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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Robert Wood
Acting Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 2, 2009


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Call on North to Desist from Launching Missile / Launch Counterproductive, Provocative
    • Want to Get Back to Six Party Talks / Focus on Denuclearization
    • Launch Hasn't Taken Place / If It Does, U.S. Will Talk with Allies to Coordinate Response
    • In DPRK's Interest to Return to Talks / Energy Needs Addressed by Six Party Framework
    • Situation is Tense / Challenge Is to Get North Korea to Focus on Its Commitments
    • Constant Dialogue with Asian Allies on Defense, Human Rights, Prosperity
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Clinton Call with FM Lieberman Yesterday / No Dates Set for Meeting, Mitchell Travel
    • U.S. Remains Focused on a Two-State Solution
    • PM Netanyahu Committed to Peace Process with Palestinians
    • Conflict Is Difficult / Won't be Solved Overnight
    • S/E Mitchell's Plans / Looking for Areas Where We Can Make Most Progress
    • Annapolis Process Provided for Two-State Solution
    • Getting Parties to Move in That Direction / Trying to Calm Tensions
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Concerns about Reports of Legislation
    • U.S. Urges Karzai to Review Legal Status, Correct Provisions that Restrict Women's Rights
    • Clinton's Meetings in The Hague / Female Afghan Parliamentarians
    • Women's Rights Paramount in This Administration's Foreign Policy
  • SOMALIA
    • Concerns about Al-Qaida Recruitment Activities / AQ Cause Is Human Destruction, Terror
    • Requires Broad International Cooperation
  • DEPARTMENT
    • U.S. Concerns for American Citizens Detained or Missing Abroad
    • Iran: Saberi, Levinson / North Korea: Journalists / Pakistan: Solecki / Trinidad: Students
  • IRAN
    • No Reply to Recent Message / Up To the Iranians
    • U.S. Committed to Direct Engagement with Iran
    • We'll Have to See If Iran Wants to Reply
  • RUSSIA
    • Condemn Attack on Human Rights Activist Lev Ponomarev
    • Urge Russia to Bring Culprits to Justice


TRANSCRIPT:

11:53 a.m. EDT

MR. WOOD: Good morning, everyone. I think it’s just about still morning. Welcome to the briefing. I don’t have anything, so – sir.

QUESTION: The North Koreans have moved fueling tankers, or whatever, close to the site. They may or may not be fueling this missile. What words of wisdom do you have for the North Koreans at this moment?

MR. WOOD: Well, Matt, I’m not going to comment on, you know, intelligence matters. But let me just say again, we call on the North to desist from launching any type of missile. It would be counterproductive. It’s provocative. It further inflames tensions in the region. We want to see the North get back to the Six-Party framework and focus on denuclearization.

Yes.

QUESTION: Japan has also said they’re going to call for an emergency meeting in the Security Council, you know, should this launch go ahead. Is this something that you would also be looking for?

MR. WOOD: Well, let’s see if this test happens. We certainly hope it doesn’t. Again, calling on the North not to do it. But certainly, we will – if that test does go forward, we will be having discussions with our allies. We’ll be having discussions with – in New York. But I’m not going to go beyond that yet. The test hasn’t taken place and, again, the launch hasn’t taken place. So again, we call on the North to desist from this.

QUESTION: But have you seen any unusual sort of movements on the launch site?

MR. WOOD: Sue, we wouldn’t – we’re not going to talk about intelligence matters, as I said.

QUESTION: But what sort of diplomatic initiatives are underway by the State Department to --

MR. WOOD: Well, for – as you know, Charley, for quite some time, we have been in discussions with other elements of the Six-Party framework. We’ve been in touch with our European allies, our other allies in Asia to express concern and to try to coordinate best on how we deal with the North if, indeed, it does go forward and launch this missile. So there’s been a lot of diplomatic activity.

Should that launch take place, there will be increased diplomatic activity to try to figure out what we can do to prevent that type of thing from happening again. But again, it hasn’t happened yet, so let’s wait and see.

QUESTION: But can you describe what’s being done today and tomorrow as we move closer to what’s expected to be the launch day, diplomatically?

MR. WOOD: Let me just leave it at what I said. We are having discussions. Should this launch go forward, we will, you know, pick up the pace of those discussions. You know, we’re working to try to figure out how we can get the North back to the table so we can deal with, as I said, denuclearization.

QUESTION: And how’s that going, working on how you’re going to bring them back? I mean, what do you think you could do to bring them back to the negotiations? What are you mulling over?

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t want to get into specifics of what we’re thinking about. But again, it’s in the North’s interest to come back to the table. It has energy needs, which certainly would be provided for in the Six-Party framework. We’ve given the North a very positive path to come back to the good graces of the international community. We want to see the North back at the table, but – and we’re trying to do what we can to encourage that.

But again, any potential – you know, any missile launch, you know, is going to, as I said, inflame tensions in the region that’s already very tense. And so this will be the challenge for us as to how we can get the North to focus on what it needs to focus on, what it’s committed to, and that’s, again, denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

Yes.

QUESTION: Has Japan or any other U.S. allies in the region requested Patriot anti-missile systems or, if they did, would you be prepared to offer them at --

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t want to get into specifics of the types of conversations we’ve had with regard to defense requirements, but we have a constant dialogue with our Asian allies in terms of how we can better cooperate not only on defense matters, but also with regard to issues of human rights and how to better bring about prosperity in the region. But I don’t want to, you know, get into specifics about, you know, whether we got a request from country A or country B. I just don’t think that would be helpful at this point.

QUESTION: Would you be prepared to send them such equipment?

MR. WOOD: Well, again, this is speculation. And I also don’t want to get into any types of – any discussion on requests that may or may not have been made. I just don’t think that’s the appropriate thing for me to do right now.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Robert, speaking of military actions, U.S. – what countermeasure does the U.S. have immediately?

MR. WOOD: Look, what we’re trying to do is to resolve this issue diplomatically. Again, as I said and the President said earlier, we don’t want to see this launch go forward. And you know, the situation right now in the region is very tense, everybody is on edge, and we want to try to do what we can to prevent this launch from happening. And we’re using every possible avenue that we have diplomatically to do that. And you know, we’re calling on the North not to do this. It’s a provocative act, as I said earlier.

QUESTION: Well, this is going to be seen like beating a dead horse, but you say you’re doing everything that you can to prevent this from happening diplomatically, but other than you standing – you or Gordon or whoever standing, and other people standing up in front of podiums or in press conferences in London and saying “This is provocative,” and “Please don’t do it,” what’s being done directly with the North Koreans to tell them --

MR. WOOD: Well, we’ve made this point very clear to the North, as you know, in the past and we’ve had discussions with others who – and they have influence on the North, that this would be a provocative act and we don’t want to see it go forward. And so this is activity that’s been going on for quite some time. There have been discussions in a wide --

QUESTION: Yes, and as you’ve been having this – as this activity is going forward, the North has marched steadily and steadily closer to doing this. They’ve ignored everything that you said so far.

MR. WOOD: Well, it’s --

QUESTION: Isn’t it time to perhaps change your strategy a little bit?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, as I said, we’ve been having discussions. I’m not going to talk about what we may or may not do should this launch go forward, but I can assure that not only the United States, but our allies in the region and others outside of the region are very concerned about this, and they’re going to see what we can do in terms of next steps should that launch go forward.

Yes, Nina.

QUESTION: Well, where is Bosworth and what is he doing?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know where he is today. I mean, I’m just getting back from, you know, the trip and so I don’t know. I’ll look and see where he is today. I’m not sure where he is.

QUESTION: But who’s talking to the North Koreans on your behalf? Is it the Chinese or can you clarify?

MR. WOOD: Who’s talking to the --

QUESTION: Who’s talking to the North on the U.S.’s behalf?

MR. WOOD: Well, I mean, he is our special envoy dealing with North Korea, so he’s been having discussions. I just don’t know where he is today. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Okay. If you could find out, that would be great.

MR. WOOD: Yeah, we’ll try and get that for you.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: According to the South Korean Government, President Obama said in a meeting with the South Korean president that the U.S. is drafting a new UN Security Council resolutions – a resolution on sanctions against North Korea. And can you confirm that?

MR. WOOD: I’m not going to comment on – as I said earlier, I’m not going to get into what we may or may not do right now. Our objective is to try to get the North to not think about going forward with this launch. That’s where we’re focused right now. But we have been having discussions, thinking about what might happen should the North go forward. I’m just not going to get into those discussions here from the podium.

Let me go to Lachlan.

QUESTION: Okay, yeah. When was the last time the U.S. had direct contact with the North Koreans, either at the New York mission or --

MR. WOOD: I think it was last week. I don’t have the specific day and time and all that, but I think it was last week.

QUESTION: Can you say what was discussed?

MR. WOOD: Not going to get into that, but obviously, we have a number of issues that we’re concerned about with regard to North Korea. So I think you can safely say that we touched on, you know, a few of those issues and without me getting very specific from here.

Yes.

QUESTION: But while you don’t want to go into a lot of specifics, can you say whether you are discussing with your colleagues in the UN whether to – you know, are you preparing a draft resolution? I mean, can you at least say whether you’re discussing this? I mean, it’s good to plan for the future; otherwise, it would be irresponsible.

MR. WOOD: Yeah, we have had discussions in New York about North Korea and this possible launch. But I really don’t want to get beyond that right now except to say that, as I said earlier, that we don’t want to see this launch go forward. And we will – should it go forward, we will be having further discussions to see what next steps we need to take with the international community.

QUESTION: But the last time when this happened, the UN action was really quite swift and there had been quite a lot of lead-in time, so people were prepared, you know, for that – for the launch. So I just wondered, this time around, are you hoping that the UN reaction would be swift? And do you have everything in place so that you could just whip a little resolution out of the hat fast?

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t want to get into – as I said earlier, Sue, I don’t want to talk about what we may or may not do right now except to say that if the launch goes forward, you know, we will be looking with others who have a stake in this what we can do to prevent this type of thing from happening again, and how we can get the North back to the Six-Party framework and to continue our efforts to bring about a denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Sir.

QUESTION: There’s – one of the biggest concerns is that the four parties or the five parties will have a very hard time coming on the same page once North Korea fires this missile, and it might show some division. Now Japan is calling for an emergency Security Council meeting as soon as the missile launches, and you’re unwilling to go there. Is that already showing some division between the groups of what they --

MR. WOOD: I don’t think I said we were unwilling to do anything in particular. I just said that should the launch go forward, we’ll be looking at next steps in terms of what we may do. But I don’t want to get ahead of, first of all, the launch and I don’t want to get ahead of the diplomacy. So look, this is an issue of great concern to us, the Japanese, the Russians, the Chinese and others. And so we need to coordinate best on what type of action, you know, we would take, you know, should the launch go forward.

It’s – you know, it’s a very difficult issue, as you know. And we have continued to call on the North to not undertake provocative acts that only inflame the situation in the region. And we’re going to continue to do that, and our allies have certainly done that. So let’s just wait and see. It hasn’t taken place yet. But I can assure you that a number of countries are focused on this issue.

Okay?

QUESTION: New topic?

QUESTION: New topic. A topic – new topic. Israeli foreign minister said he’s going to meet with Secretary Clinton. Is there any specific date and place set right now?

MR. WOOD: No, they – the Secretary had a conversation with Foreign Minister Lieberman. It was yesterday. It was primarily to congratulate him on coming into his new position, but no dates have been set for any type of meeting.

QUESTION: What about Ambassador Mitchell?

MR. WOOD: He’s going to the region soon. I don’t have dates for you yet, because I don’t think they’ve been worked out, but he’s planning to travel to the area.

Yes, Matt.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary seek from the foreign minister any kind of an assurance on his position regarding a two-state solution in the Annapolis process?

MR. WOOD: It was a brief call. What I can tell you about the call is that she looked forward to getting together with him. But just to make it very clear, Matt, that our position has been for quite some time and remains focused on a two-state solution.

QUESTION: Did she make that clear to him?

MR. WOOD: That – our position is well-known by all the players in the Israeli Government.

QUESTION: Well, he had some – you know, several controversial comments yesterday, presumably before this phone call took place. She didn’t raise them at all or seek an assurance that the --

MR. WOOD: Matt, I’m not going to get into much more detail than I have on this call, but --

QUESTION: I’m not asking for detail. I’m just asking if she brought up anything other than congratulations and I hope I see you soon?

MR. WOOD: Look, I think – the Secretary looks forward to meeting with the foreign minister.

QUESTION: I got that. I understand that part.

MR. WOOD: Okay. And – and I draw you to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments yesterday about wanting to engage on the peace process, and his commitment to peace in the region. And again, this is a – this government is, what, a day or so old. It’s --

QUESTION: Right. Maybe I’m not making the question clear enough. Did the Secretary yesterday speak to --

MR. WOOD: Try it one more time.

QUESTION: -- ask the foreign minister about his position on either Annapolis or the whole idea of the two-state solution?

MR. WOOD: Look, we have had discussions with a number of officials in the Israeli Government about this issue. He is certainly – Foreign Minister Lieberman is well aware of what our position is.

QUESTION: Whether he is well aware of it or not, did this issue come up in the phone call, or was it simply a phone call to say congratulations and I hope I see you soon?

MR. WOOD: Well, it was – as I said, it was a very brief phone call. She wanted to congratulate him on assuming his position. They look forward to getting together at some point.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. I’m curious –

MR. WOOD: You know, I don’t want to get – obviously, I don’t want to get beyond that. But I just want to reiterate for you --

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Well, yeah, obviously. But did – well, did anything other than “Congratulations and I hope I see you soon” come up in the phone call or was that it?

MR. WOOD: Well, I can only – I got a readout of the phone call. I wasn’t on the phone call. But the important point here, Matt, to make, as I made already, is that a two-state solution --

QUESTION: Forget about the phone call. Is the Administration convinced that the new Israeli Government, including its foreign minister, is committed to finding the solution – a two-state solution to this conflict?

MR. WOOD: Look, I can only go by what has been said by the prime minister, who is the head of the Israeli Government. And he said he is committed to a peace process with the Palestinians.

QUESTION: Yeah, but he also refused to use the formula – a two-state solution or a Palestinian state.

MR. WOOD: Well, all I can tell you is that the new government, as well as the old government, is well aware of where the United States stands on this. And we are going to pursue that two-state solution because we believe it’s in the best interests of all the parties in the region, and we’ll go from there. But it’s – again, it’s a – the government is very new. The Secretary is going to have further discussions with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman and we will go from there. But --

QUESTION: Is the U.S. Administration optimistic about the chances to make progress on the two-state solution?

MR. WOOD: Look, you have to be – in our business, you have to be optimistic about it. The problem – you know, but having said that we’re optimistic about it, there are some difficult issues. This conflict is, as you know, one of long standing. It’s not going to be solved overnight. But we believe that it’s in the interests of not just the region, not just the United States, but the entire world that we solve this conflict.

And we’re going to be working hard to see what we can do to move the process forward. But we’re under no illusions. It’s not going to be easy.

QUESTION: What about Senator Mitchell? What’s he hoping to achieve when he goes?

MR. WOOD: Well, he --

QUESTION: What’s the reasoning behind that at this moment?

MR. WOOD: Well, as Senator Mitchell himself said, he is going to be actively engaged on a regular basis trying to set up the framework so that we can move forward toward that two-state solution. He will be having conversations with a number of leaders in the region, and to try to see how we go forward, where we can make the most process – I mean the most progress, as soon as possible, and you know, also to try to help build some confidence among the parties and to try to do what we can to bridge some of the gaps.

QUESTION: But where do you seeing this progress being built? I mean, on settlements it doesn’t look likely that you’re going to make much progress on that. I mean, where do you see room for success here?

MR. WOOD: Well, where I see room for success is that all the parties in the region want to see an end to this conflict. And as I said, Prime Minister Netanyahu is committed to a peace in the region. President Abbas is committed to a peace in the region. No one wants to see further bloodshed in the Middle East. You know, one of the reasons the new Administration decided to name a special envoy to the region was to have this routine, regular, if possible daily, focus on trying to solve this conflict.

As I said, we’re under no illusions about how difficult it’s going to be, but we have to engage and we have to engage constantly and remind the parties of their obligations, and to try to set up a framework, a process for getting us toward that goal of the two-state solution.

QUESTION: So at what point are you going to send the Secretary – or is the Secretary going to go over? I mean, you say you want to be involved on a daily basis, it’s a high priority, President Obama has made that clear, too. But yet you can’t provide any dates of when she plans to go there or when she plans --

MR. WOOD: Well, the Secretary was just in the region, and Senator Mitchell is going very soon to the region. So there is – and we have, you know, our diplomatic missions in the region. So there is constant engagement. I just – I don’t know when the Secretary is next going to go to the region, but as I said, (inaudible) Mitchell is going very soon.

QUESTION: Yeah, is the new Obama Administration committed to the Annapolis process, in particular dealing with the final status issues right away, which Annapolis provided for?

MR. WOOD: Well, Annapolis provided for and further elaborated on the idea of a two-state solution, and so that is what we’re committed to doing. We’re trying to figure out the best way to get the parties to move in that direction. And you know, there will be ongoing – there will be conversations that we will have with the parties and – but it’s a difficult road. I don’t want to kid you, Lach. I mean, it’s not an easy situation. The region is very tense. And what we want to try to do is calm down those tensions and get everybody to focus on the number one objective, and that’s to bring about a stable peace to that region.

QUESTION: So did you decide then to deal with confidence-building measures and postpone the status of refugees, the status of Jerusalem and the boundaries of a few --

MR. WOOD: I don’t think you – well, again, those are questions that Senator Mitchell can better address. But certainly, all of these issues are important elements to getting to a peace, and they’re going to have to be addressed and addressed substantively. I just – you know, I’m not able to give you a better readout than I’ve given you. I think Senator Mitchell can probably do a better job in terms of how he best can carry out that mandate.

QUESTION: Robert, you said – you said that you were – the Administration is still trying to figure out the best way to bring the parties together? Is that what you said?

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t remember exactly what I said, but what I’m talking about is we’re trying to bring them together the best way we can to get toward the two-state solution.

QUESTION: Right, okay. But you know, unless my memory is horribly bad, and I don’t think it’s that bad, up until January 20th, this Administration, as well as the former Israeli Government and the Palestinians were – kept talking about how – what great progress was being made on the Annapolis process. And even though there was no tangible evidence and no one believed them, everyone kept saying that there was great progress.

Are you saying now that we were, in fact, right that there wasn’t any progress being made, that that perhaps wasn’t the best way to bring the two sides together?

MR. WOOD: You know, Matt, certainly, at many periods you’re going to see progress. Progress, you know, ebbs and --

QUESTION: But that’s the problem. We didn’t see any progress, and yet we kept being told there was being progress made behind the scenes.

MR. WOOD: Well, the reason – there was progress, but we didn’t want to talk about – talk about that publicly.

QUESTION: So if – and if you’re saying now that you’re not – you’re still looking for the best way to bring the two sides together, it’s kind of an – it seems to me to be an admission that, in fact, there was no progress being made and that perhaps wasn’t the best way to get the two sides --

MR. WOOD: Look, Matt, as I was trying to say, progress with regard to the Middle East ebbs and flows. It’s – you’re going to have lots of ups and downs in this process. We’re going to have more of those. But we have a new Israeli Government and we have, you know, obviously a relatively new Administration that’s very engaged on trying to bring about an end to this conflict.

You know, you’re going to have ups and downs, which the important thing here is that there’s a commitment to work through all those ups and downs to get to our final objective. And so I – but again, this is not going to be easy. Nobody is going to say that it’s an easy task. But it’s an important task, and we have to go forward and work with the parties and get them to that two-state solution.

QUESTION: You said that Senator Mitchell could come to speak to us before his --

MR. WOOD: I didn’t say he could come. I said he’d be better able to address these issues --

QUESTION: Yes. Well, would it be possible for him to talk to us?

MR. WOOD: Well, we’ll see. You know, he’s going to be going to the region, so we’ll see. I’m not going to make any promises here because I haven’t talked to him.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. WOOD: Okay.

QUESTION: On this new law for Shi’ite Muslims in Afghanistan that seems to infringe the rights of women, I wondered if you had any more details on this, any – whether you’ve been speaking to the Afghan Government recently about this. And how far – there seems to be some confusion as to whether it’s actually been signed or enacted, and I just wondered what information you had on it.

MR. WOOD: Well, with regard to whether it’s been signed or enacted, I’d have to refer you to the Afghan Government. But we’re very concerned about these reports with regard to the legislation. We ourselves are reviewing the legislation, and we urge President Karzai to review the law’s legal status, to correct provisions of the law that, you know, limit or restrict women’s rights. And that’s about all I have for you at this point.

QUESTION: And I’m sorry if I missed this. Did the Secretary raise this with President Karzai during her meeting with him?

MR. WOOD: Well, this issue has been raised with, you know, other officials – by other officials of the U.S. Government with the Afghan Government. But when she met with President Karzai in The Hague, it was to talk primarily about how we go forward with – in the aftermath of the strategic review.

But I also draw your attention to the fact that in The Hague the Secretary met with some Afghan – female Afghan parliamentarians, and she made the point to them that – and reassured them that, you know, women’s rights are going to be paramount in this Administration’s foreign policy – not an afterthought, but, you know, a major focus of the Administration’s foreign policy.

QUESTION: But she didn’t bring it up with the president? I mean, she had the perfect opportunity there.

MR. WOOD: She may have. I – you know, I don’t know. There was a lot of diplomatic activity and discussions going on. But I do know that the focus of her conversation, her meeting with President Karzai, was to talk about the outcome of the strategic review and how we go forward.

QUESTION: Could you please find out whether she did actually raise it with him? Because this is becoming quite a big issue.

MR. WOOD: Well, look, it’s certainly an issue that President Karzai is – his government is familiar with. The Secretary made that clear to the female Afghan parliamentarians that, you know, women’s rights are at the core of our foreign policy. So there’s – President Karzai is certainly well aware of our views with regard to this legislation.

QUESTION: Do you – this is a different subject. Did you know if the State Department or the Secretary has anything to do with the John Demjanjuk case, who is about to be deported?

MR. WOOD: Yeah, we’ve been basically referring calls to the Department of Justice on that. I don’t have anything to give you on that. I’d just refer you to Justice.

QUESTION: You want me to ask the Justice Department if the State Department has anything to do with it?

MR. WOOD: I’m just saying with regard to the case. We’re not saying anything from here, just referring you to the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: I understand that and it’s not my question. Does the State Department have anything to do with it?

MR. WOOD: Certainly, there is some involvement, but I’m not going to get into that.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just trying to find out what – forget about this specific case. In a deportation case, a case like this, what is the State Department’s role? Please don’t refer me to the Justice Department to ask about what this building does because --

MR. WOOD: I wouldn’t do that to you. But with regard to the specifics of this case --

QUESTION: I just said not the specifics of this case.

MR. WOOD: Okay.

QUESTION: In any deportation case --

MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not going to get into a discussion of what our involvement is. These are --

QUESTION: Can someone please find out what it is? Because I understand this is – you know, there is some role and I just want to know what it is. And I don’t think that it’s correct for the State Department to refer me to the Justice Department about a question about what the State Department’s role is.

MR. WOOD: I think that’s a fair question. And I will do --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: -- what I can to get you an answer on that. Anything else?

Nina.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: Somalia and this al-Qaida-linked group al-Shabaab there seems to be this very broad recruitment effort of Somalia using the U.S., Australia, Canada to bring these youths into this group in Somalia. Is there’s something that you’ve been discussing with officials in Australia and Canada, this concern?

MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not going to talk about specific discussions we may or may not have had, but it’s certainly a very serious concern of ours about the recruitment activities of al-Qaida around the world. And you know --

QUESTION: Can you talk specifically about Somalia?

MR. WOOD: Somalia would be one of those areas that we’re concerned about with regard to al-Qaida recruitment. But look, this is – this requires broad cooperation – the United States with other countries not only in, you know, the Horn of Africa, but outside of that region, to try to do what we can to prevent al-Qaida from being successful in recruiting young people to their cause. Their cause is one of just human destruction. It’s a cause of terror. And law enforcement officials, governments, others have to join forces to come together to do what we can in that regard.

And so it’s a big concern of ours. There’s no question about it. And everybody in the world should be concerned about what al-Qaida is up to. We haven’t defeated al-Qaida, but we’re going to do everything in our power to do it. But we can’t do it alone, and we need to work with other governments and other peoples to try to do that.

QUESTION: Yeah, on Nina’s question, if there were conversations among these three governments, could you tell us? I mean --

MR. WOOD: I really don’t want to get into those types of discussions, Lach, for obvious reasons, and you can understand why.

QUESTION: Have you heard – had any response yet from the Iranians to the aide-memoire, which was handed over in The Hague?

MR. WOOD: Nothing new.

QUESTION: Do you – have you received any information from the Swiss about Roxana Saberi?

MR. WOOD: I checked this morning. There was no update at all on her.

QUESTION: And nothing new on Mr. Levinson either?

MR. WOOD: No, unfortunately, no.

QUESTION: How about the journalists in North Korea?

MR. WOOD: Let me get an update. I don’t think there’s been any update at all to that as well. That would have come to my attention early on this morning.

QUESTION: Mr. Solecki in Pakistan?

MR. WOOD: No. We remain very concerned about that case as well. I mean, you know, we do what we can. These are obviously very difficult cases, and we want to see these, you know, people released. We’re working diplomatically to try to do all of those.

QUESTION: Just on the matter of – just to follow on the aide-memoire. In terms of diplomatic protocol, would they reply directly to you or would they send their reply via the Swiss?

MR. WOOD: It would depend. I mean, they could reply to the Swiss or could reply to us. I just – it’ll depend on what they decide to do.

QUESTION: You don’t know how that would – reply would?

MR. WOOD: Well, we don’t have relations with the Government of Iran, so you know –

QUESTION: Yeah, I know.

MR. WOOD: So it would likely – and I’m saying likely – go through the Swiss. But I don’t know. They could decide at some other point to have it forwarded to us. I just don’t know. I’d refer you to --

QUESTION: And would that be okay to have it just a direct reply to you in terms of diplomatic whatever?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, what’s important is that, you know, Iran and the United States engage. And we are obviously committed to direct engagement with Iran as demonstrated by what took place in The Hague. But we’ll have to see whether Iran wants to reply.

QUESTION: Did it ask – did it ask for a reply?

MR. WOOD: I don’t recall. I don’t know. I mean, obviously if you – you know, you send that type of a message, you know, one would expect a reply. But it’s really up to the Iranians. To date, we haven’t received any reply.

Charley and then the last one.

QUESTION: Robert, what can you tell us about American college students missing in Trinidad?

MR. WOOD: Yeah, Charley, I saw the reports. We’re looking into the situation, but I don’t have – out of privacy concern – you know, privacy concerns, I don’t really have much I can say at this point about it. But we are looking into the situation with regard to these two in Trinidad.

QUESTION: Can you describe how you’re looking into it or how many people are involved and how --

MR. WOOD: I don’t – we normally don’t get into those details. But I can assure you, Charley, we are looking into the case. We are well aware of it. And when we can provide some information to you, we certainly will.

Dave, I’ll take you last.

QUESTION: Yeah, a Russian human rights activist Lev Ponomarev was attacked on the street in Moscow, I guess, earlier this week, and it’s sort of continuing a run of bad luck for people who are visible, you know, opponents of the government. Is this a matter that you’ve raised with the Russians? Do you have anything to say about it?

MR. WOOD: Well, we obviously condemn the attack on this individual. And we have – we obviously urge Russia to pursue every lead to try to bring the culprit, or culprits, to justice. Issues with regard to human rights you know we’ve raised time and again with Russia. And you know, it’s just, you know, a tragic thing. And we’ll see.

I know what we want to see is an investigation to find out who carried out this act and to see them brought to justice.

QUESTION: Do you happen to know whether this came up, say, in the President’s meeting or even on the sidelines of (inaudible)?

MR. WOOD: I think the issue may have, but I would check with the White House, the traveling party, actually, to find out if it did. I vaguely remember something, but I’m not certain so I would refer you to them.

Okay, thank you all.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:24 p.m.)



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