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Middle East Digest - April 2, 2010


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Washington, DC
April 2, 2010

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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 2, 2010

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Special Envoy Scott Gration remains in Khartoum meeting with government officials, including the National Elections Commission and with opposition leaders. There are legitimate concerns that have arisen as we approach the elections in mid-April – concerns about the overall environments around the election, access to the media to campaign, the election process itself, including logistical challenges of polling places and the like. As you have reported, it’s not clear whether decisions by opposition parties are final. We certainly hope that parties can reach agreement with the National Elections Commission so that there will be maximum participation in these upcoming elections.

QUESTION: Yeah. Two weeks ago, Iran signed – Pakistan signed gas power plant deals with Iran. And now, India has said too that it’s also resuming negotiations process with Iran to extend their gas pipeline to India. So at a time when President Obama is looking for imposing additional sanctions on Iran through the UN Security Council, what’s your response to that – India and Pakistan both working together to sign a (inaudible) gas pipeline deal with Iran?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, these are discussions that we’re having with a range of countries. We obviously are earnestly engaged with a wide range of countries, particularly within the P-5+1, beginning to put together the specific elements of a potential sanctions resolution. And we will expect, depending on not only what is in that resolution, but other steps that countries will take going forward, that it becomes – the international community as a whole has to be united behind this effort and has to enforce whatever sanctions are put in place.

There are existing sanctions already in place, but we have expressed our concerns to a number of countries that have ongoing economic relations with Iran that now may not be the best time to pursue such projects.

QUESTION: -- and all that. And at the same time, do you believe, really, whatever is going on this – because Iran is now – is, was, or will be isolated and people – that they might come back on the table and they might agree with the, let’s say, same deal like with India, the civil nuclear agreement? Are you still going to go with Iran with the civil nuclear agreement?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’ve said many times, the Secretary has said many times that Iran has a right to a civilian nuclear program. The dilemma for us and for the international community is, increasingly, the actions that Iran is taking, its refusal to engage, points to the potential that it is, in fact, pursuing a military program. We want to see Iran come to the table, answer the questions that we have. If they do, yes, they have the ability to pursue a civilian nuclear program. We, of course, have on the table an offer to help them with their legitimate civilian needs, but clearly, that requires Iran to engage constructively, something that they have failed to do.

QUESTION: P.J., as far as Afghanistan and its President Karzai is concerned, President Obama just came from there and I’m sure they had a very lengthy and straight talk, and at the same time, the Secretary was there. And just now Assistant Secretary Blake also returned from Afghanistan just the day before. What message do you think are we getting or the U.S. getting or the international community from President Karzai?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, we’re troubled by the comments that he made yesterday. From our standpoint, we are investing substantial resources to defeat al-Qaida. It’s in our interest. But in doing so, we’re also creating significant opportunities for the Afghan people. We are committed to helping Afghanistan because it’s in our vital interest to do so. I believe our Ambassador Karl Eikenberry has met with President Karzai today to clarify what he meant by these remarks. But obviously, we are actively working, as I mentioned yesterday, to strengthen government institutions at all levels. This is not about us. It’s ultimately about the relationship between the Afghan Government and the Afghan people. But suggestions that somehow the international community was responsible for irregularities in the recent election is preposterous.

QUESTION: But one more quick one. During your talks or Secretary or President or other U.S. officials with him, did you get any sense that he’s not satisfied with the way the operations are going there, because in the past, he was complaining that terrorist activities are there across the border and all those things?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll leave it to President Karzai to characterize how he sees the current operations. We’re encouraged by what is happening. We are working hard to not only strengthen government institutions at the national level, we’re working hard to strengthen government institutions at the local level. Our efforts are focused on giving the Afghan people a sense that government at all levels can deliver what they need, and in doing so, we think that’s the most effective way to defeat the insurgency.

QUESTION: It seems nowadays the differences between the U.S. and the Karzai government over there -- so how are you going to work in Afghanistan if there are differences in the government over there on key sharp issues?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think the issue is differences. I mean, this is about Afghanistan. It’s about the relationship between the Afghan people and their government. Ultimately, as the President has made clear, we – there are things that we are going to do, but our overall strategic focus here is to transition to where these become Afghan responsibilities and an Afghan-led process. It’s why we’re building institutions of government. We’re building police. We’re building military forces so that it ultimately is the Afghans taking care of their own challenges and shaping their own future. We are here to help.

Now, at any particular time, there will clearly be differences between how we perceive a situation and how our Afghan friends perceive a situation. And we’ll resolve these differences when they occur through close coordination and dialogue as we have done.

QUESTION: Wasn’t this issue raised by President Karzai to U.S. officials earlier of this elections?

MR. CROWLEY: I – as to why he decided to do this yesterday, I would ask him.

QUESTION: Another topic here. Serbia announced – no, today that an international warrant was issued for an American citizen, 88-years-old man who was supposedly – he worked during the Second World War as – in a concentration camp in Serbia where he was – and he was accused of – well, being part of that extermination process – Jews extermination process. So there was some – a lot of talks in Serbia about – with some Jewish organization. Actually, there was a pressure of Jewish organizations to – on Serbia to do that. Now it’s done and it’s American citizen. Do you know anything about that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t know anything about that particular case, but over decades we have supported accountability for those who were responsible for atrocities during the Second World War and if we’re asked to – through legal and diplomatic channels, to pursue this, we will, of course, meet our responsibilities.




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