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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing March 10, 2006

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing March 10, 2006

Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Acting Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 10, 2006

INDEX:

IRAN
Reported Russian Proposal for an International Meeting to Discuss Iran
Next Steps at the UN Security Council

RUSSIA
Russian Criticism of Department's Human Rights Report

SUDAN
Decision on Transitioning African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) to
A United Nations Peacekeeping Operation

CHINA/TAIWAN
Planned US Visit by Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Dubai Ports World Decision / Impact on Foreign Investment in US

ARMENIA
US Ambassador John Evans' Status

LATIN AMERICA
Secretary Rice's Trip to Region / Meetings / Agenda

UNITED NATIONS
Japan's Proposal re Security Council Members and UN Budget

NORTH KOREA
Briefing in New York to Explain Recent Regulatory Actions to
Protect US Financial System from Abuse


TRANSCRIPT:

12:45 p.m. EST


MR. CASEY: All right. Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the State Department. I don't have any announcements to make for you today, so let's go right to your questions.

QUESTION: Not that it's clear what Russia is proposing, but still I would ask -- it has something to do with talks. Is there anything left to talk to Iran about?

MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, I've seen some press reports out of Russia indicating that Foreign Minister Lavrov was talking about conversations between the U.S. and the EU-3, China, Russia -- China, Russia. Certainly, we, in fact, have a lot of ongoing discussions on this. The IAEA has been talking about this since 2003 in Vienna. From our perspective, right now, where the diplomatic action is, is at the UN Security Council.

As you know, we're expecting the Council to take up the issue of Iran and Iran's noncompliance with the Board of Governors resolutions and the requirements of the international community sometime very soon and we think that's where the focus ought to be. As you know, we have been doing some consultations with the Russians on this subject, including some discussions yesterday with the P-5, which of course, includes Russia, in New York. So again, I think our focus right now is on the process in New York and I'm bringing this up with the Security Council.

QUESTION: Is Russia trying to slow down whatever process the U.S. and the allies would want to go along with -- move along?

MR. CASEY: Well, you know, Russia has been supportive of the IAEA process. They, of course, had a very helpful proposal that we supported out there to try and resolve it that, unfortunately, the Iranians rejected. We believe that they have been, in that sense, very constructive in their efforts to help resolve this issue. It's just unfortunate that the Iranians have not taken the opportunity provided by the Russians, by the EU-3, or by others.

Certainly, again, we're having productive and useful discussions with them as a preliminary step towards having the full council discuss this and I certainly expect we'll be continuing that.

Teri.

QUESTION: A report out of Moscow says the Russian Foreign Minister is complaining about your human rights report and saying that it -- in a Foreign Ministry statement, saying that it's full of distorted facts, shows that the U.S. policy is biased and encourages anti-Russian sentiment and such unfair reports stand in the way of developing U.S.-Russian relations. So I wonder if that might throw an even bigger wrench in your conversations with Russians on that.

MR. CASEY: Well, look. I haven't seen that statement, so I don't want to comment specifically on it. I think you all know that -- the reasons why we produce our human rights report. We believe that that report is a factual assessment of our understanding of the human rights situation not only in Russia, but in all countries around the world. Certainly, if there are any errors in what we've reported, we certainly would be willing to hear about those, but I think we stand by that report.

Obviously, our relations with Russia, as we said during Foreign Minister Lavrov's visit here earlier this week, are broad, they're deep, and they're also complex. There are many issues on which we agree. There are also certain things which the Secretary has spoken about and others have spoken about as well where we disagree. And we have certainly expressed our concerns not only in the human rights report, but in other fora as well about those areas concerning the development of Russia's democracy, where we do see things differently.

QUESTION: And you have not received a demarche from them about it?

MR. CASEY: I'm not aware of any specific conversations about it, no.

Joel.

QUESTION: Tom, a question. The Saudis are going to host a conference next week, an anti-Western style conference. I guess it's the wrong way and an Iranian way. Are you going to monitor that? And also, there are reports in Time Magazine that the United States Navy has outsourced the -- if you would, the security work to another Dubai-type company and that's it for the Persian Gulf.

Is that under review with the Dubai Government?

MR. CASEY: Any questions about what the U.S. Navy is doing, I'd refer you to the Defense Department and the Department of the Navy. I am not familiar with the Saudi conference you'll talking about, Joel. Sorry.

Okay, George.

QUESTION: Have you been following the deliberations at the meeting in Ethiopia on Sudan and whether having a UN peacekeeping force there is a good idea?

MR. CASEY: Well, we've been following the deliberations. My understanding, at least is -- when I came to join you here this afternoon is that we still don't have a decision from --

QUESTION: They just decided --

MR. CASEY: Did they just decide?

QUESTION: The wire just crossed that the AU decided to extend it until September 30th the AMIS Mission.

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, I will -- I'll try and actually check with the folks in AF before I give you a formal reaction to it. But I do think, George, you know what our position is on this. And we're determined to work with the AU and the European Union and our other partners to bring about a transition to a UN peacekeeping operation as soon as possible.

As you've probably seen, Deputy Secretary Zoellick is in Europe this week. He's been meeting with a variety of people, including some of the mediators, Salim Salim, involved in the Darfur peace negotiation process. He met with Vice President Taha and several others, talked to the EU, talked to NATO again, all with the idea towards advancing our objective of a peaceful resolution of this situation. And again, also with an eye towards how we, the United States, Europe can help the African Union and can eventually help what we assume will be a UN peacekeeping force.

QUESTION: What does it mean that they extended it until September -- if the AMIS force is -- the AU is extending AMIS until September 30th? That doesn't preclude the UN from starting to transition in, right?

MR. CASEY: Not as far as I know, Teri, but I'd have to actually take a look at the formal decision and consult with some of our people before I give you a concerted reaction to it.

Let's go back here.

QUESTION: Thank you. On Taiwan, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-Jeou, who is also the Chairman of Taiwan's biggest opposition party, he will be visiting Washington on March 22nd. Will the U.S. officials going to meet with Ma during his visit?

MR. CASEY: Well, I do understand that he's planning to make a visit of a number of American cities. As you know, we do meet from time to time with Taiwan political leaders from all different political parties, but I don't have anything specific for you in terms of meetings. I'm not aware of anything that might or might not be on the schedule. Certainly, you might want to check with Mr. Ma's office for details on his travel plans.

QUESTION: Will the U.S. -- I mean, welcome Mayor Ma's visit so the U.S. can exchange views on the cross-Strait situation with Mayor Ma?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, as I said, we talk with a wide variety of people and political leaders from Taiwan. Obviously, we make the same points to them privately that we make to you all publicly here, which is to reiterate our longstanding policy on cross-Straits issues.

QUESTION: Are you saying that if he does have a meeting with a State Department official, you won't announce it? You're leaving it up to them to announce it?

MR. CASEY: I'm simply saying, George, I don't have any information or details for you about his schedule.

QUESTION: I know, no, I -- but you said you had -- where you should check -- that we should check with the Taiwanese.

MR. CASEY: About the details of his schedule, because I understand he's visiting a number of countries and I'm not actually sure that that's the date he'll be here in Washington.

QUESTION: But you're not going to volunteer anything.

MR. CASEY: George, if I have anything more to offer you, I'll let you know, but I don't have anything specific.

Libby.

QUESTION: Regarding Dubai pulling out of the port deal yesterday, how much concern is there in this building about the appearance of the U.S. discouraging Arab investment and what sort of message does that send to the Arab world that we're turning away an Arab company that wanted to work in the U.S.?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think everyone's heard the President speak to this issue today in his speech. Obviously, I think one of the things that is important for people to remember is that the U.S. very much does welcome investment from overseas, not only from countries in the Middle East, but from around the world. A significant portion of our economy is driven by foreign investment here and, of course, we work very hard to ensure that U.S. investors overseas receive fair and equitable treatment over in other countries as well. So it's certainly important to us that no one take away from what's happened here the idea that the United States has changed its basic views on foreign direct investment in this country.

QUESTION: But is there a concern, though, in this building about the message being sent? I know there's big public diplomacy efforts here to sort of counter a negative American image. Is there worry that this is only going to fuel anti-Americanism?

MR. CASEY: Well, look, and I'd refer you back again to what the President said. We certainly want to do everything we can to combat that impression, if that's one that anyone has taken from this process. But again, our basic position on foreign investment, whether by companies in the Middle East or elsewhere, remains unchanged and that's very much that we welcome it. And we certainly would be happy to discuss these kinds of issues as they come up as part of our diplomatic conversations.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia having his time there cut short, maybe his career? A couple of congressmen have asked Secretary Rice about it and apparently have not gotten an answer. He's supposed to have suggested that Armenians were the victims of genocide, which doesn't happen to be Bush Administration policy.

MR. CASEY: I think Sean addressed this a couple of days ago.

QUESTION: I think it's been brought up -- further up to date. If you could --

MR. CASEY: I don't have anything beyond what he said on it. I'll look into it for you and see if there's any changes in --

QUESTION: He said that ambassadors serve at the privilege of the President

MR. CASEY: Yeah. And as far as I know, he's still opposed and still ambassador. I'm not aware that anything's changed that situation.

QUESTION: You can't -- well, all right, if you don't have anything further. (Inaudible.)

MR. CASEY: I think, Barry, I will -- yeah, I'll look into it for you. I haven't gotten an update on it, but I'll try and see if there's something and we'll post an answer for you.

QUESTION: And also if somebody ghosted an answer from the Secretary to Mr. Schiff and the other congressmen.

MR. CASEY: Okay. I'll let you know. Let's go back here. Oh, to you guys first and then we'll come over to this side.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. It ison Latin America. The second -- the last two trips to Latin America of Madame Secretary, they were not very successful. What will make the difference this time?

MR. CASEY: Well, actually, I'd take issue with your characterization. I think she's had very successful visits to the region and we have a very successful agenda with Latin America. Certainly, we have a very positive one, looking forward in the hemisphere towards strengthening democracy and deepening it -- deepening the role of civil society in all the hemisphere.

Obviously, we have moved forward on a trade promotion agenda. We've, in the last couple of years, now signed the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Chile, where she's on her way to today, is obviously a country with which we also have a free trade agreement, a strong trading relationship.

It's a country with a strong democratic tradition, which we look forward to continuing our good relations with that country under President-Elect Bachelet. And I expect she'll have an opportunity there, not only to meet with Chilean officials to again discuss our bilateral cooperation with them, but also talk to a number of other leaders who were there attending the inaugural ceremonies as a way of, again, advancing our relations not only with those countries, but with the hemisphere broadly.

I'd also point out that the Secretary did do a roundtable interview with some journalists from both Latin America and Asia yesterday afternoon. I believe the transcript from that was just released a few minutes ago and I might want to take a look at that for some additional information, in her own words, about the trip.

QUESTION: Just to follow up.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is she going to meet with Bolivian President Evo Morales?

MR. CASEY: Yes. And she did discuss --

QUESTION: What kind of issues she is going to discuss with him?

MR. CASEY: Well, she did discuss that in her remarks yesterday. Obviously, he's the newly elected President of Bolivia. This will be the first opportunity for her to meet with him. I expect they'll cover a wide range of bilateral issues. Obviously, narcotics cooperation is an important part of our relationship with Bolivia and I'm sure that'll be on the agenda. The U.S. has been very supportive of Bolivia's economic development. We've certainly been one of the co-chairs of Bolivia support group. And I would expect that some of those kinds of issues would come up as well. Other than that, I'd leave it to her words. She did respond to a couple questions about that in her briefing yesterday and I'm sure she'll be talking about it again while she's down there.

QUESTION: Anything on Venezuela? Is she going to meet with President --

MR. CASEY: She said that she had no plans to do so.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. One more question. There is a case, a Professor Miguel Tinker-Salas who says he was questioned by an agent of FBI's Joint Terrorism Task force in what he calls an act of intimidation to silence his criticism of U.S. policy toward Venezuela. The article was in New America Media and I'm going to quote something the article said.

MR. CASEY: Can I just stop you for a second? He was questioned by agents of who?

QUESTION: FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.

MR. CASEY: Then for any information about that, I'd refer you to the FBI.

QUESTION: Can I finish? Can I finish my question, please?

MR. CASEY: You can, but I think the answer is probably the same.

QUESTION: But I haven't finished my question.

MR. CASEY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. In the article, the professor said the agents told him they were very interested in the Venezuelan community and concerned that he may be involved in terrorism. They asked him if he had any relationships with the Venezuelan Embassy or Consulate. And anyone in the Venezuelan Government, had he asked him to speak out about Venezuela-related matters.

My question: Does the United States target and intimidate academic for questioning U.S. policy toward Venezuela?

MR. CASEY: No, but I'd -- for any information about FBI actions, I'd refer you to the FBI. Let's go over here.

QUESTION: My name is Arita from Japanese Kyodo news. I'd like to ask about the UN budget. So yesterday, Japan proposed to UN requiring to each Security Council members -- permanent members -- to pay at least 3 percent for the UN budget. What's your position on this issue?

MR. CASEY: You know, I don't -- I'm not familiar with that proposal and I'll have to try and get you some information on it. I don't have anything right now. Let's go over here.

QUESTION: Yes. The United States believes and it seems to have evidence that the -- North Korea is counterfeiting the U.S. currency. Has the U.S. ever presented any evidence of any kind to the members of the six-party talks?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, the issue of implementation of U.S. laws related to initial illicit financial transactions is an issue that it outside of the framework of the six-party talks. Obviously, the six-party talks is designed to address North Korea's nuclear program.

As you know, we have briefed many countries on our actions related to the implementation of the Patriot Act, including as it relates to Banco Delta Asia. That is very much the same kind of briefing that we provided via the Treasury Department to the North Korean delegation in New York a little while ago. But this is not an issue that, as far as I know of, has ever come up in the context of the six-party talks.

QUESTION: Because of legal -- and they're saying that North Koreans officers requested any evidence from United States. Are you presenting any evidence to the them and --

MR. CASEY: Well, again, we had no plans to present evidence at the March 7 meeting. The purpose of that briefing was to explain what our recent regulatory actions were. And again, I want to stress that these actions are unrelated to the six-party talks or to North Korea's nuclear program. I don't think any country takes a favorable attitude towards money laundering or counterfeiting or other kinds of illicit financial measures.

What we did with respect to Banco Delta Asia, again, is simply a law enforcement action and it's designed to protect our financial system from abuse and from having counterfeit currency placed in it.

Yeah, Teri.

QUESTION: If I could just go back and try to point a harder point on the first issue we brought up, which is about the UN Security Council talks. Rick Grenell, the ambassador's spokesman said that the Russian proposal for new talks is, flat out, an attempt to stop the referral of Iran. And you didn't seem to make it seem like it was an -- you asked --

QUESTION: That's why I asked it, because --

QUESTION: -- about that expressed quote.

QUESTION: No. I asked what (inaudibile).

QUESTION: Right. No, I understand. I'm trying to put a harder point on the -- do you completely disagree with the statement that it's an attempt to stop the referral to the Security Council?

MR. CASEY: Well, let me make -- let me make it again. I think I made it pretty clear, our focus is on the Security Council. There's no stopping discussion of this issue in the Security Council and I am not aware of any efforts by the Russian Government to stop such a discussion. Again, there were preliminary conversations, including a Russian representative with the P-5 up in New York. And I think that that is where our attention is focused and it's where the rest of the international community's attention should be focused. The -- go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you think Grenell is misquoted or do you just disagree with him?

MR. CASEY: I don't know. I haven't seen the article quoting him. But again, I think our basic position is, the place where this discussion needs to take place is in the Security Council. We certainly do not believe that some other fora would be appropriate for it, but again, my understanding of Russian activity on this is press reports that we have seen. And I'm unwilling to declare a formal proposal having been made by the Russian Government based on press reports. That's why I was (inaudible).

QUESTION: So you have absolutely-- as far as you know, Russia has not conveyed to you any such perception?

MR. CASEY: There is certainly no invitation that has been offered or formal proposal that's been made that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Well, what (inaudible)? Maybe no invitation, maybe no formal proposal, was it discussed with Secretary Rice earlier in the week with Foreign Minister Lavrov?

MR. CASEY: Not that I'm aware of, no.

Joel.

QUESTION: Tom, another question pertaining to the question that Libby had just asked you regarding banking. There's a report that the U.S. Treasury has responded by ordering all U.S. ties to Syrian banks be severed. And you had just said you wanted -- and it* -- look for foreign investment by everyone here in the United States. What you earlier said doesn't square with what they had just ordered.

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not sure what you're referring to, Joel. The Treasury Department, of course, is responsible for ensuring the integrity of the U.S. financial system. The integrity of that financial system is absolutely critical to ensuring that American businesses and American citizens, as well as foreign investors, can have confidence in our economy and in our financial system. And certainly, law enforcement actions designed to enforce U.S. laws against things like counterfeiting, money laundering, or other illicit activities actually make for a more favorable investment climate, both for Americans and for foreigners, so -- but if there's any questions you have about specific Treasury law enforcement action, I'd refer you over to them.

Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:06 p.m.)

DPB # 40

Released on March 10, 2006

ENDS


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