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Middle East Digest - April 6, 2009

April 6, 2009


Bureau of Public Affairs

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 April 6, 2009

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11:38 a.m. EDT

QUESTION: Iran’s Revolutionary Court has issued formal charges against Roxana Saberi. Are you aware of those charges?

MR. WOOD: No. Did these just come recently? This is – I’m not – I’m not aware of the charges.

QUESTION: And since they are dealing with security, national security issues with an American journalist, what’s – what is going to be U.S. reaction?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, we are in regular contact with our Swiss protecting power on this issue. The most recent request we made for an update with the Swiss was earlier today. You know, it’s a – as you know, the Secretary in her letter to – in her – in the aide-memoire to the Iranians made very clear that we were concerned about this case and wanted to see it resolved. And we continue to work to try to get her released.

QUESTION: And her father and mother have been to visit her for half an hour in the Evin prison. Does the State Department regard that as an encouraging sign?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, I’m not going to comment further on these issues out of privacy concerns, so I’d rather not comment on that particular issue.

QUESTION: Another Iran detainee case. Are you aware of the case of this woman, who was working for a U.S. NGO that gets State Department funding called IREX, who (inaudible) jail for three years, I believe? What’s your comment on that?

MR. WOOD: Our understanding is that an IREX employee, Silva Harotonian, was arrested in Iran on June 26, 2008 and was reportedly charged with unspecified activities related to promoting a so-called “velvet revolution” in Iran. The charges against her are baseless. We understand that she was subsequently sentenced to three years in prison. Her appeal is pending. Excuse me, her appeal is pending. She is reportedly in poor and deteriorating health as a direct consequence of her confinement. We call on Iran’s leadership to release Ms. Harotonian. As I said, these charges are baseless. And that’s what I have for you on that.

QUESTION: How come that wasn’t included in the Secretary’s letter that was passed on to the Iranian?

MR. WOOD: Don’t know. Maybe because it was because we were still confirming the details on that. I don’t know the answer to that.

QUESTION: You just referred to it as the Secretary’s aide-memoire, but these are unsigned. Is there some reason you associate it directly with Secretary Clinton where authorship is concerned or – you said her aide-memoire.

MR. WOOD: It was an aide-memoire. My – I should have been clearer on that. That’s, you know, an aide-memoire from the United States Government.

QUESTION: Just on Pakistan, there was – there were more attacks over the weekend, some of them claimed by leaders of the Pakistani Taliban. They say it’s a direct response to the U.S. campaign of missile attacks in northwest Pakistan (inaudible) two attacks per week. What’s your response to that?

MR. WOOD: Well, I’ve seen those reports. Look, we’re under no illusions. The Taliban, al-Qaida, other terrorist operations are going to continue their work. We have to do what we can to prevent them. And I think the Pakistani Government certainly understands very clearly what a threat these terrorists pose to their own government. And you know, we will take necessary security steps to protect our personnel, our people.

But look, this is no secret that there are terrorists out there trying to hit us and hit our allies. What’s important is that we have a unified approach to dealing with terrorism. As you know, we’ve just completed a strategic review on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ambassador Holbrooke is in the region talking about how we can go forward in implementation of the results of the strategic review.

So we’ll continue to work this issue because it’s not going to go away right away. We have to keep working hard to fight terrorism.


QUESTION: Could you tell us where is Ambassador Holbrooke (inaudible)?

MR. WOOD: Yeah, I think he’s in Kabul today. Let me just see what I’ve got here. Yes. Ambassador Holbrooke and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen arrived in Kabul yesterday. Ambassador Holbrooke met with President Karzai, Foreign Minister Spanta, Kai Eide, General McKiernan. And Ambassador Holbrooke also met with female legislators, representatives of civil society, and he also met with the Speaker of the Lower House Qanooni.

QUESTION: Do you have any onward (inaudible)?

MR. WOOD: I don’t have those details.

QUESTION: What was discussed with the female legislators? Was it this controversial (inaudible)?

MR. WOOD: I’m certain that that came up. I’m sure it was to talk about other issues with regard to democracy and rule of law.


QUESTION: Japan’s ambassador to Iran had meetings on Friday with the NSC at the White House and also with the director of the Middle East affairs and the minister of foreign affairs. Do you have a readout on the purpose of their visit?

MR. WOOD: I don’t. I did hear that there were some meeting. We’ll get that for you, Samir.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: Okay, thank you all.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:08 p.m.)

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