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Daily Press Briefing

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


Arrest of Pro-Democracy Activists
Status of U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative
North Korea and Listing on State Sponsors of Terrorism List
North Korea's Criticism of President Bush's UNGA Remarks
Status of Report by Ambassador Patrick Kennedy
U.S.-Iraqi Joint Commission / Objective of Commission / Recommendations
Blackwater's Status in Iraq / Presence of Diplomatic Security Agents
Interim Recommendations and Status of Implementation
Assistant Secretary Fried's Meetings with Turkish Officials
U.S.-Turkish Relations
Reports of Turkish Military Action Against PKK in Northern Iraq
Scheduled P5+1 Meeting on Iran Postponed
President Putin's Meetings with Iran / Opportunity for Iran
Meeting of U.S.-EU-Russia Troika in Brussels / Further Meetings Scheduled
Secretary Rice's Travel to Region


1:42 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Happy Monday. I just wanted to start you out -- we'll be putting out a paper version of this statement a little later today. But I just wanted to you let you know we've got a statement on Burma and the arrests of pro-democracy activists over the weekend.

The United States condemns the Burmese regime’s arrest on October 13, 2007, of pro-democracy activists, including prominent 88 Generation Student leader Htay Kywe and activists Aung Thoo, Thin Thin Aye, and Zaw Htat Ko Ko. By unjustly imprisoning organizers of peaceful demonstrations, Burma’s ruling generals continue to blatantly disregard the international community’s concerns and calls for halt to its crackdown.

We reiterate our call for the full release of political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi and others and equally importantly for a genuine dialogue between the regime and the leaders of Burma's pro-democracy and ethnic minority organizations. So with that, I'll take your questions on this or other subjects.


QUESTION: The India nuclear deal seems to be slipping away. I wonder what is your assessment of it. It appears that the Indian Government isn't, you know, pushing as hard as it was and that the Congress seem to be sort of winning on this. Just wonder --

MR. CASEY: Well, Sue. I'll leave it to Indian officials to talk about their own internal political discussions on this. As you know, we believe that this a arrangement that is a positive one and a good one for the United States, for India and for the broader efforts of nonproliferation. Certainly, there are steps that Nick talked to you about previously that the Indian Government will need to take and that we’ll need to take on our side as well to complete this. But in terms of where people are or what discussions are or how that's proceeding within India's political system, I'm just going to leave it to them.

QUESTION: But – yeah go on.

QUESTION: I'm sure the U.S. is interested in how fast the Indian Government goes ahead with adapting IAEA safeguards and also to get the Nuclear Suppliers Group to approve the deal.

MR. CASEY: Well, those are parts of what we've talked about before. One of the things that the Indian Government needs to do on its side to implement the agreement is to work with the IAEA and establish a safeguards arrangement. On our side, we'd of course need to work out an appropriate arrangement with the Nuclear Suppliers Group. And certainly we want to see that get accomplished. But again in terms of the timing and the discussions internally within the Indian political system, I'll leave that to them.

QUESTION: But Tom, can we basically assume from what you say that the U.S. is not pushing India to have this deal done as quickly as possible, so that you can get ahead with --

MR. CASEY: Look, I think what you can assume from that is that we continue to support this agreement and I'm sure that that's the point that Nick and others make in their discussions with the Indians on it.

QUESTION: But aren't you becoming a little impatient with the Indians? I mean, you're expecting this to go through a lot more quickly? I mean, this could actually hang over until a new -- new U.S. administration as well as a new Indian administration.

MR. CASEY: Look, you know, each one of these agreements is complicated. They've got a whole variety of things associated with them. I'm not going to try and tell the Indians how to manage their own internal process on this. We certainly think this is again an arrangement that's positive for both countries and the broader international community and we'd like to see it done as soon as possible, but that's within the context of what each country has to do and has to accomplish.

QUESTION: So you're looking at this as glass half-full, versus glass half empty? It sounds as if you have a bit of -- kind of rosy sort of approach to --

MR. CASEY: As Under Secretary Burns has told you, as diplomats we are always hopeful.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the efforts of the Singh government so far to push the deal through and do you -- does it undermine your ability to overcome opposition in this country and Congress if the Indian partners aren't pushing as hard as they might be?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think they have to work their side of this. We have to work our side of this. I think we believe again that when you look at both the support that this has had here in the United States in a bipartisan way, I think we have expectation that when we get to that point, we'll be able to have a broad bipartisan support for this as well.

QUESTION: So you are or are not satisfied with the efforts of the Singh government so far?

MR. CASEY: I believe it's up to the Government of India to talk about their efforts. Again, I think we're going to continue to work on our part and we assume they're going to continue to work on theirs and it'll be done in a time that is appropriate for both sides.

QUESTION: So you don't think that the Singh Government just kind of caved into domestic pressures and --

MR. CASEY: Look, again, I’ll let other people do the Indian political analysis for you. We believe this is an important arrangement. I think it will be good for both sides, once it's implemented. And in terms of the timing and the process internally in India, I’ll just defer to the Indians on it.

QUESTION: In terms of the steps that the U.S. is taking parallel to the Indian Government in relation to the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, what has the U.S. done in terms of these two parallel tracks?

MR. CASEY: Well, in terms of the IAEA inspections regime, that's really for the Indians to work out. That's their part of the arrangement. We of course have had continued conversations with individual members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Certainly we want to be in a position once those safeguard arrangements are in place, to make the necessary procedural changes within the Nuclear Suppliers Group so that India can be provided fuel under those terms. I think we've had a number of good conversations with some of the individual nations involved there. But again, obviously, the formal discussions as the Nuclear Suppliers Group will have to wait until this other piece is completed.


QUESTION: Yeah. On North Korea, it is reported unless United States remove North Korea from the list of the terrorist states, within the end of this year, North Korea does not have any intention to disable their nuclear facility. Would you comment on that, please?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think we've talked about this at length in the context of the six-party talks. Certainly, this is an issue that is going to be pursued as the disablement and the overall denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula moves forward. I certainly don't have any timeframe to offer you on that, though, beyond the strictures that are within the agreement itself.

Yeah, Libby.

QUESTION: Switching topics.

QUESTION: Libby, can I just --


QUESTION: -- the North Koreans seem to be a bit perturbed by the U.S. President's remarks at the UN General Assembly, calling North Korea -- calling Kim Jong-il's regime brutal. Do you consider the regime brutal?

MR. CASEY: I consider whatever the President's remarks are to be the President's remarks and representative of the Administration's policy and you can ask my friends at the White House about them.


QUESTION: On Blackwater, when do you expect Pat Kennedy to be ready with a report of recommendations for the Secretary? Do you have any timeframe on that?

MR. CASEY: Well, as we've said, the Secretary told Pat she wanted this done in a matter of weeks. I would point out as I did this morning, that two of the members of Pat Kennedy's distinguished group of outside experts, General Joulwan and Ambassador Stapleton Roy arrived in Baghdad over the weekend, so we're pleased that they're there. They will be working with Pat and Ambassador Eric Boswell who has already been on the ground for a week and will be making their own assessments and adding in to it. So certainly I think we need to give them some time to be able to participate in the evaluation and make their own assessments before recommendations are ready. But again, I think it'll be in a short period of time. And the Secretary again was very clear in her instruction that this be done fairly quickly.

QUESTION: And what about this -- just another one on this -- U.S.-Iraqi Joint Commission, where is that work? And what is the ultimate sort of goal for the Commission? I mean, aren't they supposed to be coming forward with a report about what happened in the incident?

MR. CASEY: Well, no, what the commission is supposed to be doing -- again, this is a U.S.-Iraqi joint commission that was established after the September 16th incident. Certainly, they will look at any information from the various investigations that are going on into that as well as talk about any other individuals incidents that are of concern. But the primary objective of this commission is to come up with joint recommendations to both our governments, the Iraqi Government and the U.S. Government, on how we might be able to move forward in terms of being able to assure for the protection of our diplomats while at the same time making sure that all appropriate consideration is given to the protection of Iraqi lives and property.

That commission has met a couple of times, I believe. You can check with Embassy Baghdad in terms of the latest on it. And there have been a number of discussions at the working level as well. I don't have a timetable for when they intend to conclude their work. But certainly, we think it's very important that what we do in terms of our own efforts to look at this issue, as well as to investigate the individual incident, be complemented by a joint effort with the Iraqis. Because ultimately, we both share the same objective here, which is to make sure that we can do the necessary diplomatic work here and our people can be adequately protected, but at the same time that we do so in a way that's respectful of Iraqis' rights and privileges, respectful of their government and their laws.

QUESTION: If the Iraqi Government continues to push for Blackwater to have -- to get Blackwater out and to end its contract, are you prepared to phase Blackwater out or -- and phase out security contractors in general?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, as far as I know, there have been press reports about deadlines being set or other things. As far as I know, that's not a request or a recommendation that's been shared with us in any formal way. So I'll leave it to the Iraqis to talk about that.

In terms of our own process and procedures, look, we've got a -- we do have a number of pieces in motion here, the investigation itself, the joint commission as well as the senior-level review that Pat is leading with his outside experts. And I think we need to let them finish their work and finish their assessment before we're really going to be in a position to talk about what kinds of changes might occur. Certainly, we're going to make sure that our diplomats have the protection necessary to be able to do their work. And we're going to do so in a way that makes sure that we also can have that done in complement and in coordination with the Iraqis.


QUESTION: Have Diplomatic Security agents started riding along with convoys? Has that all gone into place and have cameras yet been mounted on vehicles?

MR. CASEY: My understanding is that the various interim recommendations that Pat made -- specifically, sending additional DS agents to be able to ensure that there is a Diplomatic Security agent riding along in each of the convoys, the installing of cameras on each of the vehicles, the recording of the audio transmissions, the radio transmissions that go on, as well as the recording of the electronic tracking of vehicles movements -- are in train but not yet complete. I think you'll understand that there's a significant -- just logistical issue involved in making sure, for example, that you get all the cameras purchased and then actually installed and mounted.

I know DS has sent a number of additional people to Baghdad, though I believe there are still several more that need to go. As far as the recordings are concerned, I believe that's already happened but I'll check for you just to make sure.

QUESTION: So when do you think these video cameras will be mounted and all this logistical stuff cleared up? And are Diplomatic agents on each convoy? Or do you not know specifically whether they're all on each convoy? Does staffing currently allow a Diplomatic agent to be on each convoy?

MR. CASEY: Well, Sue, my answer was to try and give you some help with where the process is. But I will, in fact, check for you and find out exactly where we stand today. I am not sure what the procurement schedule is for the cameras and I'm not sure how much time it will physically take to install them on each vehicle. I'm not sure how that meshes in with the need, of course, for vehicles to continue to move out and back on a daily basis. I think you'll understand, too, that I didn't get a chance to check with DS this morning to find out exactly how many of the additional people required to meet this order is done. My basic common sense understanding is if the additional people have not been fully deployed, and if we were not in a position to have people ride along without that additional deployment, that I can't tell you for certain and I doubt that we have now been able to put ourselves in a position where there is, in fact, a Diplomatic Security agent in each and every convoy.

QUESTION: So -- I'm sorry to be dim about this but --

MR. CASEY: That's okay.

QUESTION: So in other words, Blackwater can currently go out without Diplomatic agents accompanying them if staffing levels are insufficient for you to allow that to happen?

MR. CASEY: I think it would be correct to say that if there aren't -- if there aren't people to ride along, there aren't people to ride along, yeah.

QUESTION: Tom, are these Diplomatic Security agents coming into Iraq from different posts around the world? Are they being reassigned? Are they coming from Washington? Where are they --

MR. CASEY: I don't know. I honestly don't know. I mean, they are -- we are not hiring new Diplomatic Security agents to do this. That means they are coming from somewhere else among Diplomatic Security's resources elsewhere in the world. I'm not sure whether that's being done by reassignment of folks in Washington or from elsewhere. And I -- without checking, I don't think I could really give you an assessment. My assumption is it's probably a mixture of both, but I can check for you if you want.

Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: On to Turkey, please. Can you give us some kind of readout of the meeting that Dan Fried had with Turkish officials? What message was he carrying, that kind of thing?

MR. CASEY: Sure. Well, Dan Fried and Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman were in Ankara this weekend. They met with a variety of officials, the Deputy Defense Minister and the Under Secretary -- or equivalent of an Under Secretary -- in the Foreign Ministry. Their message was basically the same that you've heard us say here and that the Secretary conveyed directly to the senior leadership in Ankara previously, which is that we regret that this vote took place in the House in committee, we continue to oppose the resolution and we're going to do everything that we can to see that it is defeated once it comes to the House floor.

We've also, of course, continued to urge the Turkish Government to act with restraint in light of this vote and certainly not take any actions that would damage our overall bilateral interests or some of our broader interests in the region, including in Iraq.

I think we are pleased that so far the Turkish response has been restrained, but certainly they have continued to make sure that they make clear to us that should this vote go through and should there be passage of this resolution in the House that there will be consequences for our bilateral relationship.

QUESTION: A follow-up.

QUESTION: In what sense? Can you --

MR. CASEY: Let Nina follow-up to her question and then you can follow up on --

QUESTION: Can you elaborate no what you just said -- the consequences? What kind of consequences?

MR. CASEY: Again, I'll let the Turkish Government talk about that. I don't think anyone has spoken in real specific detail. But they've made it quite clear that this is a very serious, very difficult and emotional issue for them and that they could not anticipate a situation in which this resolution passed and there would not be an effect on our bilateral relations.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes, on Turkey. Mr. Casey, despite your plea for restraint even by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, according to reports, Turkish military forces fired yesterday over 250 artillery shells into areas inside northern Iraq against PKK rebels. Any comment?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I think you can talk to the Turks and to the Iraqis about what they think did or didn't happen militarily. I know that there have in the past been incidents along the border. I'm not sure what may have happened here.

QUESTION: It was reported that Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani have the power to kick out PKK rebels out of Iraq in a matter of hours, but they had prevented by the U.S. Government since you are arming them up to the teeth against Iran during the upcoming attack. How do you respond to those charges?

MR. CASEY: (Laughter.) I'm not sure who’s making them, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: No, it's --

MR. CASEY: No, sincerely, Mr. Lambros, if someone could wave a magic wand and eliminate the PKK from northern Iraq, it would have been done by now, certainly, if we had any ability to do it. The PKK is a terrorist organization. We don't harbor, shelter or otherwise make excuses for terrorist organizations. We want to see them put out of business. We are working with the Turks and with the Iraqis to try and do what we can to respond to this threat and challenge. And again, this is something, as we've said in the past, that needs to be handled through joint effort and joint action rather than unilateral measures.

QUESTION: One more to this attack. P-J-A-K Kurdish rebels, Mr. Casey, near western Iran, during fight last Friday, with Iranian Security Forces killed one Iranian policeman and wounded seriously one Iranian soldier. Since the (inaudible) rebels have taken responsibility for this action, I'm wondering if you support the Kurdish-rebellion inside Iran in the framework of the well-known policy against the present Government of Iran?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, we support the territorial integrity of all the nations of the region. That includes Iraq and Iran and Turkey.

Yeah, Sue.

QUESTION: Turkey's cabinet asked parliament or who's -- filed a motion with parliament, asking for permission to file attacks into -- to launch attacks into Northern Iraq. And this motion, which is expected to be approved on Wednesday would be valid for a year. I just wondered whether you had any comment on that particular motion and whether you thought that this would further escalate tension?

MR. CASEY: Well, I really don't beyond what we've said before and what I said a little earlier, regardless of what happens internally in the political developments in Turkey, we would encourage the Turks to exercise restraint in how they approach this issue. Again, we don't think that unilateral steps, certainly not unilateral military steps, will get us to where we all want to be, which is to end the threat from the PKK.

Yeah, Michel.


MR. CASEY: Oh, I'm sorry. Still on Turkey?


MR. CASEY: Please.

QUESTION: Okay. After all these conversations and discussions occurred during the weekend, can you say that Turkey and the U.S. are in the same track and agree what to do?

MR. CASEY: Well, I can say that Turkey and the United States have been good friends and NATO allies for a long time. And we very much believe that despite these problems that have occurred both in terms of the resolution as well as in terms of the serious issue that we all face in confronting the PKK, that we believe it's important and believe we will continue to be able to work together as friends and allies.


QUESTION: Change of subject? Do you have any update on the P-5+1 political directors meeting in Berlin?

MR. CASEY: Yeah. Well, the P-5+1 political directors, were scheduled to get together on Wednesday. That meeting's now been postponed at the request of the Chinese and I'd refer you to the Chinese in terms of why they requested that postponement.


QUESTION: Can I just follow up on the -- based on your comments this morning about hoping that Mr. Putin would prod the Iranians to end their nuclear enrichment activities. In Germany, Putin basically called for patience in talks with the Iranians, saying that the same tactic had paid off with North Korea.

MR. CASEY: Well, actually the United States would agree that conversations with Iran would be a very good thing, in terms of working out a common understanding of how to end their nuclear program and the challenges and threats posed by it. And I would assume that what President Putin was referring to, though you're free to check with him, is the offer that has been on the table now from the P-5+1 for many months, which is if Iran would simply choose to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, then the United States, as well as Russia, as well as the other members of the P-5+1, would sit down with the Iranian Government and negotiate a solution to these issues -- one that would allow the Iranian people to have civilian nuclear power, but that would assure the rest of us that they weren't, in fact, using that program as a cover for a nuclear weapon.

And I would hope that whether it's President Putin or other officials from the Government of Russia or any other officials that were visiting Tehran and talking with Iranian officials that they'd convey that message to the Iranian Government that Iran has a real opportunity here to change its relations with the United States and with the rest of the International community. And all it has to do to be able to achieve that is to honor the obligations that it has not only as a member of the international community and under the NPT, but the requirements that have now been placed on it by several unanimous UN Security Council resolutions. And I would expect that since the Russian Government as part of the P-5+1 has very much been a participant in crafting those resolutions and in creating those legal obligations on Iran. I would expect that that's probably the message that Russian officials will carry when they do have those conversations.

QUESTION: But Tom, if I recollect correctly, the U.S. did not impose any conditions on North Korea before asking them to come to the six-party talks.

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I would note that these situations are rather different. I mean, the case of North Korea we were looking at a very different situation and one that had been dealt with unsuccessfully unfortunately through bilateral discussions between the United States and the North Korean Government. And we've built a structure through the six-party talks to be able to successfully engage North Korea. Part of that, of course, also included resolutions sanctioning the North Korean Government for some of their actions, including their test last year. Part of it also included using bilateral sanctions, both from the United States as well as other countries to continue to apply pressure on that government.

Certainly, we have a different situation and a different process set up in terms of dealing with Iran. One that involves a different group of six countries, but that's set up to do the same thing -- to pressure the Iranian Government to make the kinds of very basic steps that would allow us to have some understanding that we could have a negotiation and have one in good faith. So I think both of those simply show that the United States is very interested and very willing to work multilaterally with relevant countries and partners to be able to deal with some of these challenges that both North Korea and Iran's nuclear program represent.

Mr. Lambros, one more.

QUESTION: On Kosovo. Mr. Casey, Serb and Kosovo-Albanian officials failed to break the deadlock over the future of the status of Kosovo yesterday in Brussels. Any comment?

MR. CASEY: Well, I know there was a meeting of the troika that brought together representatives from Serbia and Kosovo for a second direct dialogue yesterday. And I know that after that, everybody in the same room meeting, there were then additional meetings of the troika separately with each side and try and work out some areas of agreement. You know, again, this is a difficult issue. But the troika is going to continue its efforts. I understand that the next meeting will be in Vienna on the 22nd and that will be followed by a increasing schedule of discussions as we move forward. As you know, the Secretary General's asked for a report from the troika on December 10th as to the status of their efforts. And we'll see how far we get. We certainly want there to be an agreement among the parties that would be acceptable to everyone. But as we've said, if there is no agreement by the 10th, then what we expect to see happen is for us to move forward, as you know, with supervised independence for Kosovo along the lines proposed by Mr. Ahtissari.

QUESTION: One more follow-up. Mr. Casey, the Serbian side presented again that useful substantial autonomy, but it was rejected immediately by the so-called Kosovar President (inaudible) Fatmir Sejdiu in Brussels. How do you see as a U.S. Government the proposal of autonomy? Since independence so far is not a solution.

MR. CASEY: Well, actually we think independence is the solution and we think independence is the solution that Mr. Ahtissari came up with after an extensive series of meetings between the sides. Look, I think the Serbians at this point are clearly stating their longstanding position on this issue. All that says to me is that we still have some ways to go in terms of negotiation on this. But I think U.S. views on this remain quite clear.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Joel.

QUESTION: Tom, with the Secretary in the Middle East, Thursday is scheduled a rally by a group called One Voice. These are moderate business leaders amongst Palestinian and Jewish communities. It's a worldwide telecast. Now, part of that particular telecast has been squashed. A telecast portion from Jericho. Are you working with both sides on that? Have you been asked to intercede in any way?

MR. CASEY: Joel, what we're doing is working with Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas and the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian territories to try and help them come to some conclusion in terms of an agreement that they can bring to the broader international community at our conference in late November to be able to show that we can, as an international community, support their efforts and get us closer to what everybody wants to see which is a two-state solution that allows Palestinians and Israelis to live side by side in peace.


(The briefing was concluded at 2:09 p.m.)

DPB # 181

Released on October 15, 2007

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