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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 17, 2006


Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Spokesman
Washington, DC
August 17, 2006

INDEX:

IRAN
Comments by Under Secretary Burns / Iranian Response to P5+1
Incentive Package / Consequences of Iranian Refusal to Comply with
UN, IAEA and EU3 Efforts / Russian Position
Iran's Sponsorship of Terrorism in the Middle East
Crackdown on Individuals Exercising Free Speech
Exhibit of Cartoons About the Holocaust

COLOMBIA
President Uribe's Statement on Paramilitary Leaders

ISRAEL/LEBANON
United Nations Conference on a Multinational Force / U.S. will not
Contribute Soldiers / U.S. Participation in Planning
U.S.–French Cooperation on Support for Lebanon / Secretary Rice's
Conversation with French FM Douste-Blazy
Turkey's Support for Arms Embargo in UNSC Resolution 1701
Russian and French Compliance with UNSC Resolution 1701
Role of Hezbollah in Rebuilding Effort
U.S. Assistance to Lebanon, both Monetary and Material / Secretary
Announced $20 Million Addition to $30 Million Pledge / U.S.
Participation in International Donor Conference for Lebanon
Status of Kidnapped Israeli Soldiers

CYPRUS
Cooperation with France and Deployment of an International Force
in Lebanon

EUROPEAN UNION
Status of Open Skies Agreement Negotiations

AFGHANISTAN
Poppy Eradication Activities of U.S. and Afghan Governments

SUDAN
Funding for African Union Force in Sudan / Darfur Peace Agreement

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
Kidnapping of Journalists / U.S. Efforts to Secure Release
Internal Negotiations over National Unity Government / Efforts by
President Abbas


TRANSCRIPT:

12:40 p.m. EDT


MR. CASEY: Okay. Good afternoon, everybody. I don't have any statements or announcements for you, so glad to be here with you, but let's go right to your questions.

QUESTION: You're not going to believe this, but it's going to be Iran and about Lebanon. Mr. Burns, this morning, told several of us that the U.S. will move in the UN in early September for sanctions if Iran continues to defy demands that it stop enriching uranium. And I, for one, didn't have the good sense to ask him what kind of sanctions, there being a wide range, some with teeth and some -- mostly a statement of "We don't like what you're doing."

Can you elaborate on what the thinking is, so far as seeking -- is it punitive sanctions, economic, political, travel, whatever?

MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, I don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves here, but as you know, in Resolution 1696, it explicitly provides for a deadline for Iran to respond to the offers. It makes explicit the demands that have been previously made by the IAEA, by the EU-3, among others, first and foremost that Iran cease all uranium enrichment activity. And that's certainly what we want to see happen.

If, however, Iran doesn't take this last opportunity and doesn't take the opportunity to accept the conditions set by the international community, then they will, as stated in the resolution, face sanctions under Article 41 of Chapter 7. In terms of the specifics of those sanctions, as we've always said, there's a wide range of things out there for people to consider, but the international community is committed to taking steps on this. We certainly, though, want to give the Iranians the chance to take this last opportunity to accept the offer that's on the table to cease all uranium enrichment activity and to agree with the world community that the time's come for them to end their threatening behavior and to come into compliance with their international obligations, which is what we've been asking them to do all along.

QUESTION: Do you link this -- does the Administration link their lack of compliance with the role they've played in backing Hezbollah and all or is it just sort of character?

MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, I think unfortunately, we've got a lot of different issues of concern with the Iranian Government. Their nuclear program is certainly one of them and it's one that's drawn a lot of international attention. Obviously, though, another one that has also gotten attention has been their unhelpful and destabilizing role in the region through their support for terror, for Hezbollah as well as for other organizations that are out there. These are all issues that are of concern to us and of concern to us in the broader issue of our relationship and the world's relationship with Iran. I can't draw any particular linkage between them for you, but obviously, they're both things that we treat seriously and want to see dealt with.

Yeah, let's go down here. David.

QUESTION: The thing that Burns said was that he was confident that -- were Iran to fail to respond by the end of the month, that Russia and China would support the next step to sanctions. But the Russians, the day after the resolution was adopted, insisted that it was not in -- there were no automatic sanctions involved and that there would still be a process of negotiations. How do you see that playing out?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, what the P-5+1 agreed to in the package was a package of both incentives and disincentives and both of which are fairly clear out there. The resolution, which was backed by -- you know, fully in the Security Council, including by Russia, says that in the event that Iran does not respond favorably and does not take up the call of the international community to meet its requirements, including a full suspension of uranium enrichment activity, that the next step will be sanctions. And so I think it's agreed to by the Council, including by the P-5+1, that that would be the next step in the event that Iran fails to comply.

QUESTION: But don't people --

MR. CASEY: Go ahead, Barry.

QUESTION: In that next step, there would be specificity of the kind of sanctions, you suppose?

MR. CASEY: Well, obviously --

QUESTION: Or is there a delay; you say it and then people put their heads together and decide how to implement it?

MR. CASEY: Barry, there's been a lot of discussion on this issue in the P-5+1 as well as with other countries involved, but certainly, we will wait and see the circumstances of where we are, whether Iran responds, how it responds and what the nature of that response is before we get to the position of talking specifically which measures would be taken. And obviously, that is something that will need to be discussed at an appropriate time in the Security Council.

QUESTION: Is it also not correct that it's been pushed down the road? There's been a lot of talk about it, but there's never been any agreement yet about what those sanctions would be if Iran did not comply.

MR. CASEY: Well, what I wouldn't tell you, Charlie, is that on the day that the deadline passes, if Iran has not in fact responded, that someone is going to say, "Here is a previously drafted piece of paper that outlines all the actions that will be taken." Again, we need to see exactly what happens, whether Iran does in fact respond or not, and then we can talk in specific terms about what the next steps are.

Sue.

QUESTION: Could you not provide just a couple of examples of what these may include? I mean, what is the range here?

MR. CASEY: Well, Sue, I think a lot of other people, including Under Secretary Burns, have spoken about some of the possibilities there and I don't want to mislead you and I don't want to add anything more to discussion that's already been --

QUESTION: But this is a shifting issue. It's not static. So your ideas may be changing as to what would be appropriate or inappropriate. Do you think that there should be much more forceful action or stricter action now -- I'm not saying force -- much stronger action because of Iran's role in Lebanon?

MR. CASEY: Well, first and foremost, what we think is that Iran should comply with the terms of the resolution. Remember, the goal here isn't to apply sanctions on Iran. The goal here is to change Iranian behavior. And the change in behavior we want to see is Iranian compliance with this resolution and with previous resolutions by the IAEA Board of Governors, with previous agreements that they've signed with the EU-3 among others. And that is principally our focus and we certainly -- there is still time left for Iran to change its mind, to stop its defiance of the international community and to come into compliance. And we think that's where our focus ought to be for right now.

Let's go back here.

QUESTION: About Colombia, is there any statement related with this issue of President Uribe putting in jail the paramilitary's leader in Colombia?

MR. CASEY: I'm sorry, I didn't -- could you say -- with that -- with what?

QUESTION: Yes. President Uribe ordered to put in jail the paramilitary's leader in Colombia. Is there any statement related to that? Is that going to stop the extradition of those people?

MR. CASEY: You know, I hadn't seen his comments so I really can't give you a direct response to it. Obviously we've been very supportive of the efforts of President Uribe and his government to deal with a variety of paramilitary organizations as well as with some of the terrorist groups, FARC among others, that operate in Colombia. But I just don't have anything specific for you on this.

QUESTION: Can we go to the -- I'm asking too many questions. Somebody else?

MR. CASEY: That's okay. Why don't we --

QUESTION: Are you (inaudible) about the UN?

QUESTION: I was going to go to the UN effort.

MR. CASEY: Well, why don't we -- Barry, keep asking your questions and then we'll get to go around.

QUESTION: Okay, I'll try one here. To go to the UN effort: Nobody has identified, as far as I know, who's volunteering although there's some obvious logical applicants. France is a mystery to a lot of us. One minute they seem to be ready to lead the charge, another minute they're sending advisors and maybe one uniformed officer.

QUESTION: And a cook.

QUESTION: And a cook. (Laughter.) No comment. What is --

MR. CASEY: Just going to let that one slide, Barry.

QUESTION: What is the expectation? France and the United States and Britain were the key players in drafting and promoting the resolution. There was a unique -- I think unique -- comity between France and the United States. Is France -- but the United States isn't sending people into the force. Is France going to play what kind of role in this Lebanon force?

MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, I can't guarantee that I'll solve your or my greater mysteries of France or any other country today, but I do hope that the meeting that's taking place at the UN this afternoon -- I believe it's starting at about three -- will help answer some of the questions that are remaining about both who will be contributing as well as some of the more details of how the force will be structured for Lebanon. And it's really important that we do get this force moved forward. As you said, we aren't going to be contributing boots on the ground to this force.

We do, however, have Assistant Secretary John Hillen from Political-Military Affairs who has a great deal of experience in planning and organizing on peacekeeping operations, as well as another group of officials from his bureau who are in New York today to participate in events up there. And certainly we have talked about the possibility of the U.S. providing logistical or other kinds of support to the force as it's stood up. In terms of specific contributions, again, from the French or from any of the other countries that have talked about the possibility of participating in this, this is something we're going to look to get some greater clarity on today.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Have you heard directly from the French that they're considering a much reduced?

MR. CASEY: As far as I know, the French along with everyone else in the Security Council still shares the objectives laid out in 1701, which is that we're going to have a strong and robust force, one that's capable of fulfilling the mission that's laid out for it. And I certainly haven't -- I'm not aware of any comments we've had from the French or from anyone else that they want to change what's in that resolution or change the nature of the force or, you know, reduce it in any way, shape or form.

Libby.

QUESTION: Is there a lot of pushing behind the scenes from U.S. officials and others trying to get them to be the lead here? Do they really need to be pushed towards this or is it something that --

MR. CASEY: Look, I think -- first of all, and Barry mentioned this before, a lot of the progress that has been -- the international community has been able to help Lebanon make over the last couple of years, has occurred because there has been a convergence of views not only between the United States and France, but between all the major players on the international scene, including most of Lebanon's neighbors with the notable exceptions of Syria and Iran. So I don't think either the Government of France or anyone else needs to be pushed to support the objectives here and the objectives are pretty clearly getting the Lebanese Government full sovereignty over its country and to do that, we need and to have a strong force. I'm also not going to try and prejudge for you what their contribution or any other country's individual contribution is going to be to this. But the French have very clearly indicated to us that they do, you know, want to see this force be a success and do, as far as I know, intend to play a role in it. Size and scope, that's part of what we'll be talking about today up at the UN.

QUESTION: Is Under Secretary Burns talking to the French today before this meeting to try to say, hey, you know --

MR. CASEY: Well, I know he's been talking to you guys.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. CASEY: Or at least for the Defense Writers Group.

QUESTION: With the Secretary out of town, I mean, who's talking to the French from our side besides John Hillen?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, John's up there in New York and is the action person on the ground for this. The Secretary, despite not being here in the building today, did, in fact, have a conversation with French Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy today. That was, again, just to talk about the general situation in Lebanon and the prospects for the force, as well as for how we intend to help, working together, move forward on all the aspects of Resolution 1701.

QUESTION: Did she initiate that conversation?

MR. CASEY: You know, Barry, I don't know who initiated the call. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CASEY: Teri.

QUESTION: Turkey is one of the countries that is reported to be volunteering soldiers, but Turkey was also -- is also suspected of being a major transit country for much of the materials that made it to Hezbollah. Are you aware of those charges and does that cause you any concern?

MR. CASEY: Well, I've seen press reports about it. I think the one thing that's clear to us is that the Government of Turkey, like most of the governments in the region, like most of the governments in Europe, are committed to seeing Resolution 1701 succeed. And one of the things that, of course, is part of that is ensuring that no arms are transferred to Lebanon other than to the legitimate armed forces of that country. Certainly, that's an issue that we've talked about not only with Turkey, but with other countries in the region. I fully believe the Turks are committed to seeing that happen and make sure that that resolution is successfully implemented, so --

QUESTION: You've talked with Turkey specifically about not letting any materials transit or are you saying you've only had general conversations with them like you have had with all the other countries?

MR. CASEY: No, my understanding, Teri, is that the issue of potential arms shipments through Turkey and through other countries are things that we have talked about to the -- with the Turkish Government. I understand that they are very concerned about this issue as well and we're fully convinced that they are taking and doing what would be necessary to prevent arms transfers from going through.

QUESTION: Along those same lines, yesterday, Shimon Peres said that they had been surprised to find some of the missiles, long range, laser-guided, short range had come from Russia and China, that -- models they didn't know that Hezbollah had. Are you similarly convinced, as you are with Turkey, that Russia and China are not going to let this embargo be broken, even though they're major suppliers?

MR. CASEY: Look, Teri, I would take it on face value that any country that voted for Resolution 1701 intends to comply with its terms and yeah, I would certainly include the -- two of the Permanent Five members of the Security Council in that regard.

QUESTION: Is there any evidence that there have been any arms shipments from either Iran or Syria since the truce took effect on Monday?

MR. CASEY: Not that I'm aware of.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On the same issue on Turkey, the Republic of Cyprus and France agreed for French military forces to use the Cypriot air bases meaning to be deployed in Lebanon in the framework of the UN Peacekeeping Force, for which the U.S. Government is very concerned about the security of the Middle East. Do you have any objection to this agreement between the Republic of Cyprus and France?

MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, I'm not familiar with the agreement or the specific terms of it. As you know, we've been very grateful to the Government of Cyprus for the support it gave us, as well as any number of other countries in assisting with the departure of our citizens from Lebanon earlier on in the crisis. Certainly, if, in the context of the discussions in New York today and in the context of deploying forces for UNIFIL, the Government of Cyprus wishes to make a contribution to that effort and that's developed and accepted as part of the plan, then that would be something we would obviously support.

QUESTION: And also, the Armenian National Committee of America yesterday, with an open letter to President Bush, urged your government to block Turkey deploying troops in Lebanon, saying that deployment is contrary to the U.S. national interests and would undermine the peace in the entire area. Any comment on that?

MR. CASEY: Well, sorry to say, I didn't see the letter, but what I can tell you, again, is that we've got a very active set of discussions going on in New York about how to stage and organize the expanded, more robust UNIFIL force. Obviously we are looking for any countries that wish to participate in that force to come to the table and participate in those discussions, and that certainly would include Turkey.

Sue.

QUESTION: Hezbollah seems to be out in full force helping people to recover from this conflict, you know, clearing rubble, et cetera, et cetera. Are you concerned that its credibility within the community will be boosted by all this assistance that they're providing to the local communities? And also it frequently takes the U.S. quite a bit of time to get reconstruction efforts in place because of various procurement rules and other cumbersome bureaucracy. I've just wondered whether -- what your views were on that.

MR. CASEY: Well, look, in terms of what Hezbollah's activities are, I don't think I have any specific comments on it. We have an understanding of what Hezbollah is and does, and I don't think I need to elaborate on that for you.

In terms of U.S. assistance though, you know, we have made -- we made an initial contribution at the beginning of this effort of $30 million in humanitarian relief. About $23 million of that is already in effect on the ground. That takes the form of both badly needed medical supplies, cash contributions to the International Committee of the Red Cross. We of course also have been working extensively with the UN, with the ICRC and with others in terms of helping to be able to deploy the aid that is available down to the region. The Secretary of course has noted that we're already adding another $20 million onto that again for immediate assistance and we expect to be very active participants in the donors conference that's going to be coming up on the 31st as well.

Obviously we want to see everybody in the international community do what they can to meet both the short- and long-term needs of the Lebanese people here, and I believe we had more than $425 million in aid that's already been pledged, including the U.S. contributions, by the international community to date. But there's a lot more that needs to be done and the United States certainly intends to be a very active player in that. But again, I'd contend the concept that we haven't already been able to put aid in, particularly put aid in directly on the ground in places where it's needed already.

QUESTION: But are you concerned that Hezbollah is moving in and filling the vacuum rather quickly?

MR. CASEY: Well, what we're concerned with is making sure that the Lebanese Government is strengthened as a result of these efforts, that the Lebanese Government is the one that has full and complete responsibility at the end of the implementation of this resolution not only for security inside the country but also for all the kinds of things and services that governments regularly provide. And I think that's our end goal. That's what we're working towards and we fully expect to make that.

QUESTION: And do you think that Gulf states should be doing more to assist?

MR. CASEY: Well, I don't want to try and single out any individual countries. I think we are interested in seeing that everyone in the international community do what they can to be able to support the Lebanese people and support both immediate humanitarian needs as well as longer-term reconstruction efforts.

David.

QUESTION: Just a -- do you have an update on the situation with the two Israeli soldiers who were kidnapped? Livni yesterday in New York said that the absence of their release was already a violation of the UN resolution.

MR. CASEY: Well, again, you know, the resolution makes clear that we want to see an immediate and unconditional release of those soldiers. That hasn't happened yet. We do want to see it occur and it is something that's called for in the resolution. But I don't have any specific updates for you in terms of their status.

Let's go back here.

QUESTION: A question on trade. Can you confirm that talks between the United States and European Union over the Open Skies pacts are now being delayed?

MR. CASEY: Let me see what I can come up with for you on that. Okay, let me see if I can get this right.

First of all, the air transport agreement, or so-called Open Skies agreement, hasn't been delayed and we are committed to concluding the agreement by the end of this year, which is something that the President and his EU counterparts agreed to at the summit this past June.

There have been some press reports about a delay in a Department of Transportation rulemaking. This concerns the eligibility for foreign participation in the ownership or management of U.S. carriers. Basically, as I understand it, the Department of Transportation determined that the original timeline for doing this, which was for early September, wasn't sufficient to be able to address all the concerns that Congress had raised, so I think we are now looking at -- my understanding from them is, and you might want to check with them for details on this -- is that they're now looking at October 12 when the EU Transportation Council meets as an opportunity to have the procedures finalized. So anyway, we'll continue consultations on this but we again do hope to meet the deadline of having this concluded by the end of the year.

Charlie.

QUESTION: Well, do you have anything to say about the State Department's role in the arrest of the suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey case in Thailand?

QUESTION: We're trying to get on air today. (Laughter.)

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not sure I can really help you with that.

QUESTION: Just doing what --

MR. CASEY: Look, as is always the case, the embassy in Thailand served as a go-between for those officials here in the United States who were working on the case and Thailand officials, but at this point really I'm just going to have to leave it to the district attorney's office and the other folks who are, as I said before I came out there, all amply out there talking about this case. Obviously it's an ongoing legal matter too and leave it to the appropriate people in the criminal justice system to talk about it.

QUESTION: There's been some initial reports about the success of the poppy eradication programs in Afghanistan saying that the production of poppies and opium have almost doubled over the last year. Is the State Department going to reconsider its action and its planning in the eradication?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I think you've heard not only from us but from President Karzai as well that we consider poppy production in Afghanistan to be a major problem. Obviously, it is an issue where, you know, crop measurements from year to year go up or down, you know, depending on a whole series of factors. But the most important thing is that this is a serious problem. It's a problem for the integrity of the Government of Afghanistan. It's a problem that any government faces if they have a huge illicit economy, something that helps promote violence that can potentially be used as a source of funding for all kinds of criminal activities, including terrorism.

The United States has been working actively with the Government of Afghanistan on a variety of programs designed to help reduce production as well as interdict drugs, as they're trying to be trafficked out of the country. And obviously we're going to continue to work with the Government of Afghanistan on it. Clearly, as the situation evolves, you know, our tactics will evolve as well, but the strategic goals remains the same.

QUESTION: But there's been reports that the fields have doubled in size in many areas. Are they going to double the funding?

MR. CASEY: Well, Kirit, I don't have any statistics or new statistics to offer you beyond what has already been reported both through our national channels as well as through the UN. Obviously, we'll devote the resources we believe are necessary and appropriate to help the Government of Afghanistan deal with the situation there. Certainly, there are others in the international community. The British, in particular, have been a lead player in efforts to deal with poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. But you know, obviously, we've got a plan in place now -- like to try and start getting it implemented in a more serious way, as more funds have been made available in this year's budget and look forward to be able to do so again with the full cooperation of the Government of Afghanistan.

Yeah, Teri.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: On Sudan, the AU said yesterday that it's running out of money and it will not be able to maintain its forces there. And the government still opposes the international -- UN international force coming in to replace it or to supplement it. Do you have any new information on that?

MR. CASEY: Well, I don't have a lot of new information to provide you, Teri. Of course, we pledged back in July $116 million in additional support for the African Union forces in Sudan. That's to cover their operating expenses through the end of September which was the initial terms of their mandate. Obviously, we and everyone else will have to look at if that mandate is extended what we might need to do to be able to continue to fund that effort. Again, there are discussions that are going on at the UN and elsewhere on how we take that force and convert it into a stronger UN force that's capable of implementing the Darfur Peace Agreement, but I don't have anything new to offer you in terms of specifics on that.

QUESTION: Once again, if you can't get this -- the government in Khartoum to agree, you basically don't have a UN force going in, even if it exists, right?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, Teri, you know, every time we've come to these junctures, we've ultimately seen the government and the Khartoum do what's in their best interest and we'd be looking for them to do the same in this case, too.

Let's go -- David. Do you want to go over here?

QUESTION: Tom, it was reported this week that the Iranian Government is threatening to put Nobel laureate -- Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi in prison if she doesn't shut down her -- basically a center for protection of human rights. And this is supposedly taking place in the context of a much more severe attitude by the Iranian Government. I wonder if you had anything on that issue?

MR. CASEY: Well, I don't have anything specific on that, David, and I can't confirm those reports for you. I think, in general, though it's certainly unfortunate but is all too typical of the tactics employed by the Iranian Government that it represses those in civil society or those in the media who choose to speak out against its practices. And certainly we would hope that no action would be taken against her or against any other individual who is merely trying to exercise their rights to free speech and to exercise their rights to discuss the situation in their country.

QUESTION: Another thing, this week an exhibit opened up in Tehran with at least the tacit approval of the government. You could describe it as lampooning the Holocaust. It's a cartoon contest not directly sponsored by the government, but obviously it couldn't happen without their -- at least acquiescence. Anything on that?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think we spoke to this awhile ago when this "contest" was first proposed. And one of the things noted at the time was that the newspaper that was first proposing it, of course, was basically owned and operated I believe by the mayoralty of Tehran, so hardly a institution that is free from government influence and otherwise. But again, why is this happening? I think that I've seen press reports indicating that some folks in the Iranian Government are claiming this is an exercise in free speech. I think it's hard to say in a government that, as you just pointed out, makes a regular habit of repressing dissent and of prohibiting anyone who disagrees with it from being able to speak out sometimes at the expense of being put in jail or facing other kinds of serious consequences.

That's really hard to believe that this is somehow some spontaneous action on the part of civil society in Iran. And certainly while people do have a right to speak out on a variety of political issues -- and people do and should have a right to speak out -- I think our main concern in Iran is that people be given the opportunity speak out about the situation in their own country, that they be given an opportunity to talk about the problems that they see there, that they not face penalties for being able to do so and that ultimately, they'd be given the opportunity to choose their own government in free and fair elections, all of which we haven't seen there.

QUESTION: Can I get you with one more?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Over the past couple years there have been a lot of journalists kidnapped in Palestinian areas. This recent one involving Steve Centanni of Fox is going on quite a bit longer than the others, which seem to have been resolved within a couple days. And I wonder could you say specifically what the U.S. Government is doing? Are there indirect contacts with Hamas, for instance, to try to expedite the end of this affair?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think you've heard from Sean on this earlier as well. And unfortunately, I don't have much of an update to offer you over what you've heard the past couple of days. We do continue to be in contact with Prime Minister* Abbas's office, though, and other Palestinian officials associated with him and certainly continue to call for the immediate release of him as well as any other people who have been taken hostage. Certainly, it should never come to the situation where someone who's practicing his profession and trying to report on what's happening, whether that's in the territories or elsewhere, should be prohibited from doing so and should face this kind of situation. But we do continue to be in contact with Palestinian officials about this.

QUESTION: Isn't it terrible that something like this could happen without the knowledge of Hamas, for instance, who --

MR. CASEY: Well, you know, David, I really don't want to speculate on that. I think the main thing and the main concern for us is trying to do what we can to see that he gets released and gets back to his job and gets back to his family.

QUESTION: Abbas met this week with the head of the Hamas government and came out talking about progress in terms of an agreement on a national -- what they call a national unity government which would be based on a document that would call for an end to all attacks on Israel and have implicit recognition of Israel by the government. Are you -- is the U.S. kind of tracking this, these talks? Do you agree that it looks like there's something happening? I mean, Abbas also spoke about some kind of a resolution to be presented to the General Assembly next month.

MR. CASEY: Well, look, we obviously have great respect for President Abbas and for the efforts that he has made to move forward on the road to peace, to try and move forward on the roadmap, who certainly, as you've seen throughout the crisis over the last couple of months, has been someone who we have spoken with and looked to for support in helping to bring about peaceful resolutions of the situation. I think though in terms of any arrangements involving the Hamas-led government, you have a pretty clear indication of what we want to see happen, and that's been laid out by the Quartet. And obviously any agreement that would be reached or any future government plan that might be come up with would be viewed in light of the conditions that are set out there.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Cyprus. Mr. Casey, it was reported extensively that the president of San Diego State University made an agreement with the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to open in the Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus a so-called "Eastern Mediterranean University." Since it's an illegal deal by the state of California against (inaudible), I am wondering if you comment on that due to the point it's a matter of foreign policy.

MR. CASEY: Well, I think it's a matter of university policy, actually, Mr. Lambros, and I'd refer you to the university for that. I don't have any information about that issue.

Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:13 p.m.)

DPB # 138 --------------------- *President

Released on August 17, 2006

ENDS


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Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On Bidding Bye Bye To Boris

Boris Johnson’s exit from the contest for Conservative Party leadership supports the conspiracy theory that he never really expected the “Leave” option to win the referendum – and he has no intention now of picking up the poisoned chalice that managing the outcome will entail... More>>

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