State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 23, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Spokesman
June 23, 2006
Iranian Appointment of Saeed Mortazavi to UN Human Rights Council/
Detainee Policy/ Concerns of Reported Iranian activities in Iraq /
Iranian Nuclear Package
New Security Measures in Baghdad / Reported National
Comments by Turkey PM Rejep Erdogan
Potential North Korean Missile Launch
Agreement between Somalia Transitional Government and Islamic
Courts/ Reported Ethiopian Invasion
12:53 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Happy Friday. Welcome to the end of another week at the State Department. I don't have any statements or announcements for you upfront, so why don't we go right to your questions, if there are any.
QUESTION: The Human Rights Council. Will you consider -- what are your thoughts on the appropriateness of the Iranian delegate to the Council?
MR. CASEY: Well, George, I think we join with the Government of Canada in deploring the presence of Tehran General Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi at the inaugural meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. And certainly it's inappropriate that an official of this kind, someone who two official Iranian Government investigations have found responsible for the illegal arrest and detention of a Canadian journalist would be participating in this event. You know, Mr. Mortazavi is also someone who's been behind the crackdown on media freedom and Iranian journalists in Iran as well. So certainly, we think his presence demonstrates Iran's lack of concern for some of the basic human rights that we believe the Council ought to be there to defend.
And as you'll recall, when the Council was formed, one of the things we did note was the fact that we were pleased to see that while Iran and several other countries with a very poor human rights record had run for seats on the Council, that they were not, in fact, selected for it. I do think, though, that in spite of the fact that the Iranian delegation has included this kind of individual, we still do want to see that the Council succeeds and we're going to work hard to make it as effective as we can.
QUESTION: Do you -- George, did you have another? Sorry.
QUESTION: Same subject?
QUESTION: On Iran, but not the Human Rights Council.
QUESTION: The -- I guess the Chairman of the Council had some unkind words to say about the secret detention centers. I don't think he mentioned the U.S. by name, but I think that the reference was obvious. Do you have anything to say about that?
MR. CASEY: George, I didn't see the comments, but I think we've addressed this subject before. Certainly you've heard from the President recently on the general issue of detainee policy (inaudible) on Guantanamo Bay. I really don't have a lot to add to that. Obviously, the United States does not wish to be the world's jailer. We believe we're in full conformity with our international obligations, but we're certainly going to do everything we can, as we move forward to bring people to justice and ensure that those who want to harm the United States and others aren't out in the streets, but at the same time, do that in a way that's legal and appropriate and consistent with our international obligations.
Yeah. Libby, you want to --
QUESTION: On Iran.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yesterday General Casey talked about Iran supplying weapons, IED technology, training to Shiite militias in Iraq and he called it "unhelpful." Do you have any update on the ways we've been communicating that to Iran behind the scenes? And you know, we've talked a lot about Zal possibly talking to the Iranians, but where does that stand and how are we conveying such messages beyond just public statements?
MR. CASEY: Well, I really don't have anything to update you on in terms of Ambassador Khalilzad. There's no -- nothing new to report on that specific issue. Look, I think the Iranians have gotten a very clear understanding as to what our concerns are. We've stated them publicly here. Certainly, the Iraqi Government has made clear in its conversations what its concerns are on this subject as well, but I certainly don't think that the Iranians have any shortage of information about some of the things that are of concern to us.
QUESTION: Wouldn't it be helpful to convey such messages that he -- that General Casey said yesterday in public directly to them if it's such a problem -- you know, arming these guys?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, the channel that exists through Ambassador Khalilzad is still open and if we deem it appropriate, we'll take action on it. Obviously, we have other means as well for passing diplomatic messages if we so need to.
QUESTION: Just following up on that, he seemed to go further, General Casey, than perhaps the State Department has in the past. I mean, he was making specific references to the Al Quds sort of special operations force being involved and also said we -- you know, he didn't have evidence that Tehran knew what was going on or was directly involved, but he said he would assume that someone in Tehran knew about it. I mean, is that what you conclude as well?
MR. CASEY: Well, I personally make it a habit never to conclude things different from a four-star commander on the ground, so I think I'll leave General Casey's comments stand where they are. But I think, as I saw them, they really do represent a continuity with things we've previously said about our concerns about activities from Iran in terms of Iraq.
QUESTION: This week marks the first anniversary of the presidency of Mr. Ahmadi-Nejad and I was wondering if you could tell us what kind of impact his presence had on the U.S.-Iran relations.
MR. CASEY: Well, I think I'll leave the analysis of Mr. Ahmadi-Nejad's or anyone else's presidential tenure to other folks, including most of you on this side of the room. The one thing I will say is that we certainly do believe that as we move forward from here, that President Ahmadi-Nejad and the Iranian Government will make the right choice, will decide to engage with the international community, will decide to accept the package of incentives that have been offered, and that's something that we believe can and will be able to effectively bring about a diplomatic resolution of our problems with Iran's nuclear program.
QUESTION: Is that what you're predicting?
MR. CASEY: I'm not predicting that, no.
QUESTION: What was your language, that you hope they will or that they will make that decision?
MR. CASEY: We certainly hope they will make that decision.
QUESTION: You hope they will, okay.
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: On Turkey, during a pure propaganda conference on Turkey today in the Hudson Institute, one of the speakers named Frank Gaffney stated that under Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, "Islamist coup d'etat is -- actually, "Islamofascist coup d'etat is underway in Turkey, against democracy in (inaudible). Since this is totally unfounded and a big lie against democracy in Turkey, I'm wondering if you could comment, Mr. Casey, about the most popular elected Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with whom the U.S. Government is dealing direct almost every day. And if you are afraid such a coup d'etat by Recep Erdogan who is a very decent and honest Turkish politician.
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'm not familiar with the -- either the event or the specific comments. Obviously, Turkey is a good friend and ally of the United States, a good ally within NATO as well as elsewhere. We have full respect for and confidence in Turkey's democracy and we of course will continue to be working with the legitimate Government of Turkey.
QUESTION: May I make a follow-up. On the same conference, Mr. Frank Gaffney and Alex Alexiev supported openly the Turkey generals to the point that "they have a special mission to protect secularism in Turkey" and spoke favorably for the one main dictator to the General Yeser Buyakanit against the Turkish Government of Recep Erdogan. I'm wondering if you condemn those movements against democracy in Turkey, since the latter of the speakers even mentioned the plot the other day by five Turkish military officers to assassinate the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'll leave various and sundry commentators to talk about internal issues within Turkey. What I can assure you is that U.S. policy with respect to Turkey is consistent. Turkey is a good friend. It's a democratic country. It's a democratic ally and we continue to support and work with the democratically elected Government of Turkey.
QUESTION: On Hungary. On the trip to Hungary, Budapest.
MR. CASEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The Washington Post said without formally expressing regret, how the United States acted towards Hungary in 1956. Bush seemed to touch on the issue. Now what I would like to ask is that can we expect that once the United States will fully apologize to Hungary on 1956?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. I really don't have anything to add beyond what the President has said while he's been out there and what other briefers have said. And I'll leave it to the White House to address the visit and address the issues related to it.
QUESTION: One more question on that. Can we expect any development on the visa issues after the visit now, the visa waivers issues for Hungary?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think -- we talked a little bit about this the other day. You know, the visa waiver program is something that's enshrined in U.S. law and countries that wish to participate in it need to meet those legal standards. There are a variety of discussions that are underway with countries in Central and Eastern Europe about this, and we'll certainly be continuing to work with them to ensure that they'll have an opportunity to meet those goals. But I wouldn't predict any particular action related to this right now. And again, this is something that's governed by U.S. law and every country involved, who wishes to participate in the program, has to meet those legal standards and we are -- we're certainly working with countries to help them achieve that. But the legal standards themselves are going to remain in place.
QUESTION: On Iraq. The Prime Minister has put in place some very strict new security measures. Can you react to the increased level of violence that required this? Do you think the curfew will help? What's the U.S. view on what's going on?
MR. CASEY: Well, certainly we're working with and cooperating with the government of Prime Minister Maliki. In terms of security and helping to bring greater security to Baghdad and to elsewhere, I believe that this is a move that he's initiated in response to some specific incidents on the ground there. I think it does show that he is very serious about bringing security to Baghdad, about working aggressively with coalition forces and with others in Iraq to do that and this is just another step in that process. It's certainly not the ultimate solution to it. But again it's a -- we think an appropriate response to the situation as he found it.
QUESTION: And U.S. troops are going to help patrol anybody -- for anybody breaking the curfew. Is that your understanding?
MR. CASEY: I honestly don't know what the operational details on that -- that's something you'd have to probably get out of MNFI.
QUESTION: But the fact that this is necessary, it certainly doesn't indicate that things are getting better, does it?
MR. CASEY: Well, Teri, I think what it indicates is that the new Iraqi Government is very serious about moving forward in terms of providing security again in Baghdad as well as the rest of the country. Obviously, there are still problems. Obviously, there is still violence. These are the kinds of things that we're trying to address and that's what we intend to continue working with the government of Prime Minister Maliki on as we move forward.
But I think there has been real progress that's been made and we're certainly hoping to see more of it and hope that these kinds of measures will help do so.
QUESTION: If I could just follow up on the -- on Iraq. I know you've addressed this before, but the reconciliation plan. I mean, has the U.S. yet taken a position on his proposal to give an amnesty to some insurgents who may have killed U.S. troops or are you still sort of debating the issue? Have you made your views known clear?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. First of all, we haven't seen any -- a detailed plan at this point and I'd certainly leave it to the Iraqis to talk about a national reconciliation plan as they're developing it. I will say though I've seen comments, including ones made yesterday from Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih saying that attacks on Iraqi forces, on coalition forces, on anyone on the multinational force would have legal consequences and would be treated the same under Iraqi law and under any proposals.
I think it's very clear from our perspective that national reconciliation is an important priority, it is something that is a high priority as outlined by the Prime Minister and his government, and it's one we support. And certainly, we expect that they will look carefully as they develop their proposals. But I'm not, again, in any position to try and tell you what the specific content of it is and, again, we haven't seen anything in particular from them.
QUESTION: But have you made your views clear on this one issue?
MR. CASEY: We've certainly been on conversation with them regularly on the broad range of issues involved in national reconciliation, including all aspects of it, I'd say.
QUESTION: And what have you said on this?
MR. CASEY: I'll leave the diplomatic conversations to the folks involved on the ground here. But again, we're working very closely with the Iraqis on this and they certainly know what our views are on this subject.
QUESTION: North Korea. Are you starting to think that this is a bluff? It's been, what, a week now the thing's been sitting there?
MR. CASEY: Oh boy, North Korean motive interpretation? I'm afraid I'm out of my depth on that one, Anne.
Look, I think the best I can do is tell you that we continue to make clear, and I think you've seen in the statements made by representatives of other countries -- China, Russia, South Korea, Japan as well -- that we believe that the most appropriate thing for the North Koreans to do is not go forward with this launch, to stand down from it, to go back to adherence to the moratorium from 1999, and also to deal with some of the larger questions of security in the peninsula by returning to the six-party talks.
Certainly, glad to see that nothing as of yet has happened, but I'm not in a position to give you anything or offer you anything new in terms of what the percentages are or what the likelihood is that this will or won't happen.
QUESTION: Is anyone talking to them about, sort of, technically, as a practical matter, how they could stand down from it? It's a rather large item filled with rocket fuel.
MR. CASEY: I guess this really is rocket science, huh? No, I don't have any sort of information to share with you in terms of what contacts other people might have had.
MR. CASEY: That, I think you guys have known for a long time. But no, I'm not sure whether anyone else has had any contacts with them from other parties' sides. Certainly, there's no conversations with us on that subject.
QUESTION: Another topic?
MR. CASEY: Okay.
QUESTION: The Senate passed their version of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act today. I don't know if you knew that, but --
MR. CASEY: I saw a wire just right before I came out.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. support that version of the bill? And if not, why not?
MR. CASEY: You know, I don't know whether there's been a formal Statement of Administration position on it. Let me check and see what I can get for you, but I honestly don't have anything.
MR. CASEY: Yes, Sylvie.
QUESTION: What do you make of the agreement between the -- in Somalia between the government and the Islamists?
MR. CASEY: Oh, I was wondering if someone was going to ask that. No, we certainly -- we welcome the talks and the agreement reached between delegations from Somalia's Transitional Federal Government and the Union of Islamic Courts. I mean, I think this agreement represents a positive first step, but it certainly is only a first step in what would undoubtedly be a long road towards bringing national reconciliation and strengthening of the Transitional Federal Government to be able to bring stability and greater security to Somalia. I do understand, too, that the delegations have agreed to do follow-on talks in Khartoum on the 15th and we'll certainly be watching those closely.
QUESTION: If I can follow up?
MR. CASEY: Same subject?
MR. CASEY: Okay. And I guess this gentleman then wants one on that as well.
QUESTION: What -- do you have any comment on the killing of a journalist in Mogadishu today?
MR. CASEY: I really don't. I saw those reports, but I don't have anything more to go on on that, other than the press information, of course. We don't have an embassy in Mogadishu, so I really don't have any more information to share with you on it.
Sir, did you have anything else on that?
QUESTION: On Somalia, the Mogadishu Islamist Court is also -- is accusing Ethiopia for their tightening of securities on the border, perhaps threatened with a Jihad war or so and with the statement that came out from Mogadishu on the same day with -- the journalist was killed from -- Swedish.
MR. CASEY: Yeah. I know -- and we've talked about this a little bit before. There were some allegations that Ethiopia had, in fact, sent troops across the border. We've been assured by the Ethiopian Government that that's not the case and we don't have any indication that anything like that's occurred.
QUESTION: This may be a bit of a stretch, but in the terror raid in Miami, there was, I believe, one Haitian citizen. Has the State Department had any involvement in that case, in that raid at all?
MR. CASEY: Not that I'm aware of and I basically refer you over to what I saw was a fairly lengthy press conference being given by folks in another agency on that subject.
Mr. Lambros, you have one?
QUESTION: On Turkey again, this is important. Mr. Casey, Richard Haass --
MR. CASEY: They're all important, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Yes. Richard Haass, president of Council of Foreign Relations, a real tool of Henry Kissinger, stated in a conference yesterday in an obvious effort to damage the popular Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, "Over the last three years, the U.S.-Turkish relationship has deteriorated markedly and is no longer a foregone conclusion that Turkey will support U.S. policies in the future." Do you agree?
MR. CASEY: Well, what I agree with is that, as I told you before, Turkey is a good friend and ally. It's a country that we have very strong and enduring relations with. We continue to work well with the Government of Turkey on a broad range of subjects and I have every reason to expect it will continue, including when the Foreign Minister comes here, I believe, right around the 4th of July.
QUESTION: And a follow-up. Mr. Haass released 53 pages report under the title, "Generating Momentum for a New Era in U.S.-Turkish Relations." In the page 7, he is claiming, "The U.S. Government was directly responsible, along with other intelligence agencies, for tracking the whereabouts of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, which led to his apprehension in Kenya in February 1999," involving Mr. (inaudible), however, directly to the then U.S. Ambassador to Greece, Under Secretary Nicholas Burns. May we have your comment since Mr. Haass opened a Pandora's box in this case involving directly the U.S. Government and the previous Greek Government in an unfair case?
MR. CASEY: You said it was a 56-page report?
MR. CASEY: 53. I haven't read pages 1, 7 or 53 or any of the ones in between, so I certainly don't have any particular comments on Mr. Haass's report. Again, I think the record of the United States on cooperation against the PKK is very clear. The PKK continues to be a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and, again, we stand and work with the Government of Turkey to try and ensure that there are no actions from the PKK either from northern Iraq or elsewhere where we have any ability to do anything about it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:14 p.m.)