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Middle East Digest - July 28, 2009


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Washington, DC
July 28, 2009

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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 July 28, 2009

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QUESTION: This MEK group in Iraq, Iranian dissidents – they’re claiming that their Camp Ashraf is under assault.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: And that – they’re also charging that the U.S. has reneged on a promise to protect them from the Iraqis.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: What’s your understanding of that situation?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I do have something for you on that. We’ve seen these media reports, and we’re looking into them. As you know, the Government of Iraq has assumed responsibility, security responsibility, for Camp Ashraf and its residents. We continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure the residents of Camp Ashraf are treated in accordance with Iraq’s written assurances that it will treat the residents there humanely.

This is in accordance with the constitutional laws and the international obligations of Iraq, and the government has stated to us that no Camp Ashraf resident will be forcibly transferred to a country where they have reason to fear persecution on the basis of their political beliefs – political opinions or religious beliefs, or whether there are substantial grounds for believing they would be tortured.

Of course, this is – as I said before, this is really a matter for the Government of Iraq to handle. This is completely within their purview. But we are closely monitoring it.

QUESTION: Is it just monitoring or is there going to be negative feedback afterwards? Because reports are, you know, indicating --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- the level of – there is some actually harsh treatment of those --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. As I say, I mean, we’ve seen these reports. It’s an evolving situation. And as it develops, of course we’ll – we will monitor it. And if the situation warrants, of course we’ll let our feeling be known about it.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Just a question on Iran. I’m sure you’ve seen the reports that Supreme Leader Khamenei has ordered a detention center closed. Is this a good thing?

MR. KELLY: I’ve only seen reports of it, so it’s hard for me to – or hard for us at the State Department to comment on something that we’ve only seen reports of. I mean, what I will say is, of course, that we’re deeply concerned about all these arbitrary arrests, detentions, and harassments that are – that have taken place in Iran, as well as the persistent lack of due process.

All along, we’ve called upon Iran’s leadership to release all of those who have been detained unjustly, and so allow them to be reunited with their families. In addition, we’re very concerned about some detentions of foreign citizens, including an American scholar that we’ve talked about here before, Kian Tajbakhsh, Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, and there’s a French scholar, Clotilde Reiss.

They have been detained, we think, without any grounds. And we find this unacceptable and we’re urging Iran to resolve all outstanding foreign national cases, including the call on Iran to be very transparent and open about the case of American citizen Robert Levinson, who’s been missing since March 2007.

QUESTION: There’s no update on the status of Mr. Tajbakhsh or the other American citizens?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have any update right now.

QUESTION: Just to go back to Camp – the Camp Ashraf question.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: I heard what you said before about how you’re monitoring this, and – but that, ultimately, this was up to the Iraqi Government.

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And the email I just got says that – it claims that Iraqi police forces are pouring boiling water on residents of Camp Ashraf and throwing stones at them. I mean, the allegation is that these people are being mistreated. Do you have – can you check to see if you have anything – I mean, if you believe those reports are credible and therefore if you’re actually going to intervene or speak to the Iraqi authorities about this?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Yeah, we’ll see what we can do, Arshad. Those are certainly very disturbing reports that you’re reading there.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:33 p.m.)



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