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Middle East Digest - November 3, 2009

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Washington, DC
November 3, 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 November 3, 2009

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1:23 p.m. EST

MR. KELLY: Okay. Good afternoon. Just an update on the itinerary of the Secretary. She participated in the Forum for the Future today. She gave a speech this morning and reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to broad engagement with Muslim communities around the world and outlined concrete steps the U.S. is taking to follow up on the new beginning that the President laid out in Cairo.

She focused on partnerships to promote civil society, entrepreneurship, and economic development, educational opportunity, scientific and technological cooperation, women’s empowerment and interfaith cooperation. She’s now en route to Cairo. Tonight, she’s going to meet with General Suleiman, who's the minister of intelligence, and also with Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit. She’s going to be joined in Cairo by Special Envoy Mitchell. Special Envoy Mitchell met today in Amman with King Abdullah and also with President Abbas.

Tomorrow, of course, she has a meeting with President Mubarak. Obviously, we’ve had to juggle her schedule for tomorrow, and these commitments mean that unfortunately, she’s unable to meet with Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski. The Secretary looks forward to an early rescheduling of this meeting and a re-launch of our strategic dialogue with Poland. And with that, I will take your questions.


QUESTION: Nazira Karimi, correspondent for Ariana Television from Afghanistan. As we know, President Obama promised that he going to announce his decision about sending more troops, additional troops to Afghanistan. I think it’s the time to sending more troops in Afghanistan; experts and people in Afghanistan waiting for the final decisions for President Obama. Do you think that he will take his decision?

MR. KELLY: Oh, I know he will take the decision, but --


MR. KELLY: Well, I can’t tell you when. I can refer you to what White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has said. He expects it to be over the next several weeks. He continues to have meetings. I think that we look forward to initiating a new chapter of our partnership with Afghanistan with the victory of President Karzai in the recent elections. I think that we’re going to look for President Karzai to move boldly and forcefully to initiate internal reforms, and we stand ready to assist him in that regard, to help him improve governance in Afghanistan, to provide security for the Afghan people and provide the kind of services that the people of Afghanistan deserve.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you talk specifically about what it is precisely you would like President Karzai to do boldly?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think we would --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. KELLY: We’ll have to initiate a dialogue with President Karzai, which, of course, we will do. I think that --

QUESTION: Well, don’t you already have one?

MR. KELLY: We do, but we want to see how the government is formed. We want to see who he’s going to have in his government. I think that, as I said before, one area that we will be looking to help him with is improving good governance, and that includes fighting corruption. I think we’re looking for the Afghan Government to speed up training of security forces, and so we’ll be looking to help them in that regard. I think our ultimate goal here is for the Afghan people – or the Afghan Government to be able to provide their own security for their own people.

QUESTION: President Karzai gave a speech today in which he said he was going to go after corruption, but he was flanked offstage by his two vice presidents, one of whom you guys have taken a very dim view of and believe is involved in major corruption. Do you think that it’s – is there – do you have any concern that he might not be serious?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think what we’re going to be looking for is – as I say, we’re looking for some strong and decisive action. We’re going to be looking for not just words, but deeds. And – but we’re not going to just stand off to the side and tell him what to do. I mean, we stand ready to support in tangible and concrete ways. But to do that, we need to do this in partnership with them and in consultation with his new government.

QUESTION: And also Dr. Abdullah’s supporter was – showed – they showed their negative reaction and they said they are waiting, you know, for a while. After that, they take action and they do something. And --

MR. KELLY: Dr. Abdullah will do something?

QUESTION: Dr. Abdullah supporter, yeah.

MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t know about that, but I --

QUESTION: They say President Karzai isn’t elected by the voters. That’s why they are --

MR. KELLY: Well, the fact is he was elected by the voters, and he – I mean, he was declared the victor in an election that was in accordance with Afghan law and run by Afghan institutions. As far as Dr. Abdullah is concerned, we have a lot of respect for him. We thought he ran an excellent campaign. And we hope that he continues to play a part in the political life of Afghanistan. We think he should continue to be a part of the dialogue regarding the future of Afghanistan.

Matt, go ahead.

QUESTION: Later today, if they haven’t already done so, the House is going to vote on this resolution which condemns the Goldstone report and calls on the Administration to oppose it and reject it. I think it pretty much basically echoes the Administration’s position on this already, but is there a statement of the Administration thinking on this resolution?

MR. KELLY: On the resolution itself? Well, I mean, you know what our feeling is about the report, the Goldstone report. I think it’s fair to say that we’ve been talking to the – some of our friends on the Hill about the resolution itself, but I – Matt, I don’t --

QUESTION: Well, do you support it? Do you have any position on it?

MR. KELLY: I don’t know how to answer that. I would imagine we do, but let me take the question, then.

QUESTION: All right. And then --

MR. KELLY: Because I actually haven’t seen the text of the resolution, so --

QUESTION: This is going to come up tomorrow at the UN. What are you going to do about it there? Not the resolution --

MR. KELLY: It’s the UN General Assembly, right? I think – well, there’s a lot of discussions going on in New York today. Let’s see where we come out. I --

QUESTION: Do you think that it might – there’s a chance that it might not come up?

MR. KELLY: Well, in this regard, our priority is that we don’t want to do anything that’s going to make it more difficult to resume talks, and we know how difficult it’s been to try and get the two sides to resume talks. I don’t know that we – if we have a position per se on whether or not this resolution should be discussed in the UN General Assembly. I would imagine that we probably would not be terribly supportive of reopening this case. But again, let me --

QUESTION: Well, is the U.S. delegation going to storm out of the assembly building or something if --

MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t know. I don’t know, Matt. I would imagine not. But again, let me see if we can get you a position on that.


QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Iran seems to be questioning the U.S. Administration’s engagement policy. They say that the Administration has a superficial, conciliatory tone. And today, the supreme leader said that every time they have a smile on their face – and this is in quote – they are hiding a dagger behind their back. Any reaction?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. KELLY: That was from the peanut gallery here, not from the podium.

Look, we have – not just we, but the IAEA and Russia and France has on the table a very good proposal that will help Iran become better integrated in the international community, will be the first step towards ending its isolation. This is a very specific proposal that the Iranian delegation in Vienna already accepted in principle. I think it behooves us all to concentrate on this very concrete example of a way that we can move forward.

And this, as I say, is a way for them to end their isolation and begin to cooperate with the international community. And we would urge Iran to accept the proposal as it’s laid out by the director general of the IAEA, Dr. ElBaradei. And they’ve already agreed to this proposal in principle, so let’s – we think that we should focus on this first.

QUESTION: Where do things stand on the new round of talks?

MR. KELLY: The P-5+1, you mean? Well, that’s being worked out by Mr. Solana, and we – there’s been no agreement to have a P-5+1 meeting.

QUESTION: Well, actually, there was an agreement to have a meeting, but you just haven’t set the date? Or --

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: -- now you don’t know if you are even going to meet?

MR. KELLY: The – well, the – yes, that’s right, Elise. We have not --

QUESTION: Weren’t you supposed to have one by the end of the month?

MR. KELLY: We’ve not agreed to a date as – a date or an agenda.

QUESTION: Why not? Is it because you can’t agree on the agenda, or you can’t agree on the date?

MR. KELLY: It’s – this is really – it’s being worked out by Javier Solana, and I just would refer you to the EU.

QUESTION: Well, but I mean, you’re not an innocent bystander.

MR. KELLY: No, we’re not. I mean, Javier Solana is in close consultation with us and he’s in close consultations with the other members of the P-5+1.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just trying to determine whether – I mean, you said you were going to have a meeting by the end of the month.

MR. KELLY: Right. That didn’t happen.

QUESTION: And that didn’t happen.

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: So, I mean, is this that – have the parties kind of – has – Iran doesn’t want to meet anymore, or what --

MR. KELLY: Again, I --

QUESTION: What’s the holdup?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I really have to refer you to the EU. They’re the ones taking the lead on talking to Iran. They consult with us and keep us up to date on what they’re hearing from the Iranian side. But it’s – you really have to ask that of Javier Solana.

QUESTION: Is Solana actually making an attempt to --


QUESTION: Or is he waiting on --

MR. KELLY: No, he’s quite engaged in this and talking to the Iranians on it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:51 p.m.)

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