Gordon Duguid
Acting Deputy Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
February 6, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • The Secretary's Meeting with PM Berisha
    • Discussion to Focus on Human Rights, Preparations for NATO Membership
    • U.S. Has Seen Press Statements, but Not Received Official Notification re: Disposition of Manas Air Base
    • Discussions with Kyrgyz Government Continue / Operations Proceeding as Normal
    • Refer to DoD for SOFA Details / Protocol of Intention / 180-day Notification Requirement
    • Waiting for Official Response / Media Reports May or May Not Reflect Internal Discussion
    • Cooperating with Tajiks, Others in Region
    • Afghanistan Must Be Secure, Stable / As Important for Neighboring Countries as for U.S.
    • Timeline for Post-START Agreement Talks / Fast Track
    • U.S. Prepared to Deal Seriously with Russians on Meaningful Arms Reductions
    • Not Good to Throw Numbers Around Before We've Started Discussions
    • U.S. Ready for Full Spectrum of Talks on Bilateral, Multilateral Issues
    • Possible Meetings at G-20, NATO Summit / Not Sure if NATO-Russia Council Will Meet
    • Russia Likely to Raise Missile Defense / U.S. Will be Ready to Discuss, Position is Clear
    • Government Release of A.Q. Khan Would Be Unfortunate / Serious Proliferation Risk
    • Khan's Support to Iran, North Korea Will Have Harmful Impact for Years to Come
    • Pakistanis Aware of U.S. Position / Trying to Confirm Court Decision
    • U.S. Sanctions Against A.Q. Khan Network / Should Have No Effect on Khan's Detention
    • The Secretary's Call to PM Olmert Was Confidential


11:05 a.m. EST

MR. DUGUID: Good afternoon, colleagues.

QUESTION: The front row is not full.

MR. DUGUID: The front row seems to be extremely empty. They don’t like the second string appearing.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. DUGUID: That’s right. I have no announcements, so we’ll go straight to your questions. Who would like to lead off, please?


QUESTION: Gordon, could you give us an idea of what the agenda is for the Secretary and the Albanian leader? Are they going to talk about that purge of former communist people in their government?

MR. DUGUID: Well, they’re going to talk about bilateral issues. Issues of human rights will come up. Whether it’s the lustration law or not, I don’t know if that will be raised in particular. I think the main thrust of the conversation will be about preparations for ascension into NATO membership. As you know, Albania is one of the two countries that’s been granted NATO membership. The United States has agreed to that. We have signed our portion of the agreement. Other allies have as well. They’ll be talking NATO issues for the most part, as well as other bilateral issues.


QUESTION: Have you talked about Kyrgyzstan yet?

MR. DUGUID: I have not.

QUESTION: Would you?

MR. DUGUID: Would I talk about Kyrgyzstan? I don’t have much in the way of news for you. There are government officials from Kyrgyzstan who have made statements in the press. We have seen those statements. However, we have not received our official notification about the status of the disposition of the Manas base. We proceed with our operations in Manas today and we will continue to do so as we try to continue our discussions with the Kyrgyz Government about our presence there.

QUESTION: Where are those discussions taking place? In Bishkek? Are they taking place here, or are they --

MR. DUGUID: In both places. We are communicating through our embassies, government-to-government.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary made any calls about this?

MR. DUGUID: The Secretary, to my knowledge, has not made any calls on this yet.

QUESTION: Well, yesterday she said she was – she took a – you know, a personal interest, she puts a high priority on this.

MR. DUGUID: That’s true, and I’m sure that when the Secretary feels that her intervention is something that will be needed, that she would be happy to do that.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, are you still trying to – do you still want to stay there? Do you still want to have – I mean, is that – the discussions are --

MR. DUGUID: That is one of our options. We are there, and it is always a --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. DUGUID: -- you know, a bit of a procedure if you have to change. But we are there under the current agreement, and yes, we are in discussion to continue to stay there, but we do have other options.

QUESTION: Now, your Embassy in Tajikistan has put out a statement talking about cooperation with the Tajiks. Do you have anything on that?

MR. DUGUID: I don’t have anything other than what the Embassy has said. We are in – we have been cooperating with the Tajiks and we are looking at ways to cooperate with other nations throughout the region. As you know, Afghanistan is extremely important, not only for the United States, but for the countries that border Afghanistan. It needs to be a secure nation. It needs to be a stable nation. That is as important to the neighboring countries as it is to the United States.

QUESTION: Just to stick with this, Gordon, the – our stories out of Bishkek quote the Kyrgyz – Secretary of the Kyrgyz Security Council as telling reporters, quote, “The air base’s fate has been decided,” close quote. Quote, “I see no reason why the air base should remain in place now that this decision has been taken. We are not holding any talks on this,” close quote.

So you are definitely certain that you are talking to them about this?

MR. DUGUID: I have – as you have read, I have seen press reports that may or may not reflect the final deliberations in the Kyrgyz Government. We have been in discussion with the government. They have not responded to us with a request to close down our operations there, and therefore we proceed as normal until we receive that.

QUESTION: And you are now in discussion – I’m just trying to get --

MR. DUGUID: Today – or whether or not we’ve been in discussions with them today or in the last two days on this, I don’t know when the last communication was. We have seen a number of statements in the press that may or may not reflect the debate going on within the Kyrgyz Government. When they have a position, the way to present that to us is through the official channels, as we’ve been doing in the discussions for several months.

QUESTION: And one more on this. You probably don’t know this off the top of your head, but if you don’t, if you could check. I presume there’s a SOFA governing the use of this base, and I wonder if you could find out for us what period of time may be specified for closure if they inform that you that it is going – formally, that is it is going to be closed.

MR. DUGUID: I have to defer to experts on this at the Pentagon. It’s my understanding that the actual name of the agreement is called a Protocol of Intention, and that it is accurate to say that that Protocol of Intention includes a six-month notification, or 180 days. But I’m not the expert on this. The Pentagon has the experts on this. I refer you to them.

QUESTION: Just to try and nail this down a bit, you have sought from the Kyrgyz clarification of what their position is, and they have – what, not gotten back to you at all, or not told you that the decision is final?

MR. DUGUID: They have not told us that they’ve reached a final decision through official channels, which is what we are waiting for.

QUESTION: Have they told you anything through official channels?

MR. DUGUID: Not that I am aware of. We’ve seen the press reports.

QUESTION: So they have – so this is kind of a – you talk about discussions, but it appears that it’s an awful one-sided discussion, where you ask and they don’t respond.

MR. DUGUID: Well, we are waiting for them to formulate their position on the last discussions that we had. We’ve seen press reports of --

QUESTION: Well, I understand that --

MR. DUGUID: -- a debate that may be going on inside that government. But there is an official channel for them to present to the United States what their decision is.

QUESTION: But to the best of their – to the best of your knowledge, have they gotten back to you with anything?

MR. DUGUID: No, to the best of my knowledge, they have not gotten back to us with any changes.

QUESTION: So it’s not exactly correct to say that you’re in discussions with them, because they don’t seem to be discussing anything.

MR. DUGUID: Well, it is correct to say that we have been talking to them and we’re waiting for their response to us. I have seen that they’ve been having a vigorous debate in the media. That may represent a debate going on in the government. But a discussion does require you to stop and listen sometimes. We’ll listen --

QUESTION: But there’s also – but a discussion also requires two people to be involved in it, and it seems like it’s --

MR. DUGUID: There are more than two people involved in it.

QUESTION: Well, I’m sure – two sides to it.

MR. DUGUID: And that is accurate --

QUESTION: It does not appear that the other side is actually discussing, so – discussing anything, so that what this guy that Arshad is talking about saying is there are no talks on this, that’s correct.

MR. DUGUID: No. What is correct is that we have been in discussions with the Kyrgyz Government. We are waiting for them to respond to us about the disposition of the base – the future disposition of the base. What you are seeing and what we are seeing are many media reports that may or may not reflect what’s going on internally as they formulate their position. We’re waiting to hear back from them officially about what that position is.


MR. DUGUID: Yes, Viola.

QUESTION: Can I just ask one more on Albania and the meeting today?


QUESTION: Will there be any discussion about potential – Albania potentially accepting more detainees from Guantanamo?

MR. DUGUID: Well, the discussions on Guantanamo detainees are something that we’re doing with individual nations and with the EU as a group. I don’t have any information for you on that particular topic in this meeting. If I can get something, I will do it.

QUESTION: That would be great, yes.

MR. DUGUID: Yes, please, Nina.

QUESTION: So can we go on to arms control? Yesterday, Robert said that these replacement talks for START or new kind of talks would be put on the fast track. Can you elaborate on that, when will Clinton meet with the Russians? Can you talk about that with us?

MR. DUGUID: Well, I don’t have any announcement for you on when any meetings would be taking place, particularly at the level of Secretary. Fast track is an indication of reality. The START agreement ends this year, 2009. By definition, if we are going to have a post-START agreement, it has to be on the fast track in order to have something in place when START finishes.

We are prepared to do that. We are prepared to deal seriously with the Russians on arms reductions. And I don’t know if we have made the first moves on that yet, whether or not we’ve had meetings on that yet. If we do have, I’ll make sure that I get that to you. But the fast track is a statement of fact.



QUESTION: Can we stay on this for a moment? There’ve been some experts who have been saying that the U.S. is ready to cut their stockpile by 50 percent, reducing it to a thousand warheads. Is that --

MR. DUGUID: I think it’s a bit early to start talking numbers yet until we start getting into the discussions themselves. Earlier reports were saying higher numbers. I think people are sort of looking at the situation, maybe guessing. The United States is prepared to talk seriously with the Russians about meaningful reductions in nuclear arsenals, and it’s not good to start throwing numbers around just before we’ve started the discussions.

QUESTION: Do we have a replacement for Rood yet?

MR. DUGUID: Not that I’m aware of.


MR. DUGUID: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Do you know when we can expect that?

MR. DUGUID: If we get nominations that are put forward, they will be announced, you know, at that time, but I don’t have anything for you at the moment.

QUESTION: On the same subject?

MR. DUGUID: Same subject.

QUESTION: Same subject.

MR. DUGUID: Then one – Lach and then Viola.

QUESTION: Okay, yeah. The Secretary yesterday with the French foreign minister said that the United States and others would like to consult more with the Russians on Iran. Can you flesh that out a bit more for us? I mean, when and where and what topics would be discussed with the Russians? Would it just be on Iran or would it include some of the concerns Russia has with the U.S.?

MR. DUGUID: The discussions that we are ready to have with the Russians would be across the spectrum of our bilateral relationship as well as those multilateral issues on which we are cooperating. The United States is fully prepared to talk to Russia in a number of fora and bilaterally.

I don’t have any announcements for you right now of when meetings will be taking place. The first meeting that could possibly take place of a planned nature is the G-20, where, of course, we will be looking at economic issues. There will be the NATO summit following that. I am not sure if there’s going to be a NATO-Russia Council meeting at that summit, but that would be another place where we could have discussions.

The meetings take a little bit of doing. You can have a snap meeting, but it’s better to prepare and to go in with a full agenda. When we have those things and are going to sit down with the Russians, we’ll make sure that everybody knows.

QUESTION: I would assume that missile defense – because at least the previous administration saw the missile defense against, quote/unquote, rogue states like Iran would be part of these discussions that the U.S. would, under the new President --

MR. DUGUID: I could be wrong, but I have no doubt that when we sit down with the Russians, they will raise missile defense, and we’ll be prepared to discuss it with them at that point. President Obama’s position, Secretary Clinton’s position on this is clear. Robert has stated it from the podium on several times. But I can’t imagine that the Russians would not want to discuss this, and we are willing and able to discuss the full range of our relationship with Russia at the appropriate time.

Viola, same subject?

QUESTION: On the nuclear issue with Russia. The Daily Telegraph reported today that Henry Kissinger was sent by the Administration to Moscow to have negotiations to try to persuade the Russian Government to agree to 1,000 nuclear warheads. Can you tell us anything about that?

MR. DUGUID: I’ve seen that report. It’s very well written. I don’t have any confirmation of you on any of the points contained therein. I would refer you to the White House for any comment on what the Administration may be doing with Russia. As far as I know, I have no information on that report.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. DUGUID: The same question – same topic?

QUESTION: Different topic.

MR. DUGUID: Change of topic. Please.

QUESTION: A Pakistani court has declared the nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan to be free after five years of house arrest. I wonder – and as you’ll recall, he was convicted after having confessed to selling nuclear technology to a number of countries, including Iran, North Korea, and Libya, and immediately pardoned but placed under house arrest.

One, what is your reaction to the court’s decision to free the man who, I think, is regarded as the most successful nuclear proliferator in the world? And second, I believe the United States had repeatedly sought, but had been unsuccessful, in interviewing Mr. Khan about his activities. Does his newfound freedom open up the possibility of your talking to him about his proliferation activities?

MR. DUGUID: Well, I won’t get ahead of where we are in what we know about the situation. We have seen that Mr. Khan’s defense lawyer has announced a court decision, and that this announcement came late on a Friday in Islamabad which, of course, is the Sabbath. And there has been no government confirmation of this decision that I’m aware of, and I was in touch with our Embassy earlier.

But on the general principle of A.Q. Khan and his status, let me say that, in our view, it would be unfortunate if the court released him. We believe A.Q. Khan remains a serious proliferation risk. The proliferation support that Khan and his associates provided to Iran and North Korea has had a harmful impact on the international – on international security, and will for years to come.

QUESTION: Have you made – is there more?


QUESTION: Have you made that point to the Pakistanis?

MR. DUGUID: The Pakistanis are well aware of our position on this. This is not a new position.

QUESTION: Well, no --

MR. DUGUID: They are – they know that this is our position.

QUESTION: But have they been told subsequent to the lawyer’s announcement?

MR. DUGUID: We’re trying to confirm what the court has decided and said. But I have said, if it is accurate, this is the U.S. position and it will remain the U.S. position.

QUESTION: Were you anticipating A.Q. Khan’s release, because sanctions were announced here and in the State Department a few weeks ago, and ones particularly targeting A.Q. Khan?

MR. DUGUID: The sanctions were announced to target the A.Q. Khan network, which we are actively pursuing and we are trying to roll up. And the United States and its international partners have done a good job in tracking down this network. That should have no effect or influence on whether or not Mr. Khan is let out of his current status of detention.

QUESTION: Still on that subject. You said that you’re trying to confirm what his status is, what the court decision is.

MR. DUGUID: Correct.

QUESTION: Have you asked the government there for clarification --

MR. DUGUID: The gov --

QUESTION: -- or are you going through other channels?

MR. DUGUID: To be – the government is – it’s Sabbath in Islamabad right now. The government is, if you will, not in session. So we have tried to reach those people that we know can inform us of the decision, haven’t had a response as I came into this room. We may get it.

QUESTION: So right now, you’re just trying to clarify the situation.


QUESTION: But if he is released, you think it’s a bad thing?

MR. DUGUID: If he is released, we think it would be extremely regrettable. This man remains a serious proliferation risk.

QUESTION: Let me congratulate you, Gordon. On your first appearance before the podium, you have answered the first hypothetical question that this building has ever, ever answered.

MR. DUGUID: I answered it hypothetically: I said “if.” (Laughter.) So the subjunctive remains. (Laughter.)

Other questions?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. DUGUID: Thank you.

QUESTION: I got one, I got one.

MR. DUGUID: Oops. Here we go.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton called Israeli Prime Minister Olmert yesterday?

MR. DUGUID: That is correct.

QUESTION: Accounts of the conversation vary. Some Israeli media report that she called to thank him for the release of – I believe it’s about $43 million to go to pay PA salaries in the Gaza Strip. Other accounts are that she had called to press him to release that money, which presumably is something the United States Government would support since it’s trying to bolster the Palestinian Authority, notably in Gaza.

So can you give us any detail on the substance of that call, whether it was just thanks for doing that or whether it was please do this?

MR. DUGUID: Accounts vary because the call was confidential and it will remain so with me.

Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 11:24 a.m.)

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