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Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 10, 2008

INDEX:

KENYA

Statement by USAID on Assistance to Kenyans Affected by Violence in Electoral Period
Assistant Secretary Frazer Back in Kenya / Meetings / Contact with President Kufuor / Assistant Secretary Frazer Making Determinations
Working Toward Goal of a Made-in-Kenya Solution
Both Sides Need an Agreement on Moving Forward
U.S. Will Offer Best Advice and Will Provide Counsel to Both Sides

COLOMBIA

U.S. Welcomes Release of Two Hostages / Continues to Call on the FARC to Release All Hostages / Appreciative of President Uribe’s Leadership
U.S. Welcomes Anyone Who Has Positive Role to Play That Supports Efforts by Colombian Government Including President Chavez
U.S. Wants to See a Continuation of Colombian Government’s Efforts / Working Closely with President Uribe
Hostage Situation is a Colombian Government Issue

KOSOVO

Under Secretary Burns Called to Congratulate Both President and Prime Minister
U.S. Supports Moving Forward with Implementation of Ahtisaari Plan

PAKISTAN

U.S. Reaction to Bombing in Lahore / U.S. Condemns Bombing and Extends Condolences to Families / Will Continue to Work with Government of Pakistan
Issue of Senator Reid’s Letter to President Bush
U.S. Policy on Pakistan
Deputy Secretary Negroponte and Assistant Secretary Boucher Testimony to Congress on U.S. Aid to Pakistan / Discussed Specific Conditions and Terms Related to U.S. Aid to Pakistan

IRAN

Diplomatic Note Given to Swiss Formally Protesting Incident / Note Reiterated Points Made Publicly
U.S. View on Release of Videotape by Iranians

TURKEY

U.S. Favors Putting PKK Out of Business / Encourages Political Dialogue Between the Governments of Turkey and Iraq


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:50 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Okay. All right. Well, good afternoon, everyone. A pleasure to be here with you. I did just want to call your attention to one item before we started off. And this is a statement that was actually released by USAID that notes that we are providing now a total of $5 million to assist vulnerable and displaced Kenyans following post-election violence in the country. And this will go to NGOs and other international organizations to work on health-related issues as well as food, water and sanitation and temporary shelter. And this is something that's in keeping with the requests that have been made by Mike Ranneberger and our ongoing efforts to try and have the Embassy and have the U.S. Government assist Kenyans who might have been affected by some of the violence in the electoral period.

So with that --

QUESTION: Well, let's stay with that for a second.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: What's your latest understanding of the situation there and can you update us on what -- anything that might have happened in the last three hours with Jendayi.

MR. CASEY: Okay, well, Jendayi Frazer, our Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, is back in Kenya today. She has had a meeting with Mr. Odinga. She intends to meet later on with President Kibaki, though the logistics of that meeting were still being scheduled as I came out here. She's also spoken with President Kufuor who, of course, has also been continuing his efforts there. Certainly, we're all working towards the same goal here, which is to have a made-in-Kenya solution to the political problems there, to have an agreement reached between the two major parties here on how to move forward and on how to resolve this political crisis. So Jendayi's going to be there, as I said this morning, for today and into tomorrow. And she'll be, as always, making determinations on how best she can engage in this.

But, certainly, unfortunately, there has been no resolution of the crisis yet. But we are continuing to work with the African Union and with others to try and see that be resolved.

QUESTION: Well, the two sides don't appear to be any closer at all. In fact, they look to be further apart right now. So I'm just curious, when you say you want a made-in-Kenya solution, do you want a made in Kenya by Kenyans solution, because there seems to an awful lot of non-Kenyans in Kenya right now working on some kind of a solution. So is made-in-Kenya, does that necessarily mean that there has to be a Kenyan solution or Kenyan-produced solution or can it be done by --

MR. CASEY: Well, it has to be something --

QUESTION: -- Kofi Annan, John Kufuor, Jendayi Frazer and whoever -- Desmond Tutu and whoever else happens to --

MR. CASEY: Well, look, Matt, ultimately -- what we mean by that is this is certainly not an issue that can be resolved because we think it should or because anyone else thinks it should. The two parties need to, in one form or another, come to an agreement on the way forward and that's something that we and the African Union and others can help facilitate that.

QUESTION: I understand that, but are you looking at making -- given the situation and the fact that things haven't gotten any better or that the two sides haven't gotten any closer since all this started, are you now at the point where are, you know, making suggestions as to how they might improve things?

MR. CASEY: Well, Matt, I think all along we've been offering our advice where appropriate on how they might be able to engage one another and move forward. But no one is trying to impose a solution on either party at this point.

QUESTION: No, no, no, I -- it's not a question of imposition. It's a question of they seem unable themselves to come up with something, so have you suggested different ways that the problems might be addressed?

MR. CASEY: Matt, I'm not going to try from several thousand miles away to tell you the contents of any of the diplomatic conversations. Here again, I'm sure -- I know we are offering our best advice to them. The point I'm trying to make is that no one is sticking a piece of paper in front of both sides and saying, "You must agree to this." Because I don't think that's a productive way forward. I don't think that will ultimately allow them to resolve their differences. This has to be something that is discussed and is worked through. Certainly, we're there to provide whatever advice and counsel we can. President Kufuor is the same and the group of eminent persons that the AU has announced -- that I understand Kofi Annan will be participating in -- I view as part of those efforts as well.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Yes, I was just wondering the Colombian guerilla released two hostages as they had promised. And I was wondering does that give you any hope that this is a humanitarian gesture on their part and that eventually the three American hostages will be released? And on the other hand, are you concerned that this particular development in Colombia today will give President Chavez additional star power in the region?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, the important thing is we welcome the release of these two hostages. They should have never been taken hostage in the first place. They've been held in captivity too long and we are glad to see that they've been released and look forward to them being reunited with their families.

We also continue to call on the FARC to release all the hostages that they hold: Americans, Colombians and all others. Certainly, we are also appreciative for the leadership of President Uribe in terms of trying to secure the release of these hostages. And we welcome the good offices of any individuals who can help secure that in cooperation with the Colombian Government.

QUESTION: Including President Chavez?

MR. CASEY: I think that anybody, including President Chavez, including anybody who has a role to play that is positive and that supports President Uribe and the Colombian Government's efforts is to be welcomed.

QUESTION: Well -- but what is it -- although it's a welcome step that he was able to help facilitate and obviously it would be welcome if he could do this for the American hostages, but what does that say about the Venezuelan Government's eyes to the FARC?

MR. CASEY: Look, I'm not going to try and speculate. I think today's a good day for these two individuals and certainly we know that this was worked out in coordination with the Colombian Government and with the support of President Uribe and others. We continue to support his efforts at ensuring that the -- all the remaining hostages, including our three American citizens, are released. And I think at this point, what we'd just like to see is a continuation of the Colombian Government's efforts on this. We know they've been working hard on it and maybe this will be something that will permit further releases, but I think at this point it's really premature to speculate.

QUESTION: And would you be ready to request President Chavez to facilitate the release of the three Americans?

MR. CASEY: Well, we continue to work with the Government of Colombia. The Government of Colombia and President Uribe are the ones who are ultimately responsible for managing whatever process is involved here. So certainly, we are going to continue to work with them. And if they have others -- and if President Uribe and the Colombian Government have any suggestions or other ideas that they wish to share with us on this, certainly we'll take a look at that.

Yeah.

QUESTION: But seeing as President Chavez was apparently successful in helping to secure their release, then why not directly appeal to him if you want to save the lives and get the release of the three Americans? Wouldn't it be a prudent approach?

MR. CASEY: Look guys, I think the prudent approach is to work with the Government of the country involved and that's Colombia and that's what we're going to do.

QUESTION: But are you letting your own political relationship with President Chavez get in the way of helping with the release of those --

MR. CASEY: Sue, the United States will do anything and everything it can to secure the safe release of American citizens being held hostage by this unlawful terrorist organization.

QUESTION: So then why not go directly to President Chavez then and ask for his help?

MR. CASEY: Sue, again, the United States has and will continue to do everything it can to secure the release of our hostages. The government involved in this issue is the Government of Colombia and we work very closely with President Uribe, with the security forces in Colombia and with other interested parties to be able to see that what we can do is appropriate and ensures their safe return to their families. That's our primary concern here.

QUESTION: But you didn't work with Chavez at all, correct?

MR. CASEY: There's -- as far as I know, there has been no particular direct contact, but that -- and again, that's appropriate. This is not a U.S. issue. This is a Colombian issue.

QUESTION: Well, it is for the U.S. -- the Americans.

MR. CASEY: It certainly is. But again, we work with the Government of Colombia. These are American citizens that were captured in Colombia by a Colombian terrorist organization and we have been working assiduously with the Government of Colombia to secure their release. We will continue to do so. And if the Government of Colombia believes that there are others who might be able to assist us in that effort, you bet we'll take them up on that opportunity.

QUESTION: Can I also ask you just by your choice of words earlier, you said you appreciate the leadership of President Uribe. Can you say that you also appreciate the assistance that President Chavez --

MR. CASEY: I said that we've welcomed --

QUESTION: I'm just wondering --

MR. CASEY: -- the good offices of anybody here. No, Matt, I'll leave it where I left it. Thanks.

Sue.

QUESTION: Are you a little reluctant to give him credit for something?

MR. CASEY: Sue, look, I think I'll leave it to other people to add to this. I think I've said enough on this one already.

Anybody else? Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes, on Kosovo. Mr. Casey, the well-known U.S. puppet, Albanian Hashim Thaci has been elected as the so-called Prime Minister of a Serbian territory, Kosovo, saying that the province is only weeks away from independence and called on Serbia to give up its claims. Any comment?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, Mr. Lambros, I think it's a disservice to the people of Kosovo to refer to their duly elected leaders as anybody's puppet, but I'm sure they'll be happy to talk to you about that as well. I should note, Mr. Lambros, that Under Secretary Burns did call to congratulate both the President as well as Prime Minister Thaci on the formation of the government and the United States, as you know, fully supports the earliest possible resolution of Kosovo's final status. And Under Secretary Burns, I know, gave his views on that to both leaders and certainly told them that we intend to continue to support moving forward with implementation of the Ahtisaari plan and that includes its recommendations of supervised independence for Kosovo.

QUESTION: To follow up, how do you congratulate the so-called prime minister of a non-existent state? It's illegal. It's against the international law and the international practice. How do you explain this?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, the international community has established the procedures for the Kosovars to select their own leadership through elections. These have been supervised and monitored by the United Nations as well as by the broader international community. They are fully compliant with UN Security Council resolution 1244 and I think I'd just leave it at that.

Yeah, let's go in the back here.

QUESTION: On Pakistan.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Today there was a bombing in Lahore, which is a relatively peaceful city. And more than two dozen police officials were killed and scores were injured. What -- how does U.S. see this in the context of two countries fighting, war and extremism in that part of the world?

MR. CASEY: Well, this is a terrible, tragic act of terrorism. We condemn it. And we certainly extend our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives or were injured in this incident. I think it just goes to show that there continue to be individuals in Pakistan who are intent on subverting the political process in that country and who have no interest in seeing that the Pakistani peace have an opportunity to develop a democratic system, in fact, believe that the way to proceed is through violence. And we're going to continue to work with the Government of Pakistan as well as with all the major political parties there to be able to help move forward the process of Pakistan's democracy, particularly as we look towards elections in February.

Yeah, Sue.

QUESTION: Also on the subject of Pakistan, Senate Majority Leader Reid sent a letter today to President Bush in which he was very critical of the Administration's policies towards Pakistan. And he is urging the Administration to make very clear to President Musharraf that he can't continue to receive such high levels of U.S. aid unless his restoration of democracy and that the assassination of former Prime Minister Bhutto is fully investigated. Do you have any comment on his criticism of the Administration and also his plea to make clear that aid can only continue if certain conditions are met?

MR. CASEY: I haven't seen the letter, and inasmuch as it's directed as the President, I'll let the White House respond to it. I think in terms of U.S. policy, we've been quite clear. We believe that it's critical to Pakistan's future that it develop as a peaceful, moderate, Islamic democracy. We believe that part of that means having free and fair elections and we're pleased to see that there has been an election date scheduled. And again, we're going to continue to work with all the parties there to try and help them as they move forward.

In terms of our relationship with Pakistan, in terms of the war on terror, we're going to continue to serve what is U.S. national interests, Pakistani interests as well as the broader interests of the international community, and continue to work with them as they seek to confront Taliban and al-Qaida-supported individuals on Pakistani territory.

I don't have any particular comment on the letter though, again, because it's something I haven't seen and it is directed at the White House. We've made quite clear in testimony by the Deputy Secretary, by Assistant Secretary Boucher and others, what our position is on U.S. aid to Pakistan. We've also talked -- Richard has -- in terms of his testimony about some of the adjustments that we're making to that assistance to ensure that it is project-based and that we can make sure that every taxpayer dollar that is spent there is spent wisely and for support of U.S. objectives.

QUESTION: But in your dealings with President Musharraf -- I mean, the State Department's dealings -- are you making clear to him that there need to be certain sort of benchmarks met in terms of democracy and other areas before you're going to shell out all this money?

MR. CASEY: Again, I'd simply refer back to the testimony that's been given on that by the Deputy Secretary and Richard. They've talked about the specific conditions and terms related to U.S. aid to Pakistan. I honestly don't have anything new for you on it, Sue.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CASEY: Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: Can you give us a reaction on the Iranians' versions of events, this new video they've put out?

MR. CASEY: Well, a couple of things.

First of all, Matt, in response to your longstanding question, I did check again after the gaggle this morning and found out that we have, in fact, now prepared and given to the Swiss a diplomatic note formally protesting this incident. And I don't know whether that has yet to be delivered, but I expect it would be shortly.

In terms of -- may I assume you're referring to the release of a videotape by the Iranians? Look, as I said this morning, I think we all understand what happened in this incident. You've heard from the President and you've heard from others about our concerns about it. We certainly don't want to see the Iranians taking any kind of provocative actions or provocative steps against our ships or against any ships that are transiting what is a primary international waterway.

QUESTION: When did you issue -- give this diplomatic note?

MR. CASEY: This morning, our time.

QUESTION: This morning.

QUESTION: To -- I'm sorry, you said to the Swiss. But is it to the Embassy here or is to the Embassy in Tehran or --

MR. CASEY: You know, someday, someone will make clear to me the exact formal means of transmission. The bottom line is, where it sat when I came out here was that the Swiss Ambassador in Tehran had a copy of this document. I don't have, as of yet, confirmation that he has, in fact -- or someone from the Swiss Embassy has, in fact, had an opportunity to deliver it.

QUESTION: Could you characterize the note in the sense, was it a formal protest or was it a warning that such actions in the future would be considered provocative and could have consequences?

MR. CASEY: I'd simply just say that it reiterated the points we've made publicly over the last few days on this incident.

QUESTION: Have you asked them for an explanation or maybe a warning (inaudible)?

MR. CASEY: Again, I'd -- I'll just leave it where I left it.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say what the President said yesterday, "Don't do it again?" That's sort of the message?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, he said publicly and the rest of us have as well that we were concerned by this incident, that we viewed it as provocative, and that we certainly would not want to see other incidents of its kind take place.

QUESTION: Looks like you (inaudible).

MR. CASEY: I guess I do, sorry. (Laughter.)

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Mr. Casey, on Turkey, do you favor a political dialogue between Turkey and the Kurdish organization PKK?

MR. CASEY: We favor putting the PKK out of business. It's a terrorist organization.

QUESTION: One more question. At the recent summit (inaudible), the President of the Republic of Turkey Abdullah Gul rejected the American idea for a political dialogue with PKK saying inter alia, why the U.S., with the same token, has not opened the political dialogue with al-Qaida for Usama bin Laden? How do you respond to that?

MR. CASEY: We want a political dialogue between the Government of Turkey and the Government of Iraq, which is ongoing and continuous, over how to defeat the PKK. I don't believe anyone in the U.S. Administration has ever called for dialogue with a terrorist organization.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:08 p.m.)

DPB # 7



Released on January 10, 2008

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