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Daily Press Briefing - November 18

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - November 18

Ian Kelly

Daily Press Briefing

Washington, DC

November 18, 2009


Secretary Clinton Arrival in Kabul Afghanistan
Secretary Clinton will Head the U.S. Delegation at President Karzai's Inauguration Tomorrow

Allegations of Corruption within the Afghan Government
U.S. Has Strong Monitoring Mechanisms when Giving Aid to Afghanistan

IAEA Proposal/U.S. Has Submitted a Formal, Written Response/Iran Needs to Give a Formal, Written Response to the IAEA
U.S. Continues to Consult with P5+1 Partners and the IAEA
Iran Needs to Respect the Rights of the Iranian People to Peacefully Express their Opinions
US. Has Had Concerns as to Way Trials Have Been Conducted

U.S. Disappointed at the Developments Regarding the Elections Laws in Iraq
U.S. Urges the Iraqi Parliament to Take Quick Actions/Elections Mandated in Constitution

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Craig Kelly is in Tegucigalpa to Encourage Both Sides to Implement the Tegucigalpa - San Jose Accord
PDAS Kelly Has Met with Both President Zelaya and de facto Leader Michelletti


1:37 p.m. EST

MR. KELLY: (Laughter.) Here we go. The first two rows have arrived. So the Secretary arrived today, late afternoon Kabul time, around 5 o’clock. And she proceeded to the Embassy where she met with employees of the Embassy, and gave her appreciation for all the hard work that they’re doing under very challenging circumstances.

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After that, she had a meeting with senior leadership at the Embassy to get an in-brief on the day’s schedule – today’s schedule, tomorrow’s schedule – on an – an in-brief on the situation in Afghanistan. She then went to the presidential palace, where she had a meeting with President Karzai and some of his senior leadership, and this is going to be followed by a dinner with President Karzai.

And of course, tomorrow she will be the U.S. representative, the head of the U.S. delegation to the inauguration of President Karzai. We also expect that there will be a – that this will be preceded by a meeting with other foreign ministers who are present for the inauguration to talk about our shared effort in Afghanistan. She expects also to have a roundtable with U.S. Foreign Service officers and others from Provincial Reconstruction Teams, followed by a greeting with U.S. and international troops in ISAF, and then she will depart by early evening, Kabul time, we expect.

And I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: Do you know anything about this report today about an Afghan minister accepting a $30 million bribe from the Chinese?

MR. KELLY: We, of course – we have seen this report, and I think we’ve all seen the report. We’re aware of the allegations – and I’ll stress that, that this – these are allegations. We would highlight that President Karzai himself has identified corruption as a serious problem. And we expect him to take concrete actions to fight this problem. We are working with our international partners to encourage the new government, to make sure that the efforts that they have pledged to undertake have a significant impact on the Afghan Government that would strengthen the institutions that deal with this problem, both in terms of investigating them, and then ultimately prosecuting them.

We know that this is an important sector that was involved. The mining sector has great promise for Afghanistan’s growth and prosperity. And of course, in addition to this economic promise, there has to be transparency in how these contracts are let and how these resources are developed. I think as you know, for our part, we have pretty strong monitoring mechanisms for the kind of aid that we give to the Government of Afghanistan, and this is to ensure that the aid that the U.S. taxpayer is giving, it reaches the people that it’s intended to reach and has the kind of impact that we want to have and that are in the U.S. national interests.

QUESTION: Do you believe that this guy did take this money?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have any views on it. I know that these allegations are very serious. And we hope that these and other serious allegations are investigated.

QUESTION: Well, I need to know – who’s making the allegation?

MR. KELLY: I don’t know. I seriously do not know.

QUESTION: Well, according to the story, it was a U.S. official. So –

MR. KELLY: I saw the story, I saw the attribution, but I don’t know who’s making the allegation.

QUESTION: Is the U.S Government making this allegation, or is this someone freelancing?

MR. KELLY: Matt, I really – I don’t know. I mean, it’s an unnamed source, and I don’t know who the source is or where --

QUESTION: Well, are you concerned --

MR. KELLY: -- where the source is.

QUESTION: – are you concerned that – about this possible bribery --

MR. KELLY: I think we’re – we are concerned about corruption. We’re – we –

QUESTION: Are you concerned about this particular case?

MR. KELLY: Well, I – as I say, this project is important to the Afghan people. It’s --

QUESTION: Yeah, I understand that.

MR. KELLY: -- it has the potential to create a lot of jobs and can contribute to economic prosperity and growth.

QUESTION: Look, what I’m trying to –

MR. KELLY: But as far as the actual allegations themselves, I don’t know if they’re true or not. But I – if --

QUESTION: I know you don’t know if they’re true. I just want to know who’s making them.

MR. KELLY: I don’t know.

QUESTION: I mean, is this some – just some guy out there running his mouth off, without any --

MR. KELLY: I do not know.

QUESTION: Well, then how can you be concerned about it, if you don’t know where it’s coming from? I mean, anybody can get out there and say –

MR. KELLY: I’m concerned about any kind of allegations of this kind of corruption of a senior government official. It undermines the credibility of the government, and it undermines the faith of the Afghan people in their government.

QUESTION: But I guess what I’m trying – who suspects that there was some wrongdoing here? Just some guy out there? Or is it a U.S. Government-wide suspicion?

MR. KELLY: As I say, I do not know who this individual is.

QUESTION: Oh, no, neither --

MR. KELLY: I do know that we do have very serious concerns about allegations of corruption.

QUESTION: About this allegation?

MR. KELLY: How many times do I have to say it? I don’t --

QUESTION: Ian, it’s very easy for an official to come out and say, well, Minister X is – we think that he’s done this. But it doesn’t have – it doesn’t really hold any weight unless someone’s prepared to put their name behind it.

MR. KELLY: This is true. I agree.

QUESTION: So in other words, this is just frivolity?

MR. KELLY: Well, they – I think the key word here is allegation, and it’s an allegation that needs to be looked into.

QUESTION: Well, look, you know, we went through this with the last administration, you know, where someone would float something and “Oh, Iraq has got WMD,” and it would be an unnamed source and then, you know, the Vice President or whoever would show up on the Sunday talk shows --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I’m not sure --

QUESTION: -- and say, “Well, look at this allegation.”

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure of the equivalence here of (inaudible) and WMD.

QUESTION: I’m trying to find out who is behind making this allegation. Is it the U.S. Government that’s suspicious or is it just some guy who thinks that he has an idea that this minister may have taken $30 million in bribes?

MR. KELLY: It’s a very serious allegation and it should be looked into.

QUESTION: Will the Secretary be raising this with President Karzai?

MR. KELLY: I think what the Secretary – as I said before, this is a very important issue. This is – this gets at the heart of democratic governance. It gets to the heart of the importance of the accountability of the government to the people. And so this is a serious issue. I’m sure the Secretary is raising it right now.

But I think she’s also going to be looking at the importance of the moment, that this is a real moment of opportunity. It’s a moment of opportunity for the government to turn a new page, to put into place Afghan-led structures that will help establish confidence in the Afghan Government, that it can deliver services, it can deliver security, and it can conduct its business in an open and transparent way.

Yeah, Charley.

QUESTION: Does turning the page demand a change of personnel in the top echelons of Karzai’s government?

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, this is a – it’s a multifaceted process. I think you need to have in place a process, and I think that they’ve started to take some of the first steps towards this process. There needs to be an investigative aspect to this. There needs to be – the Executive Branch has to do the – has to look into the allegations, like those allegations that were in The Washington Post today, and then you need to have a prosecutorial part of it.

And we’ve seen them – we’ve seen the Afghan Government start to take some steps towards this, but the important thing is going to be the follow-through, and that’s what we’re going to be looking for, is implementation. It’s not going to be just a matter of us telling them what to do. It – we are going to – we’re going to stand ready to help them build this kind of capacity. I mean, it is a very challenging thing for any government to do, I think, to establish these new structures. And we stand ready to help them as they go through this.


QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. KELLY: Anything else on Afghanistan or the Secretary’s schedule?


QUESTION: The Iranian foreign minister has said today that Iran reviewed the proposal and will definitely not send out our 3.5 percent enriched uranium. He added that means that we will consider swapping the nuclear fuel simultaneously in Iran. Do you consider this statement as a formal Iranian answer to the proposal? And what would be the next step?

MR. KELLY: This proposal was done by the IAEA in consultation with Russia, France, and the United States. We’ve all accepted this proposal. We have submitted a formal response to Mr. El Baradei, and this is what Iran needs to do. They need to give a formal response to El Baradei. Something that is said to the media, of course, doesn’t – what was said today doesn’t inspire our confidence that they’re going to deliver a positive response, of course. But this is the IAEA’s proposal and Iran has to give their response to the IAEA, and that’s what we’re waiting for. That’s what the IAEA is waiting for.

QUESTION: But it’s not their response, do you think?

MR. KELLY: Until the IAEA gets the response and formally says this is the – this is Iran’s response, I don’t consider a statement to the – to the press necessarily a response.

QUESTION: Well, Ian, are you saying that the IAEA didn’t listen to what he had to say?

MR. KELLY: Oh, I’m sure they did. I’m sure they did.

QUESTION: So if you don’t think that a statement to the press is any kind of a formal response, what are you doing up here every day?

MR. KELLY: I think I’ve heard that. I’m having a déjà vu here.

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, I’m just trying to figure it out.

MR. KELLY: I think I’ve heard this before.

QUESTION: I mean, if you’re speaking – you know, when you speak from the podium, you’re obviously giving the U.S. Government’s opinion, when the Secretary speaks from the podium as well. So when the Iranian foreign minister speaks to the Iranian media, you just ignore that, pretend it never happened?

MR. KELLY: No, we don’t ignore it. There was – on October 1st, there was a meeting and it was – the proposal by the IAEA was accepted in principle by all the parties, including Iran, and there was also an agreement that each of the parties would provide a written response to their proposal. Russia, France, and the United States have provided a written response, and we expect Iran to provide a written response, and we expect the IAEA to pronounce on that response. So we will wait for the IAEA to make a formal response to this.

QUESTION: Right. Just remind me of the timeline again here? The meeting – the Iranians allegedly agreed to this in principle on October 1st?

MR. KELLY: That’s right. Yeah.

QUESTION: What’s today’s date?

MR. KELLY: I believe its November 18th.

QUESTION: Yeah. You know, that’s an awful long time, and during which they are continuing to enrich. So I guess the question is the same as yesterday. How long is too long? When do you actually do something?

MR. KELLY: Well, we are continuing to consult with the IAEA, with our P-5+1 partners. We have a policy of a dual track, both engagement and pressure. At a certain point, we will consult with our P-5+1 partners. And we will keep both of these tracks open. We’re not going to close any door on the engagement track, but at a certain point I think we’re going to start paying a little more attention to the other track. We’re not quite at that point right now, but as I said before, I think that time is short.

QUESTION: Ian, it seems where Mottaki has made these comments today, the script in Farsi of the interview is a little more clearer. He says that we’ve already given our answer, and he goes step by step into how this whole process started, and he says we were supposed to give answers till Friday, and then Tehran did its study and announced its decision. That means what the IAEA dubbed as the initial response is considered by Tehran as the final response.

MR. KELLY: Well, again, so we’ll continue to consult with the IAEA. As far as I know, the IAEA has not received a formal response. If that is true that they have sent a response, then we’ll consult with our P-5+1 partners and we’ll decide what the next steps are.

QUESTION: Well, apparently, it was not in written form – oral, so (inaudible) apparently (inaudible).

MR. KELLY: Well, we’ll follow up with the IAEA if that’s indeed true. I’m not --

QUESTION: That’s what he’s saying.

MR. KELLY: Okay.


QUESTION: On Iraq, Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi has vetoed the election law today. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. KELLY: We’re disappointed at these developments related to the elections law. We urge the Iraqi leaders and parliament to take quick action to resolve any of the outstanding concerns that have been expressed. And this is so elections can go forward. And these elections, of course, are mandated by the Iraqi constitution.

We believe that it’s the responsibility of all Iraqi parties to ensure that the Iraqi people are able to exercise their democratic right to vote, and this election law represents the best way forward for the Iraqi Government to be able to consolidate the democratic and political achievements.

QUESTION: But with two months to go, what is the implication for not – for triggering or not triggering the provisions of SOFA, which would suspend the U.S. troop withdrawals from the designated areas?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I – right now, the way things stand, our plans remain on track for our military withdrawal. We remain committed to this plan. And of course, you know what the plan is. We cease all combat operations by August 2010 and fulfill the other obligations we have under this security agreement.

As I said, we urge the Iraqi parliament to take quick action. There is a certain urgency here timewise because the elections are mandated by the constitution to take place in January, by the end of January. So we just hope that they will take action in a very quick and expeditious way.

QUESTION: Has there been any American communication about what the implications are for the troop deployments?

MR. KELLY: I think that the Iraqi leaders themselves recognize the importance of getting this election law done, of keeping to this timetable. We have a couple of kind of parallel timetables going here. It’s in everybody’s interest that we keep to these timetables. And as I said before, we remain committed to this plan of the President to uphold our end of the agreement, and we plan to. But as I say, there is a certain time urgency here

Yes. Charley, do you have a question on –

QUESTION: Different topic.

MR. KELLY: Different topic. Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Different topic. Do you have any update on Ambassador Bosworth’s trip to Pyongyang?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have any updates today or any announcements to make. I think in the near future, though, we’ll be able to make an announcement.


QUESTION: On Iran, please. Your reaction to the death sentences handed down to five people in regard to election protests as well as lengthy prison terms doled out to dozens of other people?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I think our policy on this has been pretty consistent that Iran needs to respect the rights of the Iranian people to peacefully express their opinions. We have had concerns about the way some of these trials have been conducted. They’ve been conducted as kind of mass trials. We always have had concerns about Iran’s adherence to an open, transparent, due process of law. And we continue to call on Iran to have an open judicial and legal process.

QUESTION: Ian, I’m curious. What do you base those concerns on, the trials?

MR. KELLY: What do I base the concerns on?


MR. KELLY: Whenever I get a question about specific legal procedures, I always tend to sort of hesitate and --

QUESTION: Well, I’m just curious, because you don’t have any ambassador – you don’t have any diplomats there. I don’t think these trials have been open to the Swiss or any other diplomats.

MR. KELLY: Right. Well, that’s exactly --

QUESTION: So how do you --

MR. KELLY: Well, here, that’s one of our concerns right there, that they haven’t been open.

QUESTION: And that – and they’ve been mass trials? I mean, do you have reason to believe that due process was not followed in these cases?

MR. KELLY: Let me give you – get you very specific answers to this since we are getting into areas that are kind of beyond my --

QUESTION: Okay. I just want to make sure you’re not basing your concern --

MR. KELLY: -- education and confidence.

QUESTION: I just want to make sure you’re not basing your concerns on media reports of it, because if you were --

MR. KELLY: Now I know where you’re going with that. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- then I would go back to the foreign minister.

MR. KELLY: I see, okay. Yeah, in the back. Yeah.

QUESTION: On the visa waiver (inaudible), I have your answer, but do you have any idea when the process is going to be concluded?

MR. KELLY: I don’t think I have a date certain for you, but it’s my understanding that it will be soon. But I don’t have an exact date for you.

Yeah, Dave.

QUESTION: Ian, on Honduras, the parliament seems to have put off until after the election a decision on whether Zelaya will be restored. What does that do for the possible credibility of these elections?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, let me give you kind of an update of where we are. Craig Kelly, of course, has been in Tegucigalpa. He’s been down there to help support the implementation of the accord. He held a series of meetings down there to support the OAS efforts to have it fully implemented. He’s met with President Zelaya and he met with the de facto leader Mr. Micheletti. He told us that these were very frank and open talks.

Regarding the reports on the Honduran lawmakers will not decide on whether or not to restore Zelaya until after the elections, according to the accord, the – it called for the national congress to issue a pronouncement on the restoration of a democratically elected authority, Mr. Zelaya. As you know, it never stipulated a timetable for the congressional action. All along, we’ve called on the congress to act expeditiously in the spirit of the accord. We believe that steady steps towards the implementation of the accord will enhance the prospects for transparent, free, and open elections that will ultimately resolve this crisis and allow Honduras to rejoin the international community of nations.

Another one of these important steps towards the implementation of the accord and resolving this crisis is the formation of the – of a government of national unity. So that’s also an important component to this.

But since the accord never actually gave any kind of deadline by – to have this vote by the national congress, scheduling the vote on December 2nd doesn’t necessarily – isn’t necessarily inconsistent with the accord.

QUESTION: What – I’m sorry. That’s – you’ve just opened your – this is – they’re going to have a field day with this. So it’s okay with you if five years from now, they go and come back and say, all right, yeah, Zelaya can go – he’s restored, when you can’t – you can’t be restored after you’re voted out of office if you’re not – he’s not even running.

MR. KELLY: That’s right. I mean, he – his term ends the end of January.

QUESTION: Yeah. And so it’s okay – so it’s okay with you, and you’ll – it will be all right and you’ll accept the results of the election, if they – even if they don’t put him back in when you --

MR. KELLY: Well, he’s not running. He’s not running for the election.

QUESTION: Yeah, but he’s going to be out – he’s effectively out of office. I mean, talk about – that’s the lamest of lame ducks. He’s not – he is – I’m confused. You no longer think that he has to be restored before he is voted out of office?

MR. KELLY: Well, it has been a very strong principle of ours that in order for the country to be reconciled, there has to be a restoration of the democratically elected president. That implies that he has to be restored before the end of his term, okay?

QUESTION: So basically --

QUESTION: All right. So 10 minutes – 10 minutes before the end of his term?

QUESTION: December – until the end of January it can be.

MR. KELLY: Look, I mean, clearly, he has to be restored in a timely way. And I don’t think we’ve ever said anything but that.


MR. KELLY: But what we’re focused on is the implementation of the accord. I mean, that’s – and – I think that’s what everybody has to be focused on is. And that’s what Craig Kelly was down there for to make sure that it’s done step by step. And there are a number of steps that have to take place. Now, the national congress has set a date to pronounce on this, to pronounce on this issue of the – what – I mean, the accord calls it a pronouncement on the reversion of the executive branch, a pronouncement on the – whether or not Mr. Zelaya should return.

This is a – this is basically – it’s a – we have a lot of interests, obviously. This is – the Organization of American States have a – has a lot of interest in having a government down there that reflects the will of the people and having reconciliation between the Zelaya camp and the Micheletti camp.

QUESTION: Am I correct in thinking that there’s --

MR. KELLY: And the accord is the best to do this.

QUESTION: Am I correct in thinking that there is no way to guarantee that this pronouncement will even restore him to office?

MR. KELLY: It’s up to the congress.

QUESTION: They could come –

MR. KELLY: The both sides --

QUESTION: -- back and say no, he can’t come back and --

MR. KELLY: They could come back. I mean, that is --

QUESTION: Well, what happens then?

MR. KELLY: Well, we’ll – let’s see then.

QUESTION: Then you walk into --

MR. KELLY: It’s now. It’s not then.

QUESTION: Ian, will the election --

MR. KELLY: It’s a Honduran crisis. And we want to make sure that --


MR. KELLY: -- the Hondurans are able to sit down --

QUESTION: -- you inserted yourself into it --

MR. KELLY: We have.

QUESTION: -- quite – so it’s no longer just a Honduran crisis. You’re involved.

MR. KELLY: Of course, we’re involved. We are involved because we want to be involved, because it’s important for us to be involved. We’re involved because they want us to be involved.

QUESTION: Ian, the election will enjoy international support, including that of the United States, even if at the time they vote the Congress hasn’t decided?

MR. KELLY: It all depends on how the vote is conducted. It depends on how the campaign is conducted. We will decide how to pronounce on the election when we see how it is conducted.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Sorry, another topic.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Could you tell us or update us, what’s the status of the negotiations with the Yemeni Government about the repatriation of Guantanamo detainees who have been cleared for release?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I’m not sure I have that. Hold on one second. We’ll have to get back to you on that.

QUESTION: Can you just describe what you see as the sticking point in these negotiations?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Again, let me just take that question and we’ll get back to you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:07 p.m.)


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