Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 24, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Rescue of American Citizen in Antarctica / Public Thank You to New Zealand and Royal New Zealand Air Force / Close Cooperation Between New Zealand and Untied States
    • Video of American Diplomat / Valued Member of Foreign Service / Ambassador Beyrle Interview / Smear Campaign / Diplomatic Channels
    • Relations with Russia / Cooperative Relationship
  • IRAN
    • President Ahmadinejad Comments on Nuclear Experts Meeting with U.S. Scientists / Commented to a Dialogue with Iran / Geneva / Peaceful Nuclear Program / Transparency / Refusal to Cooperate / Damaged Credibility / Diplomatic Channels / Entertain Constructive Proposals /
    • Economic Sanctions against Military Regime / Burma Policy Review / Secretary Clinton Comments / Pressure and Engagement / Assistant Secretary Campbell and other Interlocutors / Democratic Reform and Human Rights Guarantees
    • Situation Update / Water and Electricity Restored to Brazilian Embassy / No Clashes / Lifting of Nationwide Curfew / U.S. Reopened / OAS Ministers / Involvement of Costa Rican President Arias / President Zelaya / UN Security Council


1:22 p.m. EDT

MR. KELLY: Good afternoon. I’d like to make just a very brief statement before we begin and publicly thank the Government of New Zealand, in particular, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, for sending a C-130 Hercules aircraft down to – down from Christchurch to rescue an American citizen who had been having serious medical problems at the McMurdo research station in Antarctica earlier this week. This rescue is yet another example of the close cooperation between the New Zealand and American Antarctic programs over many years, and it’s a clear demonstration of the spirit embodied in the Antarctic Treaty.

All of us here, I think, take for granted that when we dial 911, there’s going to be a local emergency response team that shows up. But of course, scientists and other researchers who are working in Antarctica are in a much more tenuous position when there’s a medical emergency. So let me just say again, we’re grateful that New Zealand was able to respond quickly for this rescue, and that their action is in the best tradition of our countries’ longstanding Antarctic cooperation.


QUESTION: Thanks, Mr. Kelly. How are you?

MR. KELLY: I’m good. How are you?

QUESTION: I’m well. What can you tell us about the Russian sex tape, and involving an American diplomat, Mr. Hatcher?

MR. KELLY: You’re referring to the video that appeared on a Russian website, and then there was an American television report last night. We worked closely with the producers. You probably saw that Ambassador John Beyrle gave an interview. He reiterated that the individual who was in this video is a very respected and valued member of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, one of the – one of my best colleagues in the Foreign Service. About six months ago, right before this video appeared, I think, he was honored by the ambassador with an award for his outstanding work on reporting on human rights and religious freedom.

We believe, as Ambassador Beyrle said in the interview, that he has been the subject of a smear campaign using the Russian press. And of course, this kind of campaign is disgusting and deplorable. Mr. Hatcher is – enjoys the full confidence of Ambassador Beyrle and fully intends to serve out the rest of his tour in Moscow.

QUESTION: This is the sort of thing that seems to date back to the Cold War, the Soviet Union. Is there something going on in Russia against what’s supposed to be better relations with the U.S. right now?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I mean, yes, we do have better relations with Russia. We have a very different kind of relationship than we had before 1992. It’s a much more cooperative relationship, as we saw yesterday when President Obama met with Dmitri Medvedev. And I think this is exactly the way you characterize it; it’s an example of the continuation of a Cold War mentality. And I think as Ambassador Beyrle said, there clearly are still people who have this Cold War mentality and don’t want our relationship to improve. But I think that these kind of people are in a very, very distinct and very small minority, and the majority of Russians want to have a cooperative relationship with the U.S. and move on from the Cold War.

QUESTION: If this has been out for a few months, have you had a chance to talk at high levels with the Russians to say, “Is this a renegade unit of yours that needs to be pulled in?” Are they acting with any kind of --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- sanction or permission?

MR. KELLY: Well, we – what we always say is that we don’t talk about the details of our diplomatic discussions and exchanges. But I will say that when this video appeared on the internet, we made our concerns known through diplomatic channels, both here in Washington and in Moscow.

Yeah, Mary Beth.

QUESTION: Ian, the Iranian President Ahmadinejad said in an interview yesterday that Iran was willing to have its nuclear experts meet with scientists from the U.S. and other countries as a confidence-building measure aimed at resolving the concerns about its nuclear program. What is the – is the U.S. willing to do that?

MR. KELLY: Well, let me first say that we are committed to a dialogue with Iran, a serious dialogue, and the proof of this is our willingness to sit down with them next week in Geneva. But we also have made it quite clear that Iran has a responsibility to demonstrate that its program is intended for exclusively peaceful purposes. And this really isn’t that hard to do, to have transparency and be able to gain the confidence of the international community that they do intend to have an exclusively civilian nuclear program. Their continued refusal to cooperate has damaged their credibility and also undermined these claims that they don’t intend to pursue a nuclear weapon.

Now, regarding the proposal that you referred to in your paper today, there – I mean, there are – there exist diplomatic channels for them to be able to provide this – or to make this kind of proposal. And they’ll have an opportunity, of course, next week, on October 1st. And just to reiterate, we are serious. We do want to sit down with them and have a serious exchange and find out if, indeed, they are ready to open up their nuclear program.

QUESTION: What would you be – well, you obviously have not received, I guess, a diplomatic --

MR. KELLY: No, not that I’m aware of anyway.

QUESTION: -- overture like this. But would that be the kind of thing – would this sort of idea – have its nuclear experts meet with U.S. and other scientists, would that be something the U.S. would look favorably on?

MR. KELLY: Well, we have this meeting next week, and I just don’t want to prejudge exactly the way we’re going to respond. I mean, we – there are no details on this. I think we’d have a lot of questions about it. But like I say, we are prepared for a serious dialogue with them.

QUESTION: Okay. And one further question. The Iranian president also said that at these talks next week that Iran is going to look to buy enriched uranium from the U.S. for medical purposes. So what would the response be to that?

MR. KELLY: Well, as we’ve said many times, we’ve never rejected their right to use – to have a civilian nuclear program which is for peaceful purposes. But they have not satisfied our demands that they have to put in place some verifiable and transparent means for the international community to be assured that what they’re doing is for – solely for peaceful purposes.

QUESTION: So would this type of request for medical uranium, enriched uranium needed for medical purposes, would that fit into something – the type of thing the U.S. would be willing to do?

MR. KELLY: Well, again, we’re willing to entertain constructive proposals, but we also need to have addressed our very, very serious concerns about the nature of their nuclear activities.


MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you know what the schedule is for Viktor Ivanov’s meeting today? Is it the afternoon? And will there be any kind of press availability?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware that there – I think I addressed this yesterday.

QUESTION: You talked about it.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I’m not aware of any kind of press opportunity. I think he’s meeting with Assistant Secretary Johnson. I don’t think we’re planning any press. If you’d like to have a readout of the meeting, I can see if I can get that for you. Yeah.


QUESTION: Hi. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton announced that the U.S. would maintain economic sanctions against the Burmese military regime, and now she’s saying that the U.S will be engaging with the Burmese military regime. This policy or this statement is so contradicting. So can you explain to us why the sudden change, and why are – why is the U.S. engaging with the Burmese military now?

MR. KELLY: Well, let’s just step back a minute. As we’ve said all along, we’ve been – we’ve had this Burma policy review, and it is in its absolute final stages. We hope to have very shortly, perhaps as early as tomorrow, but I don’t want to promise that, a briefing on what this policy will entail. The end goal for our policy has not changed. Our goal is credible democratic reform in Burma. We want a government that responds to the needs of its people; a government that frees political prisoners unconditionally, including Aung San Suu Kyi; and the start of a dialogue, of a constructive dialogue, with the political opposition there.

Now, as far as sanctions are concerned, you probably saw what the – or heard what the Secretary said last night, is that we believe that sanctions have a place in our policy. But sanctions or isolation has not, in and of themselves, produced the kind of result that we’ve been looking for. And she said that we believe this dichotomy, this sanctions versus engagement, is a false dichotomy, that we shouldn’t have to choose between one or the other.

And so what we want to do is employ both of those tools, both pressure and engagement. And I think that, as I said before, what we want is what the international community wants, and that’s genuine democratic reform in Burma.

QUESTION: And who is leading, or who will be leading, this Burma policy?

MR. KELLY: Well, right now, it’s Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell. I think that there will be other interlocutors who will be named soon as well.

QUESTION: Last question. You mentioned the lady of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, and she had stated that, although that she does agree with the engagement with the military people --


QUESTION: -- but that you should also be engaging with the opposition --


QUESTION: -- the Burmese people.


QUESTION: So what do you think the military government of Burma would say to this, to the engagement with the Burmese people?

MR. KELLY: Well, as I’ve said before, we have not lost our focus on this. We want to have a genuine democratic reform with guarantees of human rights for Burma. We’ve conducted an assessment of the implementation of this policy up till now, and we’ve decided that a complete isolation – the kind of path that we’ve pursued – hasn’t necessarily worked. And – but I don’t want anybody to think that just because we’re choosing the path of engagement, that it means somehow a lessening of our commitment to the cause of political and democratic reform, and the cause of human rights in Burma. That is right in the forefront of our policy, has been and always will be.


QUESTION: Has the State Department been in contact with DOJ with regards to the lawsuit that Chen Shui-bian filed two days ago?

MR. KELLY: The loss of what?

QUESTION: Lawsuit that Chen Shui-bian, the former Taiwanese president, filed against the U.S.

MR. KELLY: I am not aware of that. I’ll have to check on that.

QUESTION: What’s the latest on Honduras?

MR. KELLY: Latest on Honduras, okay. Can’t have a briefing without the latest on Honduras.

Well, as we said before, we are pleased that water and electricity has been restored to the Brazilian Embassy. In general, I think the situation – I hate to use a cliché – is calm but tense. There have been no clashes that we’re aware of. The government, I understand, has lifted its nationwide curfew, and so the U.S. Embassy has reopened for normal business. And I think that details are still being worked out regarding a mission by OAS foreign ministers to Tegucigalpa, and we expect in the next day or two to have further details on that.

QUESTION: Do you think Oscar Arias will be involved again?

MR. KELLY: I don’t know. I think what we’re – what they’re focused on is a group of foreign ministers from the OAS. We hope that President Arias remains involved.

QUESTION: Have you been in touch with Zelaya himself?

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure, quite frankly. I think that most of the contact has been between the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa and the Brazilian Embassy and President Zelaya there. But I’m not – I just don’t have the details of recent contacts.


QUESTION: What about the Security Council meeting? Did you decide on that?

MR. KELLY: No, that – we’re – again, we’re still consulting with our colleagues on the Security Council about putting that together.

Okay? Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:38 p.m.)