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Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 19, 2007

INDEX:

SUDAN

Implementation of Addis Ababa Agreement / Phase Deployment of UN Force
U.S. Goals and Assessment of Progress
Possibility of Sudan Assuming AU Presidency / U.S. Position

CHINA

ASAT Test / U.S. Concerns / Communication with Chinese Government
Comparison with Past U.S. Test

IRAN

Iran’s Continued Defiance on Nuclear Issue
Iran’s Isolation not in Best Interest of Iranian People
U.S. Engagement with Iran

JORDAN

Reports of Jordan Expressing Interest in Nuclear Power

MISCELLANEOUS

U.S. Policy on Other Nations Acquiring Nuclear Technology / NPT

VENEZUELA

U.S. Concerns Regarding Policies Chavez Pursuing / Role in Region

TURKEY

Under Secretary Burns’ Trip
Killing of Turkish-Armenian Journalist

IRAQ

Killing of American Citizen Employed with NDI

SOMALIA

Request for Assistance from U.S.
Peacekeeping Force Efforts


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:50 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, and TGIF. Don't have any opening statements or announcements for you, so we'll go right to your questions.

QUESTION: Humanitarian groups are saying that President Bashir seems to be dragging his feet in complying with the promises that he made to Kofi Annan and they detect a lessening of U.S. pressure on him and this, he feels, has given him some breathing space with respect to compliance. What do you have to say about that?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not sure who's making those assertions, but I think our policy is clear. We want to see full and complete implementation of the Addis Ababa agreement by the Sudanese Government. We are pleased that they have to this point accepted phase one and phase two, deployments of UN elements. Those phase one deployments are ongoing by the UN. I know the UN has some technical issues that they're still trying to work through, but they are not related, as I understand it, to activities of the Sudanese Government. Certainly, we want to see that phase and phase two move forward as quickly as possible.

But yes, we still need to see a commitment from the Government of Sudan to all aspects, including the third and final phase of the hybrid force, in order to move forward. Andrew Natsios, as you know, is currently in the region. He was in Abeche today and met with a number of officials there, including UN representatives, to talk about progress and talk about how things are moving in that area.

Certainly though, we need to see the Sudanese Government make a commitment not just to the first two pieces but to this last critical one in the Addis Ababa plan. And we still are doing what we can to encourage them to do so. We are asking our friends and allies as well in the international community to continue to encourage this process to move forward.

I know that Secretary General Ban is scheduled to meet with President Bashir along the margins of the African Union summit at the end of the month. I believe it's on the 29th. And that will be, again, another very important opportunity for the Sudanese Government to make clear their position on this issue.

Obviously, if they ultimately do not accept all aspects of the Addis agreement, then the so-called Plan B elements that Andrew Natsios has discussed with you on numerous occasions are there for us to turn to. But our focus is on making Plan A work and on getting first and foremost full implementation of phase one and phase two, and then move forward with phase three, presumably with the support and cooperation of the Sudanese Government.

Yeah, Sue.

QUESTION: How much longer are you prepared to wait for Plan A to -- for them to agree to Plan A? And secondly, I believe that Sudan is in line to take over the AU presidency or chair. Do you -- is this something the U.S. would support if Sudan still continues to balk at a hybrid force?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all in terms of the implementation of the Addis agreement, obviously a lot of that depends simply on facts on the ground. As I said, the UN is still moving forward with phase one. They then need to move as quickly as possible on to phase two. My understanding is there's been a technical team that has already been visiting in Khartoum to lay out some of the groundwork for that. But we can't move to phase three until we've got the first two phases done, and I'm not prepared to tell you that tomorrow or the next day or the day after is the day when we will make a determination that cooperation has not been forthcoming and we therefore need to look at other alternatives. But I think it would be a logical proposition that if phase two is complete and we're ready for phase three and there hasn't been an agreement to move forward with that, that that would be a logical point at which you would move to other options.

QUESTION: And the AU presidency issue?

MR. CASEY: Oh, the AU presidency issue. Well, whether it's the EU or the AU or other organizations of sovereign states of which the U.S. is not a part, frankly we will leave it up to the members of that organization to determine who would be the chairman or who would be an appropriate representative for them. Certainly, I think from our perspective there are a number of other candidate countries, as I understand it, out there that are putting themselves forward and we will certainly look to see the results of any elections or -- I forget how the formal mechanism works for them choosing the leadership of the AU, but I'm simply not going to try and prejudge what decisions they might or might not make. Certainly, our issues and concerns about Sudanese Government action, particularly with respect to Darfur, are well known and we've just talked about some of it here.

QUESTION: Wouldn't it be like the fox watching the henhouse if you had Sudan in charge of the AU which may be going into Darfur? Would that be a problem?

MR. CASEY: Look, let's deal with what they actually decide rather than speculate on what might happen if -- again, this is an organization of sovereign states. They'll make up their mind and I think we're pretty confident that they'll weigh all the relevant factors in making that decision.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Tom, Special Envoy Natsios said in December that if they did not agree to all three phases in writing in response to the Secretary General's letter, that -- or in an response to the Secretary General, that you would go to the unspecified consequences of Plan B. You haven't yet done that and you have just advocated or suggested a different timeline where you would try to get to -- through this phase two and that would be the time when you would decide whether they're going to -- you know, whether you would go to Plan B if they don't accept phase three.

Why shouldn't the Sudanese conclude that they can just keep stringing you along? You say you've got to agree to one, two, three by the end of the year or we're moving on to Plan B. They agree to one and two kinda, sorta, shoulda, woulda, coulda, if you read their letter, which is not definitive, and you guys then don't impose consequences. Why shouldn't they conclude they can keep stringing you along?

MR. CASEY: Well, Arshad, first of all, you can go back and look at the text of what Andrew said in some of his meetings with you guys and other public statements he's made. My understanding is he's actually going to be having a press event in Chad tomorrow at the conclusion of his meetings. And certainly, I would leave it to him to characterize that for you.

I also want to make clear I am not proposing any specific timetable on this issue. What I am -- other than what you've heard from other people. What I am also saying, however, is there are basic facts on the ground that need to be addressed. Right now our goal is not to take actions against the Sudanese Government. Our goal is to see a hybrid force put in place that can effectively implement the Darfur Peace Agreement and provide for the groundwork for the implementation of that in full which offers a way out and a full political settlement of the issues there.

Is there the kind of progress that we would like to see in terms of implementation either of phase one or phase two? No, there certainly isn't. We have said on numerous occasions that we all wish that this process could be moved forward faster. But right now there is cooperation going on in the implementation of phase one. We want to see that cooperation continue and see cooperation with the implementation of phase two.

Again, no one is saying that the United States has taken off the table any possible responses if that cooperation should stop. And at any moment that it is determined that cooperation is not forthcoming and has ceased, then those are options that we'll look to at the table. But for right now, what we have asked the Sudanese Government to do is cooperate. Right now they are cooperating with this implementation process. And until and unless that process is halted because of Sudanese intransigence, I think it's unfair to say that they are somehow getting away with or moving away from the kinds of commitments we want to see happen.

QUESTION: Well, they haven't met the kinds of commitments you have said you want to see happen, which is to say agreeing -- even agreeing to phase three, let alone implementing it.

MR. CASEY: I guess I'm looking at this from a practical point of view: Is there anything more on the ground that the Sudanese Government needs to do to implement phase one. You can check with the UN, but I don't think so. We want to see this process move forward as quickly and as expeditiously as possible. As long as progress is being made, as long as the force is being implemented and as long as things are moving forward, that's a good sign. That's what we want to see happen. Those are our most important and basic objectives.

Again, that means, though, that the commitment that's so far made is only part of the way there. And I think Andrew said to you, and I think we've said to you from this podium before, that we need to see cooperation be continuous and see that force get implemented. If at any time along that road cooperation ceases, then we always have available those other options that Andrew talked about for you. But for the moment, cooperation is continuing and I certainly think there is extensive statements from this Administration as well as from others in the international community that if that cooperation were to halt, if we were not able to have phase two follow on fairly naturally with phase three, that there would then be consequences; again, along the lines that Andrew talked about.

QUESTION: And one other one which follows up on a good question that George asked you a couple of weeks ago. I mean, you said that as far as you knew there was nothing that the Sudanese Government had to do on phase one, that they had done what they needed to do there. And that raises the logical question: Well, then how much of any delays is the responsibility of the UN or others?

MR. CASEY: Well, as I said, the UN's had some technical issues it's had to work through on this. I'm not honestly sure of the status as of today. I hadn't checked today on the progress of that. I know more officials from phase one have come into Darfur and are in place. Again, I know a phase two preparatory team, or technical assessment team, had been visiting Khartoum so things are moving forward. But again, I think -- and we are working with the UN to do what we can to help them and help the AU to be able to make sure that this moves forward as quickly as possible.

David.

QUESTION: Minus what needs to be completed for phase two? I mean, what is the step of phase two which will give us the next --

MR. CASEY: I honestly don't have -- I'd have to go back to the Addis agreement and look at what was delineated in phase one and in phase two. Phase one is the so-called light support package. Phase two is the so-called heavy support package. They are different numbers of officials and they involve doing things like establishing and setting up headquarters elements, establishing formal liaisons with the AU, developing how cooperation and support will be provided from the UN to them. But again, I think if you go back and look at the Addis agreement, it's pretty clearly delineated there and, of course, the UN can talk to you about what their officials specifically are doing on the ground right now. But I'd leave it to them because, frankly, I just don't have the technical expertise to go through it.

George.

QUESTION: You were perfectly willing to take a stand against Venezuela with respect to the UN General Assembly seat this past fall. And I just don't understand why you can't take a stand against a regime accused of genocide with respect to the AU chairmanship.

MR. CASEY: Well, George, I would simply posit to you that, as a general principle, we are happy to express our views on membership and positions in organizations of which we are members. But again, the AU is an organization of sovereign states just like the European Union, just like others. It's for them to make these decisions. I think our views on the situation in Sudan and on what the issues are that we have with the Government of Sudan are abundantly clear. But I don't think it's appropriate for us to be dictating to sovereign states in an organization of which we are not members how we think they should vote. I think they can pretty much understand what the issues are and I think they understand our views on this subject quite well.

QUESTION: If I might follow up.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: I mean, you just sent an ambassador for the very first time to the AU, certainly a much greater U.S. engagement with that body. Do you not think that an issue that the AU specifically is taking up and sending peacekeepers to that country should be leading the organization?

MR. CASEY: Elise, again, I think we've made our views on the subject of Sudan and Sudan's Government quite clear to all AU members. I have no doubt that they understand those views. But as a matter of general policy, the United States Government is not going to tell sovereign states how to organize themselves in their own organization. We wouldn't for example try and assert a view on who should be the President of the European Union regardless of our views on that individual. And no actually, president of the Commission is not. But in any event I think that the question of who leads the AU, who leads the EU or who leads any of these organizations, is a matter for those states to decide. But again, I don't think any of those states are unclear about what our views are in this situation in the Sudan.

Kirit.

QUESTION: A new topic?

MR. CASEY: Same thing. Okay.

QUESTION: Last year, though, when they were vying for the same position, you were a little bit more forthright in your criticism. I remember the Secretary, I think, was fairly forthright in saying that others were possibly more qualified for the job.

MR. CASEY: Again, I think there are other candidates out there. I expect the individual countries in the AU to look really hard at those candidates. And I expect they'll make a decision that's appropriate for the African Union. I think all members of the African Union understand the responsibilities of that organization to Sudan, to Somalia, since they've now today announced that they intend to have a six-month peacekeeping mission there. And I expect that all member-states of the AU will weigh carefully the records and positions of those countries who are positing themselves for leadership of that organization and make an appropriate decision based on those facts. Certainly again we have discussed with our AU members our views of the situation in Sudan and I think they're fully aware of what concerns we have.

Yeah, Kirit. Go back to you.

QUESTION: If I can just ask you about this China satellite story again.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Can you just outline for us the U.S. concerns with this test?

MR. CASEY: Well, let me try and put it in general terms. U.S. policy is that all countries should have a right to peaceful access to space. And very clearly in the policies that the President's outlined, we have put forward the idea that there must be access for all nations for peaceful use of space simply because so much of the world we live in today is dependant on space-based technology, communications in particular.

We certainly are concerned by any effort, by any nation that would be geared towards developing weapons or other military activities in space. That's absolutely contrary to what our, again, policies articulated by the White House states. So we have raised our concerns with the Chinese Government. We've done so both here in Washington and in Beijing. I think you've seen comments from the Japanese Government as well as from Australian Prime Minister Downer and I think several other governments as well raising these same issues.

We don't want to see a situation where there is any militarization of space. We certainly don't want to see a situation in which even tests of this kind that produce extensive amounts of space debris have the potential for disturbing or accidentally disrupting communications satellites or other kinds of space vehicles that are out there. So certainly this is an issue that I think is of general concern not only to us but to the broader international community and we'll be looking to get some more information from the Chinese about it.

QUESTION: Would you say that this act was a step towards the militarization of space?

MR. CASEY: I think at this point all we can is we know this test took place and we've asked the Chinese to give us some greater details about what they did, why they did it and explain it, you know, in greater detail to us simply because of the concerns that we have about this issue. And again, I think other countries have expressed similar ones. But you know, what this represents in terms of China's other efforts, that's something I think they have to address. We've been on record previously I think as saying that there are concerns about the level of transparency in China's military and that's something that I think fits in with this pattern. We would like to see and understand and know more about what they're really trying to accomplish here.

QUESTION: Could you give us any more clarity on the record about when certain meetings and protests took place?

MR. CASEY: In terms of when?

QUESTION: One in Beijing and one here in Washington.

MR. CASEY: I believe that there were contacts here with the Embassy -- from the State Department to the Embassy here on Tuesday, I believe. I would think it was probably Wednesday in Beijing when those contacts took place.

QUESTION: Were those phone calls or meetings?

MR. CASEY: In the case here, I know there was at least one meeting that took place. In the case of Beijing, I'm honestly not sure what the vehicle for conveying this was.

QUESTION: In Beijing it was the U.S. Ambassador. That's what we're getting out of the White House. But who did he talk to?

MR. CASEY: I honestly don't know who he specifically spoke to.

QUESTION: One more. Has the United States conducted such a test destroying a satellite in space?

MR. CASEY: I am not sure if we have conducted a test on this level. My understanding is the last time the United States tested or attempted any kind of test of this kind of device or an anti-satellite related device was in 1985.

QUESTION: But if that's the case and clearly you don't know and I don't know whether it was this identical or similar or on the same scope. But if we were doing the same thing 22 years ago, why shouldn't the Chinese do it now or has our position changed and we don't think anybody should be doing this at all?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think we believe -- we don't believe that anyone should be doing these kinds of activities because I think if you -- again, if you look at the world and what has changed in the world in the last 22 years, I think there's two factors you might want to take a look at. The first is the fact that 22 years ago, there was a Cold War that was being engaged in between the United States and the Soviet Union. There were a number of factors related to that, that, you know, dictated I think quite a different policy on the part of the U.S. that exists now. More importantly, though, I think you need to look at the development of space in those past 22 years. The extent to which countries not only the United States, but countries throughout the world are dependant on space based technologies, weather satellites, communications satellites and other devices to be able to conduct modern life as we know it. And so the consequences of any kind of activity like this are significantly greater now than they were at that time. But again I think our belief at this point is that we know the Chinese have conducted this test. We certainly want to hear from them in a more detailed way exactly what their intentions are and what this represents in terms of any future activities on their part.

QUESTION: Well, can I ask one more on this?

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Will the United States, since you don't think anybody should be engaged in such kind of activities, will the United States foreswear or say it won't do this, or do you wish to reserve the right to do so?

MR. CASEY: Arshad, my understanding is there are no plans or intentions on the part of the United States to engage in such activities.

QUESTION: Well, but do you think that the United -- that countries should feel that -- I know you say that space is used for communications satellite, weapons satellite, weather satellites, but it's also used for espionage type satellites. And do you think that countries should be able to be reasonably assured that space won't be used for those type of satellites and could they feel -- do they have a right to feel threatened by those type of satellites -- to be used in space?

MR. CASEY: Elise, two things. First let me revert to the general answer of I'm certainly not going to discuss any intelligence matters. Again, our policy and I believe it's the policy of the vast majority of the world is that countries should be able to count on the use of space for peaceful purposes and certainly we are disappointed that there would be any effort underway by any country that might potentially be a military action again both because of the potential implications of that in the longer term as well as the short-term problem of debris and other material out there as a result of this test that could potentially cause damage to commercial space interests.

QUESTION: Would you say that that's the most immediate concern, the debris question interfering with spy satellites or would you say -- are you more concerned about stopping an arms race?

MR. CASEY: Again, in terms of anything related to intelligence, I'm going to stick to our usual policy. In terms of this, though, I think you'd talk to the folks at NASA or otherwise, but there's always concern whenever there's debris in space, regardless of the cause, for the potential impact it might have on commercial satellites on manmade -- or sorry -- manned space missions like the space shuttle, on the international space station, you know, on anything that's potentially up there. And I think you've certainly seen given the history of some of the events of manned space flight that, you know, small things can cause very big problems. So it's a general concern in the short term. And again, I think the longer term consideration is the possible questions that arise about what Chinese intentions are, is this a one-time incident, is this something broader and what specifically is their, you know, their goal in this activity.

QUESTION: But will --

QUESTION: Just --

QUESTION: Can I --

MR. CASEY: You guys are vastly approaching the outer reaches of my knowledge of this, not to use -- and it's not the final frontier for me, but it's getting close.

QUESTION: Will Chris Hill be addressing this tomorrow in his meetings in Beijing?

MR. CASEY: I think Chris is intending to talk about six-party talks in Beijing. It's certainly nothing that he's scheduled to discuss. I can't tell you if it will or won't come up, though. His primary meeting is with his six-party counterpart.

Yes.

QUESTION: One more -- one more on this. Did the Chinese inform the U.S. in advance of this test that they were planning to do it or any U.S. agencies?

MR. CASEY: I'm not aware that there was any advance notice given to us on this. I don't think they provided such notice to anyone.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MR. CASEY: Yeah. It's okay, Kirit.

QUESTION: Maybe hopefully this will be the last one. Just wondering --

MR. CASEY: Well, we're getting close, I'm sure. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: We're getting close, I'm sure. If you could say whether the U.S. considers this any sort of challenge in space and also if you had an indication why this test was taken now?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think those are some of the questions that we've put to the Chinese in terms of the -- you know, not only the nature of what they've done, but the purpose and intent and, you know, why they chose to do it at this particular point in time. So I really don't have any answers to offer you on that. In terms of again, you know, what this represents for the United States. Well, clearly, it represents a concern that we have. That's why we've gone and talked to the Chinese about it. Again, I think we need to wait and hear back from them a little more before we make any kind of evaluation about what longer-term consequences this might have.

Let's go back here and then we'll go over to Elise.

QUESTION: To your knowledge, has the U.S. and China expressed an interest in the possibility of formal agreements banning the militarization of space?

MR. CASEY: At this point, I'm not aware of any contacts between us on that particular subject, at least not recently.

Elise. Same subject, different subject?

QUESTION: New subject.

MR. CASEY: Fine by me.

QUESTION: Have you seen these comments coming out of Tehran in editorials in several Iranian newspapers, one of them owned by Ayatollah Khamenei, criticizing President Ahmadi-Nejad, suggesting maybe he's gone too far in his dealings with the West on the nuclear program and kind of giving him a slap on the wrist?

MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen the actual Persian reports. I've certainly seen news reporting about them. Look, I don't think I can really offer you an analysis of internal politics in Iran, but I do think that it's quite clear that Iran is paying a price for its defiance of the international community. And you know, President Ahmadi-Nejad, when he was running for office, made great claims about what he was going to do to foster economic development in Iran, to provide jobs for young people, to, in effect, engage Iran more deeply in the international economic system and in the international community.

And unfortunately, the policies that he's adopted, in particular his defiance of the international community on the nuclear issue, has made it impossible for any of those objectives to be fulfilled. And as Iran finds itself more isolated, as it finds itself under additional sanctions, that goal gets further and further away. So it certainly wouldn't surprise me, whether that's in other parts of the Iranian Government or, more importantly, with the Iranian people, that there are concerns that he, frankly, is pursuing policies that take them further away from what everyone in that country wants to see happen, rather than closer to that goal.

And that's, again, why even more of the sanctions are in place. We continue to hold open the possibility for Iran to get out of this position by suspending uranium enrichment and joining us in talks.

QUESTION: Do you think President Ahmadi-Nejad, in particular, is responsible for Iran's isolation from the international community?

MR. CASEY: Well, I can't really parse for you different elements in the Iranian Government. He is the president of Iran. He is the head of government there. Certainly, there are other people that play a role in this, but whoever is responsible for which individual piece of it, the fact of the matter remains that the policy of the Iranian Government right now is defiance of the international community in pursuit of a nuclear weapon. And I don't think that's something that is in the best interests of the Iranian people and it's certainly not in the best interests of the international community. And if there's a reaction to that, I kind of think that's expected.

Arshad -- over here and then Arshad -- oh, same subject -- okay.

QUESTION: Just one thing, I think. Lee Hamilton again pushing for engagement with Iran at the House Foreign Relations Committee today. Any comments on that?

MR. CASEY: I haven't seen Congressman Hamilton's comments, but I think our response to this is the same as before. We've left it out in the open for engagement with the Iranians, again, not only on the nuclear program, but to discuss other issues. We think that's the appropriate way to go and frankly, we think that talks in conjunction with other interested parties and other members of the international community would likely be more productive than any kind of one-on-one engagement.

Yeah, Arshad.

QUESTION: There are -- there is an Israeli newspaper report based on an interview the newspaper Haaretz did with Jordan's King Abdallah in which he states an interest in Jordan having a nuclear program, although he says it would be for peaceful purposes. You are well aware of the fact that Egypt has, in recent months, suggested an interest in such a program and you obviously know that the GCC countries voted to explore such a program. What is your response to Jordan's interest in this?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I did look -- and we addressed this morning a little bit this morning as you know, but I did look into the matter a little further. What I told you this morning of course still applies, which is that we support the peaceful use of nuclear power by any state so long as it's meeting its obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty, as well as working with the IAEA and fully meeting the international standards that are regulating safety and export controls and nonproliferation standards.

Jordan is a party to the NPT and does have a safeguards agreement, including having signed onto the additional protocol with the IAEA. Now, obviously they'd have to make some infrastructure changes and improvements to be able to support this kind of program. But this is something that we'd certainly be willing to talk about and discuss with the Government of Jordan and we are working with other states to be able to help them expand peaceful use of nuclear technology without running the risk of proliferation or the spread of sensitive technologies as well.

I should note too, and one thing that my folks have told me in looking at this that in December 2006, just this past year, we did have three Jordanian participants in an IAEA workshop for countries that were considering nuclear energy and we co-sponsored that. And the Jordanian participants did, in fact, informally discuss their thoughts and ideas on this with us. So this is something that we've known about in a general way and that we've had some preliminary discussions with the Jordanians on and certainly happy to continue talking about this to them as they move forward.

QUESTION: You'll recall that Secretary Rice expressed -- where she essentially said she -- in December in an interview she said she questioned why countries like some of those in the GCC that have considerable, you know, petroleum resources would need nuclear power. I realize Jordan's in a different situation as is Egypt, but does it give you no pause the notion -- even if countries that pursue this have signed the NPT and the additional protocol and, you know, that it presents no kind of proliferation risk for more people to have this kind of technology and use it even if they sign documents saying that they will abide by those?

MR. CASEY: Well, the purpose of the NPT and the additional protocol and the regimes in place is to try and deal with the concern that you're talking about, which is to make sure that countries can peacefully pursue nuclear technology and nuclear power without running the risks of having that technology be misused for the development of nuclear weapons. Obviously, and you've heard any number of U.S. officials talk about this, the regime itself is something that we always want to look at and see how we can strengthen and move forward. The President put forward some proposals a couple of years ago at a speech in NDI. A number of those have been acted on, partly or fully, but we certainly want to see that move forward.

Again, I think you have to look at this issue in terms of how best to be able to meet those twin goals, which is giving people the opportunity to have and develop nuclear power and use that for the benefit of their citizens, but at the same time taking care of what is an equally important international concern which is making sure that neither -- no country use such a program as a covert means for developing nuclear weapons. And as well, that the materials involved, that the technology involved is safeguarded so that it isn't misused or taken advantage of by terrorist groups or other kinds of proliferation networks that we've unfortunately seen happen in the past.

Elise.

QUESTION: New topic?

MR. CASEY: Okay by me.

QUESTION: It's about President Chavez.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: There's been a lot of talk lately that because Castro -- President Fidel Castro of Cuba has been ill and fading from the scene that President Chavez is looking to take his place and instituting a lot of the same authoritarian policies that President Castro has and is more dangerous because he has oil money. What are your thoughts on this and what is the U.S. doing to contain his influence in the hemisphere?

MR. CASEY: Well, look, President Chavez is the elected President of Venezuela. He has put forward plans and ideas internally in Venezuela that, you know, have caused us some concern, including a current proposal that's working its way through the legislature to give him power to rule by decree. Again, that's the sovereign right of Venezuela but certainly is a bit odd in terms of a democratic system.

In terms of his role in the hemisphere, well, I think as far as we're concerned there is a positive agenda for the hemisphere that we've laid forward. It's an agenda that's shared by the vast majority of countries in the hemisphere and frankly that's what we prefer to concentrate on. The economic issues and the efforts to move towards -- what I believe he calls a 21st century socialism -- are things that again are -- we talked about this at the gaggle this morning with respect to Bolivia. Countries can choose whatever economic policies they wish to, though, that needs to be done in the context of their international agreements. I have seen commentaries written by a number of people in the region that say that 21st century socialism looks a lot like 20th century communism. But whether this serves the interests of the Venezuelan people or not is something that the Venezuelans themselves are going to have to decide.

We again believe, as far as the broader hemisphere is concerned, that there is a broad consensus in the region in favor of democracy, in favor of economic reform, in favor of dealing with those kinds of issues like the rule of law that help ensure that economic benefits do accrue more broadly and generally to all people involved. And we believe there's a consensus, too, to move forward to help do things like alleviate poverty and provide opportunity for people and again, that's where our focus is.

QUESTION: Well, just one follow-up. He has -- President Chavez has been kind of leading the charge that the Washington consensus, so to speak, is not working and there needs to be an alternative model. And in this kind of campaign it's kind of turned to a little bit anti-Americanism and how are you going to deal with that?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, our view -- you know, President Chavez is free to speak his mind and he certainly has shown no hesitancy to do so. But again, our focus is not worrying about him or his comments. Our focus is on working with our partners in the hemisphere to do the kinds of things that is generally agreed by all members of the OAS that we want to see happen.

And there is certainly no problem with any member of any country expressing their views. We personally believe that the policies that we and most of the other countries in the hemisphere are pursuing are the right ones to be able to help us achieve our objectives. And so the important thing for us is that we just keep working on it.

QUESTION: One last one on this?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Is it true that you are planning to expand your bases in Venezuela?

MR. CASEY: We don't have any military bases in Venezuela.

QUESTION: I think it was discussed yesterday for some at the embassies -- information (inaudible) this information.

MR. CASEY: You could -- you're free to talk to the U.S. military, Mr. Lambros, but there aren't any U.S. military bases in Venezuela.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CASEY: I don't think President Chavez would really want them right now.

QUESTION: May I go to Turkey?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Okay.

(Laughter.)

MR. CASEY: That's it. It's -- yeah, we're kind of -- we're thinking about the globe. Okay, let's go to Turkey.

QUESTION: May we know the purpose of the visits of Turkey by Under Secretary Nicholas Burns who yesterday had an extensive meeting with the popular Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan?

MR. CASEY: Under Secretary Burns is in Turkey to consult with our good friends and allies, the Turks. He is also, as you may have noted from a Media Note we sent out earlier in the week, also going to be visiting several other countries along this trip. In his discussions with Turkish officials he talked about a variety of issues, certainly a majority of our bilateral relationship and our desire to continue to see that strengthen and grow.

They did discuss the subject of Iraq and particularly I know Under Secretary Burns reiterated our longstanding commitment to help the Government of Turkey respond to any threats posed by PKK individuals operating out of northern Iraq. As we've always said, we want to make sure that there is no opportunity for that to occur. That's why we've been working with General Ralston, among others, to make sure that there's good and close cooperation and coordination between the United States, Turkey and Iraq to deal with those issues.

I do understand that they also did discuss the subject of Cyprus in their conversations and with respect to that I know Under Secretary Burns reiterated our hope that with the arrival of a new Secretary General that we will once again be able to build on the good work done by Kofi Annan and be able to ultimately reach a resolution of this longstanding issue.

QUESTION: Did he discuss the Balkans issues?

MR. CASEY: I'm not sure if Balkans issues came up. Certainly, if he did, you can expect that he would have expressed our longstanding views on those subjects.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) journalist Hrant Dink has brutally been assassinated today in front of the building of his newspaper by unknown assassin. Do you have anything on that?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, this is a tragic incident. We certainly condemn this terrible act of violence, want to see this crime fully investigated and those responsible to it brought to justice. As I said earlier, we certainly are concerned any time someone who has been very outspoken in their views is made to pay a price simply for their ability to speak their mind. And we very much oppose any kind of actions, and certainly things like this, that would in any way, shape or form inhibit or limit freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

QUESTION: One more question. The controversial Turkish general Yasar Buyukanit, who (inaudible) the civilian government of Recep Erdogan, is going to be in Washington, D.C., from February 11 to 16 in order to meet General Pace, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. Do you know if he is going to be received by the Secretary of State?

MR. CASEY: I'm not aware of any plans to meet with him, but we'll certainly keep you posted as anything comes up on her schedule.

Yeah.

QUESTION: On Iraq, there's an American citizen working for NDI that was killed in this convoy. Is there any reason to think that she was targeted specifically because of her work advancing democracy in Iraq?

MR. CASEY: Well, I certainly know that both Iraqi and coalition forces are looking into this and I don't have any real details to offer you on this event. I think you may have seen Ambassador Khalilzad put out a statement on this earlier today. This is a tragic incident. It is a terrible attack.

And one of the things that it brings to light is that it isn't just government officials and Iraqis -- U.S. Government officials and Iraqis and members of the coalition that are putting themselves on the line. There are a number of nongovernmental organizations, NDI being one of them, who have been courageously trying to support the Iraqis in their efforts to develop democratic institutions and their efforts at economic reform, in their efforts to provide for the basic needs of the Iraqi people. And it is something that is very much part and parcel of all of our efforts to see the Iraqis be able to build the kind of country that they want.

So it's always a tragedy and a terrible thing to see whenever these kinds of people are targeted for killing. Whether there was any specific foreknowledge by those who conducted this attack of who the individuals were and what they were doing in Iraq, I just don't know and I don't think anyone in MNFI or in the Iraqi security forces has reached any kind of conclusion on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: One more.

MR. CASEY: Can't quite get out. Let's go in the back -- he's been waiting -- and then Lambros gets the last shot. Sorry, George.

QUESTION: This morning you said that the talks -- you hope for the talks to reconvene in the next few weeks. And I was wondering if you are still hopeful that it could happen in January or we're leaning more towards February now.

MR. CASEY: I don't have anything to offer you on dates. The Chinese obviously will announce whenever the next round takes place. We'd like to see it take place as soon as possible but I don't have -- I'm not going to try to hedge it for you whether it winds up being the end of this month, beginning of next month.

Let's -- Mr. Lambros, let's let someone else get a word in edgewise.

QUESTION: Can we go to, like, Somalia and Ethiopia?

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: The Transitional Government of Somalia representative for U.S. presented a three-page of memo to exactly what their new government wants from the United States. What's your response on that?

MR. CASEY: I know they've presented that information to us. Certainly, we'll take a close look at it. As you know, we've already committed some fairly substantial resources in terms of aid both for a stabilization force as well as for humanitarian needs for the Somali Government. We certainly will look at what their concerns are and what they'd like to see happen.

Most importantly, though, I think we will be looking at this request not only in terms of what the U.S. can do but what we can all do together in terms of the international community and other international donors to help meet the needs of the Somali people.

QUESTION: As you know still there's no peacekeepers on the ground, but the Ethiopian Prime Minster has promised two weeks ago that he's going to pull out his forces. As we speak, he's pulling out some of his forces.

MR. CASEY: As I mentioned earlier in the briefing, the African Union has made a formal decision today to authorize a six-month peacekeeping operation in Somalia. The Ugandan Government I know has committed 1,200 troops towards that effort and their leadership has said that those troops could be on the ground by the end of the month. Other countries are in the process of making decisions about what they can commit. So we are very much interested in seeing such a regional force come in in an effective way as soon as possible. We've also said, though, we do not want to see Ethiopian forces withdraw until there can be a successful handover of that because we don't want to see a security vacuum take place.

QUESTION: Yeah. I have a follow-up.

MR. CASEY: Okay. The last one there.

QUESTION: The Ethiopian Government, they kind of frustrated on the response for the -- putting the peacekeepers together and they started lobbying around in Africa as well. But it's kind of slow for the peacekeepers to come on to -- there's no -- any specific timetable, but the Prime Minister insists they're going to pull out. I mean, if they pull out, what's the U.S. action?

MR. CASEY: Look, I'm not going to speculate on what might or might not happen here. Again, we've got a pretty clear policy of supporting AU and other international efforts to put a peacekeeping force in place. We're looking to see that happen as soon as possible and expect that this will all be done in a positive and coordinated way.

Last one, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes. On Turkey again. A senior Turkish political --

QUESTION: You said it was on Kosovo.

QUESTION: Kosovo's next. I'm not -- (laughter.)

MR. CASEY: Now, look, you made him give away his game plan. You're not supposed to do that.

QUESTION: Since the President --

MR. CASEY: Okay. I'm not going there. Okay.

QUESTION: A senior Turkish political opposition against the Council of Europe yesterday in the Turkish parliament from inviting the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew based in Istanbul, Turkey, to address a preliminary session in Strasbourg in January 22nd, saying that the invitation demonstrates significant disrespect towards Turkey. Any comment since the issue has to do with religious freedom rights for which the U.S. Government is very concerned?

MR. CASEY: It sounds like the issue has to do with internal concerns of the Council of Europe and I'd refer you them. I don't have any comment on it.

Okay, thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:36 p.m.)

DPB # 11


Released on January 19, 2007

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