Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
September 25, 2007
|Bhutto's Return to Pakistan / All Parties Need to Follow the Rule of Law|
|Support for Development of Moderate Democratic Islamic Country|
|Importance of Elections / Election Monitoring|
|Diversity Visa Program / Query on GAO Report|
|Query on Protests / Need for Government of Burma to Change its Position|
|President Bush's Comments / Current and Possible Additional Sanctions|
|Discussions in the UN / Focus of the International Community|
|Expansion of Sanctions / Executive Orders / Travel Bans / Financial Restrictions|
|Possible Actions in the UN Security Council|
|Combating PKK in Iraq|
|Secretary Rice's Comments / Discussions in the Contact Group|
|Support for Independent Kosovo|
|Query on Bombing in Pristina / Violence Should be Avoided|
|Election of Prime Minister Fukuda / Continued Strong Relationship|
|Common Interest in North Korea and Iraq|
|New Sanctions on Company Producing Missiles / No Impact on Six Party Talks|
|Query on Planting of Underwater Listening Devices in Northwest Passage|
|Canada's Claims on Northwest Passage|
|Military Cooperation with Canada|
|President Ahmadi-Nejad Remarks at Columbia University|
|Iran's Support for Terrorist Groups|
|Challenge of Climate Change / Post-Kyoto Agreement|
|Upcoming Major Economies Meeting at State Department|
12:38 p.m. EDTMR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Welcome back. Happy Tuesday. Don't have anything to start you out with, so Sue --
QUESTION: Quickly on Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto spoke this morning and she said that, you know, she's looking forward to going to Pakistan and whatever happens will happen, whatever may be, may be.
Do you -- have you appealed to the Pakistani Government to, you know, treat her with respect and not to have the same happen as happened to Mr. Sharif when he returned?
MR. CASEY: Well, Sue, in all our conversations, both with the Pakistani Government as well as with opposition party members, what we've stressed is both the fact that these kinds of political issues need to be addressed responsibly and addressed by the Pakistanis themselves. But we've, of course, also said that what we would expect to see in terms of the behavior of all parties is that they follow the rule of law and follow the Pakistani constitution. Certainly, there are many legal challenges that are out there concerning the election. There are many questions that are out there. Whether it is the case of Benazir Bhutto or others, we would certainly expect that whatever interactions occur, again, be done in full keeping with the laws of the country and its constitutional order.
As we've said in the past, I'm not aware, though certainly it's a matter for the Pakistani legal system to tell you, that there's any bar or prohibition on her returning to the country.
QUESTION: Do you think it's a good idea that she's going back to take part in the political process? She said today that her goal would be to appeal to the moderates, those in the middle.
MR. CASEY: Well, I think -- I would hope that all of us share the goal that President Musharraf has laid out, that I think many other political figures in Pakistan share, which is the idea of having that country develop as a moderate democratic Islamic country.
For us, though, ultimately the choice of who's going to lead Pakistan needs to be by the Pakistani people. And that's why these elections are so crucial and why they need to be free, fair and transparent and have broad participation from all the relevant factions.
In terms of when and how she would choose to return and how her plans are, again, these are decisions that she needs to make and we would expect that those other individuals in the Pakistani political system would again respond in a way that is appropriate and reflective of the legal order and the constitutional norms of the country.
QUESTION: And just one more question. Do you know of any plans for Ms. Bhutto to meet people in the State Department during her visit? Is she coming over to see --
MR. CASEY: Not that I'm aware of, but if we have anything to tell you about that, I'll let you know.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
MR. CASEY: Kirit.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up on that. Bhutto also said that she would hope the U.S. would send election monitors and an oversight of the Election Commission as well for the elections. Do you know if there's any plans for that and if you have any support of --
MR. CASEY: Well, I do know -- you can check with our folks at USAID and as well as at the Embassy. But I do know that we already provide support to the National Electoral Commission. I'm not sure what plans there might be for election monitoring in a formal sense, though certainly we always think it's a positive thing to have international observers of one kind or another to look at elections. We allow international observers here in the United States and certainly it's never a bad thing to have that kind of perspective.
I'm sure our Embassy will be involved in looking at things from its own perspective as well. I'm just not sure at this point, Kirit, what formal plans there might be for various organizations to do so. I'll see if there's anything else we have on that.
QUESTION: Yeah, I wanted to ask a little bit about the GAO report on the diversity visa program. First, it did talk about how 10,000 people from the five terrorist-sponsoring states have used the Diversity Visa Program. I was wondering --
MR. CASEY: Can I just stop you right there?
MR. CASEY: I'm totally unfamiliar with this report; don't know anything about it. So we'll happily try and get you some information on it.
QUESTION: Oh, sure.
MR. CASEY: But, you know, maybe we can talk with you afterwards and get some specific questions. But I haven't seen it and I'm not familiar with it. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. CASEY: Kirit.
QUESTION: Can I ask about Burma?
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the protests that have been ongoing and continue today? And then also if you have anything to elaborate on what President Bush talked about this morning with regard to sanctions?
MR. CASEY: Well, as you saw, we put out a statement yesterday on this. First of all, we would hope that the government and the regime would exercise restraint in terms of how it responds to these protesters. These are people who were simply out there trying to freely express their views. There certainly would be no reason for any kind of reaction to that by the government that would involve the kinds of things we've seen in the past, which include detention of activists and long-term arrests and jailings.
What we want to see happen, as the President has said, is to have the Burmese Government change its policies, to engage in a real political dialogue with all members of the opposition, to have that dialogue include people like Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the country, because that is the only way for the Burmese people really to be able to move forward.
In terms of what the President announced today, he talked about an expansion of sanctions on Burma and talked about a couple of different things. First of all, let me remind you that we already have existing sanctions in place on Burma; that includes an import ban that was imposed in 2003 as a result of congressional action and a follow-on executive order. What I think you're looking at in terms of actions following on to the President's remarks is an expansion of some of the existing travel bans and other financial measures that are out there. To the extent that we have specific names to add or new measures to announce, we'll let you know. I think you also will probably need to look to the Department of Treasury on some of this, as they're responsible for implementing a number of these measures.
But the important thing here is that the President wanted to call attention in the General Assembly to the serious situation in Burma, to the plight of so many individuals who have either been detained or harassed or forced to leave the country simply for trying to express their political views.
As you know, the United States was responsible for putting Burma on the Security Council agenda last year. And it remains an item for discussion and we want to be able to continue to draw international attention to this and hopefully impart as a result of what the President has said and what others are saying here, try and rally international support for pressuring the Burmese Government. As you know, we continue to make this an issue, too, with some of our partners in Asia, particularly those countries that do have relations with Burma because the key to this is not just U.S. action, but it is a concerted effort on the part of the international community to get the Burmese Government to change its policies. And certainly in the immediate case, what we want to see is restraint exercised with respect to these protestors.
QUESTION: So how soon could these measures be implemented and do they require additional congressional approval?
MR. CASEY: No. There's no additional congressional action required, at least as far as I understand it. There are, again, existing measures on the books under two separate executive orders. Those measures can be expanded. Individuals and entities can be added to those lists. In addition, there are some other financial measures that might be possible under a variety of other kinds of executive orders that are out there. The idea here, though, is to try and ratchet up the pressure on the Burmese regime, and again, at the same time, make sure that the international community remains focused on this, and to try and engage them to help us to be able to get the Burmese Government to do what's so long overdue, which is have a real political dialogue.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) you say, though, specifically from your vantage point and operations of the State Department how quickly some of these new measures --
MR. CASEY: I would think that these can be moved forward rather quickly. As always, when we do these, there does need to be a careful legal review just to make sure that we're in compliance with all the requirements of the law and executive orders. But again, in terms of -- particularly in terms of expanding on some of the measures that are already out there, I think this can move forward rather quickly.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) sanctions, is this going to be an expansion of what the Clinton Administration had put in place, I guess it was in '96. Is this -- are they adding specific names this time or what is --
MR. CASEY: Well, there are two specific sets of sanctions that are currently in place in Burma. One was first put into effect under executive order back in 1996 and that does include a travel ban and asset freezes related to certain individuals in the regime. Those can be expanded on at any time that we determine that individuals meet the specific requirements of the order. And again, that's something that we look at all the time. And I would expect that perhaps in light of some of the actions taking place in Burma now, we could move forward on fairly quickly.
In terms of some of the other measures, there is again also a second executive order that came about as a result of legislation passed by Congress in 2003. That includes a broader import ban as well as some additional financial restrictions that are out there. But we're going to be looking at both what we can do under those two existing executive orders which, again, I think can happen very quickly, as well as what additional steps we might take outside of that, particularly, as I understand it, in the financial sector to be able to try and get the Burmese Government to do the right thing here and engage in a real dialogue with the political opposition and with some of the true leaders of the country, including Aung San Suu Kyi.
QUESTION: Just one last one. Is the U.S. in any direct contact with the ASEAN countries, with China, with some of Burma's neighbors to get them to enact similar measures to put more pressure on the regime?
MR. CASEY: Well, this is an issue that we regularly raise with our partners in Asia, as well as elsewhere. You saw the Secretary mention that it was something that came up in the context of her meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister. It's also something that I expect will be the subject of conversation in a variety of meetings that she and other of our officials have in New York this week. And again, it's a subject that we intend to raise again in the Security Council. It's something that we believe needs to have attention focused on it and it's important that we continue to get as much international attention for it and as much international action on it as is possible.
QUESTION: Would you like to see Security Council sanctions on Burma?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I don't want to try and get ahead of the process in the Security Council. As you know, we put forward a resolution on this last year that, unfortunately, did not pass because of objections from some veto-wielding members, among others. Certainly, we want to have effective action taken by the international community and that would include the Security Council at an appropriate time.
QUESTION: Turkish Army Commander General Ilker Basbug criticized the United States yesterday about Iraq policies and not take any forward steps against PKK. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. CASEY: Well, I didn't see his remarks. But certainly we understand how important this issue is to Turkey. It's important to us as well. The PKK is a designated foreign terrorist organization. And we are working with the Government of Turkey as well as the Government of Iraq to make sure that they cannot operate safely out of northern Iraq or any place else. So certainly while I understand that this is an emotional issue for people in Turkey and certainly people have frustrations over this, let me assure you that we are working closely and collaboratively with, again, both the Iraqis and the Turks to try and deal with this very serious problem.
QUESTION: On Kosovo. Mr. Casey, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday in New York, quote, "There is going to be an independent Kosovo,." Period. "It's the only solution that is potentially stabilizing for the Balkans rather than destabilizing for the Balkans." Unquote. Question: How sure you are that it's not going to happen exactly the opposite, since the Albanians through history were masters for the destabilization of the entire Balkans from the era of the Ottoman Empire up to the present. Is there any guarantee not to happen?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, first of all, I think the Secretary also made clear that we're currently engaged through the contact group in discussions with both the Serbs and the Kosovars to try and see how much progress we can make towards a mutually agreeable solution to this. This is also something as well where she pointed out that there has been some progress in terms of the discussions among the parties, and we want to see that progress continue.
But ultimately, as she said and as we've said before, it's clear to us that the end result of this process will be an independent Kosovo, supervised at first, and again done in accordance and along the outlines of the Ahtisaari plan. But we are engaged in those discussions. We want to see where those discussions lead. At the end of that process, we'll then be in a position to make some decisions as an international community on how we want to move forward.
QUESTION: One more question. Any reaction to the explosion today on Pristina's Bill Clinton Boulevard downtown in Kosovo-Serbian territory, killing two and wounded eleven?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I hadn't seen reports of that. Certainly, one of the things that's most important as we move forward through these negotiations and through the final status process for Kosovo is that all parties respond in a way that's appropriate and that means certainly eschewing and avoiding violence. We would encourage everyone there, whether Kosovars or Serbs or any other ethnic groups that are represented in the area, to be have responsibly, to engage in dialogue and to avoid any kind of armed conflict.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Let's go back here.
QUESTION: A new Japanese cabinet was formed today under the LDP leader Yasuo Fukuda and what are U.S. expectations of the new cabinet?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, let me take the opportunity to congratulate Prime Minister Fukuda on his election. We very much look forward to working with him and his new government as we move forward. Japan and the United States are close friends and allies. We've been working together really across the full spectrum of international issues on everything from fighting terrorism and extremism in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, to working together to end the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear program, to a variety of issues related to international development and security. So we look forward to continuing that relationship. We've certainly enjoyed a very strong and positive relationship and a strong friendship with Japan over the years, and look forward to be able to continuing that with the new Prime Minister and his government.
QUESTION: And just a follow-up. Prime Minister Fukuda is also known for his dove-like stance toward Korea and China. How does the U.S. feel about that? Do you feel that there's going to be more stability also in the cabinet?
MR. CASEY: Well, I'd like the Prime Minister to be able form his government and actually make some decisions about policies before we respond to it. But certainly, I think that the fundamental interests of the Japanese Government remain the same; that includes our common interest in seeing an end to North Korea's nuclear program. It includes our common interest in seeing Iraq develop as a peaceful, stable democratic country in the Middle East. And certainly we will work the Prime Minister and his government on those issues as we move forward, and we'll be very interested in hearing anything he might have to say or offer in terms of new ideas in those areas.
QUESTION: Are you expecting more stability under this cabinet than its predecessor?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think what I'll do is leave the political prognosticating to folks in Japan. There are plenty of people that do that around here. I'm sure you can find a few of them to give you that -- give you some thoughts on that.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: In a few days time a new round of sanctions are going to go into effect on a North Korean entity. And while these are an extension of things that have come before and really nothing new, aren't you afraid that with the timing right around the beginning of this round of six-party talks that the North Koreans might try to use this in some way to delay the process or make things harder?
MR. CASEY: Look, the sanctions that you're referring to are related to missile technology transfers. The company that was sanctioned has been sanctioned previously for the same thing. So the net effect of this, while it's unfortunate that this behavior continues, the net effect on this is really pretty minimal. I don't see and I don't think Chris sees any reason why this should impact on the six-party talks. Again, what we want to do, though, is get North Korea out of the nuclear business. We want to get them out of the missile business as well. And part of the reason for having these talks is to be able to address all these kinds of concerns as we move forward with the primary objective, which is denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
Yeah, Mr. Lambros. I'm sorry, let's go to this gentleman first, and then we'll go back to you, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: I'm from CBC Television. Canada is contemplating the deployment of underwater listening devices in the waters of the Northwest Passage to monitor the movement of foreign vessels, such as submarines. Canada considers the Northwest Passage its territorial water and I was wondering whether the U.S. Government has any reaction to that assertion of sovereignty.
MR. CASEY: Well, the United States considers the Northwest Passage to be a strait used for international navigation and doesn't recognize any claims to it as territorial or internal waters. And I think you'll find that position shared by most members of the international community, including the European Union. Certainly though, we'll be happy to discuss this issue with our Canadian friends if they so choose to do so.
As far as I know, there isn't an ongoing dialogue or discussion about this happening right now, though.
QUESTION: Given the military alliance between Canada and the States, the longstanding alliances, is the deployment of devices like that something the U.S. would welcome and perhaps the U.S. might have its own devices down there, considering it listens to underwater all over the world as it is?
MR. CASEY: Well, look, I'm sure -- I think you can talk with my friends over at the Pentagon about that a little bit. But I'm sure that we will be able to maintain our usual close cooperation with the Government of Canada on military issues. And I'm sure that whatever we do, we'll be able to make sure it's done in a way that respects that history of cooperation and friendship.
QUESTION: Two questions from New York. Mr. Casey, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad accused the U.S. of supporting terrorist groups globally during his speech yesterday at Columbia University in New York City. How do you respond to this accusation?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I think Prime Minister Ahmadi-Nejad said a lot of things --
QUESTION: -- at his -- President Ahmadi-Nejad said a lot of things in his remarks at Columbia yesterday. I think those remarks tend to speak for themselves. I think most people can judge pretty fairly, not only what his words were, but more importantly, what Iran's actions are and it -- but I will point out that it's certainly a little ironic for a country that has actively sponsored terrorist groups across the Middle East to be throwing stones at anyone else. Certainly, the United States is the leading proponent of an international coalition to fight extremism and terrorism and I'd be interested to know what it is he thinks it is we're doing that would be contrary to that.
Certainly, we can point to his support for Hezbollah, for Hamas, for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, for militia groups in Iraq that are killing our soldiers as well as Iraqis as examples, and very clear examples, of where he and his government are actively supporting terror.
QUESTION: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told world leaders yesterday that scientific evidence of the damage of global impact of climate change was sound and the moment to act decisively is now. What the U.S. Government is going to do in its part to stop this catastrophe of our planet?
MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, I'd, first of all, refer you to some of the remarks the Secretary made --
MR. CASEY: -- at the -- in the context of that meeting. We recognize the serious challenge posed by climate change. The President has said that he's committed to taking action on it and to having the U.S. work actively with the UN on a post-Kyoto framework agreement.
The important thing for us, though, of course is to have that follow-on Kyoto agreement involve not just the United States and the developed countries but also involve those major economies, such as China, India, Brazil and others, who, together with the United States and Western Europe, represent the overwhelming majority of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, and more importantly are the countries where those levels are growing because their economies are growing.
So in addition to the Secretary's remarks up at the UN, I'd also point you to the fact that on Thursday and Friday here at the State Department the Secretary will be hosting a meeting of those major economies, including those countries I've mentioned. And the idea here is to have us all come together and develop a common understanding and hopefully make some proposals that could be part of this UN process. But we are certainly in agreement that there needs to be action taken on climate change. And I think you'll see through the meetings here at the end of this week that the Secretary, as well as the President, who will be addressing the meeting on Friday --
MR. CASEY: -- have some very clear ideas on how to proceed, and hopefully we will be able to encourage and engage others in this process as well. And I know can -- since you know the time, I know we can count on having you there.
QUESTION: It's 10:15, they say. Yes, I'll do that.
MR. CASEY: Okay. Thanks everybody.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:00 p.m.)
DPB # 168
Released on September 25, 2007
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