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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
May 4, 2010


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Ongoing Investigation of Bomb Plot in Times Square
    • Oil Spill Offers of Assistance from 12 Nations / Grateful for Offers of Assistance
    • George Mitchell in the Israel/Palestine Region
    • A/S Valenzuela to Lead Delegation to the 3rd US-SICA Dialogue on Security
    • A/S Blake Returning to Washington
    • Historians Office Release of Latest Volume of Foreign Relations of the U.S. (FRUS) / Bilateral Relations between U.S. and Korea
  • PAKISTAN
    • Times Square Bomb Plot / Visa History of Times Square Bomb Plot Suspect / Cooperation with Pakistan / Obtaining U.S. Citizenship / Reports of Additional Arrests / U.S. - Pakistan Intelligence Relationship / Coordinating with Intelligence Agencies
  • TERRORISM
    • Annual Country Reports on Terrorism / Evaluate on an Ongoing Basis
  • NORTH KOREA
    • No Recent Contact with China on Prospective Kim Jong-il Trip
    • Ongoing Investigation by South Korea of Sunken North Korean Navy Ship / Anticipate Investigation Over before North Korean Decision to Return to Six Party Talks
    • Five Countries on the Same Page Regarding Six Party talks
  • JAPAN
    • Value our Alliance with Japan / Okinawa Base / Continue to Work Through and Maintain Our Alliance
  • BRAZIL
    • FM Amorim Updated the Secretary on Recent Trip to Tehran / Recognizing the Value of Countries Engaging with Iran
  • MISC
    • Freedom of the Press / Hallmark of Democratic Civil Society around the World
    • A/S Kurt Campbell Travel
  • BURMA
    • Leadership Needs to Serve Interests of Entire Society / Constructive Participation in Burmese Society
  • UNITED NATIONS
    • U.S. Walk Out on President Ahmadinejad Statement


TRANSCRIPT:

1:21 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. We are working closely with the Government of Pakistan regarding the ongoing investigation of the bomb plot in Times Square. And we appreciate Pakistan’s pledge of full cooperation and beyond that, I will defer questions to the Department of Justice. I think the Attorney General is about to walk out and give an update on the ongoing investigation.

Turning to the oil spill, we have received a number of offers of assistance from countries and international organizations. We are very grateful for those offers of assistance and we will continue to work closely with our colleagues in the Department of Homeland Security and the lead agency and one of its key components, the United States Coast Guard, regarding which of these offers is ultimately accepted. But 12 nations and international organizations have offered assistance so far, ranging from expertise to equipment.

Senator George Mitchell is in the region for talks with the Israelis on Wednesday and Thursday of this week and with Palestinian leaders, including President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad on Friday and Saturday. We certainly appreciate the Arab League’s support for our efforts and we hope and expect to formally move forward with proximity talks later this week.

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela will lead a U.S. delegation to the third U.S.-SICA, S-I-C-A, dialogue on security May 6 and 7 in Panama City, Panama. Assistant Secretary Valenzuela is in El Salvador today where he’ll have a meeting with President Funes. He was in Guatemala yesterday where, among other things, he met with President Colom.

Assistant Secretary Bob Blake is on his way back to Washington, having completed – having led a U.S. delegation to the U.S.-China sub-dialogue on South Asia, discussing regional issues with government officials and scholars, but he – completing a lengthy trip to a number of countries, including Nepal and Bhutan.

And finally, today – a little nepotistic about this, but we want to give a plug to our Office of History within the Bureau of Public Affairs – released the latest volume of Foreign Relations of the United States, or FRUS, which covers bilateral relations between Korea from 1969 until 1972. The volume provides valuable insight into Korean security and peninsula tensions against the backdrop of the conflict in Vietnam and the Cold War.

With that, we’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the – your very first thing on the – Pakistan?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: First of all, a couple questions about the suspect who is in custody, who is a nationalized citizen. Can you tell us when he – presumably, he got a visa to get to the States in the first place before he became a naturalized citizen. Can you tell us when that visa was issued and what kind of visa it was?

MR. CROWLEY: I will – I think I’ve actually heard some reporting in the last few minutes on that, but I’ll take the question as to whether we can release specific information about his visa history.

QUESTION: You’ve heard reporting on this in the last few minutes?

MR. CROWLEY: Actually, I was watching NBC.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, if you’ve heard reporting on it, then you surely know.

MR. CROWLEY: Oh, I’m not disputing that we know. I’m just – I have to go sort through legal questions as to whether we’re allowed to release that information.

QUESTION: Well, he’s been charged with a crime.

MR. CROWLEY: I understand that.

QUESTION: I don’t think that – the Privacy Act doesn’t apply here.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure if you – I can see a situation where if you’re convicted of a crime, perhaps you forfeit certain Privacy Act (inaudible) – I mean, I’ve agreed to take --

QUESTION: Well, once --

MR. CROWLEY: Wait a second. I’ve agreed to take the question.

QUESTION: Well, I’m a little surprised that --

MR. CROWLEY: I have to sort --

QUESTION: But I’m a little surprised that you don’t have that information ready to go. You clearly would have known this is going to be a matter of interest, no?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there – I think there’s a difference between whether we have provided full information on this individual’s travel to the United States prior to becoming a citizen. That, you can rest assured, we have provided to the ongoing investigation. Whether we’re in a position to discuss this publicly is a separate issue.

QUESTION: Well, then when did he apply for and when did he receive a U.S. passport?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I will take all – well, wait a second. I mean, again, all of these issues are subject to the Privacy Act. I pledge --

QUESTION: I’m sorry. This guy tried to blow up a car in Times Square (inaudible).

MR. CROWLEY: Let me finish. Let me finish. As to his visa history and as to whether or not – as to his passport information, I’ll take those questions. If we can release them publicly, I will do so.

QUESTION: There is --

QUESTION: No, no. Hold on a second. So you do know. It’s not as if you – I mean, the problem is that it sounds like you don’t know.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, but hang on a second. Does the United States State Department know if it has issued a visa to this individual in the past? Yes, we know. Does the United States Department of State know if we have issued a passport to this individual? Yes, we know. Again, whether I can share that information publicly, I’ve just got to consult before I can release that.

QUESTION: And on the cooperation with Pakistan, what is it that so far that you’re aware of that the Pakistanis have done?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to the Pakistanis to announce what they’ve done.

QUESTION: May I just follow Matt --

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: -- quickly. If you are aware of, in recent months and most part of last year and this year, more and more Pakistanis are becoming U.S. citizens, hearing that while holding U.S. passport they will have easy travel anywhere around the globe and they will not have any problems. Are you aware of this problem? And that’s why, because more and more now, U.S. Pakistanis, original U.S. citizens, are now more and more caughting – they’ve been caught – all these like – five are being held in Pakistan, and Mumbai attack and all that.

MR. CROWLEY: All right, wait a second. Goyal, you’ve thrown a lot in that basket. We are – we obviously are aware that we have a threat that we face on an ongoing basis of individuals in this country and elsewhere who wish to do us ill. The same is true of a number of countries around the world, including Pakistan and India and others. This is a global struggle. We are cooperating with these countries. It obviously – we have to continue to find ways to detect these plots before they reach a place like Times Square. And as a government, we have been extremely successful in thwarting a number of plots before they materialize, but in this particular case, it got very, very close. And we’re grateful to the law enforcement officials in New York that were able to intercept this in time.

QUESTION: One more quickly. Thanks. Not all Pakistanis are bad, not all Muslims are bad, but also there may not be a direct government hand in Pakistan. But if you remember in 1992, during President Clinton, President Clinton was about to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism – Pakistan, state sponsor – but then they gave them more time; they might change. What I’m asking now if anything have changed from then now, because many Pakistanis are saying here now they are fed up because being – living here a peaceful life, and this is affecting them, their everyday family life. And what they’re saying is this must come to an end. What steps the U.S. Government is taking, really, as far as you are being more (inaudible) to Pakistan, and you are telling the Pakistanis doing better, more cooperating and all that? So what is the next step from here we go?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, Goyal, I’d be very, very careful, because in certainly – we are seeing cases of individuals who have links to a range of countries around the world, who for whatever reason have become involved in extremist movements and are attempting to attack the United States, whether it’s here in this country or elsewhere. I’d be very careful about making a broad- brush statement. We value our relationship with Pakistan. We value the fact that there are many Pakistanis who have come to this country, have links to Pakistan and have become citizens of this country. We’re very proud of them. They enrich us as a society.

And I think that we all share the same goal here, which is to determine what’s behind this movement, how people that may come here to study, come here to live, all of a sudden take a turn in a dangerous direction. We’re all trying to understand what this phenomenon is and see what we can do to prevent it from occurring in the future. There’s a great deal – across the government, there’s a great deal of interaction that’s going on with a range of diaspora communities. Here in this country, because we all sense the danger, we sense the concern, but we’re determined to reduce this threat to the United States and to other countries as best we can.

Kirit.

QUESTION: New topic.

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Wait, wait.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, hold up.

QUESTION: P.J., can you confirm that officials in Pakistan have made at least one arrest in connection with this case, if not multiple more?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not in a position to confirm anything at this point. I’ve seen the reporting, just as you have.

QUESTION: And they haven’t communicated that with you?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sure they have. It hasn’t come to my level yet. I’m not disputing the reports that they have taken some action. I’m just – you’re asking me to confirm, and I’ve seen different reports about numbers of people who have been picked up. I’m just not in a position to confirm one versus another.

QUESTION: I know you deferred to Justice, but can you give us any details about how you’re working closely with Pakistan in this regard on the investigation in the last day or two?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we have very close law enforcement and intelligence relationships with Pakistan. And I think you can see, at least circumstantially by the reporting in the last hour or two, that Pakistan takes this shared threat seriously and is already taking action in response to the information that – or what we’ve seen over the past four days.

QUESTION: And have you been informed that any dual citizenship Pakistani Americans have been taken into custody in Pakistan?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not in a position to confirm any of that.

QUESTION: Can you say at least now that there is a suspicion that this individual didn’t act alone?

MR. CROWLEY: You’re leaping into a conclusion here. I mean that’s all part of the investigation.

QUESTION: Can you describe – I’m sorry. Just can you describe –

MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, we’ll --

QUESTION: P.J., has there been any contact with the Embassy here at all? There was just a statement released by the ambassador. Did the Secretary have conversations? Was the State Department or anyone here asking the Pakistanis or involved with the Pakistanis in this kind of statement?

MR. CROWLEY: Look, we – as I just said, we are in touch with the Pakistani Government both here and there on a continuing basis on a wide range of issues. And I’m sure through law enforcement and intelligence sources, once we unearthed the plot on Saturday and then began to harvest the available evidence both Sunday and Monday, we’ve alerted our law enforcement colleagues around the world, and obviously, they’re taking action in response.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary have any personal involvement in those communications?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of any conversations she’s had with Pakistani authorities over the last 72 hours.

QUESTION: Once you unearthed the plot? The unearthing of the plot was a smoking car in Times Square. I don’t think that that’s really unearthing the plot, but I’m just – what is the State Department’s role in this? Does it have one? Or are you guys just completely on the sidelines?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the -- we have a responsibility to provide information that is in our records about the – at least one individual that is in custody, and beyond that, through Dan Benjamin, our Special Advisor for Counterterrorism, he is linked into and is fully engaged in evaluating what we know and working cooperatively with his counterparts around the world.

QUESTION: P.J., can you just – sir, please, can you clarify any comments on – the official statement from Pakistan yesterday was that he is not a Pakistani citizen; he is an American citizen and that led them to punish him. We have nothing to do?

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. My understanding is that we’re talking about an American citizen.

QUESTION: P.J., just a follow-up on your answer to Matt. Have you been asked or has State been asked to look into the passport or visa information of anyone else connected to this event? You said “At least one person.” I’m just wondering if –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again -- put it this way. All right, we have one person in custody. Again, I’ll refer to these – the investigation itself, I refer to the Justice Department. But to the extent that – let me talk more broadly.

I mean, if you have an American citizen who seemingly is linked to a terrorist plot, we will scour our files to understand what we know about travel to other parts of the world and, of course, that opens up a window in terms of contacts that the individual might have had with others in different countries. That’s a fundamental aspect of trying to figure out whether this is an individual acting alone or part of something broader. So we are – you can rest assured we are doing our part in terms of understanding – finding out what we can find out either in our own files or working with our counterparts around the world to try to figure out what this was about.

QUESTION: Have you been asked – have you been asked --

QUESTION: Specifically, have you looked for his wife’s passport? He was married to an American citizen. Can you say that you’ve looked?

MR. CROWLEY: I will just say that you can rest assured that to the extent – as we are – as individuals are implicated in this ongoing investigation, if we have information relevant to that investigation, we’re providing it to the terrorism task force.

QUESTION: So you’re going to reach to the root cause?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: You are going to reach to the root cause to – from the U.S. to Pakistan and elsewhere, wherever he has connections?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, certainly, that is part of an ongoing effort that we have in our broader effort of global engagement, is trying to understand how these kind of plots come to pass and whether, through some combination of action and outreach to communities, where we can see if -- for ourselves and for other countries that are also afflicted by this, if we can, over time, reduce the threat to the mutual threat that we share.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you once again --

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Why is it that you’re not able to – why is it that you have to take the question on the visa and the passport issuance?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, for one thing, I don’t have the information right in front of me.

QUESTION: I’m just – I’m sorry, it just very surprises me.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay.

QUESTION: You didn’t expect that people would be asking about this today?

MR. CROWLEY: I –

QUESTION: I mean, whether you have the information or not – I mean you do have the information. Someone does, at least, in this building and it’s been passed on to the Justice Department for –

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. We at the State Department have specific information. Whether we’re in a position to –

QUESTION: Okay. But why is it that you don’t know if you’re in a position –

MR. CROWLEY: That decision may or may not rest –

QUESTION: Why is it that you’re not sure that you have –

MR. CROWLEY: Wait.

QUESTION: -- the legal authority –

MR. CROWLEY: Matt?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. CROWLEY: Matt?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. CROWLEY: I am certain –

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. CROWLEY: -- that we have – if the United States Government has issued a visa in the past to any individual, I am certain that we know that.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. CROWLEY: If the United States Government has issued a passport to an individual in the past, I am certain we know that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CROWLEY: Now, there’s a process by which – you’re asking me if we are in a position to publicly release this information. A, there are Privacy Act implications and B, there are implications in terms of the ongoing investigation. So you have asked me if I will see if I can clear the release of information relative to this investigation. I’ll ask that question.

Yes.

QUESTION: It’s on terrorism, but related to Russia.

MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: The chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Congressman Hastings, called on the State Department last week to official – to formally designate Doku Umarov and his terrorist network as a foreign terrorist organization. Are you doing anything about this? Any chances that you include this organization in the new list this year?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, those are two separate processes. We do have an annual Country Report on Terrorism that summarizes actions that we have taken to date. And so – but the 2009 report that we’ll be releasing shortly does not anticipate actions that we’ve not yet taken. Obviously, on an ongoing basis, we evaluate both the links of individuals and groups to terrorism activity and, when appropriate, we designate certain individuals or entities as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. So I have no announcements to make in terms of this particular case.

QUESTION: Just briefly back to Times Square. Yesterday there was talk that the investigation had prompted what was called increased vigilance here at the State Department, obviously, in terms of security. Has security been increased at U.S. State Department facilities here and abroad as a result of the – in the aftermath of the Times Square incident?

MR. CROWLEY: I will take that question. Not to my knowledge, but I wouldn't rule it out.

QUESTION: North Korea?

MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: On North Korea. As you know, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visit to China (inaudible). He may discuss with the Chinese Government regarding the come back to the Six-Party Talks. What is the U.S. position on that -- he will back to the Six-Party Talks?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we have talked about this many times. Our position hasn’t changed. We would hope that North Korea will return to the Six-Party process. There are things that North Korea has to do before we can have meaningful conversations, including taking affirmative steps on denuclearization. And we would trust that if there are meetings with high-level Chinese officials, that they will stress, as we do, that the only route forward for North Korea is through the Six-Party process.

QUESTION: Have you ever heard from Chinese Government about Kim Jong-il’s visit to China?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that we’ve had any recent contact with Chinese officials on a prospective trip.

QUESTION: On the oil spill, you said 12 --

MR. CROWLEY: Hold on.

QUESTION: Mine’s not the oil spill.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s stick with North Korea for a second and then we’ll come back to the oil spill.

QUESTION: And do you think you can take part in the Six-Party Talks? I mean, the Six-Party Talks can come first before South Korea determines the exact cause of the sinking of the Cheonan?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, that investigation is ongoing. I mean, I would assume that the investigation – ongoing investigation of South Korea will be finished before there’s -- North Korea makes a decision to return to the Six-Party process. I’m not projecting it. I’m just simply saying that North Korea has had months and months and months to make this decision, and they have failed to do so. But I would anticipate the South Korean investigation being finished relatively soon, and I just don’t know what decision North Korea is going to make.

QUESTION: So U.S. same page with South Koreans? So U.S. – does the U.S. the same page with the South Korean situation? Is it all --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think there are five countries on the same page with respect to the Six-Party process. There’s one country that’s not. That’s North Korea.

QUESTION: So as far as you know, the investigation has not yet come to a close? You don’t have anything to say about the comments that this was a North Korean torpedo, that it wasn’t – it was not an accident?

MR. CROWLEY: I believe that South Korea has yet to announce its final – the final results of its investigation.

QUESTION: Can we go to the oil spill?

MR. CROWLEY: One more – North Korea?

QUESTION: No, Japan.

MR. CROWLEY: All right. Well, oil spill and then we’ll come back.

QUESTION: You said that 12-odd nations and international organizations offered help. Can you be more specific?

MR. CROWLEY: No.

QUESTION: Sorry?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: No? How do you know there are 12 then?

MR. CROWLEY: All right, one more time, Matt. Do we know who the 12 are? We do. Are we going to announce them publicly? We’re not.

QUESTION: Can you tell the reason why?

QUESTION: Why not?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, if --

QUESTION: Is there a Privacy Act waiver issue? (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: No, there’s not a Privacy Act waiver. (Laughter.) If – I mean, if we accept the offer of assistance from a particular country, we’ll announce that. But there may be some things that are offered that we don’t need and there’s some things that we’ve been offered that we do need. So as we make a decision on whether to accept the offer of assistance from any country, we’ll announce that.

QUESTION: Have you received any offer from Iran?

QUESTION: I think there is one.

QUESTION: Yeah, that’s one. They are --

MR. CROWLEY: Let me put it this way. I can’t start down that road. I’m not aware of one, but I’m not going to get into the – who the 12 are.

QUESTION: Still on the same subject?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: What’s being done to guard against what happened after Katrina, that there was a sense that a lot of international offers of assistance were mishandled or squandered and that some potential donors were offended? How are you going to avoid this similar occurrence this time out?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, first of all, again let me say that we are grateful for the offers of assistance that we have received. We here at the State Department are maintaining a matrix of all offers of assistance. We’re maintaining dialogue with each of those countries or organizations. We’re working very closely with DHS and the Coast Guard to ascertain whether or not the offer of assistance is something that we need. And we will continue this dialogue internationally as we work through these issues.

QUESTION: Japanese Prime Minister --

MR. CROWLEY: I promised to go back to Japan and then I’ll come here.

QUESTION: Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama visit Okinawa today or yesterday for the first time and he met with the governor and mayors and people of Okinawa there. And he first apologized for not being able to move the (inaudible) off the island. But Okinawan people didn’t agree with it and then again asked for relocation of – outside Okinawa. What do you think of this situation and --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we, as always, are – we value our alliance with Japan. We understand that this alliance both provides a benefit to the American people and to the Japanese people. It also levies a burden on the American people and the Japanese people. So we do recognize this. It’s one of the reasons why we’ve been involved in an intensive and lengthy process to evaluate the best way to maintain operations that are important and viable and are politically sustainable. And that process is ongoing. We’ve had meetings even today with U.S. and Japanese officials at the Ministry of Defense as we continue to work through this process with our allies.

QUESTION: But do you really think it’s possible for two governments to proceed this discussion under this case?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, this is – we are going to continue to work through and continue to maintain our alliance. It’s in our mutual interest to do so. And we will continue this process until we reach a successful conclusion.

QUESTION: Still on Japan?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you really say that you are pleased that he used the word “impossible” when he was describing the attempts to be able to move the entire base off of Okinawa? He said it would be impossible, so he was signaling that there would be a move towards --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we have recognized throughout this process that these are complex, difficult issues. We have been very grateful for the support that we’ve received from the people of Japan and Okinawa over decades. We are committed to working on a resolution that both meets our alliance requirements while also minimizing the impact on Japan and its people.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) also considering doing a runway on so-called quick installation platform instead of reclamation? Do you think it’s a feasible operation? And also, do you think this issue is going to be resolved by the end of May deadline?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think the end of May was a target that the Japanese Government provided to us, and that’s why we’ve remained committed in this process over many, many months. As to whether this option or that option is the most viable, we’ll let the process run its course.

Andy.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you had any more information about the Secretary’s meeting with the Brazilian foreign minister yesterday. Specifically, I’m wondering if they talked about this idea of Brazil and Turkey mediating with Iran. And is there any sense that you’re getting closer to consensus, possible consensus, on the sanctions?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I was in that bilateral with the Secretary yesterday and Foreign Minister Amorim. The conversation lasted about 20 minutes. Both – the foreign minister updated the Secretary on his recent trip to Tehran, what he told the Iranians, how he perceived their response. The Secretary went through where we are in the process within the Security Council. I think the foreign minister indicated that there will be a high-level trip to Tehran in the next couple of weeks – I’ll leave it to Brazil to announce – and that we would also – we’d be waiting to hear what the results of that trip were.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary feel that the Brazilian efforts at mediation or whatever you want to call it are bearing any fruit at all, or is this a useful process? Did she tell him that we are grateful for their efforts here, or what?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, certainly, we are – we do recognize the value and importance of a variety of countries engaging Iran. I think we are all sending the same message – that Iran has to answer the questions that the international community has, it needs to respond in a formal and meaningful way to the offer that was put on the table last fall. There may still be a difference of opinion as to where we are in this process.

I think there is a two-track process here, engagement and pressure. And the foreign minister told the Secretary that Brazil continues to see what it can – what can be achieved on this engagement process. We hope that these efforts by Turkey, Brazil, and others might be successful. As the Secretary said yesterday, I think we’re increasingly skeptical that the Iranians are going to change their course absent some – a real significant, powerful statement by the international community.

QUESTION: Yeah, can I ask about the Middle East? You gave some details about the meeting Senator Mitchell will have in the region. Are these meetings already part of the indirect talks? And if it’s – which of them are part of the --

MR. CROWLEY: Let’s --

QUESTION: Because last time in March, as soon as you had announced the --

MR. CROWLEY: I know, I know, I know. Tell you what. Why don’t we do this. We’ll have the meetings over the next four days and then we’ll describe to you what we achieved.

QUESTION: One more, different question.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay.

QUESTION: Freedom of the press. Yesterday was the world freedom of the press. I know I saw the statement from the Secretary.

MR. CROWLEY: It’s a significant day, absolutely.

QUESTION: Yes, sir. My question is that press is between – a bridge between people and the governments. But many journalists, they face even deaths around the globe.

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And many government do not like the truth and they’d rather eliminate the truth. So my question is that, just like Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations, why not the freedom of the press at the universal level at the United Nations? And I think Secretary should take a step now, since she’s in New York during this session.

MR. CROWLEY: To this statement, Goyal, I mean, certainly we see the independent media as a hallmark of democratic and civil society around the world. It’s why we do things like this, where we present ourselves to you every day and are held to account. And you’re right; we are concerned that in many areas of conflict around the world, journalists are specifically targeted. This is of great concern to us. We have regularly highlighted the concerns that we have about efforts to silence journalists, particularly in societies that are going through crisis or conflict. The role of the press is fundamental to a universal system that promotes freedom of expression, freedom of information, and we will continue to support that. And we – obviously, yesterday the Secretary’s and President’s statements were to commend you for your critical role in promoting democracy around the world.

QUESTION: One more, quickly.

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: Yesterday at the Freedom House at the Newseum, Christiane Amanpour --

MR. CROWLEY: Fine journalist.

QUESTION: -- but now she’s with ABC. She had a very straight and forward and clear message for all the governments, including for the United States. That’s what she said, that there’s a time now that press should be honored around the globe, not just talking freedom of the press.

MR. CROWLEY: Pretty good idea.

Samir.

QUESTION: Under Secretary Burns is meeting with Mustafa Barghouti, who is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and an hour later, with the Israeli director of the foreign ministry. It’s a closed meeting. Do you usually go out and give a readout on this?

MR. CROWLEY: Let’s see if we can – if we can put one out, we will. Otherwise, ask me tomorrow.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: David.

QUESTION: P.J., the majority of the members of the Burmese Government in recent days have resigned their military commissions or what have you, left the military apparently in advance of the elections. This is the prime minister and most members of the cabinet. Any response to that? Does that improve the auspices of their electoral process?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, certainly we do encourage – let me make a broader statement, not just on Burma, that to the extent that figures want to take off their uniform and pursue politics and government as civilians, that can be a constructive step, particularly in a society that has been ruled by a military junta. That said, it’s less about the identities of the individuals, depending on what uniform they wear. It’s more about what they do on behalf of their country and whether, in becoming civilians, they are willing to serve the interests of the entire society – in this case, Burma, as opposed to the narrow constituency of and narrow interest of the junta.

So that step by itself may create a possible positive – may be seen as a possible positive step, but we’ll be guided by the actions that Burma takes, whether it opens up – whether this represents just wolves changing to sheep’s clothing or how that works. (Laughter). I mean, what Burma needs to do is to open up real, genuine political space, not just for ex-generals but also for all people who want to participate constructively in Burmese society. That’s what they need to do, and that’s what they have been reluctant to do.

As we said recently, we regret the election law, that it fell short of international standards. Burma has to open up political space. It has to have a meaningful dialogue with all of its ethnic groups within Burma. If these individuals transforming themselves from generals to civilians can open up that space, then that we truly see as a positive step.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that Kurt Campbell will travel next week?

MR. CROWLEY: Kurt is still here. He will be traveling soon. His specific itinerary is being still worked. When he leaves Washington, we’ll let you know and we’ll let you know where he’s going.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Going that way -- a couple more.

QUESTION: Can you give – give a official reaction to Ahmadinejad’s speech yesterday in New York? And is walking out enough of a message to send to the Iranian president?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not sure I completely understand your last question.

QUESTION: Well, just the Secretary and allies walked out of the speech. And I was just wondering if that’s –

MR. CROWLEY: No, the Secretary wasn’t in the hall.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CROWLEY: So we did have an office director at the table and there was a specific reference in that speech that we found outrageous – particularly outrageous, which was that somehow the United States supports terrorism networks. It’s false. He knows it’s false. And at that point in the speech, our delegate walked out. There were others that were doing so at the same time. I think there was a significant contrast standing there on the margins where there was a definite international statement as Ahmadinejad spoke and as he offended country after country after country. By the same token, when Secretary Clinton spoke later in the day, as far as I could see, no one walked out in protest.

QUESTION: And what’s the official reaction to his speech?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think it was a – I mean the Secretary gave it yesterday. It was a missed opportunity. He spoke for 35 minutes and not once did he indicate what Iran was prepared to do to answer the fundamental questions on its nuclear program. He made the speech about everybody else but Iran.

QUESTION: What’s the U.S.’s next step, I mean in dealing with Iran at this conference?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean at this – I mean let me be cautious. This conference is about strengthening the Nonproliferation Treaty. It is not about any one country. So obviously Iran provides a subtext for the NPT, but we’ll be looking, as the Secretary said, to specific ways in which we can strengthen the NPT, strengthen the international commitment to nonproliferation and accountability, strengthen the capabilities of the IAEA. We look forward to a successful conference.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Any reaction to former Vice President Cheney’s visit to Saudi Arabia? And did the State Department play any role in that? And do you expect to be briefed by the former Vice President upon his return?

MR. CROWLEY: No and no.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:58 p.m.)

DPB # 66




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