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Middle East Digest: March 22, 2007

Bureau of Public Affairs
March 22, 2007

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The Middle East Digest provides text and audio from the Daily Press Briefing. For the full briefings, please visit http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/

From Daily Briefing on March 22, 2007:

QUESTION: Any news on the Iran resolution? You're still hopeful that it's going to go through and you'll get --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, I -- they're going to have a vote in the coming days. I can't tell you exactly when that vote is going to be. We're scheduled, I think, for another session at about 5:30 at the perm rep level up in New York to discuss any suggested amendments. As I said yesterday, we are of course open to changes to the resolution, any suggestions from the elected members of the Security Council. We do, however, want to preserve the core of the resolution. We think that's important. That is agreed among the P-5 members. It is appropriate to the time, the current -- the current steps that are outlined in the resolution. So while we are open to discussing some potential changes, those core precepts have to remain in the resolution, in our view.

QUESTION: Were the visas to the Iranian delegation actually delivered?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, not yet. They're still processing that second tranche of visas. The first tranche that involved a visa application from President Ahmadi-Nejad as well as his top-level advisors have been approved. They haven't been issued yet. The plan was just to issue both tranches at the same time. I reiterate we are going to meet our host country obligations. We are going to ensure that this is not an obstacle to President Ahmadi-Nejad speaking before the Security Council, should he choose to do so.


QUESTION: Italy, please.


QUESTION: Monday, Secretary of State Rice and Foreign Minister met for dinner and they said they spoke briefly about the releasing of the journalist. And Mr. D'Alema said there was some kind of understanding from Mrs. Rice on the method of the thing. This doesn't seem to be the case anymore. What happened in two days? Also, you were saying here when asked, you weren't going to get into it, and now the New York Times quotes you as saying, you know, we don't like --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the -- we are of course pleased for the family that, you know, they have been reunited with their loved one. At the time, we were not aware of the circumstances of this deal that had been arranged between the Italian Government and the Afghan Government. Certainly at the time of the Secretary's meeting she was unaware, not aware of those arrangements. And I was unaware when I made the initial comments as well.

QUESTION: Well, are they going to speak to each other -- Mrs. Rice and Mr. D'Alema -- a phone call, meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we'll probably have something for you a little bit later on that.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: What is the fear that you have about the -- about this kind of an arrangement, the concerns that you have about this kind of an arrangement going forward?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, of course we've made our views known on this very clear. We don't negotiate with terrorists. We don't advise others to do so as well. The concern, I think, is obvious in that you have individuals who are potentially quite dangerous who have been released from prison.

QUESTION: And? I mean, I would like to have you say it. That's -- and? You're pleased they've been released from prison, but there are also other concerns, aren't there, that this would lead to an increase in -- and you know, it might encourage or at least give people reason to think that their demands will be met?

MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly there are other potential unintended consequences from such an action.

QUESTION: Sean, on Iran again. We know Qatar and Indonesia also some proposal for the resolution. Is it going to be discussed today during the meeting between Secretary Rice and Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure they'll touch on the Security Council resolution and Indonesia is an elected member of the Security Council. And President Bush has spoken with President Yudhoyono, and Secretary Rice has also had a conversation with the Foreign Minister. It won't be -- the discussion won't be limited to talking about the Security Council resolution, but I expect it will come up.

QUESTION: And how open are you to the Indonesian-Qatar proposal?

MR. MCCORMACK: Which one are you referring to?

QUESTION: Concerning the Iran resolution. You know, they are going a little broader with their ideas talking about an area of --

QUESTION: A nuclear --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, a nuclear-free Middle East. Of course, we are going to listen to the thoughts of the Indonesian Foreign Minister and whatever proposals that they have. We'll take a look at what it is they propose any specific language. As I said before, we're looking at this process according to three different variables: the content of the resolution, the wording of it; the timeliness of getting a resolution passed; as well as the idea of consensus. Can you achieve a 15-0 vote? Certainly we'd like to maximize across all those variables. If there are changes that do not affect what are, in our view, the core principles of the Security Council resolution, of course, we're open to talking about those.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mr. Gollust.

QUESTION: Sean, could you give us an idea of what the Secretary intends to bring up with the Azerbaijani Foreign Minster? Would human rights be on the agenda for that meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: I expect they will talk about that. The proximate cause of the visit here is the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding related to energy issues. It establishes a high-level energy dialogue, talking about ways to get Caspian energy resources to Europe via a number of different pipelines. There are several of them that are under consideration at the moment. I would expect that she also touches on other aspects of U.S.-Azerbaijan relations, including on human rights. That will be at the top of the Secretary's agenda.

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