State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 28, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
July 28, 2006
Status of Discussions for an International Peacekeeping Force
Department Counselor Phillip Zelikow's Meetings in Brussels with
NATO and EU Officials
Each Country's Decision to Contribute to an International Force
will depend on the Nature, Structure, Operation, Mandate, and
Lebanon and Israel Will Need to Agree to the Terms of an
Assistant Secretary C. David Welch and National Security Advisor
Abrams Discussions and Travel in the Region
Secretary Rice's Discussions with Foreign and U.S. Officials
Lebanon Must Have Full Sovereignty and Control of Its Territory
Hezbollah Has a Clear Choice to Make About Its Behavior
The U.S. Position on Hamas and Hezbollah / Other Country's
Determination of Terrorist Organizations
Egyptian Role in Resolving the Situation with Israel and Lebanon
Russian Weapons Sales to Venezuela
US Supports the Establishment of a Functioning Government
Incorporating All Elements of Somali Society
12:02 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the end of another week here -- happy Friday to you all. Don't have any statements or announcements, so let's go right to your questions.
QUESTION: The U.S. and others have been taking soundings for an international security force for southern Lebanon. Could you give us an idea what kind of reaction they are getting and specifically, if you can, because the names of countries have been going in and out, who has expressed an interest to serve in such a force?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, Barry, I think the one thing to start out with is to remember that we do have a very solid commitment coming out of Rome for putting together such a force and for having it be done in as quickly and as effectively a way as possible. As you know, we have several senior officials out there consulting in the region. Philip Zelikow, Counselor to the Department, was in Brussels yesterday talking with NATO and EU officials. He is presently in Paris talking with French officials about these issues. My understanding is his itinerary will then take him later today to Turkey, where he will be consulting with the Turkish Government as well. That's clearly a list of places where at least some conversations are going on.
What I can't do for you right now is tell you what any individual countries might or might not choose to commit to this. Clearly, what's important, though, is that those conversations are moving forward, that there is very strong interest and desire in seeing this happen as quickly as possible. And I think you'll be seeing more to come on this in the next couple of days.
QUESTION: Can I ask you if you need specific -- what should I say -- promises or are you getting -- can you quantify -- a lot of countries, enough to know it's a going proposition, it's --
MR. CASEY: Barry, I think we believe strongly that there is broad international interest in doing this and that certainly there will be sufficient numbers of contributions available to make that force be the kind of viable, robust force that the Secretary talked about in Rome.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Let's go over -- yes.
QUESTION: On the places that you named that the Counselor has been having conversations or will, can you just make sure -- make clear those conversations are about an international force?
MR. CASEY: Those conversations are, as we described yesterday, about both the structure of the international force and about the possibilities of various individual countries or institutional players for being able to contribute to that. But again, what I don't want to do, Saul, is -- I'm telling you that's where he's consulting. Obviously, those are countries that have been involved in this issue and have been seriously interested in the development and structure of that force. What I'm not trying to do for you is make commitments on their behalf as to whether or not they will be specifically contributing. I think obviously, part of that for every country is going to be dependent on the exact nature of the force, how it's set up, and how it is eventually structured.
QUESTION: And will the United States take part in a meeting at the UN that's being called for Monday on sort of the structure of the mandate of the force?
MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen any official announcements come, but of course, we are working closely with the United Nations on this. We will be full and active participants in any discussions that they would be hosting about this issue. I think it's very important, as the Secretary said, that we move forward with the development of this force and the implementation of it as urgently as possible. That includes action at the UN not only in terms of developing that structure and developing the concept of operations for it, but also in terms of ensuring what was called for in Rome, which is an appropriate mandate for that force coming from the United Nations.
QUESTION: Well, do you know if Nick Burns has any plans to travel to New York on Monday?
MR. CASEY: Nothing that I have to announce for you right now, but I will keep you guys posted a little later today.
QUESTION: And also, is it an odd position for the United States that the U.S., at this point, doesn't necessarily plan to contribute troops itself, but you have counselors going around asking others to do so?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think that this is something that is a broad international effort that we are very much and very actively participating in. As the Secretary told you, there are not plans to contribute U.S. troops, but certainly, there are other ways in which the U.S. could help and support this force. And I know those will be discussed as time goes on.
QUESTION: But are any of these countries meeting you with -- well, what are you guys -- who are you sending?
MR. CASEY: I don't have detailed readouts of Philip's consultations, but again, I think it is understood where the United States is on this. And again, I think we will have a force that will be able to meet the demands of the mission and be able to carry that out well.
Let's go over -- Michel.
QUESTION: The Russian Foreign Minister has said today that any agreements aimed at resolving the Israeli-Lebanon conflict should be coordinated with all the main forces in Lebanon, including Hezbollah. Do you have any reaction on this?
MR. CASEY: I don't have anything for you beyond what the Secretary has already said. Obviously, what is going to happen here is that the two parties that need to agree to this force, outside of those obviously participating in it directly, are the sovereign Government of Lebanon and the sovereign Government of Israel. Those are the players that we are looking towards. Those are the people who Assistant Secretary Welch and Mr. Abrams are in discussions with, along with Egypt and some of the other countries that participated from the region in the Core Group meeting and certainly, that's what we're looking towards.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the force question?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Are Arab countries being talked to about joining up or at least is there some contemplation of having Arab people, Arab representatives in the force? And that old question about NATO, do you know if it will be a NATO force or would NATO be part of it?
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, look, I think the important thing is that the force is capable of doing the job that's required. The decisions are yet to come as to whether this force wears a blue helmet, whether it wears a NATO flag, whether it wears some other kind of multinational force emblem on it. The thing that is important is that we get the right troops in position as quickly as possible to do the job. Options are being discussed now. I expect that they will be discussed over the next few days and that we'll get to a conclusion on that fairly soon. But that's part of the conversation about the overall mandate and structure of the force.
QUESTION: (Inaudible), which I'm sure isn't totally clear to everyone. If you have the UN basically mandating this force, how can it then not be a blue-helmeted force?
MR. CASEY: Well, if you just want to look historically, the Multinational Force in Iraq is not a UN force, in the sense of it is not wearing a blue helmet, but it is a force that has its authority and mandate as a result of the UN Security Council resolution. The same would be said of the peacekeeping forces that are in places like Bosnia and Kosovo, where again, they are -- in one case EU-led at this point, another case NATO-led -- but they are authorized under the UN. If you look at the specific wording that came out of the Chairman's Statement out of Rome, that's basically what's being called for here. It doesn't mean it can't be, ultimately, a UN force, but there is -- again, this is something where the issue and what is important is not what flag this force goes in under, but that this force go in in a way that is effective and credible and can help bring about that enduring, lasting end to the violence that's our goal.
Let's go over -- Michel.
QUESTION: Any update on Assistant Secretary Welch and Mr. Abrams contacts in the Middle East? Where are they today?
MR. CASEY: They are in Israel today. They have been engaging both in person and on the phone with officials from Israel, from Lebanon, from other countries in the region that participated in the Core Group, Egypt among them. I don't have a comprehensive list for you. And as you can image, David hasn't had a lot of time to give me or anybody else detailed readouts of his conversations. But again, they are actively working to ensure that there is a political arrangement and a political agreement with Israel and with the Government of Lebanon to speed the way for this force going in.
QUESTION: Are they planning to go to Beirut or they're going to work from Jerusalem?
MR. CASEY: Right now, I know they're in Israel. They've been, as I said, in consultation over the phone with Lebanese Government officials. I don't have any specific details on their travel plans at this point, but we'll keep you posted if they do wind up, in fact, moving on to Lebanon or to other stops.
QUESTION: Tom, could you describe the Secretary's contacts, with whom, leaders in the region, with Welch, Abrams, and also any travel plans that she may have?
MR. CASEY: Well, the Secretary is very much involved in this. She's been getting updates and regular reports in from Counselor Zelikow, from Assistant Secretary Welch and Mr. Abrams. She's also obviously been in contact with Under Secretary Burns back here and her staff who are working on some of these issues. She did, in fact, speak with Secretary General Annan today, again talking about this issue and our desire to move forward on this as quickly as possible. So she is very much engaged in this and involved in this process, even while she's been out doing other very important business at the ASEAN forum.
QUESTION: Can you give us a little more on the Annan conversation? What was the -- are they talking about the international force or are they talking about something else?
MR. CASEY: Well, basically talking in general about follow up to the Rome conference, including -- providing a little bit of a discussion about efforts and consultations that are underway both in the region and in Europe with respect to the international force.
QUESTION: Obviously the violence continues and Haifa is a place that comes under periodic attack. It so happens that in Europe that the premier soccer tournament has drawn up Liverpool to play in Haifa. Now, I wonder if, you know, you want to call for a truce, the way that happens in the Olympics, or had some concerns about the violence against any -- you know, while soccer's going on?
MR. CASEY: Well, you know, Saul, certainly I think it is important and sports certainly can help bring people together and we'd rather see people playing soccer than shooting at one another or shooting missiles off at one another. I don't have anything specific for you about any specific calls or actions related to this. Again, I think certainly it's a better -- a far better thing for people to be doing than the kind of violence we've seen in the region.
QUESTION: Have you seen the reports that Hezbollah is using a new longer-range missile as of today?
MR. CASEY: No, I actually hadn't.
QUESTION: Okay. Never mind then.
MR. CASEY: Okay. Michele.
QUESTION: There is more international pressure to achieve a ceasefire. Are you still in the same position regarding this issue or did you change your position?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think our position coming out of Rome and the position that the Secretary has articulated is clear and remains our position. And that is, again, we want to see a ceasefire happen as quickly as possible, but that can only happen if it is going to be a ceasefire that takes place in a meaningful way, that can be lasting and can be enduring. And everything that we have done, both at Rome and since that time, is geared towards achieving it. And that's why we want to make sure that we have this international force stood up and ready to go as quickly as possible and that we have agreement from the Government of Israel and from the Government of Lebanon to be able to have it go in.
What we are trying to do here is finish the work of Resolution 1559, which is to make sure that the Government of Lebanon does have full sovereignty and control over the complete length of its territory. And that that sovereign government can then help develop Lebanon in the interest of the Lebanese people without interference from Syria, without interference from Iran and certainly without any kind of concerns about militias, terrorist groups or other armed individuals acting outside the authority and will and scope of that legitimate government.
QUESTION: In these talks about the force are you -- these talks include any programs to assist the Lebanese army to be deployed in the south?
MR. CASEY: Yes. Obviously, we have, as a fundamental goal for this force, not simply putting an international force in but having that international force, as one of its primary objectives, assist the Lebanese armed forces to be present, to be in the area, and to take charge of the border. This is not about having a international force do the job for the Government of Lebanon; it's about having an international force help the Government of Lebanon and help the Lebanese armed forces stand up, take charge, and ultimately be able to be completely responsible themselves for security and for control of the area.
In terms of direct U.S. support, I think, as you know, we have a small program of assistance for the Lebanese army. I believe the current appropriation is a little over $1.5 million. We have, as I understand it, notified Congress that we intend to provide an additional $10 million to the Lebanese armed forces on an urgent basis. That funding will go for some very basic issues such as providing spare parts and maintenance and other kinds of things for trucks and personnel carriers and other vehicles, simply so that you have some greater logistical capability, which has been a primary concern of the Lebanese army. It also will help provide some support for communications and other kinds of operational gear that, again, will help that force not only get to where it needs to go in southern Lebanon, but be better able to communicate and operate once it's there.
QUESTION: It sounds like money that should come out of DoD's budget, not yours.
MR. CASEY: I believe this comes under FMF programming, which is a State Department appropriation.
MR. CASEY: Yes, Joel.
QUESTION: Tom, last month, there was a Small Arms Control Conference that met in New York City. Many of the people there are intent in reducing those small weapons, such as light rifles and even now larger associated equipment. They come from all around the world, many of them are the manufacturers. One is Kalashnikov, who actually came to that conference. He manufactures the AK-47, for instance. Now in this drawdown of weapons at the Lebanese border, would it be helpful to enlist some of those particular arms suppliers if they're willing and integrate them into a cease-fire type force?
MR. CASEY: Well, Joel, for specific information about that conference, there's a lot of material that's out available both on our website, on the Bureau of Political Military Affairs one, and the USUN's. In terms of this specific issue, look, what's going to help resolve this issue is to get that international force in, in a way that's acceptable to the Government of Lebanon, acceptable to the Government of Israel. Again, what this is about is ensuring that Lebanon is put in the hands of the Lebanese and put in the hands of a legitimate government there and that there is no possibility that the kind of violence that was provoked by Hezbollah's actions takes place in the future.
Samir, let's go to you and then go down to Anne.
QUESTION: Are the talks including deploying this international force on the border with Syria?
MR. CASEY: My understanding right now is that we are talking about deployment in the south, in the area where there has been fighting. You know, I think we're getting ahead of ourselves if we're starting to talk about operational details of exactly where these deployments will go.
QUESTION: I just want to go back to something you said a moment ago and I may have just misunderstood, but you were saying that you're going to need agreement from the Governments of Israel and Lebanon for -- basically to pave the way for the force to go in, which makes sense, but -- I mean, what about Hezbollah? Is there going to be -- is anyone going to be an intermediary to talk with whatever political structure remains, whenever this is at the point that the force goes in, about what they're going to do or not do when these troops show up.
MR. CASEY: Anne, I'd refer you back to what the Secretary said I actually believe en route to Kuala Lumpur on this subject. Hezbollah again has a very clear choice to make. It has political representation. It has members in the parliament. There are cabinet ministers in this current government. Hezbollah is going to have to ultimately decide whether it's going to put both its feet in the camp of terror, put both its feet in the political camp. But you know, again, I'd refer you just back to her comments. It's ultimately going to be Hezbollah's choice whether it is going to do what is required of it or not. But again, there is not a lack of Hezbollah contact with the Government of Lebanon and certainly they are in a position to say what are the sovereign rights of the Lebanese Government and what the full Government of Lebanon desires.
QUESTION: Does that mean that you're then counting on the Lebanese Government to essentially be that intermediary and get assurances from Hezbollah about, you know, what -- they're not going to -- I mean, are they -- I assume somebody wants to avoid the international force getting into a shooting war with Hezbollah, right? How are you going to do that?
MR. CASEY: Again, I think what we're intent on doing is ensuring that the two parties that matter in this, which are the Lebanese Government and the Government of Israel, accept it. I'm not in a position to talk to you about how or who they talk with. Again, I'd merely point out, as the Secretary said, Hezbollah's got a choice to make here. They do have representation in this government. Certainly, the Lebanese Government knows what is in the best interest of it and its people.
QUESTION: The ministers of Hezbollah and the Lebanese Government yesterday approved the statement of Prime Minister Siniora in Rome and it's considered a new position development. Were you aware of this?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think from our perspective the Prime Minister speaks for the Government of Lebanon and we'll let him speak to what his individual ministers or members do or don't say. But again, what we're looking for is the Prime Minister to accept and believe on behalf of the Government that this plan is the way forward, that this force is acceptable to him. And just as we're looking for the Israelis to, they are the parties that matter in this.
QUESTION: The Egyptian President has refused to put pressure on Syria to help in resolving this issue. Is Egypt playing any role now?
MR. CASEY: Assistant Secretary Welch and Mr. Abrams have been in contact over the last couple of days with officials from the Government of Egypt. Again, we very much appreciate the positive and constructive role that the Egyptian Government has been playing in this, not only in trying to deal with the situation in Lebanon, but also, of course, in trying to use its influence to help resolve some of the other ongoing fighting that's occurring in the territories. So, very much so the Egyptian Government is actively engaged and involved. They were there in Rome with us. They're part of this conversation and we continue to expect that they will be engaged and we will continue to be working with them on this.
QUESTION: Russia published its list of terrorist entities today. And neither Hamas nor Hezbollah are on it. I remember when Hamas was not recognized as a terrorist group by the EU. The U.S. was putting a lot of pressure on them and continues to do so on Hezbollah, as I understand it. What do you think of this and do you think this indicates a split in how seriously Russia will want to quash Hezbollah?
MR. CASEY: Well, Teri, I haven't seen their list. But again, and I'll let the Russian Government speak to what they believe to be the standards that they're applying for this list. From our perspective, as you know, both Hamas and Hezbollah are designated foreign terrorist organizations. That's a conclusion we draw upon not only based on their actions, but based on their actions as applied to a specific piece of U.S. law. Certainly, we encourage all other countries to follow a similar kind of definition in structure. But every country's going to have to decide for itself how it wishes to formally categorize it.
What I think is the main thing and the most important part of this is that the Russian Government has been engaged and involved in the Rome process and in efforts to help resolve this situation in Lebanon. And we certainly believe that they and everyone else need to continue to work with us to do this in a way that is positive, that moves forward and that helps do what the Security Council, including Russia, agreed to in Resolution 1559.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on Russia.
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Hugo Chavez and Vladimir Putin did sign these deals that you were advising Russian not to sign. Is this a matter you'll continue to take up with them or is it case closed and just sort of a negative experience?
MR. CASEY: Well, you know, I've told you over the last couple of days what our position is on it. I really don't have anything new to add for it. Obviously --
QUESTION: But it's different if you say we hope they'll reconsider. They're obviously not reconsidering.
MR. CASEY: And they can reconsider up until the point where the planes arrive in Venezuela. So I don't think our position's changed.
QUESTION: But you'll continue pressing them?
MR. CASEY: Obviously this is something that is an issue that we have had conversations with the Russian Government about in the past. I expect it will be part of a dialogue in the future.
QUESTION: Do you have any -- Russia, of course, could use the money, but do you have any idea what Venezuela needs this type of military gear for, to defend themselves against Colombia or what?
MR. CASEY: Well, look, I --
QUESTION: I mean, isn't this bizarre on the face of it?
MR. CASEY: I think, from our perspective, Barry, and you heard this from us before, you know, this raises concerns for us. Frankly, I'd leave it up to the Chavez government, or the Government of Venezuela, to tell you what they think they are -- do need these for. I'm not aware that they've made any public statements as to what the purpose of it is.
QUESTION: But do you think it's a military need or do you think they're trying to tweak Uncle Sam?
MR. CASEY: Well, you know, I try not to be -- particularly from the State Department podium -- I try not to be in the business of providing military advice to other countries. Let's just say that there's a lot of unanswered questions about it. And the Venezuelans probably owe any number of people answers to them.
Okay, Joel, last one here.
QUESTION: Change of subject. A Somali minister was assassinated this morning in coming out from Friday services. Do you have any comments?
MR. CASEY: I haven't seen the reports so, no, I don't have any comment on it, other than simply to reiterate what our longstanding position is which is the ultimate solution to Somalia's creation of a government and one that represents all the people and that is created through dialogue rather than through force.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:30 p.m.)