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US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: August 5, 2008

Daily Press Briefing
Gonzalo R. Gallegos, Acting Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
August 5, 2008

US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: August 5, 2008

INDEX:

IRAN

Update on P-5+1 Situation/Document Sent to Javier Solana and the P-5+1
Political Directors Conference Call Tomorrow
Looking for a Clear, Positive Response From Iran
U.S. Working with P-5+1 on Dual-Track Strategy
Call Will Be a Discussion on What the Iranian Government Has Submitted

SERBIA

Basketball Player Situation/U.S. Takes This Matter Seriously
Individual Did Not Turn Himself In Before August 1st
Interpol Warrant Out for His Arrest

SYRIA/TURKEY

President Asad Meeting With President of Turkey and Prime Minister Recep Erdogan
U.S. Believes it Important that Two Sides Are Able to Talk
U.S. Focus is on Israeli/Palestinian Peace Track

RUSSIA/GEORGIA

Russian Statement on South Ossetia
Call for an End to Violence/Important that a Dialogue Begins

GUANTANAMO BAY

Reports of FOIA Cables Sent from State Department to Foreign Governments

MEXICO

Ban-Ki Moon Call to Postpone Medellin Execution
U.S. Hopes that Texas Will Take the Steps Necessary to Give Effect to Avena Decision


TRANSCRIPT:

12:50 p.m. EDT

MR. GALLEGOS: Good afternoon. I don't have anything for you, so I'll take your questions.

Matt.

QUESTION: Do you have anything - any updates on the Iran-P-5+1 situation?

MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, my understanding is that pretty close to the end of business today, the Iranians sent a document to Javier Solana. The document's been sent out to the P-5+1. We're going to be taking a look at it. I mentioned earlier this morning, that there will be a political directors conference call tomorrow morning. Obviously, as we've stated before, we're looking for a clear, positive response from Iran. And in the absence of that, we're going to have no choice but to pursue further measures against them as part of our dual-track strategy.

QUESTION: When you say close of business, you obviously don't mean close of business here, you mean --

MR. GALLEGOS: No, close of business in Brussels. Yes.

QUESTION: And it's been sent out, so people here have it?

MR. GALLEGOS: My understanding is --

QUESTION: Can you --

MR. GALLEGOS: -- that, yes, we recently received a document. I wouldn't characterize it --

QUESTION: Can you characterize it?

MR. GALLEGOS: I haven't seen it.

QUESTION: Do you know how long it is?

MR. GALLEGOS: No, I couldn't give you any details, other than the fact that I was - I did receive word that we had received it.

QUESTION: But do you know if the Solana people at least had a chance to look at it, and did they characterize it?

MR. GALLEGOS: I would assume they have had a chance to look at it. I would refer you back to them for any characterization they may have for it.

David, may I help you?

QUESTION: Well, could you possibly update us on the Serbian basketball case -- basketball player? Obviously, they appear - the Serbian Government is apparently not going to return this guy. Are you onboard with Senator Schumer's suggestion that aid be withheld?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, this is something that we take very seriously, the Ambassador, and other members of our senior staff at the Embassy, as well as people here at the Department have been very involved in this from the beginning. This was a tragic event, where an individual was severely beaten, remains in a coma. August 1st, I believe, was the last date that this individual had an opportunity to turn himself in to come and face the charges that were held against him; that date passed. He did not present himself, and so now there is an Interpol warrant out for his arrest. He is a fugitive in over 180 countries around the world and will remain so.

We believe that he should face justice, to be tried for this act that he's accused against. And we're going to continue working with the Serbian Government to ensure that it happens.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Iran, please?

MR. GALLEGOS: Sure.

QUESTION: There's been some reports and - out of Iran that this response is still not complete (inaudible) a formal response because they're still - they still say there is ambiguities in what the P-5+1 offered them.

MR. GALLEGOS: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And in light of it, how much longer are you willing to wait for a more formal response from Iran?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, we're - I'm not going to characterize the contents of the document from here. I believe that there's been some comments from Iranian officials throughout the day. I'll refer you to their own characterizations of it. However, we are progressing. You know, working with our partners in the P-5+1 on this dual-track strategy - the carrot and the stick. We have not received a response from them. Believe it's important to consult with --

QUESTION: You said you did get a response.

MR. GALLEGOS: Oh, sorry, we did not - thank you. We did not receive a clear - I do not believe that - excuse me, we have received a response. We will evaluate that response and we'll have more to say about it tomorrow after the call. Thank you, very much. Tomorrow after the call. However, we're going to continue to consult with our friends and allies and the P-5+1 on the path to take. And so, we'll have more for you after this initial call tomorrow. And then we're going to continue working with them to implement the dual-track strategy, which all have been committed to.

QUESTION: So it means you are not going to characterize the response before the call?

MR. GALLEGOS: I haven't seen it, so I'm not going to characterize it from here. There'll be a call tomorrow and I may have some more information for you after that.

QUESTION: Yeah, but the call will be the characterization of the six. I was thinking about the characterization --

MR. GALLEGOS: No, the call is going to be a discussion over what the Iranian Government has presented Javier Solana. And then the discussion that will be had there will be talking about what the Government of Iran has presented to the P-5+1 to Javier Solana, and we will have a discussion about what was presented to us and begin discussions about what may happen next.

QUESTION: So -- but it means U.S. will not characterize the message of the Iranians?

MR. GALLEGOS: I'm not going to characterize it from here right now because I don't have any information on it.

QUESTION: And later on?

MR. GALLEGOS: I haven't seen it. I think that we have worked together with the P-5+1 and Javier Solana. There's going to be an evaluation. And then at some point, we will describe what we believe we received and what it says or does not say.
Yes.

QUESTION: President Asad of Syria is meeting today with the President of Turkey and Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. One of the subjects will be the peace process with the Israelis.

MR. GALLEGOS: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Shaul Mofaz, Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, last week was saying that he would not accept - he would not hold peace talks under any conditions, but yet he put a condition that he would not make peace - if he should become a prime minister, he would not make peace with Syria based on - but only if it is based on peace for peace, and not peace for land, as Madrid conference that the United States has sponsored in the late '90s. How does the United States see this process progressing now between the two parties?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, we believe it's important that the two sides are able to talk and that they do so in a constructive manner. However, our focus in the Middle East is on the Israeli-Palestinian peace track, and that's what we're going to continue to work towards.

Sylvie.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the statement of Russia of the - a top Russian diplomat who said Tuesday that if events develop in South Ossetia with use of force, Russia will defend its nationals in this region. Do you think it's dangerous?

MR. GALLEGOS: I think yesterday we - I spoke about us calling for an immediate halt to the violence and for direct talks between the parties. We don't believe that now is the time for any parties to this to react in a provocative way. So it is important for us that - number one, that the violence stops, and number two, that a dialogue begins, and so that they can continue to discuss the issues there.

QUESTION: So do you think Russia is provoking any disorder?

MR. GALLEGOS: No, we believe that the violence should stop and all parties should begin a discussion so that they can move forward towards settling the situation.

QUESTION: Do you - on that, do you - have you spoken to the Russians or the Georgians about this? Has anyone?

MR. GALLEGOS: I know that we've been monitoring the situation, and I'm not sure about any direct communications with the Russians or the Georgians on it.

Matt.

QUESTION: Were you able to find out anything about this - these cables that were sent from the State Department to foreign governments about interrogations at Guantanamo?

MR. GALLEGOS: I took a look at that, Matt, and at this time, I'm not going to be making any comment about discussions or communications we've had with foreign countries.

QUESTION: Oh, really?

MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. So someone in the FOIA office made a mistake and gave these cables to The Washington Post?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, there is --

QUESTION: Is that correct?

MR. GALLEGOS: There is us responding to a legal requirement, and then there is me speaking about communications with other countries from this podium. And today, I won't be doing that.

QUESTION: So we should file our own FOIA requests, and presumably, since it's already been cleared by them, you could get that to us by, say, this afternoon?

MR. GALLEGOS: You would always be free to file any such requests that you desire. I would never deign to speak to the speed at which you might receive a response.

QUESTION: Well, then you'll be getting it shortly. So maybe they can just send us exactly what they sent the Post, yeah?

QUESTION: Can you acknowledge that there were cables?

MR. GALLEGOS: I'm not going to speak to any part of this at this point, aside from what I --

QUESTION: Is this coming from the legal office?

MR. GALLEGOS: I - this is what I have for you today, Matt.

QUESTION: You're telling me there's a front-page story in one of the leading newspapers this morning which says that, you know, these cables - the State Department turned over these cables, or gave them to them, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

MR. GALLEGOS: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Your refusing to discuss it now would suggest that there was a mistake, that there was an error --

MR. GALLEGOS: I'm telling you that I don't have any --

QUESTION: Was there an error in --

MR. GALLEGOS: I am telling you --

QUESTION: Was there an error in the FOIA office here someplace in turning this stuff over?

MR. GALLEGOS: I am telling you that today I don't have any other - any additional information for you. And I'm not going to speak to the issue, as we do not generally speak about our bilateral communications with other countries.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, can you take - can you take the question, then? Not about the content of the cable or whether they exist, but whether someone erred in releasing these --

MR. GALLEGOS: I will be happy to take the question to see what more I can find out for you about this issue.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. GALLEGOS: Sylvie.

QUESTION: Would you have anything, any reaction to the call of Ban Ki-moon to U.S. to postpone the execution of a Mexican national in accordance to the International Court of Justice?

MR. GALLEGOS: This is the Medellin case that you referred to?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. GALLEGOS: You know, in June, Secretary Rice and Attorney General Mukasey sent a letter to Texas Governor Rick Perry asking that the state of Texas take a - take the steps necessary to give effect to the Avena decision. We're hoping that they do that. Other than that, I don't have any more information for you in terms of the situation or dispensation of the case in Texas.

QUESTION: So it means you don't have any power to ask them to postpone an execution? What does that mean? They can --

MR. GALLEGOS: I tell you what, I'm not a lawyer and I couldn't speak to that right now. So I have what I have for you on this case.

QUESTION: But I don't understand.

MR. GALLEGOS: I'm sorry, that's what I have.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. GALLEGOS: All right. Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:02 p.m.)

DPB # 138
Released on August 5, 2008

ENDS

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