US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 05 Dec 2007
Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
December 5, 2007
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 05 Dec 2007
Query on Vatican-Approved Bishops / U.S. Support for Freedom of Religion
Discussions of New Iran Sanctions
Resolution / P5+1 Meeting
Not Aware of Any Change in China's Views In Light of NIE
Both Parties Should Meet Commitments under Roadmap / Settlements Issue
Query on Foreign
Cooperation on Difficult Issues Encouraged / Continued Dialogue
Purpose of A/S Hill's Travel to North Korea / Disablement of
Nuclear Activities Declaration Needs to Be All Inclusive / Discussions Were Not Detailed
Scheduling of Next Six Party Talks Envoy Level Meeting
U.S. Support for Refugees and Internally
Displaced Persons / UNHCR and NGO Support
Work with Regional Countries on Refugee Issues / Assisting Syria and Jordan
Processing of Applications for Resettlement in the U.S.
Iraqi Government Programs to Assist Returning Refugees / Support from U.S.
State Department Review of Personal Security Details
DOD/DOS Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Concerning Security Contractors
Update on Implementation of Kennedy's Recommendations
Dispute Over Prisoners / U.S. Will Retain Physical Custody Until Issues are Resolved
Query on Repression of Hindus / Freedom of Religion is Fundamental Human Right
Query Civil Nuclear Agreement
and Secretary Rice's Recent Contacts / PM Singh
U.S. Would Like to See Agreement Move Forward
Indian Government Must Work Through Its Own Political Process
U.S. Will Continue to Work with EU on Final Status
12:58 p.m. EST
MR. CASEY: All right, well, good afternoon, everybody, happy to be here with you. I don't have anything to start you out with, so, we'll go right to your questions.
QUESTION: Yes, would you have any comment after China ordering the two pro-Vatican bishops recently in the recent days? Do you have any comment?
MR. CASEY: Sylvie, I haven't actually looked into that. Let me do so in this specific instance. Obviously, we wish to see everyone be able to exercise freedom of religion not only in China, but anywhere in the world. It's one of the principles that we stand by and support. Certainly, to the extent that the Chinese have made any decisions that would help expand the space for people to practice their religion in China would be a good thing, but let me look into the specifics of this case and get you a more coherent response to it.
QUESTION: Can I stay on China for a second?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Actually, it's on the NIE. Yesterday, you weren't able to respond directly to the Chinese Ambassador to the UN's comments about how this NIE changes everything. The President has talked about it this morning and he mentioned all the other countries of the P-5+1 except for China. What was China saying about this -- are they still on board for another sanctions resolution?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I -- you can check with the Chinese about it. I don't think that's exactly the words I had seen associated with him. But more importantly, again, I'd point out part of what I told you yesterday, which is that the Secretary has had a chance to talk with the Chinese Foreign Minister. Nick Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, has had a chance to speak with his counterpart in the P-5+1 as well. In those conversations, those Chinese officials reiterated their continued commitment to the P-5+1, two-track approach.
In terms of the specifics of a next resolution, again, we had a very good meeting of the P-5+1 over the weekend. We believe the time is appropriate to move forward with an additional sanctions resolution and as far as I know, and certainly, based on the readouts I got of those two conversations, the Chinese have not indicated to us that their views on the next resolution have changed between the meeting on Saturday and now. Obviously, this is a recent development. I'm sure they and others will look and analyze it carefully, but certainly, I have no information that would indicate that they have changed their views in terms of the need to move forward with another resolution.
QUESTION: Just to be clear, because you gave us a double negative on that. Does that mean that the Chinese have affirmed that they would like to go for another resolution?
MR. CASEY: That means that there was agreement, as I understand it, in the P-5+1 meeting over the weekend, that we should move forward with a new resolution. And as far as I know, there is nothing that has occurred since that time to change that position, so the P-5+1 is, to the best of my understanding, united on this and there is still an intention on all our parts to move forward with a new resolution.
QUESTION: But they haven't said, "We want to go ahead?" I mean, I'm sure the Secretary asked them specifically when she spoke with the Foreign Minister.
MR. CASEY: Well, I honestly don't know. I don't have that detailed a readout on their calls and again, I think the Chinese Government is well capable of speaking for itself on this subject, but your question to me is, have the Chinese told us that they feel differently about pursuing another Security Council resolution now that the NIE has been released; right?
QUESTION: Well, my question is more specifically, have they said, "Despite what's in the NIE, we still want to go ahead with it?"
MR. CASEY: My under -- yes, that would be the simple answer. The conversations, as I understand it, say that they did not change their views. Their views were that we needed to move ahead with a new resolution, so if they haven't changed their views, I assume that means they still want to move ahead with it.
How's that for circumlocution? All right. Let's go.
QUESTION: The Israelis' plans to build those 300 homes in East Jerusalem, do you -- does the State Department, does the United States view it as a potential violation of the Roadmap commitments? If not, why not?
MR. CASEY: I know you and Arshad have a great deal of interest in this issue. I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you again. People are still taking a look at that subject and I need to make sure that they've done so and done so in a thorough way before I can really offer you an adequate response on that. What I will say is, again, what I said yesterday, that we think it's very important that both parties, Israel and the Palestinians, meet their commitments under the Roadmap. And of course, the issue of settlements is included in there and we would expect Israel to honor the commitments that are there in the Roadmap.
QUESTION: Yeah, but it means that for two days you didn't have any reaction on one of the most difficult questions that the Israelis and the Palestinians have to solve within one year, which are the settlements. You don't --
MR. CASEY: Well, no. I think the United States has a very clear and very understandable position on settlements and that position is delineated very specifically in the Roadmap. What you've asked me for is a reaction to some specific incidents and issues that have been announced or have been talked about by Israeli Government officials. I think you will understand that because it is a sensitive issue and because it is a complex issue, that our policymakers would like to make sure they have a full understanding of that before I or anyone else offer you a public assessment of it.
QUESTION: But can we be sure that you will offer a public assessment?
MR. CASEY: (Laughter.) You can be sure that as soon as I have one to offer you, Sylvie, I'll give it to you. I would like to make this easy on both of us.
QUESTION: Greece/Turkey. Mr. Casey, the Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and her Turkish counterpart, Ali Babacan, during talks in Athens in the last two days agreed on a further CBM that include an expansion of military ties through a joint military unit for multinational peacekeeping tasks for NATO for the first time in history. Any comment on that Greek/Turkish (inaudible)?
MR. CASEY: Well, I'll leave it to the Greek and Turkish authorities to talk about their meetings and the conclusions from it. But suffice to say that certainly we're always interested in seeing our two good friends and NATO allies, Greece and Turkey, work cooperatively with one another. Obviously there have been over the years a number of issues that have been difficult for them to work through. And certainly they both have a strong interest in dealing with the situation in Cyprus. But we're pleased to see that this meeting took place. We're glad that they've reached some amicable conclusions to it and we look forward to them continuing their dialogue in the future.
QUESTION: May I go to Kosovo?
MR. CASEY: Well, let's go down to Nicholas here first, then we'll come back on Kosovo.
MR. CASEY: Nicholas.
QUESTION: On North Korea, Chris Hill said today that there's still differences between the United States and North Korea on the content of the declaration and he also said he -- it didn't look like there'll be another session of the six-party talks -- envoy level one -- before the end of the year. Can you tell us what those differences might be? You did mention yesterday that he was going to discuss the declaration with the North Koreans.
MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't -- first of all, I've seen reported in the press some of these comments. I haven't seen a transcript of what Chris said. And of that -- those comments unfortunately don't track with the limited readout that I've gotten. My understanding is the subject of the declaration was -- first of all, Chris' primary reason for going to North Korea was to be able to see for himself what had been taking place in terms of disablement at the Yongbyon facilities and that is something that I know he believes is moving along quite well. And he also, (inaudible), wanted to thank both our officials and others that have been working on this. This is not easy work.
When we talk about transformational diplomacy, I don't think that probably when -- I think Sung Kim's been in the Foreign Service about as long as I have, maybe a little longer, I don't think either of us when we came in, you know, roughly 20 years ago, would have necessarily thought that part of our diplomatic duties would have been being onsite at a nuclear reactor in North Korea as it was being disabled. So this is unique and difficult work and potentially historic work that's going on and Chris wanted to have an opportunity to see it for himself and thank our officials working on it. He also did want to make sure that he conveyed our continued strong belief that the declaration the North Koreans provide needs to be full and complete in what it presents to us.
The discussions as far as I understand it, did not go into any particular detail in terms of the North Koreans providing a detailed readout of what would be in the declaration or further kind of assessment of that. So I don't think that if you're looking for him to have come back with a -- again, you know, very detailed readout on this, that that's what, in fact occurred.
In terms of any differences that are out there, I honestly can't speak to them. I'd have to leave that to Chris. But I think that from our perspective, the main thing that has to happen is that this declaration needs to be all inclusive and cover the full range of nuclear programs and activities that the North Koreans have.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that? Well, he wasn't sure himself. But in terms of the convening of another session.
MR. CASEY: Of the --
QUESTION: Right. Basically he's saying that for the next month there will be nothing. And then as far as I know, that all delegations are committed to attending this thing and -- as soon as it happens.
MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not sure. I know the Chinese were working on when would be the most logical time to do this. I know there had been some hope that we might, in fact, have a meeting this week. That, as we discussed yesterday, isn't going to happen. In terms of scheduling of the next envoy levels meeting, I don't have any details one way or another that would indicate when it might occur.
Certainly, just, I think, as a matter of basic facts, there certainly are a number of participants in the six-party talks that are affected by a variety of different holidays as well as other kinds of business schedules too. So it may, in fact, be a situation where just logistically, they can't get people together till after the 1st of the year. But obviously, Chris would have the latest on that and again, I just haven't seen or been able to contact him directly to be able to verify that for you.
QUESTION: Can I ask about Iraq, refugees returning?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Particularly about people that are going back to probably nothing and their homes might have gone, they might be -- you know, taken by other people. Is the U.S. doing anything in particular for the people when they arrive there or do you think this is now the responsibility of the Iraqi Government? What's really happening on the ground?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, while we've talked a lot about the support that we've provided for refugees, for those who have actually left Iraq, we are also the most significant donor and supporter of what -- the technical term being IDPs, for internally displaced people, people who have been forced out of their homes but have gone to other parts of Iraq. So certainly, we retain our commitment to helping them meet their humanitarian needs and dealing with some of the consequences of this.
In terms of people returning to Baghdad or to other areas, you know, the Iraqi Government has developed a program of support. It includes payments of, some levels, I believe, the equivalent of roughly 750 or 800 dollars to families returning back. But I think it's clear and the government itself, has indicated, that they need to be able to have a more consistent and more well-developed program to assist people as they're returning. And that includes dealing with issues of handling of disputes, for example, if there is a house that has now become occupied by other individuals dealing with property disputes and those kinds of things.
We are very much, both MNF-I and the Embassy, working with the Iraqi Government to try and see what we can do to help them in terms of organizing their program. But I do think this is something that they have the lead on, but it's obviously an interest to all of us, both to see people be able to return and then to be able to return in a way that allows some of the more obvious issues to be dealt with in a responsible manner.
QUESTION: The reason, there's some urgency on this, I mean, $750 isn't very much if you've got a family and you find yourself back with no home. I mean, what happens to the people there (inaudible) this money?
MR. CASEY: Well -- excuse me -- again, there's -- we have a variety of programs in play both with the Iraqi Government and operating independently to ensure basic support and basic humanitarian support for Iraqis. I don't have anything that I can tell you about right now in terms of new programs that would provide assistance for those returning. Certainly, we'll be working with the Iraqi Government as well as they develop their response to see if there is some specific way that the U.S. Government might be able to contribute to this effort.
QUESTION: Do you have any more details about the Blackwater agreement or the private security contractor agreement between DOD and DOS?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, let me just recap what I said on this this morning, for folks that weren't here. As you know, part of our review of the September 17th incident involving Blackwater include a discussion with the Department of Defense about how to better coordinate our efforts in terms of personal security details and their movements.
So the long result of this is, after discussions starting with the two secretaries and then working down to a more operational level, is that we've concluded a Memorandum of Understanding that's been approved by Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus in Baghdad that basically details and memorializes the policies and procedures that we've agreed to. And the MOU covers a few key areas.
The first is movement coordination. That then moves on to include how we will make sure we share and report on any activities or incidents as well as investigate them. It also includes things that you've heard mentioned before, which is greater coordination in terms of the rules for the use of force. And it also does touch on, though not in detail, the issue of accountability in the event that contractors take actions that are in violation of those rules.
And this is really something that we're doing to, first and foremost, make sure that everybody who needs to have visibility on these kinds of movements has them. One of the things that Pat Kennedy and his group concluded in their review of the broader question of personal security details in Iraq was that while there was a system in place for communicating movements and coordinating movements between State and Defense Department officials, that that system was somewhat stove-piped and that there wasn't what everyone, I think, agreed there needed to be, which is as much input as possible from those directly responsible on the ground.
If you want to think about it this way, part of this is a simple no-surprises rule. We want to make sure that any convoy that goes out is something that any military officer operating in a particular area knows is coming, has had input into the assignment of -- in terms of anything that might be happening in his area of operation that might affect the safety of our people and that we have a possibility and an ability for people in real-time to communicate with one another because it is a war zone. Things do come up at the last minute. And what you don't want to do is have people have to report up their respective chains, have those two chains communicate with each other and then have messages passed back down.
So a lot of this is about improving the communications and coordination between the two sides to try and make sure that we can do what everyone wants to do, which is make sure our diplomats can carry out their important missions in Iraq, while at the same time, doing so in a way that ensures the safety and security of everyone involved, not only U.S. military officials, but of course, Iraqis as well.
QUESTION: Can you just kind of explain to us what's really new in it, because I know that Ambassador Kennedy had that in his report and Rice -- Secretary Rice had endorsed that immediately. Can you just tell us what else might be actually new in this with regard to training or rules of engagement for security contractors?
MR. CASEY: Well, I don't want to -- I really don't want to talk in specifics, particularly on rules of engagement simply because that's something that we don't want to have be made public in too many specific details because it does ultimately or potentially provide useful information for those that might want to go after our people or our convoys. But I think it's clear to be able to say that what we've looked at is making sure that there is a common understanding of how and when force, and particularly deadly force, should be used by personal security contractors.
We also want to make sure and these are part of some of the recommendations that Pat's included that, for example, there is a clear training standard for all of -- for all these employees that is common among the two departments. We also, as Pat's recommendations also noted, want to make sure that we have, for example, sufficient numbers of Arabic speakers involved, so that there can be greater ability to communicate with local individuals, with Iraqis and with others who don't speak English. So those are the kinds of issues that are very much sort of nuts-and-bolts practicalities of how we and DOD are operating. And again, part of what we wanted to do was make sure there were common understandings between the two departments, both to ensure better communication and coordination, as well as avoid any confusion out there.
QUESTION: Tom --
MR. CASEY: You want to stay on this? Stay on this? All right. Well, Nicholas. He caught my eye first. Let's go to him and I'll go to you, Charlie.
QUESTION: In terms of not making this -- the full thing public, I assume you're going to have to give those rules to the Iraqi Government. When you do, is that going to be a private document because they can make it public, if you don't want to, if they're free to do so?
MR. CASEY: You know what, Nicholas, I said this morning, I didn't think we'd be able to make this thing public. I will. I've asked and I'm going to check again and see that to what extent we might be able to or at least -- perhaps release some excerpts from it. I don't -- at this point, I just want to make sure that there isn't anything specific in it that, you know, would potentially be useful to folks out there who are intent on doing our people harm. But I think we'll find a way to give you a fairly good readout, including some excerpts, if not the full document.
QUESTION: All right. Actually, that wasn't even my concern. It makes sense that you wouldn't want people to know what the guards cannot do, so they can take advantage of it. But my point is, even if you keep it private, if you give it to the Iraqis, they could make it public, unless it's a classified document.
MR. CASEY: Well, I mean, we are -- first of all, we have a cooperative relationship with the Iraqis. We certainly, at the military and political level, are coordinating with them on these issues. We do have the joint U.S.-Iraqi Commission that's looking at this.
And I know that they will be getting a full brief on this and I suspect they will, in fact, be getting a copy of the agreement in full. Because one of the things that's important, of course, is not only that we and the Defense Department are operating under a clear understanding and set of rules, but that also we have a similar understanding with the Iraqis and we've all got to be able to work and play well together on these issues. And part of what this MOU does is in response to some of the questions and concerns that had been raised in this review, try and make sure that, again, we have that common set of operating principles.
QUESTION: Just a few more details. Has it been signed? Where was it signed? And does this complete the package of reforms that were set in train after September 16th?
MR. CASEY: Well, let me see if I can get through those. It has not been signed as of yet.
QUESTION: Still expect to be --
MR. CASEY: It is expected to be signed today, this afternoon here in Washington by Deputy Secretary Negroponte and Deputy Secretary of Defense England at their regular biweekly meeting. And what was the last piece?
QUESTION: Where --
MR. CASEY: Here. Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. Yeah. And does this complete the package of reforms?
MR. CASEY: Of Pat's -- no, it does not fully complete them. This is one element of those reforms. I know Charlie asked this morning for an update on some of those issues and I've gotten a little bit. And let me just tell you where we are right now.
First of all, one of the interim recommendations that Pat and his group made was to ensure that there would be Diplomatic Security agents traveling in all PSD movements and all the convoys that went out from the Embassy. And that is happening now and has been happening for several weeks. To fully complete that, we're in the process of allotting additional permanent positions for assignment to Diplomatic Security in Iraq. Right now what we have done is taken the existing full-time assigned staff there and supplemented it with temporary duty personnel. But obviously, that's the short term fix. The longer term fix, which we are still working on, is getting additional regularly assigned individuals there for full tours and that's something that's moving forward.
In terms of another piece of that, which is the cameras and the recording of material, the recording and those kinds of audio compliance issues, as I understand it, are in process and should be completed fairly soon. In terms of the cameras, they have been purchased. The -- I checked and the installation of the first tranche of those should be occurring within the next week or two and then will continue out through -- into January.
A couple of other things that were out there as well; of course, part of this was establishing these kind of common ground rules with the Department of Defense and so that is, in many ways, concluded with the signing of the MOU today. And again, the MOU is, in effect, memorializing and putting on paper what we have already agreed to and what we've basically already implemented in terms of coordination here. There's also -- and I mentioned this a little bit earlier, we're reviewing contracts to make sure that we have added in, under those contracts, requirements for Arabic language translators to work with them. The training curricula, which is, again, something that's included in the MOU with the Department of Defense, has now been adopted.
And we have also worked on an update to the firearms policy for the Embassy, which is what -- the ground rules on the use of force for our contractors as well as for our Diplomatic Security agents and done that to include the kinds of language that we had agreed to with MNF-I and again, is also something that's memorialized in part of this MOU.
So that's basically an update on where we are and the sort of major recommendations. So they are -- they're all very much either in-train or, in some cases, completed and we're committed to making sure that we do this. I think this agreement that we have reached with the Department of Defense, though, does go a long way towards resolving a number of the outstanding concerns that were identified by Pat and his crew and that were identified, in part, in coordination with the Department of Defense.
QUESTION: If I may go back to the Iraqi refugees --
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: -- subject. You know, the issue is gaining much more, you know, publicity nowadays and Syria and Jordan, also. Even though the role of the United States is very much appreciated as a leading contributor to the UN refugee programs -- but in the area, people are talking about the fact that these refugees are victims, in part, because of the involvement of the United States in the Iraqi war. So they expect to see at least as much attention paid to them, as much as the United States pay attention to the Darfur people and the -- the United States Government is leaning on -- has been leaning on private sectors to help the refugees in Darfur.
I wonder if the United States Government is also trying to lean on the private sector here, at least, to get more contributions to help these Iraqi, you know, people and their tragic fate in that area.
MR. CASEY: Well, certainly, we would encourage anyone to make donations and support the work of those NGOs that have been assisting Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan and elsewhere. But from our perspective, most importantly, we are making a very substantial contribution to the efforts of the UNHCR and to some of the NGOs there on the ground.
We're also, as some of you heard from Jim Foley, who is our senior advisor on Iraqi refugee issues the other day, that, you know, we are working very closely with governments in the region as well as with some of the NGOs out there to try and make sure that we do what we can to address these issues. We're also working to speed up the process of approving refugees who have been recommended to us by UNHCR for resettlement. And part of that is not only working with the various agencies out there, but also working with the governments of the region.
It's one of the reasons why Jim, of course, was pleased to have had the opportunity to visit Syria and talk with officials there on this issue and to reach an agreement that would allow some of our officials from the Department of Homeland Security to come to conduct the interviews necessary to help move this along. You know, this is one of the most serious issues for us in terms of helping to bring about a resolution and additional reconciliation in Iraq. It's important for people both to be taken care of while they are in refugee status, to be resettled if they need to be, as well as to have the opportunity, when the situation permits, to return home and to do so in an orderly fashion that deals with some of the questions that Nina raised earlier too. So we are going to continue to work directly as a government with countries in the region, with UNHCR and with the Iraqi Government to both provide material support as well as help work through some of the political questions that are involved here.
Certainly, though, we would encourage all others, whether they're governments or companies or private individuals to consider doing what they can to help support these individuals and we do recognize as well that four other countries that have received refugees. And while this is an international obligation, it is also something that does place a burden on the countries involved. It does tax their social system. That's why, for example, we've worked with the Jordanians to provide funding to help Iraqi children who are in refugee status in Jordan to be able to attend school. Some of these kinds of practical steps, in addition to taking care of the humanitarian needs of individuals, is part of what we can do and others can do to help relieve some of the burden of dealing with this serious issue.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Goyal.
QUESTION: Tom, two quick questions, please. One, as far as human rights and religious freedom is concerned, that Hindus have been daily persecuted -- under persecution in Malaysia for some time and hundreds of thousands there had been protesting there and hundreds are now in jails and been tortured and in the name of religion there. What the State Department has to say, because the friends of the Malaysian Government -- and this is the acts by the Malaysian Government itself against Hindus in Malaysia?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Goyal, I'm not familiar with any recent actions related to the status of Hindus in Malaysia. Certainly, I know that this issue is discussed in our Religious Freedom Report and I'd refer you to that for the best assessment that we have of the status of religious freedom there. But obviously, in many countries, the issue of people being able to fully practice their religion, is one that's a difficult question. And it's an issue that's on our agenda literally throughout the world. We make this an important concern because we believe that freedom of religion, like freedom more broadly speaking, freedom of expression, is a fundamental human right and it's one that's important for all countries to honor and respect.
QUESTION: Second, if I may, on India. As I was last week in India and before the lefts were against the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement and last week, actually, they agreed and the Congress Party of the -- Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, they had a meeting already on November 22nd and I think this agreement is going to be fully implemented between the two countries and also Ambassador Murtha also said that this will go through. So my question is if the Secretary has received any words from New Delhi or any conversation or she has spoken with anybody in India on this issue?
MR. CASEY: Well, I don't -- I'm not aware of any recent contacts between the Secretary and senior Indian officials on this subject. But certainly -- I certainly hope you're correct. We would very much like to see this agreement move forward and be finalized. We continue to believe it's something that's in the best interests of the United States, of India, and of the broader international community in efforts to inhibit the proliferation of nuclear technology and nuclear weapons. So we certainly hope that it does move forward and does go through.
As we've said, though, we understand that the Indian Government has its own political process that it needs to work through and we fully expect that, regardless of the outcome or the timing of this agreement, that we are going to continue to expand our relations with India, because it is an increasingly important player on the world's stage and it's a country with which we have much in common and for too long, weren't working with in the way we are now. So we want to make sure that not only we see this nuclear agreement move forward, but that more importantly our broader relations with India continue to develop and grow.
QUESTION: If I may just quick follow that? I had a visit to also Kashmir earlier and spoken to so many Indians there. Most Indians are for this agreement and they support it. And while the lefts were against this agreement because of their contacts with the Chinese, but now Chinese also supporting this agreement. So that's what I'm saying, that how far you think Secretary is now pushing this since the Indian Government is ready?
MR. CASEY: Well, look, we want -- and I think you've heard Nick say this before too. We certainly want to see this agreement move forward. We hope it will. But ultimately, in terms of the decisions within the Indian political system, we respect the needs and the rights of their political leaders to work this through themselves, but we're ready and able to move forward whenever they would like us to.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Yeah, Charlie.
QUESTION: My question on Iraq, please. Keeping us up to date with the State Department response to the Maliki government seeking to hand over various Saddam-era officials sentenced to death including the person known as Chemical Ali?
MR. CASEY: Yeah, I think -- well, several people have spoken to that recently including the Deputy Secretary when he was there last week. And the situation remains as he described it. There is still a dispute and some issues that need to be settled within the Presidency Council in Iraq on this issue. Until that matter is resolved in accordance with Iraqi law and procedures, we will continue to maintain the physical custody of these individuals. Of course, they were all -- the legal custody has been with Iraq for sometime -- but we will continue to maintain their physical custody until the issues and questions within the Iraqi political system on this are resolved.
QUESTION: With the intention of handing them over?
MR. CASEY: Certainly, yes. Once the necessary legal procedures have been followed and a resolution of some of the questions internally within the Iraqi political system are done, it's certainly our intention to hand them over in terms of physical custody to the Iraqis.
QUESTION: Would you venture on a timetable?
MR. CASEY: I really wouldn't. It's up to the Iraqis and to the presidency council to reach a resolution on some of their outstanding issues and as soon as that's done, we will, of course, comply with this not only because it's our obligation to do so, but it's the right thing to do.
QUESTION: Are you prepared to give us some reading about the President -- President Bush visit -- upcoming visit to Israel, to tell us anything about it from this podium here?
MR. CASEY: Yeah, that -- other than the fact that I can -- I know the White House has confirmed that the President intends to travel to the region sometime in the early part of January and I'll leave it with that. I'll let my friends at the White House give you a readout on his trip.
Okay. Mr. Lambros, last one.
QUESTION: Yes, on Kosovo, Mr. --
MR. CASEY: Don't make me regret it. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: No, Kosovo (inaudible) approaching December 10th. The European Union is about to move into unclear waters facing a major test of its credibility over the existence of an illegal state only 13 miles away from its borders as Kosovo, Mr. Casey, prepares to declare unilateral its independence from Serbia very, very soon. What is the U.S. position vis-à-vis to the EU involvement in Kosovo?
MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, first of all, we've been working very closely with the European Union throughout this process, through the troika's negotiations. We believe that we and the European Union share a common view of the need to resolve the final status of Kosovo and to do so in accordance with the outlines of the Ahtisaari plan. Certainly, the EU has its own procedures on this, but let me assure you that we will be continuing to work closely with the EU as well as with other parties as we move forward. We're grateful that neither the Serbs nor the Kosovars have said that they intend to do anything other than honor the agreement to not resort to violence on this and I look forward to seeing a broader discussion of this issue both among troika members as well as through the UN and other bodies in the days and weeks to come.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m.)
Released on December 5, 2007