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Middle East Digest: April 27, 2007

Bureau of Public Affairs
April 27, 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 of April 27, 2007:

QUESTION: Reaction to the Saudi terror sweep?

MR. CASEY: Well, we've seen the press accounts of this. I don't have a lot of information to give you on it. Certainly, I'd refer you to the Saudi authorities for the specifics of this arrest, but I think this shows that the Saudis are continuing their efforts to be a good partner with us in the war on terror.

It's important that they and other countries continue to do everything they can not only to try and deal with those who are responsible for acts of violence, but to break up those cells and break up those individuals who are intending to commit acts of violence or who, in any other way, whether through financial means or otherwise, are supporting terror networks. So we welcome the arrests by the Saudis today and certainly, again, I think it shows their strength and commitment to the war on terror.

QUESTION: Amongst these 172, some foreign nationals were mentioned. Were there any American citizens, do you know?

MR. CASEY: I don't have any reason at this point to believe that there were any American citizens involved. Certainly, we will be checking in with Saudi authorities to verify the details of this.

QUESTION: Tom, is there concern that the expansive nature of this plot -- I mean, it's millions of dollars, weapons, does that reflect on the stability of Saudi Arabia?

MR. CASEY: Well, David, I think we're still gathering information from the Saudis on this, so I don't want to try and do an analysis of the significance of this. I think they'd be in the best place to do it. But look, it's certainly clear that terrorism represents a threat to many countries throughout the world, Saudi Arabia included, as well as other countries in the Middle East.

One thing I think that at times gets lost in the discussion about the fight against terrorism is the fact that most of the innocent people who lose their lives in terrorist incidents -- certainly, if you look at what's going on in Iraq right now, if you look at what's happening in Afghanistan, if you look at what's happening in other places in the world, most of the victims of these attacks often are the Arab and Muslim citizens of those countries themselves. And so it's important not only for the United States; it's important for all countries in the world to be able to take actions against these kinds of groups and these kinds of plots.

We've spoken out, as you know, about the importance of political reforms in the Broader Middle East and other parts of the world as well. But everyone certainly understands that as each country moves forward with its own individual political process that that process needs to be nonviolent and that process needs to be one in which the rights of individuals are respected and there can't be any place in any civilized society for terrorism and for indiscriminate acts of violence. So again I think what the Saudis have done here is taken a step forward in terms of their own ability and their own responsibilities for dealing with the issues of terrorism and certainly we'll be continuing to talk with them about this issue and we'll be continuing to work and cooperate with them and other of our partners throughout the world.

QUESTION: Just to follow-up.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: But most of the Muslim and Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, they have not come out publicly denouncing terrorism and also they have they not sent their troops to die for their freedom. And at the same time, they are providing billions of dollars in the name of charity throughout the globe, including in the U.S., and that money is being used to support terrorism.

MR. CASEY: Well Goyal, as I mentioned in my earlier answer dealing not only with those who are actually committing acts of violence or intending to commit acts of violence is important, but it's important as well to deal with those who finance terror, to deal with those who provide its ideological underpinnings. And certainly there have been problems in terms of funding going through charities or so-called charities that are actually efforts to finance terrorist organizations. The Saudi Government has taken actions in a number of these instances, but all of us agree that whether it's the United States or Saudi Arabia or any other country that more needs to be done because being able to cut off the funding for terrorist organizations is an important part of being able ultimately to deal with this problem.

*****

QUESTION: Any Levinson updates? Have you heard from the Iranians at all?

MR. CASEY: No. Unfortunately, we still do not have an answer to our additional request to the Iranian Government for information about Mr. Levinson. We continue to seek those answers and we also continue to have discussions with some of our friends and allies who we've asked to go out as well and knock on some doors and see what they can do to help us try and ascertain his whereabouts.

QUESTION: And following on Iran, please?

QUESTION: Okay. Can I just ask have you expanded the efforts at all diplomatically or is it still these countries?

MR. CASEY: It's still the three countries right now, although certainly, you know, if we think it's useful we will expand that effort out.

*****

QUESTION: On Iran, please. Tom, the reports are saying again that Iran is now developing nuclear weapons and al-Qaida and other terrorists may have a hand because of their policies supporting terrorism in Iraq, in Afghanistan now and elsewhere around the globe. And now

Al-Fayyad said (inaudible) if any Iranian will come and talk, she will talk to them. Is she going to have a really clear and strong message as far as their support for terrorism and also their nuclear program or they're going to with some kind of soft --

MR. CASEY: Well, let's deal with a couple of things. I assume part of your reference is to the upcoming neighbors conference next week in Sharm el-Sheikh.

QUESTION: Yes. Yes, sir.

MR. CASEY: We'll see whether in fact the Iranians attend and if so at what level. Certainly Secretary Rice will be there, as will representatives of Iraq's neighbors and the other members of the G-8 and the Permanent Five at the Security Council. And again, let's remember the purpose of this is to help advance Iraqi efforts at political reform, at economic reform at enhancing security. And certainly we want to see all the countries that are there come to the table with not only positive words, but with a willingness to take positive actions to help Iraq deal with its very difficult situation right now. And unfortunately, from what we've seen in the past from both the Syrians and Iranians, their actions have never met the positive rhetoric that they've used.

And we have been very frank in the previous round, at the envoy level, in airing our concerns both about Iranian support for militias, about their provision of some of these very deadly IEDs that are having a serious impact on our troops. And I certainly expect that under discussions of those kinds of issues, the Secretary will be equally forceful in making our case on those and I expect that others will also raise their concerns with Iranian behavior as well as Syrian behavior when it comes to Iraq.


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