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US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: July 8, 2008

Daily Press Briefing
Gonzalo R. Gallegos, Director, Office of Press Relations
Washington, DC
July 8, 2008

US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: July 8, 2008

INDEX:

IRAN

Reports on U.S. Exports to Iran
U.S. Congressional Interest in US’s Iran Policy / William Burns’ Discussions on Capitol Hill
U.S. Will Continue Two-Track Path Toward a Solution
Humanitarian Exports to the Iranian People

AFGHANISTAN

Question about Afghanistan Bombing
Extremist Elements Working to Destabilize Region
U.S. Offer of Assistance Following Bombing

PAKISTAN

U.S. Commitment to Working with Pakistan to Defeat Common Enemy, Extremists
Case of American Minors in Pakistan / Privacy Restrictions

IRAQ

Decision to Withdraw from Iraq Will Be Conditions-Based
U.S.-Iraq Negations Will Not be Discussed While Negotiation Process is Underway
U.S. and Iraq Working Toward Agreement

BELGIUM

Question About Cuban Dealings of Belgian Company that Desires to Buy Anheuser-Busch
Department of Treasury Manages Licensure and Foreign Asset Control

TRANSCRIPT:

12:48 p.m. EDT

MR. GALLEGOS:
Good afternoon. I don’t have anything for you, so with that, Matt –

QUESTION: You’ve seen the report about trade with Iran over the course of the past seven years?

MR. GALLEGOS: That’s the AP report –

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. GALLEGOS: -- that came in on that?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, I think I have something on that.

QUESTION: Do you – oh, you do?

MR. GALLEGOS: No, go ahead. Excuse me.

QUESTION: Well, I was just going to ask you what exactly this means considering you have a – generally a negative policy towards Iran and trading with it.

MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, these are reports that U.S. exports to Iran have risen over the last eight years. Yeah, we’re familiar with the report. As you know, there are exceptions to our sanctions on Iran for certain categories of goods, primarily agricultural and medical exports.

Trade Sanctions, Reform and Enhancement – excuse me, the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act adopted by Congress in 2000 was specifically intended to demonstrate that our policy targets the bad behavior of regimes, not the innocent populations. The expansion of some exports to Iran over the past eight years is a natural reflection of Congress’s intent as codified in that act: to expand access to American agriculture and medical exports. It’s only natural that exports would have risen in the years since 2000 as a result of that act. It’s important to note that exports to Iran under this act are licensed on a case-by-case basis following a rigorous interagency review process.

QUESTION: Okay. I noticed that the – I guess he’s the acting Secretary right now, Mr. Burns, is going to be on the Hill tomorrow talking about policy towards Iran. Do you know that?

MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.

QUESTION: You’re aware of that?

MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you think this subject, as well as other bits of the puzzle in terms of U.S.-Iranian relations are going to come up, the idea floating out for an interests section, the situation with the P-5+1 and Mr. Solana’s visit or non-visit?

MR. GALLEGOS: I’m sure that the members of Congress are very interested in what our policy is and what we’re planning.

QUESTION: So are we.

MR. GALLEGOS: I understand that you are interested as well. However, I would be loathe to steal any thunder from Mr. Burns. So I will let him go ahead and testify and –

QUESTION: You don’t expect --

MR. GALLEGOS: -- you all can listen in and hear what he has to say tomorrow.

QUESTION: You don’t expect to be – him to be making any new policy pronouncements?

MR. GALLEGOS: I would never say that. I will let him speak for himself and you all can see what he has to say tomorrow.

Yes, David.

QUESTION: Can you discuss these sanctions that were announced an hour or so ago? Why were these people and entities selected, for instance?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, as you said, the Department of State today designated, under Executive Order 13382, two key Iranian individuals and one entity of proliferation concern. Today’s actions provide additional information that will help financial institutions in the United States and across the world protect themselves from deceptive financial practices employed by Iranian entities and individuals engaged in or supporting proliferation.

I think that for quite a while, we’ve spoken to the fact that the Government of Iran uses firms and individuals to hide behind as they try and develop their nuclear program. This is a known fact. This is something we share with our friends and allies and partners around the world. I think as long as they continue to do this or we feel that they’re continuing to do this, we’re going to make this evident and apprise our friends, allies and partners around the world of individuals who are participating in this, entities that are participating in this, so that individuals and businesses can be forewarned that dealing with an Iranian business entity might lead you down a path you don’t intend to go.

QUESTION: Are these unilateral actions or are you doing it in concert with other governments?

MR. GALLEGOS: My understanding is that these are unilateral here, but I think we’ve spoken clearly about the fact that we’re willing to work unilaterally, bilaterally and multilaterally to do this. And I want to make very clear here that, you know, our commitment to the two-track policy stands.

You know, we are looking at, number one, carrots and then the stick, in terms of dealing with the Iranian Government, of offering them an opportunity to come out of this situation, to engage more fully with the world in an open manner. This is something we take very seriously. We are waiting to hear Javier Solana’s further considerations of the recent letter from the Government of Iran to him. We will see whether or not he’s able to have a further meeting with Iranian officials. This is a process that we take seriously – committed to the diplomatic resolution of this issue, and we’re going to continue down this two-track path. We offered a carrot, here’s a stick. We’re going to see where we can go from here.

Yes.

QUESTION: Don’t you think you’re offering too many sticks? I mean, you’re – Solana is, at the moment, trying to negotiate with the Iranians. Do you think it’s really helpful for the U.S. to be coming behind, beating the stick so hard?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think that there’s a balance to this process. We’re trying to strike that balance. We need to make – we need to allow individuals and countries the opportunity to know and understand who they’re dealing with, what they may be dealing with, and to decide for themselves which direction they want to head. Obviously, our partners in the P-5+1 agree with this and we’re just working to ensure that other countries, entities, and individuals around the world have as much information as we can provide them about the situation in Iran.

Yes, Charley.

QUESTION: Gonzo, I’m sorry, I missed the beginning of the briefing if you’ve already discussed this, but isn’t there a risk of a contradiction at the same time that the United States is acting to impose new sanctions, that the United States is allowing a surge in U.S. exports to Iran?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think I tried to make it clear to you, Charley, when I discussed these exports, you know. Our goal here has been to provide agricultural and medical products, as well as other humanitarian goods and services that are useful to the Iranian people. Because our quarrel is not with the Iranian people; our quarrel is with the Iranian Government that continues to proceed down this path.

I understand that these exports have increased; however, we believe that they are increasing to a segment of the population that we want to reach out to, who want to know and understand that the U.S. Government – the U.S. people want to be friends with them, want to work with them to integrate them into the world economy and become partners in the future.

Yes, Param.

QUESTION: Can I get you to clarify that the only exports here come under the humanitarian realm?

MR. GALLEGOS: There is agricultural and medical sales, plus some other entities. And for the particulars of that, I’m going to direct you to –

QUESTION: But you mentioned some time back that it’s agriculture, medical and other humanitarian –

MR. GALLEGOS: – and other humanitarian –

QUESTION: So that –

MR. GALLEGOS: And like I said, I don’t have a list here. But the –

QUESTION: But mainly – so it’s the agriculture and medical, or some humanitarian grounds?

MR. GALLEGOS: I would say that that is part of what we are seeking to provide here.

Yes, Goyal.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. GALLEGOS: Yes. If that’s okay with you all? Thank you. Yes.

QUESTION: Can you clarify that there was a suicide bombing in Afghanistan? Situation is pretty bad in Afghanistan, and also Indian Embassy was the target and they’re blaming now Pakistan, and scores of people died and also injured. (Inaudible) been in touch with the State Department from either of the Government of Afghanistan or India?

MR. GALLEGOS: And your question is if we’ve been in touch with the – direct touch? I believe that the Embassy has – we’ve been in touch with the Embassy. I do not have – I don’t have any information on their exact communications with them, though, with the Government or with the Embassy here. Sorry about that.

QUESTION: A related question –

MR. GALLEGOS: Obviously, this is a tragedy. We believe that these extremist elements are working to destabilize, you know, this region so that they can gain from instability and any chaos that this may bring. We are working with the governments to put an end to this and try to allow the people to live in peace and in a situation where they can continue to develop themselves, their country, and become a bigger part of the world economy.

QUESTION: A related question. As far as terrorism in Pakistan is concerned, it has not gone down for the last ten years during General Musharraf’s rule or now the new government, and everybody in Pakistan is confused. All the Pakistanis in Pakistan are also in Pakistan because whenever there’s a military in Pakistan, then they blame the civilian government was the one who got money from the U.S., and now we need more money because we are in power. Whenever the civilian government comes, then they said that you gave money to the military government, now we need money. Whenever there’s a bill in the Congress here for more money for Pakistan, there is always one or two low-level people arrested or there is some kind of bombing going on there. What the Pakistanis are saying really, where do they stand, what is the future of Pakistan, why U.S. does not have one single state once-forever policy for Pakistan so they can live in peace and no more terrorism, because whatever the training of terrorism goes there, now they come back against them or against the U.S. or in Afghanistan or across – around the globe. So –

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think that our policy towards Pakistan has been– I’m sorry, one moment, please. Our policy towards Pakistan has been that this is a situation – the Pakistan Government and Pakistan rules are for Pakistanis to determine based upon the rule of law and their constitution. We believe this is an important tenet. We believe that this is going to provide for a secure and stable environment. We continue to work with the Pakistani Government to fight our common enemy, which is these terrorist extremists who are willing to kill Muslims, Christians, every – anybody who gets in the way of the path, which is what they seek, which is instability and chaos, so that they can prosper under that realm.

We’ll continue to work with the Pakistani Government. We believe that the Pakistani people have a right to make these decisions for themselves. And we’re going to engage with them to allow them to do that. We’re going to continue to combat the common enemy that we have with the Pakistani people, and hopefully we’ll march towards peace.

Yes, Libby.

QUESTION: One more.

MR. GALLEGOS: One more.

QUESTION: Prime Minister of Pakistan is visiting here in the next two weeks. Do we see any new hope of light because now there’s a democracy and it should be supported?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think that we’ve – we have spoken regularly and often about our commitment to the Pakistani people. The Pakistani people have made their decision on who their leaders will be. We stand behind them and we’re working with them.

Yes, Libby.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about comments made by Iraq’s National Security Advisor today, that’s kind of echoing what Prime Minister Maliki has already said, that there must be a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal in this agreement that you’re negotiating with them. What’s your reaction to that?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I’ll tell you. You know, the U.S. Government and the Government of Iraq are in agreement that we – the U.S. Government, we want to withdraw, we will withdraw; however, that decision will be conditions-based. You know, Ambassador Crocker said before, we’re looking at conditions, not calendars here. We’re making progress and are committed to departing, as evidenced by the fact that we have transferred over half of the country’s provinces to provisional Iraqi control. And we’re planning on removing the fifth and final surge brigade at the end of the month here, if things go according to plan.

You know, two things we’ve made very clear from the beginning of the process: the first is that we’re going to deal as sovereign nations, working towards an agreement that satisfies both of our needs; and secondly, that we’re not going to be discussing individual parts of this negotiation during the process – the negotiation process itself. So with that –

QUESTION: But if you’re taking this (inaudible), that means you’re opposing any timetable in this agreement?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I’ve said what I’ve said there. It’s what other officials in this Administration have said. It’s something that we’ve said from the very beginning there. So that’s –

QUESTION: Are you now calling it a Memorandum of Understanding? What exactly are you negotiating, something more interim than was originally proposed?

MR. GALLEGOS: I’m not calling it anything, right now. There’s an agreement that we’re working towards. I think when we reach it, we have made it very clear that we are going to be open about it and discuss and describe it to you all in great detail. So when we get to there, when the agreement is finished, wrapped up and done, we’ll be discussing it more broadly with you all.

Yes, Lambros.

QUESTION: On Turkey, Mr. Gallegos. Turkish General Yasar Buyukanit, acting as a dictator, is threatening now to shut down the –

MR. GALLEGOS: I’ll tell you what, Lambros – I’ll tell you what, you can talk to one of my staff at the end of the briefing and we’ll get back to you on your question.

Yes.

QUESTION: We can get back to Kabul?

MR. GALLEGOS: To?

QUESTION: Kabul. The attack on the Indian Embassy.

MR. GALLEGOS: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Spokesman McCormack said the U.S. was ready to help Afghanistan and India find out who was behind the blast.

MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.

QUESTION: Today – well, actually late yesterday – the Afghans have pointed a finger at Pakistan. Do you have any more information about this?

MR. GALLEGOS: I don’t have any information on that. I know that after the bombing we had a couple of U.S. officials who actually went out to the site, assisted where they could. We’ve made an offer of assistance, and we’re going to continue working with the governments there to make a final determination of exactly what happened.

As far as I’ve – what I’ve seen up until this afternoon is that we don’t have any preliminary – I don’t have any update in terms of what may or may not have happened, who may or may not have been responsible. So I’m going to wait until we have some clearer information about that before we make any comment.

Yes.

QUESTION: Just to get back to Iraq. I mean, it seems that the Iraqis are kind of backtracking from what they had originally started out on and that they’re looking for a much sort of shorter-term agreement than what the U.S. was looking for. Would you be disappointed if it was a much shorter-term agreement than the longer Status of Forces Agreement?

MR. GALLEGOS: I would refer you back to my previous comment about the fact that we’re not going to make any comments about the process –

QUESTION: But are you disappointed that – but they are.

MR. GALLEGOS: And any question that starts, about the agreement and the Government of Iraq, I would say, I’m going to refer you to the Government of Iraq there.

QUESTION: But do you think that they’re muddying the waters by making – because they are commenting. I mean, the Iraqis are coming out –

MR. GALLEGOS: For a play-by-play on what the Iraqis think, I believe that you should go talk to the Iraqis about that.

QUESTION: Well, Gonzo, what – can you just define what it is you’re negotiating, then?

MR. GALLEGOS: I’ve said what I have to say there. You have ample descriptions by senior Government – U.S. Government officials about this, and I’m going to refer you to their comments.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can you give me some clarification on these reports about two U.S.-born children in Pakistan seeking to leave? Did you get anything on that?

MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, I’ll tell you – about that is that we are aware of the situation. And our consular officers in Pakistan have been assisting with the case and are working to check on the welfare of these American minors. However, due to privacy restrictions involving American citizens, I’m not going to be able to get into any more specifics about the situation with these –

QUESTION: These children are definitely American citizens but were –

MR. GALLEGOS: My understanding is, from the information I have, we’re discussing two American minors. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Can you say how old they are?

MR. GALLEGOS: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Can you say how old they are or when they went to Pakistan or anything?

MR. GALLEGOS: I believe the – due to privacy restrictions involving American citizens, I can’t provide you any specific information, is where we are there.

Sue.

QUESTION: One little question. On the beer deal, the Anheuser deal with – or the buyout of – from the Belgium company, apparently this Belgium company has been doing – according to the – to Anheuser, has been doing some substantial business with Cuba. What’s the State Department’s view on this? If this Belgian company were to, you know, take over the U.S. brewing firm, would this be a problem for you, that they have dealings with Cuba, and if it’s a subsidiary?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think first of all, you know, we have a – the Department of Treasury has an office that manages foreign asset control. This is an issue that would have to be discussed – the particulars with them. However, I can tell you that, you know, any U.S. person or entity that would be involved with a company doing business with the Cuban Government would have to have a license to do that here in the United States. I don’t want to get into, or can’t get into, the particulars of this deal because the deal’s not done. And I don’t have any information in terms of the structure of the deal or participants in the deal or any of the details. So –

QUESTION: But has Anheuser contacted you about this?

MR. GALLEGOS: I don’t have any word that they have contacted us.

No, Lambros. Anything else? Charley.

QUESTION: Any developments today possibly on the return of the Serbian basketball player?

MR. GALLEGOS: I don’t have any new developments there. Sorry.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:05 p.m.)

DPB # 121

ENDS

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