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Middle East Digest - August 14, 2009


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Washington, DC
August 14, 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 August 14, 2009

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12:09 p.m. EDT

QUESTION: Is there anything new on Lockerbie? Can you bring us up to date on what efforts the U.S. is making and its views expressed --

MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, we continue to talk to Scottish authorities about this particular case. Secretary Clinton, in the past day, talked to Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill and expressed strongly the United States view that Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi should serve out the entirety of his sentence in Scotland for his part on the bombing of the Pan Am 103 flight.

QUESTION: Just the one call to the justice minister?

MR. CROWLEY: I believe that in the past few days, also the Attorney General has called the same individual.

QUESTION: P.J., just a clarification on Secretary Clinton’s call to the justice minister – is that the Scottish justice minister or the U.K.?

MR. CROWLEY: The Scottish – just to – yeah, exactly. Obviously, this case falls within the purview of Scottish authorities, so he is the Scottish justice minister.

Yes.

QUESTION: There is a report on – that Syria test-fired some short-range missiles in May, and that was done with cooperation with Iran and North Korea, that they were both there for the test and cooperated in developing that missile. Do you have any --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not familiar with that.

QUESTION: Do you have any – can you talk about cooperation between Iran and North Korea and Syria on missiles or nuclear technology?

MR. CROWLEY: There have been some indications of cooperation. I mean, obviously, there’s a relationship between Syria and Iran. It’s of concern to us. It’s a concern to others in the region. It’s one of the reasons why we have reopened dialogue with Syria. Likewise, there are reports of cooperation between Syria and North Korea. We have the same concerns. So this is one of the reasons why we have made the decision we’ve made to resume dialogue with Syria, to eventually return an ambassador to Syria so we can have a detailed and lengthy and comprehensive discussion. But beyond that, I won’t comment.

Yes.

QUESTION: Considering that there have been multiple instances of U.S. citizens being detained abroad lately, how do you think their detention and different means of release affect U.S. diplomacy?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think that we can stress enough that it’s unwise for American citizens to wander across borders into hostile countries.

QUESTION: Are you considering taking any preventive means?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as we’ve said – look, preventative means – we obviously encourage Americans to travel around the world, but obviously they have to be prudent when they travel. I think that as a general matter, it is important to note that individual cases like this should be handled as a legal issue in some cases, as a humanitarian issue in some cases. In the case of a couple of countries that have been in the news recently, we have significant issues to discuss with those countries, and we have made it clear that for a country like North Korea, for a country like Iran, we want to have dialogue. We want to be able to address not only the concerns that we have about those countries, but the concerns that they may have about U.S. policy.

But in terms of holding Americans hostage to those discussions or hostage to those interests, we think that’s completely inappropriate.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Lockerbie?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: In addition to the contact with Scotland, are there any contacts with London on that issue?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have talked to the United Kingdom Government about this as well, but obviously, the decision rests with Scottish authorities. But we have made our views clear not only to Scotland, not only to the UK, but also to Libya.

QUESTION: So wait – the release of Megrahi, can it create tensions between London and Washington?

MR. CROWLEY: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We have made our view clear. We think that there are compelling reasons, given the tragedy that affected the United States, affected the United Kingdom. Obviously, our interest is justice, and our interest is the commitment that we made to the families that we would not only find the perpetrator of this terrorism act, bring him to justice. Working with the United Kingdom and with Scotland, he was brought to trial. We had a fair trial. He was convicted. He’s serving his time, and we think he should stay in jail.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:28 p.m.)



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