State Department Briefing, March 6
06 March 2006
Lebanon, Iran, Russia, China/Taiwan, Japan, Greece, Turkey, North Korea, South Korea, Egypt, Serbia/Kosovo, Rice trip to Latin America/Asia, Zawahiri tape, Guantanamo/prisoner releases
State Department acting spokesman Tom Casey briefed the press March 6.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Monday, March 6, 2006
12:45 p.m. EST
Tom Casey, Acting Spokesman
-- Readout of Secretary's Meeting with Walid Jumblatt/Resolution 1559/Disarmament of Militias including Hezbollah
-- IAEA Board of Governors Discuss Report of Director General on Iran's Nuclear Program/IAEA Referral of Iran to the UN Security Council/Iran's Commitments to EU-3/Russian Proposal/Ambassador Bolton's Speech at AIPAC
-- Preview of Foreign Minister Lavrov's visit/Russia's Preparations for G8 Summit in St. Petersburg/Bilateral Issues of Concern: Yukos Case, Russian Law on NGOs/Council on Foreign Relations Report on Russia
-- Russian Views on NATO Operation Active Endeavor
-- Remarks of Taiwan President Chen/U.S. Policy Unchanged
-- Final Report on Okinawa Relocation Agreement/U.S.-Japan Security Relationship
-- Alleged Espionage Directed Against Greek Officials
-- Role in U.S. Middle East Initiatives
-- Role in U.S. Middle East Initiatives
-- Upcoming Briefing for North Korean Officials on Money Laundering/Six-Party Talks
-- Assistant Secretary Hill's Meetings with South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister
-- Secretary's Meeting with Egyptian Minister of Defense
-- Serbian Government Accuses Kosovar Official of War Crimes/ICTY
-- Secretary's trip to Latin America and Asia
-- Counter Terrorism: Zawahiri Tape/Quartet Expectations for Hamas
-- U.S. Negotiations on Guantanamo Prisoner Releases
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, MARCH 6, 2006
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
12:45 p.m. EST
MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the start of another exciting week at the State Department. Glad to be here with you today. I don't have any statements or announcements, so let's go right to your questions.
QUESTION: The Secretary had a meeting with Walid Jumblatt. I don't know if you've had time to have a read-out on it. But if you have, could you give us it? And if not, could you say what she wanted from it?
MR. CASEY: I've got a fairly brief read-out for you, Saul. But it is true, this morning the Secretary met with Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and they discussed general developments in Lebanon. Part of the purpose of this meeting was to ensure Mr. Jumblatt of ongoing U.S. support for the path of democracy and reform that's been annunciated by the Lebanese Government.
And the Secretary, of course, also did underscore the importance of Syrian compliance with UN Security Council resolutions. And as she noted, the Lebanese people have accomplished much over the past year. They've compelled Syrian troops to withdraw from Lebanon and they've held free and fair parliamentary elections. But there certainly is a number of issues that need to be taken up, and that includes free and fair presidential elections as called for in Security Council Resolution 1559.
The Secretary also did discuss the ways in which the United States and the international community more broadly can support Lebanon and their people as they go about this process.
QUESTION: He gave a speech at Brookings today and one of the areas of support he wanted was for the U.S. to help with the Lebanese army, and he said in that way they could sort of be a viable alternative to Hezbollah in the south. Is that something that was discussed?
MR. CASEY: I'm not sure if that subject specifically came up or not, Saul. Obviously, I think we'll look at whatever ways we can to provide appropriate kinds of support to the Government of Lebanon.
QUESTION: One key thing on Jumblatt's mind and on many people's minds in Lebanon is the issue of Lahud and whether he should stay in office or not. There are discussions going on that basically said we want to get rid of him but the talks are deadlocked and we need more U.S. support for that. Is that something that you can work with?
MR. CASEY: Well, Saul, I think I'd just refer you back to what the Secretary said while she was in Lebanon. Obviously these are issues for the Lebanese people to decide. As I noted, Security Council Resolution 1559 does include a call for presidential -- free and fair presidential elections as well, and obviously we will be looking to try and see what we can do to help that process forward.
QUESTION: This morning when he spoke at the Saban Center, Brookings Institution, he said we're not going after Hezbollah. Is that also something for the Lebanese people to decide or does the U.S. have a view about whether Lebanon, the Lebanese Government, should do something about Hezbollah, which you consider a terrorist organization?
MR. CASEY: We certainly do consider it a terrorist organization and 1559, as you know, calls for the disbanding of all militias in Lebanon. That certainly applies to Hezbollah. Again, the Secretary spoke to this question while she was there and I think she made our views pretty clear on it.
QUESTION: Something else?
MR. CASEY: If you want.
QUESTION: I came in a little late. I didn't hear the opening bell.
There are a lot of questions about Iran and nuclear. One goes back to an article, I think it was in the Post on Saturday, the notion that the U.S. would seek a 30-day cooling off period or moratorium or whatever, and if Iran didn't do something about its nuclear program, then the Council should go ahead and apply sanctions. Is there some notion of a script like that?
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, I don't want to get ahead of where we actually are right now, and where we actually are right now is in Vienna with a meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors. And what that meeting is doing is taking a look at the latest report from Director General ElBaradei on Iran's compliance, or really Iran's lack of compliance, and outright defiance of the international community and the international community's desires to see Iran move forward with promises it's already made to suspend all uranium enrichment-related activity, to move towards a negotiated resolution of the conflict that it has with the international community over this issue.
Certainly the resolution of February 4 has already reported Iran to the Security Council. And after the Board concludes its review of the report, we'd certainly expect action to move there. How the Council will deal with this issue, I don't think I want to speculate on at this point. Obviously it's important to us that the will of the international community be adhered to, and that Iran change not only its attitude and its views but its actions in response to the clear calls of the international community.
QUESTION: And more currently, taking ElBaradei's remarks into account, maybe they'll never have to be taken up by the UN Security Council -- very hopeful –- "I'm still very much hopeful in the next week an agreement could be reached," and this seems to be pegged to some formula with the Russians. This is being said on background in Vienna. Do you -- is there anything you can do to enlighten us on that?
MR. CASEY: Well, I'll leave it to Secretary General -- Director General, excuse me, ElBaradei to speak for himself. Certainly, as I said, the February 4 resolution has already reported Iran to the Security Council, so there is no obstacle to that discussion being taken up and we certainly believe that will happen shortly.
One thing that is clear is we all hope that Iran would change its behavior. It would be certainly in Iran's best interests, as well as in the interests of the broader world at large, if Iran were to agree to the terms laid out in several IAEA Board of Governors resolutions, if it would go back to adherence to the commitments it made to the EU-3 under the Paris agreement, and if it would, in fact, deal seriously with the international community's concerns about their 18 years of clandestine nuclear activities. But certainly I'm not aware of any specific proposals or any specific ideas that would require or force any kind of delay in Security Council action.
QUESTION: I guess that really answers it, but the Russian -- the alleged Russian proposal only deals with part of the problem. You have enough of a problem with Iran beyond just enrichment, don't you, that requires UN attention? Even if they solve enrichment, isn't there ground to cover?
MR. CASEY: But again, Barry, I think we need to stick to what the IAEA Board of Governors resolutions call for from Iran. That's a complete and total suspension of any and all uranium enrichment-related activity and a negotiated end to the problems that the international community has seen with its program. Very clear to me that there isn't any wiggle room in that concerning enrichment-related activity.
The Russian proposal, as has been previously discussed, doesn't include that, and, certainly you know, allowing the Iranian regime to pursue enrichment on any capacity, on any scale, would basically allow it to master the kinds of technologies needed to make weapons-grade material, and that's clearly something that neither we, nor the international community nor anyone else, has signed off on.
QUESTION: Nor the Russians?
MR. CASEY: Or the Russians as well.
QUESTION: Well, ElBaradei said today that this seemed to be the sticking point, the idea of centrifuge-related research and development, and that he hopes that the agreement, as Barry said, would come within the week. So would the U.S. ever accept small-scale uranium enrichment work?
MR. CASEY: Look. I think I just answered that, but you can't be just a little pregnant. You can't have the regime pursuing enrichment on any scale, because pursuing enrichment on any scale allows them to master the technology, complete the fuel cycle, and then that technology can easily be applied to a clandestine program for making nuclear weapons.
Certainly if you look at other examples, if you look at what happened in North Korea, they completed the fuel cycle and then very quickly, as Chris Hill said to you guys before, took a civilian nuclear program and turned it in about 30 days into a bomb-making program.
The whole purpose of the approach that the international community has taken to date is to assure ourselves that Iran does not have the capability of producing a nuclear weapon. And so I think the lines that have been drawn by the international community broadly in the IAEA Board of Governors resolutions, by the EU-3 through the Paris agreement, are pretty clear and that's certainly where we are.
QUESTION: Do you have any indication that the Russians are coming here tonight with that proposal in mind though?
MR. CASEY: I don't have anything on that. You know, certainly we do expect to see Foreign Minister Lavrov here this evening as well as tomorrow for meetings with the Secretary, and I expect Iran will be an important topic of conversation among the many they'll cover. But I'm not aware of any specific proposal they're coming with.
QUESTION: Could you expand on that?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: What other issues will they talk about? And also there was a Council on Foreign Relations report released over the weekend which suggests that Russia is increasingly becoming an obstacle to U.S. interests.
MR. CASEY: Okay. Yeah. Let me try and walk you through a little bit of what we're expecting. First of all, as you know, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov will be in Washington today and tomorrow and will have discussions with the Secretary. We're really expecting these to cover pretty much the full range of both bilateral issues as well as a number of international concerns. As I said, Iran and Iran's clandestine nuclear program will be one of them. Certainly expect they'll be covering and talking about the Middle East, and in particular the continuing efforts by the Quartet related to the Mideast peace process. Russia, of course, also has the presidency of the G-8 right now and we'll be interested in hearing from them on preparations for the St. Petersburg summit, as well as the developments on the agenda that Russia has laid out for the G-8 at this point.
On bilateral issues, I think as the Secretary has made clear, we have the kind of relationship with the Russians where we can have a frank discussion of those issues, including areas such as their latest law on nongovernmental organizations and some of the issues in the energy sector where we've already expressed our concerns.
In terms of the Council on Foreign Relations report that you were referring to, George, we have had a chance to take a look at it but not really in full. Certainly we'll study it carefully. But I think the main point for us is that the U.S. and Russia have an active and constructive dialogue on a broad agenda of priority issues. Certainly we're cooperating well with them on counterterrorism issues, on nonproliferation issues, as we've discussed, and through the Quartet and on a variety of other areas as well.
There are areas where, as I said, we differ and we think we can have a frank and candid exchange of views with them on those subjects. And we're certainly going to continue to make clear our concerns about those areas where we do have problems.
QUESTION: I know you want to be a polite host, but could you tick off some of the areas? How about the way -- their justice system? How about the way they throw people in jail?
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, I think the things that we've pointed out recently again are things like the law on nongovernmental organizations, concerns that they not use energy supplies as a political weapon, and a variety of other things as well. We've spoken out on the Yukos case and other instances where rule of law concerns exist. But I don't have anything particularly new to add to what we've already said on this subject.
QUESTION: Still on Iran. Yesterday, Ambassador Bolton gave a pretty tough speech at AIPAC, warning of "painful consequences if Iran continues to isolate itself." Was he speaking for the Administration with that speech? It seemed to be he was hinting at a harder line, you know, possibly a military strike or something along those lines.
MR. CASEY: Well, look, again, I don't want to get ahead of where we actually are right now -- the discussions in the IAEA. We certainly expect and anticipate a detailed discussion of this issue to take place in the Security Council, and at that point all tools are certainly available and we'll use all diplomatic tools at our disposal to deal with this situation. I certainly would expect that the Security Council would respond to this in a way that reinforces the diplomacy that's already taken place at the IAEA. But I don't have anything specific again that I would share with you in terms of action.
Certainly though, if -- I understand Ambassador Bolton's comments to indicate that Iran certainly needs to take steps to deal with the concerns of the international community. And as we've always said, the Iranians are only hurting themselves by continuing on the course of defiance that they've taken. They're continuing to isolate themselves in the international community. There has been a broader and growing consensus on the need for the Iranians to respond to this, and clearly that has consequences for Iran. And that's what I read into Ambassador Bolton's comments.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a very quick question?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: This so reference in the newspaper, so how did they -- anyhow, that the Board of Governors has to vote to refer the Iran situation to the UN. Is that true?
MR. CASEY: No, that's not true. The February 4th resolution already reports Iran to the Security Council and the Security Council can take it up, at this point, at any point that it chooses to. The resolution, as you know, did call for a month period for Director General ElBaradei to be able to produce and come up with the report that's currently being discussed, but there is no requirement for an additional vote or resolution or anything of that kind.
QUESTION: If I can follow up on that. Does ElBaradei need to go to the Security Council or the Security Council can seize itself without any --
MR. CASEY: No, at this point, the Security Council will choose at what particular moment it wants to address this issue. But that simply becomes a matter of internal deliberations in the Council as to when it will come up. There's no action required either by the Board of Governors or, as I understand I, from the Director General himself.
Joel. Sorry, Sue. Are we still on Iran?
QUESTION: Yes, on Iran.
MR. CASEY: You're on Iran? Well, I'll tell you what, let's do Sue first and then we'll go over there. Go ahead, Sue.
QUESTION: So when would you like the Security Council to take this up? You have said previously that the fact that they're being reported to the Council, or referred, or however you may like to phrase this, is important in itself. So when would you like them to take it up?
MR. CASEY: Well, "reported" is the term of art. I'd certainly expect them to take it up in the near future, but I really don't have a specific timetable for you. This is obviously -- like any other issue coming before the Council, it's something that needs to be discussed internally there as to when it'll specifically come up as an item on the agenda, but I do expect it'll be soon.
QUESTION: With respect to this report that was done both by former Representative Jack Kemp and former Senator John Edwards, they were forcefully speaking against the behavior of Russia. Will this be, in any way, brought up with the Secretary in her discussions both tonight and tomorrow?
And today in the news, evidently, Mr. Zarqawi/1 has been talking to Hamas. Hamas says they want nothing to do with the statement, but obviously Hamas must know where Zarqawi/1 and bin Laden are. Are you concerned that this is going out of proportion and that the Russians are less than helpful in tracking either party down, meaning Mr. Zarqawi/1 or bin Laden?
MR. CASEY: Well, there's a lot in there. I'm having a little bit of déjà vu. The report you're referring to is the Council on Foreign Relations report that George asked me about and I think I've answered on. In terms of the latest Zarqawi/1 tape that's appeared, certainly, you know, we've seen these kinds of things before. In terms of the messages that Mr. Zarqawi/1 may have for Hamas, well, certainly the views of the international community and the civilized world are really clear in terms of what's expected of Hamas, and those are what's -- the conditions that have been laid out in the January 30th Quartet statement.
As for Russian cooperation on counterterrorism, I think we have a very good counterterrorism cooperation relationship with the Russians, and I certainly don't have any indication that they or any other country are actively harboring any of the fugitives that you mentioned.
Let's go back here.
QUESTION: Taiwan's President Chen, in an interview last Friday, declined to say if the upcoming constitution reform would contain certain clauses that could change the status quo, including the official end of Taiwan. He said everything's possible. This is obviously not consistent with his previous assurances to the U.S. Are you going to do anything about that?
MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen those comments. I'd simply just reiterate what our long-standing position is and I would also refer you back to the statement that we made last week about some of the comments that had been made on the National Unification Council. Obviously we oppose any unilateral measures to change the status quo and believe that dialogue between Taiwanese officials and those in Beijing is the appropriate way to settle any cross-strait tensions.
QUESTION: On Taiwan?
MR. CASEY: Yeah, in the back. Okay, sure.
QUESTION: President Chen was saying basically, you know, in an interview with the Japanese newspaper, he was not ruling out, you know, possible change of the name of the country, Republic of China, and other sensitive issues, as long as the proceedings were in compliance with the constitutional procedure. Does the United States have any concern over this? I mean, this is -- the United States has been pushing President Chen to honor the "Five No" pledge on numerous occasions. Are you still sticking to those pledges that he has to honor?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, in terms of the assurances that President Chen has made, I'd refer you back to the statement we made on Thursday. While it was related to a slightly different issue, that that same policy applies. I mean, obviously we believe the maintenance of Taiwan's assurances is critical to preserving the status quo, and our firm policy is that there should be no unilateral changes to the status quo. And we've said that many times and I'd simply refer you back to that same statement again.
QUESTION: In that particular statement, you actually asked the Taiwan authorities to clarify its position. Has the position been publicly clarified to your satisfaction?
MR. CASEY: I don't have anything beyond what we've said. Again, I'll leave it up to the Taiwanese authorities to make any clarifications that are required, but I don't have any particular assessment to give you of any of the comments that have been made subsequent.
QUESTION: Is there time to check on Walid Jumblatt's meeting with the Secretary?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. I did that. I guess I did that before you got in, Barry.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. Sorry.
MR. CASEY: Let's go over here. Same subject? Okay, let's go to you and then we'll go to Mr. Lambros. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: I'd like to ask about the U.S. military realignment in Japan. There's still on-going discussions between Japan administration and U.S., and Japanese administration said that a final report will be released in this month. But in Japan, there are still protests against the agreement reached last October between United States and Japan, especially in Okinawa. Actually, yesterday there was a gathering in Okinawa that Futenma Marine Air Station relocation plan, they are against the now plan.
And my question is how do you think this situation -- even before the final report will be released?
MR. CASEY: Well, I don't have any real update for you on the report or its contents. I think what we can say is what we've said, what we've always said all along, is that these are the kinds of issues and any of these issues are things that need to be worked out between the United States and the Government of Japan. We certainly have great respect for our Japanese friends and allies. We have, as you know, a very broad dialogue with Japan on all kinds of security issues, including basing ones, and certainly we try and at all times consider the thoughts and opinions of the local community in this process. But in terms of any specifics related to the upcoming report, I'm afraid I just don't have anything new to offer you right now.
QUESTION: It seems to be very difficult to get an agreement. In this situation it's very difficult to get an agreement with the local community, for me it seems. But -- and so if Japanese administration couldn't get an agreement or cooperation with the local community by the end of this month, then how is the final report is going on?
MR. CASEY: Well, obviously, you know, we continue to work this issue with the Japanese Government, but, you know, I'd leave it to the people actually doing the report and working these issues out to speak to it. I really just don't have anything new to share with you at this point.
QUESTION: Yes, a very interesting question.
MR. CASEY: As all your questions are, Mr. Lambros, yes.
QUESTION: In the today's issue of The Nation magazine, the former DOS officer at the U.S. Embassy in Athens, John Brady Kiesling, wrote in a big story titled, "And Olympians Can Tell," criticizing the U.S. and specifically the activities of the former U.S. Ambassador to Greece, Tom Miller. "On February 2, three Greek ministers held at the press conference to reveal what the government has kept secret for nearly a year: that a sophisticated, self-concealing software parasite had been recording mobile phones conversation of the Greek Prime Minister, his wife, the Foreign Minister, the Defense Minister, and one hundred other Vodafone subscribers from before 2004 Athens Olympic Games until March 2005, when the bug was removed...The intercepted calls were forwarded from the cellular antennas. Their coverage circles, however, overlapped atop of the U.S. Embassy in Athens."
MR. CASEY: No. Since this deals with issues related to intelligence matters, you won't be surprised to know I don't really have any comment on it.
QUESTION: On Turkey?
MR. CASEY: Okay, on Turkey and then we're going to go down to --
QUESTION: According to the Turkish press, the U.S. Ambassador to Ankara Ross Wilson stated, "Turkey was assigned a leading role in the enlarged Middle East and North Africa project." I'm wondering why Greece is not being considered for a role in the enlarged Middle East and North Africa (inaudible). Historically, as you know, Mr. Casey, Arabs and Greeks have excellent relations and the Greeks have lived in Arab countries for centuries.
MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, I'm not sure -- I haven't seen the Ambassador's comments, so I'm not sure exactly what he is specifically referring to. Obviously Turkey, as a neighbor of Iraq, is a country that has a very important relationship there as a predominantly Islamic country or a country where the majority of citizens are Muslims. It also has a part in the broader Islamic world. Certainly though, we would look to any and all countries, including Greece, to be able to do what they can to help promote democracy and freedom throughout the broader Middle East area.
QUESTION: A follow-up. As we know, the U.S. Government wants to expand the area covered by the NATO task force called Active Endeavour, the NATO-led counterterrorist task force in the Mediterranean, to include the Black Sea. Turkey and Russia, however, have both opposed this initiative. Do you know if the subject will be in the agenda during the today's dinner between Secretary Condoleezza Rice and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in town --
MR. CASEY: It is not on the --
QUESTION: -- 7:30 p.m.?
MR. CASEY: It is not on the agenda as far as I know, but if it does come up, we'll give you a read-out on the conversations tomorrow.
QUESTION: And Turkish officials are concerned that this initiative might be at attempt on part of the U.S. Government to water down the Montreux Convention which gives Turkey rights over the Straits of Dardanelles. How do you respond to this?
MR. CASEY: Again, since I'm not sure it's even going to come up, I don't think I have much to add for you on it. Okay?
Sue, let's go down.
QUESTION: Do you have any details on the meeting tomorrow in New York with the North Koreans? Who's going to be attending on the U.S. side? And is it the hope of the United States that once this briefing has taken place on counterfeiting, the door will be reopened to the resumption of the six-party talks?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think first of all, the door is not closed to the resumption of the six-party talks. We're ready to go back today and we believe that the talks should start up again as soon as possible and we'd certainly encourage the North Koreans to make that decision. As you know, what's going to happen tomorrow in New York is that an interagency team led by the Department of Treasury is going to provide a briefing for the North Korean delegation on recent U.S. actions to counter illicit financial activities linked to North Korea and, in particular, Treasury's designation last September of Banco Delta Asia as a "primary money laundering concern." This has all been done under the Patriot Act.
The main lead for the State Department on this is going to be Kathy Stevens, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. You know, this really is an opportunity for us to explain to the North Koreans simply how our law works and the kinds of actions that we took against Banco Delta Asia as part of that legal requirement. But you know, again it's not related to the six-party talks, and we think that regardless of this briefing and regardless of anything else that the North Koreans ought to come back to those talks as soon as is possible.
QUESTION: Will you be discussing the six-party talks within the context of the counterfeiting discussions?
MR. CASEY: Again, this is basically going to be a technical level briefing, principally provided by Treasury officials to talk about U.S. law enforcement steps, so it's not a meeting to discuss six-party talks.
QUESTION: What about the North Korean delegation? Are they all technical experts too, or have they been told that this is not about the six-party talks?
MR. CASEY: Again, you know, what we've done here is offered them a briefing specifically on this subject. That's what they understand us to be talking about with them and that's what we're planning on doing.
QUESTION: Who's coming from North Korea and also how long is the meeting? Is it a one-day meeting or two days?
MR. CASEY: They're going to start meeting tomorrow morning. The exact duration isn't fixed, but we certainly wouldn't anticipate it going beyond tomorrow.
QUESTION: Where is the meeting taking place, the briefing?
MR. CASEY: Up in New York. You know, I don't actually know what physical room they're meeting in.
QUESTION: Do you know the building?
MR. CASEY: I may know the building. I'm not sure. I can check for you, George, but I honestly don't know. I forgot to check before I came out here.
QUESTION: Wouldn't want you to get ahead of yourselves.
MR. CASEY: There you go.
QUESTION: Mr. Christopher Hill met with his counterpart from South Korea. I'm wondering with regard to the results of the resumption of the six-party talks, I wonder if there's any progress on the process.
MR. CASEY: On his way back from his trips to the Philippines and Indonesia, Assistant Secretary Hill did stop in Seoul for a meeting with the Republic of Korea's Deputy Foreign Minister Chun Yung-woo on Saturday. This was their first meeting since the Deputy Foreign Minister became the head of South Korea's delegation to the six-party talks. And they did discuss the status of the talks and again expressed -- both expressed their desire to see the talks resume as soon as possible. But there was no new information shared in terms of when that might actually take place.
QUESTION: A new subject. Do you have a read-out on the visit by the Egyptian Minister of Defense with the Secretary?
MR. CASEY: I think I may actually have something on that for you. Let's see. No, actually, Samir, I don't have anything formal to share with you. She will, as is on the public schedule, be meeting with the Defense Minister of the Republic of Egypt this afternoon. This is part, as I understand it, of a larger visit that he's making here to the United States and he'll be seeing officials over at the Pentagon and elsewhere as well. Obviously we have a pretty broad cooperative relationship with the Egyptians, including various aspects of our defense and military relations. We'll try and get a read-out for you of the meeting after it takes place this afternoon.
QUESTION: On Kosovo. Mr. Casey, anything to say on the Belgrade spokesman statement who said, "The Serbian Government finds absolutely unacceptable that Agim Ceku, who should be tried for war crimes, could be elected to any political office in Kosovo."
MR. CASEY: Well, I think Adam addressed that for you on Friday. Obviously who the Kosovars choose to be their political representatives is something that's up to them and is an internal political manner.
QUESTION: I mention this since your government, as I said to Mr. Ereli the other day, (inaudible) has characterized this illegal organization KLA in February 1997 as a terrorist by Robert Gelbard, then U.S. Balkan envoy. Do you consider Mr. Agim Ceku terrorist or what, in your opinion?
MR. CASEY: I was trying to think of an appropriate witty response to something Bob Gelbard might have said in 1997, but you know, I guess it will take me a few years to come up with one.
No, Mr. Lambros, I really don't have anything further to add to what Adam told you on Friday.
QUESTION: One follow-up. What is your position on his arrest warrant issued by Serbia accusing Mr. Ceku of crimes against Serbians in Kosovo and Croatia?
MR. CASEY: Again, I don't have any particular opinion to share other than that. As you know, the appropriate way for handling the war crimes prosecutions has been through the ICTY and The Hague and obviously we continue to call on all individuals who have knowledge of the whereabouts of any of the war criminals wanted by the ICTY to come forward and to help and ensure that both Ratko Mladic and his other counterparts are taken into custody and sent to The Hague to face justice there.
Sue, go ahead.
QUESTION: With the --
QUESTION: Sir, the last --
MR. CASEY: Is it really the last?
QUESTION: KLA and its commander-in-chief Agim Ceku was also linked by Yossef Bodansky with of Usama bin Laden and al-Qaida with Islamic fundamentalists in the Balkans. Any comment?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, again, I think the decisions on the political leadership in Kosovo are best left to the people of the region. I think that the ICTY has spoken eloquently on the subject of those who committed heinous crimes during the Balkan wars: All those who are wanted by the ICTY should face justice. But in terms of some of these other local issues, local prosecutions pending, I really don't have any comment.
QUESTION: Does the Secretary have any plans to meet President Morales during her trip to Santiago this weekend? And also any possible meetings with President Chavez or any other meetings planned?
MR. CASEY: You know, I really don't have any kind of update on her schedule for you while she's out on her trip to Chile, Peru, Australia and Indonesia. We'll try and get you some more scheduling details but I just don't have any to share with you right now.
QUESTION: Will there be a briefing before we go?
MR. CASEY: We'll take it under advisement and I'll see what we can do.
QUESTION: There was a story over the weekend suggesting that the United States may be negotiating or may negotiate with Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, and Yemen on prisoner releases from Guantanamo.
MR. CASEY: Not sure I saw that, George. As you know, back last year we did announce a program with Afghanistan to transfer prisoners from Guantanamo of Afghan nationality to Afghanistan. There were a number of conditions that had to be dealt with before those transfers could take place, but I'm not aware of anything new on that subject.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:22 p.m.)
1/The reporter is interpreted to mean Zawahiri given the details of the question. Tom Casey is discussing the latest Zawahiri tape that appear on March 4.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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