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Middle East Digest - October 26, 2009

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Washington, DC
October 26, 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 26, 2009

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QUESTION: Ian, what do you guys make out of the inspection over the weekend of the Qom facility?

MR. KELLY: I think we’ve seen the reports on it. This is, of course, an IAEA-led investigation, and so we’re deferring to them for any kind of information on the inspection.

QUESTION: Have you – but you were – presumably, you were briefed on it, right?

MR. KELLY: Well, I’m not sure that we have been briefed on it. I mean, this just happened yesterday.

QUESTION: No? Okay. Then is there any update on the P-5+1, when or whether they will meet again with the Iranians?

MR. KELLY: I know that there was a telephone conversation today with the political directors from the six countries. Of course, Under Secretary William Burns participated from our end. They discussed the need for unity of the P-5+1 in our approach to the issue of Iran’s nuclear program. They also discussed the way forward on arranging a follow-on meeting to the Geneva meeting, but that’s very much now still in the works. It’s a matter of discussion between Mr. Solana and the Iranian authorities, but nothing’s been set in terms of follow-on --

QUESTION: Is the U.S. position that if the Iranians don’t accept in full what was presented to them on the LEU deal, that there shouldn’t be another meeting?

MR. KELLY: I am not sure that there is any linkage, per se on that – of course, the agreement that was reached in Geneva – to have a proposal go to the Iranians from the IAEA. This was a very important outcome from that meeting of a few weeks ago. But I’m not sure that I would draw any direct linkage between the two.

QUESTION: But doesn’t that mean --

MR. KELLY: Yes, Jill.

QUESTION: -- that they are not fulfilling what they were supposed to fulfill?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think you saw what Mr. El Baradei said on Friday, that they asked for a little more time to review the proposal. And he indicated that we expected an answer by mid-week. So we’ll hold off to see what comes out of that.

QUESTION: Can I ask about Iraq?

MR. KELLY: Sure.

QUESTION: After the bombings yesterday, the – Iraq has renewed a request to the UN to look into whether foreign countries are assisting in these attacks. What – how does the United States feel about this, and do they support such an inquiry? Would they – would the U.S. support it?

MR. KELLY: I think we would support it. I think that Secretary Clinton is on the record as saying that we would support the idea of the UN appointing a senior official to go into Iraq and look into these very serious allegations. This – she expressed her support of this a few weeks ago, even before the horrific events of yesterday. So we’re on record as supporting that.

QUESTION: And does the U.S. think there could be some sort of foreign involvement in this?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think what happened --

QUESTION: Especially Syria?

MR. KELLY: -- was, as I say, so utterly horrific that this – the circumstances surrounding it need to be looked into. I don’t think that we have any information to indicate that there was any kind of involvement outside of Iraq and the bombings themselves, however.

Lal, do you have --

QUESTION: Yeah. On Afghanistan, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah yesterday at the press conference demanded removal of a Independent Electoral Commission chief and also some of the cabinet ministers of the Karzai government, saying that if they are not removed, there might not be free and fair elections in the country.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: What’s your response to that?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware of Dr. Abdullah himself calling for the removal of certain officials. We’ve seen some of the reports of some of the officials around him suggesting that this should be done. I mean, we don’t really have a position on this. We’re not trying to encourage or discourage anybody from running or not running. That’s the choice of the candidate himself.

What we’re focused on is making sure that the process is – that everyone abides by the various procedures and processes that are laid out in Afghan law. But we’re not going to take a position one way or another about whether or not a candidate should run or not run. And again, I would discourage you from saying that Dr. Abdullah has said he won’t run unless these officials are removed, because I don’t think he has said that.

QUESTION: No, he has set some conditions – some few conditions or set of conditions before the Independent Electoral Commission and asked for the removal of the chief.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I haven’t seen that he himself has actually said that, that he’s put conditions before he would – before he would arrive.

QUESTION: And secondly, at the 10:30 briefing here, there was a passing reference of establishing of two U.S. consulates in Afghanistan, one in Mazar-e-Sharif, and another I don’t remember. Do you know what the status is and when they are going to open?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Let me see if I can get you – I don’t have that information right now, but let me see if we can get you more information on that.

QUESTION: Ian, prior to your press conference on Friday, there were clashes against in East Jerusalem. Now, you keep talking – or both the Bush Administration and your Obama Administration have been talking about a two-state solution with Senator Mitchell as envoy. And yet, you talk about an urgency to the situation. Now, you saw what’s happened with the Iranians with the buildup of their nuclear program. And are the Iranians egging on this situation to where it could go ballistic? You saw the clashes in Gaza after the withdrawal, and it’s just a repeat. And is this media propaganda on all sides to inflame the situation? How do you view all that?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think on that latter point, of course, we call on all sides to lower the rhetoric. What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to establish the kind of conditions where the two sides can sit down and actually start working towards the goal that everyone shares, and that’s a comprehensive peace based on a solution of two sides living side by side.

I think that our energies and our focus right now are on just that, that we’re going to vigorously pursue this goal using all kinds of opportunities to do so, in the form of bilateral meetings. I think you saw that UN Ambassador Rice was in the region. She met with Prime Minister Fayyad and she met with Israeli leaders as well. The Secretary will be in Marrakesh in – I guess it’s next week, and she plans to consult with foreign ministers from the region at that time. And also, Special Envoy Mitchell will go back to the region.

So we do call on everyone to lower the rhetoric, to avoid situations that inflame the situation, and everybody should keep their eyes on the goal here of a comprehensive peace. And to get there, we’ve got to get the two sides to the point where they can sit down and have meaningful negotiations.

QUESTION: And when is Mitchell going?

MR. KELLY: We don’t have exact dates, but in the near future.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:41 p.m.)

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