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Daily Press Briefing

Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 23, 2007


U.S. in Constant Discussion on Arrangements for Presence and Stationing of U.S. Troops
U.S. Military and Diplomatic Officials will Address Any Kyrgyz Government Concerns
U.S. Discussions with IAEA Director General ElBaradei
U.S. is Focused on Recently Released IAEA Report on Iran
Policy Pursued by International Community has had an Impact on Iran
International Community Wants Iran to Change Behavior / Iran Needs to Negotiate in Good Faith
P-5+1 Policy is Now a Matter of International Law Under Chapter 7
Trying to Achieve an Agreement in Best Interest of Iranian People
In Absence of Iranian Compliance Security Council Will Discuss Further Measures
Building a Broad International Consensus about Dangers of Posed by Iran's Nuclear Program
U.S. Concerned About Detention of Several Individuals in Iran
The Need for Diplomacy to Move Forward
Existing Administration Policy is Clear
U.S. Call for Iran to Let Detained Individuals Come Home
International Community has Asked for Fundamental Show of Good Faith from Iran
Meetings Between P-5+1 Counterparts and Under Secretary Burns
Issue of $75 Million U.S. Democracy Promotion
U.S. Missile Defense System Not a Threat / Discussions with Russian Government
Secretary Rice Addressed Issue with President Putin and Foreign Minster Lavrov
Process has been Underway / A Key Defense Priority
Amnesty International Report
U.S. Continue to Support Implementation of the Ahtisaari Plan
Quartet Meeting in Berlin / No Change in Basic Quartet Principles
Status of G-8 Summit
U.S. Policy on Albania, Kosovo and Entire Balkans Well-known
Bosnian Officials Visit to State Department
Query on Meetings with North Korea


12:45 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everybody. I don't have anything to start you off with so we'll go right to your questions.


QUESTION: Do you have -- apparently some Kyrgyz lawmakers are asking for the U.S. to -- for U.S. troops to be evicted from the air base. And so there's been -- there's quite a history of this in that region, the U.S. being asked to leave air bases. I just wondered whether you had any comment on this.

MR. CASEY: I actually hadn't seen those reports, Sue. Certainly, we are constantly in discussion with our friends throughout the world on arrangements for the presence and stationing of U.S. troops there, whether it's in a place like Kyrgyzstan where we only have a fairly recent history of military cooperation or whether it's a country like Japan or Germany where we have extensive and longstanding ties. So I'm sure that if there are any concerns that the Kyrgyz Government has that they'll be issues that will be raised with U.S. military and diplomatic officials, I'm sure we'll be able to come to a successful conclusion.

QUESTION: Well, as far as you know, concerns haven't been raised yet?

MR. CASEY: Not that I'm aware of. I certainly haven't seen those press reports and I'm not aware that there have been any formal discussions about this issue with our Embassy or with other officials here.


QUESTION: These comments that ElBaradei made in this Spanish paper, now Nick Burns this morning acknowledged this and he said that Greg Schulte in Vienna is seeking a formal meeting with ElBaradei to discuss what he said. Can you elaborate on this?

MR. CASEY: I didn't see Nick's comments to this regard. Look, we have discussions with Director General ElBaradei all the time and certainly I'd expect that when he makes substantive comments on issues that we'd have an opportunity to discuss those with him. Certainly, I think where our focus is right now though is on the report that the IAEA just released. People are certainly going to continue to study it a little bit, but what it makes clear is that the Iranian Government has not done what the international community has now repeatedly asked it to do, which is answer the questions that the IAEA has about its nuclear program, comply with the Board of Governors resolutions as well as the Security Council resolutions, suspend its uranium enrichment activities and enter into negotiations so that those issues can be clarified and so that we can create what would be a win for everyone, which is an Iran that can have a civilian nuclear power capability that can provide for the needs of its people, but at the same time an international community that can be assured with absolute certainty that that program isn't being used as a cover to build a nuclear weapon.

And that is the focus of our efforts today and it's going to be the focus as we move forward. I suspect, as I said to you guys this morning, that the heat that the Iranians had been feeling over the last few weeks from the sanctions and from the individual efforts of countries and individual companies out there is only going to increase, and Iran and the Iranian Government is only going to find itself increasingly isolated and going to find itself facing additional sanctions and additional measures as a result of its noncompliance.

QUESTION: But the reality is and as the report confirms, I mean, they really are -- seem to be carrying on regardless with their enrichment activities. So wouldn't it be fair to say that Mr. ElBaradei has a point where he says it's simply too late to stop them altogether, that the international community should be pursuing a strategy of containment rather than asking them to stop altogether?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not going to try and speak for Mr. ElBaradei and I'll leave it to him to explain what remarks he might have made to members of the media on this subject. But what's clear from our perspective is that the policy that we have pursued to date has had an impact on Iran. It's had an impact in terms of businesses choosing not to move forward with investments in the oil sector; with banks choosing to either completely cut off or restrict their involvement with Iran. It's had an impact in terms of Iran's ability to seek out more material and more support for its nuclear program and it's had an impact, as we discussed before, in terms of creating some real discussion among the Iranian elites about whether this policy is the right one to pursue.

Now, has Iran changed its behavior? No, it hasn't. But we certainly believe that through concerted efforts of the international community and through continued pressure on the Iranian Government, pressure combined with an opportunity for them to make a different decision and have negotiations with the international community, that we will eventually be able to change that behavior. I don't think Director General ElBaradei or anyone else is trying to argue that if we removed all the sanctions and all the pressure that somehow the Iranians would change their position. I think that would, on its surface, appear to be just counter to logic.

QUESTION: Has this notion, this idea that they could have some kind of limited enrichment capability -- has that idea been floated in any serious way in any recent P-5+1 discussions?

MR. CASEY: No, there's been no discussion of anything other than continuing with the policy that has not only been laid out by the P-5+1 but is now a matter of international law under Chapter 7 in several successive UN Security Council resolutions. Now, while I'm certain that people will continue to discuss the ideas and ways of getting Iran to change its behavior, I think it's clear to everyone that we need to have Iran as a matter of basic, simple good faith, take the steps that the international community has asked for. It is simply axiomatic that Iran should not be allowed to simply continue blithely ahead developing its program while it's in negotiations with the P-5+1 or any other members of the international community. I don't think anyone can come up with an argument that certainly would sway me that says that taking all pressure off of the Iranians, or simply allowing them to continue as they are now without any agreement to suspend, would in any way, shape or form mean that they'd be required to negotiate in good faith.

And again, what are we trying to achieve here? We're trying to achieve an agreement that is in the best interest of the Iranian people and of the international community as a whole. I can't find anybody who would say to you that they think the world would be a better place if Iran had a nuclear weapon. And so our policy is going to continue to be working with the rest of the international community and our partners in the P-5+1 and in the Security Council to continue as we have been to ratchet up the pressure on the Iranian Government to make it increasingly difficult for them to be able to pursue these policies and to raise the cost for them to pursue these policies. Because we do believe in the end that policy will be successful and we will be able to move forward with a negotiation with the Iranian Government under the terms laid out by the Security Council. And that's the policy we're pursuing and I expect that you will see, in the coming days and weeks, discussions with the other members of the international community on how to take the next steps in this.

Yes, Sylvie.

QUESTION: Next steps could be sanctions and what kind of sanctions?

MR. CASEY: Well, Sylvie, again I don't want to try and get ahead of the Security Council, but if you look at the last resolution it does say that in the absence of Iranian compliance, the Council would then again discuss further measures, and certainly by those further measures we would understand additional sanctions.

QUESTION: But what kind? If it's the same level of sanctions we had so far, it's not very efficient apparently.

MR. CASEY: Well, look, international diplomacy is always tough. And as we told you each and every step along the way, if the U.S. were drafting the resolutions on its own, they would probably look quite different. I'm sure if the resolutions were being drafted by France on its own or Germany on its own or Russia on its own they would look very different. But what we have been able to do over the course of the last couple of years is build a broad international consensus about the dangers posed by Iran's nuclear program, about a strategy for dealing with it and have been successful in doing what we said we'd do, which is take graduated steps to ratchet up the pressure on the Iranian Government in an effort to convince them to change their minds.

And again, we're focusing today on the sanctions and the negative pathway here. But I want to again, just for the record, remind people that there is another opportunity and another path open to the Government of Iran here. They can choose to simply suspend the uranium enrichment activity. It's a very easy condition for them to meet. And at that point, they can then engage in a full-scale negotiation with the P-5+1. Secretary Rice has said that she would be present for the first set of those negotiations and we've said that we would be willing not only in those discussions to have talks about Iran's nuclear program, but also about other issues the Iranians would want to bring to the table. So it's a good offer that's out there for them and I think you can ask them why it is not an offer that they've been willing to accept.


QUESTION: We have more on --

MR. CASEY: Okay, let's stay on Iran for a little bit and then we'll move on --

QUESTION: Do you have any officials or official information about the fourth American Iranian citizen that has been forbidden to leave the country?

MR. CASEY: Sylvie, I can't give you any additional information really beyond what we said this morning. We've seen the media reports that have come forward on this. We're still seeking to verify it. Certainly though we continue to be concerned about the detention of several individuals who we've talked about previously. There's no reason why the Iranian Government should be trying to limit these kinds of very basic human contacts that certainly don't pose a threat to the regime and certainly don't pose any kind of challenge to political authorities there. Most of these people are independent private citizens. They are involved in family visits. They're involved in academic research, involved in journalism, involved in working for foundations. So these are the basic kinds of contacts that we want to see happen and that I would hope the Iranian Government would welcome even despite the very serious differences that the United States Government and the Iranian Government have over things like their nuclear program or other things like their support for terrorism and their support for militias in Iraq.

QUESTION: And you still don't draw any link between these four women and the five Iranians detained in Iraq?

MR. CASEY: I've certainly not seen or heard anything that would suggest that, no.


QUESTION: Do you think that the detention of these women has more to do with U.S.-Iranian relations than these women and the work that they do?

MR. CASEY: Well, I don't know. I don't think there has been any kind of assertion made by the Iranian Government to link that. You'd have to, again, ask them why they think they're doing this. These are people who have family -- again, have family ties, who have gone back and forth between Iran and the United States on many occasions. Why the Iranian Government is choosing this particular moment to obstruct them or to detain them, I guess that's a question they'd have to answer for you.

QUESTION: And just one more thing on Iran. When you look at sanctions this time around, are you going to look at some that may target the gas and oil sector?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, Sue, I'm not going to try and get ahead of the discussions in the Security Council. I think people will take a good look at what has been done, what's been effective and what more we might be able to do, but I don't want to try and start talking about specifics. I really want to let the diplomacy move forward on that first.

QUESTION: But previously the Administration has said that you won't target the gas and oil sector. Does this still stick? Is this the view you have?

MR. CASEY: Sue, yeah, I don't have anything in terms of what specific ideas people might be bringing to the table on this. I think, you know, existing Administration policy on this has been pretty clear, though.


QUESTION: Just a little bit more on these Americans in Iran. Do you have any reason to believe that their cases are linked?

MR. CASEY: No, I don't, Kirit. Again, these individuals have been detained. Why they have been detained is something you'd have to go ask the Iranians. From our perspective though, it's certainly disturbing that there appears to be a pattern here of at least a few instances of Americans or Iranian Americans being detained or otherwise taken into custody for reasons that don't seem to make any sense to us. And certainly, we would again call on the Iranian Government to let these people go freely, go back home; and certainly would hope that they would not, despite any political differences between our government and theirs, want to obstruct these kinds of basic family ties and other kinds of people-to-people contacts which are just a part of everyday life.

QUESTION: And do you have any details or any update on Mr. Levinson?

MR. CASEY: No, I don't. I don't have any new information to share with you on that.

Yeah. Same subject?

QUESTION: Yes, same subject. About these four individuals who have been detained in Iran, if I may just clarify one thing. This last person is a male scholar; it's not a female. Yeah?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, that's -- those are the reports, yes.

QUESTION: Right. Because they're referring to as "she" --

MR. CASEY: Oh, I'm sorry. We're getting -- we're losing track of our people here. Sorry.

QUESTION: Yeah. And about the nuclear issue in Iran, up to now Iran has been simply defying the Security Council and international demands. But right now, with Mr. ElBaradei suggesting that Iran be allowed to keep part of its enrichment technology. I read today that Iran is considering bringing that up with -- during the Solana-Larijani meeting in Madrid at the end of the month. Would that be possible -- possibly acceptable in any way?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think the international community through the Security Council and the P-5+1 has made its views very clear. I don't think anyone believes that Iran would be any more likely to negotiate in good faith if they were somehow allowed to simply keep pursuing their nuclear program and pursuing their enrichment activities while negotiations were ongoing. Again, I think what the international community has asked for here is a very basic and very fundamental show of good faith, and those are the policies that we continue to adhere to and I expect will continue to do so.

QUESTION: In the previous rounds before the sanctions, the past two sanctions, there have been meetings prior to the IAEA reports just considering what might be in the next sanctions. Have there been any such meetings recently in advance of what everybody knows --

MR. CASEY: There have been -- and of course Under Secretary Burns did have a meeting with his P-5+1 counterparts on the margins of the G-8 political directors meeting. That was largely to focus though on the upcoming discussions between Mr. Solana and Mr. Larijani. He does maintain very close contact with his counterparts on this issue and I'm sure that there'll be other opportunities for them to consult, whether by phone or in person in the coming days. And obviously this will be a subject of discussion in New York as well with our -- all our respective Security Council ambassadors. But there's nothing scheduled at the moment.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Michelle?

QUESTION: I have another --

MR. CASEY: Same one, same one -- we're still on Iran?

QUESTION: No, I'm still back on the four people.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: One of them, Haleh Esfandiari, was accused of promoting a soft revolution. You also have this guy from Soros. And I wonder -- the U.S., with a lot of fanfare, announced this $75 million for democracy promotion last year. How much of that has been spent and can you tell us if any of these people were recipients of that?

MR. CASEY: None of those people were recipients of any U.S. Government funding of any kind that I'm aware of. But, you know, I think the idea that somehow these people represent a threat to the regime is just absurd. Again, most of the reasons why in a couple of the cases we've talked people were there in the first place on these specific trips were to visit sick or elderly family members, and again those are pretty basic kinds of human contacts. They hardly constitute any kinds of efforts to promote revolution.

QUESTION: And the $75 million?

MR. CASEY: $75 million, I honestly don't know what the status of that is. Some of it was, of course, going for broadcasting and I think most of that has been allocated. What the status is of the other amounts associated with that, we'll have to check for you, Michelle. I just don't know.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Follow up on that?

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: You said for broadcasting, does any of it go to the Radio Farda in that case, or --

MR. CASEY: I would have to check. We'll try -- I'll try and get you a breakdown of it. I -- it's just not something I have in my head, Kirit, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Can you take it as a taken question?

MR. CASEY: That's what I thought I just did.


MR. CASEY: Michel.

QUESTION: On Russia, the Russian President has said today that he feared that U.S. plan to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe could launch a new arms race. Do you have any reaction?

MR. CASEY: Well we talked about this a little bit this morning. I haven't seen President Putin's comments, but again the U.S. missile defense systems are not a threat to Russia. They're not a threat to anyone save those rogue regimes that might want to try and take a limited attack on either Russia or the United States or any of our transatlantic partners. Certainly, a system of ten interceptors is hardly something that affects a strategic balance when the Russian Government as well as other countries have literally thousands of nuclear weapons at their disposal.

But look, this is an issue that we've had a number of discussions with the Russian Government with, both at the technical level as well as the senior political level. Secretary Rice addressed this issue with President Putin as well as Foreign Minister Lavrov in her recent discussions in Russia. These are the kinds of issues that we've said that the Secretary and Secretary Gates will be discussing with the Russians during the upcoming 2+2 meetings with the Russians that'll probably take place some time in the early fall.

So obviously missile defense is an area where the Russians continue to feel they have concerns, and we'll continue to work with them and discuss this with them, because again, we want the Russians to work with us on missile defense. We believe there's a common threat out there. I think Russia is just as threatened by the idea of a nuclear missile or a missile of any kind coming from Iran or from other states as the United States is. And so it's a common threat and we want to be able to work with Russia and the NATO-Russia Council bilaterally and in other means to be able to address it.

QUESTION: Why you --

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Why you don't place the --

MR. CASEY: Don't jump out of your chair yet.

QUESTION: On the same issue, the same issue.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: Why you don't place those missiles on the aircraft carrier so the aircraft carrier can go closer to the threat country? With Iran or North Korea --

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'm not aware that anyone's ever come up with a particular ship- borne system for having done that. You can check with the technical experts over at the Pentagon. But look, this is again a process that's been underway for quite some time. This was announced at the beginning of this Administration as one of its key defense priorities. So this is not a new issue. It's one where I'm sure we'll continue to have an ample amount of discussion both with the Russian Government as well as with our other partners.

QUESTION: May I go to Kosovo?

MR. CASEY: I guess you can go to -- actually, let's go to George first and then we can go to Kosovo.

QUESTION: Have you read the Amnesty International report which suggests that in the war on terror, the United States has been eroding human rights around the world?

MR. CASEY: Well, George, I think people will take a good look at the report. Certainly, I don't think anyone's had an opportunity to review it in depth. It's pretty clear that Amnesty International thought that we'd make a convenient ideological punching bag, and that's something that isn't, unfortunately, new. I think we personally wish that Amnesty International would have been a little more willing to do things like try and help out the Iraqis as they dealt with the trials of some of the worst war criminals who've been around for the last 50 years. And I think if you look at the report, unfortunately, it reads quite a bit more like a political document than a sort of honest review of human rights throughout the world.

Mr. Lambros. Go to Kosovo.

QUESTION: On Kosovo, Mr. Casey, according to reports from the Balkans, the U.S. Government is moving now to the direction of recognizing Kosovo unilaterally as an independent country. May we have your comment?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, same answer as you've gotten in the last few days. We continue to support the implementation of the Ahtisaari plan, using the Ahtisaari plan as a basis for moving forward and resolving after quite some time the situation in Kosovo. Those discussions are ongoing in the Security Council. Certainly we believe that it's possible to achieve an agreement there and we'll continue to be talking with all the members of the Council about that as we move forward. So I think it's a little premature for people to be talking about unilateral steps.

QUESTION: May I go to Albania?

MR. CASEY: Well, let's go back around -- let's go down to Sylvie first and then we'll come back to Albania.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that the Secretary will participate in a Quartet meeting in Berlin at the end of the month?

MR. CASEY: I was wondering whether someone was going to get to that. Yes, I can and I apologize I didn't have that information for you this morning. But as I think most of you've seen, the German Foreign Ministry has put out a statement indicating that on the margins of the G-8 ministerial next week, there will be a Quartet meeting in Berlin. Secretary Rice does plan on attending that meeting and this will be an opportunity for the various members of the Quartet to review the situation in the Palestinian territories as well as get an update on some of the discussions that have been held between Israelis and Palestinians and look at what more they might be able to do to help deal with some of the issues that are of concern there.

QUESTION: And do you think they could speak about the aid to the Palestinians and how it's distributed?

MR. CASEY: Well, I don't expect that you'll see any change to the basic Quartet principles concerning the Palestinian Authority government. I'm sure that usually when they've gotten together in -- last year or so, they've talked about the temporary international mechanism and talked about other means of finding ways to provide support for the Palestinian people and take care of the needs of the Palestinian people. I'm sure there'll be discussions about that, but I don't have a specific agenda to offer you on that.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: The German Foreign Minister I think also announced that they've invited the Afghani and Pakistani Foreign Ministers to attend the meeting to have discussions on the sidelines. Do you know if the U.S. will participate in that?

MR. CASEY: I hadn't seen that and, no, I don't. I'm sure that there will be -- you mean to the G-8?

QUESTION: To the -- I believe it was the G-8.

QUESTION: Foreign ministers.

MR. CASEY: Yeah. I'm not sure quite who they have invited and I don't really have an update for you in terms of the Secretary's schedule. Usually when she goes to these kinds of meetings, there are a number of bilateral discussions that she'll have, but I don't think anything's been set at this point.

Okay, now you want to go to Albania, Mr. Lambros?

QUESTION: Yes. Mr. Casey, the well-known analyst Gregory Copley here in Washington, president of the Washington-based International Studies Association, in a written statement, puts in (inaudible) regarding President Bush visit to Albania June 10th saying inter alia, "His meeting just with Albanian leadership at a time when Southeast Europe is concerned about the status of Kosovo, the instability of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Albanian Government's support for (inaudible) claims to parts of Greece by Albanians. The President's visit gives the strong impression that the White House has given full support for the Albanians expansionist claims in the region and that (inaudible) State Department advice and very pointedly snubbing Greece." Any comment?

MR. CASEY: I want a show of hands, how many know the well-known analyst Gregory Copley. Okay, that's what I thought. That's about my view of it, Mr. Lambros. Look, our policies on Kosovo, Albania, the entire Balkans are well-known. What any of the many fine people who work for many fine private institutions in this country care to say about it is their business, but our policy hasn't changed. It's well known and I'd just refer you to our previous statements on it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thanks.

QUESTION: Why do they need to have these Bosnian talks here and can you give us any update on how they're going?

MR. CASEY: Oh, Michelle, you did want that.

QUESTION: (Laughter.)

MR. CASEY: I can confirm for you that we will have some Bosnian officials here in the building today. There had been some independent scheduling of them. They'll be meeting here with Dan Fried. It's an opportunity for us to talk about our longstanding desire to see Bosnia move forward with some of the necessary constitutional reforms that we have long been advocating and that many Bosnian leaders have long recognized as being necessary for the country to finalize the Dayton process.

Yeah, one more.

QUESTION: The Philippine Government said that the --

MR. CASEY: Nice try on a thank you, Kirit. That's okay.

QUESTION: -- at the ASEAN regional forum in August that there's going to be a -- I guess like a -- I don't know what word they used, like a meeting of the ministers, including North Korea. Can you confirm that?

MR. CASEY: No. There's nothing scheduled and nothing planned that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Is Chris Hill discussing anything with his North Korean counterpart when he's in Manila this week?

MR. CASEY: No. There's no meetings planned with North Korean officials during his various travels to Southeast Asia.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)

DPB # 93

Released on May 23, 2007

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