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Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 7, 2007

INDEX:

RUSSIA / AZERBAIJAN

Suggestion by President Putin on Missile Defense in Azerbaijan
Query on Prior Missile Defense Cooperation with Azerbaijan

GUINEA

Secretary’s Meeting with Prime Minister / Democracy Efforts, Elections, Economic Reform Discussed
Individuals Violating Guinea’s Laws or Basic Human Rights Must be Held Accountable

RUSSIA / UNITED KINGDOM

Extradition Requests of Russian and British Governments
Possibility of Extradition Treaty between Russia and the United States

NORTH KOREA

Short-Range Missile Test / U.S. Has Raised Concerns about Missile Tests
North Korea Should Not Raise Tensions or Concerns in Region
Missile Test Does Not Violate 1999 Moratorium

TURKEY / IRAQ

U.S. Will Work with Turkey and Iraq to Combat PKK Threat
U.S. Supports Turkish Democratic Institutions

SOUTH KOREA / NORTH KOREA

South Korean Rice Aid to North Korea / Issue Outside February 13 Agreement
U.S. Supports South Korea’s Efforts to Advance Denuclearization on Korean Peninsula
U.S. Looks Forward to Getting Back on Track with Six-Party Talks

EGYPT

President Bush’s Appeal to Release Ayman Nour

ISRAEL / SYRIA

Israeli-Syria Bilateral Relations / Variety of Issues to be Settled
Discussions with Syria Ought to Take into Account Syria’s Record of Support for Terrorism, Rejectionist Groups, Interference in Lebanon

MISCELLANEOUS

Report on U.S. Human Rights Violations / U.S. is World’s Leading Advocate for Human Rights
Terror Detainees and Reports of Secret Prisons


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:34 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: Well, good afternoon, everybody. I don't have anything more to start you with than I did this morningso, Matt, go right to your questions.

QUESTION: Do you have reaction to this apparent agreement between the Brits and the Libyans to allow al-Megrahi to serve the rest of his sentence for the Lockerbie bombing in Libya?

MR. CASEY: Matt, sorry, I've just saw those reports of it, so I don't have any reaction for you. We'll try and get something for you later on it.

QUESTION: Then can I ask you for reaction about something else?

MR. CASEY: Sure, you can try that, see if we can go over --

QUESTION: Well, actually I don't want to -- I don't really necessarily want reaction because I think the White House has already spoken to it over there. But can you tell us if there have been -- did this Putin suggestion on missile defense and Azerbaijan, did this come out of the blue for you guys or is this something that had been discussed or broached earlier in earlier discussions with the Russians?

MR. CASEY: Well, as far as I know, although I'll leave it to the White House to speak, as far as I know this is the first time that's been formally raised in conversation with us. I think the President just said that the -- President Putin had put forward some interesting ideas and people will certainly look at them. But I'd really defer to the folks out with the party at the G-8 and leave it with where the President left it.

QUESTION: I mean, are you -- you're sure that this wasn't raised with the Secretary by the Russians, that -- or do you not know?

MR. CASEY: Not that I'm aware of, Matt, no.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Yes, sir. Earlier today Madame Secretary met with Prime Minister from Guinea, Prime Minister Kouyaté. Do we have any readout on that?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, a little bit. She did meet this morning with the Prime Minister and they discussed his government's ongoing efforts at political and economic reform. The Secretary did assure him that the United States wants to continue to support the people of Guinea's effort to improve democracy in that country and create a more prosperous future for it. But in general they also focused on the preparations that Guinea's having for holding elections in December. And again, what she emphasized is we want to see that those preparations are done in a way that ensures a free, fair, and credible election in that country.

QUESTION: What assurances did you get from the Prime Minister on that specific area?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I'll let him speak for himself on it. But clearly these are priority issues for us in our relationship with that country and the Secretary made that clear.

QUESTION: So as things are right now, the country is not moving fast on the path of democracy, are you prepared to accompany the country financially, economically?

MR. CASEY: Look, our focus right now is on the electoral process, it's on democratic and economic reform there. We want to see these elections move forward properly and in a way that helps advance democracy in the country. We'll make our determinations about how that process does play out as things move forward.

QUESTION: Tom?

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Back to Russia for a second.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: I wanted to revisit an issue that was discussed here a couple days ago, the extradition request traded by the Russians and the Brits. Sean suggested that the Department was encouraging both sides to show cooperation and (inaudible). I would like to ask you if you could expand on what specifically have you talked about on that matter with the Brits and what their response was on things like that.

MR. CASEY: Well, I don't think I have any details of any our diplomatic conversations to share with you. Again though, we certainly do believe that this matter needs to be fully investigated, that those responsible should be held accountable. And we'd like to see both our friends in Russia and in Great Britain be able to come to some kind of accommodation on this issue. But I think really that's about all I have to tell you on it.

QUESTION: Yeah, but basically you are talking about this specific case, the Lugovoy/Litvinenko case, whatever. I am talking about other requests for extradition from the Russian side that were sitting there in London without any movement for quite some time.

MR. CASEY: I'm not sure which specific request you're referring to.

QUESTION: The Berezovsky, that guy of -- maybe not the only ones --

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I don't think it's for us to comment on how these kinds of requests are handled between two other sovereign governments. In the case of Mr. Litvinenko, we've spoken to that issue. Certainly it's something for the British and the Russian governments to discuss. I believe on some of those other requests, the British Government's already spoken to it and I'd leave it to them to describe their views on those current ones.

QUESTION: And then to stay with the extradition subject for a while, the Russians have been asking the U.S. for an extradition treaty. I have personally asked people at the FBI about that and they say we as professionals, law enforcement professionals, are all for it, but there are political considerations at the State, maybe elsewhere, that prevent us from having such treaty. What's your response to that?

MR. CASEY: Well, certainly extradition treaties are one means by which the United States as well as other countries can at times advance or enhance their law enforcement cooperation. I'm not aware that there's been any decision made to pursue one with Russia at this point. Certainly, I assume if the government as a whole believes that that's something that's worth taking steps forward on that we'll do, but I'm not aware that there's any decision point on this coming up.

QUESTION: But who's in the lead on this -- the State or Justice or what?

MR. CASEY: Well, generally speaking, it's an -- it would be an interagency decision. In terms of extradition matters the Department of Justice generally has the lead.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CASEY: Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: Tom, can I ask about this missile test, North Korean missile test which is now being confirmed by the South Koreans? Do you have your own independent confirmation of the test?

MR. CASEY: No, we're looking into this. As you know, they did do a similar test back on May the 25th. These are certainly not unique, again, in terms of what North Korea's done in the past. Certainly we've raised our concerns in the past about North Korea's missile programs and certainly don't view these kinds of actions as helpful and have always called on the North Koreans not to take any steps that would raise tensions or concerns in the region.

QUESTION: Can I ask you, which? You say you don't have that much information. Do you have any information? Do you know if they're are nuclear tips, do you know the --

MR. CASEY: No, I can't -- at this point can't confirm for you independently that missiles have been launched. And again, but our understanding based on reporting from other sources is that these are short-range missiles that are similar to the one or two that were launched back on May 25th and, therefore, are in keeping with some of the previous practices that the North Koreans have done.

QUESTION: Would these kind of missiles, if they had been launched, would this be in keeping with the moratorium of 1999?

MR. CASEY: The moratorium specifically dealt with long-range missiles, so if these are short-range, it wouldn't specifically be an issue there. But again let me stress that we continue to raise our concerns in general about North Korea's missile program, as well as their activities associated with it, and certainly don't view these missiles, even though they would not violate the moratorium, as being something helpful.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

QUESTION: Sorry, I have one more question.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: And which bureaus within the Department are being tasked with compiling data on this?

MR. CASEY: I think you'd have to look at the military and other agencies of government in terms of who would do technical assessment of these things. Obviously our people in the East Asia Bureau look at issues related to North Korea.

QUESTION: What about your -- anyone that works on WMD issues here, are you working on it internally?

MR. CASEY: I am sure that there are people throughout the building looking at this, but no one is specifically looking at this issue today that isn't generally following missile-related issues in North Korea.

QUESTION: Is this really keeping in the spirit of the agreement that you reached with the six parties? I mean, it is a short-range missile, yes, but you know, here you're discussing the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear program. They're waiting for their money until they take any action, obviously until this BDA issue is settled, but is this really keeping in the spirit of the climate within the six parties that you were hoping?

MR. CASEY: Well, like I said, I don't think this is a helpful step on their part. We would very much like to see them, as you've heard Chris Hill and others say, move quickly to meet their commitments under the February 13th agreement. I guess all I'm trying to say is it's not a qualitative change in what they've already done, even though again it's not helpful and it's not something we'd like to see them do.

Yeah, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Mr. Casey, on Turkey, do you know if your Ambassador in Ankara, Ross Wilson had any communication with the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan or the Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, as he had with the Turkish military as Mr. McCormack told us yesterday?

MR. CASEY: I'm sure that the Embassy in Turkey could keep you up to date on what Ambassador Wilson is or isn't doing. I'm not aware of any new contacts on the part of the embassy with senior leadership in Turkey.

QUESTION: And one more question.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. At least did you ask Turkish military not to invade northern Iraq in order to save the elections on July 22nd? And democracy in Turkey -- I'm asking this, Mr. Casey, since according to the Turkish constitution, if Turkey enters to the war, the elections are postponed for one year. And it's obvious that the target of the dictator-to-be General Yasar Buyukanit is not PKK, but the elections particularly of the popular Prime Minister Recep Erdogan?

MR. CASEY: Well, that's a lot of speculation on your part, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: That's not speculation --

MR. CASEY: Look, the basic issue here from our perspective is our continued and ongoing support for Turkish democracy. We have full confidence in Turkey's democratic institutions and we fully expect the Turkish people will be the ones to decide on their new leadership.

QUESTION: I'm afraid -- the military -- I know that --

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'm well aware of your concerns on this issue, but again, U.S. policy on this is clear. It is clear both in terms of our desire to work with the Government of Turkey and the Government of Iraq to combat the threat represented by the PKK. And it's also clear in terms of U.S. policy and in terms of our support for Turkish democracy and Turkish democratic institutions.

Nina.

QUESTION: On South Korea.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: South Korea's still withholding these rice supplies. It's very critical food aid. Do you still -- do you support that policy that they're withholding this until North Korea complies with the February 13th agreement?

MR. CASEY: Well, look, first of all, that -- the rice issue is formally outside of the terms of the February 13th agreement and the overall September 19th framework. These are decisions that South Korea needs to make for itself, as do other countries. Certainly, we support their efforts to try and advance the cause of denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula.

QUESTION: Do you have any sense what the next steps will be in this whole saga? The BDA is still on hold.

MR. CASEY: Well, again, BDA's been a tough issue for people to work on. It's been a tough technical issue. But people are continuing to work through it and we are hopeful that it'll be resolved as soon as possible. Again, we'd like to see the North Koreans move as quickly as possible to meeting their commitments under the February 13th agreement. I think we're all agreed that a lot of time has gone by. We definitely want to get back on track to the main focus of these talks, which is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And that's something that's in the interest of everyone.

QUESTION: Do you feel like you're making any progress on resolving the BDA issue?

MR. CASEY: I think at this point, I'll let the technical folks working on it give that kind of assessment. We do want to see this move forward. I think people are working it very hard. But I can't really tell you today, Arshad, whether we're six inches further or six inches closer to the goal or not.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. ever held discussions on missile defense cooperation with Azerbaijan?

MR. CASEY: You know, not that I'm aware of, but I'll check for you and see. I know we've had discussions broadly within NATO and I believe with various partner countries as well. Whether we've specifically sent delegations to Azerbaijan to discuss that issue -- look into that for you. I'm not immediately aware of any.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you. Kurdish leader Mr. Barzani said today that "We will not fight PKK in northern Iraq." Do you have any comment on that -- is that the three-part cooperation is finished?

MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen any comments that he's made. What I can tell you is that the Prime Minister and President of Iraq have publicly committed to working with us and the Government of Turkey to combat the PKK. That's our understanding of what the policy of the Government of Iraq is. And we certainly hope to continue through General Ralston, as well as through our other contacts, to be able to work on this issue because we all agree that it does pose a threat to Turkey. And certainly, we want to do everything we can to help Turkey as well as Iraq deal with what is a terrorist organization.

Yeah, Sylvie.

QUESTION: I would like to go back to Egypt.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: We spoke this morning about the reaction of -- the angry reaction of Egypt after the appeal of President Bush to release Ayman Nour. And right after this, Ayman Nour has been -- has seen his sentence extended by two month. So I wanted to know if really, the intervention of President Bush was -- had -- was helpful? Do you think it's --

MR. CASEY: Well, Sylvie, I guess there's some debate about the facts on this because at least what I'm told is there's been no extension of his sentence. But either way, I -- again, I can't say it any more clearly than the President did the other day. We believe that Mr. Nour should be released and that's what we want to see happen. I'll leave the Egyptian Government to speak for itself in terms of its reaction. Clearly, the President felt it important to speak out on this case because he does believe that an injustice has been done here. And I'll just leave it with where he left it.

Nina.

QUESTION: Israel and Syria, please.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: We've seen a lot of comments coming out of Israel the last few days from the prime minister, the intelligence chief, the defense minister all seeming to kind of -- to try and reassure Syria that they're not on a warfare team, but we've seen a very heavy troop buildup, you know, around the Golan area from both sides. How concerned are you about the reality of what's happening on the ground despite these -- you know, the messages that Israel is trying to get the Israelis to negotiate with Syria?

MR. CASEY: Far as I know, there has been no change in Israeli views on the subject of its relations with Syria. As we've said, ultimately, there needs to be not only a settlement of outstanding issues between Israelis and Palestinians, but settlement of broader issues in the region including the full establishment of relations between Israel and all of its neighbors. That is a separate track and certainly, we want to see the Israeli-Palestinian track move forward. But I -- far as I know, there has been no change in the Israeli Government's views towards Syria and certainly, we accept Israeli explanations of their policy at face value.

QUESTION: Would you encourage a direct dialogue between the two or are you afraid that Syria will use this as some kind of leverage to bring it more into the world community and with the United States?

MR. CASEY: Well, we've talked about this before and I'm certainly not going to try and tell the Israeli Government how to conduct its foreign policy. Certainly, though, we think that discussions or any kind of talks with Syria ought to take into account Syria's record on a wide variety of issues related to the region and that includes their ongoing support for rejectionist groups, their ongoing support for terrorism, and their unhelpful attitude towards a whole series of other issues including their continued efforts to interfere in Lebanon.

So you know, I think for our perspective and point of view, what we really want to see happen is have continued work and progress on discussions between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas. That's been our primary focus and certainly, I think where we want to see continued effort made.

QUESTION: There's a growing consensus that both sides -- that Syria and Israel are in a war footing. Are you not concerned about this?

MR. CASEY: Again, I've not been told and I certainly don't think anyone in Israel has claimed that they have changed their views towards Syria. And I'm not aware that the Israelis have any intention to do anything other than continue with their ongoing defensive measures against Syria.

QUESTION: Would you agree with the Israeli intelligence assessment that Syria is on a -- building up its defenses rather than its offenses?

MR. CASEY: I really don't have any assessment to offer you about anything the Syrians may or may not be doing along their border. I think the Israelis are certainly in a very good position to discuss those things for you.

Yeah.

QUESTION: This is -- I have a couple of random ones. Do you have anything on --

MR. CASEY: We do random, Elise. It's okay.

QUESTION: -- on the reports coming out of London that a British firm was paying money under the table to Prince Bandar through a U.S. bank for defense contracts?

MR. CASEY: We've seen those reports. I certainly don't have any information I can share with you about them. I'd leave that to British authorities.

QUESTION: But are you cooperating in terms of the whole issue of U.S. banks?

MR. CASEY: In terms of whether there's any activities involved or investigations going on here, that's something I'd just leave to the Justice Department to talk about.

QUESTION: Okay. And then also what about these reports that perhaps one of the Lockerbie bombers is returning to Libya?

MR. CASEY: I struck out on that --

QUESTION: I'm sorry.

MR. CASEY: -- with Matt at the beginning of the briefing, but I haven't gotten anything new since then. We will try and get you something on that this afternoon.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Sylvie.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the CIA prisons --

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: -- this report from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and other NGOs, saying that 39 people are still unaccounted for. I understand that you don't have any specific information on these people, but the report specifies that among these people, among these 39, there were children from -- children 7 to 9 years old. Why -- how do you think you can criticize China human rights report when there are such reports published about the U.S.?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'll leave it up to the individuals that publish the report to explain what they think the factual basis for it is. I honestly can't speak to it. In terms of the issues that are raised there, again, I think the President made clear in his remarks in September of 2006 what kind of programs we were operating and the terms and conditions of them and I really just don't have anything to add to that.

QUESTION: Yeah, but doesn't it have -- well, the problem is your image is affected by these reports. How can you still criticize the human rights records of other countries when you have these kind of reports published around the world?

MR. CASEY: Well, if it were a requirement that every country that ever spoke about human rights was absolutely perfect, then I guess we couldn't. But as you heard the Secretary say, when she introduced our human rights report this year, we recognize that the United States -- in our own country does not always have a perfect record and historically has not always done so. That does not lessen the fact that the United States has been and continues to be the world's leading advocate for human rights around the world and it's a cause that we believe in, that is part of our values of our country, and one that we are going to continue to speak about. In fact, it would be a dereliction of our responsibility and a negation of our values if we didn't.

QUESTION: Tom, can I follow up --

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- one more question on that? Do you -- to your knowledge has there been any change in the position of U.S. detentions since the President's speech? In other words, I mean, my understanding of his speech, crudely put, was that there were no more prisoners -- that such prisoners had been held in such facilities were now all being transferred to Guantanamo Bay, and that, therefore, as of that moment there was no one else in any other form of, you know, detention. And the question is: To your knowledge, has that changed or has it not changed?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I have no reason to believe that anything that the President said in September of '06 has changed, Arshad.

QUESTION: So in other words, you have no reason to think that there are -- that your belief is that no one is being held in secret prisons now?

MR. CASEY: My understanding is the information provided in that speech is still accurate.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Yes, Ben Bangura with the Guinea News again. Last February's strike and street demonstrations in Guinea for broader democracy resulted in some hundred people died as a result of the regime and the government cracked down on them. And since some new rights organizations have called for bringing those responsible for those killing to justice. Is this a position Washington can support?

MR. CASEY: I actually am not familiar with the specifics of the incident or the rights groups' cause. Look, I think what's clear, though, is whether it's Guinea or any other country, if security forces, if individuals, if anyone has taken actions that violate the country's laws, that violate basic humans rights, we would want to see those individuals held accountable.

QUESTION: As a result of that, the Embassy, the U.S. Embassy in Conakry issued a strong statement condemning the government of Conakry. Are you aware of that statement?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I remember it from that time. I just am not aware of the specifics of the issues that have been raised subsequent to it. But again, I would stand by what the Embassy said at the time.

QUESTION: Can you recall that?

MR. CASEY: Not off the top of my head, no. But I'll try and get it for you if you want.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

MR. CASEY: Sure. Thank you, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:57 p.m.)

DPB # 102


Released on June 7, 2007

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