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Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 16, 2007



Readout of Assistant Secretary Hill’s Meeting in Berlin / Good Exchange of Views
Six-Party Talks / Separate Consultations / Contact with Counterparts
Statement of September 19, the Way Forward / No Information on Timing of Talks


Reports on Identity of Five Iranians Detained by Multinational Forces-Iraq
Diplomatic Engagement by Other Countries with Iran
Delivery of Russian Anti-missile Systems to Tehran / U.S. Response
Iran in Violation of a Number of their UN obligations


Investigation of Attack on US Embassy in Athens Ongoing


US Policy on Kosovo Unchanged / U.S. Supports UN International Process


Senate Hearings on Iraqi Refugees / Issue of Resettlement in U.S.
U.S. Supports Efforts of UN High Commissioner
Iraqi Civilian Casualty Figures
President Bush’s Iraq Policy / Turkey and Iraq Working Together


Ongoing Violence / Phase One Deployment of Support
Planning Mission to Look at Phase Two
U.S. Call on All Parties to Cease Violence
Discussions Between Transitional Federal Government and AU Representatives


Independent Information on Castro’s Health Unavailable / Transition


Quartet Has Broad Consensus on Issues Related to Middle East Process


Secretary’s Travel / Meetings with Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas
Query Regarding a Special Envoy



12:35 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Hope you all had a nice and enjoyable weekend. I certainly did. Ready to go at another fine week here at the State Department, so let's get right to your questions.

QUESTION: Do you have details on Chris Hill's meeting today in Berlin?

MR. CASEY: Well, I've got a few more -- a little bit of a readout for you on this, George. As we mentioned this morning, Assistant Secretary Hill is in Berlin. He is going to be giving a speech there tomorrow. Kim Kye-gwan, his North Korean counterpart, was also there and they did, in fact, meet earlier today. That meeting took place at the U.S. Embassy and did stretch across several hours. There was both a morning session and an afternoon session.

To put this in context a little bit, as you know, Chris has been meeting and being in close contact with his counterparts in the six-party talks. He met, I believe last week, with both his South Korean and Japanese counterparts. And as you know, after Berlin he's going to continue on to stops in South Korea, Japan and China as well, again, to have consultations with officials there. And all this is geared towards ensuring that when the next round of six-party talks takes place that we are well prepared for them and hopefully have the prospect of being able to move forward.

In terms of the meeting today, it was a good exchange of views that certainly was conducted in a positive atmosphere. Again, I don't think that there is any particular conclusion from them to share with you. But the goal here, as with the other consultations that Chris has been engaged in, is to ensure that we are appropriately setting up and laying the ground work for the next round of talks.

QUESTION: When you say there's no particular conclusion to share with us is that --

MR. CASEY: What I mean by that is that I don't have anything more for you in terms of a date for the next round of talks.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Kirit.

QUESTION: I'm still on this one.

MR. CASEY: Are we still on this?

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you happen to know why he happened to be in Germany at the same time?

MR. CASEY: I honestly don't. I don't have details on how this got set up.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you know how long they had planned on having this or how long ago they planned on having this meeting?

MR. CASEY: I believe this came together over the last few days, but I can't -- again, I don't have details on the exact sort of tick-tock on the set up for the meeting.

QUESTION: Okay. And then finally, some people are saying that there seems to be talks outside of the six-party framework. Would you --

MR. CASEY: No, I'd categorize this in the same way that we've categorized previous meetings that Assistant Secretary Hill has had with his North Korean counterparts, including prior to the last round of talks in Beijing. I think the only difference between those conversations and these ones is the locale.

QUESTION: Is there a date -- I'm sorry -- is there a date for the six-party talks?

MR. CASEY: No, not yet. Certainly we want to go back to talks as soon as possible. But as I said, we do want to make sure that we're well prepared for them and that there is preparatory work that's being done. And again, Chris is going to be coming to three of the other countries that are playing in the six-party talks for additional consultations later in the week.

QUESTION: Did they discuss a date?

MR. CASEY: I don't have details on whether they had a discussion of a specific date. I think rather than that, though, the conversation was focused more on some of the follow-up to some of the proposals and ideas expressed in the last round of talks. But again, it's all towards the goal of having a well structured and prepared round hopefully in the near future.


QUESTION: Just a follow-up. You've left one country out of the six party here. Are there any plans to talk to the Russians so that they can be in on the well prepared structured --

MR. CASEY: Well, Chris has been in contact with all his counterparts in the six-party talks, including his Russian counterpart as I understand it. Certainly the fact that he's not traveling there shouldn't be read as any change in Russia's status in these talks or any desire not to be in coordination with them.


QUESTION: What is holding up a resumption of the six-party talks in your opinion? Why can't you come to announce a date for the talks?

MR. CASEY: Well, all six parties need to agree to it. As you know, we had a round in December. That round concluded shortly before Christmas with a number of proposals having been put on the table and with all parties involved saying they were going back and consult with their capitals about this. Certainly what's going on here through these additional consultations is we're sharing thoughts and ideas about some of those issues, and presumably as soon as we're all comfortable that we've got ourselves in a position to have another productive round, one will be scheduled. But I'm not trying to, you know, shade it one way or the other for you in terms of when that might occur. We'd said previously perhaps as soon as this month, but we'll see what happens.

QUESTION: And could you provide any more details or insights into what those thoughts and ideas might have been that you've been sharing? I mean, are you any further along the line in terms of having a resumption of talks? Do you think -- you said you've made progress and that they were fruitful and all, but exchange of views?

MR. CASEY: You know, and I think they were. But I'm not trying to either detail some of the proposals or internal negotiating discussions that took place either in the last round or the follow-up conversations on some of them. That's something we'll leave to Chris and his counterparts in the negotiating room.

In terms of dates, again, we all want this to move forward. We all want to see the talks be productive. But I don't have timing for you at this point and I'm not trying to lean you way or the other on that.

QUESTION: Okay. The last round that was held in Beijing -- all the North Koreans did was stonewall. As I understand it, they didn't even want to talk about the statement of principles of September 19th, 1905 -- I mean, 2005. Is there any reason to believe that their attitude will be a little bit more flexible the next time around based on today's meeting?

MR. CASEY: Well, George, I wouldn't go beyond what I've already said in terms of characterizing today's meeting. What I will say is certainly, we're looking for the North Koreans as well as all parties in the talks to come to them prepared to really make progress on that September 19th statement. That is the outline of the way forward towards resolving this issue. And again, we certainly want another round of talks, when they take place, to deal with those substantive issues and not simply be a -- you know, rhetorical exercise.

QUESTION: Is that correct, that -- what I just said about the North Koreans being unwilling in December to talk about the statement of principles?

MR. CASEY: Well -- yeah, I don't have anything beyond what Chris has already said to you guys about this. There were exchanges of views. There were proposals and ideas that were put forward. Everyone promised to go back and consult on capitals. Again, I'd leave it with what he said in terms of the attitude shown by the North Koreans as well as the other parties on this.

QUESTION: Tom, why shouldn't we conclude that the North Koreans have gotten exactly what they wanted for more than four years now and which you have said you wouldn't give them, which is to say -- you know, a forum for bilateral negotiations with the United States on this? I mean, this wasn't in the context directly of a six-party meeting. You've had talks with them in Beijing under the aegis of six-party talks, but this isn't even in the -- this isn't even in -- took place in a country that isn't even a member of the six-party talks. Why shouldn't one think, "Well, gee, you're actually just talking to them bilaterally here," as you are?

MR. CASEY: Well, we've had these kinds of exchange of views in New York and Beijing mostly and -- you know, now in Berlin. I don't think -- again, I don't think the locale matters and the subject matter and the process involved here are discussions about the ideas exchanged in the last round of six-party talks and the preparation for getting those talks back together. But it's not a separate negotiating channel and certainly, nothing I have said or nothing Chris has said should be interpreted as such, so --

QUESTION: And is Secretary Hill going to talk to the press in Berlin today about his meeting?

MR. CASEY: Not that I'm aware of. I don't think he has any plans for media today. My understanding is his speech at the American Academy in Berlin is open for media coverage, though you can check with the organizers there. He even -- in any event, I know there's Q&A from the audience and something tells me people will be asking him about this.


QUESTION: Speaking of separate negotiating channels, is there anything new on the Treasury Department talks in New York or will they be in New York? Is there anything new on that last --

MR. CASEY: I did check with both our colleagues here and my colleagues at the Treasury Department and I don't have anything new for you to offer on that. Again, we've offered up New York as a logical venue for those discussions to take place in, but don't have any dates to share at this point.

Back here, yeah.

QUESTION: Austrian television. I was just wondering -- we're getting media reports from Baghdad suggesting about the identities of the five Iranians the U.S. captured last week in Irbil. And one of them actually called Aziz Jafari (ph), my government, the Austrian Government, issued an international arrest warrant because he's implicated in a murder of Iranian opposition leaders in Vienna.

Now can you identify, can you confirm the name? It's actually a report from NPR and from our Kurdish sources that he's in your custody. Do you know anything about that? And where are these five men being held?

MR. CASEY: Well, I certainly can't -- the people who are holding these individuals, of course, are the multinational forces in Iraq. I know this has been spoken to, including by General Casey and Ambassador Khalilzad today, I believe. But I'd refer you to them in terms of any specific questions about the individuals or their identity or where they're being held. I don't have any information to share with you about that, unfortunately.

QUESTION: But would the U.S. extradite someone, for example, if it turns out that it is this man and he is, sort of like, looked for by the European Union and the Austrian Government? Would you extradite them?

MR. CASEY: Well, look. Certainly, we want to see that anyone who is wanted either for criminal charges or for issues involving terrorism are brought to justice. In terms of the specifics of this case, of individuals that were detained in Iraq by the multinational forces, that's one -- you know, what the legalities of that are would depend on the case. And frankly, I'll let the lawyers hash that one out. Certainly, we'd want to see anyone, though, who is wanted for serious criminal charges of any kind be brought to justice.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes, on Athens, Mr. Casey. Any update on the incident in Athens last Friday against your embassy?

MR. CASEY: No, I really don't have anything new to offer you on that, Mr. Lambros, beyond what we previously said. My understanding is that the embassy and consulate in Thessaloniki are open for normal business today. We, again, appreciate very much the cooperation we've received from the Greek Government and Greek law enforcement officials. Their investigation into this matter is still ongoing and certainly, we do want to see that investigation move forward as quickly as possible and the perpetrators brought to justice.

QUESTION: May I go to Kosovo?

MR. CASEY: Sure, go to Kosovo and then we'll go down to --

QUESTION: I was told that Representative Tom Lantos of California, Democrat Chairman of the International Relations Committee of the House introduced a resolution against the independence of Kosovo, saying that Kosovo should remain a sovereign province. Since this statement is coming from overqualified political personality in the U.S., I'm wondering if you have to offer to us any comment.

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not familiar with any proposal that Congressman Lantos may have put forward. Certainly, we have great respect for him. He's the Chairman of the House International Relations Committee and have a good working relationship with him. In terms of our policy on Kosovo, Mr. Lambros, it remains unchanged. We're looking forward to seeing proposals put forward by Mr. Ahtisaari and working with the international community towards the goal of achieving a final resolution to this longstanding issue.

QUESTION: And a follow-up. "Any settlement for Serbia's breakaway Kosovo province must be secure the agreement of Belgrade and should not be imposed by outside powers," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated today. Any comment on the statement?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, Mr. Lambros, there is an internationally established process through the UN. Mr. Ahtisaari's leading it. We're supporting that process and we'll see where it goes.


QUESTION: President Chirac is considering sending a senior envoy to Iran to discuss stability issues in the Middle East. Do you think that this would be a good idea for them to send a special envoy to Iran? And have they discussed this with you?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not familiar with those statements or proposals. Certainly, France has diplomatic relations with Iran, as do a number of other countries in the European Union. I think our hope would be that any diplomatic engagement, by any country with Iran, focus on reminding them and reiterating to them their need to comply with their international obligations. That includes UN Security Council resolutions on their nuclear program. That includes the obligation of all states not to support terrorism, not to support violence, whether that's in Iraq or in Lebanon or elsewhere. And certainly, any diplomatic exchanges or efforts on that subject would be things that we'd like to see happen in that context.

QUESTION: And on a semi-related issue, Russia has said that it's going to deliver antiaircraft missile systems. Do you have any more comment on that?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I did look into this and this was a question Arshad originally asked me.

QUESTION: They have delivered them.

MR. CASEY: Yeah, and this is a sale that had been previously announced and my understanding is what has happened now is that these anti-missile systems have, in fact, been delivered to Tehran. We said, at the time that this sale was announced, and we continue to be disappointed by the fact that it has moved forward and that, in fact, these items have been delivered. We don't think that it's a appropriate signal to be sending to the government of Tehran at this time, particularly when they are under UN sanctions for trying to develop a nuclear weapon and when they continue to be in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. We also believe as well that we certainly don't want to see any kind of lethal aid or assistance given to any country that's a state sponsor of terror. And as we've said, Iran is the leading state sponsor in the world.

QUESTION: And have you voiced your displeasure to Moscow and sent them a note about this?

MR. CASEY: We've discussed this on a number of occasions both here in Washington and in Moscow with the Russian Government. I'm not sure what communications might have gone on today, but again, I think we'll be continuing to make our views known on this subject.

QUESTION: When you talk about Iran being in violation of UN Security Council resolutions are just thinking of the nuclear ones or are you also thinking of others?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm, first and foremost, thinking of the resolutions on their nuclear program as well as their defiance of IAEA Board of Governors resolutions. Certainly, though, all member states of the United Nations have an obligation not to support international terrorism, in fact, have an obligation to combat terrorism. And certainly, Iran's record in that regard, I think would probably put them in violation of a number of their other UN obligations.

QUESTION: And you would acknowledge, though, that the most recent UN Security Council resolution regarding Iran's nuclear program does not bar the transfer of conventional weapons?

MR. CASEY: That's true. Well, my understanding is it does not bar specifically the transfer, in a blanket sense, of conventional arms. You know, there are certain things that probably when you get down to the sanctions committee list and look at dual-use items or other things might, in fact, have some conventional military uses as well but I will leave those specifics to the experts. But there certainly is no blanket ban in any of the UN Security Council resolutions related to Iran on conventional weapons transfers.


QUESTION: On the Hill today there's some hearings on Iraq refugees. I'm just wondering -- the United States has accepted 202 refugees in I think FY '06. I was just wondering if you thought that was a low number given the number of Iraq refugees that are out there.

MR. CASEY: Well, I, first of all, think that the United States has a record that is second to none in terms of accepting refugees from all over the world and we do so, I think, to a greater extent than just about any other country out there. I think we took in something on the order -- and you can check with our experts in the Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration on that -- but I think we took in something close to 50,000 refugees last year.

In terms of the situation of Iraqi refugees, as you know, there are many Iraqis who have left their homeland and are located primarily in two countries right now: Jordan and Syria. We are certainly supportive of the efforts of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to go into those countries to augment their operations there and to evaluate the cases of those involved. And I think we've made clear there are certainly no numerical limits on the number of Iraqi refugees that the United States could or would be willing to accept and there are no specific numerical limits in that sense for any individual country for refugees. And we look to the UN to make the determinations as to when an individual might qualify for resettlement. And in the instances where any Iraqis or any other citizens are presented to us by the UN as eligible for resettlement, we're certainly willing to look at those cases and these things are matters that are handled on a case-by-case basis.

QUESTION: But of 700,000 refugees and 200 that have been displaced, I mean, 202 is a really small number of them. Why isn't that number any higher?

MR. CASEY: Well, Kirit, again, I think you have to understand how this system works. Not every person who leaves their homeland as a refugee is someone determined by the UN as requiring or needing resettlement in a third country. In some cases -- and the first preference of the UN system is ultimately to repatriate people back to their homeland. In instances where that can occur, there are some cases where individuals have ties to the country that they have, in fact, gone to and the first choice would be to resettle them there. But we are open and willing to consider any and all cases of Iraqis, just like we do for anyone around the world, once the UN has made a determination as to whether they are qualified for third country resettlement and when they approach the U.S. about that. So we will see what happens in the future.

Certainly, I would expect that as the UN is in a better position to evaluate some of these cases, that we'll see larger numbers of Iraqis who may come here. They may go to third countries as well. But the important thing is that -- to understand is that Iraqi refugees are being treated no differently than refugees from any other country in the world. And again, the United States, I think, has a very long and very honorable history of accepting refugees literally from every country.

QUESTION: And then one final question. There's been some criticism that the U.S. has not accepted a larger number based on political reasons, that they don't want to make it look like things are worse in Iraq. Can you respond to that?

MR. CASEY: Yeah. Well, that's certainly not the case. Our standards for accepting Iraqi refugees into this country are the same as accepting refugees from any other country. Those are decisions that are based on an impartial review by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. And again, while we consider each case on an individual basis, we are not doing anything different in terms of how we would approach someone coming from Iraq recommended to us for resettlement as a refugee than we would any other country.

QUESTION: Just to clarify.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: You're acting -- you're saying you're acting expeditiously, but only after the UN makes a ruling.

MR. CASEY: That's --

QUESTION: You're not making any exceptions for Iraqi refugees?

MR. CASEY: Again, this is the system that we apply worldwide and it's being applied to Iraqi refugees just as it would be to refugees from any other country.


QUESTION: The United Nations estimates that 34,000 Iraqi civilians died in Iraq last year. Do you believe that number is accurate?

MR. CASEY: Well, we talked a little bit about this this morning. We rely on the figures provided by the Iraqi Government as our best understanding of what civilian casualties are and I'd leave it to Iraqi Government officials to talk about whether they believe the UN figures are something that they concur with or not. My understanding is their figures are somewhat lower, but again, I'd leave it to them to describe why their figures might be different.

Again, as I said this morning, though, I think the important point for all of us to take from this is that the Iraqi people have paid a high price for the violence caused by al-Qaida in Iraq, caused by other members of the insurgency, caused by sectarian militias. And we all are in agreement that we need to do everything we can to help Prime Minister Maliki and his government reduce this level of violence, provide security for the Iraqi people, particularly in Baghdad. And that's what the plan the President announced last week aims to do.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. Government attempt to count the number of civilian deaths in Iraq?

MR. CASEY: My understanding is we do not do a separate count on our own, that we have generally relied on the Iraqi Government to provide that information.

QUESTION: Why doesn't the U.S. Government do its own count of civilian deaths in Iraq?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think Iraq is a sovereign government. It's a country that has its own system in place for doing it. We are working very closely with them, but we certainly don't do that in other countries and I think we believe it's up to the Government of Iraq to determine what the statistics on this or any other issue are for their country.

QUESTION: The difference between Iraq and other countries is that Iraq is a country where, nearly four years ago, the United States led an invasion. I don't, by any means, wish to suggest that many or perhaps any of these deaths are directly the result of the U.S. military's actions. But I think it is not unreasonable to raise the question as to whether, had there not been an invasion, some of these deaths might not have occurred.

And therefore, it seems odd that the U.S. Government, which has been -- you know, which led the invasion and is so deeply involved in Iraq's affairs, would not bother to try to make any kind of a count on its own.

MR. CASEY: Well, Arshad, first of all, certainly, every death that's occurred in Iraq, civilian, military, or otherwise is a personal tragedy for the families and the loved ones of those involved. And no one is trying to deny that or not accept that as a premise. And the Secretary, I think, has spoken fairly eloquently about her personal view of this and her sadness at the loss of life, of American servicemen as well as others. So obviously, behind any statistic, regardless of the number, there is a human life involved and that's something that's important to acknowledge and recognize.

I think, though, it's also important to acknowledge and recognize that whatever the figure that is being provided by the Iraqi Government or the UN or others, that what the U.S. military effort did was overthrow a dictator, overthrow a dictator who was responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, who deliberately targeted his own people for killing, including with chemical weapons.

And again, I certainly acknowledge and everyone involved has acknowledged that in U.S. military actions, there have been occasions, unfortunately, despite our troops' best efforts, where civilians have inadvertently been killed. That is a unfortunate thing that happens in the course of combat operations, but again, I would contrast that extremely strongly both with the previous regime, which deliberately targeted its own people, and the people our troops are fighting against who seem totally unopposed to killing, in mass numbers, civilians with car bombs, through other kinds of attacks, and do so in a deliberate sort of way.

And I think the U.S. military has been very open in terms of its discussions of its actions and in cases -- including cases where military actions have caused loss of civilian life. And in the event that there are questions raised about those activities, the military has investigated it and there are trials of service members going on right now when the military's own justice system determines that any of those actions that were taken were in violation of the standards and procedures and the very high standards and procedures we hold our troops to.


QUESTION: On a separate issue, the Sudanese Government claimed it bombed some rebel areas in Darfur today. That's despite the declared truce of last week that was announced by Governor Richardson and the Sudanese Government. I just wondered whether you had any comments on these latest attacks in Darfur.

MR. CASEY: I hadn't seen those reports, so I can't confirm them for you. Again, all the ongoing violence in Sudan points to the need to move as quickly as possible towards deployment of a hybrid force in Sudan. My understanding is a number of additional UN officials who are part of the so-called light package, the phase one deployment of support, have moved into Darfur. We want to see that process move forward as quickly as possible. I understand that there is a planning mission from the UN that will be looking at the phase two or heavy package deployment. That will be in Khartoum later this week.

Certainly, though, we call on all parties to cease violence, certainly against civilian populations. We would want to see this process move as fast as possible. As we have said before, we're disappointed that we haven't been able to move it forward faster than it has. We did think that there was an opportunity presented last week by an agreement from the government, as well as a couple of rebel groups who had not previously signed onboard to a ceasefire, to do so. And we call on all those parties to honor those commitments.

QUESTION: And do you have any details on Andrew Natsios' movements at the moment or has he given you a more extensive readout on his --

MR. CASEY: Where in the world is Andrew Natsios?

QUESTION: Yes, basically.

MR. CASEY: As far as I know, Andrew is back here today, but I'll check for you and see if we have anything new in terms of future travel plans. Let's go over here.


QUESTION: Yeah, there are again news about Fidel Castro poor health and he is really extremely sick and that he's not going to live very long if he's not already dead. Do you have anything new?

MR. CASEY: No, I don't. I talked about this a little bit in the gaggle this morning, too. We don't have any information that would either deny or substantiate those reports. The Cuban Government isn't generally in the habit of sharing that information with us.

We, though -- I think the most important thing, the Secretary has spoken to this as well, is that there is a transition underway in Cuba, however slow or fast it goes. What we want to see happen is that the Cuban people be given every opportunity to manage their own destiny, to choose their own leaders in a free and fair election, to move away from the kind of totalitarian police state that they've had to live under for almost 50 years now.

QUESTION: I ask because about two weeks ago, the American Ambassador to Spain, Mr. Argyros, was here in Washington and made some statements that Castro is really very sick and that the Spanish doctor that went to Cuba didn't really tell the truth. And so this is someone from the State Department.

MR. CASEY: Well, again, we have not been given any independent information about the state of Fidel Castro's health and I don't have anything new to share for you in light of those reports coming out of Spain.

Let's go back here.

QUESTION: Back to North Korea for a moment. About the financial talks, we've heard that the North Koreans has agreed on having the financial talks on the 22nd, but not in Beijing -- not in New York, but they're insisting of having it in Beijing. That's what we are hearing.

MR. CASEY: Well, since the --

QUESTION: Is there any possibility that the financial talks will be held in -- on the 22nd?

MR. CASEY: Well, we've -- again, we've offered to have those talks in New York during the month of January. I am not aware of any communications from the North Koreans indicating either that the 22nd is a date they would like or that New York is a place they wouldn't like. I'm sure they will get themselves going soon, but I don't -- again, I don't have any specific information to offer you in terms of timing or location.


QUESTION: Staying on North Korea. We have a report that KEDO has demanded that North Korea pay $1.89 billion. I'm referring obviously to the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, because of the cancellation of the power projects.

Did the United States -- 1), is that true and 2), did the United States support that decision?

MR. CASEY: Don't know and we'll find out. Sorry, I honestly hadn't seen that story.

QUESTION: On Somalia, please. The Somalian Prime Minister said today that he's expecting AU troops in South Africa, Nigeria, Malawi, and Uganda within two weeks. Is this correct? Do you have any specific updates on that?

MR. CASEY: Well, I don't have much new to offer you on that subject. The Kenyan Foreign Minister, who is the head of IGAD, has been traveling around in the region talking about the deployment of troops as part of a stabilization force there. I know there were discussions today between the Transitional Federal Government and AU representatives, but I hadn't gotten a readout on them, so what you're telling me might be reflective of that.

Certainly, the Ugandans had said previously that their contribution of approximately 1200 troops would be an element that could deploy, basically, by the end of this month. But the main thing is we do want to see that deployment happen as soon as possible. We've also said that we don't want to see the Ethiopian troops leave until we can arrange for a deployment of that group so as not to create a vacuum in the country. But everyone agrees that we want to move forward with this as soon as possible.


QUESTION: There are rumors that one of the Islamist leaders is ready to give himself up on the board at UNHCR?

MR. CASEY: Haven't heard anything about that. Certainly, you know, we would -- is this supposed to be someone who is a wanted terrorist or is this simply just one of the leaders who's --

QUESTION: Sheikh Hassan Aweys, one of its leaders.

MR. CASEY: The -- I haven't heard that, then. I'd basically refer you to authorities in the region on that one.


QUESTION: On a separate issue, John Bolton, in an editorial or an article this weekend in The Washington Post described the Quartet as an ungainly occasional gathering of the U.S., Russia, EU and the UN -- I just wondered, does the U.S. see this -- the Quartet as a -- sort of an ungainly gathering? It just seemed a rather interesting description of the Quartet from a former senior U.S. diplomat.

MR. CASEY: Well, former, I think, is the key word and certainly, one of the nice things for people that are no longer part of the Administration is they're free to express their views. What -- we've spoken about the Quartet before. Certainly, as the Secretary has said, I think we'll have a meeting of the Quartet in the not-too-distant future. We believe it continues to be a vehicle for expressing broad consensus among the international community on issues related to the Middle East and Middle East peace process. And certainly, we expect it to continue in its present form to be that kind of coordinating body.

QUESTION: And secondly, do you happen to have a date yet for when the three-way talks will happen between Secretary Rice, Olmert, and Abbas and where they will take place?

MR. CASEY: No, I don't. I think she has said she looks forward to having them take place in the not-too-distant future, but I don't have a date or a venue for them as of yet.

QUESTION: Is there any reason to think that it might be during her very brief European trip next week or is that unlikely?

MR. CASEY: I think that's unlikely.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Joel.

QUESTION: In her travels, the Secretary, of course, has been in -- meeting governments of states. With respect to both the war in Afghanistan and with the PA-Israeli crisis, are there any schedules envisioned for a summit concerning this and also, the need for a special envoy?

MR. CASEY: Well, Joel, I think the Secretary's spoken to this in most of her recent stops. Again, we believe that there have been some productive and useful conversations between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas. Their discussions with her indicate that that is the channel that, at this point, they wish to proceed to have these discussions in. She has offered, as she said, to go and meet with them informally in these three-way discussions as a way of seeing how we can help advance their efforts looking towards a political horizon.

But I don't think, based on that and based on her discussions with the party, anyone is talking in the immediate future about either some kind of special envoy, since the Secretary herself will be participating in some of these things, or in any kind of broader international conference.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Turkey, Mr. Casey, according to a bunch of reports, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan criticizing the U.S., stated inter alia, "What disturb us most are the terror network activities is the U.S. appointed a special envoy but there is no concrete step. We could cooperate with the U.S. and Iraq in combating the terror network, but this has not take place. They say they would stifle the terrorist organization financial resources. They say their troubles in other areas and they cannot focus on northern Iraq. Are these delays tactics? We expect serious steps from the U.S. Government."

How do you respond?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I would simply point to you the statement made in the President's address to the nation in outlining his Iraq policy about the importance he personally places on seeing that Turkey and Iraq can work better together in cooperation with us to deal with any security issues presented along their common border. And I think that's a pretty firm commitment by the President and has been backed up in many ways by our previous actions through the naming of the special envoy and through our efforts trilaterally to deal with some of these issues.

QUESTION: And one more question on Turkey. And how do you respond to Ankara's recent concern regarding the referendum set for the late this year in Kirkuk of Iraq?

MR. CASEY: Again, I think those are issues we discussed before. There are mechanisms in the Iraqi constitution for determining the status of Kirkuk and we certainly expect the Iraqi Government to continue with those plans.

Okay. Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)

DPB # 8

Released on January 16, 2007

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