Robert Wood
Acting Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 8, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Ambassador Bosworth's Travel Schedule
    • Six-Party Process / Reinforcing Multilateral Process / Bilateral Dialogue
    • Call on North Korea to Return to Six-Party Framework and Live Up to Obligations
    • Renewal of Sanctions Under Executive Order / Serious Concerns About Syrian Behavior
    • Acting Assistant Secretary Feltman's Travel to Region
    • Need to See Concrete Steps from Syrian Government
    • Update of Trilateral Meetings with Afghanistan and Pakistan
    • Congressional Concerns in Strategies of Both Governments in Dealing with Extremists
    • Assurances from Government of Pakistan to Take Fight to Taliban and Al-Qaida
    • Afghan Government Understands it Has to Take Steps on Extremists / Corruption
  • IRAN
    • Iran Needs to Be a Better Neighbor with Afghanistan
    • Budget / Both Nations are Priorities for Obama Administration
    • U.S. Supports Diversification of Energy Supply and Resources Worldwide


10:47 a.m. EDT

MR. WOOD: Happy Friday to everyone. Happy Friday. Welcome to the briefing. Whenever you guys are ready.

QUESTION: We’re ready. I’m ready.

MR. WOOD: You’re ready? Okay, just want to make sure.


MR. WOOD: Wait, let me – I’ve got something to lead off with.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. WOOD: I just want to give you an update on Ambassador Bosworth’s schedule – travel. Ambassador Bosworth’s delegation arrived in Seoul today, May 8th, and met with Korean officials. They will arrive in Tokyo on Monday, May 11. Ambassador Bosworth will return to the U.S. on Tuesday, May 12. The rest of the delegation will proceed to Moscow, returning to Washington on May 14.

Today, Ambassador Bosworth and his delegation met with Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, Unification Minister Hyun In-taek, National Security Agency Kim Sung-hwan, and South Korea Six-Party Talks envoy Wi Sung-lac.

Ambassador Bosworth and Korean officials agreed that our views about recent developments in North Korea and the way forward are similar. They agreed that the Six-Party process remains the heart of the effort to achieve the goal of a verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but the United States is prepared to deal with North Korea bilaterally in a way that reinforces the multilateral process. The delegation has no plans to visit North Korea.

And with that, I’m ready to take your questions.

QUESTION: The U.S. agreed – say that part again?

QUESTION: The United States will deal bilaterally --

QUESTION: Will deal with North Korea bilaterally?

MR. WOOD: In terms of reinforcing the multilateral process, which is the way it’s been.

QUESTION: Well, no --

QUESTION: So why do you --

QUESTION: You used to say it was – you used to say as a part of the multilateral process, or underneath the multilateral process.

QUESTION: Yeah, in fact, is --

MR. WOOD: Well, I – reinforcing the process. So, I mean, that’s been the basic premise of that – of those bilateral talks. So it has been in order to --

QUESTION: So there’s no change; that’s what you’re telling us, right?

MR. WOOD: Not to my knowledge, no.

QUESTION: So why did you announce it at all?

MR. WOOD: I’m just reading it to you, man.

QUESTION: Could you frame the bilateral talks as a way to get back to the Six-Party process?

MR. WOOD: We have held bilateral talks with the North in the context of the Six-Party framework. That’s the way it’s been. And the whole part of having those – that bilateral dialogue is to reinforce what we’re trying to accomplish in the Six-Party process. That’s what that means.

QUESTION: But there’s no sign of you going back to the Six-Party process anytime soon, so could you --

MR. WOOD: Well, we want --

QUESTION: Were you trying to tell the North Koreans --

MR. WOOD: We haven’t given up on the Six-Party process. We still think that that is the most viable framework for bringing about a verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And what our role is and what Ambassador Bosworth has tried to do is to talk to leaders in the region to try to see if we can find a way to bring the North back to the table and show the North that this is indeed in its interest to be a part of the Six-Party framework. And we all want to see the North live up to its commitments under the – you know, the joint statement of 2005.

QUESTION: Wait. So you’re willing to go speak with the North Koreans bilaterally before the resumption of the talks in order to get them back?

MR. WOOD: I didn’t say that.

QUESTION: Well, it certainly sounds like that’s what --

MR. WOOD: That’s not what I said.

QUESTION: That’s what Matt’s asking you. Is the --

QUESTION: That’s what I was asking --

QUESTION: No, but Bosworth specifically said a few weeks ago that he was prepared to go to Pyongyang and talk to them if he thought it would help restart the talks.

MR. WOOD: Well --

QUESTION: So yes or no?

MR. WOOD: There are no plans for Ambassador Bosworth to go to – okay.

QUESTION: We know there are no plans, but he’s willing to go to Pyongyang on a bilateral mission to restart the talks.

MR. WOOD: I’m not going to rule anything out, but what I’m saying to you --

QUESTION: I’m just quoting his own words.

MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not countering his words. What I’m saying to you is that what we want to see happen is the North coming back to the Six-Party framework. We have held discussions with the North in that – but we’ve held discussions with the North bilaterally within that framework. And we want to see that – we’re willing to continue with that. But I’m not going to rule out that we may have talks at some point with the North. But our purpose is to try to get the North back to the Six-Party Talks, and that’s what Ambassador Bosworth is going to be talking with his – with our allies in the region about how we can best do that.

Yes, Lach.

QUESTION: Has Ambassador Bosworth sent a message, maybe through the New York channel or any other channel, to begin talks with the North Koreans, to set up a meeting with them?

MR. WOOD: I’m not aware of any. I mean, you know, as Elise pointed out, he is willing to engage with the North. But right now, what we’re trying to do and what the Secretary is focused on is trying to see how we can use what leverage we have – when I say “we,” again, I’m talking about the other members of the Six-Party framework and others in the international community that may have some influence to bear on the North – to use that leverage to convince the North that this – coming back to the Six-Party framework is not only in the interest of the other parties, but in the North’s interest. And we’re going to be working hard to try to do that. But in the end, it’s going to be a decision that the North takes. And, you know, the North will have to deal with the consequences of whatever decisions that it takes.

QUESTION: Do you see the North interested – more interested in having direct talks with the United States right now?

MR. WOOD: I have no idea what the North is doing. I don’t think any of us have a really good idea. And – but we’re going to continue to call on them to do what they agreed to do, which was to continue within this framework to try to bring about this denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and also in exchange for assistance that we have talked about. But there’s no way for me to be able to give you an accurate assessment as to what the North is thinking or doing.

QUESTION: Where is he going next, and why isn’t he going to Moscow?

MR. WOOD: Well, I haven’t talked to him, so I don’t know. But he’s coming back. But the other members of the delegation are going to be going on from there. So I don’t know. I haven’t talked to them.

QUESTION: So that’s why he’s coming back two days early? I mean, he was going to go to Moscow, I guess?

MR. WOOD: Yeah, it’s – he’s returning to Washington on the 14th. But I don’t know the reasoning behind the exact --

QUESTION: Returning on the 14th or the 12th?

QUESTION: He’s returning on the 12th? You said the 14th last --

MR. WOOD: That’s right. I’m sorry. No, that’s right. The 12th, while the rest of the delegation returns on the 14th.

QUESTION: So where do they go next?

MR. WOOD: Where do they go next? I think I gave you that.


MR. WOOD: Yeah, Moscow.

QUESTION: They’re not going --

QUESTION: They’re not going to Beijing?

MR. WOOD: I’m giving you what I have.


MR. WOOD: I’m giving you what I have.

QUESTION: Now that --

QUESTION: Can we change the subject?

MR. WOOD: I think we’ve got a couple more questions.

QUESTION: Regarding the Six-Party Talks and not much concrete achievement ever made at Six-Party Talks ever since its start years ago, you know, do you still believe we can get something out of it?

MR. WOOD: Well, certainly we do, and that’s why we continue to call on the North to return to the framework. We made a lot of progress, as you know, up until several months ago, when we had received some verbal assurances from the North with regard to verification, but the North was unwilling to put that verification into a written document.

And since then, obviously there have been a lot of ups and downs, and right now we’re in a situation where the North has said a lot of things, made a lot of threats. But what’s important is to try to bring them back to the table, and we’re going to continue to work to try to do that and show the North that it’s in its interests and it needs to uphold its commitments.

And so, look, it’s not an easy situation, but we’re going to continue to work at it because we believe that this Six-Party framework is the best way forward in trying to achieve our long-term objective.

One more on this?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: There’s reports out of South Korea about brisk activity around North Korea’s nuclear test site. And I’m wondering if you had also seen that and if you are concerned that a nuclear test may happen sooner rather than later.

MR. WOOD: Well, you know – well, as you know, I wouldn’t talk about any sort of intelligence information that we may have. But --

QUESTION: You wouldn’t talk about intelligent information?

MR. WOOD: Intelligence. I said intelligence. You’re intelligent. I was talking about intelligence.

So I can’t really give you any kind of an assessment on it, except to say that the North needs to come back to the table and we’ve got to try to find a way to do it. There really is no other option that we have right now. And we’re going to continue to work hard to try to do that. But it’s really going to be up to the North to make that decision to come back to the talks. Best I can help you with that.

QUESTION: And just a follow-up.

MR. WOOD: Yeah.

QUESTION: Ambassador Bosworth has talked about consequences if they go forward with a nuclear test. Can you lay out at all – I mean, you’ve already done quite a bit with – in terms of sanctions at the UN. Can you lay out at all what is left that might be possible if they go forward with a nuclear test?

MR. WOOD: Well, I’m obviously not going to talk about things that we may or may not do, beyond what we’ve said. But the important thing here is to show the North that, you know, it can have a different relationship not only with the United States but other countries in the international community, but it has to live up to its obligations.

And this is not something that we’ve forced on the North. This is something that the North agreed to through the joint 2005 statement. And we’re going to work hard, as I said, to try to convince them that this is in their interest to return to the Six-Party framework. And that’s what we’re engaging others to do as well. But in the end, that’s going to be a decision for the North. And we’ll just have to see how it goes.

Okay, Arshad.

QUESTION: If we can go to Syria, President Obama, I believe yesterday, signed an executive order renewing sanctions that were imposed on Syria, I believe in 2004. Obviously, he does this just as Ambassador Feltman is in – has been in Syria. What does the – and I realize it’s a White House decision to renew the sanctions, but I remember when they were first imposed it was briefed out here. What does the renewal of the sanctions mean for your effort to improve and – improve your relationship with Syria and engage with them more?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, the President felt it was necessary to take these measures. These are not new sanctions, and there is still – I think this shows you that we still have some very serious concerns about Syrian behavior and activity in the world. We’ve said to you before our concerns about what Syria is doing in Iraq, its support for terrorist groups.

We have encouraged the Syrians to play a positive role in the Middle East. We’re willing to engage them in a dialogue to try to address not only our concerns, but concerns that they may have. But there’s – it’s – there’s no secret we have some very serious problems with the government in Syria. And we hope to be able to try to work out those differences, but a lot of it is going to be up to Syria. It has – this is another country that has an opportunity to have a different relationship with the international community.

And part of Acting Assistant Secretary’s Feltman’s trip to the region is trying to get the Syrians to take some steps that will move us toward a better relationship and – but there’s a lot that Syria needs to do. But we’re willing to engage them and see if they are serious about addressing some of these concerns, so --

QUESTION: But what is the point of, like, this engagement for Syria? I mean, do you think that like, renewing the sanctions at this point – I mean, even as Secretary Feltman was there – is an incentive for Syria to take steps? I mean, don’t you think something like, kind of, you know, waiting – waiting to impose an executive order, at least to see if Syria is going to take some steps to renew the executive order?

MR. WOOD: Well, as you know, the President’s required by Congress to report on an annual basis on the sanctions. This is something that the President felt we needed to do, and we’re certainly well aware --

QUESTION: What kind of a message do you think, though, that that sends to Syria?

MR. WOOD: Well, I think it sends the message that we have some very serious concerns. We still have them about their activity and behavior. And what Jeff Feltman is, you know, in Damascus to talk about is how we can get Syria to change its behavior and see if it’s willing to really engage seriously in a dialogue, be a positive role in the Middle East. Up until now, Syria hasn’t played that positive role. So that’s --

QUESTION: But you’re talking to them specifically this week about trying to play a positive role.

MR. WOOD: Right.

QUESTION: So on one hand, you’re asking them to play a positive role. But for them, what they see you doing is imposing what – is continuing sanctions on them. I mean, what --

MR. WOOD: Well, the sanctions are the law, and the President is required to report on them (inaudible) basis to Congress.

QUESTION: Well, I know but --

MR. WOOD: So that --

QUESTION: Well, it might – perhaps it might be helpful if you explain that these – that the executive order was going to expire on Sunday and perhaps you could also talk about --

QUESTION: I know it was going to expire on Sunday.

QUESTION: -- talk about the – about whether Assistant Secretary Feltman went now, this week, instead of waiting until after he was confirmed in order to explain to the Syrians exactly what was going on with this renewal.

MR. WOOD: Well, Matt, I think you’re reading a little bit too much into this. Look, I’ve already talked about the sanctions and I even added some points on the sanctions. We have very serious concerns about Syrian behavior. I think you all understand that very clearly, and those haven’t gone away.

But what we’re saying is instead of isolating Syria, we’re willing to engage them.

QUESTION: But what is the benefit of the engagement if you’re going to continue to – these sanctions on them?

QUESTION: Can I go actually – Matt, I’m sorry. Did he explain – do you know if he explained to them, look, the renewal’s coming up, we’re going to have to do this?

MR. WOOD: I haven’t talked to Jeff, but I’m sure the Syrians are certainly well aware of the executive order and what the President’s required to do. And that’s the law and the President has to, you know, take the necessary steps. And because we have that law – the reason for that law is because of activities that the Syrians have engaged in, in the past. We want to try to move forward. And that’s why Jeff is out in the region to talk to Syria about – to find out whether they are really serious about improving relations with the United States and taking some of these steps to address concerns that we have about their behavior in the international realm.

QUESTION: Have they taken any such steps yet?

MR. WOOD: With regard to?

QUESTION: Well, steps in the direction that you want them to take?

MR. WOOD: Well, we need to see. I mean, the Syrians have said a lot of very positive things, but we need to see actions. And as far as I’m aware, they haven’t taken any steps that – at this point that would lead us to change – to move in another direction right now. We need to see concrete steps from the Syrian Government for us to move in another direction.

QUESTION: Robert --

MR. WOOD: Yes, James.

QUESTION: -- yet, there must have been some steps taken that would have justified a second visit by Feltman and Shapiro.

MR. WOOD: The second visit is to follow up on the good discussions that Jeff Feltman and Dan Shapiro had on that first trip. But that doesn’t mean that Syria has addressed all of our concerns. They haven’t addressed our concerns. And so, we want to follow up with them to see if they are serious, to go and take additional steps to improve the nature of the relationship and address some of the issues that we have raised.

QUESTION: So, if you say, “take additional steps,” that implies some steps have been taken.

MR. WOOD: Well, they have taken some steps previously in terms of being more cooperative with regard to Iraq, but still there is a lot that they can do to better improve the relationship. But our concerns are still there. And that’s – but we are interested in having a dialogue with them, as opposed to just isolating them.

QUESTION: How far back in time are you taking us when you refer to steps that they took in Iraq that were positive?

MR. WOOD: I don’t have a timeline for you, James. I mean, you can go back and look at the record in terms of --

QUESTION: I’m just asking are we talking in the past month, two months, ten – five years? What did you have in mind?

MR. WOOD: Certainly within the last couple of years, but I don’t have a timeline for you.

QUESTION: You’re not talking about recent stuff, anyway.

MR. WOOD: I’m not talking about in the last week or – so no.


MR. WOOD: On Syria?


MR. WOOD: Yes.

QUESTION: Ambassador Feltman, in his statement on Syria, said that he will be continuing this dialogue with the Syrians in Washington and in Syria. Is it expected that the Syrian delegation to come here or just the ambassador?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know. I – at this point, I don’t know. I mean, I think Jeff was just expressing how he sees these visits going on, but I have no idea about a Syrian delegation or its membership. I just – I think it’s a little premature to talk about that.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) change of subject?

MR. WOOD: Yeah, I was expecting this.

QUESTION: Are you aware of the report in a British newspaper today that a British comedian snuck into the State Department using a fake BBC badge, walked around for an hour and took pictures unnoticed?

MR. WOOD: Well, Libby, it sounds implausible to me. As you all know, to get into the building with a pass – if you have a valid pass, you’re accredited, you have to go through a turnstile. If you do not have a badge, you have to be escorted in. So we’re looking at it. We’re looking at the situation. I don’t have anything further for you on it. But it really does sound quite implausible.


QUESTION: AFPAK-U.S. meetings, what specific commitments the three countries have made during the meetings in fighting terrorism in the region? Secretary Clinton had --

MR. WOOD: Well, the meetings, of course, have ended. They were very constructive meetings. They were very substantive. They dealt with some very serious issues, as you know. And what came out of these sessions was a basic commitment among all three of the parties – the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan – to move forward to try to cooperate in fighting terrorism and trying to improve the economic situation in the region, and to try to give, in essence, the people of that region some hope.

And there are a number of meetings that were held in connection with the trilateral process. And I don’t have specific readouts but – at this point. We will try to get those to you. We’re still taking an assessment of the outcome. And what I’m giving you right now is just a brief, you know, assessment.

The important thing here is I think we’ve come away from these meetings with a sense of determination on the part of Pakistan and Afghanistan to work closely together as neighbors and to fight common threats, and the willingness of the United States to help the two countries as they go down this path. And we also think that there’ll be additional support coming from others in the international community. I think you saw the amount of money that was pledged at the Tokyo donors conference was one important sign of that. And we will continue to work on implementing our – the outcomes of our strategic review. And I think coming out of here you can say that the United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are going to work hand-in-glove to do what we can to deal with these issues in the region.



QUESTION: Was the safety and security of nuclear weapons in Pakistan also discussed in the meeting? What was the response from that?

MR. WOOD: I believe I have spoken to this issue before. The President has been very clear about the fact that we are confident that these weapons will not get in militant hands. I don’t have anything beyond that to say on that issue.


QUESTION: Following on these meetings, I know that yesterday in this meeting that the Afghan and Pakistani presidents had with 24 senators, that several of the senators came out of that meeting not only underwhelmed but upset by some of the answers they heard from the presidents. They were unimpressed and they thought that there was a cavalier attitude. So I mean, that’s going to affect your funding. I want to know what your position is on the Obama Administration and Clinton trying to get Congress to give more funding to Pakistan and Afghanistan at a time when senators – and as you know, Congressman David Obey has this week several times said he doesn’t believe the Obama plan is going to work. He is dubious of giving more aid, et cetera.

MR. WOOD: Look, you know, there are differences of opinion on the Hill about the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I mean, you can understand that. Members of Congress have very serious concerns about the strategies that both governments have been trying – have been employing with regard to dealing with extremist elements.

This is a very difficult, complicated situation. And the reason we had this trilateral discussion was to make sure that we are cooperating on all cylinders, that we are going to take the steps that we believe are necessary to deal with the challenges, the fundamental threats to both countries, and to regional security. And we’re going to be working with Congress to try to provide what we believe is appropriate assistance to help these two governments meet the challenges they face.

And – but it should come as no surprise that there are differences of opinion within the Congress about, you know, how we go forward in helping these countries deal with these threats. But as I said, we’ll be working closely with Congress. There is a lot of support on Capitol Hill for the Administration’s strategy going forward. And I think both President Zardari and President Karzai went back to their countries with the understanding that there is some skepticism on the Hill, and that Pakistan and Afghanistan are going to have to do more and take the steps that are necessary to deal with these threats to alleviate some of the concerns that exist on Capitol Hill.

And that’s just the reality of our democracy, and I think both the leaders are well aware of the mood on the Hill. But as I said earlier, I think there is a shared determination on the part of those two leaders to take the necessary steps to deal with these threats.

QUESTION: Now, they haven’t left yet.

MR. WOOD: Oh, I’m sorry. Well, I’m (inaudible).

QUESTION: We know that Secretary Clinton herself and Special Representative Holbrooke have had some pretty, you know, straight-talking words to say in their testimony just two weeks ago about saying that the Pakistani Government should have done more to beat back the Taliban from Swat, that they didn’t understand – Secretary Clinton said she didn’t understand why they weren’t just doing something.

Tell us, concretely from her meetings this week and Special Representative Holbrooke’s meetings this week, have they been reassured in some concrete way by the Pakistanis in particular, but also by the Afghans?

MR. WOOD: Oh, absolutely, we’ve certainly been reassured. I think on the – with the case of Pakistan, if you look over the last couple of days, where – the Pakistani Government has basically stated that that Swat agreement has collapsed and they are taking some steps to, you know, take the fight to the Taliban and al-Qaida. And they’re clearly doing that, and this is a very positive step.

And as I said the other day, what’s also important here is to sustain that activity. And we’ve gotten assurances from the Government of Pakistan that it is going to continue to take this fight to al-Qaida and the Taliban. And the Afghan Government as well understands that it has to take steps not only to deal with, you know, the threat that these extremists pose, but also to deal with some of the problems that the country faces with regard to corruption, narcotics, and a sense of – you know, that the Afghan people are disappointed with what’s been happening in the country.

And so yes, we’ve come away with these assurances and we will work with both countries to do what we can as they go forward.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the investigation into this incident on Monday?

MR. WOOD: No, I don’t have anything beyond what we said and what the Secretary said.

QUESTION: Which is it?

MR. WOOD: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Which is it? The Afghan civilians?

MR. WOOD: Yeah, the --

QUESTION: Oh, the civilians.

QUESTION: Do you feel that Congress is tackling the funding issues related to Afghanistan and Pakistan with requisite speed? Or do you think they should be going a little faster?

MR. WOOD: Well, Congress is going to go at the speed that it – you know, it’s going to go at. And we have made the case to, you know, many members of Congress and their staffs that, you know, we need to work quickly to try to get support to both governments, particularly the Government of Pakistan. And we’re working with the Hill and, you know, it’s – you know, it’s always difficult in terms of trying to get monies through and get initiatives through when Congress is involved, because Congress is taking its constitutional duties seriously. And so that’s what you want, and that’s what you’d expect. So we’ll try to work as cooperatively as we can and to move as quickly as we can, but --

QUESTION: On a related issue --

MR. WOOD: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- President Karzai told reporters in Washington this morning that he believes Iran has been rather helpful in terms of its efforts at interdiction of narcotics trafficking between the two countries. Has the U.S. seen evidence of Iran playing a constructive role, at least in the limited sphere of narcotics trafficking related to Afghanistan?

MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not in a position to give you that kind of assessment at this point. Iran has an interest in dealing with the narcotics trade because that’s a regional issue, and it’s obviously acting in its own national interest to do that. There’s a lot that Iran can do. It can – it needs to be a better neighbor with Afghanistan. It needs to support the government’s efforts to deal with security. And we hope that Iran will, you know, play a positive role, step up its support for the government. And --

QUESTION: It was one of Secretary Clinton’s more pronounced messages when she attended The Hague conference that Iran could play a constructive role in Afghanistan. That was on March 31st. It is May 8. Have we seen any evidence of Iran taking steps in that interim – interval to play a more constructive role in Afghanistan?

MR. WOOD: Not that I’m aware of at this point, James.


QUESTION: Also on Afghanistan. The Pentagon’s budget for the first time is allotting more funds to Afghanistan than Iraq. I believe it’s for 2010. Does the State Department share the point of view of a shifting priority from Iraq to Afghanistan?

MR. WOOD: Both Iraq and Afghanistan are priorities. As far as the Administration’s foreign policy is concerned, I’d have to refer you to the Pentagon for, you know, the budget specifics. But there should be no doubt Iraq is still very much a priority for the Obama Administration, as well as Afghanistan, as is Pakistan. And there are other, you know, issues around the globe that require U.S. leadership and attention, and we will be allocating resources appropriately to try to deal with those. But we’ll have to work in close consultation with Congress in order to make sure that we get the resources that we need.

QUESTION: But are you offering more funds to Afghanistan than Iraq for the 2010 budget?

MR. WOOD: Well – and you’re talking about from the State Department side?


MR. WOOD: Well, you’re going to have an opportunity to talk to some of our officials who deal with budget issues following this briefing, which I need to bring to a close fairly soon if we’re going to do that.


MR. WOOD: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about this guy in Burma who got picked up trying to enter, I guess after spending a couple days at Aung San Suu Kyi’s house?

MR. WOOD: We’re looking into the issue. I don’t have very much for you at this point. We don’t have a Privacy Act waiver on the individual, so there’s not really much I can say at this point, except that we are – it’s a constant matter and we’re looking into it.

QUESTION: Have you had access to him?

MR. WOOD: Not that I’m aware of at the moment.


QUESTION: Robert, just a quick thing on energy issues. The new Obama Administration envoy for energy Richard Morningstar was in a conference in Bulgaria, and he seemed to say that the Nabucco pipeline, which is EU-backed, was not, quote, “the holy grail,” and suggested that the Russian alternative, South Stream, might work as well. Is this part of the reset in relations with Russia and the U.S.? And what’s the U.S. position on the two pipelines?

MR. WOOD: I think it – I think – and I haven’t seen the remarks from Ambassador Morningstar. But we have always supported diversification of energy supply and resources. And – but I don’t have the specifics with regard to the two pipelines. I haven’t heard – you know, only – I’ve only heard what you have said about it. I’d have to talk to Ambassador Morningstar to get further clarification. But as I said, we want to see a diversification of energy resources in that region, as we said, and worldwide in general.


QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: Oh, wait. Dave’s got one, right? Please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Sudan envoy appears to have gotten the Sudanese Government to ease up its policy with regard to aid groups in Darfur. I wonder if that’s your understanding. Do you have anything on that?

MR. WOOD: Well, I’ve seen reports about what the Sudanese Government has said, and I think we’re looking to try to see if indeed that is the case with regard to an easing of the situation for NGOs. But I don’t have anything definitive for you at this point, Dave, but we are looking into this and we hope that’s the case. It would be a positive step. But I’m not able to really confirm the details on it.

Go ahead, ma’am.

QUESTION: Do you know anything about the Obama Administration cutting its request for Colombia for – by $33 million?

MR. WOOD: Not that I’m aware of, but, you know, this is a question that you could raise with our budget people.

QUESTION: Two very brief things. One, unless my email is really messed up, I got – at 5:27 this morning, you guys put out a new Travel Alert for Mexico. You know, why 5:30 in the morning for something that was dated yesterday?

MR. WOOD: We wanted to wake you up, Matt. That’s what we wanted to --

QUESTION: Do you have any idea why that --

MR. WOOD: I don’t. I can’t answer that question. I saw the email this morning with the updated alert. I would urge you to read it.

QUESTION: I have. Okay. And then this is Friday, but it’s not the normal Friday. It’s kind of unusual, I believe.

MR. WOOD: Why?

QUESTION: Anyway, we would just, I think on behalf of all of us, we’d like to thank you.

MR. WOOD: Oh. For what?

QUESTION: For being the acting spokesman for the new Administration. It’s been a pleasure.

MR. WOOD: It’s been my pleasure and an honor. And you’re not getting rid of me so fast, so, you know – but it’s been great. It’s been an honor – I told the Secretary that this morning – to serve as her spokesperson. I’ve – you know, it’s just been a great experience. We’ve got a new spokesman coming in who’s going to be great.

QUESTION: What advice do you give to him?

QUESTION: The policy is under review. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: The policy hasn’t changed.

MR. WOOD: The policy hasn’t changed. But I have advised him that he should look to, as early as possible, to do away with briefings on Fridays. How about that? (Laughter.)

Thanks, guys.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 11:18 a.m.)

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DPB # 77

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - May 8]

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