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Near East Daily Press Briefing

Near East Daily Press Briefing

Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 16, 2008



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

QUESTION: When do you think you’re going to sign this nuclear cooperation agreement with the UAE?

MR. WOOD: No date has been set. We hope to be able to do it as soon as possible. That’s about all I have for you on that.

QUESTION: You think that will happen, you know – obviously, you’ve only got a month now or so.

MR. WOOD: Well, we’ll try and do it as quickly as we can. You know, we just need all of the different pieces in place, and once they are, then we can do it. But I just can’t give you --

QUESTION: Are you involved in these – in these talks with lawmakers on the Hill to try to get them to sort of, you know, adjust their problems with it and --

MR. WOOD: Well, we talked to – we’ve been talking to the Hill on this subject, and, you know, we’re trying to resolve outstanding issues. And once we’re able to do that and be able to, you know, cross all the t’s, dot all the i’s, then, you know, we’ll be able to – we’ll be able to do it.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the political turmoil, apart from the other turmoil going on in Somalia, which is the fight between the president and the prime minister?

MR. WOOD: Well, yeah, clearly, there is some turmoil going on in Somalia. And you know, efforts by President Yusuf to remove Prime Minister Nur Adde, you know, basically undermines the Transitional National Government’s efforts to promote peace and stability in the region. So this is a concern to us.

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QUESTION: It undermines the Transitional Government’s efforts to promote peace and stability?

MR. WOOD: Efforts for peace and stability.

QUESTION: What are those efforts exactly? This is a (inaudible) government that is not able – you know, can’t even function.

MR. WOOD: Well, we’re working – yeah, we’re working with the international community and have been for quite some time to try to do what we can to bring about a much more stable environment in Somalia As you know, there are efforts that are going to be going on today at the UN. There’s a Contact Group meeting on Somalia, as well as a meeting to talk about piracy. And we hope to be able to pass a resolution on piracy later this afternoon, following the meeting. So there are a lot of efforts underway in the international community to try to help stabilize the situation in Somalia.

QUESTION: Have you made your concerns about the – this internal struggle between the president and the prime minister clear to them?

MR. WOOD: Look, there – we’ve had discussions with members of the government – the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia I don’t want to get into the substance of these conversations, but I think it’s certainly – it’s been made clear that it’s important for there to be a stable, unified government so that we can deal with the situation in Somalia, which, you know, seems to deteriorate every day. And it’s a great concern of ours and a great concern of the international community as well.

QUESTION: So, I mean, but they understand your concerns because you’ve told them directly, or they understand your concerns because you just answered my question?

MR. WOOD: Look, we’ve had conversations with representatives of the Transitional Federal Government, as I said, and they’re certainly well aware of our views with regard to the importance of having a stable, working government in Somalia.

Any more questions?

QUESTION: I have a question on –

MR. WOOD: Please.

QUESTION: My name’s Al Jazeera– my name’s not Al Jazeera. My name is Nick Spicer. (Laughter.) I work for Al Jazeera.

MR. WOOD: Welcome, Nick.

QUESTION: And one of our reporters in Baghdad has learned that the reporter who threw his shoes at President Bush recently was beaten in custody. Do you have any comments on that, or would you be willing to condemn it if it turned out to be true?

MR. WOOD: Well, obviously, we would condemn any kind of unnecessary force used against the reporter. I don’t know that that happened. But certainly, if that did take place, we would condemn that.

QUESTION: Is he in U.S. custody?

MR. WOOD: I’m not aware of that. I believe he’s in Iraqi custody.

QUESTION: Is there any chance of President Bush asking for clemency, asking --

MR. WOOD: I think that’s a little bit beyond where we are at the moment. We’ll have to see what the Iraqis – what charges they bring against the individual, and then go from there.

QUESTION: Does it surprise you how popular he was in the Arab countries for doing that?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, I addressed this issue yesterday. I mean, this is one individual’s views. There are plenty of Iraqis that you can find who, you know, support what President Bush has done, our efforts to try to bring about democracy, a full, functioning democracy in the middle of – in the heart of the Middle East in Iraq. It hasn’t been an easy situation. There have been a lot of challenges. But you know, that’s what it takes when you’re trying to build a democracy from the ground up. And so that one person’s views is just one person’s views.

I think you can find views out there by a number of Iraqis who are very supportive of what we’ve done. I’m sure you’ll find plenty that will be against what we’ve been doing in – you know, in the country. But what we’re trying to do is to bring about a stable, democratic government in Iraq that’ll be at peace with its neighbors and contribute to international peace and security overall.


QUESTION: Were you able to get a more full readout of the meeting with Representative Dai yesterday and Negroponte?

MR. WOOD: Yeah. In fact, I think we just issued something a short while ago. There was a Media Note on it. But they did talk about the situation – besides bilateral relations, they talked about the situation in Mumbai, Iran and its nuclear program, Zimbabwe, human rights issues, Six-Party Talks – a whole range of issues. So do look for the Media Note. I think we did – we’ve already sent it out.


QUESTION: Indians say that some peace talks – I think they’re called the Composite Dialogue – that they have with Pakistan have stalled because of the Mumbai attacks. Is that a concern to you? Do you think that’s the right thing to do to --

MR. WOOD: Well, that’s a decision for the two governments to deal with. But obviously, we would promote continued dialogue between, you know, India and Pakistan. We think that’s important for regional stability. These are two important players in the region. Dialogue is important. We want to see tensions reduced. And as we have said previous times, we want to see Pakistan provide all the cooperation necessary with regard to the Mumbai investigation.

QUESTION: You don’t think they’ve done that yet?

MR. WOOD: Well, I’m just – I’m saying that there’s – cooperation is what’s needed. They’ve been cooperating. We think that’s been important. The Indians, I think, understand that Pakistan is trying to do, you know, what it can. But Pakistan needs to continue to work with India to try to help find out who was responsible for these attacks and bring them to justice.

QUESTION: Thank you.


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