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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing October 17, 2006

Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 17, 2006

INDEX:

IRAN
Status of UN Discussions on Iran / Security Council Resolution
Imposing Sanctions
Article 41, Chapter 7 / P-5+1 Understanding of Resolution

TURKEY/CYPRUS
US Position on Cyprus and Support of UN Under Secretary Gambari
Parties Should Come Up with Mutually Agreeable Solution

NORTH KOREA
Query Regarding a Second Test by North Korea

CROATIA
Readout of Secretary's Meeting with Prime Minister of Croatia
Worldwide Fight Against Terrorism
Cooperative Relationship with Countries in the Balkans

TAIWAN
President Chen on the Concept of the Second Republic /
Constitution
President Chen's Inaugural Address

KOSOVO
U.S. Continues to Support Discussions By Ahtisaari

VENEZUELA/BOLIVIA
President Morales' Comments on a Conspiracy
Commitments Should be Honored with Other Countries and Private
Industry

TANZANIA
US Offer of Permanent Resettlement to Burandi Refugees / Request
by UNHCR

MISCELLANEOUS
John Bellinger's Negotiations on Repatriation Agreements of
Guantanamo Detainees
Transfer of Individuals Back to Home Country


TRANSCRIPT:

12:35 p.m. EDT


MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to a rainy Tuesday at the State Department. I don't have any opening statements or announcements for you. So, Barry, let's go right to your questions.

QUESTION: I don't have any questions.

MR. CASEY: Well, there you go.

QUESTION: I have a question. What about the discussions on Iran at the UN? Are we near resolution and sanctions?

MR. CASEY: Well, discussions are continuing at the UN and they are bilaterally among a number of the countries in the P-5+1. Certainly we are working for swift passage of a Security Council resolution that will impose sanctions on Iran under Article 41, Chapter 7, of the UN charter in response to Iran's failure to accept the offer of the P-5+1 to engage in negotiations after they would suspend their uranium enrichment activities. But I don't have any specific updates to offer you in terms of timing up there. But again, discussions continue, and we're hoping to move forward on this very quickly.

Charlie.

QUESTION: If you don't have anything specific on timing, would you characterize swift in any other way? I mean, are you looking at days or weeks or --

MR. CASEY: Well, we're looking Charlie -- we're looking to move as quickly as we possibly can on it. I've lost a lot of money betting a number of people about timing for UN votes, and I don't think I want to try and lose any more at this point.

QUESTION: Did the discussions stop between the permanent representatives in UN --

MR. CASEY: My understanding is there have been ongoing discussions at the UN among our permanent representatives as well as among more expert level contacts. And those discussions are ongoing, but I don't have a specific time for you as to when a resolution might be tabled.

QUESTION: The French Ambassador to the UN, Mr. de la Sablière told us this morning that he expected a resolution to be tabled by the EU-3 this week. Is that your expectation, this week we'll see a draft at least?

MR. CASEY: Well, that would certainly be swift. We'd certainly like to see that happen, I'm just not going to make a specific prediction. I would defer to the French Ambassador on the timing of when the EU-3 might do anything.

QUESTION: And there was a suggestion in the Post this morning that any Iran resolution would be weaker partly as a result of the North Korean resolution which was itself weakened from what you had originally tabled and sought. Is there any reason to believe that? Is that how you look at it?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think that the countries involved in the discussions of the package, the P-5+1, has a pretty clear understanding of what we are seeking and what we hope to accomplish through this resolution. I don't think there's been any change in that position and I would expect that the resolution that is put forward would represent that very clear understanding among the group. I don't expect there to have been any changes to have occurred to that plan as a result of actions on North Korea.

Anybody else? Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Cyprus. Mr. Casey, it was reported in the Greek press that you are supporting a plan which foresees that the Turkish troops will withdraw from Varosha gradually and turn over the administration of the uninhabited town to the UN for two years and the UN supervision -- under the UN supervision and the EU's direct trade regulation for Turkish Cypriots will enter into force again for two years. Do you have anything to say about that since it was disclosed by DOS senior official to the Greeks?

MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, I'm not sure what those reports are referring to. I think you know our position well on Cyprus. We are supportive of efforts that are ongoing, including through UN Under Secretary General Gambari and others to arrange for a settlement of the Cyprus issue in a way that is acceptable to both communities on the island. We certainly want to see this resolved as soon as possible; but again, we believe that it is up to the parties involved to come up with a mutually agreeable solution, though we're certainly supportive of efforts to arrange that.

QUESTION: Is it possible to take this question because there are so many reports in Turkey, in Greece, in Cyprus, and actually Ankara has expressed its reservation of what would happen if there is no solution the Cyprus agreement in the two-year period and the Cyprus Government today expressed its objection, saying that Varosha should return to the inhabitants and not to the UN. How you are going to address all these concerns from both sides?

MR. CASEY: Again, Mr. Lambros, I think these are matters for the parties to discuss and to work out. I'm not aware of any specific U.S. plan related to them.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Does the Bush Administration have any reason to believe that the North Koreans may be preparing for a second test?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think you've seen a number of reports out there about this, Arshad. I honestly don't have anything new to offer you by way of specifics about that. Obviously we continue to monitor that situation very closely. Certainly U.S. intelligence agencies who have been looking at and analyzing the results of this first test will be as well. But I don't have anything specific to offer you that would lead me to indicate one way or the other.

QUESTION: And do you have anything on the Times report that the test that was conducted last week was using -- was carried out using plutonium rather than enriched uranium?

MR. CASEY: No, I honestly don't. That's something I'd refer you over to the intelligence community on. Let's go to David.

QUESTION: Tom, old business. A readout from yesterday afternoon's meeting between the Secretary and the Prime Minister of Croatia?

MR. CASEY: Oh, okay. I think we can probably manage that for you, David. As you know, the Secretary met yesterday with the Prime Minister of Croatia and they did have a good discussion on a broad range of issues. That certainly includes Croatia's future as a member of the Euro-Atlantic community as well as its aspirations to join the EU and NATO. They did pledge to continue to work together on a variety of issues related to peace and security in South and Central Europe. And certainly we look forward to being able to continue discussions with him.

Anybody else? Okay.

QUESTION: Taiwan. Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian proposed the idea of the Second Republic and I know there is a comment yesterday from the State Department. But may I -- now with a follow-up question: Is the presidential office in Taiwan explain the idea -- they say the idea of the Second Republic is inspired by the U.S. Government because the few months ago the U.S. Government urged Taiwan Government to freeze the National Unification Committee? So there is an idea to freeze the current constitution and bring up the Second Republic. And what's your comment?

MR. CASEY: I'm sure that someone may have briefed us on this concept of the Second Republic. Unfortunately, they haven't briefed me about it. So I'll take the question and we'll get you an answer later.

Mr. Lambros, did you have a follow-up on Croatia?

QUESTION: On the Balkans.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. According to reports from Slovenia U.S. Congressional Advisor Joseph Bodanowski claimed that a terrorist organization has come up with a plan entitled: "Balkans 2020." The plans include establishment of terrorist camps in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Sandzak, which is a Serbian territory, from where terrorist would carry out attacks against the rest of Europe. Do you have anything on that or make any comment?

MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, I'm not familiar with these reports. Certainly we continue to work worldwide in the fight against terrorism. We have a good cooperative relationship with many of the countries in the Balkans on these kinds of issues and certainly we'll be doing everything we can to assure that there are no terrorist operations ongoing anywhere in the Balkans.

QUESTION: And also on -- the Presidents of Albania Alfred Moisiu and of Serbia Boris Tadic expressed their opposition yesterday diametrically at the future of the status of Kosovo. Mr. Moisiu said Tirana wants full independence and Mr. Tadic said that the independence will provoke instability in Serbia and the Western Balkans. Are you concerned about these differences between the two?

MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros again, I think with respect to Kosovo you know our position. We continue to support the discussions led by Mr. Ahtisaari in terms of seeking a resolution of this issue, again, that is acceptable to the parties involved. Certainly we want to see good relations among all the countries of the Balkans. That's something we encourage and something we work for. And obviously as this process moves forward there will be opportunities for people to consult and express their views on this process. But again, I think in terms of Kosovo our focus is with the parties and with Mr. Ahtisaari. They're the ones that are ultimately going to be deciding this.

Let's go down here.

QUESTION: Yeah, would you have any comment on the situation in Bolivia? Last weekend the President Evo Morales announced soon -- there will be soon the nationalization of the mining sector. And also today he said in an interview with a French newspaper that there was a conspiration against him -- a conspiration to kill him. And apparently Hugo Chavez and himself are accusing the U.S. Government to be behind this conspiration. So would you have any comment on all this?

MR. CASEY: Well, I -- obviously I think we've heard some of these kinds of things before. The United States wants to have good relations with Venezuela, with Bolivia and with all countries of the hemisphere. We certainly have no intention to take any kind of actions against President Morales or against any other elected leader of the region. And I'm simply unsure where anyone could possibly get the impression from -- that the United States would want to do otherwise.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Let's go to the back.

QUESTION: And on the mining, the nationalization of the mining sector.

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not familiar with the specifics of that case. Again, we expect that countries will honor the commitments they've made, will honor the agreements they've made. Those agreements not only include agreements with other countries but also with private industry. Obviously we would look at any decision that was made by the Bolivian Government or by any other government in light of how well it did or did not meet the kinds of commitments, including the contractual obligations that it's made. That's not a position that we have though necessary with respect to Bolivia. I think that's just a general broad principle of how we look at these kinds of decisions.

David.

QUESTION: Tom, there's a report out there that the United States will be accepting a large number of Burundian refugees who have long been languishing in camps in Tanzania and I was just wondering if you can confirm that.

MR. CASEY: Yeah, you know, David, we did get a chance to look into that and actually that is true. At the request of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and also working in cooperation with the Government of Tanzania where these refugees have been for many years, we are planning to offer permanent resettlement to a group of Burundian refugees who have been in western camps in Tanzania and some of whom initially fled from Burundi back in 1972.

The current estimate that we have now is there is approximately 10,000 individuals that will be in this group and our expectation is that they would be brought to the United States over the course of the next couple of years.

QUESTION: Years?

MR. CASEY: Years, yeah.

QUESTION: And when you say permanent resettlement, does that mean U.S. citizenship eventually, if they wish?

MR. CASEY: That means they would be brought here under refugee status and would be permanently resettled here. Obviously it's an individual choice of people whether they would apply beyond that residency status for U.S. citizenship or not.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CASEY: What's that?

QUESTION: They have that option?

MR. CASEY: They have that option, yes.

QUESTION: Is this part of a deal under which the United States will take a certain number and various other countries will accept some? Because there's -- I think there's 200,000 people in this category.

MR. CASEY: As you know, David, we basically respond in these cases to requests from the UN High Commissioner's Office and generally follow and try and respond to the recommendations they've made. In this case, what they asked us to do was focus on this specific group of individuals and the numbers there are about 10,000. I do understand there are others in other countries and other places that may be affected by this, and I'd actually refer you back to the High Commission for Refugees in terms of where they've intended to resettle them. I know there are a number of countries involved in this process.

QUESTION: Can you find out -- I mean, some of these people have been in refugee camps since 1972. It just sort of begs the question why is the United States doing this now.

MR. CASEY: Well, this is a longstanding issue obviously. In this particular case, again, we respond to requests that are made by the UNHCR after their evaluation of these folks. I -- while there is a long history on this and some resettlement and repatriation of individuals and other concerns back and forth, the fact of the matter is we only got this request for resettlement from them within the past year. And so this is why we are acting on it now.

Yeah, let's go back to you. I'm sorry, I know you had your hand up before.

QUESTION: May I know how do you view President Chen's idea to bring up the second republic? Do you welcome the constitution amendment of Taiwan?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think you know our policy on Taiwan, it's longstanding -- we certainly expect too -- that President Chen will live up to the promises he made in his inaugural address. Certainly we don't want to see any actions taken by anyone that would unilaterally change the status quo and certainly expect that any issues that are involved in terms of cross-strait relations would be addressed through dialogue rather than through unilateral action.

David, last one.

QUESTION: A press report this morning suggests that some European countries that have been critical, of course, of the existence of the Guantanamo facility are also resisting U.S. efforts to resettle people there (inaudible). Britain was mentioned. I just want your reflections on that.

MR. CASEY: Well, I think for people who have followed this issue over time, you've heard from a number of officials here at the Department including John Bellinger, our legal advisor, who has been very much engaged in helping to negotiate some of the repatriation agreements for those that were being transferred out of Guantanamo Bay. As he's told you previously, we do certainly have difficulties at times negotiating those agreements. There are countries that are often reluctant to step forward. You heard -- saw a case cited, I believe, in that article of some individuals who could not be repatriated back to their home country who, in fact, we worked with over 100 countries to try and arrange a resettlement for them before ultimately finding one that was agreeable to do so.

So this is an issue. But it gets back to one of the key facts for us about Guantanamo Bay, which is that we certainly don't want to be the world's jailer. And we do want to be able to, when appropriate, be able to transfer individuals back to their home countries or to their countries of residence. That is not always an easy process for us, and it is one that requires us to make sure we have appropriate assurances both on their treatment as well as on their current ability to be monitored or detained if that's appropriate in their home country. So there is a lot of work that's involved in this, and certainly we would welcome additional cooperation from some of the other countries out there. It's something that we do continue to work on every day.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:53 p.m.)

# # #

DPB # 167

Released on October 17, 2006

ENDS


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