Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
November 6, 2006
National Reconciliation Efforts
Saddam Hussein's Death Sentence / Death Penalty
Closing of Two Television Stations / Freedom of the Press
Under Secretaries Burns and Joseph's Meetings / Update on Six
Party Talks / September 19 Joint Statement
Reaction to North Korean Statement that Japan Will Not be Welcome
at The Next Round of The Six Party Talks
U.S. Supports UN Mediator and Negotiator Ahtisaari's Efforts at
Current Events in Taiwan / Calls for President Chen to Resign
Death of Former Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit
Reaction to Reports that Palestinians Have formed Unity Government
ICRC Call for Moratorium in Cluster Bomb Use
1:10 p.m. EST
MR. CASEY: Welcome everyone. It's nice to be here with you. I don't have any opening statements or announcements, so let's go right to your questions.
QUESTION: Did you see the story in the "This just in category" about moves in Baghdad to reinstate Baathists to their old positions?
MR. CASEY: I actually didn't, George. As you know, though, Prime Minister Maliki has an ongoing national reconciliation plan. That's something that he's working on. Certainly I think we're supportive of those efforts at national reconciliation. And that does include efforts to bring in all sorts of individuals into the political process as it moves forward. I haven't seen anything specific, though, on involving former Baathists, so I really couldn't comment on the specifics of that story for you.
QUESTION: To stay in Iraq. The death sentence against Saddam Hussein has been widely criticized over the world. Do you think it would be a good thing if he was executed?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I think you've all seen the statements that were made both by the President and the Secretary, Ambassador Khalilzad and others over the weekend. We think first and foremost that this is an important step forward for Iraq's judicial system and an important step forward in holding accountable those who were responsible for crimes of the previous regime.
In terms of the sentencing involved, first of all, my understanding is that these sentences do automatically go through an appeal process. Obviously the judges there will be looking at that and make sure that this sentence was done properly and that all appropriate steps are taken. In terms of the specific penalties involved, the death penalty is something that's been part of Iraqi law for some time. This is again something that is an Iraqi decision and we would leave it up to the Iraqi legal system and the special tribunal to determine what the appropriate punishments are.
QUESTION: Do you see any risk of further violence if the death penalty is applied?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think what's important here is that the rule of law be followed and that this process be allowed to move forward in accordance with Iraqi and international standards. We believe this has been a fair and transparent process, one that does allow for the rule of law to be responsibly answered to, and that's what we want to see happen. I think the Prime Minister has spoken eloquently on this subject as have any number of other officials in Iraq. And I would simply leave it to them to talk about how other people in the Iraqi community are responding. But I think you've seen in general a very positive reaction to these verdicts and decisions from among the people in Iraq.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the Iraqi Government's decision to close two television channels which were broadcasting apparently fairly negative comments on the verdict?
MR. CASEY: Arshad, I would leave it to the Iraqis to talk about the specific reasoning behind that. My understanding is that they had concerns about these stations not simply broadcasting views and opinions but inciting violence. Obviously, though, we are always concerned about freedom of the press in Iraq and elsewhere. Certainly while inciting violence is not something we want to see happen, we certainly wouldn't want to see any actions taken that would deprive people of their right to express a full range of views, whether that's in Iraq or any place else.
QUESTION: Change subjects?
MR. CASEY: I guess so.
QUESTION: I wonder if you have anything to say on the Nicaraguan election. Specifically do you -- is your assessment that it was a fair election in terms of the process? And what is your understanding about the results, the outcome so far?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think right now there have not been results released by the Nicaraguan Electoral Commission, so we'll wait and see those before we make any kinds of statements regarding winners and losers. Also as well, I understand a number of the observer groups there will be issuing statements shortly and I think we want to see those before we respond in overall terms about the process. The U.S. delegation that's down there has issued a statement, too. It's noted both high turnout and given praise to the Nicaraguan people for their patience and their willingness to show support for this democratic process. It's also noted that there have been reports about a number of procedural issues involved, too. But I think at this point we'll wait and see what the observers have to say and wait for the final vote tally before we issue any sort of broad judgments on it.
QUESTION: When you say that there are a number of procedural issues, what kind of procedural problems have they noted in particular and --
MR. CASEY: If you go back and look at the statement by the delegation, it talks about delays in opening polling places, long lines, stations closing while there were still voters in line, a number of things like that. But nothing --
QUESTION: Nothing about tampering or anything else?
MR. CASEY: Not that I'm aware of. Again, I think we want to see what the observers have to say before we issue any sort of broader conclusions.
Sure, back here.
QUESTION: On North Korea and the six-party talks. Under Secretary Burns and Bob Joseph is in the region obviously. And do you have any more information on when they might be likely to resume and what exactly preparations are underway?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think you've heard from both Under Secretary Burns and Joseph in Tokyo at the conclusion of their meetings there. They did have a good opportunity to meet with a number of Japanese officials and, of course, part of that was to look at ongoing efforts at implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1718, but also to talk about issues related to the six-party talks. Certainly we're looking forward to having those talks reconvene at the earliest possible date, but I don't have a specific date yet to offer you. I think we're still looking to see when that's going to be possible.
Let's go down here and then we'll go over to Arshad.
QUESTION: The Japanese Vice Foreign Minister is the one who was leading negotiations for them with North Korea complained that the U.S. was pushing too high a hurdle, he said, in dealing with North Koreans by insisting from the start of the next round of talks that they accept inspections of nuclear development sites and other issues. Do you have a response to that?
MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen his comments. Again, what's the starting point for these negotiations? The starting point for these negotiations is the September 19 joint statement. That calls for a number of things, ultimately a denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which is the common goal that everybody shares. But in terms of the specifics of how we get there, that document provides an outline and a framework for how we get there. But many of the other specifics have to be negotiated. But our starting point is simply that, that we work off of the document and work on developing an implementation strategy for it. And I think that's self-evident; that's the document that all six parties have agreed to.
QUESTION: So is that also self-evident then that the quick dispatch of inspectors would obviously be an early need?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, right now what we need to do is come back -- have everyone come back to the talks and sit down and work out the details of that September 19th statement. I'd have to go back and look and see where inspections and other activities come into play, but it is certainly not a requirement that that occur before we sit down and talk.
QUESTION: Does the United States want to see the ministers of the five parties, that is everybody except the North Koreans, meet at APEC or on the sidelines of APEC? Is that something you're trying to put together?
MR. CASEY: Well, I'm sure there'll be a variety of discussions at APEC. I don't have a schedule of that either for the Secretary or certainly for the President on that. I'm not aware of any particular moves at this point to have such a meeting convene, but certainly we'll keep you posted as a schedule develops.
QUESTION: The reason I ask is because the Japanese Foreign Minister said that Japan and the United States were proposing that the foreign ministers gather and I'm trying to get a sense if there really is anything to that.
MR. CASEY: Well, I don't have anything at this point on that, Arshad, sorry.
Let's go -- Nicholas.
QUESTION: Yeah, just on this one. The North Koreans said over the weekend that Japan will not be welcome to the next round of six-party talks. What did you make of this? Does it -- what does that mean and have they requested that Japan not be present?
MR. CASEY: Well, I understand it was a statement through their press agency. I think Under Secretary Burns has already addressed that from our perspective in Tokyo today. Look, obviously Japan is one of the core members of the group. They're part of the six-party talks. You can't have six-party talks without them and we fully expect that they will be at the table when the next round convenes.
QUESTION: On Cyprus, Mr. Casey. The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan when talking to the Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanaanen for a Cyprus summit has put a stop saying, "I will not attend meetings unless Greece is also in attendance." Any comment?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I haven't seen those statements. But again, our policy on Cyprus is well known. We certainly want to see discussions move forward among the two communities and we want to see an agreement reached that's ultimately acceptable to both sides.
QUESTION: Do you consider the Cyprus issue as a problem between the Republic of Cyprus and the Republic of Turkey or between Greece and Turkey?
MR. CASEY: Again, Mr. Lambros, from our perspective the key thing here is that all the citizens of the island of Cyprus have a mutually agreeable arrangement made to resolve this situation and that's where I'll leave it. Obviously there are other interested parties, including the United States in this issue, but ultimately it is for those two communities to resolve.
QUESTION: Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel should copy the division of Cyprus to deal with the problem of its Arab minority. Minorities are the biggest problem, he said. Cyprus is the best model. How do you comment on that?
MR. CASEY: My comment is you should talk to the Israeli Government about the statements of their Deputy Prime Minister. I understand that Prime Minister Olmert, however, has come out and publicly said that those views don't reflect those of his government.
QUESTION: And one more. Do you favor the division of Cyprus?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I think as I've already said, we favor a resolution of the Cyprus issue in such a way that is acceptable to both sides.
QUESTION: The Serbian Government asked -- would like the UN envoy for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, to give his demission because they think he's too pro-Albanian. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen those comments, but certainly, as you know, we support former Prime Minister Ahtisaari's efforts as the UN mediator and UN negotiator. We think it is very important that both sides here continue to work together and to try and arrange a mutually acceptable agreement. As you know, Mr. Ahtisaari is planning on putting forward a proposal for how to resolve Kosovo's final status by the end of the year. Again, this is an effort that we support and we'll be continuing to work with him.
QUESTION: Same on that. I'm sorry, go ahead.
QUESTION: I understand Annan gave an interview over the weekend where he's definitely moving the goalpost back into next year at some point. I mean, and what do you think of that?
MR. CASEY: Well, ultimately, you know, it is important that we get this right. But my understanding is Mr. Ahtisaari has not as yet said that he does not believe it's possible to present a document for review or present a plan for review by the end of the year. So that's the goal I think we're still shooting for.
QUESTION: So he does think or he doesn't think he can do it?
MR. CASEY: My understanding -- the last things I've heard Mr. Ahtisaari haven't changed his view that he intends to present something by the end of the year.
QUESTION: Just to be clear though, I mean, the first thing you said is it's important that we get this right, which suggested to me that you were not opposed to the idea of it sliding if that meant getting it right. Is that the right way to understand what you're --
MR. CASEY: Well, Arshad, I think again we've set out a goal for ourselves. I don't and haven't had any kind of more recent information from Mr. Ahtisaari that indicates that he needs extra time to reach this conclusion. Obviously we want to support him and we'd be interested in hearing from him if he believes it needs to require additional time to do it.
Let's go back here.
QUESTION: Change subject?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: In Taiwan, Taiwan President Chen is indicted on corruption charges. Thousand of people take to street to urge Chen to resign again. In addition, Taiwan congress is planning to start the third recall movement on President Chen Shui-bian. And what is U.S. concerned -- what is the U.S. concern on the instability of Taiwan Strait?
MR. CASEY: Well, again I think we've spoken to this last week and we haven't changed our views since then. We consider this to be an internal matter in Taiwan. We believe the Taiwanese authorities, through their legal system, will be able to resolve this in an appropriate way.
QUESTION: Does the United States especially watch the ongoing movement of Taiwan?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, these are interesting internal political matters inside Taiwan, but really it's for Taiwanese to decide. We certainly continue to look at all issues involving the Taiwan Straits, but I don't have anything specific or new to offer you on that subject.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: No, no, no. Okay, Nicholas and then this gentleman back here.
QUESTION: There are reports, Tom, that USAID has or is planning to leave Eritrea. Do you know anything about this? And if that's the case, why is that move --
MR. CASEY: I don't, Nicholas. I haven't heard that. We can look into it for you and see if we can get something. Let's go to this gentleman back here.
QUESTION: South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said today South Korea will continue two biggest project with North Korea. One is Kaesong industrial park and the other is Kumgang Mountain tourism project. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen those statements, but obviously now Under Secretary Burns and Joseph are in Seoul right now. They're going to have conversations with a number of South Korean officials about the implementation of Resolution 1718 as well as other issues related to North Korea's nuclear program. I'm sure if there are any new statements or new issues to be discussed there that they'll have an opportunity to do that, and I'll just leave it to them to talk about it.
QUESTION: Mr. Casey, former Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, it's a matter of history, who ordered the Turkish invasion and occupation of Cyprus with full cooperation of then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, died in Ankara. Anything to say about that?
MR. CASEY: Actually, we will put out a statement that will go out on this afterwards, but we were saddened to learn of the death of former Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, who was Prime Minister of Turkey four times, as I understand it, between '74 and 2002. And his commitment to Turkey's secular democratic institutions was something that we very much respected and I think was respected throughout the world. So I think all we'd say right now is we extend our sincere condolences to him -- to his family and to the people of Turkey.
Sylvie, did you have something?
QUESTION: Yes. Change of subject? It's about Palestinians. Apparently the national dialogue is -- seems to be moving. Abbas is going to Gaza today to meet with Haniyeh. Do you think -- do you have any comment on that? Do you have -- did you see some --
MR. CASEY: I've seen a number of reports on this and -- but I understand that there are still a number of things that are under discussion. Look, I don't think it'll be a surprise to you to know that we still have the same basic position with regard to the Palestinian Authority. We look forward to working with a Palestinian Authority government that governs responsibly and that's interested in making progress towards peace. And that means as a basic principle that that government needs to accept the measures outlined by the Quartet, the Quartet principles that we've discussed before. We certainly welcome President Abbas' efforts to create a government that reflects those principles, but I think for the moment we just have to wait and see what happens.
QUESTION: Apparently the future government would be led by an independent minister, Jemal al Khodari, who is also close to Hamas. Would it be acceptable to U.S.?
MR. CASEY: I think before we start speculating about individuals and things, let's see what actually comes out of these talks, whether there is in fact a new government and what the positions of that government are. Again, what we're looking for, as you know, is a government that as a starting point accepts the Quartet principles.
Same thing, Nicholas, or different subject?
MR. CASEY: George, same thing or different subject? All right, Nicholas, we'll go to you.
QUESTION: For those of us who weren't upstairs this morning, can you tell us, if you know, how the first meeting of the Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion went and what is actually -- why did the Secretary set that up and what does she hope to achieve?
MR. CASEY: Nicholas, I can try and get you some more things on it, but I did not attend myself, unfortunately, so I haven't gotten a readout on the meeting.
QUESTION: Not very important.
MR. CASEY: It's actually very important, but I'll get you something on that.
QUESTION: The ICRC has issued a statement calling for a moratorium, I believe, on the use of cluster bombs. Do you have anything on that?
MR. CASEY: You know I saw some reporting on that right before I came out here, George. As far as I know, U.S. views on this are unchanged. The U.S. does believe that this is a legally acceptable munition, but of course it has to be used very carefully in terms of the rules of engagement. Obviously one of the things we are always concerned with in any military operation is that civilians not be targeted deliberately and that all effort is taken to minimize any impact of any military operation on civilian populations. That's generally my understanding of what is in keeping with the Geneva Conventions.
You might want to talk to DOD for more specifics on the policy as far as the U.S. military is concerned.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR. CASEY: Sure, Kirit.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the U.S.'s investigation into Israel's use of the cluster bomb in Lebanon?
MR. CASEY: My understanding is we're still collecting information on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)
DPB # 180
Released on November 6, 2006