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Middle East Digest - May 13, 2009

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Washington, DC
May 13, 2009


The Middle East Digest provides text and audio from the Daily Press Briefing. For the full briefings, please visit daily press briefings.

From the Daily Press Briefing of May 13, 2009

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QUESTION: Please, amidst the reports of illnesses at Afghanistan girls’ schools, I was wondering if you had any reaction, and whether the State Department is playing any role to try to determine what happened.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, we’ve seen these reports. They’re very – they obviously concern us very much. And the – I understand that the Afghan authorities are also taking these incidents very seriously and are investigating them. We – and of course, we urge the Afghan authorities to do – to conduct a thorough investigation of it. It is an investigation being conducted by Afghanistan.
Also, we have a provincial reconstruction team nearby there, and they’re following it very closely. But beyond that – actually, I’ve commented quite a bit, but beyond those comments, I really can’t go much beyond those comments since there’s an investigation underway.

QUESTION: Because I was wondering if there’s any technical assistance to aid in that investigation, any blood sample analysis, that kind of thing – was being --

MR. KELLY: Well, as I say, we have a PRT nearby there. But as far as I know, we haven’t been asked for any kind of technical assistance.

QUESTION: We have a report that – we have obtained a list of 140 Afghan citizens said to have been killed last week in the incident believed to be U.S.-caused, at least partly by U.S. airstrikes. And of the 140 names, 93 are children and 25 are women. We’ve already had a comment from a U.S. military spokesman who essentially questions the veracity of it indirectly, saying that, you know, he could come up with 140 names, there’s no way of knowing if the list is accurate, and so on. But the list has been sort of validated by a number of Afghan officials. And I wonder if you have any sense of whether this list is accurate or not and if indeed the dead did indeed include 93 children and 25 women.

MR. KELLY: Secretary Clinton has been, of course, on the record of how disturbed we were by this information, how we wanted a complete and thorough investigation. This list that you refer to I haven’t seen, so I’m unable to comment on the veracity of the list. I know that we’re working quite closely with the Government of Afghanistan to conduct this investigation, but whether – you know, as I say, the veracity of the list, though, I can’t confirm from here.

QUESTION: The lawyer – one of the lawyers for Roxana Saberi says that she – that the Iranian case against her was based on her having acquired a confidential Iranian Government report.

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: That she acquired such a report, I am not suggesting in any way applies that she was guilty of espionage, but it may indeed have violated Iranian laws about – you know, covering the confidentiality of such reports. The Department was very consistent in saying that the charges against her were baseless. Do you stick with that, or does this change your view of the charges?

MR. KELLY: No, we haven’t changed our views. We continue to maintain that the charges against her are baseless. And our concern throughout, of course, has been Ms. Saberi’s well-being and her safe return to the United States.

QUESTION: Continuation of – on Iran. Now that the U.S. has been selected to the security – to the Human Rights Council, are you going to push the human rights violation issues in Iran any further?

MR. KELLY: Well, you --

QUESTION: *Take it up* seriously.

MR. KELLY: I think that we’re going to have a broad agenda related to human rights. We – one of the reasons why we wanted to stand for election the Human Rights Council is – we wanted a seat at the table, we wanted to be a fully engaged voting member of the council. One of the things, of course, that we’re going to promote is – promote and protect is human rights in Iran, but not just in Iran, worldwide.


QUESTION: Does this agenda apply to the Palestinians under occupation in Israel that their rights have been violated in Jerusalem and the occupied land, the wall that has separated so many families, more than 3,000 prisoners in – without any legal – real legal reasons, including women and children even in the Israeli jails. So now with the United States taking this seat and this new responsibility, is the United States going to address this subject more seriously, regardless of its alliance with Israel?

MR. KELLY: Well, we take the issue of human rights very seriously. And as I said before, we are looking to be fully engaged and an active participant on the council so we can promote the idea of human rights worldwide.

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