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S. & C. Asia: Daily Press Briefing - December 3

South and Central Asia: Daily Press Briefing - December 3

Wed, 03 Dec 2008 11:24:27 -0600

Daily Press Briefing

Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman

Washington, DC

December 3, 2008

INDEX:

INDIA

Update on Diplomacy with Regard to India

Nothing to Update on Secretary Rice’s Travel Plans

U.S. is Willing to Help and Assist India / Investigative Team on the Ground in Mumbai

DEPARTMENT

Meetings by Deputy Secretary Negroponte and Under Secretary Burns at State Department / Issues Discussed

Secretary Rice Has Tried to Increase Number of Positions in Foreign Service

More Funding Needed for the Foreign Service

THAILAND

International and Domestic Airports will Open December 5th / Discussions Going on the Issue of Chartering Aircraft

TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

10:37 a.m. EST

MR. WOOD: Good morning, everyone.

QUESTION: Good morning.

MR. WOOD: Let me just give you an update on some of the diplomacy going on with regard to India. I think most of you know Deputy Secretary Negroponte and Under Secretary for Political Affairs Bill Burns met with the Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar yesterday. Secretary Rice, as you know, is in New Delhi today. She met with the Minister of Home Affairs Chidambaram. She also met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Mukherjee. Later today, she’s scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Singh, and she also met earlier today with LK Advani from the BJP party.

So that’s what’s going on. I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. WOOD: Charlie.

QUESTION: There are a lot of reports coming out of Islamabad that the Secretary is expected there. Do you have anything --

MR. WOOD: We don’t have any update with regard to the Secretary’s travel plans. But if there is an update, we’ll let you know.

Sir.

QUESTION: There’s a report coming out that the U.S. military wants to hold on to about 5,000 detainees beyond the SOFA agreement. Have you heard anything about this and do you have a comment about this?

MR. WOOD: No, I haven’t heard anything like that. Probably refer you to the Pentagon for a comment on that.

Charley.

QUESTION: Just back to India. There was a report that an unexploded bomb had been found in the Mumbai train station. I just wondered whether you had any comment on that or if that’s going to lead to any new travel advisories, warnings, et cetera?

MR. WOOD: No. I heard about the report. Based on what I heard, it may have been a bomb that was previously laid by the terrorists, but again, I don’t have any of the facts on that. We’re obviously going to try to find out what we can.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything more about those meetings here at the State Department yesterday with Under Secretary – with Deputy Secretary Negroponte and Under Secretary Burns?

MR. WOOD: Well, they clearly talked about the issue of the Mumbai attacks and the aftermath and the type of cooperation that we all need to give to finding out who was responsible, and talked a bit about the Secretary’s trip to India and what she hoped to accomplish and, of course, about our efforts to – in our discussions with Pakistan to get the government there to do all it can to help with the investigation. So that was the essence of the conversation.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything more about what sort of briefings the State Department has done for the Obama transition group about this particular issue? I know that in the early days the Secretary had briefed President-elect Obama a couple of times. Has there been any more of that?

MR. WOOD: As far as I know, there hasn’t been, but I can’t certainly rule that out. There may have been conversations between individuals of the Administration and President-elect Obama’s team, but I’m not aware of any.

Yes, Charlie.

QUESTION: Well, just back to the first part of that question and the briefings or the meetings here yesterday, did the Indian official ask for any additional U.S. help? Did he ask for more – for access to more intelligence information, ask for more FBI people, fewer --

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t want to really get into the – more into the substance of the conversations, but let me just say that we have said to the Indians that we’re willing to help in any way we can. We’re certainly – as you know, we have an investigative team on the ground in Mumbai, trying to assist the Indians with the investigation. And we’re certainly open to any type of assistance the Indians may need. And so the Secretary will be having discussions with her counterparts and we’ll go from there.

Anything else? Charley.

QUESTION: Today they’re releasing the Academy of Diplomacy report that makes some pretty damning statements about the condition of the Foreign Service. One of the points was significant portions of the nation’s foreign affairs business simply are not accomplished, because of staffing difficulties and other measures. Do you agree with this and to what extent does --

MR. WOOD: Well, Charley, I haven’t seen the report. But as you know, Secretary Rice has been trying to do everything she can to increase the number of positions of the Foreign Service, to increase the level of funding for the State Department, and she continually works on that. You know, we have to work with Congress. Congress provides our funding. And it’s something that she will continue to work on until, you know, she departs from the Department. But it is a problem. We need more funding for the Foreign Service, for the State Department, in general. But it’s something she’s committed to trying to do.

QUESTION: I think this report’s has been out for some months now. I think they may be re-launching it today.

MR. WOOD: Oh, re-launching. I haven’t seen it.

QUESTION: Unless it’s a new one. I may be mistaken.

MR. WOOD: No, I haven’t seen it.

Dave.

QUESTION: Any comment on the conclusion of the political crisis or apparent conclusion of it in Thailand?

MR. WOOD: Nothing more to say than I did yesterday. My understanding is that the two – the international and domestic airports will open on the 5th. And we’re still – there are discussions going on about whether there’s a need to have a charter – bring in charter aircraft to bring Americans back to the United States, but nothing more beyond that.

Anything else? Okay. Thank you all.

QUESTION: Sorry. Is there a Middle East Quartet coming up soon?

MR. WOOD: I know there have been discussions about whether that will happen or not. We’ll let you know as soon as we have something firm.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Actually, just one in relation to that.

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is in town today. I wonder if you know of any meetings that he has with any State Department --

MR. WOOD: No, I’m not aware of any.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: You’re welcome. Thank you.

ENDS

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