State Department Noon Briefing, August 3
03 August 2005
Sudan, Iran, Mauritania, Iraq, Belarus, Department/Rice's trip to Crawford, Texas, Saudi Arabia, Turkey/Iraq, North Korea
State Department acting spokesman Tom Casey briefed reporters August 3.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Wednesday, August 3, 2005
12:45 p.m. EDT
Briefer: Tom Casey, Acting Spokesman
-- Statement on Reports of Violence in Khartoum
-- Need for Continued Efforts to Restore Security, Maintain Calm
-- Assistant Secretary Constance Newman and Special Representative Roger Winter Meet with Sudanese People's Liberation Movement Officials
-- Investigation into Helicopter Crash that Killed Dr. John Garang
-- U.S. Agreement with EU-3 Statements Regarding Iranian Commitments Under the Paris Agreement/U.S. Support for EU-3 Efforts
-- Reports of Coup d'Etat
-- U.S. Joins African Union Call for Peaceful Return to Constitutional Order
-- Status of U.S. Embassy
-- Murder of American Freelance Journalist Steven Vincent
-- Deteriorating Human Rights Situation/Government Arrest and Harassment of Members of the Union of Belarusian Poles and other Political Parties and Activists
-- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's Trip to Crawford, Texas
-- U.S. Delegation Attending King Fahd's Funeral
-- Upcoming Trilateral Talks on Joint-Counterterrorism Strategy
-- Six-Party Talks
-- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's Conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Li
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 3, 2005
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
12:45 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the State Department. I'd like to begin the briefing today with a statement about the situation in Sudan. The United States is deeply concerned over reports of violence in Khartoum. We echo the calls of the Government of National Unity and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement for all to remain calm and to refrain from violence. We urge the Government of National Unity to continue to take steps to stop the violence, to promote reconciliation, and to maintain momentum on implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
It's our understanding that the government has deployed additional security forces to Khartoum and other areas to stop the violence and the United States joins the rest of the international community in calling for the government to urgently take the additional steps that may be necessary to send a clear message to all the people of Sudan regarding its determination to halt the violence. The United States remains firmly committed to the cause of peace in all of Sudan, including implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and a resolution of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.
And again, I want to reiterate that we strongly urge all the parties to work together towards achieving that peace, towards implementing that agreement, and to carry out the vision that Dr. Garang had set forward of a unified, prosperous and peaceful Sudan.
With that, I'll go to questions.
QUESTION: Well, you had a couple of people down there. Have you any report? I haven't, frankly, followed it closely.
MR. CASEY: Yeah. As --
QUESTION: They may have said something down there, but I don't know.
MR. CASEY: Yeah. As we said yesterday, we sent out Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Connie Newman and Roger Winter, who is the Deputy Secretary's Special Representative for Sudan, to the region. They arrived in Nairobi last night. They flew this morning to New Site in Southern Sudan where they were going to be offering condolences to Mrs. Garang and meeting with Sudanese People's Liberation Movement officials, including conferring with Salva Kiir, who has been elected as the successor, as head of the movement, and is also the nominee to be First Vice President to succeed Dr. Garang. I don't have any specific readout for you on those conversations. Certainly, they intended in their remarks -- to repeat what I just said here -- to call for calm and to urge people to move forward on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
QUESTION: To what do you attribute this continuing violence? Do you think that either side is resorting to incitement or crackdown or --
MR. CASEY: No, and as I said, I think we're very respectful and appreciative of the fact that both the Government of Sudan and the SPLM have called for calm, have reiterated their commitment, as we said yesterday, to the Peace Accords. I know that President Bashir, in recognition of the gravity of the situation, called an emergency cabinet meeting today and invited the senior SPLM representative in Khartoum to participate in that. As we said, the government has taken measures, is deploying additional security forces in Khartoum and other areas to stop the violence. So, we do think that both the government and the SPLM leadership is acting responsibly. We would certainly like to see them continue that and take whatever additional steps might be necessary to do so, but we do not see any indication that any of the parties or any of the leadership are trying to incite violence.
QUESTION: It sounds like you think they haven't done enough, because they have - you're urging them to urgently take additional steps to send a clear message. This has been going on for three days. Why hasn't the government sent a clearer message through its actions already?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think we've certainly seen the appropriate things being said. We've seen actions being taken to help ensure the safety and security of people in Khartoum. I think we merely wish to state with this that there is clearly more that needs to be done since violence is continuing and we -- want to see the government take those steps that it can to ensure that it comes to an end.
QUESTION: And what steps do you want them to take?
MR. CASEY: I'm -- Saul, I'm not trying to be prescriptive here.
QUESTION: Well, you are. You're saying they should take steps. So what are the steps?
MR. CASEY: Well, I'm saying that they have deployed some additional security forces to the area. We certainly want to see those deployments continue. We want to see continued efforts of calling for calm and we definitely want to make sure that the government is doing all that it can to ensure that security is restored, violence is ended, and peace is maintained.
QUESTION: If I can just follow up on Saul's?
MR. CASEY: Yeah, Peter.
QUESTION: Yesterday, you said the violence seemed to be abating. Now, we have - it's obviously continuing. What is the appreciation? Is it organized, it is just ad hoc? What is your thought?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I don't think I have a really good analysis for you of the violence, Peter. Certainly, again, we don't see it as being instigated or organized by any of the political movements there. Clearly, much of this has been in reaction to the tragic death of Dr. Garang. However, what we think is important is that people remember what Dr. Garang's vision was for the country, the efforts that he had made over many years to reach the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and the continued importance for us, for those who believed in him and his leadership, for those who followed him, that what they do to truly honor his legacy and respond to it is to actually re-dedicate themselves to moving forward on the Peace Accord. And certainly, that would mean ending any and all violence that's out there.
QUESTION: So you think this is just a spontaneous outburst of grief or --
MR. CASEY: I have no indication, again, of any kind that the violence that's occurring has been organized or politically instigated.
Let's go to Saul.
QUESTION: Yeah, can I change the subject, please, to --
MR. CASEY: Anything else on Sudan?
MR. CASEY: Okay. Let's go to Joel and then we'll come back to Saul.
QUESTION: Tom, there's still questions about the helicopter crash and of course, Khartoum says that that was just an accident. Are there any plans to have the NTSB, with its safety experts, work -- it was a Russian helicopter, an MI-72 -- and/or the Russians to -- the Ugandan President Museveni is setting up a three-party panel to investigate. Any plans to help them?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Well, first of all, let me reiterate what we said yesterday, which is we have no reason to believe that anything other than bad weather may have contributed to this crash. However, you said, I understand President Museveni has decided to create a panel of three experts to investigate it. President Museveni and Salva Kiir have requested the United States provide technical assistance to that investigation and my understanding is that we are going to be deploying experts from the National Transportation Safety Board to the site to assist.
QUESTION: On Iran. It seems as if Iran has actually backtracked on its threat to restart nuclear activities. Rohani has said now the plan would go ahead sometime next week. So, do you have a sense that, in fact, this is just Iranian brinkmanship, that they're not actually going to do this, rather, it's a negotiating tactic than any real actions being taken?
MR. CASEY: Well, Saul, I really don't want to try to interpret Iranian statements that they've made at this point or try and categorize how they are approaching this process. I would want to point out some of the comments that were made yesterday by the French Foreign Minister, as well as by French Prime Minister De Villepin. He noted that Iran must honor the commitments it's made, that these commitments are commitments suspending all activity -- conversion, treatment and enrichment of uranium. And certainly I think the international community -- the EU-3, Javier Solana, the British Government, the German Government, the French Government individually, the IAEA -- have all made clear that it would be a negative step, that it would certainly be a disturbing and serious matter if Iran were, in fact, to breach the agreement. If they've heeded those calls, that's a good thing.
Certainly, in the meantime, what we've been doing is consulting closely with our EU-3 colleagues and, again, want to reiterate our agreement with the comments that the French, German and British Government officials have all made in recent days. And we're continuing to support the EU-3 efforts, as you know, to resolve this issue through diplomacy. Full implementation of the Paris Agreement is critical to this and again, that agreement requires them to suspend all nuclear fuel cycle activities, including uranium conversion activities.
QUESTION: Your extensive quoting of remarks by foreign governments, which rung out yesterday, a day old, is that -- besides indicating support, which isn't surprising, does this indicate U.S. deference? In other words, are the Europeans taking the lead so far as the United States is concerned in trying to resolve this crisis?
MR. CASEY: Well, again Barry, the negotiations are between the EU-3 and Iran.
MR. CASEY: We're supporting those efforts to resolve it. But I think the important thing, and the reason why I've cited the comments of those individuals over the last few days, is merely to note that they are the ones who are, in fact, leading this process. And in our role of supporting those efforts, simply note our concurrence with them.
MR. CASEY: Yeah, Teri.
QUESTION: The IAEA is saying that it wants Iran to wait a few days so that it can get surveillance equipment in so that if and when Iran does start, they know what they're doing. Is this acceptable at all to the United States?
MR. CASEY: Well, I don't want to speak for the IAEA. I know there has been a number of conversations back and forth between them and the Iranians, and I'd refer you to the IAEA for the specifics on that. Again, from our perspective, the commitments that Iran's made under the Paris Agreement are very clear. We would view any effort to move away from them, any effort that would give us less transparency and less assurances about what they're doing as a step backward.
QUESTION: But you've never made -- been shy about making your views known to the IAEA. Are you doing that now?
MR. CASEY: We certainly are. And as I said, in addition to consultations with our EU-3 colleagues, we are talking to the IAEA. We're in regular contact with them through our mission.
QUESTION: But specifically about this approach that if you just hold off while we get surveillance equipment in?
MR. CASEY: Again, I think we've made our views clear, as we have with the EU-3, and as have the EU-3, that we don't want to see Iran move forward or take this step and I think the IAEA is as well aware of that as we are.
QUESTION: Can we go to --
QUESTION: Can we stay on the --
MR. CASEY: Stay in Iran? Sure.
QUESTION: Tom, I understand that you don't want to interpret why Iran has said what it said and is doing what it's doing. But I wonder if you have a sense of whether or not the immediate crisis has been averted. We were expecting, according to their statements, that they would be doing the restarting today and now it's next week. Do you share that sense that the crisis has sort of at least been put back a little?
MR. CASEY: Well, it certainly is a positive thing that the steps that the Iranians had previously suggested they would take have not occurred. I certainly don't want to be in the business, though, of predicting or trying to ascribe motive to why they're doing things. What's important for us, though, again, is that the agreement be honored, that the suspension be maintained, and that the EU-3 effort be allowed to move forward.
QUESTION: Yeah. Tom, we know that the EU-3 is preparing in the coming days to unveil a new package of incentives to the Iranians. They've been in consultation with you. At this point, can we say that the U.S. has signed off on this package of proposals? And specifically, that one of the proposals is said to be guaranteed fuel for the reactor at Bushehr, I think it is, and any other reactors that might be built. Since the U.S. has called for complete cessation of nuclear activities there, is this something difficult for you to swallow?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I don't want to try and comment or pass judgment, Peter, one more time, on the proposal that hasn't been put forward yet. Best I can tell you is, again, we are in regular daily contact with our friends in the EU-3. They're sharing their ideas with us; we're sharing our ideas with them. Again, we continue to support their efforts to resolve this issue. In terms of the reactor at Bushehr, I think I made some comments yesterday concerning Russian arrangements for the refueling there and I just stand by that.
QUESTION: Can we --
MR. CASEY: Are we on -- sorry, are we still on Iran?
MR. CASEY: Okay.
QUESTION: You've constantly said the Iranians should not break the accord, the Paris Accord. If they broke the seals, which is something they're saying they will do, is that a violation of the accord? I ask because it's not actually restarting fuel. It might be a step toward it, but I want to get from you whether breaking the seals is a violation.
MR. CASEY: Yeah. I mean, I think I gave you the best answer on that yesterday that I could, Saul. We are --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) and a better one today, no doubt.
MR. CASEY: Well, I wish -- I would always like to be able to meet that bar, but I think I'll pretty much just have to stick with what I said yesterday. We believe that they need to comply fully with the agreement and I'll just leave it at that.
QUESTION: You said you're sharing your ideas with the Europeans. Other than your statement that the Iranians must not restart, what are your ideas?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I'll leave those discussions for those involved. Obviously, we want to see what was called for in the Paris agreement, which is not only a temporary suspension, but a permanent cessation of these activities.
QUESTION: Mauritania's pro-U.S., anti-Islamic extremist government has fallen, Army folks have taken over. Have you lost a friend? And number two, do you agree with the Nigerians that, in any case, an army takeover is kind of passé and not the kind of thing you like seeing happen in a country?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I think what we want to do is join the African Union in condemning the violence in Mauritania and we call for a peaceful return to order under the constitution in the established government of President Taya. The situation there is fairly unclear, Barry, and we're monitoring the events closely through our embassy, but I don't have an awful lot of details to share with you. I should note that the embassy has put out a message to American citizens warning them to remain at home and to take precautions to assure their safety.
The embassy is open as of today. Although we have reduced our staff to essential personnel, we are reaching out and talking to officials from the government. But beyond that, I really don't have much more for you.
QUESTION: But your statement seemed to say something significant. I mean, you want him restored to authority because he is the constitutional ruler?
MR. CASEY: He is the established --
QUESTION: Or the President.
MR. CASEY: -- constitutional President of Mauritania. And again, we call for a return to order under the established Government of President Taya.
QUESTION: On that one --
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Same subject?
QUESTION: Yeah. When you say that you have reduced staffing, you don't mean that you've actually taken people out of the country yet. You mean you have told them to stay home?
MR. CASEY: No, it means -- yes, we've told them to remain at home, but there has been no change in the status of the embassy and again, it does remain open, just at reduced staffing.
QUESTION: Do you happen to have any idea how many Americans, particularly with the oil about to be extracted in Mauritania? Do you know? Do you happen to know --
MR. CASEY: Barry, I actually --
QUESTION: -- the American oil people there?
MR. CASEY: I actually don't have any figures on the American community there. I know there are some Americans there, but I don't have any specific numbers.
MR. CASEY: Peter.
QUESTION: Tom, what has been U.S. policy towards the current or the outgoing President, as the circumstances may dictate, who has been, I think, accused in the past of an authoritarian rule? I mean, have you had any dealings with him on this?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, we -- you know, he is the established constitutional president of Mauritania. We have dealt with him under those terms and certainly, there are - you know, there is no reason in our mind for any kind of extra-constitutional action.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
MR. CASEY: Same subject, by the way?
QUESTION: Different subject.
MR. CASEY: Okay, different subject, okay.
QUESTION: Unfortunately. What can you tell us about the death of Steven Vincent in Basra? He's an American journalist who was killed.
MR. CASEY: I do have something for you on that. The Embassy in Baghdad today did confirm that a body recovered by officials in Basra is that of American freelance journalist Steven Vincent, who was kidnapped in that city. We extend our deepest sympathy to his friends and colleagues and obviously condemn his brutal murder. The United States Embassy and State Department officials here have been in touch with Mr. Vincent's family and we're providing all possible assistance to them. The Embassy is working closely with local police officials in Iraq as well as with the multinational force in the region who are investigating the circumstances surrounding his death.
QUESTION: Is there anything that you can tell us about the circumstances surrounding -- apparently, he was abducted, he was with a woman, and she was only shot and wounded and he was killed?
MR. CASEY: The circumstances on this at this point are very unclear. As I said, the Iraqi police and military officials are investigating this and I'd leave it to them to speak to any more specific details on it.
QUESTION: Do you know how to pronounce the name - is the person Steven, "v" or "ph", and do you have a hometown?
MR. CASEY: Steven with a "v" and no, I don't have a hometown.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Yesterday, you issued a statement about Belarus. I noted that the Secretary took the lead on condemning Belarus or the Belarusian leader as the last dictator in Europe earlier in the year and the Europeans sort of followed on her coattails, meeting with the opposition. But now, it seems as if you're playing catch-up with the Europeans. They issued this very similar statement last week, last Thursday, and all the actions that you referred to are pretty, you know, old in news terms. Anyway, so how come it only took you till yesterday to get a statement condemning the actions against the Poles?
QUESTION: Well, a couple of things. First of all, I'd like to call your attention to a statement that the European Union issued yesterday on this particular matter, which expressed its deep concern at the recent developments in Belarus. And in our statement yesterday, we joined them in deploring the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus. Certainly, as I said in the statement yesterday, we condemned the specific actions taken by the Belarusian Government against the Union of Belarusian Poles. The government has arrested members of the Union, they've closed its newspaper, they've used riot police to seize its offices, and this is part of a continuing pattern of harassment against those seeking to peacefully express their views.
The statement also noted that in the past two months, the Government of Belarus had closed 80 percent of the local offices of three major political parties. They've jailed activists. They've levied fines against the few remaining independent newspapers and media that are there. This is, for us, part of a continuing series of harassment and abuse by the Belarusian Government. I'd certainly quarrel with the contention that we have not been outspoken on this.
We have -- as you said, the Secretary has done so herself -- we have issued several statements in the last few weeks dealing with a number of individual incidents in Belarus that have occurred, including the sentencing of several political opposition figures, as well as some of the other activities that, unfortunately, the Belarusian Government continues to perpetrate against the rights of their people for free expression.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice has gone down to Crawford this afternoon?
MR. CASEY: She is, I believe, en route. Yes.
QUESTION: En route. He's gonna be away I think a month? Do you have any idea how long she'll be out-of-pocket, so to speak?
MR. CASEY: I think, at the moment, what I can tell you is, obviously, she's leaving for Crawford this afternoon. As we have said, she'll be attending the President's meeting with Colombian President Uribe tomorrow and she will be in Crawford for the following day as well, but I don't have any updates on the rest of her schedule.
MR. CASEY: Yeah, Saul.
QUESTION: Change of subject.
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Just a quick one on travel. In the delegation that's going to offer condolences in Saudi Arabia, is there anyone from State going?
MR. CASEY: I believe -- let me just check -- the White House did issue a statement on this and announced that the delegation was going to be led by Vice President Cheney, as they said yesterday, and that the other members of the delegation would include former President Bush; James Oberwetter, who's our U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia; former Secretary Powell; and General Peter Pace, the Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ambassador Oberwetter would be the main State Department representative in that delegation.
QUESTION: So, Assistant Secretary Welch isn't going?
MR. CASEY: No, I have no information about travel for him to Saudi Arabia.
QUESTION: Okay. If he's not going to Saudi Arabia, is he going back to Israel or the Palestinian territories? I see his counterpart at the NSC, Abrams, is actually in Israel.
MR. CASEY: I don't have any updates for you on Assistant Secretary's Welch's travel plans. If we get any information, I'll let you know.
Yes, sir, in the back.
QUESTION: By the way, that lingering question about the talks here with Turkey and Iraqis about extremist Kurds?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. I did have a chance to look into this for you, Barry.
MR. CASEY: And basically, what I can tell you is the U.S., Turkey and Iraq agreed at a trilateral counterterrorism meeting in January of this year to have subsequent technical discussions, that we do plan to hold those technical talks later this week, but the actual timing and logistics is still, in fact, being worked out. And the discussion, obviously, will be a continuation of that January discussion on our joint counterterrorism strategy.
QUESTION: The Kurds is the issue, though, isn't it? Kurdist extremists?
MR. CASEY: Well, it is certainly --
QUESTION: It's the focus?
MR. CASEY: Look, as you know, we've designated the PKK as a terrorist organization, and we're working with Turkey and Iraq, as well as with our European partners, to combat that threat. But the talks are sort of broader-based than that, yeah.
MR. CASEY: Same subject?
MR. CASEY: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you have any information who's attending these meetings in --
MR. CASEY: From?
QUESTION: U.S. side, Iraqi side, Turkey side?
MR. CASEY: I'd leave it to the Iraqis and the Turkish Government to talk about their delegation. Our lead representative from the State Department here will be Matt Bryza, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.
QUESTION: Change of subject. Japan today is going to impose its first ever retaliatory-type sanctions on the United States concerning trade on 15 sectors, on goods including steel, and partly, it's in response to the Byrd Amendment. Is this extraordinary? What do you expect to do about this? Do you expect to also impose sanctions on Japan and their exports?
MR. CASEY: Joel, I don't have anything for you on that. I would suggest you talk to the U.S. Trade Representative's office.
QUESTION: Want to update us on Korea, please? Talks apparently continuing; do you know whether they're scheduled for tomorrow as well?
MR. CASEY: Sure. I think there has been a lot of reporting on this, so let me try and recap where I understand things are at present. Obviously, talks continued today in Beijing. There was no heads of delegation meeting, but there were various bilateral meetings that were held throughout the day. The Chinese, as we said yesterday, had put forward a fourth draft of the declaration of principles yesterday afternoon and had asked that all delegations provide comments to them on that draft after checking with capitals. My understanding is that all the delegations have, in fact, provided comments on the draft and at the moment what we're doing is waiting to hear from the Chinese on the next steps in this process. But the talks are continuing. All six parties are continuing to participate and we certainly hope that they're moving towards a conclusion, but I wouldn't want to try and predict when they'll finish.
QUESTION: And nothing that you know of is scheduled for tomorrow in terms of a six-party meeting?
MR. CASEY: No. At this point, I understand the Chinese are taking on board all the comments that they have provided and they will be getting back to all the parties as to what the schedule will be in terms of meetings or other activities for tomorrow.
QUESTION: Was there a one-on-one U.S.-North Korean meeting?
MR. CASEY: My understanding was that there was a brief discussion that was not at heads of delegation level, but I don't have anything more for you on it other than that.
Yeah. Let's go to here.
QUESTION: The Secretary talked to the Chinese Foreign Minister on Wednesday --
MR. CASEY: Just, hold on. Before we do that, anything else on six-party talks? Okay. Sorry, go ahead.
QUESTION: Is it not six-party talks? Did they talk about --
MR. CASEY: It is related, yeah, yes. Now, let me just say that she did talk yesterday to Chinese Foreign Minister Li, that they had a discussion of the ongoing activities at the six-party talks and certainly both expressed their hope that we would be able to have a successful round.
QUESTION: Is it just general exchange of views or did they discuss the specific terms in the document?
MR. CASEY: I don't really have any detailed readout of the conversation for you. They did talk about the talks, they talked about the ongoing process, they talked about the declaration of principles, but beyond that, I think we'll just leave it there.
QUESTION: Did she call him? Did she initiate the call, do you know?
MR. CASEY: I don't know, Barry, I'll have to check for you. I believe -- I don't know, I'll have to check.
MR. CASEY: Joel.
QUESTION: Tom, there's just been a big forum discussion in Sweden concerning nation building and there have been some outspoken remarks by Poland's Prime Minister Belka. Are you, in any way, taking part in that conference? Do you know the particular discussions going on there? This is --
MR. CASEY: No, Joel. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: This is concerning Iraq and other locales as well.
MR. CASEY: Joel, I don't have anything for you on that conference right now, sorry about that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Thank you.
(This briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m.)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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