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Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 17, 2007

INDEX:

NORTH KOREA

A/S Hill’s Meetings with DPRK Counterpart in Berlin / Useful, Productive Meetings
Hill Travel Schedule / Date for Next Round of Six Party Talks
Other Nations’ Dialogue with North Korea
Possible Meeting on Illicit Activities / Banco Delta Asia / Treasury Department
Financial Issues Outside the Six Party Talks / North Korean Behavior Change
Comments by John Bolton / U.S. Commitment to Six Party Process

GREECE

Attack on U.S. Embassy / FBI Assistance to Investigation

KOSOVO

Ahtisaari Efforts on the Future Status of Kosovo

IRAQ

Samaraie Case
Many Iraqis Taking Courageous Stands to Help Build a Free and Democratic Iraq
Refugee Status for Iraqis / Sauerbrey Testimony
Attack on Convoy / American Citizen Involved
Disposition of American, Iraqi Troops in Iraq
President’s Plan for Iraq / Constructive Working Relationship with Congress

SOMALIA

No Confidence Measure Against Parliament Speaker

ISRAELI/PALESTINIANS

Proposed International Plan to Strengthen Palestinian Security Services

ITALY

Plans for Expansion of U.S. Military Base in Vicenza

KUWAIT

Secretary’s Meetings in Kuwait

IRAN

U.S. Policy on Direct Negotiations with Iran

MEXICO

Shooting Incident Involving U.S. Border Patrol / Diplomatic Note

LIBYA

U.S. Believes Bulgarian Nurses and Palestinian Doctor Should be Sent Home


TRANSCRIPT:

Video

12:48 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Pleasure to be here with you. Nice to see you here, Barry.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: And don't have any opening statements for you, so go right to your questions.

QUESTION: I have no questions.

MR. CASEY: Okay. I'll move over there.

QUESTION: Let's go to North Korea.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have any further readout on such conversations as may have taken place today with -- between Assistant Secretary Hill and Ambassador Kim Gye Gwan?

MR. CASEY: Well, just to again recap, Chris is in Berlin. He did have meetings yesterday with Kim Gye Gwan, his North Korean counterpart, in the six-party talks. He did have an additional meeting with him today. That took place -- yesterday's took place at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. These took place at the North Korean Embassy in Berlin, sort of a traditional exchange of venues.

As Chris himself said in trying to characterize this, certainly don't want to go into details or specifics of the conversations, but again these were a continuation of yesterday's discussions and were designed to make sure that when we reconvene the six-party talks that there's real progress that can be made in them. And he again will be going on tomorrow to continue his consultations in other countries with the South Koreans, Japanese and Chinese. And our expectation at this time is that this would -- this meeting he had today would be the last session that he would have on this trip with the North Koreans.

QUESTION: Is he working up, do you think, to the formal reconvening? (Inaudible) is just coincidental that he winds up in China (inaudible) wind up in China? And by then he could hopefully put his feet up and send his suit out to be cleaned and you can get him to a six-party (inaudible).

MR. CASEY: I do think Chris truly regrets ever having told anybody he'd packed extra shirts because every time he goes on one of these trips he gets asked how many he's got with him.

QUESTION: He looks neat.

MR. CASEY: He does. He always looks very nice. Barry, it's the old Billy Crystal line, as you know, it's better to look good than feel good. Let me just give you the schedule that we've still got for him. He will be in Seoul on the 19th arrive -- travel tomorrow and then be in Seoul on the 19th, Beijing on the 20th, Tokyo on the 21st. And again, those are the continuous consultations. In terms of dates for the next round, we again don't have any formal ones at this point. Certainly we'd like to see them reconvene as soon as possible. Chris in discussing this issue with his audience at the American Academy of Berlin today said again that he hoped we could have them reconvene sometime towards the end of this month, but we'll have to see what happens. But again, I would expect as he said that the Chinese would make an announcement on the specific date when the round might reconvene.

QUESTION: Do you have any informal dates? Are you talking about dates?

MR. CASEY: No. I don't have -- and again, the Chinese would probably be in the best position in terms of coordinating the schedules of all six parties for when it might happen. Sometimes there's policy issues involved in this case, I think. You know, one of the other questions that we would all have as we always do on these is logistics of when people are available. As he noted again today, the Chinese have a fairly busy diplomatic calendar for the rest of the month. So whether this is something that can happen in that timeframe or not, we'll have to see.

QUESTION: But it sound like if you're talking in this way, you know, he has talked about, you know, how tight their diplomatic calendar is, it sounds like you're actually maybe getting closer to doing this.

MR. CASEY: Well, I think again, we would like to see that happen. We're hopeful that it can. But to cite the great baseball philosopher Yogi Berra, since I'm citing people today, "It ain't over till it's over." So until we actually have a date announced and they reconvene, I'd hesitate to try and steer you towards one direction or another. Chris described the conversations he's had over the last couple of days as being useful and being productive. It's a good opportunity to exchange views and exchange information. So hopefully we can continue to build on that and we'll be able to reconvene the talks sooner rather than later.

QUESTION: And you said that -- last one for me on this. You said that you expected these to be the last consultations with the North Koreans on this trip. Does that mean that today's meeting is the last one you think he'll have with them, or is it possible that he might see them again later tonight or tomorrow?

MR. CASEY: My understanding was this was the -- there are no further talks scheduled with the North Koreans tomorrow, so I think this meeting today will be, again, it for this trip and then he'll go on and have his consultations with the other parties in the six-party talks.

QUESTION: How long was it? How long was -- how many -- how long was today's meeting, do you know?

MR. CASEY: I don' t know. He said the total yesterday for the meetings was approximately six hours in completion. I think today's ran another hour or two, but I don't have a specific timeframe for the meeting.

QUESTION: I may be wrong, but I thought the one yesterday was described as probably -- not the last, it was only one, but that's it.

MR. CASEY: Well, we actually said there were morning and afternoon --

QUESTION: Yeah, right.

MR. CASEY: -- sessions to it. But yeah, at that point we just didn't have -- I didn't have a readout as to whether he intended to have additional --

QUESTION: What I'm really searching for is could -- even though this might probably be the last U.S.-North Korean thing before the hoped-for reconvening, could his meetings kick off, trigger cross-meetings? Do you know what I mean, like the Chinese -- is it the kind of thing where others might follow in? Could it start a mix-and-match type of operation, or do you think it just stands on its own?

MR. CASEY: Well, and I think this is the important thing to remember about these discussions too, Barry, is that certainly while Chris has had these conversations with his North Korean counterpart, other members of the six-party process are having their own conversations with the North Koreans. Certainly, the Chinese, as you know, have a regular dialogue with the North Koreans. The South Koreans do as well. And that's important and it's part of the value of the six-party process because what it does is allow all of us collectively to work on the North Koreans and to hopefully get them to a point where they not only come back to talks but, again, come back to talks prepared to make real progress on implementing the September 19th agreement.

QUESTION: Chris was able to meet with Secretary Rice or brief Secretary Rice on his --

MR. CASEY: I'm not sure. There were a lot of planes going in a lot of directions. I'm sure they will have an opportunity -- he will have an opportunity to brief her at some point, but I'm just not sure if that's occurred yet or not.

Charlie.

QUESTION: And the logical follow-on that we keep asking about on the talks scheduled for New York and Banco Delta Asia?

MR. CASEY: Still no date set for those as of yet. I did check again with our Treasury Department counterparts. There, again, I think it's open. We'd certainly like to see them take place. I think we're hopeful that, again, they can take place in January as well.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the linkage that the North Koreans want, which would be fostered, as the last time around, being in the same city as the six-party talks. It's evident. You have a Treasury team but still, you know, they like making the connection and you like making it a little bit parallel.

MR. CASEY: Well, I mean, we've -- when we've had discussions on this issue, we did have a briefing for the North Koreans in New York previously on this subject. That was the first time that we had had a discussion with them about this. In this context, we had said that we were willing to have additional discussions, but only outside the formal context of the six-party talks and only if the North Koreans were, in fact, coming back to those talks in the first place, so we had that session in Beijing. I don't think, frankly, the location necessarily matters. We proposed New York -- January in New York; January because we thought the kinds of questions and issues that were raised would be able to be addressed in some way at that point and New York simply because it's a convenient location for both sides. But, you know, if people want to do it elsewhere, I'm sure there'd be -- you know, reasonable opportunity to do that.

I think as Chris has noted to there, you know, have been times when he's tried to meet with his North Korean counterparts or thought about doing so in Tokyo or other places, so I don't think that there's any particular magic to the location on it.

Okay, let's go back here. I think -- I'm assuming we're still on North Korea?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. CASEY: Yeah, okay.

QUESTION: Last December, United States said North Korea need to return to the six-party talks without preconditions. I think there is -- that there is precondition that North Korea wants completely to resolve the BDA issues.

MR. CASEY: Well --

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. CASEY: Well, the North Koreans certainly have said that they want to resolve that issue, but again, I think resolving that issue is separate from the six-party talks, first of all. Of course, as you know, the process or the discussions on this are being led by the Treasury Department. They are the part of the U.S. Government that has, really, the lead role in implementing the Patriot Legislation provisions that are part of this.

And certainly, again, as we've talked about this, it's something that will require action on the part of the North Koreans to address some of the root causes that led to the imposition of those sanctions, but these are the things that are being discussed through those financial talks and -- you know, I'm sure we'll have another opportunity to do so hopefully very soon.

QUESTION: When you said separate with the six-party talks, but we think, in a sense, like in another separate -- it was like, linking with the BDA talks, because North Korea always -- obligation about, you know, BDA talks first.

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think it's a pretty straightforward proposition. These are issues or financial issues that are outside the six-party talks. They're not related to issues of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which is what the six-party talks are designed to do. Again, the North Koreans have asked for discussions on these and we've agreed to hold those discussions, but certainly that, you know, with an idea towards hopefully being able to have the behaviors changed and have the situation change so that, you know, those sanctions are no longer necessary. But again, that'll require people addressing the fundamental causes that are there.

Same subject or different subject?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: I have one more on --

MR. CASEY: Oh, back on.

QUESTION: Did you -- we will certainly check with Treasury, in fact, we did already. But did you check on whether it is your understanding that U.S. officials are, in fact, looking at the BDA accounts and the possibility of segregating them into legitimate and non-legitimate funds?

MR. CASEY: Well, my understanding is that any active investigations that are being done by the Treasury Department are things that they don't generally comment on. I would steer people away, though, based on my very limited understanding of how these things work from ever being able to say that you can separate out where individual dollars and individual accounts came from. You know, look, Treasury will certainly take a look at this issue as they continue to look at other ones. But the fact of the matter remains that what we're looking at in the discussions with the North Koreans on this subject is a way of making sure that the fundamental causes and problems that resulted in these sanctions in the first place are addressed.

QUESTION: One more?

MR. CASEY: Same thing? Okay.

QUESTION: John Bolton said that the six-party process is useless and is going nowhere and will lead to nothing. Is this -- since he just left the government and was on the periphery involved with North Korean policy, is this a feeling that you often have to fight within this government that the six-party talks are useless?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think the most important thing I can tell you is since the President of the United States has committed the United States Government to a policy of dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue through the six-party talks, I think that's about all the endorsement that they need as far as we're concerned.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: On Greece. Mr. Casey, I was in touch yesterday with a FBI special agent, Richard Kolko.

MR. CASEY: A fine and distinguished gentleman, yes.

QUESTION: You know him? (Laughter.)

MR. CASEY: Yes, actually I do.

QUESTION: Who in (inaudible) regarding the attack against the U.S. Embassy in Athens, January 12th, stated on the record, "The FBI is providing laboratory and investigate support to assist the U.S. Department of State in its investigation into the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Athens." (Inaudible) questions pertaining this issue from now on should be addressed to DOS and not to FBI. Could you please clarify who's finally in charge, since I have a bunch of questions about the investigation?

QUESTION: Do you still like the guy?

MR. CASEY: Well, let me -- (laughter) -- I still like the guy. And as your colleague said a couple of days ago, I certainly know that there were no anti-Lambros factions involved in that attack. That much I can assure you. (Laughter.)

Mr. Lambros, look, first of all, the most important thing is the people who are in charge of this investigation are the Greek Government and the Greek security forces. As the distinguished gentleman from the FBI confirmed for you, the FBI has sent out some individuals to assist in that effort. They are there to provide whatever support is needed to the Embassy itself for its own internal review of this matter, as well as whatever support that might be wanted or desired on the part of Greek officials. But in terms of the progress in the investigation and the net results of it, that is something that I'd refer you back to Greek authorities for because again, they're in charge of the investigation. We certainly will do everything we can to cooperate with them because we do want to see whoever is responsible for (inaudible).

QUESTION: A follow-up. When I asked Agent Kolko why you are not providing to the Greek authorities the videotapes taken by electronic eyes based at the Embassy compound and facing the main avenue in front of the building, he said, "I don't know. You should ask the Department of State." Therefore I am asking you if you have an answer to this effect.

MR. CASEY: Well, let's see. I'm not sure if anyone has asked for them. I'm not sure what's been asked for. But really, those are matters for Greek law enforcement and the Embassy to address in terms of those details.

By the way, Mr. Lambros, I also just wanted to make one point. You had asked me yesterday about a piece of legislation proposed by Congressman Lantos concerning Kosovo. My understanding -- first of all --

QUESTION: It was my mistake.

MR. CASEY: Ah, okay.

QUESTION: It was my mistake. He did exactly the opposite, but since you brought this issue --

MR. CASEY: Okay, since I brought it up, would you care to revise (inaudible) remarks?

QUESTION: I would like to say that (inaudible) President to be, Senator Joseph Biden, with an article in the Financial Times, for unknown reasons supports openly the full independence of Kosovo and I am wondering if you are taking into consideration his remarks on this issue.

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I think you've seen in the U.S. Congress a great deal of interest on the Kosovo issue over the years, including from Congressman Lantos who, as you said, who's actual proposed legislation calls for an endorsement of the independence of Kosovo. Again, as I told you yesterday, we have a consistent position on this. We've been supporting the efforts of the UN under Marti Ahtisaari to be able to come forward with a plan for ultimately determining the final status of Kosovo and we're going to be continuing to support him in those efforts and work with him.

QUESTION: One more question for the Embassy.

MR. CASEY: One last one on the Embassy.

QUESTION: I am wondering, Mr. Casey, did you notify about the attack the Department of Justice under Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez?

MR. CASEY: I assume the full U.S. Government has been notified about all aspects of this, and I think the --

QUESTION: So otherwise, may we ask some questions to the Department of Justice for this incident?

MR. CASEY: If there are legal questions you have about this, I would certainly encourage you to contact the Department of Justice about them.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Okay, Zane.

QUESTION: Yeah, the former Iraqi electricity minister, the Iraqi American man, Ayham al-Samaraie, who broke out from the Iraqi jail and he's now in Chicago, I'm wondering if you know any more on -- whether you're having conversations with the Iraqi Government about it and whether they're requesting an extradition.

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not sure what circumstances might be involved here. Certainly, we've had conversations in the past with the Iraqi Government about this and I'm sure we'll have additional ones. But I'm not aware of any formal requests that have been made by the Iraqi Government in that regard. Obviously, if there is issues related to extraditions, that's also something that the Department of Justice would be the best -- in the best place to address or handle.

QUESTION: A broader question on the issue of refugees in general. Is there any kind of specific outreach program that's been created by the State Department in Iraq to approach Iraqis that have risked their lives to work with the U.S. in Iraq in fighting the war on terror?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I think one of the things that is important for all of us to remember is that it's more than just American soldiers and American diplomats and contractors and others who are taking risks to support the development of a free Iraq. Certainly are many Iraqis, many in the government and elsewhere, who are taking some very brave and courageous stands to try and help build a free and democratic country there, and we very much appreciate and respect the efforts and the work done with us both by translators and interpreters, our foreign national employees at the Embassy there as well as others who have been working with us and cooperating with us in these efforts.

As you know, in terms of refugee issues or issues related to visas, we had a fairly lengthy discussion on this yesterday and I know Ellen Sauerbrey went and testified on that same issue yesterday.

Look, I think the bottom line is is that the U.S. Government wants to do everything we can to support those individuals who have worked with us and have been able to support us over time. We certainly take very seriously any threats to our employees and do what we can to support them over time.

In terms of the specific issue of refugee status for individuals, again, as Ms. Sauerbrey talked about yesterday, we're looking at a variety of ways that we can provide additional support, including most directly by supporting the appeals that have been made through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Certainly, there are other possibilities through legislation, but that's really something that would require additional conversation with Congress about since obviously that would require their action.

Yeah.

QUESTION: About a specific instance in Iraq today.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: I've heard that a convoy carrying civilian staffers from NDI was attacked, four people killed including one American. Do you have any more information?

MR. CASEY: I really don't. They're still reviewing that incident. We certainly know that it occurred. My understanding is there was an American citizen involved in that. But I don't have any further information or details about the individual or what they were doing there.

Let's go -- sorry, David. I know you've had your hand up, but (inaudible).

QUESTION: That's cool. I can wait.

QUESTION: Somalia. The interim parliament has ousted its speaker, which has raised some concerns about efforts to kind of bring them together as representative (inaudible) and that it seems to kind of go in the opposite direction of what you've been seeking, which is to be inclusive instead of exclusive. I just wondered if you had any thoughts on it.

MR. CASEY: Well, I think we're while certainly respectful of the rights of the parliament to go forward with this no-confidence motion, I think we're disappointed to see this kind of action at this time. We think it's important, as we've said, that the Transitional Federal Institutions and Government be acting to reach out not only to those that are already participating in the government but to others more broadly. We want to see the Somali political process develop in the most inclusive way possible and certainly don't think that this action helps bring us in that direction.

Charlie.

QUESTION: Have the Israelis talked to you -- maybe perhaps complained would be a better word -- about the proposed $68 million in aid to the Palestinians, specifically the money that's going for bulletproof vests?

MR. CASEY: You mean -- are you talking about -- this is the 86 --

QUESTION: 86 million --

MR. CASEY: -- 86 million that's been proposed?

QUESTION: Proposed.

MR. CASEY: Far as I'm aware, there's been no complaints about it; certainly don't have a full readout of all the discussions that have gone on. But again, this isn't a U.S. plan. This is part of an international plan that we're coordinating with others to try and help do something that's fundamentally part of the roadmap, which is help strengthen the security services of the Palestinian Authority. That's something that's beneficial for the Palestinian people. It's ultimately beneficial for the other countries of the region if there is a capable force there under President Abbas that's able to provide security and assurances, both along the borders and elsewhere.

QUESTION: But you don't know of any Israeli protests --

MR. CASEY: Certainly not that I --

QUESTION: -- certain parts of the aid related to bulletproof vests?

MR. CASEY: No, certainly none that I've heard about.

QUESTION: Would you be able to check back on that?

MR. CASEY: I will, but if you're saying this happened in terms of the context of discussions with the party, it might be something you want to have your colleagues ask about there. But as far as -- but I am not aware of any protests about this; in fact, quite the opposite. I had understood that the Israelis have been supportive of these efforts, but -- yeah.

QUESTION: The Italian Government was just given a green light to the enlargement of a U.S. military base in Vicenza and that brought some debate in the country. How do you comment on that?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, we welcome the statements that were made by the Prime Minister of Italy in respect to this. This concerns the plans for the expansion of the U.S. base at Vicenza. I think part of what this shows is that there continues to be a very strong relationship between the United States and Italy, including on defense measures and also reiterates, I think, Italy's commitment not only to defense cooperation with the United States, but to the NATO alliance as a whole.

And again, I think we've had excellent cooperation with the Italians on a whole variety of these kinds of issues, certainly on things related to Lebanon, to Afghanistan, broader efforts in NATO, and very much appreciate this decision. I think you can talk to the Department of Defense in terms of the specifics of what it will do, but my understanding is that this is something that will make it much easier for us to continue to be able to provide the kind of support for NATO and for other operations that all of us want to see happen.

Let's go -- Kirit.

QUESTION: Kuwait's Foreign Minister is quoted as saying that he has told Secretary Rice that he would like to see the U.S. engage Iran and Syria on Iraq. And that's just adding to the course of U.S. allies in the region that have been saying that. I'm just wondering, first of all, do you have any confirmation that he actually did tell Secretary Rice this? And second of all, do you have any sort of response to that?

MR. CASEY: Well, no, I can't offer you any confirmation on that and that's really something you'd have to get from the party. I don't have any details of her specific conversations with any of the officials there. Look, I think our position on this is quite clear. You know, you can speak to any country and, in fact, we've offered up an opportunity for Iran to talk to us. As the Secretary has said, if they would take the simple step of complying with their international obligations and suspend uranium enrichment, we will sit down with them with the P-5+1 and not only engage them on their nuclear program, but any other issues that they'd like to discuss.

I will say it's certainly hard to see, based on Iranian actions and behaviors in Iraq and elsewhere, that there's any real change in their views and any real change in their basic positions, which includes not only defiance of the international community on its nuclear program, but also continued support for terrorism and continued support for sectarian violence in Iraq.

QUESTION: Is there any concern that, you know, all of these U.S. allies are coming out saying this but the U.S. remains --

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not sure -- I haven't seen the story you're referring to with respect to Kuwait. I think if you look at the communiqué that was put out after the GCC+2 meeting of all the Gulf Arab states, including Kuwait, you see in there a very clear sense of the support that countries in the region have for our efforts to address things like the situation in Iraq, support for the noninterference of Iran and other states in the internal affairs of other countries, whether that's Lebanon, Iraq, or elsewhere, and very much support for our efforts to try and help build on the dialogue started between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas.

So I'm not aware that there is any chorus out there in the region calling for us to engage the Iranians. In fact, I think if you look at some of the Secretary's remarks on this trip, she's made it clear that that's not the message she's hearing.

QUESTION: A follow-up on Iraq?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Mr. Casey, according to Washington Post, actually yesterday, the U.S. Government is going to use Kurdish forces in Baghdad. I'm wondering if you notified about this development to the Turkish Government, which is very, very concerned and even all the pertaining stories in the Turkish press?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, the U.S. is going to use U.S. forces in Baghdad. The Iraqi military is going to use Iraqi forces. And it's really a decision by the Iraqi Government in terms of where they draw those forces from and whether they're principally based in the north, south, east or west of the country. I think the one thing that's clear is that the Iraqi Government has made a commitment to working with us to do what we all understand is necessary, which is bring down the level of violence in Baghdad, provide some basic security for the people even as they move forward on their political process and deal with some of the issues like national reconciliation that are so critical to addressing the root causes.

QUESTION: But according to President -- was said specifically by the President that Kurdish forces is going to participate as far as (inaudible).

MR. CASEY: Well, again, whether the Iraqi Government chooses to draw its forces from any particular region, and I would note that these are all forces that are part of the Iraqi army and the Iraqi security forces, that's a decision for them to make and these are operational matters. I don't think they have any broader implications.

QUESTION: But did you notify the Turkish Government about this?

MR. CASEY: We would not notify the Turkish Government about movements of non-Turkish forces. That would be something that the Iraqi Government would be talking to them about.

Zane.

QUESTION: The Mexican Government has sent a letter to the State Department essentially protesting a killing of a Mexican immigrant that was shot at the border on Friday. The immigrant's mother is seeking the death penalty for the border agent that shot her son. I'm wondering if you have any response to this letter?

MR. CASEY: My understanding is we have received a diplomatic note from the Government of Mexico on this incident. It's something that I understand the FBI is conducting an investigation into and obviously, we'd leave it to them and to the border patrol to determine what, if any, response is appropriate based on that investigation.

QUESTION: So there's been no direct communiqué back to the Mexican Government?

MR. CASEY: Not in terms of a formal response to that diplomatic note. Again, as far as I know, the Mexican Government is aware of the fact that the FBI has said, both publicly and privately, that it's investigating the incident and obviously, that's a starting point before you would move to any other kinds of decisions as to what action might or might not be appropriate.

Let's go -- actually, let's give Joel a shot here.

QUESTION: Tom, apparently today, with a new Democratic 110th Congress, a lot has changed. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was brought in front of the U.S. House Foreign Relations Committee. Also, Senator Dodd is looking for a resolution to block funds for a surge of troops, perhaps not the infrastructure as we heard this morning here in a small conference room. But is this to be expected? Are you confronted by this Democratic Congress or is this just bipartisan politics here in Washington?

MR. CASEY: Well, look, I think if you want comment on the political relationships here in Washington, you need to go talk to the folks over at the White House. I think Secretary Rice has made clear and you saw in her testimony last week, there are a lot of people that have questions and hard questions that they want to ask about the President's plan. We're certainly committed to making sure that all of us at the State Department, just as she is, are prepared to answer those questions to the extent that we can.

We've always had a very constructive working relationship with the members of our respective committees and I expect that will continue.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Actually --

MR. CASEY: Okay, Mr. Lambros, last one.

QUESTION: Just one on the Bulgarian nurses. It's very important, Mr. Casey. The day after tomorrow, January 19, is expiring the deadline of 30 days for an appeal by five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who accused -- that infected 426 children with HIV virus in a Libyan hospital. I'm wondering if you have anything to say due to the upcoming time limitation.

MR. CASEY: Well, again, there are appeals processes that are underway. My understanding is there are several different stages of this that are out there. But our basic position on this, Mr. Lambros, hasn't changed. We still believe that a way should be found to have these Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor sent back home and reunited with their family. We certainly respect the personal tragedy that was caused as a result of the infections of the children that were involved in this incident. But again, I think you know our position on this quite well.

QUESTION: I understand. But what is the U.S. position vis-à-vis to the pills, since for the first time in the 25 years of this deadly disease those nurses, Mr. Casey, used synthetic substance -- as they confessed, however, under torture as they are claiming now. And HIV looks now as a nominal terminology?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I know you've raised this issue before. Certainly not a position and have no great pretensions of medical knowledge, however, my albeit extremely limited review of the literature cannot come up with a single individual anywhere in the world that asserts that the AIDS virus can be transmitted using pills. So I think this is a shibboleth and it's an idea that has no basis or no bearing on the case as far as I'm concerned.

QUESTION: Do you know which government has sent them on a humanitarian mission in 1998?

MR. CASEY: I don't know. I think you'd have to ask the Bulgarians that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:21 p.m.)

DPB # 9


Released on January 17, 2007

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