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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Robert Wood
Acting Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
February 5, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Secretary Clinton Travel to Asia / Discussing Challenges Facing International Community / Scheduling of Trip / Getting North Koreans to Abide by International Obligations / Indonesia Very Important Country For U.S. / State Department Role in Engaging China / Partnering with China on Humanitarian Issues / Human Rights and Tibet / Importance of Asia to Foreign Policy Agenda / Secretary Clinton Meeting South Korean Officials / President Obama Interested in Outcome of Trip / Focus on Human Rights and Women's Empowerment / Secretary Clinton's Meeting with East Asia Working Group
    • Ambassador Holbrooke Visiting Region / Secretary Clinton to Visit Region in Future
    • Special Envoy and Special Representative Roles / Ambassador Holbrooke Coordinating US Government Activities Vis-a-Vis Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • IRAQ
    • Election a Milestone in Democratic Development / Final Results Due February 23 / Independent High Electoral Commission Investigating Reports of Fraud / Iraqi People Deserve Credit
    • Ship Incident / Refer to Pentagon
    • Commitment to Protecting National Security Information / Presidential Executive Order to Review Detention Conditions at Guantanamo
  • IRAN
    • Nuclear Activities of Concern / Policy Under Review
    • Manas Air Base Discussions Ongoing
    • Suffering of Zimbabweans / Want Government to Address Needs of Zimbabwean People / Power Sharing
    • Consular Assistance Provided to Emanuel Zeltser / Call for Release on Humanitarian Grounds
    • Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Kouchner Meeting Agenda
    • "Buy America" / WTO Agreements
    • UN Human Rights Council / Administration Takes Human Rights Seriously / Coherent and Comprehensive Approach
    • Al-Qaida a Concern / U.S. Continuing to Pursue al-Qaida / Working with Allies and Partners Around the World


11:19 a.m. EST

MR. WOOD: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the briefing. I’m going to start out with a statement on the Secretary’s upcoming travel, and I’ll read it to you and we’ll issue a hard copy a little bit later.

In her first trip abroad since taking office, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to Asia, departing Washington, D.C., on February 15. She will visit Japan, February 16 through 18; Indonesia, February 18 through 19; the Republic of Korea, February 19 through 20; and China, February 20 through 22. In all capitals, the Secretary will be discussing common approaches to the challenges facing the international community, including the financial markets’ turmoil, humanitarian issues, security, and climate change.

In Tokyo, the Secretary will meet with senior Japanese officials for discussions on the strategic bilateral alliance and cooperation with Japan on regional and global issues. She will then travel to Jakarta to hold consultations with senior Indonesian officials to discuss the close and growing partnership with Indonesia and perspectives on common interests in Southeast Asia. In Seoul, Secretary Clinton will meet with senior leaders to discuss our expanding global cooperative partnership with our ally, the Republic of Korea. The Secretary will conclude her trip in China where she will meet with senior officials in Beijing to further develop a positive, cooperative relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.

QUESTION: I don’t believe I heard the two words “North Korea” in there at all.

MR. WOOD: They weren’t.

QUESTION: Is that going to be --

MR. WOOD: They weren’t in there. You’re correct.

QUESTION: Yeah, I know. Isn’t that a part of this trip as well?

MR. WOOD: Well, certainly. I mean, the issue of North Korea will come up in conversations. We all want to see how we can get North to – the North Koreans to abide by their international obligations and to see how, through the Six-Party framework, we can get them to live up to those obligations.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I also ask you said that climate change is going to feature --

MR. WOOD: Yes.

QUESTION: So exactly how – who decided on this itinerary? As far as I know, it’s about an hour flight from Tokyo to Seoul, and it’s about an eight-hour flight or a nine-hour flight from Tokyo to Indonesia, and then back another eight-hour flight back.

MR. WOOD: Scared of a little additional flight time?

QUESTION: Well, I’m just curious about – I mean, you know, why – you know, why increase your carbon footprint by that much? (Laughter.)

MR. WOOD: Well, look, it has to do with scheduling and people’s availabilities. And so that’s – the way the trip was worked out was to reflect, you know, when people were available and when they could see the Secretary and when it was the most appropriate to meet. So that’s the best way I can answer the question for you.

QUESTION: Robert, why Indonesia? Why Indonesia?

MR. WOOD: Indonesia is an important country for the United States. I don’t need to tell you that’s the largest Muslim country in the world, and the Secretary feels it’s important that we need to reach out and reach out early to Indonesia. So that’s – basically is why.


QUESTION: Does the Secretary plan to make any speeches in Indonesia?

MR. WOOD: We’re still working out all of the details of the trip. But I at least wanted to get the announcement out there for you.

QUESTION: And then, secondly, it’s notable that Secretary Clinton is going to China before the Treasury Secretary. Is this an indication that the State Department is taking the lead in terms of your relationship with China and that she’s going to be discussing a lot of – you mentioned the financial challenge, currency as being an issue?

MR. WOOD: Look, the Secretary has said that this is an important relationship for the United States. It’s very broad. The State Department will have an important role in engaging China. I’m not going to get into this, you know, who has greater weight within the relationship. It’s a wide-ranging relationship, as you know.

QUESTION: And how important will currency discussions be? Is she going to discuss --

MR. WOOD: Again, I’ve already told you the issues that the Secretary is going to discuss. I’m not going to get into any more specific details right now. We’ll certainly be able to get you more information in terms of all of the areas of – all the topic areas that will come up.

QUESTION: You spoke about the humanitarian issues. Is she going to raise these issues in China?

MR. WOOD: With -- which specific humanitarian issues?

QUESTION: You spoke about humanitarian issues.

MR. WOOD: Yeah, well, I mean, there are a number of humanitarian issues around the world that we’re concerned about. And the Chinese are a major global player, and we want to see how we can partner with the Chinese to try and help resolve some of these horrible and horrific humanitarian situations we have – we’re dealing with around the global.

QUESTION: I don’t remember if you mentioned human rights, Tibet, at all.

MR. WOOD: Well, the subjects of human rights and Tibet always come up in conversations with our Chinese counterparts, because human rights is a very important issue for the United States. So I would suspect that those issues could very well come up.

QUESTION: Okay. And one more thing, just on Indonesia. In written answers to questions from her confirmation hearing, the Secretary talked about wanting to reopen the Peace Corps program in Indonesia, which was shut down after only two years in the mid ‘60s. Is that something that she’s going to be looking at?

MR. WOOD: Well, that’s certainly something that the Secretary will be looking at. I can’t give you anything certain about whether we will be able to do that and when. But she certainly is looking at that and wants to continue to look at it to see if we can indeed do that.


MR. WOOD: James.

QUESTION: There’s already been a lot of speculation online and elsewhere about why Secretary Clinton chose for her first foreign trip the Far East. In your own words.

MR. WOOD: Well, look, Asia is, as I mentioned, a very important part of the world. It’s growing in size, in influence, prosperity. In terms of the Administration’s overall approach to travel, the Secretary felt that going to Asia would send a tremendous signal to Asia and others in the world of the importance of Asia, particularly to our foreign policy agenda. And that’s the basic reason. It’s an important part of the world. It’s a very strategic part of the world. And it’s logical for the Secretary to want to go there. And the fact that she’s going to, you know, Asia as her first trip, I think it is very significant.

QUESTION: Robert, the hotspot today in Asia is South Asia – Afghanistan. And many member of Congress were calling that she should have gone to India because the terrible problems we have in Afghanistan and all that. So don’t you think that should have been first for her or should have been included in this trip?

MR. WOOD: Well, the Secretary, at some point, will be going to South Asia. As you know, Ambassador Holbrooke is on his way – will be on his way to the region from the Munich conference. And it was felt – the Secretary felt very strongly that we needed to get that special representative out to the region as quickly as possible, and show that we’re very interested, very concerned about what’s going on with regard to the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

And so, as I said, she will eventually be going to the region, but the fact that we’ve got a very distinguished negotiator, as you well know, Richard Holbrooke, going to the region, that’s very significant as well.

QUESTION: And just quick, Robert. Being in China, there is a lot of things going on here in the Congress on “Buy America,” and they are saying that as far as trade with China, surplus and also almost everything made in China in the U.S., do you think this issue will come up? Because it’s affecting the Administration’s policy.

MR. WOOD: Well, you know, there have been a number of concerns expressed, I know, in other countries about, you know, these provisions in the – you know, the package about “Buy America,” and we’ve certainly heard those concerns. And you know, the President has said very clearly that in terms of provisions he would like to see in this package that they not in any way violate WTO agreements or in any way smack of protectionism. And so, you know, Congress is still debating all of these various provisions in this package. And so that’s really where we are, and that’s the best that I can say on that subject at this point.


QUESTION: On the trip to Indonesia, is the Secretary going to be laying groundwork for a visit there by the President?

MR. WOOD: Well, again, I don’t know if/when the President will be traveling to Indonesia. Obviously, you know, the President will be very interested in the outcome of this trip, not just to Indonesia but to the other countries that I outlined. And we’ll just have to see. There’s a lot of business to do with Indonesia, and the President is very interested in, of course, this trip. And so we’ll just have to see, Viola.

Let me – right.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about the case of the British resident Binyam Mohamed, who is currently in Guantanamo Bay. Can you tell us from the point of view of the United States Government, would it do serious harm to intelligence information sharing arrangements between the U.S. and the UK if the documents that describe his treatment as a detainee were to be made public in the UK?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, one of the things that I want to make clear is that we really thank the United Kingdom for, you know, its continued commitment to, you know, protecting sensitive national security information and to preserve our longstanding intelligence-sharing relationship. You know, it’s the best I can tell you on that.

QUESTION: But the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has said that he believes it would do serious and lasting harm to the relationship if these documents were to be published. Is that the belief of the U.S. Government?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, the best way I can describe it to you is that the British have been very steadfast in agreeing to preserve the confidentiality of the intelligence that we share with them. And you know, it’s really the best that I can give you on that.

QUESTION: Does a change of administration, though, not change the policy, given these documents describe something that happened under the Bush Administration?

MR. WOOD: Well, what are you referring to specifically?

QUESTION: There are communications between U.S. and UK intelligence agents that describe what happened – apparently describe what happened to this man when he was held in detention, which a UK court would like to make public, and the UK Government is preventing them from doing so, saying it is because the U.S. Government doesn’t want them made public. And it’s not clear to us whether or not the U.S. Government, under an Obama Administration, really does want these things to be kept secret.

MR. WOOD: Well, I’ve just outlined to you what our position is with regard to intelligence sharing. And you know, President Obama has – as you know, through an executive order, has, you know, basically requested a review of the detention of, you know – or should I say the detention conditions at Guantanamo. But beyond that, I just don’t have anything more I can give you on it.


QUESTION: Yes. Do you have any reaction to – Russia plans to start up the Bushehr plant by the end of the year. What’s the Administration’s reaction to that? Do you think this is a good thing, a bad thing? Are you suspicious because of Iran’s nuclear ambitions?

MR. WOOD: Well, we’ve always been suspicious of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. And as I’ve mentioned many times here, our overall policy with regard to Iran is under review. I know you don’t like that answer, but that’s the answer I’m giving to you today – and probably give you tomorrow if you ask the same question.

QUESTION: So Bushehr is under review, how you feel about Bushehr? I mean, the former administration was not overly delighted about Bushehr but decided not to make it a huge, sort of, issue to fight over --

MR. WOOD: Look --

QUESTION: -- in the end. So --

MR. WOOD: As I’ve said, Iran’s nuclear activities have been of great concern to the United States, continue to be. And we’re taking our time to do a very thorough review of this policy. We’ll obviously have discussions with the Russians about this topic. I’m certainly aware of what the previous administration was trying to do. This is a new administration. We’re taking a much broader look at our overall Iran policy. And once that review is completed, we’ll be able to give you much more information in terms about how we’re going to go forward. Until then, I don’t have much more.

QUESTION: Did the Russians – did they consult you before they made this announcement, say, hey, we’re – this is what we plan to do and how do you feel about this?

MR. WOOD: I’m not aware that they did.

QUESTION: For example, in the P-5+1 meeting, did it come up?

MR. WOOD: I haven’t been able to talk to Bill in any detail about it. I don’t know if it came up. But those are, as you know, confidential discussions, and I’m not going to really get into much more detail than I did yesterday when I gave you the brief readout that I had.

QUESTION: Robert, speaking --

MR. WOOD: Yes.

QUESTION: -- of Russia and its – or the environs of Russia, what’s the situation with the Kyrgyz now on this air base?

MR. WOOD: Matt, I really don’t have anything more to say than I did yesterday, except that, you know, discussions are ongoing with regard to the Manas air base. And that’s all I’ve got.

QUESTION: Well, have they told you that they’re going to – that you have to leave?

MR. WOOD: As far – as I said yesterday --

QUESTION: Or is this one of these cases where you’re pretending not to have heard?

MR. WOOD: No, what I’m saying to you is that we’ve had discussions with them about this. And --

QUESTION: And in those discussions, did they say that you have to go?

MR. WOOD: I’m not going to sit here and get into the substance of the conversations that we’ve had, except to say that we’re still having those discussions.

QUESTION: Well, you know, when the President of the country comes out and says something like that, you can’t just ignore it, which is what you’re doing.

MR. WOOD: Nobody’s ignoring it. We’re having discussions with the Kyrgyz Government.

QUESTION: Well, are you going to leave?

MR. WOOD: Matt,we are having discussions. I’m not going to go beyond that. I know you’d like me to, but I’m not going to go beyond it.

QUESTION: Recently the State Department has said that you have not received any official notification. Is that where it stands still, that you haven’t been officially notified?

MR. WOOD: I am not aware that we have received any official notification as of this briefing.

QUESTION: But yet, you’re in discussions with them, where I’m sure that this was discussed.

MR. WOOD: We’re having discussions.

QUESTION: Is that not an official notification? Do you have to get it in writing?

MR. WOOD: Let me just say we’re having discussions.

QUESTION: So it’s still possible that the base will remain as it is?

MR. WOOD: I am not going to, you know, speculate. We’re having discussions, it’s a very sensitive matter, and I’m not going to go beyond that.

QUESTION: Would you have any detail on this Foreign Service officer who was apparently killed in Ethiopia?

MR. WOOD: I don’t have an update on this issue. I’ll see if I can get you something, so let me do that. I just don’t have the latest details on that.

QUESTION: Well, what do you have?

MR. WOOD: I don’t have anything on it for you right now. Let me get an update.

QUESTION: As far as Afghanistan, going back, Pakistani officials or Pakistanis are not very happy as far as the U.S. looking for alternate routes and that bombing of the bridge may be a result of that because it has never happened in the last eight years that any U.S. supply mission or any bridge was bombed as long as U.S. was supporting the billions of dollars to Pakistan. But now maybe shift is taking the toll on the U.S., as far as the bombing of the bridge. Do you have any update or --

MR. WOOD: I don’t. Ambassador Holbrooke is going to – as I said, going to the region, and we will be having discussions with – he’ll be having discussions with Pakistani authorities about the overall situation, and not just in Pakistan, but in Afghanistan. And I’d just prefer to leave it there.


QUESTION: Go ahead, please. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: May I just follow-up quick? I’m sorry.

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: After talking, many Pakistanis here and also following some of the reports that General Musharraf was speaking around the country on a PR mission sent by the Pakistani Government, defending his – the dictatorship rule of ten – eight years and also what he was saying in Philadelphia at a speech that the Taliban and al-Qaida were created by Pakistan and by the U.S. And he said, don’t blame Pakistan. And his mission ended on Saturday from here, going back to Pakistan because he wanted to meet with President Obama, of course, but he ended meeting with President Bush and Vice President Cheney. So do you have any update on his visit to – on this PR mission?

MR. WOOD: I don’t. He’s no longer an official of the Pakistani Government. He’s a private citizen. I’d have to refer you to, you know, the Embassy of Pakistan.

Let me go to the gentleman.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: The Zimbabwe parliament has just voted overwhelmingly for the unity bill. And Reuters was reporting that on both sides there was jubilation and stomping of feet on this. Can I get some reaction from you from this news that’s --

MR. WOOD: Well, this is the first I’ve heard of it. And we’ll just have to see if indeed this will be a government that takes seriously the concerns of the Zimbabwean people. As you know, we’ve talked about -- from this podium many times about the immense suffering that Zimbabweans are under. And whatever government that eventually does come into place, we want to see it adopt policies that reflect the overall will of the Zimbabwean people. We’ll just have to see. I still maintain that, you know, we want to see there be a government in Zimbabwe that addresses the real needs of the people. We’ll have to see if indeed that’s what this government does.

QUESTION: So no jubilation and stomping of feet here in Washington?


QUESTION: Robert, a follow-up on Zimbabwe?

MR. WOOD: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Are you – you mentioned in the statement that you’re looking for true power sharing. I wonder if you can go into any more detail on that. For example, are you looking to see how the cabinet allocations might turn out, for example?

MR. WOOD: Well, I think we have spoken in great detail before about what we want to see with true power sharing in Zimbabwe, and that’s something that has to be agreed upon by both sides, the opposition, and Mugabe and his team. And we can only have real true effective government in Zimbabwe if it is a government that respects the will of its people, and it – and takes care to address the very serious concerns of the Zimbabwean people. And that’s what we want to see happen. That’s what others in the international community want to see happen. And we’ll follow this and we will just see if indeed there is a government that, you know, addresses the real serious issues facing its people.

QUESTION: And now that the Zimbabwean – now that the unity government is apparently going to happen, are you in consultations, close consultation with your allies in terms of the kind of aid that you need to roll out to begin with once you’ve seen that they are, you know, exercising the will of the people?

MR. WOOD: Absolutely. We are in touch, we’ll be in touch with our allies. But we will, I think, first and foremost, watch to see how this government forms and what policies it adopts, and then, you know, take some decisions as to how we can best support the new government and the people of Zimbabwe.

QUESTION: But how long could that take? Are you setting yourself – you know, let’s give it six months and see whether they’re really serious?

MR. WOOD: I don’t think we’re putting a time --

QUESTION: There must be some sort of benchmark.

MR. WOOD: I don’t think we’re putting a timeframe on it yet, Sue. I think we just want to see how – if indeed we do have a government and that government starts to take shape in terms of its policies, then we’ll obviously take a much closer look to see what more we can do. But I think it’s a little early to do that, and I certainly don’t want to put a timeframe on – by when we’d be able to complete, you know, our analysis of this.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. WOOD: Change of subject? Anything else on --


MR. WOOD: Okay.

QUESTION: Robert, as you may know, in Geneva, the UN is currently going through its so-called universal periodic review process of the human rights records of all countries in the world. Human rights organizations say that the United States seat has been empty this week, including during the review of Russia’s human rights record. And I gather this is one of the only forums in the UN context in which countries can be asked direct questions about their human rights records by other UN members.

And essentially, I had two questions. One, does the United States – why has the United States not been present and participating in these ones? And does the United States plan to do so as some of the other major countries identified in the State Department’s own report says where you have significant human rights concerns – Saudi Arabia, China, others – come up for review, does the U.S. plan to participate?

MR. WOOD: Well, one of the things I can say, Arshad, is that we’re currently looking at what our policies are likely to be toward the UN Human Rights Council. I can’t give you anything definitive because we’re obviously taking a close look at the institution and its record. The President and the Secretary have made very clear that we want to fully engage and make reforms of the overall human rights – the international human rights system, and that that’s a priority for the U.S. Government. But until we’ve been able to, you know, take stock of that institution and take a good internal look as to how we want to engage other, you know, elements of the international human rights system, it would be hard for me to give you any kind of analysis.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up on this. I mean, I know that the United States took a decision to stop participating in the commission’s work. That said, it’s my understanding that you don’t have – that any country can come and ask questions during the sort of UPR process. And the human rights groups are perplexed that the Administration and the U.S. Government, which has a longstanding policy on human rights around the world, wouldn’t participate, which it can do; even if it is not actively a part of the commission, any country can come and speak.

So is it – has a policy decision been made not to take part in this process until you have decided the broader question of how and whether you will work with the commission?

MR. WOOD: I think where we are, Arshad, on this is that we need to take a close look, a closer view at the Human Rights Commission. And I can assure you that this Administration, under President Obama and Secretary Clinton, take human rights issues very, very seriously. And there are a number of problems out in the – out in the global community with regard to human rights. And we want to make sure that we have a very coherent, cohesive policy with regard to engaging the UN and other actors in the international human rights system, and I would just look at it through that prism. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to send any signals at this moment one way or the other. We want to take a very, very close and hard look at how we can best engage these international actors.


QUESTION: Could I ask you --

QUESTION: -- you know, China is supposed to come up next week, and I believe at the top of this briefing, you announced that the Secretary was going to China and that human rights would be a --

MR. WOOD: That’s correct.

QUESTION: -- would be an element of what she’s – what she’s going to be talking about.

MR. WOOD: That’s right.

QUESTION: So do you think there will be a decision made – I mean, will – to participate?

MR. WOOD: Matt, it would be – we’re – you’re speculating here. I just – we don’t know.

QUESTION: I’m not speculating. I’m not --

MR. WOOD: You’ve just asked me a question about --

QUESTION: That’s not speculation. I’m asking you if there’s going to be – will you participate in the – in the review – on the Chinese review when she’s going to – you know, when she’s going to China.

MR. WOOD: I’m sorry, Chinese review? I don’t follow.

QUESTION: Review of the UPR that is for selected countries. China, I believe, is next week. Yeah. She’s going to China the week after that.

MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I’m just wondering if there will be a – if the decision – the review that you’re talking about will be completed in time --

MR. WOOD: I couldn’t possibly --

QUESTION: -- for you to participate or not participate in the --

MR. WOOD: As you know, it would be very hard for me to put a timeframe on when the review would be completed, Matt, so I just couldn’t say.

QUESTION: Could I ask you to take the question? Could you take the question? I mean, it may be that you guys don’t have an answer. I know that the Administration is barely into its third week, so maybe that’s just a function of a turnover of administrations, it doesn’t reflect anything in terms of your own policy.

MR. WOOD: Right.

QUESTION: That said, I would ask if you would take the question of whether – because it’s my understanding that any country can participate whether – if you would take the question as to whether the United States may choose to participate in these upcoming reviews or in this process regardless of what its broader position ultimately becomes on the commission?

MR. WOOD: Arshad, in all due respect, I really don’t want to take that question, because, again, I think I’ve addressed it in terms of what we’re trying to do with regard to our human rights policy. And I think if I were to do it, the answer that you would get was exactly – will be exactly what I’m giving you in terms of we’re taking a hard look at our policy, and before committing one way and – you know, one way or another to taking a step here or a step there, we want to have this review. And so I’m afraid that’s the answer that you would likely get from us right now. It is very early in the Administration. I think people have – I know people are very impatient and want to have responses from us with regard to a number of policy areas, but we’re not there yet. I think it’s only fair to give the Administration time to look at its policies, and then we can obviously spell them out a bit further.

QUESTION: You know, this is something that they – that the new team has been aware of for – since it came in. And when the President and the Secretary both campaigned on, you know, making human rights a priority, it’s just a little surprising that there hasn’t been anything – they haven’t made even the effort to show up --

MR. WOOD: Look, when something --

QUESTION: -- at the reviews.

MR. WOOD: When something’s a priority, you don’t rush to make a decision on it. You want to make sure, as I said, you have a very coherent and comprehensive approach to something as important as human rights for the United States.

QUESTION: And has there been – and I take it there’s been no decision yet on the Durban conference?

MR. WOOD: Not yet.

QUESTION: Robert, on a related issue, the State Department alleged yesterday, for what I understand to be the first time, that the American citizen Emanuel Zeltser has been, quote/unquote, abused during his nearly year-long detention in Belarus. And I wonder if you can elaborate on the nature, form, extent, scope, duration of his abuse.

MR. WOOD: Well, let me just say this, James. Our Embassy in Minsk, you know, continues to provide full consular services for Mr. Zeltser, including regular prison visits, protesting incidents of abuse, communicating with his family, with his lawyer, and making sure that he has access to required medication. And we continue to call for Mr. Zeltser’s release on humanitarian grounds. And – yeah, do you want to say something?

QUESTION: Well, I presume that the State Department would not be protesting any incidents of abuse if it didn’t have reason to believe that such incidents had occurred. I’m asking if you can share with me why there is reason to believe that.

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t want to get into that, because that has to do with discussions that we have had with Mr. Zeltser. There are also Privacy Act considerations that we have to take into account. But one of the things I can assure you is that we are doing all we can to support Mr. Zeltser. We’ll continue to call for his release on humanitarian grounds. It’s a very troubling situation there, and, you know, the Secretary is focused on this. She wants to know what we can do to help, what further we can do to help. And that’s what I have.

QUESTION: But lastly, the word “abuse” is not used lightly, and it was used for the first time yesterday. And so I take it, then, that if you’re telling me you’re – the use of the word is based, in part, on discussions with Zeltser himself, that the United States, through its consular officers and through whatever other means, regards these allegations of abuse as credible.

MR. WOOD: Well, as I said, I really don’t want to talk about, you know, this any further because of – for the reasons that I outlined to you.

QUESTION: But you don’t use the word lightly?

MR. WOOD: We don’t use the word lightly.

QUESTION: The Secretary is meeting later today the French foreign minister. What are the issues on the agenda, please?

MR. WOOD: Sure. As you know, the Secretary is meeting with Foreign Minister Kouchner later today. I think it’s – they have a lunch at 12:30 and then a bilateral meeting at 1:15. She looks forward to welcoming the foreign minister here. The agenda will be wide-ranging, subjects such as Afghanistan, Iran, the Middle East situation, Darfur. And I’m sure there’ll be others, and you know, the Secretary looks very much forward to working with Foreign Minister Kouchner and the rest of the French Government on a number of these very, very difficult and challenging issues that we’re dealing with in the international community. So that’s how I would describe the agenda.

QUESTION: Do they know each other? Is it the first time they meet?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know if it’s the first time they’ve met. Certainly, this is the first time they’ve met, you know, while – as she is Secretary. But I don’t know the answer to that question. She may have at some point in the past.

Anything on the Kouchner meeting? Okay. Let me go here. Viola.

QUESTION: I wanted to get back to the situation of the UK protests over the demands to withhold this information. President Obama signed a directive in his first week in office, first days in office, to – that all information should be released and that the – the burden of proof should be on the government to prove a national security issue to withhold any information.

Is there any review underway to determine whether this information that the UK court would like to release is actually sensitive enough to be protected under national – U.S. national security considerations, or is it, in fact, just information that would embarrass people? I mean, he specifically noted that information should not be withheld just on the grounds that it might embarrass people. Is there any review going on of that information?

MR. WOOD: Viola, I really don’t have anything more to say on the issue than what I’ve said with regard to the executive order and what that requires. And I really just don’t have anything more for you on it.

You – we haven’t gone to you, Matt, in a little while. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I’m wondering if you have any reaction to the results of the Iraqi election.

MR. WOOD: Well, again, as I think I said the other day, this is a milestone in terms of Iraq’s democratic development. I think I said also the turnout was roughly, more or less, 50 percent.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. But to the actual announced results?

MR. WOOD: Well, I think the final results are due out February 23rd, if I’m not mistaken. That’s when they’re certified, I think. And you know, it’s a – Iraq is a developing democracy. It’s going to have some ups and downs. But I think the fact that, you know, you had Iraqis going to the polls, very little violence that took place, you know, around the election time, it’s just – it’s great for the Iraqi people. I mean, this is what so many have died for, so many wanted. It’s a very good thing.

I know there have been some, you know, allegations or reports of, you know, fraud or disenfranchisement, but I know the Independent High Electoral Commission is looking at those. And the Iraqi people have a lot to celebrate. And they deserve all the credit, as I said the other day.

Let me go to Lambros.

QUESTION: On Cyprus. Mr. Wood, any comment on the Cyprus Government decision to send the issue of the ship to the UN to find out whether the ship’s cargo violated sanctions barring Iran from sending arms abroad?

MR. WOOD: Lambros, as I’ve said before, really with regard to the ship incident, I have to refer you to the Pentagon. I really don’t have anything beyond that.

QUESTION: Suspicions that the ship was taking arms to Hamas in Gaza were raised by the U.S. Government. Could you please clarify, Mr. Wood, how the U.S. Government came to this conclusion against the Republic of Cyprus?

MR. WOOD: I don’t think the U.S. came to any conclusion against the Government of Cyprus, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: One question?

MR. WOOD: Last question.

QUESTION: Today, at the U.S. governmental think tank Atlantic Council will be a closed- session discussion about the geopolitical future of Cyprus for three hours. And Thomas Miller from your Embassy in Nicosia was invited to attend. May we know all the names of the participants from the Department of State?

MR. WOOD: I can sure try to get you something.

QUESTION: Excuse me?

MR. WOOD: I can try to get you something on that, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Can you clarify the difference between a special envoy and a special representative in a diplomatic sense?

MR. WOOD: Yeah. I think a special envoy is involved in negotiations with a host government, or a government or other governments. A special representative, in the case of, for example, Ambassador Holbrooke, deals with coordination. And in the case of Ambassador Holbrooke, he will be coordinating amongst a – you know, a number of U.S. Government entities with regard to our policy vis-à-vis Afghanistan, Pakistan. That’s the best answer I can give you.

QUESTION: Do you really expect that either George Mitchell or Richard Holbrooke or any other individuals who may occupy similar roles, to be named shortly, will observe such fine distinctions on the ground in the regions where they’ll be operating? In other words, that --

MR. WOOD: They will stick to their mandates.

QUESTION: -- Misters Mitchell or Holbrooke will completely desist from any negotiation?

MR. WOOD: They will stick to their mandates.

QUESTION: Well, you mean that Richard Holbrooke is not going to negotiate with the governments?

MR. WOOD: He’s going to coordinate U.S. Government activities with regard to Afghanistan and Pakistan. I think he said that in his statement. I think I’ve said that a couple of times.

QUESTION: Does that go for Mitchell as well?

MR. WOOD: He will – they will both stick to their mandates.

QUESTION: And it’s the same mandate.



MR. WOOD: It’s not the same mandate. I just – as I said a couple of minutes ago.

There’s a few more questions. I’ll take a few – Mr. Lambros, you’ve had your questions. Please.

QUESTION: With the Secretary’s trip to South Korea, does the Secretary have any schedule to meet with South Korean President (inaudible)?

MR. WOOD: She plans to meet with a number of South Korean officials. I don’t have that list yet. I would expect that would be one of the meetings, but I don’t have that in front of me at this point. But we will certainly get that information out as soon as it’s available.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: Please.

QUESTION: Would you share why Secretary Clinton chose Tokyo as a first place to visit?

MR. WOOD: Japan is an important partner and ally to the United States. Again, it has to do with scheduling, and I don’t have anything more to add than that.


QUESTION: Yeah, just on the trip as well, on the ground in Asia, as you can imagine, the North Korea issue is going to be one of the biggest issues over there. I was just wondering, is – are you hoping to have some type of framework? Is a review hoping to be complete on North Korea by the time you get there, or is this trip part of the review?

MR. WOOD: I think this trip will be part of the review. The Secretary will want to hear from leaders of the region about their views with regard how we can get North Korea to abide by its international obligations. And so yes, I’m – North Korea will be a subject that will be raised, no doubt, and she’s very interested in hearing, you know, her counterpart’s views about, you know, how we can best go forward and get the North to do what we all know it should be doing.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? Japan has been holding up fuel oil shipments to North Korea, and I wonder if you think that’s something that she’ll encourage Japan to release that fuel oil?

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t want to get into the politics of oil shipments. The important thing is that we meet our obligations, and we’ve said to the North it’s action-for-action. And when the North takes the steps that it’s required to do under the Six-Party framework, we and the other members of the Six-Party framework will take the steps that we’re required to do. That’s about the best I can tell you on --

QUESTION: Can I ask one other question about the trip just in general? I’m sorry, but I’m way in the back so it’s hard to get your attention. And that’s – you know, Hillary Clinton made this big splash in 1995 with her human rights speech in Beijing, and I wonder – you sort of indicated that human rights will come up, but it doesn’t seem to be as big a focus anymore for her.

MR. WOOD: Human rights will be a big focus, and another issue I should have mentioned that she cares very deeply about and will be discussing on the trip is women’s empowerment.

QUESTION: Can I just go back --

QUESTION: One more on that.

MR. WOOD: All right, one more on this.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) review, you wouldn’t expect any major announcements on North Korea while she’s on this trip; would that be correct?

MR. WOOD: I don’t expect any.

Let me just – Elise.

QUESTION: Yeah, this is a new topic. It’s on Yemen. It seems that over the last few weeks, some al-Qaida operatives have entered Yemen coming from Saudi Arabia and kind of renewing the kind of threat that could be targeting U.S. interests in the country. Do you have anything on that? Or can you talk about growing concerns that Yemen is becoming a safe haven for al-Qaida?

MR. WOOD: I’m not going to talk about, you know – not going to talk about information we may have about any particular country with regard to, you know, al-Qaida. But let me just say that al-Qaida remains a concern for us in a number of places around the world. It’s still active. It still remains a threat to the United States and its allies. And we’ll continue to pursue al-Qaida. The President’s made that very clear. You know, we’re not going to let our guard down. We have to be vigilant. And you know, al-Qaida is operating in a number of places around the world and, you know, it’s a challenge for us, but it’s a challenge that we have to meet.

QUESTION: Well, without getting into any specific information, could you talk about the concerns about Yemen in particular? I mean, you’ve had several attacks against U.S. interests, the Embassy over the last couple of years. There have – you know, in your terrorism reports and stuff, there has been, you know, heightened concern about Yemen. So could you kind of speak to the situation in Yemen and --

MR. WOOD: I’m not going to speak to it any more specifically than actually you just did. I mean, there are obviously concerns about al-Qaida activity in a number of places around the world, not just Yemen. And we’re working with our allies and partners in many places around the world to try to do what we can to, you know, basically eliminate the al-Qaida threat. It’s not easy. This is a growing challenge for the United States. But President Obama said that this is something that we have to meet, we have no alternative but to meet this challenge. And we need to work closely with our partners and others around the world to try to do what we can to eliminate the threat.

QUESTION: There have been some concerns about the fact that the Yemeni Government hasn’t done enough to combat extremism in the country. Do you have any response to that?

MR. WOOD: I’m not going to get into the internal politics of Yemen. There’s a lot that we all can do to try to eliminate terrorism threats wherever they – you know, from wherever they emanate. So let me just leave it at that.

Last question, Kirit.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything more about the Secretary’s meeting with the East Asian working group this evening?

MR. WOOD: No, I don’t have anything more to – we can probably get you some more details. I don’t have – you might want to check with the Press Office, who will have some more details about that.

QUESTION: Is it to prepare for her trip or is it just kind of something that was --

MR. WOOD: Well, I think she’ll be interested to hear the views of, you know, many of the people who will be attending in terms of what they – how they see the various dynamics ongoing in East Asia. So it’ll obviously contribute, I think, very greatly to, you know, her preparations for the trip.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:00 p.m.)

dpb # 18

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