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Middle East Digest - August 5, 2010

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Washington, DC
August 5, 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 August 5, 2010

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QUESTION: Also today at the opportunity – the press opportunity with the Nigerian foreign minister, Secretary Clinton talked about these technical and expert talks with the UAE and others on the Blackberry issue. Do you have any more details in terms of what other countries the U.S. will be meeting when it talks about this Blackberry issue?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as I indicated yesterday, as we have indications that countries are raising security concerns to Blackberry, we have – we are reaching out to those countries – the UAE, Saudi Arabia, India, and others – to understand the security concerns and see if we can’t work collaboratively to find solutions. So that’s a process that is ongoing here at the Department of State. I’ve got no announcements to make at this point.

QUESTION: Well has it gone anywhere beyond what you said yesterday?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes. And we are also – we’ve been –

QUESTION: So how has it gone beyond what you said yesterday?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’ve been in touch with RIM, the company that operates the Blackberry network worldwide. We're going to have follow-on meetings with RIM to try to understand fully the issues that have been raised to the company and see if we can't determine how to meet both the security needs that these countries are expressing and also ensure the free flow of information as we are advocating.

QUESTION: Can we move on?


QUESTION: Okay. This morning, the Wall Street Journal reported that the State Department is in advanced negotiations with Vietnam on a nuclear deal which would allow Vietnam to produce enriched uranium on its own soils.

And the paper actually quoted nonproliferation experts as saying that this is a roll-back of the Administration's nonproliferation efforts. What's your comment on this? And do you – are you concerned that countries in the region might be pursuing the same thing, enriching uranium on their own soil, such as Thailand and all those countries?

MR. CROWLEY: A lot of questions there. The United States and Vietnam are engaged in a so-called, "123" negotiation that would involve civilian nuclear technology. That negotiation is ongoing, so it's hard to cite at this particular point what the specifics of an agreement would be. That's – these are still issues that are under discussion.

In terms of concerns that were expressed in the paper, we work directly with specific countries. We evaluate their energy needs and on a case-by-case, country-by-country, region-by-region basis. We have completed a successful agreement with the UAE. That agreement is what we would consider to be the gold standard. And in that agreement, which is very important and very valuable, the UAE pursuing its own interests, decided that it would forego the right of enrichment that every country in the world has.

We certainly want to see other countries make that same kind of decision and that same kind of agreement in their own interest as the Administration pursues its nonproliferation agenda. But again, these are discussions that we're having with countries that are interested in this kind of agreement, and while we will pursue our nonproliferation objectives through these kind of discussions, obviously the interests and needs of particular countries will vary from one to the other.

What other countries are you talking to?

I don't have a specific list in front –

QUESTION: You’re talking to Malaysia, aren’t you?

MR. CROWLEY: -- but there are a number of countries that are interested in pursuing these kinds of so-called 123 agreements. Obviously, we reached one with India. We reached one with UAE.

QUESTION: You can't remember one that's sort of in the middle of negotiations? I'm sure you could think of one.

QUESTION: Like Malaysia.

MR. CROWLEY: I'll see if I can – I'll see – if there's great interest, I'll see if we have a list.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)


QUESTION: Lebanon -- today, a Florida congressman, Congressman Klein -- I think he sits on the Foreign Relations Committee – suggested that he’s going to bring up the issue of stopping military aid to Lebanon.

Are you in discussion with this congressman in particular or on this very issue?

MR. CROWLEY: I'm not familiar with those -- with those comments.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, hold on. Obviously, we should just point out, you know, UNIFIL did chair a meeting with Israeli and Lebanese officials yesterday evening. The meeting was professional. Both parties indicated their interest in maintaining calm in the border area.

And since, there was a question yesterday about the nature of U.S. support to the Lebanese armed forces, we have provided more than $600 million to the Lebanese armed forces and internal security forces under a variety of programs. Much of this support is in the form of training through international military education training, so-called IMET Program.

We have provided some equipment through foreign military financing, so-called FMF aid. In any U.S.-origin equipment that's been provided to Lebanon, we have very strong end-use monitoring to make sure it is used appropriately, and we have no indication that U.S. equipment played any role in this incident earlier this week.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow up. Yesterday, you expressed the United States support to Lebanese sovereignty. I guess that is an indication that you will continue to aid Lebanon militarily and so on. If Congress should decide that they would want to cut off aid to Lebanon, military aid, in the sum – you said – cited $600 million and so on. What will you do in this case?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let's not get beyond, the comment of any particular individual. We provide support to Lebanon because it is in our interest to do so. We do so in close cooperation with the international community for the express purpose of improving Lebanon – the Government of Lebanon's security capability, protecting its sovereignty, and contributing to broad security across the region. And it is in our interest to continue that, but obviously if individual members of Congress have questions about the nature of this aid, we'll be happy to have those discussions with them.

QUESTION: But you are -- you are sort of confident in the Lebanese army's fidelity as a national force and not being manipulated by any particular political group?

MR. CROWLEY: We are, as we've said many times, we're in support of the civilian government in Lebanon, and we think improving the capability and performance of the Lebanese Government, both across the government, but including in the security sector, contributes to stability in the region and is in our interest.

QUESTION: On the WikiLeaks, the Pentagon said that it is asking WikiLeaks to return all of the documents that were handed over to them. And I'm wondering if that was a joint request from the State Department. Are you talking to the organization about returning any cables that it has of yours? Are you encouraging other governments to ban the site for the national security interests?

MR. CROWLEY: Certainly as a government, we would like to see all documents returned, whether they're military cables, whether they're State Department cables. This is classified information that WikiLeaks does not have a right to possess. We would like to see if – we would love to see this material not released any further. If that involves a return of files to the United States government, I think that would be a positive step.

QUESTION: And then, what about – are you encouraging other governments to block the site for national security interests?

MR. CROWLEY: We are obviously not the only government that has concerns about – about WikiLeaks. I can't cite any particular conversation that we've had with other governments, but I think we collectively have the same interest in protecting classified information.

QUESTION: Do you have any – do you have evidence that the stuff that WikiLeaks says it has that it has not yet released is, in fact, classified and does, in fact, include State Department cables?

MR. CROWLEY: We continue to investigate what prospectively WikiLeaks has. And to the extent that we can identify documents that are ours that perhaps have migrated from government networks out, we are actively reviewing those cables to determine and assess potential – the potential damage to our national security.

QUESTION: Well, but wait. That’s different than – I mean, you said initially that – you said this was classified information that WikiLeaks does not have the right to possess.

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, we are – yes.

QUESTION: You’re talking --

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, we are investigating this, as you saw not only in the released documents that have already been provided to news organizations, there were classified documents there. We believe that – WikiLeaks says they have additional cables.

QUESTION: Right. But does your --


QUESTION: -- has your investigation turned up proof that what has – what they have but have not yet released includes classified material and also that it includes classified State Department cables? Not all cables are classified.

MR. CROWLEY: Not all cables are classified, do – I mean, WikiLeaks has said that they have additional --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. CROWLEY: All right. Look. WikiLeaks has said that they have additional documents, including State Department cables. We are investigating that claim. I'm only being careful because part of the process of investigating the release of these documents is actively involved in an investigation of the source of this leak.

But, you know, do we believe that WikiLeaks has additional cables? We do. Do we believe that those cables are classified? We do. And are they State Department cables? Yes.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, you mentioned that a couple days ago that WikiLeaks chief is not an American citizen, so you cannot talk to him and you cannot – and you do not have any power on him.

But the New York Times is one of the parties which is going through the documents. Have you spoken to them about it?

MR. CROWLEY: Have we spoken to The New York Times?

QUESTION: Yes, because out of the three newspapers, it’s one of --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, a variety of us had conversations with various news organizations prior to the stories that emerged about these documents.

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