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Daily Press Briefing

Gonzalo R. Gallegos, Director, Office of Press Relations
Washington, DC
August 22, 2007


U.S. Condemns Arrest and Intimidation of Activists, Calls for Their Release
U.S. Will Continue Support For Individuals and Groups in Burma That Want Free Society
U.S. Welcomes Steps to Release Mr. Tajbakhsh
Charges against Dr. Esfandiari and Other Americans Baseless, Should Be Dropped
U.S. Policy Unchanged
Parties Should Focus on UN's Efforts to Reunify Island in Bi-zonal, Bi-Communal Federation
Final Settlement Will Allow All Cypriots to Benefit from Island's Resources
U.S. Position on 1915 Events Unchanged / U.S. Opposes Attempts to Make Political Determinations on Terminology of Tragedy
U.S. Supports Supervised Independence
Peace and Stability Common Desire for Region
Serbia Should Work with Kosovar Leadership and Contact Group Troika on Final Status
Ahtisaari Plan basis for new talks


12:41 p.m. EDT

MR. GALLEGOS: Good afternoon. I have a statement to read you. I'll start out with that.

"The United States Government condemns the Burmese regime's arrest of Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and several other pro-democracy activists on August 22nd for organizing peaceful demonstrations to express public concern about recent increases in the price of fuel. The United States calls for the immediate release of these activists and for an end of the regime's blatant attempt to intimidate and silence those who are engaged in peaceful promotion of democracy and human rights in Burma. We call on the regime to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the leaders of Burma's democracy movement and ethnic minority groups and to make tangible steps toward a transition to civilian democratic rule."

All right.

QUESTION: Has this been conveyed to the government in particular?

MR. GALLEGOS: Yes, yes, this -- well, I'll be putting this out after the briefing.

QUESTION: No, but has this been directly conveyed to the --

MR. GALLEGOS: I believe they know we understand -- they understand where we stand on these issues. We're going to continue pushing the human rights issues. We're going to continue supporting those individuals and groups inside Burma who wish to live in a freer society with the ability to express their rights.

QUESTION: But do you know if the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon or anybody from State has conveyed it directly to them? If you don't know, that's okay at this point.

MR. GALLEGOS: No, I don't. But I believe that they now know --


MR. GALLEGOS: -- with this.

QUESTION: Okay. Any follow-up to the direct talks held between the U.S. and Myanmar parties --

MR. GALLEGOS: No, I don't have --

QUESTION: -- during the meeting in Beijing recently?

MR. GALLEGOS: No, I don't have anything on that.

QUESTION: Do you have any more on the case of Mr. Tajbakhsh? Is there any reason to believe that the Iranian authorities plan to release him?

MR. GALLEGOS: Let me see, I do have something on that. Hold on right here. Yes, I've seen media reports on that. We'd welcome this step from Tehran. Don't have anything more than that. We're working to confirm that. We haven't heard whether or not they are in the process of doing that or where exactly that situation is at this moment.

QUESTION: But you would welcome it?


QUESTION: The U.S. and North Korea bilateral working group meeting for the -- in Geneva, Switzerland on August 28th and 29th. Is that --

MR. GALLEGOS: I don't have any information on the date or the location yet. I don't know if you're hearing that from other source, but I don't have anything more on that to share with you.

QUESTION: Okay. Not exact date is set yet?

MR. GALLEGOS: Not yet. As soon as I can, I will verify location and a place and a time. Unfortunately, I can't do that right now.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Iran?

MR. GALLEGOS: Sure, Arshad.

QUESTION: When we spoke to you this morning about this, I asked whether you wanted the charges to be dropped against Ms. Esfandiari -- or Dr. Esfandiari -- Mr. Tajbakhsh and the others who have been charged, and you weren't sure whether you wanted to actually say that. Do you have any clarity on that?

MR. GALLEGOS: What I do want say on that is that we see that -- we've stated before -- I'll state now, we see these as baseless charges. These are individuals who were there, who were visiting family, who we don't see as a threat to the Iranian Government. And the most important thing, though, is that they're allowed liberty to come out of jail. And secondly that they're ultimately allowed to be able to return home and be with their families.

QUESTION: To the United States?

MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, if that's what they desire. Yes.

QUESTION: On Monday I asked you about the U.S. view on the Greek Cypriot Government's projects for oil exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean and the U.S. view on potential U.S. business participation in that. And you had the statement on your website yesterday.


QUESTION: Thanks for that, but it was mainly on the business aspect.


QUESTION: Could I ask you to comment on the political angle of the situation of the Cypriot Government's effort, initiative, which is a contentious issue with Turkey?

MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah. Yesterday, you did speak to me about an economic matter. Today, I want to clarify though that our policy on Cyprus has not changed. Moreover, the controversy -- this economic controversy that you talked about -- points to the need for all parties to focus on restarting the UN's Good Office's Mission to forge a comprehensive Cyprus settlement that reunifies the island in a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.

The next step should be to implement the agreement brokered by Under Secretary General Gambari July 8th, 2006. Final settlement will enable all Cypriots to benefit from the island's resources.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more on Turkey? The Jewish group, the Anti-Defamation League, yesterday reversed its position on the Armenian killings of the last century in the Ottoman Empire and decided to qualify it as genocide. But it also said that it's still against the passage of a genocide resolution pending in Congress. So in light of this, is there a change in the U.S. Government's policy on the Armenian killings?

MR. GALLEGOS: No, our policy remains. It's clear. We mourn the victims of the tragic events of 1915, call on Turks and Armenians to come to terms with the past through candid and heartfelt dialogue. We oppose attempts to make political determinations on the terminology of this tragedy.


QUESTION: On the Balkans. Any answer to my yesterday's pending question on Serbia?

MR. GALLEGOS: Mm-hmm. I think I do have something on that, Lambros. One second. Yes, I do.

The United States supports independence for Kosovo. The overwhelming majority of UNSC members, as well as European Union member-states and others, support supervised independence for Kosovo. Calling the Ahtisaari plan for Kosovo a "NATO state" is quite a stretch. We do not consider this statement to represent the official view of the Serbian Government. Baseless and unhelpful rhetoric will not bring us closer to what we feel is the common desired position for peace and stability in the region.

We hope that the Serbian Government will concentrate on working with the Kosovar leadership and the Contact Group troika to find a mutually acceptable resolution to Kosovo's final status. The Ahtisaari plan will be the basis for the new talks. We share with most Serbian citizens the same vision for Serbia: peace, prosperity, and ties to transatlantic and European institutions.

QUESTION: So you're appealing for independence of Kosovo, a matter -- on participation based on the Ahtisaari plan?

MR. GALLEGOS: I think I made a clear statement about where we are on that. I'll --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. GALLEGOS: Thank you all.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:49 p.m.)

DPB # 149

Released on August 22, 2007

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