State Dept. Daily Press Briefing October 18, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Spokesman
October 18, 2006
US Supports National Reconciliation Program / Amnesty Decisions
Will Be Made By the Iraqi Government / No Distinction Should Be
Made Between Those Who Attack Iraqis and Those That Attack
Iraq Should Have Good Relations with Neighbors / Syria and Iran
Should Stop Promoting Violence in Iraq
US Concerned About the Level of Violence in Palestinian
Territories / US Working to Help Strengthen Palestinian Security
Forces / General Dayton In the Region
NORTH KOREA / REGION
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Aso
Possible Second Nuclear Test / US Tracking the Issue Closely
Chinese State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan to Visit North Korea
International Community's Views Are Clear / Next Step is Sanctions
Resolution in UN Security Council
Support for NATO's Operations / US Appreciative of Norway's
Efforts / NATO Should Receive All Forces Required to Carry Out
Legislation Requiring NGO Reregistration / US Continues to Discuss
Situation with Russia
Concerns About Conditions on the Border with Chad / Events in
Sudan Impact Neighboring Countries / Special Envoy Natsios In the
12:40 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, everyone. I don't have any statements or announcements for you. So let's get right to your questions.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) something with you? Is the U.S. pressing the Iraqi Prime Minister for some sort of a -- what the hell is it called -- amnesty for insurgents?
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, first of all, I think -- let me, first of all, point you back to Iraqi President Talibani's speech at the General Assembly, and he talked about how the Government of Iraq was working on a national reconciliation program which has a number of steps to it, and this is certainly something that's ongoing. The final decisions on this are going to be made by the Iraqi Government, and they're going to be made so -- at a time that the Iraqi Government deems appropriate. So certainly I wouldn't describe our position as pressuring them to do this now or at any particular moment except at a point when they feel their national reconciliation process has, you know, gone through its appropriate steps and they're ready to move forward with it.
QUESTION: Well, whenever that is you'd like to see some kind of amnesty?
MR. CASEY: Well, as we've said, we've been supportive of Prime Minister Maliki's efforts to build on national reconciliation. We've also made clear, Barry, and you've heard us say this before, that as that process moves forward there shouldn't be any distinction made between those people who are responsible for attacks on U.S. or coalition forces and those who've made attacks on Iraqis. But Prime Minister Maliki has said that some form of amnesty is potentially part of this national reconciliation process and certainly, again, we are supportive of that process.
QUESTION: But you won't specifically address the question of whether you are supportive of the idea of amnesty or not.
MR. CASEY: Well, right now that's a hypothetical, Arshad. We'd need to know specifically what is being proposed. And right now, as far as I know, the Prime Minister has not put forward a specific proposal on the table. There are ongoing discussions about how to make that happen. So again, I don't think I could really give you a reaction to amnesty as a concept. We'd need to see specifically what we are talking about. And again, as I have said, one of our concerns and one of the clear views that we have expressed is that there not be a distinction in the way any kind of program like that was designed between those who attacked Iraqis and those who attack coalition forces.
QUESTION: I'm so sorry, I still don't see get it. I don't see why you would need to see their proposal. I mean it's a simple question, have you guys been telling them an amnesty is a good idea whenever you come up with your proposals or not?
MR. CASEY: Well, we've been telling them that we support their efforts at national reconciliation, that those efforts are things that need to be designed and implemented by Iraqis and that certainly we have specific views on whether if an amnesty were involved what should be included in that. And again, I've signaled to you the one that we've made public on previous occasions, which is that any possible amnesty would treat equally those who had been engaged in attacks on Iraqis and those who have been attacked on coalition forces. But again, I can't react to a proposal that's not there.
QUESTION: Yeah, but I sense that you're trying to be deferential to the Iraqi Government and not take the lead in what after all is an Iraqi Government decision. But you haven't left out, have you, that the U.S. in principle thinks some form of amnesty is a good thing to do once the Iraqis figure out how to phrase it and all.
MR. CASEY: Well, again, Barry, I have not ruled out anything in principle simply because again we are supportive of the prime minister's efforts to develop this national reconciliation plan, but that plan is still something that's being developed. And all I'm trying to do is draw a distinction between our support in principle for national reconciliation and any comment on a specific proposal that hasn't yet been formed.
Let's go here.
QUESTION: Why separate the people that attacked U.S. and the coalition forces and Iraqi people, why you want to separate those decision?
MR. CASEY: I said we don't.
MR. CASEY: That what we want -- what we've made clear is that there should be no distinction between those who've been responsible for attacks on coalition forces and those who've been responsible for attacks on Iraqis.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Joel.
QUESTION: Tom, there were reports that both the Syrians and Iranians would like to intercede to help the Iraqis settle this dispute, whether it be between Sunnis and Shiites. What do you think of all that?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, what we think is that we want Iraq to be able to have good relations with all its neighbors. As Iraqi Government officials have stated, those relations need to be based on mutual respect and noninterference in the internal affairs of each country. And we have spoken before about concerns as have the Iraqi Government about interference or involvement in internal affairs by some of Iraq's neighbors. I think first and foremost, if Syria and Iran would like to help with the situation in Iraq, the best thing they could do is stop engaging in activities that, in effect, help spur or promote violence, rather than help turn it down. But certainly they have the power to take some actions that we would certainly like to see done.
Let's go over here.
QUESTION: Israel-Palestine. There have been reports in Israeli papers today that the State Department raised the issue of Palestinians being denied entry into Israel with the Israeli Government. I wanted to see how high the level was. Did Secretary Rice bring this up with Olmert and are there any developments on this?
MR. CASEY: I know that issue has been raised, but I honestly don't have a list of specific communications on it. We'll try and get something for you later on it.
QUESTION: Do you know anything more about what the State Department exactly has said?
MR. CASEY: I honestly -- I know we have discussed that issue, but frankly I don't have anything with me today and I don't have the details on it, and I'd like to make sure we get it right and we'll happily post something for you on it later today.
QUESTION: Could we try again on --
MR. CASEY: You want to go, Arshad?
QUESTION: That came up, I think, a week ago and it would be -- it would actually be helpful to have a clearer understanding of exactly what were the issues, whether it had to do with just regular border crossings, whether it has to do with people who have been living on these temporary three-month visas in the West Bank and Gaza and so on.
MR. CASEY: Yeah, all good questions that I don't have answers for, Arshad, but we're trying to --
QUESTION: No, no, I just wanted you to include that in your response, if you could.
MR. CASEY: Okay, sure.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Let's go over here.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: On the same subject?
MR. CASEY: Oh, same subject?
QUESTION: Sorry, I was a bit slow.
MR. CASEY: Okay.
QUESTION: On the same subject. Do you have any comment on the level of violence in the Gaza Strip right now and the new operation the Israelis are --
QUESTION: Yes, conducting right now. And the fact that there are still rockets launched by the Hezbollah. No, that the -- sorry, Hamas.
MR. CASEY: Well, again, certainly we remain concerned about the situation in the territories, including the level of violence in the Gaza Strip. As we've said before, we think it's important that one of the things that occurs is that we are able to help strengthen the Palestinian security forces -- it's part of what General Dayton is doing -- so that they in fact control the violence that is occurring and can also provide basic security for the people, the Palestinian people in the territories.
Those are ongoing discussions and ongoing activities. General Dayton, as far as I know, is still out in the region engaged in that effort. So it is something that we're concerned about and that we're working on.
QUESTION: Do you feel any progress on that subject after the trip by the Secretary recently?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think we're continuing to move forward, but I don't have anything specific to announce for you at this point.
QUESTION: Tom, when you say that you are concerned about the level of violence in the Gaza Strip, what violence are you referring to? Are you referring to sort of internecine Palestinian violence? Are you referring to rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel? Are you referring to Israeli strikes against targets in Gaza?
MR. CASEY: Well, I'm referring to the general security situation in Gaza. Certainly the level of internecine violence as well as the continuing militant attacks from the Strip into Israel itself. In terms of Israeli actions, again I think you know our policies on that. I don't have anything specifically new to offer you on it.
QUESTION: So your concern does not apply to Israeli attacks against targets in Gaza?
MR. CASEY: Our concern, Arshad, as it has since the beginning of these activities, applies to the level of violence in the territories. That certainly includes actions by all parties, but I think we know that there is certain general policies that we have that are unchanged in this. I'm just not trying to state anything new for you here.
Let's go over here.
QUESTION: Changing the subject?
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Could you please tell us which or what extent Secretary Rice talking about Iran with her counterpart, Japanese counterpart, today?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think you've heard from Secretary Rice and Foreign Minister Aso after the conclusion of their meetings today. Certainly Iran is always a important subject to address with our international partners. But as I think you heard from her, her discussions in this meeting focused primarily on the situation in North Korea and again on our longstanding defensive cooperation and commitments to Japan.
QUESTION: While we're there, anything to tell us today about possible preparations for another North Korean detonation?
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, I don't think I have anything new for you in terms of any plans that we're aware of for a test by the North Koreans. Certainly we're not going to talk in any event about issues that are related to intelligence matters. But I know I've seen some reports out there that were alleging communications from the Chinese to the North Koreans, or the North Koreans to the Chinese, indicating that they might be involved in a test. I know we certainly are in constant touch, I think at various levels with the Chinese. But we certainly haven't received any information from them, from the Chinese, that they've been told by Pyongyang that another test is imminent and we'll be tracking this issue closely. But again, I don't have anything to sort of further the speculation that's out there.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up.
MR. CASEY: Let's go back here, yeah.
QUESTION: State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan is reported to be either going to North Korea or is already in North Korea. Has the U.S. heard from China about this and if so what do you understand to be the purpose of his visit?
MR. CASEY: Well, I do understand that he is, as you say, either in the process of going or perhaps there are already. I'd certainly leave it up to the Chinese Government to report back on his meetings. But my understanding is that his trip would be part of Chinese efforts to convince the North Koreans to comply with Resolution 1718 as well as the other relevant Security Council measures that are out there.
QUESTION: Can we talk about Iran for a second?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Iran's chief nuclear negotiator told the European or the EU-3 -- he's quoted by a semi-official Iranian news agency as having said this; that if the EU chooses to support sanctions, UN sanctions against Iran, the situation will become radical. The world will not end but it will affect all our cooperation in which I think the other side will lose more. It's sort of an unspecified threat to retaliate in some way by ending or curtailing Iranian cooperation. Do you have any, you know, sort of comment on that and on those kinds of threats from Iran?
MR. CASEY: Well, Arshad, I don't think that I've seen, you know, exact text of what he said. Certainly I've seen the same press reports that you have on this. Look, the international community's made its views clear on this. Iran's been given a extensive series of chances to take advantage of the proposal that's been laid forward for it by the P-5+1 to come into compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions, IAEA Board of Governors resolutions, as well as other calls on it from individual countries. They haven't chosen to do that.
And as you well know, the next steps for us then are a sanctions resolution in the UN Security Council. That's something that consultations about are ongoing. I understand there are a number of individual meetings and discussions among countries that will be happening today as they did yesterday. And we do expect that in fairly short order we will have a resolution before the Council, and people will then have an opportunity to make clear to Iran, again, that there is, unfortunately, negative consequences that they are going to have to pay for their unwillingness to respond appropriately to the demands of the international community.
Let's go here in the middle. He's been waiting for a while.
QUESTION: Thank you. Afghanistan, from (inaudible) Norway. The Norwegian Government decided today not to send special forces to the south of Afghanistan. Can I have your reaction on that?
MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't actually seen anything formally from the Norwegian Government. But certainly while we hope and expect that all NATO countries will do what they can to support NATO's operations in Afghanistan, obviously for each individual country it's a decision for them to make as to how and when and where to deploy their forces. I certainly know that we've been appreciative over time of the efforts that Norway has made not only in Afghanistan but elsewhere and in other NATO operations including in the Balkans. So I leave it to the Norwegian Government, as I would to others, to make their decisions on how to proceed.
What we do want to see happen, though, is that NATO receive the full measure of forces that its commanders have determined or required to carry out operations in Afghanistan. NATO's mission there is very important. It is certainly one that we fully support, and we want to see everything done to make sure that it succeeds.
QUESTION: Our coalition government has a socialist party and it has compared Afghanistan with Vietnam. They are saying you are killing civilians and it says that it's important that Norwegian soldiers are not fighting the Taliban. May I have a reaction on that?
MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen those statements. Again, I think you've heard from a broad cross-section of people not only in this country but in NATO, in the leadership of neighboring countries to Afghanistan, from President Karzai himself, that what the United States, what NATO and what others are doing in Afghanistan is supporting the development of a free and democratic country, supporting the aspirations of the Afghan people to be able to live in peace and security, and I think that's very much what we're doing, not anything else.
QUESTION: Yes, Tom. NGOs face a suspension in Russia today, and there are roughly 200 to 500 NGOs and they've been given a new regulation. The NGOs are saying that this is used to silence independent thought in Russia. And what is your reaction?
MR. CASEY: Well, Joel, we've talked about this before. Russia did pass new legislation that came into effect I think last April concerning requirements or new requirements that non-Russian nongovernmental organizations have to, in effect, re-register or put themselves through another process to fully operate in the country. I did check on this before I came out here, and according to the Russian Government, there have been 80 foreign NGOs that have been re-registered to date, 42 of those are Americans. However, we are aware that there are still some other NGOs out there, including a few American ones, that have applied for re-registration but have not yet been approved. And as you know, this is an issue that we have discussed regularly with the Russian Government, and we want to make sure that the law is implemented in a way that facilitates rather than hinders the work of NGOs and civil society in general in Russia. And this is certainly something we're going to continue to discuss with them, and we definitely encourage them as well to process all the remaining applications as quickly as possible and certainly to allow these NGOs that are still in process of re-registering to continue their activities while this is going on.
QUESTION: Is it something the Secretary plans to raise during her visit to Moscow later this week?
MR. CASEY: Sylvie, I don't have any agenda for her meetings in Moscow yet, and I'd leave it to the party to talk about that. I'm not sure whether this will come up or not.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on -- we have a report that Sudanese Janjaweed militia have allied with Chadian rebels and launched attacks on villages inside Chad killing -- over the last two weeks killing more than 100 people and displacing more than 3,000 people. Do you have anything on that?
MR. CASEY: Arshad, I did try and look into this a little bit before the briefing. I don't have confirmation of a lot of the details in that report. Certainly, though, we've been concerned about the conditions along the border area with Chad. We want to make sure that all parties involved do not do anything to promote or facilitate violence. There are, as you know, concerns about large populations of refugees in the area. One of the things that's important about getting a comprehensive settlement, not only to Darfur but more broadly in Sudan, is that what happens in Sudan does have an impact on neighboring countries. And I think we've seen that in the kinds of reports that you're referring to here.
Andrew Natsios, as you know, is actually in Sudan right now. I believe he is, in fact, in Al Fasher in Darfur today. And certainly the strong message that he is sending in all his meetings with Sudanese Government officials and with others is that we need to move forward with the United Nations force in Sudan and that we need to have all parties that signed on board to the Darfur Peace Agreement live up to their commitments and do everything they can to try and end the violence rather than do things that promote it.
Okay, thank you, guys.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:00 p.m.) DPB # 168
Released on October 18, 2006