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State Department Briefing, May 6

06 May 2005

Department, North Korea, Bulgaria, Russia, Palestinian Authority, Iraq, United Kingdom

State Department acting spokesman Tom Casey briefed the press May 6.

Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:

(begin transcript)

Daily Press Briefing Index
Friday, May 6, 2005
12:50 p.m. EDT

Briefer:  Tom Casey, Acting Spokesman

-- John Bolton’s Senate Confirmation Hearing/ Documents Provided to the Committee / Endorsements of Bolton’s Nomination
-- Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Timetable for Confirming Department of State Positions
-- United Nations / Reform / Need for Bolton’s Confirmation
-- Periodic Report of the United States of America to the Committee Against Torture

-- U.S. Assessment of North Korean Nuclear Development Program / Contact with Six-Party Talk Members / Importance of North Korea Returning to Six-Party Talks

-- Contribution to Coalition Efforts and Cooperation on Reconstruction in Iraq

-- Secretary Rice’s Travel with President Bush / U.S. Relations with Latvia and Georgia
-- U.S. Relationship with Russia and Cooperation on Middle East Roadmap / International Atomic Energy Agency /Iran

-- Elections / Fatah Majority of Council Seats

-- Democratic Progress / Security Situation / U.S. Commitment and Cooperation with Iraqis
-- Insurgent Attacks

-- Re-Election of Prime Minister Blair


FRIDAY, MAY 6, 2005

12:50 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Welcome to the briefing.  Don't have any announcements for you so why don't we just go straight to your questions. 


QUESTION:  I'll be picking up where the point was left yesterday.  Has, since yesterday, the State Department sent anything to Biden and the other Democrats?  They've asked for a lot of material and the Secretary said the Department would cooperate.  Has anything gone to them since then?

MR. CASEY:  Barry, I don't have a specific readout of exact numbers of documents or things that have gone forward, but what I can tell you is that we are cooperating fully with the committee, as the Secretary said yesterday, and we are committed to doing so.  A number of things have gone up throughout the last 24 hours.  I understand there's probably still more that will be going up later today. 

But this is really an extremely important exercise; it's one we're committed to.  And we have provided thousands of documents, we've made witnesses available to the committee and we certainly believe that we will be able to satisfy the needs of Chairman Lugar, as the Secretary said yesterday.

QUESTION:  Well, you know, that's quite the dodge that she also took yesterday.  It isn't -- Lugar says a lot of this stuff isn't necessary.  It's the Democrats.  In other words, are you going to satisfy Lugar's standards, which are limited, or the Democrats', who want a lot more material?  Or do you want to leave it vague? 

MR. CASEY:  Again, Barry, I, frankly, would just leave it where the Secretary left it yesterday.  You know, we are cooperating with the committee.  We have been throughout.  I expect, in the end, that there will be satisfaction on it, that a vote will move forward and that, in the end, the committee will come to the same conclusion that the President and the Secretary have, which is that John Bolton is the right man for the job; and we very much look forward to having him at the UN to start his work up there. 

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) of all parties?

MR. CASEY:  Again, I'll leave it right where the Secretary did yesterday.  I believe we're going to be cooperating fully with the committee and that we'll achieve a satisfactory end to this.

QUESTION:  Just a point of clarification of a minute ago or two minutes ago, maybe.  Did you say that the State Department had provided thousands of documents? 


QUESTION:  I thought you said thousands.

MR. CASEY:  I said there have been thousands of pages of documents that have been provided.  Yes.

QUESTION:  To follow up --

QUESTION:  Is that the last 24 hours or that's since the --

MR. CASEY:  I'm talking cumulatively, Barry.

QUESTION:  Cumulatively.

MR. CASEY:  Yeah.  I don't -- again, I couldn’t tell you exactly how many pages went up at this hour or that hour.  Again, though, it's been a very extensive process and we've been providing material to the committee in response to their many requests. 

Yeah, Catherine.

QUESTION:  You've obviously, as a Department, put in a lot work getting all these documents together and, in addition to that, it seems like the Bolton confirmation process is sort of putting a de facto hold on all other confirmation processes -- processes, I guess.  How much has this sort of mucked up the works here at the State Department or caused you any problems?

MR. CASEY:  Well, I first of all, I want to make it clear that the Secretary of State and her team are very much in charge and very much capable of carrying out American foreign policy.  Obviously, we'd certainly love to have all our nominees cleared through in an expeditious way, but more -- we do respect the right of the committee to provide its advice and consent.  That's an important part of our democratic system and, obviously, it's up to them to determine at what pace they want to proceed.  But again, certainly, we'd love to have the opportunity to have many of our people on board and have all our nominees dealt with expeditiously, but it is the committee's choice.

QUESTION:  But isn't the Bolton -- the lengthy, extended Bolton consideration holding up other nominations as well?

MR. CASEY:  Well, you know, there are a number of nominations that are out there that are pending, that are in various stages of the confirmation process.  Again, what I certainly wouldn't do is try and convey the idea that the Department isn't fully capable of managing foreign policy.

QUESTION:  But if Biden or the Democrats pushed this process even longer, it would certainly delay these other nominees longer, it seems.

MR. CASEY:  Well, again, I think we've said that while we certainly believe that the committee has its right to review this nominee as carefully as it sees fit, we believe that we have provided a very thorough response to the questions that are out there, that we are working with them very closely and we certainly believe that now really is the time to be able to move forward on this nomination to get Mr. Bolton confirmed and get him to be doing the important work at the UN that he needs to take on. 

One more.  Sure. 

QUESTION:  Do you have any reaction to Mr. Armitage's sort of support for Mr. Bolton when the conventional wisdom was a little surprised at it?

MR. CASEY:  Well, first of all, let me just say that we welcome endorsements of Mr. Bolton's nomination by many people out there, in addition to the comments that were made yesterday by Mr. Armitage, as well as by other people.  I know, as many of you know, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has come in with a letter endorsing Mr. Bolton's nomination.  And these are added to a large number of statements of support that we have seen not only from here in the United States but from various parts of the world for his nomination. 

You know, I think mostly the most important thing for us about this is that we're very pleased to see that there are so many people, both here at home and elsewhere, who have come to the same conclusion that the President and the Secretary have, which is clearly that John Bolton is the right man for this job.  And again, we look very much forward to having his confirmation hearing go forward.  We're confident that the committee, as well, will come to the same conclusion in the end, that he is the right man for the job, and we look forward to seeing him up in New York. 

Yeah.  Tammy.

QUESTION:  Can we just try the -- Barry's question one other way? 

MR. CASEY:  You're welcome to try. 

QUESTION:  Are there any documents that members of the committee have requested from the State Department that State has decided not to provide?

MR. CASEY:  As far as I know, we're complying with the requests that we have that have come through the committee, through the chairman.  But I can't say to you for a fact right now that every single document that's been requested has already gone up to the Hill. 

QUESTION:  All the requests through the chairman of the committee? 

MR. CASEY:  I believe that's what the Secretary said yesterday. 

QUESTION:  That is what the Secretary said.

MR. CASEY:  Yeah.  Joel.

QUESTION:  Adam, the real problem with the United Nations --

MR. CASEY:  Adam's the bald guy.

QUESTION:  Sorry.  (Laughter.)

MR. CASEY:  That's okay, Joel.  (Laughter.)  I'm getting there, but I'm not quite there yet.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  This is a real problem affecting the United Nations, especially with the Oil-for-Food scandal, it's been the monies that have been turned over for selected projects, both domestically at the UN headquarters and as well as overseas.  There's a new style of software called asset management software.  Is there any call between your State Department here, the United Nations and other particular entities to widely use that to track monies at the inception to its final destination?

MR. CASEY:  Well, Joel, I'm not particularly aware of the specific program you're referring to.  What I think is important, though, is that we're all aware of the fact that the UN is an extremely important institution, but it's one that has suffered from a number of scandals in recent years, including the Oil-for-Food scandal.  And the thing that's most important to us is that we be able to look very hard at what we can do to ensure that these kinds of problems don't occur in the future and, more importantly, what we can do to reform the institution in the broadest sense, to make it able to deal with the challenges that are out there.  And again, that's one of the reasons why we're anxious to have Mr. Bolton's nomination moved forward on, so that we can have a good and effective ambassador at the United Nations to work on these important issues.

QUESTION:  Can I ask about North Korea?

MR. CASEY:  You can ask about North Korea.

QUESTION:  Okay. Well, from the Pentagon comes word that digging of a large hole -- an ominous development -- may indicate that North Korea is about to do something.  What's the view here?  It's a satellite discovery.  What is the State Department -- because you, obviously, are in the diplomacy business.  Have you come up with anything to cause concern that North Korea may be about to take a major step toward nuclear experiment or something of the -- nuclear detonation, or something else?

MR. CASEY:  Well, Barry, I think what I can tell you about this for right now is that we certainly don't have any new assessment of North Korea's nuclear program.  Obviously, anything involving this issue is something we're following very, very closely and we are in contact regularly with the other members of the six-party talks process.  As we've said, I believe last week, we have expressed our concerns to those parties about some of the recent statements that North Korea has made.

I'd also just remind you, too, that the Secretary has addressed this issue with her -- in her walk-up -- excuse me -- with Foreign Minister Barnier the other day and in saying very clearly that the United States maintains a strong deterrent and certainly would be able to deter anything that the North Koreans are up to.

But I think the larger point here is that we are still focused on getting North Korea back to the table for the six-party talks.  We still believe that's the way forward and we believe that anything North Korea does that takes it further away from bringing those talks back online only serves to isolate it, only serves to hurt the interests of North Korea and its people.  But again, our focus remains the same on this, it's on six-party talks, and we certainly haven't changed our view or our assessment of North Korea's program.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) spoke of concern about their statements.  Has the U.S. conveyed any concern to China and others about their activity -- about North Korea's activities?  Their statements -- you know, they've been known to get a little odd in their statements, but if they're digging a hole in the ground, for instance, that's not a -- that could be a bluff, too.  But anyhow, any concern about things they're doing besides what comes out of their media?

MR. CASEY:  Barry, again, I think this is something that we're following very closely.  Obviously, we look at both words and deeds when it comes to the North Koreans, but I really don't have anything new to share with you. 


QUESTION:  Is there a heightened concern they could be preparing for a nuclear test?

MR. CASEY:  I think the best I can do is tell you we don't have any new assessment and I wouldn't try and characterize anything that might be derived from intelligence on this.


QUESTION:  Another issue, on Bulgaria?

MR. CASEY:  Is everyone okay on -- okay, let's go.

QUESTION:  Okay, so on Bulgaria.  The Bulgarian parliament yesterday decided to pull out Bulgarian troops from Iraq by the end of the year.  Any comment on that? 

MR. CASEY:  I honestly hadn't seen that story.  I'll just have to get back to you on it.

QUESTION:  They voted in favor of a pullout.

MR. CASEY:  Well, what I can tell you is that we've been very, very happy and pleased with the fact that Bulgaria has been such a strong supporter of our operations in Iraq.  They've been a strong member of the Multinational Force and the Coalition.  And I'm sure we look forward to continuing cooperation with them as we move forward in the reconstruction of Iraq.  I just hadn't seen that specific story, and so I don't want to venture a comment on it until I've had a chance to take a look at it. 


QUESTION:  Will Secretary of State Rice, during her time in Riga, Latvia, meet any Belarusian opposition figures or leaders?

MR. CASEY:  I don't have anything on her schedule while she's there.  Obviously, she's with the President and following it.  I'm not aware of what specific meetings might be involved.  I may have something for you a little bit later on that.

QUESTION:  Do you have anything on the report that the Russian Foreign Minister asked the President not to go to -- the U.S. President go to Riga and to Georgia, and the Secretary responded back, in effect, saying, you know, he'll decide, he'll choose where to go -- thank you?  Anything about a letter exchange with him that was given to the New York Times yesterday?

MR. CASEY:  Well, I really don't have anything specific about, you know, letters that might or might not have been exchanged.  I think the key point here, Barry, is what we've said previously, both what the Secretary said during her trip to Russia last month and what I know will be an important theme during the President's visit this coming week, which is that we certainly -- the United States certainly wants to have friendly relations with Latvia, with Georgia and with all countries in the former Soviet Union. 

But that certainly, and by no means, isn't exclusive of us maintaining good and positive relationships with Russia or with Russia maintaining good and positive relationships with all those countries.  This isn't a zero sum game here, and we very much believe that it's appropriate and important for us to not only have a very productive relationship with Russia but have good relations with the other countries of the region as well. 

QUESTION:  But you would acknowledge, won't you, that those areas are a matter of some sensitivity to Russia?

MR. CASEY:  Well, I think it's obvious that Russia has a strong interest in what goes on in the countries that are its neighbors.  I think that's true of any country, yeah.


QUESTION:  Tom, in the last week, Russia -- statements from President Putin have been rather harsh and, of course, he seems to be cozying up to both Iran as well as to, even now, the Palestinian areas, saying that maybe they want more influence there.  How does this sit with your State Department and will the Secretary be talking to officials on the trip concerning that? 

MR. CASEY:  Well, look, I'm not necessarily sure I know what statements you're referring to by President Putin, but I think, as you heard from National Security Advisor Hadley when he briefed out this trip over at the White House a little while ago, we do have a very broad relationship with Russia and it's a very important one and it includes work in a lot of areas.  That includes working with them as one of the other members of the Quartet to advance the roadmap and advance the peace process in the Middle East.  It certainly includes our cooperation with Russia at the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and its Board of Governors to try and ensure that the many outstanding questions about Iran's nuclear program are answered and that Iran does, in fact, comply with its international obligations there.  So I think rather than having us in conflict, I think, actually, we've been working in fairly close cooperation with Russia on a number of these subjects. 

Let me go --

QUESTION:  How do you assess the Palestinian local elections results?

MR. CASEY:  Let me find what I have for you on the Palestinian local elections results.  I think first of all, we want to congratulate the Palestinian people on having conducted another round of peaceful elections and we certainly also want to recognize that Israel and the Palestinians cooperated effectively during this election cycle and we hope that cooperation will continue.

We definitely do want to see broader progress towards reforms and democratization and renewal of Palestinian institutions, as you know.  I’d note that the early returns that we've seen so far very clearly demonstrate that the Fatah movement earned the strong majority of council seats.  We'll obviously wait for the final results, which I understand are due Sunday, before offering a broader assessment. 

Next.  Sure.

QUESTION:  On Iraq, the security situation.  More than two years after the U.S. invasion -- Coalition invasion, if you want -- there was a fairly hopeful period right after January 30th and the violence did seem to go down quite a bit and yet, just a few months later, in the last couple of weeks, it's really, really surged and lots of Iraqis who try to join security forces are being blown up.  Families are losing their fathers, mothers.

What can the United States say to the Iraqi people to assure them that this is not -- I know you don't like to say another Vietnam, but we are talking about a years-long, tenacious guerilla insurgency, that this will actually come to an end one day?

MR. CASEY:  Well, let me say a couple of things as lead-in, and then I'll get to your specific question.  I think, first of all, that tremendous progress has been made in Iraq.  I think the fact that one of the world's worst dictators has been removed, the fact that the people of Iraq now have an opportunity for the first time in years to choose for themselves their leaders is an incredibly important and positive step forward. 

Obviously, the security situation there is difficult and we express our condolences to anyone who has been the victim of these terrible terrorist attacks.  I think it just shows the absolute bankruptcy of the philosophy, though, behind the insurgency.  They're standing against democracy.  They're standing against the right of the Iraqi people to choose their leaders, to develop a system of their own.  And what we're going to do, and what we will continue to do. is to work very actively with the Iraqis to build up their security forces, to allow them, along with the Coalition, to be able to take on the insurgents.

But the President said that we will stay there, we will work with them not a day longer than is necessary, but absolutely as long as is needed to fulfill the mission.

We'll go in the back.


MR. CASEY:  Sure.

QUESTION:  As far as the insurgency is involved, it’s the State Department's assessment that it's a combination of outside forces as well as internal factions since the elections?

MR. CASEY:  You know, I really don't have any particular new assessment to offer you other than what's been said publicly about the insurgency.  Whether inside -- from inside or outside the country, the fact remains that the people perpetrating these kinds of horrible attacks, car bombings that kill innocent people, car bombings or assaults that kill people trying to help build a better future for their country by participating in the Iraqi security forces, these kinds of attacks are clearly not in the interests of the Iraqi people and they won’t succeed in keeping us from our goal of building a better and more prosperous and democratic Iraq. 

We'll go over here.

QUESTION:  Do you have any comment on the Muslim Brotherhood demonstration in Egypt and the government reaction on that?

MR. CASEY:  No, I honestly don't.  I know you actually asked Richard about that yesterday.  Someone asked Richard about it yesterday.  But we'll try and get you something for later. 


QUESTION:  If I can change the subject?

MR. CASEY:  Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION:  The UN Committee Against Torture was to have received a report from the United States -- a long-awaited report.  Can you confirm that that report was, indeed, handed over to Geneva and can you give us something like an executive summary of the report?

MR. CASEY:  I understand that that report was, in fact, due out today, but I do not know if it, in fact, has been released yet.  This is a report that we produce, I believe, every three years on the U.S.'s compliance with the Convention Against Torture.  Once it is released, it will be available on our website and people have an opportunity to look at it, but I would prefer not to comment on it right now until I'm sure that it's actually formally been put out there.

QUESTION:  Could you alert us when it is on the website?

MR. CASEY:  Sure will, George. 

Go to the back again.

QUESTION:  I just had a question about Tunisia.  Do you have any new news about the lawyers that are being held for their problem with the government?

MR. CASEY:  No, I don't have anything more to offer you on that beyond what Richard said yesterday. 

We've got one last one.

QUESTION:  Do you have anything on the parliamentary elections in Britain?

MR. CASEY:  In Britain?

QUESTION:  Yeah, the results and the --

MR. CASEY:  Well, I think -- I know that the White House will probably be saying something about this shortly.  Obviously, we extend our congratulations to Prime Minister Blair and to the British Labour Party.  We certainly look forward to be able to -- continuing our close cooperation with the British Government under Prime Minister Blair's leadership as he embarks on his third term and certainly expect that we will continue to be able to work together very productively and effectively on our full range of issues, including our support for the reconstruction and democratic development of Iraq.  

Thank you.

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

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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