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Middle East Digest - October 23,2009

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Washington, DC
October 23, 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 23, 2009

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QUESTION: Ask you – Ian, about Iran and their response thus far to the Vienna agreement on the low-enriched uranium, they want to --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: They want to go back to what they originally had proposed, which is that they purchase it --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- rather than use their own. What’s the State Department’s view on that?

MR. KELLY: Well, this is a – I mean, it’s a rapidly unfolding situation even as we speak, but this is what I understand. This is what I understand from our colleagues out at the IAEA, that the U.S., France, and Russia all indicated today that they have a positive response to the proposal of Director General Mohamed ElBaradei to supply Iran with nuclear fuel for its research reactor. And Iran, at the same time today, informed the Director General that it’s still considering the proposal; in depth and in a favorable light is what we’ve heard from the IAEA.

QUESTION: Is that their exact words?

MR. KELLY: This is what we hear from the IAEA, and I think there’s a press release coming out.

QUESTION: It’s out.

MR. KELLY: It’s out, okay, but that it needs time until the middle of next week to provide a response. And of course, you know what our stance on this is – that this is a real opportunity for Iran to help address some of the real concerns of the international community about its nuclear program, and at the same time, still provide for the humanitarian needs of the Iranian people. So like the Director General, we hope that they will next week provide a positive response.

QUESTION: You don’t have a problem with them seeking to delay their response till next week?

MR. KELLY: Well, obviously, we would have preferred to had a response today. We approach this with a sense of urgency. The international community’s been waiting a long time for the – for Iran to address some of our real concerns about their intentions. But we – all along, we have said that the IAEA is taking the lead on this, and we hope that there’s no more delays than these next few days.

QUESTION: At the top of the October 1 meeting, the P-5+1 officials have made clear that they had an expectation for a follow-up meeting with the Iranians toward the end of the month.

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: Is there any plan to have a follow-up meeting prior to their giving you their answer whenever they do so?

MR. KELLY: Prior to the middle of next week, you mean?

QUESTION: Correct, yeah.

MR. KELLY: I think, as you point out, Arshad, that it was our expectations that we would have this follow-up meeting, that the P-5+1 would have this follow-up meeting by the end of October. And of course, that – the end of October is approaching rapidly. And this is – I believe that Javier Solana is still working out with the members of the P-5+1 and with Iran the exact parameters and time for the meeting. But we haven’t heard anything. Nothing’s been confirmed yet about the time and the agenda of the meeting.

QUESTION: The reason I’m asking is, I mean, you’re not going to meet with them until they give you an answer, right? Or is it possible you could hold a meeting with them and get the answer maybe then? I mean, it seems a reasonable question to ask. Are you going to agree to have a meeting with them until you get their answer on the low-enriched uranium?

MR. KELLY: I don’t think necessarily that there is a –there are several tracks going on here. There’s also the inspection of the facility in Qom, which we expect to happen on Sunday, and from every indication, it will happen. A lot of the preparatory work has been done, so we expect it will happen on Sunday. And then we’ve got this other track which is operating within the IAEA. So I think these things can all happen independent of each other.


MR. KELLY: So they’re all leading toward the same thing, of course, which is getting Iran to address the concerns of the international community about its nuclear program.

QUESTION: And the last thing on it from me on this one, I mean, is it fair to say that you will not make a decision on whether to attend a meeting until after you have seen – until after Sunday and you have seen what happens with the inspection at Qom and whether it’s gone off satisfactorily?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I mean, clearly, we’re looking for Iran to make concrete steps, and there is an agreement in principle for them to take several steps – the inspection at Qom, the agreement in principle to send out their low-enriched uranium to Russia. We see these all as positive and constructive steps. But we also have – we have to keep in mind that we want to reach this ultimate goal, and the P-5+1 – the ultimate goal of getting Iran to raise the international community’s confidence in their nuclear program, the P-5+1 is the forum for that.

I don’t know necessarily that we’re attaching conditionality – you must do this until we’ll do that. I think we’re still working towards a meeting toward – by the end of October with Iran.

QUESTION: Okay. I mean, the reason I asked is just that – you know, yeah, they’ve agreed to the inspection at Qom, but they haven’t carried it out, right?

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: And you don’t know what level of access they’ll get. They – initially, at least, you guys said, and you yourself said that they had made the agreement on the low-enriched uranium. But they have just missed their deadline for --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- getting back to you, and they’ve said they view it favorably, but they need more time. I mean, as you said before, the international community’s waited for a long time and Iran tends to take its time about such things. And I, therefore, wonder why you would actually consider scheduling a meeting unless they actually not just say they’re going to do something, but actually do things on the inspection at Qom and on actually accepting the terms for the export of the LEU.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, you’re right. We’re looking for concrete steps. And we take it as a positive sign that they’ve agreed in principle to taking a couple of significant steps – the opening up the Qom facility and then working out a procedure for having their low-enriched uranium reprocessed in another country. And at the same time, our patience is not limitless. I think that we can stretch things a few days, and that’s really what we’re talking about, but, we’re not going to wait forever.


QUESTION: On – going back to South Asia, this was a question for Ambassador Holbrooke, but he didn’t – was – I didn’t get a chance to ask. He’s going to India next month. What be – will be on his agenda when he goes to --

MR. KELLY: Oh, boy, you really should have asked that of Ambassador Holbrooke. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) out there?

MR. KELLY: Can I take the question and we’ll get you the answer?

QUESTION: As far as General Musharraf is concerned, if anybody had any contact from this building, in any way met with him or saw (inaudible) as far as a new U.S. military to Pakistan is concerned? Are you in touch or were you in touch with India? Because in the past, candidate Obama and President Obama, he said that most of the U.S. aid was used against India. And now this time, what guarantee and security can you give that --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- which will be a different story than in the past?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, as far as General Musharraf is concerned, General Musharraf is a private citizen now. I’m not aware of any official contacts that we’ve had with General Musharraf – that’s not to exclude that we haven’t had official contacts.

Regarding our assistance to Pakistan, our assistance to Pakistan is designed to meet a common threat. This is a threat not only to Pakistan, but also to the U.S., and we would argue to India as well, and that’s the threat of militant religious extremism.

And so our entire package is designed to help Pakistan in the spirit of partnership to meet this challenge. And our relationship with India is strategic and important, and we are conducting our assistance with Pakistan in a very open and transparent way in general – with the public, with the media, and with important strategic partners like India.

QUESTION: Just to follow up quickly. Prime Minister Singh is coming next month –


QUESTION: – meeting with President Obama and other officials in the White House – and the State. I understand there is a package for India. As far as military aid is concerned, U.S. military alliance at least $3.5 billion, excluding almost $40 billion in the civil nuclear agreement. How you are going to balance with India and Pakistan? You’re giving aid to both countries, military aid.

MR. KELLY: Well, again, our assistance to Pakistan is primarily designed to meet this common threat, a threat to all of our partners and democracies in the region. It’s not designed against any other neighbor in the region. The – as far as the details of a military package for India, I don’t have the – I don’t know what the scope of this package is, so I can’t really comment on it, but our cooperation with India is important, and as I say, it’s strategic.

QUESTION: Regarding the peace process, what are you planning to do after Secretary Clinton’s report yesterday to the President?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think in terms of next steps, I think you probably saw the readout from the White House yesterday, where we talked about the possibility of Secretary Clinton pursuing some of these issues at the meeting in Marrakesh in Morocco. So she looks forward to that. I think Senator Mitchell looks forward to returning to the region in the near future.

And we intend to stay on the course that we’re on right now and very – in a very determined fashion. And we’re going to – we are going to stay committed to vigorously pursuing the goal of a comprehensive peace, based on a two-state solution, and that we believe that the time is now for the two sides to sit down and begin talking directly. And we’ll continue to do everything we can to try and get the two sides to agree to that.

QUESTION: Is there any possibility to work on another track, like the Syrian-Israeli track or Lebanese-Israeli track?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think you’ve seen that we have taken a regional approach to this. That Senator Mitchell has, of course, concentrated most of his energies on getting the Israelis and the Palestinians to agree to sit down, but he’s also looked at this from a regional perspective, too. He’s gone to Lebanon, he’s gone to Syria, he’s talked to the Egyptians. But as I say, I think our focus right now is on getting the two sides to sit down. We think that there is a – there’s a real urgency to this and that the time to move forward with talks is now, that we need to do this as soon as possible.

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