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Middle East Digest - September 21, 2009


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Washington, DC
September 21, 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 September 21, 2009

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QUESTION: Yes. Ian, can you tell us a little bit about this trilateral summit that Obama is going to have with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and what do they actually hope to accomplish given that both sides have said that this is not really a return to talks?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is it just symbolic? Even Robert Gibbs has said that they’re not expecting any grand expectations to come out of it, so why have it if it’s just symbolic?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think anything that helps advance our efforts towards our ultimate goal of resuming meaningful negotiations that would lead to a regional peace in the region, that any such meetings would be helpful and valuable. And this is exactly what they plan to do tomorrow in New York. I think it’s – as the White House said over the weekend, it’s also an indication of the President’s own deep commitment to finding a way forward to this comprehensive peace, and it shows that he is personally engaged in the effort.


QUESTION: Just following on the original question, I just want to follow-up with you. The whole idea of what we could possibly expect out of it --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Since the Palestinians have said there’ll be no new negotiations until Israelis do a settlement freeze, what can we – and this is not a real return to talks – this summit.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: What can we realistically expect to come out of this summit?

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, this meeting is going to happen tomorrow.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. KELLY: It’s the – or meetings, I should say, because there will be two bilateral meetings, then, of course, the trilateral meeting. Again, I just think it really – it shows that we are ready to engage at the highest levels of our government to try and bring about something that we’ve all wanted, that all sides have wanted, for decades, and that’s a lasting regional peace. But I’m not going to tell you what necessarily we expect to achieve out of this. I think that’s really a question for the White House.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Just wanted to get you to respond to an article in Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper written by Simon Henderson. In it, he talks about a letter dated December the 10th, 2003, which he says was written by A.Q. Khan. And the suggestion here is that the narrative around A.Q. Khan has been that he has been singled out as pretty much the sole source of the proliferation problem that Pakistan had, whereas the suggestion is that there was a much broader problem within Pakistan in terms of encouraging proliferation with the likes of China, Libya, Iran, and North Korea.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any response to that?

MR. KELLY: Well, I haven’t seen the article that you’re referring to. I certainly will look it up after the briefing. But I think that our concerns about Mr. A.Q. Khan have been very clear and very public, and we’ve passed them both through private diplomatic channels, and we’ve also made our views known publicly. I think that we’re working very closely with the Government of Pakistan to ensure that there are proper safeguards for their own nuclear program. And we’ve also worked very closely with them in terms of making sure that there isn’t any kind of proliferation of any kind of technology or information or hardware.

QUESTION: Do you know if the U.S. has seen this letter and whether there --

MR. KELLY: No. I don’t know what letter you refer to, so we’ll have to take a look at that, and maybe tomorrow we can get you some more information on that.


QUESTION: Glenn Campbell from the BBC. Has the United States forgiven the Scottish Government for releasing the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing?

MR. KELLY: Well, our views on that issue, of course, are extremely well known. Again, we’ve passed these views both in private channels and in – also publicly. I think just about everything that we have said to the governments in London and Edinburgh through diplomatic channels have mirrored what we’ve said publicly. I don’t think it’s a matter of forgiving anybody. I think all along, we recognized that Mr. MacAskill had the right to do what he did. We objected extremely strenuously at many different levels and in many different channels to the release of Mr. Megrahi.

I think at this point, we’re looking to move on. We’re looking to continue the very important cooperation that we have with the United Kingdom and with Scotland. We have very deep and abiding ties with Scotland. These ties are cultural. They’re – we share political values. We have many family ties. My own father, as you probably can guess from my first name, is Scottish. He was born in Edinburgh. So we’re looking to move on. We’re looking for a – to continue this important relationship that we have with Scotland.

QUESTION: Is there any diplomatic price for the Scottish Government to pay?

MR. KELLY: We are very close allies, and I think allies – I don’t think we’re looking to punish anybody, per se. There’s no tit-for-tat here.

I’m going to go in the back, Goyal. I’ll come back to you. Yeah.

QUESTION: Just following on from that – I’m sorry, Ali Hunter, BBC Scotland.

MR. KELLY: I love these accents.

QUESTION: Thank you. What kind of welcome can Libya’s Colonel Qadhafi expect from the U.S. Government?

MR. KELLY: What kind of welcome can he expect? I liked the other question better, actually. (Laughter.)

Well, of course, Mr. Qadhafi will be coming to the UN General Assembly. He will participate in a number of meetings. We have a broad bilateral agenda with Libya and we have a number of programs of cooperation. And we, of course, look forward to continuing these – this bilateral relationship that we have.

QUESTION: Another one, if you are aware of – there is some intelligence reports from Israel. Israeli intelligence has told Indians – Indian Government that there might be imminent attack throughout India beyond Mumbai that (inaudible). Do you have any idea if the U.S. is aware of that?

MR. KELLY: No. I mean, we don’t – I’d have to refer you to the Government of Israel on that. Of course, we’re very concerned about the terrorist threat. And I think the Government of India is very cognizant of the terrorist threat in general, especially after the very traumatic events of Mumbai. But I don’t have any specific comments on these specific reports.

Yeah.

QUESTION: On Iran?

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It is reported that Iranian Government requested 25 visas for the UN General Assembly, and as of last Friday night, State Department didn’t issue – didn’t approve it yet. Do you have any updates on that?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have any visa information here before me, but if we can get some information, we’ll get it for you.

Okay? One last question? Yeah.

QUESTION: There are reports that three of the 9/11 masterminds – the alleged masterminds – want to fire their legal team (inaudible) an ACLU official. Any response to that?

MR. KELLY: No, I don’t have any responses as the State Department Spokesman, but I’d just have to refer you to both the Department of Justice and – well, primarily, the Department of Justice, but of course, the Department of Defense has some equities in this as well.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:45 p.m.)



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