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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 12, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Death of Alleged Guantanamo Detainee/Refer to Government of Libya/ U.S. Looking into the Situation
    • Leading to Closure of Guantanamo/First Step is to Review All Cases
    • Department of Justice is Lead on Closure
    • U.S. Would Not Send Prisoners to Any Countries the U.S. Had a Well-Founded Fear that Prisoners Would Suffer Abuse
    • Replacement of the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan/ U.S. Has New Strategy for Afghanistan, New Mission and New Ambassador
    • U.S. Wants to Return to Six Party Talks
    • Ambassador Bosworth Trip/Productive Meetings and Consensus from Partners on Way Forward
    • Ambassador Bosworth Back in Washington/Will Brief Secretary Clinton Today on Results of Trip
    • Ambassador Sung Kim in Moscow Tomorrow/Will Meet with Russian Foreign Ministry's Special Envoy Ambassador Logvinov
  • IRAN
    • Release of Roxana Saberi/ Positive Humanitarian Gesture/U.S. Would Welcome Progress Across Board/No Implied Exchange/No Connection Between Iranians Detained in Iraq
    • U.S. Action/Public Push and Aide Memoire/Follow-up was Through Swiss Embassy
    • Secretary Clinton's Meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov/Very Cooperative
    • Iran/U.S.-Russia Share the Same Long Term Goal regarding a Non Nuclear-Armed Iran
    • U.S. Very Concerned About Civilians/ USAID Personnel on the Ground
    • U.S. Provided $5 Million Through International Organization on Migration
    • Money Provides Shelter, Emergency Relief Supplies, Food, Medicine to Affected Populations
    • U.S. Deeply Concerned About Situation in Sri Lanka
    • Secretary Clinton Talking to Counterparts/Very Engaged
    • Two Channels to Deal with Situation/One is Diplomatic Channel/United Nations
    • Other Channel is Bilateral Level/Press the Sri Lankan Government to Stop Use of Heavy Weapons and Allow Civilians to Leave Conflict Zone/Provide Humanitarian Assistance


11:49 a.m. EDT

MR. KELLY: Good morning. Welcome to day two of the cruel regime of Ian Kelly. So I have nothing at the top. I’ll just go right to your questions.

QUESTION: I have nothing.


QUESTION: Is the U.S. Embassy in Libya asking the Libyans about the death of its former Guantanamo prisoner --


QUESTION: -- Sheikh al-Libi, Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi?

MR. KELLY: I do have something for you on that, and unfortunately it’s not a whole lot.


MR. KELLY: I have to refer you to the Government of Libya for any details regarding the matter. We’re looking into the situation, but we’re not in any kind of position right now to comment or report on it.

QUESTION: Have the Libyans talked to you at all about this?

MR. KELLY: Like I say, I really have to refer you to the Government of Libya. Of course, we have an embassy there and we have – we, of course, have constant consultations with them. But I’m just not aware if we’ve specifically addressed this issue.

QUESTION: But can you at least confirm that al-Libi was detained at Guantanamo at some time?

MR. KELLY: As I said before, we’re looking into the situation, and regarding any detention at Guantanamo, I have to refer you to the Pentagon.

QUESTION: This may raise the broader issue, now that President Obama is closing Guantanamo, the risk of sending former Guantanamo inmates to, say, prisons in the world where human rights may not be guaranteed. Have you been – has the State Department been in talks with countries, say any Arab countries or any other countries beyond Europe?

MR. KELLY: Well, you know, we have a process in place, and the first step in this process leading to the closure of Guantanamo is a review of all the cases. And this review is being taken – is taking place at the lead of the Department of Justice. The Department of State is a player in this interagency process. As a general rule, we would not send prisoners to any country where we would have a well-founded fear that these detainees or prisoners could suffer some kind of abuse.

QUESTION: Where we or they would have a well-founded fear?

MR. KELLY: Where the U.S. Government, based on the evidence, had a well-founded fear that --

QUESTION: What about the detainee, himself or herself? That’s the – I mean --

MR. KELLY: The detainee personally?

QUESTION: -- the standard of the – you know, the UN standard is that they have a well-founded fear, not – anyway, is it both, or is it just the U.S. Government?

MR. KELLY: Well, it’s the U.S. Government. And I think you’re right, Matt. I think it is – I think the UN standard is if they have a well-founded fear as well.


QUESTION: On to Afghanistan. The new commander, McChrystal – I know it’s a Pentagon matter, but do you have any response to this, any hopes of how he’ll work with your PRTs out there?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think you heard what the President said. And we have a new strategy and a new mission. We have a new and able ambassador in Karl Eikenberry. And the President and Secretary Gates decided it was time for a change. As I said, we just thought it was the right time to make a change in our military command as well.

QUESTION: That’s because of his work in Iraq? Do you think that this is the correct decision to --

MR. KELLY: You know, I’m not going to characterize the decision. It’s a decision for the President and Secretary Gates to make.


QUESTION: Late yesterday, IAEA chairman said that North Korea should be regarded as a nuclear power. Do you think that North Korea is a nuclear power, too?

MR. KELLY: You know, this is my second day here, and I think I’ll just take that question, because I’m sure that there’s some very specific language on this. So I am going to take it. We’ll get back to you.

QUESTION: Well, then now I’d like to ask about Taiwan. (Laughter.)


MR. KELLY: Good. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Go to North Korea then. Ambassador Bosworth said he would consider a visit eventually to North Korea. What kind of factors would enter into that decision? And two, is it really the main goal to pave the way for a return to the Six-Party Talks?

MR. KELLY: The answer to the last part of your question is yes, that is the goal, to have them return to the Six-Party Talks.

QUESTION: Because you’re not going to achieve it any other way, it seems.

MR. KELLY: I think that what Ambassador Bosworth said is that we would consider direct talks with North Korea if it was in the context of the Six-Party Talks. He is back in Washington today and he’s briefing the Secretary on the results of his trip. And he thinks that he had very productive meetings in all three capitals and he believes that he got good consensus from his partners on the way forward in dealing with this issue of trying to reach the denuclearization of North Korea.


QUESTION: Can I go back to Iran about the release of Roxana Saberi?

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I know U.S. considers this as a humanitarian gesture, but apparently in Iran they insist a little bit more about the political aspect of this. Do you see – don’t you see any political aspect in this release? Don’t you think it’s a gesture of goodwill from the Iranians?

MR. KELLY: Well, I – you know, as I said yesterday, we welcome this. We welcome it, as I said, primarily as a humanitarian – as a positive humanitarian gesture. I think in general, of course, we would welcome progress across the board. But this particular instance I think is – primarily, it’s a humanitarian gesture.

QUESTION: Would U.S. consider releasing some – some of the Iranian citizen arrested in Iraq two years ago, I think, on suspicion of helping the insurgents over there?

MR. KELLY: Well, let me – we look at this in a different way. First of all, there was no implied exchange. We simply welcome this as the right thing to do. In terms of the three Iranian detainees, there is a process in place there, as well. And – we’re – we work with the – with our Iraqi partners and – but I wouldn’t draw any connection between that case and the release of Roxana Saberi.

QUESTION: And what is this process? Where is it? At what point are we? Because –

MR. KELLY: You know, I – for details of that, it really is a Department of Defense matter.

QUESTION: Are you still on the same?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Please, do you want to give any more details about what the United States did to win Ms. Saberi’s release, and also whether there’s been any contact by phone or otherwise by U.S. officials to her or her family today?

MR. KELLY: Well, of course, we pushed very hard publicly and also in a direct fashion. If you remember, we gave the Iranians an aide memoire. But in terms of follow-up contacts, it was really all through the Swiss Embassy. And beyond that, I really don’t have any more details to give you.

QUESTION: Any contact with her directly?

MR. KELLY: Any contact with her directly?

QUESTION: Yeah, now, since her release, with Roxana Saberi?

MR. KELLY: I – actually, I’m not sure about that. I think we – you know, I have to be very careful because of privacy concerns. And even if I take that question, I’m not sure I can – we can give you details, because as you probably know, we don’t have a privacy act waiver on her.

QUESTION: You don’t?

MR. KELLY: We do not.

QUESTION: Well, then how is it that you – your predecessor and the Secretary, have been speaking out about this case publicly for months?

MR. KELLY: We can’t discuss the details, you know, personal details about her. We can discuss about – we can discuss aspects of her that are in the public domain, but when it comes to actual details of contacts with her or –

QUESTION: Do you know if the Swiss made any effort to get her to sign a Privacy Act waiver?

MR. KELLY: I do not.

QUESTION: You don’t know? Because as you are probably aware -- and this comes up frequently, you will find – there’s situations where people are missing or they’re detained and you have no access to them, and it’s impossible to get a Privacy Act waiver. So it becomes a –

MR. KELLY: Well, I wouldn’t say –

QUESTION: -- it becomes a – it can become a problem.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Anyway, just saying.

MR. KELLY: Okay, all right. Others? Other questions on –

QUESTION: Still, I guess I’m just wondering in the last 48 hours whether, aside from the Secretary’s public remarks, there’s been any contact with the Iranians directly via the Swiss channel, to thank them –

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware of any.

QUESTION: Can you take the question?

MR. KELLY: Yes, we can take the question.


QUESTION: Yesterday, the Secretary said that your first day on the job was actually sitting on her meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister on Friday.

MR. KELLY: Right. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Did they seem cooperative on Iran in the future?

MR. KELLY: I think the short answer to that is yes. They had – they discussed a broad range of issues. You know, Russia is an important international player in the multilateral arena. They’re a party to the Six-Party Talks, of course. They’re in the P-5+1 process with Iran, they’re on the Security Council. And the Secretary had, I think, almost four hours with Minister Lavrov and they really did cover the entire – almost the entire spectrum of multilateral issues, including Iran.

QUESTION: Are they willing to listen to the U.S. Government, what the U.S. Government wants? With regards to Iran, are they willing to compromise?

MR. KELLY: Russia shares the same goal that we have, and that’s that – the same long-term goal. They are not interested, as we are not interested, in a nuclear-armed Iran. But I think for the details of their position beyond that, I think you’ve got to talk to my Russian comrades.

QUESTION: Just let me make sure --


QUESTION: Did they discuss that anti-aircraft system that Russia has contemplated selling to the Iranians? Did that come up with the Secretary?

MR. KELLY: You’re talking about the air defense issue?


MR. KELLY: Now, there are certain aspects of the meeting that – I mean, certain security aspects of the meeting that I just can’t go into.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: One more.

MR. KELLY: We got one more here.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. One more issue. Do you have anything more specific to say about United States assistance to Pakistanis uprooted by the fighting?

MR. KELLY: Thank you for asking that question, because I do. We are, of course, very concerned about the well-being of civilians who are fleeing the fighting in the area. And we have personnel – USAID personnel on the ground in Pakistan – not in the Swat Valley, but in Pakistan – who are directing assistance to help them. We’ve provided a substantial amount of money through the International Organization for Migration. This is primarily to provide tents, to provide shelter and emergency relief supplies, food and medicine to the affected populations. And USAID and the U.S. Embassy continues to work closely with local and UN officials to discuss the scope of the problem.

QUESTION: How much money? Substantial?

MR. KELLY: $5 million, and that’s just the initial tranche, of course.

Yes, Dave.

QUESTION: On Sri Lanka, there continues to be some serious incidents involving civilian deaths. I know that the U.S. put out a couple of statements yesterday. Is there anything going on so diplomatically beyond the rhetoric to try to deal with that situation?

MR. KELLY: This is a –we’re deeply concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka. Secretary Clinton is talking to her colleagues about it. I think you saw the comments of Foreign Minister Kouchner and Foreign Minister Miliband yesterday. The Secretary had a meeting, of course, with Foreign Minister Kouchner yesterday, has another one today. And I think the Secretary is very concerned about this and very engaged in it.

QUESTION: What could you do – you could do something in common with the British and the French, trilateral action? What do you envision?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think it’s – I think there’s two main channels here. One is a diplomatic effort and that’s taking place, of course, at the UN. It’s taking place, as I mentioned before, on a bilateral level. And that, of course, is to try and press the Government of Sri Lanka to adhere to international standards for the operations of camps, to press them to stop the use of heavy weapons, to allow civilians to leave the conflict zone. So that’s one track.

And of course, the other track is to help these people, to provide humanitarian assistance. And that would be best done, of course, in a coordinated fashion, both through the UN and with our allies.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Thanks. We got one more. We got one more back here. Sorry.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. Regarding Ambassador Bosworth’s trip, I think he must have said something other than he had, you know, productive meetings or reached consensus with allies. Would you share a little more detail about his trip?

MR. KELLY: I think the only other details I can give you is that the mission continues. You’ve got Ambassador Sung Kim in Moscow tomorrow. He’ll be meeting with Russian Foreign Ministry Special Envoy Ambassador Grigory Logvinov. And as I mentioned today, he’s having consultations with the Secretary. But beyond that, I don’t have anything else. Thank you.


QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:05 p.m.)

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