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U.S. Daily Press Briefing

U.S. Daily Press Briefing

Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman

Washington, DC

November 13, 2008

INDEX:

IRAN
P5+1 Meeting / Parties to Discuss Way Forward / Two-Track Strategy

RUSSIA
Under Secretary Bill Burns’ Bilateral Discussions with Russians
U.S. Wants to Work with Russia on Missile Defense
Working on a Date for John Rood to Discuss Proposals in Moscow
Missile Defense in Europe is in Best Interests of U.S. and European Allies

NORTH KOREA
U.S. is Having Discussions with North Koreans Regarding Verification

DEPARTMENT
Formal Notification of Composition of Transition Team will Come from the White House
Arrival of Transition Team

IRAQ
SOFA / Awaiting Iraqi Response
Agreement Address Concerns of Both Sides

SOMALIA
Islamic Forces Carrying Out Attacks in Somalia is Great Concern to U.S.
Need To Support Transitional National Government

PAKISTAN
USAID Contractor Killed in Peshawar
Question about Relocation of NGOs and other Organizations in Pakistan
Safety Precautions Taken by U.S. Government Staff
U.S. Routinely Works with Pakistan Government to Provide Adequate Security

MISCELLANEOUS
Secretary Rice’s Meetings with King Abdullah, Tzipi Livni, Presidents Zardari and Karzai
Secretary’s Schedule / Activities Today in New York and Texas


TRANSCRIPT:

10:40 a.m. EST

MR. WOOD: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the briefing. I don’t have anything for you, so why don’t we go right to your questions.

QUESTION: I’ll pass.

MR. WOOD: You haven’t had your coffee yet, have you?

QUESTION: No, I have. But I just overheard Sylvie wants to ask the question I was going to ask, so I’ll let her.

MR. WOOD: Okay. Well, then --

QUESTION: Aww, that’s nice.

MR. WOOD: Sylvie.

QUESTION: So I have a question about the P5+1 meeting today.

MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I wanted to know if it happened.

MR. WOOD: It hasn’t started yet. It should be happening sometime within the next hour or so. And we’ll try and get you a readout as soon as we’re able to get a readout from here.

QUESTION: What do you expect from this meeting?

MR. WOOD: Well, I --

QUESTION: What is it for, exactly?

MR. WOOD: Yeah, the meeting is to discuss the way forward vis-à-vis Iran, and we’re going to use the meeting as an opportunity to discuss our two-track strategy and how best to get Iran to comply with its international obligations.

QUESTION: Will you expect a new – new sanctions?

MR. WOOD: I don’t expect that at this point. Again, it’s – the parties are going to discuss the way forward. And we’ll try and get – as I said, we’ll try and get you a readout as soon as we can after it’s over.

Sir.

QUESTION: On North Korea.

QUESTION: Wait. Is Burns staying – what’s his – what are his travel plans?

MR. WOOD: As far as I know, he’s in Paris for the meeting. I don’t know about his travel plans. I assume he’s coming back to Washington, but I don’t know that for a fact.

QUESTION: Can I do a follow-up on this topic?

MR. WOOD: Yes, please.

QUESTION: What did Burns bring with him from Moscow on this subject? He was in Moscow the day before. They talked about Iran. And what do the Russians --

MR. WOOD: Well, he was having discussions. Under Secretary Burns had bilateral discussions with the Russians, and they covered a wide range of issues, as you can imagine. They talked about missile defense, the financial situation, Georgia, a host of topics. And so, again, the focus of his trip to Moscow was to deal with these bilateral issues.

QUESTION: Can you give us some details on, for example, what was said about Iran or, in particular, the missile defense --

MR. WOOD: I don’t have a readout. We’ll try and, as I said, get you a readout on his trip. But I don’t have anything further than just the subjects that were discussed in Moscow.

QUESTION: On North Korea then?

MR. WOOD: Sure. Kirit, did you want --

QUESTION: No, on another subject.

MR. WOOD: Okay. Bill.

QUESTION: I do have one more. Can you tell us anything more about the communication, the recent communication between Solana and his Iranian counterpart? There’ve been some letters that have gone back and forth.

MR. WOOD: No, I don’t have anything for you on that. I don’t have anything.

QUESTION: Can you clarify -- have the North Koreans refused your request for samples? Is that hurting the deal that you arranged in October with them?

MR. WOOD: Well, as I said yesterday, we’re having discussions with the North Koreans. We’ll continue to have those discussions with regard to verification. But I – again, yesterday I was just responding to some press reports that are out there about, you know, the Six-Party experts not being able to take samples. And so, I don’t have anything beyond what I said yesterday.

Kirit. On this?

QUESTION: On North Korea.

MR. WOOD: Go ahead.

QUESTION: On North Korea.

MR. WOOD: Okay.

QUESTION: There are some reports that Chinese are massing some troops, or at least bringing some troops, some security, near the border of North Korea because of potential concern about refugees, if something happens to Kim Jong-il --

MR. WOOD: I hadn’t seen that.

QUESTION: -- in North Korea. Do you have any – any --

MR. WOOD: No, I hadn’t seen it. Was that a --

QUESTION: Is there any concern?

MR. WOOD: Are these press reports you’re talking about?

QUESTION: Uh-huh.

MR. WOOD: No, I hadn’t seen them. We’ll take a look and see if there’s anything on it.

QUESTION: And you don’t have any reason to think there’s any concern about potential flow of refugees?

MR. WOOD: No, I need to take a look at the reports and follow up on them before I can, you know, give you any comment.

Sir.

QUESTION: Do you have a transition update for us, by any chance? Have they shown up in the building? Have they talked to you yet?

MR. WOOD: No, the team hasn’t. We’re waiting for formal notification from the White House as to who the team members are going to be. We expect them to, you know, show up – I would imagine – fairly soon. I can’t give you an exact timeframe, but we’re expecting them soon.

QUESTION: You’re waiting for formal notification from the White House?

MR. WOOD: Well, the White House – part of the process is that the White House will notify us as to who the transition team members are going to be. I mean, we’ve obviously seen the announcement, but that’s just – I’m just explaining to you what – how the process works.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) formal notification?

MR. WOOD: Well, we just need to receive that information from the White House, and we await the team and look forward to working with them.

QUESTION: So they’re not allowed to come into the building until they --

MR. WOOD: No, I didn’t say that. I didn’t say they’re not. (Laughter.) I just said the process is we’re waiting for that formal notification from the White House in terms of who the people are, and we go from there. But again, we’ve seen the reports.

QUESTION: But you haven’t had that reported --

MR. WOOD: Seen the announcement.

QUESTION: Does this mean you haven’t given them any of your briefing papers, all these books that you’ve prepared?

MR. WOOD: No. What I’m saying is, is that we’ve seen the announcement from the transition team – excuse me, from the Obama – President-elect Obama’s transition. And we’re just going to wait until we get that notification officially from, you know, the White House as to the composition of the team, although, again, we’ve seen the announcement. That’s just the process and how it works.

QUESTION: So they haven’t asked you for any briefing papers or anything like that?

MR. WOOD: Well, we’ve provided briefing papers, as you know, on various issues in terms of what the Department is doing, how it’s staffed, administrative issues, and --

QUESTION: Haven’t you already handed those over?

MR. WOOD: To my knowledge, we have not. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been, you know, some papers that have gone back and forth. But I don’t know if – I’ll have to check on that for you to see if they have been turned over. I don’t believe they have, but let me confirm that.

QUESTION: Do you know when you expect the transition team to arrive? Is that going to be next week?

MR. WOOD: We’re expecting them soon. I just – it could be this week. We just don’t know yet.

Yes.

QUESTION: Missile defense, more of the war of words between Medvedev and Gates. This time, Gates is now putting a stamp on it, saying that Russia’s – this offer of Russia to pull back on their missile defense program, you know. You know what I’m saying, basically. Would you – is this an escalation in tensions? Are you getting worried?

QUESTION: Certainly not on our side is there an escalation of tensions. Again, as I said yesterday, as others have said from the U.S. Government, we want to work with Russia on missile defense. There are very serious future threats that we’re concerned about. We have put forth a proposal to Moscow on missile defense. We have yet to get a formal response. We’ve seen comments in the press.

We’re still trying to work out, you know, a date for John Rood to go to Moscow to discuss his proposals. You know, it’s probably a better idea to have John Rood there to discuss his proposals than having Russian officials talking about them in the press. But that’s a choice, you know, Russian officials will have to make. But we want to cooperate, as I said, with Moscow on missile defense. It’s in everyone’s interest to do so, and we look forward to having those discussions.

Let me go to Dave and then I’ll come back.

QUESTION: Robert, what about the idea that Medvedev seems to have put forth that they will refrain from putting missiles in Kaliningrad if we basically dump the missile defense plan?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, we’ve made very clear why we are pursuing missile defense in Europe. As I said, we believe it’s in the best interest of the United States and its European allies. We think it’s something Russia needs to take serious. These future threats from the Middle East, we’re very concerned about, and we think missile defense is the right approach. We want to cooperate with Russia. But as I said yesterday, you know, we need a partner.

Please.

QUESTION: Didn’t Lavrov bring this up and say – tell Burns yesterday that, you know, the Russians are rejecting the U.S. proposals? Did they talk about missile defense?

MR. WOOD: Well, my understanding is we haven’t gotten a formal response to our proposals. And John Rood is going to – he’s planning to go out to Moscow to talk about them. We’re, as I said, trying to work out a date. We haven’t been able to pin that down. And you know, assuming that we can get that date and John goes to Moscow, we can talk further about those proposals in depth.

Yes.

QUESTION: Is he going to Geneva, as well, on the START – START issue?

MR. WOOD: I’ll have to check his schedule. I don’t know. I’ll have to check.

QUESTION: So you haven’t gotten a formal announcement from the White House about the transition team, you haven’t gotten a formal response from the Russians about the missile defense. Have you gotten a formal response from the Iraqis on the SOFA, or is this building just sitting around waiting for formal responses to things before it actually does or says anything?

MR. WOOD: You’re so cynical, Matt. (Laughter.) We are waiting for the Iraqis to get back to us on this. As I mentioned yesterday, I don’t have any update on that. And again, just want to reiterate, we think we’ve got a good agreement that addresses all of the concerns of both sides, and we look forward to the Iraqi response.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: The House Foreign Affairs Committee apparently is having a hearing next week on renewing the UN mandate for Iraq. Have you had any discussion? Has there been any discussion between the Department and the Committee --

MR. WOOD: Not that I’m aware of. Not at this point, no.

Dave.

QUESTION: You know, the Islamic or Islamist rebels in Somalia appear to have sort of picked up the pace of an offensive, possibly even threatening Mogadishu. I just wondered, is that a matter of concern to the United States? Are there any diplomatic contacts maybe to try to revive the idea of the Multinational Peace Force there?

MR. WOOD: Well, the Islamic forces that have been basically carrying out attacks throughout Somalia, it’s of great concern to us. We obviously are providing as much support as we can to the transitional national government, and we’re going to be working with our allies to try to help that situation.

But again, you’ve got these terrorists who are just – all they want to do is to, you know, carry out death and destruction in the country. Somalia has suffered enough. We need to try to move forward and bring about peace and stability to that country. It’s a source of Islamic extremism. We need to work with our allies and others to try to do what we can to support that transitional national government.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the situation in Peshawar?

MR. WOOD: The Consulate is open. As you know, Stephen D. Vance, who was a contractor of USAID, was killed. You know, he worked for the Cooperative Housing Foundation, which is based in Silver Spring, Maryland. There’s an investigation underway. And we want to bring the culprits to justice.

QUESTION: Has there been any discussion of relocating people from there to Islamabad or someplace else?

MR. WOOD: Well, I understand there have been discussions about a number of NGOs and other organizations about moving their operations to Islamabad, but I don’t have anything definitive. I’ve heard that a number of them are planning to do so. And again, what we do on a routine basis is to keep, through our Warden Messages and other notices, that the security situation in that region is, you know, very difficult and people need to be aware of it and take necessary precautions to protect their institutions and their people.

QUESTION: Well, what about official, you know, U.S. Government employees or contractors? As far as you know, the people who are talking about relocating are all private sector people?

MR. WOOD: As far as I know. We obviously have asked our staff throughout the country, as they routinely do, and that’s to limit their movements as best they can and basically confine them to, you know, their mission activities.

QUESTION: What does that do – I mean, if you have NGOs who are supposed to be doing the development work that the U.S. says – has said is so important to complement the military – whatever military effort the Pakistanis are making there – and now they have to – those very people have to retreat back to Islamabad, I mean, what does that do to your efforts within Pakistan? And what are you – are you trying to do anything with the government there to work out better security measures --

MR. WOOD: Of course.

QUESTION: -- so that they can stay and work in the areas where you say the work needs to be done?

MR. WOOD: Yeah, of course. I mean, we do work with the Government of Pakistan, you know, routinely on trying to figure out ways we can better protect people who are operating in the country. It’s a difficult situation. The Pakistanis realize that more than any of us. And so we’re going to continue to work with them and try to provide adequate security for, you know, our personnel, for expatriates who are working in the country. And we’ll continue to have discussions with Pakistan. This is not an easy situation. And it does – you’re right; it does complicate our efforts to try to, you know – you know, bring development assistance and other types of activities to the people. But we’ll continue to work on it.

QUESTION: Speaking of discussions --

MR. WOOD: Yes.

QUESTION: -- with Pakistan, can you tell us anything more about the Secretary’s meeting with President Zardari yesterday, and perhaps her other – her other meetings in New York?

MR. WOOD: Well, as you know, she had a pull-aside – as you may know, she had a pull-aside with King Abdullah. I don’t have a readout on that. It was just basically, as you can understand, a one-on-one pull-aside. She had lunch with Tzipi Livni, where they talked about, obviously, the, you know, Annapolis process and how we can – how the United States can help move that process forward.

There was – she also had meetings with Presidents Zardari and Karzai on topics you’re well aware of, of course: the war against extremism; how we can better provide security in the region; how we can cooperate better on these issues. But those as well were one-on-one meetings. So I don’t have a whole, you know, wide-ranging readout on them. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get you some more details once she’s returned.

QUESTION: Does she have a schedule separate from the President today in New York before she goes to Houston?

MR. WOOD: She’s attending his remarks, and then I believe – I didn’t see anything on her schedule after that except that they’re going to be taking off for Houston in the early afternoon.

QUESTION: Are you following up on Myanmar at the UN or any other level? You mentioned yesterday you were going to pursue talks on it.

MR. WOOD: Yeah, I’m not aware that we’ve – I don’t have anything beyond what I said yesterday as well.

QUESTION: I understand that there was recently – a senior official in the European bureau had some meeting – had a meeting with a very senior – a senior Belarusian official in New York, (inaudible) Mr. David Merkel?

MR. WOOD: Yeah, I believe they did have a meeting in New York, and I think we had posted something at one point or – yeah, we’ll --

*QUESTION: No.

MR. WOOD: No, we didn’t? Okay. Well, we’ll see if we can get you anything on that.

QUESTION: Do you know when the meeting was?

MR. WOOD: I don’t have the date, but we’ll –

QUESTION: Or who he met with?

MR. WOOD: We’ll get you that.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Yeah. Can you tell us anything about the Secretary’s speech in Houston tonight? It’s on foreign policy? A foreign policy overview? Can you give us a little --

MR. WOOD: Yeah, you should have – you should have gone there so that you could cover it, you know.

QUESTION: -- a little idea?

MR. WOOD: No, I’m not going to do that. I mean, it’s, as you know, a gala speech, the keynote speech at this 15th anniversary of the Baker Institute, and you can imagine that she’s going to cover foreign policy interests of the United States. That’s about all I’ll tell you about it, but I recommend you read the text when it’s out.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 10:56 a.m.)

ENDS

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