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US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 13 Nov 2007


Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 13, 2007

US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 13 Nov 2007

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT

Deputy Secretary's Travel to Pakistan/Meeting with Senior Pakistani Officials
Deputy Secretary to Discuss Current Situation in Pakistan and Bilateral Agenda
Directed Assignments of Foreign Service Officers to Iraq / Volunteers Filled 227 Positions

PAKISTAN

U.S. Urges Removal of Emergency Decree/Return to a Democratic Path
Allow Pakistani People Freedom of Movement/Release Those Detained for Basic Political Activities/Bhutto
Emergency Decree a Step Backwards for Democratic Transition
Important for Representatives Selected as a Result of Free and Fair Elections

TURKEY

U.S. to work with the Turkish and Iraqi Governments / Combat PKK's Continued Threat

MACEDONIA

U.S. Pleased Dangerous Materials were Confiscated in Law Enforcement Operation

GEORGIA

U.S. Wants to See Georgia Lift its State of Emergency Decree
Deputy Assistant Secretary Matt Byrza in Georgia/Met with President Saakashvili
Message to Lift State of Emergency Decree Immediately / Restore All Media Broadcasts

NORTH KOREA

North Korea Continues to Move Toward Disabling and Dismantling of Its Nuclear Program
Status on State Sponsor of Terror Lists / Part of a Step-by-Step Process

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

Agenda in Annapolis to Bring Peace Between Israelis and Palestinians
Situation in Gaza Remains Serious and Rests Squarely with Hamas / U.S. Condemns Violence at Peaceful Rallies in Gaza

TRANSCRIPT:

1:05 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Okay, so good afternoon, everyone. Happy start of another week here. Don't have anything to start you out with, so Matt.

QUESTION: Do you have any more details on the Deputy Secretary's plans for when he gets to Islamabad later this week?

MR. CASEY: Well, really nothing beyond what I said to you guys this morning. Deputy Secretary Negroponte does tend -- intend to travel to Pakistan at the conclusion of his current visit to a variety of countries in Africa, including attending the Community of Democracies meeting in Mali. He will meet there with a variety of senior Pakistani officials in Islamabad.

This is a trip in which he will obviously be discussing both the current situation on the ground, but also, in his role as our principal interlocutor with the Pakistanis for our strategic dialogue, talking about a wide variety of issues that are on our bilateral agenda. And that includes things like counterterrorism cooperation as well as economic reform and development issues and the other kinds of things that are part of our broader discussion.

Obviously, he will, in discussing the present situation there, be making the same kinds of points to the Pakistani officials he meets with that you've heard from the President, from the Secretary and others; that being that we want to see an end to the state of emergency. We want to see elections move forward as quickly as possible. We want to see those elections take place in an atmosphere that allows for free, fair and open competition. We want the elections to be representative of the will of the Pakistani people.

So, it's a summation of what I gave you this morning, but I really don't have any greater scheduling details for you in terms of the exact list of who he'll be meeting with, though again, I expect it'll cover a range of senior Pakistani officials.

QUESTION: Tom, you almost seem to want to give the impression that this is business as usual by starting out by talking about he's the normal interlocutor with the Pakistanis in the Strategic Dialogue and all the different aspects of that. Is that a signal you're intending to send here?

MR. CASEY: Well, what I'm intending to do is just deal with some of the other stories that were out there today that seemed to talk about some kind of special envoy or talk of him as a special envoy to Pakistan. He's the Deputy Secretary of State. He has been one of our prime interlocutors on Pakistan. And I just think that's a useful context to have in understanding this, that this is not his first visit, that he's familiar with the issues and the situation and in that sense I think is very well placed to be able to discuss these serious concerns and issues that we have with Pakistan and with the present situation with the leadership there.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) reason that he's going is the -- President Musharraf's recent declaration of the emergency and the series of steps he's taken against the judiciary and the media and opposition politicians?

MR. CASEY: Well, that's certainly one of the reasons for it. I just, again, want to make certain that it's understood that he is not only going to discuss that issue, which I know is on everybody's mind, but also going to be talking about a number of these other very important concerns we have in our bilateral relationship with Pakistan.

Charlie.

QUESTION: Well, is it business as usual with Pakistan?

MR. CASEY: Well, Charlie, I certainly think that the situation that we have now is one that you've heard the President and the Secretary and others, including Sean and I from this podium, speak about and talk about the very serious concerns that we have about the state of emergency, about the need to see it lifted and the need for a return to a democratic path there. So obviously, this is a very different situation than existed before the emergency decree was put in place and it's something that, again, has prompted the top leadership of our country to speak out about, both in public as well as in private with President Musharraf and others in the Pakistani Government.

QUESTION: And just a follow-up. Will Deputy Secretary Negroponte be taking any special letter or any kind of message from Secretary Rice or President Bush other than to reiterate the steps you and other spokespersons have --

MR. CASEY: No, I think you'll expect him to, again, deliver the same kind of message that we've already talked about publicly before. I'm not aware of him carrying any kind of special proposals or letters or things like that.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on Charlie's question. I mean, you say it's not business as usual, but what has changed in the U.S. policy towards Pakistan in the ten days since the state of emergency? Not one penny of aid has been stopped. And other than a little bit harsher language, nothing else has changed?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think, again, you've had the President of the United States reach out to his Pakistani counterpart to tell him he needs to change the policies that he has adopted. You've had the Secretary and others doing the same. You have an ongoing review of our assistance to Pakistan to see whether, in fact, we might need to make some changes in light of this. You have, of course, also seen at least some small movements back towards the direction that we want. We've seen a repeated commitment from President Musharraf that he will, in fact, take off his military uniform. We've seen a commitment to holding elections, first dated for February, now back to January. All of that is positive.

But again, you have to then deal with the circumstances for an election to make sure that it can be held in a way that allows for real competition and that allows for political parties to be able to do the kinds of things that they need to do in any kind of normal campaign situation, which means allowing the media to operate freely. It means allowing people freedom of movement. It means release of those who have been detained for basic political activities there.

But I think you have seen some rather clear and strong statements made in public. You've seen a lot of communication that you're aware of privately between senior leadership in this country and President Musharraf and others in Pakistan. And I think there has at least been some change in the initial positions taken by President Musharraf, though obviously not enough for us to feel comfortable that Pakistan has, in fact, returned to this democratic path that we want to see it move towards.

QUESTION: You said that Mr. Negroponte is going to meet with a number of Pakistani officials. Does it mean he plans to meet with representatives of the Pakistani army or the intelligence?

MR. CASEY: I really don't have any details on his schedule, Sylvie. I'm sure that, you know, he will meet with a wide range of senior officials. I just don't and can't confirm for you yet, since the appointments are still being scheduled, exactly who that will be.

QUESTION: So you still don't know if he's going to meet Musharraf?

MR. CASEY: No, I don't have that confirmed as of yet. Well, again, try and keep you posted on the details of who he's going to meet --

QUESTION: And the leaders of the opposition, of the opposition?

MR. CASEY: I'm sorry, say again?

QUESTION: Any leader of the opposition?

MR. CASEY: Again, I expect he'll meet with officials outside of the government as well, but I don't have any kind of list that I can share with you at this point. The schedule's still being --

QUESTION: Just to follow up on Kirit's question, I mean, you've not done anything punitive, at least that I'm aware of or that I think has been made public with regard to Pakistan, and therefore why shouldn't Musharraf conclude that he can continue on the path he has set out as of November the 3rd without fear of significant consequences, particularly given the importance of the counterterrorism relationship to the United States?

MR. CASEY: Well, look, Arshad, the goal here is not to mete out judgments. The goal here is to change policies. And what we want to see, again, President Musharraf do is return to that democratic pathway that he himself laid out. And I think, again, we have at least seen some small positive steps in that direction, though; obviously, not enough and not a withdrawal and removal of the emergency decree, which we think is very important.

But I think that President Musharraf has gotten a very clear understanding and a very clear message from the President and from others on down that there is a change in how we view the Government of Pakistan since the emergency decree has been implemented. Clearly, this was a negative step. It was a step backward for Pakistan's democratic transition and democratic process. And that is one that ultimately would carry consequences, will carry consequences, and does carry consequences for our relationship.

But what we want to see happen is, through our continued efforts with this government, as well as those of others in the international community, see President Musharraf do what everyone wants to see happen, which is restore the civil liberties and other things that were suspended as a result of the emergency decree and get us back to where everyone wants to be. Because the most important thing for us, and I think the most important thing for the people of Pakistan, is that they have an opportunity to have their country be governed democratically, be governed through representatives who were selected as a result of free and fair elections.

And that ultimately takes Pakistan that much further down the road towards being the kind of country that is a modern, moderate Islamic nation that is a democracy and that is able to achieve not only its objectives in terms of fighting extremism, but also achieve all the other things that are very important to Pakistan's long-term future, which is economic development and growth and expansion of opportunities for people in that country, none of which I think can really occur if you don't have this kind of democratic change that everyone wants.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Benazir Bhutto, we don't hear much from you on that. She said today, her time, that she will -- she wants Musharraf to resign. She said she will not serve with him.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: That's exactly -- I had that same question.

QUESTION: Same question.

MR. CASEY: Well let him ask it, Lambros. (Laughter.)


QUESTION: You want to finish my question?


QUESTION: Yes, please.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MR. CASEY: No, I -- (Laughter.) It's a very dangerous thing to ask Mr. Lambros to finish people's questions for you.

QUESTION: Well, anyway --

MR. CASEY: But anyway --

QUESTION: You want me to go ahead?

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Lambros.

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, let him finish, then you can -- then we'll get --

QUESTION: Okay. Anyway, back to that. She said she wants him to resign immediately. She's ruling out serving with him in a future government. And she's under house arrest for the second time. Comment?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, in terms of her statements on President Musharraf, look, these are the kinds of things that are going to have to be settled by Pakistanis and by Pakistani political leaders: who works with who in a government; who forms what kind of electoral commission. Those are the kind of things that need to be settled by Pakistanis working through their own political process.

In terms of her detention or house arrest or whatever the term of art is, clearly, we want to see her be able to move freely and conduct her activities as she sees fit. We also, as I said, want to see newspapers be able to publish, television stations be able to broadcast, see other members of the political opposition who've been detained be released and be able to conduct the kinds of normal political activities, the kinds of normal free speech activities that one would want to see in a democracy and that are essential to having a honest and transparent electoral process move forward.

QUESTION: But does the United States have any relationship with her at all, other than -- I understand on the Hill, Negroponte talked about showing her security, but other than that?

MR. CASEY: Well, we talk with her as we talk with other leaders in the Pakistani political system. I know our Ambassador Anne Patterson has spoken with her. I believe others here have as well. Certainly, she's one of the leaders of a major political party there and we have contacts with others in her party as well and with other members of the political opposition and that's natural for our relations with any country. We certainly don't speak just exclusively to the government. So we recognize her as one of the leaders of one of the main political parties there and certainly do have contact with her, as we do with other representatives of the opposition.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) political party to break up the election in January?

MR. CASEY: Look, Nicholas, I'm going to leave it to Pakistani political parties to make the determinations of how they want to proceed. From our point of view, the thing that is important is that these elections move forward and that they move forward in a way that allows for a fair and transparent vote. And that means, again, lifting the emergency decree which is, I think, the biggest concern of most of the political parties out there.

So, you know, I hope that what we will see is a quick removal of this emergency decree. We, again, believe that that's very important to be able to allow both political parties, as well as civil society to play the role that you'd want them to play and be able to lead up to a free and fair vote.

Yeah, Charlie.

QUESTION: Hasn't the United States, though, approved, if not actually pursued the power-sharing agreement with Musharraf and Bhutto? And now that that seems to be collapsing, isn't that a disappointment?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, we want to see all moderate forces in Pakistan be able to work together to support one another and work to counter the threat that's posed by extremists and terrorists like al-Qaida and the Taliban. But in terms of what the political arrangements are, again, who works -- who works with who and what the electoral politics of it is, that's really something for Pakistanis to decide and to work out. Our advice to everyone is, again, to counsel them to do what they can to work with other moderate forces in the country; again, to oppose the extremist threat that's there.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: One question on Turkey, Mr. Casey. PKK Kurdish rebels today kidnapped seven Turks and killed another four Turkish soldiers. Any comment?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I haven't seen that report, but certainly, what it points out is the continued threat that's posed by the PKK not only to Turkish military forces, but also to just regular citizens of that country. And it reiterates the need for us to continue to work with the Turkish Government as well as with the Iraqi Government to make sure that we're all doing what we can to combat this serious problem.

Again, I think we've had ongoing discussions with both the Government of Turkey as well as the Government of Iraq on this issue. It's a positive sign that there have been diplomatic exchanges between the two to try and work out some common approaches to this problem and that's certainly a process we want to see --

QUESTION: May I go to FYROM?

MR. CASEY: You can to FYROM.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CASEY: I knew we would get to FYROM eventually.

QUESTION: It's another development, Mr. Casey.

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, we call it Macedonia, but yes.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Too bad. Anyway, the special police of Skopje before yesterday (inaudible) Albanian group with paramilitary who (inaudible) of al-Qaida (inaudible) massive arsenal. Do you have anything on that, Mr. Casey, since this development is related with the stability of the Western Balkans?

MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, it is interesting that, in fact, our good friends in the Bureau of European Affairs did look into this for me. And what they tell me is that this appears to have been a successful law enforcement operation conducted by a multiethnic police force against a group, including several wanted criminals, some of whom were recently escaped from a prison in Kosovo.

Now on the issue of Wahhabist ties, we don't have any credible information that the group had such ties, but we're pleased that they nonetheless have been arrested and that some of the materials they were carrying were confiscated. And we certainly encourage the authorities to move quickly to restore normalcy to the village where these events --

QUESTION: A follow-up, Mr. Casey --

MR. CASEY: Oh, you want a follow-up on this?

QUESTION: Yes. The Minister --

MR. CASEY: I thought I just gave you everything.

QUESTION: Okay. The Minister of Interior of Skopje, Gordana Jankulovska stated that this incident was the largest amount of heavy weapon so far since in that country. Are you concerned about this illegal Albanian activity, since you are supporting the independence of Kosovo, Serbian territory?

MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, our position on Kosovo is well-known. In terms of this particular law enforcement operation, I'd refer you to the Government in Skopje. I'm sure the Macedonians will happily discuss for you whether this is the largest or second-largest or whatever quantification of this in terms of weapons seized. We are just pleased that a successful law enforcement operation took place and that individuals with arms are now off the streets.

Let's go in the back here.

QUESTION: On North Korea, Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of Kim Jong-il was recently seen in Paris in news reports. And I'm wondering if the State Department was aware of it and also if you have any impression of him as a potential successor there?

MR. CASEY: Was he wearing a red carnation or anything?

QUESTION: (Laughter.)

MR. CASEY: No, I don't have anything on that. I'd seen a couple of those reports. But we, as you know, don't usually have a lot of insights into what either the formal leadership or any of their family members in North Korea are doing.

Let's go next door.

QUESTION: Yes. Mr. Christian Whiton, Deputy Special Envoy on Human Rights in North Korea, talk about North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 in Hong Kong yesterday. He said the act set aside $24 million to improve human rights situation in North Korea. But none of that money has yet been approved by -- approved for release by Congress, so what is your comment on that?

MR. CASEY: My comment by that is if it hasn't been approved for release by Congress, I'll let Congress speak to their reasoning as to why.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Sorry, I didn't fly with you guys earlier and if you don't have the answer, if you could take it, I'd be grateful.

MR. CASEY: You're making me worry, Arshad.

QUESTION: No, no, no. It's not a hard thing. Two Tunisian human rights activists were scheduled to come to Washington to attend a conference to be organized by Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First in a series of other human rights groups. According to a press release that came out over the long weekend from the groups, these two men were barred from leaving Tunisia to attend the conference. Their names are Ahmad -- A-h-m-a-d, Rahmouni -- R-a-h-m-o-u-n-i and Mohamed Abbou -- M-o-h-a-m-e-d, A-b-b-o-u. Can you -- I think both are lawyers -- can you look into this and see whether you have any comment on what is described by the human rights groups as a violation of their right to freedom to travel and so on?

MR. CASEY: Sure. Let me take a look at that. I'm not familiar with it. But as you know, we've often expressed our concerns for a number -- the situation on a number of activists in Tunisia and other countries in the Maghreb and let me see if we're familiar with this case and what we might have to say on it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Charlie.

QUESTION: On a different subject. I'm wondering maybe if you're familiar with -- can you bring us up to date on directed assignments, how many volunteers you have, how many people you still may need to direct to Baghdad?

MR. CASEY: Okay. We talked a little bit about this this morning, but let me sort of run through where we are right now. As you know, for the summer assignment cycle meeting for jobs, starting in summer 2008, we needed to fill 250 positions. As of present, we have had people volunteer and be accepted, having gone through the vetting process for 227 of those positions. So the universe of positions left to fill potentially through directed assignments is 23 slots.

Where we are in terms of the process is as follows. Starting this week, the review panel and assignment panel will be going through the files and the materials submitted by prime candidates by those who have been put on the list as those with the right qualifications for service in Iraq. That process will continue until approximately Thanksgiving. We hope at that point to have identified each -- identified someone for each of those remaining 23 positions. In the meantime, starting tomorrow with our regular assignment panel, we'll be paneling those 227 volunteers who have already been accepted. A paneling, for those of you not familiar with the arcana of this building, is the formal process of assigning someone to a specific job.

So we've got 23 positions that remain unfilled. We certainly will continue to accept and look for additional volunteers to step forward to fill those jobs. But the Secretary is committed and we're all committed to making sure that we do, in fact, get all these positions filled. And again, we want to make sure we do so in a timely fashion so that we can then move ahead with the regular process of filling all our outstanding jobs overseas that are coming open on this next cycle.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Did you say -- did I miss it or did you check when you hope to have completed the process of directing assignments, directed assignments, if necessary?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, we hope to have individuals identified for each of those positions, including if those need to be directed assignments, by Thanksgiving. And I think the idea would be to conclude the entire process by the end of November.

QUESTION: And the other -- sorry, one other thing from this morning that was hanging over.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Which was did you check whether any of the people who have volunteered, reducing the number now to 23 that's left to be filled, came from the pool of primary candidates?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I asked that question, Arshad, and I still don't have an answer for it, so let me try and get one for you later this afternoon. I just want to make sure that I get it right for you and answer the next logical question, which is, and of those, how many. And so let me make sure as we play with numbers, always a fun thing for here, that we've got a handle on the facts.

Libby, did you have something still on this?

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, is it possible that people can be -- will be notified this week that they've been directed to go to Iraq? I mean, I'm just trying to get a sense of the timeline. Is that possible, that somebody could hear this week that they've been directed?

MR. CASEY: I think it's possible, but I think given the way they'll be working through this, that's probably not likely. I think notifications of such would likely -- will likely come next week.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Just to make sure I understand. Anybody who had been identified in the first round had to respond to that by today, right?

MR. CASEY: Right.

QUESTION: And to give any reasons they have for not being able to go if they have those reasons?

MR. CASEY: People were given an opportunity to submit in writing any sort of special circumstance that they might have, whether that's a medical condition or some other kind of personal factor that might make them unsuitable for service.

QUESTION: So now this review panel, board -- what was it -- panel you're talking about, they're going to look at those explanations or whatever the --

MR. CASEY: In the context of looking at the -- they'll take a look at the prime candidates for each of the jobs in the context of reviewing that and trying to make some decisions on who ought to be the person assigned. They'll obviously, at that point, look at any special circumstances. I'm not sure, to be honest with you, whether everyone has chosen to make a submission or not. I think that is -- was something that was entirely up to the individuals involved.

Sylvie.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. CASEY: Sorry, were you still on the same thing, Libby?

QUESTION: Yeah. Is it true that there are -- let's see, what's the number -- 11 -- I guess 11 open positions tentatively filled in this -- of the 23?

MR. CASEY: Well, of the 23, I understand there have been or are some people who are coming forward as volunteers but have not yet been vetted. I don't know if that's the number or not. Certainly, we would hope that more people would step forward and volunteer and ultimately be accepted for this. But at the moment, I think it's fair to say that we have only counted on having those 227 actually be formally vetted and accepted for positions. And you know, while again I think there are probably other people working their way through the system, at this point, I think that's the one hard number we've got.

Sylvie.

QUESTION: On Georgia. Do you have any news about the mission of Matt Bryza? Did he meet with President Saakashvili and --

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I've got a little bit on that. First of all, Matt Bryza, who is our Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs, is currently in Georgia. He has met with President Saakashvili as well as other senior officials. His message to them was basically the one you've heard from us as well, which is we want to see the Georgian authorities immediately lift the state of emergency and restore all media broadcasts and the right to peaceful assembly.

In terms of follow-on, he will be there, I believe, for a couple more days. He's going to continue to have these discussions. Certainly, again, we want to see the state of emergency lifted as soon as possible and hopefully that'll happen.

QUESTION: Did he get any commitment from the President that it will be lifted soon?

MR. CASEY: I haven't had a chance to talk with Matt. I think whatever the discussions were, I'll let the Georgians speak from their side of it. Again, I think he made our views quite clear and we're hoping that we'll see a positive response.

Yeah, in the back.

QUESTION: Yes, Japanese Prime Minister will visit U.S., so if one of (inaudible) issue is -- will be discuss removing the -- North Korea from the list of terrorist sponsors country, so at the time, what you're -- just U.S.'s viewpoint to -- before facing this issue?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, the Prime Minister is, of course, coming for a visit over at the White House and in terms of the agenda and discussions there, I'd leave it to my colleagues there to talk about that. In terms of U.S. policy with respect to North Korea's status on the list of state sponsors of terror, and you've heard Chris Hill talk about this before, this is part of the step-by-step process that has been envisioned and created through the six-party talks.

Obviously, North Korea not only needs to continue to do what it's promised in terms of disabling and ultimately dismantling its nuclear program, but at the same time, there are statutory requirements that need to be met and these are things that we'll continue to work with the North Koreans on. Certainly, at the end of the day, as North Korea moves forward with disabling and dismantling its nuclear program, we will hopefully be in a position to take them off the list. But I would not, basically, offer you anything new on that beyond what Chris said during his trip out to the region, including Japan, I guess it was about 10 days ago.

QUESTION: You don't think -- dealing with the abductee issue, a condition of removing them -- you don't feel that satisfying the Japanese on that is a condition for removing North Koreans from the state sponsors list; right?

MR. CASEY: Well, the state sponsors -- how one gets on the state sponsors list is in accordance with U.S. law. And that is how North Korea can and would be removed from the list. In terms of the abductee issue, the two are not necessarily specifically linked. On the other hand, as Chris has said repeatedly, we are very sensitive to this issue for the Japanese Government. It's an important one. It's one that Chris raises every time he talks with his North Korean counterparts. And certainly, we need to see progress on that issue to be able to have the six-party process move forward.

This is not a game in which one piece of the agenda can be left lagging while the others move forward. There needs to be progress on all of them. So certainly, we're very sensitive to this issue and it's one that we have talked with the Japanese about regularly and it's one, again, that we continue to raise independently even in our bilateral working group with the North Koreans and the other bilateral contacts that Chris and others have had. So I think we are very much looking for uniformed progress on these issues.

Joel.

QUESTION: Tom, will the violence -- ongoing violence in Gaza have any bearing on the conference you're setting up for Annapolis? And will any of this infighting between Hamas and Fatah be part of the agenda?

MR. CASEY: Well, the agenda for the meeting later this year in Annapolis is going to be focused on bringing peace between Israelis and Palestinians and forging the two-state solution that President Bush outlined. This is the primary focus of the meeting and certainly, we want to have an opportunity to give impetus and momentum to the process that the Israelis and Palestinians themselves have been working on by bringing together other members of the international community to help not only show rhetorical support, but also to find ways that we can all contribute to this effort and help advance this cause.

In terms of the incidents that have occurred and some of the fighting that's occurred in Gaza, I think this is just another demonstration of the kinds of illegal activities that Hamas has undertaken there. It's unfortunate and condemnable to see that rallies -- as I understand it, peaceful rallies there were broken up and otherwise resulting in injuries and I think some deaths as well. So certainly, unfortunately, the situation in Gaza remains very serious and it rests squarely on Hamas, which has taken the illegal steps it took against the legitimate governing institutions there to try and deal with this. But you know, I don't expect the intra-Palestinian issues are going to be a prominent part of this discussion in Annapolis.

QUESTION: One more.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: Who will be the participants in the Annapolis meeting and when exactly it's going to take place?

MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, we haven't yet set a date for the meeting, nor have invitations gone out. So as soon as we have those for you, we'll let you know and at that point, we'll be able to talk to you about who has said they're going to be coming.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:38 p.m.)

DPB # 200
Released on November 13, 2007

ENDS

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So… Boris Johnson is promising that he won't be holding a snap general election, if he's chosen as the next UK Conservative Party leader. Reportedly, he is even making that promise a feature of his leadership campaign, since a vote for Boris would therefore mean (wink wink) that his colleagues wouldn't have to risk their jobs and face the wrath of the British public until 2020. More>>

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