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 August 13, 2009
12:58 p.m. EDTQUESTION:
Yes. I was wondering if you have a reaction to reports that Ali Megrahi, the man who’s serving a life jail term in Scotland for the bombing of the Pan Am aircraft in 1988, is expected to be released next week on compassionate grounds. I realize that the decision has not been confirmed yet by Scotland, but I was wondering if you have a reaction in principle to his detention and possible release.MR. CROWLEY:
Well, we’re not aware that there’s been a final decision. We have made our views clear to the UK Government, to other authorities, that we believe that he should spend the rest of his time in jail.
Yesterday, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom issued a report and put India on the watch list of religious tolerance world over. At the time when the Administration is trying to improve relations with India, what impact will this report have on Indo-U.S. relations?MR. CROWLEY:
I’m not familiar with that report.QUESTION:
And is Ambassador Holbrooke going to India?MR. CROWLEY:
He is not, not to my knowledge.QUESTION:
Turning to Iraq, Camp Ashraf. Human rights attorneys and U.S. members of Congress are saying that the Obama Administration is not doing enough regarding the Iranian detainees in that Iraqi camp. Do we know where the detainees are, and is there any progress, and do you have a reaction?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, obviously, as we have said many times, we regret the – what happened at Camp Ashraf and the loss of life and injury that occurred. Even as we understand the Government of Iraq desiring to extend its sovereignty into that camp, we are still in conversations through Embassy Baghdad with the Iraqis, and we hope that the interests of the people in the camp will be respected, and that that conversation continues.QUESTION:
To follow up, you know, some critics are saying that the United States perhaps has a double standard because they not doing enough in that area where – you know, we’re working more on human rights in other areas.MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I mean, we have – we, obviously, have a relationship with Iraq. It is moving towards – well, from a military-dominant relationship toward a partnership and dialogue with Iraq on a variety of issues. Human rights is one of them. We have understandings with Iraq about how the people in this camp will be treated. We are continuing to pay attention to that. And this is one among many issues on which we will continue to have significant dialogue with our Iraqi counterparts.QUESTION:
Can I follow up on that?MR. CROWLEY:
This group has said that the U.S. has gone back on promises it made to them to protect them, especially after the transfer of security control. Can you --MR. CROWLEY:
Well, there’s --QUESTION:
-- address that?MR. CROWLEY:
-- an inherent contradiction, in that this was an attempt to – for the Iraqis to establish, I think, a police station in the camp and bring officials into the camp, which we completely understand. It is – we had a small contingent of forces nearby. It was not necessarily their purpose to protect these people. We have received assurances from Iraq that they will respect this particular group and their rights, and we continue that dialogue.
But as I said yesterday, it is regrettable that in trying to do something which was understandable, it was not executed well, and I think the Iraqis understand that as well. This is not an issue that we’re ignoring. We remain in active discussion with Iraq about Camp Ashraf, and we’ll continue to talk to them and to focus on this issue. But it is – this is fundamentally about Iraq and its ability to govern its own country and the people there within its sovereign boundaries.QUESTION:
I understand that. Can you address their accusation that the U.S. has gone back on security guarantees that they got?MR. CROWLEY:
We received assurances that they would be well treated. And we understand that what happened was a mistake, and we continue to have discussions about how they can work with this group in the future.QUESTION:
I understand --MR. CROWLEY:
Yeah, I --QUESTION:
-- you have talks between you and the Iraqis. This is between you and the group. I mean, this is between --MR. CROWLEY:
Yeah. But this is ultimately about the sovereignty of Iraq and the ability of Iraq to protect all of its citizens and all of the people who are inside its boundaries. So we haven’t carved out a special protectorate within Iraq. Iraq was trying to extend its sovereignty to Camp Ashraf. We understood what they were trying to do. They did not do it well. There are, obviously, ramifications of that, and we continue to talk to Iraq about what should be done with respect to this group going forward.QUESTION:
Can you just clear up, for once and for all, then what sort of agreements or assurances you had provided to this group? I mean, can you just lay that out there so we understand it?MR. CROWLEY:
I’ll take that question.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:12 p.m.)