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U.S. Near East Daily Press Briefing

U.S. Near East Daily Press Briefing

MR. WOOD: Good morning, everyone. I don’t have anything, so why don’t we go to your questions. Looks like a full house almost here.


MR. WOOD: Sir?

QUESTION: -- did Chris Hill ever get a chance to brief the Secretary in depth on his visit, and what was the result?

MR. WOOD: Chris Hill has had an opportunity to brief the Secretary and they are going to have some further discussions. And the Secretary at some point will brief the President. But until she’s had an opportunity to do that and until we’ve had an opportunity to have some further discussions internally, we’re not going to have much to say at this point.

QUESTION: The South Koreans are saying that there’s some flexibility being shown by both the U.S. and the North Koreans. Do you have any --

MR. WOOD: I don’t have a way of characterizing it at this point. Again, as I said, Chris has talked to the Secretary, and will have further discussions with her. And she, at some point, I can’t tell you when, but I imagine at some point soon, she will have an opportunity to brief the President, and then will go from there.

QUESTION: When you say brief the President, are they weighing a certain decision about the process? What are they working on?

MR. WOOD: You know, as I said yesterday, it’s logical that the President’s going to have an interest in this subject. And the Secretary is going to brief him and give him a, you know -- you know, a status report on how those discussions went, and then they will have -- U.S. Government will, you know, at that point have something to say on it. But I don’t have a way of characterizing any of this for you until after those discussions have taken place.

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QUESTION: Change of subject on Iran?

MR. WOOD: Anything else on – okay.

QUESTION: When does the P-5+1 plan to speak to talk about the letter? And the Iranians were very critical in the letter of the reaction of the P-5+1 saying that, you know, your behavior was not, you know, suitable in trying to resolve this. I wonder whether you had any -- (a) any comment on the letter; (b) when they’re going to meet and what this does to the process with the Iranians.

MR. WOOD: What we plan to do is to have a P-5+1 discussion about the letter. We haven’t been able to organize that phone call yet. And as soon as we – you know, as soon as that conversation takes place, then we’ll probably have more to say about the proposal. But look, with regard to Iran’s nuclear program, the ball is in Iran’s court. The international community has laid out a proposal, a pathway for the Iranians to come back into the good graces of the international community. We are waiting for an Iranian response on that. And so, again, it’s – the ball is in the Iranian court and they need to respond appropriately.

QUESTION: So do you find their response inadequate? Because you put forward proposals over the summer. You had this meeting in Geneva to make clear your offer. Do you see this as a bit of a slap in the face, this response?

MR. WOOD: Well, again, I don’t want to characterize it – the letter – until the P-5+1 have had a chance to discuss it. But again, it’s no secret what the Iranians need to do. We have said – we have opened – we have given them an opportunity to take advantage of, you know, what the international community has to offer for Iran. We’ve asked them to suspend their, you know, uranium enrichment and related activities. They have yet to do so. The Secretary has said she’d be willing to sit down with her Iranian counterpart once the Iranians met their obligations. They have yet to do so. And so, again, the ball is squarely back in the Iranian court, as far as we’re concerned.

QUESTION: Has India given you to understand that --

QUESTION: Can we stay on Iran for a second?

MR. WOOD: Sure. Why don’t we go to Charlie.


QUESTION: Just to put a nail in the coffin of the story that’s out there this morning, you don’t know anything that would suggest an American plane was stranded in the Iranian airspace or was forced to land there, do you?

MR. WOOD: There have been lots of reports, Charlie, about this supposed aircraft. We’re looking into it, but I don’t have anything for you on it. There have been – I have been seeing all sorts of reports all over the place. One, a Hungarian plane – I don’t know. We’ll – we’ll try and find out something and let you know.

QUESTION: Has India given you to understand that they will sign the nuclear deal once Bush has signed it tomorrow?

MR. WOOD: Let me just say the agreement will be signed at some point by both sides. I just can’t tell you when at this point, but the agreement will be signed.

QUESTION: But – so they haven’t told you when they’ll sign it?

MR. WOOD: We’re trying to work out, you know, a date whereby a signing can take place. But I – again, I would just say to you the agreement is done and the agreement will be signed.

QUESTION: The Indian press says that India, you know, refused to sign until Bush has signed and they can see what certifications and stipulations he’s putting and whether he’s going to address certain -- of their concerns. Is that what they told you?

MR. WOOD: Sue, I would just say to you that the agreement will be signed. The deal is done and we just need to find a date for the signing and --

QUESTION: But what about the Indians signing? That’s what I’m wondering, what they’ve told you about that.

MR. WOOD: Well, you know, I’m not going to get into conversations that we’ve had with regard to, you know, the context, the nature, or the substance of the agreement, because we haven’t really done that. But I can assure you that the agreement will be signed, as I said. You know, we’re just trying to find an appropriate date.

QUESTION: Do you feel confident it will be signed by both sides?

MR. WOOD: I do. On this subject?


MR. WOOD: No? Okay, let me go to Lambros. He had a --

QUESTION: Yes. On FYROM, Mr. Wood, the UN Special Envoy, Ambassador Matthew Nimetz, has today a new round of talks in New York City on the name issue between Athens and Skopje. I’m wondering if you have anything to say since the U.S. Government wants FYROM to become a NATO member as soon as possible.

MR. WOOD: Mr. Lambros, we’ve spoken to that question many times here. We obviously support Envoy Nimetz’s efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution here. I don’t have anything beyond that.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: In the recent days, even yesterday, the Gruevski government started systematic attacks against the Albanians in FYROM who are seeking now union with Albania. What is the U.S. position of this specific dispute?

MR. WOOD: I don’t have anything on that for you, Mr. Lambros, sorry.

Matt had a question.

QUESTION: Yeah, I just – on China, I’m wondering if, since the Ambassador left yesterday – the Chinese Ambassador left yesterday, if there’s been any more contact with the Chinese about the Taiwan arms sales and if you are able to be a bit more specific about what exchanges and contacts they have postponed or cancelled.

MR. WOOD: I’m not going to be more specific on the types of activities. I mean, they have basically informed us that some U.S.-Chinese bilateral, you know, events, activities, are – you know, may be affected. But beyond that, I don’t have anything in terms of details.

It’s an unfortunate decision that the Chinese have taken. We’ve explained to them that what we’ve done is very much in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act in terms of selling defensive systems to the Taiwanese. And we’ll continue to work with the Chinese on a whole range of issues where we have mutual interests.

On that?

QUESTION: The author of Obama Nation was held by immigration authorities in Kenya. They’re not very happy about the tone of his book and – anyway, I just wondered whether you had been approached to intervene and help this author out who was detained, whether you had any details of the --

MR. WOOD: Well, we understand an American has been detained in Kenya. Our Embassy is looking into those reports. We do not have a Privacy Act waiver with regard to this individual, so I’m not at liberty to comment further on it.

QUESTION: Well, I’m sorry; I just have to bring this up. You don’t have a Privacy Act waiver? This guy is yakking away to every – anyone and – anyone who will talk to him, including his own group, the WorldNetDaily, which has, you know, an extended interview with him talking about this. It strikes me as absolutely bizarre that you guys are unable to say anything about this when this guy is, on his own, publicizing his case. Has anyone from the Embassy been in contact with him to get him to sign one of these Privacy Act waivers? Is he even aware that they exist?

MR. WOOD: Matt, all I can tell you is our Embassy is dealing with the issue. But again, it’s standard policy for the State Department not to comment on these particular cases unless we have --

QUESTION: Usually until someone comes out --

MR. WOOD: -- a Privacy Act --

QUESTION: -- and speaks publicly about it, and he is talking to absolutely everybody.

MR. WOOD: Well, we need a Privacy Act waiver before we can go forward. That’s about the best answer I can give you at this point.


QUESTION: Yes. Hamas will cease to recognize Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian Authority President after January 8th and replace him with one of its own leaders. Do you have any reaction on that?

MR. WOOD: You know, I don’t have much more – I don’t have anything really to say about that except that, you know, Mahmoud Abbas is the elected President of the Palestinian Authority. And, you know, any changes to a Palestinian Government, you know, must be in accordance with Palestinian law. Nothing more than that.

Right here.

QUESTION: Robert, is the intelligence sharing between the U.S. and Turkey going on effectively against the PKK?

MR. WOOD: Well, we do cooperate with the Turks on intelligence with regard to dealing with the PKK. We have good cooperation. We also have good cooperation with Iraqis as well in dealing with some of these issues with regard to the Kurds.

QUESTION: Just to follow up, if so, then how do you explain that in the last attacks, which 15 people died, 300 terrorists penetrated into country over the border without being seen?

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t know the details of how all of that unfolded. But again, it’s – we’ve been very clear about our position with regard to the PKK. It’s a terrorist organization. We believe it should be out of business, and we cooperate very closely with the Turkish Government and with the Iraqi Government to try to put a halt to their activities.

Back here.

QUESTION: Back to North Korea. Have there been any updates to Sung Kim’s travel schedule, specifically does he have any plans to go to Japan?

MR. WOOD: He’s, I believe, arrived in Tokyo today and he’ll be having discussions with Japanese officials. As you know, he was in Seoul over the weekend. And he’ll be leaving – he’ll be returning to the United States on Wednesday. But I don’t have any further update on his activities beyond that.

Let me go – Charley.

QUESTION: Please, just a daily check on whether there’s been any consideration of any kind of international forum on the financial crisis, any reach out by Secretary Rice to other governments?

MR. WOOD: I don’t have anything new for you on that, Charley.

QUESTION: Any curtailment of State Department activities?

MR. WOOD: Nothing new. Nothing new.


QUESTION: Yeah, there’s a media report this morning about a pattern of intimidation against the press in Georgia. And I was wondering whether that’s a matter of concern to you.

MR. WOOD: I haven’t seen this report. But obviously, we would be concerned about any reports of, you know, restrictions on the press operating anywhere in the world. But I haven’t seen that report. Sorry.

Did you have a --

QUESTION: During the talks over the weekend in Kazakhstan, did the Kazakhs promise they would stick to diversifying their energy export routes, including through Azerbaijan and Georgia, as opposed to north through Russia?

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t want to talk about the substance of conversations the Secretary may have had with Kazakh officials. I’d refer you to them for, you know, comment on that subject. But again, our policy has been that we want to see a diversification of energy sources. We think that’s in the best interest of supplying the world market. But --

QUESTION: But if you – if that’s what you want to see, and they told you that they were for that, I don’t understand why you can’t tell us about that conversation.

MR. WOOD: Well, because we don’t comment on the substance of those types of conversations that the Secretary may have had with individual leaders. Others may do so, but you know, it’s not something I’m going to do from here.

QUESTION: Well, this has been in the – in, I think, Interfax news agency that this was said.

MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not going to say anything from here.

We’ll take one last from Lambros.

QUESTION: On Kosovo. Mr. Wood, the UN General Assembly is going to discuss today a Serbian proposal with the presence of the Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic for the acceptance of a new resolution in order of the so-called Kosovo independence to be addressed to the International Court -- (inaudible). What is the U.S. position on this Serbian proposal?

MR. WOOD: Well, all I can say, Mr. Lambros, is our position on Kosovo has been very clear and with regard to its independence. I don’t have anything more on that issue.

QUESTION: Are there any updates on the Iraq SOFA agreement negotiations? I understand there’s going to be a meeting, or there are meetings -- maybe there already were -- this evening. The Deputy Secretary and the Foreign Minister had a press conference earlier today.

MR. WOOD: I don’t have any update on the SOFA discussions. I mean, obviously, Deputy Secretary Negroponte is going to have talks about the issue. But he’s also in Iraq to have, you know, a look on the ground to see how things are going, how reconciliation is going, talk about the election law, and other issues. So that’s just one – one subject that he will obviously have discussions about. But I don’t have anything more for you in terms of an update or the SOFA.


QUESTION: Yes, Robert, the Bahrain Foreign Minister has called for a regional organization that includes Israel, Iran, Turkey, and Arab states to solve the region’s problems. How do you view this call?

MR. WOOD: I would just say that anything that facilitates, you know, regional reconciliation is a good thing and it should definitely be welcomed.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.


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