Daily Press Briefing - March 30

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Afghan Supreme Council Ruling / Endorsing Continuation of President Karzai's Term in Office Until Free and Fair Elections Held / U.S. Strongly Supports and Welcomes Ruling / Continuity of Government Contributes to Creating Stability / Ensuring Elections Reflect Will of the Afghan People / U.S. Support for President Karzai /
    • Ambassadors from Korea and Japan Held Extensive Bilateral Consultations on North Korea Issues with Ambassador Sung Kim / Constructive and Substantive / Discussion on Maintaining Close Coordination on Possible North Korea Missile Launch and Moving Forward in the Six-Party Process / Ambassador Kim' Trilateral Meeting / Ambassador Bosworth's Independent Meeting with Ambassadors from Korea and Japan
    • Possible North Korean Missile Launch / UN Security Council Resolutions
    • Lahore Attacks / Assessment of U.S. Staff in Lahore / No Reports of Americans Injured in Attacks / Details Unclear and Reporting Still Coming in / Warden Message
    • Pakistan Needs Our Help and International Support in Fight Terrorism / Pakistani Government Threatened
    • Stephen Blake Meeting with Foreign Minister / Meeting Part of Duties as Director of EAP / Looking at Embassy Function and Relationship with Government /
    • President Bashir in Doha / Hope that Arab League Would Focus on Needs of People in Sudan, Humanitarian Situation and Need to Establish Peace
  • IRAQ
    • Disposition of Camp Ashraf / Transferred and Responsibility of the Iraqis / U.S. Continues to Monitor Situation / U.S. Remains Engaged on Issue
    • Arab League Should Help to Try and Resolve Problems / Encourage Egyptians to Continue Their Work / Situation in Gaza Improved with Shipments of Relief Supplies / More Needs to Be Done
    • Elections / OSCE Statement / Elections Met OSCE Standards / U.S. Welcomes Result / Progress Toward Euro-Atlantic Aspirations / U.S. Commends its Progress Since Independence
Gordon Duguid
Acting Deputy Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 30, 2009


11:35 a.m. EDT

MR. DUGUID: Good morning, everyone. I would like to lead with a statement this morning concerning the ruling by the Afghan Supreme Court that took place earlier yesterday, I believe.

The Afghan Supreme Court has endorsed the continuation after May 22nd of President Karzai’s term in office until free and fair elections have been held and a duly elected successor can take office. The United States strongly supports and welcomes this ruling. We believe that the continuity of government in this critical period before elections is vital and contributes to creating stability. We urge all Afghans to support this ruling by the Supreme Court and to focus on the elections to be held on August the 22nd, rather than continuing to question the status of their government.

The United States calls on the Government of Afghanistan, joined by its international partners, to make every effort to ensure that the conditions are created for genuinely free and fair elections and that that will reflect the will of the Afghan people. For its part, the United States neither supports nor opposes any legitimate candidate and will concentrate its efforts on helping to create a level playing field for all candidates.

That concludes the statement, and I will go to your questions.

QUESTION: I don’t have anything on Afghanistan, but --

QUESTION: I was going to ask on Afghanistan.

MR. DUGUID: Afghanistan, please, and then go --

QUESTION: President Karzai’s opponents say that that doesn’t constitute a level playing field, that it will give him an advantage as he goes into the elections.

MR. DUGUID: The opposition – well, the best place to explain why they believe that -- for our part, the United States considers that having no interregnum between the original end of President Karzai’s term and the elections is conducive to stability in Afghanistan; it will not require any other political arrangement for that time period.


QUESTION: Can we get some kind of readout of the encounter between the Iranian deputy foreign minister and Patrick Moon at the Moscow conference a couple of days ago?

MR. DUGUID: Well, if I can confirm it, I’ll get you a readout on it, yes.

QUESTION: There’s a report in the (inaudible) that they --

MR. DUGUID: Yes, I’ve seen this press report on the meeting. And if I can get you some details on that, I shall.



QUESTION: North Korea. Do you have any more detailed readout from Friday’s meetings?

MR. DUGUID: Yes, I do.

Ambassador Wi Sung-lac of the Republic of Korea and Ambassador Akitaka Saiki of Japan held extensive bilateral consultations on North Korean issues with Ambassador Sung Kim this past Friday. The discussions were constructive and substantive. The parties discussed how to maintain close coordination in the event of needing to respond to a North Korean missile test, and how to improve the Six-Party process to move forward. Ambassador Kim also hosted an informal trilateral meeting with his two counterparts that day.

QUESTION: Okay. And what – so how – what did they come up with to coordinate a response?

MR. DUGUID: I don’t have the details for you on that.

QUESTION: Did they come up with anything?

MR. DUGUID: They discussed the issue, but I don’t have the detailed readout that you are looking for.

QUESTION: Can you – and Ambassador Bosworth wasn’t there?

MR. DUGUID: Ambassador Bosworth was not in the informal trilateral, but he met independently with both Ambassador Wi Sung-lac and Ambassador Akitaka Saiki.

QUESTION: Can you explain what could happen under – specifically under 1718 if the North goes ahead with this launch?

MR. DUGUID: I think it would probably be best for me to take the question, because it will then get into what UN Security Council procedure would be --

QUESTION: Right. It’s a bit unclear what exactly, if anything, would be triggered by a launch under the resolution.

MR. DUGUID: Yes. And it’s not just 1718. There are precedent UN Security Council resolutions that also have stopped or called for North Korea to stop any ballistic missile development. So it’s not just the most recent, which is actually the result of earlier ones, but there is a chain of precedent here. And so I think the best thing for me to do is to take the question.

QUESTION: Yes. And just the way Chapter 7 relates to, you know, what would happen or could –


QUESTION: -- what could happen. That’s --


QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. DUGUID: See you afterwards as well to get the detailed information that you do need, then we’ll go to (inaudible) and then to Charley. Yes, please.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan, last time the U.S. had supported Karzai as his presidential elections. Why he – why the U.S. is not supporting him this time?

MR. DUGUID: I’m not sure that during an election campaign the United States has ever come down in favor of one candidate or another. We have certainly supported President Karzai as president of Afghanistan. We will continue to do so as long as he is the duly elected president of his people. Should he be reelected, we will be happy to work with him. If another leader is elected, we will work with the democratically elected government of Afghanistan.

QUESTION: And in view of the attack in Pakistan, also in Lahore, what is the State Department’s assessment of the security situation in Pakistan?

MR. DUGUID: Well, the – our assessment has immediately been done on behalf of our U.S. staff who are in Lahore. We do not have reports of any Americans injured in these attacks. Reports are still coming in. Some of the details are unclear. Our Consulate in Lahore has sent out a Warden Message advising all Americans on how best to try and remain safe at this time.

I think the one thing that is evident is that Pakistan needs our help and international support in fighting terrorism that is trying to attack -- its not just police structures at this time, but really the Pakistani Government is threatened. This is an attack on Pakistan’s institutions. And the Pakistani people and the Pakistani Government need our assistance, and we stand ready to help them if we are able.

QUESTION: Final question. This is on Burma. Do you have any readout on Mr. Blake’s meeting with the Burmese foreign minister – what was discussed there, how long the meeting was, and at whose invitation he met the (inaudible)?

MR. DUGUID: No, I don’t have that readout. This is, of course, Mr. Stephen Blake, as opposed to the earlier confusion over Ambassador Robert Blake. I don’t have a full readout on that. It was a visit to Burma as part of his duties as director of an office in our East Asia and Pacific section. He was there to look at the Embassy and its functioning and its relationship with the government. He did have a meeting with the foreign minister and was there talking specifically about his duties and the functioning of the Embassy. But I don’t have anything more than that for you.

Yes, Nina.

QUESTION: Arab League – Bashir got the red carpet treatment when he arrived. Any reaction to that?

MR. DUGUID: Well, we would hope that while he is in Doha that the Arab League would focus on the immediate and urgent needs of the people on the ground in Sudan and address the grave humanitarian situation in Darfur, as well as the need to establish peace in Darfur and meet the key priorities of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. As they are going to be holding discussions, the discussions should be on how to stop the violence, support the people, and reestablish peace in Darfur and South Sudan.

QUESTION: But are you not concerned that the Arab states are lending him yet more legitimacy by giving him this welcome and not speaking out?

MR. DUGUID: The presence of President Bashir at this conference should be used as an opportunity to bring forth the international opprobrium to what is happening in Darfur and in South Sudan.


QUESTION: Do you have anything on the new Sudan envoy’s upcoming visit? I believe he’s going to Sudan.

MR. DUGUID: I don’t have anything for you at this time. He is having meetings at the White House today. So following those meetings, if I have something, I’ll be happy to get that to you.

Other questions. Yes, David.

MR. DUGUID: Gordon, is the United States working with the Iraqis on the disposition of the MEK people? It seems like they’re kind of – the Iraqis are rushing to judgment on this sentence and – well, what outcome would you like to see for these people?

MR. DUGUID: As you may be aware, the disposition of Camp Ashraf was given a full transfer to the responsibility of the Iraqis on February the 20th. We continue to monitor the situation to ensure that the residents of Camp Ashraf are treated in accordance with Iraq’s constitution and international obligations. And those are the two key factors that specifically address your question. Although the United States Government remains engaged on this issue, responsibility for resolving the situation at the camp rests with the Government of Iraq at this time.

QUESTION: Do you have a desired outcome from this?

MR. DUGUID: The desired outcome is one that fully fits within Iraq’s laws and their international commitments to the residents of this camp.

Other questions? Charley.

QUESTION: North Korea, back to North Korea. As the North Koreans seem to be moving steadily toward a launch, are any more meetings planned out of this building? Is the Secretary going to do anything else? Any other reaching out to --

MR. DUGUID: Other than our meeting on Friday, I don’t have other meetings that I’ve been made aware of. Should we do, I will get you a readout of those.

Yes, Nina.

QUESTION: Back to the Arab League again. They more or less gave Israel an ultimatum that the Saudis want the peace deal, but time is running out fast and it should be seriously considered. Any reaction to that?

MR. DUGUID: I haven’t seen that or know that it’s characterized as an ultimatum. The Arab League, as well as other international organizations, should be helping to try and resolve the problems between Israel and the Palestinians. We -- at the moment, are encouraging the Egyptians to continue with their work. The situation in Gaza, as I understand it, has improved some with the shipments of relief supplies going in. More needs to be done on that front. More needs to be done on working to stop smuggling that is going into Gaza. And so setting timetables doesn’t seem to be a way forward at the moment. But as I said, I haven’t seen these particular comments.

QUESTION: As long as we’re on the Arab League, do you have any comment about the erratic behavior of your new friend Mr. Qadhafi at the summit?

MR. DUGUID: I will leave the Government of Libya to address Mr. Qadhafi.

Yes, David.

QUESTION: Any reflections on the elections that they had over the weekend in Montenegro?

MR. DUGUID: In Montenegro, yes. I think you may have seen OSCE’s statement. The elections have met, by and large, the standards that were set by the OSCE to provide for free and fair expression of the will of the Montenegrin people. We welcome the result. We view these elections as a further step in Montenegro’s progress towards its Euro-Atlantic aspirations. And we commend Montenegro’s progress since independence.

Charley. One more, Charley.

QUESTION: One more. Do you have anything on the arrest of an American citizen in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia?

MR. DUGUID: I am – is this a follow-on from a question that we had last week? I was unaware of the arrest of an American citizen at that time in eastern Saudi. We will find out what we can for you, okay? Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 11:49 a.m.)