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Daily Press Briefing

Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 15, 2007


Transcript of Secretary Rice's Russian Interview Presently Unavailable
U.S. Supports Ahtisaari Plan on Kosovo
Plan Calls for a Movement for Supervised Independence for Kosovo
Ongoing Discussions in New York for a Resolution / Important to Have Broad International Community Support for a Resolution
Testimony Rescheduled with Waxman Committee / Letter Sent to Committee from Assistant Secretary of Legislative Affairs
White House Will Talk about Specifics of Constitutional Questions
Issue of World Bank Report on Paul Wolfowitz / Not Aware of Any Calls by Deputy Secretary Negroponte to European Counterparts
A Process is Underway at World Bank / Important for Wolfowitz to Present His Views on This Subject / Secretary Rice Holds Wolfowitz in High Personal Regard
Director General IAEA ElBaradei Has not Presented Any New Findings
Not in a Position to Comment on Alleged Reports of New Findings by IAEA
Iran Continues to Act in Defiance of Wishes of International Community
International Community Has Gathered to Apply a Series of Graduated Steps Through Security Council to Change Iran's Behavior
The Need to Continue to Apply Pressure to Iran with an Additional Security Council Resolution
Iran Has Increased its Isolation as it Moves Down Negative Path
There Must Be Good Faith Negotiations from Iran
Time to Resolve Issue Diplomatically
No One is Denying Iran the Right to Civilian Nuclear Power
Iran Must Understand International Community Will Not Give on this Issue
U.S. has Full Faith and Confidence in Turkish Democracy and its Civilian Leaders
U.S. is Committed to Turkish Democracy / Respect for Results of Democratic Election
Request by Prime Minister Siniora for Security Council to Establish Tribunal
U.S. Supports Call for Tribunal / Important That There is Accountability on Hariri Assassination / Chapter 7 Resolution
BDA Issue / U.S. Needs to See Funds Transferred
North Korea Wants a Different Kind of Relationship with International Community
North Korean Trying to Resolve Technical Banking Issues
Benchmarks Put Forward to Start Discussions
Issue of Extradition of Colombian Paramilitaries / Department of Justice


12:40 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Okay. Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome back again. Glad to see you all here. Don't have anything to start you out with so, George, over to you.

QUESTION: The Secretary gave a radio interview in Moscow. Apparently this is a Russian translation of what she said: Kosovo will never be a part of Serbia; this is impossible.

MR. CASEY: Well, George, I haven't gotten a transcript yet from her interviews, but let me just make clear as I'm sure she did what our policy is. We believe very strongly that the plan put forward by Martii Ahtisaari, the UN Special Envoy on this issue is a good plan. It's one that calls for there to be a movement for supervised independence effectively for Kosovo. That's something that the Security Council is discussing now in New York.

And as you heard after Under Secretary Burns' meetings in Berlin and in the region last week, this is something that we do intend to move forward with. There are discussions about a resolution ongoing in New York. Certainly, we understand and have registered the concerns that the Russians have about this issue. We do believe that we can and should continue to work with them on this because we think it's important that there be broad international community support for a resolution in Kosovo. This is an issue that's been out there since 1999. And I think everyone agrees that it's time to resolve the final status issues that are there, particularly in accordance with what was called for way back under UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

QUESTION: Well if there was a mistranslation or some other elaboration that you can provide.

MR. CASEY: Well, George, I -- again, I haven't gotten an --

QUESTION: No, that's all right.

MR. CASEY: -- an audio file on it and we'll have a transcript out later. I think that'll clarify her comments for you.


MR. CASEY: Anne.

QUESTION: Have you all or the White House on the Secretary's behalf, had any further communication with Waxman's committee since he announced a rescheduled date for a side-by-side testimony with Tenet?

MR. CASEY: Well, I know that the initial date that was requested for her testimony in terms of the subpoena was for May 15th. Obviously that's something that she was unable to comply with because she's on travel in Moscow. There was a letter sent over from our Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs so indicating and also indicating that with regard to the constitutional issues that people have spoken about that the White House counsel would be in touch with the chairman directly. I'm not sure whether that kind of conversation has occurred yet or not.

QUESTION: You then do intend to continue to assert that she should not have to appear?

MR. CASEY: Again, yeah, I'll leave it to the White House to talk about the specifics of the constitutional questions there, but that's a longstanding policy. It's a policy that not only has been used by this administration, but predates it in terms of not having close advisors to the President give sworn testimony and that's something again that I think White House counsel's office will be discussing further with the Chairman.


QUESTION: Have you had time to look at the report yet on Paul Wolfowitz, the World Bank report? And secondly, has the Secretary, John Negroponte, or anyone else within the building been making calls to your European counterparts to urge them to support him when his job seems a little shaky?

MR. CASEY: Well, Deputy Secretary Negroponte is at the OECD today. And certainly I'm not aware that he's made any calls on this subject. There's also no calls to report on related to this issue by the Secretary since it was last discussed with you all by Sean.

In terms of the report itself, look, there is a process underway at the Bank. We've said previously that that process needs to move forward. We believe it's important that Mr. Wolfowitz be given every opportunity to present his views on this subject. The President has stated his strong support for Mr. Wolfowitz, as have others, and we've told you, in talking about the Secretary's views, that she holds Mr. Wolfowitz in high personal regard, and that continues to be the case for us.


QUESTION: The White House said today that it does not believe that the allegations launched against Mr. Wolfowitz constitute a "firing offense." Is that the view of the State Department as well?

MR. CASEY: You'll be surprised to know, James, that yes; we fully associate ourselves with the White House view on this.

Again, yeah, I certainly concur with that.

QUESTION: Good to have for the record.

MR. CASEY: Okay, just to make sure, to leave no doubt about it.


QUESTION: Tom, are you going to get a chance -- i.e. the Administration -- to see the IAEA report on Iran, as widely reported? It suggests that Iran's enrichment program has really gone past kind of a point of no return.

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I'm not -- I'll certainly let Director General ElBaradei speak to whatever it was his discussions were with a couple of reporters from a major U.S. newspaper, but he certainly hasn't presented any new findings or provided a new report to the United States or, as far as I know, to any other members of the IAEA Board of Governors. Certainly, we'll be interested in hearing about anything he has to say. But again, I'm just not going to be in a position to comment on a report or on findings that haven't been briefed to us and that we haven't seen.

I do think though that what is key here and what's obvious to everyone is that Iran has continued to act in defiance of the wishes of the international community. They are continuing to develop their nuclear program, and continuing to do so, as we've always said, in pursuit of a nuclear weapon. What the United States and what the international community has done in response to that is gather together to apply a series of graduated steps, through the Security Council, designed to pressure Iran into changing its behavior; and to do so while holding out the opportunity that if Iran does agree to a suspension, a very basic condition, that they will then be able to enter in, with us, into negotiations about their nuclear program, as well as about the other kinds of issues that they might care to raise with us or others.

And the fact that Iran continues to move forward in defiance of the international community's wishes and in defiance of these efforts is only proof to us that we need to continue to move forward with our policy; that we need to continue to apply pressure and in fact increase pressure with an additional Security Council resolution if, in fact, they don't comply and don't change their minds. So I think all this does, at least as I understand the story, is reaffirm the need for us to continue to work together and to continue to make efforts diplomatically to get Iran to do the right thing and to change its behavior.

QUESTION: You've talked about wanting to prevent Iran from perfecting the techniques for industrial-grade enrichment. It looks like they're there. Doesn't that sort of change the situation?

MR. CASEY: Well, look, first of all, again I think we need to actually hear from the IAEA about what their findings are and what they actually know rather than simply trying to respond to assertions that have been made in the media. You know, it was clear that Iran as we've always said is trying to establish facts on the ground, but I think it's also clear that Iran continues to be, and is increasingly isolated as it moves forward down this negative path. And it's also important that, as we all work together on this issue that we continue to impress upon Iran the importance of being able to have these conditions in place in order for negotiations to begin. There is absolutely no incentive for Iran to negotiate in good faith if they have not at least first taken the initial basic step of suspension. Otherwise, as we've said before, they can simply run out the clock and continue to play a waiting game and develop their programs while negotiations are ongoing.

So again, I think the fact that they have continued to develop their nuclear program only reinforces the idea that there must -- to have good faith negotiations, these basic conditionality that's been set out by the international community needs to be met.


QUESTION: Tom, you just said a moment ago that the fact that Iran continues to defy the international community and proceed forward with its nuclear program, reaffirms the need for the United States and allied countries to continue on this track of gradual punishments for Iran or sanctions. Why doesn't the same set of facts that Iran is defying the international community and proceeding forward with its nuclear program, in fact, establish the failure of that policy and the need to try something different since that sustained pressure has not produced any change in Iranian behavior to date?

MR. CASEY: Well, James, first of all, I think we have seen in response to the sanctions that have been imposed some real debate inside Iran and inside the Iranian leadership about the value of continuing to pursue President Ahmadi-Nejad's course of defiance and you've seen that and we've talked about that before. I think, though, that it's also true that everyone understands that this policy is one that requires us to be able to work together with the international community. And we've seen a tremendous degree of coherence and a tremendous degree of support for these efforts, as we move forward in the Security Council and as we move forward with the broader international community and the IAEA. The value of having that group together is it has increased pressure on Iran. Has it changed their point of view? No. Are they still in defiance of the international community? Absolutely. But we do believe that we are on the right course, that there is time to resolve this diplomatically, and that we will -- through this combination of pressure and sanctions, with the opportunity on the other end to achieve negotiations -- be able to ultimately change their behavior and be able to reverse this program.

QUESTION: How do you arrive at the conclusion that there is time still for this to be resolved diplomatically?

MR. CASEY: James, everyone agrees that we don't want to see a nuclear Iran, and we don't want to see an Iran that has developed a nuclear weapon. You can certainly talk to the intelligence communities in terms of estimates of when that might be able to occur, but we certainly believe there is still time on the game clock to be able to make a difference here; be able to turn this around.

And again, I think it's also important for people to understand that no one is talking about denying Iran the right to civilian nuclear power. They have an opportunity to do so; they have an opportunity to do so in some ways under terms more generous than others in the international community have. We've talked about the Russian proposal for providing fuel for Iranian nuclear plants under the terms and conditions that there be a closed fuel cycle, and that we can all be assured that nothing that is used and brought into Iran for peaceful nuclear energy purposes could be diverted or turned around into the creation of a nuclear weapon.

So again, I do think there is still time, we do think there is an opportunity, and we think the diplomatic course that we're on is ultimately going to help us be able to resolve this issue.


QUESTION: Last year around the same time of the year, the discussion was about getting sanctions or not getting sanctions. And the position of the Administration was -- we -- it's urgent, we have to get sanctions to prevent them to get to the industrial stage. Now we are at the industrial stage and the position of the Administration is we have time. So, I don't understand what changed since last year.

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I -- you can talk to the technical experts on this, Sylvie. But simply adding centrifuges is not necessarily of and by itself cracking the code on complete mastery of the fuel cycle. And again, I think the position that we've laid out is quite clear, and makes sense, based on where we are.

The Iranians need to understand that the international community is not going to give on this issue. And certainly, the fact that they are making efforts at whatever level to continue to develop their program is only going to guarantee them one thing, and that's that they will be increasingly isolated and face additional pressures and sanctions as a result of their unwillingness to take the first step necessary to achieve negotiations.

And again, I think there's some real debate inside Iran itself over whether an increasingly isolated Iran -- an Iran that isn't able to meet some of the basic needs of its people, and has opportunities for economic growth and development cut off to it, as a result of its defiance -- is really an Iran that's proceeding down the right course. And we think ultimately that that combination of pressures is going to be able to change their behavior.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Turkey, Mr. Casey. I just returned from a lecture at the Wilson Center, given by the Turkish scholar, Dr. Pinar Bilgin of Bilkent University of Ankara, but unfortunately, to be honest with you, we got the message that despite your lectures on July 22nd, it's up to the Turkish army and specifically to the dictator -- to the General Yasar Buyukanit to respect and approve the results by grace, as he said, of national security. Since under the present circumstance, Mr. Casey, Turkey is in a state of siege by the military, what will be the U.S. role? And due to the fact that Turkey's moving to a coup d'etat and the elections looks like a joke.

MR. CASEY: Well, thank you for that commentary, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: It isn't a commentary, (inaudible.)

MR. CASEY: Well, look, Turkey is a democratic nation. It's a friend and ally and it's a partner in NATO. I think you will not be surprised when I tell you that we have full faith and confidence in Turkish democracy and Turkey's civilian leaders and we expect that the Turkish people through elections will be the ones to decide who runs that country.

QUESTION: According to todays report from Turkey, the Turkish general (inaudible) that it will continue to safeguard the secular democracy, Mr. Casey. Since (inaudible) democracy on earth, including the U.S., may we have your comment?

MR. CASEY: Asked and answered, Mr. Lambros, several days ago and the answer is still the same.


QUESTION: Do you have any information on the trip of David Welch in Lebanon? How long does he stay there? Is it the only step of his --

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I'm sorry, Sylvie, I didn't get a chance to get an update on David's schedule, so we'll try and get something for you a little later this afternoon.

QUESTION: Okay. And on the Hariri tribunal?

MR. CASEY: On the Hariri tribunal, well, as you know, Prime Minister Siniora has given a letter to Secretary General Ban. I understand that's now been shared with the members of the Security Council. And that letter is requesting that the Council go ahead and formally establish the Hariri tribunal given the fact that there is this deadlock inside internally in the Lebanese political system. We support this call and believe that it's appropriate for the Security Council and others to take steps necessary to empower this tribunal. As we have said, it's important that there be accountability for the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri and that those who are responsible for it be held to account.


QUESTION: On North Korea --

MR. CASEY: Your daily question --

QUESTION: My daily question on BDA.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: Given that it's been a month since the April 14th deadline and initially you were saying that you would give it days and that your time was not infinite, your patience wasn't infinite. What have you heard from the North Koreans besides the fact that they intend to meet their February 13th obligations, about how they're actively working to resolve the BDA issue?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I'll leave it to the North Koreans to talk about how they're working with their bankers to resolve this. The fact of the matter is that this is a process that's taken far longer than everyone would have wanted or hoped. We certainly want to see the North Koreans finalize this financial transaction as soon as is possible. And we definitely want to put this behind us and get back to what's the real work of the six-party talks, which is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. It is positive that the North Koreans continue to reaffirm their commitment to carrying out the obligations under the February 13th agreement, but the fact of the matter is they haven't completed them yet and we need to see the BDA funds get transferred and then see them act very quickly to move forward on meeting those commitments.

QUESTION: But when you say the time was not infinite before, are there any kind of punishments for North Korea if they don't move quickly on this?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think the thing for people to remember is that North Korea wants to have a very different kind of relationship with the international community and with the other members of the six-party talks. If they hope to gain any of the benefits from that process, then they have to honor their obligations. They're certainly still under UN Security Council sanctions. They haven't gotten any of the benefits, including fuel oil and other measures that were envisioned in response to them taking positive actions on their nuclear program.

And of course, they certainly haven't moved forward in terms of the other issues that they would like to see resolved in their relationship with the United States or Japan or any of the other countries in the six-party process. So there's obviously a cost to them in not complying with this, but again, I think our focus is seeing them resolve the financial transactions related to BDA as soon as possible so that we can move forward on this. We need to be in a position where we don't lose too much of the momentum that we gained back in February.


QUESTION: Do you think there remains an actual technical financial block or impediment of some sort to the removal of the funds? Or is North Korea using the fact that it hasn't withdrawn the funds or its account holders haven't withdrawn the funds for leverage or for some other purpose?

MR. CASEY: Well, look, this has been a extremely complicated technical banking issue. It's one that I think has taken longer to resolve and had more complications in it than I think anyone assumed at the outset. So I do think at this point, there are still some technical issues that they're trying to resolve with their bankers and that's something that we do need to see move forward quickly, but I don't see anything that indicates at this point that they are not trying to work through those issues and make the transfer.

QUESTION: What do you see that gives you confidence that they are trying to work through it?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think there have been any number of conversations and communications that they've been having with banking officials in Macau and elsewhere. As far as I understand it, our belief is that they are, in fact, trying to make this move forward. It's just that again; it's had some technical complications that probably weren't anticipated at the beginning of the process.

Yeah, Samir.

QUESTION: On the Hariri tribunal, what's your reaction to Hezbollah today threatening the UN against establishing the tribunal on a Chapter 7 resolution?

MR. CASEY: Well, look, the Hariri tribunal needs to be established with full authority to be able to conduct its actions. That would include under Chapter 7. I don't think that threatening the UN or threatening anybody else in this process is going to be helpful. I would hope that the day of threats and intimidation in Lebanon's political system were over. That's certainly, I know, what Prime Minister Siniora is working towards and it would be good to see others in the Lebanese political system do the same.

QUESTION: Mr. Casey, on Turkey?

MR. CASEY: On Turkey, one last one on Turkey, okay.

QUESTION: Yes. Mr. Casey --

MR. CASEY: Charlie wasn't here to beat you with a "thank you," but go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. Casey, since a bunch of Turkish intellectuals today urged the U.S. Government to take a more sharpened position against the Turkish generals who are threatening democracy in Turkey, how do you respond in order to pacify them?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'm not familiar with who you're referring to. The U.S. position in support of Turkish democracy is quite clear and consistent and I think it is as strong as anyone else's. Certainly we're going to continue to hold to it, and there should be no doubt in anyone's mind about the U.S. commitment to Turkish democracy.

QUESTION: And the last one. Should the --

MR. CASEY: The real last one or the last-last one?

QUESTION: Should the --

MR. CASEY: Or the next-to-the-last-last one?

QUESTION: The last, the last, I promise, (inaudible)

MR. CASEY: Okay, just checking.

QUESTION: Should the Turkey generals must respect the results of the elections and go to the barracks where they belong? Yes or not? Clarify, please.

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, everyone in Turkey and any other country should respect the results of democratic elections.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Oh, one more, okay. Two more.

QUESTION: Apparently -- Israel, apparently, would like some changes to the timelines that were presented to them and the Palestinians to sort of push the peace process forward a little bit. Do you have any details on the changes that they are seeking --

MR. CASEY: Are you referring -- you're referring to the --

QUESTION: -- that some of the security elements of the timeline they didn't like?

MR. CASEY: You're referring to the benchmarks?

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. The benchmarks, yes.

MR. CASEY: As we've always said, this was put forward as a starting point for discussion. There are no agreements on anything, and certainly, if that -- I would expect that there would be discussion from both sides about any of the -- both the substance of them as well as the timing of it. So I think that's to be expected.

Yeah, in the back.

QUESTION: Colombia. Are you going to increase the requests of extradition after the revelations that paramilitaries keep dealing with criminal activity from jail in Colombia?

MR. CASEY: Are we going to ask for extradition of who?

QUESTION: Yeah, to press for the extradition of the paramilitaries.

MR. CASEY: Yeah, you can talk to the Justice Department about anyone -- any Colombians who are wanted on charges in the United States. Whether they're in Colombia or elsewhere, I'd expect that the Department of Justice would pursue extradition wherever it's appropriate for anyone who's wanted in the United States.

Okay. Thanks, guys.

QUESTION: Thank you.

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

DPB # 87

Released on May 15, 2007

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