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Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 22, 2008

INDEX:

SOMALIA

Maritime Piracy off the Coast
President of Transitional Government Visit

AFRICA

Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer’s Travel to South Africa, Zambia, & Angola

ZIMBABWE

U.S. Hope that Regional Actors Get Involved / Release of Election Results
U.S. Dialogue with Government
Chinese Vessel Carrying Weapons
Not Appropriate at This Time to Be Introducing Weapons to Zimbabwe
Need to Move Forward with Process and Transition from Election Results
U.S. Concerned With Reports of Harassment and Abuse of Opposition Supporters

ISRAEL

Arrest of American for Passing Classified Information to Israeli Government
Connection to Pollard Case / Not Type of Action U.S. Expects from Friend and Ally

NEPAL/CHINA

Protests on Situation in Tibet in Nepal / Right of People to Peacefully Express Views

MISCELLANEOUS

U.S. Image as a Welcoming Country to Immigrants and Visitors
U.S. Immigration Policy / Illegal Immigration
U.S. Public Diplomacy Efforts

BELARUS

Status of Ambassador Karen Stewart
Sentencing of Opposition Activist Andrei Kim

GREECE

Deputy Assistant Secretary Matt Bryza’s Meeting with Evangelos Venizelos

CYPRUS

Discussions Between Government of Cyprus and Turkish Cypriot Community

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

Possible Meeting Between Secretary Rice and President Abbas
Donors Conference

LEBANON

Al-Zawahiri Tape and Comments that Lebanon will be Base for al-Qaida

SERBIA/KOSOVO

Serbian Parliamentary and Municipal Elections
U.S. Expects Serbia to Limit Its Electoral Activities to Serbia

NORTH KOREA

Sung Kim’s Meetings
Status of Declaration


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:41 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Don’t have anything to start you out with. So anything on your mind, Matt?

Not really?

QUESTION: Uh, no.

MR. CASEY: (Laughter.) Okay. Let’s go down here, then.

Kim.

QUESTION: Nothing at all.

MR. CASEY: Yep.

QUESTION: Actually, I have two questions, which I wasn’t able to raise this morning because I wasn’t here, so I don’t know if you have an answer. But just checking about --

MR. CASEY: Those are good reasons not to be able to raise them, so – (laughter).

QUESTION: Apparently, the U.S. and France are preparing a draft UN resolution that would enable them to chase Somali pirates who attack their boats off the coast of Somalia. Anything on that?

MR. CASEY: Not something that I’m familiar with. I’m happy to look into it for you. As you know, we’ve long been concerned about both the situation in Somalia in terms of trying to help the Transitional Federal Government there bring about stability and provide a real, meaningful government for the Somali people, one that they haven’t had for many, many years. We certainly also have been concerned about the issues of maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia. That’s something there have been any number of incidents involving international vessels over time. I’m not aware of what we might be working on in terms of UN action on this, but we’re happy to check for you and see what we can get later.

QUESTION: And – sorry, what --

MR. CASEY: Let’s see if I can go 0 for 2 on you.

QUESTION: Jendayi Frazer going to Zimbabwe or --

MR. CASEY: No, we talked --

QUESTION: -- not Zimbabwe, to South Africa.

QUESTION: You think you can fly her in? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Sorry, sorry.

MR. CASEY: We’ve – that’s all right. No, we talked a little bit about this this morning, and Jendayi is going to southern Africa. She’ll be going to South Africa, Zambia and Angola. This is to talk about both our bilateral issues with those countries as well as broader regional issues. Certainly, the situation in Zimbabwe is one of those issues that will come up as part of these discussions.

Again, we are looking and, certainly in the case of Zimbabwe, would hope to see the other actors in the region; certainly South Africa, as well as the other neighbors and members of SADC, to be able to use the influence that they have to try and get the Zimbabwean Government to do the right thing here. And that most immediately means a release of all the electoral results that is based on a fair counting of the ballots that occurred. The Zimbabwean people have been waiting too long for those results. And then, of course, whatever those results show, we would expect that there would be acceptance of legitimate electoral results and an implementation of them, including, as appropriate, changes in the parliament and changes in the government.

QUESTION: When is she going?

MR. CASEY: She left today, I believe. She should be en route now.

QUESTION: Tom, actually --

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- you raise a good point. Why doesn’t she go to Zimbabwe? Have you guys just written off the whole – any idea that talking with Mugabe or any of his top aides is going to be at all useful?

MR. CASEY: Well, our Embassy obviously does maintain a dialogue with the Government of Zimbabwe as well as with the opposition there. I don’t think, at this point, anyone believes that our immediate intervention in the form of Jendayi would necessarily help facilitate that discussion or dialogue.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Tom, any reaction to a statement by the Justice Department today that the U.S. authorities have arrested an American man on charges that he disclosed classified U.S. defense information, including on nuclear weapons to Israel?

MR. CASEY: Well, you can talk to the Justice Department about this specific case. My understanding is that the incident dates back to the mid-1980s and is, at least in some way, connected with the well-known case of Jonathan Pollard who, of course, has been convicted and is serving time in an American jail for having passed on classified information to the Israeli Government. Certainly, this is a subject that we did discuss during that time with the Israeli Government. I know that we will be informing the Israelis of this action. I would simply say, just as a general matter, that, you know, 20-plus years ago during the Pollard case, we noted that this was not the kind of behavior we would expect from friends and allies, and that would remain the case today.

QUESTION: Could we then assume that this case doesn't really pose an immediate threat to the U.S.?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think what you can -- I'd leave it to the Justice Department to characterize both the nature of the offenses involved and the -- how they intend to handle the prosecution of it. What I can say is my understanding is the actual passing of information occurred in the mid-1980s, and I'm not aware of anything that's more recent than that.

QUESTION: Tom, you said that you are -- you will be informing the Israelis? One hopes that you did it before --

MR. CASEY: Well, I believe --

QUESTION: -- the Manhattan district -- whatever he is, attorney for the Southern New York actually announced this --

MR. CASEY: Well, I can assure you that the Justice Department did not inform the Israeli Government before they arrested the individual involved.

QUESTION: Well, yes, but --

MR. CASEY: But subsequent to that, my understanding is there were supposed to be some discussions that happened today on this. I just wasn't able to confirm that they'd actually taken place beforehand.

QUESTION: That was here or in --

MR. CASEY: That would have been from here, yeah.

QUESTION: I mean, in Washington?

MR. CASEY: In Washington, yeah.

QUESTION: Would that have been calling the Israelis into the Department or on the telephone? How would that have happened?

MR. CASEY: That will have happened by the means chosen by the officials involved, who I haven't had a chance to talk to yet. I would expect it would have been a phone call. But, you know, I'll let you know if that's -- anything different there.

QUESTION: Tom, just to follow up on that, actually --

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- because Israel's one of your closest allies. There are, I guess, now at least two cases of Israeli espionage of nuclear secrets from the United States. How concerned are you more broadly about Israeli espionage in the U.S.?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, these -- this case, as well as the Pollard case, date from the same period. I understand there's at least a connection between them. I think, at the time of the Pollard case, there was a lot of discussion about what implications this had or didn't have for U.S. national security. I'm not aware that this latest arrest and indictment changes that assessment. But certainly, I'd refer you over to the Justice Department as well as to the Pentagon and intelligence agencies as to whether they might have anything more by way of an assessment on this.

I don't think, as far as I know, this fundamentally changes what we understood or what we learned to be the issues involved during that first case back in the mid-1980s.

QUESTION: No, but what about your concerns about possible ongoing Israeli spying in the United States?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I'd turn you to the law enforcement community and those that deal with counterespionage issues. I'm not aware that there are any other cases or any other issues that people are pursuing that move beyond this 1980s period.

QUESTION: And then one final question. What would you say to criticism from some that given your close relationship with Israel, that there is a different standard that they are held to when it comes to espionage cases? That perhaps, you know, this has been 20 years since this happened, that they were held to a different standard than if this were a case from China or, say Pakistan?

MR. CASEY: Well, what I would say is that the first instance involving this case that occurred was a prosecution more than 20-plus years ago. You can talk with the Justice Department about why it has taken as long as it has from the original incident to be able to develop and establish enough information to actually be able to move forward with an arrest and prosecution.

But our standards are the same for any country. We, you know, treat seriously our obligations, all of us, as government officials, to safeguard classified information, to safeguard national security information. And there is pretty much a zero tolerance policy for anyone that would engage in sharing that information in an unauthorized way with anyone, including countries that are good friends and allies like Israel.

QUESTION: Have you gotten --

MR. CASEY: Sorry, keep going.

QUESTION: Have you gotten any assurance from the Israelis? Have you sought any assurance from them that they are not currently spying?

MR. CASEY: Look, Kirit, first of all, in terms of this latest arrest, the – again, we’ll be discussing, if we haven’t already, this issue with the Israelis. I would leave it to others that are responsible for counterespionage activities to talk about it. We believe, though, that we have a good, friendly relationship with the state of Israel. And certainly, again, as I said, these kinds of activities, whether they occurred long in the past or, you know, occur present-day are not the kinds of actions we would expect from a friend and ally. And we would expect that Israel would not be engaging in such activities.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Just to follow that question, does the United States suspect Israel has a nuclear weapon?

MR. CASEY: Our position with respect to those issues has not changed, and I don’t have anything to offer you on it.

Yeah.

QUESTION: If we can go back to Zimbabwe?

MR. CASEY: Okay, we can go back to Zimbabwe.

QUESTION: The authorities in South Africa and Mozambique and Angola and Tanzania refused to allow that ship that was carrying these weapons to Zimbabwe to dock. And now, the generals in Zimbabwe and the Chinese, they say they will be bringing it by air. The ship is now on its way back to China and those weapons will be brought back by air.

Are you in contact with the Chinese to tell them about the seriousness of the situation in Zimbabwe and the implications of their action? And are you worried since the church group and other bodies in Zimbabwe are saying that the situation in the countryside can easily slide into a genocide because of the increased violence there?

MR. CASEY: Well --

QUESTION: Are you worried about that?

MR. CASEY: Yeah. Well, first of all, we talked a little bit about this this morning. We have been in contact with various governments in the region, as well as with the Chinese Government, on the subject of this vessel that had been attempting to deliver weapons to Zimbabwe. And we’re pleased to see that many countries in the region refused to either accept this vessel in their ports, or to offload those weapons. Glad to have seen statements from the Chinese Government saying that that vessel may, in fact, now be recalled back to China. We don’t think it’s appropriate at this point, given the political upheaval that’s occurring in Zimbabwe, for anyone to be adding extra tinder to that situation by providing additional weapons to Zimbabwe’s security forces.

In terms of the possibilities that it would be transported through other means, that is not something that I have heard. Certainly, though, the same thing applies: It’s not the method of transportation; it’s the fact that at this point in time, we don’t think it’s a good idea for anyone to be introducing additional weaponry into Zimbabwe, and certainly would hope that everyone that had contact with the Zimbabwean Government would encourage them to do the right thing in terms of releasing electoral results, honoring the will of the people, and being able to move forward with a transition to the results of that election.

Yeah.

QUESTION: And --

MR. CASEY: Sorry, one more.

QUESTION: Yeah. No, no, the next question I’m worried about is perhaps about the escalation of violence which these NGOs groups are quoted this morning saying they can see this slide into a genocide.

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, we remain concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe and concerned about tensions there. The fact that the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission and the government have refused to release the results and give people an understanding of where their votes left the country in terms of the formation of a new government is a very serious situation. We continue also to be concerned by reports that we have seen of harassment and abuse of opposition supporters by Zimbabwean security forces and by those affiliated with the government. And that’s one reason why we have been making such a strong public case and why we’ve been working with the countries in the region to try and get the Zimbabwean Government to move forward in this process and to do the right thing and to also engage in dialogue with the opposition to resolve these outstanding issues.

Certainly, though, I think at this point, while the situation is serious and we maintain very great concern about it, fortunately, we have not seen any kind of outbreak of large-scale violence. And certainly, our actions are designed to help see that that doesn't, in fact, occur.

Okay, Goyal, and then we’ll go down to Susan.

QUESTION: Tom, thanks. Two quick questions. One, Amnesty International is condemning the Nepal, which is under pressure from China using force on the Tibetan protestors who are peacefully protesting and for the human rights and attacks on them. So have the State Department received anything or are they in touch with the Nepalese how to deal with these peaceful protestors or as far as human rights concerned?

MR. CASEY: Goyal, I’m not sure what kinds of communications we might have had through our Embassy with the Nepali Government, but whether it’s in Nepal or any other country, we believe people ought to have the right to freely express their opinion, whether that’s about the situation in Tibet or anything else. It’s a fundamental human right for people to be able to freely express their views on any political situations there. And certainly, we would urge any government, including the Nepalese, to honor people’s right to be able to peacefully express their views.

QUESTION: And second, understanding America or U.S. image overseas was the issue this morning at AEI, Enterprise Institute. There are many issues going on in the U.S., and in especially in Virginia against -- or, actually, Virginia state is going or at least one county after illegal immigrants. You think this is also a issue that may cause image -- U.S. image in many countries? And also, Karen Hughes tried her best and Secretary of State is trying her best as far as the U.S. image in many countries, especially in Muslim or Arab countries. So how can you describe understanding America or how can they understand America or better image?

MR. CASEY: Well, Goyal, first of all, I think -- let me try and divide these issues out. On the subject of illegal immigration, very much the United States maintains a policy of being an open, welcoming place both to immigrants and visitors. We’re a nation of immigrants and that is an important part of our heritage. Certainly, as you’ve heard from the President and others, though, we need to make sure that we deal with immigration in a way that honors those who have followed the rules and who have proceeded in accordance with the laws.

Obviously, this is an issue that’s before Congress and something that a lot of people are talking about. There also, as you point out, are local and state initiatives related to services and other things that are really matters for those governments to describe. So there’s a lot of people out there that can give you more information and more detail about some of the specifics of our immigration policy. But again, I don’t think there’s any doubt that the United States remains an open place both for immigrants as well as for visitors from all over the world.

In terms of U.S. public diplomacy efforts, first of all, while Karen has certainly left the Administration, all the main efforts in U.S. public diplomacy – the Fulbright Program, our International Visitors Programs, our exchange activities, the activities that embassies undertake every day in terms of outreach to people throughout the world – continue, and that’s part of what we do. There are policies that the United States undertakes that will certainly not be popular sometimes in one country, sometimes more broadly. But ultimately, part of what we all do as diplomats is a matter of helping to inform other publics both about individual U.S. policies, as well as more broadly and importantly, about U.S. society and values. And that effort’s ongoing and continuing, and I’m glad the folks at AEI as well as other think tanks around town are thinking about ways we can do it better.

QUESTION: Just a quick one --

MR. CASEY: I’ll tell you what, Goyal. Let’s move around to a couple other people and then we’ll come back to you.

Susan.

QUESTION: In Belarus, an opposition activist, Andrei Kim, has been jailed for a year and a half. Do you have any comment on that? And what is the state of U.S. relations with that country now? Is Ambassador Stewart still here and is there any chance she’d be going back anytime soon?

MR. CASEY: I honestly don’t know where Karen Stewart is or what her status is. She continues to be the U.S. Ambassador to Belarus. She has been accredited by that country, and I have every reason to believe she will be returning there if she’s not, in fact, there already.

With respect to the case you mentioned, first of all, Belarusian authorities are continuing to use these kinds of heavy-handed tactics both in terms of breaking up opposition demonstrations as well as the things we’ve seen through this harsh sentence directed for Andrei Kim and some of the other activists. And certainly, it’s another example of the Belarusian Government working to silence political opposition and silence civil society. And we would call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Kim as well as all political prisoners in Belarus.

Okay, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Greece, Mr. Casey, anything to say on the yesterday’s meeting between DAS Matt Bryza and the Greek former politician Evangelos Venizelos here at the State Department?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I understand that Matt Bryza did, in fact, have a meeting with the individual you mentioned. They had a good discussion about some bilateral issues, including Mr. Bryza’s recent trip to Athens. I think they also did have an opportunity to touch on relations between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia on the name issue and otherwise have a good conversation about the general (inaudible) --

QUESTION: One more question?

MR. CASEY: -- between the U.S. and Greece.

QUESTION: On Cyprus --

MR. CASEY: You don’t even want to let me finish?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. CASEY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thirteen working groups, their technical committees begin work since April 18th to prepare the ground for negotiation that will lead to the reunification of Cyprus in a bizonal and bicommunal federation. Any comments since the Greek Government is involved too for a solution?

MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, we support efforts by both the Government of Cyprus as well as representatives of the Turkish Cypriot community to engage in discussions that would lead to a resolution of this longstanding conflict. We’re very supportive of it and certainly welcome any discussions towards that end.

David.

QUESTION: Tom, I understand that the President of the Somali Transitional Government is, I think, in the building today. I was wondering who he’s seeing, you know, what are they – what are they discussing?

MR. CASEY: I understand he is here this week. I’m not sure what his exact schedule is. We’ll get something for you and post it a little later.

Okay.

QUESTION: Tom, can you tell us whether the Secretary’s meeting with President Abbas when he’s here, separately from a meeting with the President? And what exactly is the immediate agenda? Is it to convene a trilateral meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh when the President goes to Israel in May or what’s going on?

MR. CASEY: Well, Nicholas, first of all, the primary meeting that’s happening here with President Abbas is with President Bush. So I’d let the White House talk to you about the agenda and the schedule for those meetings.

Gonzo, do we have anything on her schedule in terms of is there any kind of separate meeting that she’s doing either before or after?

MR. GALLEGOS: I haven’t seen it.

MR. CASEY: Okay. We can check for you. But if, in fact -- I think she may, in fact, be scheduled to meet with him, as she usually does right before the President’s meeting. And again, this would be an opportunity for her to discuss with him the continued progress that is being made in discussions between Israelis and Palestinians on moving forward with the Annapolis process, as well as our continuing efforts to support President Abbas and his government as they seek to strengthen Palestinian institutions. All of that would be a prelude, of course, to the President’s meeting with President Abbas.

Okay, Samir.

QUESTION: What about this conference that is supposed to be held in London with Mr. Blair to help the Palestinians? Do you have anything on that?

MR. CASEY: I don’t have anything on it for you right now. I know that there is going to be a donors conference that’ll be taking place. But in terms of the details of that, I’m not sure that there have been a lot of specifics out there on it. We certainly haven’t announced any travel plans or representation on it at this point, as far as I know.

QUESTION: Is it going to be in London or in Egypt, Sharm el-Sheikh?

MR. CASEY: Samir, I honestly do not know. It’s not something I’ve looked into. I’ll be happy to have our good friends in the Near East Asian Bureau give you a opportunity to hear about it.

QUESTION: One more question.

MR. CASEY: Yeah, sure. Sure. What’s the --

QUESTION: Al-Zawahiri issued a new tape on the internet and he is bragging that Lebanon will be a central base for al-Qaida’s operations in the future. Would -- do you have anything to say on this?

MR. CASEY: Well, we would hope that Lebanon would be a central base for the Lebanese people to have a democratic government that supports them and achieves their political aspirations. Certainly, we’re always concerned about any threats from al-Qaida, whether they’re directed at the United States or directed at a good friend like Lebanon. I think it’s pretty clear, though, that the people of Lebanon don’t particularly find attractive the kind of vision that’s being offered by Al-Zawahiri or Usama bin Ladin or any of the folks involved in al-Qaida.

All right, Mr. Lambros, we’ll give you one more.

QUESTION: On Kosovo. Mr. Casey, Serbia said yesterday that it would extend its May 11th parliamentary and municipal elections to 16 Kosovo municipalities, including the capital Pristina. Any comment?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, we would expect the Serbian Government to limit its electoral activities to Serbia. And we would expect the Kosovar authorities would be the ones that would be responsible for calling and running elections in Kosovo.

Param?

QUESTION: Tom, any readout on the meeting the U.S. had with North Korea in Pyongyang?

MR. CASEY: Well, not much beyond what I told you this morning. Sung Kim and his team have arrived in North Korea. They did, as I understand it, have a chance to meet with Kim Kye-gwan at – today and they’ll be continuing their discussions over the next day or so. Their focus, as I said, is to work on the declaration. Sung Kim himself mentioned when he arrived in South Korea the day before, they also expect to talk about some of the issues related to verification. I know some of -- folks had asked earlier this morning whether there were plans for him to travel anyplace else in North Korea. As far as I know, he intends to stay in Pyongyang for these discussions and then return after that.

QUESTION: So you’re not sure what the North Koreans told him or he didn’t give you a – some kind of --

MR. CASEY: Well, again, you know, this is -- the principals here are to talk about the main issues related to the declaration and in keeping with longstanding practice, I don’t think we’re going to delineate any of the details of that. Safe to say, though, there is no declaration. And until there is, until we see it handed in to the Chinese, any kind of speculation about whether we are one degree closer or farther away from it, really doesn’t matter. This really is an issue where it’s not done until everything’s done. And so we would certainly hope that this meeting and this visit will make progress towards getting that declaration. But I’m really not in a position to try and handicap for you exactly how close or how far away we are at this point.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:06 p.m.)

DPB # 72



Released on April 22, 2008

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