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Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 14, 2007



Ambassador Chris Dell’s Efforts and Communications
Oppression of Opposition Leaders / Condition of Those Arrested
Possible U.S. Actions / Efforts of UN Human Rights Council
Assistant Secretary Lowenkron’s Participation in AU Meetings / Discussion of Zimbabwe
U.S. Concern for Oppression of Human Rights and Democracy by Mugabe Government


U.S. Consulting with British on Security Council Measures with P5 Members
Bashir Letter Unhelpful
U.S. to Review All Possible Options
Future Consultations with P5 on Security Council Measures
Patience of International Community Limited
Tools to Encourage and Change Sudanese Behavior
Rwandan Contribution to AMIS Force / Need for Continued Presence in Region
Call for Additional Support of AU-UN Hybrid Force


View Video

12:36 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Okay. Good afternoon, everybody. Don't have any opening statements or announcements for you, so let's go right on down to Sue.

QUESTION: Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe said today that the opposition would pay a heavy price for what he called their campaign to oust him from power. And Tsvangirai is, of course, in intensive care with a cracked skull. I just wondered diplomatically what are you doing at the moment to put pressure on the Zimbabwean Government and how are you handling this?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, unfortunately, I think those kinds of comments are just in keeping with the continued efforts at intimidation and repression of the opposition that have unfortunately characterized President Mugabe's increasingly autocratic leadership in the country. In terms of actions, certainly as you've seen, we've spoken out on this issue forcefully including statements by the Secretary which you know. Our Ambassador in Zimbabwe, Chris Dell, has been very active on this issue. He was in the courtroom yesterday when Mr. Tsvangirai and some of the others appeared. He intends to meet with Mr. Tsvangirai as soon as he is physically able to receive visitors.

I would also note that the opposition intends to participate in the funeral for the individual who was killed as a result of the police action breaking up this prayer breakfast last weekend. That is scheduled to take place on Saturday and Mr. Tsvangirai said if he's physically able, he intends to participate in that. And we all on the Government of Zimbabwe to refrain from any actions against that funeral and events surrounding it and to allow that to move forward peacefully and without any further incidents of violence or intimidation.

In terms of other actions on our part, we are calling on the Human Rights Council in Geneva to take up this issue. Again, I think you've heard us express concerns about the Council and frankly, it hasn't done a credible job in its past year of work. It's focused almost exclusively on issues related to Israel and has not turned its attention to other vital issues before it. And frankly with the Council meeting right now in Geneva in session, it would be hard to understand how they wouldn't want to turn their attention to a serious case of human rights abuse and violations, as is occurring in Zimbabwe.

In addition to that, tomorrow, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Barry Lowenkron will be in Addis Ababa for consultations with the African Union. He intends to focus on this as well as a number of other issues to see what we can do with our African Union partners to push the Zimbabwean Government to allow for peaceful political participation from its citizens and from the opposition. We're also going to be consulting with a number of other likeminded countries, including some of our European allies who we've been working with actively on the ground in Zimbabwe as well to see what other kinds of things we might be able to do working with them.

As you know, we do have a number of targeted sanctions in place against some of those who are responsible for depriving the Zimbabwean people of their democratic rights and certainly we'll look at whether there are any other additional measures that might be necessary as well in response to some of these latest activities.

QUESTION: Has the Ambassador in Zimbabwe met with Zimbabwean Government officials to personally voice your displeasure over what's happened?

MR. CASEY: He has spoken with a number of officials in the foreign ministry. I'm not exactly sure who. He has not spoken to President Mugabe. I would note, of course, as well, that he had tried previously to intercede with Zimbabwean police officials and those who were at the detention center to try and see Mr. Tsvangirai as well as some of the other leaders and was rebuffed in that effort, as were members and other ambassadors from the European Union who attempted to do so as well.

So I would certainly characterize the Zimbabwean Government's response as less than satisfactory in all causes here.

QUESTION: Other than raising this with the Human Rights Council in which the State Department has often, since the Council's inception, criticized its functioning at a visit of Assistant Secretary Lowenkron to Addis Ababa to consult with the AU. Is there any consideration being given to more dramatic steps to try to persuade President Mugabe to treat the opposition with less violence?

MR. CASEY: Yeah. Well, as I said, we have in place -- the United States has in place a number of sanctions against those responsible for repressing democratic efforts in Zimbabwe. And we do need to take a look at what other measures might be appropriate in response and again, certainly, we'll talk with our European friends and allies as well as some of our other partners in the region about what other steps might be appropriate in response to this.

It is, again, troubling not only that this regime has gone forward and used acts of intimidation and efforts at suppressing free speech in the country, but to have so blatantly and so violently taken actions against the principle leaders of the opposition, I think, really shows the international community that the regime has little intention, without additional efforts on all our parts, to make the upcoming electoral campaign be one in which it's possible to have a free and fair contest and one in which the people's voice can be heard.

QUESTION: Has the United States come close to maxing out on its own sanctions that could be imposed against Zimbabwe?

MR. CASEY: I think in terms of what we have done to date, they haven't been very specific and focused on individuals who have been associated with some of these repressive policies. I think we'd have to take -- and we will have to take a look at what is currently on the table and what other steps might be taken. There's always other tools in the toolbox though, and I certainly expect we'll look at those.

QUESTION: We'll have to take a look -- you mean at actual -- at additional sanctions?

MR. CASEY: I think we have to take a look at what is in place and see what other measures might be appropriate to take. What I don't want to do is try and signal for you any specific course because people are just starting this process now.


QUESTION: Are you also looking at humanitarian assistance because the humanitarian situation has deteriorated there and economically, you know, inflation is at a gazillion percent and people are really struggling?

MR. CASEY: Well, unfortunately part of the reason for the terrible economic situation in Zimbabwe are the policies that have been adopted by the Mugabe regime. If a political leadership had set out on a course to basically undermine what had been one of Africa's more successful economies, they couldn't have done a better job than the policies that have been implemented over the past few years.

But certainly, we're always open to and looking at ways that we can relieve the suffering of people not only in Zimbabwe but elsewhere. I'm not sure at this point what kinds of humanitarian assistance might be appropriate. But obviously, if there's a need, we'll look at that carefully and work with the UN and other agencies to fulfill that.


QUESTION: Is Barry Lowenkron's trip a special trip or was this something -- was he already in the region?

MR. CASEY: Barry was already planning on going to speak with the AU, but this has become an issue that is now raised to the top part of his agenda for this trip just in light of the happenings over the weekend.

QUESTION: Can you say what else was on his agenda?

MR. CASEY: I'll try and give you a broader detailed response to that later, George. But I think what Barry intends to do is have consultations with the AU along with our AU Ambassador, talk about a broad range of human rights and humanitarian issues. I would expect he would talk about the situation in Sudan as well and certainly about our general concerns about human rights in the region and what the AU can do to help further necessary reforms and make a better case for what can happen in Africa. There are some success stories. But as you know, looking at our Human Rights Report, there are also a lot of problems.


QUESTION: Is recalling your Ambassador one of the things you'll be looking at?

MR. CASEY: I don't want to try and talk to you about specifics on this, Charlie. I know people are looking at a variety of things. I think right now Ambassador Dell is performing a very valuable function in the country by being able to make his voice heard on these issues and by being able to talk with and work with and do what he can to support the rights of the political opposition and those that have been imprisoned and those that have been fairly savagely beaten in this case.

Yeah, let's go this gentleman. Same subject, sir?


MR. CASEY: Okay, after you.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied that other multilateral organizations such as the African Union and the Southern African Development Community and other countries that might have even better influence on Zimbabwe -- are you satisfied that they are doing enough to stop what is going on in Zimbabwe?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think it's clear that all of us, the United States included, need to take a look at what we can do to help change this very serious situation in Zimbabwe. I know that the South African Government has spoken out on this a little earlier. But certainly all the countries of the region, including the AU, ought to take a look at what can be done to foster change in Zimbabwe. Again, I think we've got a long and clear track record from the Mugabe government of taking increasingly more repressive measures against the political opposition. And this is something that should be of concern to democratic countries in the region like South Africa as well as to the broader international community.

And again, I think an important opportunity to discuss some of those issues will be Assistant Secretary Lowenkron's visit to the AU tomorrow. But I think all of us need to do whatever we can to try and improve the situation there.

A pure Zimbabwe briefing -- it couldn't be.

QUESTION: No, another subject.

MR. CASEY: Okay. There you go, Sylvie.



QUESTION: Yesterday, you talked about further measures that U.S. could take against the Sudan Government. And today, the British Envoy to UN speaks about sanctions and the possibility of a resolution, UN Security Council resolution. Can you tell me your thinking about that?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, and I did talk to some of our people in New York about this. We are, in fact, consulting with the British now about what we might be able to do in terms of an additional Security Council resolution on Sudan. (Cell phone rings.) That's okay, George, but I like the ring. I really do.

Anyway, so we are consulting with the British on what might go into an additional Security Council resolution on Sudan. We think it's important in light of the disappointing response that was received by the UN and the AU from President Bashir that the international community do consider what other steps would be appropriate. And this, frankly, is an issue that needs to come before the Council. So we'll be talking over the next few days with the British Government, as well as with others, I'm sure, about how the Council should respond to that, including what we might put in an additional resolution.

I don't want to go too far. These are just early stages of these discussions and I don't want to try and lean you one way or another in terms of specific elements of it, but obviously, we need to look at what kinds of measures we could take to try and encourage a change of heart on the part of the Sudanese Government.

QUESTION: And did you consult with the Chinese about their eventual support of this resolution?

MR. CASEY: My understanding is, at this point, that today, we are beginning with a discussion with the British on this. Certainly, as we would move forward towards actually tabling a resolution, we'd need to consult with various other members of the Council including, I'm sure, the Chinese and the other members of the P-5.


QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I guess -- is it going to be of high priority in the UN Security Council, given how urgent the matter seems to be? I mean, how long is this process going to take to table a resolution?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think the international community has shown great patience with Sudan. It obviously is an issue, though, where our patience has largely run out, particularly in light of these new delaying tactics. So I expect that this is an issue that will come before the Council soon. I don't have and I wouldn't want to try and predict a schedule for that. I usually lose a lot of money trying to make bets on when things come up before the Council.


QUESTION: Does the United States support a no-fly zone over Darfur, which is what many NGOs and Britain supports and quite a few other European countries too?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, Sue, I know that's an idea that's been discussed in a number of different places. I think we need to take a look at all the possible tools and responses to be able to encourage a change in the Sudanese behavior. But I don't want to try and, again, talk to the specifics at this particular point. We'll let some of the diplomacy move forward on that.


QUESTION: The President of Rwanda is threatening this week to pull his troops out of the existing AMIS force in Darfur; are you concerned as all this drags on that the actual force that's there is going to disintegrate?

MR. CASEY: Well, I know there are a number of concerns on the part of the Rwandan Government and I think we've heard some similar statements in the past. We do want to see not only the Rwandan contingent, but the entire AMIS force certainly continue their presence. They are a critical element and are the foundation for the UN hybrid force -- or the UN-AU hybrid force that we do believe needs to go in. So certainly, to the extent that there are questions or concerns on the part of President Kagame, we'll certainly want to be able to respond to those, but we do want to encourage him, as well as all other members of the African Union force, to stay in place.

And again, we also need to see other countries come forward to contribute to this mission and contribute to the hybrid force. You know we've talked about this before. I think the Rwandan Government should be praised for its willingness -- it is a fairly small country, but it has been very willing to make contributions to the AMIS force and to other kinds of peacekeeping efforts that the AU is trying to undertake. So we very much appreciate what the Rwandans have been able and willing to do in Darfur. We certainly hope that presence will continue and we think it's really time for some of the other countries in the region to step up as well.


QUESTION: Yeah, it is reported that the United States Treasury Department has no longer involved or in charge in North Korean funds in BDA. Do you have anything on that?

MR. CASEY: Well, it is reported as well by the Department of Treasury that their Under Secretary for International Affairs Stuart Levey will be giving a press conference, I believe, at 1 o'clock today and I think you can hear from them directly what their response is to BDA issues.

Charlie, we're waiting on you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:53 p.m.)

DPB # 44

Released on March 14, 2007

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