Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
January 18, 2007
|Issue of the Review on U.S. Ties with Libya|
|U.S. Dialogue with Libya Unchanged|
|Deadlines Within Stages of Libyan Judicial Review Process|
|Query on U.S. Involvement in Case of Bulgarian Nurses and Palestinian Doctor / Compensation Package Issue|
|Discussions on Israel's Transfer of Money to Palestinians|
|Israelis and Palestinians to Work on Arrangements of Agreement|
|Prime Minister Maliki's Remarks in Roundtable / Secretary Rice's Comments|
|U.S. Support of Prime Minister Maliki's Plan|
|Reports of U.S. Raid on Sudanese Embassy in Baghdad / Response from Sudanese Government / Circumstances in Review by MNF-I Forces|
|Offer of U.S. Dialogue with Iranians Still on Table|
|Issue of a Document Sent by Iranian Government to State Department|
|Natsios Meetings in Chad / Good Review of Issues|
|Chris Hill's Discussions Continue / Travel Schedule Update|
|Investigation into Attack of U.S. Embassy in Athens by Greek Authorities|
|Query on Patriarch Theofilos III of Jerusalem|
12:42 p.m. EST
MR. CASEY: All right, good afternoon, everyone. Don't have any statements or announcements for you, so we should go to first questions.
QUESTION: On Libya. The European parliament is looking at -- says that the European Union should review ties with Libya because of the Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor case. Is the U.S. looking at reviewing the ties that you have with Libya and whether you should somehow punish them for this trial or take action that might put pressure on them to go another direction?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think we talked about this a little bit yesterday. We certainly remain concerned about this case. We do believe that a way should be found for the Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor to be returned home to their families. Certainly, we understand the tragic situation that this case is based on. I know that the European Union, as well as others, were looking at ways to provide some international compensation for the families of those who suffered as a result of this incident.
As far as U.S. policy goes with respect to Libya, our relations are on the track that they're on. I'm not aware of any moves to change the substance of that dialogue.
QUESTION: And are there any moves to get an U.S. ambassador into Libya any time soon?
MR. CASEY: You'd have to check with the White House on that. I'm not sure what the plans are in terms of announcing an ambassador.
QUESTION: Still on this. And are you planning any -- I think that there is some kind of a deadline coming up regarding action on their fate and I wonder if you are planning any intensified diplomacy on this. Assistant Secretary Welch, for example, traveled to Libya right before the verdict -- the last verdict was issued and had extensive talks with the Libyans about it. Is he or is anybody else planning to go now or you somehow intend to find diplomacy now because --
MR. CASEY: Well, I know this is an issue that is raised regularly in our discussions with the Libyans. Assistant Secretary Welch has been in the region with the Secretary, so I'm not aware what conversations he might have been having and I don't have any travel plans, certainly, to announce for him or for anybody else at this point.
Again, as we looked at this issue, though, I think we've talked about the fact that there are several stages in this review process, as I understand it, with the Libyan judicial system. One piece of that has a deadline that I believe is coming up in the next couple of days. There is also at least one stage of review beyond that point and again, I think we're looking to see this case resolved as quickly as possible. But we certainly understand that the Libyans need to go through their judicial procedures in doing so.
QUESTION: One more.
MR. CASEY: Same issue? Yeah, okay.
QUESTION: Mr. Casey, since this is about another issue between Bulgaria and Libya, why the U.S. Government get involved with this issue?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, we are involved in this issue for the same reason the European Union is and other members of the international community are. We think that this is a case that deserves international attention. Again, while we recognize the tragic circumstances that occurred, we believe it's appropriate for the individuals involved, for the Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor, to be able to return home to their families.
QUESTION: But they confessed they did that.
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I think we've been through this multiple times. The U.S. position on this issue has been clear since day one and we're not going to change it. I invite you to look at the record on that if you want to go back and review it.
QUESTION: Same issue. Are you looking at a new compensation package for those people who were affected by this?
MR. CASEY: My understanding is that's something that's been led by the European Union. We're certainly supportive of those efforts, but I'm not aware of any new initiatives in that regard.
QUESTION: Do you have any information about this apparent decision by Israel to release $100 million of aid to President Abbas?
MR. CASEY: Well, we talked about that the other day. I don't have any confirmation that that's taken place. Certainly though, this has been the subject of discussions with -- between us and the Israelis and us and the Palestinians. More importantly, though, it was a subject of discussion and a subject of agreement between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas. We'd certainly like to see that transfer happen as soon as possible. Obviously, it needs to be done in a way in which the benefits of those funds flow to the Palestinian people and certainly don't do anything to support the Hamas-led government.
QUESTION: Are you confident that that money will be used for that? I mean, are you confident --
MR. CASEY: We're confident that the Israelis and Palestinians will be able to work out those arrangements appropriately, yes.
QUESTION: There seems to be a bit of a rhetorical back and forth between Maliki and Rice at the moment about this "borrowed time" comment that she made during her hearing and she has referred to this on a -- off-camera on her briefing with traveling reporters today. Can you elaborate on her comments and trying to smooth this over?
MR. CASEY: Well, we talked about this at the gaggle this morning. I'm a little wary to get into commenting on comments about comments about comments about comments. Look, I think as -- again, as I said this morning, I think the Prime Minister's remarks, though I certainly haven't seen his exact words, as I understand these remarks were made in comments to reporters yesterday, reflects the fact that all of us want us to see progress as quickly as possible in terms of both developing Iraq's security forces, in terms of providing security to the people of Baghdad and more broadly to the people of Iraq, and in terms as well of being able to allow the Iraqis to move forward on not just providing security, but doing all the other things that the people expect of their government.
In terms of the Secretary's comments, again, as we've all said previously, her comments echo those made by President Bush, other members of the Administration, and frankly, the Iraqi Government themselves, including Prime Minister Maliki, all of whom have said that the Iraqi people need to have confidence in their government. And to do that over the long term, what they need to see is real actions taken that have a meaningful impact on their lives and that, again, is why it's so important for us that we support Prime Minister Maliki's plan as he moves forward with it as well as ensure that the President's plan moves forward since that, we believe, is the best way to get those kinds of outcomes.
QUESTION: Are you, in a sense, retracting her specific comments?
MR. CASEY: No. She said what she said and again, I think all she did was state the obvious and I don't think that there's any disagreement about them.
QUESTION: What she said was that Prime Minister Maliki -- she thought that Prime Minister Maliki understood that he was on borrowed time.
MR. CASEY: Mm-hmm. I guess, you know, what more elaboration can I provide you? Again, I think the Iraqi people need to see that their government can deliver for them in terms of security, in terms of reconstruction, in terms of economic development. Again, I think that's stating the obvious.
QUESTION: The Sudanese Government has demanded -- and apparently, someone, a U.S. diplomat in Khartoum has demanded an apology for a U.S. raid on their Embassy in Baghdad earlier this week. Do you have any information on that? Is there a response to the Sudanese Government and do you know if there's any evidence uncovered during that operation that linked the Embassy with insurgent operations in Iraq?
MR. CASEY: Those are a lot of good questions and I think you can talk to MNFI about whether, in fact, such a raid took place and if so, what the circumstances were.
QUESTION: Well, they said the military -- they said that -- today, they confirmed that the U.S. troops were in --
MR. CASEY: Well, then you're ahead of me in terms of the facts on this. Again, I'd refer you to them for information about what occurred.
QUESTION: Did you receive a protest from the Sudanese Government over it?
MR. CASEY: I'm not aware specifically of such a protest, though I understand it was told simply through press reports that they had asked to speak with our chargé. I'd simply accept that as having taken place, though I haven't independently confirmed it for you.
QUESTION: Could you look into whether it took place and whether there is a response?
MR. CASEY: I'm sure there will be a response once MNFI has conducted a review of the circumstances and we have facts to work on, but right now, I don't have those, so --
QUESTION: Tom, if you were to look into this, there's one thing that is ambiguous in what MNFI said in Baghdad. And they said that coalition forces entered the Sudanese Embassy grounds in Baghdad; January 13th, the soldiers entered the grounds after requesting entry to the Embassy guards. What is ambiguous is whether the guards granted entry, in which case it would be perfectly reasonable for them to enter, or whether the guards declined entry and there's some Sudanese claim that they forcibly entered. And I'd like -- you know, maybe the MNFI spokesman did not mean to leave that ambiguity, but it would actually be nice to try to resolve that, whether there was force or --
MR. CASEY: I honestly will leave it to them. This is -- this was an incident that occurred in Baghdad involving MNFI forces and I think questions about the details of how that occurred should be addressed with them. If there's anything that we have to say about diplomatic discussions related to this, I'll be happy to share it with you. But in terms of the specifics of the event itself, I'll leave it to them.
QUESTION: Still on Sudan -- Darfur. Sort of a bit of stretch there, but do you have any details on Andrew Natsios' visit to Chad?
MR. CASEY: Yeah, he did -- he is in Chad today. He has met with President Deby. He's also met with the Chadian Foreign Minister. He does intend to go down to the border region tomorrow, specifically to Abeche and there, his intentions to meet with humanitarian actors and humanitarian workers, refugees, and internally displaced people, as well as with local government officials, UN officials, some of our USAID people who are working out there. He will also possibly be meeting with rebel leaders as well. Obviously, his schedule is in a bit of flux, so we'll try and keep you posted as he went on. His meetings today, again, were basically to review the situation in Darfur and Sudan with Chad's leadership and have a chance to hear from them about their concerns, also to talk with them about our ongoing efforts to get the hybrid force deployed, to ensure that all the parties are honoring their commitments in the ceasefire and generally review policy matters.
QUESTION: Chad has been quite forceful about its -- in criticizing rebels who apparently are coming across the border. Do you have any more details on those discussions and --
MR. CASEY: No, I really don't have a detailed readout of his conversations. Again, this was his first opportunity to travel there and I know they did have a good review of the issues, but I don't really have any specifics I can share for you on those conversations.
MR. CASEY: Kirit.
QUESTION: Do you have any more details on Chris Hill's meeting this morning in Berlin?
MR. CASEY: No. Again, just a continuation of previous day's discussions, was a fairly brief session. One thing I do want to make sure I pass along to you; there has been a slight adjustment in Chris's follow-on travel schedule, so let me just walk you through what that is. So now, he is still on his way to Seoul, so those of you hoping to catch him in a hotel lobby somewhere there with your correspondence can still look for him there. He'll be there on the 19th.
He's then going in reverse order. He'll be going to Tokyo first, arriving there on the 20th, and then go to Beijing on the 21st. Reason for the change was just scheduling with some of his counterparts in those capitals and this was just deemed a way to make sure he could get everybody in a way that was convenient for all.
QUESTION: Any more meetings with North Koreans or is it -- you know, again, still Chinese in China and --
MR. CASEY: Chinese in China, Japanese in Japan, and South Koreans in South Korea, yeah.
QUESTION: No expectations with the meetings with North Koreans anywhere on this trip?
MR. CASEY: No, no expectations for any additional sessions with them.
QUESTION: What about an announcement in Beijing? I mean, it's nice if he gets to see everybody before Beijing to discuss a possible date. Is that --
MR. CASEY: Well, I --
QUESTION: He can stay there.
MR. CASEY: Yeah, again, that -- I'm not sure his family would appreciate that, although that would be convenient in one sense, I guess. No, look, I think the Chinese, when all parties have agreed to it, they'll be in a position to announce something, but I'm not trying to steer you in that direction simply by a one-day switch in his schedule.
QUESTION: On a related note.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: There's a high-level Iranian delegation in Pyongyang right now. I'm just wondering if you have any sort of reaction or any idea what they're up to.
MR. CASEY: Birds of a feather? No, I'm not aware that -- I've not actually -- I haven't seen the reports about that delegation, but -- you know, certainly, countries will conduct relations in the manner they see fit. Obviously, we have serious concerns about both those countries on a variety of issues. I wouldn't, though, read anything in particular into that visit as far as I know and I know they've had previous contacts as well, so more of the same.
QUESTION: You don't have any indication that they're trying to sell more missiles to Iran or anything like that?
MR. CASEY: No. Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Mr. Casey, from the press office of the U.S. Embassy in Athens, I got the following email: "We turn over the tapes to the Greeks on the day of the attack. Both the Greeks and the Americans are waiting, however, for the FBI experts who might be able to enhance the tapes and bring out more details. The ambassadors and the Greeks have everything we sent."
I'm wondering, Mr. Casey, who is going to circulate the final results, DOS or FBI and particularly, your friend, Special Agent Richard Kolko?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I think the people that will determine the results of the investigation are the Greek security police and security forces who are doing the investigation. Obviously, you know, we're -- since the incident happened at our Embassy, we are obviously going to cooperate with them in every way we can. And if FBI officials can help contribute to that investigation, whether that's through helping to do enhancements of videotapes or whatever else they're capable of doing, if it will help the Greek authorities in their investigation, we're certainly happy to do it.
QUESTION: One more question on this issue.
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Why necessary this brutal attack against the U.S. Embassy in Athens must be an example of terrorist organization, not a covert operation by any intelligence agency, something very usual unfortunately nowadays? Did you exclude such a possibility in this case during your investigation from your part?
MR. CASEY: I'd leave it up to, again, the Greek authorities to determine who is responsible. Simply put, when one takes -- you know, a military action or when one fires RPGs at a diplomatic facility, I think that's pretty easy to just say that's an act of terror regardless of who's responsible for it.
QUESTION: You were asked about this morning, about another go round at the -- Larry Wilkerson's interview with the BBC saying that Iran sent a letter to the State Department in 2003 offering a package of concessions and the White House snubbed the offer. Can you comment on that, confirm whether this letter was received?
MR. CASEY: Well, I'm sorry. I'm just really not sure what Larry's talking about. There -- far as I know, there's never been an offer from the Iranian Government on those kinds of concerns. Certainly, there are conversations that have happened back and forth on Iran-related issues, but I'm just honestly not sure what he's referring to. The main point is, though, if anyone would like to propose the specific means and ways in which the Iranian Government would comply with the international community's requirements to stop pursuing a nuclear weapon, to get out of the terrorism business, to do all those things and where we have concerns, I'm sure we'd be interested in hearing about it.
In fact, of course, we do have an offer on the table to talk with the Iranians not only about their nuclear program, but about any other concerns they have and that offer's been on the table and we've talked about it repeatedly. So you know, again, I think it's pretty clear that if the Iranians want to have a dialogue with the United States, there's an avenue open to them and we'd very much like them to take us up on it.
QUESTION: Tom, you said you don't know what Mr. Wilkerson is talking about, but did you check to see whether the State Department received a letter or some other communication in 2003, even if it was not an offer that discussed --
MR. CASEY: To the best of my knowledge, there has been no direct communication from the Iranian Government to us that occurred in 2003.
QUESTION: And I don't mean to be too persnickety here, but direct -- you know, we also -- there are intersections that represent each country's government, right? I mean --
MR. CASEY: If what you're asking me is, did the Iranian Government provide a document to the Swiss or to anyone else --
MR. CASEY: -- and say, "Here, please give this document to the United States," my understanding is that did not happen.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Okay. Yeah, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: On Jerusalem, Mr. Casey, to your best recollection, do you continue to refuse to accept the election of the Patriarch of Jerusalem Theofilos III?
MR. CASEY: Could you repeat that for me, Mr. Lambros?
QUESTION: Do you continue to refuse to accept the election of the Patriarch of Jerusalem Theofilos III?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I didn't realize that the United States Government had the authority to veto or approve the heads of any religious organization, so I'm afraid I'm just not --
QUESTION: No, accept to -- imagine to accept the election, not -- I'm not talking about the recognitions of --
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, again, we don't participate in elections of major religious figures. It's -- I don't think it's for us to accept or decline.
QUESTION: But November 2005, the U.S. Consulate General turned down the invitation to attend the enthronement of the Patriarch, not even to send a representative and I'm wondering why.
MR. CASEY: I have no idea. I suggest you go ask him, but it's not an issue I'm familiar with. Whatever the Consulate General's reasons, I'm sure -- at that time, I'm sure they'd be happy to be able to explain to you.
QUESTION: Back to North Korea. Look, is there a date yet for talks next week in New York?
MR. CASEY: No, not that I'm aware of. I didn't actually check with my Treasury colleagues this morning, but at least people in this building were not aware that a date had been scheduled yet.
QUESTION: To try again, the meetings of the last few days, if you were to write a summation of the atmosphere and the mood, how would you characterize them and whether there was any forward momentum?
MR. CASEY: Well, Chris characterized them as useful and productive and I'll stick with that. I don't really have any broader way of characterizing them for you. And again, these are discussions that are designed to help prepare for negotiations in the six-party talks, but the proof of whether -- how useful and productive they actually were will be when the parties get together and what outcome they achieve through their actual negotiations.
We certainly would like to see those talks again take place as soon as possible. Chris has talked about them occurring perhaps as soon as the end of this month, maybe early next month. But again, what we need to see happen and why it's important that we, again, do prepare for these talks well is that the talks not just happen, but that they lead to real efforts to implement the September 19th statement, because that's going to get us closer to everybody's common and agreed-upon goal, which is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
QUESTION: One more on Assistant Secretary Hill's schedule.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: After he visits Beijing, is he still scheduled to come back to D.C. on the 21st?
MR. CASEY: Yeah, that's correct. He's then supposed to come back to Washington.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:03 p.m.)
DPB # 10
Released on January 18, 2007
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