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Middle East Digest - March 25, 2009


March 25, 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 March 25, 2009

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11:30 a.m. EDT

QUESTION: The IAEA will elect a new director tomorrow. Do you support any specific candidate?

MR. DUGUID: I’ll have to take the question. I’m not aware that we have made our – any support for a particular candidate public. But I will take the question for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. DUGUID: Okay. Yes, please.

QUESTION: The Saberi case. Roxana Saberi --

MR. DUGUID: Yes.

QUESTION: -- any update on that?

MR. DUGUID: Yes. The consular – our consular officers here in Washington spoke with her father yesterday. They will speak with her father again today. As you can imagine, her father is very concerned about her well-being, as are we, as, certainly, is Secretary Clinton. We continue to urge, through the Swiss, the Iranian Government to allow consular access to Roxana Saberi. She has had access to legal counsel, which is one of the things that we had been asking for in the early stages. But we now are pushing for, through the Swiss, consular access, which we feel is particularly necessary at this time. We have been in regular contact with the Swiss on this issue.

QUESTION: Is there any possibility to have direct contact with the Iranians? U.S. officials get the – you know, (inaudible)?

MR. DUGUID: We don’t have any representation – official representation in Iran. This is being handled through our protecting power, the Swiss, in Tehran.

Same subject?

QUESTION: Well, also on the subject of Iran, have you heard anything more from the – from the Iranians on, you know, whether they’re going to be attending this Afghanistan conference? Have you asked the hosts?

MR. DUGUID: I’m not aware that the hosts have told us who has all accepted their invitations at this point. If I get that list, I’ll be happy to share it with you.

QUESTION: If the Iranians are attending, would it not be a – you know, a reasonable opportunity on the sidelines of this conference to mention the Saberi case --

MR. DUGUID: The --

QUESTION: -- among the other issues you have?

MR. DUGUID: The speculative question will be met with our typical answer on speculative questions.

Yes, please.

QUESTION: Israel --

MR. DUGUID: Sorry, Ms. – here, yes, please.

QUESTION: Israel; given the shape of the new government under Prime Minister Netanyahu, is the two-state solution dead in the U.S.’s view?

MR. DUGUID: Has the government been formed?

QUESTION: It’s going to be formally presented next week, but --

MR. DUGUID: Then we’ll wait till next week and we’ll see what the Government of Israel’s – the new Government of Israel’s policies will be. As you know, the United States continues to support a two-state solution. We have a long history of working with Israeli governments of all stripes. We expect that we will continue our efforts to try and bring a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian difficulties and problems, and we will continue to work for a two-state solution.

QUESTION: Is there concern, though, that given the activities of the expected parties in this incoming government, the propagation of the war in Gaza, the anti-Palestinian rhetoric that has been put forth by Avigdor Lieberman and his supporters, is there concern that this might, as the President alluded last night, make the job perhaps more difficult?

MR. DUGUID: I think the President’s words stands for – stand for themselves. He said that this has been a difficult process up to this point. It has not been an easy process; otherwise, we would perhaps be farther along than we are. What you have seen is a consistent American effort to try and help resolve the problems, and that resolve remains.

QUESTION: Yeah, change of subject. This is regarding the Saudi prince, Interior Minister Nayef, who stayed in New York for like a month and he used his hotel room as a headquarters for his operation as a minister, including crackdown on the people in the country in Medina and Qatif, arresting children, two U.S. citizens, cutting off electricity from cities, sending a lot of troops. So is that legal? Can U.S. – foreign official use U.S. territory and communications to conduct what U.S. call human rights abuses? Is that criminal or --

MR. DUGUID: So you’re asking me is it legal for a foreign visitor to use a telephone in the United States?

QUESTION: No, to use fax – to use the United States as a place to give orders that violate human rights that the U.S. doesn't --

MR. DUGUID: I’m not particularly --

QUESTION: Are you going to investigate this --

MR. DUGUID: I’m sorry, excuse me for a minute. I’m not particularly up-to-date with the events that are you describing, but getting back to your question as to whether or not a representative of a foreign government can carry on their governmental duties while in the United States, I think that is probably covered under the Vienna Convention. As to particular incidents that may be happening in a country, whether they are human rights violations or not, I don’t have an answer for you because I’m unfamiliar with the incidents that --

QUESTION: Are you aware of the situation in Medina and Qatif that’s ongoing, including two U.S. citizens being imprisoned?

MR. DUGUID: I have seen some press reports, but I am not really that current with the --

QUESTION: What is the U.S. position on --

MR. DUGUID: As I am not really current with all the details, I don’t have that for you. We’ll try and get you something --

QUESTION: Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 11:51 a.m.)



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