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Middle East Digest - April 24, 2009


April 24, 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 April 24, 2009

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QUESTION: Yesterday, Iranian foreign minister said that Tehran welcomes new negotiation, new talks with the world power. But he emphasized again that Iran’s not going to halt its uranium enrichment program. Any comment on that?

MR. WOOD: I don’t have anything more to say beyond what we’ve said about Iran. Iran has obligations to the international community. There remain a lot of suspicions about its nuclear program, and we want to see them fulfill those obligations. Same time, we’ve said we’re willing to engage Iran directly in diplomacy, but Iran needs to deal with these outstanding issues that not only the United States but other members of the international community have about its nuclear program. But nothing more to add than what we’ve said.

QUESTION: Any specific dates set for P-5+1?

MR. WOOD: Not that I’m aware of, not at this point.

QUESTION: And Israeli foreign minister actually again said that there’s no way to resolve the situation – sorry, crisis in the Middle East, but first resolve this Iranian problem. So since it’s – there’s a disagreement between Washington and Tel Aviv in this regard, has Secretary Clinton talked to her Israeli counterpart or addressed this disagreement?

MR. WOOD: Look, we’ve been very clear about this. What we need to – these are two separate issues, and we believe they can be dealt with simultaneously. You know, bringing about a peace in the Middle East, a two-state solution, is paramount for us. It’s in our national security interest. So is dealing with Iran’s nuclear program. And we can and must deal with these issues, these separate issues, very seriously.

And I don’t have anything more to offer to you other than our commitment, which we have reiterated to, you know, Israel and to others, is to this two-state solution. And we’re going to continue to work on this. The Secretary and Senator Mitchell are spending a lot of effort, trying to see what we can do to get this process going. And we’re also working with our Arab partners to try to reach this goal that we all have. But they’re two separate issues as far as we’re concerned.

Please.

QUESTION: In that same interview, Avigdor Lieberman said that the talks between – indirect talks between Syria and Israel should not go on. What is the U.S. position on talks between --

MR. WOOD: Well, I mean, at some point, there need to be – there needs to be peace between Israel and Syria. The question on when talks go forward, that’s going to really be up to the parties. We have an interest in seeing peace in the region, and we think it’s important that all the parties work toward that goal. But I don’t have anything further.

QUESTION: You don’t – do you support talks between Syria --

MR. WOOD: Well, of course we – I think that’s the point I made. We want to – obviously, at some point, the two parties need to sit down and resolve their differences. That’s in the interest of the international community. We want to see that happen. In terms of when they sit down actually, that’s something that’s going to have to be worked out. But certainly, we would support a peace between Israel and Syria. That goes without question.

QUESTION: Just wondering if you had any sort of comment on these detainee photos that are expected to be released in the next couple weeks. I was wondering whether you could say if you’re concerned about a backlash in the region, in the Muslim world, and whether you’re beginning to put any of your facilities on defensive notice.

MR. WOOD: Well, look, Kirit, I certainly wouldn’t talk about any types of security precautions we may or may not take. But I really don’t have any comment on, you know, possible release of photos at this point.

Okay?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: Thank you all.



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