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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Middle East Digest - March 17, 2009

March 18, 2009


QUESTION: Iranian officials today said that they don’t have any information regarding the aircraft – unmanned aircraft that was shot down by U.S. Army in Iraq today. The Iranian foreign minister actually said that. I was wondering, has U.S. provided in (inaudible) its details of the incident?

MR. WOOD: That’s not an issue I’m going to discuss from here at the podium.

QUESTION: On Iran, just one.

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: The Iranians say that they still have not yet gotten an invitation for this conference that’s coming up in the Netherlands, and I realize we went on at length yesterday about who actually does the inviting. But has anyone – have you been invited yet? Has the U.S. been invited? Have any invitations gone out that you’re aware of?

MR. WOOD: Well, I would refer you to the host of the conference, the UN, but yes, we have been invited. I can’t speak to the Iranian issue yet.

QUESTION: Was it engraved?

MR. WOOD: You can expect that we’ll be there.

QUESTION: Was it on a nice, engraved invitation? Or is it just that – no, I’m – there’s a serious point to this. I mean, are – do you – you’ve been invited by whom?


QUESTION: Okay. And that was not just because the Secretary proposed this and you just assumed that you’re being invited. The UN has been --

MR. WOOD: The UN is the host, and as I mentioned before, the Government of the Netherlands and the Government of Afghanistan are the co-hosts, so --

QUESTION: Do you under – do you know if the invitations are still being processed or --

MR. WOOD: I don’t know, but I would refer you to the host.


QUESTION: On Iran, illegal – U.S. charged Iranian businessman, I guess, on Monday with illegal export of helicopter engine to Iran. I was wondering who are the recipients of this.

MR. WOOD: Don’t know anything about the issue, sir. Sorry.

QUESTION: The ISA Academy in Virginia, the Saudi Academy, say they’ve revised their textbooks again. Has this been officially sanctioned by the State Department? Have they now met the deadlines that you set and they’ve been reviewed?

MR. WOOD: I’m not aware, Nina. I can take that question and see if we can get you --

QUESTION: Could you check?

MR. WOOD: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Because about, I think last June, they were in the news because the books were still under review here. And I’m not sure when their actual deadline was, but they’re saying that the books have been --

MR. WOOD: We’ll take a look at it and see if we can get you an answer on that.


MR. WOOD: Jill.

QUESTION: Robert, another subject about the --

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: This Camp Ashraf -- do you have any more information on these allegations of beatings and appeals to the U.S.?

MR. WOOD: No. Again, the Iraqi authorities assured us that they would, you know, treat these people humanely and that they would treat them in accordance with Iraq – the Iraqi constitution and laws. And I have no reason to doubt that that’s – that the Iraqis are fulfilling their pledge to us. I don’t have anything more on some of these reports, but certainly that’s what the Iraqis committed that they would do. We’re obviously very interested in making sure that they do fulfill those commitments, but I have no reason to doubt that they are undertaking those commitments.

QUESTION: So has the U.S. actually gone to look at this and, you know, investigate and find out why they seem to think that --

MR. WOOD: Well, certainly our Embassy in Baghdad will be taking a look at the issue, if the Embassy hasn’t already done so. But as I said, the Iraqis have assured us that they will treat these people humanely and that the treatment will be in accordance with Iraqi laws and the Iraqi constitution.


QUESTION: Do you have anything on the – apparently, the head of the Egyptian intelligence is in town for meetings with the Administration about a new national union government for the Palestinians. Do you have anything on that? Did he meet anybody in the – in this building?

MR. WOOD: Well, I know that Omar Suleiman, the head of Egyptian intelligence, is going to be meeting today and tomorrow with senior officials of the Department to talk about, you know, a range of issues. But I don’t have anything beyond that at this point, Sylvie.

QUESTION: Who’s he going to meet?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know. I just know that senior officials will be meeting with him from the Department. I don’t know who they are. I imagine it will be some representatives from the Near East Bureau, but I don’t have anything beyond that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Feltman?

MR. WOOD: Hmm?

QUESTION: Feltman?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know, but it wouldn't surprise me. Assuming Jeff is here, I assume he would be meeting with them, but I don’t know. I don’t have any further breakdown in terms of who will be attending.


QUESTION: Going back to Iran for a second, you expressed the hope yesterday you might have an update on Roxana Saberi. Do you have one? And if not, is any consideration being given to an alternative tack?

MR. WOOD: You know, I know that the Swiss have submitted a request, the Swiss being our protecting power – a request on March 8th for consular access to Ms. Saberi. And I know that the Swiss ambassador in Tehran has raised the issue with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And I do know that Ms. Saberi has had access to legal counsel. We want to see her get access to consular officials. And as the Secretary mentioned, she wants to make sure that we do everything in our power to see Ms. Saberi returned. And that is the most recent update I have for you.

QUESTION: Wait, okay. The most recent update is from March 8th?

MR. WOOD: March 8th, yeah.

QUESTION: Today is the 17th.

MR. WOOD: Okay. I’m just giving you what I have.

QUESTION: Well, I know, but I’m a little surprised that there hasn’t been any – you haven’t – the Swiss haven’t heard anything back for nine days?

MR. WOOD: Well, that’s the information I have, Matt. I’m sure if they’ve heard something back, I would have had something to report on it. That’s all I have.

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