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Middle East Digest - October 2, 2009

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Washington, DC
October 2, 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 October 2, 2009

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MR. KELLY: Well, good afternoon. We’re really kind of flooding the zone today with briefings, so I appreciate your patience and --

QUESTION: Last but not least.

MR. KELLY: Last but not least on a Friday afternoon.

I’d like, first of all, to tell you about a trip by a Senior State Department Official. Ambassador Phil Goldberg, our Coordinator for Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1874, is leading an interagency delegation, which includes Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary Danny Glaser. They were in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, October 1st, with – meetings with Emirati officials regarding the implementation of sanctions on North Korea as called for in UN Security Council Resolution 1874. The delegation will travel to Cairo for meetings on Sunday, October 4 with Egyptian officials, and will return to Washington on October 5th.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on your comments about Ambassador Goldberg going to the UAE and to Cairo, can you tell us specifically what is he asking for, what – why these two countries in particular?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Are there things that the U.S. wants seen done that --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- you can tell us about?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: What’s the trip about?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think – in order to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1874, Ambassador Goldberg has to meet with a variety of partners. He’s already traveled to Malaysia, South Korea, China, Japan, Thailand and Singapore. We’ve long been concerned about North Korea’s proliferation activities in the Middle East, so this is part of that. And this is part of his overall effort to ensure that the – that this UN Security Council resolution and other relevant resolutions are implemented.

QUESTION: Is the fact that these two countries are on the agenda clue us into the idea that we think that these are two problem areas specifically?

MR. KELLY: Well, not necessarily. I think that these are countries that can help us identify areas where we can deal with this problem of proliferation from North Korea. He will continue to meet with partners not only in the Middle East, but also, of course, in Asia. So --

QUESTION: Well, maybe we can put a finer point on it. Would the fact that the Emirates are a huge port or have – there are huge ports in the Emirates, and the fact that Egypt controls a passage, a little waterway that links the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, might that have anything to do with the fact --

MR. KELLY: I think that’s a reasonable assumption, yes.

QUESTION: On Iran, today the Iranian ambassador to Britain, I believe, said that the Iranians did not agree to – on this – on this deal on the uranium to send out their low-enriched uranium to a third country. So how do you – do you think that the Iranians are playing a game here? Are they playing for time? What do you think is going on?

MR. KELLY: Well, I haven’t seen that report, but it is our understanding that they agreed in Geneva to accept this proposal to send out the – this low-enriched uranium out of the country, and that we understand as well that the director of the IAEA, Mr. El Baradei, is going to be in Tehran this weekend to try and work out the details.


QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm. Well, actually, any more on Iran?

QUESTION: I just had a quick one. The – this idea that they’ve got two weeks to open up the Qom site to the IAEA inspectors, is there any – what happens if they don’t?

MR. KELLY: I don’t think that there’s a hard and fast deadline. I think that we made it quite clear this was a matter of some urgency, that we expected them to take urgent and concrete steps to open up this facility, and not only just open it up but also make sure that we were able to – or that the IAEA would be able to talk to some of the engineers there and see documents, see plans. So I mean, it is – as I said before, it is a matter of some urgency that they open this place up, but I don’t know if we’ve had an actual --

QUESTION: The two weeks – we shouldn’t look at that as too much written in stone?

MR. KELLY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: The two – the idea that they’ve got two weeks to do it, you don’t think is actually –

MR. KELLY: I don’t know that it’s written in stone necessarily, but I think we’ll find out more details when – after Mr. El Baradei’s trip.

Boy, right in and you’ve got a question.

QUESTION: Well, (inaudible) because I didn’t understand something. It was my understanding that the Iranians did not agree to do it, that they agreed to consider sending the material abroad, which is different than agreeing to actually doing it, and that they were going to have a meeting to discuss it.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Now, you just said that it was your understanding that they actually agreed to do it.

MR. KELLY: It is my understanding that they agreed to do it.

QUESTION: Because –

MR. KELLY: They –

QUESTION: – you’re sure?

MR. KELLY: Well, okay –

QUESTION: Just because –

MR. KELLY: – they agreed in principle to do it, is my understanding.

QUESTION: Does anybody else remember from yesterday that they agreed to consider it only? I mean, that was sort of the – that was out of Geneva.

QUESTION: The Iranian ambassador to Britain who Elise was talking about was actually a member of the Iranian delegation in Geneva, and he actually said that yesterday after saying no, we did not agree to this, and that it hadn’t really been discussed. So there seems to be a bit of a – well, there doesn’t seem to be – there is a bit of a contradiction between what the two sides believe came out of that meeting.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, we’ll have to see what the Iranian ambassador to Britain –

QUESTION: I mean, does an agreement – does an --

MR. KELLY: I’ve said –

QUESTION: -- do you regard an agreement in principle to be the final?

MR. KELLY: Well, as I’ve said before, the IAEA is going in this weekend, headed by Mohammed El Baradei, to try and iron out the details of the agreement. So we’ll see what that --

QUESTION: So it’s not a done deal?

MR. KELLY: -- what comes out of that. Sorry?

QUESTION: So it’s not a done deal?

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, it won’t be a done deal until all the details are ironed out by the IAEA.

QUESTION: Then don’t you think it’s a bit premature to say that they’ve agreed?

MR. KELLY: I’m only telling you what our understanding is, is that they agreed in principle to open up these facilities and send the low-enriched uranium out.

QUESTION: I have a question about the two weeks. You said Iran – and the President said two weeks. Or what?

MR. KELLY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Or what? Like, what if they don’t –

QUESTION: That question was just asked, literally.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t think it was answered, because I –

MR. KELLY: Well, look, this is the beginning of intense diplomatic activity. What you have is you have El Baradei going in this weekend to, as I say, to iron out these details that were – of the agreement in principle. You also have a meeting in Vienna on October 18, and this will be to specifically address the logistical and technical aspects of the Tehran research reactor proposal. So let’s see what comes out of that.

QUESTION: But I’m just saying that, like, you put out – the U.S. put out there two weeks. So what are you saying? That if it doesn’t happen in the next two weeks, you’re going to take the offer off the table? Or do you really think that it –

MR. KELLY: No, I’m not saying that.

QUESTION: Okay, well, until – no, no, no.

MR. KELLY: I’m saying that there’s not – we don’t have like a drop-dead date.

QUESTION: So – okay, so then why did you put out a drop-dead deadline of two weeks? I mean –

MR. KELLY: Well, because we’re trying to – we expect that in the next couple of weeks --


MR. KELLY: – they will come up with concrete proposals.

QUESTION: No, President Obama said Iran must do this within two weeks, which indicates that there’s going to be some consequences if it doesn’t. But do you think that –

MR. KELLY: There will be consequences if it doesn’t.

QUESTION: In two weeks?

MR. KELLY: Well –

QUESTION: Do you really think that in two weeks, if this doesn’t happen, and do you really expect it to happen in the next two weeks, if you really think that it’s going to --

MR. KELLY: We do expect it to happen in the next two weeks.

QUESTION: Okay, but if it doesn’t, you’re not taking the offer off the table.

MR. KELLY: No, we’re not.

QUESTION: And certainly, sanctions aren’t going to be agreed to in two weeks.

MR. KELLY: Well --

QUESTION: So what happens in two weeks?

MR. KELLY: -- what we have said all along is that this is not an open-ended process, we are not in this just to talk for talk’s sake. We expect there to be specific, concrete steps taken by Iran to raise the level of confidence that what they’re doing there is what they say they’re doing, and that’s that they have a nuclear program for exclusively peaceful purposes. So the burden is on them. They have to come up with these concrete steps. And –

QUESTION: I understand, but if you give a deadline of two weeks, then you have to have consequences at the end of two weeks, don’t you? Or –

MR. KELLY: Well, there will be consequences if they don’t take –

QUESTION: – or your deadlines don’t mean anything.

MR. KELLY: That – well, we have said this is not an open-ended process and we expect prompt, concrete steps to be taken over the next couple of weeks. And the process is beginning with the visit of El Baradei to Tehran, and then the visit to Vienna to talk at the IAEA about the Tehran research reactor proposal.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MR. KELLY: Any other on Iran?

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: During the bilateral, did Jalili respond at all in any way to the concerns raised about the U.S. citizens detained in Iran?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think – you know what I told you yesterday. We did raise the cases of all the American citizens who are either being detained or have gone missing. And we ask for Iran’s assistance in getting these – the individuals who are being held released. And we also ask their assistance on ascertaining the whereabouts and the welfare of missing American citizen Robert Levinson. And we would hope that the Iranians would take our concerns seriously, and we await prompt action on these requests.

QUESTION: Wasn’t – the secretary of the National Security Council, was there anything

MR. KELLY: I don’t --

QUESTION: -- in terms of his response --

MR. KELLY: There’s nothing that I can share with you.

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