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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 14, 2005

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 14, 2005


Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Acting Spokesman
Washington, DC
July 14, 2005

INDEX:

IRAN
Imprisoned Journalist Akbar Ganji / Concern Over Brutality Towards
Peaceful Protestors / Importance of Freedom of the Press

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
Secretary Rice Conversation with President Abbas / Assistant
Secretary Welch Meeting with Abbas / Condemnation of Netanya
Attack / Steps to Ensure Success of Gaza Disengagement
Gaza Withdrawal / Ward and Wolfensohn / U.S. Engagement
Palestinian Authority's Obligation to Take Action on Terrorist Groups
Condemnation of Palestinian Rocket Attack

SYRIA
Concern over Harboring of Rejectionist Groups / Damaging to
Israeli/Palestinian Peace Process
U.S. Diplomatic Contact

INDIA
Upcoming Visit by Prime Minister Singh / Ongoing Dialogue

UNITED KINGDOM
London Bombings / Reaction of Arab and Muslim Communities

DEPARTMENT
Public Diplomacy Efforts / Embassy Monitoring of Public Opinion

KOSOVO
UN Review / Final Status Discussions

RUSSIA
Extradition Request
Base in Kyrgyzstan


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, so let's go right to your questions.

QUESTION: I don't have any questions.

MR. CASEY: Oh, there you go. Okay.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about the case of Ganji, the journalist who's jailed in Iran? My question is, the Bush Administration has made clear that they want him released and also has urged human rights group, the United Nations, to try and sort of pressure on the case. Given all that's happened in the United States about journalism and the journalist who has been jailed, does that kind of diminish your chances of persuading other people to do it? It's what they call the copper calling the kettle black.

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, let me just talk about that case, specific case, and then we can talk about some of the other issues you've raised. The White House, I think most of you have seen, did put out a statement on Tuesday that noted our concerns about the continued imprisonment of Akbar Ganji, who's a prominent Iranian political prisoner and newspaper editor. He's been engaged in a hunger strike for the past month.

The President called for Mr. Ganji's immediate and unconditional release and urged all supporters of human rights and freedom and the United Nations to take up this case.

I do want to add, too, that we're disturbed by reports of police brutality against peaceful protestors who were demonstrating in Tehran on Tuesday to call attention to Mr. Ganji's case and we call on the Iranian regime to exercise restraint and to permit the Iranian people to exercise their legitimate right to peaceful assembly and to free speech.

In terms of the other part of your question, I do think that in terms of press freedom, I'd put the United States record up against any other country's. We have a long tradition here of a free and open press, a free and open society, and it is unfortunate that in many countries of the world, particularly in the case we're dealing with here in Iran, that journalists continue to be imprisoned simply for trying to inform people, for trying to report on the stories that are there, and for trying to help them be able to participate in the life of their -- political life of their country.

QUESTION: And here sometimes for not revealing sources. I'll just throw in a little reference to the extent of press freedom in this country.

QUESTION: Barry has a point. The Judith Miller -- my question is the Judith Miller case has been so high profile, I wonder if there's been any pushback when you seek to promote press freedoms and you highlight a case abroad like this, if people are dismissive, governments are dismissive of your attempts because of perceived problems in the United States.

MR. CASEY: Well, frankly, I fail to see the comparison between --

QUESTION: No, I'm not making a comparison. I'm saying do they make it? Do they say there's perceived problems here and therefore your diplomacy is slightly hampered?

MR. CASEY: I'm not aware of anyone who has changed their views on press freedom because of events domestically here in the United States. And what I can say is, under any circumstances, what's happened in this case to Mr. Ganji, what's happened to any number of other people who have been thrown in jail simply for the desire and the hope of peacefully expressing their opinion and informing publics, is a far different issue. There's no excuse for it and it's not something that the United States is going to stop speaking out on.

Peter.

QUESTION: Saul's done?

QUESTION: Yeah. No, that's fine.

QUESTION: Just three questions on the Middle East. One is that -- what can you tell us about the Secretary's conversation with President Abbas? Second, can you just give us an update on Assistant Secretary of State David Welch's meanderings in the region, who he's seen and where, what he's doing? And then I'll have a follow-up after that. Okay?

MR. CASEY: Okay, well, let me try the first two and then we'll go for a trifecta later.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Okay. On the first two, the Secretary did speak with Palestinian Authority President Abbas yesterday and Assistant Secretary Welch met with him yesterday afternoon as well. In both those conversations the Secretary reiterated her message, as to the Assistant Secretary Welch, that the Palestinian leadership needs to take immediate actions to find those who were responsible for the recent bombing in Israel and bring them to justice.

And while we welcome President Abbas's condemnation of this heinous attack, we now are looking to the Palestinian Authority to take some concrete steps to bring those who planned and supported this attack to justice.

In Assistant Secretary Welch's meeting with the President, they did also cover a broad range of other topics that included discussions on the steps by both -- the steps that both parties need to take to ensure the success of the Gaza disengagement as well as, again, the broader need for the Palestinian Authority to take action to end violence and terror.

QUESTION: Is he also meeting with the Israelis or has he met with the Israelis?

MR. CASEY: He's had a variety of other meetings. I don't actually have a current schedule for him. I believe he was due to leave Tel Aviv today.

QUESTION: Okay, and just one more.

MR. CASEY: Sorry, go ahead, Barry.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary remind Mr. Abbas that under the roadmap's first stage he's compelled to dismantle all terror groups? Take steps -- I mean, Arafat took steps. He arrested people and they left jail after some time. What the U.S. is committed to is dismantling terror groups. Did she explicitly ask Abbas to carry out that -- implement that requirement of the roadmap?

MR. CASEY: Barry, again, I think what she did was reiterate the message she had in her statement. We're looking for concrete actions by the Palestinian Authority, both to find and bring to justice those responsible for this specific act, as well as the broader question of dealing with overall issues of violence and terror. Palestinians certainly have commitments to do that under the roadmap. We're looking at both parties to meet their commitments and that's part of every conversation we have.

QUESTION: Can I go for the trifecta?

MR. CASEY: Go for your trifecta.

QUESTION: Okay. Fine. Just on a broader plane, we have the Gaza withdrawal coming up in just about a month now. Several weeks ago, both the Secretary and the Quartet were talking about the urgent need to accelerate discussions on coordination for this eventuality. Are we now entering a period of accelerated diplomacy? Are you satisfied that everything is on track to have in place for coordination for the Gaza withdrawal?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think everyone's taking action to move forward on this. Mr. Wolfensohn and General Ward are out in the region now, as I understand it. They are continuing their work with the parties. Obviously, there is still a lot to be done and we want to make sure that the process proceeds as successfully as it can. Again, we believe this is an important opportunity for both sides to make progress and move forward.

Elise. Sorry, we'll go back to you, Peter.

QUESTION: The Secretary's conversation, phone conversation. You said yesterday -- was it on the plane or after she got back? Or do you know?

MR. CASEY: I honestly don't know the exact timing of it, Barry, whether it was before or after. I think it may have been on the plane.

QUESTION: In the conversation, did --

QUESTION: Is Wolf --

QUESTION: Sorry, this is not a free-for-all. (Inaudible)?

MR. CASEY: Let's do this. Let's go over -- Elise was next, then Peter, then we'll go over to Saul.

QUESTION: Is Wolfensohn in charge of kind of reaching out to Arab states and other countries to secure money for the Gaza withdrawal for the Palestinians? Is he approaching countries or is that done by, you know, the Quartet itself or the Administration?

MR. CASEY: You know, I don't have anything specific for you on whether he's engaged in that or not. As you know, he has a fairly serious mandate from the Quartet to try and help coordinate and work on particularly some of the economic aspects of this. But I'll see if we have anything for you on that, Elise, but I just don't know if he's, in fact, contacting other countries about --

QUESTION: Well, he's in charge of the economic of helping Palestinians prepare their economy, I mean, obviously, the money is coming from somewhere, and --

MR. CASEY: Well, again, he's been in the region and he's working with the parties. I just don't know what specific conversations he may or may not have had with other governments.

QUESTION: Is he traveling in the region or is he specifically staying in the territories and going to Israel?

MR. CASEY: No, he's -- I know he has various movements. I'm not sure what other places he's been visiting recently. I honestly don't have an update on his schedule, either.

Let's go down to Peter and then Saul.

QUESTION: It was just to follow up between Assistant Secretary of State Welch's visit, the Secretary's conversation. Now that we're coming down to the crunch in this, do you anticipate a period of more intensified U.S. diplomacy to get this -- keep this thing or get this thing on track, including visits or anything by any other leaders or officials, U.S. officials?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think, again, we've maintained a pretty steady and regular pace of engagement. I really don't have a way of categorizing it for you, whether it will be more or less intense as we come closer to the actual start of the withdrawal. Obviously, we're going to work as best we can and in all ways we can to be supportive of this process and help it move forward.

Saul.

QUESTION: Excuse me. What he's -- what we're all looking for is whether -- we're talking about rhetoric and commitment and zeal, or we're literally talking about trying to move along the roadmap. And if you're trying to move along the roadmap, I again ask you how you can move past step one if the Palestinians haven't dismantled terror groups, which they're compelled to do in the roadmap in step one? Or you're telling me that the process can be step three, step one, step two and a half, step seven? But the main thing is, and Peter's question is well taken, we cannot figure out from your exhorting the parties to stay with it and make progress whether you intend to go -- get them beyond Gaza now or you're waiting out the Gaza withdrawal, for instance, which is, you know, a step?

MR. CASEY: Barry, I think, again, as we have always said, we're focused on what we can do and what specific steps we can take now that'll advance this process and move it forward.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. CASEY: We believe the Gaza withdrawal presents a great opportunity to do so.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. CASEY: And we are engaging and have been engaging very directly in that process. That includes working with Ward and Wolfensohn on their various duties.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. CASEY: It certainly includes the kind of things that we've seen in the last 24 hours. It includes the Secretary talking to the Palestinian President about the commitments that he needs to make and the things he needs to do. It includes Assistant Secretary Welch doing the same.

So I guess the best thing I can tell you is we're very much engaged, we're very much involved and we're trying to work this forward and deal with the realities on the ground and make real progress that'll benefit both the Israelis and the Palestinian people.

QUESTION: In the conversations with Abbas, when the issue of dealing with groups that are doing the violent acts or espousing violence came up, presumably in the context of the attack yesterday, did the idea of Syria's backing for groups come up?

MR. CASEY: Well, I don't know and I don't have that level of detail about the conversations. I do think that we've made clear what our position is about Syrian support for rejectionist groups, and particularly Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Again, though, as the Secretary's statement made clear, the Palestinian Authority also does have obligations and we're looking to them, again, to take concrete steps to bring those to justice who carried out the terrible attack the other day, as well as more broadly to take action to end violence and terror.

QUESTION: Is there an acknowledgement, at least, from the Bush Administration that the Palestinians' task is made more difficult because another state is accused of sponsoring these groups?

MR. CASEY: Well, let me put it to you this way, Syria's role in supporting, harboring rejectionist elements is certainly something that concerns us. It's a complicating factor and it's something -- and it's why the Secretary put out a very clear statement, as we have in the past, calling on the Syrians to stop that support because we do believe it is something that is damaging to the overall efforts of the Israelis and the Palestinians to achieve progress and to ultimately achieve the President's vision of two states living side-by-side in peace.

QUESTION: One more, if I may on the Middle East.

MR. CASEY: The same thing Elise?

QUESTION: It's on Syria, but if Saul --

QUESTION: Okay, okay.

QUESTION: How is your -- is this the only way your message is being delivered to the Syrians? I mean the Ambassador's still not there. Are your public statements the only way or are you talking to the Syrians here in Washington? I mean, how are you getting this message across?

MR. CASEY: Look, I think I've covered that about as much as I really have yesterday. The Syrians are well aware of what our concerns are. They have been reiterated to them time and time again. The Secretary's statement was quite clear. Again, what we're looking for them to do is take action.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, if I may.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: I mean you say that they're clear, the messages have been reiterated, but I mean in the case of the Palestinians, you know, they're well aware of what your message is but yet the Secretary took the time to call and speak to the Palestinian President about what the U.S. expects. I mean, why is not the same kind of strategy being used to the Syrians? Day-to-day diplomacy is probably more effective to get your message across.

MR. CASEY: Well, we're actively working with the Palestinian Authority in a positive process. We're trying to help move forward with the Gaza disengagement and help them achieve their responsibilities.

In the case of the Syrians, what has happened is they have taken a number of steps, including their support for rejectionist groups over time. We have in the past discussed this with them; we have discussed this with them at length. There is no question in our minds that they understand our policy and know what they need to do and we want to see them do it.

QUESTION: Do you have any diplomatic contact with the Syrian Government right now?

MR. CASEY: We have an Embassy in Damascus and, obviously, that's an operating entity, and we have diplomats out there doing work all the time and obviously they have discussions from time to time.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: On another subject?

MR. CASEY: Oh, sorry, stay on the middle, Elise, and then we'll go back.

QUESTION: Just more current, more specific. Today, emergency rescue services said an Israeli was killed by a Palestinian rocket in Gaza. Do you know about that? Do you have any reaction?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I just saw that wire shortly before I came out here, and I really don't have anything detailed on it. Obviously, we would condemn that attack and that violence. And, again, putting an end to these kinds of attacks and taking action on violence is a part of the message that was conveyed both by the Secretary and by Assistant Secretary Welch directly to President Abbas yesterday.

QUESTION: Even with the sequence of attacks, do you have any concern that the violence is building up ahead of the withdrawal? Or do you just see this as part of a pattern that occasionally spikes?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think the seriousness with which we regard the responsibilities that the Palestinian Authority has to deal with those that perpetrate acts of violence are all the things that the Secretary and David Welch talked about. I'm really not in a position to speculate on what this may or may not mean in terms of the overall political process.

Samir, did you have something?

QUESTION: The work that General Ward doing producing any results to make Abbas's security forces capable to take actions?

MR. CASEY: I think it's part -- General Ward's work is part of an ongoing process. Ultimately, the proof and the success of those efforts is how well the Palestinian Authority will be able to deal with security conditions on the ground. But I don't have a handicap for you at this point.

QUESTION: One more.

MR. CASEY: Elise. Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) talked about expanding his role to coordinate security cooperation between the Israelis and Palestinians. Has that -- is he currently doing that?

MR. CASEY: I don't have anything that indicates his role has changed in any particular way. If we have something, I'll get back to you on it.

Let's go to Goyel.

QUESTION: On Sunday Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh will be in Washington on a three-day visit and guest of the President of the White House. I know it is a White House show, but he will have a number of meetings, including with Dr. Rice. My question is that, as far as State Department and Dr. Condoleezza Rice is concerned, where do we go from here as far as the U.S.-India relations are concerned in the future? And what do we get from this visit as far as Dr. Rice is concerned? And if you can just elaborate on this relationship?

MR. CASEY: I'll tell you what, as you correctly stated, while there will be meetings here with Dr. Rice, the most important thing is this is an opportunity for the Prime Minister to meet with President Bush. And I, frankly, leave it with the White House to describe those meetings. Obviously, our relationship with India is a very important one. India is a significant and important country. We have an ongoing dialogue that's very active. As you know, Under Secretary Burns was recently in India to further some of those discussions. Certainly look forward to the Prime Minister's visit here, but beyond that I'd leave it to the White House to characterize the talks.

QUESTION: Do we expect any major breakthrough in relations or signing of any major arguments?

MR. CASEY: I'll leave it to the White House to talk about major breakthroughs or signing of any agreements.

QUESTION: Can I go another --

MR. CASEY: You want to try again, sorry.

QUESTION: A different one. As for bombings in London is concerned now we know that who did it and who they were, where they get -- their backgrounds and all that. And yesterday the Secretary of Homeland Security also spoke on the terrorism and gave a major speech. Now, as far London, we have terrorists among us here also -- those people that we think that the ideology have changed but it has not changed, the ideology of their thinking, and they are doing the same thing in the name of religion or Islam. So where do we go from here? I mean what lesson we learned from London as far as security in the U.S. is concerned because we are still living under the threats and we are not secure today?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think in terms of the security of the homeland, as you pointed out, Secretary Chertoff talked fairly extensively about these issues yesterday, and I'll leave it to his Department to talk about that.

In terms of the London bombing, you know, I think I'll just make the point I also made yesterday, that one of the things that's important to remember is what a tiny minority of the Muslim community this represents. And I think if you look in your country, in London, in many others, there have been a tremendous number of Arab and Muslim scholars and religious leaders and political figures who have and are speaking out both against the attack in London and the kind of heinous attacks that occurred in Iraq that involve killing of innocent people, including women and children. And it's important, I think, for us to remember and to make sure that we always continue the dialogue with all those out there who are willing to stand up and oppose those terrorists and those individuals that would twist Islam or any other religion for these kinds of terrible purposes.

QUESTION: Let me try one more in --

MR. CASEY: I'll let you try one more, and then we've got to go to Mr. Lambros, whose arm is getting tired back there.

QUESTION: As far as diplomacy is concerned by Ms. Karen Hughes and Dr. Rice, which they together announced, where do we stand now as far as this diplomacy is concerned to defeat this ideology and to educate those who are going to harm or are harming the innocent and after the democracy and freedom-loving people?

MR. CASEY: Well, our embassies are engaged every day, as we are here in the Department, in trying to reach out to all those people who oppose terror, who stand with us in support of efforts to bring peace and bring prosperity to places like Iraq, to places like Afghanistan. Our public diplomacy efforts are certainly ongoing. We are very pleased to have Deputy Under Secretary Dina Powell start work with us here this week, very much look forward to the upcoming hearings for Under Secretary-designate Hughes and we'll certainly look forward to seeing additional work and expansion of the efforts we're already doing under their leadership.

QUESTION: Do American embassies make an effort to measure public opinion to see if Muslim attacks or fundamentalist attacks resonate favorably among, I hate to say it, the man on the street or the woman in the street? Because you speak of a minority and I think you're speaking against a background of leaders saying things, but what about the populace itself? I don't know how you know it's a minority unless you go out and do some digging. Does the embassy -- do the embassies try to measure sentiment?

MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, I think all our embassies, as part of their regular duties, try and understand and track trends in public opinion. But I just want to take issue with one of -- the premise of the question, I guess, in that I don't think it requires a lot of measurement to understand that the average person anywhere in the world does not support the killing of innocents, does not support the use of terrorism and certainly does not support the use of terrorism in the name of one of the great religions in the world.

QUESTION: You know, we just saw a bombing in Iraq, people who carried out the attack knew there were children there and didn't stop them. They went on and killed them. And you could say, well, they're a very tiny minority. Let's hope so. But I wondered if, since your whole calculus is that what is going on is frowned upon by the rest of the world, if you go out and look around and make sure you're right.

MR. CASEY: Barry, again, as part of what embassies regularly do, they look at, monitor and track public opinion. That includes local polling that's available on a broad range of issues and other resources that are available to them. But again, I would just contend that regardless of looking at any individual numbers that it's clear to anyone in the region that the average person, whether it's in Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan or any part of the Arab and Muslim world, absolutely opposes these kinds of tactics.

Yeah.

QUESTION: The coalition forces in Iraq announced today the arrest of the person who said they in charge of killing the Egyptian Ambassador. Can you confirm that?

MR. CASEY: I hadn't actually seen that. I think you'd have to check both with the Iraqi officials on the ground and, if there was involvement from the multinational force, with the multinational force in Baghdad as well. But I don't have any information on that, Samir. Sorry.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On FYROM. Any comment on the gunmen attack the other day against a police station in western FYROM for which the press in Skopje blames the Albanians?

MR. CASEY: I really don't have any information about that, Mr. Lambros. I have seen those reports. I understand that the authorities in Macedonia are looking into it and I'd refer you to them for comment.

QUESTION: One more, a follow-up?

MR. CASEY: All right, I'll give you one more.

QUESTION: The Prime Minister of FYROM, who warned that any agreement on the Kosovo's future must respect FYROM's borders. I'm wondering if you're taking his concern into consideration since America is involved, too, for the status of Kosovo and Under Secretary Nicholas Burns stated many, many times recently that 2005 is the year of the final status of Kosovo?

MR. CASEY: Well, I believe, if you look at the testimony and other remarks that Under Secretary Burns has given, he noted that, starting very soon, there will be a review conducted by the UN to see whether Kosovo has met some of the goals -- the standards that are required. And, if after that review is concluded, the international community believes, at that point, that those standards have been appropriately met, then we might be in a position, or then we would be in a position, to move to the beginning of final status discussions.

Certainly, we hope that whatever the result of final status of discussions when they occur, what we're looking for is a Balkan region that's free and at peace and that's ready to take its place in Euro-Atlantic institutions.

Let's go down here.

QUESTION: Yeah, can we go to Russia?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Russia asked the U.S. the extradition of former official of Yukos, Mr. Nevzlin. Can you confirm that? And I have another question.

MR. CASEY: Okay, well, let's start with that one. I think your colleagues, who have covered the building longer, will not be surprised, and you probably will not be surprised to know that all I can tell you is that we don't comment on extradition requests. What I can tell you, though, is that there is not an extradition treaty with Russia or between Russia and the United States.

We'd refer you over to the Department of Justice, though, for any more information about it.

QUESTION: Okay, and about, well --

MR. CASEY: Saul, did you have something on this?

QUESTION: Just one, yeah -- you say you don't comment on extradition requests, but sometimes you choose to. And the reason you give when you do, is that the other side has gone public, notably in the case of Venezuela recently. Russia says it made a request, our only -- our question is, can you confirm that, yes, a request was received, even if there isn't an extradition treaty, did you receive a request?

MR. CASEY: At this point, Saul, I can't. All I can do is just tell you what I've already said. Sorry.

QUESTION: Can you say whether or not Mr. Nevzlin is still in the country?

MR. CASEY: I honestly don't know his status.

Sorry, do you want to go to your second one?

QUESTION: Yes, about -- still about Russia. Russia announced yesterday that it will double the size of its base in the Kyrgyzstan. It comes after the new President stated the American base over there is not really necessary anymore. So does it mean you are losing ground in Central Asia?

MR. CASEY: I looked into this issue a little bit before I came out here. My understanding is that the arrangements that the Russians are making are simply finalizing longstanding plans that they had. So I really don't think there's anything particularly new in that report.

QUESTION: So it's not linked with the Shanghai group decision?

MR. CASEY: Not as far as I know. You can ask the Russians about whether it's linked to it or not.

QUESTION: And also, still in the same region, we -- apparently, according to a Russian newspaper, the Bank of New York decided to close a line of credit to Uzbekistan. Is it something they decided by themselves or something you asked them to do?

MR. CASEY: I honestly don't have any information about that. I would assume that that's a private banking matter -- that that would be something between the bank and the government. If it involved a law enforcement issue, you'd have to check with other buildings about that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CASEY: Thank you.

DPB # 121

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

Released on July 14, 2005

ENDS


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