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Daily Press Briefing

Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 18, 2007


Former PM Bhutto's Return / U.S. Goal for Pakistan is to See Democracy Develop
U.S. Willing to Work with Whomever the People of Pakistan Choose as their Leader
United States Recognition of the Territorial Integrity of Iraq
U.S. Considers PKK a Terrorist Organization
U.S. Troops in Iraq Are There at the Invitation of the Sovereign Iraqi Government
Reports of Additional Security Contractor Incident in Iraq
Investigation into September 16 Incident / Blackwater / Amb. Kennedy Recommendations
No State Department Decision Regarding Handling of PSD Contracts
U.S. Appreciation for the Work of Personal Security Detail Contractors
Senior-Level Review of Overall Issue of Providing Protection for Diplomats
Joint Commission Exercise / Common Understanding
Amb. Kennedy's Group Should Be Able to Present Findings in the Near Future
Process of Developing Common Recommendations on PSD Procedures by Joint Commission
Reports of Efforts to Put All Contractors Under Unified Authority
Blackwater CEO's Claims that Company Suggested DS Escorts in Convoys
Proposed Resolution on 1915 Events / Administration's Opposition
Possible Meetings with Armenian Prime Minister
President Putin's Trip to Iran / Concerns of the International Community
Upcoming Solana-Larijani Meeting / Official Channel Between P-5+1 and Iranians
Consensus of P-5+1 / Two-Track Approach / Need for Additional Sanctions Against Iran
Russia to Determines What Kind of Relationship it Has with Iran
U.S. and Russia Have a Relationship Based on Common Interests and Common Desires
International Commission for Religious Freedom's Recommendation to Close Saudi Academy
International Religious Freedom Report / Saudi Commitments to Revise Textbooks
No Government Should Produce Intolerant Materials
Interagency Delegation of U.S. Experts Work in North Korea / En Route to U.S.
Work to Begin Process of Disablement Could Begin Soon
Next Steps / Technical Team Would Participate in Actual Disablement
Discussions for Ministerial-Level Meeting Ongoing
Importance of Freedom of the Press / Monitoring by Embassy
Gambari's Work in Region / Possible Gambari Return Visit to Burma
Need for Junta to Stop Violence, Return to Political Dialogue


12:37 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, everybody. Happy Thursday. I don't have anything to start you off with so we can go right to your questions.


QUESTION: The former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has returned to Karachi today, so how do you view this and how does it affect U.S.-Pakistan relationship in future? And any particular comments about its implications as far as democracy in Pakistan?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, as we've always said, our goal for Pakistan is to see it develop its democracy, to continue its advance towards being a peaceful, modern, moderate Islamic state. And we certainly want to see as part of that process free, fair and transparent elections take place. And those elections should involve all parties that are legitimate forces in the Pakistani political system. Certainly, that would include former Prime Minister Bhutto's party.

In respect to her personal situation, again, we've always stressed that we want to see these kinds of issues resolved by Pakistanis themselves and assure that what happens is done in accordance with Pakistan's laws and in accordance with Pakistan's constitution. We believe that's occurred here. We're very pleased to see that this return by former Prime Minister Bhutto has gone forward in a peaceful manner. And we certainly look forward to seeing the election process move forward and see -- and certainly encourage all those who share the vision that we have and that President Musharraf and others have for Pakistan's future to participate and participate actively.

QUESTION: How do you view this in the context of the future about the Pak-U.S. relationship?

MR. CASEY: Well, we will certainly work with whoever it is that the people of Pakistan choose to be their leadership in this election. We want to see that Pakistan's development continue along this path as a moderate modern Islamic state and look forward to working with both President Musharraf as well as the elected representatives of Pakistan that emerge from this electoral process to help deal with the many issues that we share in common. And that includes not only confronting extremism, but that also includes dealing with things like supporting economic development in the federally administered tribal areas. It includes working on the continued process of political reform and certainly includes cooperation between the United States and Pakistan on a wide range of issues in the region.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Turkey. Mr. Casey, DOD spokesman Geoff Morrell in a statement yesterday was referring to "Kurdish Government." I'm wondering do you recognize any Kurdish Government on earth.

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'm assuming that Geoff would have been referring to the regional or provincial government of the northern areas of Iraq. Certainly, the United States recognizes the territorial integrity of Iraq. The regional government in the Kurdish areas there is part of Iraq and we certainly don't recognize any separate country or separate entity outside of that Iraqi Government.

QUESTION: Do you have direct or indirect contact with PKK leaders in northern Iraq?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, we consider the PKK a terrorist organization. We don't engage with -- in conversations with terrorist groups.

QUESTION: But when General Joseph Ralston was in charge for the negotiation on behalf of the Department of State how he presented your views to PKK leaders?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, the PKK is a terrorist organization. We want to put the PKK out of business. Mr. -- or General Ralston's, excuse me, conversations were with Turkish Government officials and Iraqi Government officials. He was not engaged in a dialogue with the PKK.

QUESTION: One more. Since the (inaudible) three battalions in northern Iraq according to the Department of Defense before the 2003 invasion occupation did you coordinated any operation against PKK?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, in terms of military operations involving the Iraqis or Turkish military, I'd refer you to them if you want to know what our military's doing. You clearly are paying attention to what Geoff's been saying. You can go ask him about that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Anne, sorry.

QUESTION: Anything new on U.S. contact with Turkey over the parliament vote and what's your current assessment of the vote here, whether it will happen this week and whether it will go your way?

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, in terms of Washington -- senior-level contacts, I don't have anything new to report for you. Ambassador Wilson in Ankara continues to be in contact with Turkish officials on this issue. And again, I think our message continues to be the same as well. As you have seen, there's been a number of congressmen that had been cosponsors or had indicated their support for this resolution who have now changed their view and have said they no longer support it. We've seen comments as well from Speaker Pelosi, saying that she was going to consult with the remaining co-sponsors to see what might or might not happen in terms of future floor action. We're encouraged by those statements. But certainly we believe that we need to continue our efforts to work with members of Congress to show our continued opposition to this measure and hope to eventually see it defeated. In a perfect world, it would be wonderful if this didn't, in fact, come to the floor. But if it does, we're going to make sure that we continue our efforts to work with individual congressmen, because we don't think this is the right resolution.


QUESTION: One of the PKK leaders named (inaudible) said in the English newspapers that, "We have some contacts with Americans." Do you have any comment on that?

MR. CASEY: Nothing beyond what I told you. We consider the PKK a terrorist organization. I'm certainly not aware of any contacts we would have and it would be contrary to policy if we did.

Yeah, Param.

QUESTION: Tom, any information that have been conveyed by the Russians to the Americans in relation to Mr. Putin's visit to Iran and on Iran's nuclear and uranium enrichment program?

MR. CASEY: I'm not sure that we've gotten any kind of detailed readout from the Russian Government about President Putin's meetings there. Certainly, we would hope that he in those discussions did convey the concerns of the international community, including the consensus view of the P-5+1. It's important to us that the Iranians continue to hear from people throughout the international community about the need for them to comply with their international obligations. And of course, we'll be continuing to work with the Russians and others in the P-5+1 to look at next steps here in accordance with our two-track approach.

Someone noted this morning, I believe Mr. Solana, is planning on having a meeting with Mr. Larijani some time in the next week or so. And that is again, another opportunity for the official channel between the P-5+1 and the Iranians to move forward and for the Iranians to be able to hear from Mr. Solana about the opportunity that the P-5 is providing and offering to Iran if it is, in fact, willing to honor the basic commitments -- basic requirements of the international community, including suspension of its uranium enrichment activity. We will also, though, continue our consultations among the P-5+1 about the makeup of a next Security Council resolution which would increase the existing sanctions that already are placed on Iran as a result of their failure to comply with the previous resolutions that have been out there.

QUESTION: How would you -- what will be the basis for another resolution when you hear from the Russians, especially Mr. Putin, that he doesn't see any threat from the Iranian nuclear program?

MR. CASEY: Well, the basis for another resolution is the consensus of the P-5+1, reconfirmed as recently as last week, about our two-track approach and about the need to move forward with additional sanctions against Iran in the event that the Iranian Government refuses to comply with the requirements that have been laid out for it. I know there's been a lot of speculation and a lot of commentary made about some of the public statements that have come out of this recent visit. But our understanding is Russian views on how to proceed in terms of responding to Iran's nuclear program remain the same. We fully believe that they are part of the P-5+1 consensus and expect them to remain so.


QUESTION: Tom, the United States considers Russia a partner, is that right?

MR. CASEY: They're partners with us on any number of issues. Obviously, though, Nicholas, as you've seen, there are issues where we have differences.

QUESTION: President Putin said today that Iran was Russia's strategic partner. Is that a problem for you?

MR. CASEY: Russia's free to define its relations with other countries as it sees fit. It's up to any individual country to determine who it's going to have bilateral relations with and what the nature of that relationship is. But look, Nicholas, your question is: Does Russia believe in the course that we are pursuing with respect to Iran's nuclear program? And yes, they do and that consensus has been reaffirmed and we have every confidence that -- and if we get to the point of moving forward with another resolution, and I expect we will, barring any change of heart on the part of the Iranians, that we'll have the support of the Russian Government in doing so.

QUESTION: Obviously you have criticized developments in Russia quite a bit. But I don’t recall American officials deriding Russian foreign policy or anything of that kind. That's what President Putin did today in terms of American foreign policy. Are there any feelings either way in this building about this? I mean, he wasn't even hiding it. He's done it in the past, in a way, at Munich and in other places, but he sort of went a step further today.

MR. CASEY: Look, I'll let President Putin speak for himself. I'll let his government speak for themselves. The United States and Russia have a relationship that is based on common interests and common desires to see certain things happen, to see Iran not gain a nuclear weapon, to see the Korean Peninsula denuclearized, to work together to combat terrorism. These are all areas where you know we've worked together and worked together fairly extensively and well.

There are other areas where we haven't. I think -- I'm assuming you're referring to comments that President Putin made about Iraq. Well, I think the President said yesterday that President Putin made it quite clear to him before the war in Iraq started that he didn't think that was a good idea. I don't think he said anything today that makes it -- makes his views any different.

And again, I think it's abundantly clear to us, and we've said it before but I'll happily say it again for you just in case the point is missed, that U.S. troops are in Iraq at the invitation of the sovereign Iraqi Government, that Iraqi officials starting with the Prime Minister and the President on down have said that they need and want our support in order to be able to meet their own security goals. We certainly want to be able to help them do that because a stable, peaceful, functioning Iraq is in the interest of the United States, it's in the interest of Russia and it's in the interest of the international community.

But the fact that Russia disagreed with the decision to go into Iraq in the first place is certainly no surprise. The fact that they continue to have problems with it isn't either.


QUESTION: Does the Secretary consider Putin wily?

MR. CASEY: Wily?


MR. CASEY: Is that like Wile E. Coyote or -- no, I have not heard her use that word with reference to him, but I certainly haven't asked the question.

QUESTION: Well, Bush used the word yesterday.

MR. CASEY: I can't -- I know the President has spoken to this and I leave his words to stand for themselves. I have not posed that particular question or that particular phrase to the Secretary.

QUESTION: I just wondered if that's a word that diplomats would use.

MR. CASEY: I keep on thinking of Wile E. Coyote, super genius. Look, it's the description the President gave it. I'll leave it with that.

QUESTION: This is about the Saudi academy in Virginia. The International Commission for Religious Freedom is recommending that the school be closed because of intolerance in its curriculum. What is your reaction to the recommendation?

MR. CASEY: Sorry, I'm not familiar with them, Elise. I'll have to look into it for you.

QUESTION: But wait, can I --

MR. CASEY: You can, sure. But I still -- if I don't know, I don't know.

QUESTION: Without reference to this specific recommendation, last -- I think it was last year, maybe the year before, you made this arrangements with the Saudis where they were going to review all their curriculum and all their textbooks and make sure that issues of intolerance or references for religious intolerance were taken out. What is your impression of the progress that's been made on that kind of general front?

MR. CASEY: Well, I guess the best thing I can offer you is to refer you back to what our Special Ambassador for Religious Freedom John Hanford said in talking about our latest report on that subject. This continues to be an issue of discussion between us and the Government of Saudi Arabia. They have made commitments to do this. They've made efforts to make those kinds of changes. Of course, as we all know, there are a large number of books and pamphlets and other kinds of materials that have been distributed over the years by the Saudi Government or by Saudi entities to facilities here in the United States as well as to others. And I think certainly it's understandable that it will take some time to be able to replace all of those or to track down even in some cases where anything is.

The bottom line principle though is that we think that no government, Saudi Arabia or any other, should be producing materials that are intolerant of other religions or intolerant of other racial or ethnic groups, intolerant based on any other kinds of generic kinds of qualifications. And we will continue to work with the Government of Saudi Arabia to press them to make the kinds of changes that they've committed to make in their textbooks because we don't think that any kind of material can be considered educational if part of its message is a message of hate or intolerance.

Let's go back here.

QUESTION: Do you have any updates on the delegation over in North Korea since this morning?

MR. CASEY: Oh, okay, if you insist. Let me see where we are today. First of all, I only have a couple of lines in Gonzo's handwriting so I will hopefully get this right for you guys today.

ADVISOR: All capitals.

MR. CASEY: It's all capitals. You know, none of us are getting any younger, Gonzo.

So the interagency delegation of U.S. experts left Pyongyang today -- that's all 20 of them -- and is en route back to the United States. During the visit, the delegation did have good discussions with their North Korean counterparts in Pyongyang as well as up at the Yongbyon facility.

The head of the delegation, as someone mentioned to me this morning, Sung Kim, did tell reporters in Beijing that work to actually start the process of disablement could begin somewhere in the next three weeks or so. So we look forward to that happening.

The entire delegation is now going to be coming back here to the United States. And in terms of next steps, what we would be looking for is a technical team to go out and help participate in that actual disablement. And again, I think the estimate that Sung Kim provided for some of your colleagues out in Beijing today was that that might be able to get underway in the next three weeks or so.


QUESTION: And sorry, just to follow up, would it be the same people that went this time or -- and also, would it be all Americans or --

MR. CASEY: It would be a technical delegation. I don't think at this point I have any details on what the composition would be. These would certainly be people that would be working with the North Koreans on the actual specific work of disablement.

QUESTION: And could it be people from other countries also, like China?

MR. CASEY: At this point, I think I'm only aware of what we, the United States are intending to do on this. I'm not sure whether they would potentially be joined by those from Russia and China. As for example, our group was in the sort of first visit that was made there.

QUESTION: When is this (inaudible) for the ministerial meeting?

MR. CASEY: Well, we still don’t have a date set for the ministerial meeting. Certainly, I think everyone's committed to going ahead with one. But just trying to get the logistics of people's schedules together, I think still hasn't happened yet.

Yeah, Param.

QUESTION: Tom, just on the disablement, I'm just trying my luck here, whether -- is there a method that has been devised how to disable the systems?

MR. CASEY: I believe there is, but it's certainly beyond my technical ability to explain it to you. Part of what this delegation was looking at as well as the previous one was to come up with some -- the specific steps that would be taken to do it. And the group that would go out in, roughly, three weeks would be the ones that would actually carry out those steps. But in terms of the -- what gets removed or taken out or put where, those were the kinds of technical details that were being worked out on this trip. And I simply don't have anything that I could offer you in terms of those specifics.

QUESTION: Any indication how long the disablement process will take place?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, we've committed -- the North Koreans have committed to having this disablement of the Yongbyon facilities take place by the end of the year. So certainly we would work to have this completed by the end of December.


QUESTION: Tom, is it your understanding that the North Koreans have agreed with the three-week -- approximate three-week period to begin disabling or is this just the estimate?

MR. CASEY: It's my understanding that Sung Kim told reporters in Beijing that he thought this could start within the next three weeks. I'm assuming he came up with that --

QUESTION: During the estimation.

MR. CASEY: -- estimate based on the conversations he just concluded with the North Koreans. So I think it's pretty safe to assume that, yeah.

QUESTION: All right. And I know there are no deadlines or conditions for the ministerial, but would you like to see the process begin before the ministers meet or, I mean, is that a new process?

MR. CASEY: I think in terms of the ministerial at this point people -- remember this was a commitment -- we've committed ourselves to holding that ministerial at the conclusion of the February 13th agreement. So I don't think there are any specific other hurdles that have to be passed in order for that meeting to take place. But at this point, I just can't offer you a timeframe for it. I think it's something that's still under discussion.

Same thing?


MR. CASEY: I think we're still on the same thing back here.

QUESTION: Will there be a six-party talks? Will this delegation have to report to the six-party head of delegation or the meeting before --

MR. CASEY: Well, this group is basically implementing decisions that have already been taken in the six-party talks. I'm sure when the envoys gather next, they will hear about how implementation of this particular agreement's gone. Whether anyone from that group would specifically report back or not, I think is an open question. Obviously if the envoys felt it was appropriate I'm sure that those people could be made available.

Same thing?

QUESTION: Same thing.

MR. CASEY: Same thing, Elise?


MR. CASEY: Different thing. Okay. Let's -- Param.

QUESTION: Just a technical point here. Would that be a six-party envoys talks before the ministerial?

MR. CASEY: I don't think that's been determined as of yet. There's no particular need for that I don't think at this point. But I would assume that when the ministers got together the envoys would certainly be with them. I would fully expect Chris Hill would be there. So whether they would have a formal or informal discussion before the ministers met, I think would probably be likely, but I don't think at this point I would tell you to expect a formal sort of multi-day envoy level session beforehand.


QUESTION: Are you aware of any -- of an incident in northern Iraq involving a security contractor that happened today apparently? There was some incident with a taxicab?

MR. CASEY: Nothing I've heard about, sorry.

QUESTION: Okay. And then there's a lot of talk about whether Blackwater would continue their contract beyond this kind of new examination period or I don't know what you would call it, task period that you're looking at and may -- do you anticipate that Blackwater will bid on the contract and do you think that there's serious consideration to awarding the major part of the security contract to another firm?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think at this point, it's speculative to talk about what the next steps are in this process. We have a ongoing investigation into the September 16th incident, led by the FBI and supported by Diplomatic Security. And we also have a just returned group of outside experts, led by Pat Kennedy here who are going to be making -- finalizing their recommendations and then presenting them to the Secretary. And until that happens, I think it's really premature to be talking about what the next steps might be. In terms of the process of letting or renewing or bidding contracts, I certainly can't speak to what any individual firm might choose to do or not to do in terms of participating in it. But if your basic question is has there been any State Department decision regarding Blackwater or regarding the future of how we handle personal security contracts or personal security contractors in Iraq, the answer is no.

QUESTION: But you haven't invited them to kind of rebid or, I mean --

MR. CASEY: Well, the way this process works, of course, is that Blackwater, Triple Canopy and DynCorps are all companies that have been awarded our worldwide protective services contract. As needed, there are individual task orders under that contract that go out, and they are open for competitive bidding and so any of those three companies is eligible to bid on it. Whether they choose to do so or not is a matter that's entirely up to them.

QUESTION: Just one more. Blackwater in recent days, as this discussion has gone on, has said that, you know, Blackwater has had the stomach to stand by the State Department in real times of turbulence in Iraq over the last several years and that it hopes that the State Department has the stomach to stand by them in their -- you know, while they're undergoing these difficulties. Do you have any response to that?

MR. CASEY: Well, I've seen a variety of press reports. But look, the basic fact is you've heard from the Secretary, you've heard from Deputy Secretary Negroponte, who of course was Ambassador to Iraq for an extended period of time, our first ambassador to Iraq, and you heard from the President yesterday saying that we all appreciate the work that's done by all of our personal security detail contractors in Iraq. That includes those that work for Blackwater as well as those that work for other firms. And I do think it would be a shame if lost in this particular exercise people did not remember that the people doing this work are putting themselves at risk to be able to ensure that our diplomats can effectively carry out their work, and that that work is essential to achieving success in Iraq and making sure that Iraq is able to have the kinds of political changes that are necessary to make it a peaceful, democratic country, which is everyone's objective.

That said, certainly we are aware of other concerns that are out there, not only about Blackwater but about the role of personal security details in Iraq more broadly. And that's why we are conducting what I think is an appropriate approach to this, which is to investigate the specific incident, to have a senior-level review of the overall issue of how we provide protection for our diplomats, as well as engaging in a joint commission exercise with the Iraqis so that we can have some common recommendations and common understandings of how to proceed. But that should not in any way be seen as detracting from our appreciation for the efforts made of Blackwater personal security detail contractors as well as those of other companies who have been a vital part of ensuring the safety and security of our personnel there.

Yeah, Libby.

QUESTION: Can you clarify how the U.S. joint -- the U.S.-Iraq joint commission and Pat Kennedy's review will work together, or completely separate, or how they'll feed into each other? Both are coming up with recommendations. What comes first? How does that work?

MR. CASEY: Well, I guess you could look at each of these three pieces as being interrelated in one way or another. The investigation obviously is something that needs to be done just so that we can have clarity on exactly what happened and take any appropriate actions that result from that investigation. And I'd leave it to the FBI to sort of talk about where they are.

In terms of Pat's group and his recommendation, well, we have an obligation and the Secretary very much wanted to have Pat and this group of senior outside experts take a good hard look not only at the issue of personal security details and contractors, but more broadly at are we working as effectively as we can and do we have the right policies and procedures in place for providing the protection that our diplomats need to be able to do their job.

And I expect that he and his group will be able to present their findings to the Secretary some time in the near future. And based on that, she'll be in a position to then make some decisions about what kinds of changes we might adopt.

In terms of the joint commission, again, we can -- we certainly need and have an obligation to look at our internal State Department procedures and how we go forward. But the things that the commission is going to look at is not only making sure that we develop a common understanding of the incident on September 16th, but also try and develop a common understanding of how in the future these kinds of personal security details should operate and how we and the Iraqis will be able to coordinate our efforts to make sure that there's, again, a common understanding and so we can avoid any kind of problems or incidents in their operation.

So I would expect that the decisions that might be made based on Pat and his group's recommendations would feed into the process of developing some common recommendations by the joint commission, just as I expect both the Iraqi investigation into the incident as well as our investigation into the incident will feed into that process as well.

Again, the goal here is to make sure that, at the end of the day, we and the Iraqis have a common set of understandings and a common set of practices that can be employed considering the use of personal security details that will minimize any confusion and make sure that we are coordinated with them in the same way that we're coordinated with U.S. military forces.

QUESTION: Well, just to follow on that.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Just to follow on that. There's been a lot of talk about whether the U.S. military should assume kind of direct oversight over all the contractors so that there's like one-stop shopping. I know you've already talked about the coordination with the military, but so that there would be like one single entity that was in charge of oversight of contractors and that Secretary Gates was going to speak with the Secretary about that. Has that idea advanced at all?

MR. CASEY: Well, let me explain to you where I think we are. We talked a little bit about this yesterday. But again, you know, Pat and his team haven't made their recommendations to the Secretary and I think we need to first wait and see what those recommendations are before we can talk about what might or might not happen in terms of any changes to our policies.

In terms of the idea that I've seen in a couple of newspaper reports about putting all contractors in some way, shape or form, or in some -- under some kind of unified authority, to the best of my knowledge that is not in any kind of formal proposal that's been made or idea that's been discussed here. Obviously, to the extent that the Defense Department, whether that's in the form of Secretary Gates or any other officials there, has ideas that they would like to share on this or thoughts on this, we'd be more than happy than to hear from them. Although, again, I think before we can start talking about what individual steps might be done from our perspective, we need to hear from Pat and his team and let the Secretary think about those ideas and make decisions on how we intend to move forward.

Yeah, Nicholas.

QUESTION: Tom, Erik Prince had said this week that the Secretary's latest decision about having DS escorts and cameras in vehicles with Blackwater contractors -- actually that Blackwater itself proposed that two years ago and that the State Department turned it down. Do you know why that happened?

MR. CASEY: I have no reason to believe that that actually occurred.


QUESTION: Do you know (inaudible)?

MR. CASEY: I've never heard that that idea was ever proposed, sorry.


QUESTION: On Albania, Mr. Casey, the Greeks in northern Epirus -- otherwise the Kosovo of Albania -- protested yesterday against banning of Greek TV station in Albania. Since the Albanian move against the freedom of the press, I'm wondering if you could comment.

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'm not familiar with the individual incident. Obviously, we support freedom of the press and freedom of expression whether that's in Albania or Greece or any other country. We believe it's important for you and your colleagues and others in the news media to be able to operate freely to report on individual policies and ideas and events as they see fit. So again, I'm not familiar with this specific incident, but again, we would encourage all countries to exercise tolerance and make sure that they are doing nothing that would inhibit freedom of the press.

QUESTION: Is your Embassy in Tirana watching carefully the systematic destruction of the Greek Byzantine Church in northern Epirus by the Albanian authorities, as it was reported excessively? Any comment?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'd refer you to the Embassy in terms of what they are following or not. Certainly, any issues related to religious freedom, as well as freedom of the press, are things that our embassies all throughout the world routinely monitor and cover.

QUESTION: And the last one --

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'll you what. Before we go to the last one, let's let Anne get one in here.

QUESTION: I understand the Armenian Prime Minister is in town meeting with Gates today. Any plans for -- to be here? And if so, do you know what the details of the meetings are?

MR. CASEY: I actually don't. I can check for you. I had heard he's in town. Given some of the adjustments to the Secretary's schedule, I don't think she has any plans to meet with him just because they won't be in the same place at the same time. But let me check for you and see.

Yeah, Param.

QUESTION: I have a question on Myanmar. Special Envoy Gambari said in Kuala Lumpur yesterday that the military junta had agreed to invite him, I think the third week of November, and the United States have been maintaining that they have been -- had said that they have contacted Southeast Asian leaders as well as China and India to enhance-- to speed up the visit, bring it earlier. Is there any new developments in that effort?

MR. CASEY: Well, in terms of Burma, certainly we believe it would be appropriate for Mr. Gambari, in addition to the visits that he's making to various ASEAN countries, to go again to Burma to meet again with the Burmese leadership and also with Aung San Suu Kyi and some of the other detained opposition leaders. I think it's important that he should do that as soon as possible, and I think the mandate from the Council is pretty clear that he should.

In terms of the arrangements that, you know, he is trying to make with the Burmese Government, it's pretty clear to us that the Burmese Government, whatever it's doing with respect to his visit, still is not doing fundamentally what it needs to, which is to stop its crackdown, to release political prisoners and to engage in a real political dialogue. Certainly, we will do what we can to work with other countries in the region and to do what we can to push the Burmese Government to do the right thing here. But I don't have anything new to share with you in terms of either bilateral or specific steps on the part of the U.S. or other things that Mr. Gambari might be planning.

Okay, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes, on the Armenian resolution. Mr. Casey, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated yesterday that the prospects of a (inaudible) Armenian genocide resolution are uncertain after several members pulled their support amid feeling that it would cripple U.S. relations with Turkey. Are you satisfied on this development?

MR. CASEY: Well, I talked about this a little bit earlier in the briefing, Mr. Lambros. We've seen the comments by the Speaker that gives us some reason for hope that perhaps this legislation might not, in fact, come to the floor. But again, our position on this remains clear. We oppose this resolution. We do not think it solves or does anything to help foster Armenian and Turkish reconciliation and we think it's injurious to U.S. national security. So we're going to continue to work with Congress on this and we're going to continue to encourage members to vote against this resolution when and if it does, in fact, come up for a vote.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thanks.

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

DPB # 184

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