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US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: July 1, 2008

Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
July 1, 2008

US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: July 1, 2008

INDEX:

MISSILE DEFENSE

U.S. Continues Discussions with the Government of Poland / Negotiation Among Friends
U.S. in Negotiations with Poland / Not in Negotiations with Anybody Else
Discussions with Department Officials / Fried / Rood

IRAQ

Global Demand for Oil / Global Production Having Difficulty Keeping Pace
Increasing Demand for Gasoline in Iraq a Sign of Increasing Normalization of Life in Iraq
Iraqi Government Should Determine Best Policies for the Iraqi People

TURKEY

Reports of an Alleged Military Coup / U.S. Supports Turkish Democracy
No Discussions Between the U.S. and PKK
Status of PJAK / Country Reports on Terrorism

SUDAN

Rwandan Military Officer on Peacekeeping Force / Appointment by UN Secretary General

ISRAEL/IRAN

Reports of Israeli Plan to Attack Iran / Anonymous Source / No Information to Substantiate
National Intelligence Estimate on Iran / Window for Development of Nuclear Weapon

KOSOVO

Kosovo an Independent State / Institutions of Government Should be Run by Kosovo

CROATIA

Secretary's Meeting with Croatian FM / Wide Range of Bilateral Issues / Kosovo / NATO

SWITZERLAND

Reports of a Request for Information on Americans Evading Taxes by Swiss Bank Accounts
Role of the State Department in Terms of Passing Messages from Department of Justice

SOUTH AFRICA

HR 5690 Disallowing Automatic Visa Ineligibility to ANC Members / Mandela
Positive and Growing Relationship with South Africa

TRANSCRIPT:

12:42 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Pleasure to be here with you. I don't have anything to start you with, so?

QUESTION: Missile defense, the --
MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: An aide to the Polish Prime Minister said earlier today that they had seen no progress in the talks and the Americans have toughened their position. I was hoping you might comment on --

MR. CASEY: Well, I think it's already been commented on by the Prime Minister, who basically contradicted those remarks by his aide. Look, we continue to have discussions with the Government of Poland on this. As I said this morning, we very much would like to conclude an agreement and do so in the very near future. But ultimately, this is a negotiation, a negotiation among friends and allies. And while we hope to reach that agreement soon, obviously, it's something that's still under discussion and, you know, I think we'll continue to work with the Poles on this.

Certainly, this is an issue of mutual importance to us. The Prime Minister said he believed that the stationing of the interceptors in Poland was something that was in Poland's national interest, or in the interest of its national defense. I'll let him speak for himself, but I think his comments were pretty clear.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary meeting with the Lithuanian Prime Minister today?

MR. CASEY: Not on her schedule, not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Okay. This week, do you know?

MR. CASEY: It may very well be. Arshad seems to think it's tomorrow. I'd probably go with that. But again, as I said, our focus is on reaching an agreement with the Poles. There's been lots of speculation in the media out there about, gee, if, at some point, maybe in the future, something - you know, things didn't work out with Poland, where and whether and what alternate sites would be.

Here's reality: The focus is we're in negotiations with the Poles. We're not in negotiations with anybody else. And if you want to know where we expect to see those ten interceptors based, we expect to see them based in Poland.

QUESTION: So, the very near future; does that mean in the next week?

MR. CASEY: That means that we've had these conversations for a long time, and I think you'd see a resolution of this somewhere in the coming days. But whether that's in a week or two weeks, I'm not really in a position to say. It will depend on the pace and structure of the negotiations.

QUESTION: And where are the negotiations now taking place? Is Under Secretary Rood in the region or are --

MR. CASEY: Well, I know Assistant Secretary Fried had conversations with people yesterday on this subject. I think there were a variety of other individuals talking about it, but, you know, I think they're in conversations now.

QUESTION: And is that in person or is that over the phone?

MR. CASEY: I think a variety - I think most recently, I think yesterday, that was over the phone. But I'd honestly have to check for you, Arshad. I didn't actually --

QUESTION: Could you check on whether - you know, either Assistant Secretary Fried or Under Secretary Rood or anybody else is going anywhere?

MR. CASEY: Okay, well, let us be clear, that as far as I know, not - there are no senior U.S. officials that are in Poland now or that have traveled to Poland. If you find Foreign Minister Sikorski here in Washington, then I would presume his conversations yesterday were with Assistant Secretary Fried in person. But if not, they would have been through - over the phone.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Change of topic?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Seen over the last couple of days that the gas lines in Iraq are extremely long and people are - and Iraqis are waiting, like, around the block for gas, what do you think it says about, kind of, the state of things in Iraq, that one of the hugest oil producers in Iraq, in - sorry, in the Middle East, is having a hard time with gas and gas prices like that?

MR. CASEY: I don't know. What does it say that Iran doesn't produce any refined petroleum products at sufficient level that it's not reliant on foreign exports to serve that need? It says that there is a global demand for oil and for refined petroleum products. That is increasing and that global production is having trouble keeping pace with that, I think.

But that's an issue whether you're here or in Iraq or elsewhere. I don't think it's necessarily something that, you know, speaks particularly to Iraq. I would say, if there is - you know, one of the things that you can point to in Iraq as things change and develop is that there is increasing demand for gasoline, and there is because there is an increasingly active economy and an increasingly normalized or more normalized security situation that's allowing people to use their vehicles more frequently and engage in more normal sorts of activities.

QUESTION: Do you think that the United States or the international community should help Iraq with its refined gas shortage - oil shortage?

MR. CASEY: You know, I think that the Iraqi Government should determine what the best policies are for the Iraqi people. And in the instance where the Iraqi Government has any requests to make to us or anyone else, I'm sure we'll take it under consideration and look to see what we could do.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Another subject. In Turkey, several semi-retired generals and a top journalist were taken into police custody today in relation to plans about an alleged military coup. Do you have anything to say about this?

MR. CASEY: I've seen those reports. I'd refer you to Turkish authorities and particularly Turkish law enforcement officials. My understanding, at this point, is it's a law enforcement matter.

QUESTION: And a follow-up. It's happening on the same day Turkey's chief prosecutor voiced his final arguments for the case for the closure of the ruling party. Anything on that?

MR. CASEY: Nothing beyond what we've already said. We support Turkish democracy. This is an issue before the Turkish courts. We would expect that the court, in making its decision, would consider the will of the Turkish people in doing so.

Yeah.

QUESTION: I had a question on PJAK. Yesterday you said that your policy is not to engage or have discussions with contacts -- with terrorist groups. Do you consider PJAK to be a terrorist organization? And --

MR. CASEY: Do I consider which groups are –

QUESTION: PJAK --

QUESTION: PJAK, the Iranian arm to PKK, PJAK.

MR. CASEY: I believe if you check the list - you can check the list of state sponsor - or sorry, of, you know, Foreign Terrorist Organizations. I'm not sure they're a designated FTO. I think they're on the list of other terror groups. Your question was: Are we engaging in conversations with the PKK, affiliates of the PKK, anyone associated with the PKK? And the answer to that was, is, and I suspect forever shall be no.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Tom, I alluded to this at the gaggle. There was a newspaper report this week that the United States is supporting the continued presence of a Rwandan military officer on the Sudan peacekeeping force, even though he's been apparently implicated in crimes in Rwanda in the mid-'90s. Is that the case?

MR. CASEY: It is the case that this was an appointment made by the UN Secretary General. And the United States firmly and completely believes that it's his decision to make.

Yeah. QUESTION: Tom, I think you commented in the gaggle briefly on the ABC News report about -- quoting senior Pentagon officials expecting an Israeli attack on Iran before the end of the year. Can you give us a nice soundbite, please?

MR. CASEY: Can I give you a nice soundbite? (Laughter.) Can I give you a nasty soundbite? Can I give you something - look, Samir, I said this morning that, you know, it's always amazing that there are lots of anonymous sources out there who profess to know the inner will of officials in other countries, Israel or otherwise. I have absolutely no information that would substantiate that. But certainly, you're free to ask Israeli officials what their current defensive posture is with relation to Iran or any other country. And usually, I don't think the Israelis are particularly shy about expressing their concerns about the situation in their neighborhood.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: This apparently anonymous official also said that it's possible that Iran would have enough enriched uranium by the end of the year for a nuclear bomb and –

MR. CASEY: You know, I need to find this guy because, apparently, he's an expert on the Israeli military, an expert on Iran and an expert on nuclear issues at the same time. Let's get him a Nobel Prize.

Yes.

QUESTION: Well, that's just - it does seem like way, kind of, optimistic about the state of Iran's nuclear program than any other kind of public accounting that we've heard from any --

MR. CASEY: Well --

QUESTION: -- official cabinet secretary or the CIA. I mean, isn't by the end of the year really kind of premature?

MR. CASEY: Well, you can look at the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. That is the best and latest assessment of the intelligence community of Iran's nuclear capabilities. And I believe that puts the window for the possible development of a nuclear weapon in the much more distant future than that. I can't remember the exact timing used there. But certainly, there has been no reassessment that I'm aware of, of the current state of Iran's nuclear program or their potential capabilities.

QUESTION: So you don't believe that they're -- or this government does not believe that Iran would have a - excuse me - would have a nuclear bomb by the end of the year?

MR. CASEY: That's certainly not what the intelligence community has said and that's not anything that I've heard coming from anyone other anonymous sources talking to individual networks.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Kosovo, Mr. Casey, a new parliament consisting of 45 deputies was inaugurated in Mitrovica by Serbians living in Kosovo. What is the U.S. position on that?

MR. CASEY: The U.S. position is that Kosovo is an independent state and that its parliament and its institutions of democracy should be run and managed by the Kosovars themselves and should not be interfered with by Serbia or any other outside power.

QUESTION: And what do you think about this parliament?

MR. CASEY: Again, Mr. Lambros, I try not to think about that parliament too much at all, but our policy on Kosovo is quite clear.

Sylvie.

QUESTION: Would you have a readout of the meeting of the Secretary with the Croatian --

MR. CASEY: I can talk a little bit about that. She did have an opportunity to meet with the Croatian Foreign Minister today, talked about the general bilateral issues, of course, as well as the situation in the region. That certainly includes issues like Kosovo. It - she also talked a bit about some broader European security and political concerns, including Croatia's arrangement in relationship with NATO.

Yeah, Arshad.

QUESTION: A slightly obscure question.

MR. CASEY: We do those. Well, we try and do those.

QUESTION: Apparently, the U.S. Justice Department has made a request to Swiss authorities requesting broad access to information about U.S. citizens who may have sought to evade U.S. taxes by parking their money in Swiss bank accounts. I realize it's a DOJ thing.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: But did the State Department have any role in transmitting this request to the Swiss authorities and have you received any response to it?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, as this is a matter that -- it would supposedly involve ongoing legal considerations with the Department of Justice, I'd refer you to them in terms of any specific comment. As a general matter, we certainly are involved at the State Department in terms of passing messages back and forth between other agencies of government here in the United States and foreign governments there. I'm not sure if we've had any particular communications with the Swiss in terms of passing messages from the Department of Justice to them. As far as I know, though, I think there has - there's certainly not been any diplomatic issue associated with this that's come up.

Sylvie.

QUESTION: Apparently, the White House announced this morning the lifting of sanctions against the ANC and Nelson Mandela. I wanted to know if it's the last sanctions, if now there is no more sanctions against Mandela at all?

MR. CASEY: Well, what has happened, of course, is Congress has passed, and I believe the President's now signed into law HR 5690, which allows the State Department, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, since it's -- they have a role in this as well -- to decide that ANC members, African National Congress members like former President Mandela, will not automatically face a ineligibility for U.S. visas. It's not a sanctions measure, per se. This is a longstanding matter of U.S. law. This is a important new authority. And what it will do is, of course, make sure that there aren't any extra hoops for either the distinguished individual, like former President Mandela, or other members of the African National Congress, to get a U.S. visa.

And of course, it's obviously not something - while the intent of the overall legislation here is to prevent those who have been tied to groups that have engaged in terrorism over the years, to be ineligible for U.S. visas. Certainly, a distinguished global figure, like former President Mandela and others whose engagement in the ANC in fighting apartheid, certainly wouldn't merit them being barred or otherwise be found ineligible for U.S. visas. So we're pleased that we could make this correction to the - what is otherwise a good and important piece of legislation.

QUESTION: So there is no more legislation against the ANC? There is no more measures being --

MR. CASEY: I have not picked up my copy of the U.S. Code on my bedside table recently. But no, I'm not aware that there are any measures that apply to the ANC still, other than this last piece of visa related restrictions. Certainly, the African National Congress, of course, has been the ruling party in South Africa for many years now. And we have full diplomatic relations with South Africa, a positive and growing relationship with that country, and I'm not aware that there are any other barriers related either to the party or, certainly, to South Africa in general.

Yeah.

QUESTION: One more on PJAK. You just said you're not talking to the PKK or any of its affiliates.

MR. CASEY: Right.

QUESTION: And that policy will remain in place.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you see PJAK as an - as a PKK affiliate?

MR. CASEY: Again, you can - you're free to go to the publicly available on our website report on global patterns, or what used to be called global patterns of terrorism - what's our annual terrorism report. It contains, in its many fine annexes, a full and complete list of all organizations designated as foreign terrorist organizations, other kinds of terrorist groups or affiliate organizations. I believe that they're in there, but under which name and which alias and how many times that's been issued, I'd ask you, rather than relying on my poor and faulty memory, to simply consult that record, which is the definitive word of the United States Government on that subject.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I am asking something else.

MR. CASEY: You're asking me whether under U.S. law --

QUESTION: It is a PKK affiliate, no? Do you see that as a bad –

MR. CASEY: That is also a legal determination and one that I cannot authoritatively tell you without going and consulting that publicly available record on what is there.

Your basic question, though, as a matter of policy, is simple. You would like to know if the United States, with a wink, with a nudge or in any way, shape or form, talks to, engages in or otherwise works with the PKK in any of its forms, regardless of its nature. I think I've given you as categorical a statement that the United States wants to see the PKK put out of business. We don't support them, we do not talk with them, we do not engage with them. That applies to the PKK, regardless of what name any of their individuals are operating under.

What I cannot tell you is what is the specific definition of a PKK affiliate under U.S. law, and which ones have been formally recognized as such. If you want, I can bring down about 15 lawyers from upstairs and they could all probably go through it with you, but I'm just simply not in a position to do that for you. And again, there's a publicly available record you could consult to figure out whether that's been one that's designated or not.

QUESTION: One final thing on this. Do you have talks with PJAK (inaudible)?

MR. CASEY: No.

QUESTION: No? (Inaudible.)

MR. CASEY: You asked me that once and I said no. You asked me that a second time, I said no. You've asked me that a third time, I said no. And if you ask me again, I'll still say no.

Okay. Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:59 p.m.)

DPB # 117
Released on July 1, 2008

ENDS

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