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Middle East Digest - November 24, 2009


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Washington, DC
November 24, 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 November 24, 2009

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QUESTION: Change of subject to Iran. The Iranian foreign ministry today is saying that they may consider sending low-enriched uranium overseas, but that they would need what they’re calling 100 percent guarantees from the West that they would get fuel in return. And this is being interpreted by some as a softening of their position on the possibility of sending the LEU overseas. I’m just wondering, have you heard of this? Does the U.S. have any position on giving them guarantees of fuel in return for uranium that they send overseas --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and what’s the status of that situation now, as far as you understand it?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I mean, what – I mean, our position is, is that there is a very good and very balanced proposal on the table. This proposal has been agreed to by the United States, by Russia, by France, and has the backing of the international community through the International Atomic Energy Agency. And I’m not sure exactly what they mean by 100 percent guarantees, but this is a very, very good proposal on the table.

And unfortunately, the – Iran has so far refused to accept the proposal and has refused to engage with the P-5+1, because part of the agreement from the agreement in principle from the October 1st meeting was that we would meet again to engage on the nuclear program. So I mean, we feel like this is a good proposal. And it addresses the needs of Iran. It addresses the humanitarian needs that they have, the responsibility they have to their people. But it also addresses the responsibilities that they have to the international community. And that’s helping raise the confidence of the international community in their intentions with their nuclear program.

So we are still hoping that Iran will choose to engage the international community and resolve some of these concerns – very, very deep concerns – of the international community about the nature of their program.
QUESTION: Another topic, please. Can we turn to Afghanistan?

MR. KELLY: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Amidst all the speculation that a decision has been or soon will be made and an announcement is coming, can you share with us what preparations the Department and the Secretary of State are making to carry that forward? Will the Secretary be participating in congressional hearings, and how will she be reaching out to friends and allies?

MR. KELLY: Well, without reference to any kind of decision that the President will make and without making any kind of implication about when it will take place, of course, the Secretary looks forward to implementing the President’s decision after that decision is made. We have an important component to the Afghan strategy through our – the civilian aspect through the State and USAID development efforts, good governance efforts. And under that rubric, of course, comes support for the Afghan Government in building a more transparent and accountable government, helping them fight the problem of corruption.

I think that you’ve probably seen that NATO is conducting its own assessment of the International Security Assistance Force, the NATO-led ISAF force in Afghanistan. There is a – now, there’s going to be a force generation conference, I think in early December, sometime after the President has made his announcement, and the Secretary looks forward to consulting with our allies on the international role in the Afghanistan strategy.
QUESTION: And is it – I’m sorry, just one more question on this. Is there anything that you can add to what the President said about his policy will be aimed at finishing the job?

MR. KELLY: Aimed at finishing the job? Well, I think we all want to make sure that the mission is done there, the mission of destroying al-Qaida and of giving the Afghan Government the wherewithal to provide for their own security and provide services of – to their own people and deny terrorists a safe haven.
QUESTION: You say the Secretary will consult with your allies after the President’s announcement, so will she ask them to send more troops to Afghanistan?

MR. KELLY: I think that this is something for the countries themselves to work out. I think that the Secretary General of NATO has – I think he – he has approached the allies, and I think that NATO looks forward to playing a role in how we go forward with Afghanistan. But it’s not accurate for us to say that we’re going to make any demands on our allies. That’s up for them to decide how they want to contribute.

QUESTION: Yeah, but she might try and convince them, for instance, without making demands.

MR. KELLY: Well, I – that implies that our – that we would make these kinds of demands on allies, that they wouldn’t make these kind of decisions on their own. I mean, I’m not going to try and prejudge that.



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