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US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 17 Dec 2007


Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 17, 2007

US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 17 Dec 2007

INDEX:

SAUDI ARABIA

King Abdullah Pardons Rape Victim

TURKEY/ IRAQ

Turkish Air Strikes Against PKK in Northern Iraq
Reported US Opening of Air Space
US-Turkish Contacts Regarding Turkish Operation

NORTH KOREA

Status of Disablement Process
Timing / Scheduling for 6-Party Talks

KOSOVO

U.S. Support for Ahtisaari Plan

AFGHANISTAN

Reported Administration Review of Afghanistan Strategy/Policy


TRANSCRIPT:

12:45 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the start of another week. I don't have anything to start you off with, so any questions?

QUESTION: I got nothing.

MR. CASEY: You got nothing?

QUESTION: I got something.

MR. CASEY: Oh, Elise has something. There you go.

QUESTION: Can you give us your reaction to the pardon of the rape victim in Saudi Arabia?

MR. CASEY: Well, certainly, first of all, we have been able to corroborate information we first saw in the press that the King has, in fact, pardoned the victim in this case. As we understand it that means that she does not face any further possibility of punishment or criminal prosecution. We're very pleased by the decision that was taken by the King and we certainly hope it will send a signal to the Saudi judiciary. As we noted at the time, we were rather astonished to see that this kind of sentence was handed down to the victim in the case.

Yeah, Libby.

QUESTION: Can you give us any sense for whether the U.S. was pressuring King Abdallah to make such a move?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not aware of any specific contacts with the King on this issue. Certainly, the United States both through our Embassy and through our public statements I think made quite clear what our views were on this subject.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. When you say that you hope that it's going to send a signal to the Saudi judiciary, what kind of a signal, that this kind of a sentence is inappropriate?

MR. CASEY: Well, certainly this is an issue that's gotten a lot of attention and created I think an understandable amount of concern throughout the world. And perhaps this will have some broader impact on the way the judiciary might handle cases like this in the future.

QUESTION: What kind of impact? I mean --

MR. CASEY: Again, Matt, I think that we would like to not see a repeat of cases like this. If in -- the King's decision has an impact of that kind on the thinking of those in the Saudi judicial system, I think that would be a good thing.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Turkey, Mr. Casey. More than 20 U.S.-made Turkish planes strike yesterday PKK Kurdish rebel position in Northern Iraq. Do you have anything on that?

MR. CASEY: Nothing really beyond what I said this morning, Mr. Lambros. Certainly, we remain concerned by the threat posed by the PKK to Turkey, to Iraq and to the United States. And we think it's important that everything be done to deal with that threat. But at the same time, we want to make sure that there's close coordination between Iraq, Turkey and the United States as well, as we move forward to try and deal with it. I know that in this instance we certainly would like to make sure that if there are any questions concerning the coordination between the Turkish and Iraqi sides on this that they be addressed through some of the mechanisms that have been set up to ensure that there is a appropriate channel of communications.

QUESTION: Did you accept this military action?

MR. CASEY: I don't think it's for us to accept or reject, Mr. Lambros. It's a fact. I think these are similar to other kinds of actions that have been taken over the course of the last few months by the Turkish Government against the PKK. Again, certainly we want to see the PKK not be in a position to conduct attacks on anyone in Turkey, in Iraq or elsewhere and are going to continue to do what we can to work both with the Government of Turkey and the Government of Iraq to coordinate actions and policies in response to that.

QUESTION: One more question. The Turkish authorities are saying that the U.S. Government opened the Iraqi air space to facilitate those attacks. Any comment?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'm not sure what that actually means, but if you want to know about specific military operations or actions, I'd suggest you check with the Pentagon.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yet by insisting on coordination between the Turks and the Iraqis and the U.S., are you saying that they -- Turks should have informed anybody in the Iraqi Government ahead of time? Because the Iraqis are quite angry at what happened.

MR. CASEY: Well, you know, I'll let the Turkish Government speak for themselves on their actions in this case. But we've said continuously that we believe it's important that there be close coordination between Turkey and Iraq and that certainly, nothing would be done that would represent any kind of large scale incursion or unilateral military action from either side.

Let's go back here.

QUESTION: On North Korea, do you have any update on the disablement process? There's reports that they're at the step of removing fuel rods.

MR. CASEY: No, I honestly don't. I know that, certainly, the steps that are taking place out at the Yongbyon facility are continuing. Whether they are actually at the point now of beginning to remove the fuel rods or not, I honestly don't know. Certainly, what we wanted to see happen is that process take place in a coordinated way and in one that met, sort of, full international safety standards and we've commented on that before.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Just -- back on Turkey, just -- there have been further reports that came out of your embassy, I think, in Ankara that the U.S. was told of this beforehand and I wanted to see if you could --

MR. CASEY: I'd simply refer you back out to the field and to the U.S. military authorities. I'm not aware of what contact might or might not have occurred.

QUESTION: And given that you made comments this morning about wanting to make sure that this was done in an appropriate way to avoid loss of life and so on, and of -- particularly civilians, can that be seen as, in any sense, a criticism given the Iraqi announcements that, you know, schools, hospitals, one woman civilian were -- suffered because of this attack?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I'd have to refer you to the Turks and the Iraqis for the specifics on this. I don't have any confirmation of any casualties or of any results of these military actions and I think it's more appropriate for the Turks and the Iraqis to address those issues. I think, though, again, all I was trying to do was point out our longstanding belief that we want to make sure that efforts are made and actions are taken to deal with the threat posed by the PKK, but we certainly wouldn't want to see any of those actions have a negative effect on Iraqi civilian populations.

QUESTION: Do you have any timetable on six-party talks?

MR. CASEY: I really don't have anything new to offer you beyond what we've said last week. The disablement process is continuing. We, of course, also have a deadline of the end of the month when we are expecting the North Koreans to provide us with a declaration of their nuclear programs as required under the current agreement and look forward to getting that and we'll certainly need to take some time to analyze that and make sure that it is, in fact, full and complete. But in terms of a meeting schedule or other events, I know the Chinese are still working on timing for another envoys level meeting but I don't have any dates to share with you at this point.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Okay, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Kosovo. Mr. Casey, the Serbian President Boris Tadic stated yesterday, "As long as I am President of Serbia, I will never accept the independence of Kosovo because I am totally convinced such a solution puts into question the developments and the future of the Balkan region." Since the U.S. Government favors the independence, may we have your comment?

MR. CASEY: Well, I don't have any specific response to what you're telling me are his comments, but our position on this, Mr. Lambros, is quite clear and it's well known. We look forward to a discussion now that the troika has concluded their negotiations in New York among Security Council members. But of course, U.S. position on Kosovo remains clear. We believe that it is important and it's appropriate for us to be able to move forward with supervised independence of Kosovo along the lines outlined by Mr. Ahtisaari.

QUESTION: One more. The Russian Foreign Minister today proposed a roadmap for the future of Kosovo. How do you respond?

MR. CASEY: Not sure what that means but I think the roadmap for Kosovo is supervised independence in accordance with the Ahtisaari plan.

QUESTION: Means more negotiations.

MR. CASEY: We believe that at this point, having the troika negotiations concluded, we need to move forward under the terms of the Ahtisaari plan.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thanks, guys.

Oh, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Just one more on Pakistan?

MR. CASEY: All right.

QUESTION: Thank you. Can you --

MR. CASEY: We will, of course and happily indulge you. It is Monday.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MR. CASEY: Yeah. What have you got?

QUESTION: Can you confirm that the State Department is involved in a long-term review of action in Afghanistan?

MR. CASEY: I think you're referring to an article that appeared over the weekend. Look, my understanding is the Administration is continuously reviewing its plans and efforts to implement our strategy for Afghanistan. General Lute of course over at the NSC, in addition to his Iraq duties, is also the principle person engaged in working on Afghan issues. You know, I think, that Secretary Gates was recently at NATO and was, in effect, challenging allies to meet the commitments that they've already made for forces and for reconstruction assistance and otherwise. But I'm not aware that there is any effort to devise a new strategy as opposed to simply a continuing effort to implement the strategy that exists. I can also say there was a note in that one story that seemed to say there was some special or unique State Department policy review going on and that -- led by Nick Burns and that simply isn't the case. And we are obviously participating in discussions interagency about how to implement the existing strategy for Afghanistan. But as far as I know, there is nothing new or unique about that.

QUESTION: Well, can I follow up on that?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Isn't there an effort underway to kind of reassess the aid and programs that are going to Afghanistan and see if there's anything that can be done to augment the existing programs to complement the military effort?

MR. CASEY: Well, as I said there's an ongoing effort at implementing our strategy and that certainly includes looking at our full range of diplomatic tools that are available, including reconstruction support and other kinds of efforts. There's certainly been discussion, too, about the creation of a envoy position who would be better able to coordinate some of the international community's activities there. But again, that is different than -- at least the assertion I saw, which was that somehow there was a fundamental rethinking of the strategy or a review of the strategy with an eye towards changing it, as opposed to simply implementing what we have already settled on as our basic strategic approach.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:57 p.m.)

DPB # 217
Released on December 17, 2007

ENDS

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