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Middle East Digest - December 9, 2009

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Washington, DC
December 9, 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 December 9, 2009

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MR. KELLY: Our agricultural assistance strategy focuses on increasing agriculture jobs and incomes by increasing agricultural productivity, regenerating agribusiness and rehabilitating watersheds and improving irrigation infrastructure. It also aims to increase Afghans’ confidence in their government, particularly the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, by building their capacity to deliver services to farmers and herders.

QUESTION: Can I ask about Tauscher?


QUESTION: What she did not say, however, was that the Administration was ready to go ahead with an enforceable – enforcement mechanisms on this. Why is the Administration not – why is the Administration not supporting that?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think she did say that we were not prepared to revive negotiations toward a verification regime --


MR. KELLY: -- on biological weapons.

QUESTION: Why not?

MR. KELLY: Because we’ve determined that this would be something that would be just extraordinarily difficult to verify compliance. It’s – biological weapons programs can be very easily disguised in a very small part of laboratories that are devoted to legitimate activities. And we think that our energy and efforts should be focused instead on working in a multilateral basis to enhance transparency and to come to an agreement on compliance on a multilateral basis. But unfortunately, any kind of verification protocol that we would come up with under the convention wouldn’t be able to keep pace with the rapidly changing nature of the biological weapons threat, so we feel that it’s – would be more productive to do this via multilateral agreements to increase transparency.

MR. KELLY: Other questions? Jill.

QUESTION: Ian, what can you tell us about these arrests in Pakistan? Can you confirm that those people who were arrested are actually the five people who were missing locally? In other words, what do you know?

MR. KELLY: Well, the short answer is no, I can’t confirm that. What I can tell you is that we’ve contacted our Embassy in Islamabad, and they are seeking further information. I think that we need to get those kinds of details about the identity of these five individuals. I think insofar as there will be information coming out, I don’t think it’s going to come out of here. I think I will come out of law enforcement agencies, the Department of Justice or the FBI.

QUESTION: But usually – you know, we were talking about Americans just the other day --

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- who are incarcerated --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- in other countries. If these people have been arrested, is the Embassy seeking to meet with them or to --

MR. KELLY: Absolutely, yeah. I mean, if they’re American citizens, we, of course, are going to be very interested in the charges that they’ve been detained on and what sort of circumstances they’re being held. This is something that we would do anywhere, and this is why the Embassy is seeking more information.

QUESTION: Have the Pakistanis actually said anything to you about this?

MR. KELLY: I know that we’ve – that our --

QUESTION: Aren’t they required to notify you if they arrest an American citizen?

MR. KELLY: I think under the --

QUESTION: Yes, they are.

MR. KELLY: -- appropriate Vienna Convention they are required to do it.

QUESTION: So have they?

MR. KELLY: I’m not certain. I know that the Embassy is trying to get more information.

QUESTION: So just for clarification, when you were asked whether you would seek to meet with them, it is you would –you are going to seek meetings or you have sought meetings?

MR. KELLY: We – well, first of all, we need to verify their identity. We need to verify that they’re American citizens. If those – if this is confirmed, then, of course we would seek to get some kind of further information about them and whether or not they desire to meet with a consular officer.

QUESTION: I’m just kind of surprised that you don’t have anything on this because other buildings around this town, other agencies, seem to have quite a bit more information, and presumably they are getting that information from their people on the ground who are attached to the Embassy.

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm. Well, I’m --

QUESTION: And those people are --

MR. KELLY: I mean, you’re welcome to contact these other agencies.

QUESTION: No, I know. But I mean --

MR. KELLY: At this point, we can’t confirm it, though --

QUESTION: -- but those people come under --

MR. KELLY: -- who they are.

QUESTION: -- the chief of mission. The liaisons for various investigative agencies are under chief of mission authority, correct?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I mean, this is something – this has broken in the last few hours.

QUESTION: They report to the ambassador --

MR. KELLY: They certainly do.

QUESTION: -- who works for the State Department.

MR. KELLY: This is absolutely – this is all correct.

QUESTION: And you don’t know anything yet?

MR. KELLY: I -- we --

QUESTION: But yet they do.

MR. KELLY: -- we do not have confirmation of their identities.

QUESTION: But, actually, Ian, if I’m not mistaken, they were arrested Monday, right? Today’s Wednesday. Is that correct?

MR. KELLY: That – I’m not sure about that, Jill, quite frankly. I’m not sure when they were arrested.

QUESTION: So are you going to get --

MR. KELLY: I just know that we’ve seen the media reports of the last few hours.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you going to get back to us, though, specifically on whether the Pakistan Government actually has informed the U.S., if they are? If they are.

MR. KELLY: Well, I think – first we have to confirm that they’re American citizens. And then, yes, if we can, we will. We’ll confirm that we’ve – that we’ve confirmed this.
QUESTION: Yeah. On Iraq, the Iraqi police say the attacks yesterday that killed, I think, about 120 or more people were linked to Saudi Arabia and Syria. They allege that al-Qaida and former supporters or supporters of the late Saddam Hussein were behind it. Do you have anything? Are you working with the Saudis or Syrians to try to find out more?

MR. KELLY: I think that we, of course – I mean, you saw the Secretary’s statement yesterday. These are absolutely horrific and we strongly condemn these barbarous acts. We have offered to provide support to the Iraqi police and military forces. They have – or the U.S. forces have provided explosive ordnance disposal assets and other security forces to help them. There are also intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance assets providing overwatch over Baghdad. And U.S. forces in Iraq, of course, stand ready to provide additional support if necessary.

QUESTION: But does that support extend to the investigation, and especially since it may go beyond Iraq’s borders?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have specific information on that. As I say, though, we stand ready to provide that kind of forensic support if that’s what they want.

Yeah. Andy.

QUESTION: On Iran, yesterday, P.J. was asked about these Iranian press reports about alleged U.S. involvement in the disappearance of an atomic scientist and he wasn’t particularly responsive. Those allegations continue in the Iranian press and in somewhat stronger terms now. I’m wondering, do you have now any response to these? Is there anything that you want to say about these allegations? Is the U.S. involved?

MR. KELLY: No, I don’t have anything to add to what my colleague said yesterday.

QUESTION: What, you never have anything to add? (Laughter.)

MR. KELLY: You can ask again tomorrow if you like, but the response today is the same as yesterday.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:08 p.m.)

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