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Middle East Digest - April 30, 2009


April 30, 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 30, 2009

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QUESTION: The attorney general was in Berlin giving a speech today, and he says that the – that there were 30 detainees in Guantanamo that have been cleared for release. How close are you to finding places to put them at this point?

MR. WOOD: Well, you know, as I’ve said before, Kirit, we are working with a number of governments to try to see – to gauge interest in taking some of these detainees. This is very much a work in progress. And I’m not going to get into the specifics for obvious reasons, but the President made a very clear decision that we want to close Guantanamo and that we’re going to look at each of these cases individually. And we’re going to talk to a number of countries around the world about, you know, possibly taking some of these detainees. A number of countries have wanted us to close Guantanamo. They’ve wanted – they’ve stated they wanted to be a part of the solution to this. Well, Guantanamo is going to be closed. We’re trying to deal with these detainees. And so we’re hoping that countries will come forward and take some of these detainees.

And so, as I said, it’s a work in progress, but I don’t want to get into the specifics of conversations that --

QUESTION: It’s been over three months since he made that announcement. Are you any closer to finding places for them?

MR. WOOD: We are working on it. I don’t want to give you an assessment at this point because I’m just not able to make that kind of an assessment. But we are having these conversations with other governments. And, you know, hopefully, we will make some good progress in terms of getting countries to take these detainees.

QUESTION: Same subject?

MR. WOOD: Yes.

QUESTION: A Spanish judge decided today to launch an inquiry in – on the possible cases of torture in Guantanamo. Does it concern you?

MR. WOOD: Well, we have had conversations with the Spanish Government about this issue, but I’m not going to go beyond that at this point, Sylvie.

QUESTION: Well, I think the conversations that you had was on a different case, which actually names six Bush Administration officials. This is a different probe.

MR. WOOD: Oh, this is a different --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. WOOD: This is new? I’m sorry, I haven’t --

QUESTION: The other was on the anti-terror judge.

MR. WOOD: Yeah, I haven’t seen these reports at all, so I’m not able to comment on them Matt. Sorry.

QUESTION: Can you – you know, back when the first case was going on, I asked a general question which was never answered, which was just how the Administration feels about universal jurisdiction.

MR. WOOD: I think we posted an answer to that, Matt. Yeah, I don’t have that. Check with the Press Office. I think we did.

QUESTION: Different subject, on Pakistan. Apparently, there was a successful action by the military against Taliban fighters in an important location. I wonder what your comment is and what lessons we derive from it.

MR. WOOD: Well, as I said yesterday, Pakistan understands the threat that it faces. And we have called on the government to take actions – decisive, strong actions against extremists. They’re not just a threat to Pakistan. They’re a threat to other countries in the region. And the Pakistanis are doing this because it’s in their national interest, and that’s important. We are going to work with Pakistan, as well as with Afghanistan and other countries that are trying to root out extremists, and give them the support – the best support that we can. But this is a long struggle. And it’s going to require, you know, 110 percent cooperation on the part of the international community to defeat these extremists.

But as I said, Pakistan realizes, you know, that this – these extremists pose an existential threat to the state of Pakistan and the well-being of its people. So we’re happy to see Pakistan taking these types of steps. They need to continue to confront these violent extremists. And we will be there as a partner to try to help them.

QUESTION: Do you have something more specific to say about this operation? Would you call it a success or --

MR. WOOD: I’m not able to make that assessment, James. I think we’ll just have to see how things play out. But at this point, I can’t give you an assessment.

QUESTION: Is it a step in the right direction?

MR. WOOD: Certainly, taking on extremists is a step in the right direction, no question about it.

QUESTION: You’re setting the bar awfully high demanding 110 percent cooperation.

MR. WOOD: From everyone, including the United States.

QUESTION: Yeah?

MR. WOOD: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you think that people can actually do 110 percent?

MR. WOOD: Effort’s important.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: The UN special tribunal for Lebanon – a judge at the tribunal today in The Hague ordered the release of four Lebanese officers who were jailed since four years suspected of assassination – assassinating former Prime Minister Hariri. And the judge said they were innocent. What is your reaction to this?

MR. WOOD: Well, my understanding, Samir, is that – you know, these four generals are still under investigation by the tribunal prosecutors. So the prosecutors indicated that the investigation is ongoing. But I think the Secretary when she was in Lebanon expressed her support for the tribunal, including, you know, additional monetary support. So it wouldn’t be good for me to comment beyond that with regard to these generals because the investigation is still going on.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Yesterday, there was some reports about giving emergency aid to Pakistan. Are you aware of that, to some sort of aid going to Pakistan?

MR. WOOD: I know that there are conversations going on on Capitol Hill about trying to expedite assistance to Pakistan. We obviously want to try to do what we can to deliver assistance as quickly as we can to Pakistan. The situation in Pakistan is very troubling. And the Pakistani Government is doing all it can, but it needs help from the international community. And we need to provide that help – assistance, and do it as quickly as we can. But I don’t have anything to say beyond that.
QUESTION: Have you heard anything more from the Swiss on Roxana? I know yesterday you hadn’t heard back --

MR. WOOD: Yeah. No, update. I check every morning. I haven’t gotten any update.

QUESTION: And do you have anything on – there’s another woman, Silva Harotonian, who worked for ARIX. Anything on her health?

MR. WOOD: No update at this at this point. Sorry. Okay. Thank you all.



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