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U.S. Daily Press Briefing

U.S. Daily Press Briefing

Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman

Washington, DC

November 10, 2008

INDEX:

MISCELLANEOUS
Condolences to Family of Miriam Makeba

NICARAGUA
Widespread Irregularities Reported in Nicaraguan Elections

JAPAN
Question about Reports of U.S. Nuclear Submarine in Japanese Port

DEPARTMENT
Administration Transition / Departure of Employees

SOUTH KOREA
Appreciation for Korean Zaytun Division’s Work to Stabilize Iraq
Republic of Korea is Close Friend and Strong Ally to U.S.
Korean Government Will Make Decision about Force Contribution in Afghanistan

VENEZUELA
Venezuelan Consulate in Houston

KOSOVO
U.S. Policy on Kosovo Remains Unchanged


TRANSCRIPT:

10:36 a.m. EST

MR. WOOD: Happy morning. Happy Monday morning. How are you all? I just want to make a couple of notes.

We’re saddened by the passing of Miriam Makeba, whom I’m sure many of you know, some of you may not know – too young to remember. But it’s a very sad day for all of us, and we send our condolences to her family and friends. We’ll be issuing a statement a little bit later today on Miriam Makeba.

One other statement on the Nicaraguan municipal elections. Although official results are not yet available, we note the domestic election observation groups and opposition parties have reported widespread irregularities taking place at voting stations throughout the country. Unfortunately, the Supreme Electoral Council’s decision to not accredit credible domestic and international election observers has made it difficult to properly assess the conduct of the elections.

We also note that the political conditions that existed during the campaign were not conducive to free and fair elections. Recalling Article 23 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, we urge the Government of Nicaragua to ensure that the official election results accurately reflect the will of the Nicaraguan people.

And with that, I’ll take your questions. Please.

QUESTION: Apparently, the Japanese Government has lodged a complaint with the U.S. Embassy about a U.S. nuclear sub turning up unannounced in a Japanese port.

MR. WOOD: First I’ve heard of it.

QUESTION: Can we get something on that?

MR. WOOD: I’ll see if I can get you something on that. You may want to check with the Pentagon, though, on that.

QUESTION: Given the fact, obviously, that the complaint was with the State Department --

MR. WOOD: We’ll take a look and see if there’s some (inaudible) respond. No problem.

QUESTION: Have you been contacted by the Obama transition team yet?

MR. WOOD: Not that I’m aware of. Not yet.

QUESTION: Not one of them has contacted you?

MR. WOOD: Not me personally.

QUESTION: Who else has left the building? There have been a few people who have left over the past week. All this – all of the assistant secretaries have stayed, all still in place?

MR. WOOD: I, you know, honestly don’t know. There may have been some who --

QUESTION: Pam Stevens, I heard, had left the building.

MR. WOOD: Yes, Pam Stevens has left. She left on Friday.

QUESTION: Any others?

MR. WOOD: Not that I’m aware of, but we’ll try and keep you abreast.

Nina.

QUESTION: Back to Obama again. These reports that his team might be planning to close Guantanamo and bring the inmates over here to go through the American legal system – any comments on this?

MR. WOOD: I would just refer you to the Obama campaign headquarters for any comments on that.

QUESTION: South Korea announced it’s going to pull out from Iraq – to leave. Do you have any response? Also, do you expect some kind of help from South Korea in Afghanistan?

MR. WOOD: Well, let me give you what I have on that. The Republic of Korea’s Zaytun Division has done an outstanding job in Iraq’s Kurdistan region and made important contributions to the progress in Iraq. The Republic of Korea is our close friend and strong ally, and we deeply appreciate Korea’s contributions to Iraq’s stabilization and reconstruction during the past four years. We remember and honor the contributions of Koreans who worked to stabilize and rebuild Iraq, and their efforts will not be forgotten.

In terms of Afghanistan, I don’t know; that’s going to be a decision that the Korean Government will have to make, and I’d refer you to them for any comments about whether or not they will, you know, contribute additional forces to Afghanistan.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) President Bush said in Seoul he’s getting some noncombat help from South Korea in Afghanistan? Do you have any follow-up?

MR. WOOD: Well, again, I would refer you to the South Koreans.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. WOOD: Kirit.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the – apparently, this Venezuelan consulate in Houston was closed a couple days ago. There was some complaint, I think, that they had moved their offices. I don’t know anything more, but --

MR. WOOD: Yeah, my understanding is that in August the Venezuelan Government had requested authorization to lease some office space for the consulate. And prior to getting that authorization from the Department, they went ahead and leased this property anyway, which was a violation of our – under the Foreign Relations Act. And so there have been a number of steps that have transpired since.

My understanding is that the Department informed them that this was a violation and that they understood that indeed the Department viewed it as a violation. And so we have given – you know, I believe we’ve talked to them orally and we gave a written – you know, a written notice that this was not acceptable.

But I’ll have to check and see what additional details we can get. It was, I think, a few days back, so I’m not really up to speed on it.

QUESTION: The actual closure was last week, they said.

MR. WOOD: I don’t know that there was necessarily a formal closure yet, but let me get back to you with some more of the details.

QUESTION: Some of the reports have indicated that the diplomats that were there have been now PNG’d or something like that.

MR. WOOD: I don’t think anybody has been PNG’d, but let me get back to you with some more details on that.

Dave.

QUESTION: Getting back to your original statement, do you have anything broader to say about the drift of politics in Nicaragua? Reportedly, the government there is really sort of clamping down generally on civil society --

MR. WOOD: Well, we are obviously concerned. I mean, certainly the period leading up to the elections was not a period that was conducive to bringing about free and fair elections. But I really want to withhold further comment until the actual official results have been made known.

Lambros.

QUESTION: On Kosovo. Mr. Wood, the U.S. will continue to take part in the international (inaudible) mission in Kosovo regardless of the outcome (inaudible) election, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer stated today. I am wondering if he has been authorized by the U.S. Government to express such an opinion.

MR. WOOD: Look, the NATO Secretary General has his own opinions. He speaks for NATO. I don’t have any comment.

QUESTION: He’s stating on behalf of the U.S. Government.

MR. WOOD: He can’t speak on behalf of the U.S. Government. He speaks on behalf of NATO.

QUESTION: A follow-up. In this transition period, Mr. Wood, until President-elect Barack Obama is going to assume power January 20th, 2009, are you planning to review your policy vis-à-vis to Kosovo since it’s a political anomaly in the international arena and a destabilizing element of the entire Balkan peninsula?

MR. WOOD: Well, Mr. Lambros, you know our policy on Kosovo. And I again would refer you for any questions about the President-elect’s future policy with regard to the Balkans – I’d refer you to his campaign.

QUESTION: And the last one. Are you planning to, in this transition time, to stop at least violating the UN Security Resolution 1244 which ended the 1999 Kosovo war and (inaudible) sovereignty in the province?

MR. WOOD: Mr. Lambros, you know many folks have spoken from this podium about our policy on Kosovo. I don’t think I need to repeat that for you. I think you know very well what our policy is.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: You’re welcome, sir.

Any other questions? Okay, thank you all.

(The briefing was concluded at 10:44 a.m.)

ENDS

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