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Daily Press Briefing

Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 13, 2007

INDEX:

ALGERIA
State Department Warden Message / Possibility of Extremists Planning Attacks
ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
Hamas Funding Claims
Efforts by Saudi Government, Others to Foster Positive Change / Commitment to Roadmap
Secretary's Efforts to Work with Others in Region / Consultations with GCC+2
Issues Involving Final Status of Refugees Covered in Roadmap
Roadmap Discussion Between Prime Minister Omlert and Abbas
Progress Toward a Two-State Solution
DEPARTMENT
Secretary's Plans to Travel to Middle East
Assistant Secretary Welch's Travel / Amman / Riyadh / Ongoing Consultations
SYRIA
Assistant Secretary Sauerbrey's Meetings in Syria / Refugee Issue / Useful, Constructive
U.S. Providing Support to Iraqi Refugees, Seeking Support from Syrian Government
U.S. Offering Support for UNHCR, Affiliated NGOs
Additional Syrian Requests To A/S Sauerbrey
SUDAN
Bashir Letter / Heavy Support Package / U.S. Extremely Troubled / UN-AU Agreement
Bashir's Effort to Delay Agreement Not Acceptable / Possible Additional Measures
Andrew Natsios Travel Recommendations to Administration
Expected Benchmarks / Patience of U.S., International Community Limited
Report of Human Rights Council / Recognizes Concerns of International Community
Differing Views Among Rebel Factions / Adherence to Darfur Peace Agreement
CYPRUS
Sovereign Right of Governments to Make Oil, Petroleum Agreements
U.S. Desire to See the Situation in Cyprus Resolved Peacefully
ZIMBABWE
U.S. Call for Immediate Release of Detained Opposition Leaders
Repressive Nature of Mugabe Government
U.S. Discussions Among Embassy Counterparts / EU Partners, Others
U.S. Ambassador Present in Courtroom for Opposition Leaders' Hearing
U.S. Concerns About Situation in Zimbabwe / Push for Change
IRAN
Iranian Failure to Comply with IAEA Requests and Legal Requirements
Standard for Iran to Achieve Positive International Arrangement Simple / Paris Agreement
Sitting with Iranian Officials / Assurance of no Nuclear Weapons Program
Benefits to Iranian People
ALBANIA
Political Organization of Albania
LIBYA
No Formal U.S., Libya Nuclear Cooperation Agreement / Discussions
U.S. Scientific Cooperation Activities / Discussions on Regional Nuclear Medicine Center


TRANSCRIPT:

12:35 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Okay, well, good afternoon, everyone. I don't have anything to start you out with so we can go right to your questions.

Yeah, Sue.

QUESTION: Do you have anything more on these -- I saw Algiers Warden Message that came out today. Apparently, there's a fear that militants are going to be planning to attack commercial aircraft in Algeria.

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I think the Warden Message is pretty self-explanatory. This was put out yesterday by our Embassy in Algiers. Basically there is information that we received that related to the possibility of extremists perhaps planning to conduct attacks against commercial aircraft carrying Western workers. We really don't have any further information about that. There is no specifics in terms of when the timing might be or what the potential carriers involved might be. But again as you know, there is commitment on our part to make sure that when we have information of this kind, even when it is non-specific like this, that we make it available not only to our own employees in the embassy community and official Americans but also that we as a matter of policy make that information available to American citizens more broadly. So that's why the Warden Message was sent.

QUESTION: Have you taken any special precautions at the Embassy or --

MR. CASEY: Nothing that I could talk about in terms of specifics. Again, I think the threat that we understand being out there is focused on aircraft and not specifically on our diplomatic facility or otherwise. Obviously, all our missions are always looking at their security posture and take appropriate steps when they think it's necessary.

QUESTION: Is it linked to any specific group?

MR. CASEY: No.

QUESTION: There's a report out quoting a Hamas source as saying that some of the $100 million in tax revenues that Israel transferred to the Palestinian -- to the Office of the Palestinian President Abbas has been used to pay security services, including members of a Hamas-led force. Do you have any reason to believe that is true and would you object to transfers or uses of those tax revenues to pay Hamas forces?

MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen that story. But no, I don't have anything that would substantiate that particular account. Certainly in terms of U.S. policy, as you know, as a matter of policy and law, we cannot provide any kind of funding or assistance to anything that's designated as a foreign terrorist organization which Hamas is.

QUESTION: One other one, staying in the Middle East. The Egyptian presidential spokesman, I believe, has said that Secretary Rice will be coming to Cairo later this month. Can you confirm that and describe what she would be doing there?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think you've heard us say before that the Secretary does intend to go back to the region fairly soon. We may see her there as soon as the end of the month, but I don't have any announcements for you in terms of any particular travel. Certainly, she is committed to continuing her work on a variety of fronts, including supporting dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians as well as working on a variety of other regional concerns that are out there, on issues related to Iraq as we've seen recently and on Iran certainly.

QUESTION: I understand Assistant Secretary Welch is in the region right now. Can you tell us what he's doing and how that might be related to any -- the trip that the Secretary might eventually make?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I did take a look into David's whereabouts. David has been -- yesterday in Amman. Today, this afternoon, he is traveling to Riyadh for consultations there. This is part of David's ongoing consultations with the region. I expect -- I know in Amman he spoke about -- and I expect in Riyadh he will be speaking about both bilateral issues as well as a number of regional concerns, including the three I just outlined: Iraq, issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian discussions and then certainly some of the challenges posed by Iran and Syria and other regional concerns.

QUESTION: Is there -- there seems to be, at least in public, an effort to revive the Saudi peace proposal of 2002. Do you welcome that? Is this something you feel is particularly relevant now?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think what we've welcomed are the efforts by the Saudi Government among others to try and foster a positive change in dialogue -- and dialogue as a solution. In terms of U.S. policy, as you know, we support the roadmap. That is the position that has been supported by the parties in the region as well and that remains our primary focus. Certainly to the extent that any of these other diplomatic efforts can help foster a positive change or dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians that's something we certainly support.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Part of the discussion that's out there is that this trip by Secretary Rice to the region would be to kind of set the stage or have consultations in advance of the Arab League summit which is going to be hosted in Saudi Arabia at the end of the month, so that she can advance the idea of reviving this peace plan in conjunction with her efforts for the Israelis and the Palestinians.

MR. CASEY: When we have anything to announce about either timing of her travel and discussions about the reasons for it we'll let you know. But I think at this point let's wait until we actually have something to talk about here before I try and speculate on her purposes.

QUESTION: Understood, but at this Arab summit that's coming out at the end of the month is it accurate to say that Secretary Rice is hoping that the Arab League will kind of resurrect this peace plan and move forward with it?

MR. CASEY: It's accurate to say that she intends to continue efforts to foster dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. That includes as part of it her ongoing consultations with the GCC+2. Beyond that, when we have something to announce in terms of her specific travel or other efforts on her part directly, we'll let you know.

QUESTION: Can you be a bit more specific about the Saudi peace plan? I mean, is there anything in it that you think is unfeasible or is not practical or is a (inaudible) like with Sudan?

MR. CASEY: Jonathan, I think for our purposes, right now there is a single agreed-upon plan that all the parties have signed up to and that's the roadmap. Anything that moves us forward in that direction is a positive thing. Anything that moves us away from those goals is not. But I don't really have any, you know, other specific thoughts to offer you on that.

QUESTION: So you can't say -- for example, on the refugees issue whether you support the Saudi initiative or don't support that?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, if you look at the roadmap there are a variety of issues, including issues affecting the status of Palestinian refugees that would have to be decided as part of final status negotiations. So all of those issues are wrapped up in the roadmap and they're the kinds of things that do need to be addressed, ultimately, to be able to achieve a two-state solution.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: So just to follow up on what you just said, do you think the Saudi plan perhaps diverts or deviates from the goals of the roadmap or does it actually help achieve those goals?

MR. CASEY: I think what you've heard us say before is that we very much appreciate the efforts that have been undertaken by a number of countries, by the Egyptians, by the Jordanians, as well as by the Saudis to try and foster dialogue and try and foster peace between Palestinians and Israelis. We certainly recognize the role that the Saudi King played in helping to end some of the violence between Palestinian factions as well.

All I'm trying to do, though, is say to you that the clearly accepted international standard for achieving that two-state solution is the roadmap and I would encourage you to view any other proposals or activities or diplomatic efforts in light of whether it, in fact, fosters that.

Yeah.

QUESTION: The roadmap -- I mean, I can't even remember when it was first put out -- what, like 2003?

MR. CASEY: 2003, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. I mean, we're not even in any stage of implementing the roadmap, so do you think it's wise for -- you know, to advance other proposals that may espouse or advocate the same goals of the roadmap, but why do you have to stick to a roadmap or a proposal or any kind of plan that hasn't -- that's been sitting on the shelf for years?

MR. CASEY: Well, Elise, right now, as far as I know, the only plan that both Israelis and Palestinians have accepted as a way forward towards achieving a two-state solution is the roadmap. Again, I think that if you look at the discussions that have been held by Prime Minister Olmert and Abbas, as well as the trilateral that was held with the Secretary, what the focus is there is achieving the goals of the roadmap.

That includes both the short-term objectives in terms of ending terrorism, dealing with some of the very specific issues related to border crossings and other matters, as well, as the Secretary said, looking at the political horizon beyond that. There are -- obviously, what the roadmap does is provide simply that. It's a framework for achieving that final goal of a two-state solution, two states living side by side in peace with one another. And obviously, there are a lot of individual things that need to be discussed.

It's important, though, that this has to be an agreement reached by the two parties. And the United States is doing what it can to support dialogue and support efforts towards that end. We certainly want to see all other parties in the region, including the Saudis as well as the Egyptians, Jordanians, and the other members of the GCC+2 do what they can to be able to encourage dialogue and again, encourage movement towards that goal. But the roadmap is again, the only document to the only way forward on the table that both sides have agreed to.

Yeah, Michel.

QUESTION: The roadmap is between Israelis and Palestinians, but Arab initiative is between Israel and the Arab world -- all the Arab states. It's different from the roadmap.

MR. CASEY: Well, yes. And again, though, what I'd just simply point out is the goal here and I think the goal as I understand it, of the Saudi initiative is to resolve differences between Israelis and Palestinians and to achieve a two-state solution. And in that sense, I think there's consonance between them. All I'm saying is again, as far as U.S. policy is concerned, the roadmap is simply the only plan that's been put forward as to how to achieve an ending of Israeli and Palestinian issues, that has been deemed acceptable by both sides. And both sides in the case of the Palestinians represented by President Abbas, in the case of Israelis represented by Prime Minister Olmert, have agreed to move forward on and that continues to be the basis of those discussions.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Saudi -- I mean --

MR. CASEY: You could try.

QUESTION: Both Prime Minister Olmert and the Israeli Foreign Minister Livni have described positive elements about the Saudi plan. Do you yourself see that as a positive sign?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think anything that is done that helps to foster an agreement among the parties that helps us advance towards a two-state solution is positive. I'll let the Israelis -- let the Israeli officials describe what they view as the, you know, more positive elements of this.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Albania. Mr. Casey, from the statement --

MR. CASEY: Actually, hold on a second, Mr. Lambros. You want to stay on this for a minute? Yeah.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask whether you've had any more conversations or readout from Ellen Sauerbrey's meetings in Damascus specifically. And in fact, what I really would like to know is whether you think that meeting yesterday was a good opening perhaps towards further discussions with the Syrians, not only on refugees but other issues?

MR. CASEY: Well, the purpose of Ellen's visit was to discuss the refugee issue and that's what her conversations focused on. I don't think we see it as anything more or less than that. The issue of Iraqi refugees is a very serious and important one. It was a subject of concern that was discussed at the neighbor's meeting in Baghdad as well. And in fact, as I understand, it's one of the working groups that's being formed as a result of that, is going to be looking at that. As you know, we're committed to working with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other NGOs and institutions to provide the support that we can to Iraqi refugees until they are able to be returned home, which is I think the goal most of them share, or in certain cases where there were very serious concerns or needs provide for their resettlement. So we hope that what this will do is foster additional cooperation and support from the Syrian Government to deal with this very specific question of refugees.

QUESTION: Do you know whether she felt welcome in Damascus, about whether she thought the meeting was held in sort of an appropriate manner and whether they were courteous to her?

MR. CASEY: Well, my understanding, it was described to me as useful and constructive. I am not aware that there were any particular disputes or problems that occurred in terms of the tenor of the meeting. So in that sense, I assume it was a reasonably positive exchange. But in terms of the substance of the issues, again, I think we said yesterday, you know, Ellen's main point was to encourage their cooperation with UNHCR and to encourage them as well to continue to support, to the best of their ability, Iraqi refugees there. Again, the Syrians did say that they intended to continue to do so, though they did note that this placed certain burdens on their system logistically, among other things.

QUESTION: Can I have just one last one and I know it sort of came up yesterday. Are you now aware whether the Syrians asked for any specific help from the United States --

MR. CASEY: As far as I know --

QUESTION: -- for (inaudible) or otherwise?

MR. CASEY: I'm not aware of any specific requests made to us, no.

QUESTION: Did she offer it?

MR. CASEY: Again, what we are offering is support for the UNHCR and other NGOs that are responsible for helping to take care of the refugees in Syria. Certainly, we expect and would hope that the Syrian Government would do what they could. But in terms of the channeling of U.S. aid or resources for Iraqi refugees, we intend to do that as we do in most refugee situations, through UNHCR and the affiliated NGOs with them.

QUESTION: Tom, can I just follow up? You said you were not aware of any requests from the Syrians to her. Is that because -- I'm just trying to understand it -- you asked and you were told no, there weren't any, or you didn't get a chance to ask and therefore, you don't know if there were any?

MR. CASEY: I do not know if there were any. I did not ask if there were any in the fairly extensive readouts that I've gotten on this and no one mentioned any requests being made. And if we have anything more for you on that, Arshad, I'll be happy to get back to you.

Yeah, Sue.

QUESTION: On -- change of subject, Sudan?

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: Sudan's president, as you noticed, replied to -- you know, given a lengthy response to the UN about the heavy package, including the UN-AU plan, and he seems to refute everything in detail outlined in that plan. I just wondered whether you had any reaction to that. And also, the Human Rights Council has come up with a very damning report which Sudan has, of course, rejected.

MR. CASEY: Yeah. In terms of the letter that's been sent, I think we've now had a chance to look at that in a little bit more detail and we're extremely troubled by the fact that that letter does seem to try and pick and choose among elements of the heavy support package, because this is something that does not represent simply a notional idea from the UN or from the United States or any other member of the international community. This is what the UN and the AU have agreed upon is what the AU needs and wants from the United Nations.

So we continue to believe that the heavy support package needs to be provided for as soon as possible and that it's essential to help the African Union perform its peacekeeping functions. And those are things that were outlined, again, in the Darfur agreement as well as in the Addis agreement that President Bashir himself said he had accepted. So his efforts to delay and reinterpret the agreement or try and limit it simply are not acceptable to the international community and I think we're seeing a growing impatience on the part of the international community with these kinds of delaying tactics.

And certainly, to the extent -- to anticipate your next question, to the extent that the Government of Sudan does continue to try and frustrate implementation of the agreement, the U.S. and the other members of the international community are going to have to think seriously about implementing additional measures to deal with the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. I'm certainly not in a position at this point to talk to you about any specifics on those, but again, the benchmark for us has always been whether the Sudanese Government is permitting the implementation of the hybrid force to move forward. And to the extent that is not the case, then other options will have to be looked at.

QUESTION: Following his visit last week to Sudan, did Andrew Natsios recommend to the Bush Administration that you should be taking much harsher action? Has he reported back and told you what he thinks should be done?

MR. CASEY: Well, Andrew just arrived back yesterday and I think given the travel schedules of both the Secretary and the President, I don't believe he's had an opportunity to brief them yet. So I'll let him make his recommendations to them first before I try and describe them to you.

QUESTION: But are you near the end of the road in terms of your patience? Because you've been very patient. Initially, Andrew had said that from January 1, plan B would kick into action. We're now at mid-March, it hasn't kicked into action, so how much patience do you have?

MR. CASEY: Well, certainly not unlimited patience. Obviously the problem with this letter is it appears to take a step backward from commitments that President Bashir has already made. And again, it's troubling to see him now after agreeing to the deployment of this heavy package, now come back and try and cherry-pick certain elements of it. Because that package again is something that's been worked out by the AU with the United Nations and it's what the AU thinks is necessary to be able to support the mission. So clearly, our patience is limited. I think the patience of the international community is limited. And I think that we unfortunately may be approaching a time when other steps will have to be taken.

QUESTION: Can you say, Tom, whether you are any closer to that time?

MR. CASEY: Well, I certainly think that the letter that has been sent takes us in the wrong direction, and in that sense, moves us closer to a time when those kinds of other actions will have to be taken.

QUESTION: And just on the other side of the coin, I mean, this talk about the heavy package is great, but you don't actually have the troop contributing -- you don't have enough troops for this heavy package and it appears that, in fact, the international system or community or whatever you want to call it, is falling wildly short in terms of providing enough for Sudan.

MR. CASEY: Well, we've talked -- we've talked to this before. There is certainly demand for international peacekeeping troops and other troops in Africa and elsewhere in the world. But we have an obligation, all of us, as an international community to be able to help make the commitments necessary to carry this out. But for right now, what is unfortunate is regardless of the limitations on the commitments already made, what we are now seeing is the Government of Sudan taking a step back from its willingness to cooperate and implement this package. But yes, you're absolutely right. The international community has an obligation to meet this demand. It's a serious one and it's important that countries do step up and offer the kind of support necessary to have the UN carry this out.

QUESTION: But don't you think that the kind of lack of political will or commitment on the part of the international community to commit those troops has given the government a kind of leeway to drag its feet on, on implementing the heavy package?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, what the motivations are behind this latest missive from President Bashir, I'll leave to the Sudanese Government to describe. But the fact of the matter is he's made commitments. He's now pulling back from them and we need to see that reversed.

QUESTION: Can you expand on the report of the Human Rights Council, what you think of the report and the fact that you've been complaining that this Human Rights Council isn't tackling the big issues of human rights abuses? Is this a positive sign that the Council might be moving in the right direction?

MR. CASEY: Well, it's certainly -- first of all, I don't think we've had a chance to review the report in full. But it's clear from what we've seen of it so far, that it recognizes the kinds of concerns that we have spoken about and that others in the international community have.

Clearly there continue to be persistent violations of human rights in Sudan; that is obvious, even though this group was not allowed to go into Sudan directly and only had the opportunity to talk with refugees in Chad and elsewhere. Whether it indicates a change in the attitude of the Human Rights Council or not I think remains to be seen. I'm not sure the Council has actually determined whether it intends to try and take any kind of action on this report or even increase its push for Sudan to let the group itself do as it still wishes to do and go into the country to look at conditions there. To the extent that the Council does something other than simply focus on issues related to Israel, though, I think that's positive.

Yeah, Mr. Lambros.

George, same subject?

QUESTION: Same issue. It seems that nothing good is going to happen in Darfur until, you know, President Bashir changes his mind and until troop-contributing countries, you know, step forward. A third ingredient is the rebels rallying behind a single leader. And because, you know, the fighting would otherwise continue indefinitely. And I know this has been a priority for Andrew Natsios and he's been there. Do you have anything new to report on that?

MR. CASEY: I don't have anything new to report, unfortunately, in terms of a change in view of the various rebel factions and groups that are out there. Andrew has had discussions with some of those rebel leaders. Other officials have as well. We continue to push for them to first and foremost for those that have signed on to the Darfur Peace Agreement to adhere to it. For those that haven't, to sign themselves up to it and to certainly at least obey the terms of the ceasefire to stop violence. And one of the problems that does remain out there is that there is violence from both sides in this conflict and that is not to excuse the actions of the government or militias associated with it, but there is violence that occurs from the other side as well. And ultimately what that means is that the only real way to achieve a lasting solution in Darfur is to have all sides sit down and work out the kind of agreement that ultimately was achieved between the North and the South and Sudan.

And that is why the Darfur Peace Agreement remains, for us, an important basis for being able to achieve that ultimate solution. But to do that, you do need to have an agreement to move forward on the hybrid force and you do need to be able to have the troops available to make that happen.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes. Your Ambassador to Cyprus (inaudible) Schlicher stated that it's the sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus to make agreements in oil and petroleum exploration. Do you agree?

MR. CASEY: Say that again?

QUESTION: Your Ambassador to Cyprus stated that it's the sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus to make agreements in oil and petroleum exploration. Do you agree?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I assume that all sovereign governments have the rights of sovereign governments. And making contracts between that government would be one -- and private entities would be one of them.

QUESTION: The Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos stated, "now that checkpoint of the National Guard of the Republic at Ledra Street has been demolished, we will see whether the Turkish troops will be withdrawn so the passage would be opened or not." Any comment?

MR. CASEY: I really don't, Mr. Lambros. We've talked about that in the past, but I don't have any updates to offer you on it. Certainly, we want to see the situation in Cyprus be resolved peacefully, in accordance with longstanding U.S. policy.

Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: Zimbabwe, please. Can you tell me the level of concern you have for the unrest that's going on at the moment?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think all of you have seen the statement that we put out by the Secretary calling for the immediate release of those individuals, including some key opposition leaders, who were detained in Zimbabwe after the violent crackdown on this prayer breakfast that was being held over the weekend. We certainly are concerned. We're concerned that the police and the government as a whole hadn't responded to a number of court orders on this issue. We're concerned in the first place that these individuals have been detained.


No one should face harassment, intimidation, and as it increasingly appears, beatings and physical abuse simply for trying to get together and meet and freely express their views and freely talk about political issues. I think what this incident shows clearly to the international community is, again, the repressive nature of the Mugabe government and the lengths to which it will go to try and keep people from being able to participate in the political process.

QUESTION: Are you taking any diplomatic steps to try to increase pressure on the Mugabe government to treat its people with greater dignity and less violence? Are you reaching out to neighbors, to South Africa? Are you reaching out to the Chinese, who have economic relations?

MR. CASEY: We've had a number of discussions among embassy counterparts in Zimbabwe itself. I think you've seen already a statement come out from the EU ambassadors there and I think there may have been one that has come out from the EU itself as well.

Our ambassador is currently, or was when I came out here, present in the courtroom where these individuals have been brought for a hearing. I know that both he as well as some of the EU ambassadors made efforts to visit these individuals in detention to try and check on their condition because of the concerns we have about what is going on. Certainly, we are going to be talking with our EU partners as well as with other friends in the region as well, because clearly, this is very concerning.

As we approach the beginnings of an electoral campaign in Zimbabwe as well, we certainly want to see more openness and see a dialogue go on between all the elements of Zimbabwean society. What we don't want to see is an increase in repressive behavior. And again, it's particularly disturbing to see these reports of not only a breakup of these rallies, but of individuals, including some senior members of the political opposition, being beaten, not being provided with medical care, and possibly suffering serious injuries that no one's been able to account for.

They have also not been given the opportunity, as I understand it, to see their counsel, see their lawyers, or otherwise have the kinds of contacts you would normally expect. And they're required under Zimbabwean law. So yes, we will be talking with our friends and partners both in Europe and in the region to talk about what else we might be able to do to support some positive change in Zimbabwe.

Elise or Charlie.

QUESTION: Yeah, to follow up, you said the American ambassador made an attempt to see --

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Did he actually see any of the people who were in jail?

MR. CASEY: No, he was not permitted to visit with them. As I said, he was in the courtroom today when those individuals were brought in, but as far as I know, he was not given an opportunity to converse with them.

Elise, did you have something else?

QUESTION: Yeah. We really haven't heard that much about Zimbabwe until this incident, although the United States has always considered the government of Robert Mugabe to be a repressive regime. Do you think that enough high-level attention has been paid to -- while you pursue your democracy agenda to democratic backslide -- continued backsliding in Zimbabwe that lead to this event?

MR. CASEY: Well, I wish I could say that this event represented a break with some positive movement in Zimbabwe. I think we've seen, over the past few years, that the situation there, like in a number of other countries, has unfortunately only continued in the wrong direction. And certainly, we have tried to call attention to the problems in Zimbabwe, both publicly here and in international fora. It's unfortunate to us that this is, of course, one of the other issues that the Human Rights Council has not decided to focus on or pick up on despite the fact that there are serious concerns and problems. So while I think we have done as much as we can to call attention to this and we have continued to try and push for change in Zimbabwe, including through working with our partners, obviously, the incidents over the past week and today just serve as another reminder of why we need to continue to be focused on this, look at things closely and see what we can do to try and foster change.

Let's go over here. Oh, I'm sorry, Sylvie. And we'll go over here and then we'll go down to Sylvie and then we'll go back to you, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Changing the subject?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject? We go to Iran. You have the President of Iran one day he said that I want to go today to talk with the 5+1 and the next day he wants to go to pursuing the Security Council the other day. Today I believe Foreign Minister of Iran said that you are going to give every -- there are guarantees that you need and 5+1 need regarding the atomic plan. What's your really plan? Are you going to continue regardless of everything for the second resolution?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, Iran finds itself in the position that it's in because it's failed repeatedly to comply with requests and then legal requirements first and over a couple of years from the IAEA Board of Governors and then subsequently from the Security Council. The standard for Iran and the simple measure that it must meet to be able to achieve a more positive arrangement with the international community is pretty clear. And that's simply go back to what it was for some time, adhering to under the original Paris Agreement which is a full suspension of its uranium enrichment activities.

At that point, we would be certainly willing, as we've said, to sit down with Iranian officials and discuss this issue and to be able to work out the kind of agreement in which the international community could be assured that Iran is not using its nuclear program to build a nuclear weapon while at the same time helping Iran do what it says, its stated objective is, which is achieving a civilian nuclear power program that would provide benefit to its people.

Again, I think it's terribly unfortunate that the Iranian Government has wasted so many opportunities provided to it by the international community to engage in this fairly simple step, to then go forward with dialogue and to have a dialogue in which we've said we would be willing to discuss any and all issues that the Iranian Government might wish to bring to the table, not just their nuclear concerns.

I think the Iranian Government has singularly failed to grasp and take these opportunities which I believe would have had a tremendous benefit for Iran in terms of bringing it further into the international community and also in terms of being able to provide real benefits for its people. So again, we continue to hope that the Iranian Government will change its behavior. But in the event that it continues down this current path, then certainly we expect that they will have additional sanctions placed on them and I suspect that that process will unfold sooner, rather than later. I know we've had some good conversations in New York yesterday and again this morning and we are moving towards a second resolution. And barring a change in Iran's behavior, we'll continue to do so.

Okay, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On (inaudible) Mr. Casey, I need your attention. Following carefully the statement by Mr. McCormack of last Thursday on the Greeks of Northern Epirus and Albania, my question is: Is your response that refers to "Greek zones" and by inference the town of Himare is placed in a "non-Greek zone." The citizens of Himare, Mr. Casey, would be surprised by the classification since for ten years they have been petitioning the government to be restored to the (inaudible) distance from which the (inaudible) the (inaudible) as punishment for the (inaudible) to vote against his "people and public." It was not found to be so in 1946. Would you support the right of the citizens of the Himare to change where they belong?

MR. CASEY: We would support the right of the citizens of Albania to determine for themselves how they wish to politically organize their country. That's an internal political matter, Mr. Lambros, and that's for Albanians to decide.

QUESTION: One more question.

MR. CASEY: Let's go down to Sylvie and then we'll go back later. Yeah.

QUESTION: Would you have any detail on this civil nuclear agreement Libya says they have reached with the U.S.?

MR. CASEY: And Sylvie wins the prize. I was wondering if someone was going to give me an opportunity to use this carefully planned and apparently well thought over response that I've been given to this.

Let me just tell you what the status of this is and this was something that I know Arshad had raised yesterday because of a news report from Jana from the Libyan news agency. Let me just go -- there's no formal pending nuclear cooperation agreement with Libya on nuclear power plants or any broader nuclear issues nor has the United States tabled a draft of any kind of agreement like that.

I do understand that Libyan officials, since that report has come out, have stated that they weren't trying to refer to an existing agreement or plan for agreement, but to the fact that the Libyan Government had this past Sunday formally authorized the foreign ministry to be able to enter into future negotiations on civil nuclear issues if there was an opportunity and a time when that might be appropriate.

The one thing, and this was part of my hesitation to just give you a categorical no on this yesterday, is that since 2003 we have had a number of scientific cooperation activities with the Libyans and that includes in the area of nuclear medicine and radioisotope productions. And that's part of our sort of broader effort to normalize relations. I know we are in discussions with the Libyans regarding a project to help them develop a nuclear medicine center and that is sort of the only thing that you could use the word nuclear in relation to kinds of agreements with us. So I apologize for the delay in getting that back to you, but that's the basis of this.

QUESTION: So there is no formal pending nuclear agreement? Are there some discussions or pre-discussions?

MR. CASEY: No, there's no discussions of this. There's no agreement being worked out and there aren't any plans to do so right now. Again, at a future date, we'd be open to discussions about this, but now is not the time that I think either of us deem appropriate for that.

QUESTION: And also I have another question. David Welch is in the region.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Did he go to Libya? Do we know?

MR. CASEY: No, he didn't. As I said --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Libyans because he sometimes does it not in Libya.

MR. CASEY: Not that I'm aware of. But if for some reason there's a change in that I'll let you know. He went to Amman and Riyadh and these were bilaterally focused discussions and he didn't have any plans to meet with Libyans on this trip.

QUESTION: Tom, just a quick follow-up, Tom.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: You said that there were specific cooperation on activities including a nuclear medicine project.

MR. CASEY: Plans including -- and let me make sure I get that right for you. We are in discussion with others, with Libya, regarding a project to help Libya develop a regional nuclear medicine center; meaning, not now, in the future.

QUESTION: But you are in discussions with them on creation of --

MR. CASEY: On a nuclear medicine center.

QUESTION: -- such a nuclear medicine --

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Kind of like a stress test for people with, you know, cardiac disease, right?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, yeah. You're talking about nuclear medicine generally being defined by those range of things that a lot which do involve cardiac-related issues and some other kinds of chemotherapy as well I think.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)?

MR. CASEY: Last one.

QUESTION: Yes, on Greece. When you calculated the Albania population in Greece at 7 percent, what does the Department of State include in that figure? Are illegal temporary workers categorized as "minority" with legitimate demands recommended, educational and political rights, you know, the same rights illegal aliens ask for the United States too?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I am neither an expert in census figures nor in percentages of minorities or anything else related to statistics in the Balkans. I know this is an issue that you care deeply about, but frankly, if you would like to know where such calculations come from and you're citing ones used in our annual Human Rights Report, I'm sure that people in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor would be happy to help answer that for you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) they called it a minority. That's my question.

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I don't know. I think you'll just have to go ask them what the -- why the definitions are the way they are, are longstanding, they've been in countless previous reports and there's nothing new there to offer frankly.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:17 p.m.)

DPB # 43



Released on March 13, 2007



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