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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 13, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Secretary Clinton met with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in Liberia / Addressed Joint Session of Liberian Legislature / Met with Embassy Monrovia Staff / Visiting Liberian Police Academy / U.S. Efforts to Support Liberian Reconstruction After Internal Conflict
    • Ambassador Holbrooke Travel to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey
    • U.S. Believes Ali Megrahi Should Remain in Jail
    • U.S. Welcomes Release of South Korean Worker
    • U.S. Has Made Clear We Want North Korea to Go Down Path Towards Denuclearization
    • Debriefing of Former President Clinton is Ongoing
  • IRAQ
    • U.S. Regrets Loss of Life and Injury at Camp Ashraf / In Conversation with Iraqis / Hope that Interests of People in Camp Will Be Respected / U.S. Relationship with Iraq Changing / Will Continue to Have Dialogue with Iraqi Counterparts / Issue About Iraq and Its Ability to Govern Itself and People Within Its Sovereign Boundaries
    • Authorities Asked for Assistance / U.S. Provided Monetary Assistance through OFDA to Taiwan Red Cross / U.S. Will Support Taiwan in the Aftermath of Typhoon
    • Concern for Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity of Georgia / Russia, Other Countries Should Respect Georgia's Internationally Recognized Borders / Hope That Russia Will Respect Commitments Under Ceasefire Agreement
    • Focus at UN on Response to Regrettable Decision by Burmese Authorities / Considering Implications of Burma's Actions / Support a Strong Statement from UN Regarding Situation in Burma
    • U.S. Regrets Burmese Decision to Convict Aung San Suu Kyi and John Yettaw / Do Not Think They Should Have Been Tried Or Convicted / Will Impact Ongoing Review and Judgment of What Burma is Prepared to Do
    • Senator Webb Arrives in Burma / Department Provided Briefing before He Left / Will Support Him in Any Way Necessary / Last Visit by U.S. Senator


12:58 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Just to pick up where Ambassador Goldberg left off, on a broader set of issues. Obviously, Secretary Clinton continues her Africa trip, and is on the next-to-last leg as we speak. She met today with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in Liberia, addressed a joint session of the Liberian legislature. I think – and has met with Embassy staff in Monrovia, I think, more or less, right now is visiting a Liberian police academy. All of this, as we try to support Liberia in reconstructing itself after a decade or more of internal conflict. And she will depart this afternoon for Cape Verde, the last stop on her trip.

And speaking of travel, tomorrow, Special Representative Richard Holbrooke will depart on another trip to South Asia. He will make stops in Pakistan, will be in Afghanistan for the Afghan elections next week, and will also stop in Turkey.

And with that, I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: Yes. I was wondering if you have a reaction to reports that Ali Megrahi, the man who’s serving a life jail term in Scotland for the bombing of the Pan Am aircraft in 1988, is expected to be released next week on compassionate grounds. I realize that the decision has not been confirmed yet by Scotland, but I was wondering if you have a reaction in principle to his detention and possible release.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re not aware that there’s been a final decision. We have made our views clear to the UK Government, to other authorities, that we believe that he should spend the rest of his time in jail.


QUESTION: Yesterday, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom issued a report and put India on the watch list of religious tolerance world over. At the time when the Administration is trying to improve relations with India, what impact will this report have on Indo-U.S. relations?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not familiar with that report.

QUESTION: And is Ambassador Holbrooke going to India?

MR. CROWLEY: He is not, not to my knowledge.


QUESTION: Do you have any reactions to the release of the South Korean worker who was detained in North Korea?

MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, we welcome the release of the South Korean employee and hope that that will remove an obstacle to potential dialogue between North and South.


QUESTION: (Inaudible). How do you see the reason North Korea suddenly released the detainees of America and South Korea?

MR. CROWLEY: I think there’s a cottage industry --

QUESTION: How do you guess?

MR. CROWLEY: -- in trying to discern why North Korea does certain things and not other things. I would just simply say that we have made clear what we want North Korea to do. And we hope that as Ambassador Goldberg outlined today, that they will begin to assertively go down a path towards denuclearization. But as for this step or that step, who knows.


QUESTION: Turning to Iraq, Camp Ashraf. Human rights attorneys and U.S. members of Congress are saying that the Obama Administration is not doing enough regarding the Iranian detainees in that Iraqi camp. Do we know where the detainees are, and is there any progress, and do you have a reaction?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, as we have said many times, we regret the – what happened at Camp Ashraf and the loss of life and injury that occurred. Even as we understand the Government of Iraq desiring to extend its sovereignty into that camp, we are still in conversations through Embassy Baghdad with the Iraqis, and we hope that the interests of the people in the camp will be respected, and that that conversation continues.

QUESTION: To follow up, you know, some critics are saying that the United States perhaps has a double standard because they not doing enough in that area where – you know, we’re working more on human rights in other areas.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we have – we, obviously, have a relationship with Iraq. It is moving towards – well, from a military-dominant relationship toward a partnership and dialogue with Iraq on a variety of issues. Human rights is one of them. We have understandings with Iraq about how the people in this camp will be treated. We are continuing to pay attention to that. And this is one among many issues on which we will continue to have significant dialogue with our Iraqi counterparts.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?


QUESTION: This group has said that the U.S. has gone back on promises it made to them to protect them, especially after the transfer of security control. Can you --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there’s --

QUESTION: -- address that?

MR. CROWLEY: -- an inherent contradiction, in that this was an attempt to – for the Iraqis to establish, I think, a police station in the camp and bring officials into the camp, which we completely understand. It is – we had a small contingent of forces nearby. It was not necessarily their purpose to protect these people. We have received assurances from Iraq that they will respect this particular group and their rights, and we continue that dialogue.

But as I said yesterday, it is regrettable that in trying to do something which was understandable, it was not executed well, and I think the Iraqis understand that as well. This is not an issue that we’re ignoring. We remain in active discussion with Iraq about Camp Ashraf, and we’ll continue to talk to them and to focus on this issue. But it is – this is fundamentally about Iraq and its ability to govern its own country and the people there within its sovereign boundaries.

QUESTION: I understand that. Can you address their accusation that the U.S. has gone back on security guarantees that they got?

MR. CROWLEY: We received assurances that they would be well treated. And we understand that what happened was a mistake, and we continue to have discussions about how they can work with this group in the future.

QUESTION: I understand --

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, I --

QUESTION: -- you have talks between you and the Iraqis. This is between you and the group. I mean, this is between --

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. But this is ultimately about the sovereignty of Iraq and the ability of Iraq to protect all of its citizens and all of the people who are inside its boundaries. So we haven’t carved out a special protectorate within Iraq. Iraq was trying to extend its sovereignty to Camp Ashraf. We understood what they were trying to do. They did not do it well. There are, obviously, ramifications of that, and we continue to talk to Iraq about what should be done with respect to this group going forward.

QUESTION: Can you just clear up, for once and for all, then what sort of agreements or assurances you had provided to this group? I mean, can you just lay that out there so we understand it?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question.


QUESTION: It’s about typhoon in Taiwan. According to Taiwanese Government, they say they already sent a list that resource or equipment they want to have to help. Did you get a list, and how you plan to help?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the authorities in Taiwan asked for assistance. I think we announced yesterday that we provided some monetary assistance to Taiwan authorities through OFDA to the Taiwan Red Cross. And we’ve indicated that if there were additional requirements, we would be very supportive. I’m not aware of additional requests for assistance. But if that is the works, obviously, we will do everything we can help to Taiwan in the aftermath of the typhoon.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: Russian Prime Minister Putin paid a visit to Abkhazia yesterday. And among other things, he said that Russia’s going to build a military base there and also reinforce the border – quote, unquote – between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. I just wonder, any reflections on that? Do you think that this country’s being hopelessly dismembered in this process?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, of greatest concern to us is the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. We think that Russia and other countries in the region should respect Georgia’s internationally recognized borders. Russia has made commitments as part of the ceasefire agreement, and we hope that they will respect the commitments under that agreement.

QUESTION: One more, please, on Burma. The EU has extended sanctions further on Burmese officials to include the members of the Burmese judiciary who were responsible for handing the verdict on Aung San Suu Kyi. What’s your reaction? What is the U.S. planning to do when it comes to its dealings with Burma? I realize that you’re still reviewing your policy towards Burma, but in the aftermath of the verdict, are there any plans to push for further sanctions?

MR. CROWLEY: Today, our focus is at the UN. There have been discussions on how the UN should respond to the regrettable decision by Burmese authorities this week. I’m sure we are already considering the implications of what Burma has done, but I don’t think we’ve reached any judgment on further actions.

QUESTION: And about the efforts at the UN, can you tell us any more about what you are hoping to achieve? You circulated a draft statement that was quite tough – with tough wording. Do you believe that the Chinese are going to back it? It doesn’t sound like it.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we support a strong statement from the UN regarding the situation in Burma, and I think that process is still continuing.

QUESTION: I’m sorry if you went over this earlier in the week, but you had possibly thought that kind of depending on how the regime treated – how they handed down a verdict, whether they let her go or they kept her under house arrest, that might send some signal as to how they wanted to deal with a dialogue with the United States going forward. Is there anything you’re reading into the fact that they convicted her, first sentenced her to hard labor and now she’s under house arrest? I mean, how are you reading the signals from the regime in terms of how they’re dealing with her?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we regret very much that – as we’ve said, that they decided to convict Aung San Suu Kyi and John Yettaw. As the Secretary said, we do not think that they should have been tried, and we certainly do not think that they should have been convicted. And we’ve also said that the decision by Burmese authorities will have an impact on our ongoing review and our judgment of what Burma is prepared to do. And obviously, we will be considering these actions and other interests as we go forward.

QUESTION: But I mean, at first she was sentenced to hard labor and now --

MR. CROWLEY: I understand, yeah --

QUESTION: So now do you think that this is kind of a little softening of their position?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there are lots of (inaudible) out there. I don’t think we’ve reached a firm conclusion.

QUESTION: Senator Webb’s visit to Burma – do you know what level of unprecedented it is? Is it the first time that a U.S. official of that rank visits the leader of that country?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, just to clarify, Senator Webb, I think, arrives in Burma today. I’ll refer you to his office in terms of what schedule he will have there. I think we gave him a detailed briefing of the region before he left, because Burma is one of several stops I think he will have in the – during this trip. And of course, while on the ground, we will support him in any way necessary. But I think, in terms of when’s the last time a senator was there, I think Senator Kerry was there in 1999.


QUESTION: A follow-up. Senator Webb is plan – is planning to meet Burma’s top official Senior General Than Shwe, and do you think it’s a good timing for him to visit?

MR. CROWLEY: I will refer you to his office on exactly what he’s going to do while he’s going to be in Burma.

QUESTION: Do you think it’s a good timing after Aung San Suu Kyi was convicted, and then he’s going to meet somebody very important?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re certainly supportive of Senator Webb’s travel to the region, and let’s – well, let’s see what he actually does. He has been responsible for his own schedule, and we certainly approve of his being there.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Could you up-to-date – update the progress of debriefing by Mr. President – sorry, Mr. Clinton by the Administration?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have a play-by-play. I assume it’s ongoing.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:12 p.m.)

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