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US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: Feb 08, 2008

Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 8, 2008

US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: February 8, 2008

INDEX:

MISCELLANEOUS

Status of Amy Winehouse Visa Request

KENYA

US Letters Sent to Kenyans Suspected of Perpetrating Recent Violence

MACEDONIA

Name Dispute / Nimetz Process

PAKISTAN

Scotland Yard Assessment of Benazir Bhutto's Death Reports Imran Khan Banned from Sindh Province Reported Pakistan Government Proposal Regarding Local Tribal Leaders

PALESTINIANS

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's Visit / Meeting with Secretary Rice

IRAQ

Former Contractor's Memo to Ambassador Crocker Regarding Ability of US Embassy Team

TURKEY

Times of London Report Without Foundation

AFGHANISTAN

Secretary Rice's Visit to Afghanistan Commitments from NATO Allies


TRANSCRIPT:

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

1:04 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: All right. Good afternoon, guys. Happy Friday. Don't have anything to start you out with, so --

QUESTION: Tom, it being Friday, I've got a couple of consular issues to ask.

MR. CASEY: There you go.

QUESTION: First one, does the State Department believe that Amy Winehouse, her music or her behavior poses a threat to the United States and if not, why did you reject her visa application?

MR. CASEY: The State Department believes that she is ineligible for a visa under the terms of the Immigration and Nationality Act. I don't believe anyone ever used the word "threat" associated with it, but there are many reasons from which individuals are not eligible or otherwise need to have a waiver processed. The main point in this, Matt, is that she's not eligible under the basic terms of the law, unless a waiver is processed or she's asked for one. I understand the Department of Homeland Security is considering it and we'll see what happens.

QUESTION: Can you explain then why - under what provision it was that she was denied?

MR. CASEY: If I remembered my consular training, I could probably come up with a section of the law for you that - which it's under - if it's of great interest to you, I'll happily ask Consular Affairs to give us an answer and I'll post it for you.

QUESTION: Well, I think it's of greater interest to her and her fans, but -- rather than to me personally. But it would - is there a blanket section of the act that says that someone is undesirable for "X" reason?

MR. CASEY: Well, Matt, usually when a visa is denied it's - or someone is determined ineligible, it's under a specific section of the law and I'll see if we can, within the limits of the confidentiality of visa records, give you a specific citation.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the last one on this, can you - what kind of visa was she applying for?

MR. CASEY: Good question. I don't know. As a British citizen, she wouldn't normally need a visa for standard tourism purposes, but I think - I believe because she was coming to the U.S. to perform and I assume getting some kind of --

QUESTION: Payment.

MR. CASEY: -- payment for that that probably required one or another kind of visa. I'm not sure what specifically it was in this instance.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Could the reason be a previous arrest or a crime committed under U.S. --

MR. CASEY: Well, I don't want to try and guide you on this, again, because of the confidentiality requirements on it, but we'll try and get you a citation under the law. I would simply note that there are a lot of things that are not related to any kind of threat issues that are simply reasons under which the Congress has determined people shouldn't be eligible to come to the United States under - and again, in this instance, I hope we can have a happy conclusion to this one way or the other. She's applied for a waiver in this circumstance and we'll see what DHS decides.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CASEY: Yeah, next one.

QUESTION: Yeah, next consular one. You all have sent another five letters to Kenyan people, bringing the total to thirteen, I guess?

MR. CASEY: That is correct, so we had the eight letters that were handed out or distributed on February 5th. Understand there have been an additional five letters today that have been given. Again, these are - generally, I think we can describe them as Kenyan political and business leaders and the letters, just as the previous ones do, indicate that these people are suspected of having been engaged in incitement and promotion of violence in the post-election period in Kenya, and the letters notify them that we are reviewing whether they shall or should remain eligible for U.S. visas.

QUESTION: Do you know how many of these people who have been notified have existing single or multiple entry visas?

MR. CASEY: I don't, Matt. I believe all of them have at least held U.S. visas at one time or another. I don't know whether each and every one of them have currently a valid U.S. visa in their passport or not.

QUESTION: And then the last one on this. How does this square with the Ambassador's - how does your math, the math in Washington and the math in Nairobi square now? He was saying ten yesterday. Now - and you were saying eight and now, you're saying 13. And as far as I can tell, they haven't said anything there.

MR. CASEY: (Laughter.) Well, Matt, you know, I think most people in Washington are accused of applying fuzzy math as well as fuzzy logic to problems. So all I can tell you is I have gone back and checked with our experts in the Bureau of African Affairs, and thirteen, eight - the eight on the 5th and five today is the number that we have gotten. I'm not sure where the ten figure came from and I haven't had a chance to talk with Ambassador Ranneberger to see whether that was a misquote on his part of a --

QUESTION: So you basically added five additional?

MR. CASEY: Added five people to the eight I told you about the other day, yeah.

QUESTION: And are there more under consideration or is this --

MR. CASEY: Well, I think we're continuing to look at this issue, and I wouldn't rule out the possibility that we'll have some more letters of this kind.

Okay, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes. On FYROM, Mr. Casey.

MR. CASEY: Yes, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Mr. Casey, you stated yesterday, "I know Mr. Nimetz has put forward a new proposal of his own to the group." Do you mean the last one, totally anew, or he's going to submit another one?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, Mr. Lambros, I'm happy to clarify that for you. As you know, in Washington the definition of new doesn't always fit that definition in the real world. But just to make clear, Special Representative Nimetz suggested a framework paper to the parties in November, and that's the framework agreement that I was referring to and think that provides a promising basis on which to pursue an agreement on this issue. So that's the proposal in question. It's relatively new, but I can certainly understand why my referring to it as a new proposal yesterday would have confused --

QUESTION: So it is the previous one?

MR. CASEY: It is the one - it is the framework paper to the parties that was given to them in November.

QUESTION: One more question. You also said yesterday that you will be pleased to support any agreement by the two parties, Greece and FYROM; therefore, I am wondering if you are going to (inaudible) it too, revoking your decision of November 4, 2004, which create so many problems without reason?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, the U.S. decision to recognize the Republic of Macedonia by its constitutional name was very clear. It was explained to you at the time. Certainly, though, in terms of the two countries, we hope that they will reach a equitable agreement in terms of a settlement of this longstanding issue and again, we will welcome and be happy to support whatever agreement they might reach.

QUESTION: So there hasn't been a U.S. suggestion --

MR. CASEY: No.

QUESTION: -- for - there was a report to that effect.

MR. CASEY: No, there is no - there is no U.S. proposal or State Department proposal. Those reports are inaccurate.

Yeah, Elise.

QUESTION: This is about the investigation into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Scotland Yard concluded that it was a impact from the explosion rather than a bullet wound as her party claimed. What do you make of the investigation? Her party is still claiming that it's a bullet wound and that there should be an independent investigation.

MR. CASEY: Well, certainly, I understand that this is an emotional issue, both for members of her family as well as for the many people in Pakistan who supported Benazir Bhutto. In terms of the investigation itself by Scotland Yard, we view this as a credible investigation by independent outside experts. I'd leave it to them to talk about both the conclusions that they've drawn as well as the limitations on some of the evidence they had to view. But we don't have any reason why we would question the validity of their assessment.

QUESTION: So you don't think that there should be an independent investigation perhaps led by the UN or something like that?

MR. CASEY: Well, you know, certainly, it's important for people to feel that they have a clear understanding of what happened. We aren't proposing anything - anything particular, though, and I think it would be up to the Pakistanis to decide whether they felt they needed more review or investigation of this beyond what Scotland Yard and the Pakistani authorities have already done.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the situation with Imran Khan, who apparently was turned out of Karachi by Pakistani authorities? Have you spoken with the Pakistani Government about that?

MR. CASEY: Yeah. I've seen those press reports. No one here or in our embassy in Islamabad has been able to confirm that that's actually occurred, so frankly, at this point, I don't have anything to support that - those stories that we've seen. I think as a general principle, as we work through the process between now and the election, we want to see everyone be able to peacefully express their views and travel wherever they would wish within Pakistan. That certainly would generally be a right that the country of Pakistan should accord to all its citizens.

QUESTION: Another subject or --

MR. CASEY: Well, okay, let me go - let's go around a little bit. Samir, I know you've had your hand up for a while. Sorry.

QUESTION: Yes. The Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is arriving in Washington today and there are reports that he is expected to meet with Secretary Rice. Do you have any guidance on this, any readout?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think - yeah, I understand he is going to be here in town. I believe he's going to have an opportunity to meet with the Secretary on Monday. But we'll keep you updated on the details of the schedule.

We certainly welcome his visit here. It's an opportunity to talk about a wide variety of issues related to the situation in the territories as well as the efforts to advance the Annapolis peace process.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Did you have something else?

QUESTION: Yeah. I wondered if you wanted to comment on a memo that was sent by a former contractor at the U.S. Embassy, Manuel Miranda, to Ambassador Crocker at the U.S. - a former contractor at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. And he, in this memo, complains that the Foreign Service is not competent to do the job that they have undertaken in Iraq. He talks a lot about how Foreign Service officers do not have enough management experience so that they're not equipped to management programs, hundreds of millions of funds and the capital assets needed to help the Government of Iraq to stand up. So do you have any comment on that?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I guess he needs to tell us how he really feels. Look, Mr. Miranda, was, as you note, a 3161 - that's a contracting employee - in Iraq, I guess, for about - I guess for about a year. Obviously, he's expressing his own views and he's entitled to his opinions.

What I can tell you is that you've heard from the President, Secretary Rice and many others about the job that Ryan Crocker is doing as the U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad. We think he and his team are doing a tremendous job under what obviously is very difficult circumstances. There certainly are a lot of challenges in Iraq, not only on the security side but also on the side of political developments and reconstruction. But the important thing is that Ambassador Crocker and his team, as well as the Secretary and many people back here in Washington, are working full speed on it, and we have great confidence in Ambassador Crocker and his team's ability to carry out that job.

Mr. Lambros, we'll give you one more, then let's go to the back here.

QUESTION: On Turkey. Mr. Casey, in light of your concerns over nuclear proliferation in Iran and Ankara's (inaudible) negotiations with Tehran, along with reports recently in Times that that Turkey may be involved in stealing nuclear secrets from the United States, why then you would want to increase nuclear technology transfers to Turkey?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'm not sure what specifically you're referring to. But you know, Turkey is a friend, a NATO ally. I'm not aware of any allegations that Turkey has ever behaved outside of its commitments under the NPT. And certainly, we want to have friendly and cooperative relations with Turkey in all spheres, including in civilian nuclear.

QUESTION: And a follow-up. Was the recent announcement of nuclear agreement rushed or in response to the recent reports in the Times about Turkey's (inaudible) to steal secrets when President Gul came to visit this time just a few weeks ago (inaudible) this agreement nor even nuclear energy in general was even (inaudible) in the discussion?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, the report you're referring to in the Times, which Times would that be?

QUESTION: London.

MR. CASEY: Oh, the British Times. I did see that story. Let me just say that that story is absolutely absurd, false, inaccurate, without foundation, and it's an absolute shame that a respectable newspaper like the Times of London would print such pure garbage. So I'll tell you that, in keeping with our last question --

QUESTION: Just to be sure, this is the report that accuses a former - that says that - that quotes this FBI translator as saying someone, a former Under Secretary of State, was - that's the report?

MR. CASEY: That's correct. That is the report to which I refer. Yeah.

QUESTION: And your comment just now about it seemed to echo what that official told the newspaper about it. Is that - have you been in touch with that person?

MR. CASEY: No, I haven't. But I have seen what was published and I think I've made our views clear on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: So (inaudible)?

MR. CASEY: The report has no validity, Mr. Lambros. It's untrue.

In terms of nuclear energy and cooperation with the Government of Turkey, I know the Department of Energy has recently put out some statements on that. And I'd just refer you back to that.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MR. CASEY: Okay, let's go to the back here.

QUESTION: Afghanistan?

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: During Secretary Rice's visit, was there any progress towards appointment of a super envoy to coordinate reconstruction activities, and also how does her visit contribute to getting commitments from NATO to fulfill those both in terms of security and development in Afghanistan?

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, first of all, I think you've heard from Secretary Rice and Foreign Secretary Miliband and President Karzai a little bit on this subject yesterday. Certainly, we believe it's important that the international community have coordinated efforts to providing support, reconstruction and development assistance to Afghanistan. Discussions on that are continuing, but we would like to see someone available and named to do that position in the near future.

In terms of commitments from NATO allies, I know Secretary Gates was just meeting with his NATO counterparts and this was certainly one of the major subjects of discussion there. Look, this is a difficult question and it's a difficult challenge for the alliance. But the alliance has made a commitment to Afghanistan and the alliance members have made a commitment to one another to provide the necessary troops and provide the necessary support to get the mission done.

And it certainly is important to note, from our perspective, that there are allies that have stepped forward, that the Canadians and the Dutch and the British have put major troop commitments into the south, into the most difficult areas in Afghanistan. But the SACEUR has determined that more troops are needed. We certainly hope that NATO members will answer that call because it's important for Afghanistan and it's important for NATO as well.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: In Pakistan, there has been a talk of having negotiations with the local Taliban in tribal area and yesterday, Pakistani Ambassador in Washington, D.C. did acknowledge that there are differences between Washington and Islamabad on this issue. Would you please elaborate a little bit what are your thoughts on these negotiations with the local Taliban to reach a settlement there?

MR. CASEY: Well, maybe - I don't know, maybe I should go back and ask the ambassador which specifically he was referring to by which differences. But look, I think our views on this are quite clear. There is an agreement that had been put in place with local tribal leaders previously. That agreement was designed to achieve what everyone's objectives are, which is to unite forces in the Fatah to work against the extremists there, whether they are Taliban, al-Qaida or homegrown.

By everyone's account, including President Musharraf's that agreement didn't work. And certainly, we wouldn't want to see any other kind of arrangement made unless we had an understanding of how it would be effective in carrying out our common goals here. Because remember, this is a fight that's not a U.S. fight or an international community fight. It's Pakistan's as well. We've been working very well with the Government of Pakistan on these issues, but we certainly wouldn't want to see any kind of agreements made that would provide an opportunity for militants to either rearm or otherwise continue to engage in cross-border activities or do anything else that would undermine our common goals.

QUESTION: Tom.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: The other day when you asked - were asked this same question and gave pretty much the same answer, you were not aware - you said you weren't aware at the time --

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- of any proposal to have an agreement. Has that changed? Are you --

MR. CASEY: As far as - as far as I know, Matt, there is a lot of discussion out there, but I still don't believe we've been told that there is a specific proposal being pursued by the Government of Pakistan on this.

Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:23 p.m.)

DPB #25

ENDS

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