Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
June 25, 2008
|President Bush Declared National Emergency Which is Continuation of Existing Order|
|Ban Ki-moon Decision on Kosovo is In Line with International Community Agreement|
|U.S. Encourages the North Korean Government to Work with Japan on Abductee Issue|
|The U.S. Remains Committed to Abductee Issue and Will Continue to Support Japan|
|U.S. Hopes to See Declaration as Early as Tomorrow|
|U.S. Response to Declaration would be Delisting North Korea|
|Step-by-Step Process after North Korea is Removed from Lists/Some Sanctions will Remain|
|U.S. Continues to Work on Two Basic Tracks when it comes to Iran|
|Track One is Isolation of Iran As a Result of its Noncompliance with the UNSC/P-5+1|
|Track Two is to Reach Out to the Iranian People|
|Pakistani Gov't Officials and FATA Leaders Reiterated their Opposition to Extremism|
|Stopping Extremism Involves Dialogue/ Economic/ Political Development/Military Action|
|Check with SADC on Tsvangirai's Request for Peacekeeping Forces|
|The U.S. Would Consider Any Requests for Peacekeeping Forces Appropriately|
|The Solution to the Situation in Zimbabwe is a Political Solution|
|The Solution Requires the Support of SADC and the Other Neighbors|
|SADC, UNSC, and Development Ministers All Call for Postponement|
|U.S. Believes There is Much More that the International Community Can Do|
|There is More to ZANU-PF than Robert Mugabe|
|The U.S. Would Like to See a Political Settlement that Involves Discussions with ZANU-PF|
|The U.S. has Sanctions Against Mugabe and Other Regime Members|
|The U.S. Wants to See NGO's be Given Access to Zimbabwe to Provide Food|
|U.S. is Appreciative of the Efforts of Saudi Arabia in Combating Terrorism|
|Al-Qaida and Other Terrorist Groups Remain a Challenge for the World|
|The President Has Made Clear that the U.S. Does Not Support or Engage in Torture|
|Secretary Will Meet with a Number of Senior Officials in the South Korean Government|
|Reports that U.S. Diplomats in Athens are Behaving Inappropriately are Inaccurate|
12:35 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Okay. Afternoon, everybody. I don’t have anything to start you out with so let’s see what, if anything, is on your minds.
QUESTION: The Balkans.
MR. CASEY: The Balkans is on your mind? Okay, well, Mr. Lambros, you know in honor of the absence of AP from the briefing today, I think I’ll let you have the first question.
QUESTION: Mr. Casey, President Bush yesterday declared national emergency with respect to the Western Balkans to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States of America.
Since this declaration pertaining also Greece, I’m wondering what are those threats vis-à-vis to the national security and foreign policy in the west – in the Western Balkans?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, you can check with the White House, but I believe you’ll find that that’s an extension of an existing executive order that simply allows the continuation of existing U.S. operations in the general region.
QUESTION: One more?
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Any comment on the recent UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon decision to end the nine-year UN Mission in Kosovo and (inaudible) area at (inaudible) for Albania terrorists with the presence from now on of EU forces on the ground?
MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, I believe what you’ll find is that the decision by the Secretary General is fully in keeping with the agreement of the international community and is designed to represent a restructuring of the international presence in Kosovo that will – we all believe, help facilitate the development of local institutions. But certainly, I would describe it as something that is a natural restructuring to reflect Kosovo’s new status. It certainly isn’t an abandoning of Kosovo, either by the UN or by the international community.
QUESTION: Can you comment on President Bush’s call to Prime Minister Fukuda this morning, especially with regards to the abductee issue?
MR. CASEY: No – (laughter) – because I’ll let my colleagues at the White House, and I think Dana probably has already addressed any calls that the President may have made on this. What I can tell you, and I’ll happily say in terms of U.S. position on the abductee issue, is that we continue to believe that this is an important issue that needs to be resolved. We fully support Japan in its efforts to do so. We encourage the North Korean Government to work with Japan to find an adequate resolution of this. This is an issue that you’ve heard the Secretary and Chris Hill and many others speak about, but it is one that we raise continuously in our conversations with the North Koreans, both in the broader Six-Party set of meetings, as well as discussions on the sidelines of that in a bilateral context. We understand and believe that this is a subject that requires additional negotiation and discussion. It’s an important one for Japan. It’s an important one for the United States.
And as I noted this morning, you’ve heard directly from the President in previous times about his own views on this. And I think he’s spoken eloquently and very emotionally about the meetings that he has had with the families of some of those who have been abducted. So certainly, the United States remains committed to resolving this issue and we’re going to continue to support Japan in its efforts to do so.
QUESTION: Tom, on Iran. Still reports out there about the U.S. considering sending envoys. What can you tell us? Has this been confirmed so far and, if so, when would it be implemented?
MR. CASEY: Again, I’ll be a broken record on this, again. You’ve heard from the Secretary on this issue. As she has noted, we’re certainly not going to comment on any internal deliberations, either here in this building or more broadly in the Administration. But we’ve always worked on two basic tracks when it comes to Iran. One is continuing to isolate the government as a result of its noncompliance with UN Security Council resolutions and its failure to enter into negotiations with the P-5+1 countries.
At the same time, we’ve always been looking for ways to reach out to the Iranian people. We’ve done so in a number of ways that, I think, have been commented on, and she spoke about a little bit the other day, that includes establishing some of our Iran watcher posts, if you will, in Europe as well as in Dubai. Dubai is also a place, of course, where Iranian citizens can go to seek visas to come to the United States. We certainly hope as well to be able to continue some of the exchange programs that we’ve had on non-political subjects and issues.
It’s important that despite the very clear and obvious differences between the United States and the Government of Iran, that the United States wishes to have good relations and the people of the U.S. wish to have good relations with the people of Iran. Iran is a great culture and a great society. It is one that’s historically had many friendships, both on an individual basis and as societies, between our two countries. And we want to see what we can do to encourage that.
QUESTION: A follow-up. Are there any -- is it getting closer to being confirmed that there may be a special interests section?
MR. CASEY: (Laughter.) Is it getting closer to confirm that-- look, again, I don’t have – I certainly don’t have any announcements for you. And certainly, I’m also not in a position to try and comment for you on any internal deliberations within the Administration.
QUESTION: Pakistan, Tom. Twenty-two of the 27 people who were abducted by Mehsud’s group the other day have been killed. And it seems that while the government is negotiating with certain militants, then those militants are being killed by other militants in Pakistan. Can you tell us, first of all, what your position is about those -- the current negotiations and where can things go from here? I mean, clearly it’s not getting better.
MR. CASEY: Well, Nicholas, I think we’ve talked about this before and I really don’t have much new to offer you. Certainly, we support efforts to bring those who are outside the current political process into the political process. At the same time, we would certainly hope that any discussions or agreements reached would, clearly, ensure that there would be a halt to violence and that those that might be engaged in extremist activities or violence ended such activities. We’ve seen agreements that have been reached in the past that have been very ineffective in Pakistan. And so certainly that raises concerns about any discussions that are ongoing or any future agreements that might be reached.
I would note, I saw some reports this morning that there have been declarations made by senior officials in Pakistan, both political party representatives, those from the military, and some of the traditional leaders in the FATA that reiterate their opposition to extremism and their desire and willingness to combat it. What that ultimately means or leads to, I think, you know, we’ll have to see. But obviously, we would not want to see anything done that would allow safe haven for extremists or would allow extremists to be able to carry out attacks, either in Pakistan or elsewhere in the region, specifically cross-border with Afghanistan. But again, I think there is certainly clear statements from the Pakistani Government that that is not something that they would find acceptable either.
QUESTION: And you’ve also said in the past that there’s some – as – not only in Pakistan, but in other countries, that there are elements among militant groups who could be included in the political process. And there are others, the most extreme ones, that shouldn’t be included in the political process. So it seems now that the – some of those people who are negotiating are in sort of a conflict with the more extreme elements in Pakistan. And I’m wondering, I mean, is it better to have a militant groups fight amongst each other while some of them are negotiating with the government, versus all of them to be against the government?
MR. CASEY: It’s better to have people that are illegally taking up arms and engaged in violence and extremism stop it. And how you stop that involves a variety of things. It involves kinetic actions. It involves military actions. It involves dialogue with those that are willing to lay down their arms and join peacefully in the political process. It involves economic development and political development so that there are strong institutions that are able to provide services for the people, able to provide justice for the people, and able to deal with those who commit acts outside the system.
But there is no silver bullet. There is no single solution here. And I think if you look at instances and places where there has been a effective response to extremism, it has involved all of those various tools in one form or another. But each set of circumstances is unique and different. Certainly, we would expect that the Government of Pakistan would do everything that it could to combat those who continue to be intent on engaging in extremist action and engaging in violence. But certainly, there is not any predisposition to reject discussions that would lead to individuals who might otherwise be taking up arms or willing to provide material support, or simply willing to stand by and take no action while extremist groups are operating.
MR. CASEY: Okay.
QUESTION: Tom, did you have time since this morning to look into the request by Morgan Tsvangirai to the SADC to send some peacekeeping forces in Zimbabwe?
MR. CASEY: Sylvie, other than press reports that you’ve mentioned, I have no information that would confirm that such a request has been made. So I’m afraid you’d have to either go back to Mr. Tsvangirai or go to – or go to SADC.
QUESTION: Well, it was during a press conference, of course.
MR. CASEY: Well, it may well be. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything that would support the idea that there’s been any specific requests made to SADC or to us. Certainly, if any requests are made to us, we’ll consider it appropriately.
But I would again emphasize that the solution to the situation in Zimbabwe is a political solution. It is a solution that will require participation of the ZANU-PF, as well as of the MDC and other interested parties. It is a solution that principally requires the support and wholehearted effort on the part of SADC and the other neighbors who have the most influence to bear on Zimbabwe. And I think that is our focus and remains our focus.
If SADC, if others in the international community have ideas of how to achieve that kind of political settlement, obviously we will certainly take a close look at any of them. But I’m not aware at this point that anyone has made a formal proposal of the nature you’re discussing and -- whether it’s Mr. Tsvangirai or anyone else. You’ll have to forgive me as a diplomat for saying that comments made in a press conference don’t exactly constitute a formal presentation or proposal for action.
QUESTION: And what about the meeting of the SADC, Security Council this morning? Do you think they called for the postponement of the runoff? Is it enough? Are you satisfied with that?
MR. CASEY: Well, it’s also an additional call that’s adding to what we’ve seen in the UN Security Council, as well as from statements by individual states. I’d note that there was a statement released last night from Development Ministers from a number of major countries, again, also calling for an end to violence and a postponement of these elections and for dialogue among the parties. So certainly, it adds to the expressions of concern and the pressure that is being applied to Mr. Mugabe and the regime.
You know, what his reaction will be to that, how he will respond, I think, is an open question. Certainly though, we believe that there is much more that the international community can do and particularly more than the neighbors can do, in terms of pressuring the Mugabe regime to do the right thing here, to engage in political discussions and to ultimately work out a agreeable arrangement that will allow the will of the Zimbabwean people to be heard.
QUESTION: Do you think there is a chance that the ZANU-PF could be – well, could relieve Mugabe and could, you know, be divided, and maybe some reasonable people inside the ZANU-PF could negotiate with Tsvangirai? Is it a possibility?
MR. CASEY: Well look, I think that – and I said this the other day – I think there certainly is more to the ZANU-PF than Robert Mugabe. And I think one of the great tragedies of this situation is that Mr. Mugabe, who is someone who played an important role in the independence of his country, is now placing his own personal interests and his own personal desires for power ahead of the interests of all his people. And that is absolutely something that is tragic in the broader sense, as well as tragic for the people of Zimbabwe, who are suffering violence at the hands of this regime, who have now suffered through years of economic mismanagement that has resulted in Zimbabwe going from being an exporter of food to being a country that requires assistance from the international community just to basically feed its people.
QUESTION: Can I follow up just on that?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: On the ZANU-PF?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Because I know the Ambassador, in past briefings, has basically said after the March elections, there were, sort of, stirrings amongst the different elements of the ZANU-PF that looked like they might break from Mugabe. Is that – so that is still part of the U.S. hope that these elements of the ZANU-PF might be brought into a negotiation?
MR. CASEY: Well, look. I think it’s our hope that there can be a political settlement that involves discussions among all the parties, including the ZANU-PF. And certainly, this is a situation like others that we’ve seen, not only in Africa, but elsewhere, where you cannot resolve a political dispute and a political crisis through means other than some kind of political settlement. So certainly, we would hope that there would be people in the ZANU-PF who understood the situation and who were, as I said the other day, Zimbabwean patriots first and members of the ZANU-PF second, who would be interested in working for the good of the country and achieving a political resolution.
QUESTION: Saudi authorities announced today that they’ve arrested more than 500 members of al-Qaida cell, some linked to terrorist -- or they were planning for attacks on Saudi targets, including major oil installations. Have you got any information from the Saudis about this?
MR. CASEY: Michel, I don’t. I saw some initial press reporting on that. Certainly, we all recognize that Saudi Arabia, like many other countries in the region, faces a threat from terrorism and from al-Qaida. Certainly, we are also appreciative of the efforts that they are making in cooperation with us and others to combat terrorism, not only in terms of dealing with arresting those who might be engaged in planning for future attacks, but also in working on issues like combating terrorism financing. And certainly, there’s a lot more that we all can do. But I think and if -- assuming these reports are correct, it’s just another indication that al-Qaida and the terrorist groups out there remain and remain a challenge, not only for the United States and for Saudi Arabia, but for the broader region and really for the world.
QUESTION: Do you have any response to a statement put out today by a group of about 200 leaders, including former cabinet officials, calling the Administration to ban torture?
MR. CASEY: I’ve seen press reports about it, but again, I think the President’s made clear that the United States does not engage in or support the use of torture. The positions that he’s laid out on this I think are pretty straightforward.
QUESTION: Thank you. When Secretary Rice visit to Seoul this weekend, is there any chance to have met with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak?
MR. CASEY: Is she going to meet with – I haven’t looked at her schedule for South Korea. Certainly, I expect she’ll meet with a number of senior officials in the South Korean Government. I’m sure she’ll meet with her own counterpart. I’m honestly not sure whether a meeting with the President is something that’s on the schedule. Certainly, you know, that’s something that’s occurred in the past, but I’d just leave it up to the party to give you the latest details on her schedule.
QUESTION: Just another Zimbabwe question.
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Is there any more of, sort of, specific talk on what types of financial sanctions or – I mean, I know there are a string of them against, sort of, Mugabe’s senior or junta, but the Brits have talked about more sanctions on mining companies. I was just curious if there’s any more talk on that?
And also, is there any sort of movement, sort of, as a dangle to promote this political settlement of offering, you know, economic – some sort of economic assistance to Zimbabwe, if this -- sort of a democracy dividend type thing?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I should point out, we do have an extensive series of targeted sanctions against both President Mugabe personally, as well as against members of the regime that are close to him. Those are things that we look at all the time and there certainly are other measures that we can take. We will continue to look at what other things we might do if, in fact, there is a continued unwillingness to engage in a political process and engage in dialogue to try and resolve these issues. And certainly, we’ll be consulting with our friends in the UK and elsewhere about that -- continue to believe as well that there is a much brighter future out there for Zimbabwe.
One of the things we first and foremost like to see and we’d be willing to do, regardless of any political changes there, is to see NGOs be allowed to operate again in the country to distribute and provide food to those in need. That is something that I would think and I would hope that, regardless of the political situation and regardless of some of the more unusual rhetoric we’ve heard from Mugabe over the last few days, that organizations whose sole purpose is to be able to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need would be allowed to operate to do so.
Certainly though, if you have a situation where there is a political settlement, I think that opens a whole series of doors for a better relationship between Zimbabwe and the international community. And certainly, we would be willing and able to see what we could do to further support a government that reflects the will of the people and a government that no longer is engaging in violence and no longer is trying to thwart the basic intentions and expressions made of their own population.
QUESTION: Can you comment on action for action, with regards to North Korea being taken off the state sponsor of terror list?
MR. CASEY: Really can’t say anything for you that goes beyond what the Secretary said. We certainly hope to see a declaration be submitted by the North Koreans, perhaps as early as tomorrow. We’ll see what happens. And the Secretary has made clear that, once that happens, the – very soon thereafter, the response to that would be, in part, a statement from the United States removing North Korea from the Trading with the Enemies Act sanctions and a statement to the Congress, notifying them of our intention to delist them from the State Sponsors of Terror list. In terms of, you know, what minutes or hours that happens on, you know, let’s let it play out and see.
I’d also note, and I said this this morning as well, that one of the important things to remember here is that this is a step-by-step process and it is good-faith actions being met by good-faith actions. At the same time, it is an incremental process. And even after North Korea is no longer on the state sponsors of terror list and no longer covered by the Trading with the Enemies Act, of course, there will still remain in place a extensive series of economic and other sanctions, both under UN resolutions, as well as bilateral steps here. So you know, we all need to understand that this something that is going to move forward, step by step, but it is an incremental series of steps, rather than any great leaps or changes.
QUESTION: You said you might be able to get us a paper, detailing those additional sanctions. Is that –
MR. CASEY: Well, I think you might look for something on that tomorrow.
QUESTION: On Greece, Mr. Casey, according to extensive reports from Athens, your Consul General Hoyt Brian Lee, in Thessaloniki, he has been charged for a serious, if undiplomatic and illegal, actions against the territorial integrity of northern Greece, bringing specifically, political gains with non-existing minorities in the Greek (inaudible). I’m wondering, if you are aware about that?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I can state with authority that I am fully confident that both our Embassy in Athens, as well as our Consul is behaving in a fully appropriate manner consistent with the role of diplomats everywhere, which is certainly to talk not only to government officials, but to members of civil society in all forms, including those who might not always agree with the governments of the day.
QUESTION: All of whom are innocent, Mr. Casey?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) statements?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I want to make this clear. Are you accusing U.S. diplomats of inappropriate action?
MR. CASEY: Okay.
QUESTION: Next question.
MR. CASEY: I am accusing you of having your facts completely wrong, being inaccurate, and making spurious and scandalous accusations against fine members of the U.S. Foreign Service. And I would encourage you, sir, to go back and look at the facts, because frankly, I think your facts are wrong. Was that clear enough? Just checking.
QUESTION: Excuse me. There are reports, Mr. Casey – I’m not accusing here, just I’m quoting the reports and I would like you to comment.
MR. CASEY: I just did. I told you those reports are inaccurate, inappropriate, and totally absurd. And I would suggest that anyone making them check their facts because they’re wrong.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Okay.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:59 p.m.)
Released on June 25, 2008
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