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Middle East Digest - April 9, 2010


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Washington, DC
April 9, 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 9, 2010

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1:33 p.m. EDT

QUESTION: On the issue of Qatar, you said that the diplomat would be leaving shortly. Do you know how soon that is? And in terms --

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll refer you to the Embassy of Qatar.

QUESTION: And in terms of that decision, did the U.S. Government relay its views on such a move before – to the Embassy before the Embassy actually made its final decision?

MR. CROWLEY: We have had a number of conversations with the Government of Qatar, both here in Washington and back in the region. Our Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman talked to the foreign ministry today and we are satisfied that we have – with the actions that the Qataris have informed us about.

QUESTION: Did you ask the Embassy to do such – to make such a move?

MR. CROWLEY: I think we expressed our – the seriousness with which we attach to this incident, the fact that the individual violated federal regulations. And the Qataris informed us that they would reassign this individual, and we welcome that.

QUESTION: I actually wanted to ask you about Pakistan.

MR. CROWLEY: All right, I’m happy to talk about Pakistan.

QUESTION: Can I stay with Israel for a second?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: A demonstrated track record on nonproliferation, what is that – taking out sites in Iraq and Syria?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, on the one hand, Israel is not a party to the Nonproliferation Treaty, so it has not violated specific obligations. That said, it has a civilian nuclear program and it has a demonstrated track record of protecting the technology in its possession.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we just go to Pakistan?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: I think it’s fair to say that Pakistan is the country in which the greatest nuclear proliferation has ever taken place under A.Q. Khan. And I wonder if you can address why it is useful, or why you are convinced that Pakistan has or will in the future demonstrate a commitment to preventing the spread of nuclear technology and know-how.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we want to see Pakistan be part of the solution in the future. It has been part of the problem in the past. Pakistan has been a source of proliferation, and at various times in the past, we have taken specific steps against Pakistan as a result. That said, Pakistan recently has demonstrated a willingness to help the international community shut down the A.Q. Khan network. We still have questions about that and we still pursue those with Pakistan. It has demonstrated that it can secure its own nuclear weapons program, and we have confidence in the steps that Pakistan has taken.

You’re quite right; Pakistan has been a source of concern in the past. And it has been a significant discussion – we’ve had significant discussions with Pakistan on these issues. But if we’re going to strengthen the nonproliferation regime going forward, we want to see Pakistan invested in this process. And to the extent that other countries demonstrate through their cooperation with the international community that they are willing to assume that same responsibility, then the door would be open for further cooperation. In the case of the three countries that we noted earlier, they have – they are noted right now for their refusal to cooperate with the international community.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Israel for a second – non nuclear? Well, actually it’s – actually it’s somewhat nuclear. There’s a report in an Israel newspaper that says that the U.S. is denying visas to Israeli nuclear scientists who want to come to the States. Can you say anything about that?

MR. CROWLEY: Without commenting on individual visa determinations which are governed by the Privacy Act, we continue to issue visas to Israeli scientists, including nuclear scientists, on a regular basis. We’ve actually improved processing times for visas for scientific exchanges with Israel. So there’s been – it has been suggested there’s been a policy change. There has not been a policy change. And we continue to support exchanges with the Israeli scientific and academic communities.

QUESTION: So this report is wrong?

MR. CROWLEY: To the extent the report is that we’ve stopped providing visas to Israeli scientists as a whole, that report is wrong.

QUESTION: Is there any reaction to Iran’s announcement today about the enriching uranium equipment that is ten times as powerful?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – as you know, we had an important meeting in New York yesterday regarding working with countries involved in the – in this issue and the prospect of a resolution on adding sanctions. For countries that are involved in this process, any doubt about what we need to do, everyone should continue to listen to leaders in Iran. This ongoing, chest-bumping about its nuclear program, there’s no – if Iran wants the international community to believe what it says, that it has peaceful intentions with respect to its nuclear program, then Iran has no leave for a third generation or faster centrifuges to be able to do what it’s doing any faster. So Iran continues to add to its own indictment of why the international community is pursuing the steps that it is.

QUESTION: But will it affect sanctions?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think if we’re looking to strengthen the indictment against Iran, we should just heed what Iran continues to say. Its comments today just provide greater evidence that notwithstanding its denials, that we have to conclude that Iran has nefarious intentions in its nuclear program. And that’s expressly why we continue to work within the international community on additional measures and sanctions to show Iran that there’s a consequence for failure to meet its obligations.

QUESTION: Two quick questions on two different topics. First on Egypt, I sent you a link to a
joint letter by a number of rights groups – human rights groups – urging the Secretary to urge Egypt to take democratic reforms. I was curious if you had any reaction to that letter and if you could explain what the U.S. is doing in that regard.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the – I did glance at the letter and it certainly is consistent with the statement that we made here in the last couple of days. We believe that all individuals should be allowed to exercise freely fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Declaration of Human Rights. We think that all Egyptians should have a role to play, a meaningful role to play, in an open, transparent, inclusive political process. That belief is central to our value system, to our foreign policy, and we think it’s also in Egypt’s long-term interests. So we continue to support free and impartial elections in Egypt, and we continue to make that clear to the Government of Egypt.

QUESTION: And how are you expressing that directly to the Egyptians other than saying it from the podium here?

MR. CROWLEY: This is part of our ongoing dialogue with Egypt and it was clear in the Human Rights Report in the section on Egypt that we recently released, and it is part of our ongoing encouragement that moving forward, Egypt has to open up its political system to a wider range of players.

QUESTION: Israeli officials have said that Prime Minister Netanyahu won’t come to the summit and they have decided they are concerned that Egypt and Turkey plan to raise the issue of Israel’s presumed nuclear weapons capability at the summit next week. And we’re quoting a senior Egyptian official in Cairo and we have other Arab diplomats saying that Egypt and other Arab nations – I’m not speaking of Turkey here – had no intention of raising Israel next week. Do you have reason to believe that Israel was – that Egypt is going to raise this topic in the meeting?

MR. CROWLEY: I have no idea.

QUESTION: I was wondering if the State Department could confirm AP’s exclusive about the Sinaloa cartel being now in complete control of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question. I don’t know.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Have a nice weekend.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:11 p.m.)



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