Thursday, June 19, 2008

State Department on incident with Amb Sison

US Department of State

Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 18, 2008

QUESTION: On Lebanon, do you have any more details for us on this event involving the chargé who was in a convoy being stoned, apparently?

MR. CASEY: Oh, I did get a little bit of information for you.  I think some people may have already heard a little bit about this, but let me just sort of try and walk you through what we know. 

Michele Sison, who is our Chargé d'Affairs in Lebanon, was on a previously scheduled visit outside of Beirut. She was in a couple of smaller of towns outside the city visiting a number of different programs where the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Government has supported initiatives. That includes the Women's Progress Association, a local school for girls, and a social center which is where our American Corner is housed, and also looked at some other AID projects while she was out there. 

And my understanding is during her visit to the village of Nabatiyeh, one of the cars that was in her convoy had a mechanical problem, broke down. They decided to stop for lunch at that point. The Chargé was having lunch with a local family while the car was being repaired. After the car was repaired and they were getting ready to go, there was a small crowd that gathered around them – gathered around the vehicles. 

And at one point, about approximately a dozen individuals – I understand, basically, young men – starting throwing some stones at the vehicles. The Chargé was able to be – get into the car and depart without any particular incident. There were no serious injuries. I do understand that one of our security guards, one of the local Lebanese security guards, did get hit in the leg by one of the stones that was thrown, was not – did not require any kind of medical treatment or, certainly, hospitalization, as I understand. Chargé Sison was able to carry out the rest of her visit and ultimately returned back to the Embassy in Beirut. So that's the basic nuts and bolts of that for you, Kirit.

QUESTION: Was that her car that was being – you said there were a couple cars in the convoy, getting --

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: It was her car that was getting --

MR. CASEY: Well, there were -- you know, as you have all seen from your travels too, when we do this, there's -- the vehicles are all kind of lined up next to each other, so I think there were two or three cars involved. And, you know, I don't know, it depends – I guess it depends how good these guys' aim was, whether they were aiming at a particular car or just in general at the direction. But they were certainly – they were part of the convoy and part of the vehicles she was traveling in.

QUESTION: How – how close were they?

MR. CASEY: How close were the individuals?

QUESTION: These stone-throwers?

MR. CASEY: That were stoning the car? You know, I couldn't put it for you in terms of feet. They were in the general vicinity. They certainly weren't, you know, blocks or, you know, hundreds of yards away or anything.

QUESTION: You said that she departed without incident?

MR. CASEY: Yeah. I mean, it was --

QUESTION: Well, it seems to me that there –

MR. CASEY: Well --

QUESTION: Without incident? I mean, this seems to be an incident.

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, Matt, look, I --

QUESTION: Without further incident?

MR. CASEY: What I base it – what I meant to imply with my usual imprecise wording is that she was able to get in her vehicle; she was not assaulted or in any way prevented from doing so. And the convoy was able to leave and go on its route. She did not have to modify her plans for that day or otherwise change her schedule as a result.

QUESTION: This was today?

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: And do you know if this is going to alter any sort of further movements by the Chargé or other officials in the Embassy?

MR. CASEY: No, I -- obviously, our security people look all the time at both where folks are going when, and make assessments as to what's appropriate or not. Certainly, I would expect that the Regional Security Office and other folks at the Embassy will take a look at this incident, see if there's anything particular they can learn from it. But I don't think it would have any kind of fundamental change in the status of our Embassy or our personnel's ability to go out. 

And it's important that not only the Chargé, but other people at the Embassy do have the opportunity to be able to visit some of these projects to be able to talk to people, not only in the government, but folks outside of Beirut, and to get a chance to understand the country. It's something that's difficult in places like Lebanon, where there are a lot of security concerns. But it's part of what we do.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, final question. Do you know if these young men were associated with any group at all or if they --

MR. CASEY: You know, I think the assumption was that they were at least, in some way, shape or form, Hezbollah supporters. But I don't think – you know, I don't think anybody's stopped and asked them.

QUESTION: What about the region, though? I mean, these – you know, there was the village itself. What groups lived there or, you know --

MR. CASEY: You know, I don't – I think for us, the most important thing is there's Lebanese people there who are benefitting from a variety of different projects that the United States and others in the international community are sponsoring. I don't know, to be honest with you, what the, you know, ethnic or other breakdown of the village itself is. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

U.S. - EU Summit Declaration on Lebanon


The White House, President George W. Bush

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 10, 2008

2008 U.S. - EU Summit Declaration on Lebanon

"We welcome the election of Michel Sleiman as President of Lebanon. We look forward to the full implementation of the Doha agreement and a full resumption of the functioning of all democratic institutions of the state of Lebanon. We reaffirm our joint commitment to the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon, and our support for its government. We call on all concerned parties, including Syria, to comply with UN Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1701, 1757, and other relevant resolutions, including full cooperation with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. We reject the use of violence as a means to achieve political ends, and we reiterate our support for the extension of the full authority of the Government of Lebanon throughout Lebanese territory".

US State Department comments on France's overture towards Syria-June 9-10

US Department of State
Taken Question
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 9, 2008

France – Envoys to Syria (Taken Question)

Question: What is our reaction to President Sarkozy's decision to send two envoys to Damascus?

Answer: France and the United States share the same wish for peace and stability in the region. France is a valued ally that plays a key role in the UN, in the EU, in the Mideast generally, at NATO, and globally. We both want to see a Lebanon that is peaceful, prosperous and free of foreign interference. We look forward to continuing discussions with France on how to best support the Lebanese people to achieve their goals for a better future.

At the same time, the United States has serious concerns over the Syrian government's behavior including its support of terrorism, clandestine nuclear program, facilitation of the passage of foreign fighters into Iraq, repression of its own people, and interference in the affairs of its neighbors, including Lebanon.

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 10, 2008

QUESTION: Yes. What's your reaction today of French President invited the President of Syria to visit Paris? Are they no longer in solidarity with your policy on Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, we have worked very closely with, now, two French governments on the issue of Lebanon. And we've gotten real results, as – in part, because of that partnership on that, and we are going to continue to work very closely with the French Government on issues related to Lebanon. I think we had a lot of – we have the same goals, essentially, and that is to see a Lebanon that is free from foreign interference, that is able to exercise sovereignty throughout the country from border to border, that is one that has a political system where you don't have political parties that have one foot in politics and one foot in terror. 

That's – all of that – all of that said, this is perhaps a point of departure, in terms of this invitation between the two of us. We would hope that they use that opportunity to send a very strong message to Syria that they could and should play a more constructive role in the region on a variety of fronts, whether it's Lebanon or whether that happens to deal with Iraq or whether that happens to deal with peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. So we would hope that they would use this occasion as an opportunity to send that very clear message. And I would expect that when Secretary Rice is in Paris that she'll talk about this as well as other issues, as will President Bush.
QUESTION: The French argument is that Syria, by kind of not interfering in the presidential election in Lebanon you know showed, perhaps, that it's willing to play a more constructive role and that that premise should be, kind of, tested further. I mean, you don't necessarily think that Syria's kind of lack of – the fact that they allowed the presidential election to go forward is, albeit a small, but positive step that should be kind of encouraged?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look. You have to go back and ask yourself the question of how correct is it that a neighboring state block a presidential election going forward in a neighboring state? And then you ask yourself the question of whether or not that kind of behavior should be rewarded.

Clearly, we have a different view. The French Government, in this regard, will take its own decisions. But I fully expect that we are going to be – continue working very closely on matters related to peace in the Middle East as well as, and in particular, on Lebanon, because we really – we have the same goals.
QUESTION: No, but I'm – just on the kind of larger issue of these small steps, and you're saying that they shouldn't necessarily be rewarded. I mean, isn't the goal of not necessarily only Syria, but in Cuba or any other place where you're looking for these countries to have better behavior, I mean, isn't a small step better than no step at all?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, everybody will come to their own assessment of the situation, whether it's in Cuba or Lebanon or Syria or elsewhere around the globe. As I said, we believe that this is a point of – a point of departure. I'm not going to make a huge – any big pronouncements about this, but simply stated, it is point of departure between the two of us. But I would underline in saying that – that we do share the same goals with respect to Lebanon and really with respect to the Middle East writ large.