: Sean, you're willing to provide, you know, these thorough, complete answers and writing. Why is the Secretary unwilling to talk about it publicly in front of his committee?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, she has talked about these issues in public. She's talked about these issues with members of the media. She has answered questions to commissions on this. I mean, it really gets down to a matter of exactly what are the motivations here. I would have to say that I'm mystified as to the motivations. You have an issue related to Nigerian uranium, as we have said, as I have talked about, that has been investigated, you know, up, down, and all around. The answers are out there. Secretary Rice's personal views on the matter, her personal connection as National Security Advisor at the White House is a matter of the public record, so I'm not sure what these questions about a four-year-old issue have to do with her job as Secretary of State. The questions as I understand it really center around her duties as National Security Advisor and the questions have been asked. They've been answered many, many times over. So I'm not sure what any of this has to do with her job as Secretary of State and I can't tell you the motivation here.

QUESTION: Do you think -- I mean, is he just trying -- is Congressman Waxman trying to score some political points? Are you willing to say that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Libby, you know, you should ask Chairman Waxman. I'm not sure. I know that Secretary Rice has a lot on her plate as Secretary of State, and I'm not quite sure what these questions about her job four years ago and a four-year-old controversy that has been thoroughly investigated have to do with her current-day duties.

QUESTION: He says that she did not -- has not clarified publicly what she knew personally about the Niger claim and when it went into the speech. That's what his response has been to all the pages you've sent.

MR. MCCORMACK: Those questions -- those very same questions, very same questions, were asked about Senator Levin as part of her confirmation process. Those answers were provided prior to the Senate voting on her confirmation. So it is a matter of public record with the Senate. And she's also talked about this issue many times over in public, talked to a lot of journalists about it. So there's a massive public record on this issue, including Secretary Rice's remembrances on the issue and her involvement in her former capacity as National Security Advisor.

QUESTION: When does Secretary Rice plan to visit Moscow? And secondly, sort of related, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia says that Russia will not support UN resolution on Kosovo and that they will veto it -- that's the independence resolution, of course.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I expect Secretary Rice will visit Moscow mid-May as part of her swing through the Middle East to meet with the Israelis and Palestinians. We haven't set the exact dates yet, but mid-May.

In terms of Mr. Titov's comments, I've read several news accounts of this. I haven't seen the phrase that "we will veto" in there.

QUESTION: It says --

MR. MCCORMACK: -- in there. I haven't seen it, so --

QUESTION: The quote is "The solution based on a recommendation by Ahtisaari will not pass. The threat of a veto should push the two sides into finding mutually acceptable compromises."

MR. MCCORMACK: He didn't say he would vote -- veto it. Look, the Russian Government has expressed real reservations with the Ahtisaari plan. Everybody knows that. We're well aware of it. They've conveyed those to us in private. They've certainly made it clear in public their reservations about the Ahtisaari plan. And we as well as others on the Security Council are working to try to take into account their concerns. The effort today, the departure of the fact-finding trip that comprises members of the Security Council, ambassadors of the Security Council leaving for Kosovo as part of that, they suggested it, they thought, "Okay, well, that's a fine idea, we can do that." And they're going to report back to the Security Council.

But the issue of Kosovo has been one that has been outstanding for quite some time. It is because of the specific nature of the politics in the Balkans, the history there. It is an inherently unstable solution, so what the Security Council and Mr. Ahtisaari and those working with him in the Contact Group are trying to find their way towards is a sustainable political solution that, while it may not make all parties happy, is one that can work. It is our belief and it is the belief of others on the Security Council, as well as the Contact Group, that the current situation is untenable, that it needs to come to some resolution over time.

Now we are working to try to accommodate the concerns of the Russians, of the Serbian Government as well, but it's time to try to craft a solution that will, over time, be durable.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary have plans to raise this this weekend -- I mean, over the next few days in Norway?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure it's going to be a topic of conversation, yes.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary have a meeting with Lavrov, who also is expected to be in Oslo?

MR. MCCORMACK: There's not a formal bilat scheduled. There's going to be a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council and I would expect that they will see each other and I'm sure -- and either sit down at a table on the side or have a chat in the hallway, but they are going to have an opportunity for a more extended discussion coming up here in May in a couple of weeks.

QUESTION: Sean, two questions on Bangladesh, please. The (inaudible) in Bangladesh has cancelled elections and also is trying to establish dictatorship just similar to in Pakistan by General Musharraf. And a Vice Prime Minister is under house arrest in Bangladesh, second one fled to London and she has not been allowed and she has been told you cannot return to Bangladesh. What's the Secretary feel now as their human rights and dictatorships and also democracy that we're talking about around the globe?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the situation in Bangladesh is one that we're watching quite closely. There is a caretaker government in place and we have urged that caretaker government to move as expeditiously as possible to elections so the Bangladeshis can exercise their right to vote and choose who is going to lead them in the future and hopefully be able to put these past incidents behind them. It is a case where if not handled properly and if the caretaker government doesn't take the right decisions, then this -- there is a real possibility that this can threaten Bangladeshi democracy and nobody wants to see that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: I'm sorry.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, that's it.

QUESTION: Anybody from the U.S. Government in touch with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in London?

MR. MCCORMACK: I know our embassy has been in close contact with them and several months ago, Nick Burns talked to them.

QUESTION: Sean, a readout on the meeting between South Korean delegation (inaudible) and Christopher Hill yesterday?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any readout of his meetings.

QUESTION: Sean, do you have a readout of the Secretary's meetings on the Hill today and what was discussed?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't have any readout. I haven't talked to her about it.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:51 p.m.)

DPB #72

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/apr/83613.htm
Top
mynameis
Posted: Apr 25 2007, 08:58 PM


If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.


Group: Members
Posts: 4,823
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06



Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 25, 2007

INDEX:

IRAQ
Rumored Training of Iranian Athletes by U.S. Olympic Committee
Iraq Compact Meeting / Paris Club Commitment on Debt Forgiveness
David Satterfield’s Ongoing Discussions with Iraq and its Neighbors

DEPARTMENT
Congressman Waxman Letter / Response to Last Letter
Secretary Rice Has Repeatedly Spoken to Issue

SOMALIA
U.S. Supports Transitional Federal Government
International Presence Needed in Somalia
Diplomatic Efforts on Somalia Based Out of Embassy in Ethiopia

IRAN
Status of Last Diplomatic Note to Iran on Mr. Levinson
U.S. Asking Other Friendly Governments to Knock on Doors
Details of Mr. Levinson’s Private Business Not Known
Comments Made by Mr. Belfield on Issue
Department in Contact with Mr. Levinson’s Family on Regular Basis
Clear to U.S. That Iran Owes U.S. a Good Faith Answer on Mr. Levinson
U.S. Unaware of Any Obstruction of Process by Iranian Government

KOSOVO
U.S. Will Continue to Discuss Kosovo Issue with Security Council Members
U.S. Supports Ahtisaari Plan

CAMBODIA
Police Chief Hok Lundy’s Meetings with State Department Officials
Meetings Covered Full Range of Concerns


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:45 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, everybody. Happy Wednesday. I don't have any announcements or statements to begin you with, so -- George.

QUESTION: What do you have to say about the possible training of Iranian athletes by the U.S. Olympic Committee in preparation for the '08 Olympics?

MR. CASEY: Well, what do I have to say about that? I don't actually know, George. I'll have to get back to you on it. Sorry.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Still on Iran, do you have anything on the Iraq compact meeting on -- next week and as to whether you think there's going to be debt relief provided by the participants of it?

MR. CASEY: You know, we talked a little bit about that this morning. I think, Sue, as you know and as I mentioned this morning, this has been -- debt relief has been part of the effort to help Iraq move forward since early on, back in 2004, partly as a result of the good efforts by former Secretary of State Baker among others.

The Paris Club made a decision to ask for 80 percent as a minimum level of debt forgiveness for Iraq among its members and that is something that a number of countries have already acted upon, but it's certainly an issue that we continue to discuss with many countries in the Paris Club and certainly, something that we do want to see people live up to that Paris Club commitment on. I think the Saudis have already made some announcements in that regard and we're very pleased to see that and we'll certainly be continuing to work with other countries as we move closer to next week's compact date, as well as beyond that to see that they carry out those agreements.

I do want to point out as -- again, as I said this morning as well, that the compact, though, is not simply a debt relief agreement. It is intended to be very much an agreement between the Iraqis and the Iraqi Government, and those people who are part of the compact are the international community, and is designed to be able to provide a variety of different kinds of support, in part in response to the Iraqis' own ability to meet the commitments they've set out for themselves in terms of economic reform.

But obviously, one of the many components of helping to improve the lives of Iraqis and helping them develop a stable, democratic society is the ability to move forward economically, to provide jobs for people, to give opportunities to people in Iraq, and to have a fully functioning and developed economy. And the compact and the agreements that are reached under it are part of that effort.

QUESTION: David Satterfield has been traveling in the region this week. What has his message been to the governments that he's been meeting, and is he hoping to get -- is he hoping that by putting pressure on these countries that they'll come forward and offer a lot more support?

MR. CASEY: Well, David, of course, in his role as the Secretary's Senior Advisor on Iraq, is moving about quite a bit and is constantly talking with not only the Iraqi officials but friends and neighbors, and certainly is doing so now as we move towards next week's meeting not only of the compact but of the neighbors group as well. And certainly, his message to the officials he's meeting with, just as it has been, is we want to make sure that they are doing everything they can to help support the Iraqi Government, and again, not only on those sorts of economic issues that are related to the compact but also on some of the broader political questions, which is part of what the neighbors conference and the previous meeting of that kind are designed to help produce.

Libby.

QUESTION: Nothing on Iraq. I want to switch. Do you guys -- have you heard back from Congressman Waxman's office after you sent the letter yesterday? Are you expecting a subpoena?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, we have responded to his last letter and I don't know quite what the committee may have done this morning. I think they were still in session as I headed down here to speak with you. But again, I think if you look at the record of what is there, the Secretary has spoken to this issue repeatedly. As you heard Sean say yesterday, this is perhaps the most investigated single issue we have over the last several years. It's been addressed by various commissions, from Robb-Silverman to the 9/11 Commission to any number of -- or, excuse me, Robb-Silverman Commission and any number of other bodies that have looked at this. She's testified to it, including during her confirmation hearings, so there's an ample body of public record on this issue for people to consider and look at.

I think particularly if you look at the things that she is currently doing not only going to Oslo today to meet with NATO allies to talk about how we can all work better together to help improve the situation in Afghanistan, or the Iraq neighbors meetings and compact meeting next week, to the Middle Eastern peace initiative efforts that are underway and that she'll be traveling to the region on again. There are a lot of things that are out there that she's working on that are very important and critical to national security. While we certainly will do everything we can to answer questions that are posed, whether by Chairman Waxman or any other member of Congress, again, I think you have to question the motivation behind looking at something that, in effect, has been addressed and answered multiple times.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: On Somalia. What do you know about the report that apparently Ban Ki-moon has prepared for the Security Council and what do you think of his idea to start gathering on some sort of a coalition of the willing that would go into Somalia and help with the situation?

MR. CASEY: Well, if he's got a report to present to Council, I think I'll let him present it to Council before trying to address it. Look, our position on Somalia, I think, is quite clear. Certainly, we've been supportive of the Transitional Federal Government. We've been supportive of the IGAD-led effort that has put a number of peacekeeping troops already on the ground there. We want to see that move forward because it's clear that there needs to be that kind of international presence in Somalia to help deal with some of the violence we're seeing.

As you heard Jendayi Frazer speak to this issue on Monday, you know, we want to make sure that Ethiopia can withdraw its troops as quickly as possible. But it needs to be done in a way that isn't precipitous, that doesn't create a vacuum. And to do that we need to see other countries step up and put troops forward for deployment in the force that's already on the books and I think that's been the focus of our efforts.

QUESTION: What's the main source you have on the ground for getting more information about what's happening? Is it the Ethiopians? Is it someone else?

MR. CASEY: Well, as you know, the efforts in terms of our diplomatic efforts related to Somalia are based out of our Embassy in Ethiopia. My understanding is, though I don't have exact numbers, Nicholas, there have been several other people who have been devoted to focusing on Somali related issues from there. The Embassy in Kenya has always of course also had a role in watching events in Somalia for us, but that's how we are engaging on this diplomatically. Certainly, we're talking to the Ethiopians and Kenyans. We also are in contact fairly regularly with the Transitional Federal Government and the institutions there. Jendayi, of course, actually did pay a visit to Baidoa herself to talk with some of the Transitional Federal Government leaders and to get a bit of an assessment herself of their views of the situation.

Nina.

QUESTION: Would you mind if we went on to Levinson? Have you had any response from the Iranians yet at all?

MR. CASEY: No. Unfortunately, we haven't heard back for -- to our last diplomatic note to the Iranian Government. And certainly we do want to hear back from them and we want to get some answers as to what has happened to Mr. Levinson. We again don't have any credible information on his welfare or whereabouts. But we certainly want to know what the Iranians know and we want to make sure that they really have done something more than a cursory pulse of their system. It's clear to us as we've said, that he entered Iran via Kish Island. And it's also clear to us that he did not leave, at least not by the same route he went in.

So we are fairly confident then that he is somewhere in Iran on Iranian territory. And we would hope that the Iranian authorities would be able to provide us some answers as to his whereabouts. And we also are continuing to talk with other friendly governments about this. We've asked now a total of three different countries to knock on some doors for us, to use what resources they have to be able to see if they can find any information or glean any information from their Iranian contacts about where he is.

QUESTION: And you've had no feedback yet from these other governments?

MR. CASEY: The other governments have simply responded by saying, yes, they're interested in helping us. And my understanding is they've begun to try and follow up on some of those efforts and try and make some contacts for us. But unfortunately as yet, they haven't produced any information either that gives us a sense of where he is.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I just continue? Would you mind? We've had these claims from Mr. Belfield that he was the last person that met with Levinson on Kish and now Belfield is also claiming that Levinson was carrying a rather explosive file of documents with him. Do you have any comment on that? Are you aware of those reports?

MR. CASEY: I really don't. I've seen a lot of press reports on this. And there are press reports, as you've indicated, that say that he might have been picked up or otherwise detained by some element of Iran's security forces. And certainly we've pointed out those press reports to the Iranian Government and asked them to look into those matters.

But I don't have anything that I can offer you. We don't really know the details of his private business in Iran. And again, I think those are all questions that we would hopefully be able to have Mr. Levinson himself address when we locate him. But the important thing to us right now is that we do everything we can to be able to ascertain his whereabouts and to make sure that he gets home safely and securely and as soon as possible to be with family.

QUESTION: Are you concerned about his safety? Are you becoming increasingly concerned about his safety?

MR. CASEY: Well, we don't have any information that leads us to conclude one way or the other where he is or what his status is. But certainly, anytime an American citizen goes missing, it's something we're concerned about and it's something we make efforts to try and deal with. There are -- while this is certainly a case that's gained a lot of attention for obvious reasons, there are thousands of cases each year that our embassies and posts overseas deal with to try and help find Americans who are missing or who simply have failed to make contact with their family members, and make sure that they're all right, give them help where they need help, and get them back to their families. And we're pursuing the same kind of procedures here.

But again, as time has gone on and as we have still not had any information that gives us an idea of his whereabouts or his welfare, we are continuing to reach out and reach out more broadly. And that's appropriate and we're going to keep doing so and we're going to keep pressing the Iranian Government for answers as well.

QUESTION: One last thing, if I may.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: I know it's difficult for you to comment on this, but Belfield seems to think this is all about him, this is all part of some scheme, whether official or not, to tempt him out of the country because, obviously, he's a wanted fugitive here. Do you have any comment on that, or with this in light of this? Are you concerned that the Iranians will think that Mr. Levinson was in any respect working for U.S. authorities?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, Mr. Levinson was in Iran on private business. He had no business there that was on behalf of the U.S. Government. I'm not sure about what Mr. Belfield's latest statements are, but this is about Mr. Levinson and this is about finding Mr. Levinson and bringing him home safely and quickly to his family, which is where he belongs.

Libby.

QUESTION: How much contact does the State Department have with Levinson's family? Are you aware of whether they're doing any other investigations on their own outside of the U.S. Government?

MR. CASEY: I don't know if they are doing any kind of "investigations on their own." Certainly, we're in contact with his family on a regular basis. It's important to us that we are and we want to, again, make sure that any information we receive, we pass on to them and we also want to make sure that they know about the efforts that we are making on his behalf.

Anything else on this?

QUESTION: One more.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: Have the Iranians previously been helpful in similar sorts of cases where people have gone missing? And do you think they're being deliberately unhelpful in this particular instance because of Mr. Levinson's previous affiliation with the FBI?

MR. CASEY: Well, Sue, I can't tell you what Iranian thinking is or what their motivation is. I think, though, it's clear to us that they owe us a good faith answer on what they know about his welfare and whereabouts. And that's why we've sent our latest request to them. Again, what we know is that he entered Iran. We have no reason to believe that he left and therefore, it would seem to us that the Iranian Government ought to have some information available to share with us.

In terms of other issues, again, he was there on private business. This is a private American citizen and we want to make sure that he gets back home to be with his family. In terms of other cases that have occurred in the past, as we've said, there's usually a couple of cases any given year like this, of welfare and whereabouts cases, in Iran itself. My understanding is each of those resulted in us being able to locate the individual successfully and put them back in contact with their friends and family.

I'm not aware of any instances where the Iranian Government has obstructed that process. I can't tell you in the global history of this how particularly helpful they have or haven't been. In some cases, these are issues where I think the Swiss, acting on our behalf, as our representative there in Iran, has been able to locate the individuals without having to do the kind of formal requests that we've had to go through in this process.

QUESTION: So do you think they're being obstructive, though?

MR. CASEY: Again, I don't know what their thinking is. Our concern is that we believe that they ought to be able to come up with some answers to the questions we've raised with them and we're going to keep pushing them on it.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Kosovo, Mr. Casey, in response to Mr. McCormack's yesterday statement, Russia said today still has a different view about Kosovo's future despite your request for Moscow to back the UN resolution to grant the Serbian province full independence from Serbia. Any comment?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm sure Sean will be very disappointed to know that his words did not change longstanding Russian policy, but look, this is an issue that we are going to continue to be discussing with the members of the Security Council, with the members of the contact group, including Russia. There is a group that is out there now of representatives from the Council, including new U.S. Ambassador Zal Khalilzad in Kosovo looking at the situation there. That was a Russian request that the Council take this kind of mission; thought that was reasonable and we're happy to have Zal be participating in that. And we look forward to having that group come back, make their report to the rest of the Council.

We certainly look forward to continuing the discussions on this issue, but in the end, we believe that the Ahtisaari plan is the appropriate way forward, the right way to go and offers the best hope for the future not only for the people in Kosovo but for the people in Serbia and the broader region as well.

QUESTION: Yes, but how do you respond exactly to the point that the two sides should agree, as in the Serbians and the Albanians, on Kosovo before reaching agreement? It seems to me that the process is not only unilateral.

MR. CASEY: I just did, Mr. Lambros. We support the Ahtisaari plan. That's where we are.

QUESTION: And also, Under Secretary Nicholas Burns stated that the U.S.-supported Ahtisaari plan, as you said, for independent Kosovo under international supervision for a limited period of time. What do you mean with that supervision and limited time?

MR. CASEY: I suggest you go read Mr. Ahtisaari's plan because all those issues are described in there.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: Have you had a chance to find out whether that Cambodian police chief who was visiting has had any meetings at the State Department?

MR. CASEY: We posted a taken question in response to that yesterday.

QUESTION: I didn't see it. I'm sorry.

MR. CASEY: But just for the record, yes, he did meet here with three people simultaneously: Chris Hill, our Secretary Assistant Secretary for Asia and Pacific Affairs; Anne Patterson from INL; and John Farrar, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. And you can take a look at the taken question for the sort of readout of that meeting.

QUESTION: All right. Do you -- just to follow up -- your concerns about his record that Sean talked about last week, is the level of those concerns still where it was previously or has he been able to explain to you his involvement in what you think he has done?

MR. CASEY: I'm not aware that there's any change in view.

Sue.

QUESTION: Did you get any answers to the questions from the gaggle about whether you had raised the issue of his personal involvement in -- or alleged involvement in trafficking and political (inaudible)?

MR. CASEY: Look, Sue, I'm not going to try and give you a blow-by-blow description of the meeting. Let me just try and answer that by saying we covered the full range of concerns that we have about trafficking in persons, human rights issues and other things that are reflective of some of the concerns we discussed previously.

QUESTION: So you didn't raise any allegations against him in particular?

MR. CASEY: Again, I'll just leave it where I left it: we covered the full range of issue on those subjects.

George.

QUESTION: I understand there have been human rights discussions with the Vietnamese. Do you know anything about that?

MR. CASEY: I don't, but I'm sure people in this building do. I'll try and find out for you.

QUESTION: (inaudible) phone calls.

MR. CASEY: Oh, well. There you go.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:04 p.m.)

DPB # 73

Released on April 25, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/apr/83813.htm
Top
mynameis
Posted: Apr 26 2007, 10:12 PM


If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.


Group: Members
Posts: 4,823
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06



Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 26, 2007

INDEX:

JAPAN
Report Regarding WWII Brothels in Japan

DEPARTMENT
Subpoena of Secretary Rice / Issues Addressed Repeatedly / Written Correspondence Most Appropriate
U.S. Policy on Torture / Special Detainees Program / President Made Clear U.S. Practices Meet International Obligations

ARMENIA
Changes to Human Rights Report / Policy on Nagorno-Karabakh Unchanged

IRAN
Non-Proliferation Talks Between Javier Solana and Ali Larijani / U.S. Hopes Iran Takes Up P5+1 Offer
Civil Nuclear Program Cannot Be Used As Guise for Nuclear Weapons Program
Secretary Will Be Involved in Negotiations Once Suspension Occurs
Missing American Citizen / No Updates on his Whereabouts

GREECE
Meetings Between Greek Intelligence Official and Department Officials
Content of DC Police Department Publication
Investigation into Bombing of U.S. Embassy in Greece / Greek Authorities In Charge of Investigation

AFGHANISTAN
Coordination of Provisional Reconstruction Teams and Military Units

NORTH KOREA
Banco Delta Asia Funds / North Korea Has Said it Would Honor February 13 Agreement
Meetings with White House Officials and North Korean Officials in New York


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video
12:43 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everybody. I don't have anything to start you with so let's start with you guys.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: Sort of a bit off regular topics, but the AP had a story yesterday touting it as news and I'm wondering if it's news to you. But they did an investigation saying that the comfort women in Japan after the war, actually some of them stayed in those brothels and were probably use of the American soldier there -- some soldiers there. I'm wondering if you've heard that those comfort women, who had been such an issue in the past several months because of the Prime Minister's comments, if the Americans actually knew about those brothels and if they -- some of the soldiers used those brothels after the war.

MR. CASEY: It's nothing I've ever heard about. Certainly nothing I've ever seen, but you might want to check the Department of Defense. I think that they would have records of, you know, issues related to U.S. military presence there. But, no, it's not a story I'm familiar with.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you just -- because obviously it's been many years and I'm sure if there is anything to this it's been part of diplomatic relations between the two countries --

MR. CASEY: There is no information about that that I'm aware of anywhere in this building. I did do a quick check for you before I came out here.

QUESTION: Oh, that's great. That's good to hear.

MR. CASEY: But, you know, you're -- again, you're free to check with the Department of Defense on this too.

QUESTION: Right, thanks.

MR. CASEY: Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Could you give us any sort of comment on Henry Waxman's subpoena of Secretary Rice and if you could elaborate anything more on her comments that she only wishes to provide another written response?

MR. CASEY: Well, we covered this a bit this morning and the Secretary did speak to this in Oslo during a press avail that she had with the Foreign Minister there. Look, these are, as we've said, issues that have been addressed repeatedly and over and over and over again, not only by her but by other people in the Administration. And as she said, you know, while she's certainly -- and we all respect the important role Congress has in oversight, this is something where she believes the most appropriate way to continue to address this subject, if Congressman Waxman has any further questions on it, is through written correspondence. And in anticipation someone might ask me this I just thought I'd show you, this is the stack of letters and documents -- the last three that we've sent to him on this subject since April. So clearly there's not a lack of information going back and forth here and certainly if there are other questions that people have on this, we're happy to continue to provide answers. But as she said, she thought the most appropriate way to do so would be through continued written correspondence.

I'd also point out that, as the White House has said, there is a larger constitutional issue here, too, in as much as many of the questions that are being asked here deal with her tenure as National Security Advisor. And as you know there's a longstanding policy regarding White House officials testifying on matters that relate to their counsel and advice provided to the President. So, you know, again I think her comments are pretty clear on this and I really don't have much more to add on it.

QUESTION: So she won't appear?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think she said pretty clearly that she intends to -- and thinks the best way to handle this is through continued written correspondence.

QUESTION: Has there been any contact between -- I guess she's traveling now -- but between her party and the committee at all?

MR. CASEY: Not that I'm aware of, but you know, certainly I'm sure if there is information that's coming in here or additional correspondence or phone calls or other things our congressional affairs folks will make sure she's aware of them.

QUESTION: Tom, you said the White House has pointed out the constitutional issues involved. But it's cut both ways. In the past they also have produced people to testify and sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. So just raising it doesn't answer the question really. And secondly, do you know if the final decision is going to be just up to the White House or is the Secretary going to have -- if she were to differ and wanted to testify -- White House didn't want her to testify?

MR. CASEY: You want me to take a trip down hypothetical road, Charlie?

QUESTION: Sure.

MR. CASEY: Yeah. No, look, this is something where I'm sure we'll be in close consultation with the White House on because there are White House issues and equities involved here as well. But I do think she's made a very clear statement today of her intention about how we intend to move forward on this.

QUESTION: Tom, isn't this a bit of a deja vu? Didn't she battle a couple of years ago about testifying and ended up testifying? Was it the 9/11 Commission? There was an earlier dispute about this and she ended up speaking, so --

MR. CASEY: Well, for the 9/11 Commission, kind of separate issues. But look, this is something where again, I think, you have had probably the most extensive and exhaustive investigation of this particular subject for more than four years now. Again, I point out we've provided just in the last month, you know, 100-plus pages of information and documentation on this. She's publicly testified to this issue, she's spoken about it, including as part of her confirmation process. Other people in the Administration have done so as well.

And you know, again look at the sum total of everything else that's out there, the kinds of things that she's doing, including today, working on Afghanistan and working on our relations with Russia out at NATO, her trip to the Sharm to work on the Iraq neighbors conference and deal with those questions, trips coming up to the Middle East to work on Middle East peace, ongoing efforts with the Hill to work on things like foreign trade and our efforts to build prosperity in the hemisphere -- there's a lot on her agenda. And again, I think as we've said before, you have to kind of question whether re-plowing an issue that has gone through extensive and elaborate discussions over four years is really something that makes a lot of sense.

Yeah. Want to go over here. Okay.

QUESTION: On another subject. The State Department Human Rights Report came out about a month ago and a statement in Armenia's section regarding Karabakh and apparently the state officials have communicated with Armenian officials about the statement being erroneous. It was changed last week and it was changed back again, I believe, today. Could you explain what went on there with changes on the website at least with the report?

MR. CASEY: Well, look, the bottom line here is people had questions about U.S. policy with respect to Nagorno-Karabakh and the simple answer is that policy hasn't changed. You know, in terms of efforts that people make to try and clarify that issue with respect to the Human Rights Report, you know, again, all I can say is the language that was sent to Congress is the language that stands. Our policy on Nagorno-Karabakh hasn't changed and certainly nothing in that Human Rights Report should be interpreted as differing from that longstanding policy.

QUESTION: So essentially, whatever is said in the interviews or statements or reports, et cetera, that's all secondary to the stated policy as (inaudible)?

MR. CASEY: Well, you know, again, the policy on Nagorno-Karabakh is longstanding for us and nothing has changed, certainly not as a result of anything in the Human Rights Report. The policy is the same.

QUESTION: But essentially, there's going to be some effort to make sure that the facts are accurate in that report as the --

MR. CASEY: Well, I think in the Human Rights Report, as well as in all of our documents, we try and be as accurate and as factual as we can. Certainly, we're fallible and in instances where we can be -- someone can point out to us a difference in fact as opposed to a difference in interpretation, we have in the past made changes and have sent revised versions of the report out. But again, with respect to this issue, the policies remain the same and I think that's the main point.

Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: George Tenet has given an interview to 60 Minutes that's airing this weekend, where he defends the use of what he calls enhanced interrogation techniques, particularly (inaudible) detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Now some people would call this torture. Would you defend his position? Do you have anything to say about criticisms of these methods?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm glad you've seen the 60 Minutes report in advance. Look, I think these issues have been well covered and well discussed. The U.S. does not support or condone torture. It does not practice torture. You heard our statements on that over a long period of time. With respect to the program in terms of detention related to the CIA detainees or the special detainees program, you know, the President's addressed that and spoke to it publicly. I really don't have anything more to offer than that, but he made clear in that presentation that the methods and practices used met our international legal obligations.

Kirit.

QUESTION: Do you have anything -- any further readout from the meeting between Javier Solana and Ali Larijani?

MR. CASEY: Nothing beyond what I told you a little earlier in the day. Under Secretary Nick Burns did get a readout on those discussions. As I said, we haven't seen any substantive progress on this issue, though certainly, we would hope and continue to hope that the Iranian Government would take the offer that's on the table from the P-5+1 to suspend their uranium enrichment activities and to join us in negotiations, so that everyone can achieve a peaceful resolution to this, so that Iran can have a civilian nuclear power program. But at the same time, the international community can be assured that they're not using such a program as a guise for building a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: They've said that they're going to try to meet again in two weeks. Is that helpful or is this just kind of spinning the wheels as far as you're concerned?

MR. CASEY: Well, look, I think that it's always useful to have Mr. Solana, as the representative of the P-5+1, have opportunities to continue to discuss this issue with Mr. Larijani and to have that kind of dialogue take place. But again, what we really need to see is a change in Iranian behavior. And all that has been asked for in terms of suspension is exactly the same kind of arrangement that the Iranians signed onto and adhere to for some months under the Paris agreement. So certainly there's nothing impossible or particularly difficult about it. And again, as the Secretary herself has said, she would personally be involved in the opening round of a set of negotiations once that suspension occurred, and would be happy to hear from the Iranians not only on the nuclear issue, but on any other issues they care to bring to the table.

Charlie.

QUESTION: Anything come over the diplomatic (inaudible) in the last few hours on Mr. Levinson, from Iran or the other --

MR. CASEY: No, I don't have any updates for you on this one, Charlie. We are unfortunately still where we've been, which is with no credible information on his welfare or whereabouts.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: May I go to Greece? Mr. Casey, the chief of the Greek intelligence service Mr. (inaudible) who is in Washington and he had yesterday at dinner with the Greek Ambassador, President Mr. Alexandros Mallias. I was told that he had a meeting, too, with DOS officials with the Bureau of Intelligence. May we know the purpose of this meeting?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'm not sure whether they met or not. But if they did I'm sure it was a regular consultation among allies about intelligence matters that would sound reasonable to me. But we'll check for you and see if there's something.

QUESTION: And also --

MR. CASEY: But I can't confirm whether a meeting happened or not be (inaudible) tell you (inaudible).

QUESTION: Another question. And from -- upon the arrival of Mr. (inaudible), the daily publication of the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, "The Dispatch," for unknown reasons on the front page, is dealing with the attack against 16 U.S. servicemen arrived in a Greek Air Force bus on April 23, 1987, by November 17 Terrorist Organization who had been injured.

Would you please comment since this issue of November 17 has been closed and it's a matter of foreign policy and not the business of the D.C. Metropolitan Police?

MR. CASEY: It's the business of any journalist in this country to report on whatever they want. And if you'd like to know why the journal of the D.C. Metropolitan Police ran a story on something, I'm sure their editor would be happy to talk to you about it.

QUESTION: But this (inaudible) and publications matter, not a private publication.

MR. CASEY: Uh-huh. And?

QUESTION: And then what's the answer?

MR. CASEY: The answer is that anyone in this country is free to publish what they want and if the D.C. Metropolitan police has a little newsletter and they'd like to run a story about something they're free to do so and you're free to talk to their editors about why they chose to.

QUESTION: And what about the timing?

MR. CASEY: Oh, I have no idea. You'd have to go ask them.

QUESTION: Okay. One question, according to the FBI, the investigation on the attack against the U.S. Embassy in Athens by an Albanian rocket on January 12th, carried out by terrorists or others, has been concluded, since according to an FBI (inaudible) emphasize, the Department of State is in charge, may we know the results of these investigations?

MR. CASEY: I have no idea what the FBI is referring to. The Greek authorities are in charge of this investigation. Certainly we are coordinating with them. But I'd refer you to the Greek police and law enforcement community and I'm sure they could give you a readout on what the terms of the investigation --

QUESTION: But why the FBI is saying that you are in charge?

MR. CASEY: I have absolutely no idea. You could go ask them, but we're not.

QUESTION: I just saw that -- I thought I read somewhere that Abdullah Gul had attended the Solana meeting. I'm just wondering why. I thought that was kind of --

MR. CASEY: I hadn't seen that report, but something you might want to go ask them about. You know -- no, I hadn't seen that.

Farah.

QUESTION: I don't expect an answer right now, but I'm --

MR. CASEY: Uh-oh.

QUESTION: (Laughter.)

MR. CASEY: That's a great lead in.

QUESTION: If this could be a taken question, you guys have given lots of background briefings over the past few months about PRTs and their efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I've heard some reports of PRTs -- officials complaining that -- you know, sometimes their efforts would be undermined by the behavior of Special Forces in the area who are acting totally separately. And I'm wondering if you could let us know what are the -- you know, how do they -- do they work together at all? How does it -- what's the relationship? In some of these remote areas in Afghanistan, it's like there are two American presences; one is the PRT and the other is Special Forces. In the Afghan mind, it's -- they're the same. But I have a feeling that they actually have two different chains-of-command that don't necessarily work together.

MR. CASEY: Well, but PRTs aren't civilian in an entirety. They're a combined civilian-military operation. Certainly, the military components of the PRTs are -- or at least generally should be apprised of any activities that are going on by other U.S. military components in the area. Certainly, there are always challenges in coordination between units and among different elements of the overall U.S. Government presence in any country, but I'm not aware that there's any specific problem in terms of the military-civilian relations either in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Let's go back to you.

QUESTION: Tom, do you have any update -- update of the current situation of the North Korean's BDA activity?

MR. CASEY: No, I don't have anything new to offer you there. We certainly, again, believe that we've gone the extra mile to make it possible for the North Koreans to have access to these funds and to remove them and then to put them to use for the benefit of the North Korean people as they've agreed to do. They've reiterated, I believe last week, their commitment to honoring the terms of the February 13th agreement once they've accessed those funds, but you'd have to talk with them or with the Macanese about how far those arrangements are going. I'm not aware -- we certainly haven't heard anything from them officially that could give me any new information to share with you on it.

QUESTION: What about the South Korean delegation, Chun Young-woo and Christopher Hill conversations? Did they say about the end of this week is a possibility?

MR. CASEY: As Sean said the other day, really didn't get any kind of detailed readout on their discussions. These are something they do all the time and I know they certainly talked about issues related to the six-party talks, but nothing particularly new to share with you on that, so --

QUESTION: Because it's not clear to me, because they always say, "Next weekend, this weekend," you know --

MR. CASEY: Well, I think the important thing we see happening or the important thing we want to see happen is that they actually take actions to fulfill their commitments. And that means not only taking steps to access their funds and move them to other places, but more importantly, complying with the terms of the February 13th agreement, so we're all looking to see that happen.

Certainly, both publicly here and certainly in the conversations that other members of the six-party talks are having privately as well, the North Koreans are being encouraged to take those steps and do so as soon as possible. We need to get back to the important business at hand, which is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

QUESTION: Tom.

MR. CASEY: Good.

QUESTION: On the meeting Victor Cha had the other day in New York with the North Koreans, what -- unnamed White House officials telling wires yesterday was that -- sounded like his message to the North Koreans was much tougher than what you've been saying in the past couple of weeks. Are you certain that what he delivered to the mission in New York was indeed what the State Department position is?

MR. CASEY: I'm certainly convinced that there's wonderful interagency coordination on this issue and I'm sure if Victor, in fact -- you know, had a discussion with them on this subject, that he conveyed, accurately, U.S. policy. But in terms of the readout of that meeting, I'd refer you over to our friends at the White House.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thank you.

QUESTION: On Kosovo?

MR. CASEY: Next time.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:04 p.m.)

DPB # 74

Released on April 26, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/apr/83884.htm
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mynameis
Posted: Apr 29 2007, 02:47 AM


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Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 27, 2007

INDEX:

SAUDI ARABIA
Sweep of Terror Suspects / Good Partner in War on Terror / No Knowledge of American Citizens Detained in Sweep
No Place in Civilized Society for Terrorism
Efforts to Cut Off Terrorist Financing
Proposed Arms Deal with U.S. / U.S. Examining Ways to Strengthen Defense Cooperation / No New Sales Approved

PAKISTAN
Discrimination Based on Nationality, Race, Unacceptable

GREECE
CIA Factbook Entry on Greece

KOSOVO
Kosovo is Not Precedent Model / Resolution 1244 Process Ongoing

RUSSIA
U.S. Cooperates With Russia on Broad Range of Issues
Missile Defense Differences / Interceptors and Radar Pose No Threat to Russia / Discussions Continue at NATO-Russia Council

BANGLADESH / PAKISTAN
Continued Development of Democracy, Free, Fair Elections, Respect for Rule of Law

IRAN / MIDDLE EAST
No Response from Iran on Missing American Citizen / U.S. Efforts Continue
Participation at Sharm el-Sheikh Neighbor’s Conference / Purpose to Advance Iraqi Efforts at Political, Economic Reform, Security / U.S. Hopes Neighbors Offer Support / Syrians, Iranians Offer Little Beyond Rhetoric

MACEDONIA
Name Issue for Macedonia / U.S. Supports UN Efforts at Resolving Disagreements with Greece


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video
12:18 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Well, gee, I can definitely tell it's a nice spring Friday in Washington. Afternoon, everybody. I don't have anything to start you with, so go to anything you have.

Nina.

QUESTION: Reaction to the Saudi terror sweep?

MR. CASEY: Well, we've seen the press accounts of this. I don't have a lot of information to give you on it. Certainly, I'd refer you to the Saudi authorities for the specifics of this arrest, but I think this shows that the Saudis are continuing their efforts to be a good partner with us in the war on terror.

It's important that they and other countries continue to do everything they can not only to try and deal with those who are responsible for acts of violence, but to break up those cells and break up those individuals who are intending to commit acts of violence or who, in any other way, whether through financial means or otherwise, are supporting terror networks. So we welcome the arrests by the Saudis today and certainly, again, I think it shows their strength and commitment to the war on terror.

QUESTION: Amongst these 172, some foreign nationals were mentioned. Were there any American citizens, do you know?

MR. CASEY: I don't have any reason at this point to believe that there were any American citizens involved. Certainly, we will be checking in with Saudi authorities to verify the details of this.

QUESTION: Tom, is there concern that the expansive nature of this plot -- I mean, it's millions of dollars, weapons, does that reflect on the stability of Saudi Arabia?

MR. CASEY: Well, David, I think we're still gathering information from the Saudis on this, so I don't want to try and do an analysis of the significance of this. I think they'd be in the best place to do it. But look, it's certainly clear that terrorism represents a threat to many countries throughout the world, Saudi Arabia included, as well as other countries in the Middle East.

One thing I think that at times gets lost in the discussion about the fight against terrorism is the fact that most of the innocent people who lose their lives in terrorist incidents -- certainly, if you look at what's going on in Iraq right now, if you look at what's happening in Afghanistan, if you look at what's happening in other places in the world, most of the victims of these attacks often are the Arab and Muslim citizens of those countries themselves. And so it's important not only for the United States; it's important for all countries in the world to be able to take actions against these kinds of groups and these kinds of plots.

We've spoken out, as you know, about the importance of political reforms in the Broader Middle East and other parts of the world as well. But everyone certainly understands that as each country moves forward with its own individual political process that that process needs to be nonviolent and that process needs to be one in which the rights of individuals are respected and there can't be any place in any civilized society for terrorism and for indiscriminate acts of violence. So again I think what the Saudis have done here is taken a step forward in terms of their own ability and their own responsibilities for dealing with the issues of terrorism and certainly we'll be continuing to talk with them about this issue and we'll be continuing to work and cooperate with them and other of our partners throughout the world.

QUESTION: Just to follow-up.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: But most of the Muslim and Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, they have not come out publicly denouncing terrorism and also they have they not sent their troops to die for their freedom. And at the same time, they are providing billions of dollars in the name of charity throughout the globe, including in the U.S., and that money is being used to support terrorism.

MR. CASEY: Well Goyal, as I mentioned in my earlier answer dealing not only with those who are actually committing acts of violence or intending to commit acts of violence is important, but it's important as well to deal with those who finance terror, to deal with those who provide its ideological underpinnings. And certainly there have been problems in terms of funding going through charities or so-called charities that are actually efforts to finance terrorist organizations. The Saudi Government has taken actions in a number of these instances, but all of us agree that whether it's the United States or Saudi Arabia or any other country that more needs to be done because being able to cut off the funding for terrorist organizations is an important part of being able ultimately to deal with this problem.

QUESTION: May I have another question in relation to this?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Because of all the fundings in the name of terrorism and also the dictatorial policies of the General Musharraf in Pakistan, the Pakistani Community here is suffering because not all Pakistanis are Muslim terrorists here or in Pakistan. They are suffering here because they are targets of suspicion and all that, and every day they are being arrested and they are saying that they are good citizens here, Americans (inaudible), but because of being a Pakistani because of Talibans in Pakistan or Usama bin Laden is still there, everything is related to Pakistan.

What message do you think Secretary have for those Pakistanis who are good citizens but they are suffering in this country?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I think that the best place to address questions about U.S. law enforcement is the Department of Justice and the FBI and other agencies that do that. But let me be clear that the United States is a country that welcomes citizens from all backgrounds, from all countries around the world. No one in this country should be -- nor is it acceptable nor is it the policy of this government to discriminate against anyone or to place someone under suspicion simply because of their ethnicity or the country they come from. So certainly every American citizen and every person living in the United States has the right to pursue their business freely and in their own way and in accordance with U.S. laws, and the only people who should have anything to fear from U.S. law enforcement are those people that violate the laws or try and support terrorism or otherwise engage in behavior that's unacceptable.

QUESTION: My question really quickly, one more related. What they are saying is that wherever they are living in the U.S. in the neighborhoods there are some mosques and those mosques are run by the mullahs and those are the one who came from Pakistan with the training or some maybe terrorist-related people visiting from Pakistan into those mosques, but everybody else in the community are then targeted or suspicious of. How can you have some kind of education for those mosques and places of worship here that they are not being used for the activities against the United States?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think this really touches on issues that go beyond the brief here at the State Department. But I think all American citizens, again, regardless of their national origin or their ethnicity or any other aspects of their personal history, are committed to living in a peaceful society, are committed to living in a society under the rule of law.

And certainly, I know that U.S. law enforcement as well as other parts of the government are doing what they can to help educate people as to potential dangers that are there. Yeah, we certainly want to make sure that, for example, when American citizens wish to contribute to the well-being of people overseas that they do so through charities that actually get money to the people in need rather than having it diverted for use by terrorist organizations.

So I think there are a lot of efforts out there that are underway in terms of what's going on here domestically. Obviously, that's largely done by other agencies of government. But we are committed to making sure that all our citizens are protected from terrorism and the terrorist threat, and we're also committed to making sure that all our citizens have the right to freely express themselves, to exercise their freedom of religion and freedom of expression, and can do so in a way that's safe and secure.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Greece. Mr. Casey, the CIA in its Factbook revised April the 17th is claiming that there is a Turkish minority in Greece of 2 percent. Do you agree?

MR. CASEY: I agree that there's something in the CIA Factbook about Greece. What's in it, you'd have to go ask the CIA. I haven't looked at it.

QUESTION: But it's -- excuse me, that's reflecting U.S. foreign policy. It's not something with intelligence matter. That's why (inaudible), your friend, the spokesman, reacted and stated, inter alia, today that the CIA data does not reflect the truth and are against the (inaudible). How do you respond?

MR. CASEY: I respond that the CIA has a Factbook; it is accurate to the best of the CIA's ability and knowledge. If you have questions about anything that is in that Factbook, I am sure that my friends in the CIA Public Affairs office would be happy to talk to you about it. It's a question that --

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. CASEY: I agree that the CIA has a Factbook. I haven't looked at what's in it, Mr. Lambros, but I'm sure whatever's in there is accurate to the best of their knowledge.

QUESTION: May I go to Kosovo for a minute?

MR. CASEY: Oh, sure.

QUESTION: Okay. According to Under Secretary Nicholas Burns and the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Kurt Volker, Kosovo will be independent under international supervision and for a limited period of time, as I told you the other day. Question: Is the U.S. now favoring the creation of a new model of a world actor by placing the regions under the auspices of world organization or we simply revive the protectorate system? If such a model is good, Mr. Casey, for Kosovo, why not offer it for Republika Srpska as well and the confederated state of Bosnia and Herzegovina?

MR. CASEY: Thank you for that editorial comment.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. CASEY: Look, Mr. Lambros, we've said repeatedly that Kosovo is not a precedent or a model for any other place around the world. Kosovo is its own unique situation. The process that we are going through now was outlined in Resolution 1244 at the beginning of the conflict. And again, this is a unique situation. It is proceeding in a unique way and I think is going to be a unique solution as well.

Let's go, Samir.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the terrorist act in Lebanon that aimed to create a big conflict in the country?

MR. CASEY: Samir, I actually don't right now. I'll try and get you something a little later.

Let's go back here.

QUESTION: Yeah, a question I asked about yesterday about the arms sales to Saudi Arabia as well as the Gulf and Israeli objections, this was also mentioned in the -- I think on the 5th of April in the Times and in Haaretz. Can you at least confirm for me that there is this arms deal in the works on behalf of the U.S. towards --

MR. CASEY: Well, we've talked about the fact that we are examining ways that we can strengthen defense cooperation with a number of the Gulf states, but the basic policy of the Administration is not to discuss arms sales until they have been approved and briefed to Congress. And I don't have anything new to offer you beyond what's already out there.

QUESTION: When do you plan to notify Congress about this deal?

MR. CASEY: Well, presumably, we would notify Congress once there was a deal.

QUESTION: Okay. So it's not that you present it and then Congress --

MR. CASEY: No. Look, the way this works is once an arms sale has gone through the internal approval process, it's notified to Congress. The fact that we haven't notified Congress yet means that there's been no new sales approved.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Nina.

QUESTION: Tom, do you mind if we go on to the New York Times report today on the front page about this book by George Tenet? Apparently, he's very, very critical of Administration officials, including Secretary Rice in her then-capacity as national security advisor about -- he basically says there was no serious debate whatsoever about going to war in Iraq. Do you have any comment or reaction to this?

MR. CASEY: Well, look, I haven't seen the book yet, obviously, because it hasn't come out yet. I think most of this reporting is either based on some sort of advanced versions of an interview that Mr. Tenet's going to be doing. But again, I haven't seen it, so I don't think it's appropriate to try and comment on a book that hasn't been released yet. I do think, as the White House has said repeatedly, that the President made his decision based on the full breadth and scope of information available to him. And as far as I know, there's been no change in that view nor has anyone contended anything to the contrary. So I certainly will see what the book actually contains when it comes out. But I just don't think it's appropriate at this point to try and talk about reports about what it may or may not contain.

QUESTION: Can I just ask a couple of questions about Putin, please?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: What's he's been saying about this missile defense system you're proposing. He's using the phrase mutually destruction. He's talking about pulling out of the CFE. I mean this rhetoric kind of has echoes of the Cold War. What would you make of his comments?

MR. CASEY: Look, first of all, I think there's a tremendous difference between the situation in 2007 versus the situation in, say, 1987. We cooperate with the Russian Government on a broad range of issues. We are working with them very successfully right now in the six-party talks to try and deal with North Korea's nuclear threat. We're doing so with them as part of the P-5+1 and our efforts to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. We're cooperative members of the Security Council and certainly there are areas where differences exist, but where they are we have a good, frank discussion of those issues.

The Secretary, in fact, met yesterday with Foreign Minister Lavrov on the margins of the NATO-Russia Council. And the NATO-Russia Council itself is indicative of how very different things are now than they were many years ago. That Council was established so that there would be a relationship between Russia and the broader swath of Western Europe and the countries involved in NATO. Because everyone understands that Russia has a very significant and important role to play in the world today and that cooperation between NATO and Russia, between the United States and Russia, is in all of our interests. So certainly we understand that there's a difference between us on the question of missile defense. I think that that is ultimately an issue that is quite resolvable without any major problems or conflicts. And I certainly wouldn't see the placement of ten inceptors and a radar system, which are designed ultimately to be able to protect all the countries in Europe from the limited threat posed by a rogue nation like Iran launching a missile, as anything that can conceivably be seen as altering the strategic balance or changing the fundamental nature of the relationship between Russia and the West.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Tom.

MR. CASEY: Yes, David.

QUESTION: President Putin said today that this radar would have -- would extend to the Urals that -- again, that there's more than an innocent regional missile defense. Is he being hyperbolic? What are the -- what do you see in his motives here because he seems very convinced of this threat and he says it every day that it threatens --

MR. CASEY: Well, look, I'll let -- I'm certainly not going to try and speak on behalf of President Putin or speak on behalf of the Russian Government. And as you point out, they're pretty well capable of speaking for themselves on this and other issues.

But again, let's deal with what the facts are. What we're talking about are ten inceptors with a limited capacity to intercept a very limited number of missiles. The Russian deterrent is many thousand missiles. It certainly, more importantly, is not a deterrent that is directed at the United States or at the West or at any place in particular. It's there to meet Russia's defensive needs. But I think it's hard for anyone to understand when you look at the facts what it is about ten inceptors that is perceived as a threat to multiple -- to a multiple thousand missile and warhead deterrent. So this is something we're going to continue to discuss with the Russians. It's something that was discussed yesterday out at NATO and I think there was a fairly uniform and unified position on the party of the allies about what the facts are on this issue. So it's an area where clearly we have a difference. But again, it's not an insurmountable difference and I think ultimately we can find a way to do this, such that the Russian concerns can be addressed.

QUESTION: And again, have they communicated their intention to stop participating in the CFE?

MR. CASEY: No. As far as I know, there's been no formal communications of any kind indicating a willingness or a desire to remove themselves from existing treaty commitments.

Goyal.

QUESTION: Tom, do you have a loud and clear message for the army men in Pakistan and Bangladesh because four of their prime ministers, two each, are living now in exile and they're not allowed to return home to run for the office? And also my question is that as far as human rights and rule of law is concerning free and fair elections like in other democracies like in India, what message do you have for those countries?

MR. CASEY: Well --

QUESTION: And if you need to -- I'm sorry -- if you need any of those prime ministers, they are in exile. They keep visiting the U.S., London and other places.

MR. CASEY: Goyal, I think on any of those specific individuals and questions, people have spoken to it before. And I don't have anything particularly new to add to it. Obviously what we want to see happen in both those countries is a continued development of democracy there. That includes free and fair elections. That includes certainly upholding people's rights and whether that's freedom of expression or other human rights, certainly it includes upholding the constitution and the rule of law in those countries. But let's also understand that these are countries that are in a process of transition and the important thing is that these are decisions that the people of Pakistan and the people of Bangladesh are discussing themselves and are going to be working through. But the United States is certainly committed to doing what it can to help them as they seek to advance their own democratic process.

QUESTION: Mr. Casey.

MR. CASEY: Let's -- Nina, did you have something else?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CASEY: Sorry. Just hold on. Hold on one second, Mr. Lambros. Let's go to Nina first and then we'll get back to you.

QUESTION: Any Levinson updates? Have you heard from the Iranians at all?

MR. CASEY: No. Unfortunately, we still do not have an answer to our additional request to the Iranian Government for information about Mr. Levinson. We continue to seek those answers and we also continue to have discussions with some of our friends and allies who we've asked to go out as well and knock on some doors and see what they can do to help us try and ascertain his whereabouts.

QUESTION: And following on Iran, please?

QUESTION: Okay. Can I just ask have you expanded the efforts at all diplomatically or is it still these countries?

MR. CASEY: It's still the three countries right now, although certainly, you know, if we think it's useful we will expand that effort out.

QUESTION: Mr. Casey.

MR. CASEY: Okay, Mr. Lambros. Last one.

QUESTION: Why you are agreeing with the CIA data since there are no ethnic divisions in Greece?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'm not agreeing with the CIA data. I'm telling you that the CIA data is the CIA data and you can ask the CIA why they have their data the way they do.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) when I asked do you agree about the data of 2 percent, you said yes.

MR. CASEY: No, I actually told you I agree that there's a CIA Factbook with data in it and that the CIA, I'm sure, believes it's correct, but you can go ask them about it.

QUESTION: One question on FYROM and --

MR. CASEY: This is your last one. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yes. Okay. The (inaudible) in the letter sent by the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Skopje authorities last week we discussed here presume that she has convinced Congress -- excuse me -- all NATO members and that no one is expected to object to the so-called name Macedonia. Did she consult with all interested NATO members in the matter? And did the Secretary seek assurances or she just takes everyone for granted not to use their veto power?

MR. CASEY: I guess you and I are thinking about different letters, Mr. Lambros, because the one I'm familiar with is one that reiterated standing U.S. policy concerning Macedonia and particularly considering the name issue means that we continue to support the efforts under UN auspices for Greece and Macedonia to come to a resolution on the name question.

Okay.

QUESTION: On Iran.

MR. CASEY: Last one, Goyal.

QUESTION: On Iran, please. Tom, the reports are saying again that Iran is now developing nuclear weapons and al-Qaida and other terrorists may have a hand because of their policies supporting terrorism in Iraq, in Afghanistan now and elsewhere around the globe. And now
Al-Fayyad said (inaudible) if any Iranian will come and talk, she will talk to them. Is she going to have a really clear and strong message as far as their support for terrorism and also their nuclear program or they're going to with some kind of soft --

MR. CASEY: Well, let's deal with a couple of things. I assume part of your reference is to the upcoming neighbors conference next week in Sharm el-Sheikh.

QUESTION: Yes. Yes, sir.

MR. CASEY: We'll see whether in fact the Iranians attend and if so at what level. Certainly Secretary Rice will be there, as will representatives of Iraq's neighbors and the other members of the G-8 and the Permanent Five at the Security Council. And again, let's remember the purpose of this is to help advance Iraqi efforts at political reform, at economic reform at enhancing security. And certainly we want to see all the countries that are there come to the table with not only positive words, but with a willingness to take positive actions to help Iraq deal with its very difficult situation right now. And unfortunately, from what we've seen in the past from both the Syrians and Iranians, their actions have never met the positive rhetoric that they've used.

And we have been very frank in the previous round, at the envoy level, in airing our concerns both about Iranian support for militias, about their provision of some of these very deadly IEDs that are having a serious impact on our troops. And I certainly expect that under discussions of those kinds of issues, the Secretary will be equally forceful in making our case on those and I expect that others will also raise their concerns with Iranian behavior as well as Syrian behavior when it comes to Iraq.

Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:42 p.m.)

DPB # 75


Released on April 27, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/apr/83952.htm
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mynameis
Posted: May 1 2007, 02:55 AM


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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 30, 2007

INDEX:

MISCELLANEOUS
Tony Snow’s Return Back at the Podium at the White House
Assistant Secretary Barry Lowenkron Departing
Resignation of Randall Tobias / Spoke with Secretary Rice / Search for Successor / Division of Responsibilities Until Position is Filled
Washington Post Report on Use of Foreign Assistance After Hurricane Katrina

ISRAEL / LEBANON
Report on Lebanon War / Internal Israeli Matter

EUROPEAN UNION
Security of Classified Information Agreement
U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement
European Union Ministerial Troika

SAUDI ARABIA / IRAQ
King Abdallah’s Decision not to Meet with Prime Minister Maliki
U.S.-Saudi Share Same Strategic Objectives / Some Differences in Tactics but Working Closely on Many Issues

KOSOVO
Reports of Russian Plans to Veto Ahtisaari Plan in UN Security Council

IRAQ
Reports that Prime Minister Maliki is Purging Generals that Combat Shiite Militias

SUDAN
Timeline to Let Diplomacy Work / Ban Ki-moon’s Efforts
Reports of Helicopter Gunship Attack in Darfur

NORTH KOREA
Reports of BDA Fund Transfer

TURKEY
State of Democracy / Encouraging Everyone to Participate in Democracy and Abide by Constitutional Processes

IRAN
Reports that Mr. Levinson has been Released
Possible Meeting between Secretary Rice & Iranian Foreign Minister at Sharm el-Sheikh


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video
12:30 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Just a couple notes at the top of the briefing. One, it was great to see my colleague, Tony Snow, back behind the podium over at the White House today. I look forward to talking to him every day and getting some advice from him and seeing him behind the podium.

The other thing is a personnel matter here at the State Department. Secretary Rice this morning announced that our Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Barry Lowenkron will be departing the State Department sometime this summer. He is going to move on to take a position in Chicago to be the MacArthur Foundation's Vice President for Global Security and Sustainability. And in that new job he's going to be overseeing disbursal of grants of about $75 million annually in about 65 countries. So we wish Barry well. He's going to be missed, but he'll also be with us here at the State Department for the next couple weeks working hard on the democracy and freedom agenda.

And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions. Okay, let's go.

QUESTION: Do you have any update --

MR. MCCORMACK: The outbreak of collegiality is very disturbing here. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Indian Foreign Secretary. Do you have any update on his meetings? He's supposed to be meeting with Nick Burns today, I think.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. Let's -- we'll try to get you something at the end of the day, once they've had a chance to wrap up some meetings. They're going to have two days of meetings here.

QUESTION: So there are no meetings today?

MR. MCCORMACK: I believe it's the 1st and the 2nd, but I'll check for you. I'll check for you, David.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the Israeli report on the Lebanon war? There was some rather harsh criticism against Prime Minister Olmert which sort of casts doubt on his political future in many ways. Do you have any comment? Have you had a chance to look at the report, number one?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have --

QUESTION: And secondly --

MR. MCCORMACK: We have not. No, we have not had a chance to look at it. Look, this is going to be -- this is a matter of internal Israeli politics and I don't think you're going to really catch us commenting on a matter of domestic politics in Israel.

QUESTION: Could you give us some details on this ceremony for security of classified information agreement with the EU?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, this is something the Deputy Secretary is going to sign on our behalf. It's essentially an information-sharing agreement that allows the sharing of classified information, very similar to the kinds of agreements we have bilaterally with individual EU member countries as well as with NATO, for example.

QUESTION: This is airlines?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, totally separate. Totally separate things. The airline agreement is something that Secretary Rice is going to be signing here. That is something that's been worked on for several years now in terms --

QUESTION: I was thinking about the passengers' informations and everything.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no.

QUESTION: No.

MR. MCCORMACK: Separate issues.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yep.

QUESTION: This is -- the ceremony is this afternoon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. The airline agreement, the signing ceremony upstairs in the Treaty Room.

QUESTION: Are there going to be remarks?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. I don't expect there will be remarks, no.

QUESTION: And none for the Negroponte signing either?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no.

Sue.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the refusal of King Abdallah to meet with Iraq's Prime Minister, and what does this say about Saudi assistance to Iraq and its commitment to helping?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we encouraged the Saudi Government to meet with the representatives from the Iraqi Government at the highest level possible, and that would include at the head of state/head of government level. The Saudis decided not to do that, as is their right.

But I would point out that the Saudi Government is going to be at the Iraq Compact meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh coming up on Wednesday. And then on Thursday, they will be at the Iraq neighbors conference and that is an important way for them to express their support for a whole, unified Iraq that is a place for all Iraqis regardless of sect or religious affiliation.

They are also going to, I expect, make an announcement regarding significant debt relief for Iraq at the International Compact for Iraq.

So these are all tangible demonstrations of Saudi support for Iraq. And we are encouraged that Iraq's other neighbors are going to be at this conference as well. Iran has said it was going to be there. Syria is going to be there, as well as other neighbors. And that's very positive as a demonstration of their support for Iraq as Iraq finds itself -- finds its place in the Middle East and neighbors find increasing numbers of ways to interact with Iraq and to contribute to their positive development.

QUESTION: But weren't you disappointed that King Abdallah chose not to meet with the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you know, we won't hide the fact from you we did encourage him to meet with Prime Minister Maliki. He chose not. But again, those are individual choices that the Saudis as well as others have to make. Prime Minister Maliki met with other heads of government when he did a tour throughout the Middle East. So you can't expect that there's going to be a cookie-cutter approach, but we did encourage the two to meet. It didn't happen.

QUESTION: Is there a problem developing between your relations with the Saudis? I mean --

MR. MCCORMACK: No.

QUESTION: -- there have been lots of disappointing events of late.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, you know, I -- look, we share the same strategic objectives in terms of a Middle East that is more stable, more peaceful, more prosperous, one in which there's a Palestine, one in which there's a free democratic Lebanon, one in which there is a democratic, stable prosperous Iraq.

So we share the same strategic objectives. We also understand the threats that are posed to those objectives, threats from violent extremism. There's a threat from Iran and that certainly plays a role -- and Iran plays a significant role in the promotion of violent extremism in the Middle East. The Saudis themselves are dealing with the terrorist problem. We saw it over the weekend that they have significant operations breaking up terrorist rings in Saudi Arabia, so they face many of the same problems. They have many of the same strategic objectives as we do.

From time to time, you will see differences in tactics. But people often tell you about the national unity government; well, the objective as stated by the Saudi Government of the national unity government was to stop the killing between Palestinians. Everybody can agree with that.

Now, as for the particular form, that was something that was negotiated by the Palestinians. Would we have preferred to see a government that abided by the Quartet principles? Absolutely. But that does not mean that cannot try to move the process forward as Secretary Rice has been working with the Israelis, the Palestinians as well as others in the region, the Saudis included. We're working closely with them on the issue of Lebanon. The Saudi Government has a real interest in seeing that Syria is not allowed to interfere in Lebanese affairs so that Lebanon can get back on its feet, rebuild those democratic institutions and build a better country for the Lebanese people.

Yes.

QUESTION: The Kosovar Foreign Minister said in an interview published today, said that he expected to declare -- unilaterally declare independence before the end of the month unless there's a -- the Ahtisaari plan gets through the Security Council. Given Russia's --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think you're --

QUESTION: -- intention to veto --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Well, I wouldn't -- you know, I'm not going to put words in the Russians' mouths. I haven't heard them say the word veto. But, look, you're going to see a lot of, I expect, political brinksmanship in the region by -- on the part of various actors in the Balkans in the coming months. These are significant stakes for the people of the region, for Kosovars, for the Serbs, for others in the region. We understand that. We believe the Ahtisaari plan is the right way forward and right now, we are going to be -- or at the moment, we are working in the Security Council to bring about a change in the Security Council resolution so we can move this forward. It's been too long. And we do believe that if a solution is not found in the near future, then you do have a risk of possibly inciting further violence in a region that has already seen far too much of it.

So we want to be a responsible player in this and try to find the right kind of compromise of this. Not everybody's going to be happy with all the compromises that are made, but we think that what Mr. Ahtisaari has outlined gives us the best possible way forward.

QUESTION: Do you see a lot of brinksmanship in coming months? Do you expect this process to last months?

MR. MCCORMACK: Maybe over the next month or two.

Yeah, Libby.

QUESTION: On Randall Tobias' resignation --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: You -- well, first, do you have any further comment beyond the statement you put out Friday night? And also, did you -- were you able to find out when exactly he talked to the Secretary and how he -- you know, did he call her while she was at Camp David?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't really have much more to add. I think that everything that needs to be said about it has been said. It's a difficult time for Randy and his family and we appreciate that. And he made the decision to resign. He felt as though the circumstances dictated the fact that he should resign. We understand that. We appreciate his taking that step. Secretary Rice did speak with him on Friday afternoon from Camp David, but this was after he had already submitted his letter of resignation.

QUESTION: So is it fair to assume this was a complete surprise to her? I mean, she hadn't heard anything about this matter before Friday afternoon?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, she hadn't.

QUESTION: She hadn't?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, before Friday.

QUESTION: Before Friday?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: The wording in the statement was a little peculiar. You said that he said that he must resign. Why was that word "must" used?

MR. MCCORMACK: He felt as though the circumstances dictated it, that he should resign, that it was best for all involved that he resign and we didn't have any dispute with that.

QUESTION: I mean, does the Department have a problem with someone going to an escort agency for call girls or whatever for a massage? I mean --

MR. MCCORMACK: Sue, look, this is a matter that is of current litigation, so I'm not going to try to go down that pathway with you, talk about specific allegations made in the press.

Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: Iraq.

QUESTION: I just wanted to --

QUESTION: Sorry.

QUESTION: -- one more on that. Are you guys actively looking for someone else to fill that hole or are you worried about --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: -- are you worried about sort of a lack of leadership there on foreign aid?

MR. MCCORMACK: We are actively looking for someone to fill Randy's job. And I spoke with all my lawyer friends here in the Department and they've finally cleared up the situation for me. The way it's going to work now on the AID side is that Jim Kunder, who is the Acting Deputy AID Administrator, will be responsible for the day-to-day operations and decision making in AID. I have to emphasize, though, that he is not the Acting AID Administrator; but in his capacity as Acting Deputy Administrator, he will be responsible for the day-to-day decision making and operations in AID.

Now, the funding decisions that Randy had previously made as the Director of Foreign Assistance will flow to Deputy Secretary Negroponte for the time being and until we have a new Director of Foreign Assistance confirmed.

QUESTION: What was Tobias' rank here? Was he a --

MR. MCCORMACK: He is the equivalent of a deputy secretary.

QUESTION: So he was even with Negroponte in the chart?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I mean, I think Deputy Secretary Negroponte was a first among equals. But the rank was a deputy secretary rank.

Lambros.

QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, what will be the agenda today to discuss when you are going to have any bilateral level with the European Union Ministerial troika?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's going to be a carry-on from what they talked about at the White House, but I expect that they talk about security issues, economic issues, trade issues. You can talk to me afterwards about what specifics they may talk about.

QUESTION: Today at 3:00 p.m., the troika is going to meet with the Secretary of State. Do you know if they're going to discuss also the political situation in Turkey?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I don't know.

Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: Iraq, please. There's a story in The Washington Post today saying that Maliki's barring certain generals that are apparently being too harsh on Shiite militias.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: What do you make of this? I mean, we've had a comment from General Pittard out there backing this story, so --

MR. MCCORMACK: We're looking into it and certainly, if that were true, it would be a cause of deep concern, but I have to tell you that the account as portrayed in The Washington Post is at odds with what we're hearing privately as well as publicly from the Iraqis. But nonetheless, it is something that merits our looking into and we are.

QUESTION: Sean, the government has -- bring up a wider question of whether the government can put aside its sectarian differences, you know, and --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's -- yeah, that's the heart of it and one of the great strengths, from our view, of the Baghdad Security Plan has -- was this step back from sectarianism among the professional, military, and security forces. Now if in fact, we are seeing some walk-back of that, that would be of real concern to us. So we're taking it seriously. I can't confirm that that is, in fact, the case, but we're looking into it.

QUESTION: Will this be addressed in the meeting in a couple of days, at the meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: At the neighbors meeting? I'm sure Secretary Rice will probably talk to Ambassador Crocker. I'm sure he's going to be talking to the Iraqis about doing a survey with our military folks on the ground to see if this really is the ground truth there.

Yeah, Libby.

QUESTION: On Sudan, do you have any update? I believe it's almost been two weeks since the President spoke and you guys were going to give Ban Ki-moon a couple more weeks to work through some more diplomacy. Is that timeline shortening now? Is it less than weeks, is it --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, we're still at weeks. We're still at weeks.

QUESTION: And what is your -- what is the word from Ban Ki-moon's office as to where he's going with this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check for you, Libby. I don't know the last time we've checked in with him on this.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) because initially, he talked about two to four weeks. That's what Andrew Natsios said and that was --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Then the clock started ticking on April 2 --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- when he made the statement, so that time would be coming up. And also --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Do you have any response to -- apparently, there was reports that Sudanese helicopter gun ships attacked a town in Northern Darfur where the rebel leaders were supposed to be meeting to talk about -- you know, possible unity arrangements --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- which is something that everyone's been pushing for at the UN and the United States has been -- I mean, do you have any response to --

MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen that specific report, but we have previously expressed deep concern about the use of the aerial assets by the Sudanese Government. It is something that we have talked to them about. Governor Richardson, when he was out there, talked to them about it. So if, in fact, this is an accurate report, it's a deeply disturbing continuation of a pattern that we have seen from the Sudanese Government and all the more reason why we need to get in an AU-UN force into the area.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: On North Korea, can you shed any light on the reports that the North Koreans might transfer their funds to Russian and Italian banks in order to resolve the BDA issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: I cannot, I cannot. We haven't heard any official word from the North Koreans that they have successfully transferred their accounts. I have seen the same press reports that you're referring to, but I can't confirm them for you.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: On Turkey, it seems that the generals are ready to overthrow the government of Recep Erdogan. What is your position on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not sure that that's an accurate description of the situation, but we have real confidence in Turkey's democracy and we have confidence in their constitutional processes and that all the parties involved in the election of a new Turkish president will abide by those constitutional processes in the best traditions of Turkish democracy.

Joel.

QUESTION: Are you discouraging the Turkish military from doing anything rash?

MR. MCCORMACK: George, we are encouraging everybody to participate in Turkey's democracy according to their constitution and laws.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Sean, yesterday, the Secretary -- were on three talk shows and was grilled repeatedly concerning not necessarily our present postures, but when she served as -- years ago as National Security Advisor to the President.

We are in a media war apparently with the Islamic world and you're going to a conference at Sharm el-Sheikh and Friday here, at the press briefing, repeated questions were about terrorism and what various governments would do, whether they be in the Middle East, Pakistan, or whatever directed to Tom Casey. Is there any feelings by you or the Secretary that a more forceful resolution concerning terrorism has to be addressed at this conference not just on Iraq, but the entire Middle East as well as Africa? Is it time for that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that you're -- among most of the parties at the upcoming Sharm el-Sheikh conference, Joel, you're not going to get any dispute that we need to fight against violent extremism at a variety of different levels. They need to be confronted, at times, with force. They also need to be confronted in other ways to get at the root causes of violent extremism in the Middle East. So it's a source of concern to us, the Iraqis, as well as others in the region. So the solution is to work for the kinds of reforms, economic, political, social reforms that will get at the root causes of this violent extremism.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Sean, do you have updates on Mr. Levinson? There have been reports --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't.

QUESTION: -- that he's been released?

MR. MCCORMACK: I know, I've seen those press reports. I can't confirm them for you, Kirit. We don't have any new credible information, other than looking at the same press reports that you have mentioned. We have not heard back from any of the three governments that we've asked to knock on some doors in Tehran. I haven't received back any information from them concerning Mr. Levinson and we have not heard back from the Iranians either, via the Swiss channel.

QUESTION: Will this be an issue the Secretary would be willing to bring up, if she happened to encounter her Iranian friends?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, we're not ruling out the possibility that she may see the Iranian Foreign Minister while she's on the ground there. I'm not pointing you in that direction, but we're not going to rule it out. If she does have an opportunity to see the Iranian Foreign Minister, I'm sure she would raise issues related to Iraq's security. I'm not sure that Mr. Levinson would come up in that regard.

QUESTION: Are you reaching out to the Iranians prior to the conference to, you know, offer a meeting with Secretary Rice?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, we'll see. We'll see if in fact the opportunity presents itself and Secretary Rice feels as though it's the right time and the right moment.

QUESTION: Sean, at the last conference in March, I believe they just sort of ran into each other. Is the Secretary planning on doing something like that? I mean, would it be a run-in or would it be something that would be coordinated in advance? Do you see what I'm getting at? I know you're not going to say that they're meeting, but --

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) Right. Right. Look, if -- you know, if she does in fact see the Iranian Foreign Minister, I think that there would be some organization to it. It wouldn't just be by happenstance. Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. Bumping into each other in the hallway or something.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Exactly. At the orange juice table.

QUESTION: Can we ask the same set of questions, vis-à-vis the Syrians or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. You're going to get the same answer.

QUESTION: Or your answer is just as generic? Are plans formulated for a meeting any further along?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a carefully thought-out answer, Charlie.

QUESTION: Pardon?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a carefully thought-out answer and it applies to the Syrians as well.

QUESTION: Well, is the -- does the same carefully thought-out answer apply?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, it does. Yes, it does.

QUESTION: Yes, it does. Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: But why leave it up to chance? Why not, you know, set a little time aside where you could have --

MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't say -- I didn't say it would be left to chance.

QUESTION: Is the process of organization underway?

MR. MCCORMACK: George, we'll see what happens when we get to Sharm el-Sheikh whether or not they happen to meet.

QUESTION: You know, I thought it was a great question.

MR. MCCORMACK: It is. It is a good -- it is a good -- I thought so, too. Keep asking it, I'll give you the same answer.

Kirit.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you had any response to the reports in the Post yesterday about aid for Katrina coming in from other governments there.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, Secretary Rice talked a little bit about this yesterday on some of the talk shows, the Sunday shows. And I don't have a whole lot to add to what she said. We're overwhelmed by the generosity of the international community. And it was not a usual circumstance in many regards. One could argue it was a unique circumstance in American history, the scope of this disaster and the generous outpouring from the international community.

We did the best that we could, trying to direct these efforts in constructive ways and effective ways that didn't always succeed. And one of the things that we have done in the aftermath of this is to work with DHS as well as other domestic agencies to see how, if we ever do face such circumstances again and we all hope we don't, that if we do, that there would be a more effective mechanism that we might use.

QUESTION: Do you think you've -- you could say you feel like you've solved the problem (inaudible) --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, Kirit, in these kind of situations where you face an unprecedented event, you are -- you rely -- you fall back on existing structures. But when existing structures and mechanisms and procedures don't work, you have to come up with ad hoc processes and mechanisms which is what we did. And everybody worked in good faith and made the best decisions that they possibly could, all with the thought in mind of how do we get assistance to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. That is the foremost thought in everybody's mind.

So when people look back and say, well, they could have done this better or this didn't work so well. Okay. We take that criticism onboard. But also realize the circumstances under which people were working and that people were doing their very best to help get the most assistance we possibly could as quickly as we possibly could to our fellow citizens.

Lambros, again.

QUESTION: And one question on Turkey. The European Union, Mr. McCormack, asked (inaudible) the Turkish military not to get involved against the political life in Turkey and to the elected Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. Are you planning to express a similar position since majority rules and member of the military?

MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, I just -- if you were listening to my response to your colleague, I replied to this question. I gave you the position of the United States Government.

Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:57 p.m.)

DPB # 76

Released on April 30, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/apr/83993.htm
Top
mynameis
Posted: May 2 2007, 10:30 AM


If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.


Group: Members
Posts: 4,823
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06



Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 1, 2007

INDEX:

MIDDLE EAST
Informal Meeting Between Members of Quartet and Arab Delegation
Briefing on Arab Initiative to Hear from Arab League Representatives
Arab Initiative Can Be a Possible Starting Point for Diplomacy
U.S. Position on Lebanon Not in Question
U.S. Will not Rule Anything Out in Either Meeting with Syrians or Iranians

VENEZUELA
Issue of Current Negotiations Between Venezuela and Oil Companies
Reports of Venezuela’s Possible Withdrawal from IMF and World Bank
U.S. View that Venezuelan People Suffer as a Result of President Chavez’s Decisions

INDIA
Foreign Secretary Menon’s Meetings with State Department Officials
Focus of Meetings Primarily on India’s Nuclear Issue / How to Move Forward on 123 Agreement
U.S. Committed to Work in Good Faith to Get an Agreement
Discussions with Under Secretary Burns and Foreign Secretary Menon
Negotiators Work on Ideas on Nuclear Issue

IRAQ
Issue of Reported Death of al-Qaida Leader al-Masri / What it Means to Have a Senior al-Qaida Leader Taken Out of the Game

NIGERIA
Reports of a Possible Kidnapping of an American Oil Worker

TURKEY
U.S. Position that Protesters Should be Allowed to Express Views Freely and Peacefully
U.S. Has Faith in Turkey’s Constitutional Process and Democratic System

CHINA
U.S. at Forefront of Promotion of Human Rights Around the Globe, including China
Important for Chinese to Understand Importance of People Being Able to Freely Express Themselves

IRAN
Iranians Understand What they Need to Do in Order to Realize Negotiations
Nothing New on Levinson

MISCELLANEOUS
Issue of Congressman Waxman’s Subpoena
Wolfowitz Has been an Agent for Change at World Bank
U. S. Has Worked with World Bank on New Ideas / Developed a Healthy Dialogue

MONTENEGRO
Secretary Rice Pleased to Meet with President Vujanovic / Talked About Challenges Ahead

GREECE
U.S. Position has not Changed with Respect to Name of Sovereign State of Macedonia


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:05 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. No opening statements, so we can get right to your questions.

QUESTION: Well, the Secretary is leaving later on for the meeting. Can you just update us on her planned bilats with the Iranians, with the Syrians, those kinds of things?

MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't bring that list with me. I'll post it right afterwards. Sorry. I did my research, but I just forgot to bring it down here with me.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can you confirm there is a Quartet meeting scheduled?

MR. MCCORMACK: What has been put on the books, I think, just as of yesterday, is an informal meeting between members of the Quartet and the Arab delegation that has been designated as the delegation that's going to be explaining the Arab League initiative. So that is going to be on Friday afternoon, I believe, after the Iraq neighbors conference meeting.

QUESTION: In Sharm el-Sheikh?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, it'll be in Sharm el-Sheikh.

QUESTION: Will the Israelis be included?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, this is just the Arab League brief.

QUESTION: And you said members of the Quartet. Which members?

MR. MCCORMACK: It'll be all four members of the Quartet. I just want to distinguish this as not a "Quartet meeting." It's members of the Quartet being briefed on the Arab initiative by this group of Arab states.

QUESTION: Is that the Egyptians and the Jordanians or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll get you a list. It's the Egyptians, the Jordanians; I believe the Saudis and the Syrians would be there as well. We'll get you a full list.

QUESTION: Why are they going to be briefed on the Arab initiative? They were already briefed.

MR. MCCORMACK: This was -- well, the members of the Quartet haven't been briefed as a group, and this was something that Egyptian Foreign Minister Abu Gheit suggested. We thought it was a fine idea. They talked a little bit about it yesterday in the troika meeting with Mr. Solana, Mr. Steinmeier and Ms. Ferrero-Waldner. So they all agreed it was a good idea to do. You know, a good idea to hear directly from the Arab League representatives as to what underpins their initiative, what their plans are for briefing it to other states, including the Israelis.

QUESTION: Do you still hold out any hope that the Arab League may choose for members other than those that already have peace with Israel, notably the Saudis, might actually engage with the Israelis on this, as the Secretary has said she hopes?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think as an initial offering, it's probably just going to be the Egyptians and the Jordanians, I suspect. But as we've said before, this initiative can be a starting point for diplomacy, it could be a basis for further diplomacy. So we'll see if it -- that, in fact, happens, if there are any follow-on meetings scheduled, whether or not, to use the Secretary's word, the geometry changes at all over time. So look at this as an initial meeting, something that we encourage, something that we think is positive. We also have encouraged both sides to look at it as a possible starting point, so we'll see if, in fact, it is just that or it is just a one-off meeting.

QUESTION: Gee, I'm not sure I understood. You say the Saudis and the Syrians will also be --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, part of this.

QUESTION: -- so the Syrian Foreign Minister will be part of this?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure if it'll be the Syrian Foreign Minister or not, but a Syrian representative.

QUESTION: And what role are they expected to play in that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I would -- they're just part of this group. And we'll get you the full listing of it, but I wanted to, off the top of my head, give you the ones that I knew were planning to be there.

QUESTION: Will the Secretary use that meeting, since it will involve the Syrians with whom the U.S. Government has, you know, limited high-level contact -- does she plan to use that meeting to make any of her broader points to Syria about Lebanon, about Iraq and so on, or will that meeting just be focused exclusively on Israeli-Palestinian?

MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect that it would be focused exclusively on the topic at hand, and I expect if there are any other encounters -- we've talked a little bit about this. You've asked me in the past whether or not she would meet the Syrian Foreign Minister as part of the Iraq neighbors group. If there were such a meeting, that would be focused exclusively on Iraq. And let's be clear, it is not about Lebanon. Our position with respect to Lebanon and the non-negotiability of the fact of the tribunal or the non-negotiability of the fact of Lebanese sovereignty and support for democracy are, I don't think, in question. So if there were such a meeting, then it would be exclusively on issues related to Iraq.

QUESTION: Just to put it on the record, even though we know the answer I think, but you know, does the Secretary have any plans to meet either with the Iranian officials or with Syrian officials in a bilateral or other small grouping at the conference?

MR. MCCORMACK: Same answer as we've given before. I'm not going to rule it out, but I'm not at this point going to point you in a direction of a particular meeting. But we're -- you know, we're not going to rule anything out at this point.

QUESTION: And if -- again, if there were such encounters, it would be on the issues related to Iraq.

Okay, David.

QUESTION: Do you have a response to the decisions being announced in Venezuela both concerning the oil industry and the announcement that they intend to withdraw from the IMF and the World Bank?

MR. MCCORMACK: On the oil industry, I think, as I understand it, there are currently negotiations between the Venezuelan Government and the oil companies, and those are going to proceed as they will.

As far as the IMF and World Bank decision, look, you can't take the shovel out of the man's hand. He just keeps on digging. So -- and sadly, it's the Venezuelan people who are victimized by this. You know, beyond that I don't really have any further comment.

QUESTION: Sean, can you just continue on -- finish that phrase? I don't -- I'm not sure that everyone will understand. You can't take the shovel out of the man's hand. He just keeps on digging. You're suggesting he's digging a hole for himself?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think he's digging a hole for the Venezuelan people.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: And as I said, it's sadly the case that it is not just the Venezuelan elites around President Chavez who suffer as a result of these decisions. It's really the Venezuelan people who suffer.

QUESTION: Sean?

MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Mr. Shivshenkar Menon, Foreign Secretary of India, arrives here at the State Department. So does the Indian mango from India this afternoon at the Commerce Department.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.

QUESTION: What are they going to talk about? This includes situation in Bangladesh and Afghanistan and --

MR. MCCORMACK: As far as the meeting at the Commerce Department --

QUESTION: No, no, as far as here. I mean the Secretary this afternoon.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Foreign Secretary Menon had dinner last night with Nick Burns and he met yesterday with Paula Dobriansky. He's going to have further meetings today with Nick Burns and Richard Boucher. The Secretary, I think, is going to stop by those meetings. She'll have a chance to chat with him.

Our focus is going to be primarily on the nuclear issue with India, how we can move forward on the 123 agreement. The initial read from the dinner last night was that the Foreign Secretary came here with some constructive ideas. That doesn't mean that we are going to be able to move this as quickly as we had hoped -- we'll see -- as a result of these meetings. But we're confident in the long run that we will get this deal done. So that will be the focus of the discussions. I expect they're going to talk about other things as well, the broader U.S.-India relationship.

QUESTION: The Secretary has any special message for him or for the Government of India as far as this nuclear issue is concerned?

MR. MCCORMACK: Only that we're committed to working in good faith to get an agreement, that we are confident that the Indian side is ready to work in good faith to get an agreement, that we will get one done and that it's going to require some creativity and some compromise on both sides in order to get an agreement done if we're going to be able to move this as quickly as we would have hoped. We're at a point now where we're going to see whether or not the agreement can be moved forward quickly or not.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Did Under Secretary Burns have any talks yet with the Indian Foreign Secretary?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think they've started this morning. He had some discussions this morning.

QUESTION: This morning?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, he had dinner with him last night.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you have any readout on that, on whether -- I mean, presumably he's got some kind of a sense of this so far. Do you have a sense of how it's going and whether you think you are going to --

MR. MCCORMACK: Not from this morning, but what I was conveying to you, sort of our overall sense that the Indians came here with some constructive ideas and that there's a possibility that we could move the process forward based on these ideas, although that's not a foregone conclusion. It was based on my discussion with Nick this morning about his dinner last night.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Nina.

QUESTION: Any more information on al-Masri?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't have any information. I can't -- I can't dispute what the Iraqi Government has said. I can't confirm it though for you.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Do you have any information or confirmation of the American being -- the oil worker kidnapped in Nigeria?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I'll look into it for you. Sadly, this is not an unusual occurrence. It does happen on a periodic basis, and typically what we do is we offer all the possible assistance we can to the oil companies involved, do everything we can to see that an American citizen is released unharmed as quickly as possible. But on this particular case, I don't have any info for you.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on al-Masri? I know you can't confirm this yet, but if he had been killed, can you tell us what this would mean for al-Qaida's operations in Iraq?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it means that you have a member of their senior leadership that is taken out of the game. And that doesn't mean that the threat goes away or that the organization won't generate another leader, but what's important, as you've heard from many people involved in the fight against terrorism, counterterrorism officials, you hear from them is that it's important to degrade the experience level of their leadership, the capabilities of their leadership. That doesn't mean that they regenerate. But it -- what it means perhaps they start to operate at a less effective level because they don't -- their leadership isn't as good. But it doesn't mean that the threat goes away.

Yes. Anyone else? Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on Turkish police beating and detaining hundreds of May Day protestors in Istanbul today?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I can't speak to the specific circumstances. I know that this was a long-planned protest in Taksim Square in Istanbul. But in these cases, people should be allowed to express freely and peacefully their point of view. I can't speak to the specific circumstances here, Arshad, whether there was a provocation on one side or another, but in any case we encourage wherever these kinds of protests may occur they be allowed to proceed peacefully, that people be allowed to express their opinions and that both sides avoid any actions that might serve to provoke the other, whether that's the security forces provoking protestors or protestors provoking security forces.

QUESTION: Any message you'd like to send following the Constitutional Court's ruling this morning annulling the first round of presidential vote?

MR. MCCORMACK: Only to reiterate what I said yesterday, and that is that we have faith in Turkey's constitutional processes, we have faith in Turkish secular democracy and that we are confident that the political questions that arise concerning the vote and the election of the next Turkish president will be worked out within the confines of Turkish law and the Turkish constitution.

QUESTION: One more?

MR. MCCORMACK: Ah, Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes, Mr. McCormack, the leading editorial of Washington Post today says, inter alia, "Western governments have no ground to support the attempt to stop the elections, much less a military." (Inaudible) dictator (inaudible) General Yasar Buyukanit, who is saying the other day the (inaudible) almost for a coup d'etat against the candidacy of the democratic leader Abdullah Gul. Do you agree with this editorial which clearly sent the signal protect the (inaudible) in Turkey and since the today's bad news from Ankara are moving the political crisis to this direction?

MR. MCCORMACK: We are confident that the Turkish democratic institutions and the Turkish people are fully capable of preserving and moving forward Turkish democracy, and we have full faith in the Turkish democratic system and the people who lead that system.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: This same editorial said many Turks would favor the relaxation of the rigid secularism implemented in Turkey in the last eight years or whatever. Do you agree with that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Thanks very much for all these attempts to draw me into the Turkish domestic politics. I'm going to resist all of your attempts to do so. I'm going to stick to the comments that I've given you about the ongoing political situation in Turkey.

Yeah, David.

QUESTION: An EU parliamentary delegation met with Prime Minister Hania today even though the EU has maintained its boycott of --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- that side. Do you have any comment on --

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me look into it, David. I hadn't seen the report.

Goyal.

QUESTION: Sean, yesterday, Amnesty International issued a report -- human rights report on China and blasting China as far as the human rights situation is concerned.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And it's also saying that the global body or the UN and U.S. must do more to protect the Chinese and their human rights. Any comments on that special report on China or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we're -- Goyal, we're at the forefront of promotion of human rights around the globe including in China. We're forceful advocates for human rights. We work with the Chinese authorities to ensure that in those cases where individuals are arrested or detained, that their rights are preserved and that there is a fair and speedy process. All of that said, it's important that Chinese officials look at the importance and understand the importance of people being able to freely express themselves in China within the political system. That's not the case at the moment, but that still remains our goal and it's something that we work with Chinese officials on at virtually every single meeting we have with them.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Back to Iran. The Iranian Government spokesman is quoted as saying that Iran won't negotiate with the United States until it stops its "evil approach." I'll give you the full comment.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, that's not fair.

QUESTION: "Naturally, until the Americans stop their arrogant, one-sided, and evil approach, we won't negotiate with them." What do you think about that kind of fairly hostile rhetoric ahead of -- you know, a meeting or the possibility of a meeting this week that you were clearly open to? And does this make it harder for you to meet with them? Does it make you any less inclined to deal with them?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, it's rhetoric, you know, and -- you know, I'm not sure I would ascribe any particular significance to it. The Iranians understand what they need to do in order to realize negotiations and whatever the case may be in Sharm el-Sheikh, it's not going to -- it's not a negotiation. It's a conference about Iraq and we would hope that the Iranians use the opportunity to match their actions with their words when they talk about the importance of good, neighborly, transparent relations and their interest in a stable, prosperous, democratic Iraq for all Iraqis, so -- you know, I don't ascribe any particular significance to those words.

Yeah, Matt.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any developments in the response to Congressman Waxman's subpoena?

MR. MCCORMACK: I know the White House and the Justice Department lawyers are taking a look at Congressman Waxman's subpoena of Secretary Rice and that they are going to -- the White House is going to go back to --

QUESTION: But you're not aware of any --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I know that --

QUESTION: Or letters that she's sent? I mean --

MR. MCCORMACK: No letters from her. I expect at some point there will be some communication from the White House to Chairman Waxman concerning the subpoena, but to my knowledge, that hasn't happened yet.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Anything new on Levinson?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, nothing new.

QUESTION: That's the daily question.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, nothing new.

Nina.

QUESTION: On Wolfowitz, the President came out yesterday backing him. He said he wanted him to stay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: He praised his work for advancing the eradication of world poverty.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: But is this suggesting, on the other hand, that the World Bank wasn't living up to its mandate and it needs someone like Wolfowitz to get it in shape?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he has been an agent for change at the World Bank and they're -- you will find arguments on both sides of this. You will hear arguments from some saying, "Oh, no, perfectly fine, thank you very much, we don't need any change here. You know, we were created 50 years ago and there's no need to change the way we do business."

On the other hand, there is an argument that while the world has changed and you might look at it different -- incorporating some different ideas and some different thoughts in development models, we have clearly been a strong supporter of the World Bank and the work of the World Bank. There are a lot of competent, experienced professionals at the World Bank who do a great job on behalf of those who really need a lot of help in this world.

But we have also tried to work with the World Bank to try to change some of their approaches in terms of -- give you an example, instead of just issuing loans, provide grants, grants with certain conditions that expect something from the recipient nations, which is very similar to the approach we have taken with the Millennium Challenge Account. We think it's been a pretty effective model and we --

QUESTION: This is a particular innovation that he brought?

MR. MCCORMACK: It wasn't something that Mr. Wolfowitz brought to the World Bank, but -- and I'll let him speak for himself or his folks speak on his behalf as to what programs he has been advocating. I'm just talking about, as the U.S. Government, some of the ideas that we have worked with the World Bank over the past six years, how to look at development, how to make the assistance that the more developed world provides -- how to make that more effective.

And I think that that's been a healthy dialogue, but at the root of it is the idea that an institution of this importance occasionally needs to take a look at how it does business and ask itself the question, how can we do things better. We've made a few suggestions and -- but we're only one voice among many.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: Can you give some flavor concerning the Indian nuclear deal of what the Indians' constructive proposals are?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I don't think I'm going to get into any of the particulars right now. I think we'll let the negotiators work through some of the ideas and see what they come up with rather than trying to do it in public.

QUESTION: On Montenegro?

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Any readout whether today's meeting between the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the President of Montenegro Filip Vujanovic --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. She was very pleased to meet with the President. They talked a lot about the challenges of a new state, building up the institutions of that new state. She praised the President for his work in helping to build a multiethnic democracy in the Balkans and also praised Montenegrins for their past actions in accepting in those who are fleeing violence in other areas of the Balkans. And she was very pleased to be able to sit down next to him and sign the status of forces agreement. It's certainly a big moment for the Montenegrin people and she was very pleased to be able to participate in that kind of ceremony that marked the moment.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) something. Did the discussion also go into (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: It was -- they did touch on Kosovo and talked about the current state of play with respect to Mr. Ahtisaari's plan and the action -- and the diplomacy that's ongoing now in the Security Council.

QUESTION: And one on Greece, it's in the Balkans again. Tomorrow, the U.S. Government institute (inaudible) center, somebody's going to give a lecture with the title, "The Process of National Identity Formation Among the Macedonian-Speaking Muslims of Western Macedonia."

MR. MCCORMACK: I can see how this has set you off. (Laughter.) It has the word Macedonia in it. (Laughter.) Who's going to give the speech?

QUESTION: Which means clearly Greece. It's (inaudible) -- it's a process. It's (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: Who's going to give the lecture?

QUESTION: Somebody, a professor, Mr. Lucas, somebody.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.

QUESTION: But do you recognize the so-called nonexistent Macedonian language or at least --

MR. MCCORMACK: You know the answer to this question. We -- our position hasn't changed with respect to the name of the sovereign state of Macedonia.

QUESTION: On Montenegro. Do you know -- excuse me. Do you know if Montenegro has signed an Article 98 agreement? And if it has not, is that something that you're trying to get with them now that you've signed a SOFA?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me ask. I don't believe they have, but let me ask, Matt. We're post an answer for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:28 p.m.)


Released on May 1, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/may/84019.htm
Top
mynameis
Posted: May 4 2007, 01:29 AM


If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.


Group: Members
Posts: 4,823
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06



Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 2, 2007

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT
Deputy Secretary Negroponte’s Travel to Latin America / Trade, Energy, Regional Cooperation on Agenda
Training and Mental Health Support for Employees Serving in Difficult Posts / U.S. Mindful of Stresses of Job

TURKEY
Democracy and Elections / Turkey is Friend and NATO Ally
U.S. Rejects External Interference into Domestic Political Affairs / Turkish People Must Determine Leaders
U.S. Committed to Working With Turkey and Iraq on Terrorist Issues
Free, Democratic Turkey Critical For Turkey, Europe / U.S. Calls For Respect of Democratic Process

UNITED KINGDOM
Rumors of Changes to Visa Waiver Program Untrue / Program Not Subject to Bilateral Negotiations

IRAN / IRAQ
Meetings at Sharm el-Sheikh on Iraq / Agenda to Help Advance Cause of Free, Peaceful, Democratic Iraq / Iran’s Actions Must Live Up to Rhetoric /
U.S. Not Ruling Out or Ruling In Meetings with Iranians

WORLD BANK
Important for Institutions to Evolve and Adapt over Time / Reforms Necessary

IRAN
Under Secretary Burns’s Meetings in London
IAEA Report Expected Shortly
Iran Has Not Met International Community’s Demands

ESTONIA / RUSSIA
Attack on Estonian Consulate in Moscow / Movement of Monument / Relocation Up to Estonian Government and People / U.S. Urges Respect for Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations

BALKANS
U.S. Supports Constitutional and Legal Processes, Opposes Violence


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video
1:30 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Pleasure to be here with you. I do have one opening announcement I'd like to make before we move on to your questions. This is something we'll be putting out a paper copy on a little later, but this concerns Deputy Secretary Negroponte's travel to Latin America.

So, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte will travel to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama on May 7-12 this year to discuss pending trade agreements, energy issues, and regional cooperation. Following the President's 2007 visit to the region, the Deputy Secretary is also going to be highlighting some of the issues that the President talked about, including advancing the cause of social justice in the Western Hemisphere, in supporting governments that are fair and effective and that meet the basic needs of their citizens.

I also expect he'll be talking about a wide range of bilateral issues in these countries not only with government officials, but also in meetings with local business executives and civil society representatives, human rights groups, and just as for -- in terms of who else will be traveling with him, Tom Shannon, of course, our Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, will also be part of his traveling group.

QUESTION: When is he going?

MR. CASEY: What's that?

QUESTION: When?

MR. CASEY: The 7th to the 12th.

QUESTION: Will he take press?

MR. CASEY: I don't believe so.

QUESTION: How come?

MR. CASEY: Not generally been a tradition around here, but as far as I know, he's traveling commercially as well, so -

Any questions?

David.

QUESTION: A new topic?

MR. CASEY: Okay with me.

QUESTION: Okay. Is there evidence that U.S. diplomats who have been serving in Iraq are suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome? Is the State Department doing anything about it if that's the case?

MR. CASEY: Well, David, first of all, I assume you're referring in part to a story that ran in a major American newspaper this morning. First of all, I just want to say that it's very important, I think, that people understand something the Secretary said, that our foreign service officers, civil servants, contractors and others are very much a part of the effort in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in other very dangerous places throughout the world. And that does mean that they run, in many ways, the kinds of risks that some of our service members are from the Defense Department.

We're very mindful, obviously, of the consequences of that service for our individuals. We do have a large number of unaccompanied posts or unaccompanied slots right now not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in some other countries, where dependent travel is not permitted because of the security circumstances there. So we have put in place a number of things to try and assist individuals who are either preparing to go to these kinds of assignments or are coming back from them.

As you know, we have a series of briefings available through our regional medical office to help prepare people as part of their preparation for going to post. There is, of course, a three-day orientation program for service in Iraq and that includes elements from the medical division as well as from Diplomatic Security. And most people are familiar with what those of us in the service refer to as "crash and bang", which is actually a very serious program that's designed as a five-day Diplomatic Security antiterrorism course that helps provide people with some skills and some abilities to help cope with some of the situations they might confront in countries where terrorism or other dangers present themselves.

There is also, I think you may have seen, a new anonymous survey of all alumni from Iraq and other unaccompanied posts that we're undertaking that's related to physical and mental health concerns, and part of that is simply making sure we have as complete a picture as possible of what, if any, issues people may be confronting. We also have, and are setting up, an alumni support group for people who served in unaccompanied posts and that, I believe, should be formally launched the beginning of next month.

Now obviously, our State Medical Services folks do outbriefings for people as they're coming off of this kind of difficult service. They are available both in-country as well as afterwards to try and provide support and get people help if they are, in fact, suffering from any either physical or emotional consequences of their service there. But we are very conscious of the need to take care of our people and very conscious of the need that these kinds of situations, while they're not unprecedented in the history of the Foreign Service, are something that are very special and that we do need to very carefully evaluate people and make sure that they have the kind of support that they need again in the instances where they have any physical or mental issues coming out of it.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up. Do you know how people are going to be receiving this questionnaire in the first -- I mean, right now, the people set down for a figure of 1400 in the newspaper article you mentioned. And also, are these being sent out because there is evidence of people suffering from this post-traumatic stress syndrome?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think first of all, we're again appreciative of the fact that Iraq and Afghanistan and some of these other unaccompanied posts do present some pretty difficult challenges for our people working in the field, and we want to make sure we just have as complete a picture as possible and that we are -- have a full understanding of what issues there are. Certainly, I think you saw one or two people quoted in that article about some of their personal experiences.

So obviously, there are some individuals who have -- again, either because they've suffered physical injuries or because they've had some emotional issues related to their service come up. And we want to make sure, first of all as a department and as a service, that anyone that has a problem is comfortable to raise it with officials in the building here and get the appropriate support that they need. These are things, again, that I think Foreign Service officers have had to deal with unfortunately over the years. It's just that we now have a, I think, larger body of people than we've had in the past simply because not only of the couple of hundred posts -- or couple of hundred positions that we have in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also again because of unaccompanied posts elsewhere.

I think if you ask those of us that have been around this building for a long time, unfortunately potential for being in a place where there's a lot of political violence, including political violence directed at Americans, is something that's been a part of the landscape for a while. It certainly was a factor for those who served in Vietnam during that era there, I think Ryan Crocker has probably mentioned a couple of times, I can't remember whether he did with you the other day, his service in Lebanon during the civil war there. And of course, our embassies have been bombed and attacked or otherwise threatened in any number of cases from Peru to Pakistan to Saudi Arabia to Lebanon and elsewhere. So unfortunately, there are some aspects of danger in the Foreign Service for a lot of people and that isn't new.

But again, because we recognize that there is a large number of people -- and I believe right now it's 10 percent or more of our Foreign Service officers -- who have done service in an unaccompanied post in the last couple of years. Certainly we want to make sure that we have as full and complete a picture as possible that we can, in part, I think use this as a way of prompting anyone who perhaps hasn't come forward with concerns to raise them and that we therefore also have in place whatever programs or additional measures might be appropriate to make sure that individuals who are having problems get the kind of attention and support and help that they need.

Matt.

QUESTION: On this, maybe I'm missing something. Apart from this questionnaire which is going to be sent out to -- is 1,400 the right number?

MR. CASEY: I'd have to check. It's roughly 1,400, I think. Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. Apart from this is there anything new in what the Department is doing to help?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think what we've got, again, we've implemented mandatory training for people before they went out. That was something that isn't new. There are now mandatory outbriefings for anyone who's done service of 90 days or longer in part to help evaluate whether there are other issues there.

The questionnaire is new. The alumni or support group issues are new. And again, I think, if you talk to the folks in medical services, they will tell you that they've had a stepped-up availability of individuals to talk about mental health issues in part in relation to this.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I haven't seen -- stepped-up availability is one thing. But have they seen stepped-up numbers of people coming to them?

MR. CASEY: Matt, I honestly don't think I have or can certainly -- I can't provide you with a comprehensive study of that. That's partly what the questionnaire will help us address. Certainly, there are individuals that we know of who have had medical complications, again, both physical in some cases or emotional in others, as a result of their service there.

QUESTION: But you say this has happened before -- in other -- in Vietnam, Lebanon?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, the point I'm trying to make is that Foreign Service officers for -- as long as there's been a Foreign Service, and certainly in the modern era, have served in places where they have been subject to, or victims of political violence of one kind or another. Certainly, every individual reacts differently to the situations they're put in. And certainly, I would tell you pretty clearly just based on my own personal experience, that there have certainly been individuals over time who've been through those kinds of experience, who have some mental health issues associated with that service.

So this is not a new issue for the Foreign Service, but it certainly is an issue that in light of the extensive numbers of individuals currently, or soon to be serving in unaccompanied poss, we want to make sure we have the best information available of and that we're providing the kind of support that's necessary.

Libby.

QUESTION: I may have missed whether you said this, but when did the mandatory training come about that you're speaking of?

MR. CASEY: Well, the -- what I fondly referred to as crash and bang --

QUESTION: Right.

MR. CASEY: -- is a course that's been around at least since 1992, although obviously in modified form now. There is specialized training now for Iraq that began back in 2004 as we began to set up the Embassy. That of course has been modified as we've moved along and there are now additional training that's being provided, an additional week-long course that's being provided to those individuals going out to serve in PRTs, in Provincial Reconstruction Teams. So we are trying both to provide people with some opportunities and training before they go out to help, to the extent we can prepare them for some of the things they might face while out there as well as making sure, both through outbriefings and regular medical clearance process, and through some support services that we're providing, being able to take care of issues on the back end, once their service is complete.

And again, I just want to emphasize one more time what the Secretary has said in congressional testimony. But what is important to remember is that this is something that people in this building and people in the Foreign Service feel very strongly about. You know, we are committed to carrying out our responsibilities to doing the hard work of diplomacy and doing the hard work of diplomacy in a transformational period. But it is worth noting that that does mean that individuals make sacrifices not only in terms of being away from their families or being in some difficult circumstances, but occasionally means that when they come back from this service, they do have things that we need to help them with and help them to be able to respond to.

Let's go over here.

QUESTION: United States supports Turkish democracy, there are a lot of statements on that -- a few statements, I mean. My question is about that: How has U.S. support Turkish democracy? What does support mean? How does support Turkish democracy?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I don't think the United States needs to be dictating to Turkey how its own internal politics should work, but it means exactly that. Turkey is a friend and NATO ally. We fully support the right of the Turkish people to determine who their leaders are going to be. We certainly reject any kind of external interference into Turkish domestic political affairs and we certainly also wish to see, just as the Prime Minister said the other day, that the Turkish people should be able to decide through the ballot box who their leaders are going to be and who's going to be in charge.

QUESTION: May I follow?

MR. CASEY: Hold on, Mr. Lambros. Don't jump out of your seat quite yet.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. CASEY: Okay, I'll let him follow up, since he asked the question, and then you can follow up on his follow-up.

QUESTION: Yes, yes, yes. On the same subject.

QUESTION: Okay. Is there any change on other issues such as committing PKK terrorism, Kirkuk and murder in Iraq?

MR. CASEY: Well no, our positions on those issues remain the same. Certainly we want to work with Turkey and the Government of Iraq to try and combat the threat that's posed from the PKK. I think you heard a little bit from some of our briefers earlier in the week about that subject. I know General Ralston continues his mission and continues his contacts both with Turkish and with Iraqi officials, but we remain fully committed to working with the Turkish Government and the Iraqis to deal with that problem. On Kirkuk, I think you've heard our answer on that one before and I just refer you backto what we said previously.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Follow up on Turkey. Mr. Casey, the late popular Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou said, "Democracy in Greece at the gun point" by U.S.-supported dictator Colonel George Papadopoulos. The popular Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan said yesterday, "Today democracy in Turkey has been shot with a bullet" by the dictator today, General Yasar Buyukanit, but so far, I know who is behind. Question: Are you really concerned, Mr. Casey, about democracy in Turkey, which has been brutalized by the Turkish generals?

MR. CASEY: Well, thank you for that trip down memory lane, Mr. Lambros, but --

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. CASEY: Look, I think the Secretary made clear in the remarks she made to the traveling press on her trip what our position is. I've stated it here again. I think you heard it from Sean the other day. We believe that a free and democratic Turkey in which the Turkish people decide for themselves who their leaders are is critical for that country. It is critical for Europe, and it's critical for the world and we will continue to support and call for respect for the constitutional order and democratic process in that country.

QUESTION: One more for the Army. A leading editorial of Washington Post, Mr. Casey, wrote yesterday "that Bush Administration quietly asked the Turkish Army to remain in its barracks" where they belong and leave the politicians alone. Do you agree as the Department of State?

MR. CASEY: Do I agree with The Washington Post editorial? Well --

QUESTION: Do you agree with the (inaudible) in common politics --

MR. CASEY: Well, since I did see -- since I did happen to see the members of the --

QUESTION: -- vote in internal politics?

MR. CASEY: Well, since I did happen to see the members of the editorial board of the Post earlier today, I certainly wouldn't want to say anything to offend them. But Mr. Lambros, U.S. policy is U.S. policy. It's quite clear we support the democratic order in Turkey. We wish to see the constitution, the ballot box rule in Turkey. And I think the Secretary and everyone else has made that quite clear. Certainly we don't want the military or anyone else interfering in the constitutional process or doing anything in an extra constitutional way.

QUESTION: Thank God.

MR. CASEY: There you go.

Arshad, welcome back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Has the U.S. Government begun discussions with the Government of Great Britain about how to curb access to the United States by British citizens of Pakistani descent?

MR. CASEY: No. Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, the Times --- The New York Times says that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has done so. Are you saying that's wrong? I'm assuming you checked between the gaggle and now?

MR. CASEY: I am telling you that according to everyone I've checked with, including the Department of Homeland Security, there are no such kinds of discussions ongoing. You're certainly free to ask them, though.

Again, I talked about this in the gaggle, but let me just kind of walk people through this. First of all, the Visa Waiver Program is something that is enshrined in legislation. It is not something that is subject to bilateral negotiations between the United States and any given country.

And while the President has talked about putting forward additional legislation to expand the Visa Waiver Program, all while being able to maintain security for our borders as we do so, the legislation has not been forward to the Hill. And certainly ideas are still under discussion. So in that sense, the U.S. Government, the Executive Branch, does not have any final proposals to put forward to Congress which has the ultimate say on this, much less engage in discussions with foreign countries about how that any changes to the legislation might work.

I also want to be clear, Arshad, it is repugnant to the values of this country and I think to anybody sitting in this room to suggest that the United States would engage in what frankly the way I read that story would amount to some form of racial profiling. I cannot imagine an instance in which that would be our policy.

QUESTION: They do have ways of keeping people off airplanes in Visa Waiver countries, you know.

MR. CASEY: I love when I get coaching. Thanks, George, for reminding me to talk about some of that, too. As you know, the --

QUESTION: You're going to miss him. (Laughter.)

MR. CASEY: I am going to miss him. But we will find an appropriate tribute for George later on. And we promise George it will be embarrassing.

But what I do want to take advantage of George's question -- to remind you of, too, is that as we look at entries into the United States, there are any number of means to ensure that people who intend us harm don't come here. Certainly the law enforcement community and the intelligence community maintain various kinds of watch lists that you're all familiar with, that's certainly our one bar towards people being able to come here.

But the other thing that people will often forget is that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. Someone who comes to the border, whether they are from a Visa Waiver country or whether they have a visa and their passport does have to pass through screening from the Immigration Control and Enforcement Service at ports of entry. And I think all of you that have covered this building for a while are familiar with cases in which individuals have found their way to ports of entry and have been found ineligible to come into the country for one reason or another.

So what I want to make clear is even as the Visa Waiver Program moves forward and it is something which facilitates travel among a great many of our close friends and allies and countries with which we have a good strong relationship. We are still not saying that that just automatically means that anyone who is a citizen of those countries comes here without any kind of checks or without any kind of screening both before they get on an airplane or when they get to the port of entry.

Nina.

QUESTION: Nick Burns has made some comments in London today that seem to indicate -- have a stronger possibility of an Iranian-U.S. meeting on the sidelines of this conference. He said we look forward to a good discussion around that table in Sharm. It has been 30 years since the United States and Iran have been able to negotiate on serious issues. Can you elaborate on his comments at all or say whether -

MR. CASEY: Well, I'll see your Under Secretary and raise you a Secretary. I'd just refer you back to the comments that she made on the plane on the way out to Sharm.

Certainly, you know, first of all, the importance is this is going to be both in the Compact and in the neighbors meeting, an opportunity for all of us to try and see what we can do to help advance the cause of building a free, peaceful and democratic Iraq. And we certainly hope that all the people who are coming to that meeting are going to do so with that idea in mind. What we want to see from the Iranians and the Syrians, as you know, is to have their actions live up to their rhetoric. They've continued to stress that they want good relations with Iraq. They've continued to say that they want to see peace and stability in Iraq. Unfortunately, they continue to do things like allow foreign fighters to transit, like provide support for militias, and like providing some of these most deadly IEDs to insurgent groups and others who are taking attacks on coalition and Iraqi forces. So we'll see.

In terms of a meeting again, we're not trying to rule anything else. We're not trying to rule anything in. And I'm also not trying to tell you that Nick's comments should lean you any further one way or another than the Secretary did herself last night.

Dave. Do you want to follow up, Nina?

QUESTION: Yes, but on a different subject, a brief question on Wolfowitz, still embattled obviously. (Laughter.) I know you have nothing to do with that at all but I have to get it in.

MR. CASEY: But you snuck it in, so good for you.

QUESTION: Does the Administration feel that the World Bank needs someone like Paul Wolfowitz as its steward -- really a tough taskmaster or someone that's going to make changes? And can you give examples of any changes he's implemented since he's been there?

MR. CASEY: Well, look, I think the President's spoken to this issue and I will, frankly, leave it where he has in terms of the specifics on Mr. Wolfowitz. But in terms of the World Bank, we do think it's important that this institution adapt and evolve itself to the times. And that does mean taking advantage of opportunities to really work to reduce poverty, to really work in some of the critical-needs countries, but to do so in a way that ensures that there really are commitments on both sides. It doesn't help any nation to receive loans if those loans don't go to good purpose or if they are not tied in some way to assurances that they will be put to good use.

And unfortunately, if you look at the history of some of these programs, there have been many governments over time who have not exactly wisely used the funds they receive. So dealing with things like corruption, dealing with things like assuring that there's a clear compact along the model that we've used with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, to ensure that there's a real understanding of what countries are going to be doing with these loans and to have some clear understanding that it really will benefit the people are very positive things and things that need to continue at the Bank.

So I think we've been on record, both before Mr. Wolfowitz joined the Bank as well as after, saying these kinds of reforms are necessary. And our voice has not been alone in that, too. I think if you check with a number of the other major members of the Bank, they will say the same thing. So those kinds of efforts that have been undertaken, in part by Mr. Wolfowitz, are things that are important. And regardless of who's in charge of the Bank now or in the future are efforts that need to continue.

QUESTION: But would the Administration, in that case, want to see some continuity?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, in terms of Mr. Wolfowitz himself and his status, I think the President made his views on this quite clear and I'll leave it with him.

QUESTION: Tom, back on Burns.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is it -- can you enlighten us at all about what happened at the P-5+1 political directors meeting and also tell us about his other meeting that he had there today?

MR. CASEY: Well, he's doing a couple of things while he's there in London. One is a P-5+1 meeting. That is basically -- short answer, Matt, is no, I haven't a chance to talk with him and get a good readout. But the intent was simply to do a update on the situation. As you know, we're looking for a report from the IAEA coming out in a couple of weeks that will provide their evaluation of where Iran's nuclear program stands. Certainly, we thought it was appropriate at this time to have a discussion among political directors about how people view things, particularly after the Solana-Larijani meetings.

I wish that I could say that we saw more progress there than we do. I think you've heard from others, though, as well that what the Iranians have done and what they've continued to do is refuse to meet the one basic criteria required to start negotiations. So, you know, certainly, we're always hopeful and certainly, I'm sure there will be a lot of discussions in that P-5+1, but I don't think that the Iranians have moved forward or come further towards meeting the international community's demands.

He also is meeting with or has met, I think, already with the contact group to talk about the situation in Kosovo. That is, again, an opportunity for him and his counterparts at the political directors level to discuss the Ahtisaari plan and the state of play. I think they may have an opportunity too to talk a little bit about the recent trip taken by some of the UN perm reps to the region as part of their evaluation of the situation in advance of potential UN action on Kosovo.

QUESTION: Has that second meeting occurred?

MR. CASEY: I think -- depending on the time, I think it may be ongoing -- still may be ongoing now.

QUESTION: Can you try to get us some kind of a readout on that?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I will -- we will get you something --

QUESTION: On both?

MR. CASEY: -- on both those meetings and I apologize for not having been able to get through to anyone on that before I came out here.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Tom, do you have anything more on the situation at the Estonia consulate in Moscow which was attacked by a group of youths which they described as a Kremlin-backed youth organization? And do you think the Russian police and security were sufficient around that compound?

MR. CASEY: Well, let me do this. We're going to be putting out a statement on this subject after the briefing, but let me just go through that with you and then we'll try and answer some of your more specific questions.

First of all, we're grateful to see the restoration of calm in Tallinn following the relocation of the Bronze Soldier monument. And as I said earlier this morning, decisions related to the movement of that monument or anything else along these lines are ones that belong to the Estonian Government and people. Throughout this past week, as this controversy has continued concerning its relocation, we've urged both the Estonian Government and the Russian Government to maintain dialogue and respect for the strong feelings on both sides.

However, we are concerned and continue to be so by reports of violence and harassment, including harassment of Estonian diplomatic personnel and premises in Moscow. And we welcome the Estonian president's call today for reconciliation among Estonian citizens and dialogue between Estonians and Russians. But we also urge authorities in Moscow to do everything possible to reduce tensions and carry out their responsibilities under the Vienna Convention concerning diplomatic premises and diplomats and avoid harsh words and escalation.

So I think that partly answers your question, but yes, you know, we all want to see this situation deescalate. We certainly want to see that the premises of the Estonian mission, the Ambassador, and other officials there are treated with the proper courtesies and respect that should be accorded them as well as all diplomats and are, frankly, legal requirements under the Vienna Convention. So we would urge the Moscow authorities to make sure that everything's being done to assure their safety and assure their rights.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Albania, Mr. Casey, yesterday, Greece protested provocative actions by newly formed Albanian army bands with a fancy name called Liberation Army of (inaudible). This entity according to Balkans observers is an extension of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Does the Department of State of follow the activities beyond Kosovo or for revived Kosovo Liberation Army which was once classified by the Department of State as a terrorist organization?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'm not familiar with those reports. But again, I think whether you're referring to the situation in Kosovo or more broadly in the Balkans, U.S. policy has been consistent and clear in terms of insisting that people proceed through constitutional and legal means and not resort to violence. We would certainly oppose any violent actions against individuals, whether that's in Greece, Kosovo, Albania or any place else.

QUESTION: One more. Does the U.S. Government share intelligence with Greece concerning the (inaudible) role of Islamic cells in the Balkans as you are concerned, some of which has been close allies of the KLA and its close border affiliates such as the (inaudible) Liberation Army?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, we have excellent relations with the Government of Greece in all areas. But certainly, I wouldn't be in a position to comment on any kind of intelligence matters. You could certainly try again my friends over at the CIA on that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) information.

MR. CASEY: Again, I think we've covered that one sufficiently.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:05 p.m.)

DPB # 78

Released on May 2, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/may/84193.htm
Top
mynameis
Posted: May 4 2007, 01:30 AM


If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.


Group: Members
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Member No.: 856
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Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 3, 2007

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT
Department Employees Seeking Assistance for Mental Health Issues
Confidentiality of Medical Records / Diplomatic Security
U.S. Efforts to Commemorate Press Freedom Day / Dobriansky / Hughes

TURKEY
Turkish Political Process
U.S. Policy with Regards to Turkey’s Candidacy with the European Union

SYRIA
Secretary’s Meeting with the Syrian Foreign Minister

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
U.S. Desire for Dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians
Israeli Political Process

IRAN
U.S. Continues Looking for Information on Mr. Levinson
Reported Negotiation Proposal
Past Direct High-Level Meetings between Foreign Ministers

ZIMBABWE
Human Rights Watch Report / Zimbabwe’s Repression of Political Dissent
President Mugabe Bears Personal Responsibility for Assaults on Activists
Efforts on Southern African Countries to Engage Mugabe Government

KOSOVO
U.S. Policy on Kosovo / U.S. Expects to Move Forward on Ahtisaari Plan
U.S. Continuing to Work with Russia / Ahtisaari Plan Best Hope Forward

INDIA
U.S. Discussions with Indian Counterparts on Indian Activities with Iran
Indian Foreign Secretary’s Visit to Washington


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video
1:28 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Okay good afternoon, everybody. I don't have anything to start you with, so who wants to go first?

Matt?

QUESTION: Can I just go back briefly to revisit something that came up yesterday --

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: -- about the PTSD and diplomats?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Is it correct that people who -- Foreign Service officers who voluntarily seek treatment or voluntarily go in to take -- to be examined for mental health cases can have their security clearances revoked?

MR. CASEY: You mean simply for reporting that they are having mental health issues?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. CASEY: No, it's not true.

QUESTION: It's not. You've seen the statement put out by the concerned Foreign Service officers advising people who take -- choose to take advantage of these programs, but basically not to do it and to instead go to private healthcare providers?

MR. CASEY: Matt, no, I haven't seen the statement. But again simply seeking assistance because one is having mental health issues related to service in Iraq certainly isn't grounds for suspension of clearance or revocation of it. In fact, I think -- I'm not aware of anyone who has had -- certainly related to Iraq service -- anyone who's had their clearance suspended. And certainly you know, you can talk to our folks in Diplomatic Security about what kinds of circumstances would merit the suspension or revocation of a clearance, but simply stating that one is having trouble sleeping at night or, you know, having other issues related to their service in Iraq or Afghanistan certainly isn't grounds, as I understand it, for any kind of clearance suspension.

QUESTION: Okay. Because this statement says that they have seen -- there have been numerous cases where even allegations of mental health issues ranging from PTSD to depression to marital discord have been referred to the bureau of -- Office of Medical Services -- sorry, have been referred by them to DS, "usually resulting in recommendations to revoke a security clearance." They also say that these records are not available to the employees who have gone into -- they're barred from having access to them. So if you could clear that up.

MR. CASEY: Matt, simply -- well simply looking at that, I'm simply not familiar with anything that that would be referring to. Look, the process is pretty simple. Medical records are as I understand it, confidential the way they're confidential for you visiting a physician. I certainly couldn't talk about anybody's individual medical history or case.

QUESTION: But apparently they're not confidential because they're being given to DS. So that would seem to be --

MR. CASEY: Matt, I'll check for you. I have never personally heard of an instance in which one's medical records are forwarded to Diplomatic Security. My understanding is of the approximately, you know, 15,000-odd people who hold security clearances of one kind or another in this building -- currently a handful, somewhere between two and three dozen -- are currently suspended. So I would find it personally hard to believe based on my understanding of the situation that there is any widespread effort to either suspend or revoke people's security clearance, simply for reporting that they might or might not be having some kind of mental health issue associated with service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Clearly as a matter of Department policy, there is no intention to suspend someone's clearance because of that and frankly would be antithetical to our efforts to support people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan to say, oh, by the way, if you happen to say that you have a problem, we will therefore cause some kind of difficulty for you.

QUESTION: Which is this is so interesting, you know, because it would be antithetical.

MR. CASEY: If there's any factual basis to it, yes. But as far as I know there's no factual basis to it. Be happy to look into it for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: All right, let's go to you.

QUESTION: After days of political crisis in Turkey, the parliament has opted for holding early general elections in July. Anything you would like to say?

MR. CASEY: Beyond what I said yesterday, no.

QUESTION: Would an early election defuse tensions and bring Turkey to a healthy solution?

MR. CASEY: Thanks again for trying to get me and Sean into Turkish politics. These are decisions for the Turkish people to make. Again, our position is we fully support Turkish democracy and want to see things proceed in accordance with Turkish law and Turkish constitution. However the Turkish people and leadership and Turkish people choose to resolve those issues are matters for them to decide not for us or anyone else.

Kirit.

QUESTION: Any further readout of Secretary Rice's meeting with the Syrian Foreign Minister?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think the readout of Secretary Rice's meeting with the Syrian Foreign Minister was given by Secretary Rice to your colleagues out there and I know she's also been doing some additional one-on-one interviews this afternoon, so frankly I'll leave it to her to do it. Simply for those of you that haven't gotten any basic information about it, she did have an opportunity to have a brief discussion with the Syrian Foreign Minister on the margins of the Iraq Compact Group meeting today. My understanding is that that meeting focused solely on issues related to Iraq, very specifically those involving the transit of foreign fighters and other kinds of negative behavior that the Syrians have been engaged in. Like I said, she's addressed her comments to this already, but that's the basis of what was discussed.

QUESTION: Can you just for the record tell us how you're referring to this meeting? You said it was on the margins -- so you would not call this a bilateral meeting between the two of them?

MR. CASEY: I would call it a discussion on the margins of the Compact Group; that's how it was described to me.

QUESTION: But it was bilateral, right? There was nobody else there. It was just the U.S. side and the Syrian side --

MR. CASEY: It was just the two of them, but it was not -- it was on the margins of this larger event.

QUESTION: I mean was it -- when you say on the margins, I mean, they were in a separate room? I mean, how was this --

MR. CASEY: I honestly --

QUESTION: I mean, I'm just wondering how you would define it as --

MR. CASEY: I honestly don't have the logistics. On the margins means that it was a -- you know, fairly brief event that happened in the course of this broader set of discussions. My understanding was, yes, the room consisted of the two of them plus other Syrians and other Americans. You know, what the shape of the room was, how many people were in the room and all that kind of stuff, I'll leave to the party to talk about.

QUESTION: And just one follow-on, if you could just say -- if you know about the planning for this meeting, whether this was agreed to before or if they decided during the course of the meeting this is something they wanted to engage in.

MR. CASEY: Again, all that kind of detail, I'd simply refer you to the party on.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Tom, I realize you guys generally don't want to speak about internal political developments in other countries, but there's something related to this that I think you might want to address. Obviously, there's considerable political uncertainty in Israel and I wonder if the uncertainty in any way about who -- whether Olmert survives as Prime Minister and so on -- in any way affects the Secretary's plans to keep working and traveling to the Middle East. Does this change her thinking or planning for when she may go next?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, the basics: The basics remain the same. It's important for us, we believe, to continue to have a dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians not only on the immediate short-term issues but on those broader political horizon issues that you've all heard the Secretary talk about. In terms of her future travel plans, I'm not aware of any changes in her schedule. Certainly, I wouldn't want to try and predict, Arshad, any particular changes in the Israeli political system either, because as you said that is an internal matter and I'll leave it to the Israelis to sort their internal politics out.

Charlie.

QUESTION: Any update on Mr. Levinson and particularly the internet report that he has left Iran and gone into Iraq?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, we've seen those reports for several days now. There's been no verification or no indication to us that that is, in fact, the case, but obviously, we're continuing to look at all possible avenues to try and locate him, try and determine his welfare and whereabouts.

QUESTION: Does that mean you're looking in Iraq then as well --

MR. CASEY: Again, that means that we're pursuing all avenues. I don't really have any further details for you beyond what we've already said.

Charlie.

QUESTION: Do you have any information, whatever good or bad, that the efforts to get information from your allies turned up anything? Did they --

MR. CASEY: To date, I'm not aware that we've gotten anything from them that certainly would give us a -- you know, help us do what we've been set out to do here, which is figure out where he is and get him returned to his family.

David.

QUESTION: Tom, Human Rights Watch yesterday put out a report on Zimbabwe basically saying that the repression of the opposition there is continuing unabated and that Southern African mediation efforts there have been basically useless. And I was wondering if you think there's any way the -- sort of the outside world can influence the government there.

MR. CASEY: Well, we haven't had a chance to review the report, but even without seeing it, I do think it's clear that the Government of Zimbabwe continues to take actions to repress political dissent, to prevent the opposition from freely expressing their political views. And there continue to be reports, as you know, that various opposition members and others have not only been assaulted, but some have disappeared.

There are allegations of Zimbabwean security force involvement in those and so these are all outstanding issues for the Zimbabwean Government and issues that they need to address. But it's very clear to us that they have not changed their policy. And again, I think we've -- we're on record as saying that President Mugabe bears personal responsibility for the kinds of assaults on democratic activists and the kinds of acts of repression that we've seen done under his leadership.

QUESTION: Are you dissatisfied -- the Southern African countries had a meeting in Tanzania. Basically, they appointed South Africa to be an intermediary and again, seemingly no effect. Do you have any reflection on that?

MR. CASEY: Well, we appreciated the desire and the effort being made on the part of the Southern African countries to engage with the Mugabe government, but I think we've always said that we'd like to see them do more to help convince President Mugabe and his government to change their policies and to allow the people of Zimbabwe the right to freely express themselves. It is a tragic situation there and if you look at what has happened in Zimbabwe in the last few years, both on the economic front as well as the political front, it's been going nowhere fast. And in fact, the car's been in reverse gear for some time.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Albania, the new Albanian Foreign Minister, Mr. Casey, Lulzim Basha, will be in the town and November 7th is going to deliver a speech in CSIS. Do you know when he is going to meet the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice?

MR. CASEY: I don't have any updates for her schedule on you. I'm sure when we put out the week ahead or other kinds of planning purposes documents, we'll be able to give you that information.

QUESTION: And one more. As President Bush said, quote -- many, many times, "NATO is the pillar of the U.S. foreign policy," but the Albanians in Kosovo, according to reports, they are threatening to fight even with NATO forces in order to obtain their so-called independence. Would you allow this to happen unless the situation is vice versa?

MR. CASEY: Boy, Mr. Lambros, there's a stretch for you. Look, our policy on Kosovo hasn't changed. NATO's there implementing, are under the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. We fully expect to move forward with the Ahtisaari plan. Certainly, as you know Under Secretary Burns is just returning now today from London. He met earlier in the day today with the other members of the Contact Group. They again reviewed the situation in Kosovo. I think there was great unity, as I understand it, among the European Union members, as well as the United States and others on the need to move forward quickly with that. Certainly, we want -- we are well aware that the Russians have some concerns about that, but in this meeting, they were certainly invited and encouraged to move forward with this process and to help us all bring about a peaceful resolution of one of the longstanding crises in the Balkans and an issue which frankly everyone believes the time has come to address in a satisfactory matter.

QUESTION: And the last on Turkey, the French candidate for the presidency --

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MR. CASEY: Sure. Let Mr. Lambros --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Okay --

QUESTION: Yeah --

MR. CASEY: Up to you, guys.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Go, go ahead. Go ahead, Lambros.

QUESTION: MayI go? Thank you. The French candidate for the Presidency of France Nicholas Sarkozy with unusual hate against the Turks stated yesterday: "Turkey not in Europe, I will not accept European borders with Iran via Turkey." Any comments since the U.S. Government fully supports Turkey to become a member of the European Union?

MR. CASEY: I don't think I particularly want to be involved in the French presidential debate either, but if you're asking about our policy on Turkey's candidacy for the EU, as you know, while we're not a member of the EU, we have and continue to support Turkey's ongoing negotiations for membership with that body.

QUESTION: Can we go back toKosovo?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: You said that the Russians were certainly invited and encouraged to move forward toward a resolution on Kosovo. Did they give you any reason to believe that they are interested in the position that you and the Europeans have on Kosovo, or do they remain intransigent on this?

MR. CASEY: Well, I mean, I'll let them speak for themselves. I'm not going to try and tell you, Arshad, that this meeting resolved all outstanding issues with the Russians on this. But we are continuing to work with them not only in the Contact Group, but in the UN. As you know, many of the UN perm reps just concluded a visit to the region to kind of review the situation there for themselves. And certainly, we believe that the Ahtisaari plan does offer a viable way forward, and are looking forward to continuing these discussions with the Russians because we do think that it's important for all of us, including the Russians, to be able to support this resolution as it offers the best hope forward for the people of Kosovo and the people of Serbia.

QUESTION: And when and how -- do you have a plan now for when and how you're going to keep raising it with the Russians? Is it going to come up when the Secretary travels there? Do you expect it later this month or is there some other process --

MR. CASEY: Well, I suspect that first and foremost, there's going to be continued dialogue and discussion within the UN Security Council on this matter. Obviously, the Russians will be a full participant in those discussions. I think Kosovo, certainly in the past, and generally has come up in some way or another in the Secretary's discussions with Foreign Minister Lavrov. To what extent and how much that will be a feature of her meetings in Russia on her trip there later this month, that I just don't know. But certainly, it's a topic that's come up in the past and I would expect it would again.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Tom, Nicholas Kristof had an interesting editorial in the Times on Sunday where he says in May 2003, Iran sent a secret proposal to the U.S. for settling mutual disputes in a grand bargain and in the talks -- well, they included Ambassador Pickering, Wisner, Nicholas Platt, and Iranian Ambassador Zarif. And evidently, in the master document, Iran talks about ensuring full transparency and other measures to assure the U.S. that it will not develop nuclear weapons. So why did those talks fall apart? They seem to have offered up a solution.

MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen Mr. Kristof's op-ed. I assume you're referring to what has otherwise been called the Gouldman proposal, the proposal or paper that the Swiss Ambassador presented sometime back in 2003. This is a matter that you can go and look at what we've said on the record before and that Secretary Rice has testified to and I don't have anything to add.

Joel.

QUESTION: Tom, it's a report that's just come out from the Committee to Protect Journalists, it's in respect to World Press Freedom Day. And they're saying there's been an erosion especially by two countries; one is Russia and of course, the other is probably no surprise, Venezuela. But how do you react? They say there are also four or five backsliders. In other words, for instance, the Russians have nationalized all their television channels. There have been 11 murders of journalists in the last year and no case is solved. Is that a surprise?

MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen their report, Joel. I think as most people know, you can take a look at what Karen Hughes -- Under Secretary Karen Hughes and Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky said a couple of days ago in the event that they participated in, that we co-sponsored with Freedom House, looking at the issue of press freedom, in part, as our efforts to commemorate World Press Freedom Day. Certainly, this has been a very difficult year for journalists. I think the reporting I've seen indicates that the greatest number of journalists in many years died this year trying to cover the news in places scattered throughout the globe. And certainly cases you've indicated, including some of the murders of journalists in Russia and elsewhere, are very disturbing and are things that we are concerned about. You know, it is important that you and your colleagues and everyone around the world who's trying to report and cover the news have an opportunity to do so and do so free from either physical threat or other kinds of intimidation.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) getting it from this morning. Did you get -- have you yet gotten an answer about the history of high-level U.S.-Iranian contacts?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'll give it a shot. I've talked with the Historian's Office about this and they have not been able to do an exhaustive search. But what -- my understanding is is the last time you had a direct high-level meeting between foreign ministers on a -- of Iran and the United States in -- that was a substantive meeting would have been in December 31, 1977, before the revolution when President Carter visited Iran. George had asked about the discussions concerning the Algiers Agreement; that of course did involve Deputy Secretary Christopher. But to my -- it's my understanding and as the Historian's Office tells me, those did not involve direct discussions with people sitting in the same room. That was effectively discussions that were mediated by the Algerians in what must be one of the world's record proximity talks of shuttling back and forth between Algiers and Tehran and Washington. My understanding is Deputy Secretary Christopher did, in fact, go to Algiers for some of the final aspects of that, but that again, he was dealing -- while it was a negotiation between the United States and Iran, the direct contacts were with the Algerians in that case.

Otherwise, you have the record of things that I spoke about certainly this morning. Certainly, the meeting that Secretary Powell participated in in 2004 with his Iranian counterpart among others and a meeting in Egypt and there was an exchange there between them. There also, as I understand it, were some very passing, briefing -- pleasantries exchanged between Secretary Albright and then-Iranian Foreign Minister Karzai at the UN in 1999, so I think those are basic data points. And again, as you know, both at the Compact Group meeting in September in New York as well as the subsequent Neighbors meeting that was just held in Baghdad, you have both secretarial level as well as ministerial level engagements or having them be in the same room for discussions on a broader set of issues. And you also have the envoy level process that occurred in Berlin in -- basically between, on and off, 2001 and 2003; that involving several special envoys included Jim Dobbins and Zal Khalilzad. Zal Khalilzad, of course, has also met while Ambassador to Afghanistan with his Iranian counterpart there to discuss specific Afghan issues and it's sort of part of the same process.

QUESTION: First of all, thank you very much to the Historian's Department for running that down. You were careful to say: It's my understanding that -- if for any reason it turns out that that's wrong and there was a substantive exchange after December of 1997, if they could let us --

MR. CASEY: '77 --

QUESTION: '77, excuse me. If they could let you and --

MR. CASEY: And they will.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: And I phrased it that way, Arshad, simply because they emphasized to me that in the way of all things of history it takes a little more time than they had this morning to do it.

QUESTION: Sure.

MR. CASEY: But that's our best understanding right now.

QUESTION: And then --

QUESTION: On the same subject.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: You said it was New Year's Eve, 1977?

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Oh, was Carter -- Carter was visiting the Shah?

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Was that the time that he gave the toast in which he praised Iran as being the island of stability in the Middle East?

MR. CASEY: I have no idea, Matt, I honestly don't. That's -- I didn't get into the specifics of the -- what the visit was designed to accomplish or any remarks anyone would have made at that time.

QUESTION: All right. And the one when he -- and the other thing that you talked about with Albright in -- with, you said, Karzai or Karazi?

MR. CASEY: Karazi.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. CASEY: If I said Karzai, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: One other thing again from this morning. We had asked about comment on letters from the Hill about the Indian civil nuclear deal, particularly about alleged Iranian -- U.S. -- Indian-Iranian cooperation. Do you have anything on that?

MR. CASEY: Not much frankly because we have not seen this letter and I'm not sure whether the Indians have had a chance to look at it and react to it. In terms of what we say and while what we have discussed with our Indian counterparts, I know that we have raised Congressional concern about their cooperation with Iran and we continue to encourage the Indians to use what influence they have with the Iranians to press them to comply with U.N. Security Council Resolutions and to behave responsibly in a wide variety of areas. I think my understanding is the Foreign Secretary, when he was here visiting with Nick Burns, among other officials, was -- had some fairly strong views on this subject, and I think I deferred the Indian Government to let them describe their relationship with the Iranians. But certainly this is an issue that we continue to discuss with them in our official contacts as well.

QUESTION: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:53 p.m.)

DPB # 79

Released on May 3, 2007

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/may/84233.htm
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Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
August 30, 2007

INDEX:
IRAQ

GAO Report Should Fulfill Requirements of Congress
Assessment is a Realistic Look at What Has or Has Not Occurred on the Ground

SOUTH KOREA / AFGHANISTAN

Reaction to South Korean Hostage Release
South Korean Government Can Talk About Nature of Discussions
Longstanding U.S. Policy is Not to Make Concessions to Terrorists
South Korea Made Decision Months Ago that Deployment Would End by the End of Year

PAKISTAN

Musharraf Has Made Commitment to Address Issue of Dual Leadership in Accordance with Pakistani Law and Constitution
Not for U.S. to Interpret Pakistan’s Constitution
Pakistanis Will Decide Pakistan’s Future Political Leaders
U.S. Wants to See Free and Fair Elections Later This Year

UN

UNMOVIC Staff Finds Small Amount of Chemical Agents
FBI and UN to Handle Any Issues Related to the Matter
FBI Will Secure and Dispose of Material Properly
UN and Law Enforcement Officers Have Conducted Testing of Area
No Current of Past Treat Posed to Public Safety
Small Amount of Chemicals Had Been There Approximately Ten Years
UN Has Timetable and Details of Discovery of Chemicals

GREECE

U.S. Provided Immediate Contribution to Hellenic Red Cross to Help With Costs and Concerns Related to Fire

IRAN

Iran Has Not Cleared Outstanding Issues That Remain Before the IAEA
Iran Has Not Suspended Uranium Enrichment/Answered Questions/Engaged in Negations with International Community
Iran has Not Met Any International Obligations / Regime Continues on Path of International Defiance
Burns Speaks Regularly to P5+1 Colleagues/ Consultations Ongoing in New York
Sanctions in Place are Having an Impact on Activities of Iranian Government
Nobody Wants to Contribute to the Development of an Iranian Nuclear Weapon
IRAN is Yet to Answer Questions about It’s Nuclear Program that have been Posed by the IAEA

MACEDONIA

U.S. Wants to See all International Business Deals be Handled in a Fair Transparent Manner


TRANSCRIPT:
View Video

12:45 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everybody. I don't have any opening announcements for you, so Matt --

QUESTION: Yeah. Tom, does the State Department share the view of the Pentagon that the -- that several of the benchmarks that are outlined in the GAO report should be changed from unfulfilled or not met to fulfilled or met?

MR. CASEY: Matt, look, I'm going to let the GAO actually put out its report and then we can have a discussion about how people view the individual judgments made. I think from our perspective, what we want to see happen is see the GAO fulfill the requirement that Congress placed upon it. I would point out again, as I did this morning, that the standard that the GAO has been asked to apply in the legislation is somewhat different than the standard that was applied for the July 15th benchmarks report; and in that sense, it wouldn't surprise me if there are some differences in terms of the final judgments rendered.

QUESTION: Yeah, I understand that. But the Pentagon spokesman said that they have asked -- that the Pentagon has asked for several of these -- of the GAO's findings to be revised. Has the State Department made similar requests?

MR. CASEY: I'm not sure what Jeff has said or what the Pentagon may or may not have done. Again, I think I will let the internal conversations between us and the GAO and other people on this take place in private. The GAO is going to issue its report. It's going to make its findings as it sees fit. Certainly, we want that to reflect accurately the standards that was given to it by Congress. And certainly, we hope that it will reflect the progress that has been made as well as those areas where there has not been the kind of progress we'd like to see.

QUESTION: But in your comments this morning, you made clear that the Administration doesn't believe that the standards that were -- that Congress gave to the GAO allow for the report to say that progress has been met. It allows only for them to give a thumbs up/thumbs down. So how are they supposed to fulfill their mandate and, at the same time, give partial credit where you think partial credit is due?

MR. CASEY: Again, Matt, I think that they have to apply the standard that Congress has given them. I expect that they will do so. Certainly though, in whatever narrative that accompanies this, I would hope that they would note, regardless of whether they provide a thumbs up or a thumbs down on any individual category, a assessment and a realistic look at what has or hasn't occurred.

QUESTION: So you would like, then, that in addition for them to go through the 18 benchmarks and say yes or no to each one of them, that they would also have some kind of a, I don't know, descriptive page or pages that say even though we found that this -- they were lacking here and there, that there was progress made towards that end.

MR. CASEY: Look, Matt, I'm going to try not to give too much advice to the GAO. They've got a job to do and I know that they know how to do it, and I certainly expect they'll carry out their function professionally, as they always do. What I understand though is this isn't a two-page check sheet; it is a report that does go into some detail about the individual elements. And I certainly hope that in the discussion that they have or the written descriptions that they have, that that is -- and I have ever reason to expect it will be -- reflective of their understanding of the facts on the ground.

Sylvie.

QUESTION: You said previously that you didn't want to comment on the release of the South Korean hostages in Afghanistan, and now they have all been released. What do you think of the negotiations between the South Korean Government and the Taliban? Do you think it set a dangerous precedent?

MR. CASEY: I guess you're ahead of me on this one. I hadn't been aware that all of the hostages, in fact, had been released.

But look, first of all, we're very grateful that all of these individuals, if that's in fact true, have been released. They should have never been taken hostage in the first place. It is again typical of what we are dealing with in confronting the Taliban in Afghanistan that the organization, the terrorist movement, would choose to take hostage these innocent people. And we shouldn’t also forget that while many of them have been released, again, the Taliban did kill several of these hostages as well. So this has been a terrible incident. It's one that we are grateful is, if not over, reaching a conclusion. We're glad to see these people return home.

I will leave it to the South Korean Government to talk about what the nature of those conversations were. Again, I'd simply reiterate that the longstanding U.S. policy, as I've said over the past few days and as everyone else has, is not to make concessions to terrorists.

QUESTION: But when -- sorry. When the Italians --

MR. CASEY: We are grateful that these individuals have been released and are getting a chance to --

QUESTION: But not to -- not grateful to the Taliban?

MR. CASEY: No, I don't think so. You don't be -- you're not grateful for someone for stopping to do what they should have never done in the first place.

QUESTION: When the Italians negotiated with the Taliban, the U.S. Government protested and their relations with Italy were strained by this incident. So now you decided not to criticize in any way the South Korean --

MR. CASEY: Let me see if I can give you some sense of guidance on that. In a domestic law enforcement case if a hostage is taken, we certainly don't expect the police department not to pick up the phone and have a conversation with the hostage-takers. However, we wouldn't expect the police department to make concessions to those hostage-takers. That is the distinction, and I don't think anyone has ever said that a conversation is somehow contrary to U.S. policy. We've said that making concessions is. And again, that would be how we would look at anything related to this issue. I don't -- again, I'd leave it to the South Korean Government to tell you what the nature of those discussions were and what kinds of results came from them.

QUESTION: So to your knowledge, there was no concession at all?

MR. CASEY: I do not have any information about -- that would lead me to that conclusion, no.

QUESTION: What was the U.S. role in the talks? Did you have any kind of --

MR. CASEY: The U.S. role was to encourage the release of these individuals in our public statements and to encourage the Government of Afghanistan and the Government of South Korea to work together closely on this. But we had no direct or really even indirect role in those discussions.

QUESTION: With these negotiations -- don't you think it sets a dangerous precedent for future cases where the Taliban will be able to negotiate with other foreign governments? And here you're talking about negotiating about the mission to Afghanistan, the South Korean mission to Afghanistan, and the South Korean -- their church activities in Afghanistan.

MR. CASEY: Look, again, I will let the South Korean Government talk about the nature of their discussions. In terms of their -- the deployment of any individuals from their forces in Afghanistan, a number of months ago they had made an announcement and made a decision that that deployment would end by the end of the year, so I'm not aware that anything's changed in that regard.

In terms of the Taliban itself, again, I'll repeat what I said yesterday. This is a terrorist movement. It is an organization that conducts suicide bombing, that kill -- that kills individuals indiscriminately, that takes hostages and kills some of them even if, in this instance, gratefully, a number of them have been released. This is not an organization that has legitimacy either with the Afghan people or with anyone in the international community. And I sincerely doubt that an incident in which dozens of innocent South Koreans were taken hostage is going to do anything to enhance their credibility.

Yes, Arshad.

QUESTION: Change of subject. As you may have seen, former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced that he plans to return to Pakistan on September the 10th. That follows the Supreme Court decision earlier this month in Pakistan under which they ruled that he was eligible to return. Is this a good thing? Is this part of the sort of free and fair elections and democratic process the United States hopes to see in Pakistan?

MR. CASEY: Well, Arshad, these are the kinds of individual decisions that Pakistanis are going to have to work through. We would expect that -- you know, the internal politics of Pakistan is going to be something that they, themselves, are going to decide. Our expectation is that any outcome in this situation or in some of the other political discussions that have been going on that we've talked about is that the outcome is going to be consistent with the rule of law in the Pakistani constitution.

QUESTION: One other one on this. As I'm sure you're well aware, another former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, yesterday said that she was very close to reaching an agreement with Musharraf under which he'd give up his role as chief of the armed services. Musharraf's -- a spokesman for the president today said that he has yet to decide whether to step down as the army chief and try to become a civilian president. Has the U.S. Government, at any level, sought clarification from the Pakistani authorities about what is going on, what are Musharraf's intentions, whether he is willing to give up his uniform?

MR. CASEY: Well, Arshad, first of all, President Musharraf said that he would address this issue of dual leadership of both his civilian -- his combined civilian and military role as army chief and as president in accordance with the constitution. As I said yesterday, he's made commitments in that regard. And we would expect that he'd honor them.

In terms of U.S. discussions with Pakistani officials, this is something where we certainly do talk with both officials of the government, as well as members of the major political parties. But these are decisions that the Pakistanis themselves are going to make. Certainly we're very interested in this process and are observing it carefully. I know that Richard Boucher, among others, speaks regularly to Pakistani officials. Certainly, our Ambassador Anne Patterson and her team in Islamabad are in regular contact with a variety of political players there. So we're keeping ourselves apprised of these discussions through those kinds of contacts.

But at this point, my best understanding is that these are decisions that are still being worked through and have yet to be made. And I'd simply let the Pakistani political process work through these issues. And I'm sure that when there is something definitive we'll hear it first from them.

QUESTION: One other thing on this. I mean, you just said -- yesterday you said that you would expect all leaders to honor their commitments, but you didn't specifically say Musharraf. And today you said we would expect that he had -- you know, he's made commitments and we would expect that he would honor them.

It seems to me your guidance on this has shifted over the last year or so. There was a time when you used to say he's made commitments and we expect him to honor them. Then more recently, and I'm quite certain Sean has said, this is a matter for the Pakistani people; they need to decide this. He has said that he will deal with this issue and we leave it at that. And now you're back to saying he should honor his commitment, which I believe was to step down -- was to give up his role -- his dual role or, in other words, give up the uniform.

Is there -- you know, is there any clarity on what really is your position about this? Do you want him to give up the uniform or not?

MR. CASEY: Look, again, and I'll just repeat what I said a couple of minutes ago, he said he's going to deal with this issue and made a commitment to deal with this issue, in accordance with the constitution of the country. That's a commitment he's made. We expect him to honor that commitment.

QUESTION: So that's the commitment you expect him to honor, not the -- what I believe were previous commitments to give up the uniform?

MR. CASEY: Again, my understanding of what he's committed to is to deal with this issue in accordance with Pakistani law and the constitution, and that's our expectation of what will happen.

QUESTION: Okay. And to tilt at one more windmill --

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: -- can you give us clarity on what you think -- whether you think he should keep the uniform or not?

MR. CASEY: Again, these are the kinds of issues that are in the political process. They're going to have to work it through themselves. And I think as we've seen, there's a lot of activity and a lot of discussion going on on this issue right now. We'll leave it to them to comment on it at this point.

QUESTION: Well, what is the view of what "dealing with this in accordance with the Pakistani constitution" is? What does the United States see --

MR. CASEY: Well, there's a Pakistani Supreme Court. It has opinions on this. There's a Pakistani parliament. There's a Pakistani political system. And it's not for the U.S. to interpret Pakistan's constitution for Pakistan's --

QUESTION: Well, no, I'm not asking you to interpret it for them. I'm asking what is your interpretation of what Musharraf means when he says, "I'll deal with this in accordance with the constitution." You don't have one?

MR. CASEY: It means he'll deal with it in accordance with the constitution, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CASEY: Zain.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: One last question, if you don't mind.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: Being a key war on terror ally, does the U.S. expect Musharraf to be the anchor in any political equation in Pakistan?

MR. CASEY: Would you say that again? Do we expect him to be the --

QUESTION: Anchor in any politically -- future political equation in Pakistan.

MR. CASEY: Well, I think our expectation is that Pakistani democracy needs to develop in order for the country to achieve what President Musharraf's stated objectives are and what we share, which is to build a democratic country, to build one that is a moderate Islamic nation, that is an ally with the United States and others in the war on terror, and that works together with us to combat extremism. Who Pakistan's political leaders will be in the future is a decision that the Pakistanis are going to make, and that is one of the reasons why we do want to see the elections take place later on this year do so in a way that is free and fair.

Yes, Zain.

QUESTION: There's a chemical scare at the UN right now where a bunch of chemical weapons have been found in old UN files. I understand from our other sources, sort of internally, that the State Department had been aware that this had existed and we're looking for some sort of comment on --

MR. CASEY: Sure. I would take exception to that characterization of it, but let me explain to you what my understanding of the situation is and this is also something you might want to talk to the FBI about as well.

A couple of months ago, as you all know, the United Nations Security Council decided to terminate the mandate for UNMOVIC, the monitoring organization that was dealing with WMD issues in Iraq. That organization is now in the process of closing up shop, archiving its files, cleaning out its books, effectively.

In the course of doing so, the UNMOVIC staff found a small amount of chemical agents. They had apparently been in the UNMOVIC office for over a decade. And once they found this, they notified our UN mission of this.

There is an agreement, as I understand it, between the FBI and the UN to handle any issues related to this nature. The FBI has been notified. They are, if not on the scene now, on their way to the scene, and they will be securing the material, taking it to an appropriate location and ensuring that it is disposed of properly.

The other thing that of course is important is they will be working with the UN to conduct an investigation of this incident so that we assure ourselves that we understand why these items were there and why they were there for so long, and verify that there are no other outstanding issues related to it.

QUESTION: When did you find out --

MR. CASEY: Last night.

QUESTION: -- that it existed. Last night. And did you know -- sorry. So did you know that they were these dangerous specific sources of --

MR. CASEY: Again, what we were told is that they had found a small amount of individual vials of chemical agents that had been there for approximately ten or more years. And we took immediate steps to notify the appropriate authorities, in this case the FBI. And again, they've responded to this.

QUESTION: So, sorry, Tom, but I have to ask this. This is not the elusive stash of WMD that Saddam had according to your intelligence --

MR. CASEY: No --

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. CASEY: -- I don't think I could be accurate in describing it that way.

QUESTION: And you assure that all of it is over a decade old, so none of it is the stuff that Secretary Powell was waving around when he gave his little speech and --

MR. CASEY: Matt, again, what we've --

QUESTION: -- a vial of anthrax.

MR. CASEY: What we've been told by UNMOVIC is that these small vials are items that have been in the UNMOVIC offices for over a decade. Certainly, one of the things we want to do is make sure that the UN, working with the FBI, does conduct a full investigation of this so we're absolutely certain how they, in fact, got there, how long they were there, and, you know, the kind of exact nature of how this came about.

QUESTION: Do you know where they were from?

MR. CASEY: I don't.

QUESTION: And – okay. Are they still dangerous?

MR. CASEY: Again, I am not in a position to give you a rundown of the individual agents. My understanding at this point is that the UN and law enforcement officials have conducted testing of the area; they have determined that there is no threat that these items currently, or in the past, had posed to public health and safety in the area. But again --

QUESTION: So there's no --

MR. CASEY: -- I'd leave it to the FBI experts on this to give you a better readout.

QUESTION: So there's absolutely no question that you guys weren't confusing these chemical agents in the UN office for the WMD that Saddam was supposed to have had?

MR. CASEY: No, Matt. Look, these are small -- these are small sample items that UNMOVIC had had in their possession for quite a long time.

QUESTION: Tom, is the investigation -- you said that there was going to be a joint UN and FBI investigation to figure out how these got there and so on. Is there going to be any kind of investigation into whether there are other bits of chemical weapons lying around in file drawers in the UN?

MR. CASEY: Well, certainly, part of what we want to make sure of in looking at this is that there are -- there is nothing else out there that would need to be secured, that there's no other kinds of items like this out there. UNMOVIC itself believes that this is the only items of these kind that are in circulation, but certainly, we want to make sure that there is a full and thorough review because certainly, the fact that these were in the office for 10-plus years is something that probably shouldn't have happened and we want to make sure we understand why and we want to make sure that everything is done to verify that there is no other outstanding material there.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Mr. Casey, two questions on Greek Katrina -- the fires. Do you have any readout about the talks Under Secretary of State Henrietta Fore, acting as a USAID Administrator, had in Athens with Greek officials, including the Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyianni?

MR. CASEY: I don't have any detailed readout of their conversations, Mr. Lambros. But again, as we said the other day, we have provided an immediate contribution to the Hellenic Red Cross to help them cope with some of the costs and concerns related to the fire. There are a number of items, including some of the ones that I mentioned, extra chemical suits and other kinds of things for firefighters, that are en route.

And most importantly, again, what the Greek Government has identified for us as their main concern is that we help them contribute to the reconstruction effort, including efforts at reforestation and efforts to support people being able to return back to their normal lives.

This is something that we are currently working on with the Greek Government and, as I said, with our Office of Public and Private Partnerships at USAID to help work with individuals here, including and particularly, the Greek American community to make sure that we're all doing what we can to help support this effort.

QUESTION: But along the $100,000 the U.S. Government sent to the Hellenic Red Cross, as you said yesterday and the other day for the victims of the fires over Greece, I'm wondering what additional and concrete aid you sent to help since the damage, according to the Greek Government, estimated so far $1.6 billion. There are a lot of complaints into the Greek American community for the delay on behalf of the U.S. Government to help Greece.

MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, again, I think we responded very quickly and very appropriately to the request for assistance. We have made our offer in very quick fashion. Our embassy provided support early on and of course, this contribution to the Hellenic Red Cross was made several days ago. In the interim, what, of course, we have done has been to talk to the Greek Government about what they believe they need and what they believe are the most important items or the most important ways that we can contribute to that effort.

As I said, there are a number of items that I mentioned yesterday that are put together and that I believe are en route. And in addition to that, since they have identified the sort of reconstruction phase of this as being the key element where they believe we can best contribute, that is where we are currently focusing our efforts.

QUESTION: Thank you. May I go to FYROM or --

MR. CASEY: Well, let me go -- let's -- let me have Nina ask her question and then we can go back to FYROM.

QUESTION: To FYROM.

QUESTION: Can I have a couple of questions on the IAEA report on Iran, please? Now the report states that the Natanz facility is producing enriched uranium in much smaller quantities than you seemed to expect. Does this mean that you're not as concerned now about the pace and scale of the Iranian nuclear program?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, let's be clear about what Iran has or hasn't done. Iran hasn't, in any measurable way, clarified those outstanding issues that remain before the IAEA. They've made a commitment to do so, but none of those answers have been forthcoming, and these are questions that have been out there for over four years.

The Government of Iran also has not done fundamentally what it has been asked to do repeatedly in IAEA Board of Governors resolutions and UN Security Council resolutions, which is suspend its uranium enrichment activities, answer all those outstanding questions, and engage in negotiations with the international community to be able to resolve the outstanding concerns about what has been a two-decade clandestine nuclear program and one that, at almost every step of the way, the Iranian Government has resisted answering questions about.

So from our perspective, while the report may offer some new details or some new insight into how Iran's program is developing, the fact of the matter is they have not met any of their international obligations in this regard. And the fact that that program is continuing and is moving forward shows that this Iranian regime is continuing on a path of defiance of the international community, rather than in joining with us in negotiations to achieve what they've always said is their stated objective, which is a peaceful civilian nuclear program, designed to generate power for their people.

And it is again unfortunate that the Iranian people are suffering as a result of a government that refuses to engage in what is a very positive opportunity to deal with the international community, to achieve power that it claims it needs for the people and for the development of the country and to work with us to resolve those questions. Instead, they've chosen this path of defiance. And as a result of that, they've come under UN sanctions and they will come under additional UN sanctions unless they change their views.

QUESTION: Yes, you've said that you're considering a new round of sanctions, but what about the timing and nature of this report? I mean, it's the UN's watchdog that supplied the report. ElBaradei is painting quite a positive picture about Iran's compliance. Is the timing of all this, as you're trying to push for new sanctions, is this going to present an obstacle in the coming weeks?

MR. CASEY: Well, look, I said this morning and I think it's true, there's no partial credit when it comes to answering the questions about Iran's nuclear program. Iran needs to do all of what the international community is required of it. What the UN Security Council resolutions are are obligations, legal, moral obligations on the part of the Iranian Government. They aren't allowed to cherry pick it. They can't pick and choose. And I'd note that while they have agreed again to a "plan of action" to answer the outstanding questions about their nuclear program with the IAEA, they've yet to actually answer any of them. And you'll forgive us if we're skeptical about promises made by the Iranian Government to answer questions about their nuclear program, when those questions have been out there for several years. And at any point during those discussions Iran could have chosen to respond to them. You'll also forgive us, too, if we're a little skeptical about the benign intentions of a program that was kept under wraps and hidden for almost two decades and for which the Iranian Government has still never been willing to appropriately account for.

Yes.

QUESTION: Tom, what is hampering efforts to get a new resolution through or to discuss these evaluations?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think there are a number of discussions that are going on. I know Under Secretary Burns speaks regularly to his P-5+1 colleagues and there's certainly been consultations ongoing in New York. These are complicated issues. And these are ones, as we've seen with past resolutions that take some time for people to work through. But we are continuing to have these discussions. I think we're making some progress. And I would look forward some time in the coming weeks, months, to see a new resolution passed and one that ratchets up the pressure on Iran.

I'd also note that the sanctions that are already in place are having an impact and having an impact every day on the activities of the Iranian Government. They are, I think, finding themselves increasingly isolated not only in a political sense and not only as a result of these sanctions, but as a result of what these sanctions mean to the broader world out there. There I would suggest to you any number of financial institutions and other businesses that are taking a very serious look at the kinds of business they might have done in the past with Iran and thinking twice about that.

I also think there are a number of organizations, private institutions that have made their own decision. But now is not the time to be putting money into or making new investments in Iran because nobody wants to be tainted with the brush of nuclear proliferation. Nobody wants to do anything that would contribute to the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon. And many businesses, I don’t think, want to run the risk of working with individuals or entities in a country that is under Chapter 7 sanctions. As we've said before, this is not a distinguished list; it's not one you want to be one. And it does have a real impact in terms of how a country is able to function in the international community.

Yes, Arshad.

QUESTION: If we can just go back to the chemical weapons that were found at the UN for a moment.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Did you say that you learned about this last night?

MR. CASEY: My understanding is our notification of this -- first notification of this was yesterday evening, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. Because I see that a UN spokeswoman is quoted as having told a news conference in New York that the chemicals had been found last Friday. And as the host of the UN, and given the need to bring in the FBI and people to safely dispose of this stuff, why on earth would the U.S. Government only had been notified yesterday?

MR. CASEY: Arshad, I don't know. I'm not sure of when the facts of when UNMOVIC discovered this material. What I was told is that our notification came last night on this. So I'd just have to refer you back to the UN in terms of what the timetable was. I'm not sure if that's an accurate understanding or not. Certainly, we would hope that in any instance like this we would be notified as soon as possible. And again, when we were notified of this we immediately took steps to contact the appropriate agencies, in this case the FBI, to get them engaged this morning in resolving this issue.

QUESTION: So to your knowledge, the FBI became engaged only on this today?

MR. CASEY: Again, my understanding is the first U.S. Government notification of this was from the UN last night. And I believe that USUN, our mission there, was the first point of contact for any of the UN agencies. I do not know if the UN might have spoken directly to other government agencies in a different context, but this is my understanding of when we became aware of this.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes, sir.

MR. CASEY: What did you want to ask about?

QUESTION: On FYROM, let me get a pencil.

MR. CASEY: What we call Macedonia. Yes, okay.

QUESTION: You break my heart. (Laughter.)

MR. CASEY: We will have that conversation some other time.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: There is a persistent story, Mr. Casey, out of Skopje that SENCAP, Southeastern Energy Capital, a major Greek and American joint venture in energy, is being unfairly denied its $2 billion investment in the TEC Negotino power plant by the government in FYROM. The FRD -- excuse me, the EBRD, European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, and the IFC, International Finance Corporation, have already sent letters to the Government of Skopje warning that they will not finance a project that was not selected through "transparent and (inaudible) selection process."

Given the U.S. Government insistence and promotion of non-corrupt practices and the importance that it places on energy issues (inaudible) the improvement of Skopje's relations with Greece, I'm wondering what is the DOS policy regarding the fair treatment of U.S. energy companies, especially in the former Eastern bloc countries aspiring to join NATO and the European Union?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'm not familiar with the particular items you're referring to. But I think in general, it is certainly fair to say that we want to see all kinds of international business deals be handled in a manner that is fair, that is transparent and have decisions made on the basis of market factors; meaning business decisions, economic decisions based on who is the company that can compete best, who is the best qualified candidate for any kind of contract or any kind of investment opportunity, rather than on other considerations.

So certainly, we would hope that the Government of Macedonia as well as the governments of any countries in which the U.S. is engaged with operate in accordance with international standards of transparency and fairness, and accord international investors the same kind of treatment they would their own national companies.

QUESTION: Can you look into that specific issue?

MR. CASEY: I'm happy to do, though I suspect that in this instance you probably will wind up being referred back to some of the international financial institutions' comments that you already have.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Nina. Sorry, one last one.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about this continuous shelling that's going on -- Iranian forces shelling Kurdish guerilla border areas?

MR. CASEY: I haven't seen those reports and, no, I really don't. I think you might want to talk to people in some other agencies about that one.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:19 p.m.)

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/aug/91646.htm
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