State Dept. Daily Press Briefing October 6, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
October 6, 2006
Anniversary of Pakistan Earthquake / US Relief and Reconstruction
Sudanese Government's Clarification Regarding Position on
Countries Contributing To UN Peacekeeping Force
Status of Visa and Travel to Sudan by Special Envoy Andrew Natsios
Situation in Darfur / US Diplomatic and Humanitarian Efforts
North Korea's Announced Missile Test / UN Security Council
Whereabouts of Assistant Secretary Chris Hill
Secretary Rice's Attendance at P-5+1 Meeting in London
Japan's Investment in Iran's Oilfields
Secretary Rice's Meeting with President of Kurdish Regional
Government Massoud Barzani in Erbil, Iraq
US-EU Reach Agreement on Sharing of Passenger Name Record Data
Case of Luis Posada Carrile
12:53 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Afternoon, everyone. Don't have any opening announcements for you, but I do have a statement that I'd like to call your attention to and we'll be putting this out in electronic and in text form after the briefing.
On Sunday the people of Pakistan will mark the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck that country on October 8, 2005. We join the people of Pakistan as they mourn the tragic loss of so many innocent victims and remember them in their thoughts and prayers.
The United States is proud to have played a major role in both the immediate relief effort and in the ongoing reconstruction efforts there. And I think as you know, over the course of five months we had more than 20 U.S. helicopters delivering 14,000 tons of relief supplies and evacuating hundreds of Pakistani victims. We've also assisted the people of Pakistan with more than $240 million in emergency assistance and that includes a number of contributions from American individuals and the major corporate effort that we helped sponsor as part of that. So these efforts are a reflection of our ongoing commitment and the enduring friendship that exists between the people of the United States and Pakistan, and in this time of remembrance we want to join with the people of Pakistan and reaffirm our commitment to working with them together, both to continue the efforts of reconstruction and on other issues in our bilateral relationship.
And with that, go to your questions.
MR. CASEY: Go ahead, Barry.
QUESTION: The Sudanese Government has been telling various governments at the UN that to put UN peacekeepers in Sudan would be a hostile act and I wonder if you thought that was a hostile act by Sudan?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, Barry, we've seen the comments and some of the written comments that were made. And I think you've heard Ambassador Bolton speak to that yesterday. What's happened, though, in the last 24 hours is that the Sudanese now have come in and clarified their position and have basically backed off those assertions. In fact, they've made clear to us that that idea that somehow offering contributions to a UN force would be some kind of hostile act, in fact, does not reflect the policy of their government. So there are still discussions going on in the Security Council right now focused on the overall situation in Sudan and Darfur, but I'm pleased to say that we have gotten this clarification and that that does not appear to in fact be the position of their government.
QUESTION: They told the U.S. directly?
MR. CASEY: They have circulated a letter indicating what their position is.
QUESTION: Knowing you'd get it?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. We have received a copy of it as have other members of the Council.
QUESTION: Anything new on Andrew Natsios' trip visa, etcetera?
MR. CASEY: Still planning, still ongoing. He's applied for a visa I believe yesterday, maybe it was two days ago. I do not have any final response to that but, again, we expect that that visa will be granted.
Let's go over here.
QUESTION: Did the United States Government ask the Chinese Government -- ask for the special envoy sent to North Korea?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think what we are doing is several things. We're working in the UN to make clear the international community's condemnation of North Korea's threats to test a nuclear weapon. That is something that I understand there is now agreement on a presidential statement and I expect you'll see the Council speak to that shortly.
This will clearly represent the strong views of the international community rejecting these threats by North Korea to test a nuclear weapon. Certainly, we're also working with the other members of the six-party process and other interested countries to see that all of us do what we can to convince the North Koreans not to go ahead with this threat to carry out a test. We think that would clearly be a provocation and something that again, as you'll see when the presidential statement is issued by the Security Council, there is broad rejection and condemnation of.
The Chinese have spoken out on this and I think they've made their views very clear on this issue as well. Certainly, we encourage them and all other countries in the region that have influence on North Korea to use it to convince them to turn away from this. I'd leave it up to the Chinese as to what the best way for them to exert their influence on the North Korean Government is, but certainly we want to see them and everyone else do whatever they can to prevent this from happening.
QUESTION: I have to ask almost daily because you never know. Is Chris Hill about to go there? As of yesterday, no.
MR. CASEY: Chris Hill is still here and I don't have any travel plans to announce for you.
QUESTION: President Bush had yesterday a telephone call to Chinese Government. Is it true, ask for a --
MR. CASEY: Say again? President Bush did what?
QUESTION: Did the Chinese ask -- the Chinese Government?
MR. CASEY: I'm not aware of what communications the President might or might have had with the Chinese Government. You'll have to go ask our friends at the White House about that.
QUESTION: Can we get an update on -- if we can move on to Iran?
MR. CASEY: Anything else on North Korea?
MR. CASEY: North Korea back here.
QUESTION: There was a military review reported recently in Pyongyang. Does the U.S. view that as significant in any way?
MR. CASEY: I really don't think we have any particular analysis of it. Trying to understand the motivations of various activities within the North Korean leadership is something I don't think we have a lot of insight into. It is a fairly opaque system.
Mr. Lambros, is this North Korea?
QUESTION: On Iraq.
MR. CASEY: Well, let's go Iraq next, Iran first. David.
QUESTION: Yes, if we can get an update on the P-5+1 because, I mean, the British still seem to think that everyone's coming, and Secretary Rice on the plane seemed to imply that the Chinese wouldn't be coming. Do you know where that's at?
MR. CASEY: Well, I can't speak for other delegations. Certainly I think Secretary Rice has either just arrived or will arrive very shortly to London to participate in these meetings. As she told some of your colleagues on the plane, there were a number of scheduling concerns with individuals, including the fact that as she is arriving Foreign Minister Lavrov, as I understand it, has other commitments back in Moscow that he needs to attend to, so there will not be a great deal of time for all of them to be together. I'm not -- I don't have any particular confirmation that the Chinese Foreign Minister was in attendance, but my understanding was he was supposed to be, and certainly nothing in her comments should be indicative of an idea that he had not in fact attended. My understanding was that he was in fact there in London. But you'd have to actually check with the folks on the ground.
QUESTION: Another thing that she said was that the discussions would be continuing next week. Does that mean the discussions at the ministerial level and prior to the start of deliberations at the UN?
MR. CASEY: Well, we're having discussions on this issue really, literally, on a daily basis. As I said, Nick Burns has been in contact with his counterparts at the political directors level fairly consistently throughout this process. I'm sure those kinds of conversations will continue. And I believe as she said on the plane, there is an expectation that because of the somewhat truncated nature of this meeting that there'll probably be an opportunity sometime next week or over the weekend for the ministers to consult together by phone.
Let's go back here.
QUESTION: On Japan and Iran. Japan made a decision to reduce investments in the Azadegan oil fields from 75 percent to 10 percent, and the Bush Administration has encouraged Japan on several occasions to be cautious about investment in Iran. So would the United States see this as a positive step?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, these are decisions for individual governments to make, but obviously I think under the circumstances I don't think we'd view this as the appropriate time to be making major investments in Iran.
And I think you had a question on Iran as well, right?
QUESTION: We are talking about the North Korean and Iran. Are you seeing similarity between these two countries? Because usually they're coming at the same time, they're in the middle -- in July North Korea regarding the missiles of North Korea launching missile, and at the same time Iran supposed to go the Security Council. Right now Iran supposed to go to Security Council and North Korea coming with a nuclear test. Are you seeing any similarity between these two countries or maybe some kind of cooperation?
MR. CASEY: Well, in terms of what coordination or cooperation they have between them, I'd leave it to officials in both those countries to talk to. In terms of our view of the issue, obviously they are unique and distinct problems. We are treating them as we see fit for each individual issue. We, though, are committed in both instances to trying to find a diplomatic resolution to these crises and do so in a way that frankly serves not only the interests of the United States and the broader international community but the people of those countries themselves.
QUESTION: On Iraq. Mr. Casey, I need your attention. According to Associated Press today, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appealed Friday, that means today, for cooperation from the autonomous and oil-rich Kurdistan north, Rice visiting the region's powerful-most President Massoud Barzani less than two weeks after the regional government threatened to break away from Iraq in a dispute over oil. After a session with the staff, followed by a lengthy one-on-one meeting of the Kurdish government offices in Erbil, Condoleezza Rice and Massoud Barzani stood in front of U.S. and Kurdish flags and spoke to reporters.
Any comments since U.S. is fighting there for a unified and not partitioned Iraq?
MR. CASEY: You mean other than the comments the two of them made to your reporter friends and colleagues in Iraq?
MR. CASEY: I don't think I have a lot to add. I think their comments speak for themselves. Obviously, as the Secretary said, we continue to push for a unified Iraq. We want all parties in the country to be able to work together for the benefit of everyone. And I think as we've made clear repeatedly and as is called for in the hydrocarbon law that the Iraqi parliament is now considering, we believe that Iraq's oil resources should be used for the benefit of all the people of Iraq.
QUESTION: And on Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel during his visit to Ankara stated with the presence of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan that the Turkish Government should open its seaports and airports to the Cypriot ships and airplanes. Anything to say on German Chancellor's statement since the U.S. Government, Mr. Casey, for 32 years now is working hard too for a solution to the Cyprus problem?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'd leave it to the Chancellor's office and Prime Minister Erdogan's office as well to comment on their meetings. Certainly, we are pleased to see that there are good relations between Turkey and Germany. Germany, of course, is a very important member of the European Union. You know our belief that we certainly would like to see Turkey become a member of the EU, although obviously that is a decision for the EU and its individual members to decide.
In terms of the Cyprus issue, again, I think you know our policy and it is longstanding. We would certainly like to see a resolution of that conflict that is in keeping with the wishes of both communities and certainly would be supportive of any efforts that lead towards that objective.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: We've got one more over here.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Sudan first?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: In light of yesterday's letter that Barry mentioned and these new TV ads that are circulating essentially calling for the end of genocide in Darfur, what is the United States doing about the situation over there and what is the U.S. doing outside of the parameters of the United Nations?
MR. CASEY: Well, we continue to work on this issue and work on it very hard because we do understand that it's long overdue to stop the violence in Darfur. And we're doing that through a number of means.
First and foremost, we're continuing to provide a large portion of the humanitarian assistance needed to help the people of Darfur and to be able to try and take care of the very grave concerns and the humanitarian needs of people in the refugee camps.
Secondarily, we continue to work not only in the Security Council but through other means, with NATO as well as with other individual countries and the African Union, to strengthen and add support to the African Union force that's on the ground. As we've all said, what we need to see happen is not just a strengthening of that force, but see it re-hatted as soon as possible into a broader, stronger United Nations force. And that is something that's critical towards being able to implement the Darfur Peace Agreement, which is the ultimate political solution to the situation on the ground there.
As you know, the President has named Andrew Natsios as a special envoy for Sudan. He intends to travel out there, as we said a little earlier, in this month and hopes to be able to again continue to have our discussions with the Government of Sudan, to encourage them and push them to do the right thing and do what they essentially agreed to under the Darfur Peace Agreement, which is accept a UN force and to move forward with implementation of it.
QUESTION: That's our policy. That's the U.S. policy. The question really is: What are you doing? The Secretary the other day made a passionate pitch that had several major points in it. One is that the aid isn't getting through, that people are starving and they're dying and women are getting raped. And the other was a very direct appeal to Muslim countries, especially in Africa, to be part of this. You know, it's hard -- it would be hard to understand how, if the U.S. had support from other countries, you wouldn't be getting -- moving -- you wouldn't be getting someplace. The U.S. seems to be in a very lonely position without a whole lot of help. Have you gotten anything in response to her appeal? If not, of course, previous appeals? Is anybody weighing in besides Britain?
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, certainly I think we all need to do everything we can to be able to move forward on this. Again, this is a situation that is very dire and that is a humanitarian crisis, and it's something that we have great concern with. That's why we have worked so hard in the Security Council to get a resolution and authorize -- authorizing a peacekeeping force. It's why Deputy Secretary -- then Deputy Secretary Zoellick and many other people in this building, including Assistant Secretary Frazer, worked so hard to achieve the Darfur Peace Agreement because ultimately we believe that is the way forward.
In the Secretary's meetings with a number of the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Egypt, Jordan -- she certainly did make a very strong appeal to them to use their influence and use their efforts to be able to help the Sudanese Government move forward and do the right thing here. I do think she got a fairly favorable and positive response from them on that, and I think you can look to see Special Envoy Natsios follow up on some of those conversations along with a number of other people to try and bring additional support from some of Sudan's neighbors and some of Sudan's fellow members of the Arab League to do this.
But no, this is certainly something where we want to see people do more, and I think having people do more would be helpful to us. Most importantly, though, it'd be helpful to the people of Sudan and helpful to the people of Darfur.
QUESTION: Is there some reason to question the time it's taking to get him -- for him to get a visa? And should he ever get off the ground, will he go to any of these other places to try to drum up support?
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, again I don't have an itinerary for him. Again, we only applied for his visa a couple days ago. So I don't think that there's anything particularly unusual in the timing of that. Again, it's our expectation and anticipation that that visa will be granted and that he will be traveling, and I do think he will be traveling to some of these other countries, in fact, to talk to them about what they can do to assist us in it. But again I don't have an itinerary to share with you, so I don't want to try and get ahead of him or get a head of myself on it.
QUESTION: Tom, do you have anything on the U.S. and the EU talks on passengers -- airline passengers' visas agreement perhaps?
MR. CASEY: I think I may have a little bit on that for you. And let's see. Well, I think as you know, Charlie, the U.S. and EU negotiators have reached an agreement on sharing passenger name record data, and this is something that will allow the U.S. to make full use of this information as it needs to to protect our borders.
The agreement does promote our joint goals of combating terrorism, and we do think it also provides for a respect for fundamental rights and freedoms including most importantly privacy. That's a translated way of saying we think this meets the needs of both countries' legislation and policies.
The agreement, as I understand it, still has to go before EU member-states for approval. So that's something that will need to be done for it to be finalized. But under the agreement, the EU is going to ensure that airlines flying to the United States will provide the necessary data to Customs and Border Protection.
So again, this is a welcome step. It's not quite finalized because it certainly needs to be reviewed appropriately by EU member-states. But we do think this will solve the immediate problem. This is a shorter-term agreement. It does have a termination date at this point of July 31, 2007. And during the course of that year or less than a year, we'll be working on a longer-term agreement that, again, will be able to solidify this in a way that helps us both serve the need to defend against and fight terrorism while at the same time providing for the necessary legal protections and rights of individuals.
QUESTION: One more?
MR. CASEY: We've got this one back here.
QUESTION: Last month Magistrate Judge Norbert Garney recommended the release of Luis Posada Carriles, currently incarcerated in Texas, saying that the U.S. Government had not categorized him as a terrorist. The Justice Department, however, has recognized that Mr. Posada was involved in the bombing of a Cubana Airlines passenger jet that killed over 70 people, serious non-political crimes outside of the United States and crime -- and a crime involving moral turpitude. Why, then, has the Administration not recognized him as a terrorist and asked the courts to treat him as such?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, this is a matter before a U.S. Immigration judge still. For those reasons, I'd leave it for the courts to talk about the case. It's also a matter, since it does involve issues related to immigration that's being handled by the Department of Homeland Security. And for any kind of definitions about that case, I'd just refer you to them.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)
DPB # 163
Released on October 6, 2006