State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 22, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
November 22, 2006
Investigation of Assassination of Pierre Gemayel / President Bush
and Secretary Rice’s Calls / U.S. Ambassador Feltman to Attend
Lifting of Sanctions on Sukhoy / Sanctions Process is Deliberative
Query on Poisoned Former KGB Agent
Efforts Being Made to get Appropriate Force Into Darfur / Current
Administration Working Daily on the Issue
Query on Senator Biden’s Staffer’s Travel to Syria
Secretary Rice’s Travel to Jordan / Participation in President
Department of State’s Ongoing Review of Iraq Policy
Query on UN Report on Civilian Casualties
IGAD Proposal / UN Security Council Considering Proposal
Query on Journalist Protests
12:20 p.m. EST
MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Before I do anything else, let me wish you a happy Thanksgiving, since we won't see you here tomorrow. I don't have any opening statements or announcements for you, so happy to take whatever questions you have.
QUESTION: Do you have anything new to share with us on Lebanon, things that you didn't have yesterday?
MR. CASEY: Well, I don't think I have much of an update for you, George, in terms of specifics of the investigation. Lebanese authorities have begun one. We are certainly ready to provide assistance to them if they need it, but no assistance has in fact been asked for. I think my colleagues over at the White House have talked about calls that the President made today to Amin Gemayel as well as to Prime Minister Siniora.
As I believe I mentioned to some of you yesterday after the briefing concluded, Secretary Rice did in fact talk with Prime Minister Siniora yesterday. She did so while she was still in Honolulu. That call basically was to convey United States condolences on this terrible act and to express our continued support for Prime Minister Siniora and the Lebanese Government and our willingness to do what we could to help support them in this difficult time.
In addition to that, I think as you know, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Jeff Feltman will be representing the U.S. at the funeral. He did pay a call on -- former President Amin Gemayel, Pierre Gemayel's father, Tuesday night. And Assistant Secretary Welch has also reached out to the Gemayel family and has spoken with Amin Gemayel as well. So I think that covers it in terms of the basics of the calls and some of the activities here. I think you've all seen the White House statement that went out on this subject yesterday and I think that stated our position pretty clearly.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary called former President Amin Gemayel?
MR. CASEY: She has not had the opportunity to do so at this point. As I said, Assistant Secretary Welch has done so and President Bush has done so, as I understand it.
Yeah. QUESTION: Change of subject or?
MR. CASEY: Anyone else still on Lebanon?
Sylvie? Or not.
QUESTION: No. Later.
MR. CASEY: Okay, we can come back later. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: As far as I understand, President Bush notified his Russian colleague in Hanoi that the U.S. Government decided to terminate sanctions imposed early on Sukhoi company. Do we have an update on that? And what about the second company Rosoboronexport, is it still under sanctions?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. I think, you know, someone had asked about this a couple days ago. It was you, right?
MR. CASEY: Didn't have an opportunity to get back to it until then. But as you know, we had imposed sanctions on Sukhoi on July 28th and this was pursuant to U.S. law and specifically to the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000. After those sanctions were imposed, we got additional information from Sukhoi and from the Russian Government related to this. And after reviewing the case with this new information and other information available to us, we in fact did decide to terminate those sanctions.
The sanctions on Sukhoi now have been effectively terminated, and that decision was effective November 21st, which was when we were able to formally transmit notification of this decision to Congress. There will be, as I understand it, an announcement published in the Federal Register I suspect somewhere in the next week or so on that. But effective with that notification, those sanctions on Sukhoi are terminated. This doesn't affect the sanctions on the other Russian entity or any other companies that are currently sanctioned as a result of that legislation.
QUESTION: Just to clarify that, there is no process of reviewing sanctions imposed on second company Rosoboronexport, nothing like that? Do you --
MR. CASEY: I don't have anything beyond what we've done on Sukhoi. I'm not aware of any new information or other review related to the second firm.
QUESTION: Do you regret having imposed those sanctions on Sukhoi? I mean was due diligence done to check whether this is a company that you should have sanctioned?
MR. CASEY: Well, we use the information that we have available to make these determinations, and we do so, again, because this is a requirement of U.S. law and because it's important that we do so in a very deliberate and appropriate way.
In the past, we've been criticized for taking too long to produce these reports and too long to make these judgments. So certainly based on the information we had available at the time, we thought that was the right decision. But we are always open to having new information about any individual cases or things that might change, you know, our view of the situation. I will say this, too, is that in light of the new information, too, that we've been provided, it's given us a number of other things that we'll be looking at. And in the event that we find that there are other individuals or entities that, you know, might potentially be involved in illicit transactions, we'd certainly take these kinds of steps with them, too.
QUESTION: So what is this new information?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, this is a process that involves information from a lot of sources. It's a deliberative one. In many cases, it also involves intelligence information and we don't generally discuss and I'm not at liberty to discuss any of the specifics.
But again, this is a process that is a deliberative one. It is one that relies on the best information available and we're always willing to consider new facts or new information if people care to present it to us.
QUESTION: On a different subject, on Darfur. Understanding that we've had briefings earlier this week, but there remain some criticism from some people in the clergy that the U.S., notwithstanding the aid it's given, has not done enough to get the UN force that it publicly says it wants in to Darfur or to convince other countries to do that. Do you have any further response or can you give us your response to that?
MR. CASEY: Well, Charlie, I do think, and you heard from Special Envoy Natsios earlier in the week about the efforts that he's been making along with Secretary General Annan and members of the AU and other individuals to try and make sure that we get an appropriate force into Darfur and do so as quickly as possible. Certainly, as we've said, we wish that this could have happened sooner and I don't think anyone doubts that we would like to have seen this happen earlier. But we do believe that with the agreement reached in Addis over last week that we have the basis for being able to move forward with the deployment. Again, as you heard Andrew say, we're looking for a positive response to this and assertion of full agreement with this from the Sudanese Government. We're looking for that in the short term, by the end of this month, as he told you.
I know that people feel very strongly about this issue and certainly we do as well. And I think as you know, this Administration and this President have been primarily responsible for putting this issue on the international agenda and for being able to get the progress that we have. It has not gone as far or as fast as we would like. Certainly we want to see it move as quickly as possible. But that said, this government and this Administration is working actively on a daily basis on this. Special Envoy Natsios is. The Secretary has been engaged in this. Many other officials in this building have. And we're going to keep on working it until we get that force in.
Let's go -- Michel.
QUESTION: Change of subject. Senator Biden's special assistant is in Syria discovering some realities and developments, as the Syrians said. Are you aware of this visit?
MR. CASEY: I'm not personally. I'm not sure what consultations they may have had here before. I think our position on Syria obviously is well known, the concerns that we've raised with respect to their activities in Iraq and Lebanon and elsewhere are pretty clear.
QUESTION: A quick question for you. I understand that President Bush is going to be meeting with Prime Minister Maliki next week in Jordan. I was wondering if you could tell us anything about that meeting.
MR. CASEY: Other than to refer you back to the briefing that Tony Snow and Steve Hadley gave on the plane on the way back, no. I'll defer to them to talk about the President's visit.
QUESTION: This is the same time that Secretary Rice is going to be in Jordan for a meeting. I'm just wondering if she's going to have any meetings on this -- with her Iraqi counterparts on similar topics.
MR. CASEY: Well, my expectation, though again I'd defer to the White House in terms of participants in that meeting, is that as appropriate and necessary is determined by the President, she'll be participating in his meetings. But we'll have to see how that schedule develops.
QUESTION: Do you expect that she'll be talking about any sort of timetables and some sort of response to the Iranians meeting with Talabani?
MR. CASEY: I expect that if she's participating in the President's meeting, she'll be following the President's lead on that and I'll let the White House talk to that one.
QUESTION: How far is the State Department gotten its review of Iraq policy and where you should go from here and will this be presented in Jordan? Are you going to merge the Pentagon's review together with the State Department's review and then present that to Maliki? Is that the goal?
MR. CASEY: Boy, it sounds like we're trying to figure out how to brief out the White House brief using the Secretary. Look, I don't have anything for you on the meetings in Jordan beyond what Hadley and Snow have already said on it. In terms of State Department review, as with the reviews that I understand are going on in other buildings in this government, they're ongoing. I believe Mr. Hadley said in his briefing today that his expectation was that that review would be going on for several more weeks. I don't have anything from this building that would dispute that assertion.
QUESTION: Any Quartet meeting in Jordan?
MR. CASEY: No, I don't have anything on that. I'm not aware of any plans for one.
QUESTION: One more on Somalia. Some EU experts are saying that the U.S. is strongly pushing for a regional force to go to Somalia and that this is something you've already decided and whether this is the IGAD force that people have been talking about. I wonder whether you could illuminate us on what U.S. policy is on a regional force going into Somalia. There are fears that this would somehow stoke up regional war.
MR. CASEY: Yeah, I did see that story. Let me try and explain to you where I think things actually are and see if that helps. First of all, IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, put forth a proposal aimed at restoring stability in Somalia and part of that included deploying a training and protection mission for the Somalia transitional federal institutions. Now the -- you've got heads of state approved that proposal at a meeting they had in September. I believe it was September 5th of this year. That proposal was then passed on to the AU, and the African Union Peace and Security Council endorsed that proposal on September 13th.
Subsequent to that, the African Union has passed that proposal on to the United Nations Security Council and the Security Council's received that proposal, and members are looking at it and considering what the best way forward might be on it.
Now, the United States is supportive of the idea of a deployment of such a force if it would, in fact, stabilize the situation inside Somalia, and certainly people are having, again, discussions and consultations about this at the UN. This, though, has been standing policy with us for some time, and I think you've heard Jendayi Frazer speak to this issue previously, in fact, I think after the last meeting of the Somalia Contact Group.
So this is an ongoing proposal. It's one that's originated with IGAD and with the AU, and it's now in the Security Council for consideration. I think the main thing, though, is that our basic goal and our basic policy remains the same. We want to see dialogue between the various actors in Somalia. We want to see a stabilization of the country. We want to see an end to violence. And we ultimately want to see a Somalia with a functioning government and civil order that serves the interest of the people.
QUESTION: But would you support having Ethiopia and Eritrean troops on this force and being in Somalia because Ethiopian and Eritrean -- you have in recent weeks been critical of Ethiopian and Eritrean interference in Somalia, so how would you see this sort of regional or IGAD or whatever force it is that newly emerges?
MR. CASEY: Well, as I said, this is a proposal that's been put forward. It's in the Security Council for consideration and we will and will be consulting with our colleagues there as well as officials at the AU about this. But I'm not aware that there are any specific details that have been brought forward or any immediate plans to make such a deployment. So this is something that's under discussion. And without being party to those, I think I'll just leave it to the folks up there to continue those consultative processes on, you know, what the details of this proposal would ultimately look like.
QUESTION: But is the U.S. coming up with a resolution on this? Are you supporting a writing of a resolution or --
MR. CASEY: No. Again, the status -- no, the status of this is the proposal's been forwarded to the Security Council and there are consultations there. I am not trying to preview any specific actions for you at this point.
QUESTION: You said you have no details but you -- but the U.S. supports it?
MR. CASEY: Well, we support the concept of deploying such a force if in fact it's going to be able to help stabilize the situation and support our common objective, but the details of that proposal still have to be worked out.
QUESTION: That would be in support of the Transitional Government?
MR. CASEY: Yes, this was initially something that came out of discussions between IGAD and the Transitional Federal Institutions, as I understand it.
QUESTION: So would this force only be limited to the Baidoa area or would it be moved up to --
MR. CASEY: Again, I don't have any -- there is no specific detailed plan that I'm aware of that has been put forward on this. This is something that's under discussions and in consultation at the UN, and we'll see what comes out of this.
QUESTION: It's just one of -- sorry, it's just one of many ideas being discussed or is it the key idea being discussed?
MR. CASEY: This specific idea is being discussed in the Security Council. Obviously there are other discussions going on in the Somalia Contact Group and at the UN about what we can do to help bring about the end state that we want for Somalia. I think we view this as something that is a piece of the puzzle or a piece of the picture, but it's not a silver bullet solution of and by itself.
QUESTION: There's a UN report out today saying that Iraqi civilian deaths were the highest total ever in October. I'm just wondering if you have any comments on what that says about the security situation in Iraq and if the U.S. has any numbers to corroborate that.
MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen the report. In terms of civilian deaths, as far as I'm aware, there is no official U.S. Government statistic maintained on that. There are a variety of numbers kept by other individuals.
I think what's clear, as we've said, is that there is -- you know, the situation in Iraq is very serious. There is ongoing violence. There is ongoing difficulties for Iraqi civilians and for coalition forces there. That's why it's important that we continue to have discussions with the Iraqi Government on how best we can all move forward together and that's why it's important the President will be meeting with Prime Minister Maliki next week.
QUESTION: Something you may not be able to answer, but there is a hunger strike by a number of leading journalists in Azerbaijan and the reason they're protesting what they perceive to be government curbs on the independent media, evicting various independent newspapers from their premises, also some attacks, personal bodily harm attacks on independent journalists. And I wondered if you would care to -- anything on that?
MR. CASEY: Well, David, I don't have anything specific on the hunger strike or on the specific issues surrounding it. Obviously though, and if you look at our Human Rights Reports, you know, our concerns about press freedom in a number of countries, including Azerbaijan, are well documented there. Certainly we want to see a situation in which reporters everywhere are free to do their job without any kind of intimidation or harassment.
QUESTION: Could you look into the specifics of --
MR. CASEY: Yeah, I'm happy to look into the specifics of that case for you.
QUESTION: A new one, new subject?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: You spoke about a couple of days ago -- former FSB official Litvinenko poisoned -- or official allegedly poisoned in London. People say Russians did it. Russian Government vehemently rejected those accusations. You said that you will try to get some information from the British Government on that. (A) Have you received a response from them on that? That's the first question. And the second: What was the nature of your interest in this case?
MR. CASEY: I'm sure we've gotten a response back from them but I haven't looked into what it is, so I'll see if I've gotten anything more on it.
I know certainly this is a case that's sparked a lot of interest internationally. There have been a lot of accusations about it and it's obvious for us to want to just make inquiries of the British since the gentleman is a British subject.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:39 p.m.)
DPB # 188
Released on November 22, 2006