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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 29, 2006

Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 29, 2006


A/S Hill Travel / Meetings in Beijing / China / North Korea /
South Korea / Japan
Hill’s Possible Meetings with Russian Counterpart on Six Party
Secretary’s Travel and Meeting Schedule

Groundwork for Next Round of Six Party Talks
Implementing Terms of Resolution 1718 / Obligation of States
Possible Date of Talks
Banco Delta Asia Sanctions
1718 Provision on Sanctions on Luxury Goods / Department of

Assessment on the Ground in Iraq / Difficult Situation / Sectarian
Request by Iraq for Continued Presence of Coalition Forces
U.S. Committed to Remain in Iraq Until the Mission is Completed

Ahmadi-Nejad Letter / U.S. Free Press and Free Society
Record of Iranian Action

Terrorist Attack Near Border / Syria’s Allowance of the Presence
of Terrorists
Syria’s Long Legacy of Interference in Lebanese Affairs /

Gulf Cooperation Council’s Assistance in Iraq / Saudi Arabia’s

U.S. Faith in the Mexican Political System and Constitutional
U.S. Has Broad and Important Relationship with Mexico / Safe and
Orderly Migration
Ongoing Investigation on the Death of American Journalist

Fidel Castro’s Health
U.S. Aid to the Cuban People in Possible Transition to Democracy

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Efforts of Prime Minister Siniora to Advance the Will of the
Lebanese People
U.S. Efforts to Assist Lebanon Rebuild
Pressure on the Lebanese People from Outside Forces / Syria / Iran

Need to Address the Issue of War Criminals
Further Integration in Euro-Atlantic Institutions Contingent on
Cooperation with ICTY

UN Resolution / U.S. Desire to Help Promote Solution to
Long-Standing Problems in Somalia
Need for a UN Sponsored Solution that Involves Somalia’s
and the AU

Reported Actions by the Government of Ethiopia Inside Somalia


12:50 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, everyone. I apologize for keeping you waiting a few minutes. Don't have any opening statements or announcements, so why don't we get right to your questions.


QUESTION: Could you give us what you have on Chris Hill's deliberations in the Far East?

MR. CASEY: Sure. As you know, Chris had some additional meetings today in Beijing. Those included meetings with his Chinese counterpart as well as with the North Koreans, as you know. He met as well today in Beijing with his South Korean counterpart, as I understand it, which is Vice Minister Chun Young-woo, and he will be stopping in Tokyo en route to Washington and will meet with Japanese officials there. Expect he'll be back in here on Thursday.

As you know, they've continued discussions about how to lay the groundwork really and set the stage for a productive next round of the six-party talks. As you know, there's no date as of yet for them, but certainly we hope that that next round can take place as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Wasn't he kind of disappointed in the outcome of his talks so far?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think we are making progress in terms of setting that stage. And again, what's important is that when we get back to these talks that we do so in a way that allows that round to be successful. And what that means is making concrete steps towards the implementation of the September 19th agreement.

QUESTION: Was the substance of his meeting with the North Koreans today more focused on concrete steps that they would take or be prepared to take when that next round occurs, if it does, as opposed to concrete steps that the United States or the other members of the six-party talks might take?

MR. CASEY: I think I've heard this question somewhere before. Arshad, I honestly don't have anything -- any new way of characterizing it beyond what Sean talked to you about today -- this was a continuation today of his discussions yesterday. Again, we're focusing on how we can make that round productive. Doing so, again, requires concrete steps towards implementing that agreement. And if you look at that agreement, it talks about the things that all of the parties would have to do for that agreement to eventually be implemented successfully. So other than saying they talked about it in the broad terms of assuring that there could be a successful next round and that concrete steps could be taken, I really don't have a characterization for you in terms of balancing it towards actions by one party or another party or any of the six parties.

QUESTION: Other than his meetings with the Japanese in Tokyo on his way home, are there any plans for any other meetings or significant phone calls about this, particularly with the Russians whom he did not see in Beijing?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think he will have met with all the other members of the six-party process save the Russians at this point. I'm not aware -- as far as I know, he does not have any plans certainly to stop in Moscow or meet with Russian officials on his way back here. I do know he does maintain good contact with his Russian counterpart, though I'm not sure whether he has any particular plans for calls. Certainly both the Secretary and the President of course have met with the Russian President and Foreign Minister fairly recently, including during the APEC summit in Vietnam. So certainly there's a lot of contact there and I wouldn't read anything into the fact that on this particular occasion he didn't have an opportunity to meet directly with his Russian counterpart.

Let's go back here.

QUESTION: Will the United States enforce the sanctions on North Korea even if North Korea return to the six-party talks?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, right now, as you know, we are working, as are other countries in the region, on implementing the specific terms of Resolution 1718, and at the moment that's where we are. If circumstances change, then we'll see what happens. But right now, that's a valid UN resolution; all member-states are required to implement it and we are, in fact, moving forward with implementation.

QUESTION: North Korea strong (inaudible) about Resolution 1718 (inaudible) lift when they come, you know, enter the six-party talks?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, all I can tell you is for right now, again, we aren't back at six-party talks. We do have a UN resolution that is valid and that we have said publicly previously and continue to work on the implementation of, and that's what our expectation is for other member-states of the United Nations. In fact, it's the obligation of member-states to do so.

Yes, back here.

QUESTION: U.S. Embassy statement said that the U.S. delegation shared ideas and the North Koreans promised to study those ideas back in North Korea. Would those ideas include, for example, allowing IAEA inspectors back into North Korea or like immediate suspension of all activities?

MR. CASEY: Again, they'd include a full range of ideas on how to make this round productive, but I'm not going to go into any specifics on that. That's for the negotiators and the people involved in the discussions to work on.

QUESTION: Just one more.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Would it be fair to say that it would be difficult for talks to resume within the year?

MR. CASEY: Last I heard Chris Hill speak on this, and I always rely on Chris Hill to give me good information about what's going on, in his last public statement Chris said -- was that he had hoped that we could, in fact, begin the round in mid-December. I'm not sure if that's still the exact time frame he's thinking of, but I certainly don't have anything that contradicts that statement right now.

Still on North Korea? George.

QUESTION: Are the '05 financial sanctions against North Korea still a sticking point?

MR. CASEY: You mean the Banco Delta Asia measures?


MR. CASEY: Well, again, as we have said previously, we know this is something that's of concern to the North Koreans and we've talked about establishing a working group in which, you know, we would be able to discuss those issues in the context of the six-party talks. But you know, I assume that's still a valid issue and concern of theirs and, again, we have a proposal in terms of how we would be able to address those.

QUESTION: You don't know the extent to which that issue is being discussed by Chris Hill over there?

MR. CASEY: I don't have a detailed readout on Chris's conversations and I'd hate to try and characterize one way or the other sort of, you know, what weight to give to any one of the many things that are on the table on this.

Anything else on this subject? Okay, back here.

QUESTION: With the sanctions on North Korea, can you give us a list specifically of what some of the luxury items that have been banned?

MR. CASEY: Well, I do know that as part of our efforts to implement Resolution 1718, we do, in fact, need to provide the UN with statements on how we intend to implement that particular provision on luxury goods as well as several other things. Best of my knowledge, that information hasn't been provided to the United Nations yet. But that information would come from the Department of Commerce. They're the ones that would be responsible for implementing those kinds of trade-related measures. So you might want to check over with them and see.

QUESTION: The AP story today, though, talks about iPods, plasma TVs, Segway electric scooters as part of that list. You can't -- can you confirm any of that?

MR. CASEY: No, I'm afraid I can't. Again, I think you need to talk to the Department of Commerce about that.


QUESTION: Different subject?


QUESTION: Switching to Iraq, former Secretary Powell in a speech to a private group has called what's happening in Iraq a civil war. I am not asking you to comment on his comment, but I'm asking you as an Administration official whether you agree or not. And if you do not think it's a civil war, why not?

MR. CASEY: Well, Charlie, I haven't seen former Secretary Powell's comments, so I wouldn't be in a position to comment on them. I frankly don't have a lot new to offer you on the subject of our assessment of the situation on the ground in Iraq beyond what you heard from Sean over the last couple of days and what you've heard from the President and others.

Certainly it is a difficult situation. Certainly there are serious levels of sectarian violence. Those are all issues that are important to be addressed and to be addressed in the near term. Obviously these are the kinds of things that the President and Prime Minister Maliki will be discussing in their meetings.

But in terms of our view of the situation, again, we do not believe that that would be an appropriate description of the situation there. And as Sean told you yesterday, that's not what the Prime Minister says it is. It's not what other Iraqi Government officials say it is. It's not what our commanders on the ground say it is. And we frankly are relying on the assessments of those experts that are sitting there in Baghdad and those who are representing the Iraqi people.

Yes, Sylvie.

QUESTION: To stay on Iraq. I'm sure you saw the memorandum of Steve Hadley published in The New York Times. And in this memorandum the National Security Advisor says that Secretary Rice will hold an Iraq-plus-neighbors meeting in the region in early December. Did you have any takes on this meeting?

MR. CASEY: Boy, that's a very interesting way at getting a story in a major U.S. newspaper purporting to discuss an alleged secret document, confidential document, that's been issued by the White House. I think the White House has spoken to that issue, and I really don't have anything to add to it.

As to the Secretary's travel schedules and meeting schedules, we'll keep you updated on what she's doing. As you know, she is in the region now. She's in the Dead Sea for the Forum for the Future event. She is holding a number of other meetings in conjunction with her time there including, as you heard Sean say yesterday, a meeting of the GCC, the Gulf Cooperation Council, plus two; the two being Jordan and Egypt.

She's also got meetings scheduled in Jericho now, as you know, with President Abbas and I think the party has also now confirmed that she will, in fact, have an opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni as well during that stint. So she certainly is very active in working on regional issues. She'll also obviously be participating in the discussions that the President will be having with Prime Minister Maliki as well.

So if the question, more importantly is, is the Secretary actively engaged and involved in working on issues related to Iraq and working on issues related to peace and security in the region, the answer is certainly yes.

QUESTION: Yes, but the memo speaks about beginning of -- no, early December. We are not early December yet.

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I certainly can't give you any information beyond what the White House has said about that story and I have no travel plans or announcements to make with you with regard to the Secretary's schedule. I'm certainly not aware of any travel plans for early December.

Yes. Kirit.

QUESTION: President Ahmadi-Nejad has sent another letter to the U.S., once again criticizing U.S. policy, and he also mentions the possibility of dialogue and talks with the U.S. Do you have any comments on his letter?

MR. CASEY: Well, Kirit, I just got a chance to look at it myself a few minutes ago. I'm sure people will take a look at it and give it an appropriate evaluation. I think my initial reaction to you is that there's really not a lot new here and certainly it is something of a public affairs or public relations effort on the part of the Iranian Government.

I think one of the benefits for us here in the United States is that we have a free press and a free society that will allow everyone to take a look at this and debate it and think about it and discuss it in their own terms. It's kind of a shame that President Ahmadi-Nejad doesn't allow people in his own country the opportunity to have a free and open debate of political ideas and views.

Arshad, yes.

MR. CASEY: Given that you only had a short time to glance at it before you came out, Tom, would you not care to take issue with the letter's suggestion that the Bush Administration governs by coercion, force and injustice?

MR. CASEY: Look, I don't think I need to dignify some of those comments with a specific reaction. Clearly this is something of a, again, a public relation stunt or a public relations gesture. I think that what is more important than any of the words on that piece of paper are the actions that the Iranian Government takes, the actions that it takes in terms of its relations to its own people as we've said, and the actions that it takes in terms of how it relates to the rest of the world. And that includes its support for terrorism in Iraq. It includes its support for Hezbollah. It includes its support for Palestinian rejectionist groups. It includes its continued defiance of the international community's efforts to deal with the Iranian nuclear program, including its defiance of specific UN Security Council resolutions. And that's why Iran finds itself in a very isolated place right now.

But again, actions speak louder than words. And I think if you look at the record of Iranian action, we unfortunately haven't seen any change in behavior that would indicate that they've got a new approach to things.

QUESTION: Just one last one.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: On this. The letter suggests the United States withdraw all of its troops from Iraq and instead pour the money that gets spent on that on trying to rebuild the country. Do you -- can you address that recommendation?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think a very wise and knowledgeable individual by the name of Sean McCormack told you yesterday that, you know, we've certainly seen those suggestions made by a number of people in Iran. That's certainly not what the Iranian -- I'm sorry, what the Iraqi Government tells us they want. In fact, the Iraqi Government through its Prime Minister just requested and received renewed authorization from the United Nations for the continued presence of the multinational force. And that's because Prime Minister Maliki and his government believe that the support of coalition forces is essential to their efforts to be able to bring peace and stability to Iraq. And certainly, again, if you look at Iranian actions towards Iraq, it's a bit hard to take some of these things seriously when Iran continues to actively work in a negative way in Iraq, including through its support for violence, its support for militias as we've previously discussed.


QUESTION: Tom, do you have any comment on the Islamic -- Syrian Islamic militant who has blown himself up yesterday on the border -- Syrian border post?

MR. CASEY: Just a little bit, Michel. We did look into this issue. Look, first of all, I think one of the things that's clear about this is this act of terrorism is in part a result of the fact that the Syrian regime continues to tolerate the presence of terrorists on its territory, in particular to stage attacks in Iraq and on other neighboring countries.

You had mentioned yesterday that there were reported claims of responsibility from the Tawhid wa'al Jihad movement. I certainly can't give you a confirmation of that. I would simply note that that group has been listed, and if you look at our reports on terrorism, is listed as an alias for al-Qaida in Iraq, and it's a group that we do have listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

QUESTION: Also on Syria.


QUESTION: President Assad said today, "Colonialism has not ended. In the past they used to call it colonialism, today it is called liberation of people. The name is different but the essence is the same. As colonialism continues, revolution and resistance continue." Now, that sounds like an indirect way of challenging U.S. policies in the region. Do you have anything to say about that?

MR. CASEY: Don't think I -- I haven't seen the comments, but I have seen a press report on that, George. Look, I think our position with respect to Syria remains clear. What we want to see is Syria desist from its negative activities. That includes its long legacy of domination of Lebanon and its interference in Lebanese affairs. That includes its well-known support for Palestinian rejectionist groups as well as other terrorist organizations. Certainly I think that the Syrians, rather than worrying about the behavior of others, have a lot of work to do on their own front.

Let's go to you, sir.

QUESTION: There are some stories about that Saudi Arabia is going to involve Iraq more in militarily. Do you have any reaction about that?

MR. CASEY: That Saudi Arabia is going to be involved militarily?

QUESTION: To help (inaudible).

MR. CASEY: Well, certainly we've been working with all of the players in the Gulf Cooperation Council as well as with Egypt and Jordan, the states that are working for positive change in the region, to ask them to do what they can to help the Iraqi Government and help the Iraqi people build a more peaceful and democratic society. I'm not aware of any new specific initiatives concerning Saudi Arabia. Certainly you could ask them if they've got any specific new programs going. Again, they are an important player in the region and they are a country that we are looking to, again with other of Iraq's neighbors and friends in the region, to be able to help support the government.

Yes, Sylvie, same thing?

QUESTION: Yes, same thing.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: Well, I think my colleague's question comes from a story from in The Washington Post. It's a tribune of Mr. Nawaf Obaid with a senior security advisor of the Arab -- Saudi Government. And he says that actually the Saudi leadership is preparing to substantially revise its Iraqi policy. They think about giving the same type of assistance -- funding, arms and logistical support -- to the Sunnis in Iraq as Iran has been giving to Shiite armed groups. So do you think it would be a good thing if Saudi Arabia would step in -- militarily step in in Iraq?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm afraid I didn't get through that story completely. But look, there's a very simple proposition here that I think we have made, that we have expressed to Saudi Arabia, that we have expressed to all of Iraq's neighbors and friends, which is that we all want to see Iraq that is a stable democratic country. We all want to see Iraq that allows the people of that nation to achieve their aspirations. In order to do that, we think it is appropriate and important for Iraq's friends and neighbors to help the Iraqi Government build democratic institutions, build its security forces and move forward with efforts at achieving greater security, greater stability and greater Iraqi efforts or a greater Iraqi ability to be able to control security and manage all aspects of the country. Anything that would contribute to that goal is something that we would see as positive.

QUESTION: And the military intervention is -- would it be --

MR. CASEY: I didn't take from that comment, nor have I heard any Saudi officials describe any interest in military intervention in Iraq.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: It goes on to say that if the U.S. were to pull out its troops that the Saudis would send theirs in as well to counteract the Iranians. Some people are worried that that would spark a larger regional war. Does the State Department share those concerns?

MR. CASEY: Last time I looked, the President of the United States has said that he's committed to ensuring that U.S. troops remain in Iraq until the mission is completed. So it seems to be a hypothetical situation that I don't think we'll confront.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MR. CASEY: If your colleagues are willing, sure.

QUESTION: Okay. Perhaps you already saw the (inaudible) in the Mexican congress. I would like to know how do you think this can affect or change the American perception of the Mexican democracy?

MR. CASEY: I'm afraid I haven't seen any stories related to that. Look, I think one thing that is clear to us is we do have faith in the Mexican political system and the Mexican constitutional order. Certainly there are a number of internal issues and internal political issues for Mexico's political leaders and the Mexican Government to deal with. But the important thing is that they be dealt with and they be managed by Mexico and by Mexicans in accordance with the constitutional order, in accordance with Mexico's legal norms and standards. And we frankly believe that through the electoral process, we have seen Mexico's institutions tested in a very difficult situation and have seen them act in a way that we think is -- does credit to the Mexican people and to Mexico's democratic institutions.

QUESTION: Then perhaps you are familiar with the comments of Senator Joseph Biden in regards with how the corruption in Mexico can be affecting or causing illegal immigration and perhaps drug smuggling into the United States. Do you agree with these points of view?

MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen Senator Biden's comments. What I will say is this, we have a very broad and very important relationship with Mexico. We have a common interest in dealing with all of the kinds of concerns you expressed. We want to see safe and orderly migration. We want to make sure that our borders are secure, but we want to make sure that they are open to Mexican citizens who are coming here on -- for work or for travel. The President, as you know, has put forward a very serious proposal for immigration reform that would help address a number of those concerns. We certainly have a very strong relationship with Mexico and a cooperative one in terms of dealing with the serious problem of narcotics, which is a problem that needs to be addressed on both sides of the border to be able to have impact.

So again, I think these are all issues that the United States and Mexico have been working on together and I certainly expect we will under the new government.

QUESTION: Can you allow me one more?

MR. CASEY: All right. Let's go one more and then I think we need to move around.

QUESTION: In regards with the investigation around the circumstances of the death of the American journalist in Oaxaca, is the U.S. Government satisfied?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think you may have seen -- we did post an answer to that question yesterday. There's an ongoing investigation. Certainly we continue to be in touch with the Mexican Government about that. This was a tragic circumstance and certainly we continue to express our condolences to the family of the victim. But at the moment, that is an ongoing investigation and I think we're going to wait and see what the results are and how the Mexican judicial system and police authorities deal with this question before I'd be in a position to give you any sort of final judgments on it.


QUESTION: Tom, as you may have seen, Fidel Castro is quoted as saying that he is too ill to attend birthday celebrations. And among other things in the message that was read out on his behalf, he said, "I bid you farewell with great sorrow." Do you have any reason to believe that his health has deteriorated further and do you have any independent reason to believe that and do you have anything fresh to say about the nature of the government led by his brother that is now in place?

MR. CASEY: Well, Arshad, I don't have anything new to offer you in terms of the status of Fidel Castro's health. We've seen the same public statements you have on it. And frankly, the Cuban Government isn't generally very sharing when it comes to information on Fidel's health, at least not with us.

In terms of what happens or what a transition looks like, you've heard us say before that the creation of some sort of Castro dynasty simply by transferring power to Raul Castro and having him continue to operate the same undemocratic repressive policies as his brother is certainly not a solution that we think is viable. We think the Cuban people need to be given the opportunity to see and have democratic change. We believe that is what the Cuban people would like to have and we very much believe that what is important for us is to be able to aid the Cuban people as they move through any potential transition so that those kinds of democratic aspirations could be realized.

Yeah, Michel.

QUESTION: On Lebanon.

MR. CASEY: Sorry, David, I know you've had your hand up for a while. We'll get to you next.

QUESTION: Hezbollah is preparing its followers to demonstrate in the next 48 hours to topple Siniora's government. What are you planning to do to help Siniora?

MR. CASEY: Well, Michel, first of all, I think as you know, we continue to support the efforts of Prime Minister Siniora to advance the interests of the Lebanese people. We've seen some terrible acts, including the killing of Pierre Gemayel, that have all been designed to intimidate this government and to keep this government from carrying out the will of the Lebanese people. Fortunately, even in light of that assassination, we have seen this government move forward with some very important steps, including with the cabinet's authorization of the Hariri tribunals, which is an important step forward in terms of assuring accountability for those who are responsible for those criminal actions.

We continue, as you know, to also support the Lebanese Government as it seeks to rebuild and recover from the conflict this summer. We continue to also do what we can in the United Nations and elsewhere to urge responsible action on the part of Syria and on the part of other individuals and countries out there. But it's certainly true that the Lebanese people are facing a great deal of pressure from outside forces, including from the Syrian and Iranian Government who, again as they are in Iraq, are not behaving in accordance with their stated and expressed desires to see a more peaceful, democratic system emerge in that country. So again, we will continue to be working with our partners and with the Siniora government to do what we can to ensure that any kinds of activities in that country are done in accordance with the laws of the country and are in support of the legitimate government.

David, you want to go to you?

QUESTION: Yeah. So one of the upshots of the NATO summit was invitations for Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to join the Partnership for Peace. NATO had earlier not done this because of the fact that the Balkans war criminals remained at large. Does this move - and the U.S. was part of a consensus decision to do this -- does this suggest that the war criminals issue has sort of moved down the pecking order in terms of U.S. priorities?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think it would be a mistake if either of those countries or anyone else out there interpreted this as meaning that the issue of war criminals is somehow no longer important or is not something that needs to be addressed. You know, certainly both countries have turned over dozens of people indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal and they have stated their commitment to continue cooperation with them. But despite that progress, both countries do need to do more to ensure that the six remaining fugitives, which includes Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, are apprehended as quickly as possible. And I do think it's pretty clear if you look at what decisions have been made here that further integration not only into NATO but into some of the other Euro-Atlantic institutions is going to be contingent on the full resolution of those cases.

QUESTION: Why shouldn't people reasonably come to the conclusion that you are soft-peddling that issue because if you'd just given them something that they wanted which you could have withheld as a way of demonstrating the importance of turning over these alleged war criminals who have been at large for years now?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think there are a number of issues out there. If you look at the basic decision that NATO made, what NATO did was decide that in order to support a democratic transition and regional stability in the Balkans, it offered these invitations to not only Bosnia but also to Montenegro and Serbia to join the Partnership for Peace. But I do think that that decision, while in recognition of some of the significant progress that's been made in those countries not only on cooperation with the ICTY but on other things like progress on political and economic reforms, defense reforms and other kinds of measures -- but again, I think that it would be a mistake and I think those countries have clearly been signaled that further progress on their own stated goals, in some cases towards NATO membership, in some cases towards EU membership, in some cases towards other kinds of integration with Euro-Atlantic institutions or the international system, is going to be dependent on ultimately their full cooperation with the ICTY, which does mean turning over these six remaining fugitives.

Let's go back here.

QUESTION: Let me change the subject to Somalia if you would.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: The U.S. resolution on the stabilization force of Somalia is one of the things that the Security Council is discussing today. And I wonder if you can give us the status of that resolution. Has it been discussed yet, where it is now? And also, if you can a little bit farther give us a detail of the content of the resolution because I -- as you know, there is some resolved -- unresolved issues on the subject like the front government -- you know, front in neighboring countries. Will they be added on the force or that sort of things or what they going to do about the Ethiopian troops that are already inside Somalia, that sort of thing?

MR. CASEY: Well, actually, I'm not aware that the resolution has been tabled today. I know there have been discussions about this at the UN. Certainly I don't have any details of it to share with you. I do think that we've made our basic view clear, though, that we want to act in support of the decisions that have been taken both by IGAD - as well as by the African Union in terms of trying to help promote a solution to the longstanding problems in Somalia. Ultimately our end goal is establishing a reasonable security and a functioning government for the people of Somalia that frankly had been without one for more than a decade now.

There are a number of ideas that are being discussed related to that. I know one that we've spoken about before here in this briefing includes following up on the IGAD and AU proposal for a regional stabilization force, an IGAD-led stabilization force to be participating in that. But in terms of the details of how that will be put forward in the resolution, I'm afraid we'll just have to wait and see what actually gets put down on the table in New York. I don't have any further information on that.

QUESTION: There's a widespread of disagreement on the issue of lifting the arm embargo, for example. And if you, even within the Somali -- the (inaudible) of the TFG themselves, it's a lot of conflict. I just wonder why U.S. decided to vote for this one at this particular time, to (inaudible).

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think let's wait until a resolution is actually put forward and you can take a look at it. Again, what we're trying to achieve here is a solution to the longstanding problems in Somalia. I'm not aware that we're changing or have changed our views on the arms embargo.

QUESTION: And finally.

MR. CASEY: Yeah. Third time's a charm.

QUESTION: That's all right. Thanks. And if you will look into what was going on in the region for the last few days, Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, have talk on very harsh words against the Islamists. The Islamists responded saying we will take a jihad. And already the report is showing that a lot of the Ethiopian troops inside Somalia. It looks like war is imminent at the moment. What is U.S. Government -- any plans to defuse this tension?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think that gets us back to where we started. What we believe is important is that there is a UN-sponsored solution to this that involves Somalia's neighbors as well as the broader African Union. There are a number of different elements to that. Obviously, we have spoken about the need to strengthen the Transitional Federal Institutions and government. We've also spoken to and encouraged the efforts at dialogue between those institutions and the Union of Islamic Courts.

And again, as has been discussed, we also believe it's important to follow through on the regional proposals to have a stabilization force or a stabilization element there as a way of ensuring that there is something in place that can help provide stability and can do so in a neutral way so that you don't have involvement of other players individually or then you don't run the risk of having some kind of broader conflict established. And we believe that implementing this kind of force and taking these kinds of steps will, in effect, help provide for, again, the end goal, which is having a functioning government and a more normal functioning of the country that Somalia has been lacking for so long.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: What is your understanding of what the Ethiopians are up to inside Somali territory?

MR. CASEY: George, we've seen various press reports, but I really don't have anything to offer you in terms of specific details.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thanks.

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

DPB # 191

Released on November 29, 2006


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