State Dept. Daily Press Briefing May 10, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing May 10, 2005
Tom Casey, Acting Spokesman
May 10, 2005
John Bolton Hearings / Department Responsiveness to Committee
Requests / Intelligence Committee's Discussions with the National
Security Agency / Support for John Bolton to be U.S. Representative to the United Nations
John Bolton's and the State Department's Record on Nonproliferation
Election Reform Legislation / Opening Up of the Political System
Palestinian Elections / Continued Support for the Election Process
Withdrawal from Gaza and West Bank / Quartet Statement
U.S. Support for EU-3 Process
Accusations of Violations of Detainees' Religious Rights
Six-Party Talks / Chinese Influence / Importance of North Korea
Returning to Six-Party Talks / New York Channel
Assistant Secretary Rocca's Visit / Return to a Democratic Government Structure
Upcoming Summit of South American Arab Leaders
Withdrawal of Italian Troops from Iraq / Role of Italy in the
Coalition / Shooting Death of Mr. Calipari
Recent Violence / Progress of the Political Process
Kidnapping of the Governor of the Anbar Province
Alleged Japanese Hostage
Relations with Current Government / Historical Record of World War II
Elections / Human Rights Record
Relations with the U.S.
Oil For Food Program / Independent Inquiry Committee / Parton Subpoena
PKK / Terrorists in Iraq
1:00 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the State Department. I don't have any announcements for you so let's go right to your questions.
Go ahead, Barry.
QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date on -- evidently, you're providing -- decided now to provide more documents, but they haven't got to their destination. A little rollback from yesterday, is it?
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, I actually really don't have a lot that I can tell you to update you from where we were yesterday. Again, as I did say yesterday, we believe we've been very responsive already to the committee in terms of providing them the information that they need to be able to make the right decisions on Mr. Bolton's nomination.
Obviously, we are continuing to have discussions with people and we're working to see whether there's anything else we might be able to do or provide. But I really don't have anything new to tell you at this point. Again, I just want to emphasize that we have been very forthcoming and we believe that the committee has the kind of information it needs to be able to make its decision.
QUESTION: The question really was -- have you decided, after saying yesterday, that you weren't going to provide anything that Mr. Lugar didn't consider essential, but you have agreed to provide the Democrats with more material, but you haven't done it.
MR. CASEY: Look, Barry, I'm not aware of any new agreements that have been reached. Again, I know there's some discussions that are ongoing but I really am not in a position to tell you that any decisions have been made at this point.
QUESTION: Are you aware of the briefing that Senators Lugar and Biden are going get tonight by the NSA on -- are you briefed about the contents of that briefing or is State involved in that?
MR. CASEY: No, I'm really not. I mean, as you know, the committee has asked for an interesting amount of information about some issues from the National Security Agency. Obviously, that's a matter for the National Security Agency to be discussing with the Intelligence Committee and others. I'm aware that they are going to be having those discussions, but in terms of the specifics of them, the content of it or the format for it, that's really something that's being handled through Ambassador Negroponte's office and the NSA.
QUESTION: Continuing on the intercept issue, I guess, while I was gone you were asked about these more than once, or I think, your office. And it was said that Secretary Bolton asked for ten -- asked on ten occasions for the names that had been redacted and these were only one of 400 requests. Do you know, does the State Department know, who may have been -- who may have asked for more -- made the request on more occasions for these redacted names to be released?
MR. CASEY: Yeah, Teri, I know where you're going with this. You know, Secretary Lugar made -- Secretary Lugar? Excuse me. Senator Lugar made reference to some figures in the business meeting the other week. I really don't have anything to offer other than that and, frankly, in terms of how that information is handled and issues even involving some of the basics of numbers and things, I'm really just going to have to leave that to the NSA to address.
QUESTION: But do you know if this is a normal thing for State Department officials to do, to be asking for names of -- that are redacted?
MR. CASEY: Again, I think what we've said is there are procedures in place for officials with the proper kinds of security clearances to be able to ask for this information and that, as Mr. Bolton said in his testimony, those requests were processed through the normal manner.
QUESTION: Do you have any response to two articles, one in The Washington Post, the other in the New York Times, basically categorizing Mr. Bolton as either a team player or, in some instances, a bolt of lightning, and that he had been reprimanded by then former Deputy Secretary Armitage. Is this just fiction or is this real? And it's just not necessarily talking to his actual education or his abilities, but more about his behavior?
MR. CASEY: Well, Joel, I'm not sure I read the same articles you did. I definitely need to improve my reading list. But what I can say is that the President and the Secretary continue to believe that Mr. Bolton is absolutely the perfect choice for this job. Again, we're looking forward go having him up there in New York and we believe the committee is going to make the proper decision and the proper decision is to confirm him and to send him there, so that he can work on the important project of UN reform, which we all know is something that's really badly needed right now. I don't have any specific comment, though, in terms of the articles you're raising.
QUESTION: But do you feel it would speed up this process, though, if you're looking forward to getting him up there, if you would turn over everything that's been asked for, instead of saying that you don't -- you don't think they need it, they, you know, they're asking for irrelevant subjects? Would it just be better to hand everything over and --
MR. CASEY: Again, Teri, I really -- I don't think anyone in this room wants to rehash the conversation we had on this yesterday, so I'll leave it where it is. Again, we've got -- yeah, we are having some ongoing discussions about this. But the rationale that we've put forward in the letter that was sent up by Acting Assistant Secretary Reynolds on this, I think, still stands and those are still the concerns we have.
QUESTION: Change the subject or is --
QUESTION: Actually, just one very quick question. Do you, in fact, anticipate that the Department will be providing additional material? You said that there are discussions going on. Do you anticipate that they will?
MR. CASEY: My anticipation is that the discussions will continue, but I really don't want to try and speculate about where they'll go right now. Sorry.
QUESTION: Tom, just to follow up.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: The discussions that are ongoing constitute the possibility of turning over the documents or responding to matters beyond the questions that were -- that you still had pending from late Friday that taken -- you had a couple of questions where you (inaudible) will be addressed. So this is beyond that?
MR. CASEY: Yeah, I think we're looking to see if there's other ways that we might be able to -- anything else we might be able to do that would help the committee in making its decisions. But I really don't want to characterize it much beyond that.
QUESTION: Tom, would you object too strenuously if I asked you a question that didn't concern Mr. Bolton?
MR. CASEY: I might be able to manage that, Peter. Yeah, why don't you try that.
QUESTION: Let's try that. In Egypt, the Egyptian parliament has just approved new so-called reforms for their first multiparty presidential elections. At the same time, the opposition is claiming that these new reforms are as restrictive and non-democratic as the old system. Can you comment on this?
MR. CASEY: Well, I don't think, actually, we've had a chance to review the legislation sufficiently for me to really offer a specific comment on that. What I will say in general, as you know, is that we very much welcomed the initiative of President Mubarak to open up the Egyptian political system, and specifically the presidential process, to having other candidates involved. Obviously, we'll take a close look at it, but I think as a general matter of principle we welcome anything that would enhance or expand participation in that process.
Again, I know it's just recently been passed and I think we'll have to take a good look at it before I can really offer you a comment on that specific legislation and how we evaluate it because I don't have anything for you on that specifically.
QUESTION: If I can just follow up.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Without going into the specifics of that, is the United States concerned, as some of the opposition is concerned, that the eventual ground rules for these elections will turn out to be only lukewarm or half-hearted democratic, as opposed to what you've been welcoming?
MR. CASEY: Well, I mean, again, I don't want to speculate without having had a chance to see the actual legislation and to see how this process unfolds. Again, what we're doing is encouraging the Egyptian Government, as we are with all our friends in the region, to do what they can to advance and open up the democratic process in the country.
Let's go to Nadia.
QUESTION: Still the Middle East and talking about democracy, another subject to do with reports from the Israeli Government that they might link the possible win of Hamas election into postponing or canceling the withdrawal from Gaza. How does this -- if you have any reaction, if we can be informed about that and if there's any --
MR. CASEY: Well, I mean, I don't think I have any specific reaction to those comments. Again, we are supporting the Palestinian -- we congratulate the Palestinian people, first of all, on the municipal elections that were conducted so successfully. But secondarily, we are very supportive of and intend to continue our support for the Palestinian election process that will be upcoming this summer.
Obviously, that is something that we want to see happen in a free, fair and transparent manner and we'll be working with both sides to try and make sure that the cooperation that occurred between Israelis and Palestinians during the municipal elections repeat themselves during the broader elections later on this year.
In terms of specifics on those comments though, no, I don't really have anything for you.
QUESTION: A follow-up on this --
QUESTION: But can I just follow up?
QUESTION: Yeah, sorry.
QUESTION: As far as you are concerned, the Gaza withdrawal plan is still on regardless of who wins the election?
MR. CASEY: As far as we're concerned, and I'd refer you back to the Quartet statement from yesterday. I mean, we strongly support Israel's plan for the disengagement from Gaza and certain parts of the West Bank. It's an important step on the roadmap and something that would pave the way towards the realization of the President's two-state vision.
But again, what we're focused on right now, and I think the Secretary addressed this yesterday in one of her interviews, is on the practical steps that we can do to help facilitate that process, and that includes work with General Ward with the Palestinians on the security side, it includes efforts that will soon be taken up formally by Mr. Wolfensohn on June the 1st to help facilitate the withdrawal plan and the contacts between the Palestinians and the Israelis. But again, I think what we need to do is keep our focus on the practical things we can do to advance that process rather than on speculating about what if's or what nots.
QUESTION: I wanted a quick follow-up on this. Do you know if Secretary Rice or Deputy Zoellick or Assistant Secretary Welch spoke with Silvan Shalom on the statement that he made that we are linking these two issues, the winning of Hamas and going out -- a rather strong statement.
MR. CASEY: I'm -- I'm not aware of any conversations between the Secretary and either Palestinian or Israeli officials in the last couple of days. As you know, she's been with the President on his trip to Europe and I think that's been the focus of her immediate attention.
QUESTION: Does this mean, there'll be a free and fair election? The Palestinians are entitled to elect whomever they choose?
MR. CASEY: I think in free and fair elections around the world, people are entitled to choose the people who represent their views and opinions.
QUESTION: Should I go?
MR. CASEY: Why don't you go and then we'll go back to Michel.
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry. Well, I'm not sure I follow the reasoning.
MR. CASEY: Michel, are you still on the same subject?
MR. CASEY: Okay. Let's have him go and then we'll go over to you, Barry.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said today that Israel will keep all the settlements in the West Bank in the future. What do you have as a comment?
MR. CASEY: Well, I'm sorry. I actually haven't seen comments that he has made along those lines. Again, I'd just refer you back to the Quartet statement, Michel. Our focus right now is on the practical steps, on moving forward on the Gaza disengagement plan. Obviously, our position on settlements is well known and I don't think I need to repeat it here.
QUESTION: Did Sharon inform the U.S. of anything along the lines, as just been said?
MR. CASEY: Not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: I can't follow the reasoning, but I'll ask you anyhow.
MR. CASEY: Okay.
QUESTION: Hans Blix is teeing off on John Bolton -- says his opposition to international treaties is hurting the U.S. efforts to try to shut down the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs. You probably have seen Blix's remarks. Is there any response?
MR. CASEY: Well, I've seen some press reports about his remarks. Obviously, I haven't seen a transcript of what's said. Look, rather than trying to interpret his words, let me just say that I think both Mr. Bolton, as a member of this administration and more importantly, this administration as a whole, has a very strong track record in terms of dealing with the consequences of nuclear proliferation, in terms of supporting the Nonproliferation Treaty, in terms of supporting other means, working with the rest of the international community to deal with the consequences of proliferation. That includes calls that the President made in his NDU speech for universal adherence to the additional protocol, it includes our efforts working with now some 60-plus countries to the Proliferation Security Initiative and certainly includes the things that we've done bilaterally with the Russians through the Moscow treaty to reduce our own nuclear arsenals and meet our commitments under the treaty as well.
So I'd certainly take exception to anyone trying to say that this administration, whether in the person of Mr. Bolton or any of its other officials has acted in a way that's contrary to part of our broad global efforts to deal with this issue.
QUESTION: Question about Iran. The Iranian Government has confirmed that they have now enriched uranium to a gaseous state. And also, the gist -- there's an announcement that they've developed or are developing mini-submarines and about a month, a month and a half ago, there was a report that they were building a torpedo factory within Iran as well. Any reaction to that?
MR. CASEY: Look, I think on Iran I'll basically just leave it where I had it yesterday. You know, we're supporting the EU-3's process of negotiation with the Iranians. And the purpose of that is so that Iran can work in good faith with the EU-3 to do what we and the rest of the international community urge them to do, which is to produce a verifiable cessation and dismantling of all their sensitive nuclear fuel cycle efforts. That's really the only outcome that's going to be able to give the international community the confidence that it needs that Iran is no longer seeking to build a nuclear weapon and that's really where our focus is at this point.
QUESTION: On Pakistan. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry says that it complained at a high level to the United States about this report that Korans were mistreated in Guantanamo Bay. Have you heard from the Pakistan Foreign Ministry and if so, what was the response?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. I saw those reports as well, Teri, and unfortunately I didn't get a response yet as to whether and in what way we might have heard from them. Let me just say that the allegations out there are certainly serious and it'll be important to have them be looked into. I know the U.S. military -- and you can check with on this -- would treat any kinds of violations of religious rights of detainees very seriously. Obviously, the destruction of any kind of holy book, whether it's a Bible or a Koran or any other document like that is something that is reprehensible and not in keeping with U.S. policies and practices.
QUESTION: So you don't know whether they are looking into to, absent this, relevant of this --
MR. CASEY: I refer you to them as to what they may or may not be looking into on this. Again, I will check for you as to whether we've heard from the Pakistanis on this issue and in what form.
QUESTION: Couple of questions on North Korea. There was an interesting story in the Post on Saturday which said that Ambassador Hill had asked the Chinese to cut off fuel supplies to North Korea and his request had been rebuffed. Did he ask the Chinese to cut off fuel supplies?
MR. CASEY: Well, Arshad, I really don't have anything for you on what the specifics of our discussions with the Chinese or anyone else in the six-party talks are. I certainly can tell you that we've had a longstanding policy, and the Secretary has stated it recently as well, of encouraging the Chinese and others to use what influence they have on the North Koreans to bring them back to the six-party talks. And that, of course, remains our focus in our efforts to deal with North Korea's nuclear program. But I really don't have anything that I can share with you about the details of any of those discussions.
QUESTION: Influence is -- you're quite happy with carrots as well as sticks, then?
MR. CASEY: Influence, encourage, do what they can to get them back to the table. Again, I think we've left the diplomacy on that up to them.
QUESTION: May I have just one other one on North Korea?
MR. CASEY: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on -- the North Koreans are suggesting that, they're sort of blaming the Americans for whipping up, what they described as a "fuss" over the possibility that they might test a nuclear weapon, although they don't actually rule out the possibility. Do you have anything to say on their latest?
MR. CASEY: Look, I think I'm going to stay away from the business of interpreting, parsing or doing tit-for-tat responses to statements that are made coming out of North Korea. Again, I think our focus is working with all of our partners in the six-party talks to bring the North Koreans back to the table and to get about the serious business of dealing with that issue.
We put forward a good proposal at the last round of six-party talks. We still believe that's a proposal to work from. We'd certainly like to hear back from the North Koreans about that and, I think, another round of six-party talks will be the way to do that.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. CASEY: Tammy, same topic?
QUESTION: One on this.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is there any discussion of using the New York channel? It hasn't been used since December; is that right?
MR. CASEY: Well, I mean, the New York channel obviously exists and it remains open and we'll use it when we deem it appropriate, as we have in the past, but it's not a negotiating channel, it's not a replacement or substitute for the six-party talks. And I did check on this and I know that Ambassador De Trani doesn't have any plans at the present time to go to New York or to engage in the New York channel at this point.
QUESTION: Can I ask about Nepal? Back in February, the King of Nepal said that he wanted to create what he called a roadmap to restore democracy, constitutional democracy, and he said he needed 100 days to do that. Well, 100 days comes up tomorrow. I know Assistant Secretary Rocca is out there at the moment and she's addressed many of the bilateral issues, but not this one. Is the United States satisfied that he has done enough to get that roadmap going in the 100 days?
MR. CASEY: Well, let me talk to you about this in the context of Assistant Secretary Rocca's visit to the region. She did arrive yesterday late in the day in Nepal. She's there today meeting with a variety of people, members of the government, civil society, opposition political party members. And basically the purpose of her visit is to assess the situation in wake of the lifting of the state of emergency that's occurred.
Now, obviously -- and we've said publicly we're pleased with that development and pleased that that's happened, but there is more that needs to be done and certainly, ultimately, the most important step is that we see a return to democratic government in Nepal. I don't have a good readout on her individual meetings from today. She will be there through tomorrow as well and I'll try to get you a little more of a readout on it. But again, we do believe that while there's been some progress made with the lifting of the state of emergency that there is a lot more that needs to be done.
QUESTION: Can you go into any more detail about what else you think ought to be done?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, there are still a number of people that have been jailed that haven't been released. We'd certainly like to see that happen. And like I said, the most important thing, though, that we want to see is a return to a democratic government structure and that would obviously include allowing for full participation of all members of the political system and all members of society in an electoral process.
QUESTION: Change of topic?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Said.
QUESTION: The Arab-Latin summit conference in Brasilia, Brazil. Could you comment on -- there was an apparent snub for the United States to attend as an observer. Is there any --
MR. CASEY: I'm not aware that we asked for observer status.
QUESTION: Can you check that?
MR. CASEY: I will check that. But again, I'm not aware of it. We said before, I think, last week, I think Richard addressed the general subject of the conference and said we certainly welcomed the idea of dialogue between these two regions, thought that the Western Hemisphere's history and example of democratic development was something that could be shared and could be of benefit in discussions between the two regions.
Yeah. Sorry, I know you've had your hand up for a while. Go ahead.
QUESTION: It's okay. I would like to know if you have a reaction to the announcement today that Italy is pulling its troops out of Iraq. And do you believe it is in any way linked -- and how, if so, to the shooting of Agent Calipari?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I think that there's a number of decision points in how the Italians participate in the coalition in Iraq. I'm not aware and certainly haven't been informed of any formal decision to withdraw or any formal deadline for that.
QUESTION: It was announced today that --
MR. CASEY: The stories I saw talked, in fact, about an extension of the existing mandate that the forces have. Be that as it may, what I can say is we certainly value and appreciate the role that Italy has played in the coalition. They've been an important member of the coalition for us, a significant contributor of troops, and very much a vital participant in efforts to develop a free Iraq.
Again, I don't think that, as far as I know, by the Prime Minister Berlusconi or anyone else, has said that the tragic incidents that occurred with the shooting death of Mr. Calipari in any way were going to affect our broad relationship and the great friendship that the United States has with Italy, nor was it going to effect our cooperation in Iraq and I'll leave it with his words on that.
QUESTION: Yeah. Mr. Lambros.
MR. CASEY: On Albania.
QUESTION: Can we stay on Iraq?
MR. CASEY: We're going to stay on Iraq. Okay, so let's stay on Iraq, Mr. Lambros and then we'll go back to you.
MR. CASEY: Do you have a follow-up?
QUESTION: Just staying on Iraq?
MR. CASEY: Yeah, stay on Iraq.
QUESTION: Do you see the escalating violence with 300 dead in ten days, not including today's number, derailing the political process?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think obviously, the tragic incidents that have occurred, the terrible suicide bombings and other attacks that have occurred over the last few days, are merely representative of people who are trying to stop the political process and trying to keep Iraq from achieving its democratic objectives. But I certainly don't think that they're going to be successful in that effort and I think we've seen progress over the last few days on the political front.
Prime Minister has now named ministers to all the cabinet positions that are remaining. We're certainly encouraging them to move forward with the incredibly important and difficult task of drafting a new constitution. So while we're obviously working very hard with the Iraqis to strengthen their security services and to help them in dealing with the insurgency and dealing with terrorist violence, we certainly don't see it as knocking off schedule or otherwise derailing the political process, that's for sure.
QUESTION: Any reaction specifically on the kidnapping of the Governor of Anbar -- the Anbar Province?
MR. CASEY: You know, I saw that sort of just before we came out here. I guess that teaches me to be a few minutes late for you guys, doesn't it. Let me just see, I had a couple of notes on this. Yeah, I think for the moment all I can say is that we've seen the press reports that the Governor of Anbar Province was kidnapped by terrorists as he was driving into Ramadi today. Obviously, we're discussing this with Iraqi officials, but I don't have confirmation of it from them. Basically, I think, you know, just as a general principle, we condemn the kidnapping of all innocent civilians in Iraq and any place else and certainly call for their immediate and unconditional release.
QUESTION: Let's go. Mr. Lambros, I think I had you in the radar screen next.
MR. CASEY: Yes, for Albania. The President of VATRA -- V-A-T-R-A -- an Albanian organization founded by auto-cephalic Bishop Fan Noli, who, according to Pravda, November 11, 1927 predicted the total victory of the Red Army, wrote and published in his organization newspaper Diehli -- D-i-e-l-i -- two letters to your Ambassador to Greece Charles Ries, and to the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, respectively, in which he reiterated the Albanian position concerning ethnic and other issues.
Question: Has either of the two recipients responded to these letters?
MR. CASEY: They were sent -- the letters were sent to who -- to Charlie Ries and who else?
QUESTION: And to Condoleezza Rice, yes.
MR. CASEY: I'm not aware of the letters, Mr. Lambros, so I don't think they've been responded to as of yet. You might want to check with the Ambassador to Greece and see if he's responded.
QUESTION: We'll talk about the other one.
MR. CASEY: I'm not going to talk about a response to a letter I'm not even sure it's been received.
QUESTION: Say yes or no, I'm not going to. I have come to learn about the context of the letter, the response. But I would like to know if it has been responded.
MR. CASEY: As far as I know, the letter has not been received, so I can't -- I can't tell you that it's been responded to.
QUESTION: Okay. For some times, (inaudible) have served to disturb history. As his letters show in my possession, they still try to presume Albania is a victim of Nazis and Fascists rather than what it was actually -- a willing and enthusiastic ally of both. For example, the Albania division, Tomori -- T-O-M-O-R-I -- was the first unit to invade Greece on October 28, 1940 with the blessing of Mussolini and as a matter of honor (inaudible). The second, the Kosovo-Albanians, fielded two divisions and placed them in --
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, let me just stop you there, please, because --
MR. CASEY: -- because I believe -- why? Because -- (Laughter.)
MR. CASEY: Because I believe -- why? Because I will leave history to the historians. Our position on Albania hasn't changed. We have good relations with the current Government of Albania. We look forward to doing so in the future. Again, I will leave it to historians and scholars to debate those points.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, do you -- Mr. Casey, do you accept the fact that the Albanian was, too, an ally to Hitler and to Mussolini? It's a matter of historical fact.
MR. CASEY: I accept this fact that the historical record on all questions relating to World War II is quite clear and I'll leave it to all the historians looking at it on the 60th anniversary of the end of that conflict to write and discuss it.
Arshad, let's go.
QUESTION: Can we go to Ethiopia? I don't know if you have anything on this or not, but as you know, they're voting in elections on the 15th of this month and Human Rights Watch has a new report out suggesting that the elections are going to be a fairly hollow exercise in the region of Oromia and alleging extensive harassment, detentions, beatings of people believed to be opposed to the government in Oromia. Do you have any comment on that? Do you believe that's going on and --
MR. CASEY: I don't have a comment on the specific report. I've seen the press copies of it, or press stories related to it. Obviously, we'll take a good look at it. But I think if you look at our Human Rights Report for Ethiopia, you'll note that we paint a picture of a country with a pretty poor record that has practiced a number of activities that restrict the political process, and obviously it's something we're concerned about any time that there's elections or other events held in a country where there certainly are difficulties and problems in the human rights record.
QUESTION: The Human Rights Report goes through December of '04. Could you come up with an answer that's directed more specifically to the allegations raised in this report?
MR. CASEY: Sure, I'll check for you on the specifics of the report. Again, we haven't gotten a copy of it so I think we need to take a quick look at it. In general, I don't think we have any belief that the situation in Ethiopia, the human rights situation in Ethiopia, has materially improved in any way since the report was issued. But, George, I will get you something on the specific question.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) not just on the --
MR. CASEY: Yeah. On how it's related to the election.
QUESTION: Not exactly. What is going on now, which is sort of approaching the other way.
MR. CASEY: Sure. No, absolutely.
QUESTION: Are you ready to entertain a thank you?
MR. CASEY: I'm ready to entertain a thank you.
QUESTION: No way.
MR. CASEY: Well, sorry. All right. We'll do one more. We'll give Michel one more because he did have his hand up before.
QUESTION: The Syrian Embassy in Washington has signed a contract with an American company to promote Syria in the USA and to convince the administration that Syria wants better relations with the White House and with the administration. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. CASEY: I think the Syrians are welcome to hire whoever they want, but if they want better relations with the United States I think they know full and well the kinds of issues that concern us and we certainly expect to not see or hear words from consultants or others hired in the United States but see actions by the Syrian Government that address our concerns.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: One more.
MR. CASEY: Okay, I'll give him one more back here. We'll go around.
QUESTION: Do you have any news on the Japanese who was kidnapped in Iraq?
MR. CASEY: You know, again, I don't think we have a lot more to offer you than you've seen already. We've seen the reports that a Japanese citizen might have been taken hostage during the May 8th attack on a civilian convoy near Ramadi. Ten people died in that incident. We're working with the survivors of the attack and the contractors involved as well as the diplomatic missions in Iraq, including the Japanese Embassy, to try and ascertain the facts and make sure we know what's exactly happened here. But I really don't have anything more for you at this point.
Let me go over here and then we'll get you, Mr. Lambros. You can ask about Turkey and it'll be the last question.
QUESTION: Senator Coleman this morning said there was a cloud over the investigation at the U.N. in the Oil-for-Food and he's subpoenaing Mr. Parton, I believe is the name, for next week and so forth. Do you feel that these efforts are a good thing, that this investigation needs this additional effort by the U.S. Senate?
MR. CASEY: Well, we've said all along that we think it's important -- well, first of all, we support the work of the independent inquiry committee, the Volcker committee, in its work, but we also believe it's important for the U.S. Congress to be able to have a look at this issue and make sure that it is comfortable with the facts and that it understands what happened. It's an important issue for the American people to know about so we certainly are fully supportive of the congressional inquiries there.
I know that there's been some conversations between the congressional committees and the independent inquiry committee on the subject of Mr. Parton and some of the documents involved there. There is some ongoing litigation involved in that and I think I'll just leave it to the courts then to deal with it at this point, rather than trying to describe it for you further.
Mr. Lambros, let's go to Turkey.
QUESTION: Yes. According to today's Washington Post, Turkey fears again that peace with Kurdish organization PKK has passed and decided to take offensive position as Kurdish rebels return to Southeast of Turkey from Iraq. How do you comment, since any Turkish-Kurdish conflict in that area is going to affect the outcome of goodwill in Iraq?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I comment by the same way we've always commented on these issues. Our position on the PKK is well known. Our desire to work with Iraqis to prevent any and all terrorist groups from operating in Iraq is well known and I don't have anything new for you on that. Thanks.
(This briefing was concluded at 1:28 p.m.)