|Daily Press Briefing. Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman. FULL STREAMING VIDEO. Washington, DC. September 26, 2007, 12:30 p.m. EDT.|
First of all, we talked about this a little bit yesterday, but I wanted to encourage you all to go to www.blogs -- that's blogs with an "s" -- .state.gov and check out our launch of yesterday's new product, which is the first-ever official State Department blog which we fondly named "Dipnote" and go take a look at it. There's an introduction there from Sean. There's some postings. There's a couple of comments from Kristen Silverberg, our Assistant Secretary for International Organizations, and a little video with her as well about UN issues. And we hope what this will do is stimulate and prompt some increased activity and interaction between the Department and members of the public.
MR. CASEY: There you go. I don't have a good segue to the next one, but -- you know, I thought I'd start with the good plug.
The other thing, on a slightly more serious note, I think most of you have now seen that there was a joint statement issued by the U.S. and EU ministers, following the conclusion of their meeting this morning, on the subject of Burma. And I just wanted to note that and read it to you:
"The European Union and the United States express their solidarity with the people of Burma. We're deeply troubled by reports that security forces have fired on and attacked peaceful demonstrators and arrested many Buddhist monks and others. We condemn all violence against peaceful demonstrators and remind the country's leaders of their personal responsibility for their actions.
We call on the authorities to stop violence and to open a process of dialogue with pro democracy leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of ethnic minorities. We also urge China, India, ASEAN and others in the region to use their influence in support of the people of Burma.
We urge the country's authorities to receive an early visit by UN Secretary General's envoy Ibrahim Gambari and we call on the Security Council to discuss this situation urgently and consider further steps including sanctions."
So with that, let me go to your questions.
QUESTION: Yeah, do you have any details on Chris Hill's discussions with the --
QUESTION: Can I just have a follow-up real quick?
MR. CASEY: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to this -- what kind of sanctions would you like to see the Security Council pursue on Burma?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think we need to have a discussion in the Council. I understand that will happen today. Mr. Gambari is supposed to be presenting to the Council this afternoon. And we certainly hope that the Burmese officials will accept a visit by him. He is asked to go to Burma on an urgent basis.
In terms of sanctions, I don't want try and get prescriptive on behalf of the Council right now. Certainly, you know the kinds of sanctions that we've thought are appropriate on this. That includes travel bans and financial restrictions on members of the regime and those that support it. We're going to be expanding in the next few days the individuals and entities that are already listed there. And we are also going to look at some broader financial sanctions that might be possible. We, of course, also have in place right now an import ban on all products from Burma. So I think there are a number of things and a range of options that can be done.
Certainly, we'd also like to see, to the extent possible, the European Union, which also has some sanctions in place, continue their efforts. And again, the countries that were specifically named in this statement such as China and India and the nations of ASEAN, who are neighbors of and have great influence on the activities of the Burmese regime, to be able to also consider what they can do. So I think we're looking at this in a variety of ways. The Security Council is one place for it.
But certainly we think that a discussion of sanctions in the Security Council is appropriate and let's see where those discussions go today. But this is a serious situation. It is one, as you know, that we have spoken out in general terms for quite some time. And we want to see this continue to be a subject of discussion in the Security Council, and we'd like to see the rest of the international community follow some of the leads that we and others have taken to be able to put pressure on the regime. Again, a concerted effort from all of the international community is really going to be required here if we're going to get the Burmese regime to change their actions.
QUESTION: Has Secretary Rice spoken with her counterparts in the countries that you named, particularly China, about trying to push for sanctions and specifically China because of their economic ties?
MR. CASEY: Yeah, well, obviously, she's had this conversation in the context of the U.S.-EU ministerial. I know she's going to be talking with representatives from a number of these countries over the next few days. And I would very much expect that this issue of Burma and how to respond to it, including the kinds of sanctions that we think are appropriate, will be part of those discussions.
QUESTION: And then the last question. Is there a timetable that you'd like to see the Security Council act by to sanction Burma?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think for right now what we want to see happen is have the discussion move forward today in the Council. We want to see the Burmese Government accept the visit by Mr. Gambari so that he can assess the situation on behalf of the Secretary General and the Council itself.
I'm not trying to put forward a sense for you as to when or whether we might have specific actions taken by the Council. But again, this is an important issue. We have already put sanctions in place. We're expanding what we have. The EU is doing the same as I understand it and we would like to see other countries follow suit.
QUESTION: So then would it be fair to say that you'd like to see the Council with urgency on sanctions?
MR. CASEY: Well, we think it's very important that they meet today. We'd like to see actions taken as soon as possible to get the Burmese regime, again, to halt the behavior that it's doing, to stop the attacks on these innocent protestors. And to make sure that they then move beyond that to the more important point, which is engaging in a real political dialogue with all legitimate opposition figures, including Aung San Suu Kyi.
QUESTION: You mentioned this morning that Chris Hill was meeting the Chinese and he was going to raise the issue of Myanmar. Has he indeed had that meeting and do you have any details on what he was pushing for and how the Chinese could use their sway?
MR. CASEY: I know that he intends to talk to the Chinese about this issue. Certainly, I expect we'll be talking with the Chinese on it in other fora as well. I, unfortunately, just given the time differences at this point, haven't gotten a chance to talk with Chris to find out whether this is something he's had an opportunity to raise or not.
QUESTION: Is the level of concern serious enough to send a U.S. contingency or to send diplomats to Burma to address this directly with the Burmese?
MR. CASEY: Well, as you know, we do have an Embassy in Burma. It's been following this situation closely. I think at this point, in terms of envoys, the person that we have been working with and through is the UN Secretary General Special Envoy Mr. Gambari. We've been very supportive of his efforts. And I think the most important thing for us now is -- in terms of diplomatic, on-the-ground action, is seeing the Burmese Government accept a visit by him and we will be working through and with him in those efforts. But I think he is the right vehicle right now to convey this message.
QUESTION: And just one more.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice does plan to meet with Indian and Chinese officials this week?
MR. CASEY: You know, you'd have to go look at her schedule. I know she actually has already met with Chinese Foreign Minister earlier in the week. I believe if you look at the transcript, that there was at least a brief discussion on Burma; obviously, that's before these most recent actions have happened. I believe that the Indian Foreign Minister is also on her schedule for this week. But again, I'd have you check with New York. In terms of the various ASEAN countries, there are some opportunities there. Certainly, if she does not have the opportunity to do so, though, you can expect that this message is going to be conveyed both by our embassies as well as by other officials.
QUESTION: China is one of Myanmar's biggest trading partners, as is Thailand. Would you be expecting them to take punitive -- sort of financial measures against the regime?
MR. CASEY: Well, look, Sue. I'm not going to try and speak as to what other countries should do on this. What we believe, though, is that this is a matter of concern for the international community and particularly for Burma's neighbors. So what we want to see is all those countries use whatever tools they think appropriate -- diplomatic, economic, or otherwise -- to impact and change the regime's behavior. Again, the goal here is not to have people apply a particular tool or method. The goal here is to have a concerted effort on the part of the international community that's effective in changing the Burmese Government's behavior.
QUESTION: Do you see an opening here -- because of the increase in protests, do you see this as an opportunity to really see some change in Burma?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think first of all, what it reflects is the real desire of the Burmese people for change and for democratic opening in that country. These are very brave people who, despite the repressive nature of this government and despite knowing that they might be faced with the kinds of violent responses that we've seen, have nonetheless put themselves out there to try and help change things in their country. And we think we ought to be able to work in support of that and we think that's an effort that is important and that should be supported by not only the United States, but by the other countries in the region as well. So what we're looking again to see happen is to have every country take a look at what they can do to support positive change in Burma, to support a democratic opening and a real engagement by the regime with the political opposition.
QUESTION: Tom, as far as Burma, thousands are demonstrating in a nonviolence way. There are religious monks and they have been crying for over 15 years and nobody has (inaudible). And today I don't know what's happening; suddenly, everybody talking about -- it's not the behavior of the dictatorship there. But in 1990, before (inaudible) was elected democratically (inaudible) but somebody must be supporting this dictator there because otherwise without any support, he cannot continue like this in a brutal rape-- killing and murdering and arresting all the innocent people. What I'm saying as far as the sanctions are concerned, mostly sanctions do work only on a democratically elected government not in dictatorship, because it hurts the poor people in dictatorship as far as sanctions are concerned because all those people have everything that they wanted. So where can we go beyond sanctions today? But the time has come that Burma should be a free and democratic country, like it used to be.
MR. CASEY: Well, I think, Goyal, first of all, you're right. This is a problem that has gone on for a very long time and gone on too long. Certainly, the Burmese people, as the Secretary said the other day, deserve better than what they've gotten from this regime. This is an issue that, as you know, we have spoken out on continuously over that time and we have tried to not only take measures ourselves in terms of bilateral sanctions and other steps to respond to it, but we've again worked to try and call the international community's attention to this, including getting this issue on the Security Council agenda for the first time this past year.
It is again I think a truism, but it does apply to this situation as well, that no one country is going to be able to affect change in Burma or any place else by itself. And that's why again, both in the statement I read to you on behalf of the U.S. and the European Union as well as in what we've said, our emphasis is in trying to get other countries, including some of those key partners, like China and India and the ASEAN countries out there, who do have trade relations, political relations and otherwise an ability to influence the behavior of the regime, to take steps as well. Because as we've so often seen, when we can have a broad international coalition working together on these kinds of issues is when we are most likely to achieve change and achieve progress.
QUESTION: Just quick follow-up. Yesterday President first time spoke very effectively and very in a straightforward way as far as human rights and the situation in Burma is concerned. Don't you think that the U.S. should -- and the international communities -- should suggest that there should be UN forces in Burma and in order to tackle this problem with this dictator?
MR. CASEY: Look, again, Goyal, I'm not going to try and be prescriptive for the Security Council on this. We believe right now that what we should be doing is bilaterally is what the President's announced, is increasing pressure on the regime by increasing and expanding our sanctions against the regime and against those who support it.
And again, on your point on sanctions, let's also remember, too, the sanctions we are imposing are targeted sanctions. They are designed not to hurt the interests of the common person in Burma, but to get at the interests of those individuals who are in this regime and those individuals who are directly supporting it. So I do think there are ways of applying these kinds of measures in a discrete way and in a way that has a real impact on the people who are most responsible for the problem. But again, the goal here is not to apply sanctions or to take specific actions in the diplomatic toolbox, but to be able to use a combination of things and general broad support in the international community for them to be able to effect a change in that regime. And it is long overdue and it does need to happen sooner rather than later, and that's why we're going to continue to work on this.
Let's go back here. That's you.
QUESTION: Okay. A change of subject.
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Maybe you have seen the media report that a very high-profile human rights lawyer in China was taken away by the authority just because he had sent a letter to the U.S. Congress addressing human rights concerns in China and the upcoming Olympics in China. Do you have anything on this?
MR. CASEY: Is this the case of Mr. --
QUESTION: Mr. Gao.
MR. CASEY: Mr. Gao, yeah. We've seen those media reports, though I can't confirm them for you. As you know, we have spoken out about his case previously. This is an individual who is an outspoken advocate for the rights of people in China. We certainly would hope that he has not, in fact, been detained or otherwise taken into custody. We would certainly hope that the Chinese Government would allow him and others to freely express their views. So we'll certainly be looking at this case closely to see what we can understand about the facts of it and we'll make appropriate representation to the Chinese Government if this, in fact, turns out to be true.
QUESTION: Actually in his letter --
MR. CASEY: Oh, I'm sorry. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Sorry, actually in his 16-pages letter, he said that we do not support and we do not pretend to support the Olympics, which is regarded by many Chinese as, you know, political endorsement to this regime.
Just now you said on the case of Burma that it has been doing on too long. And also Mr. Gao said in his letter that -- to President Bush, who accepted the invitation to go to the Beijing Olympics next year -- that look at what you are doing and look at what President Reagan did back in 1988 before the Seoul Olympics. So do you see any inconsistency in what you said about Burma and here in the case of China?
MR. CASEY: I think you've seen the President and the Secretary and others speak about the Olympic Games in China. I think we view the Olympic Games as a major international sporting event. It's an opportunity for nations to come together and to participate in a peaceful celebration of sports.
In terms of the views, though, of the United States or any other country about internal affairs in China, I don't think the fact of the Olympics being held there changes any of those views. Certainly, I think if anything, as the world's spotlight focuses on China as these Olympic Games move forward, there'll be a lot of people looking at these kinds of questions and issues. And if anything, I think that will certainly make the regime -- make the Government of China believe that it does have the kind of international attention and scrutiny on these kinds of issues that come with hosting the Olympic Games and, you know, we'll see what kind of impact that has. But I don't think anyone has supported the idea of using the Olympic Games to make a particular political statement.
QUESTION: Yeah, North Korea. I know that you touched on this yesterday, but can you confirm that the new round of sanctions -- they're widely expected to come into effect today -- can you confirm that this is the case? I mean, if not, when are they --
MR. CASEY: Oh, I believe that there was a notice published in the Federal Register today that formally announced what we talked about over the last few days, which is that a North Korean company for, I believe, the third or fourth time, has been sanctioned for missile technology transfers. These are, again, measures that have already been applied both to North Korea and to this company, and done so over the course of quite a few years. So the net effect of these sanctions is really no change in the existing status here. But again, it has been published in the Register and it's an indication, once again, of the serious concerns that exist about behavior by North Korean entities with respect to these kinds of technology transfers.
I think it, as you've heard us say before, also reinforces the idea of why we wish to move forward in the six-party talks with the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We certainly don't want North Korea or anyone else to be proliferating these kinds of technologies. And part of what we're doing in the six-party talks is working through the kinds of issues that are there so that we can end North Korean proliferation activities as well as their onsite, in-country nuclear program.
QUESTION: Just to follow up.
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: What is the time period on these sanctions and why the timing now? Were they just up for extension anyway or --
MR. CASEY: No. The sanctions that exist here are handled on a case-by-case basis. They don't have a particular timeline on them. Anytime that evidence comes to our attention that a transfer of the specific kinds of technologies involved here has happened, then there's a legal requirement for us to acknowledge that and to place the company in question, as well as the country in most cases, under these kinds of sanctions. As I said, this is unfortunately a case where this company has been a repeat offender. So it's not a new set of measures imposed on them, but it is again an additional strike against them. And I would hope serve also as a warning to anyone out there in the international community that might be doing business with this company to be aware that they're engaged in these kinds of actions.
QUESTION: So can I take from your statement that there was some recent activity by this company that caused --
MR. CASEY: Well, recent is a relative term when it comes to legal findings. But yes, you can take it that since the last time they were sanctioned under this measure, and I believe that may have been either in 2005 or 2006, there was an additional incident that occurred that required them to be sanctioned again.
QUESTION: So it's not -- the timing is not related to the six-party talks or anything?
MR. CASEY: No, not at all.
QUESTION: Does North Korea's continued proliferation of missile technology give you any concern with regard to trying to take North Korea -- or your stated intention to take North Korea off of the terror list?
MR. CASEY: Well, you've got a bit of apples and oranges issue here. There are issues related to being a state sponsor of terror. There are issues related to technology proliferation. The bottom line is, though, Kirit, is that for North Korea to be removed from the terror list, for North Korea to have the different kind of relationship with the international community that it wants, including with the United States, it has to address the questions that are out there. Those questions for us principally through the six-party talks are about denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But denuclearization, by definition, includes dealing with WMD proliferation concerns as well. Chris has said that before and that's nothing new. So certainly we are concerned by any of these activities.
It's not a good sign by any means to have a country or a company be placed under sanctions for this, even if it is something that's been ongoing. So these are concerns for us. These are things that we do address. The vehicle, of course, or the main vehicle for dealing with nuclear and WMD concerns is the six-party talks and Chris is, of course, out there now. And I'm sure to the extent that it's appropriate, he'll raise any of our proliferation issues in the context of those discussions.
QUESTION: Just out of interest, this company that appeared in the Federal Register, to whom was it transferring missile technology?
MR. CASEY: I --
QUESTION: It wasn't Syria, for example?
MR. CASEY: No, it was not -- your real question is: Is this related to previous news accounts of a variety of things related to Syria?
QUESTION: Oh, no, no, no. I wasn't implying that.
MR. CASEY: No. No.
QUESTION: So who are they transferring bad stuff to?
MR. CASEY: You know, I'll leave it to the experts to give you a little more information on that. We generally don't discuss the specifics. But in the interest of clarity, I will assure you that it is not Syria.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: There were several reports in newspapers today about State Department contracts with Blackwater. What kind of investigations, what kind of looks are you taking at your contracts?
MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, let me talk about several things because there were several different reports out there. First of all, I think most of you know that we have several different activities in place looking at not only the specific incident involving one of our convoys on September 16th, but also at the broader question of the use of personal security detail contractors in Iraq and that basically breaks down as follows.
First of all, as you know, we have an ongoing investigation by Diplomatic Security into that specific incident itself. We want to make sure we understand fully what happened. And again, if there's any need to take further action against any of our officials or employees, we will do so.
Secondly, we've also formed a joint commission with the Government of Iraq, headed on our side by our Deputy Chief of Mission Ambassador Pat Butenis. And that commission is designed to not only look at and review information from our investigation, from the Iraqi investigation, about this specific incident but to also talk about and work out joint recommendations on how we should move forward in terms of the operation of these kinds of contractors and these kinds of personal security details.
It's clear to us that this incident raised a number of broader concerns about the general use of these kinds of contractors for security for our officials. And we want to make sure that we're working cooperatively with the Government of Iraq and have a common set of facts to work from and a common understanding of how we're going to proceed from here. And this is something that again we're doing cooperatively with the Iraqis. The Minister of Defense is the chair for the Iraqi side. And we expect that they will make some recommendations that'll allow us to have a common understanding and a common set of operating instructions to move forward.
The third piece of it is that the Secretary has also asked Pat Kennedy, our former Assistant Secretary for Administration and probably the most experienced administrative officer, management officer in this building, to conduct a senior-level review of the operations and use of personal security contractors in Iraq. You know, it's been three years now -- a little more than that -- since we established the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. It's an appropriate time, in general, even exclusive of this incident, to take a good look at how we're doing this to see what we can learn from our experience and what kinds of changes or reforms we might be able to accomplish to make sure that we're doing our job as effectively and safely as possible. So those are the basic outlines.
QUESTION: And to follow up, what kind of cooperation or what kind of relationship do you have with the Pentagon, DOD in discussing these contracts?
MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, there are, of course, a variety of different structures and different operations in Iraq. One thing I think is clear, though, from the top of the chain, meaning from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker on down, we have close cooperation with the Department of Defense, with multinational forces in Iraq in terms of how we operate and in terms of our security and political cooperation with the Iraqi Government. So we have regular conversations with Department of Defense on all kinds of issues.
There was some sort of claim in a couple of stories, though I note not by anyone speaking on the record, that there has been some contention between DOD and State on this. I think the basic fact here is we're in this together. This is not a Department of State problem. It's not a Department of Defense problem. It's a U.S. Government problem. And all of us, our colleagues in DOD, those of us here in the Department, recognize that we need to work through some of these issues. And that's why we've -- we're conducting the kinds of reviews and investigations we are.
I also want to just add one more thing, since you raised it, which is that there are also a number of stories out there that indicated or contended that the Department did not wish to cooperate or was somehow not being cooperative with requests made by the House, by Chairman Waxman's committee, with respect to this. Just want to make clear, as I said this morning, that the Secretary has instructed everyone in this building to cooperate in these investigations and reviews of Blackwater. This is a very serious issue. It's why she has created a senior management-level body. It's why again we created the joint commission with the Iraqis. And we have also certainly instructed the company itself to respond to any requests for information from the committee in a positive way.
QUESTION: And just --
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- is there a senior-level person who's directly working with DOD on this particular case? Is this elevated to the point where you'd have a specific liaison?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, the investigation into this immediate and specific incident in Baghdad is being conducted by our Diplomatic Security folks on the ground. They have the cooperation and support of the multinational forces in that effort. I'd also note, too, that on the joint commission, there are three representatives from MNFI as part of the eight-person U.S. team for that. So there's that interaction on this specific incident. Certainly, though, to the extent that there's a need for coordination on the ground, we have many channels for doing that, both between our security folks and those in DOD, as well as at the policy level between Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: More particularly, about the close cooperation you spoke of between State and the Pentagon, can you speak more specifically to the claims in the news report today that the Pentagon had asked the State Department to reign in Blackwater's operation?
MR. CASEY: Look, I'm hard-pressed, those of you that know me, I'm hard-pressed not to say something I shouldn't about people who make pretty broad and general accusations, hiding behind a mask of anonymity. I think if you ask our friends over at the Pentagon, they will tell you that there's very close cooperation between our two sides on this meeting between the Iraqis and the U.S. Government, and that U.S. Government is not just the Iraqis and DOD or the Iraqis and the State Department, it's broadly between us. There's very close cooperation on all these issues. We have to cooperate closely with our military colleagues in order to be able to achieve any of our objectives or mission. And you look out at how our diplomats are operating in Iraq and you'll note, for example, that about half of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams are directly embedded with military units. The other PRTs that are out there have representatives from the Department of Defense, uniform, military and otherwise, as part of their operations. The relationship between Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus on the full range of issues there, I think is fairly unique. There are very few places in the world where you can see the kind of daily regular cooperation both at the high-policy level, as well as down the chain to the kinds of operational things that happen with our PRTs and with our Embassy between the U.S. military and diplomatic services. It's a unique place and it's a unique relationship. And I think that we have had over time -- over time a real unique relationship with our military colleagues because that's what's required to do the job.
And again, this is not a Department of Defense job. It's not a State Department job. We need, as a U.S. Government, to ensure that we are doing everything we can to help the Iraqis move forward to deal with both the security and political questions there and you can't have one side with the other. And I think, you know, Ryan and General Petraeus's testimonies the other week made that clear.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up --
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: -- another thing you said about Waxman, please.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: He sent that blistering letter out to Secretary Rice. And I'm having a hard time lining that up with what you say is full cooperation by the Secretary and the Department. And also Mr. Waxman again asked Secretary Rice to appear before the committee in October.
MR. CASEY: Well, let's talk -- let's talk about a couple of things. Again, you know, I'll let Chairman Waxman speak for himself and, you know, I'll leave it to others to categorize the tone of his letter.
Congress has an important role to play in providing oversight of all the Executive Branch. Certainly, as you know, we work very closely with all our committees that have responsibility for the State Department. Deputy Secretary Negroponte will be up testifying with Secretary Gates this afternoon. And I certainly would not be surprised if a number of the issues we've raised here in the last few minutes come up in his questioning with Congress.
It's important for us to be able to keep members informed of what's going on and to also answer any questions that they have about the operations that we are conducting all around the world. That said, I'd just point out again, that with respect to the issues that have been raised, the documentation that's been requested has been provided. The individuals that were requested for interviews have been provided. Certainly, as we provide that information to his committee as to any other, we also have to deal with the fact that many of the things that are requested are classified, or touch on Privacy Act concerns, or affect the security of some our individual staff members in Baghdad. And I don't think it's unusual or odd or untoward to simply acknowledge and ask the committee to follow U.S. laws and regulations with respect to how that information is treated and handled.
In terms of the testimony available, the dates that were asked for by the committee were dates when the Secretary was not available, just as she wasn't available today, because she's up in New York with the President, to testify, and that's why it was reached in an agreement with that committee that the Deputy Secretary would be able to fill in for her on that occasion.
In terms of the request for testimony here, what we have said, of course, is on the dates in question we'd be willing to make available several other senior officials who have direct responsibility for security issues as well as for Iraq policy to address some of those concerns. So again, you know, the Secretary isn't available to testify, but certainly as occurs quite frequently, we do have other officials at a very senior level who we'd be willing to make available and who we believe are the appropriate people and the ones are more than capable of addressing the issues at hand.
QUESTION: Prior to this recent Blackwater incident, had the State Department been approached by either Pentagon, by people on the ground in Iraq, to look at Blackwater's activities?
MR. CASEY: Not that I'm aware.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can you give us exact numbers of how many Blackwater employees are there are in Iraq?
MR. CASEY: No, I can't. We don't talk about the number of Diplomatic Security officials or the number of diplomats in Iraq or the number of contractors; frankly, it's an operational security issue. What we're trying not to do is give the people out there that are trying to hurt us and hurt Iraqis a good understanding of what our procedures are or even how many people are out there trying to protect them.
Yeah, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Yes. On FYROM --
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Mr. Casey, I'm sure that you know about the three (inaudible) yesterday at the UN between the President of General Assembly Srgjan Kerim of FYROM and the President of FYROM, Branko Crvenkovski, against Greece. Since both violated the UN regulations that come out UN resolutions. He has used the forum, promoted the propaganda against Greece, condemned by the Greek Government and criticized by the U.S. spokesman acted once again in bad faith in the ongoing negotiation on the (inaudible). I'm wondering if you could comment on the incident, since the U.S. Government is a permanent member of the Security Council, (inaudible) member and support the negotiation process.
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'm afraid that between some of the other things I was watching at the UN, I didn't quite catch that particular incident. What I will say is this, our position with respect to Macedonia is clear. As you know, we recognize Macedonia by its constitutional name. But we recognize as well that there is a serious and a very emotional issue for Greece and for Macedonia with respect to the name. We want to see that the issue be resolved through discussions between Greece and Macedonia, with the support of the UN. That's ultimately in everyone's best interest, but certainly in Macedonia's best interest because we would like to see Macedonia have entry ultimately into the kinds of Euro-Atlantic that it would like to join. And obviously one of the member-states that will have a very important say and that will be Greece. And certainly we all recognize that part of ultimately resolving the other issues that are out there will be a Greek desire to see that issue resolved before anything else happens. So we would encourage that any discussions or statements made about this be done in the spirit and desire to see a peaceful and reasonable settlement reached between the parties as a result of negotiations.
QUESTION: One follow-up. Since you personally, as right now, Mr. McCormack and Under Secretary Nicholas Burns and other U.S. officials many, many times stated that the U.S. Government support the negotiation process. I'm wondering from the practical point of view, what exactly you are doing to (inaudible) in order for Athens and Skopje and to reach an agreement?
MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, I'm always happy to be in the company of Sean and Nick Burns, so I'm glad you at least mentioned both of them with me. You'd be placing -- I'm a thin reed to place all of U.S. policy on sometimes. But what I will say is that this is a subject of discussion between us and both the Greek Government and the Macedonian Government. In our conversations with the Greek Government, we always encourage them to sit down in good faith and discuss these issues and to reach an equitable conclusion of them. We certainly again make clear to them in our private discussions with them what I've said publicly and what Nick and others have said publicly as well, which is the ultimate solution to this is a discussion.
QUESTION: And the last question. As a UN member, are you obliged to implement the UN resolution calling that country FYROM?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, the decision on whether to recognize individual governments and under what circumstances and whether to recognize individual naming issues are matters for individual countries to decide. That is why, as you know, back in 2004 Secretary Powell announced -- then-Secretary Powell announced our decision to recognize Macedonia by its constitutional name.
QUESTION: Do you know if Foreign Minister Natsios is planning a visit -- a trip to Sudan?
MR. CASEY: You know, I don't. I know Andrew has been traveling around recently. I know he was planning on attending the conference in Tripoli as the U.S. Representative to the discussions there. But I'm not aware that he's got any immediate travel plans to go to Sudan, though he does do that from time to time. I can check for you, Samir, and see. And at least this time, I didn't call you Michel.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) That's okay.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: On Iran.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: U.S. Congress has voted a bill tightening the sanctions on companies investing in Iran. How concerned are you this could harm the common efforts of the international community on Iran's nuclear program? And what kind of message does it send to Turkey, who has some intentions to invest in Iran?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, the United States has had longstanding laws in place to enable the imposition of sanctions on those investing, particularly, in Iran's petroleum sector. That's under the old ILSA heading, the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. It's also there under the subsequent Iran's Sanction Act that was passed, I believe, in the fall of last year.
In terms of what message Turkey should be receiving by some of the recent legislative action, certainly I don't think it's directed at Turkey or any individual country. But as Under Secretary Burns made clear in his recent visit there, we certainly don't think it's an appropriate moment for any country to be expanding its economic activities in Iran. The international community needs to have full support from all its members to be able to convince Iran to comply with UN Security Council resolutions, and we'd certainly like to see Turkey fully cooperating in that regard.
QUESTION: Can I follow-up on Iran?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Mr. Casey, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad said yesterday that he considered that (inaudible) about (inaudible) nuclear problem "closed" and that Iran would disregard the resolution of the Security Council, which he said was dominated by "arrogant powers." Any comment?
MR. CASEY: Well, in terms of the nuclear issue being "closed" --
MR. CASEY: In my old neighborhood, people would have said, "Yeah, he wishes."
The reality is that Iran is under Security Council sanctions. It's under several Chapter 7 resolutions. Not asking it nicely or politely, but requiring it as a matter of international law, to halt its uranium enrichment program and to engage in negotiations with the international community. But I think the one thing that's clear from his statements about the nuclear program yesterday is that, you know, as has been said about other historical figures, President Ahmadi-Nejad apparently wants to not miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. There's been an opportunity there for Iran, over many, many months, to achieve everything that they said they want, which is a peaceful civilian nuclear program through negotiations with the international community. And all that's required is for them to cease their current activities and to work with the international community through negotiations to ensure that we can all understand that their nuclear activities aren't, in fact, designed as a cover for a nuclear weapon.
And again, it's pretty hard to understand from our perspective how a decision can be made not to comply with the Security Council resolutions if the intent really is simply to have a civilian peaceful nuclear power program. The offer that's been made by the P-5+1 is very generous and it allows Iran to achieve all the stated objectives for its civilian nuclear program. So all President Ahmadi-Nejad is doing is again, missing an opportunity, yet again, to help his people to bring them closer to the international community and, frankly, to begin a real dialogue with the United States. Because people also tend to forget that what the Secretary said in announcing this many months ago is that if Iran, in fact, does comply, she is willing, for the first round at least, to go and sit in a room with a representative from Iran and the other members of the P-5+1 and listen to them not only about their nuclear program, but about any other issues they'd like to bring to the table. And that really is an unprecedented offer and it's remarkable to me that the Iranian President has chosen to further isolate his government. Unfortunately, further isolate his people and take them further away from the kinds of economic goals that he himself stated were his objectives as president when he ran for president of that country.
So you know, you'd have to go ask him why he continues to believe that defiance of the international community, in the face of a very generous offer on the other hand, makes sense. But we don't think it makes sense for the Iranian people and it certainly doesn't make sense for the rest of the international community.
QUESTION: So the answer would be no, it's not closed in your eyes. And then as a follow-up, do you expect discussions with Ali Larijani to continue?
MR. CASEY: Look, that was a long way of saying, no, it's not closed and it can't be closed as long as Iran continues to defy UN Security Council resolutions. And I think that you will find that the meeting later this week between the ministers of the P-5+1 brings us closer to yet another Security Council sanctions resolution and that's again going to tighten the noose. And we've heard from the French Foreign Minister about his desire to work in the EU, to have separate EU sanctions imposed on Iran. Certainly, you know that we have our bilateral measures and we're always looking at new things that might be done as well. But the Iranian Government and the leaders of this regime have been and are paying an increasing price for their defiance of the international community. It's our hope that as additional sanctions get applied, that whether President Ahmadi-Nejad comes to see the light or not, that there are other reasonable actors in Iran who certainly will and who will be able to convince him that this continued path of defiance is not in his interest or more importantly the interest of his people.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. CASEY: Okay.
QUESTION: Tom, yesterday Benazir Bhutto, the Foreign Minister Prime Minster of India was speaking at the Middle Eastern Institute for a function on the Capitol Hill. She said that (inaudible) has gone too long in Pakistan and it's time for a democratic government there. And also she said that there is a -- lately has lost support from the military and the people of Pakistan. And she was also saying that under civilian rule, including her rules in 1988 and '90, that she can deal much better with terrorism and other problems than what the U.S. is supporting the wrong man and it is time that they should support the people of Pakistan and the democracy, not the General Musharraf.
MR. CASEY: Well, we leave her to comment on both her own plans, her political party and its operations, as well as her plans for the election that's upcoming. But, Goyal, I think as you know, we do support the people of Pakistan and we do support the desire of Pakistanis for what is President Musharraf's and others stated objectives, which is to see Pakistan develop as a peaceful democratic, moderate Islamic state, one that's capable of working with us to fight extremism and terrorism. And we also want to see Pakistan's democracy develop and grow. And the key moment that is coming up in that will be the elections. And as you know, we want to see those elections be free, fair and transparent.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)
DPB # 169. Released on September 26, 2007
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