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Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
August 27, 2007

INDEX:

NORTH KOREA

U.S.-North Korea Bilateral Working Group September 1-2
Working Group will Look at Next Steps in Moving into Disablement Phase
Overall Purpose of Six-Party Talks is Denuclearization

JAPAN

U.S. Had Positive Working Relationship with PM Abe and His First Government
U.S. Greatly Appreciates Support Japan Has Provided in Iraq and Elsewhere
Will Not Speculate on Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law

PAKISTAN/AFGHANISTAN

Cooperative Relationship between Pakistan, Afghanistan, U.S. Important
Presidents Musharraf and Karzai Committed to Dealing with Presence of Militants

RUSSIA

Query on Announcement of Indictments in the Politkovskaya Murder Case

FRANCE/IRAQ

France and European Allies Need to Work Together to Achieve Progress in Iraq
FM Kouchner’s Remarks Calling for PM Maliki’s Resignation

IRAQ

Sunni, Shia, Kurd Reconciliation Deal / Implementation Next Step
Committed to Working with Iraqis to Achieve Their Political Aims and Objectives
U.S. Will Help Iraqi Political Leaders Carry out Mandates they Were Elected To Do
Oil Law is Something That Still Needs to Be Completed

AFGHANISTAN

UNODC Report on Afghanistan Shows Increase in Poppy Production
Positive Change Linked to Security and Development Assistance
There is Still a Tremendous Amount of Work to do and U.S. is Hopeful

SUDAN

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Al-Samani Al-Wasila is in Washington
Minister will Meet with Assistant Secretary Frazer Today

GREECE

U.S. Concerned by Wildfires and Want to Help Greek Authorities in Any Way Possible

IRAN

U.S. is Very Concerned about Iran’s Nuclear Program
No Options are Ever Off the Table, but U.S. is Pursuing Diplomatic Strategy Now

CHINA

Concerns Over Chinese Purchase of Company Producing Disk Drives
U.S. Has Process to Review Purchases of U.S. Companies or Assets by Foreign Entities

PALESTINIANS

Hamas Keeping Itself Out of Peace Negotiations
Continuing Discussions on Creation of Independent State


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:35 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: Okay. Good afternoon, everybody. A pleasure to be back, I think. I don't have any opening statements or announcements for you, so we'll go to questions.

QUESTION: Do you have any more information about the U.S.-North Korea talks that'll be held in Geneva September 1st and 2nd, who will lead the U.S. delegation, anything more on logistics and --

MR. CASEY: Sure. I know Gonzo mentioned this to you a little bit this morning, but as you know, we are now going to have the next meeting of the U.S.-North Korea bilateral working group in Geneva on the 1st and 2nd of September. Chris Hill will be leading the U.S. delegation for that. My understanding is that Kim Gye Gwan, his counterpart in the overall six-party talks, will be there for the North Korean delegation and I think you can check with them to verify that as well. And again, this will be looking at the next steps in the process and how we can, as called for in the September '05 agreement, by way of actions for actions, come up with the next set of items for us to take forward as we move into the disablement phase of the six-party talks.

Now as you know, Arshad, the importance of these working group meetings is to try and establish recommendations for the overall envoys and ultimately, for the ministers to make decisions from in terms of how the overall second phase, disablement phase is going to be structured. So I wouldn't look for this meeting to produce specific conclusions, but rather, like the other working groups that have gone on in the last few weeks, they will be putting together a series of recommendations that can then be taken forward to the full six-party envoys-level meeting and again, ultimately, I would suspect produce a framework for the disablement phase that can also be endorsed by the ministers later on.

QUESTION: Correct me if I'm wrong, but as I understand it, the Seoul bilateral U.S.-North Korea working group set up under the February 13th agreement is, in theory, supposed to discuss normalization of relations between the two countries. It sounds as if you don't actually expect to discuss much in terms of normalization, but rather, next steps in terms of dismantlement as called for under that agreement. Is that right?

MR. CASEY: Well, no. In terms of the dismantlement phase, again, let's remember that the overall purpose of the six-party talks and the primary purpose of that is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. As part of that, when you look at the September '05 agreement, as well as the February 13th, '07 one, you establish these working groups to work on some of the specific areas that not only include denuclearization, and that working group has already met, but also trying to help, as a result of denuclearization, change North Korea's relationship with the broader international community, including with those two members of the six-party talks with which there are very specific and longstanding concerns; the United States on one hand and Japan on the other.

So certainly, I expect that the discussions will focus on those issues in our bilateral relationship that were set up for discussion and that does include things related to "normalization," including issues related to the listing of North Korea as a state sponsor of terror, the Trading with the Enemies Act, and the other things that are all noted in various agreements before and that have been the subject of discussion in the previous meeting of the working group.

QUESTION: And one other one on this if I may. The -- in addition to the discussion of what would constitute dismantlement, do you also plan to discuss the element of North Korea's declaration of all of its existing nuclear programs?

MR. CASEY: Well, I don't want to try and get ahead of Chris and his counterparts. Part of what the denuclearization working group was focusing on, of course, was some of those issues. I would expect that they naturally will be touched on in the course of this working group, but again, I think the primary focus of it, of course, is on the specific bilateral components of this.

Yeah.

QUESTION: How far has the push towards normalization gone forward in terms of North Korea following its move to shut down the Yongbyon reactor?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think this is a first opportunity for the working groups to meet -- or this particular working group to meet after the conclusion of that February 13th agreement. I think it's important that all the parties have lived up to their commitments under that agreement. And now it's time with this working group to look at what the next steps are in that process. But how we move, how far, how fast, in which specific ways, is not only a factor of what this working group decides, but of how that work gets integrated with all the other working groups, as well.

Again, remember, the principle here, in terms of the six-party talks, is good-faith actions being met by good-faith actions. So what they'll be discussing in this working group is some of those potential actions, and then when you get to the full envoys-level meeting, integrating those actions with overall plans for disablement of North Korea's nuclear program, and do so in a way that ultimately it'll be agreeable to all six parties. But we've got a long way to go here.

QUESTION: Mr. Hill spoke on this at the end of the first round of talks in New York. Mr. Hill said that any efforts towards normalization would be based on dismantlement and by North Korea. So, I mean, in terms of -- I mean, for the first time after the talks, they had to move forward in terms of closing the -- shutting down the Yongbyon reactor. So I'm wondering whether the U.S. would give greater concentration to normalization after this type --

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think what Chris has also said is that with denuclearization, almost anything, in terms of changes in relations, are possible. But it is all hinged on and tied to successful denuclearization and successful completion of that program. But again, the sequencing, the timing, the specific steps to be taken, are the kinds of things that the working group and then the envoys all need to discuss and move forward, and I don't think, at this point, with them not actually having had that conversation, it's particularly helpful to try and get into any specifics of where they might go with that.

Yeah, Libby.

QUESTION: Do you need to get those specifics firmed up before any ministerial would happen? Would the idea of a ministerial be to have all of the sequencing in place so the ministers could then sign off on it?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think what Chris has said in the past on this, and then where I understand we still are, is, of course, we will have all these working groups meet. The envoy-level discussion will then take place. And hopefully, that envoy-level discussion will be followed on fairly shortly by a ministerial-level meeting. I'm not predicting for you that a formal agreement will be announced or signed as a result of these consultations in the next couple of weeks. Certainly, we'd like to see this process move forward as quickly as possible. And I still think we believe that this next phase could, in fact, be concluded -- meaning an agreement reached and put into place in the not-too-distant future.

We're still on North Korea?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. CASEY: I thought you were. Okay.

QUESTION: You also have a plan to talk full diplomatic relations between U.S. and North Korea this time?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, ultimately if you successfully implement the September '05 agreement, and there's complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, then you have an opportunity for a new kind of relationship between North Korea and the United States and North Korea and its other neighbors as well. And certainly, though, what potential there is for full normalization of relations is hinged on and entirely dependent on that denuclearization part.

Yeah, Mio?

QUESTION: Just staying in the region. On Japan, the cabinet was reshuffled today and what are your expectations for working with the new Abe government, especially with regards to the Anti-terrorism Special Measures Law?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, obviously this is an internal decision of the Japanese Government. We've had very successful and positive working relationship with Prime Minister Abe and his first government. We look forward to working with his new team, including the new Foreign Minister who, of course, has previously served in that capacity and certainly want to see us move forward in cooperation with Japan on the full range of issues in our relationship. That certainly includes counterterrorism. And as you know, we've greatly appreciated the support that Japan has provided in Iraq and elsewhere in terms of its financial contributions to reconstruction and development as well as the deployment of some of its forces and its resupply efforts.

Obviously, though, any individual decisions in the future about the nature or extent of Japan's involvement in Iraq or elsewhere are going to be decisions that the government's going to have to make and make in consultation with the parliament. And so I'm certain we'll be continuing to discuss that and work with them. We, again, are grateful -- very grateful for the support Japan has provided in the past. We'd certainly like to see that support continue, but these are individual decisions for the Japanese Government and for other governments to make.

QUESTION: And just to follow up. If the opposition party does block the extension of the Special Measures Law, has the U.S. already started discussion as how to contain the impact of that and what other measures you might --

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I don't think I want to try and speculate on what the Japanese parliament might or might not decide. This is obviously an issue for debate in Japan. We look forward to seeing that debate conclude and Japan make its decisions about how it wishes to proceed. Certainly, we will be in discussion with all members of the coalition in Iraq as well as other interested countries to make sure that we're doing everything we can to help the Iraqis provide for the security needs of their country as well as help push the process of political reform and reconstruction as well.

Yeah, let's go over here.

QUESTION: Coming to the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, there was some -- an action as a result of which some militants were killed inside Pakistani territory and the Pakistan Army spokesman has said that Pakistan did not give approval for this strike inside Pakistani territory, which contradicts the position expressed by the U.S.-led coalition spokesman in Afghanistan. So what is the U.S. position on that? And if you could clarify it, then (inaudible) regarding the exact rules of engagement between coalition forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan army? Thank you.

MR. CASEY: I'm looking to see if I certainly sprouted epaulettes and stars or anything. Look, I think I'm going to have to refer you to U.S. military forces and coalition forces out in Afghanistan, as well as to the two respective governments for specifics on this incident. What I can tell you, though, is that it's important to the United States that there's a cooperative relationship between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States and other coalition forces. Everything that we try and do, that our military tries to do there is done in an effort at close coordination not only with the Afghan Government, but also with, as appropriate, the Government of Pakistan. There's a common problem in the border and it's a problem that affects Pakistan and it's a problem that affects Afghanistan.

And we understand that we have the commitment from President Musharraf, as well as from President Karzai, to take actions to try and deal with the presence of militants along the border. We have, as you know, a trilateral coordinating mechanism between U.S. and coalition and NATO forces and Afghanistan and Pakistan to try and deal with these issues. But certainly there are incidents that occur in the course of fighting this war and fighting against the terrorist groups that are there that sometimes raise questions about where incidents took place or what the exact nature of these things were that happened. I'm sure that if there are questions about this specific incident that our military commanders on the ground as well as representatives of our governments there in Afghanistan and Pakistan will be discussing this issue and make sure that if there was confusion or was something that happened that was outside of approved channels or planning that we take corrective action.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any comments on the Russian prosecutor's announcement of indictments in the Politkovskaya and Klebnikov cases?

MR. CASEY: Unfortunately, I haven't seen those, so I'll have to try and get something for you.

Sylvie. Welcome back to you, too.

QUESTION: Thank you. (Laughter.) The French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that it had to apologize today because he called for the resignation of Prime Minister Maliki in Iraq and there were very strong reactions in Iraq. Do you think it's helpful for the U.S. policy in Iraq?

MR. CASEY: Look, I understand that Foreign Minister Kouchner has spoken to this issue and concerns, comments that he made to major media organization. I think from our perspective, we understand that the Government of France and the governments of all of our friends and allies in Europe want to see progress made in Iraq. And I think it's important that we all work together to try and achieve that.

In terms of the specifics regarding the Prime Minister and his status, I think President Bush spoke to that pretty clearly last week. And I don't think anything that's been said since that time either affects our view or affects our opinion of his ability to be able to govern the country.

QUESTION: Mr. Kouchner said that he spoke to Secretary Rice 15 minutes before calling for his resignation. Was he speaking on behalf of the U.S.?

MR. CASEY: Certainly, the President of the United States has been speaking on behalf of the U.S. in terms of our views about the Prime Minister. And I don't think anything that has been said by Foreign Minister Kouchner or anyone else changes the U.S. view of that. And again, I'd just refer you back to the President's remarks.

QUESTION: Did Kouchner tell the Secretary what he was planning to say?

MR. CASEY: I'm not aware that they had any particular discussion about that -- about his comments. In fact, I'm not sure that they did.

QUESTION: I understand that as part of his apology, he said something like, maybe I shouldn't have said it straight away; maybe I should've said that "people have told me that he's going to leave because he is going to." Is --

MR. CASEY: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- Maliki going anywhere? Do you know? Where would he have heard that?

MR. CASEY: I don't know. I think the Foreign Minister is both quite capable of speaking for himself and has a very fine spokesman, and I'll let them explain his comments. Again, I think we believe, as the President said, that Prime Minister Maliki's a good man, he's got a tough job to do, but we all are committed to working with him and more importantly with the broader government that he represents to help the Iraqi people achieve their political aims and objectives. And we've seen today some positive signs of a positive step forward in this agreement that's been reached among some of the major political leaders, the presidency council among others.

And really, I think where everyone's focus ought to be, and I think where ours is, is trying to help encourage that kind of political development and progress, because ultimately what matters to the Iraqi people and what matters to the success of events in Iraq is going to be a combination of both the ongoing military activities, that the U.S. and other coalition forces are undertaking, as well as making progress on some of these very important political issues that are there and that are required really for Iraq to be able to fully move forward and manage its own affairs in the way that the people would want them to.

Michel.

QUESTION: Tom, how do you view the reconciliation deal signed yesterday by Sunni, Shia and Kurds?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, that's part of what I was referring to. Certainly, this is a welcome development, and I think we view it as a good step forward. The thing, of course, as we all know, is that these agreements now need to be implemented and turned into facts on the ground. So I don't want to try and overstate the importance of this, but obviously the fact that these major political factions have been able to come together and reach an agreement on this fairly sensitive issue is something that's welcome and positive. And now what we want to do is encourage them to be able to move forward and take that agreement and implement it, and, again, to do so in a way that it will be -- seem to have meaningful effect and impact on the street in Iraq.

Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: (Inaudible). Maliki was forced to sort of basically come out and use some very strong language and named Clinton and Levin by name. Do you think the comments by the Democrats are very very unhelpful? Do you think they're circumventing U.S. policy on this issue?

MR. CASEY: Look, there's going to be an ongoing debate in the United States about our policies in Iraq and about the best way forward. I know the Prime Minister spoke very clearly about his own views on this, but I think from our perspective, we understand that there are going to be individuals in this country and in our political systems that are going to have and going to speak very forcefully about their views.

From our perspective, what we intend to do is work with the Prime Minister, work with his government, help -- as Ryan Crocker has been doing in Baghdad, as General Petraeus has been doing, help Iraq's security forces, help Iraq's political leaders to make the kinds of progress and the kinds of changes in their own internal system that they need to have to really be able to carry out the mandate that the people gave them when they elected them last year.

So again, I think this is all part of the political debate. I'll leave it to others to determine whether it helps or hurts anyone particularly in Baghdad. From our perspective, though, the important thing is that there is some progress being made, including on the political scene, as we've seen with this agreement. And that's something that we want to encourage and we want to be able to continue to work with.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Aside from the -- going back to the deal between the Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds, what more do you expect them to do in terms of bringing about greater reconciliation? We have already seen them basically offering the hands of friendship to the -- Saddam's party members.

MR. CASEY: Well, as I said, I think this is a welcome agreement, but what needs to happen now, of course, is that that political agreement does need to be implemented. Because again, you can have that basic framework, but if it isn't implemented, if it's not felt on the ground by the people, if it doesn't make an actual change in the situation there, then it won't be complete.

So our efforts with the Iraqis will be to focus on helping them to implement these agreements and to develop further ones that may be required to deal with some of the other questions of national reconciliation that are out there.

QUESTION: Are you referring to the oil law?

MR. CASEY: Well, the oil law is something that's out there that still needs to be completed. There's parliamentary action that's required on a number of these issues. And again, having the laws passed by parliament is, again, just another phase in this. Those laws then have to be implemented throughout Iraq and through the Iraqi system.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Tom, two things. One, I don't know if the UNODC report on Afghanistan is yet out, but I think its findings have been widely publicized.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Notably that there is a 92 percent increase, I think, in the poppy crop in Afghanistan, which now counters something like 95 percent of the world's heroin supply. I'm well aware of the new strategy that Ambassador Schweich and others unveiled two weeks ago or three weeks ago now. But what is your comment on the report? To what extent do you think that the drug trade is undermining your efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan? Do you believe that the new strategy will curb the spectacular increases in production that we've seen in recent years?

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, that's a lot of good questions in there. Let me try and take them as we go.

First of all, I'm not sure whether the report has formally been released yet, but certainly, we had predicted and you heard from both Assistant Secretary Boucher and Tom Schweich and others that the overall poppy crop, the poppy cultivation this year was going to be increased. So in that sense, I don't think the results that are being reported in this report are unexpected. And as you also point out, the revised counter-narcotics strategy that we discussed earlier this month was specifically devised to allow us to address some of the concerns that are there.

What we've seen is a real two-tiered kind of system when it comes to poppy cultivation. In those places where there is security that's been provided and where there is development assistance going in in a meaningful way, you have decreased poppy cultivation. And in fact, it's twice the number of provinces, from six last years to 13 this year in 2007, out of 37 -- or, excuse me -- 34 provinces total that are poppy free, so there is real positive change that's occurring. So why are the numbers then going up? Well, the numbers are going up exactly in those places where you would expect them to. They are the places where there's greatest insecurity, where there is greatest activity on the part of the Taliban and other violent elements and where the government has not yet been able to deal with those very basic security problems and, therefore, has also limited our ability to provide for economic development, including alternative development programs for the people in those areas.

So this is something where, as much as it is bad news that the crop has increased, there is good news to be reported in that there is a clear linkage between the expansion of government authority and decreases and, in fact, elimination of poppy cultivation in a number of areas. All that means, though, that we still have a tremendous amount of work to do and we're hopeful that our revised strategy is going to again better enable us to carry out that work. And you've heard from Tom Schweich and from others in fairly extensive detail about how that strategy is intended to work and how we intend to implement it.

I think the one thing I would do, though, in summarizing it is just say that there is no magic bullet for decreasing poppy cultivation or decreasing other drug crop cultivation anywhere in the world. And our experience elsewhere has shown that you need a combined approach and one that deals with basic issues like security one, that does provide for economic development, including alternative livelihoods, one that involves public awareness campaigns, one that involves good law enforcement measures, including a strong court system to be able to prosecute people as well as taking other steps that give you a comprehensive approach, that's really a comprehensive development approach, to being able to really address this problem. So it's a problem that's been a long time in making. It's going to be a difficult one to address and it's going to be one that's going to take some time to address, too.

Yeah, Michel.

QUESTION: The Sudanese Minister is in town to advance the relations between the U.S. and Khartoum. There are news that he will meet Deputy Secretary Negroponte and Assistant Secretary Frazer today or tomorrow. Do you have anything on that?

MR. CASEY: My understanding -- this is -- you're referring to the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Al-Samani Al-Wasila?

QUESTION: Correct.

MR. CASEY: Okay, yeah. He is -- as I understand it, in Washington this week. The Sudanese Government requested that he be allowed to travel here to meet with U.S. officials and we decided to honor that request. I do believe he's meeting with Assistant Secretary Frazer today, though I don't have a full agenda beyond that. We'll try and get you something more after they've had some meetings here.

QUESTION: It would be great if you could get us something today if they do, indeed, meet today. If you could get some further readout of --

MR. CASEY: Yeah, we'll try and get you a readout of their conversation as well as any other appointments that are scheduled. I just didn't have an agenda when I came out here.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Greece. Mr. Casey, anything to say about the wildfire over Greece in the recent days since the Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyianni stated that the U.S. Government offered to help too, along with other countries?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, Mr. Lambros, we're very concerned by the situation in Greece and the wildfires that are affecting so much of the country right now. And we do want to do what we can to help Greek authorities in whatever way would be appropriate and possible to assist them in dealing with the consequences of these fires. And we're in discussions now with the Government of Greece about this to see what kind of assistance might be useful and the best means for us to provide it. And I hope that shortly, we'll be able to have some concrete plans to announce to you in terms of what we might be able to do.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Arshad.

QUESTION: Tom, there is a report in the British newspaper, the Sunday Telegraph, which says, and I'm just going to read you two sentences from it: The White House's plans to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization are intended to give the Bush Administration cover, if it launches military strikes on the Islamic republic, according to a prominent former CIA officer. Robert Baer, who was a high-ranking operative in the Middle East, said senior government officials had told him the Administration was preparing for air strikes on the guards' bases and probably also on Iran's nuclear facilities within the next six months. Is there any truth to that report?

MR. CASEY: It sounds like he's got another good movie plot there. But no, Arshad. Look, the Administration's policy with respect to Iran is quite clear. We are very concerned about Iran's nuclear program. We're very concerned about their actions in support of terrorism in the Middle East and we're very concerned about their support for militant groups in Iraq, including those that are providing the EFPs that are causing a lot of injuries and deaths among our troops.

That said, the President has made it quite clear that while no options are ever taken off the table, that we are pursuing a diplomatic strategy to deal with Iran. We are working with the P-5+1 and all other friends in the Security Council to ratchet up the pressure on Iran to deal with its nuclear program. We are working with Iraq and with Iraq's other neighbors to try as well to convince the Iranians to end their support for the destabilization of Iraq and to, in fact, become a positive actor there. And our military and other coalition forces in Iraq are taking action against those networks, even as we try and move forward there.

And of course, we are also working with a variety of actors, including those moderate states in the region, to try and blunt Iranian efforts to support rejectionist forces in the region, whether that is groups like Hezbollah or groups like Hamas. So our strategy for dealing with Iran is quite clear. It is a diplomatic strategy. It is one that involves using a full range of diplomatic tools and resources. But there's simply no truth to the story that somehow a possible designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard would be a prelude to or a cover for military action.

QUESTION: Tom?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, Elise.

QUESTION: I have a couple. First of all, there's a Chinese technology company that's getting -- putting plans for it to buy one of the major producers of disk drives in America, and I was wondering if there was any concern by the U.S. Government if this would be a risk to national security. The CEO of the company had said that the U.S. Government is "freaking out" about this particular purchase.

MR. CASEY: (Laughter.) I don't know. Is "freaking out" a formal diplomatic term? I'll have to check. Look, as you know, there's a process that the U.S. Government has for reviewing the purchases of U.S. companies or assets by any foreign entities that might raise national security concerns. On that, the CFIUS process is something that's run out of our friends over at the Department of Treasury and is generally not something that individual cases of which are discussed until a decision's been reached, in part just to protect the proprietary interests and the business interests of the companies involved.

But certainly, there's been controversy about this in the past, but I think members of Congress and the Administration are satisfied that we have in place a system of review for any potential sale that raises these kinds of questions, that will allow us to make sure that if sales go forward, they do so in a way that will protect U.S. national security interests.

QUESTION: I just have one more --

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: -- on Hamas. The head of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, gave a television interview in the recent days and he made a lot of criticisms about the Administration. He said that the Administration has exempted key players of the Middle East from the process, namely Hamas, and that at some point the Administration is going to have to deal with Hamas. And he also said that the upcoming conference that the U.S. is planning for the Middle East will fail because Hamas is not invited. And I was wondering if you think that eliminating Hamas from this particular -- from your peace efforts right now, do you think that that's an ill-advised approach, because eventually you're going to need their consent to move ahead?

MR. CASEY: Well, to have a peace process, you have to want peace. And to have a peace process, you have to acknowledge the other party sitting across from you at the table has a right to exist and a right to live in peace. So if anyone is being held out or kept out of a process, it's Hamas keeping itself out by its failure to meet those basic criteria that the Quartet laid out some time ago. And what we are trying to do is work with the Government of the Palestinian Authority as well as other states in the region to give the Palestinian people what they so badly deserve, which is an independent state that can live side in side in peace with Israel.

The Palestinian people, though, obviously will have to make a fundamental choice at some point as to how to deal with a group like Hamas, which seems to want to have one foot in the political process and another foot engaged in active terrorist and military operations. But I think it's kind of ironic for anyone from Hamas to be complaining about being exempted from a peace process which they frankly don't recognize and don't believe in.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas are scheduled to meet tomorrow, I believe. Any particular goals for that particular meeting, from the U.S. side? Any particular hopes for -- you think, will come out of this particular meeting --

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I'm not sure of the exact timing of their meeting, but this is a continuation of a series of discussions that have been launched, in part through the Secretaries and the U.S. Administration's assistants, to get them talking about what the Secretary Rice called the "political horizon"; some of the broader issues that are out there that will have to be addressed ultimately to be able to have a Palestinian state.

And so we're glad that these conversations are continuing. We certainly want to see them make progress towards an agreed notion of some of those "political horizon" issues. But I don't, as far as I know, expect to see any kind of concrete agreements coming out of this meeting. Again, though, I'd really refer you to Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas's office though for details of their agenda.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:07 p.m.)

DPB # 151



Released on August 27, 2007

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