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

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Under Secretary Tauscher Outlined U.S. Broad Goal of Strategy at Biological Weapons Convention in Geneva / U.S. is not Prepared to Revive Negotiations Toward a Verification Regime on Biological Weapons / U.S. Effort Should be Focused on Working in a Multilateral Basis
    • Embassy in Kabul Hosted Daylong Agricultural Coordination Conference to Roll Out New Coordinated Agriculture Strategy/ Agriculture Assistance Strategy Focuses on Increasing Agriculture Jobs and Incomes / U.S. Aims to Increase Afghans' Confidence in Their Own Government
    • U.S. Embassy Islamabad to Seek Further Information on the Identity of the Five Individuals Allegedly Detained by Authorities in Pakistan / Do not Have Confirmation of Their Identities
    • U.S. Believes Important Work Still Needs to be Done to Promote National Reconciliation in Honduras / Elections Deemed Free and Fair / More to be Done Under the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accords / Secretary Clinton Made Reference to the Need to Name a National Unity Government / U.S. Welcomes the Meeting by Costa Rican President Arias / U.S. Concerned That Honduran People have a Way Out of Crisis / Honduran People Signaled a Strong Desire to Move Beyond by Participation in Election
    • Ambassador Bosworth will Leave Pyongyang to Travel to Seoul / Possible Press Conference in Seoul
    • Amanda Knox Conviction / Secretary Clinton Looks Forward to Talking to Senator Cantwell / Routine Diplomatic Contact by U.S. Embassy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • IRAQ
    • Bombing in Baghdad / U.S. Condemns Barbarous Act / Offered to Provide Support Iraqi Police and Military Forces / U. S. Forces Stand Ready to Provide Additional Support If Necessary
    • Update on START / Two Presidents Set a Goal of Finishing the Treaty by End of the Year / The Real Goal is to Get a Good Treaty that Meets the National Security Interest and Enhances the Security of Both Parties / Vast Majority of Text Already Agreed Upon


2:45 p.m. EST

MR. KELLY: Okay. Let me just give you some information at the top of our briefing. And welcome to our briefing, late as it is.

Under Secretary Tauscher was in Geneva today at the Biological Weapons Convention conference. She noted that the United States takes the threat of biological weapons very seriously and so has adopted an energetic approach tailored to counter today’s threats. She outlined the broad goals of the strategy: promoting global health security; establishing and reinforcing norms against the misuse of life sciences; implementing a coordinated approach to influence, identify, inhibit, and interdict those who would seek to misuse scientific progress to harm innocent people; and finally, reinvigorate the Biological Weapons Convention as the premier forum for global outreach and coordination.

I also want to highlight that today our Embassy in Kabul hosted a daylong agricultural coordination conference to roll out our new coordinated agriculture strategy. For the first time, there is a single unified strategy to guide the U.S. Government in assisting Afghanistan to redevelop its agricultural sector, a sector on which 80 percent of Afghans depend for their income and livelihoods.

At the conference, Afghanistan’s Minister of Agriculture Asif Rahimi provided direction to the group by sharing the priorities established by the Afghanistan National Agricultural Development Framework. Our agricultural assistance strategy focuses on increasing agriculture jobs and incomes by increasing agricultural productivity, regenerating agribusiness and rehabilitating watersheds and improving irrigation infrastructure. It also aims to increase Afghans’ confidence in their government, particularly the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, by building their capacity to deliver services to farmers and herders.

You know that the Secretary had a bilateral meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Poroshenko, and she looks forward later on this afternoon to a meeting with El Salvadoran Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez.

QUESTION: Can I ask about Tauscher?


QUESTION: What she did not say, however, was that the Administration was ready to go ahead with an enforceable – enforcement mechanisms on this. Why is the Administration not – why is the Administration not supporting that?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think she did say that we were not prepared to revive negotiations toward a verification regime --


MR. KELLY: -- on biological weapons.

QUESTION: Why not?

MR. KELLY: Because we’ve determined that this would be something that would be just extraordinarily difficult to verify compliance. It’s – biological weapons programs can be very easily disguised in a very small part of laboratories that are devoted to legitimate activities. And we think that our energy and efforts should be focused instead on working in a multilateral basis to enhance transparency and to come to an agreement on compliance on a multilateral basis. But unfortunately, any kind of verification protocol that we would come up with under the convention wouldn’t be able to keep pace with the rapidly changing nature of the biological weapons threat, so we feel that it’s – would be more productive to do this via multilateral agreements to increase transparency.


MR. KELLY: Other questions? Jill.

QUESTION: Ian, what can you tell us about these arrests in Pakistan? Can you confirm that those people who were arrested are actually the five people who were missing locally? In other words, what do you know?

MR. KELLY: Well, the short answer is no, I can’t confirm that. What I can tell you is that we’ve contacted our Embassy in Islamabad, and they are seeking further information. I think that we need to get those kinds of details about the identity of these five individuals. I think insofar as there will be information coming out, I don’t think it’s going to come out of here. I think I will come out of law enforcement agencies, the Department of Justice or the FBI.

QUESTION: But usually – you know, we were talking about Americans just the other day --

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- who are incarcerated --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- in other countries. If these people have been arrested, is the Embassy seeking to meet with them or to --

MR. KELLY: Absolutely, yeah. I mean, if they’re American citizens, we, of course, are going to be very interested in the charges that they’ve been detained on and what sort of circumstances they’re being held. This is something that we would do anywhere, and this is why the Embassy is seeking more information.

QUESTION: Have the Pakistanis actually said anything to you about this?

MR. KELLY: I know that we’ve – that our --

QUESTION: Aren’t they required to notify you if they arrest an American citizen?

MR. KELLY: I think under the --

QUESTION: Yes, they are.

MR. KELLY: -- appropriate Vienna Convention they are required to do it.

QUESTION: So have they?

MR. KELLY: I’m not certain. I know that the Embassy is trying to get more information.

QUESTION: So just for clarification, when you were asked whether you would seek to meet with them, it is you would –you are going to seek meetings or you have sought meetings?

MR. KELLY: We – well, first of all, we need to verify their identity. We need to verify that they’re American citizens. If those – if this is confirmed, then, of course we would seek to get some kind of further information about them and whether or not they desire to meet with a consular officer.

QUESTION: I’m just kind of surprised that you don’t have anything on this because other buildings around this town, other agencies, seem to have quite a bit more information, and presumably they are getting that information from their people on the ground who are attached to the Embassy.

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm. Well, I’m --

QUESTION: And those people are --

MR. KELLY: I mean, you’re welcome to contact these other agencies.

QUESTION: No, I know. But I mean --

MR. KELLY: At this point, we can’t confirm it, though --

QUESTION: -- but those people come under --

MR. KELLY: -- who they are.

QUESTION: -- the chief of mission. The liaisons for various investigative agencies are under chief of mission authority, correct?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I mean, this is something – this has broken in the last few hours.

QUESTION: They report to the ambassador --

MR. KELLY: They certainly do.

QUESTION: -- who works for the State Department.

MR. KELLY: This is absolutely – this is all correct.

QUESTION: And you don’t know anything yet?

MR. KELLY: I -- we --

QUESTION: But yet they do.

MR. KELLY: -- we do not have confirmation of their identities.

QUESTION: But, actually, Ian, if I’m not mistaken, they were arrested Monday, right? Today’s Wednesday. Is that correct?

MR. KELLY: That – I’m not sure about that, Jill, quite frankly. I’m not sure when they were arrested.

QUESTION: So are you going to get --

MR. KELLY: I just know that we’ve seen the media reports of the last few hours.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you going to get back to us, though, specifically on whether the Pakistan Government actually has informed the U.S., if they are? If they are.

MR. KELLY: Well, I think – first we have to confirm that they’re American citizens. And then, yes, if we can, we will. We’ll confirm that we’ve – that we’ve confirmed this.

Yeah. Andy.

QUESTION: On another subject. I’m wondering – the Secretary just made a statement about Honduras in her press availability --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- upstairs. It tracked, in large part, what you said after the election. I’m wondering if you can tell me why she felt she needed to make that statement today, and what is the – does the State Department think things have changed since the – since you made your statement on the election? Have things gotten better? Are things on the track? Are they getting worse? What’s going on?

MR. KELLY: Well, I just think that we believe that important work still needs to be done to promote national reconciliation in Honduras. We had some important elections that we deemed as free and fair. There are still some steps to be done under the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord, particularly in this area of national reconciliation. The Secretary made reference to that, the need to name a national unity government.

The Secretary spoke yesterday with Costa Rican President Arias, who was in Tegucigalpa, met with President-elect Lobo and several former candidates. He was there with Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli. He told the Secretary that it was a very useful meeting. He noted to the Secretary that President-elect Lobo made clear that the establishment of a national unity government, the establishment of a truth commission, and political amnesty, as he put it, were actions that needed to be completed before his inauguration on January 27 to facilitate national recognition – national reconciliation, and also to facilitate broad international recognition of his government.

So we welcome this meeting by Costa Rican President Arias, who’s played such a significant and helpful role. And we hope it’s – it leads to, as I said before, further steps in implementing the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord.

QUESTION: Is – does – if Lobo – if they’re able to achieve – get these steps taken, will it be the State Department’s position that the Honduran crisis is effectively over? Are those the three things that need to be done in order for this to be put behind them?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think what we’re concerned about is that the Honduran people have a way out of this crisis. And the – as we see it, the best way out of this crisis is a step-by-step fulfillment of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord. And we’ve been very active in encouraging the sides to take these concrete steps. We support other international efforts such as the efforts of the Costa Rican and Panamanian presidents. And this is really – it’s in the interest of the Honduran people that they have a way to a more normal future. And the elections were one step, the vote in congress was another, but we have a few more important steps that have to be taken. And the Honduran people have signaled their strong desire to move beyond this by their participation in the elections.

QUESTION: Maybe – could you answer his question with a yes or a no?

MR. KELLY: Which question? Sorry.

QUESTION: Yeah. I think you went on so long, you probably forgot what the question was. Was it – if they do these things, does that mean – in the U.S. – in the eyes of the U.S., that the crisis is over?

MR. KELLY: Well, I normally don’t answer questions that begin with “if.” But I think in this case, I think the answer is yes.


MR. KELLY: I think it will all depend on the Hondurans, of course, if --


MR. KELLY: The key here is moving beyond – moving beyond the coup and getting to a point where we have reconciliation.


MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Talking about the – there are some versions that say that the Secretary – Assistant Secretary Valenzuela will go to South America next week. Do you have any confirmation about that?

MR. KELLY: I don’t. I wouldn’t be surprised. I know that he is trying to make these kinds of trips in the Western Hemisphere. If he does have these plans, I’m sure we’ll be able to share the details with you.

QUESTION: Because yesterday – we know that yesterday there was a meeting in Montevideo with the countries of the Mercosur plus Venezuela, that’s not a full member, and there, these countries proclaimed that they are not going to accept the elections. And do you think that Hillary Clinton today message was like her response to this, to the Mercosur?

MR. KELLY: I would discourage you from seeing it as a direct response to any one event. I think it’s just restating our commitment to helping the people of Honduras to move beyond this and helping the various political actors in Tegucigalpa implement the accord. It was just a way for us to reiterate our support for the efforts of President Arias and President Martinelli, and I think also reinforcing what President-elect Lobo said in his press conference yesterday. I think it’s more a response to that than anything else.


QUESTION: Any readout on Bosworth’s North Korean trip?

MR. KELLY: I would expect in the next few hours he’ll be leaving Pyongyang, going to Seoul, and I think that there will be a lot more information flowing once he hits the ground in Seoul.

QUESTION: That means that there’s going to be a press conference in Seoul?

MR. KELLY: There should be a press conference in Seoul. I don’t have an exact time for it, but --

QUESTION: Which will be overnight here.

MR. KELLY: It’ll be rather early in the morning here, yes.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you’ve ascertained that there’s no reason for him to stay any longer? I know that was suggested as a possibility.

MR. KELLY: Well, he hasn’t left Pyongyang yet, so – (laughter) --

QUESTION: Do you know who he actually met with?

MR. KELLY: I do not, Matt.

QUESTION: So there has been – it’s been complete radio silence? The delegation has not sent any --

MR. KELLY: We expect to have more information --

QUESTION: -- word back to D.C. at all yet from --

MR. KELLY: We expect to have more information tomorrow.

QUESTION: Is he returning faster than you expected? I thought he was going to --

MR. KELLY: I think they were – well, as I understand it, everything is on schedule.

Jill, did you have a – no. Matt.


QUESTION: Yeah. I was going to ask you about the --

MR. KELLY: That’s right, you already asked. It was Matt who --

QUESTION: -- detained – what was that?

MR. KELLY: Never mind. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Since the whole Amanda Knox thing from the other day, has there been any contact, has there been any movement on that from the Department’s --

MR. KELLY: Well, I understand that the Secretary looks forward to talking to Senator Cantwell. There has been some conversations between the Secretary’s staff and Senator Cantwell’s office. And as we said before, we look forward to continuing that dialogue with the senator.

QUESTION: Yeah, but what about with the Italians?

MR. KELLY: I mean, there’s – I think there’s been contact between the Embassy and the ministry of foreign affairs, but just, I think, routine diplomatic contact at this point.

QUESTION: Sorry, and you don’t know if the – the Secretary has not yet met with Senator Cantwell?

MR. KELLY: No, she has not.


QUESTION: Is that scheduled?

MR. KELLY: I don’t think anything is set, but I think within the next, I don’t know, few days or so.

Yeah. Lach.

QUESTION: Yeah. On Iraq, the Iraqi police say the attacks yesterday that killed, I think, about 120 or more people were linked to Saudi Arabia and Syria. They allege that al-Qaida and former supporters or supporters of the late Saddam Hussein were behind it. Do you have anything? Are you working with the Saudis or Syrians to try to find out more?

MR. KELLY: I think that we, of course – I mean, you saw the Secretary’s statement yesterday. These are absolutely horrific and we strongly condemn these barbarous acts. We have offered to provide support to the Iraqi police and military forces. They have – or the U.S. forces have provided explosive ordnance disposal assets and other security forces to help them. There are also intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance assets providing overwatch over Baghdad. And U.S. forces in Iraq, of course, stand ready to provide additional support if necessary.

QUESTION: But does that support extend to the investigation, and especially since it may go beyond Iraq’s borders?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have specific information on that. As I say, though, we stand ready to provide that kind of forensic support if that’s what they want.

Yeah. Andy.

QUESTION: On Iran, yesterday, P.J. was asked about these Iranian press reports about alleged U.S. involvement in the disappearance of an atomic scientist and he wasn’t particularly responsive. Those allegations continue in the Iranian press and in somewhat stronger terms now. I’m wondering, do you have now any response to these? Is there anything that you want to say about these allegations? Is the U.S. involved?

MR. KELLY: No, I don’t have anything to add to what my colleague said yesterday.

QUESTION: What, you never have anything to add? (Laughter.)

MR. KELLY: You can ask again tomorrow if you like, but the response today is the same as yesterday.

QUESTION: So the – never mind.

MR. KELLY: Jill, did you have a question?


MR. KELLY: Yeah. Sorry.

QUESTION: Mr. Lavrov, I guess, said looks like some type of progress. Where are we?

MR. KELLY: Let me give you kind of a brief update on it. You know that the two presidents have set the goal of completing the discussions on the treaty by the end of this year. I know that our negotiating team and the Russian negotiating team are working extremely hard to finish this treaty. They still have that goal of finishing their work by the end of the year. For our part, of course, our real priority here is to get a good treaty that meets our national security interests. Those kinds of interests include obligations in the treaty that are appropriate to the strategic environment now, that mutually enhances both parties and – that enhances the security of both parties, and enhances the security of the region and the world. We want to have more predictability and stability in our nuclear relationship, and we also want provisions in this accord that ensure effective verification of the treaty’s obligations.

I think at this point, this is something that you see towards the end of any negotiation where there are endgame issues that you see in any negotiation. But the real core of the agreement, I think, is agreed on. The vast majority of the text is already agreed on, but we do have some of these final issues that we need to work out. But we’re not – I can’t predict when exactly that would be. And I’ll just stress again the important thing is not meeting a deadline, necessarily. The important thing is getting a good treaty.

In the back. Yeah.

QUESTION: On Bosworth trip, is there a possibility that Bosworth extend his tight schedule in Pyongyang?

MR. KELLY: As I said before, as far as I know, he’s on schedule to leave Pyongyang tomorrow. And he will go to Seoul, he will consult with the South Korean Government. And we expect him to have some kind of press availability tomorrow.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:08 p.m.)