State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 2, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Acting Spokesman
June 2, 2006
Upcoming AGOA Forum / Deputy Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas
AGOA Has Achieved Impressive Results / 37 Sub-Saharan Countries
Secretary Rice's Participation in AGOA Forum / Other
China's Increased Involvement in Africa
Membership in AGOA
Vienna Meeting a Great Success / U.S. Satisfied with Outcome
Two Pathways Ahead for Iran / Incentives / Disincentives
Package Represents the Concerted Agreement of all Participants in
Security Assurances / Longstanding U.S. Policy
Presentation of Package to Iranians
Deputy Secretary's Meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Ban
Six Party Talks
Deputy Assistant Secretary Stephens's Visit to the Kaesong
U.S. Disappointed That Some Parties Have Not Signed on to Darfur
Implementation Needs to Move Forward / UN Force
U.S. Desire to Move Forward on UNSC Resolution on Burma / Early
Ongoing Investigation Into Haditha Events / Horrific
Aberrant Actions Incur Investigations and Punished
U.S. Attempts to Prevent Civilian Casualties / Insurgents
Purposefully Inflict Them
12:40 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Okay. Good afternoon, everyone. Happy Friday. Glad to have you all here. I thought that we'd take the opportunity to let you hear from someone else this afternoon as well. I think most of you saw the notice to the press that we put out a little while ago announcing that Secretary Rice was going to be speaking at the African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum opening ceremonies.
The AGOA Forum is going to take place this year, June 6 and 7, so Tuesday and Wednesday. And to give you a little more information about AGOA and what's been happening since the last time we met on that subject, we've got Linda Thomas-Greenfield who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs to give you a little bit of an update on where AGOA's been and what we're looking at happening over the next couple of days.
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you. Good morning or is it good afternoon? Just to give you a little bit of briefing on AGOA, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act was passed by Congress and signed into law on May 18, 2000 as part of the Trade and Development Act of 2000. And the goal of the legislation is to spur economic development in Africa and to expedite the integration of African economies into the world trading center -- system. AGOA expands duty free access for more than 6,400 products to the U.S. market and also provides a framework for U.S. technical assistance designed to build trade capacity and expand business links between Africa and the United States.
Since AGOA became law in 2000, it has achieved impressive positive results. AGOA has helped to increase U.S. two-way trade with Sub-Saharan Africa and to diversify the range of products being traded. To site one example, two-way trade totaled between Africa and the United States rose to just over $60.6 billion in 2005 and that's an increase of about 37 percent since 2004. Currently, 37 Sub-Saharan African countries meet AGOA eligibility requirements. What this is means is that, among other things, they have established or made continued progress toward market-based economies, rule of law and political pluralism.
In addition to the 37 eligible countries, an additional 25 countries have qualified for AGOA textile and apparel benefits by establishing a customs system designed to help prevent illegal trans-shipment of apparel exports. These countries are permitted to export a wide range of apparel products to the United States duty free, subject to various quantitative limits. The AGOA legislation calls for an annual forum and that's why I'm here today to talk about that. It's hosted by the four statutory agencies, the Department of State, Treasury, Commerce and the U.S. Trade Representative's office.
The practice has been to alternate this forum between Washington and Africa. Last year's forum took place in Dakar, Senegal and this year's forum as was mentioned earlier will take place here in Washington on June 6th and 7th. The theme of this year's forum is: The Private Sector and Trade: Powering Africa's Growth. And it will consist of three parts. The first is a government-to-government ministerial which will provide a framework for ministers from all AGOA eligible countries and the United States to discuss new policies and directions that promote mutually beneficial trade and economic development. Secretary of State Rice will open the ministerial forum and other senior administration officials will take part, including the U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mr. Tobias and the Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, as well as others.
In addition, there will be an AGOA private sector forum which is dedicated to turning the promise of AGOA into reality by helping participating companies and entrepreneurs find new markets, new partners and increase profits. The third part of the forum is what is called the AGOA Civil Society Forum and this will involve a consortium of nongovernmental organizations, small to medium size businesses, chambers of commerce and other groups in the United States and Africa that are interested in a successful application of the AGOA benefits to the people of Africa.
These will all be taking place in conjunction with the ministerial. The NGO forum will be taking place on the sixth and seventh. The private sector forum will be in two parts. One part will start on the fifth and the second part will be on the seventh. You've seen the press announcement that indicates that the Secretary will be opening and I hope that you will give it some coverage and that we'll see you there.
MR. CASEY: Okay, guys, what we're going to do. I promise I will talk to you about other issues, but I'd like to just see if you have any questions for Linda at the top here.
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: You mentioned $60 billion in African in exports to the U.S. Does that include oil?
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It does include oil. Oil is a large component of it. But we have been very proud of the fact in the past couple of years, that other areas have increased to a certain extent. I can't give you the exact figures on that, but there have been increases in other areas such as apparel and agricultural products.
Any other questions. Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Are you concerned at the growing importance of China and Africa and would you be looking at other trading blocs and their interest within China?
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think --
QUESTION: Within Africa, sorry.
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah. I think concern is not the word. I think we're watching it very closely. But there is lots of room for every country to do trade and development in Africa.
QUESTION: Any moves to bring about some kind of a free-trade arrangement -- two way free-trade arrangement?
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: With Africa?
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think that's part of what AGOA is about. And then there is the general preferences that also include Africa and we're encouraging African countries to participate in the World Trade Organization. So I think it's moving in that direction, but we haven't gotten there quite yet.
QUESTION: When you look at trade with Africa, are you looking at trading blocs as a Southern African trading bloc or West African trading bloc? Or how do you deal with that?
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think with AGOA, we have 37 countries, but you'll also note that we have invited some other regional grouping, such as COMESA and the East Africans and ECOWAS. So part of what AGOA is looking to do is not only encourage more trade between Africa and the United States, but also encourage greater cooperation between African countries so that they can meet the demands of the U.S. market.
QUESTION: So are the 37 countries -- so are any countries not members?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: If there are only 37, yes, there are --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: -- because they have to meet eligibility requirements and some who are members of AGOA are sometimes taken off the list because they no longer meet those requirements.
QUESTION: Right. And which ones have been taken off the list recently?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The one I can think of right now is Mauritania because of the coup in 2005.
QUESTION: Okay. And any you see as being eligible for membership soon?
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We are looking at Liberia.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Is Zimbabwe (inaudible) a member?
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: No.
QUESTION: When you talk about these 2.7 billion, is it two-way trade?
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It's trade from Africa to the United States.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) and who's favor is it now, at present?
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I don't know the answer to that. My guess is that there's probably more trade going from the U.S., but I don't know the answer, to be very frank.
Okay. Thank you very much.
MR. CASEY: Thank you very much. Thanks again, Linda, for joining us today. Appreciate it.
Okay, guys, to turn now to the regular business of the day, I don't have any statements or announcements to make for you right now, so why don't we go right to your questions.
QUESTION: Did you see President Putin's statement that sanctions against Iran would be premature?
MR. CASEY: I actually just saw the statement before I came out, George. Look, I think the thing that we want to make clear is what the Secretary has been saying and I think you've all seen her remarks today. We think the Vienna meeting was a great success and we're very satisfied with the outcome that we achieved on all fronts of that. And what the P-5 have agreed to is two pathways ahead to offer Iran. First of all -- and there's also robust pathways on -- robust measures on both pathways, excuse me. The first is on the positive incentives and then also on the disincentives.
Now as the Secretary said and as the ministers themselves made clear last night, we're not going to discuss the details of either side of this package until there's an opportunity for this package to be presented to the Iranians and they have a chance to look at it, think about it for a while. So frankly at this point, what I'm going to do on this is just leave this issue where it's been -- with the Secretary's comments. We believe this package is good. It does offer both incentives and disincentives. All the P-5+1 ministers have agreed to it and now the next steps are really to take it to the Iranians and let them consider it.
QUESTION: So it doesn't sound like the ministers have agreed on disincentives, does it, if Russia is saying no to sanctions?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, all I can tell you is what I know coming out of Vienna which is that a package was agreed to and we are quite satisfied with it and that it does include both measures on the incentive side as well as on the disincentive side. I'm not going to try and, you know, comment on other people's remarks related to it. And again, I think the point now is for us not to be trying to talk about the various pieces of it publicly. What needs to happen now is a serious diplomatic presentation of that package to the Iranians and let's see what they do with it.
QUESTION: Already today the Iranian President's come out saying that the West will not win, essentially, to try to get them to stop their nuclear technology pursuit, as he would call it. Any reaction to that? It doesn't sound like he's very threatened by what has just come out of Vienna.
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think before we can consider that there's an Iranian reaction to the package, the package needs to be presented to them. Again, I think if Iran chooses the path of cooperation, if Iran decides to suspend uranium enrichment, come back to talks, negotiate in good faith and move forward on this, then this is something that can be beneficial not only for the rest of the international community but for Iran and for Iran's people as well.
QUESTION: But it sounds like that threshold of stopping uranium enrichment work is not something the Iranians are willing to do.
MR. CASEY: Again, I think before we know what their reaction is to the package, I think it needs to be presented to them and let's wait and see -- see what they do.
QUESTION: But, Tom, the Iranians have made it very clear to the Foreign Minister, who said they are welcome to talks but no end to uranium enrichment.
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I know we've seen a variety of statements that have been made by a variety of people, both in Iran and elsewhere on this. But again, nobody's actually presented the package. The Iranians don't, as of yet, have it. They don't know what's in it. And I think what's important to remember about this is this is a unified package. It represents the concerted agreement of all the ministers that were there in Vienna. And again, it does present Iran with the kind of clear choice that the Secretary's been talking about.
And I think what we need to see happen is have that choice presented to them, presented in a very clear form specifically as agreed to, and then we'll honestly be able to know what their reaction is. Until that time, I know there's a lot of interest. I know there's a lot of speculation about what will happen or what won't. But this is a real and sincere effort at diplomacy. It is about giving Iran that kind of clear choice that we've been talking about and we'll see what Iran does. Clearly what we believe is in the best interest of Iran, of the Iranian people and of the international community is for them to accept the terms that have been established by the international community to suspend uranium enrichment activities, to return to the talks and to negotiate in good faith. That's the course of action that we hope they'll take.
But ultimately, we'll just have to see what they do once they've seen the package and had a chance to think about it.
QUESTION: Tom, as a general principle, has the U.S. ever agreed to take off the table, even for a short period of time, the threat of military force or is that something that just will never be -- which would amount to a security assurance for Iran?
MR. CASEY: Teri, I don't have any changes to the, you know, longstanding U.S. policy on any issue, which is not to -- certainly on my part -- not take off the table on behalf of the President any actions or non-actions. But again, our pursuit of this and what we've shown through our actions in the last few weeks here, and certainly what we've shown coming out of Vienna, is that we are working full-out on a diplomatic resolution of this crisis. We're doing so in conjunction with our allies in Europe, with the Chinese and the Russians, the Germans, the French, the British as well as others in the international community at the Security Council and elsewhere. So we're very much on a diplomatic track.
QUESTION: And can you say, as the Secretary did leading into this meeting still that the Europeans and others in the P-5+1 did not request the United States for any security assurances?
MR. CASEY: I have no change in what she said to that, no.
QUESTION: Is there anything regarding the violation of human rights, supporting of terrorism, in the package?
MR. CASEY: Again, I'm not going to -- I'm really not in a position to talk to you in specific details about the package, either on the incentive side or the disincentive side. The important thing is to let that be brought to the Iranians and have them respond to it and I think we'll be able to talk about it after that point.
QUESTION: I think the Secretary said the Iranians got weeks to look at these proposals -- not months -- but can you be any firmer in a sort of -- is there a date attached to the packages that are being offered?
MR. CASEY: I don't have any kind of timetable or anything to offer you beyond what she said, which is that the timeframe here is weeks, not months.
QUESTION: So the -- can you walk us through what happens next in the next few days, getting the package to the Iranians?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think as the Secretary said, it will be, you know, presented to the Iranians. We will not be part of that presentation, as she said. I don't really have a specific timeline to offer you as to when that presentation is going to take place. I think those are the kind of details that are being worked out now. And I don't want to try and get into pinning them down for people that are actively working on it that aren't me, for sure.
QUESTION: What about -- sort of -- what about the times of the presentation there? Can you tell us when exactly that will happen?
MR. CASEY: No. I mean, I expect that'll be happening. They'll be presented in the coming days. But I don't have a specific timeline to offer you -- for you on that. Again, I think those are details that are being worked out.
QUESTION: And at what level do you think these discussions will take place? Is it ministers or is it --
MR. CASEY: Again, I think the details of how that presentation is going to be delivered and such are things that are being worked out at this point. And I'd rather make sure that those are finalized and that the thing actually moves forward before I start trying to speculate on that. Sue.
QUESTION: So is it your assessment now that this is a sort of a knee-jerk reaction, the Iranian -- reaction that (inaudible) as kind of a knee-jerk reaction. Then when they see your carrots and sticks, they'll be completely smitten by the sticks fearful -- smitten by the carrots, fearful of the sticks and then they'll change their mind. Is that what you're hoping?
MR. CASEY: I'm seeing a large rabbit going -- (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah. Me, too. Me, too.
MR. CASEY: -- these carrots and sticks. (Laughter.)
MR. CASEY: Well, I think the only assessment I have to offer you right now is that we haven't seen a Iranian reaction to the package yet because the Iranians don't have the package to react to.
QUESTION: Why -- could you explain further why it's so important to keep the package so secret?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think what we're doing is the way diplomacy should normally proceed. As the Secretary said before she left for Vienna, we thought it would be useful to actually have the conversation among the ministers and reach agreement on the package before discussing it or debating it in public. And again, I think it is part of just the sincerity of this effort that rather than having the Iranian Government find out about this package by reading about it through public statements or by having it published out there, that we do what is appropriate diplomatic action, which is take it to them, have them be briefed on it, have them get a full reading and understanding on it, again, before we start talking about various pieces of it or talking about it in full publicly. And I think that's the basic rationale.
QUESTION: Would you say -- would you say then it's an effort to try to build some relationship of trust and good faith that perhaps has been lacking in the relationship?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think again what it shows is the seriousness of the diplomacy here and the belief that it's important that we proceed very clearly and directly and that there's no misunderstandings or miscommunications with the Iranian government about this and that means that what they need to get is to see the package, see it in full and be able to evaluate it based on what's actually there, rather than on what they may or may not hear through, you know, other public meetings.
QUESTION: Will the person who is delivering this -- I imagine it's Solana -- will he be given any wiggle room in terms of negotiating? Will he be doing a bit of shuttle diplomacy, going backwards and forth saying they want this, they don't want that or can we please adjust this?
MR. CASEY: You know, my understanding at this point is it will be presented to them. Obviously, they will have some time to think about it and then come up with a response. Where it goes from there, I guess depends on how they respond.
QUESTION: And then finally, the Russians are saying that it's too premature for sanctions. So can one assume that sanctions are not included, seeing as the Russians are onboard with all of the proposal -- with everything in the proposal?
MR. CASEY: Nice try. Again, I'm just simply not going to get into characterizing the incentives or the disincentive side again except to say that they're both there. They've all been agreed to and we feel very satisfied on all fronts with the outcome that we've gotten in this.
Have we exhausted Iran?
QUESTION: Have you seen the reports of the Zarqawi tape?
MR. CASEY: I did see them, George, but I actually don't have anything for you on it.
MR. CASEY: Let's go back here.
QUESTION: On the Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, he was meeting with Deputy Secretary Zoellick. Do you have a readout of that meeting?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. That's true. Deputy Secretary Zoellick did meet with South Korean Foreign Minister earlier this morning. They did have a discussion about a broad range of topics. It covered a full range of bilateral issues with South Korea. And they also did talk about a number of regional and international concerns as well. Obviously, one of those is the six-party talks. Both Deputy Secretary Zoellick and the Foreign Minister agreed that the way forward here was for North Korea to return to the talks as quickly as possible. And certainly we will continue to be working with the South Koreans as well as our other partners in the six-party talks to see that the North Koreans do that.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Did he mention the North Korean invitation to Ambassador Hill at all?
MR. CASEY: I think they had a good conversation about all the issues involved in the six-party talks. But again, I think where we came down with this mutually was that we believe the way forward right now is for the North Koreans to come back to the talks in the format as described and -- but we can all work together then on implementing the September 19th agreement.
QUESTION: Did he say that it might be helpful if Ambassador Hill did go to North Korea or --
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I'll let the South Korean Foreign Minister provide you with any details on his specific comments. What I can tell you, though, is that there was agreement among the two ministers that the course we need to follow right now is to get the North Koreans back to the talks.
QUESTION: On North Korea. Kathleen Stephens visited the controversial industrial zone in North Korea. What's the purpose of the visit?
MR. CASEY: Well, yeah, that's true. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kathy Stephens -- for those who don't know her -- did in fact pay a visit to the Kaesong industrial complex earlier today. Basically the purpose of that visit was just to gain a better understanding of the facility and its operations. This is something, as you know, as you said, that there have been questions that have been raised about. And since she was in South Korea doing other kinds of business, we took the opportunity to arrange a visit for her to the facility just so she could get a better understanding of it.
QUESTION: The U.S. Commissioner on Human Rights to North Korea had raised the question of human rights abuses in the industrial zone itself. Was this brought up?
MR. CASEY: Again, I don't have a real detailed readout of her visit. But the questions that had been raised and the general operations of the zone were the kind of things that prompted her to go and take a look at it. I'll see if we have anything later in terms of more specifics of the issues she addressed and discussed.
QUESTION: Change of subject.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
MR. CASEY: I'm sorry, staying on this. Okay.
QUESTION: When she comes back could you ask her if she would mind giving us a little briefing on her visit?
MR. CASEY: I'll certainly make the recommendation, George, and we'll see. I'm not quite sure when she's back, but we'll see what we can do for you next week.
QUESTION: Could you give her some incentives and disincentives? (Laughter.)
MR. CASEY: Yeah, I think I could but I probably couldn't talk to you about them. (Laughter.)
Let's go -- she still had another question back here on the same subject, Sue, and then we'll switch over.
QUESTION: Sorry about this. I was just wondering whether the foreign minister offered any new ideas as to how to reinvigorate the six-party talks?
MR. CASEY: Again, I think they had a good general discussion of the issue, but there weren't any specific proposals put forward.
QUESTION: On Sudan.
MR. CASEY: Sorry. Are we still on Korea?
QUESTION: Yeah. I wonder if this issue about the Kaesong industrial area raised this morning's meeting because South Korea has been asking the U.S. to include the discussion when the U.S. and South Korea discuss about this free trade agreements. And now South Korea ask U.S. to include that area into that free trade agreement discussion. I wonder if they were talking about this this morning.
MR. CASEY: You've succeeded in surpassing the depth of my brief on this subject. I'm not aware that that specific issue, in fact, came up during the discussions.
MR. CASEY: Yeah, Sue.
QUESTION: Sudan's two smaller rebel groups still have not signed on, as far as I know anyway, unless they've signed on today, to the agreement. And I just wondered whether you were now very pessimistic about them ever signing on and how this would possibly impact a mission, a UN mission going there. Also next week the UN is sending a delegation, including Kofi Annan, there. So I wondered whether you had any thoughts on that.
MR. CASEY: Well, I think I talked about this a little bit yesterday. Obviously, first the good news is that we're certainly pleased that the SLA under Minni Minnawi has signed on to the agreement. Many of the fighters and followers of the Abdulwahid faction also have independently joined in that, so the vast majority of people, men under arms and individuals represented are participants in the agreement. Obviously there are those that have remained outside of it. We're certainly disappointed that they have chosen to do so. I think it would be obviously better to have all parties onboard.
But the African Union is still continuing to have discussions. We're certainly in contact with them and supportive of them. And the main thing is we do expect that implementation of this agreement move forward. To do that implementation we need to not only strengthen the African Union force that's on the ground now, but we do need to move forward with having a full UN-hatted force. We're certainly pleased that the UN group is going to be going into Sudan next week. The preparations and planning on that do need to move forward and there's obviously, work being done at NATO as well in terms of being able to strengthen the existing UN force that's there.
So the main thing, I think that we want to take from this, is the fact that despite the fact that there are some holdouts on the margins here that we do intend to and expect to see this move forward and that we're going to work with the African Union and make that so.
QUESTION: But Sudan has still not agreed to have an expanded, or a UN mission, on its territory.
MR. CASEY: Well, Sudan, as you know, already has a UN mission on its territory in the south.
QUESTION: In the south, but in --
MR. CASEY: And (inaudible) has accepted to receive this team to do planning for that mission. Once again, I think we're looking to have this process move forward. I think it's clear to everyone that the only way that you can really implement this Darfur Peace Agreement is, again, first by expanding the AU force that's on the ground there, and then ultimately moving to a larger UN force. We do expect that that will move forward and that ultimately the Government of Sudan is going to see that it is in their interest as well that this happen.
Let's go over here and then over to Jonathan.
QUESTION: Can I change the topic?
MR. CASEY: I guess so.
QUESTION: Has the United States found out from the Japanese why they are much against the moves to bring the Myanmar issue further into the UN Security Council?
MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not aware that we've had any specific conversations with the Japanese on it. As you know, we put out a statement indicating that we intend to move forward with a UN Security Council resolution on Burma, largely to express our continued concern about the ongoing situation in that country, including the continued and now extended detention of Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as other political prisoners and also the lack of a real open and transparent political process that involves all the people in the country.
We're working right now in New York on putting together the basics of that resolution. We're in the early stages of conversation on that. I would expect that it would be introduced or at least circulated preliminarily sometime in the days ahead. But until again, sort of like with the package on Iran, I think what we need to do is see a general text circulated and then really look to what people's reactions are. I'm not -- certainly don't think it's ever useful with the UN to predict how people may or may not respond to something they haven't yet seen.
QUESTION: Are you not concerned that the Japanese whom the United States is pushing very hard for a permanent seat in the Security Council, coming out openly to say that they are against this move by the U.S.?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think we will continue our consultations with them, with other allies that are out there. We believe it's appropriate to have a UN resolution on Burma. We believe the situation there warrants action by the Security Council, certainly an expression of concern and the desire to see the Burmese Government do the right thing, release political prisoners and move forward with a national reconciliation process and political process that would ultimately make a move towards democracy. But we'll be discussing this with the Japanese, with other people as well. But again, we believe this is the right thing to do.
QUESTION: I want to ask about Haditha. I know there are investigations going on about the allegations. But I just wondered how worried the Secretary of State is about these allegations and the effects or (inaudible) effects of public diplomacy. I just wonder whether she actually talked to anybody, for example, the Iraqi Prime Minister, who said it appears to be a crime. He's launched his own investigation. Has she spoken to the Ambassador there?
MR. CASEY: Well, I don't have any recent calls with her and the Iraqi Prime Minister or other senior-level officials. She is in regular contact with Ambassador Khalilzad all the time. And I know he talks to Iraqi officials on a regular basis.
Look, I think on Haditha, as you said, there is an investigation on going. And the facts will determine where that investigation goes. But I think the main point -- the main point that we have tried to stress is that we certainly are aware that neither the United States Military or its diplomats or any of its citizens are perfect. There certainly are problems that have occurred and I don't need to walk through the litany of them with you. When they do occur, though, we have always stressed that what the United States believes in and what the United States does is investigates them, investigates them thoroughly and transparently. And where violations of law, procedural rules have occurred, that punishment is meted out.
The acts as they've been described in various accounts and in Haditha are horrific. Certainly no one wants to see civilian deaths or loss of life. And the United States military, as you say, is actively investigating this, is working to determine all the facts. And those facts as I said, will determine what the consequences are for any individuals who might or might not have been involved.
But the other thing I guess I'd like to point out, too, is you have to contrast the very limited abhorrent actions that occur in warfare from the U.S. military actions which are not matters of policy, actions which are not condoned and actions for which there is consequences and punishment where abhorrent behavior occurs with the actions of those in the insurgency in Iraq with the actions of the Zarqawi-led terrorists in Iraq who deliberately and specifically target civilians, deliberately and specifically kill civilians, including women, children, school teachers, doctors, those who are trying to move the society forward and make life better for the people in Iraq. Clearly, our record isn't perfect, but clearly as well the United States military does everything that it can to avoid civilian casualties, to limit the impact of any military operations on the civilian population and most importantly, take action where our soldiers do not follow the rules. But I think it would be a great disservice to the hundreds of thousands of U.S. service members who been in Iraq since the start of the war, almost all of whom have served honorably and have made sacrifices for their own country and for the Iraqi people, to try and imply that the aberrant behavior that has occurred at Abu Ghraib or that investigators may find might have occurred at Haditha should be compared in any way, shape or form with the standards of action and the very high standards that those U.S. soldiers carry out every day.
QUESTION: I have a question on a different subject.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you aware that the U.S. has rejected a visa for the Iranian Health Minister who wanted to come to New York for the UN AIDS Conference. Is that accurate?
MR. CASEY: Don't know and I'll have to try to find out for you. I hadn't seen that report.
Cam did you have something or --
No. Are we ready for a thank you? It sounds that way. Thank you. Happy Friday, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)
DPB # 92
Released on June 2, 2006