1:08 p.m. EDT
MR. KELLY: Good morning. Sorry I’m a little late. I got all the way down here and realized I forgot my glasses, so I had to --
QUESTION: Good morning?
QUESTION: Good night.
MR. KELLY: Good afternoon.
QUESTION: Good afternoon.
QUESTION: You had planned a good morning. You had planned a good morning.
MR. KELLY: I guess I’m on Pacific Time. I have a brief statement to make at the top.
The United States is deeply concerned over the attacks by the Burma army in Eastern Burma against several ethnic nationality groups and we continue to monitor developments there very closely. The brutal fighting has forced thousands of civilians to flee their homes for safety in Thailand and China, and has reduced both stability and the prospects for national reconciliation in Burma. We urge the Burmese authorities to cease their military campaign and develop a genuine dialogue with the ethnic minority groups as well as with Burma’s democratic opposition.
And with that, I will take your questions.
QUESTION: Have you moved any closer to the conclusion of your policy review on Burma?
MR. KELLY: We – I think we have. Of course, I think as we’ve said before, we were waiting on a number of developments, particularly the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi. Obviously, that has taken place. I think that we have most of the information that we need to move forward on it. We will move forward on it. And I would expect sometime in the next couple weeks, as we get through the summer holidays and the Labor Day break that we will have a final review and approval of a Burma strategy.
QUESTION: Are you leaning toward – sorry, one more on this. Are you leaning toward more sanctions?
MR. KELLY: I’m not going to say which way we’re leaning on this. I don’t want to prejudge the process.
QUESTION: The latest reports seem to indicate that the fighting has subsided quite a bit and there are thousands of people returning – at least from the people who went to China, that there are thousands going back now today.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, that’s – I haven’t seen that, but --
QUESTION: Well, I’m just wondering why, since this was raised last week in the briefing, why your statement of concern comes as things are – appear to be dying – calming down a little bit.
MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, I wasn’t aware that refugees are returning. That’s obviously good news. Our call to the Burmese authorities to continue to develop a national reconciliation process – of course that call stands. But if they are returning, obviously, that’s welcome news.
QUESTION: Can I ask a housekeeping question on --
MR. KELLY: Yes.
QUESTION: What’s – has the date and venue for the Mitchell meetings with the Israeli delegation, has that been – have they been determined yet?
MR. KELLY: No. The short answer is no. We hope to – I would imagine either late today or tomorrow we’ll have an announcement on it.
QUESTION: So where’s Mitchell now? Are they – is there – there’s nothing – there’s no meetings happening today? There’s --
MR. KELLY: No, no.
QUESTION: Tomorrow, you think, maybe?
MR. KELLY: No, there won’t be any meetings tomorrow, I don’t think, either, but --
MR. KELLY: -- later this week.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. KELLY: New topic.
QUESTION: Over the weekend, North Korea let the South Korean fisherman go, and I’m just wondering what you think of this in light of some of the other gestures that they’ve made in terms of meeting with Bill Richardson, they said they’re going to open up their border with South Korea, they sent this delegation to Korea for the funeral, and also letting the journalists go. And I’m wondering if you think that this is a kind of sign by North Korea that they’re ready for some kind of détente.
MR. KELLY: Well, I would say that of course we’re encouraged by developments such as the release of our two fellow citizens, Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee. We also are encouraged by more dialogue between North and South. And we’ve always supported that kind of dialogue that would increase the amount of mutual understanding and reduce tensions.
However, even though this, of course, creates a better kind of atmosphere than the atmosphere that we saw a few months ago, which was North Korea being very belligerent in its rhetoric, shooting off missiles, which, of course, was very damaging to regional stability and a possibility of dialogue on the Korean Peninsula, our position remains the same on North Korea, that we believe that a regional solution is the best way forward. And we encourage North Korea to rejoin us in this regional solution in this multilateral context. Of course, the offer we have on the table is the Six-Party Talks, and we --
QUESTION: Yeah, but you know with North Korea, sometimes they send signals before --
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- they do that type of stuff. You don’t see this as them kind of sending signals that they’re ready to talk?
MR. KELLY: Well, it’s – as I say, it’s certainly more helpful than the kind of signals they were sending out before – the saber-rattling, very belligerent and extremist rhetoric. And of course, we’re not seeing that, and that – I’m not going to say that’s necessarily going to lead to resumption of talks. It’s really up to the North Koreans, who would decide that.
QUESTION: Just one more, actually, about the comments made by Vice President Cheney to Fox News over the weekend. Vice President Cheney said that he thought it was a very big mistake for President Clinton to go take the trip to North Korea to free those journalists. He said that it sends a very bad signal to North Korea and it kind of rewards bad behavior. And I’m wondering if you have a response to that.
MR. KELLY: Well, I respectfully disagree with that characterization of former President Clinton’s trip. It was a humanitarian mission designed to allow these two journalists to be reunited with their families.
QUESTION: Just one – sorry, one more on Vice President Cheney. He also said that he thinks that the military option should have never been off the table. He was more in favor of military action than some in the previous administration, and he says that the idea that Iran is not concerned that there could be some kind of military option doesn’t give an incentive to negotiate or to follow through on any type of engagement by this Administration.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, we have – with Iran as well, we have a clear way forward. And that is for Iran to respond to our offer and the offer of Javier Solana to sit down in the P-5+1 context and to discuss the very real concerns of the international community about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program. So that’s where we are right now with Iran. I think you’ve heard the President and others say that this kind of offer is not going to be on the table forever. We’re hoping that in the next month or so that we can move forward with it. But right now, that’s the proposal on the table.
QUESTION: On a different subject --
QUESTION: Can we stick with North Korea for a minute?
MR. KELLY: Anybody else on – yeah, Arshad. Go ahead. North Korea or Iran?
QUESTION: North Korea. Are you yet in a position to announce when and where Ambassador Bosworth will be traveling?
MR. KELLY: We expect – again, on this, we expect in the next couple of days to be able to announce some regional travel.
QUESTION: And can you explain why it is that even though he himself earlier this year expressed an interest in talking to the North Koreans, why it now is not the time?
MR. KELLY: Not the time to talk with the North Koreans?
MR. KELLY: Well, it’s because that we see the best solution to this is a regional solution, and we don’t want to do anything that’s going to disconnect our partners in that region, who have, of course, a tremendous stake in denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. We don’t want to disconnect them from this process. So that’s why we say we are not ready to sit down and talk in any kind of substantive way on these security issues with North Korea until they agree to this multilateral context.
You – also on North Korea?
MR. KELLY: Iran. Any other on North Korea? North Korea?
QUESTION: There’s a report – a report Kim Jong-il (inaudible) say U.S. and North Korea should sign a peace treaty. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. KELLY: I haven’t seen that report, and I have no comment on it.
QUESTION: I have a tangential North Korea --
MR. KELLY: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you – what do you think the Japanese election will mean for the Six-Party Talks, if anything?
MR. KELLY: I think that you saw our statement over the weekend that we congratulated Japan on the historical election. Our partnership, or our alliance with Japan, is key to a number of important regional and even global issues. They play a key role in helping stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan. They’re not NATO members, of course, but they still contribute to ISAF. They play a critical role in some of our refueling efforts. As we go forward, or as Japan goes forward with forming a new government, one of the key issues that we look forward to working with them on, of course, is this issue which is so critical to regional security and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
QUESTION: So – well, do you – but I mean, do you see there being any – it having – the election having any impact or the new government having any impact on --
MR. KELLY: Well, we have to see what the new government’s going to be. Again, we look forward to addressing this issue, which is, I think, the most important security issue, especially for Japan and the region, but also a whole range of issues that we have such important cooperation with Japan on. But until that government is formed, I’m going to refrain from speculating on what direction it may or may not go.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on the critical role they play in the refueling, that looks like it’s going to end in January under the pledges of this new government that’s coming in and they want to reevaluate the SOFA with the U.S. How concerned is the U.S. about these possible changes, especially, you know, these -- like the critical support for Afghanistan, which you yourself mentioned?
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, a stable, prosperous Afghanistan is in the interests of the entire international community, including Japan. But of course, it’s up to each country to determine how they can best contribute to that effort. And we, of course, look forward to working with the new government when it’s formed, and we look forward to a discussion of what kind of role Japan will play. But we’ll see how things play out in the next few months, obviously.
QUESTION: Different topic?
QUESTION: No, on North Korea.
MR. KELLY: Also on North Korea?
MR. KELLY: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: The two North Korean diplomats that met with Richardson were in L.A. talking about – to NGOs about resuming food aid. Have they also contacted the U.S. about resuming its food aid?
MR. KELLY: I’m not aware that they have. That’s --
QUESTION: Is the U.S. considering resuming food aid to North Korea?
MR. KELLY: I think that we have a number of stipulations that would – that we would need to have and the international community would need to have in terms of how this aid is delivered before we could really talk substantively.
QUESTION: So the same policy is still --
MR. KELLY: Yeah, the policy has not changed in that way.
Any other on Korea? Do you have a question on --
MR. KELLY: On Japan?
QUESTION: Yes. I think President Obama will visit to Japan in November or in (inaudible) and so we don’t have – you don’t have enough time to prepare. So how will the U.S. Government consult with new government, DPJ government?
MR. KELLY: Well, regarding any presidential trips, of course, I’d have to refer you to the White House. Regarding our cooperation with Japan, there is a government in place and will remain in place until there is a new government, and we’ll – we will continue to work very closely with that government.
And – yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Different topic. On Qadhafi, any progress on where he might stay now? Is New Jersey completely off the table? Have you progressed in finding him someplace in Manhattan? And does the Gordon Brown situation complicate the matter, or are you trying to convince him not to come at all?
MR. KELLY: I’m not aware of what the complicating factor of Gordon Brown is, frankly.
QUESTION: The problem with the British now, whether there was a back-and-forth on the release of Megrahi.
MR. KELLY: Oh, I see. Yeah. Well, I think you saw the various statements that came out on Friday. It is safe to say that Colonel Qadhafi will not be staying in New Jersey. I know that there are ongoing discussions between the Libyan mission to the UN and the city of New York regarding appropriate accommodations. I’m not aware that any final decision has been made on that.
QUESTION: But on the issue of the revelations over the weekend, Foreign Minister Jack Straw said that the British did attempt to make al-Megrahi’s release part of a deal – part of deals related to oil and gas. I mean, this is your closest ally, and they’re basically kind of bargaining away his release of someone who’s been convicted of killing, you know, 180 Americans. I mean, what does that say about the strength of the relationship between the U.S. and the UK?
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, we have a very strong relationship with the UK. Of course, we’ve seen the allegations. We’ve seen the various statements. We hope these allegations are taken very seriously.
QUESTION: Sounds like an admission. It doesn’t sound like an allegation.
MR. KELLY: Well, the --
QUESTION: It’s from a former foreign secretary who is involved in the discussions --
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: --was involved. And he is, you know, kind of spilling the beans on what happened.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, it’s – as I’ve said before, there is a very vigorous political debate going on in the UK right now. As I said before, these are serious allegations. But I can only tell you what our position has been. Our position has been – or what our role has been is that prior to his release, we made it very clear to both the Government of Scotland and – I’m sorry, to the authorities in Scotland and the Government of the UK that we thought that Mr. Megrahi should finish out this sentence in Scotland.
And of course, as we’ve said many times, we were deeply disappointed by the decision to release him and let him return to Libya. But regarding the political debate that’s going on, I’d really have to refer you to the UK and the Scottish authorities.
QUESTION: Right. But you keep referring to them as allegations. I mean, it sounds like more of an admission or a confession. And you say that you’re deeply disappointed that –
MR. KELLY: That’s your characterization.
QUESTION: Well --
MR. KELLY: That’s not mine.
QUESTION: Well, you’re calling them allegations and they’re not allegations. This is a former official that was involved in the discussions who’s saying, you know, what the discussions were and was releasing documents related to it. So you say you’re –
MR. KELLY: Yeah, well, let’s let the process run out.
QUESTION: Well --
MR. KELLY: I think the – it still is in the process – at the stage of allegations at this point.
QUESTION: You say that you’re deeply disappointed by the decision. Are you deeply disappointed by the British move to make his release part of their bargaining on economic deals?
MR. KELLY: Well, if that were true, again, we would have concerns about that. But it’s – we had no direct role in this process.
QUESTION: I’m not saying that you did.
MR. KELLY: So we can’t characterize what kind of discussion went on either between Edinburgh or London, or London and Tripoli. That’s for the UK authorities to work out.
QUESTION: Are you seeking clarification from the British?
MR. KELLY: It is up to the British Government to work these things through. We have complete faith in the British system to air these allegations in a complete and transparent way.
QUESTION: So – and --
MR. KELLY: Obviously, it is going on in a very clear and open way.
QUESTION: And if these – you’ve called them allegations, but I maintain that they’re not allegations. But anyway –
MR. KELLY: They’re allegations until it’s determined in a court of law that’s they’re –
QUESTION: Well, I don’t know. These documents don’t really look like they’re allegations. It looks like this is part of the negotiating documents. But anyway --
MR. KELLY: Yeah, I haven’t seen the document.
QUESTION: -- if it does – if the revelations then come out that Britain was involved, what will be the consequences for that?
MR. KELLY: Well, we’ll figure that out once everything comes out. But right now, not everything has come out.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. KELLY: New topic? Okay.
QUESTION: The IAEA report that came out late last week said that 300 fewer centrifuges are now in operation in Iran. Is this due to perhaps technical problems or a result of some productive negotiations?
MR. KELLY: Yeah, I think the short answer to that is is that we’re – I just don’t have the information to comment on what the reasons were for X number of centrifuges. What I can tell you that – this report, although I have not read it all the way through and I don’t have all the details of it, but it clearly shows Iran’s continued lack of cooperation with the international community.
It continues to refuse to suspend all proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities, as required by the UN Security Council. It’s continued to install centrifuges, enrich uranium, and construct the Iraq heavy water research reactor. And it has refused to address in a real, sustained and complete way the very real concerns of the international community about the intent of Iran’s nuclear program. And this report is yet another report in a series of reports that have pointed this out.
And as you know, on Wednesday, there will be a meeting of the political directors of the P-5+1 group in Germany. And this report, of course, will be a real, important discussion item for that group.
QUESTION: What’s the – what’s the danger of Israel getting involved, maybe militarily?
MR. KELLY: Well, I’m just not going to –
QUESTION: And are you – are you engaging Israel diplomatically?
MR. KELLY: I’m not going to comment on that. Well, of course we’re engaging Israel diplomatically. We do that every day.
QUESTION: One thing -- just on the report. This came out three days ago. It’s only six pages long. Are you saying that no one in this building has had the time?
MR. KELLY: I’m saying I haven’t. I haven’t seen the report. Of course people in this building have seen this report.
QUESTION: And but – and there isn’t anything more to say about it than what you had to say on Friday? Because I believe what you just said was a repeat of what was said on Friday, right? There hasn’t been --
MR. KELLY: More or less, yeah.
QUESTION: There hasn’t been any more analysis.
MR. KELLY: Yeah, nothing more than I can – that I can give you from this podium.
QUESTION: Yeah. There’s some reporting of a meeting of special envoys for Afghanistan in, I believe, Paris, at the middle of the week. Is Mr. Holbrooke going to go? What’s the subject for them?
MR. KELLY: Yes. Just a moment. Yeah, I think as you know, the international special representatives for Afghanistan and Pakistan meet and speak on a regular basis to discuss issues related to the two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The next in this series is in Paris on September 2nd, and will cover a wide range of issues relating to these two countries.
QUESTION: Is – this is being depicted in some reports as sort of an emergency meeting because of the –
MR. KELLY: No, it’s not an emergency meeting. It’s a regularly scheduled meeting
QUESTION: Because of the election difficulties. And Holbrooke’s going to go?
MR. KELLY: Holbrooke will go.
QUESTION: Yeah, okay. I’m sorry. Wait, which two countries?
MR. KELLY: Afghanistan and Pakistan.
QUESTION: Can you just comment on an opinion piece in the Washington Post today by Cordesman about the U.S. Administration micromanaging the affairs in Kabul – sorry. I’ll just read a little bit. It –
QUESTION: Envoy meddling?
QUESTION: It says that the – that they’re – back from vacation. It says that –
MR. KELLY: Take some time, Lach.
QUESTION: -- Karl Eikenberry and McChrystal are basically being micromanaged by Washington, they’re not given enough room to do their work, enough resources to do their work.
QUESTION: I think the word is “meddling envoy.”
QUESTION: And meddling envoy, yeah.
QUESTION: I don’t know who that could be.
QUESTION: So there’s an implicit criticism of envoy Holbrooke, then.
MR. KELLY: Well, I respectfully disagree with that criticism. There is a great deal of communication between Washington and Kabul. I know I’ve participated in a number of conference calls between Washington and the Embassy, and with General McChrystal. I think that we are, of course, in a time when we’re trying to be patient and let this Afghan-led process play out. I would reject any accusations of meddling. We’ve been very scrupulous to allow this election to be an Afghan-led and developed process.
We, of course, have pointed out some of the concerns that we have. You’ve seen a lot of accusations of fraud. And we urge Afghan authorities – not just us, but other members of the international community have urged Afghan institutions to take these allegations very seriously. And I think we just all need to be patient on --
QUESTION: Well, I mean, over the last few days, the number of allegations of fraud have doubled --
MR. KELLY: Yeah, and that’s serious.
QUESTION: -- to 500. So what does that say about the – you know, President Obama hailed these elections as, you know, a major victory for Afghanistan. But it turns out, you know, there are more and more complaints of fraud in the election, that it was not a free and fair election, and – I mean, what does that say about the credibility of these elections?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think it says, first of all, that there is a process in place to evaluate these and analyze these allegations of fraud. And that’s a very good sign that these – that they are being taken seriously, and that these Afghan institutions that have been set up will look at them very carefully. I think that there is a very complicated and very transparent process that’s been set up.
But again – I’ll just say it again, that we need to be patient before we pronounce one way or another whether or not these elections are legitimate. I mean, what we want, what the international community wants, and what the Afghan people want is a result that accurately reflects the will of the Afghan people.
QUESTION: And can you say at this point, with 500 serious allegations of fraud, that that reflects the will of the people?
MR. KELLY: Well, I just – as I say, we have not seen this whole process play out, and until it does, we’re not going to pronounce.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, I just wanted to clarify --
MR. KELLY: Yeah, go ahead, Lach.
QUESTION: -- what Cordesman was saying. He was criticizing micromanagement of their work, of Eikenberry’s and McChrystal’s work in Kabul, that you’re not giving them the space and the resources they need.
MR. KELLY: No, I don’t think the – I would reject that. That’s inaccurate.
MR. KELLY: I think he’s returned to the U.S. I’m not aware whether he’s in the office or not, but he expects to make his presentation soon to the Secretary and to the President. He, of course, has played a very active role in the ongoing policy review process. And like the Burma policy review process, we expect this one to be completed sometime in the coming weeks.
QUESTION: Yes, a different subject. In – tomorrow, there will be an anniversary of World War II beginning. And some Polish politicians expressed their disappointment – including Lech Walesa, the former president of Poland – their disappointment about the level of U.S. presentation at the anniversary in Gdansk. Does it indicate – I mean the level of the presentation, does it indicate a certain chill in the relations between United States and its major ally in Eastern Europe?
MR. KELLY: The short answer to that, Peter, is no. And I know that there are very deep and extensive ties between the U.S. and Poland. We are bound by not only ethnic and cultural ties, but also by our membership in NATO. We appreciate the tremendous sacrifice that the people of Poland made in World War II.
I think President Obama today formally announced the presidential delegation going to Gdansk to attend the 70th anniversary observance ceremony on September 1st. It’s going to be led by General Jim Jones, who is the National Security Advisor to the President. And there will be some other members of the delegation, including at least one congressman, the senior director for Europe in the National Security Council, Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, and of course, the U.S. Ambassador to Poland.
QUESTION: But the Poles expected the Secretary of State or Vice President to be there.
MR. KELLY: Well, this is a – it’s a very senior delegation led by the National Security Advisor. I don’t think it indicates any kind of indication of the lessening of our relationship with Poland.
QUESTION: Another one on Poland. There were some reports that the Administration is considering scrapping missile defense for Poland and the Czech Republic and is looking for alternative ideas so as not to upset the Russians. Can you say anything about that?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think, as we’ve said before, there is an ongoing review of missile defense. And this review will be based on a couple of main factors. One is the efficacy of the system, and the other is, of course, cost considerations. We expect this review to take place – or to be completed in the next month or so. But the decisions will be based solely on the stated need of this site in Central Europe, and that’s to counter the emerging threat from Iran.
QUESTION: But I mean, it looks as if – that possibly there are some other areas of Europe, for instance, the Balkans or Turkey, that you’re looking at that could kind of deal with the short-range missile threat from Iran.
MR. KELLY: Well, again, no decisions have been made. Of course, this system will be set up in coordination with plans that NATO has for theater missile defense. But no final decisions have been made in terms of where we’ll come out on this review.
QUESTION: Just a small one, going back to Libya. Tomorrow, I believe, the Libyans are celebrating the 40th anniversary of Colonel Qadhafi’s rise to power. Does the U.S. Government plan to send anyone from Washington or the Embassy to those ceremonies?
MR. KELLY: Yeah. I’m not aware of any plans for anybody to come from Washington. And I’m also not aware of any plans – if any decisions have been made about plans for somebody from our Embassy in Tripoli to attend.
QUESTION: Just a quick question on Sri Lanka.
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: The – a court there sentenced a Tamil reporter to 20 years in jail.
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: It’s the reporter whom Obama said --
MR. KELLY: Right.
QUESTION: -- is an emblematic example of persecution.
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: I can give you his name if --
MR. KELLY: No, I think – yeah, thank you. This is J.S. Tissainayagam? Is that --
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: That’s right.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Yeah. I know that the President mentioned him in particular as being a journalist who is either in jail or being actively harassed. I don’t – I’m not aware of the court decision, so let us try and confirm that and we’ll get you a response.
QUESTION: Is Manuel Zelaya meeting anyone here today or tomorrow? He’s in town for his talk on Wednesday.
MR. KELLY: Not today – not today or tomorrow. I understand that he is here. He’s going to have meetings at the OAS tomorrow, and I’d obviously refer you to them about who he plans to meet with. And no decisions have been made about who from the U.S. side will meet with him.
QUESTION: Any decisions on whether Secretary Clinton is going to sign the declaration of the --
MR. KELLY: We do not have a decision on that yet.
QUESTION: Is she coming home today?
MR. KELLY: I’m not going to guess on that one.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. One more.
MR. KELLY: Well, I think that our support for Israel and the President’s support for Israel is unwavering. I haven’t seen the results of that poll, but I think that the people of Israel know who stands with them.
QUESTION: Do you think that Secretary Clinton may think that a more balanced Mideast policy would be more appropriate?
MR. KELLY: You’re asking a very tough last question, I have to say. I’ll defer comment and – thank you very much.
QUESTION: Hold on a second. I’ve got just one more briefly.
MR. KELLY: Yes.
QUESTION: I want to point out one thing. During the course of this briefing, which has lasted a little less than 40 minutes, you’ve talked about four policy reviews that are going to be – that you say are going to be completed within the next several weeks to a month.
MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Burma, Sudan, Iran, and missile defense. I just want you to know --
MR. KELLY: Did I say Iran? I don’t think I --
QUESTION: Well, you said Iran has until the, you know, end of the month to decide to respond. So I just wanted to point that out. That’s about one every ten minutes that you --
MR. KELLY: Point taken.
QUESTION: And we’ll hold you --
MR. KELLY: I will say in response that it’s August, but –
QUESTION: We’ll be holding you to it.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:44 p.m.)
DPB # 147
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