QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Last week, ABC News had reported that it had information that a missing Iranian scientist, Dr. Shahram Amiri, had defected to the U.S. and was helping the CIA. Does the State Department know if he is on U.S. soil? Is he sharing any information with the U.S. --
MR. CROWLEY: I think the State Department will repeat the “no comment” that we provided last week.
QUESTION: On a different topic, in Cuba, Raul Castro is describing the series of dissident hunger strikers as part of a blackmail campaign by the United States and European Union and major Western media. Is that an agreement – is that an assessment that you would agree with?
MR. CROWLEY: No. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: How do you feel about his remarks? I mean, how do you --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, look, we believe there are some 200 political prisoners in Cuban custody. We have grave concern about overcrowding, the lack of hygiene, and the lack of potable water in these prisons. Cuba does not allow humanitarian agencies, including the International Red Cross, to monitor these prison conditions. So the fact that somehow prisoners are rebelling against these conditions and we’re led to believe that this is the responsibility of the United States – no, it’s the responsibility of the Cuban Government. It has fundamental responsibilities under international law to care for its citizens, including those in custody, and they should live up to those obligations.
QUESTION: On the same subject, the fact that this time he has accused not only the United States but also the European countries, is this going to be a possibility of a more coordinated approach between Europe and the United States towards Cuba?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sure that when we talk to other governments around the region about hemispheric affairs, Cuba tends to come up. But what I just described is really our own view.
QUESTION: And also, in Venezuela. Venezuela and Russia – there is this thing that they want to buy and the Russians apparently want to sell them about $5 billion worth of weapons. Have you anything on this? Do you consider this a threat? Do you know which kind of weapons?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, what relationships governments have is up to them. What they do in those relationships is, again, a matter of a bilateral issue between Venezuela and Russia. We don’t care. On the other hand, to the extent that Venezuela is purchasing military equipment, we’re hard-pressed to see what legitimate defense needs Venezuela has for this equipment. Our primary concern is not – if Venezuela wants to acquire these – this equipment, we can probably think of better things that could be invested on behalf of the Venezuelan people. But our primary concern is that – that if Venezuela is going to increase its military hardware, we certainly don’t want to see this hardware migrate into other parts of the hemisphere. And we would simply remind Venezuela that through a number of accords has responsibility for transparency in its acquisitions and must make clear about the purpose of acquiring these materials.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: What’s the – what are the prospects for the election actually taking place in a reasonable amount of time?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, that’s something that Scott Gration is working hard with the Elections Commission and the parties right now. We recognize that there may well be a need for a brief delay. But that needs to be something that is done so that Sudan can make the kind of improvements and address the legitimate concerns that the parties have about where we are in the election process. But we would certainly not favor a lengthy delay of any kind.
QUESTION: This group called WikiLeaks has put out a video today, apparently, of some civilian casualties in Iraq. Knowing that full well that this is mainly a military issue for the actual operation, what can you say about how this affects your efforts to win over hearts and minds in Iraq and around the Muslim world?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not familiar with the video.
QUESTION: I sent it to you guys earlier today.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I mean, I haven’t seen it, but – I do not have a particular comment.
QUESTION: On the peace process, is Senator Mitchell planning to go back to the region this week?
MR. CROWLEY: He is in New York. He did have contacts with officials last week during the holiday period. I would expect he’d have additional contacts this week, touching base here where they are. But I’ve got no travel to announce at this point.
MR. CROWLEY: The investigation is being led by South Korea. We are assisting the Government of South Korea in that investigation.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:02 p.m.)