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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 20, 2010


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Volcanic Ash / Monitoring Group in Operations Center / Embassies Throughout Europe Fielding Calls / Consular Officers Dispatched to Airports
    • Secretary is Prepared to Travel to NATO Ministerial / Awaiting Final Decision from Brussels Regarding Whether Meeting will Take Place
    • Russian adoptions / Head of U.S. delegation, Ambassador Kirby, spoke yesterday with his Russian counterpart / Agreed to reschedule the talks for April 29th and 30th in Moscow
    • Deputy Secretary Steinberg on first day of two-day visit in New Delhi / Discussed issues of mutual interest / Advancing Strategic Partnership with India
    • Consulates in Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros are open / Operating under normal business hours
    • Under Secretary Burns in Senegal
  • SYRIA
    • U.S. Called in the Syrian DCM Yesterday / U.S. Hasn't Reached a Judgment on Whether Transfer of Weaponry to Hezbollah Has Taken Place / Wanted to Make Clear U.S. Takes this Issue Very Seriously
  • SUDAN
    • U.S. Has Expressed Concerns About Sudan Election Both Before and After Elections
    • U.S. Continues to Work with the Governments of North and South Sudan to Press Them to Fulfill All of Their Obligations Under the CPA
  • TURKEY
    • U.S. Recognizes Turkey Can Play a Vitally Important Role with Regards to Iran as Part of the Region
  • MEXICO
    • U.S. Withdrew Certification of Mexico's Turtle Excluder Device as Program is Not Currently Comparable to U.S. Program as Required by Law/ A U.S. Delegation will Travel to Mexico to Discuss Issue in the Next Couple of Weeks
  • MISCELLANEOUS
    • Stemware Contract/ SDI Demonstrated Could Meet Requirement's of Stemware Contract
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Media Reports of Possibility of North Korea Conducting Third Nuclear Test / Skeptical of Reporting / Continue to Monitor for Evidence of any Provocative Activity
  • GREECE
    • Taken Question: Reports of Arrested Suspects in the 2007 U.S. Embassy Attack
  • MIDDLE EAST
    • U.S. Focused Getting the Parties Back into Direct Negotiations through Proximity Talks


TRANSCRIPT:

1:23 p.m. EDT
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State.  I think we’ll declare this Ash Tuesday.  What?  (Laughter.)
 
We have set up a monitoring group upstairs in the Operations Center and we can report our embassies, particularly throughout Europe, are fielding a higher level of calls over the past couple of days – a number of Americans who are walking into the embassies.  We’ve taken a number of actions.  Embassies have dispatched consular officers to airports to check in with Americans and see what their needs are.  We are helping Americans with recommendations on low cost lodging and other alternative travel arrangements, how to fill prescriptions, how to wire funds if citizens are running low.  In particular, our Ambassador Lou Susman in London met with a couple of groups of Americans today.  We’ve installed some computers in the waiting area outside of the consular section so we make sure that citizens have access to the latest travel information. 
 
Our Embassy in Paris worked with the airline today to get one couple boarded on an airplane back to the United States.  They were originally booked for a flight next week but the couple – one member of the couple is facing cancer surgery, so the Embassy was able to accelerate their departure to make sure they get back in time for that surgery. 
 
In Rome, the airport is open, so there not quite the same press as, say, the situation in London, but the Embassy there is closely monitoring the situation.  And we are engaged with our embassies in conference calls to compare notes to see what’s happening across Europe as the situation is ongoing. 
 
I think from what we can see from here today, the aviation system in Europe is operating at about 60 percent capacity.  They were operating at roughly 30 percent capacity yesterday, so that has begun to relieve a little bit of the pressure in terms of travelers, which obviously include American citizens. 
 
And regarding travel by the Secretary, she is prepared to travel tomorrow to the NATO ministerial.  We are awaiting a final decision, which may come in the next few minutes from Brussels regarding whether the meeting will take place.  But right now, she is planning to go. 
 
Regarding Russian adoptions, the head of the U.S. delegation, Ambassador Mike Kirby, spoke yesterday with his Russian counterpart and the two have agreed to reschedule the talks for April 29th and 30th in Moscow.  And Ambassador Beyrle also met yesterday, as I think I mentioned yesterday, with Deputy Foreign Minister Rybakov to discuss our commitment to the ongoing issue. 
 
Regarding travel, Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg, on his first day of a two-day visit in New Delhi, met with Defense Secretary Pradeep Kumar and National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and External Affairs Minister Krishna, discussed a broad range of issues on mutual – of mutual interest, advancing our strategic partnership with India. 
 
Under Secretary Bill Burns is in Senegal today, his first stop in a seven-day tour to expand relations with key partners in Africa.  The trip will focus on democracy, sustainable economic development, health and education, nonproliferation, and peace and security.
 
And finally, before taking your questions, our – there was a question yesterday and our consulates in Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros are open and operating under normal business hours. 
 
Questions.  
 
QUESTION:  Yeah.  Can I -- ?  
 
QUESTION:  Can I just follow up real quickly on that working group?  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Sure.  
 
QUESTION:  Was that established today?  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  It was established yesterday.  
 
QUESTION:  Yesterday.  Okay.  Do you know why it wasn’t established earlier?  This has been going on since late last week.  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I mean, we’ve been monitoring this but I think because of the – what we – I think it surprised many people in terms of not only the complexity and the duration of this challenge, I think yesterday we decided to have a more intensive group focused on exactly what’s happening overseas and to open up lines of communication with our embassies to monitor this on a more concerted basis.  
 
QUESTION:  I guess that answers why it was started yesterday, but why – I was kind of asking why it wasn’t started before yesterday.  I mean, this has been a problem -- 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Well, I mean, let me --
 
QUESTION:  At least the media has known it’s been a big deal since before then.  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Look, if your inference is that we haven’t been paying attention to this, we have been paying attention to this.  But obviously, the – as you get into day five, day six of what is a unprecedented situation, certainly in terms of – I mean, you go back to reports of volcanoes in the 18th or 19th century, but this has had a profound impact on the aviation transportation system in Europe.  And as we’ve begun to see the numbers of people – and there are a range of numbers of people in terms of how many it’s affected, including American citizens.
 
We just decided yesterday we needed to have a more intensive look at this and monitor it on an ongoing basis.  But we have been focused on this since late last week, but now we have a team that is actually on an ongoing basis receiving reports, engineering calls, and also seeing what impact it has on our overall State Department operations.  
 
QUESTION:  So you’re suggesting that if we went back to the mode of transportation -- 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  (Laughter.)
 
QUESTION:  -- in Krakatoa times, that things would be just fine.  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I mean, probably back in the steamship era, this would not have been an issue.  
 
QUESTION:  May I ask you about -- 
 
QUESTION:  Wait, before you go to a new subject, please?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Okay, sure.
 
QUESTION:  Getting back to Ambassador Susman in London and his meetings, did they take place at the Embassy?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Yes.
 
QUESTION:  So these were Americans -- 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Yes, it would – I mean -- 
 
QUESTION:  -- not stranded at the airport but -- 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Right.  And obviously, everyone’s – affected by this is obviously frustrated and trying to figure out what’s going on.  We are maintaining contact with host nation officials on what decisions they’re making regarding opening of airspace and opening of airports.  And we are, as needed, interceding where we can with travel officials, airline officials, as we did with this case of the couple in Paris.  They were booked for a flight home on the day that one of that couple was scheduled for cancer surgery, and so we interceded with the airline, got them placed a little ahead in the queue.  And that’s the kind of things we’re doing on an individual basis to help American citizens where we can.
 
QUESTION:  Is there any official policy on loans, financial arrangements? 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  There – I mean, to anyone who is really out of funds entirely, there are procedures where we can help out American citizens with a loan and make arrangements for repayment later.  I’m not sure that we have seen a lot of that situation.  It’s more a case of people that have resources but may not have a hotel room, or have a medical prescription that needs to be refilled and we point them to the nearest pharmacy.  In some cases where people are now – have been – had a hotel room but have lost that booking, we’re helping them with lower-cost options if that’s appropriate.  So we’re doing the kinds of things to help our citizens that you would expect.
 
QUESTION:  Are you aware of anybody who actually has tried to make them – tried to apply for one of these loans?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I’m sure it’s happened; I just can’t put a number on it.
 
QUESTION:  Do you have any sort of rough count on the numbers of Americans involved?  I know Ambassador Susman gave a figure for the number in the UK of about 40,000.  Have you done a similar sort of head count?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I think there’s a range.  I don’t know that we’re in a position to say this is the number of Americans that we think have been affected by this.  I’ve seen the range of up to 40,000, down to around 17,000.  I think they’re all kind of squishy.  
 
QUESTION:  Can we move to something else?
 
QUESTION:  One more on this?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Sure.
 
QUESTION:  More broadly, are you aware of any efforts going on here in Washington or up in New York to assess the global – the broader economic impact?  Because we’re seeing reports about impacts on trade in Africa, for example, the produce, and a lot of economic hardship due to this.  And I don’t know if there’s any -- 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I’m sure on a country-by-country basis, we will see that there will be profound local ramifications, and it may have – whether it has more regional significance, clearly it would have – it will have impact across particular sectors of the economy.  So you’re quite right; in the case of Kenya, that was a compelling story about the fact that you now have produce that you can’t transport to markets.  So we will be assessing this as we go forward, and it may well have some midterm impact.  In terms of some of the initiatives we have regionally such as our efforts on food security, obviously, this can have an impact.  
 
QUESTION:  Can I move on?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Sure.
 
QUESTION:  I want to ask about this meeting with the Syrian yesterday.  Does the U.S. have evidence or reason to believe that Syria has, in fact, transferred SCUDs to Hezbollah?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Let me put the meeting in context and then answer your question.  There had recently been a statement by the Syrian ambassador to the United States that we have not raised this issue.  In fact, we have raised this issue multiple times going back to February.  So yesterday evening, we did call in the DCM of the Embassy here just to make sure that he understood that we take this issue very seriously and to remove any doubt about the concern that we have and how important we think it is to the region.  And so that was the context within which the meeting last night took place, and we will continue to have these ongoing discussions with Syria about this issue.
 
We are still looking into it.  We haven’t reached any particular judgment at this point as to whether any transfer has taken place.  But we made it clear both today, last night, and in other meetings that this is something that we have great concern about.  It is a violation, prospectively, of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 in terms of weaponry, advanced weaponry, coming into Lebanon.  That is the province, rightfully of the Government of Lebanon, and that under 1701 only the Government of Lebanon is permitted to bring in weapons of this kind.
 
QUESTION:  Well, what was the – if you don’t know or you don’t have evidence or reason to believe that there’s been such transfers, why have all these meetings?  Why are you raising it?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Well, we’re raising it because we’ve seen reporting on it and we are studying it closely.  But the proximate reason for the meeting last night was expressly because there have been some direct suggest – public comments by the Syrian ambassador to the United States that we hadn’t raised this issue.  And we had raised it, but we want to make sure that they understood completely that, in fact, this is an issue of great concern to the United States.
 
QUESTION:  P.J.?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Go ahead.
 
QUESTION:  The Syrian Government has denied today the accusation -- 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I understand that, but at least now they cannot say that we haven’t raised this issue.
 
QUESTION:  I know, but yet-- 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  And we have raised it on several occasions.
 
QUESTION:  They’re warning again from yet again that the United States would go ahead and take a lead from the Israeli intelligence for the United States accusation of Syria.  Even the prime minister of Lebanon has indicated to the fact that this case seems like it is a repetition of what happened in Iraq when Iraq was accused of having nuclear capability.  Yet you are blaming a coalition that is taking place between Syria and Lebanon to defend their existence against aggressive Israel, when in the same time an Israeli minister has said to a British newspaper – has threatened that Israel was going to bomb Syria to take it back to the stone age.  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Well -- 
 
QUESTION:  I mean, do you have any reaction to this?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I will be happy to – let’s take these issues – there has been public reporting about a possible transfer of SCUD missiles to Hezbollah.  As I said, the United States has not reached a judgment as to whether such a transfer has taken place.  But this is not a new issue.  Take it more broadly from the question of a missile like the SCUD.  The arming of Hezbollah represents a significant threat to regional stability.  This is why the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1701 in 2006.  So this is not a new issue.  And it’s based because – off of a UN resolution.  This is not about any one country or any one concern.  This is about a pattern of activity that threatens regional stability.
 
So the importation of any sort of weapons into Lebanon is the province, the rightful province, of the sovereign Government of Lebanon, and it gets to choose what kind of weapons will be in its country to serve its own self-defense.  So the fact that you have a separate country prospectively arming a militia inside of Lebanon is a threat to Lebanon’s sovereignty.  And we are committed to support Lebanon, its sovereignty, and regional security and stability.  So this was the context behind our very clear message to Syria that this is a great concern to the United States.
 
Go ahead.
 
QUESTION:  P.J., when you answered Matt, you said we have seen reports.  What are these reports?  Are these the Israeli reports?  Do you think they are credible?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I mean, I’m not going to get into our intelligence activities.  There have been reports.  It’s one of the reasons you people have been asking this question.  And – but this is the context behind the meeting we had last night.
 
QUESTION:  The wording of the statement said “provocative behavior regarding potential transfers.”  I’m wondering, if you haven’t determined whether or not they’ve made this transfer, then what provocative behavior are you referring to specifically?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Well, Andy, I’d just go back to what I said.  The issue of the arming of militia like Hezbollah by outside countries is a great concern to us.  It’s a great and legitimate concern to the sovereign Government of Lebanon.  So this is not a new issue.  It may be new in the context of marching up the scale in terms of the kinds of weapons that Hezbollah may try to obtain.  But we want to be clear that matters of – and legitimate matters of self-defense in Lebanon, that’s a matter for the sovereign Government of Lebanon and it’s not for outside countries or factions to meddle in Lebanese affairs.
 
QUESTION:  All right.  Well, if it is the sovereign right of the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese armed forces to defend themselves, so you wouldn't have a problem if the Lebanese army, say, wanted to buy SCUD missiles from Syria?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I mean, we’ll -- 
 
QUESTION:  Or are you suggesting that the introduction of SCUDS -- 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Let’s not get into hypotheticals, Matt.  I mean, obviously -- 
 
QUESTION:  Hold on.
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Whoa, whoa -- 
 
QUESTION:  I’m not the one getting – you put out an entire statement yesterday based on a hypothetical, based on this idea you say you don’t have any evidence to support the claim that Syria has transferred these SCUDs to Hezbollah.  That’s a hypothetical.  So -- 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Your question?
 
QUESTION:  You’re concerned about Hezbollah getting SCUD missiles.  Wouldn't you also be concerned about the Lebanese army getting SCUD missiles?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Well, we – well, again, without going too far down a hypothetical path, we frequently comment on our assessment of what any country might be doing and the impact that what any country might be doing on regional stability and security.  So we have an ongoing conversation with Lebanon and the UN contributes significantly, obviously, to stability in Lebanon as well.  So – but these are decisions that – for Lebanon to make.  It’s not judgments for other countries, neighboring countries, to decide what kind of weaponry might be available to a particular faction that might have an impact -- 
 
QUESTION:  All right.  Well, I just (inaudible), you wouldn’t have a problem if -- 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Well -- 
 
QUESTION:  You wouldn’t have a problem with – and I’m not going to use the word “if” – you would not have a problem with Lebanon’s army – 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I’m –
 
QUESTION:  -- acquiring SCUDs from Syria.
 
MR. CROWLEY:  If there’s a particular defense need that Lebanon or any other country has, we’ll be happy to have a conversation with that country in terms of advising it as to what the impact of any notional arms transfer would have on regional stability.  But to the self defense of Lebanon, this is a matter for the sovereign government to decide what – how – what best serves its self defense, not for an armed militia.
 
QUESTION:  But, sir, the prime minister of Lebanon himself has –
 
MR. CROWLEY:  And I understand that and –
 
QUESTION:  -- disagree with the statement -- 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  And I understand that.  Okay?  And this is part of our intensive dialogue with Syria.  It’s one of the reasons why we want to put an ambassador in place in Damascus as soon as possible, so that we can make sure there are clear understandings as to behaviors that we think are constructive in the region and behaviors that we think are provocative and counterproductive.
 
Go ahead, Michel.
 
QUESTION:  Do we have proof that Syria is providing arms to Hezbollah, not SCUD missiles?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I’ll take that question.
 
QUESTION:  And do you have any reaction to the Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri that you are repeating the same scenario that happened in Iran?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  We’re not doing anything but making sure that all nations in the region are playing a constructive role in our tour and maintaining and promoting regional security.
 
QUESTION:  Any reaction to the statement made by the minister or high official – Israeli official that they would bomb Syria, bring it to the – back to the Stone Age.  I mean do you see provocative action or a threat by Israel through such a statement by high official talking to a British newspaper, issuing such a threat when Israel has 200 nuclear bomb and none of the Arab countries has any?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Again, I sense an escalation in our questions here.  Look, one of the reasons why we came into office committed to pursue Middle East peace in all of its tracks, not just between Israelis and Palestinians, but Israelis and Lebanese, Israelis and Syrians, is because we recognize that armed conflict will not solve the broader conflict, that this can only be done through a negotiated settlement, a comprehensive settlement.  That’s why we’re pursuing this as aggressively as we are.
 
QUESTION:  P.J., did you get any kind of response from the DCM?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I’m not aware that we got a particular response last night, but obviously – I mean I think in various comments, public and private, the Syrians have said that the reports are not true.
 
QUESTION:  (Inaudible) new topic –
 
QUESTION:  Well, are you satisfied with those denials?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  We continue to study this issue very closely.
 
QUESTION:  But so you don’t – 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  We continue to reserve judgment.
 
QUESTION:  New topic?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  New topic.
 
QUESTION:  New topic?  Sudan.  When the U.S. came out – when the Obama Administration came out with its policy on Sudan, it talked about incentives and disincentives in the process.  And I’m wondering – I’ve seen the statements on the elections, but I’m wondering if there are any consequences for Bashir’s government for carrying out such a marred election process.
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Well, I think, Michelle, we have to put that in a little broader context.  As the international monitoring groups have indicated, the recent elections – and the results are still pending – did not meet international standards.  There are a number of reasons for that, some based on the fact that elections have not occurred in Sudan for some time and some because the government did not create the appropriate atmosphere and did not take the steps it should have taken to insure a free, fair, and competitive election.  So – and we’ve expressed those concerns before the election and we have expressed those concerns since the election.  That said, we also recognize that Sudan is facing vitally important decisions and referenda in the coming months that will shape, literally, its future.  And we will work with the Governments of North and South Sudan to continue to press them to fulfill all of their obligations under the comprehensive peace agreement.  They have to do – there are many things they have to specifically do with respect to different parts of Sudan from Darfur to Abyei to the south of Sudan.  To the extent that the Government of Sudan was looking for redemption or legitimacy in what happened here, they will get none of it.  But we recognize that there are specific things that we have to do in Sudan to prepare the country for the referenda early next year.  There are very important things that need to be done to insure full implementation of the CPA and to, among other things, prevent Sudan from slipping back into conflict.  So we will engage North and South on that basis and prod them, push them, support them as they take steps leading to the referenda next January.  
 
QUESTION:  On Somalia.
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Sure.
 
QUESTION:  Do you have any comment on the Human Rights Watch report on the – that faults the U.S. and other governments for turning a blind eye to human rights abuses by the Transitional Federal Government?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I haven’t seen the report.  Yeah, we’ll see if we have a comment.
 
QUESTION:  If you could, I’d appreciate it.
 
QUESTION:  Iran.  The Turkish foreign minister is in Tehran and he, at a press conference, sort of formally suggested that Turkey should now play a mediating role and that Turkey could be the site – the third country for any possible transfer of uranium.  I know you’ve talked about this in the past, but this seems to be a more formalistic announcement.  Do you see any role for Turkey in this?  Should they be a mediator?  Would the U.S. welcome it?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Well, of course we see a role for Turkey.  It is an immediate neighbor of Iran and whatever happens with respect to Iran, the future, Turkey is going to experience whatever happens first.  So we recognize that the future of Iran as part of the region is vitally important to Turkey, just as it’s vitally important to the United States and other countries in the region.  Can Turkey play a constructive role?  Of course.  Are they attempting to do so?  Yes.  Do we encourage that?  Yes.  I would only say that in order to play a mediation role, you have to have a country like Iran that is actually willing to engage seriously and that’s what’s been lacking over the past several months. 
 
The international community, the United States, the P-5+1, and countries like Turkey have been willing to play a constructive role, have been trying to advance the agreement that was put on the table – or the proposal that was put on the table last fall.  It has been Iran that in no way, shape, or form, whether it be with the United States, with the P-5+1, or with Turkey, have been willing to come forward and realistically and constructively seek a resolution.
 
QUESTION:  P.J.
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Yes.
 
QUESTION:  The State Department have clarified that the suspension in the imports of Mexican shrimp are not embargo, but didn’t – what that is, and what is the current status of that?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Well, I mean we put out a response to your very good question yesterday.  I can read it here if you like, but it is not an embargo.  But we’ve withdrawn our certification of Mexico’s turtle excluder device – or T-E-D, TED – program because Mexico’s turtle protection program is not currently comparable to the U.S. program as required by law.
 
QUESTION:  But the Mexican Government have mentioned that they are working with you in order to find out if it’s possible to re-inspect the fleet this year in order to make these embargo or suspension as short as possible.
 
MR. CROWLEY:  It is an important issue and, in fact, in the next couple of weeks we’ll have a delegation going down to Mexico to talk about this issue further.
 
QUESTION:  So you definitely verified the fact that the turtle excluding devices were not working before you expressed your concern to the Mexicans about this, right?  It’s not the hypothetical introduction of a faulty turtle excluder device that has caused you to take this step?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  (Laughter.)  God, you lose a hockey game and all of the sudden you become hostile.  (Laughter.)
 
QUESTION:  I still am.
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Go ahead.
 
QUESTION:  Why did the State Department award a $5.4 million contract for glass crystal stemware to a small interior design firm that had no prior experience manufacturing glass crystal?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Well, the premise behind your question is not true.  Systems Design, or SDI, has been a wholesaler of glass and crystal ware for over 20 years.  Prior to SDI, Lenox, also an American country – company – and to be clear, SDI is an American company – Lenox provided stemware to the Department of State and subcontracted that to a production company in Germany.  But in early 2008, the contracting office in conjunction with the program office invited SDI to give a presentation of their capabilities for providing a new requirement for lead-free crystal and glass tabletop ware which include the design, production, warehousing, shipping, and packaging requests for overseas to U.S. embassies.  And SDI demonstrated that they could meet the requirements of the State Department stemware contract.  And so in September, 2009, the State Department awarded the contract to SDI, which is an American, minority-owned, small, disadvantaged business and is a program participant in the 8A business development program.  We take our commitment to awarding contracts to all types of American small businesses very seriously.  And in addition to our small business contracting goals being based in statute, it is the Department’s best interest to consider American small businesses whenever possible.
 
QUESTION:  And why was it decided and who decided that the contract should be an 8A minority contract instead of being bid as the prior contract had been openly bid under Lenox?  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I think our contracting office made that decision.  
 
QUESTION:  Were there any preexisting personal relationships between members of the State Department staff and the head of this company, SDI?
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Not to my knowledge.  But you also have to recognize that, as far as I know – we’ll double check this – SDI was the only company to bid on this contract.  
 
QUESTION:  But weren’t there other companies who had been in talks with the State Department about the contract?  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Yes.  And none of them bid.  
 
QUESTION:  But how could they have bid if it wasn’t open for bidding?  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  All right.  I’ll take that follow-up question.  But there had been some suggestion that we selected this company at – and not others, but it’s because at the end of the day, only one company bid on it.  
 
QUESTION:  Well, but if other companies weren’t allowed to bid, then that argument kind of is specious, to say the least.  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Well, no, but the suggestion in some of the reporting is that somehow when doing this, we were excluding other qualified companies.  We had conversations with a wide range of companies on this contract, but at the end of the day, they chose not to bid.  
 
QUESTION:  That’s a question I have, sort of on the timeline.  When was the decision made to not -- 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Tell you what.  You’ve exhausted me on this.  Why don’t we have a conversation offline and we’ll follow up. 
 
Go ahead.  
 
QUESTION:  On North Korea, I mean yesterday, one of South Korean media report that the – there is a high possibility that North Korea could conduct a third nuclear test next month or June.  So do you have any information on this?  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Yeah.  We’re skeptical of that reporting.  But obviously, it’s an area that we look – watch intensively, and we will keep watching for evidence of any provocative activity.  But I would be skeptical of that reporting.  
 
QUESTION:  Wait, wait, wait, wait.  Skeptical of which – of what report, specifically?  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Well, there was a South Korean report -- 
 
QUESTION:  That said that the North -- 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  -- of prospective preparations for another launch.  
 
QUESTION:  Okay.  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  And we are skeptical of that report.  
 
QUESTION:  Okay.  So if you are – can I just bring this back around again?  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  (Laughter.)
 
QUESTION:  If you’re skeptical of that report, what makes you not skeptical of other reports about SCUD missiles in Lebanon?  
 
Well, you took the very unusual step of calling in the DCM of the Syrian Embassy.  Or maybe that wasn’t so unusual, but then publicly volunteering this, accusing them of potentially provocative actions involving the potential transfer of these weapons.  And I don’t know, I find it confusing.  Without any proof that there has been any transfer --  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Well, without getting into -- 
 
QUESTION:  -- why you would do that.
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Without getting into an intelligence discussion that we try not to do from this podium, in one case you have a fixed site and in one case you are talking about a mobile missile.  Studying fixed sites, from an intelligence standpoint, is always easier than -- 
 
QUESTION:  The North Koreans could blow up a bomb anywhere they want to.  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I understand.  I’m just saying all I can tell you is we are looking at both and I would – based on what we know and based on what we don’t know and past track records, we’ve done what we did. 
 
Back there first, then come back.    
 
QUESTION:  On Greece.  The Greeks announced that they arrested the people who attacked your Embassy in January, 2007.  Any comment on that?  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I’ll take the question.  I’m not sure.  I have not seen that report. 
 
Yes, sir.  
 
QUESTION:  A story floating around talking about a peace plan addressed by Mr. Brzezinski and Salazar -- 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Mr. Brzezinski and?  
 
QUESTION:  Zbigniew Brzezinski -- 
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Yeah.  
 
QUESTION:  -- and the previous congressman, I don’t know his first name, Solozar, Salazar.
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Oh, Steve Solarz?  
 
QUESTION:  Steve Solarz.  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Yeah, Solarz.  
 
QUESTION:  Solarz, sorry.  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I thought the Interior Department was getting involved in this.
 
QUESTION:  They’re insinuating that the Administration is involved to some extent with this kind of peace plan.  Do you agree with this assumption or can you tell us anything about it, if you know?  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Well, at this point what we’re focused on is getting the parties back into direct negotiations, and the proximity talks are a means to accomplish that.  I think at this point in time, we are not contemplating putting a peace plan on the table.  
 
QUESTION:  At this point in time, are you contemplating sending Senator Mitchell back?  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  I think he will go back to the region in the near future, but I have nothing to announce.  
 
QUESTION:  At this point in time, can we say thank you?  
 
MR. CROWLEY:  Yes, you can. 
 
(The briefing was concluded at 1:57 p.m.)
 
DPB # 59



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