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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 28, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Passing of Reporter Lambros Papantoniou
    • Earthquake / US Prepared to Assist
    • Secretary Still Plans to Attend OAS Foreign Ministerial in Honduras
    • Deputy Secretary Steinberg to Travel to Singapore and Tokyo
    • Bureau of Consular Affairs Working to Implement Border ID Requirements
    • Undersecretary William Burns Travel to Egypt
    • Russia Has Played a Constructive Role at the UN Security Council
    • Meetings and Consultations Continue in New York
    • Secretary Clinton is Very Engaged
    • Secretary Clinton has Stated Settlements Must Stop
    • Secretary Clinton Had a Very Productive Dinner with Palestinian President Abbas
    • U.S. Commitment to Middle East Peace and Two-State Solution / Cooperation in Areas of Shared Interest
    • Regional Approach to Lasting Peace
    • Special Envoy Mitchell Met with Senior Israeli Officials in London / Follow-up to Prime Minister Netanyahu's Visit to U.S. / Special Envoy Mitchell in Washington
    • Secretary Clinton's Conversation with German Foreign Minister Steinmeier
    • U.S. Urges the Sri Lankan Government to Grant the International Community Access
    • Consular Access to Students Quarantined Over Swine Flu Concerns
    • 20th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square Uprising
    • Pakistan Should Confront the Danger of Extremism
    • U.S. Encouraged by Pakistani Response
    • U.S. Ready to Assist Pakistan
    • Confident Pakistan Dealing with Extremism
    • Deplore Peshawar Bombing
    • START Talks to Resume Next Week in Geneva
    • Assistant Secretary Gottemoeller to Lead the Delegation


12:39 p.m. EDT

MR. KELLY: Good afternoon. This is a sad day for all of us here. We learned this morning that our long-time friend and colleague Lambros Papantoniou passed away. Lambros was a veteran member of our press corps family here and he was proud to say that he covered the State Department from Nixon to Obama. He loved his work here and we loved him.

He had very strong ties to my country, to the United States, beginning with his birthday. He was born on the Fourth of July. He arrived in the U.S. in 1973, earned advanced degrees in international law and political science from the University of California at Berkeley. In 1975, he began his career as a journalist, ultimately specializing in U.S. foreign policy relating to Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, and the Balkans. Over the years, he wrote thousands of articles and became a leading voice on issues related to Southeast Europe.

We here at State will miss our lively interaction with our friend Lambros during the daily briefings where he offered us ample opportunity to engage on many important issues. We extend our sincere condolences to his family in Greece and here in the United States and to his many close friends among you all in the press corps. I understand a memorial service is being arranged on Monday and we will, of course, share with you any information we receive about this service.

Finally, I would just ask you all today to spare a thought or a short prayer for our friend Lambros, a man who touched all of our lives.

So thank you and I’ll --

QUESTION: Thank you for that, Ian.

MR. KELLY: -- take your questions.

QUESTION: First of all, the briefing has been postponed for this afternoon.

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What’s the reason for that? Are we still going to Honduras or has the earthquake changed the plans?

MR. KELLY: The – actually, I have a little bit for you on the earthquake that I can go to. We are not – we haven’t changed our plans to go to Honduras for the foreign ministerial meeting of the OAS. And what I have for you on the earthquake is that it was a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, struck off the coast about 80 miles north-northeast. There’s some media reports of damage, including some collapsed homes, and bridges and some damage to roadways. According to media sources anyway, as you all know, there’s been one death reported by Honduran authorities. There are no reports of injuries to U.S. citizens.

The Embassy in Tegucigalpa and USAID are in contact with local disaster responders in Honduras and we’ll continue to monitor the situation. The U.S. is prepared to assist should it become necessary, but we haven’t received any request at this time. And as I say, we’ll continue to monitor the situation. But there’s been no change in the Secretary’s travel.

QUESTION: Also on travel, Deputy Secretary Steinberg is on his way to Singapore. Is this – and then onto, I guess, Japan?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, that’s right.

QUESTION: Is this trip related to the developments with North Korea? Or had it been planned for --

MR. KELLY: It had been planned for a while. As you say, he’s first going to a conference in Singapore, then he’s going to Tokyo where he planned to have bilateral discussions with his colleagues in Tokyo. Of course, the whole international community is very much engaged in this – the issue of North Korea and their defiance of their international commitments and defiance of international law, so I expect this to be a subject for his discussions.

QUESTION: Do you know who he’s going to meet? I mean, for example, do you expect him to meet his Chinese counterpart?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have details on who he’s going to meet. I’ll see if I can get some more information, maybe tomorrow.

QUESTION: Can we stay on North Korea?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Russia says today – their foreign ministry spokesman says today that Russia opposes using the language of sanctions?

MR. KELLY: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: So what do you make of this? Is it good news for --

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I saw press reports of what he said. And I – what I saw in press reports was that he would oppose punishment for punishment’s sake. I – we have, I think, gone in for – gone into the ministry for clarification of his remarks. But the Russian foreign ministry on the very first day of the crisis put out a very strong statement, and they’ve played a very constructive role at the Security Council. So I guess we would need a little clarification on what he meant by punishment for punishment’s sake.

QUESTION: Well, he said very clearly, we do not need to use the language of sanctions. So what does it make of --

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, you really – you have to ask Minister Lavrov what he meant by that. But our understanding is that the – our Russian colleagues on the Security Council understand the need for a strong message to send to North Korea to make them understand that their actions were unacceptable and there must be consequences for these actions.

QUESTION: And by consequences, you mean sanctions?

MR. KELLY: We – as you know, we’re working up at the UN with our Security Council colleagues on what sort of shape these consequences should take. And I think that one – we’re looking at a broad range of possible responses to it, including possible sanctions.

QUESTION: Can you give us any kind of an update on where things are in New York and whether you feel that you’re making any progress toward a resolution?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, let me give you a brief update on what’s going on up in New York. I will say that this is a – it’s a very complex situation, and we’re working very closely with our colleagues on the Security Council. This is not going to be something that we’re going to be able to come up with in the next day or two. There is another meeting today of the permanent representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council plus the perm reps from Korea and Japan. This is a follow-up to the meeting they had on Tuesday. They’ve had a chance to consult with capitals. And – but I’m – you know, I don’t want to get into details of exactly where this is going to come out, what specific language we’re going to come up with. But we are looking at a new resolution.

QUESTION: When you say the next – this is not something that you’re going to be able to sort out in the next day or two, so it’s – if there is a resolution, it will come next week at the earliest?

MR. KELLY: Well, no, I’m not going to put a timetable on it. It’s my understanding that it is a very – as I said before, it’s a very complicated and complex issue. So I just don’t expect it to be in the next couple of days.

QUESTION: Well, but you did put a time on it: We’re not going to be able to come up with it in the next day or two. So that would imply – I mean, I guess I’m trying to figure out if you think that negotiations are going to go through the weekend, then it’s possible then.

MR. KELLY: You know, I’m just – I’m not going to put a timetable or a deadline on it.


MR. KELLY: Yeah, Charlie.

QUESTION: What makes it complex? Can you go into --

MR. KELLY: Well, I think, you know, any time that you have discussions involving a number of countries and a number of interests and you’re dealing with an issue as serious as this, a blatant violation of North Korea’s obligations under international law, of course it’s going to be complicated. And it’s – we’re dealing with some very serious issues.

QUESTION: Well, blatant violation – I don’t see how that really makes it – I mean, they did several things that you don’t like. I’m not sure how – unless the Russians – the latest Russian language is problematic for you, it seems to me to be pretty cut and dried.

MR. KELLY: Well --

QUESTION: And not complex.

MR. KELLY: It --

QUESTION: They do this --

MR. KELLY: No, it isn’t cut and dried. And there’s – there are a number --

QUESTION: It’s not cut and tried that they tested a nuclear --

MR. KELLY: -- there are a number of options that we have to work on with our colleagues on the Security Council and with our colleagues in the Six-Party Talks.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. willing to accept a resolution that doesn't impose new sanctions?

MR. KELLY: You know, I’m not going to prejudge what we’re going to accept or not accept. But I think we’ve been very clear that we want a resolution that has – that does impose some consequences.


QUESTION: Other subject?

QUESTION: One more on this.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date if any – if the Secretary’s made any calls in the last 24 hours, since we’ve asked, on this directly – her direct participation in this?

MR. KELLY: Her participation in this has been in the deliberating here in Washington. She’s participated in some senior-level discussions on the issue. She’s been in very close contact with Ambassador Rice. And she – as I say, she’s been very, very engaged and involved in the issue.

QUESTION: At the White House as well?

MR. KELLY: She has had some discussions at the White House as well.

QUESTION: And today you can say that she’s actually going there this afternoon. (Laughter.)

MR. KELLY: Yes, today I can say that. I couldn't say it yesterday, though I did say it yesterday. But yes, she’s going to the White House today.


QUESTION: Is there any reaction to Israel’s rejection to Clinton’s demand yesterday to stop all settlements?

MR. KELLY: Any reaction from the Israeli Government?


MR. KELLY: I’m not --

QUESTION: No, no. From you. Secretary Clinton said yesterday – demanded that all settlements --

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: -- must be stopped. And Israel today, the spokesperson said that the communities will be allowed to grow, quote, “normal life in” those communities will be allowed to continue.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is there any reaction to that?

MR. KELLY: Well, I’ll let the Secretary’s words speak for themselves. I mean, she said very clearly that in order for this process to move forward – the President has said this, too – the settlements must stop. I mean, that’s – it just couldn't be more clear.

And we also think that it’s not only in the interest of regional peace and stability, it’s in the square interest of Israel and the square interest of the Palestinian people to come up with a lasting solution to the problem of this decades-old conflict. And we just need to remove all the obstacles to this process.

Yes, Jill.

QUESTION: Ian, do you have any readout from the dinner last night with President Abbas?

MR. KELLY: You know, the Secretary gave a readout upstairs. I can give you basically what she said from me on the record, if you like.

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry. We were working on something else, as usual.

MR. KELLY: Sorry?

QUESTION: No, I was working on something else.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Oh, that’s understandable.

QUESTION: But if you could elaborate on the comments.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Yes, she had – of course, she hosted dinner last night for the president of the Palestinian Authority. She termed it a very productive dinner. They discussed the – a full range of bilateral issues and concerns before our countries. Senator Mitchell had an opportunity to report on some of his talks. They were able to report on the visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu. She said that the main message that we gave to the president of the Palestinian Authority is that we’re committed to doing all we can to move this process forward to attain the goal of a two-state solution and a lasting peace. And of course, she’s going to participate in the meeting with the President, with Mr. Abbas as well.

QUESTION: Right. One of the overriding aims seems to be to obviously offer as much support to President Abbas as you can. Could you kind of tick through some of the main ways that you are doing that?

MR. KELLY: Well, as I said, we want to have a lasting peace in the region. We want to have a – we want to allow the Palestinian people to be able to participate in their own future, to be able to give a prosperous future for their children. We – of course, we want to have a Palestinian Government that abides by the principles laid out in the Roadmap. And I think – you know, beyond that, I think that the President is having a meeting with Mr. Abbas later, and I’ll just – the President will have more to say about it.

Yes. You’ve had your hand up for awhile.

QUESTION: Can I ask about North Korea for one minute?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you could clarify your remarks a couple days ago about the terrorism list. Is – did you mean that the U.S. is reviewing or considering reviewing putting North Korea back on the terrorism list?

MR. KELLY: You know, I think we took this question. And we’re going to --

QUESTION: No, you didn’t answer it, though.

MR. KELLY: We didn’t answer it?


MR. KELLY: Well, we answered it to the best of our ability.


QUESTION: You didn’t put out an answer.

MR. KELLY: Oh, we didn’t put out an answer. Well, we should put out an answer.

QUESTION: That would be great.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. We will put out an answer. I know. I’ve seen the answer, so I’ll just let that answer --

QUESTION: Well, if you’ve seen it, can you share it with us?

MR. KELLY: I will share it with you.

QUESTION: Put a stake through the heart of this --

MR. KELLY: Oh, it’s easier to press “send.”


QUESTION: Can I just go --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- I want to go back to – your answer to Jill’s question was – I don’t know where it came from, because it wasn’t – I don’t think it was what she asked, was it? She asked what you were doing to --

MR. KELLY: Shocking.

QUESTION: -- support President Abbas. And you ticked off a list of things that you want to see in the region, not what you --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I will beg your forbearance, because as I said, the President is going to be meeting with Mr. Abbas in a few hours, and I think I’ll let the President speak to these issues.

QUESTION: But there’s an – but, you know, we dealt with this for a long time, you know. I mean --

MR. KELLY: Yeah, but I haven’t. I’ve only been here two and a half weeks.

QUESTION: Well, you know quite a bit about this here, and I’m sure – he does have certain weaknesses. I mean, half his territory is controlled by Hamas.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: So what does the U.S. do concretely? I mean, you’re – we’re going to see him with the President today, that’s support, money, yes.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: What more can you do to really make him – you know, to solidify him as the leader of the Palestinians?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, well, it’s a fair question. I think that the best thing we can do is to work in – towards a regional solution to this longstanding conflict, and develop the kind of circumstances where they can be responsible for their own future, to develop a democratic state that’s living in peace with its neighbors.


QUESTION: Last night, Abu Mazen gave a talk to a small group of think tank people. And at that talk, I understand that he said he was still pushing for the idea of a unity government with Hamas that would – where the individuals of that government would accept the Quartet conditions, even if Hamas doesn’t. What – would the U.S. Government support such a unity government?

MR. KELLY: I think that we would accept a government that renounced violence, accepted the right of Israel to exist, and abided by the principles of the Roadmap – under the Roadmap.

QUESTION: Okay. This is – so you would accept a government that has Hamas in it?

MR. KELLY: I would accept a government whose members accepted those three principles.

QUESTION: Okay. Even if Hamas doesn’t?

MR. KELLY: No, then we wouldn’t accept – if Hamas doesn’t accept these principles --

QUESTION: All right, this is a – there’s a big technicality here, because there’s a lot of talk about how the U.S. might or should strike some kind of a deal as it’s done in Lebanon, where members of Hamas could be part of a unity government even if the group does not accept those – even if Hamas does not accept those principles.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: But the government itself does.

QUESTION: If the individuals as part of the – the individuals – so individual Hamas members would sign on --

MR. KELLY: All right, time out. I’ll take your question.


MR. KELLY: Okay?

QUESTION: Because in the past, the answer to that has been no.

MR. KELLY: Okay. Then all the more reason to take the question.

QUESTION: Can we go to something else?

MR. KELLY: Yes, please.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more on the Mideast? What can you tell us – we haven’t seen much of Special Envoy Mitchell recently. What has he been up to?

MR. KELLY: I think I addressed this yesterday. He had a – he went to London and had a meeting with officials from Israel to follow up on the – some of the discussions that Prime Minister Netanyahu had when he was here in Washington. He’s back in Washington now, and as I said, he participated in the dinner last night.

QUESTION: Different subject?


QUESTION: We are reporting out of Berlin that Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Steinmeier had a conversation today. The German foreign ministry says that Steinmeier got assurances from Secretary Clinton that she will push for U.S. support to find a solution for General Motors’ Opel unit subsidiary, and that she said that she would approach Secretary Geithner on this issue.

Can you give us – is that an accurate characterization of what she said to Minister Steinmeier?

MR. KELLY: Yeah – Arshad, I’m not prepared to discuss the substance of her conversation with the foreign minister right now.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, the only thing is the German foreign ministry is, and it’s always good to – it’s always good and only fair to ask you guys --

MR. KELLY: Yeah, no, I appreciate you asking.

QUESTION: -- whether what somebody else is saying about --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- what she may have said is accurate.

MR. KELLY: Well, let me see if I can get you more information, then.

QUESTION: But you are confirming that there was a conversation?

MR. KELLY: I understand that there was a conversation planned. I’m not sure if it actually took place or not.

QUESTION: Another subject?


QUESTION: The – Sri Lanka was – were exempted of a probe into alleged war crimes by the UN Human Rights Council. I wanted to know if you are satisfied by that.

MR. KELLY: Well, I do have a comment for you. We participated in that special session in Geneva, a special session of the UN Human Rights Council. We believe that it’s important for the international community to have more accurate information about what has been happening on both sides during and after the recent offensive in northern Sri Lanka. We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to grant the international community full access to the region, and the UN – and as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said, to better understand the facts on the ground in Sri Lanka and to review the situation.

And as I said many times here before, we welcome the end of the fighting and we look forward to helping, any way we can, building a lasting peace based on national political reconciliation and the full respect of human rights.

QUESTION: But what do you think about the decision of the UN Human Right Council not to probe the government?

MR. KELLY: Well, you know, of course, we believe in accountability, but I think that our focus right now is getting humanitarian assistance to the people who need it most and to, as I said, help the Government of Sri Lanka facilitate a political reconciliation process.

QUESTION: And are you disappointed by this vote? And the U.S. voted for --

MR. KELLY: You know, I’m not sure – I’m not sure how we voted, frankly.

QUESTION: You don’t know?


Yes, Kirit.

QUESTION: Different topic.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: In China, apparently some students from Maryland have been quarantined over some swine flu concerns. Can you tell me – I don’t know what you usually do in quarantine cases – whether you’re seeking any sort of consular contact with them or independent medical assessment?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I – you know, I just saw that report just before I came down here. I would say that as a general principle, I mean, we would, of course, want to have a consular officer get more information about the reasons why they’ve been quarantined. And we’d want to have, of course, full communication with them and their families. But I don’t have the details of what exactly happened or what we’re doing.

QUESTION: In cases of quarantine, do you usually seek some sort of incremental assessment of what’s --

MR. KELLY: Yeah, Kirit, I’m just not sure. I mean, obviously, we would want any decision to be based on certain medical evidence and scientific data, but --

QUESTION: But you don’t know that to be the case in this instance?

MR. KELLY: I’m just not sure. As I say, literally, you know, the wire report was printed out and put in my inbox. This is how it’s coming up. So I don’t know --

QUESTION: Can you take the question, please?

MR. KELLY: Sure.



MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. As you know, next week will be the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising. I’m wondering what, if anything, the Secretary or the Department plans to do to commemorate this occasion.

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware of any specific information on that, but I’ll get it for you.


QUESTION: Ian, last night, PBS Frontline World documented the Taliban with their brutal carnage and human rights violations in Pakistan. Have your talks convinced now the Pakistani Government as well as army to retake the Swat Valley region with both necessity and a permanence to end the rogue terrorism groups’ activities?

MR. KELLY: Well, you know, the President and the Secretary have addressed this many times, that we believe that Pakistan should confront the danger of extremism, particularly in the Swat Valley. We’ve been encouraged by some of the actions that they’ve taken in terms of dealing with this threat within their borders. And of course, we also are helping in a very substantial way in dealing with some of the humanitarian issues that have come out of this operation. And we’re – stand ready to help in any way we can to help deal with it.

QUESTION: Any reaction to the bombings in Peshawar?

MR. KELLY: Yes, I do have a reaction to that. We have a Consulate, of course, in Peshawar. They reported two blasts in the Qissa Khawani Bazaar, located in the Old City area of eastern Peshawar, just before 6:00 p.m. local. We’ve received reports indicating at least five people were killed and at least 60 wounded. And all American personnel are – have been accounted for. And of course, we deplore yet another incident of indiscriminate massacre.

QUESTION: Ian, another subject?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: The border ID requirements are going into effect, and one of our colleagues wanted to know how is State coming on proper identification for Americans. Do people have --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- enough passports, that type of thing?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I know that we’re working very hard on this. Our Bureau of Consular Affairs is working very hard on this, and I’m sure that they would relish the opportunity to give you an update of exactly what they’ve done. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Do you think we can do this on camera?

MR. KELLY: I’m sure we can, but that’ll have to be a little later. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MR. KELLY: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, on Pakistan again.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: I was wondering if there’s any concern that the Pakistani army or the government seems to be losing control – or some control at least – of the Taliban. I was wondering if there was any concern on that, following today’s attack and yesterday’s attack in Lahore.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, you know, as I said before, we recognize that Pakistan has a big challenge ahead of it, and we are working very closely with them in partnership in dealing with all the consequences of this extremist threat. And we have every confidence in the way that they’re dealing with both the threat of extremism and the problem of the humanitarian situation.


QUESTION: Ian, the Secretary said, I believe, Nicholas Burns was going to go to Egypt. Could you elaborate on his --

QUESTION: Bill Burns.

MR. KELLY: Bill Burns.

QUESTION: Bill Burns. Can you – sorry. Could you elaborate on his --

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I know it’s hard because Burns replaced Burns, but I’ll see if I can get you more details on Bill’s trip.

QUESTION: Okay. During the President’s trip to – upcoming trip to Egypt, obviously, democracy concerns are going to be – well, I mean, that’s my question. Will the President be raising issues of democracy with the Egyptians, or will he be pushing for --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well --

QUESTION: -- more democracy?

MR. KELLY: Traditionally, historically, the United States have made human rights a very important part of our foreign policy. So in all of our discussions, all of our foreign policy discussions, we make human rights a very important issue. But I – this is – I’m not going to – and, I mean, this is really a question for the White House in terms of what President Obama is going to discuss, but just to say in general that it’s a – I think as the Secretary said a few minutes ago, it’s – human rights is a real pillar of our foreign policy.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. KELLY: One last one.

QUESTION: The START negotiation --

QUESTION: I have one, too.


MR. KELLY: Two more.

QUESTION: -- are resuming next week in Geneva. Can you tell us who is heading the delegation and where U.S. is on this subject? And what is your (inaudible)?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. On the details of the negotiation, I think we prefer to keep that in private right now. I think that’s just the best way to conduct these kinds of negotiations. In terms of the logistics of it, Rose Gottemoeller is going to head the delegation. You know she’s Assistant Secretary for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation. The talks will be in Geneva, and they’ll be a continuation of the talks that were recently held in Moscow, I think, on May 19 and 20.

Matt, did you have a last question?


MR. KELLY: You’re not checking something right off your BlackBerry you’re going to ask me, are you?

QUESTION: No, although I could. But I know that you won’t have an answer to it because it just happened, so I won’t ask it.

Is the U.S. – are you guys talking with the IMF about possible eventualities coming out of the Lebanese election, particularly in the case that Hezbollah and its allies win?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Matt, let me see what I can get from my NEA friends on that.

QUESTION: There’s a report that Hezbollah is looking to receive some sort of IMF loan or received some type of loan.

MR. KELLY: Okay. Well, I’ll see if I can get you more information.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:08 p.m.)

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