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Middle East Digest: March 26, 2007

Bureau of Public Affairs
March 26, 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 the Daily Briefing on March 26, 2007:

QUESTION: The Egyptians are voting today on a constitution. Do you have any thoughts on that subject?

MR. CASEY: Well, George, I think you've heard from the Secretary on this subject of the referendum. We've expressed our concerns both publicly and as she said, in her discussions with President Mubarak. I know that the voting is taking place today. I don't have any results to report to you and I haven't heard back from some of our people in the embassy to give you a better sense of how that process is proceeding, but certainly, the Egyptians have staked out for themselves some pretty clear ideas on reform and we'd like to see them carried out. And again, you've heard the concerns that we have specifically related to this referendum from the Secretary.

QUESTION: And what do you think about the delay which was allowed between the announcement of this referendum and the referendum itself, which is only one week? Do you think it's enough and sufficient?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think you've basically gotten our position on this already. I don't want to try and make pronouncements on the specific details of this, but we do want to see Egypt move forward with the process of reform. As the President and Secretary have both said, Egypt is an important country in the region and we would like to see it be a leader in political reform.


QUESTION: Do you have any comments on the Iranian authority's reaction regarding Resolution 1747?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think their reaction to date has been disappointing and is a continuation of President Ahmadi-Nejad's seeming desire to continue the path of isolation and the path of confrontation with the international community. I would note again that in addition to the passage of Resolution 1747, which does impose additional sanctions on Iran, at the same time and at the same day that resolution was passed, the foreign ministers of the Permanent Five members of the Security Council plus Germany put out their own statement reiterating that they are prepared to sit down with Iran in negotiations, should they be willing to take the simple step of complying with the repeated requests and requirements of the international community and suspend their uranium enrichment activities.

And I think that's important for everyone and particularly for the Iranian people to understand. We would all like to see a resolution of this peacefully, diplomatically, and we would all like to see Iran be able to benefit from civil nuclear power. That is certainly something that we do not object to either for Iran or for any other country that is living up to its obligations under the nonproliferation treaty. But at the same time, as we all know, Iran has conducted a clandestine nuclear program for almost 20 years now. That program, in our mind, is very clearly bent not on producing power for the needs of the people, but on producing nuclear weapons, and that is something that the international community has repeatedly said it will not stand for.

So again, their reaction to this resolution, while in keeping with their past statements, is unfortunate. And it's unfortunate for the Iranian people who are going to continue to pay a price for their leadership's refusal to do the right thing and to enter into negotiations with the international community.

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