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Middle East Digest - April 17, 2009

April 17, 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 16, 2009

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10:58 a.m. EDT

MR. WOOD: All right. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the briefing. We’re going to try to do this quickly as the Secretary’s going to have her digital town hall meeting.

I just want to say a couple of things. First and foremost, welcome a distinguished predecessor who’s sitting there in the back. I would also like to say a few words about the earthquake in Afghanistan earlier today.

We extend our condolences to the victims of the earthquake in Nangarhar province in Afghanistan, especially to the injured and the families of those who have lost their lives. A PRT convoy carrying humanitarian assistance and U.S. medical responders is heading to the earth – to the quake-damaged village of Koodoo Khan in Nangarhar province and is expected to reach the area soon.

I’d also like to make one other brief announcement. We – I think you all know our colleague, Lambros, who I understand has been hospitalized. And we wish him a very speedy recovery and our thoughts are with him and his family.

QUESTION: This meeting, this interagency meeting that’s taking place today on piracy, could you please enlarge on that, you know? Are you looking at specific proposals? Are you hoping to come up with one thing specific?

MR. WOOD: Sue, for one thing, I don’t want to make a habit of talking about internal U.S. Government meetings. But there’s a working-level meeting going on today that is going to deal with next steps with regard to the announcement the Secretary made with regard to our anti-piracy efforts. So let me just leave it at that. There’s a meeting going on, working level, to start to begin implementation of the initiative the Secretary announced.

QUESTION: Well, if you don’t want to make a habit of talking about it, then --

MR. WOOD: Not going to start here.

QUESTION: Well, but the Secretary announced that this meeting was happening two days ago, and last evening --

QUESTION: There was a number of --

QUESTION: -- there was an email, an on-the-record email comment, about the meeting coming out from your office.

MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm. And I think I gave you some of the details --

QUESTION: Actually it was one sentence that gave no details.

MR. WOOD: Well, I think I did better than one sentence, so --

QUESTION: And so, you’ve already made a habit of talking about this meeting, so why can’t you --

MR. WOOD: No, but in getting into the particulars from the podium about --

QUESTION: Can you tell us who’s going to be there?

MR. WOOD: I --

QUESTION: Not names, but what agencies are represented?

MR. WOOD: Well, for one thing, I don’t have that with me right here. But I don’t really want to make – get into the habit – I don’t even want to begin to talk about internal U.S. Government meetings. We just --

QUESTION: Okay, well, if you don’t want us to ask about them, then you shouldn’t announce them.

MR. WOOD: Look --

QUESTION: The Secretary said that it --

QUESTION: Is that fair enough?

QUESTION: -- was an interagency meeting.

MR. WOOD: Okay.

QUESTION: So can you say what agencies are there?

MR. WOOD: I’m just saying an interagency meeting. I don’t want to get into the specifics. I’ve just said that.

QUESTION: Well, what are the options for next steps then? You said you’re looking at next steps. I mean, what do you see as being, you know, possible?

MR. WOOD: Well, I think I outlined those the other day for – for all of you. I mean, we are looking to see what we can do in terms of coordinating our communication efforts, for trying to see how we can deal with tracking and seizing assets of pirates, looking to see how we can best prosecute these criminals. But I don’t have anything beyond what I said the other day.

Again, we’re starting – the process underway right now, we’re beginning the implementation of the Secretary’s initiative. As you know, there’s a meeting on the 23rd in Brussels that Acting Assistant Secretary Phillip Carter will be attending, so there is a lot of movement and activity going on. So when we have more to say, we certainly will. But these are our initial efforts to start to implement that initiative.

QUESTION: Is there some timetable associated with the work of the committee? In other words --

MR. WOOD: I don’t think there’s any timetable on this yet, James. But we clearly want to move forward as quickly as possible. We’re trying, as you know, to set up a contact group meeting very soon. So there’s a lot going on, and we’ll certainly provide you with updates as we have them.

(The briefing was concluded at 11:15 a.m.)

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