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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 13, 2005

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 13, 2005

Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Acting Spokesman
Washington, DC
July 13, 2005

INDEX:

MEXICO
Negotiation of Article 98 Agreements

UZBEKISTAN
Urging of International Inquiry Ensuring Accountability for Events
in Andijan / Embracing of Reforms / Working with Partners in
European Union, OSCE, UN and elsewhere / Certification Process in
Place for Bilateral Assistance to Uzbekistan / Distribution of Assistance

IRAN
U.S. Support of EU-3's Efforts and Negotiations Regarding Nuclear Activity

ISRAEL/SYRIA
Netanya Bombing / Secretary Rice's Statement / Call on Syrian
Government to End Support for Terrorist / Connection Between Syria
and Palestinian Islamic Jihad / Ambassador Kurtzer and Consul
General Pierce Speaking with Israeli and Palestinian Counterparts
/ A/S David Welch in Region Meeting with Officials

SYRIA/LEBANON
Encouraging Syrian and Lebanese Governments to Work Together to
Resolve Border Closings

GREECE
Ambassadorial Nomination of Alexandros Mallias

RUSSIA
Need for Yukos Investigation to be Transparent and Appropriate

IRAQ
Ambassador Khalilzad / Determination of Troops / Work with Iraqi
Government to Build up Security Forces / Protection of Diplomats /
Diplomatic Representation

DEPARTMENT
Combating Terrorism

CYPRUS
Contracts Awarded / Bearing Point Incorporated / Support of
Reunification of Island


TRANSCRIPT:

12:45 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: Afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I don't have any announcements or statements for you up front, so, Barry, let's go right to your questions.

QUESTION: All right. That old Article 98 business. Do you have any word that Mexico has rejected a request that it become party to the waiver procedure?

MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, as you know, it's an ongoing matter of U.S. policy to try and negotiate Article 98 agreements with as many countries as we possibly can. Certainly, we'd like to do so with Mexico, but I'm not aware of the status of any discussions that might or might not be ongoing on that.

QUESTION: You're not aware of any rejection, certainly?

MR. CASEY: No. No, I'm not.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: On Uzbekistan, there was a report today in The Washington Post that the Administration is preparing what was described as sort of a last-ditch effort to dialogue with Uzbekistan over this massacre. Can you comment on that?

MR. CASEY: Well, I did see the story. I don't think, Peter, that I'm much further -- we're much further on that today than we were yesterday. Obviously, the United States is still urging the Uzbek Government to allow for an international inquiry that ensures accountability for the tragic events in Andijon and that helps clarify what actually occurred.

And certainly, as part of that, we also want to see the Government of Uzbekistan embrace reforms that would allow for the establishment of long-term stability, which we think is in their interest and the interest of all nations, and we have made those concerns known at the highest levels and we're going to continue to do so.

I certainly am not aware of any change in policy, though, or any specific change in tactics along those lines.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I follow up on that?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: It's been two months since the massacre. The UN, yesterday, issued a report basically calling it a massacre. The government, the Karimov government, is basically thumbing its nose at the rest of the international community in the calls for an independent international investigation. At what point are we going to have to -- is the United States and its allies going to have to get more serious and discuss serious, tougher actions in the face of Karimov's refusal to deal on this issue?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think we are being serious in our approach to this issue and we certainly are continuing to work with our partners in the European Union, the OSCE, the UN and elsewhere in the international community on this. Again, I think our main mission and our main objective is to make clear to the government in Uzbekistan that having this inquiry is not only something that we want and is in the interests of the international community, but is in Uzbekistan's own interests in terms of assuring a stable and prosperous future for that country. And we are going to continue to make those points. And obviously, as the situation develops, we'll decide how to proceed. But I think at this point, again, we're just continuing to pursue making these points and insisting with the Uzbek Government that they take heed of our concerns and agree to hold such an inquiry.

QUESTION: Just one more. Is the issue of sanctions being considered, being discussed?

MR. CASEY: I honestly don't have anything further for you about any policy changes that might occur in the future. Obviously, as you know, we do have a certification process in place for our bilateral assistance to Uzbekistan. Last year, we made a determination that Uzbekistan had not made sufficient progress on the criteria for that certification to allow the full amount of aid to move forward. There is no decision that has been taken on that in this year, but obviously how the Government of Uzbekistan responds to this issue is certainly a factor in that decision-making.

Teri.

QUESTION: You said you'll have to wait and see how things develop to see if you're going to change your approach. What more has to develop that you need to see?

MR. CASEY: Let me try and rephrase that for you, Teri. What I'm basically saying is right now our policy is to continue to push forward with the Government of Uzbekistan on this issue and I'm not prepared to talk about any policy changes right now.

Yeah, Joel.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: So it goes --

MR. CASEY: Sorry, back on Uzbekistan. Yeah.

QUESTION: You said that this decision on aid, no decision made this year. When is a decision due on that?

MR. CASEY: There is no specific legislative requirement; however, approximately, I believe, it's $22 million in assistance that would normally go to institutions of the Uzbek Government cannot be distributed until such time as a determination is made and that's in this fiscal year, in fiscal year 2005.

QUESTION: So is it frozen right now? I mean --

MR. CASEY: "Frozen" would be the wrong word to use. The assistance can't be given until such time as a certification decision is made, so it's pending. It's pending a decision.

Let's go to Joel first and then see where we go. Yeah.

QUESTION: Tom, the Iranians threatened to resume their nuclear work if the EU fails to recognize its right to proceed. And again, what do you think of their blackmail -- meaning the Iranians?

MR. CASEY: Joel, I think our position on this issue is well known and I really don't have much new to offer you on it. Obviously, we support the EU-3's efforts and negotiations with the Iranians to achieve a resolution of this issue. Certainly, we would be strongly opposed to any actions taken by the Iranian Government that would break the commitments they made under the Paris agreement.

Let me get Tammy.

QUESTION: On the Netanya bombing yesterday.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: The Secretary issued a statement in which she noted or she called on Syria to end its support for groups such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Does the U.S. believe that Syria played a role in yesterday's attack?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think the Secretary's statement was pretty clear. And let me just, for the record, just repeat that for those of you that might not have seen it. In her statement, the Secretary said that it's essential for the Syrian Government to end its support for terrorist organizations, particularly those which are headquartered and harbored in Damascus, such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Syria should immediately stop letting its territory be used for insurgent activity and for activities which frustrate the aspirations of the Lebanese, Iraqi and Palestinian people.

In terms of this particular attack, I think what I can say is the connection between Syria and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is well known. The Secretary's statement was pretty clear and pretty straightforward and it's in keeping with other statements we've made and our longstanding concerns about Syrian support for those groups that reject the peace process and that oppose the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

I think the Syrians know our position quite well. And as we've said in the past, we're looking for them to take action on it. I don't have anything to try and offer you in terms of an evaluation of specific responsibility for these acts, but I do note that Palestinian Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for this bombing, as they have for the last major attack that occurred before this. And again the fact that Syria continues to allow Palestinian Islamic Jihad offices to operate in Damascus is something we have been very concerned about over time. We have stated our position on that repeatedly. And what the Secretary said is simply a reiteration of that.

QUESTION: Do you know if Islamic Jihad clears with Syria? Are you saying that they would -- Syria would know? Because you're asking them to do something. Do you know that Syria would know in advance that Islamic Jihad is going to carry out an attack?

MR. CASEY: Barry, what the Secretary --

QUESTION: Or in this case?

MR. CASEY: Again, Barry, I think the Secretary's statement was pretty clear on this. What we do know for certain is that this Palestinian Islamic Jihad has operations and has offices in Damascus. We believe that this is one of the issues that represents Syria's support for terrorism and Syria's support for those who oppose the aspirations of the Palestinian people in the peace process.

QUESTION: We just want to find out in the instant case if you have any evidence, or even a hunch, that there's a Syrian hand in this bombing.

MR. CASEY: I try not to do hunches from the podium.

QUESTION: Well, then do you have any information that Syria had a hand in this bombing?

MR. CASEY: I don't have anything specific that I can share with you, Barry.

Teri.

QUESTION: Can you say what -- the statement also says that we, the Secretary says, have been in touch with the Palestinian Government. Can you say at what level that contact was made? And was it just after the bombing?

MR. CASEY: Yeah. I can say that both our Ambassador Kurtzer and Consul General Pierce* have been speaking with Israeli and Palestinian counterparts. They did so yesterday after the bombing took place.

Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch is also in the region and meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials. I, unfortunately, don't have an update on his schedule from today but I know he was planning on meeting with a number of senior Palestinian officials and, obviously, this would be a subject of discussion there.

Yes. Samir.

QUESTION: On Syria. Do you have anything on Syria closing the borders with Lebanon?

MR. CASEY: Let me see. I think I may have something for you. Yeah, my understanding is there was some conflictual reporting on this and that it's not so much that the border has been closed but that there are much tighter restrictions that have been put in place.

Certainly, we encourage the Syrian and Lebanese Governments to work together to resolve this situation and it certainly underscores the need for the two countries to establish normal sovereign relations, and that's something that you need to do in order to have the kind of dialogue that allows you to resolve these kinds of questions.

QUESTION: Hezbollah, evidently, has been given at least one seat in the new Lebanese cabinet. Does the U.S. have any view on that?

MR. CASEY: I guess you know more than I do, Barry. I know there's a lot of discussions going on about the formation of the government, but as far as I know, there isn't one that's yet been decided on or agreed to, and I think I'd reserve comment until we see what the shape of that looks like.

QUESTION: Right. You don't feel that the State Department should say something ahead of the event?

MR. CASEY: Other than our position on Hezbollah is well known, no.

Peter.

QUESTION: Tom, do you think, is it possible for you to take the question on Secretary Welch's movements and where he's going to be when and who he's going to see?

MR. CASEY: I'll try and get you an update on his schedule and on his appointments. Yeah, I'm sorry, I just didn't have -- I missed an opportunity to connect with him a little earlier today.

QUESTION: If you can do that.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CASEY: Let's go back to Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes. Why you are delaying the approval of Mr. Alexandros Mallias as the new Greek Ambassador to the United States of America?

MR. CASEY: I don't believe we're delaying the appointment of anyone. Obviously, any ambassadorial nomination from any country goes through a normal process of review and agrement. I'm sure that's what happening in this case.

QUESTION: So there is no problem at all?

MR. CASEY: Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: On the Russian -- Russia has opened a criminal investigation into former Prime Minister Kasyanov, who has talked about running against President Putin in 2008, has criticized the government. Given your concerns about the Yukos prosecution, are there fears in the State Department that this might be another political prosecution?

MR. CASEY: You know, I actually don't have anything for you on that. Certainly, you know, our views on the Yukos case are well known and we've stated them pretty clearly. Obviously, we'd want to see any investigations that move forward be done so in accordance with Russian national law and be carried out in a transparent and appropriate manner.

Yeah. Tammy.

QUESTION: This morning, Ambassador Khalilzad briefed at the Foreign Press Center and he said that a reduction of U.S. forces would be condition-driven, not timeline driven. However, he said when he got to Baghdad, he looked forward to starting discussions with the Iraqi Government on this issue. So is the U.S. starting to discuss with Iraq pulling troops out?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think the President has made clear what our position is. The commanders on the ground are going to determine how many troops they need to have to do the mission. That's what will drive decisions on troop levels.

Obviously, as he has also said, we intend to have our troops stay in Iraq as long as is necessary to complete the mission, but not a day longer than that. And certainly, as we work with the Iraqi Government to help them build up their security forces, our commanders on the ground are constantly looking at what troops levels they need and how to support it.

But I'm not aware of any specific discussions that are ongoing on this at this time. You might want to check over at the Pentagon and see if they've got something.

QUESTION: And can you confirm that Khalilzad leaves today for Iraq?

MR. CASEY: I understand he's planning on getting out to Iraq in the next few days, but I don't know his exact travel schedule.

Joel.

QUESTION: Tom, returning to earlier questions concerning the spate of bombings and so forth, the Dutch police have apprehended a Dutch boy who used the internet with a -- as an example, the Hofstad Group, a Islamic militant network. He's built bombs and, of course, this site has fostered extremism. And over the last ten days, there's been a spike with jihad terrorism training through the internet.

Is there anything that your State Department, as well as other conventions -- meaning FCC and so forth -- are doing to combat this internet extreme use throughout -- going into, for instance, Pakistan and England and elsewhere?

MR. CASEY: Joel, I really don't have anything specific for you on that. I do think one thing that gets overlooked sometimes in discussions of those small minority of individuals who are focused on engaging in terror activities or in promoting a hateful view of Islam is a lot of those individuals and groups that are out there who are saying exactly the opposite and speaking out to the members of their community in opposition to it. And I think you just take a look in London, in Europe and throughout the Arab and Muslim world as well, the condemnations that have been done of things like the London bombing, of some of the attacks that have gone on in Baghdad, and I think you can see that there is a great deal of effort being made to send people exactly the opposite kind of message. And obviously, we'll work with them to support that.

QUESTION: Any further stuff on the attack -- Americans?

MR. CASEY: I actually don't. I don't have any new information to offer you in terms of American casualties.

Yeah. Let's go to Teri.

QUESTION: One more question about Ambassador Khalilzad. He also said that it was primarily the responsibility of -- in terms of foreign ambassadors coming to Baghdad, primarily the responsibility of the host country, being Iraq, and the country that's sending the diplomat. Does this indicate that the U.S. doesn't feel it has a responsibility to protect these diplomats as well, at least in the current environment?

MR. CASEY: Well, I mean, I think first and foremost, the decision on diplomatic representation is obviously one that belongs to each individual country. Handling of security for those individuals in Iraq is certainly principally a matter between those countries and embassies and the Government of Iraq. It's a sovereign government and they do have responsibility in this area.

At the same time, obviously where the multilateral or other coalition forces or a multinational force can assist and can be helpful in terms of security, I'm sure that they are and will continue to do whatever they can to assist Iraqi security forces. Again, I don't have anything specific on that and that's something I'd refer over to the Pentagon or to MNF in Baghdad.

QUESTION: But officials from the State Department are constantly urging other countries to send their officials. And so, I mean, that would -- wouldn't that -- I don't know -- convey a little bit more responsibility if you're asking them to come?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think we're doing everything we can to assist the Iraqi security forces, to help them be able not only to protect diplomats but to be able to do their job throughout Iraq. And obviously, whatever support we can offer them, not only in terms of protecting diplomats but in terms of meeting their broader security goals and objectives, is something we have been doing, are doing and will continue to do. It's part of the central mission.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Cyprus. It was reported extensively in Nicosia that the Department of State, via the United States Agency for International Development, is providing to the Turkish Cypriots $10 million in cooperation with the Bearing Point company based in Northern Virginia. Do you know what is all about, this project?

MR. CASEY: I have a little bit of something for you on that. My understanding is that Bearing Point, Incorporated, is the recipient of a contract valued at approximately $10 million over three years and that $10 million effort is part of a $30.5 million Cyprus Partnership for Economic Growth assistance package that's designed to create a climate that will support the reunification of the island. And I think there's more information available from that from AID, if you'd like to pursue that.

QUESTION: (inaudible) to the Turkish Cypriots, or is it for both parts of the island?

MR. CASEY: I believe it's for both parts of the island.

QUESTION: On Bulgaria?

MR. CASEY: Okay, we'll do Bulgaria.

QUESTION: In the Balkans.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have anything about the explosion today of a bomb against a resort in the Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, killing a child and injuring four others?

MR. CASEY: I've seen a couple of reports of that incident, Mr. Lambros, but I really don't have anything in detail for you on it. I'd refer you to the Bulgarian authorities on it. I understand they're engaged in an investigation of it right now.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MR. CASEY: Okay, thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:08 p.m.)

DPB #120

ENDS


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