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Daily Press Briefing

Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 17, 2007


Killing of 3 World Food Programme (WFP) Workers Likely to be True
Looking for all Parties to Desist Violence and Focus on Upcoming Tripoli Conference
UN is Working to Try and Expand Existing Seven Thousand Member AU Force
President Announced Bilateral Sanctions Against Groups Supporting Darfur Violence
Vote in Parliament Does Not Mean Actions will be Taken
Secretary Has Not Made Additional Calls to Turkish Officials on Vote
Ambassador Wilson has Been Actively Engaged with Authorities in Ankara
House Resolution Will Not Serve Purposes of a Turkish/Armenian Resolution
New Rotating Members of Security Council: Libya, Burkina Faso, Croatia and Costa Rica
We Hope to be Able to Work with All Countries in Coming Two Years on Issues Council will Face
Concerns Raised About Libya's Past Involvement with Terrorism
No New Updates on Secretary Rice's Plans to Visit
FBI Led, State Department Supported Investigation into the October 16th Incident
U.S.-Iraqi Joint Commission Which is Looking At Broader Issues
Senior-Level Review into Broader Question of the Protection of Diplomats in Iraq
Patrick Kennedy and His Team Have Now Finished Their Time in Iraq and Are Back
Secretary Rice Has Instructed the Review of the Incident be Completed as Quickly as Possible
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy is the Nominee to be Under Secretary for Management
U.S. Wants to See Pressure Put on the Government to Engage in a Dialogue with their People
The International Community Views This as Fundamental to International Peace and Security
Expect to See Additional Actions Taken Over the Course of Coming Days and Weeks
Nonproliferation Issues Have Always Been a Part of the Six-Party Talks
North Koreans Have Committed to Ceasing Support for Proliferation Activities
US Expects a Full Declaration from the North Koreans on the Extent of their Nuclear Program
February 13th Agreement Brought us to the Point of Suspension of Activities
Proliferation Has Been Part of the Discussion Since the Beginning of the Six-Part Talks
Sanctions That were Placed, Are Still Currently in Place
Team Includes Representatives from State to the NSC, as well as the DOD and DOE
We Hope House Resolution 106 does not Pass
Japanese Legislation on Anti-Terror Measures and At-Sea Refueling


12:46 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: Okay. Good afternoon, everyone. On the off-chance that there's something the President of the United States didn't already cover for you today in remarks at his new conference, I'll be happy to answer any of your questions. I don't have anything to start you out with, so --

QUESTION: On Sudan, because the President didn't look at Sudan.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the deaths of the -- the killings of the three WFP workers? And secondly, the violence seems to be getting a lot worse in Darfur and the south seems to be even more troubled. I just wondered whether you had any sort of general comments on that and where you think it's all leading to?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, in terms of the reported deaths of WFP workers, we still don't have independent confirmation of it, but I think it's safe to say based on reporting that this is likely to be true. And again, this is a tragic loss of individuals who were there trying to provide for the humanitarian needs of the Sudanese people. We've noted before that there have been increasing problems with access for humanitarian workers and we've spoken with both the Government of Sudan and representatives from rebel groups about it. It's in no one's interest. It's in no side's interest in this conflict to have the access of humanitarian organizations restricted. It is certainly troubling to us to see these kinds of incidents. And it is, as you are correct in saying, that we have seen an increased level of violence in Darfur in the last few weeks. As you know, we've called on all sides to refrain from such acts. We've seen some efforts being made to date. But again, the proof is in the level of violence. And what we want to see happen is for both the rebels, the government and all parties to desist from these kinds of violent actions and to focus their attention where it should be, which is on the upcoming conference in Tripoli, as well as on other efforts to arrive at a peaceful negotiated settlement of the fundamental political differences which are the source of the conflict in the first place.

QUESTION: The President, I think it was late May, imposed new sanctions and they tightened existing sanctions against Sudan in the hope that this would encourage all sides to be more committed to the peace process. This doesn't seem to have worked. So do you think this is an indication that your strategy of imposing more punitive measures just hasn't worked and should you have more political involvement in this issue?

MR. CASEY: Well, we've seen some press in terms of the acceptance by Sudan of the AU/UN hybrid force. The UN is working now actively to try and expand out the existing 7,000-member AU force to put the full complement of forces on the ground. We've also seen some steps forward in terms of political dialogue, including the calling of this now second meeting in Tripoli. All that's to the good. But obviously, there's a lot more that needs to be done. And any time you see incidents of violence occur, that's unfortunate and it needs to stop. We are going to continue to work with all the actors involved here, including the UN and the broader international community to try and move this process forward.

In terms of U.S. sanctions and measures, you're right, the President did announce we did put into effect a number of bilateral sanctions specifically targeted against officials and organizations that were involved in supporting violence in Darfur. We always will keep an eye on what more we might be able to do. But at this point, I don't have anything new to announce and wouldn't want to signal that we're headed in a new direction.

Anybody else? Nina.

QUESTION: Can I have a reaction to the vote in Turkish parliament?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think the President addressed that, in part. Understand that this vote has taken place. I would note that many Turkish officials, including senior leadership, have indicated that this vote does not mean that action will be taken. We certainly continue to urge Turkish authorities to exercise restraint in terms of their response to what is a common problem of PKK terrorism in Northern Iraq. We do not want to see any unilateral military steps taken, because we don't believe that that will solve the problem. In fact, we believe it will make it harder to ultimately deal with the threats and challenges posed.

We'll certainly continue to talk with the Turkish Government and with Turkish officials, as we move forward in the days ahead. I would note, as well as the President did, that Iraqi Vice President Al-Hashimi has been and I believe continues to be in Turkey to have discussions with Turkish officials on this issue. That's important because again the real way to resolve this is through dialogue between the Turks and the Iraqis and in development of a collective and common approach to this problem. And it is a problem not only for the Turks, but it is a problem, an acknowledged problem by the Iraqis and certainly it's a concern for us, too, because we do consider the PKK a terrorist organization.

QUESTION: Can you give an update on specific diplomatic activities, specific calls? Has the Secretary made any calls?

MR. CASEY: Well, there are a few things that are out there. The Secretary, as you know, is on travel and she's not made any additional calls to Turkish officials on this issue. I do know that our Ambassador Ross Wilson has been actively engaged with authorities there in Ankara. Nick Burns remains in contact with the Turkish Ambassador as well as other officials. And certainly I know Ambassador Fried -- Dan Fried, our Assistant Secretary for European Affairs -- is also continuing his engagement.

Although, same officials as well have been working on a related issue, which is to talk to staff members and members of Congress about our concerns and our continued opposition to the resolution that recently passed the committee in the House. We want to make clear to members of Congress that this resolution is one that is not going to serve the purposes of Turkish-Armenian reconciliation. It's not going to serve U.S. national interests and, in fact, stands a good risk of harming our bilateral relations with a country that is a friend and ally and is vital to our military's efforts in Iraq and elsewhere.

I'm pleased to note and we’re pleased to note over the last 24 hours that there have been a number of members of Congress who have now come out and publicly stated that they've changed their view and will no longer be supporting this resolution. Certainly, we would hope that trend would continue. And again, we're committed to doing what we can to work with members of Congress to see that this resolution's ultimately defeated.

Follow up or?

QUESTION: Different subject.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: I think you touched on this yesterday. I apologize. But Libya and its seat on the Security Council, can you give me the official U.S. line on that?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, we welcome the election of all the new members of the Council. I believe that is Libya, Burkina Faso, Croatia and Costa Rica. These are, of course, the rotating non-permanent seats on the Council. We would hope to be able to work with all those countries in the coming two years on the many issues that the Council's going to have to face. And there are some big issues that the Council will be dealing with, from Iran's nuclear program to efforts at achieving peace in Darfur to a wide stretch of issues related to the Middle East that the Council tends to deal with. With specific reference to Libya, I do know that there have been some concerns raised by a number of individuals who are representing or are family members of those who have been victims of the terrible history of support for terrorism in the past that Libya's engaged in. We have made it clear to them and to the Libyan Government that resolving those outstanding claims and those issues remains a primary part of our bilateral relations with Libya and it's something that we raised with the Libyans on a regular basis and will continue to do so. Believe it's important to ultimately achieve a equitable solution to those concerns.

QUESTION: Any updates on prospects of a Rice visit to Libya?

MR. CASEY: Don’t have anything new for you.

Charlie, did you have something?

QUESTION: I know you spoke about it earlier, but could you speak on camera, giving us an update on the Pat Kennedy review, the whereabouts of his team and what you may expect in the coming days?

MR. CASEY: Sure, let me talk a little bit about it. As you know, and this is in relation to the issue of personal security contractors in Iraq, we have three active processes underway.

The first is a FBI-led, State Department-supported investigation in Baghdad into the incident of October 16th.

The second is a U.S.-Iraqi joint commission which is looking at the broader issue of how we and the Iraqis can come to a common understanding of the operations of personal security details and contractors in Iraq. That body has met, I believe, on two occasions in its full components, eight members on each side led by our Deputy Chief of Mission in Baghdad from the American side. They've also had a number of other working sessions with other officials as well, and I expect that work to continue.

The third piece, of course, is Patrick Kennedy, now our nominee for Under Secretary for Management, senior-level review into the broader question of how we protect our diplomats in Iraq. I think the fundamental reason for this is everyone understands that our diplomats play a critical role in helping advance our national security objectives in Iraq. We need to make sure that they can do their job and do their job safely. But what Pat and his group is looking at, of course, is the full range of how we provide for their protection to look and see if now, three years after Embassy Baghdad was formally established, we might need to make some adjustments to those policies.

Pat and his group have now finished their time in Iraq and Pat himself has now returned to Washington. The other members of the team, I believe, if not here yet, are en route. They will be continuing, as I understand it, to work on their review and recommendations here in Washington for a little while longer, and then when they're ready will present their review and recommendations to the Secretary. I don't have a specific time when that will occur, though I would expect it would happen in the not-too-distant future. The Secretary has instructed that this review be completed as quickly as possible, and I'm sure she'll be very interested once she gets back from her travel and hearing from Pat and the other members of the committee.


QUESTION: Tom, this afternoon in the House of Representatives, lawmakers unveiled new sanctions on Myanmar and basically it's to plug the loophole in the gems trade and how does the Administration see this?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not familiar with the specific legislation and I don't think there is a statement of Administration policy on it. But in general, we want to see steps taken to be able to put pressure on the Government of Burma to force them to do what they should want to do themselves, which is engage in a real dialogue with their people, including opposition leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi. It's been disturbing to us to see that despite the international response to the crackdown that the Burmese have added I think fairly substantially to the more than 1,000 political prisoners they already held, and I believe that we still have evidence that they are continuing to arrest and detain individuals.

So I'm not familiar with this particular piece of proposed legislation, but certainly we want to do everything that we can to strengthen the existing measures that already are in place against Burma and we'll certainly going to work hard at any new measures that are out there. Because again, our goal is to try and place additional pressure on the regime and get them to respond appropriately to what has really been, particularly with relation to this latest crackdown, a very broad response from the international community and a very clear statement, including by the UN Security Council, that the Burmese need to engage in a serious dialogue with their people.

QUESTION: Despite this clear statement, Tom, the Burmese regime had made it very clear that they're not going to abide by these sanctions or by what they call imposition of orders.

MR. CASEY: Well, I think that it's very clear that the international community, including the ASEAN nations, who have made some very strong statements on this, including the United States, the European Union and others, view this as an issue that's fundamental to international peace and security, that touches on the fundamental rights not only of the Burmese people but of all people to be able to express their views, to participate in the political development of their country. And I expect that we will see additional actions taken over the course of the coming days and weeks both on the diplomatic front from Mr. Gambari and from others representing individual nations, as well as in terms of looking at what we can do to strengthen the sanctions that are already in place on the part of the United States against the regime.


QUESTION: On North Korea, Tom, I know that you have not been willing to talk about any Syria links or any programs and such, though you are aware, I am sure, of reports, in addition to the Israeli strike, of a shipment that recently went to Syria that is reported to be from North Korea. But you probably also know there have been suggestions from people whom some might describe as hardliners that the reason you're not talking much about any North Korean help that Syria might have received is because you do not want this to derail the deal with North Korea. Is there any truth to that?

MR. CASEY: I think that's where I started the briefing about the answers the President gave. I think the President made very clear, and you can go back and check the transcript, that nonproliferation issues have always been a part of the six-party talks; that the North Koreans have committed to us to both ceasing any support for proliferation activities as well as providing a declaration that covers the full range of their nuclear programs, including what proliferation activities they might have engaged in. And that is where we believe we will be able to find the best answers to what exactly is the full scope of their program, and that's essential to being able to have confidence that as we move forward with the disablement and ultimately dismantling of the full range of their nuclear program that we have a complete understanding of what's there.

Beyond that, in terms of the various press reports that have been out there, it's the same answer as always. I just don't have anything for you on it.

QUESTION: So the declaration is not -- the deadline for the declaration is the end of the year, right?

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: So between now and then, they're free to export anything they like?

MR. CASEY: Nicholas, again, they've committed to ceasing those activities. I'm not going to try and parse it for you. They've made commitments; we expect them to live up to them.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, Param.

QUESTION: I mean, despite Israel’s admission that they've had a strike on Syria, why is the Administration refusing to admit or deny that North Korean material has been -- nuclear material had been found in Syria?

MR. CASEY: Look, I think the President refused to comment on this about five times less than an hour ago. I could probably go back and count the number of times I have simply said I don't have anything for you on it, and you could ask again, Param, but it's the same answer as before. Seriously, I just don't have anything for you.

QUESTION: Tom, can you just --

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: You said you expect them to abide by the commitments they've made. They actually haven't -- in these things they signed, they never said we're not going to export material --

MR. CASEY: Nicholas --

QUESTION: -- to anybody else. They haven't.

MR. CASEY: Nicholas, look, I think it's abundantly clear that we expect a full declaration from the North Koreans about the extent of their nuclear program. It's also abundantly clear -- and you've heard it from the President, you've heard it from Chris, you've heard it from the Secretary, you've heard it from every official involved in this policy -- that proliferation issues have been part of our discussion with the North Koreans since the beginning.

The United States is not going to pretend that North Korea has given us a declaration or pretend that they have ceased their activities. This is a serious process. It's designed to get us to the point where the United States can be assured, the other members of the six-party can be assured and the world can be assured that North Korea is out of the nuclear business.

Are we there yet? Nope, we sure aren't. There's still a facility at Yongbyon. It's been shut down, but it hasn't been disabled. And ultimately, after it's disabled, it'll need to be dismantled.

They've promised to give us a declaration. Do we have it yet? No, but we've got a commitment to get one. Can I tell you right now what's in that declaration or, you know, how it will look to us at the time? No, we'll have to see. That's why this whole process is based on good faith actions for good faith actions.

But I would note that we have now entered what is a really new phase in the ending of North Korea's nuclear program. We have in the past gotten to the point of suspension of activities. That's where the February 13th agreement brought us. This latest agreement takes us to actual dismantlement, to moving their facilities, the ones that are producing plutonium for nuclear bombs, out of business not just in terms of temporary shuttering, which they could restart and have back to full operations in a few weeks, but something where it's going to take a year or more for them to do so. And I think that's an important step and it's one that hasn't been achieved before. The declaration of their full length of their programs is also extremely significant because it's something that we haven't had. And once we have that, then we will be able to know and work specifically on eliminating any and all other nuclear programs or activities that may be out there.

But anyone asserting to you that the United States is turning a blind eye to proliferation activities, whether by North Korea or anyone else, simply isn't speaking in a way that marries up with the facts on this issue.

QUESTION: Is it abundantly clear that North Korea is not (inaudible) proliferation activities?

MR. CASEY: Nice try, Param. Look, as I said, we have had proliferation as part of our discussion with them since the beginning of the six-party talks. I think when we get a declaration we'll be able to talk in more specific detail about what might or might not be there.

QUESTION: Tom, just to follow up on the UN sanctions that was imposed after the nuclear weapons test, interdiction of vessels that leave North Korea --

MR. CASEY: Right.

QUESTION: What's the latest on that? I mean, have --

MR. CASEY: Those --

QUESTION: These sanctions were imposed. Were there any cases of any movement of such vessels out of North Korea?

MR. CASEY: Well, certainly a lot of that would touch on intelligence-related issues and I don't think I'd be in a position to talk about that. But the fact remains that those sanctions that were placed on North Korea remain in place. We fully expect that not only the United States but all member-states, as they are legally bound and required to do, will continue to implement them. And certainly, we are going to continue our own efforts bilaterally, multilaterally, through the Proliferation Security Initiative and other means to make sure that nuclear technology from any source is not subject to proliferation because that's a fundamental U.S. security goal.

Let's go back here.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the team from -- that's in Pyongyang/Yongbyon?

MR. CASEY: Not to any great extent. Let me just take a look at the notes I've got here and see where we are. Okay. They have, as you know, been meeting with their counterparts. They were in Pyongyang initially. They did travel up to the Yongbyon facility for additional technical surveys. My understanding is that they are back in Pyongyang now and they will be this particular round or this particular team will be leaving on Thursday. The follow-on team which is expected to include approximately a dozen people is going to be arriving on Saturday. So we're looking forward to continuing this. I don't have a readout of their discussions beyond the fact that, you know, they did what they set out to do, which is both discuss these issues of disablement with North Korean officials and Pyongyang and also do some additional technical consultations out at the specific Yongbyon facility which is slated for disablement as part of this phase.*

QUESTION: And a follow-up on that. With such a flurry of U.S. officials going in and out, is there any sort of talk in the Department about establishing some kind of interest section or anything more permanent?

MR. CASEY: Not at this point, no.


QUESTION: Can I follow up also? The follow -- the team that's following -- that the current team that's in there, who is that consisting of?

MR. CASEY: Well, it's basically an interagency team, just as this past one has been. It includes representatives from State to the National Security Council. And I believe the Department of Energy and perhaps the Department of Defense as well. Not sure at this point whether Song Kim will be staying on to head this one as well or whether it will be headed by another individual. When we have additional details on it, we'll provide them to you.


QUESTION: I missed the beginning part of your briefing. Sorry for that, and I don't if you talked about this, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier today that whether the Armenian genocide resolution would come to the floor vote, remain to be seen. And this is different from what she said last week. She said she'll bring it to a floor vote before late November. In the meantime, eleven lawmakers who were co-sponsors of the resolution have withdrawn their backing for the bill in the last couple of days. In short, do you see a tendency -- a growing tendency that the resolution may not pass in a floor vote soon?

MR. CASEY: Well, we certainly hope it doesn't pass. We've, again, committed ourselves to opposing this resolution and in doing what we can to work against it and see that it doesn't pass. I know that as you mentioned the number of lawmakers and I did mention this earlier in the briefing, have now come out and reversed their earlier support for it and have now come out against it. We'd like to see that trend continue. If that trend means that the congressional leadership ultimately decides to not bring this to a vote, I think that would be a good outcome for everyone.


QUESTION: Were you able to look more into since this morning, the Japanese anti-terror measures and if you have any more of a specific response than you have?

MR. CASEY: I've looked at it a little bit, but basically as you know, there has been some preliminary legislation that's been approved. It is not yet final and certainly I think before we could comment in great detail on any legislation, we need to see it get completely through the Japanese legislative process.

First of all, we've always been grateful and we continue to be grateful for Japanese support for operations in Afghanistan and their other contributions to the war against extremism and terrorism. We certainly appreciate the fact that they have now taken steps and put through the legislative process at least partway a new mandate to continue their refueling operations. This is something that is important to overall coalition objectives there. And it is something that we will certainly work with them on in terms of meeting any kinds of restrictions or changes from the previous system that's in place.

QUESTION: Tom, will you check on the (inaudible)?

MR. CASEY: You know, the best answer I can give you on that, Param, is talk with the Japanese. The legislation's not yet final. We're confident that we can work through any concerns that are there and still maintain the integrity of operations.

Thank you.

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

DPB # 183

* The interagency delegation of U.S. experts has been meeting with their North Korean counterparts. In addition to the original eight team members, a second group of 12 arrived on Saturday, October 13. During the visit, members of the delegation traveled to the Yongbyon nuclear facility for further technical surveys to determine the scope of disablement. All 20 members of the delegation will leave Pyongyang tomorrow, October 18, for Beijing.

Released on October 17, 2007

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