Gordon Duguid
Acting Deputy Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 25, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Travel to Mexico Today/ Will Meet with President Calderon and FM Espinosa
    • Clarification on Meetings between U.S. and Burmese Officials
    • U.S. Policy on Burma Remains Unchanged
    • Egypt is not an ICC Signatory
    • Focus Should Be on the Problems in Sudan / 4.7 Million People in Darfur Affected / 2.7 Million Internally Displaced People in Darfur / NGO Expulsions Could Reduce Access to Health Care to1.5 Million People, Reduce Access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services to 1.6 Million People, and Reduce Food Aid to 1.1 Million People
    • Must Work Diplomatically to Get Sudan to Reverse Decision on NGO Expulsion / U.S. Is Talking with Allies in the Region / Must Work to Ease the Suffering of Vulnerable Populations
  • IRAN
    • Consular Affairs Has Spoken to Roxana Saberi's Father / U.S. Is Concerned / Continue to Urge Iran to Allow Consular Access through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran / No Official U.S. Presence in Iran
    • U.S. Has Not Been Informed if Iran Will Attend Conference on Afghanistan in The Hague
    • U.S. Supports a Two State Solution / Will Continue Efforts for Peace / U.S. Has Worked with Many Israeli Governments
    • U.S. Would Consider a Launch of a Space Vehicle Using Ballistic Missile Technology as a Violation of UNSC Resolutions / Will Not Predict Reaction to an Event that Has Not Taken Place
    • No Update on the Two American Journalists Detained
    • Good Diplomatic Relationship with Pakistan / Continue to Work with the President and Government on a Wide Range of Issues / U.S. Has Contact with Opposition Leaders in Pakistan and in Many Countries
    • U.S. Wants to See an End to Terrorist Attacks, Protection for Noncombatants, and a Resolution to Bring this Conflict to an End


11:30 a.m. EDT

MR. DUGUID: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. As you know, Secretary Clinton is in Mexico today. She’s currently in Mexico City. She’s having meetings with Foreign Minister Espinosa and President Calderon, and she will have a couple of public events that I think will be certainly carried by your colleagues in the Mexican media and those traveling with her on the plane.

I don’t have any other announcements or any announcements to offer you, so we’ll go straight to your questions, please.

Yes, Sylvie.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that a U.S. official met with Burmese officials in Burma yesterday, and that is a sign of softening of the U.S. position on Burma?

MR. DUGUID: No, I will not confirm that because it’s not correct. I did see that this was a report on a blog. I’ve been directly in touch with the officials that the blog named, and there was no contact that either official recalls, let alone sought out. So the report is incorrect.

QUESTION: So it’s incorrect to say that the – Mr. Blake[1]met with the Burmese Government?

MR. DUGUID: It is incorrect.

QUESTION: Okay. And – but is it correct to say that he was in Burma, was in Myanmar?

MR. DUGUID: In what time period? I believe he has visited Burma once in the past. He has not, however, had any substantive conversations with Burmese officials, nor has the U.S. position on Burma changed.

QUESTION: If you say it’s not substantive, what does that mean? Does that mean he’s had other, less substantive conversations?

MR. DUGUID: As all diplomats know, if you go to a reception and the host has invited someone else, you may in that setting come across someone from a – in this case, the Burmese Government. The ambassador has no recollection of that happening.


MR. DUGUID: But that is a possibility at some point in the future, of course.

QUESTION: When he last visited Burma? You said he visited there recent past.

MR. DUGUID: I did not say the recent past. I said at some point in the past. I don’t have that – those dates for you. I do believe he has been to Burma at some time in the past. I don’t think it’s relevant to this particular question.


QUESTION: Change of topic. Sudan’s president is in Egypt today.


QUESTION: And you know, he was met by President Mubarak at the airport. It doesn’t appear that he’s going to be arrested from there. I’m still --

MR. DUGUID: Egypt is not a signatory to the ICC.

QUESTION: But do you think it will be good if Egypt took the initiative of --

MR. DUGUID: What I think would be good is for all of us to focus on the problems at hand in Sudan. Those problems affect 4.7 million people in Darfur alone. Internally displaced people in Darfur number 2.7 million. Populations with reduced access to health care due to the expulsions of NGO workers could number as high as 1.5 million. Populations with reduced access to adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene services due to the expulsions could number as high as 1.6 million. And populations with reduced access to food aid due to the expulsions could reach as high 1.1 million. This is what the United States is focusing on right now.

There are the long-term questions. I know you have them. We are looking at the result of the expulsions and its effect on the vulnerable populations in Darfur and in the south. What we need to do is to work diplomatically to get the Government of Sudan to reverse this policy of expulsions. And in the interim, between that reversal and now, we need to work as hard as we can to make sure that the vulnerable populations do not suffer because of the decision.

QUESTION: But wouldn’t you agree, though, that by hosting Bashir, the Egyptian Government is giving him credibility, number one? Secondly, the prime minister of Qatar said today that his state was coming under a lot of pressure not to host Bashir. Is the United States putting direct pressure on Qatar not to host Bashir?

MR. DUGUID: We are talking with all of our allies and partners, friends in the region, on ways to resolve the problems for the internally displaced people in Darfur and the south of Sudan. All of our efforts right now are looking at diplomatic ways in which to ease the suffering, to prevent any increase in suffering.

QUESTION: That wasn’t the question --

MR. DUGUID: As you know --



QUESTION: The question was are you putting pressure on the Government of Qatar not to invite Bashir to --

MR. DUGUID: I don’t have any specific information about diplomatic exchanges on – and I’m not sure in what context this pressure is being applied. What we are doing, and what we are encouraging strongly all interested parties to do, is to get back to the problem at hand, which is the fate of the vulnerable populations in Darfur and the south of Sudan.

QUESTION: So does that mean that you’re avoid – that you’re sort of putting to one side the ICC warrant – I know you’re not a signatory anyway, so it doesn’t really have an effect on you – and just focusing on the people of Darfur and trying to get water to them, et cetera, et cetera? Have you just put that to one side, the ICC warrant?

MR. DUGUID: The ICC warrant has been issued by the signatories to that party. The United States, through the UN Security Council, did not stop the UNSCR that authorized that. That was a – one process. What we are looking at right now is how to relieve the suffering. And discussions about, you know, things other than that don’t help us get that job done.


QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. DUGUID: Sorry, same subject? Any more?


MR. DUGUID: Okay, change of subject.

QUESTION: The IAEA will elect a new director tomorrow. Do you support any specific candidate?

MR. DUGUID: I’ll have to take the question. I’m not aware that we have made our – any support for a particular candidate public. But I will take the question for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. DUGUID: Okay. Yes, please.

QUESTION: The Saberi case. Roxana Saberi --


QUESTION: -- any update on that?

MR. DUGUID: Yes. The consular – our consular officers here in Washington spoke with her father yesterday. They will speak with her father again today. As you can imagine, her father is very concerned about her well-being, as are we, as, certainly, is Secretary Clinton. We continue to urge, through the Swiss, the Iranian Government to allow consular access to Roxana Saberi. She has had access to legal counsel, which is one of the things that we had been asking for in the early stages. But we now are pushing for, through the Swiss, consular access, which we feel is particularly necessary at this time. We have been in regular contact with the Swiss on this issue.

QUESTION: Is there any possibility to have direct contact with the Iranians? U.S. officials get the – you know, (inaudible)?

MR. DUGUID: We don’t have any representation – official representation in Iran. This is being handled through our protecting power, the Swiss, in Tehran.

Same subject?

QUESTION: Well, also on the subject of Iran, have you heard anything more from the – from the Iranians on, you know, whether they’re going to be attending this Afghanistan conference? Have you asked the hosts?

MR. DUGUID: I’m not aware that the hosts have told us who has all accepted their invitations at this point. If I get that list, I’ll be happy to share it with you.

QUESTION: If the Iranians are attending, would it not be a – you know, a reasonable opportunity on the sidelines of this conference to mention the Saberi case --

MR. DUGUID: The --

QUESTION: -- among the other issues you have?

MR. DUGUID: The speculative question will be met with our typical answer on speculative questions.

Yes, please.

QUESTION: Israel --

MR. DUGUID: Sorry, Ms. – here, yes, please.

QUESTION: Israel; given the shape of the new government under Prime Minister Netanyahu, is the two-state solution dead in the U.S.’s view?

MR. DUGUID: Has the government been formed?

QUESTION: It’s going to be formally presented next week, but --

MR. DUGUID: Then we’ll wait till next week and we’ll see what the Government of Israel’s – the new Government of Israel’s policies will be. As you know, the United States continues to support a two-state solution. We have a long history of working with Israeli governments of all stripes. We expect that we will continue our efforts to try and bring a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian difficulties and problems, and we will continue to work for a two-state solution.

QUESTION: Is there concern, though, that given the activities of the expected parties in this incoming government, the propagation of the war in Gaza, the anti-Palestinian rhetoric that has been put forth by Avigdor Lieberman and his supporters, is there concern that this might, as the President alluded last night, make the job perhaps more difficult?

MR. DUGUID: I think the President’s words stands for – stand for themselves. He said that this has been a difficult process up to this point. It has not been an easy process; otherwise, we would perhaps be farther along than we are. What you have seen is a consistent American effort to try and help resolve the problems, and that resolve remains.


QUESTION: The Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama has been denied a visa by South Africa. Do – what – do you have any – a position on that, and do you think it is appropriate?

MR. DUGUID: I refer you to the organizers of the event and the Government of South Africa for details of this particular incident.

QUESTION: Canada and Sri Lanka --

QUESTION: I just – on the same subject, actually, the conference has been cancelled. Do you think – by the organizers, by Archbishop Tutu and --


QUESTION: -- others who have withdrawn their support for it. Do you think that South Africa missed an opportunity to discuss – they were looking at various sporting issues – do you think that it was a lost opportunity on behalf of the South Africans and criticized --

MR. DUGUID: I again would refer you to the South Africans to discuss what the ramifications of their decision is. And the Dalai Lama, as you know, is a regular visitor to the United States and we do not miss an opportunity to try and have discussions with him.

Yes, please, and then we’ll come --

QUESTION: On North Korea, it is reported that North Korea will boycott the Six-Party Talks if United States interfere their planned missiles test. What is your comment?

MR. DUGUID: Well, I’m glad you described it as a missile test, because that says a lot for me. The statements coming out of North Korea on this particular subject have been frequent and regular. But if we can just return to some of the facts on this: After a previous launch, the UN Security Council made it clear that ballistic missile technology that is used for launching satellites or launching missiles is, in effect, the same, and held North Korea to a commitment not to engage in ballistic missile testing.

Now I’m paraphrasing and I may not have had the specific diplomatic language right, but that’s the fact of the matter. The United States would consider a launch of a space vehicle which relies on ballistic missile technology as a violation of current UN Security Council resolutions. We would then move on from that point. I’m not going to predict what our reaction would be to something that hasn’t taken place yet. But the fact of the matter is that this is what the UN decisions say.

QUESTION: When you say move from that point, what does it mean?

MR. DUGUID: It means that it – that this has not happened yet, although many people have spoken about it. So --

QUESTION: So you would move – what does it mean?

QUESTION: To sanctions?

QUESTION: What kind of move? Sanctions or --

MR. DUGUID: No, I’m not going to predict that – any reaction to an event that has not yet taken place.

QUESTION: Do you have any indication, though, that it’s about to take place? Have you seen any --

MR. DUGUID: I have no indications.

QUESTION: Have you seen any interesting movement of, you know, equipment or --

MR. DUGUID: I have not, and I would not be able to share with you any of that sort of information anyway.

Yes, Nina.

QUESTION: Just on Pakistan, now that the chief justice is back in place and Nawaz Sharif seems to be more popular than ever, is the U.S. looking more towards Sharif as someone that they can work with?

MR. DUGUID: There is a government in place. We’re working with the government. There are opposition parties. We have regular contact with opposition parties – not only Pakistan, but in all nations. We are on a good diplomatic relation – in a good diplomatic relationship with Pakistan. We will continue to work with the government on the problems that it faces, not only those of terrorism, but also on institution building and on economics. We will have discussions with opposition parties and their members in order to discuss with the entire political leadership how they see it best for Pakistan to move forward.

QUESTION: Is it not fair to say, though, that Sharif is so popular now, and it was really his leverage and his galvanizing the people for his march that really made Zardari back down? Is it not fair to say --

MR. DUGUID: Well, I’ll leave the analysis to you and to others. What I will say is that where we are right now is working with a Pakistani government and that – you know, as the political process moves forward, at such time as Pakistan has new elections, there will be another government that we would continue to try and maintain our good relationship with. But we’re not there at the moment, and we are certainly working with President Zardari and the current Pakistani Government.

Yes, okay.

QUESTION: In Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Government has invited both Tamil parties for peace talks. Is this what Secretary Clinton wants Sri Lankan Government to do when she called on the president last week?

MR. DUGUID: I don’t think that what we want the government to do is the right way to put the question. What we would like to see as an outcome is that there is an end to terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, that there is protection for noncombatants in areas where conflict is ongoing, and then a resolution to the problem be reached as quickly as possible, and that all parties who can agree on peaceful means to end the conflict should work together to do so.

QUESTION: Would you like LTT to be involved in this peace?

MR. DUGUID: It’s not a question of what we would like or what we wouldn't like. I’ve just explained to you what the outcomes are that are necessary, as far as we see it.

Yes, please.

QUESTION: Yeah, change of subject. This is regarding the Saudi prince, Interior Minister Nayef, who stayed in New York for like a month and he used his hotel room as a headquarters for his operation as a minister, including crackdown on the people in the country in Medina and Qatif, arresting children, two U.S. citizens, cutting off electricity from cities, sending a lot of troops. So is that legal? Can U.S. – foreign official use U.S. territory and communications to conduct what U.S. call human rights abuses? Is that criminal or --

MR. DUGUID: So you’re asking me is it legal for a foreign visitor to use a telephone in the United States?

QUESTION: No, to use fax – to use the United States as a place to give orders that violate human rights that the U.S. doesn't --

MR. DUGUID: I’m not particularly --

QUESTION: Are you going to investigate this --

MR. DUGUID: I’m sorry, excuse me for a minute. I’m not particularly up-to-date with the events that are you describing, but getting back to your question as to whether or not a representative of a foreign government can carry on their governmental duties while in the United States, I think that is probably covered under the Vienna Convention. As to particular incidents that may be happening in a country, whether they are human rights violations or not, I don’t have an answer for you because I’m unfamiliar with the incidents that --

QUESTION: Are you aware of the situation in Medina and Qatif that’s ongoing, including two U.S. citizens being imprisoned?

MR. DUGUID: I have seen some press reports, but I am not really that current with the --

QUESTION: What is the U.S. position on --

MR. DUGUID: As I am not really current with all the details, I don’t have that for you. We’ll try and get you something --


MR. DUGUID: -- on that, if I can have some time afterwards.

Yes, please.

QUESTION: On North Korea, there was a report that U.S. official told that North Korea has now positioned a Taepo-dong 2 on the launch spot at its missile launch facility. Could you confirm that?

MR. DUGUID: I cannot, because I do not have that information. I have not heard this before.

Okay, thank you. Yes.

QUESTION: Also on North Korea, is there anything more on the status of the two reporters from Current TV who apparently were taken --

MR. DUGUID: I have no updates for you except that we are working as hard as we can.

QUESTION: Have you managed to establish the official charges against them yet?

MR. DUGUID: I don’t have any further updates for you than we had yesterday.

Any other questions? Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 11:51 a.m.)
[1] Ambassador Robert O. Blake