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US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: June 18, 2008

Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 18, 2008

INDEX:

IRAQ

Secretary’s Meeting with Iraqi FM Zebari / Strategic Framework / SOFA
Negotiations Making Progress / Compromises Needed Along the Way
Negotiation Between Sovereign Countries
U.S. Not Seeking Permanent Bases / Ambassador Crocker’s Comments
End to Extraordinary Situation for Iraq / Chapter 7 UNSC Resolution and Mandate
Long Term Goal is to Make Iraq Fully Able to Run Its Affairs without Assistance
Strategic Framework Agreement / Similar Agreements with Other Nations

COLOMBIA

Reports that Increasing Coca Production / Cocaine Production Flat
While Progress Has Been Made, There is Much Work to Do
U.S. Fully Expects All Countries Meet Their Obligations Regarding Refugees

ZIMBABWE

Government’s Restrictions on Food Aid / Difference Without a Distinction
Conditions for Free and Fair Elections / Hard to Say Those Conditions Exist
Secretary’s Participation in UN Roundtable on Zimbabwe / Burkina Faso
Differences Among Members Over Raising Zimbabwe in the Security Council
U.S. Would Welcome Participation from all African Nations that Have Been Invited
Kenyan PM Odinga’s Comments / Failure of Mugabe Government

UNITED NATIONS

Secretary’s Participation in a Women’s Empowerment Roundtable

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

U.S. Supportive of Egyptian Mediation Efforts to Help Maintain Security
Possible Negotiations Between Israel and Lebanon / Ultimately Up to Parties
Annapolis Process / Efforts to Engage Neighbors / Comprehensive Settlement

LEBANON

Secretary’s Discussions with Prime Minister Designate Siniora
Incident Involving Charge d’Affairs Outside Beirut / No Serious Injuries
Status of Embassy / Importance of Embassy Staff Getting Out into the Country

SOUTH KOREA

Status of Strategic Dialogue Discussions / Negroponte

TRANSCRIPT:

1:00 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: All right. You know what? I’ve always wanted to do this on camera. There you go -- feels much better that way. Feels much better -- oh my God, guest appearance by Barry Schweid.

QUESTION: More imposing.

MR. CASEY: Yeah, well, always and much more handsome than Matt Lee, too. Oh, Matt’s here, sorry. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CASEY: I’m in trouble now. I’ll never get off this thing.

QUESTION: I’m leaving (inaudible).

MR. CASEY: Okay, guys. Before I get myself into any more trouble, I actually don’t have anything to start you with. So the handsome Barry Schweid has a --

QUESTION: I appreciate it because we are trying to catch the Secretary at Heritage. Look, the Iraqi Foreign Minister spoke positively of negotiations, spoke of U.S. flexibility, spoke hopefully of meeting the deadline, didn’t specify what he’s so pleased with. Can you – there was no U.S. statement. Can you fill in the U.S. side of that?

MR. CASEY: Well, in terms of the strategic --

QUESTION: The meeting with the Secretary.

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, they did have a good meeting. It was a one-on-one session, Barry, and I haven’t had a chance to get a readout directly from her. But certainly, they did talk about a wide range of issues on the U.S.-Iraqi agenda, including our ongoing negotiations with them on the Strategic Framework Agreement and the Status of Forces Agreement, the sort of two sides of the coin there.

Certainly, we hope that the Iraqis are viewing this set of negotiations in a positive light. And again, these are negotiations among two sovereign countries. They’re friendly negotiations. And they’re designed to make sure that there is a positive legal foundation for our troops to be able to operate in Iraq after the expiration of the current UN Security Council resolution, and also that there’s a document that does provide a general outline or a broad outline of the kinds of relationships that we hope to have with Iraq on a full range of issues: cultural, political, economic and security as well.

And we do believe the negotiations are making progress. Obviously, cause they are negotiations, both sides will wind up having to make compromises along the way, but we are certainly hopeful, and you heard from Ambassador Crocker here, I guess, about a week, a week and a half ago that we do believe that we will be able to conclude this agreement in a reasonable period of time. I’ll leave it to him and to the others doing the direct negotiating to try and put a timetable on it. But certainly, we fully expect to have this agreement reached well before the UN mandate that is currently in place expires at the end of the year.

QUESTION: But is the U.S. more flexible now? Is it easing off, for instance, on its initial demands for number – the number of bases it wants in Iraq?

MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, again, I don’t want to try and talk in detail about negotiating positions. We certainly don’t want to negotiate in public on this. But obviously, it is a negotiation between sovereign countries. And both sides will need to be flexible in terms of, you know, actually achieving an agreement. Because certainly, I don’t think there’s ever been a negotiation, including on SOFAs, where each side walks in with its position and had those be identical and have them work out.

In terms of basing issues, you’ve heard from, again, from Ambassador Crocker and others that we’re not seeking any permanent bases as a result of this agreement or negotiation. We’re also – there have been all sorts of strange rumors out there. We are looking to do this and have the SOFA in particular, the Status of Forces Agreement, I think when all is said and done, will probably look similar to many of the other 80-plus status of forces agreements that we have with other countries there. And that includes a recognition of the rights and responsibilities of both parties.

QUESTION: Did you say both sides being – were flexible or will have to be flexible? I think that’s --

MR. CASEY: Well, it’s a negotiation. It’s a negotiation that’s making progress. And obviously, that means that neither side is going to get the starting point position that they entered into the negotiations with, you know, several months ago.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CASEY: Susan.

QUESTION: Last week, I think it was, Maliki said, you know, things are at a deadlock. And now, suddenly, things seem to be a lot better. We’re just wondering what’s changed.

MR. CASEY: Sounds like – sounds like people are trying to use you guys to negotiate or to enhance their negotiating positions. I know that’s unheard of. Look, I --

QUESTION: Why don’t you try to do that?

MR. CASEY: Oh, because, you know, we’re just honest and straightforward guys here. We’re just giving you the facts, Matt. No, seriously, I think that this is a process that we’re going through. Certainly, there are individual issues that are going to come up as it moves forward. And I am sure there will be moments when people are happier or less happier with it. But ultimately, when we get to the end of this, what we’re going to have is a agreement that is acceptable to both sides and that allows us to be able to move forward in our broad strategic relationship with Iraq, as well as ensure that there is a sound legal basis for the presence of U.S. troops after the end of this year.

QUESTION: Have you settled what you’re going to say on contractors?

MR. CASEY: Again, there’s a lot of issues that are out there under discussion and under negotiation, and I’m not going to try and get into any of the details of them.

QUESTION: Without getting into the details, can you say --

MR. CASEY: Keep trying. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- how much progress have you made in easing their concerns over sovereignty issues?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think one of the things, and it’s something, again, you heard Ambassador Crocker emphasize when he talked about this too, is that we view these discussions and these negotiations as negotiations between two fully sovereign countries. We are not trying to do anything that impinges on the sovereignty of Iraq. In fact, one of the fundamental reasons why the Iraqis want to have this kind of agreement is because it does end the, sort of, rather extraordinary set of circumstances that they find themselves in by being under a Chapter 7 UN Security Council resolution and mandate. And so this is an agreement that, in that sense, more normalizes our relations.

But you heard from Ryan -- from Ambassador Crocker, the other week too, about we are not – we’re not seeking permanent bases. We are not seeking to “control Iraqi airspace” or some of the other stranger rumors that have been out there. And, look, what this is about is ensuring that, again, there’s a legal basis for our troops to be able to operate there and be able to continue to do the things that we have been seeking to do. And all of that, the long range goal here, is to be able to make it so that Iraq no longer needs the support of the United States or other foreign troops to be able to control its security and fully be able to run its affairs.

Certainly, we hope, and that’s where the Strategic Framework Agreement portion of this comes in, that there will be a long term political relationship between the U.S. and Iraq, that we can continue to be friends and allies and be able to work together on a broad range of issues, both bilaterally and more broadly in the region, including working together to fight terrorism and extremism. But in terms of U.S. troops, again, I want to emphasize as well that a Status of Forces Agreement, this one or any other one, provides a foundation for and a legal basis for U.S. forces to be able to operate in that country. It is not a legal mandate or requirement for specific troop levels, for specific bases or other kinds of measures there.

So this is something, in terms of once that legal basis is in place, what our troop levels are, how the missions are accomplished, what relationships exist between U.S. military forces and Iraqi military forces, are largely going to be the things determined by the commanders on the ground, and by the political leadership, both of Iraq and the U.S.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: Tom, just one more on this. As you know, some people have compared what you’re trying to negotiate with what happened between Iraq and Britain decades ago. I’m just wondering, are you conscious of those lessons of history, to call them this way, when you’re negotiating this?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think I recall seeing at least one talking head piece out there. But look, Nicholas, the reality is, I think the Status of Forces Agreement that we are trying to negotiate is nothing like some of the agreements that people have tried to make comparisons to here.

We are not seeking to do anything more than continue and ultimately conclude successfully the mission that we’ve set out for ourselves, which is, again, to make it so that Iraq is fully capable of managing its security of and by itself. We all want to work for a day when Iraq is capable of doing that without any support or assistance from U.S. forces. I think we’re all agreed that on January 1, 2009, there will still be a role for U.S. forces and coalition forces in terms of aiding the Iraqis in achieving that goal, and we need to have a foundation for it.

In terms of the Strategic Framework Agreement, again, I don’t think, if you look at the kinds of – the similar agreements that we’ve concluded, including with Afghanistan and a number of other countries out there, that this represents any kind of binding commitments or requirements or, in any other way, somehow would limit the ability of the sovereign Iraqi government to manage their own affairs.

Okay, in the back.

QUESTION: On Colombia. There is a report today from the UN that says that Colombia has increased the amount of coca crops. How do you understand that, keeping in mind that Colombia is -- has this Plan Colombia that is supposed to be working? And how do you read that?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think, first of all, we always look to these kinds of reports to be able to get a general idea and an understanding of what’s going on. But of course, making these calculations is something that’s often very difficult. And I understand that the report makes the point that while coca cultivation is reported to have increased in the region overall, that cocaine production and the potential to turn that into cocaine is essentially flat, and actually down in Colombia a couple of percent.

So it sounds to me and seems to me like this is just another indication that while we’ve made tremendous progress working with Colombia and other countries in fighting against the drug trade and drug trafficking, that unfortunately there still is a lot of work to do. And that’s why we are committed to continuing to work with President Uribe and his government as well as others in the region to continue this effort.

QUESTION: Do you think that the report is, like, true? What’s your opinion about that?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think --

QUESTION: It’s not significant for you?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think these are always useful reports in terms of giving us another data point and another indicator of what the overall levels of production are. But I think in general, for us, what this indicates is that we have continued to make progress on this issue, but there’s still more to be done.

QUESTION: Okay. And also, yesterday there was the report on refugees. The report said that Colombia is one of the worst countries, especially this year, with the refugee situation. How do you understand that if Colombia is having a peace process with the AUC, and those refugees that the report talks about are part of those – that process?

MR. CASEY: You know I haven’t had a chance to take a good look at that report. Certainly, though, we fully expect that all countries will meet their international obligations in terms of caring for and supporting refugees, and meeting their international obligations on that issue. Certainly, that applies to Colombia as well as other countries. I’m certain we will take a look at the report and if there is anything that we feel we need to raise or discuss with the Colombian Government about it we will.

Yeah.

QUESTION: On Zimbabwe. What is your reaction to the lifting of some of the food aid restrictions?

MR. CASEY: My understanding is there’s been no lifting of food aid restrictions and what the Government of Zimbabwe has done is clarified its position, saying, well, some NGOs can actually continue to operate in Zimbabwe, but they are only ones, as I understand it, that are focused primarily on delivering health. So if you would believe that basically the Zimbabwean Government intends to use food as a weapon, that it continues to confiscate the voting cards of opposition party members when they try and get basic humanitarian food assistance, and that they continue to apply the same kinds of irresponsible and unacceptable behavior, then unfortunately this clarification is a difference without a distinction.

QUESTION: And one more. Some leaders have been talking about how – have made an assessment already that the runoff election will not be free and fair. Is the United States prepared to do so at this point?

MR. CASEY: Well, at this point, what we’re prepared to say is that we know what the conditions would look like for a free and fair election; and certainly, when you continue to have arrests of opposition party members, harassment, use of food and other resources as an electoral tool, then it’s pretty hard to say that those conditions exist. Certainly, we’ll continue to look at the situation, but what we want to see is some of these restrictions lifted. We want to see changes in policy. We want to see the army and the police kept out of the polling places and not used as an intimidation force. But ultimately, we’ll have to see when elections are held and what the situation looks like. At the moment, it certainly is clear that the government of President Mugabe is not exactly laying the foundations for a free and fair election.

QUESTION: On Zimbabwe again. What does the Secretary hope to do tomorrow at the roundtable talk at the Security Council? She wants to bring attention to Zimbabwe, but how and --

MR. CASEY: Well, a couple of things. First of all, as you know, the Secretary had originally planned to go to New York and still will be in New York, in part, to participate in a Women’s Empowerment Roundtable, and that will look at a variety of issues related to women’s development concerns. In addition, she is now going to be co-chairing with the representative from Burkina Faso, as one of the African representatives on the Security Council, a roundtable for various perm reps and other UN member-states as well as a couple of select invited NGO representatives that will focus on the situation in Zimbabwe, in particular some of the humanitarian concerns that exist there as well as the overall political conditions.

And certainly, we hope that this will be another opportunity for her as well as for concerned members of the Security Council and the UN to call attention to the situation in Zimbabwe, to discuss their concerns there, and to also talk about what ways the UN might be able to further assist in the process both of resolving some of the political crises there as well as providing additional support for the people of that country.

QUESTION: Why is the meeting being held? Why isn’t it a Security Council meeting? Why is it a roundtable --

MR. CASEY: I think you’ve heard from Ambassador Khalilzad on that, but there’s a difference in Council among various member-states and some members do not wish to discuss this issue in Council.

QUESTION: Have the South Africans and the Indonesians been invited to attend the roundtable?

MR. CASEY: I’m pretty sure that all Council members have been invited to attend the roundtable. Of course, you’d have to talk with them about whether they intend to send representatives or not. Certainly, as well, we believe that this is an important issue and it’s one that we hope will maintain attention on the Council, or at least among Council members.

QUESTION: Why is she co-chairing it with the Burkina Faso representative?

MR. CASEY: Well, this was something that, among other things, they discussed when the Foreign Minister of Burkina Faso was here, I believe last week. Burkina Faso is a member of the Security Council right now, one of the members from Africa, obviously, and --

QUESTION: Along with South Africa and – what’s the other country?

MR. CASEY: I forget who the third is at this --

QUESTION: And they’re not interested in this either? So is it – Burkina Faso was the only country you could get to --

MR. CASEY: What I can tell you is that the Burkinabe are a member of the Security Council. They are full members at the Security Council with a full vote on the Council, and that they were interested in co-hosting this, and this is how we decided to proceed.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Odinga seems to be pretty interested in this subject. He seems to be one of the few people in any kind of a leadership position in Africa who is willing to speak out against Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Is he – did the Secretary invite him to come up?

MR. CASEY: You know, I don’t – I wasn’t in that meeting, Matt -- I don’t know if he was invited or not. Certainly, we would welcome participation from the African countries that have been invited – I know Kenya has – as well as from the African Union. I understand the Secretary General intends to participate in this meeting as well.

QUESTION: So do you expect there to be any kind of a result?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think that we’re going to --

QUESTION: -- a statement that --

MR. CASEY: We’re going to have a discussion about this issue. We’ll see where that discussion goes. I don’t want to try and lead you to any particular conclusion on outcomes at this point.

QUESTION: Do you expect the Security Council to come up with a statement on rape in the women’s empowerment?

MR. CASEY: Again, I’ll try and get you a little more on that, Matt. I don’t – I actually don’t have a --

QUESTION: My understanding is that you expect to have a resolution out of that.

MR. CASEY: We may or may not. I --

QUESTION: You’ve given up hope on anything, even a statement on Zimbabwe?

MR. CASEY: I’ve given up hope on having any details be provided to me about this from the bureau in time for this briefing today.

QUESTION: Fair enough.

MR. CASEY: Okay. That’s about as honest an answer as I can give you, too, Matt.

Kim.

QUESTION: What is your view on this call for a peacekeeping force to be sent to Zimbabwe? We heard this today from Raila Odinga as well.

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think what we want to see happen, first and foremost, is see the conditions created in Zimbabwe so that there can be a free and fair election there. Certainly, we want to be able to discuss ways in which that can be achieved. But I think what you heard from Prime Minister Odinga today is representative of the concerns that many in the international community have been expressing about the failure of the Mugabe government to live up to its commitments and to create the kind of environment where that kind of election can be held.

And certainly, these are the kinds of things that we will be discussing throughout our interactions on this. I expect that one of the main things people will want to discuss tomorrow in New York is the political situation and what can be done to be able to change the regime’s behavior and to be able to give the Zimbabwean people the opportunity that they deserve to be able to choose their leadership free of fear and intimidation.

QUESTION: Do you think it would be something helpful? Do you think there’s any chance that it would ever come into being?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I don’t want to try and predict outcomes or actions of the Security Council. Certainly, I think we want to see everything done that can constructively and productively help change the situation on the ground.

Yeah, Elise.

QUESTION: New topic?

MR. CASEY: Works for me.

QUESTION: Hamas and Israel, the truce. Now that you’ve had time to hear more about it, what are your thoughts on it?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, certainly, we’ve seen statements by Israeli Government officials concerning this. As I said yesterday and as the Secretary has said previously, we certainly support the efforts that Egypt has made to help ensure that this truce or calm, whatever word is being used for it today, takes place. Anything that helps maintain security for Israeli citizens, that helps end the kind of violence that has been fairly constant along the border with Gaza is something that’s positive; certainly, I believe, will be more conducive to an environment that will permit negotiations to continue to move forward between Israelis and Palestinians. So in that sense, it’s good news that this has taken place.

QUESTION: What about the announcement by Prime Minister Olmert’s office that he’s willing to hold talks, comprehensive peace talks with Lebanon? While she was in the region, Secretary Rice said that now is the time to resolve the Shebaa Farms issue. So if – could you talk a little bit more about how this building views possible talks on why now is the time for Lebanon and Israel to be talking?

MR. CASEY: Well, ultimately, justice with the Israelis and Palestinians – the parties themselves have to decide when they are really able and ready to be able to participate in direct discussions with one another on these issues.

But remember, where we started out this latest part of the story, in Annapolis, was not only focusing on immediate support for the Israeli-Palestinian track, and for being able to achieve an agreement by the end of the year to establish a Palestinian state, but at the same time, we’ve spent a lot of effort focusing on the neighbors and on being able to have engagement by the broader Arab world and by the broader neighborhood to be able to support this process. And while the important tracks is being able to also ensure that Israel has a pathway toward normalizing its relations with the rest of the region, and that obviously means as part of that, that you have to get to the kind of comprehensive settlement that will require discussions between Israel and Syria, Israel and Lebanon and various other actors in the region.

So we’re supportive of the efforts that Israel is making to reach out and engage in discussions, both with the Syrians as well as with the Lebanese, and certainly, we’ll do whatever we can to be able to support that process. Again, I think the one caveat we have always said is that we don’t think that any other track or any other negotiating path ought to be a substitute or a distraction from the primary set of discussions and negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Yeah, Susan.

QUESTION: Are you mediating some talks already, communications between Israel and Lebanon on the Shebaa Farms issue?

MR. CASEY: I note -- again, and you heard from the Secretary directly about her discussions with Prime Minister or Prime Minister-designate Siniora on this. I think for the moment, we will certainly be continuing our discussions with both sides about this. But I don’t think, at this point, you would characterize that as a mediation or a negotiating – a direct negotiating role on our part.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Also on Lebanon, do you have any more details for us on this event involving the chargé who was in a convoy being stoned, apparently?

MR. CASEY: Oh, I did get a little bit of information for you. I think some people may have already heard a little bit about this, but let me just sort of try and walk you through what we know.

Michele Sison, who is our Chargé d’Affairs in Lebanon, was on a previously scheduled visit outside of Beirut. She was in a couple of smaller of towns outside the city visiting a number of different programs where the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Government has supported initiatives. That includes the Women’s Progress Association, a local school for girls, and a social center which is where our American Corner is housed, and also looked at some other AID projects while she was out there.

And my understanding is during her visit to the village of Nabatiyeh, one of the cars that was in her convoy had a mechanical problem, broke down. They decided to stop for lunch at that point. The Chargé was having lunch with a local family while the car was being repaired. After the car was repaired and they were getting ready to go, there was a small crowd that gathered around them – gathered around the vehicles.

And at one point, about approximately a dozen individuals – I understand, basically, young men – starting throwing some stones at the vehicles. The Chargé was able to be – get into the car and depart without any particular incident. There were no serious injuries. I do understand that one of our security guards, one of the local Lebanese security guards, did get hit in the leg by one of the stones that was thrown, was not – did not require any kind of medical treatment or, certainly, hospitalization, as I understand. Chargé Sison was able to carry out the rest of her visit and ultimately returned back to the Embassy in Beirut. So that’s the basic nuts and bolts of that for you, Kirit.

QUESTION: Was that her car that was being – you said there were a couple cars in the convoy, getting --

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: It was her car that was getting --

MR. CASEY: Well, there were -- you know, as you have all seen from your travels too, when we do this, there’s -- the vehicles are all kind of lined up next to each other, so I think there were two or three cars involved. And, you know, I don’t know, it depends – I guess it depends how good these guys’ aim was, whether they were aiming at a particular car or just in general at the direction. But they were certainly – they were part of the convoy and part of the vehicles she was traveling in.

QUESTION: How – how close were they?

MR. CASEY: How close were the individuals?

QUESTION: These stone-throwers?

MR. CASEY: That were stoning the car? You know, I couldn’t put it for you in terms of feet. They were in the general vicinity. They certainly weren’t, you know, blocks or, you know, hundreds of yards away or anything.

QUESTION: You said that she departed without incident?

MR. CASEY: Yeah. I mean, it was --

QUESTION: Well, it seems to me that there –

MR. CASEY: Well --

QUESTION: Without incident? I mean, this seems to be an incident.

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, Matt, look, I --

QUESTION: Without further incident?

MR. CASEY: What I base it – what I meant to imply with my usual imprecise wording is that she was able to get in her vehicle; she was not assaulted or in any way prevented from doing so. And the convoy was able to leave and go on its route. She did not have to modify her plans for that day or otherwise change her schedule as a result.

QUESTION: This was today?

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: And do you know if this is going to alter any sort of further movements by the Chargé or other officials in the Embassy?

MR. CASEY: No, I -- obviously, our security people look all the time at both where folks are going when, and make assessments as to what’s appropriate or not. Certainly, I would expect that the Regional Security Office and other folks at the Embassy will take a look at this incident, see if there’s anything particular they can learn from it. But I don’t think it would have any kind of fundamental change in the status of our Embassy or our personnel’s ability to go out.

And it’s important that not only the Chargé, but other people at the Embassy do have the opportunity to be able to visit some of these projects to be able to talk to people, not only in the government, but folks outside of Beirut, and to get a chance to understand the country. It’s something that’s difficult in places like Lebanon, where there are a lot of security concerns. But it’s part of what we do.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, final question. Do you know if these young men were associated with any group at all or if they --

MR. CASEY: You know, I think the assumption was that they were at least, in some way, shape or form, Hezbollah supporters. But I don’t think – you know, I don’t think anybody’s stopped and asked them.

QUESTION: What about the region, though? I mean, these – you know, there was the village itself. What groups lived there or, you know --

MR. CASEY: You know, I don’t – I think for us, the most important thing is there’s Lebanese people there who are benefitting from a variety of different projects that the United States and others in the international community are sponsoring. I don’t know, to be honest with you, what the, you know, ethnic or other breakdown of the village itself is.

QUESTION: Since --

MR. CASEY: Yeah, Charlie.

QUESTION: Since we have a briefing – another briefing in 15 minutes, unless there’s something urgent?

QUESTION: I have one. Just -- there’s a report that the --

QUESTION: Is it urgent?

QUESTION: Sorry.

MR. CASEY: It’s a tough job, Charlie, but somebody’s got to do it.

QUESTION: There’s a report saying that the annual strategic dialogue between Negroponte and the Vice – South Korean Vice Foreign Minister is postponed. Do you have any --

MR. CASEY: Far as I – far as I know, I wasn’t quite sure that we actually had final dates scheduled for it. But certainly, I’m not aware that there’s been any change in that. And we want to continue to have that dialogue. As you know, Secretary of the Treasury Paulson is currently engaged in discussions with the Chinese on the economic half of that.

QUESTION: This is the South Koreans.

MR. CASEY: Oh, the South Koreans, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. No, I haven’t heard anything about that being postponed, so as far as I know, it’s still on.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m.)

DPB # 108
Released on June 18, 2008

ENDS

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