US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: June 23, 2008
Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
June 23, 2008
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: June 23, 2008
Deputy Secretary Negroponte Meeting with President
U.S. Extends Deepest Sympathies to People and Government of Philippines
Has No Plans to Open U.S. Interests Section in Iran
New EU Sanctions Announced Today
Iran Supports Activities of Terror Groups In Lieu of Spending Money in Country
Secretary Rice’s Statement
on Opposition Leader Pulling out of Election Run-Off
Discussion of Run-Off Election in UN Security Council Today
U.S. Urges African Union to Take Up Issue of Election
No Immediate Plans to Recall Ambassador McGee
U.S. Has Limited Ability to Influence Mugabe Regime
Secretary Rice’s Discussion with
Foreign Minister Zuma Regarding Zimbabwe
South Africa Has Important Role to Play as Well as Other Members of SADC
Al Hurra and MEBN are Opportunities to Get News and Information to People
US-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative Delays
Kazakhstan’s Candidacy for OSCE Chairmanship
Rep. Waxman’s Letter
to Secretary Rice Regarding Allegations of Department
State Department will Provide Information Requested to Rep. Waxman
Crisis Group Report
U.S. Position Remains the Same
One Goal of U.S. is to See all Countries in Region Have Positive Relations
Timeline for a Possible Declaration
Wait Until Declaration Before Next Steps
12:49 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Okay. Good afternoon, everybody. I don’t have anything to start you with, so let’s see what you got.
QUESTION: Do you have any details on the meeting between President Arroyo and Deputy Secretary Negroponte this morning?
MR. CASEY: Well, a little bit. He did --
QUESTION: What they decided or about the help?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. He did speak a little bit at the conclusion of that meeting, but let me just talk a little bit about what I think we discussed this morning, but what’s already been planned.
First of all, we extend our deepest sympathies to the government and the people of the Philippines for the ferry disaster, as well as for the impact that the cyclone has had on a number of lives there. The United States has, as you noted, offered assistance and the U.S. Navy has dispatched a ship with search-and-rescue capability to the region. It should arrive fairly soon to assist with that. The United States, through our embassy, has also provided $100,000 that, as I understand, has been directly provided to the Philippines Red Cross to be able to provide some immediate support for victims. We will be continuing to look at what other needs there might be and see whether there’s any additional assistance that was appropriate.
The Deputy, in his meeting with President Arroyo – and, of course, this is a preview of President Arroyo’s meeting with President Bush – did continue to note both the support that was offered and did, of course, express his sympathies and condolences and offered to work with the Government of the Philippines on any additional needs that they might have. As far as I know, there was no request for additional assistance made in the meeting at that time.
QUESTION: After Switzerland signed a long term gas contract with Iran earlier this year, the U.S. said that it would be looking at – said on its Bern’s website that it would be looking at Switzerland’s role in representing the U.S.’s interests in Iran. Has the U.S. been looking at that and have you been looking at other options?
MR. CASEY: I don’t have any updates for you on it. Certainly, we look all the time at the best way to manage our diplomatic affairs. But there’s no change in the status of the Swiss as our protecting power in Iran at this time.
QUESTION: And is there any – can you tell us whether there are any plans afoot or any proposals afoot to have a U.S. interest section in Iran, as it does in Cuba?
MR. CASEY: I saw a story or saw an op-ed alluding to that. I’m not aware of any plans to do so. No.
QUESTION: Is it under consideration? I mean, is it – are you – is it under –
MR. CASEY: You know, I can’t guarantee you that there aren’t people somewhere in the U.S. Government talking about it. But it’s certainly not anything that’s been decided nor is it anything that I would expect to see decisions on in, you know, the near future.
QUESTION: Anything to say about Zimbabwe and the –
QUESTION: Can we stay on Iran for a second?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: I just want you to tell us about the new EU sanctions that were announced today, especially the asset freeze and the travel restrictions, and particularly about a report last week in an Iranian newspaper that Iran had been – before the sanctions were announced today, had been withdrawing up to $75 billion out of European banks.
Have you heard that? Do you have – are you in touch with the Europeans on the issue? What’s going on?
MR. CASEY: I haven’t in terms of what is going on in or around, you know, banking related issues. That’s something you might want to talk to the Department of Treasury about.
In terms of the sanctions that the EU has now imposed, certainly, we welcome them. We think it’s important that the international community continue to step up pressure on the Iranian regime, as long as it refuses to comply with Security Council resolutions and suspend its uranium enrichment. We certainly all wish that Iran would choose a different path and there is another one open to it. As you know, Mr. Solana did recently present the Iranians with a refreshed package of incentives that would be part of an arrangement with them, should they choose to suspend their enrichment activities and enter into negotiations with the P-5+1.
But unfortunately, given an absence of a positive response from the Iranians, they’re going to find themselves under increased pressure and steps that will be taken include not only what we’ve done in the Security Council, but also measures taken by individual states or organizations like the EU.
QUESTION: And just one more.
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: There have been reports in the last few months about the oil revenues that Iran is receiving instead of being put into its own economy to help with unemployment and other economic problems, that the money is being used as aid to foreign countries allegedly to buy influence or however you call it. I wonder whether anybody in this building has been looking at the issue of Iranian so-called aid to foreign countries?
MR. CASEY: Well, I don’t think the Iranians are generally very open and transparent with us in terms of how they’re using their finances and revenue. But we do know that Iran regularly and routinely supports activities of terror groups, like Hezbollah and Hamas that it continues to interfere in the affairs of a number of its neighbors as it’s done in Iraq. And I think it would be a fair question for the Iranian people to ask why its government is seemingly so intent on spending its resources outside the country when there are clearly so many pressing needs inside it.
QUESTION: Do you have anything for us on Zimbabwe, the decision by the opposition leader to pull out of the election or out of the runoff?
MR. CASEY: In addition to what the Secretary said in her statement?
QUESTION: In addition to that.
MR. CASEY: Let me just try and paraphrase that for you. First of all, we understand and respect the reasons why Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the runoff election. As the Secretary said in her statement, it is abundantly clear that Mugabe’s determined to thwart the will of the people of Zimbabwe. And it is equally clear to us that the Mugabe regime cannot be considered legitimate in the absence of a runoff.
So as you know, we are going to be discussing this issue in the Security Council today. We are urging that the South African – Southern African, excuse me, Development Community as well as the African Union take up this issue on an urgent basis. We believe that the international community needs to work together, and particularly those states that have influence over the Zimbabwe regime need to work together to end the violence and to be able to reach a political solution to this crisis.
QUESTION: Tsvangirai went to the Dutch Embassy.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you know what’s going to happen next with him? Did the U.S. Embassy offer him any sanctuary or any arrangements for his safety?
MR. CASEY: Well, my understanding is, and I’ve seen Dutch officials speaking to this, that he is presently at the Dutch Embassy. We have not had any communications with him today, so I can’t speak to any request he might make to the United States. I’ll leave it up to the Dutch in terms of talking about his status there.
Certainly, it’s obvious to us and to everyone else that he has concerns about his own security as well as those of his supporters. And that’s just reflective of the kind of environment that has been created by the Mugabe regime, which clearly does not want to have to face the voters, and clearly does not want to comply with the will of Zimbabwean people.
QUESTION: And what about any calls between Rice and the Ambassador? Any high-level communications?
MR. CASEY: Well, as you know, the Secretary is traveling and she’s en route to Germany right now. I don’t have an update on calls she may have made while on the plane. Certainly, this is an issue she is following closely. Jendayi Frazer has been in contact with a number of officials in the region. I know the Secretary did call her South African counterpart yesterday in large measure to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe.
QUESTION: Can you tell us a little more about what she’d like to see come out of the Security Council meeting and what, if any, steps the U.S. is prepared to take to pressure the Mugabe government more?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I think it’s important that the Security Council session take place. I think it’s reflective of the fact that there is widespread concern throughout the international community with the situation in Zimbabwe. Certainly, we would like to see the Council take note of the situation there and act strongly on this subject. But I’ll leave it to the members of the Council to discuss specific actions.
We do believe, though, that this is a measure that shouldn’t just be a one-off or a one-time discussion in the Council. This is something that really does represent a grave concern for all the international community and it’s one that the Council, as well as the other bodies I mentioned – SADC and the African Union – need to be engaged with and need to be engaged with until we can reach a political resolution there.
QUESTION: And is the U.S. considering any sort of other actions that – in order to pressure the Mugabe government – what about sanctions or any other –
MR. CASEY: Well, I think we’re – as you know, we already have a fairly strong series of sanctions in place against individuals – leadership of the regime, Mugabe and his immediate family as well as many of his associates. Certainly, we will look at ways that we can strengthen those measures and we’ll also look at other diplomatic tools that are available to us to try and make the regime do what is in everyone’s best interest, which is end the violence and reach a political accommodation.
Yeah. Viola. Sorry.
QUESTION: What about the – can you tell us more about the Secretary’s discussion with Thabo Mbeki yesterday?
MR. CASEY: Well, it wasn’t with President Mbeki. It was with Foreign Minister Zuma, as I mentioned. I don’t have a detailed readout of that call, but certainly, it was an opportunity for her to reiterate our concerns about the situation in Zimbabwe, as well as to again urge the Government of South Africa to do everything that it could to pressure the Mugabe government to move in a positive direction and, most immediately, ending the violence against opposition supporters and others who are simply trying to express their views, as well as to try and achieve, again, a political settlement of what is fundamentally a political problem in Zimbabwe.
QUESTION: Did she feel any more encouraged after that conversation about what they may do, and –
MR. CASEY: Look, again, I think she expressed our views clearly. We’ve noted that in recent days we’ve seen a change in tone in some of the statements from South African officials about this. We would certainly hope that that change in tone would also lead to increased efforts on the part of the South African Government and, more broadly, on SADC’s part, to be able to try and resolve this issue.
QUESTION: Is there any consideration that you know of, of President Bush, perhaps, speaking directly to Thabo Mbeki?
MR. CASEY: I’d refer you to the White House on that. I don’t have any information about that.
QUESTION: Tom, you said, on the diplomatic moves, isn’t it appropriate to at least recall your Ambassador from Zimbabwe?
MR. CASEY: Well, look. I think right now, and I mentioned this this morning when we discussed this, we want to make sure that we are able to understand the situation on the ground to the best of our ability. We want to make sure as well that we have someone and have people there who are able to reach out directly to some of the opposition. And I think, given the discomfort that the Zimbabwean regime has felt at some of the statements and efforts made by Ambassador McGee to respond to the situation there – I don’t think we’d want to do anything that would give them the pleasure of seeing Ambassador McGee leave, even on a temporary basis.
QUESTION: But you’re saying that this regime or this government is not legitimate anymore. How can you have an ambassador, you know – or an embassy, sort of, accredited to this government if you consider it illegitimate? I mean it’s –
MR. CASEY: I’m cranky and it’s Monday, so you’ll forgive me for saying that we’re concerned with practical results and not with the niceties of what sounds good in theory.
Look, Ambassador McGee has been someone who has been very outspoken in terms of calling for change in Zimbabwe. He has continued, along with the Embassy, to do what our diplomats and other diplomats are intending to do there, which is to support peaceful, democratic development in that country. I think it’s important that he and our other officials there continue their work. Certainly, if it’s appropriate and if the Secretary deems it so for him to, you know, come to the United States for consultations, then we’ll do so. But for right now, I think he and his mission are doing a very important and a very effective job there.
QUESTION: Are you able to elaborate a bit more on what sort of diplomatic tools are available and which ones you think would actually have an impact on Robert Mugabe and his government?
MR. CASEY: Well, look. There’s no secret that we, the United States, have a limited ability to influence Mugabe and his regime. And that’s why we have emphasized the importance of broader international action on this, including pressure from the South Africans and from others who are direct neighbors to Zimbabwe and who have influence there.
That said, there, you know, are always things that can be done, both in terms of strengthening existing sanctions regimes, as well as other kinds of activities that might be available. I’d also point out, though, that because we recognize the value and the importance of broader international community support and action on this, that is why we are focusing on the discussion in the Security Council today, as well as on energizing SADC to take action, because I think those are some of the ways that we have hope of being able to affect some real change there.
QUESTION: Would you like to see some of the African countries impose economic sanctions?
MR. CASEY: Look, I’m not going to try and be prescriptive for any other governments on this. But certainly, we would hope that the other countries of the region would look very carefully at their full range of relations with Zimbabwe and make determinations for themselves as to how they might be able to convince this regime to end the bloodshed, end the violence, and allow for peaceful change in that country.
QUESTION: But relying entirely on South Africa, which is accused of being too weak in its dealing with the crisis, aren’t you concerned that you are losing all the tools to try to influence the situation on the ground?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think South Africa has an important role to play in this, and we certainly, again, believe that the South Africans, as well as the other members of SADC, can and should do more to respond to this. But it’s not an exclusive effort with them. Again, we’re focusing on work in the Security Council. We will continue to work with the South Africans and SADC. We’re also engaging with other partners in Africa. You heard the Secretary and Prime Minister Odinga of Kenya speak out on this issue last week, and certainly the AU, we believe, has a role to play here as well. But I think it’s going to take the concerted effort of the international community more broadly to be able to effectively change the situation.
QUESTION: In your statement, the Secretary calls on the parties – the two parties, to work together. Do you think there is a chance to get to a national unity government? It’s – do you think the issue there –
MR. CASEY: Well, I’m not sure if that is a solution, but I think what is clear is that the ZANU-PF is more than just Robert Mugabe. We would hope that there are reasonable individuals within that party who are Zimbabwean patriots first, and part of the Mugabe patronage machine second, who would want to be able to work for the good of their own country with members of the opposition to reach a political settlement.
Yeah, Joel. Welcome back.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Haven’t seen you in a while.
QUESTION: Right. You have here at the State Department and through the IBG – IBBG, rather, a small but never ending type of controversy in television programming. It’s hit the Washington Post front page and it’s been on CBS 60 Minutes last evening. Now, was the initiative by Karen Hughes affecting the media – was that worth it? And of the Arab countries, do you see them as using the media much like we politicized our radio talk shows here on this election cycle? And apparently, Al Jazeera attempted to do regular news as opposed to fluff pieces, and they were pretty much rebuffed for that.
MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, I think you’re referring, at least in part, to the development of the Middle East Broadcasting Network and Al Hurra. And of course, you can talk to Michel sitting here regularly in the briefings, asking me all kinds of interesting questions, about how his network manages their news coverage.
But look, I think the thing that’s important to us is that we believe that Al Hurra is an important vehicle for being able to convey news and information into the Middle East. My understanding – and you can talk to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, but that the audience for Al Hurra stands at approximately 26 million regular viewers. That’s a significant increase over the last couple of years. I would not try and assert to you that any network or any news organization in the Middle East or anyplace else has particular dominance over the region. And that’s a good thing, but we do believe that what Al Hurra and the Middle East Broadcasting Network provides is another opportunity and another vehicle for people to get news and information and have an opportunity to choose for themselves.
Certainly, I noted in the piece that they did the classic, let me go find three random people in the street and ask them what they think of the show. Like I said, all I can say is the ratings, as measured by Nielsen Company, show a fairly substantial increase in viewership. And, you know, again, we believe, much like through the Voice of America and through other broadcasting services over the years, that this is an important way for us to be able to help communicate news and information to individuals in the region, even though it certainly is – and we think it’s very positive that it is a much more competitive marketplace for ideas and information in the Middle East than it was, say, behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.
QUESTION: Different subject. The U.S.-India civilian nuclear deal is now about three years old. It seems the word from Delhi is that the government is going to try to go ahead and promote it, even at the risk of having its coalition fall apart which might lead to elections.
My question is: On the U.S. side is there still enough time to get it done? Is it wed to the Bush Administration or is it something that could carry over?
MR. CASEY: Gee, well you know, Paul, I’m disappointed, man. I thought you were going to try and compare notes on the last Drive-by Truckers show with me, but okay. I guess we can talk about the India civil nuclear arrangement too.
QUESTION: George Carlin?
MR. CASEY: We can talk about George Carlin too.
Look, I think – we talked about this a little bit as well before, but we believe and we continue to believe that this arrangement is in the best interests of India, the United States, and the broader international community because it will strengthen nonproliferation regimes that are out there.
The reality, of course, is that every day that goes by is one less day on the legislative calendar for us to be able to have congressional action take place. So it certainly gets harder every day that this is delayed. That said, you know, the Indian Government has internal political issues that it needs to work through. And certainly, we continue to support this and we believe it’s in our interests, but it certainly becomes harder to do so as the realities of the U.S. legislative calendar move forward.
We’d like to believe that this deal and this agreement is one that can and should be supported by whoever comes into office in January of 2009. But obviously, the next U.S. Government will have to look at this and make their own decisions on it.
QUESTION: A separate topic if that’s okay. Freedom House came out with a report today on authoritarianism and oil in – particularly in Central Asia, and it pointed to the example of Kazakhstan. It said lack of political pluralism, lack of freedom of press, and it said that cast questions on Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the OSCE in 2010.
Could you tell us what that makes you think of U.S. –if it has any impact on the U.S.’s support or position upon OSCE chairmanship in 2010?
MR. CASEY: Well, we’ve talked about this issue before and I don’t have anything new to offer you in terms of U.S. views on Kazakhstan’s candidacy for the OSCE chairmanship. However, I will point out that issues of human rights and democracy are very prominent in our relations with Kazakhstan. And certainly, if you look at the evaluation that we provided of the situation there in the annual human rights report, it’s clear that we recognize there are many shortcomings in the Kazakh political system. And definitely, we’ll continue to work on these concerns with the Kazakh Government.
QUESTION: But no last minute rethink of your position on –
MR. CASEY: No. At this point, I think we have not made any change in our view.
QUESTION: Henry Waxman sent another letter to the Secretary, this time about an apparent meeting that the U.S. Ambassador in Albania had regarding a cover-up of an investigation by the New York Times about China – sales of Chinese ammunition from the ‘60s and ‘70s to Afghanistan. I was wondering if you had any particular comment on that.
MR. CASEY: Yeah, well, you know, I somehow think there needs to be a bit of an investigation of the mail service between that particular committee and this building, because it does seem that there’s a lot of letters that seem to manage to get into your guys’ hands before they ever make it here.
Look, we just received this letter an hour or so ago. And certainly, we’ll take a look at it and provide a response to the chairman that’s appropriate. I will say that, you know, certainly, we treat any allegations about the Department or its officials seriously and we’ll be happy to look into it rather thoroughly.
Now, I will note that while, again, I think this letter got to you guys a little sooner than it got to us – I know the chairman coincidentally has a hearing on this scheduled for tomorrow, I think – you know, certainly we’ll do our best to make sure that we look into these concerns and provide a response. I certainly can’t speak to anything that is in these letters or some of these rather unusual allegations that have been made.
I will note that John Withers, who’s our Ambassador, and the other people that are specifically – I understand specifically mentioned in this letter are career Foreign Service officers. They’re certainly not individuals who have any political connections or issues to speak of, nor are they individuals who – if you look at the bank accounts of most Foreign Service officers, have any particular business interests with the company involved.
I also know that there is ongoing investigation that I believe the Department of Justice is working with the Department of Defense on into the activities of the company involved here. And certainly, as far as that goes, I’d refer you to the Department of Justice as to the status of that investigation.
QUESTION: Do you know if – just as a general thing – whether he actually had a meeting that the letter alleges he did with the defense minister?
MR. CASEY: You know, I have – I certainly have no information that would support that. But certainly, you know, if the chairman of the committee is asking for information, we will certainly make sure that we provide the information requested.
QUESTION: Is this the first that Washington had – the Department here had heard of this allegation or is this a question of whether he attended this meeting and agreed to or suggested marking change and then didn’t report the meeting later?
MR. CASEY: You know –
QUESTION: Is that something that had been looked into by the Department in any other form?
MR. CASEY: Look, I will leave it to our folks to respond to this. I haven’t even had a chance to read the letter through myself. What I can tell you is, certainly, we have no information that would support the idea that U.S. officials were involved in some kind of illicit activity. But obviously, again, any allegations made, certainly any questions raised by the chairman of a major committee in Congress is something that we will be happy to look into.
QUESTION: Just one other final –
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Department – or the IG, rather – will open up some (inaudible) investigation into these incidents?
MR. CASEY: You’d have to talk to the IG. I think in this instance, we’d like to first make sure we have a chance to actually read the letter and see what is being discussed here.
Yeah. Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Yes, Mr. Casey, on Cyprus.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: The International Crisis Group, in a report on reunifying Cyprus released today says inter alia, quote, “The turnabout is largely due to the surprise election to the Greek Cypriot presidency in February of Demetris Christofias, who has moved quickly to reverse the previous government’s hardline rejection of compromise,” unquote. Any comment on that?
MR. CASEY: No. That’s an ICG report. I’m sure they’re happy to comment on it for you.
QUESTION: But –
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, our position on Cyprus remains the same. We continue to support a solution reached by the parties, and we certainly hope to see it soon.
QUESTION: But can you comment on exactly the positions? He says Greek Cypriot president. It’s a Cypriot president.
MR. CASEY: My comment for you is, that’s the opinion of the International Crisis Group and I’m sure they can explain to you why they came to that conclusion. Our view is that we want to see a settlement reached and I don’t think we’re particularly concerned with that.
QUESTION: May I go to the Balkans for one?
MR. CASEY: No. Let’s go around here first, then we’ll come back to you.
QUESTION: Thank you. We’ve heard by Cambridge-based Physicians for Human Rights has released a report where it claims that it’s found medical evidence of detainees being tortured while in U.S. custody. In its summary, it gives one example of an Iraqi that was – it says was frequently beaten, being hit on the head with – and even the jaw and even being stabbed in the cheek with a screwdriver. And it claims it has evidence that such has taken place. What do you have to say about those allegations?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, in terms of, you know, any specific questions, you can talk to my colleagues over at the Department of Defense. But I think what they would tell you is that the United States does not support or condone torture or other acts of abuse. In any instances where those kinds of reports or allegations are made, they’re thoroughly investigated, and in any instance where an individual is found to have exceeded his authority or acted in an inappropriate way, then they are given appropriate punishment.
QUESTION: Are you concerned about what this report can potentially do to America’s image?
MR. CASEY: Well, look. I think we – all we can do is simply put out the facts as we have them. People are going to draw their own conclusions from that. Again, I think that the U.S. record in terms of support for human rights, in terms of support for freedom and democracy, speaks for itself.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up on that.
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Elise.
QUESTION: There was a piece over the weekend in, I think, Washington Post, that talked about warnings that the legal advisor, John Bellinger, from this building, sent to Congress, warning them that they need to seek congressional approval for interrogation techniques. Now, could you speak to this? The warnings, whether this building gave to Congress –
MR. CASEY: No. Look, I’m not going to talk about any alleged internal conversations or process here –
QUESTION: Well, I mean, it wasn’t necessarily – I mean, unless there was a forged document, it seemed that there – it wasn’t alleged. It was an actual published email.
MR. CASEY: Again, whatever conversations take place in terms of internal discussions with the Administration; I’m going to leave it that way and we won’t have any comment on it.
Yeah. Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: On the Balkans. Mr. Casey, according to reports, Serbian President Boris Tadic and FYROM Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski are negotiating and forging a governmental coalition against the Albanians in the Balkans. I’m wondering if you have anything to say about that since you have (inaudible).
MR. CASEY: In terms of the formation of the Serbian Government?
QUESTION: A new partnership between Serbia and FYROM. (Inaudible.)
MR. CASEY: Well, again, we want to see – Mr. Lambros, we would like to see good and positive relations exist between all countries in the region. Certainly, one of the goals of U.S. and other broader international community policy is to see the Balkans be at peace and be fully integrated into the broader system of Euro-Atlantic institutions.
QUESTION: And according to the –
MR. CASEY: I’ll tell you what –
MR. CASEY: Is it follow-up on the same thing? All right.
QUESTION: According to the same report, a new political party was formed in Kosovo mainly, called, quote, “National Party for Greater Albania,” unquote, in order to unify all the Albanians in the Balkans in any state making Pristina the capital, with financial support by American Albanians. Any comments since you have military posts in Kosovo and the largest military base in Bondsteel?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I would fully expect that people in Serbia and Albania and Kosovo and any other country would be free to choose to organize themselves and establish political parties in conjunction with those countries’ respective constitutions and political systems. And that’s an internal matter for them.
Let’s go back here.
QUESTION: Sorry. Just on North Korea, do you have anything on the declaration coming on Thursday, or –
MR. CASEY: No. (Laughter.) The declaration will come soon. And how soon will be, we’ll have to see.
Look, I know there’s a lot of anticipation, and certainly we hope to see that declaration as soon as possible. I’m not going to try and put a date or time or other kinds of locaters on it. Suffice it to say that we’ve done a lot of work on this. We want to see it arrive as soon as possible. But more importantly, what happens after that declaration is turned in is really going to be the critical piece here. Because, as the Secretary has said, the declaration itself is important, but what is more important is that we’re able to go forward and verify the information that’s in it.
And we’ve seen things that have happened, including the turning over of some of the production records from the North Koreans to us, and we’ve, of course, worked in the verification working group now to establish terms by which we can do things like inspections, like discussions with those involved in North Korea’s program, to be able to make sure that whatever is included in that declaration is something that’s verifiable, because that’s important to us.
We’ve said all along, this is not simply a matter of getting a piece of paper. It’s having a clear and accurate understanding of North Korea’s programs so that we are able to move forward.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, Secretary Rice said last week that she hoped the declaration would come in by the end of the month, so that would be this week, wouldn’t it? And also, the North Koreans have announced their intent to blow up their cooling tower this weekend and have invited news organizations already for this spectacle.
MR. CASEY: You got a seat in the grandstands?
QUESTION: Among other news organizations. But I’m just saying, I mean, it’s – they’ve already, kind of, publically said that this was happening this week.
MR. CASEY: Yeah, well, I’m, -- you know. I’m sorry I’m still playing Yogi Berra on this one, but it ain’t over till it’s over. And, you know, until someone – until the Chinese come out and show you that they have a declaration in hand, I’m unwilling to say that it’s going to happen today, tomorrow, this week or next week or beyond that. Soon is soon, and, you know, if you guys all wake up Thursday morning and there’s a declaration that’s turned in, I’ll be the first to happily confirm it for you. But I think at this point we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
QUESTION: Just on –
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Those inspections you mentioned a minute ago, after the declaration is submitted, how far have the discussions gone on that issue? Sung Kim has been there a couple of times to talk about this, but do you have any reason to believe that you’ll be granted access to some of those personnel members or some of the sites that you would like to see?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think there’s a general understanding of the kinds of things that we need to have happen. I think I’ll wait until we have a declaration in hand and then we’ll make some more expert individuals available to you to talk about the specifics of that.
QUESTION: Have the North Koreans indicated to the U.S. when they’re going to hand over the declaration?
MR. CASEY: Soon. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: The White House is saying Thursday.
MR. CASEY: Go talk to Dana about whether they’re saying Thursday or not.
QUESTION: All right, thanks.
MR. CASEY: Thank you. Thanks, guys.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:24 p.m.)
Released on June 23, 2008