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Middle East Digest - December 15, 2009


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Washington, DC
December 15, 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 December 15, 2009

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MR. CROWLEY: Well, there was – it was a report to Congress. As to what – how much of that report the Congress will make available to public, we’ll defer to them.
QUESTION: The second part of the question.
MR. CROWLEY: And – which was?
QUESTION: I don’t know. There seem to be five Americans in prison in Pakistan. You might know something about it?
MR. CROWLEY: That case is still being investigated. We’re still working very closely with the Government of Pakistan. I have no update to tell you on that.
QUESTION: Are you aware of these reports that the father of one of them has been released?
MR. CROWLEY: I am aware of the report. I don’t have a particular comment.
QUESTION: And has there been any further consular visits?
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge, after the first one.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on the five?
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, if they had not done anything wrong, then why Pakistan is deporting them? They are U.S. citizens. So you must be asking Pakistan, “Why are you deporting our citizens when they have not done anything wrong?” They’re not --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we’re investigating the case. I don’t – there have been no charges proffered, but that – but as to how they got themselves to Pakistan, what they were intent on doing there and so forth, that is still something that is being investigated.
Michel.
QUESTION: P.J., Senator Mitchell has met today the Lebanese president. Do you have any readout on this meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: With the president of Lebanon?
QUESTION: Yeah.
MR. CROWLEY: He did meet today – the Secretary met with the president of Lebanon last night for close to an hour. And obviously, yesterday, the President met with President Sulayman, and as did Vice President Biden. Obviously, it reflects the important role and position that Lebanon plays within the region.
In the Secretary’s meeting with the president, they talked about the peace process. They talked about – in all of its dimensions, not just with respect to Palestine, but with respect to other tracks as well, a variety of other regional issues. I think Senator Mitchell – I don’t have a particular readout of his discussion this morning, but I can assume that it involved a more granular discussion about the status of the peace process.
QUESTION: Is he going back to the region soon? Two weeks ago, he said that he –
MR. CROWLEY: Senator Mitchell?
QUESTION: Yeah.
MR. CROWLEY: I do not expect that Senator Mitchell will travel between now and the end of the year. I think he will travel early in 2010.
MR. CROWLEY: No.
QUESTION: No?
MR. CROWLEY: But we – those kinds of reports keep cropping up. We do not have a military role in this conflict.
MR. CROWLEY: We are in dialogue with the Hill on that particular legislation and the standards that it outlines. Probably, we’ll do that discussion quietly, rather than from the podium.
QUESTION: Well, you don’t – the Administration asked the Senate to hold off until next – till next month, next year, on it. But you don’t seem to have done the same thing with the House. Do you not have a problem with the House version?
MR. CROWLEY: We are in touch with both houses of Congress on the specifics in --
QUESTION: Well, they’re going to vote in like an hour or so.
MR. CROWLEY: I understand that.
QUESTION: So do you not have a problem with the House version?
MR. CROWLEY: Okay. No. We are in contact with the House leadership on legislation that is working its way there. We’re in contact with the Senate on legislation that’s working in there, and we’re also conscious that eventually something may emerge from the Congress on this issue. We have a robust dialogue going on with the Hill on – to help them understand where we’re heading in terms of policy and how this legislation and some of the specifics inside – various versions may or may not, we think, help our policy.
QUESTION: Well, isn’t it – can we assume that since the House is going ahead with its vote, you don’t have a problem with this – with the bill?
MR. CROWLEY: You should not make that assumption.
QUESTION: Well, then have you asked them to – not to vote today?
MR. CROWLEY: I – again, as I just said, we are in discussions with the Hill about --
QUESTION: Well, that’s fine. But it’s a pretty straightforward question.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I mean, are we --
QUESTION: Do you have a problem --
MR. CROWLEY: -- talking to the Hill about the legislation that they are --
QUESTION: Do you have a problem with the House legislation or not, because you seem to have --
MR. CROWLEY: We have --
QUESTION: -- you seem to – you have asked for revisions from the Senate --
MR. CROWLEY: We have expressed our views to the House and the Senate on their prospective legislation regarding this issue, and we’ll continue those discussions.
David.
QUESTION: P.J., there have been some suggestions that China is unwilling to take part in the P-5+1 meeting, at least a direct meeting of the political directors. Does that kind of throw the Administration’s timetable off in terms of coming to some sort of a judgment by the end of the year about the utility of diplomacy vis-à-vis Iran?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I wouldn’t say it disrupts our timetable. We – as the President and the Secretary have made clear, we have assessed on an ongoing basis our discussions – not only our limited discussions with Iran, but also our consultations with the participants in the P-5+1 process. The President has said at around this time we will – and we have been assessing where we are. We have continued to express our concerns about the inability or the unwillingness of Iran to respond in a meaningful way to the concerns that we have about their nuclear programs. Obviously, a sense of urgency is a part of this and not only in terms of resolving the facility in Qom, the Iranian comments regarding additional facilities, this revelation this week about nuclear triggers and so forth, all adds up to the fact that Iran has yet to really come to the IAEA, come to the international community and address our concerns in a meaningful way.
As we have made clear at the end of the year, if the situation remains as it is, there will be ramifications for that. Under Secretary Bill Burns was in the region last week consulting with a variety of governments on this subject. We bring it up in many discussions that we’ve had. For example, last night in the meeting with the President of Lebanon, Lebanon is coming on to the Security Council at the first of the year. And the Secretary brought up the issue of Iran and the fact that we will be focusing on this issue in international fora, come the first of the year. So it is something that’s obviously a concern to us, and we continue to consult in a variety of ways.
I don’t think there’ll be a P-5+1 meeting this week. I think there will be consultations before the holiday break.
QUESTION: You said Bill Burns --
QUESTION: Does China not share the urgency --
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: -- you feel about it?
MR. CROWLEY: We – I would say that all the members of the P-5+1, from the strong statements that we have put forward in recent weeks and months, share concern about this – about Iran. I don’t think anyone wants to see a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. That said, we continue to talk to all of the P-5+1 members and those who might play a role in this going forward about how we feel about this issue. Clear – it’s safe to say, they’re – it’s not so much concern about the issue itself. There might be differing views still about the appropriate tactics to use going forward, and we’ll continue our discussions in a variety of ways with countries inside the P-5+1 as well as a broader range of countries.
QUESTION: Right. When you said that Burns was in the region, what – you meant China?
MR. CROWLEY: He was in China last week, yes.
QUESTION: What – was he anywhere else?
MR. CROWLEY: He was in Indonesia.
QUESTION: Indonesia. And he went --
MR. CROWLEY: I think those --
QUESTION: When you say region, which --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry. He was in the Asian Pacific region last week, talked to China on this issue and others, and then went on to Indonesia.
QUESTION: And when you mentioned the revelation this week about nuclear triggers, can you be more specific about that?
MR. CROWLEY: I will not discuss intelligence matters.
QUESTION: Well, you did. You brought it up.
MR. CROWLEY: Wait, no. All right, hang on. All right. As I just said, obviously there’s been a public report about an issue related to the – to Iran’ s nuclear program and safe to say that we – the United States Government will be investigating those reports.
QUESTION: Well, yeah. But you brought it up without any prompting at all.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay. And I just rounded off the answer.
QUESTION: Okay. But do you want to talk about what you think about --
MR. CROWLEY: No.
QUESTION: -- this report? Well, then why --
MR. CROWLEY: It was a fine --
QUESTION: Well, you opened the door.
MR. CROWLEY: Matt, Matt, it was a fine piece of journalism. Enough said.



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