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Daily Press Briefing

Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 25, 2007

INDEX:

IRAQ
Rumored Training of Iranian Athletes by U.S. Olympic Committee
Iraq Compact Meeting / Paris Club Commitment on Debt Forgiveness
David Satterfield's Ongoing Discussions with Iraq and its Neighbors
DEPARTMENT
Congressman Waxman Letter / Response to Last Letter
Secretary Rice Has Repeatedly Spoken to Issue
SOMALIA
U.S. Supports Transitional Federal Government
International Presence Needed in Somalia
Diplomatic Efforts on Somalia Based Out of Embassy in Ethiopia
IRAN
Status of Last Diplomatic Note to Iran on Mr. Levinson
U.S. Asking Other Friendly Governments to Knock on Doors
Details of Mr. Levinson's Private Business Not Known
Comments Made by Mr. Belfield on Issue
Department in Contact with Mr. Levinson's Family on Regular Basis
Clear to U.S. That Iran Owes U.S. a Good Faith Answer on Mr. Levinson
U.S. Unaware of Any Obstruction of Process by Iranian Government
KOSOVO
U.S. Will Continue to Discuss Kosovo Issue with Security Council Members
U.S. Supports Ahtisaari Plan
CAMBODIA
Police Chief Hok Lundy's Meetings with State Department Officials
Meetings Covered Full Range of Concerns


TRANSCRIPT:

12:45 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, everybody. Happy Wednesday. I don't have any announcements or statements to begin you with, so -- George.

QUESTION: What do you have to say about the possible training of Iranian athletes by the U.S. Olympic Committee in preparation for the '08 Olympics?

MR. CASEY: Well, what do I have to say about that? I don't actually know, George. I'll have to get back to you on it. Sorry.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Still on Iran, do you have anything on the Iraq compact meeting on -- next week and as to whether you think there's going to be debt relief provided by the participants of it?

MR. CASEY: You know, we talked a little bit about that this morning. I think, Sue, as you know and as I mentioned this morning, this has been -- debt relief has been part of the effort to help Iraq move forward since early on, back in 2004, partly as a result of the good efforts by former Secretary of State Baker among others.

The Paris Club made a decision to ask for 80 percent as a minimum level of debt forgiveness for Iraq among its members and that is something that a number of countries have already acted upon, but it's certainly an issue that we continue to discuss with many countries in the Paris Club and certainly, something that we do want to see people live up to that Paris Club commitment on. I think the Saudis have already made some announcements in that regard and we're very pleased to see that and we'll certainly be continuing to work with other countries as we move closer to next week's compact date, as well as beyond that to see that they carry out those agreements.

I do want to point out as -- again, as I said this morning as well, that the compact, though, is not simply a debt relief agreement. It is intended to be very much an agreement between the Iraqis and the Iraqi Government, and those people who are part of the compact are the international community, and is designed to be able to provide a variety of different kinds of support, in part in response to the Iraqis' own ability to meet the commitments they've set out for themselves in terms of economic reform.

But obviously, one of the many components of helping to improve the lives of Iraqis and helping them develop a stable, democratic society is the ability to move forward economically, to provide jobs for people, to give opportunities to people in Iraq, and to have a fully functioning and developed economy. And the compact and the agreements that are reached under it are part of that effort.

QUESTION: David Satterfield has been traveling in the region this week. What has his message been to the governments that he's been meeting, and is he hoping to get -- is he hoping that by putting pressure on these countries that they'll come forward and offer a lot more support?

MR. CASEY: Well, David, of course, in his role as the Secretary's Senior Advisor on Iraq, is moving about quite a bit and is constantly talking with not only the Iraqi officials but friends and neighbors, and certainly is doing so now as we move towards next week's meeting not only of the compact but of the neighbors group as well. And certainly, his message to the officials he's meeting with, just as it has been, is we want to make sure that they are doing everything they can to help support the Iraqi Government, and again, not only on those sorts of economic issues that are related to the compact but also on some of the broader political questions, which is part of what the neighbors conference and the previous meeting of that kind are designed to help produce.

Libby.

QUESTION: Nothing on Iraq. I want to switch. Do you guys -- have you heard back from Congressman Waxman's office after you sent the letter yesterday? Are you expecting a subpoena?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, we have responded to his last letter and I don't know quite what the committee may have done this morning. I think they were still in session as I headed down here to speak with you. But again, I think if you look at the record of what is there, the Secretary has spoken to this issue repeatedly. As you heard Sean say yesterday, this is perhaps the most investigated single issue we have over the last several years. It's been addressed by various commissions, from Robb-Silverman to the 9/11 Commission to any number of -- or, excuse me, Robb-Silverman Commission and any number of other bodies that have looked at this. She's testified to it, including during her confirmation hearings, so there's an ample body of public record on this issue for people to consider and look at.

I think particularly if you look at the things that she is currently doing not only going to Oslo today to meet with NATO allies to talk about how we can all work better together to help improve the situation in Afghanistan, or the Iraq neighbors meetings and compact meeting next week, to the Middle Eastern peace initiative efforts that are underway and that she'll be traveling to the region on again. There are a lot of things that are out there that she's working on that are very important and critical to national security. While we certainly will do everything we can to answer questions that are posed, whether by Chairman Waxman or any other member of Congress, again, I think you have to question the motivation behind looking at something that, in effect, has been addressed and answered multiple times.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: On Somalia. What do you know about the report that apparently Ban Ki-moon has prepared for the Security Council and what do you think of his idea to start gathering on some sort of a coalition of the willing that would go into Somalia and help with the situation?

MR. CASEY: Well, if he's got a report to present to Council, I think I'll let him present it to Council before trying to address it. Look, our position on Somalia, I think, is quite clear. Certainly, we've been supportive of the Transitional Federal Government. We've been supportive of the IGAD-led effort that has put a number of peacekeeping troops already on the ground there. We want to see that move forward because it's clear that there needs to be that kind of international presence in Somalia to help deal with some of the violence we're seeing.

As you heard Jendayi Frazer speak to this issue on Monday, you know, we want to make sure that Ethiopia can withdraw its troops as quickly as possible. But it needs to be done in a way that isn't precipitous, that doesn't create a vacuum. And to do that we need to see other countries step up and put troops forward for deployment in the force that's already on the books and I think that's been the focus of our efforts.

QUESTION: What's the main source you have on the ground for getting more information about what's happening? Is it the Ethiopians? Is it someone else?

MR. CASEY: Well, as you know, the efforts in terms of our diplomatic efforts related to Somalia are based out of our Embassy in Ethiopia. My understanding is, though I don't have exact numbers, Nicholas, there have been several other people who have been devoted to focusing on Somali related issues from there. The Embassy in Kenya has always of course also had a role in watching events in Somalia for us, but that's how we are engaging on this diplomatically. Certainly, we're talking to the Ethiopians and Kenyans. We also are in contact fairly regularly with the Transitional Federal Government and the institutions there. Jendayi, of course, actually did pay a visit to Baidoa herself to talk with some of the Transitional Federal Government leaders and to get a bit of an assessment herself of their views of the situation.

Nina.

QUESTION: Would you mind if we went on to Levinson? Have you had any response from the Iranians yet at all?

MR. CASEY: No. Unfortunately, we haven't heard back for -- to our last diplomatic note to the Iranian Government. And certainly we do want to hear back from them and we want to get some answers as to what has happened to Mr. Levinson. We again don't have any credible information on his welfare or whereabouts. But we certainly want to know what the Iranians know and we want to make sure that they really have done something more than a cursory pulse of their system. It's clear to us as we've said, that he entered Iran via Kish Island. And it's also clear to us that he did not leave, at least not by the same route he went in.

So we are fairly confident then that he is somewhere in Iran on Iranian territory. And we would hope that the Iranian authorities would be able to provide us some answers as to his whereabouts. And we also are continuing to talk with other friendly governments about this. We've asked now a total of three different countries to knock on some doors for us, to use what resources they have to be able to see if they can find any information or glean any information from their Iranian contacts about where he is.

QUESTION: And you've had no feedback yet from these other governments?

MR. CASEY: The other governments have simply responded by saying, yes, they're interested in helping us. And my understanding is they've begun to try and follow up on some of those efforts and try and make some contacts for us. But unfortunately as yet, they haven't produced any information either that gives us a sense of where he is.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I just continue? Would you mind? We've had these claims from Mr. Belfield that he was the last person that met with Levinson on Kish and now Belfield is also claiming that Levinson was carrying a rather explosive file of documents with him. Do you have any comment on that? Are you aware of those reports?

MR. CASEY: I really don't. I've seen a lot of press reports on this. And there are press reports, as you've indicated, that say that he might have been picked up or otherwise detained by some element of Iran's security forces. And certainly we've pointed out those press reports to the Iranian Government and asked them to look into those matters.

But I don't have anything that I can offer you. We don't really know the details of his private business in Iran. And again, I think those are all questions that we would hopefully be able to have Mr. Levinson himself address when we locate him. But the important thing to us right now is that we do everything we can to be able to ascertain his whereabouts and to make sure that he gets home safely and securely and as soon as possible to be with family.

QUESTION: Are you concerned about his safety? Are you becoming increasingly concerned about his safety?

MR. CASEY: Well, we don't have any information that leads us to conclude one way or the other where he is or what his status is. But certainly, anytime an American citizen goes missing, it's something we're concerned about and it's something we make efforts to try and deal with. There are -- while this is certainly a case that's gained a lot of attention for obvious reasons, there are thousands of cases each year that our embassies and posts overseas deal with to try and help find Americans who are missing or who simply have failed to make contact with their family members, and make sure that they're all right, give them help where they need help, and get them back to their families. And we're pursuing the same kind of procedures here.

But again, as time has gone on and as we have still not had any information that gives us an idea of his whereabouts or his welfare, we are continuing to reach out and reach out more broadly. And that's appropriate and we're going to keep doing so and we're going to keep pressing the Iranian Government for answers as well.

QUESTION: One last thing, if I may.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: I know it's difficult for you to comment on this, but Belfield seems to think this is all about him, this is all part of some scheme, whether official or not, to tempt him out of the country because, obviously, he's a wanted fugitive here. Do you have any comment on that, or with this in light of this? Are you concerned that the Iranians will think that Mr. Levinson was in any respect working for U.S. authorities?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, Mr. Levinson was in Iran on private business. He had no business there that was on behalf of the U.S. Government. I'm not sure about what Mr. Belfield's latest statements are, but this is about Mr. Levinson and this is about finding Mr. Levinson and bringing him home safely and quickly to his family, which is where he belongs.

Libby.

QUESTION: How much contact does the State Department have with Levinson's family? Are you aware of whether they're doing any other investigations on their own outside of the U.S. Government?

MR. CASEY: I don't know if they are doing any kind of "investigations on their own." Certainly, we're in contact with his family on a regular basis. It's important to us that we are and we want to, again, make sure that any information we receive, we pass on to them and we also want to make sure that they know about the efforts that we are making on his behalf.

Anything else on this?

QUESTION: One more.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: Have the Iranians previously been helpful in similar sorts of cases where people have gone missing? And do you think they're being deliberately unhelpful in this particular instance because of Mr. Levinson's previous affiliation with the FBI?

MR. CASEY: Well, Sue, I can't tell you what Iranian thinking is or what their motivation is. I think, though, it's clear to us that they owe us a good faith answer on what they know about his welfare and whereabouts. And that's why we've sent our latest request to them. Again, what we know is that he entered Iran. We have no reason to believe that he left and therefore, it would seem to us that the Iranian Government ought to have some information available to share with us.

In terms of other issues, again, he was there on private business. This is a private American citizen and we want to make sure that he gets back home to be with his family. In terms of other cases that have occurred in the past, as we've said, there's usually a couple of cases any given year like this, of welfare and whereabouts cases, in Iran itself. My understanding is each of those resulted in us being able to locate the individual successfully and put them back in contact with their friends and family.

I'm not aware of any instances where the Iranian Government has obstructed that process. I can't tell you in the global history of this how particularly helpful they have or haven't been. In some cases, these are issues where I think the Swiss, acting on our behalf, as our representative there in Iran, has been able to locate the individuals without having to do the kind of formal requests that we've had to go through in this process.

QUESTION: So do you think they're being obstructive, though?

MR. CASEY: Again, I don't know what their thinking is. Our concern is that we believe that they ought to be able to come up with some answers to the questions we've raised with them and we're going to keep pushing them on it.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Kosovo, Mr. Casey, in response to Mr. McCormack's yesterday statement, Russia said today still has a different view about Kosovo's future despite your request for Moscow to back the UN resolution to grant the Serbian province full independence from Serbia. Any comment?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm sure Sean will be very disappointed to know that his words did not change longstanding Russian policy, but look, this is an issue that we are going to continue to be discussing with the members of the Security Council, with the members of the contact group, including Russia. There is a group that is out there now of representatives from the Council, including new U.S. Ambassador Zal Khalilzad in Kosovo looking at the situation there. That was a Russian request that the Council take this kind of mission; thought that was reasonable and we're happy to have Zal be participating in that. And we look forward to having that group come back, make their report to the rest of the Council.

We certainly look forward to continuing the discussions on this issue, but in the end, we believe that the Ahtisaari plan is the appropriate way forward, the right way to go and offers the best hope for the future not only for the people in Kosovo but for the people in Serbia and the broader region as well.

QUESTION: Yes, but how do you respond exactly to the point that the two sides should agree, as in the Serbians and the Albanians, on Kosovo before reaching agreement? It seems to me that the process is not only unilateral.

MR. CASEY: I just did, Mr. Lambros. We support the Ahtisaari plan. That's where we are.

QUESTION: And also, Under Secretary Nicholas Burns stated that the U.S.-supported Ahtisaari plan, as you said, for independent Kosovo under international supervision for a limited period of time. What do you mean with that supervision and limited time?

MR. CASEY: I suggest you go read Mr. Ahtisaari's plan because all those issues are described in there.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: Have you had a chance to find out whether that Cambodian police chief who was visiting has had any meetings at the State Department?

MR. CASEY: We posted a taken question in response to that yesterday.

QUESTION: I didn't see it. I'm sorry.

MR. CASEY: But just for the record, yes, he did meet here with three people simultaneously: Chris Hill, our Secretary Assistant Secretary for Asia and Pacific Affairs; Anne Patterson from INL; and John Farrar, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. And you can take a look at the taken question for the sort of readout of that meeting.

QUESTION: All right. Do you -- just to follow up -- your concerns about his record that Sean talked about last week, is the level of those concerns still where it was previously or has he been able to explain to you his involvement in what you think he has done?

MR. CASEY: I'm not aware that there's any change in view.

Sue.

QUESTION: Did you get any answers to the questions from the gaggle about whether you had raised the issue of his personal involvement in -- or alleged involvement in trafficking and political (inaudible)?

MR. CASEY: Look, Sue, I'm not going to try and give you a blow-by-blow description of the meeting. Let me just try and answer that by saying we covered the full range of concerns that we have about trafficking in persons, human rights issues and other things that are reflective of some of the concerns we discussed previously.

QUESTION: So you didn't raise any allegations against him in particular?

MR. CASEY: Again, I'll just leave it where I left it: we covered the full range of issue on those subjects.

George.

QUESTION: I understand there have been human rights discussions with the Vietnamese. Do you know anything about that?

MR. CASEY: I don't, but I'm sure people in this building do. I'll try and find out for you.

QUESTION: (inaudible) phone calls.

MR. CASEY: Oh, well. There you go.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:04 p.m.)

DPB # 73


Released on April 25, 2007



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