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Middle East Digest - March 31, 2010

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Washington, DC
March 31, 2010


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 31, 2010

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QUESTION: Can you confirm a P-5+1 conference call this morning? And can you give us any details --

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- on what they said?

MR. TONER: I can confirm a call did take place. It just concluded a little while ago. And in terms of readout, I can just say that all six agreed that – acknowledging that a call took place, but also that it’s a latest in a series of ongoing consultations among the Six Parties on the next steps on the dual-track approach towards Iran’s nuclear program. So again, just in the framework of what – there was a call, I believe, last week; another call this week. Both the Secretary and President have both been out there publicly saying that we’re in a period of intense diplomatic engagement on this issue. And this call was within that context.

QUESTION: And the call was with Under Secretary Burns at the political directors level?

MR. TONER: I believe so, yes, Charlie.

QUESTION: And you say they agreed on next steps, or just talked about next steps?

MR. TONER: Consultations on next steps.

QUESTION: Consultations on next steps?

MR. TONER: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And would that include drafting language to circulate in New York?

MR. TONER: Well, I don’t think we’re there yet, but as the President said yesterday, we’re working hard on the pressure track and moving forward with speed and determination.

QUESTION: Mark, on that same subject, the President yesterday said that he believes that they can get the sanctions within weeks.

MR. TONER: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And that did seem perhaps quicker than we were led to expect. What can you report --

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- on the progress?

MR. TONER: Well, I mean, the President’s words obviously stand. And I think he even noted that we don’t have international consensus yet, but we’re working hard to build that. What we do have is broad support among the P-5+1 for a dual-track approach. The President was quite clear yesterday in saying that we’ve tried the engagement track and we’re now moving towards the pressure track. The engagement part of it is not off the table, but we’re moving with deliberation on the pressure track now. And we’re consulting, and the P-5+1 call within that context just shows how serious we are.

QUESTION: And one more --

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- on Iran. There is this report coming out of one media outlet on Mr. Shahram Amiri. Have you followed that at all, this --

MR. TONER: More details? Sorry.

QUESTION: He was – he’s an Iranian nuclear scientist who disappeared last year --

MR. TONER: Right.

QUESTION: -- when he was in Saudi Arabia. And the Iranians have said that – alleged that he was kidnapped, taken by the United States. Now there’s a media report saying it was actually a CIA operation, a coup by the CIA in which they actually got him to come to the United States, defect, and that he is here now.

MR. TONER: No comment on that. Sorry.

QUESTION: No comment?

MR. TONER: No comment.

QUESTION: And why? Is there any information? I know we went over this with P.J. a while ago, but is there anything you can add to it?

MR. TONER: I really can’t discuss any of the details. I just have no comment. I have to stay with that.

QUESTION: No comment? It’s not that you don’t know anything. You just can’t say anything; is that correct?

MR. TONER: Well, it’s both. I don’t know the details. I don’t know anything about it. But also, no comment. We wouldn’t talk about it even if we could.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Is that it? Great. Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:28 p.m.)

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