State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 18, 2006
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 18, 2006
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
August 18, 2006
UNSC Resolution /African Union Force Transition to UN Force / AU
Force Would Remain
This International Force is Designed to Help the Sudanese People
The Government of Sudan Has Responded to Facts on the Ground in
There Already Is a UN Mission working on the North-South Agreement
Secretary Rice's Recent Telephone Calls
U.S. Officials are in Communication with Sudanese Government
Sudanese Government Have a Need and Obligation to Accept this
International Force as Part of Their Obligation
Response to Media Reports of Potential North Korean Underground
U.S. Position on the Development of Nuclear Weapons Is Clear /
South Korea is a Strong Partner in the Six-Party Talks
Terrorist Financing and Weapons of Mass Destruction
U.S. Position on the Detention of Human Rights Activist Mr. Chen
U.S. Response to Recent Comments by Raul Castro / Dynastic
Succession is Unacceptable
Situation in Cuba Continues to be Grave Concern
U.S. Plan is Aimed at Assisting the Cuban People in a Transition
to Democracy when they Cubans Ask for It
No News on Fidel Castro's Health
Ability of Cuban People to Choose Their Leaders is Long Overdue
The International Community will Help Rebuild Lebanon
U.S. and International Contributions to Reconstruction / August 31
Lebanese Government and Lebanese Forces should be the sole
Authority in the Country
U.S. Position on Hezbollah is Well-Known / Hezbollah
Reconstruction Efforts & Payments
The Results of American and International Efforts Will Ensure a
Lebanon Run by a Legitimate Government
France's Initial Troop Offer for the International Peacekeeping
Force / Expecations
Response to Query regarding Iranians Deceptive Use of Turkish Air
The U.S. Is Not Aware of Turkish Government Activity that Violates
Resolution 1701 Clearly States the Mandate of the UNIFIL Force /
Turkish and Other Countries will Review it Thoroughly and have a
Clear Understanding of it
U.S. Considers the PKK as a Terrorist Organization / Mechanism to
Deal with PKK Terrorism
Query on Secretary Rice Corresponding with Greek Foreign Minister
12:11 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Afternoon, everybody. Happy Friday. I don't have any statements or announcements for you, so let's go right to your questions.
QUESTION: Well, let's try Sudan where the UN is moving to send UN peacekeepers into Darfur and the UN and the Sudanese Government is threatening to fire on them. That's not a very smooth situation, is it?
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, let's talk about what's gone on in the last 24 hours on this situation First of all, we jointly with the UK, have put forward a resolution in the Security Council that we think is a significant proposal to address the violence in Sudan. And we're supporting this resolution in the hope that it's going to lead to a speedy transition between the African Union forces, the AMIS forces that are already in Sudan and move it into a UN mission, as we've been talking about for some time. Obviously this is something that's going to have to be reviewed fairly carefully by the Council, but we do hope to have action on it in the near future.
In terms of the position of the Sudanese Government on this issue, you know, certainly we believe that it's in the interest of the Government of Sudan and all the parties in Darfur to have this force go in. This isn't a force designed to do something for the benefit of the international community. This is a force that's designed to help the Sudanese people overcome the terrible legacy of violence in Darfur that's occurred over the past several years. Certainly the Sudanese Government itself said previously that when a peace was agreement, when the Darfur Peace agreement was reached, that they would in fact welcome international forces, welcome the AU forces and an expanded version of that to help monitor and enforce that peace agreement. That's what we're trying to do here and ultimately we believe that's not only what should happen, but that's what will happen.
QUESTION: Wouldthe force go in even under that threat or that resistance?
MR. CASEY: Barry, look, I think, first of all what we need to see is have the international community speak to this. Once the international community has spoken to this issue, then let's see what the reaction of the Sudanese Government is. Again, I think if you look historically at what's occurred here, the Government of Sudan has when appropriately presented with facts on the ground, responded to them. I think at this point what we need to do is not worry about where they are today, but worry about where they are once we get a resolution passed that authorizes this force. And again, I think it's important to remember that there already is a UN mission in Sudan. It's working on the North-South arrangements and implementing that peace agreement and doing a very good job of it. There are already "international forces" in Darfur. Those are those of the African Union. They would remain a substantial portion of this expanded force.
So, in effect, what we are talking about here is something that's an expansion and a strengthening of an existing arrangement that is beneficial to the Government of Sudan, to the National Unity Government of Sudan, as well as to the people of Darfur. Ultimately we believe that this is in the interests of all the participants in Sudan, including the government, and we expect that they will ultimately agree to let this go forward.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary picked up the phone and called the Sudanese Government to ask them when and if they're going to concede to having this force? Because this has been going on for months and months and months. I mean, even back in January we were talking about an international force and the longer it goes on, the more people die and the worse it becomes. So it's fine to say, you know, historically speaking they've always caved in, but how much longer are you going to give them to cave in?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, first of all, we have this resolution that's been tabled. We need to get the action in the Security Council required to authorize it and then we will see once the international community has spoken, and I expect will have spoken in a fairly unified way, what the reaction of the Sudanese Government will be. Until then, I don't want to speculate on what they're going to do once this action occurs.
The Secretary has, in fact, made calls on the issue of this resolution. I mentioned a couple of them yesterday. The two that are most recent were to Chinese Foreign Minister Li as well as it was part of her discussion with the French Foreign Minister yesterday as well. So certainly we are discussing this and working on this in the Council. We're talking to our allies about this. In terms of discussions with the Sudanese Government, we are in regular contact with the Sudanese Government both through our Charge Cameron Hume as well as through Jendayi Frazer and other officials here. We do believe, again, that the Sudanese Government has both a need and an obligation to accept this force as part of the peace deal that they themselves agreed to, and I do think that we need to let them see this resolution pass and then we'll be looking for a real answer from them on their acceptance of this force.
QUESTION: But some people within the aid community and some pressure groups think you've dropped the ball on Sudan; you've been so diverted by other very important issues that you've just not put as much focus and pressure as you could have done on the Sudanese Government and that it's in -- there was an ad taken out two weeks ago in a Texas paper complaining about this, letters have been written to President Bush.
MR. CASEY: Well, and I think Sean has spoken to this previously. But I do think it's important to remember that the reason why this issue is before the international community is largely the result of efforts of this Administration. This has been a high priority for this President, a high priority for the Secretary, and it remains so. We certainly, all of us, wish that we could have gotten an end to the violence faster and we certainly wish to move this process forward as quickly as is humanly possible.
But this is an issue that remains a high priority. It remains a high priority for the Secretary. She is very much focused on this even though she has large amounts of attention devoted to other critical issues like Lebanon, and it is one that we are continuing to work. The fact that we have in the midst of all the other activities gone on been able to move forward after a lot of diplomatic effort with this resolution and that we are intent on seeing strengthening of this AMIS force and an implementation of a UN force from it is indicative of the fact that we do consider this problem serious; that we do continue to work on it and that we are expecting to move forward with it despite the difficulties of it.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: North Korea. What can you say about these reports that North Korea's planning an underground nuclear test?
MR. CASEY: Well, I believe the press reports that I saw reportedly talked about intelligence issues. And obviously I'm not going to be in a position now, or at any other point, to talk about intelligence matters.
Look, what I can say generally is all of you certainly know that we've expressed repeatedly our concerns about North Korea's nuclear program. That's nothing new. But we also have said that there's a way forward of dealing with that and that's through the six-party talks and through implementation of the September 19th agreement. That's still what we're looking for North Korea to do. And while I know it's interesting for people to speculate about intelligence matters, the fact of the matter remains that we and our other partners in the six-party talks are all united in trying to move forward on that and wanting to see North Korea stop its behavior in terms of development of its nuclear programs and return to the table and be able to address these concerns. But, you know, again, I think at this point, you know, I really don't have anything to offer you in terms of, you know, what the intelligence might or might not say on these issues.
QUESTION: Well, since you have your six-party partners, have you been in touch with any of them in light of these reports to perhaps get confirmation of whatever you may know via intelligence and also ask them again to put more pressure on North Korea to come back to the talks?
MR. CASEY: Well, we're in regular contact with the other members of the six-party talks. Certainly, we've encouraged them in all their conversations with the North Koreans to urge them to return. As you know, Chris Hill was in the region both before the ASEAN meeting and afterwards. He's had a number of consultations since then with some of his counterparts. I certainly, again, don't have anything specific to offer you on this subject. But this is something that we continue to work and we certainly continue to be in contact with our partners in the six-party talks to try and urge the North Koreans back to the table.
QUESTION: What does this say about the six-party process, though; that North Korea's increasingly belligerent and threatening to do things like this? Whether or not it's true, they've apparently taken enough steps to convince some people that they are planning this test.
MR. CASEY: Well, you know, again, I think the international community spoke very clearly after the North Korean missile tests about what North Korea's obligations are and what the North Koreans should be doing. Again, there's no benefit to the North Koreans in taking steps that only serve to further isolate them from the rest of the international community. The way forward for them is clearly laid out. That's outlined in the September 19th agreement and that's what we're looking for them to do.
QUESTION: South Korea tends to -- is dismissing these reports. So you have South Korea saying -- is they haven't seen any evidence of it. And you have a senior official telling a network that there's something to be anxious about here. They seem to be in that -- preparing for a test. They both can't be right, unless --
MR. CASEY: Well --
QUESTION: -- it's a matter of how material is interpreted.
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, you know, I'll leave it to you and I'll leave it to others to speculate about North Korean intentions and activities. The fact of the matter is, you know, I'm simply not in a position to talk to you about any intelligence-related matters. Our concerns about North Korea's nuclear program are well known and, again, there's a clear way forward for addressing them that serves the North Koreans interest, that serves our interest, and that's through the six-party talks.
QUESTION: Do you think South Korea's public statements on the North Korea nuclear activities are tinged at all by their anxiety about their neighbors to the North? Or do you think it's -- you can count on these statements as empirically valid?
MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not sure which specific statements you're referring to.
QUESTION: What about this one?
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry --
QUESTION: Maybe they don't want to antagonize North Korea. Could that be?
MR. CASEY: Well, look, I'll let the South Koreans speak for themselves and speak for their intentions of behind their public statements. Frankly, though, the South Koreans are strong partners with us in the six-party talks. We're all in agreement on the way forward. Again, I'll leave it to them in terms of any analysis they have to share with you about what their neighbors to the North are doing.
QUESTION: It's on China.
MR. CASEY: Okay.
QUESTION: Can I ask --
MR. CASEY: Do we still have North Korea?
QUESTION: The media repeated concerns -- does the U.S. plan to step up measures to prevent any counterfeiting, money laundering by North Korea?
MR. CASEY: Well, as you know, the Treasury Department has taken action in the past against Banco Delta Asia in respect to illicit currency transactions. I don't have anything new to share with you in that regard. But obviously, you know, one of the things that we continue to do and look at, not only with North Korea but with any countries out there, is trying to ensure the security of the U.S. financial system. And that certainly means taking strong action against any measures to counterfeit U.S. currency or to money launder and engage in other kinds of illicit financial transactions.
QUESTION: Is there any moves in the UN to get a greater participation by other nations on these moves against counterfeiting and money laundering?
MR. CASEY: Nothing that I have to specifically share with you right now. Certainly there are obligations by member-states on a number of fronts, including through some of the anti-terrorist financing provisions that are out there for countries to do what they can collectively to prevent money laundering or counterfeiting or, again, other transactions for purposes of terrorism. Certainly we're working in a number of areas outside of that, through things like the Proliferation Security Initiative and other means to try and ensure that there is not financing or transfer of materials related to weapons of mass destruction. But I don't have anything specific for you on UN action at this point.
QUESTION: On South Korea?
MR. CASEY: On South Korea, okay. And then we'll go to China, Teri. Sorry.
QUESTION: No, I'm not doing China. Sue is.
MR. CASEY: Oh, Sue's doing China. Okay.
QUESTION: The South Korean Government wanted to transfer over wartime command-and-control. What is the United States response to on that?
MR. CASEY: On -- I'm sorry -- on what issue?
QUESTION: Wartime. Transfer of wartime command-and-control.
MR. CASEY: Is this regarding the command of forces?
MR. CASEY: Frankly, I'd refer you over to the Pentagon for that in terms of what command arrangements exist or not. Obviously they and South Korean military officials have conversations on a regular basis about how they would coordinate activities in the event of a conflict, but I don't have anything to offer on that.
QUESTION: Can I just try one more on the nuclear test?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that it's not true? There are public estimates of North Korea's abilities so you don't have to rely on intelligence for everything or secret intelligence for everything. Is there reason to believe North Korea does not have this capability now?
MR. CASEY: Look, Teri, I have nothing to offer you beyond what's already been stated publicly on this subject. And again, you know, discussing the specifics of this press report, which is what's prompting all this, gets to a discussion of intelligence issues and I just simply can't go there for you.
QUESTION: Do you take issue with a State Department official saying that it is true and that it's --
MR. CASEY: I have no idea who that official is or what their statements were based on. Simply put, I'm just not going to comment on intelligence issues.
QUESTION: Are you going to try to find -- and is the State Department apt to try to find out who the official is and perhaps confine him to his office for three hours, or what? I mean, it sounds like a capital offense. You guys are making a case that Iran and North Korea are threatening and something must be done about their nuclear program, then somebody pops up with a story that South and North Korea is preparing to have a test. I don't know why you would -- why the State Department would be shy about confirming that or disputing it.
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, look. First of all, a couple of points. I think we've been extremely outspoken and extremely clear about our concerns about North Korea's nuclear program.
MR. CASEY: You've heard estimates, public estimates given by the intelligence community about their assessment of North Korea's nuclear program and its capabilities. Those assessments and those kinds of statements, you know, reflect a consensus view of the U.S. Government about the problems that we confront in terms of dealing with North Korea's program. Frankly, there is a tremendous difference between that and unnamed officials speculating about intelligence matters. And you know, again, I'll leave it to the experts in the intelligence community to lay forward what our concerted views are in an appropriate forum and that rests with the public statements that have already been made and I honestly don't have anything new to share with you on it.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the trial of a blind Chinese writer/ activist Chen Guangcheng? His trial ended in sort of disarray today with his lawyer not allowed to appear for him and his wife wasn't allowed to attend, et cetera.
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Well, this is a case that we have spoken to before and certainly what I understand to be the most recent actions. We're certainly disturbed by reports that at least two of Mr. Chen's attorneys were detained and there's been continued reports that his supporters have been harassed. The detention of his attorneys, which occurred the day before his trial, were also on the heels of the detention of another attorney and activist, Gao Zhisheng, and this certainly calls into question China's commitment to the rule of law in this case and more broadly. Our Embassy in Beijing has strongly protested this detention to the Chinese authorities and we've raised this case, as I think you know, on a number of occasions at a variety of different levels, both in Washington and in Beijing, and we've urged the authorities responsible for his prosecution to drop the charges and release him.
Mr. Chen, for those of you who don't know, is a blind legal activist and his work has uncovered abuses in China's birth limitation policies and the charges that have been brought against him include things as disrupting traffic and destroying public property. I think to say the least, they appear highly questionable to us, as do some of the charges of petty theft that we understand have been leveled against his attorneys now.
So at this point what we're doing is again urging the Chinese Government to respect the rights of their citizens to advocate peacefully for the rights of their fellow citizens, certainly not only in China but anyplace around the world. No one should suffer for simply expressing their views, for raising concerns about government policies and for advocating for the redress of grievances.
Let's -- Cam, did you have --
QUESTION: Different subject? Is that okay?
MR. CASEY: Are we okay with that? Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Can you give us a reaction to the statements that were published in the Communist Party newspaper Gramma this morning by Raul Castro in which he said that he had mobilized Cuba's armed forces expecting a possible invasion from the U.S. and couldn't risk someone in the Bush Administration going crazy or even crazier, I think were his words, and also the criticism that he leveled against the U.S. plan for a post-Castro Cuba?
MR. CASEY: Well, gee, I guess you're asking me what we think of remarks by Fidel's baby brother. What do we think of them? I guess not much is the answer. You know, we're not particularly fond, as you know, of the Government of Cuba as run by Fidel. I can't say that we're particularly enamored of the first words we've heard from Fidel Lite.
The situation in Cuba is definitely one that continues to be of grave concern for us. The plan that's been put forward -- and you've heard from Caleb McCarry, our Special Coordinator for Cuban Policy, as well as from Tom Shannon and others in recent days about this. The plan that we've put forward is designed to assist the Cuban people as they move through a transition to a democratic government. It's our firm hope that that transition comes sooner rather than later. But as we've made clear, that plan exists to assist the Cuban people in that transition and to provide them help when they ask us for it.
We certainly want to do everything we can to hasten that day and to help that day move forward, and you've heard about some of our efforts in broadcasting, some of our efforts in trying to help break the information blockade that the Cuban Government has imposed on its people to try and do that. But you know, I think that the efforts of the Castro government to impose some kind of dynastic succession on the island are certainly things that are not only not acceptable to us but we think in the long run aren't going to be acceptable to the Cuban people either.
QUESTION: But fathers and -- sons succeed fathers in this country.
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Amazingly --
QUESTION: -- in this kind of dynamic.
MR. CASEY: -- amazingly, though, Barry, they do it through free and fair election and --
QUESTION: Right. But it's not against the law for someone's son to take over or brother take over.
MR. CASEY: I think what would be a wonderful thing to happen is --
QUESTION: It's so (inaudible). It's a cheap shot.
MR. CASEY: -- that the people of Cuba were given the opportunity --
QUESTION: Well, of course.
MR. CASEY: -- to vote for who they wish to have for their leader. And I think we'll take the bet that the choice would not be a continuation of the Castro regime.
QUESTION: Well, can I ask you about one of our -- one of the U.S. good friends, Turkey?
MR. CASEY: Barry, I think we're -- I think we're still on Cuba, but then we can go to Turkey.
QUESTION: Yeah. (Inaudible) it's nearly three weeks since we know that Fidel Castro has been sick and we find now Raul Castro has made practically his first comments. What do you think? Do you think this succession is a little more advanced in their opinion or what do you think?
MR. CASEY: Well first of all, you know, I don't have anything new to offer you on Fidel Castro's health. I also don't have any way of trying to gauge how this rather closed and tight circle of a regime is trying to think or move forward. Again, I think the main point for us is that we think the ability of the Cuban people to live in freedom, to freely choose their leaders is long overdue. What we want to see is a transition from the current dictatorship to a democratic government. And we certainly don't think that a transition from Fidel to Raul Castro fits that bill.
QUESTION: But don't you say that the fact that -- they say that they have mobilized the army, preparing for an invasion. It looks like Raul Castro is trying to just prop up his friends where he probably has most of them.
MR. CASEY: Well, look, certainly this regime practices the same kind of cronyism that we saw in other communist regimes that have fortunately largely been consigned to history. Again, I don't have a way of judging the motivations behind this. But what we're looking for and what we want to see is a transition to a democratic Cuba.
Barry, do you want to do Turkey?
QUESTION: I think this was touched on yesterday, but I want to try again. There were persistent reports that Turkey permitted overflights of weapons bound for Hezbollah from -- and I wondered if the U.S. checked into that and if there's been any explanation offered by the Turkish Government, if true?
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, basically I'd start by referring you back to what I said yesterday on this.
QUESTION: And I saw what you said, yeah.
MR. CASEY: But you know, Iran and Syria have a long history of supply arms to Hezbollah and other terrorist groups in the region, as you know. And Iran certainly has used the airspace of other countries in doing so, often deceiving those countries as to the true nature of the shipments involved. And those kinds of practices certainly put at risk legitimate commerce and humanitarian relief efforts as well. You know, we believe that all the countries of the region, including Turkey, are sensitized to this issue. We certainly do not believe that the Turkish Government as far as I am aware, did anything that would violate the terms of Resolution 1701. As -- again, as I've said, this is an issue we have spoken to them about as well as to other countries and we certainly believe that the Turkish Government fully intends to work in support of this resolution.
QUESTION: So I think, if I may, I think if I translate what you're saying a little bit, I think you're saying Turkey, as far as the U.S. knows, didn't knowingly permit use of its airspace for delivery of weapons to an organization the State Department considers a terrorist group. But you can be fooled. It's a strange world out there and maybe it happened without their knowledge. Does that sum it up?
MR. CASEY: Well, look, Barry, I don't have anything that I can offer you on, you know, what did or didn't happen in terms of specific movements of material. Again, I think as a general principle it's known that Iran has engaged in deceptive practices and used the airspace of other countries in order to be able to make illicit arms shipments to Hezbollah and to other terrorist groups. It's a problem that has been out there. It's a problem that, you know, needs to be addressed. And one of the positive things about Resolution 1701 is it puts all countries clearly on notice that there is now a full prohibition against anyone transferring arms or those kinds of military material of any kind to anyone other than the legitimate armed forces of Lebanon.
QUESTION: On something else on Lebanon, if I can quickly --
MR. CASEY: Actually, I think -- Mr. Lambros are you still on Turkey?
MR. CASEY: Same --
QUESTION: The same subject.
MR. CASEY: Okay, good.
QUESTION: Do you have independent information from your embassy knowing about this transfer?
MR. CASEY: About the specific transfer referred to in that story?
MR. CASEY: No, I don't.
QUESTION: Thank you. And also on Turkey --
MR. CASEY: Well, actually --
QUESTION: More on Lebanon.
MR. CASEY: We'll keep one more on Turkey and then we'll go back to Lebanon.
QUESTION: The spokesman of the Turkish Foreign Minister Namik Tan stated today, "If Turkey eventually decides to send its troops to Lebanon they will under no circumstances be a combat force. It will not be under consideration for these forces to participate in any kind of activity as disarm Hezbollah. They will be deployed only with the mission of peacekeeping and have a role in humanitarian aid and logistical assistance." Any comment?
MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen the statement. But again, I think the Resolution 1701 makes clear what the mandate of the UNIFIL forces are. And every country, Turkey included, is going to be looking at how they intend to contribute to this force and what they intend to bring to the table. We had a good meeting in New York yesterday that was a good start on developing that force. I think it's clear from those conversations that all the countries participating believe that we do need to have a very substantial and robust force.
There is a concept of operations and a set of rules of engagement that were developed in part as a result of yesterday's meeting that are now being reviewed by potential troop-contributing countries. And I think that's a very important step forward. Because what that allows Turkey and other countries that have an interest in participating in this force to do is have a very clear understanding of what the rules of engagement are, of how the force would operate and that gives them a certain -- greater measure of clarity as a basis for making their final decisions on what they intend their contributions to bring in and how they intend to move forward.
Barry, let's move back to you.
QUESTION: Go back to Lebanon. The Washington Times had an interesting story today about a race -- they didn't use the word but it's clearly competition -- in the reconstruction of Lebanon. A race between Hezbollah, which is looking for points with the Lebanese people, and that people, you know, the United States and such who want to rebuild Lebanon as well. Is the U.S. Government -- the U.S. Government and its evolving -- and it is evolving policy on Hezbollah -- does the U.S. have any problem with Hezbollah -- clearly, you say there were two wings, this obviously is not the armed wing -- with Hezbollah helping to rebuild Lebanon.
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, I think what's most important for us is that the United States and the rest of the international community are helping to rebuild Lebanon and are ultimately going to be the people most responsible for doing so. I think it's important to remember that the United States has been providing support for Lebanon in the form of humanitarian assistance since the very early days of this conflict. That included both providing medical assistance, providing other humanitarian support, assisting the ICRC working with the Israelis and the Lebanese Government to open up humanitarian corridors, working to assist in the secure arrival of relief shipments through them as well as through the ports and otherwise.
We've also talked about, and you've heard from us before about, our commitment to provide some funding and support for the Lebanese army, so that the Lebanese army can fulfill its mission under Resolution 1701. And so that ultimately we can fulfill the objectives of 1559, which is make sure that the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese armed forces are the sole authority in the country.
You've heard as well about additional commitments of funds that have been made by the United States and we've said and the Secretary has said that we intend to be and make strong contributions to the reconstruction of Lebanon for the long term because ultimately part of assuring that we have a strong Lebanese Government, a Lebanese Government that can really serve all of its people, is making sure that the country does have a serious, robust reconstruction process underway and that the international community participates in it. And we've seen support coming in from other places as well, from a number of the Gulf states, from a number of other countries. We've got a donors conference that's scheduled for August 31st and that will be another opportunity to rally international support for it.
I think we're also heartened by -- and you heard from a couple of your colleagues here about the response that the American community is making, that individual and private American citizens are as well. So ultimately I think what you're going to see is that the United States, the UN and the international community are going to be the ones who are going to not only help rebuild and establish the reconstruction of Lebanon but through our diplomatic efforts, through the efforts of UNIFIL and through the implementation of Resolution 1701 are going to ensure that Lebanon is truly and completely for the Lebanese and for all the Lebanese people and that Lebanon has a government and has a system in place that will prevent the kind of unnecessary and unprovoked violence that Hezbollah started earlier this year.
QUESTION: Yeah, but I asked about Hezbollah reconstruction, if the U.S. has any problem with Hezbollah, as Hamas does in its own way, dealing with social issues and helping to rebuild Lebanon? Is there a problem with that?
MR. CASEY: Barry, look. I think our views on Hezbollah are well known; that is, Hezbollah as an organization. I can't speak to, you know, individuals engaged in specific activities in individual villages or other places. Clearly we want to see Lebanon be rebuilt, we want to see the people of Lebanon have an opportunity for a peaceful and prosperous life, and that's what we're going to be supporting. I don't really want to try and engage in discussions about individuals doing individual projects in different places in the south.
QUESTION: Hezbollah today was handing out packets of $12,000 worth of cash to help people pay for their rent and other things. Are you concerned that Hezbollah is going to sort of win the hearts and minds of the Lebanese population?
MR. CASEY: Well, look --
QUESTION: Because of the slowness of possibly the U.S. getting out there and others getting out there helping with infrastructure and being on the ground?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think you've already seen a very positive response not only from us but again from other members of the international community, seen a response also in terms of doing things, starting things already that are going to be necessary for the long-term recovery of Lebanon. That includes the efforts that the UN's just announced in terms of dealing with serious oil spills and dealing with some of the terrible conflicts -- or consequences of that, which are having a tremendous impact on the economic viability of that part of the country.
The international community has stepped forward and is stepping forward and we're going to continue to do so. And I think as you look over the coming days not only at the donors conference on the 31st but before that as well, you're going to see increased and stepped-up efforts by all members of the international community to be able to deal with this.
Ultimately what we believe is that the results of our efforts, not only the U.S. but those of other countries, is going to ensure that there's a Lebanon that's free of militias, there's a Lebanon that's whole, there's a Lebanon that's run by a legitimate Lebanese government, and that's what we're focused on.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any reservations about countries that do not recognize Israel or do not have diplomatic relations with Israel participating in the UN peacekeeping force?
MR. CASEY: Well, look. There's a lot of discussions that are underway over who should be participating in this force and how they ought to be doing so. Again, I'll let those conversations play out up in New York. You know, certainly I think everyone needs to be sensitive to the needs and concerns of the parties involved. Certainly we want to see a UNIFIL -- expanded UNIFIL force -- that has the confidence of the Lebanese Government and that has the confidence of the Israeli Government. Ultimately that's something that is going to help it fulfill its mandate.
QUESTION: The French was meant to form the core of this international force and yet they have only offered an -- initially anyway -- an additional 200 troops. Are you disappointed at this initial offering by the French and are you hopeful that they might come forward with a more generous offer?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think the emphasis on what we've heard from the French so far should be initial contribution. The French have said and made their statement about plussing up their existing contingent to UNIFIL. As I mentioned before, part of the result of the conference yesterday at the UN was to finalize a concept of operations and a set of rules of engagement and that really is a very critical piece I think for France and for many other countries, considering participating in the force. That is something that they need to have to be able to have their militaries and have their political leadership assess what their ultimate participation is going to be and I know this is something that the French were very anxious to have as well as others. Certainly we look forward to them reviewing that information and reviewing that concept of operations and rules of engagement over the coming days. And after they've done so, I'm sure that they will come back with a more complete and final response as to what their ultimate contribution is going to be. So I expect that we haven't heard that last from them or from many other individuals out there. As I said the conference in New York yesterday provided us with a good start, but it certainly isn't the endpoint of discussions or of our expectation of contributions to the force.
QUESTION: We've heard that the French are beginning to send their troops over to Cyprus on Sunday. Are they going to arrive in adequate enough time and do you have any expectations on what that timeline might be?
MR. CASEY: I'm not going to comment on U.S. military maneuvers, so I'm certainly not in the position to comment on --
QUESTION: Well -- and generally on their Rapid Response force, in general, actually.
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think what we want to see happen is have this force be a robust one, move into place as quickly as is possible and we are confident that ultimately we are going to have that force there. I really don't have a sense for you of the specific timetables of the entire force or of individual components of it in terms of troops movements. And that's something that the peacekeeping operations folks up in New York are working on. Had I John Hillen's brain sitting beside me here I could probably give you a better estimate on that timeline, but it's just not information I have for you, Kirit.
QUESTION: On Greece. It was reported today by Washington Times that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sent a letter to the Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis. Do you know what it's all about?
MR. CASEY: I certainly don't. But normally we wouldn't comment on the private correspondence between the Secretary and any of her ministerial colleagues. Certainly she very much appreciated having the opportunity to speak with the Foreign Minister recently and we are very pleased to continue to enjoy our usual good and warm relations with Greece. On PKK, the spokesman -- the Turkish Prime Minister and Namik Tan called yesterday the U.S. Government to take more concrete steps against PKK in northern Iraq, instead of, as he said, "stating the obvious," reacting to Mr. McCormack's earlier statement of August 14th who asked the PKK to "lay down its arms." How do you respond?
MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen the statement. Mr. Lambros, I think our policy is clear on this: The PKK is a terrorist organization. We do not broke any efforts by the PKK to use the territory of northern Iraq for attacks on Turkey. We've talked about establishing a trilateral mechanism with the Turks, the Iraqis and ourselves to try and deal with the problem of PKK terrorism and to ensure that we're all working together as hard as we can to deal with this problem.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:52 p.m.)
Released on August 18, 2006