Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 9, 2009


Index for Today's Briefing
  • THE SECRETARY
    • Lunch with Defense Secretary Gates
    • Hosts reception for new members of the House of Representatives
    • Town Hall Meeting, 10:00 a.m. on Friday / Strategic approach to diplomacy and development
  • IRAQ/IRAN
    • US turned over five Iranian detainees to the Government of Iraq today / Associated with Iran's Revolutionary Guard / Handover is consistent with U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement
  • THE DEPARTMENT
    • Cyber attacks continue, but not a high volume / Taking measures / Working with US Computer Emergency Response Team
    • US Embassy Seoul website was not affected
  • HONDURAS
    • Mediation talks scheduled to start in Costa Rica today / Led by President Arias / US wants to see the restoration of democratic order / US is not present at the talks
  • RUSSIA
    • US position is clear / Wants a successor regime to START by December 1
    • Reviewing efficacy of missile defense project
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • US officials in Helmand province / Still a combat operation
  • CHINA
    • US embassy personnel in Urumqi assessing the situation / Heavy security presence in the streets / No reports of new violence / US urges all sides to exercise restraint and end the violence
    • US has no information that Rebiya Kadeer provoked incidents
  • NORTH KOREA
    • US is closely following all activities related to proliferation
  • IRAN
    • Iran must respect the political will of the people
    • No government should use force on peaceful demonstrators


TRANSCRIPT:

1:15 p.m. EDT

MR. KELLY: Okay, good afternoon. Just a couple of announcements at the top. You saw from the Secretary’s schedule today, she’s got a couple of events that are on her schedule. They’re both closed press. She’s got lunch with Secretary of Defense Bill Gates. This is over at the Pentagon. She’s --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. KELLY: What did I say?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. KELLY: Did I say Bill Gates? I’m not the first one who’s done that, though. (Laughter.) Bob Gates, yes, Secretary – you know who I meant. That really would be news if she’s having lunch with Secretary Bill Gates. And then she’s hosting a reception this evening at 6 o’clock upstairs in the reception rooms for new members of the House of Representatives. It’s an informal gathering, no set agenda. It’s just a chance to – for the Secretary to get acquainted with these new members and vice-versa and for her to talk in very informal terms about the State Department.

Also, tomorrow at 10 o’clock, the Secretary is going to host a town hall meeting here at the State Department. This will focus on a new initiative of the Department to review our strategic approach to diplomacy and development. It’s going to be open press, so you’ll be able to cover it. And we’ll give you additional details, I hope, later on this afternoon or, at the very latest, tomorrow.

So with that, I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: What is this – what happened with these Iranian – alleged Iranian diplomats that were – the “Arbil Five”? You turned them over the Iraqis today. Why exactly, if you still believe that they are a threat?

MR. KELLY: If they’re – sorry?

QUESTION: If you believe that they are still a threat, which I think you do, why did you release them?

MR. KELLY: Well, this all gets back to our obligations under the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement. We’ve – so we’ve turned them over at the request of the Iraqi Government. They’ve issued arrest warrants for all third-country detainees in U.S. forces custody and asked that these detainees be transferred to the Government of Iraq.

So today, the U.S. turned over five Iranian detainees to the Iraq Government. And obviously, for further details on this, I would refer you to the Government of Iraq.

QUESTION: Well, how you feel about the fact that the Government of Iraq says that they’re going to turn them over to the Iranians, if I’m not mistaken, tomorrow?

MR. KELLY: Again, I’d refer you to the Government of Iraq.

QUESTION: But I don’t – I’m not interested in the Government of Iraq. I’m interested in the U.S. Government’s view on it.

MR. KELLY: Well, I’m interested in the Government of Iraq.

QUESTION: Well, look, we can play word games if you want.

MR. KELLY: No, I don’t want to play word games, Arshad.

QUESTION: But you know, I’m interested in what the U.S. Government thinks about the possibility that these men will then be set free.

MR. KELLY: The most important thing for us is the – for us to keep to our obligations under this security agreement. We received arrest warrants for all third country detainees, including these five Iranians. And because this is very important to us that we keep to our obligations, we handed them over.

QUESTION: And you don’t have a view on their transfer back to Iran?

MR. KELLY: Well, we – it’s my understanding that these detainees in question were associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and, of course, we have concerns about – particularly about the part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that they were associated with, which is the Qods Force, which has been involved in training and supporting Iraqi militant groups, so – but again, this is something that we agreed to with the Iraqi Government. And so we are maintaining our obligation to them.

QUESTION: But did the Iranian Government – or the Iraqi Government make the request to you under the security agreement? Because it’s been around --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: The agreement’s been there since November, so why suddenly --

MR. KELLY: Lach, yeah --

QUESTION: Why now?

MR. KELLY: I don’t know the answer to that question. I think I have to refer you to the Pentagon for the exact details of when the – when they received these arrest warrants. But I know they were released today.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that – I mean, respecting the security agreement might entail a threat to the security of American troops to a certain extent, insofar as these guys might come back and do what they’ve been doing before?

MR. KELLY: Well, clearly, that is – a big concern of ours is the safety of American forces. And we have, of course, made our concerns known to the Iraqi Government. But again, we are doing this consistent with our obligations under the security agreement.

QUESTION: Can you say whether the U.S. or the embassy or through the military has protested to the Iraqis the transfer of these five to Iran?

MR. KELLY: Again, I don’t know the answer to that question. I’ll see if I can find that out.

QUESTION: Can you take that question?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. We can take that.

QUESTION: Well, there’s a lot of speculation that you knew, in fact, that this is what the Iraqis would do and that possibly this was part of your broader scheme of engagement, or trying to engage with Iran. Is that correct?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. No, that’s not correct. This handover is strictly consistent with our requirements under this security agreement.

QUESTION: And okay. So it has nothing to do with the Roxana Saberi case, anything --

MR. KELLY: There is absolutely – it was done, as I say, strictly under these requirements. There was not any – there is no other aspect of this. There’s no other deal or any prisoner exchange or anything like that involved in this.

QUESTION: So you’re doing it with the same misgivings you had from the very start? I mean --

MR. KELLY: Did I say misgivings?

QUESTION: Well, you said concerns, I guess.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, we have concerns about this Iranian group, yes.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any update information --

MR. KELLY: Any – I’m sorry. Yeah. Any more on – yeah, go ahead, Charlie.

QUESTION: Can you talk about any other detain – any other third-party – third-country detainees?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have any other information on any other --

QUESTION: And can you say were your – I guess there were reports at the time about some of the materials that were found on these five when they were picked up – laptops, documents, maps. Can you speak to anything about that?

MR. KELLY: No, I can’t. I think, really, you have to ask the Pentagon about that.

QUESTION: Would you take the question and get back to us on what other third-party – third-country detainees --

MR. KELLY: If we have any other information, we will. I’m not so sure we have any other information.

Okay, new subject.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have any update information on computer cyber attack?

MR. KELLY: Not much, really. There is not a high volume of attacks on our – I’m just going to speak about our website, the state.gov website. There’s not a high volume of attacks, but we’re still concerned about it. They are continuing, and we are taking measures to deal with this and any potential new attacks. And of course, we’re doing – anything that we’re doing to protect the integrity of our sites is being done in coordination with – among the government with other agencies. There is something called the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team that we’re working with now.

QUESTION: Was there any North Koreans involved in these cyber attacks?

MR. KELLY: We don’t have any – I have no information that I have that – of North Korean involvement. I have no – nothing that I can confirm.

QUESTION: Short of trying to shore up your own security, computer security, and short of doing that, what else – how do you respond to something like this?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think --

QUESTION: Particularly if it’s coming from another country.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: I mean, are there diplomatic channels that you can use to protest this?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think we have to first identify exactly who’s responsible, and we’re just not in a position to do that yet.

QUESTION: But – okay, well, maybe not in this case. But is there a general policy or principle if you come under cyber attack what the government response is, other than just to try to step up your own protection?

MR. KELLY: That’s a very good question. Yeah, that’s a – I think a good example of a question that we can take and see if we can get you more information, rather than my up here trying to wing it.

QUESTION: Ian, do you have any specific information on the Embassy in Seoul, any more than you had yesterday?

MR. KELLY: We – actually, our East Asia and Pacific Bureau did tell me that the – our site in – at – based at Embassy Seoul was not shut down and was not materially affected by any of these attacks.

Yes.

QUESTION: And moving to Latin America for --

MR. KELLY: Any more on this? Okay, Latin America.

QUESTION: In Costa Rica, Zelaya, I think that he’s already there for the process. I don’t know if Micheletti is going to participate or not. I don’t know if he confirmed yet. And I want to know if the U.S. is in some way monitoring this process with Oscar Arias.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: If you were getting any updates.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Or this process will continue.

MR. KELLY: Yes, I do have an update. We understand that the mediation talks were supposed to have started about 20 minutes ago. I understand that President Zelaya is already there. Roberto Micheletti, the head of the de facto regime, was expected to be there, and I believe I’ve seen some reports that he’s there.

QUESTION: He is.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. And in terms of our monitoring it, this is something led by President Arias. Of course, we are keenly interested in these talks. We are – we want to see a good outcome that restores the democratic order in Honduras. But I just want to emphasize this is President Arias’s – these are his talks, and it’s up to him to determine who participates in the talks. And I think today’s talks, it’s basically – it’s going to be the two sides that are sitting down with President Arias as the mediator.

We’re not present in the talks. Because that was a long way of saying we’re not present in the talks.

QUESTION: Are they going to be face-to-face? And if not, what would the U.S. reaction be to that, if there’s kind of an independent bilateral --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Again, this is President Arias’s show, so I’d refer you to the – to his office about how exactly he wants to put this together. But I understand that the two parties will be in the room.

QUESTION: With the U.S.’s keen interest in this, will Secretary Clinton want to do something evenhandedly and meet with a non-Zelaya principal of some kind at any point, as they’ve met with Zelaya?

MR. KELLY: We’re just – we’re not at that point. Right now, we’re – the point we’re at is we’re in a – we’ve begun this process. We’re very encouraged by this process. We’re – we want to play a constructive role. But our focus right now is on this process mediated by President Arias.

QUESTION: And any reaction to yesterday’s congressional letter?

MR. KELLY: This is the letter from --

QUESTION: Senator Mack and the others.

MR. KELLY: -- from Senator – I’m not sure exactly. I’ve seen one letter, but I’m not sure exactly what – this is from Senator Mack?

QUESTION: From Senator Mack, yes.

MR. KELLY: I don’t think I’ve seen that letter. Yeah. Of course, we respect the opinion of senators. We consult very closely with Congress. This particular letter I have not seen, though.

Yeah.

QUESTION: In President Obama’s meeting with Russian President Medvedev --

QUESTION: Can we stick with Honduras for one sec?

QUESTION: What?

QUESTION: Can we close out with Honduras?

MR. KELLY: We’ll – yeah, let’s let Arshad ask another question on Honduras, and I’ll get to you after that.

QUESTION: Great, thank you. Ian, can you tell us whether the State Department has sent anyone from Washington to Costa Rica to keep tabs on the talks, even if they’re not in the room, or whether the Department has sent anybody from Tegucigalpa?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Or to the extent that this is being – you know, obviously, you have a keen interest. If you could explain how you’re keeping track of it – is that by, you know, State Department diplomats here keeping tabs on it, or the Embassy in Tegucigalpa or the Embassy in Costa Rica?

MR. KELLY: Right. I believe it’s the latter. I believe it’s the Embassy in Costa Rica. I don’t think we’ve sent anybody down. If that’s not so, we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Great.

MR. KELLY: But as I say, this is a process that we’re allowing President Arias to coordinate and mediate. And there’s no need for U.S. – a big U.S. staff or anything down there. We have an embassy.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: In President Obama’s meeting with Russian President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin, do you know whether there was any progress made toward the impasse on the missile defense in Czech Republic and Poland? I gather Obama – and I may be totally wrong about this – said that the -- actually the missile defense is not even realistic, because it can’t work, or whatever. But do you know whether there has been any discussion of that or any resolution of that or any progress toward a resolution?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I mean, our position is clear. I mean, first of all, we want to – by December 1st, we want to have a successor regime to the START agreement, the nuclear arms reduction agreement. There was a framework agreement that was signed by both presidents, and you can get it on the WhiteHouse.gov website. In terms of missile defense, our position on that has been clear, too, that we are in the process of reviewing the efficacy of a missile defense project. The purpose of missile defense in Eastern Europe would be to counter an emerging ballistic missile threat from countries like Iran. It’s not designed against Russia.

QUESTION: But the Russians think –

MR. KELLY: I know the Russian position very well.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. KELLY: But in terms of what was raised in the meeting between President Obama and President Medvedev and the President and the prime minister, I really – I have to refer you to the White House.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Question on Palestinian refugees: Can you confirm the reports that the United States is accepting over a thousand Palestinian refugees from Iraq this fall? And if that’s the case, I’m wondering if you can give some additional information on that decision.

MR. KELLY: I think I’m going to have to take that question. So let me take the question and we’ll get you an answer.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Afghanistan?

MR. KELLY: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: In the Helmand province now, the Taliban has been driven out by the Marines there. So what’s going to be the State Department goal? Is it sending in civilians or the USAID, agriculture specialists there? Can you give us some of the details?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I think I addressed this question last week. We have a couple of officers who are in Helmand province. We plan to send more. I’m not entirely sure if – about the –

QUESTION: Yeah. You said three are there.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I’m not entirely sure if the moment has come for us to begin what would be a State Department-led operation of development. I’m not sure the state of the combat operations, so I’m not sure that it’s time to talk about State Department and USAID officers coming in behind here. I believe this is still categorized as a combat operation.

QUESTION: And secondly, the Afghan President Karzai has pardoned five prominent drug lords before the elections. Do you have any comment on this?

MR. KELLY: I think we do have guidance on that. We’ll get that to you.

QUESTION: And on China, China has said that al-Qaida is responsible for the violence in the provinces. Do you see any al-Qaida/Taliban presence in those provinces of China?

MR. KELLY: You’re talking about the Xinjiang provinces?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. KELLY: As I said yesterday, our focus right now is really on the very dramatic events going on, particularly in the provincial – the capital. We have some embassy personnel who are allowed to witness or to observe what’s going on in the streets, in Urumqi. The latest we’ve heard is that there are no reports of any new or large-scale violence, thankfully, on the streets. The police are maintaining a high security profile. The city is beginning to return to a more normal state with public transportation running. Shops are reopening. And I think the curfew was lifted last night, as well.

But the main thing now, I think, is for all sides to exercise restraint and avoid finger-pointing, avoid fanning the flames, and just refrain from violence in general.

QUESTION: You were asked a couple days ago about this, and you said when asked whether the government was to blame for the violence or not that you didn’t have a sense of what was happening on the ground. You’ve had your diplomats there for a few days now. Can you say with any greater certainty whether the government bears any responsibility for some of the violence that’s gone on, or if they’ve had any undue –

MR. KELLY: Well, I think we – and I’m not trying to duck your question here, Kirit, but I think we are still trying –

QUESTION: But you’re going to. (Laughter).

MR. KELLY: We are still assessing what happened, I mean, especially what happened on that first day, on July 5th. I don’t think that we have all the details.

We were able to send at least one Embassy officer out there on the next day, so since then, we feel pretty confident that we’ve got a good handle on what’s happening. But I think what happened on the initial day – which I think is when most of the casualties happened – I don’t think we do know exactly what happened.

QUESTION: And what has been your assessment since that second day, then?

MR. KELLY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: And what has been your assessment since that second day?

MR. KELLY: Well, you know, we – we’re urging all sides to exercise restraint. We’ve noted that the level of violence has gone down. We’ve been in close contact with the government in Beijing, and we’re delivering the same message that I’m delivering from here, which is that we hope that all sides will refrain from violence.

QUESTION: But there has been violence since that first day. Can you give assessment of whether the police have used a heavy hand in cracking down on the protests?

MR. KELLY: I think all I’m prepared to say, really, is that we hope that restraint is maintained. I mean, there – obviously, there’s been a lot of – there have been – the Chinese Government themselves have admitted that over 150 people were killed. But I just – we’ve noted that there’s been a lot of violence, and we call on all sides to exercise restraint.

QUESTION: I just notice a big difference between how the U.S. reacted last year to the violence in Tibet with how it reacts to events now in Xinjiang. What’s different? Is it because we have a new Administration or because you see the events as quite different?

MR. KELLY: Well, I – you know, I was on the Russia desk a year ago. I can’t compare exactly what – I mean, I can go back and look at the transcripts.

QUESTION: Well, can you have Robert step up? Maybe he – (laughter).

MR. KELLY: Look, the main thing here is there has been horrific violence. We just want to urge restraint on all sides. And I’m not going to compare what Robert may have said last year, what I’m saying now. But we are very --

QUESTION: Are you inviting him over?

MR. KELLY: I wouldn't do that to Robert. I suffer alone. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I want to touch on something – take another stab at something that came up yesterday in a background briefing about Burma and North Korea. I’m just wondering if – is the Administration concerned about possible transfer of nuclear technology, illicit weapons that are covered – that are or are not covered by UN sanctions from North Korea to Burma?

MR. KELLY: I mean, I think we’re following very closely all activities related to proliferation. I think we – I can’t really address whether or not we’re concerned about a specific destination at this point. But obviously, we’ve got a very sharp eye on proliferation activities of North Korea. But I can’t really address whether it’s – if we’re concerned about one country in particular right now.

Yes.

QUESTION: I have one follow-up on the China situation and the observations the U.S. officials have made.

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do they have the training to be able to recognize aggressive or defensive posture in street violence like that? And what would be the readout of the violence that has been observed since day two onward?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I just don’t know the answer to that question, I’m afraid. I can’t really --

QUESTION: Can you take it?

MR. KELLY: I can’t really – I can see if we can get you more information.

QUESTION: Because you know, if somebody observes a fight, you can usually tell who’s picking the fight.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, yeah. I think it’s kind of a general matter, and I can’t give you, obviously, any kind of empirical analysis here because I’m not an eyewitness to what happened. But I think what we’re – what we’ve seen in the last few days is that there has been very heavy security presence in the streets, which has – quite logically, I think, has tended to discourage the kind of

mob violence that we saw, or that we heard about, on the first and second days of these incidents.

Yeah, Dave?

QUESTION: India’s foreign secretary, apparently in some parliamentary debate there, said that India has raised with the United States its aspirations to be a permanent member of the Security Council and that they didn’t get U.S. support for that issue. Does that coincide with what you hear, and what’s your thinking about expanding the Security Council in general?

MR. KELLY: Again, I think I’ll consult with my colleagues in the Bureau of International Organizations to get you a good, solid State Department view on the issue of expanding the Security Council.

QUESTION: And what about India’s --

MR. KELLY: Yeah, and that in particular. Yeah.

QUESTION: If you are able to do that, it would be interesting, because the previous administration had supported Japan, but no one else, for an expanded role.

MR. KELLY: Okay. I mean, if there’s something we can push out to you, we will.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you comment on the accusations by the Chinese Government that Ms. Rebiya Kadeer actually was involved in provoking the incidents?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: And they point to the fact that her organization is supported by the National Endowment of Democracy.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any comments about that or --

MR. KELLY: Well, again, my guiding principle in these events is to exercise – that all sides should exercise restraint. And your humble spokesman is going to exercise restraint as well. And I’ll just say very simply that we don’t have any information to substantiate these kinds of claims by the Chinese Government.

Yeah, Arshad?

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the latest demonstrations in Tehran and the Iranian authorities breaking them up, I believe, by using – by firing into the air? It’s not clear to me whether tear – yeah, we have one report saying that tear gas was used.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I mean, right before I came down here I saw the images on television. I don’t have a specific reaction to those events except to say that we have – we’ve said all along that we think that Iran has to respect the political will of its people. And we would urge any government not to use undue force on peaceful demonstrators. And we – of course, as the Secretary has said many times and the President as well, that the right of the people to express themselves and the right of free association is a bedrock principle that we will always stand by. And we just hope that Iran will listen to its own people.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:44 p.m.)

DPB # 115

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