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Daily Press Briefing (Corrected)
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 12, 2007

INDEX:

LEBANON

Humvees Delivered to Lebanese Army / Assistance to Lebanon
Full Delivery of Humvees

GREECE

Attack on U.S. Embassy in Athens / U.S. Condemnation
Appreciation for Reaction by Greek Government, Law Enforcement
Claims of Responsibility / Investigation Ongoing
Status of Embassy
Desire for Investigation Completion as Soon as Possible
Ambassador Ries’ Travel to Washington
Warden Message from Embassy Athens
Counter Terrorism Efforts by the Government of Greece
Revolutionary Struggle Organization
Inman Building Standards / Embassy Facilities Sheltered from Blasts

TUNISIA

Reported Bombing Plot Thwarted

SUDAN

Pledges by Government, Rebel Groups to Adhere to Cease-fire Agreements
Special Envoy Natsios Travel / Meetings in China
Letter Sent by Sudanese President to UN? / Commitments
Deployment of UN, AU Troops / Further Options

NORTH KOREA

Assistant Secretary Hill Travel / Germany / South Korea / China / Japan
Date for Discussions on DPRK Illicit Activities
Full and Complete Implementation of UN Resolution / Sanctions Committee

BURMA

UN Resolution About Situation in Burma / Possible Vote
Diplomatic Consultations about Resolution

DEPARTMENT

Secretary Rice’s Travel / Efforts to Move Middle East Peace Process Forward
Human Rights Watch Report / War Against Non-Conventional Enemies

MIDDLE EAST

Next Quartet Meeting / No Plans to Expand or Change the Mandate of Quartet

IRAQ/IRAN

Raid on Iranian-Linked Facility in Irbil / Not a Diplomatic Facility / Investigation
Contact with Iranians


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:50 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, everybody. Happy Friday. TGIF to you, too, Mr. Lambros.

Before we get to your questions, I just wanted to point out something. We will be putting out a Media Note little later today that is going to note that today we made a down payment on some of the support that we've promised for the Lebanese Armed Forces. Specifically, today we had 20 -- the first 20 of 285 Humvees that are destined for the Lebanese Army delivered today. These are going to be used as part of our effort to help strengthen that force and give it both the mobility as well as some of the other kinds of logistical and technical support it needs to be able to carry out its mandate throughout all of Lebanon.

I think as you know the program for the last fiscal year that just ended, '06, was almost $40 million in training and equipment. We obviously don't have a budget, formal budget yet for this current fiscal year, but we do intend to increase that assistance as the year goes on.

With that, let's go to your questions.

QUESTION: A quick one on that. Was that U.S. surplus equipment? And secondly, where was it delivered?

MR. CASEY: Okay, let me make sure I've got that. It arrived by C-17 and my understanding is it arrived in Beirut at the airport today. In terms of where this came from, this is, as I understand it, funded through the FMF program.

QUESTION: If we could then switch to Greece.

MR. CASEY: We can then switch to Greece.

QUESTION: Just before --

MR. CASEY: Okay, before we switch to Greece.

QUESTION: To double-check the numbers. Did you say 20 out of 285?

MR. CASEY: Twenty out of 285, yes. And again, we'll put out a paper statement on this a little later.

Arshad, over to Greece.

QUESTION: Two things on the --

QUESTION: Still on Lebanon.

MR. CASEY: Still on Lebanon.

QUESTION: There's a report in the Telegraph that said that the CIA was engaged in covert operations against -- in conjunction with both Syria and Lebanon against Hezbollah. Can you tell us anything about different operations that the U.S. is engaged in?

MR. CASEY: Certainly, as a matter of policy, we don't talk about intelligence issues or matters. And certainly, if you want to know about anything the CIA is doing, you'd have to go ask them.

Okay, now let's go to Greece. And Mr. Lambros, I know you'll have questions, so it's all right.

QUESTION: Just two simple things about this. The Greek Minister of Public Order said that there had been some anonymous phone calls claiming that the so-called Revolutionary Struggle group had claimed responsibility for this. Question one: Do you have any sense of who might have been behind the attack? And then question two: Ambassador Ries -- if that's the right pronunciation --

MR. CASEY: Yes.

QUESTION: -- was quoted as saying that Greek police were there and investigating and it was a crime scene. Does the U.S. Government plan to send FBI or other investigators to help with the forensics to figure out who might have been behind this?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I think we owed you a couple of answers on that after the gaggle this morning.

First of all, let me just run through the basics of what we know and then I'll get to some of those specific points, Arshad. At approximately 5:30 this morning local time, the Embassy in Athens was struck by what appears to have been a rocket-propelled grenade. I think as you know there were fortunately no injuries associated with this and there was only minor damage that's done to the building.

And as you heard Ambassador Ries say earlier, we certainly condemn this act and very much appreciate the extraordinarily positive and supportive response that we've gotten from the Greek Government. In addition to the Greek law enforcement activities associated with this, Foreign Minister Bakoyannis and the Minister of Public Order visited the Embassy soon after the attack and we've been very grateful for, again, these expressions of solidarity along with the law enforcement cooperation.

My understanding is there have been some anonymous claims made of responsibility in the name of this organization called Revolutionary Struggle, but I certainly can't confirm that they or anyone else is responsible for this. Obviously, this is a matter that's being investigated by Greek officials. You can check with the FBI on specifics, but my understanding is they do have some technical support folks going to help assist in this and also help the Embassy with anything they might need as well.

I think that's about what we've got.

QUESTION: When you say you can't confirm it was them or anybody else, do you have any idea who might have been behind this?

MR. CASEY: No, we really don't. Again, there's been this claim of responsibility, but I think until the investigation moves forward a little further we really don't have any more detailed information on that. And I wouldn't want to hazard a guess on it until that investigation is concluded.

QUESTION: Last one on this. I saw the Warden Message which noted that the Embassy and the Consulate in Thessaloniki are both closed today and would be closed on Monday because of the Martin Luther King holiday.

MR. CASEY: Right.

QUESTION: Do you expect them to reopen on Tuesday, or has no decision been made on that?

MR. CASEY: My understanding is they will reopen normally again on Tuesday. But obviously, if there's other information that would come to light in between now and then that would warrant another change in its status, they'll make those decisions on the ground.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes, Mr. Casey, do you consider the incident an act of terrorism or nonsense violence, as was said clearly by your Ambassador to Greece Charles Ries?

MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, whatever it was, I don't think you can consider the firing of an RPG at someone's diplomatic facility a friendly act nor a nonviolent one. Certainly, I don't know any other word to call it other than terrorism, but the main point is it was a violent attack against our diplomatic facility. It is something obviously we want to see fully and completely investigated and we want to see the perpetrators brought to justice. And again, we very much appreciate the quick and rapid response and the solidarity we have gotten from the Greek Government on this.

QUESTION: Under Secretary Nicholas Burns stated in a statement today that November 17 terrorist organization does not exist since 2002 and that Kostas Karamanlis government is cooperating, as you said, with the U.S. Government to -- for the today's attack and just pretty soon they are going to have results and arrests. Do you have anything to say about that?

MR. CASEY: Well, certainly I would like to stand with any comments our dear Under Secretary for Political Affairs has said on this subject. Certainly, though, I don't have any specific information about the status of the investigation or how soon we might see anyone arrested for this act. We do obviously like to see that happen as soon as possible and believe it would be appropriate for the Greek judicial system then to deal with them as they would with anyone else who has committed an act of violence.

QUESTION: Any communication among Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Under Secretary Nicholas Burns and the Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on this issue?

MR. CASEY: Well, as I've said, the Foreign Minister actually went to the Embassy and discussed the situation with Ambassador Ries and it is a gesture we very much appreciate. I'm not aware -- as far as I know, there haven't been any phone calls between her and Foreign Minister Bakoyannis at this point. But if we have anything more to add on that, I'll keep you updated.

QUESTION: And the last one. Ambassador Charles Ries was here in Washington, D.C. for a week, last week actually. He returned to Athens last Wednesday. Do you know the reason for his visit?

MR. CASEY: I certainly do. The Bureau of European Affairs was holding its annual Chief of Missions Conference, and as the Chief of Mission from Athens he was here participating in that event.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Kirit.

QUESTION: Are other embassies being put on high alert as a result of this attack?

MR. CASEY: We've put out a Warden Message, as you know, to the American community there. I'm not aware whether this particular incident would have any implications for other embassies elsewhere in the region. Certainly our embassies all the time are looking at and making their own threat assessments, but I'm not aware of any change of status in any others.

David. Sorry, same thing?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: In your answers on the issue you stressed very much the cooperation between the Greeks authorities and the U.S. authorities and the efforts of the Greek Government. Considering the fact that the U.S. Embassy in Athens is a high-visibility target for terrorists, how much concerned you are with the fact that this attack happened so easily and with the way it happened?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not -- without -- until an investigation is completed, whether it was easy or hard or in between, I'll leave to the security experts to talk about. Look, our embassies throughout the world place a very high priority on managing the security environment around them and on taking all steps to be able to not only protect our diplomats and our diplomatic facilities, but of course also protect all those citizens of foreign countries that come to visit there, whether to talk about political issues or economic issues or to apply for visas or otherwise. And that's why we value so much the cooperation that we have with foreign governments and foreign security services to be able to make sure we do everything possible to prevent attacks from happening in the first place; but that when they do unfortunately occur, that we are able to work together to find out what happened, to arrest the perpetrators and see that they're brought to justice.

QUESTION: One more?

MR. CASEY: One more, okay.

QUESTION: Yes. According to some sources, after the successful Olympics and the dissolvement of 17 of November from the previous government, some people say that intensive (inaudible) efforts by the Greek authorities concerning domestic terrorism, it's not so intense as in the past. Do you agree with that statement?

MR. CASEY: I'm not sure who's making that statement. Look, I'd refer you back to what we've said in our annual reports on terrorism issues in terms of Greek Government cooperation. But again, in particular with related to this specific incident, we're again very pleased with the cooperation we've received so far from the Greek Government.

David.

QUESTION: Authorities in Tunisia today said that they had seized a quantity of explosives and maps and documents about foreign embassies and lists of foreign diplomats. Do you know if the United States was targeted at all by this apparent plot?

MR. CASEY: I don't, David. I saw that report very quickly before I came out, but I really don't have any information on it.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the attack on Greece?

MR. CASEY: Okay, George, why don't you do Greece? We'll do Greece at both ends of the table.

QUESTION: Is this Revolutionary Struggle group known to you?

MR. CASEY: I don't have any information on it. I did look and as far as I know it's not something that's designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. I'm not sure what information might be available more broadly in the U.S. Government.

QUESTION: I hear it's filled with anti-Lambros militants. (Laughter.)

MR. CASEY: I cannot believe that there would be an anti-Lambros organization anywhere in the world. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Does the U.S. Embassy in Athens have the setback that I think is now mandatory for U.S. embassies?

MR. CASEY: Well, there are several issues here, okay? I think for those of you that have covered this building for a long time, as you know, there have been several efforts over the years to enhance and establish standards for all our diplomatic facilities, not only including the physical structures but also in terms of other measures that are taken. And we're looking at those every day.

One of the things, and the setback issue becomes something that I think has almost passed into lore at this point, but the standards for these "Inman" buildings established and named after the former Admiral Bobby Inman whose commission looked at these issues, generally called for new diplomatic facilities to have a setback that is usually cited as being approximately 100 feet. The main reasons for that, of course, are to be able to have that facility be sheltered from bombs or blasts of one kind or another in a sufficient way.

As we go about building any new embassies worldwide, we certainly are applying those standards. And I think our folks in the Overseas Building Offices can talk to you about the number of facilities that have been constructed over the years. With existing facilities and in terms of the schedule for moving existing facilities and redoing them, there's a careful assessment that's usually made of exactly what the priorities are and in which order. I note and I think it's been noted publicly that the setback at our Embassy in Greece is approximately 65 feet rather than 100. That's, as I understand it, quite a bit more than any number of other embassies in the region. I don't honestly have a schedule for when there might be a new embassy constructed in Athens. But in effect, ultimately as we go through this process and as new embassies are built, all of them will wind up meeting that standard.

In the interim with existing facilities, we of course do what we can to protect them, not only by physical measures but also by intelligence cooperation and law enforcement cooperation, again, because the idea here most importantly is to prevent these kinds of things from happening in the first place.

Joel.

QUESTION: Change of subject. Former UN Ambassador and Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson announced he's returned from Darfur and Sudan, and apparently there's a 60-day cease-fire. Do you have any information concerning that?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think -- I wish I could say that there was a 60-day cease-fire in place. I'll just talk to you a little bit about what we do know. First of all, we welcome the government's statements that it has made in conjunction with that trip, building as they do on the Addis Ababa agreement from back in November. And we've also noted the commitment of two of the non-signatories to the Darfur Peace Agreement; that's specifically the Justice and Equality Movement and the Abdel Wahid faction of the Sudanese Liberation Movement to honor the cease-fire agreement as well.

As I understand it, the AU and the UN are now working together with the government and these rebel groups to try and make sure that those verbal commitments to the cease-fire are turned into reality.

I also want to note too, I think some of you have seen this, but Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is also supposed to schedule to meet in Addis Ababa at the margins of the African Union summit with President Bashir, and certainly moving forward on the cease-fire is one of the things that they'll be talking about as well.

So these commitments have been made, Joel, but I think as of yet, like with so many of the commitments in this area and with Darfur, we want to make sure that they're actually turned into facts on the ground rather than just statements.

Sue.

QUESTION: Do you have any details on Andrew Natsios's trip to China and who he's met with and whether he's managed to seek any reassurance or assurances from them that they'll put more pressure on the government in Sudan?

MR. CASEY: Well, Andrew, as you know, was in China to consult with the government there, talk to them about what we can jointly do to encourage cooperation from the Sudanese Government with the African Union and with the UN in terms of getting a force on the ground there, a hybrid force, and also in terms of meeting the other commitments under the DPA.

In terms of his meetings there, he met with a variety of Chinese officials. That included State Councilor Tang, the Vice Foreign Minister Yang, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General Zhai* who handles African affairs for the ministry, and he also met with a number of officials at their Defense Ministry.

He spoke in public -- I believe he gave a press conference shortly before he got on the plane -- and I think characterized his trip as a successful one and an opportunity to both share our views with one another and talk about some common approaches for how we'd move forward from here. But I wouldn't characterize it as a decision-making session. I think mostly what this was was an opportunity to make sure that we were both doing what we could to work together to move this process forward.

He is now, incidentally, on his way back to the United States and I guess will be arriving sometime tomorrow.

QUESTION: Have you had any contact lately with Bashir's government to try and find out what's going on there and whether they have actually accepted --

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think where we are at present is we accept, as the definitive statement of the Sudanese Government, the letter that President Bashir sent to the United Nations Security Council back the end of last year. That letter, as you know, fully commits the Sudanese Government to implementation of phase one and phase two of these efforts. It does leave open a number of questions about phase three implementation and those are questions that still do need to be addressed. In the meantime, as I understand it, the UN is continuing to work with both the AU and the Sudanese Government in terms of moving forward with the phase one deployments.

QUESTION: A follow-up to the previous question.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Is it the view of the State Department or even of Andrew Natsios that the Chinese are doing everything they can to move forward?

MR. CASEY: Well, it's our view that they are committed to the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions as well as to the efforts at the Addis -- supporting the Addis Ababa agreement and that's really what Andrew was there to talk about. I'd leave it up to him to give you an assessment of where he came out of these conversations. I really didn't get a very detailed readout of them.

QUESTION: Where are you in your consideration of other consequences for Sudan, given its failure so far to accept all of the full deployment of the hybrid force?

MR. CASEY: Well, Arshad, I think, first and foremost, before we're at the point of worrying about phase three deployment, we need to get phase one and phase two moved forward. And as I know we've talked about before here, there are a number of technical issues that the UN is trying to work through to be able to make those a success. So what we certainly want to see happen is have that deployment, have both those deployments, happen as soon as possible and we're certainly working with and encouraging both the UN and AU to do that.

In terms of the phase three deployment issue, again, this is something we're continuing to discuss and I expect will be discussing over time. Obviously, what we need to see from the Sudanese Government is full acceptance and ultimately full deployment. And certainly we have been and will be continuing to consider what options we would undertake should they not get to that point. And I think Andrew made that very clear to you all in December when he spoke to you. But for right now, where we are is acceptance of phase one and phase two and those deployments haven't happened yet. So as much as we are continuing to look at what our options would be, what we most immediately want to see happen is see those first two phases move forward.

QUESTION: Is it Sudan's fault or is it mere circumstances that the fact that phase one is still not yet completed?

MR. CASEY: Well, my understanding is that there are a number of issues that the UN has to deal with in terms of logistical support for their people there. As for as I know, those are exactly that -- they're logical issues and they aren't issues that are involving any kind of lack of cooperation from the Sudanese Government.

Samir.

QUESTION: Back to the Lebanon army. When do you expect the rest of the Humvees to be delivered and how is the delivery process designed?

MR. CASEY: We don't have a deployment schedule for them. I know there will be additional shipments arriving -- again, these are fairly large vehicles and being transported via C-17. So my expectation is you will see additional flights over time. I don't actually know when the full 280-plus are supposed to have all arrived there.

Let's go back here. I'm sorry. I know you've had your hand up for a while.

QUESTION: On North Korea. Any update on Chris Hill's schedule and also any indication of when the six-party talks might resume?

MR. CASEY: Well, you know, we did look into the schedule of Assistant Secretary Hill, so let me give you what I now understand to be what he's doing. Chris is going to be traveling to that well-known Asian country, Germany -- yes, I am only kidding -- next week. But he is going to Germany to fulfill a long-standing commitment to speak at the American Academy in Berlin. His speech there -- it's going to be on January 17th -- he is going to cover regional security issues and I'm sure will touch on the six-party talks as well.

Now, once he's done with that trip, he then will, in fact, be continuing on to travel in Asia and that will include stops in Seoul on January 19th; Beijing on January 20th; and Tokyo on January 21st. The purpose of those, as you would expect, would be to continue our consultations with our key partners in the six-party talks on how we might achieve progress in the next round. My understanding is he'll come back to Washington and then again on the 21st. So that answers part of your other question, which is, no, I don't have any information for you on when the next round might take place. Certainly, we would like to see it take place as soon as possible, but only if there is sufficient preparations for it and reason to believe that we can make progress.

QUESTION: Will he see North Koreans in any of those three cities?

MR. CASEY: There's no plans to do so that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Japanese congressman Yamasaki has said from Pyongyang that the North -- it's the expectation of the North Koreans that the financial talks would take place on the 22nd. Have they contacted State about that?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, there's been any number of stories circulating on when the date for the next set of discussions between our financial experts at Treasury Department and North Korean experts might take place. We had proposed doing it this month and doing so in New York. To the best of my knowledge, there's been no agreement on the dates for that to take place, although you might want to check with the Treasury Department and see if they have anything new on it.

QUESTION: The location is why, that's still --

MR. CASEY: Well, we've offered New York simply because that would seem to be a convenient location to do this. The North Koreans obviously have their UN mission up there and it's a convenient place for them to do so. I've not heard proposals for it to take place anyplace else.

David, yes.

QUESTION: The U.S. Mission at the UN yesterday had a statement kind of complaining about a lack of progress in the Sanctions Committee for North Korea, that there have been amendments proposed to the list of banned materials and goods, including American amendments. I was wondering why that isn't moving ahead and exactly what the U.S. is looking to add to these.

MR. CASEY: Well, I think if you look at the process for any of these sanctions committees, there's always a lot of discussion, always a lot of detail involved in it. Certainly, with the implementation of this resolution, we want to make sure that we see it done fully and completely and that -- and comprehensively as possible, because certainly, what we don't want to see happen is have the North Koreans be able to obtain any kind of material or financial support that's going to benefit their nuclear program. And we also want to make sure that those sanctions that were put in place in the resolution that are designed to make the regime feel the pinch are also fully implemented.

I don't have any specific details on the varying amendments that are up there. That's something you'd probably want to go talk to our folks at the UN Mission about, but I think the main point for us as we move forward is we want to see this done in as comprehensive a way as possible and as -- and in a way that does not hedge or keep us from really fully honoring both the letter and the spirit of the resolution.

QUESTION: One of the things they complained about is they said that the committee's guidelines hadn't even been completed yet and it's been some time since the -- since it was set up. I mean, what's holding up even --

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I'm honestly not sure, David. You might want to just ask them. I'm not honestly sure where the mechanics are on that process right now.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Regarding the UN Security Council possible vote on Burma --

MR. CASEY: Right.

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that China will either support or abstain on this resolution?

MR. CASEY: Well, we'll see what happens. We think that this resolution sends a very clear signal of concern on the part of the Security Council about the situation in Burma. Certainly, we don't think it should be difficult for anybody to sign on board to a resolution that says that minorities shouldn't be harassed and that political prisoners should be released and that a honest, open political process moves forward that would allow for reconciliation, including the involvement of real national leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party and other opposition figures who have been jailed or kept under house arrest for a long time.

So we'll see what happens. We believe we certainly have nine votes to move it forward. We have a majority for passage. It'll certainly be up to other permanent members of the Security Council to decide what they want to do though.

QUESTION: Will you push for a vote regardless or might you choose not to push for a vote if you believe it would be voted down?

MR. CASEY: Well, my understanding -- the resolution was put in blue yesterday and my understanding is the plan is to move forward with a vote this afternoon.

Let's go -- Sue, sorry, okay.

QUESTION: Have you had any discussions with China and Russia at a senior level to see whether you can encourage them to vote with you on this?

MR. CASEY: I'm just checking here just to make sure -- certainly has not been, as far as I know, any Secretarial calls to her Chinese counterpart over the last couple of days. This is something -- certainly, we've been talking to the Chinese as well as all other members of the Security Council about in New York, certainly at our embassies as well. I'm sure there have been other kinds of conversations both here and there, but this is something that's important. We think it's important for the Security Council to show its concern about this longstanding ongoing situation in Burma and clearly signal to the Burmese regime that the international community wants to see action taken.

Let's go back here.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice is visiting -- currently visiting Jerusalem and Ramallah. Is she bringing any new ideas on how to revive peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis? Does she support the peace plan proposed by Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz? And does she see now a chance for a breakthrough in the peace process?

MR. CASEY: Well, the Secretary, as you know, will be leaving this evening for travel not only to Israel and the Palestinian territories, but to a number of other countries in the region. And certainly, one of the things that is important to her is that we be able to talk with Palestinian and Israeli officials, as well as with regional officials, about how we can move the process forward. It really is something that the President signaled back in September at the UN he wanted to make sure we were pushing forward on. And we believe that there are opportunities to move forward in that process.

Obviously, the ultimate success of this is going to depend on the will of both the Palestinians and the Israelis to move forward, but we have seen good meetings between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert, and we have seen gestures that have been made. And we certainly hope that this trip can be used as an opportunity to further some of those discussions and to see what the United States can do to help move that process forward.

QUESTION: Does he support the defense minister's plan, peace plan?

MR. CASEY: You know, to the best of my knowledge, the last time I looked into that we hadn't been briefed on his plans and I'm afraid I just don't have anything to offer you on it.

Let's go -- I'm sorry. Arshad, and then Mr. Lambros I will go back to you.

QUESTION: Are you in a position to -- you've obviously announced all the stops on the trip.

MR. CASEY: Yes.

QUESTION: Are you in a position to tie those to particular dates?

MR. CASEY: I'm not at this point, Arshad. I think we'll have more information circulated from the party on that as we go along.

QUESTION: In the Middle East?

MR. CASEY: Yes.

QUESTION: The French announced a Quartet meeting and a couple hours later the UN Secretary General said that it wasn't happening. Do you have any idea what exactly is going on?

MR. CASEY: I think I'll leave that to the two of them. No, I'm not --

QUESTION: But you're involved in the Quartet --

MR. CASEY: As we had said before, we certainly were not expecting a Quartet meeting to take place during this trip that's happening now. I haven't actually seen the back and forth on that between the UN and the French.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on the sidelines of the Lebanon aid conference on the 25th?

MR. CASEY: Again, I haven't seen the public statements made. As far as I know, there's been no meetings scheduled, though.

QUESTION: This is my last one that. The Spanish Foreign Minister today proposed Arab participation in the Quartet. What's the U.S. view of that?

MR. CASEY: Well, as far as I know, there are no plans to expand the Quartet or change its mandate. I think the Quartet has been a positive vehicle for conveying broader international community views on the situation there. Certainly, we have discussions in a variety of different fora with countries of the region. Certainly, Secretary Rice will be talking about this with some of her counterparts and colleagues, talking about the issue of Israel and the Palestinians with some of her colleagues in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, in sessions with the Gulf Cooperation Council and on her other stops in the region.

So I do think there is a lot of opportunity for us to receive and other members of the Quartet to receive input from the other countries in the region and certainly we've been working closely and (inaudible) has been working closely with many countries in the region, including the Egyptians and many others to try -- the Jordanians -- to try and help push forward with this process and try and help bring the parties together.

Kirit.

QUESTION: Can you give us the latest on this raid in Irbil -- the Iranian --

MR. CASEY: I don't think I actually have a lot more to offer you on that, but let me just try and summarize it for you. The first thing is let's talk about why this facility was raided by coalition forces. It was done so because there was information that we had that the individuals there were associated with attempts or attacks involving -- against multinational force, against Iraqi forces. Certainly, there has also been information linking this facility to Revolutionary Guard and other Iranian elements that are there that are fomenting violence.

So the claim that this was somehow an innocent diplomatic facility seems to ring hollow in light of that. As we also discussed with you this morning, we have both had confirmation from the Iraqi and the Iranian Government for that matter that this was not a diplomatic facility, it did not have the standing of a consulate nor did it have any other international diplomatic standing to speak of. As I understand it, there are currently five individuals in custody by the multinational force. The review of this incident and their investigation into it is continuing and frankly I'd refer you to them for any more details.

QUESTION: What form did the contact from the Iranians take?

MR. CASEY: My understanding was that we've heard through our usual diplomatic channels, meaning the Embassy in Switzerland -- or sorry, the Swiss Embassy in Iran.

QUESTION: Can you tell us where they're being held and if there are plans to deport them at this --

MR. CASEY: Again, I have no information on those specifics. That's something you'd have to get from MNFI and the folks on the ground.

Same subject, Mr. Lambros?

QUESTION: The same subject, the attack in Athens. Mr. Casey, did you --

MR. CASEY: It's a stretch, Mr. Lambros, but why don't we go for it.

QUESTION: May I?

MR. CASEY: Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Did you issue any public warning for Greece regarding this brutal attack against your Embassy in Athens?

MR. CASEY: We have put out a Warden Message to the American community in Greece to alert them to the fact that this attack has happened and to let them know that the Embassy and Consulate in Thessaloniki were both closed today as well. At this point there's been no broader public announcement or other kind of travel message issued to people.

QUESTION: And one more question. A local Greek expert on matter of terrorism stated with Fox News earlier today that the Revolutionary Struggle is a branch of November 17 terrorist organization. Do you have, Mr. Casey, any information to this effect?

MR. CASEY: I really don't, Mr. Lambros. But frankly, I'd leave it to Greek authorities to talk about that and whether there's any connection between them.

I think David's got one in the back here. He's been waiting for a while.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the Human Rights Watch report yesterday that basically said that because of various things the United States has done since 9/11 it's given up the moral high ground in international human rights affairs?

MR. CASEY: Well, David, I haven't actually seen the report. I'm sure people here will look at it. But look, we've talked about this quite often and I'll happily talk to you about it again a little bit more. We're in a very different kind of war right now and it's one that's not against conventional enemies and it's one that requires us to take strong actions against terrorists and against those that support them.

I would argue however, and I think that is borne out by the facts, that the United States still remains at the forefront of efforts to promote democracy, to promote human rights, to promote respect for the rule of law. And I certainly would not accept any premise that indicates that United States efforts to defend our country against terrorism or defend our friends abroad against those who would harm innocent civilians is something that undermines our support for human rights.

QUESTION: Sorry, one more.

MR. CASEY: Kirit, go ahead.

QUESTION: Back on the raids on the Iranian facilities. Do you have any information about a second raid at the airport in Irbil?

MR. CASEY: No, I don't have any information about anything like that. That's -- I'm not sure what DOD may have about that, but you'd really have to check with them.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MR. CASEY: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:28 p.m.)

DPB # 7



* Zhai Jun was promoted to "Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs" and is no longer Director General.


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