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Daily Press Briefing
Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 2, 2008

INDEX:

INDIA

Secretary Rice’s Travel to India / American Solidarity with India
U.S. Investigation Team in India / FBI is a Part of Team
Working with India to Bring Culprits to Justice / Discussions with NATO Partners
Travel Advisory for India

PAKISTAN

Pakistan Needs to Be a Part of the Investigation of Mumbai Attacks
Need for Full, Complete and Transparent Cooperation Regarding Mumbai Attacks
Pakistan Committed to Fight Against Terror and These Attacks
Fundamental Problem of Extremism in the Region

MACEDONIA

U.S. Policy Regarding Macedonia Has Not Changed

MISCELLANEOUS

Cluster Munitions Treaty

LIBYA

Ambassador Gene Cretz Swearing-in Ceremony on December 17

THAILAND

Court Ruling Asking Prime Minister to Step Down is an Internal Thai Matter
PAD Removing Its People from Airports / Following Situation Closely

DEPARTMENT

U.S. Image Around the World


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

10:33 a.m. EST

MR. WOOD: Good morning, everyone. I don’t have anything for you, so we’ll go right to your questions. Please.

QUESTION: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives in India tomorrow. What can you tell us about her itinerary? Two: Our President-elect yesterday, he said in response that all countries have a right to defend their sovereignty and respond in – if -- in the case of a terror attack. Is that also the State Department’s view or Secretary Rice? Is that the message she will be giving to Indians?

MR. WOOD: The message that Secretary Rice is going to give to the Indians is one of condolences to the Indian people and the Indian Government for the attacks in Mumbai. She will also be expressing American solidarity with India at this time of tragedy. With regard to what the President-elect said, I think his words speak for himself – speak for themselves.

The Secretary views this as a time where all the countries in the region need to cooperate to fight terrorism. The attacks in Mumbai show that these terrorists can strike at will and we need to be prepared and do whatever is necessary to stop these types of attacks from happening. And she will be there to discuss with the Indian Government how we can better cooperate in terms of this fight against extremism.

Please. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: When we say “solidarity,” what do we mean? Because the U.S. is an ally-- Pakistan is the U.S.’s ally in the war on terror and America needs Pakistan to fight the Taliban and the al-Qaida on the Western border. Pakistan says they’re going to remove troops from the West and focus on the East. Is that a threat? Do you see that as a threat from Pakistan?

MR. WOOD: Look, I – Pakistan will have to make decisions based on what it feels is in its best interest. We have said to the Pakistanis that it’s important that it focus its efforts on fighting terrorism in the tribal areas of the country. We’re very concerned about the level of activity going on there. And Pakistan, as we have said – as the Secretary has said over the last couple of days needs to give its full, complete, and transparent cooperation with the investigation into the Mumbai attacks and to follow leads wherever they may go. And so we’re going to continue to work with India and Pakistan, as I said, and to see what we can do to, you know, prevent these types of attacks from going – taking place, and of course, to get to the bottom of who carried out these attacks, and bring those culprits to justice.

QUESTION: Can you give any information about what U.S. investigators and intelligence officials have been able to give the Indians on (inaudible)?

MR. WOOD: I’m obviously not at liberty to talk about that at this point. But let me just say that we have an investigative team in India right now and they are conducting their work. They are working with Indian officials to see what we can find out. But at this point, I don’t have any further comment on the investigation.

QUESTION: Can you give any more details on the team, and are any more coming over?

MR. WOOD: Not that I’m aware of. But I’m not going to rule that out at this point. It depends on how the investigation goes and if there’s a requirement to bring additional people from the States.

QUESTION: Well, was there an advance warning given by the United States to India about any advance information ahead of these attacks that might have helped the Indians?

MR. WOOD: That’s getting into intelligence information, which I’m not at liberty to do.

QUESTION: How big is that team of U.S. people who are helping out?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know. The FBI is a part of that team. I don’t have the exact numbers in terms of how large the team is.

QUESTION: And it’s FBI?

MR. WOOD: FBI is a part of the team.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. WOOD: Goyal.

QUESTION: Others -- others?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know the makeup of the others, but I do know that the FBI is part of that team.

Goyal.

QUESTION: Robert, this is not the first time India was attacked or victims in India were victims of these terrorists. And there was always a direct link from Pakistan, including this one, Karachi connection where they served as a (inaudible) who is sitting in Karachi and who directed all this and he is wanted by the U.S. also. And the Secretary had been many times in India on these occasions, unfortunately, because of these incidents, but now again, this time. So what will be her mission this time different? Because I think everybody says that India has a right to strike those terrorists based in Pakistan. Do you have a green light for India?

MR. WOOD: We don’t give green lights to any countries -- green or red lights to countries. What we’re trying to do is – we’ve got a tragedy that took place in India. We want to work with the Government of India and other players to do what we can to bring the culprits of these attacks to justice. We also want to move forward on trying to see what we can do together to try to prevent these types of attacks from happening again. That’s going to be the focus of the Secretary’s efforts when she is in India. And that subject will likely come up, I assume, at her – in her discussions at NATO today. So this is going to take, you know, a wide-ranging effort amongst a variety of countries to try to do what we can to fight this extremism that’s taken place in that region.

QUESTION: People are saying in India and also some think tanks here that each time an incident takes place, and Pakistan immediately denies they’re no hand, but need a proof. Whenever they didn’t prove, then they keep misleading the U.S. that we will pull out our troops and there will be danger. I mean, it’s like blackmailing the U.S. in the name of terrorism, at the same time keep supporting terrorists against India.

So how can you know and – once, forever, as far as these terrorists or terrorism or they’re harboring, training camp, and supporting – financing?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, Pakistan is on the front lines of terrorism, as India is, as Afghanistan is. And the Pakistanis understand the threat. And what we need to do is to ratchet up our cooperation. We need Pakistan first and foremost to investigate – be a part of this investigation of the attacks; as I said, follow any lead no matter where it goes; and to work with the international community. We’ve got concerns about what’s going on in the tribal areas, as I mentioned earlier.

And it’s not an easy problem. It’s going to take a lot of work. Pakistan, you know, we believe, is committed to this fight. President Zardari said that he wants to see these culprits brought to justice. I think it’s too early to say where these attackers originated from – where they originated from, who was behind these attacks. The investigation will obviously point us in a certain direction. But we need to let the investigation take its course. Finger-pointing is not necessarily the best thing at this particular time. However, it’s incumbent upon Pakistan to, as I said, do what it can to make sure that they’re cooperating with this investigation, and help bring these culprits to justice.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR. WOOD: A follow-up? Please.

QUESTION: Yes. Why you are targeting Pakistan and not any other country in the area?

MR. WOOD: Well, we’re – look, we’re not targeting a particular country at all with attacks – with these statements. What we’re saying is, is that there is a problem, a fundamental problem of extremism in that region. Much of it does emanate from Pakistani territory. And what we have to do, again, as I said, is to cooperate with our allies in the region, including Pakistan, with India, to try to do what we can to root out extremism. It’s a very serious problem, and we just need to be able to find an effective way of countering this.

QUESTION: Well, (inaudible), Mr. Wood, I continue to read that you are focusing on Pakistan in the beginning of the crisis after the (inaudible) – I’m wondering why? Why? What is the reason?

MR. WOOD: Well, because --

QUESTION: Any evidence that they did (inaudible)?

MR. WOOD: We don’t have evidence, but there are concerns based on what we’ve heard from Indian officials and others that these folks may have – this terrorism may have come from Pakistani soil. We don’t know that yet.

There’s an investigation underway which will hopefully lead us in a direction that will get to the bottom of the source of this. But it’s no secret that there is a problem in Pakistan with regard to al-Qaida and Taliban operating. There is no question about it. There are other groups that are operating in Pakistan. But the Pakistani Government understands this and knows that it needs to take effective measures. It’s not an easy situation, and that’s why I stress that we have to be cooperating together, all of us in the region.

QUESTION: So far (inaudible), you said (inaudible) in Pakistan in this crucial matter.

MR. WOOD: Well, Pakistan has said the right things, and it’s pledged to investigate and to cooperate with this investigation that India is undertaking. And that’s what we need. We need a hundred percent effort.

QUESTION: I think he asked part of my question anyway, but are you asking the Pakistanis for more cooperation, and in what areas? And who is asking Pakistan? Is it Secretary Rice who’s – will be on the phone or has been on the phone?

MR. WOOD: Well, I think there are a number of countries. The British are certainly concerned. You know, we’re concerned. Others are concerned. This issue is going to come up, as I said earlier, at NATO -- the issue of the Mumbai attacks. Terrorism is a worldwide problem. It’s not just centered in South Asia. It’s all around the world. And so it’s going to require a worldwide effort to counter it. And we want to be able to cut off financial links, other types of ties that these terrorist organizations have. We have to be able to break down these terrorist infrastructures. And that’s going to be central to what we’re going to try to do around the world, what we’ve been trying to do around the world. So I don’t know how better to explain it at this point.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR. WOOD: Yeah, sure, Goyal.

QUESTION: Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S., he said that – just forget what happened and let’s move on and not think about the past. And General Musharraf used to say same thing after parliament was hit in India, and also the (inaudible), let’s move ahead and not to think about it. Should India forget it or should – the U.S. should forget what happened?

MR. WOOD: No. India’s not going to forget. The United States is not going to forget. That’s why this investigation – we want to try to find out who did this, who carried out these attacks, and bring them to justice. At the same time, we also need to figure out how we can prevent these attacks from happening again. And it’s going to be important, as I said, that all of us work together, cooperate as best we can. It’s not going to be something we’re going to be able to solve overnight. As I said, terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon, and we’re going to have to take a global approach to dealing with it.

QUESTION: Yeah. Does that global approach include, then, a new diplomatic effort on Kashmir to solve the problem there?

MR. WOOD: Well --

QUESTION: Should it?

MR. WOOD: I mean, Kashmir is an issue that is of great concern to the international community. There are other places around the world where we have great concerns. And it’s going to take a global effort, no question. I don’t have a specific plan here for you at this point, but it is something that we will be discussing in terms of how we can, you know, strengthen our efforts to fight terrorism. And that diplomacy will continue to go on.

Please.

QUESTION: I read perhaps in The Wall Street Journal that U.S. intelligence believes that the Lashkar e-Tayyiba is behind it. Can you confirm that?

MR. WOOD: Can’t confirm it at all. That’s why there’s an investigation right now. And it’s important that we focus our efforts on the investigation and not, you know, single out groups yet. I know there is one group that claimed responsibility for it, but we need to have an investigation, thorough investigation, and follow those leads wherever they go before singling out, well, it was this group or that group.

QUESTION: And do you have a Travel Advisory or have you lifted the traveler advisory for travel to India or business to India? I was at USIBC yesterday, and they said that they’re, you know, initiating and asking people to go and do business as usual. Is – what --

MR. WOOD: Well, I know that we put out – at the time of the attacks, we put out a Travel Advisory basically recommending that Americans defer travel to Mumbai for 48 to 72 hours. I think that’s obviously been lifted. I’ll have to see if we’ve made any updates. I’m not aware that we have.

MR. DUGUID: No. The 72-hour delay was the last one that we issued and will be expiring shortly. We’ll see if we have another one.

MR. WOOD: Okay.

QUESTION: And that’s only for Mumbai?

MR. WOOD: As far as I know, yes.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On the Balkans. Mr. Wood, Steven Meyer, former CIA analyst, DOS advisor and professor at the National Defense University here in Washington, D.C., stated in an interview (inaudible), quote, “Macedonian Albanians should decide where they want to live. They are (inaudible). The borders of Macedonia are not settled and they can be redrawn.” I am wondering if that is your policy behind the scenes.

MR. WOOD: No, you know what our policy is with regard to Macedonia, Mr. Lambros. I don’t have any – it has not changed.

QUESTION: Now, Professor Meyer also said, quote, “If the Albanians in Macedonia’s western part believe that (inaudible) with Albania proper is still strong, and if they want to act on this, they should do so. Why not vote for independence or some kind of union with Albania or Kosovo?” Do you have any comment?

MR. WOOD: I don’t have anything to say on that, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: And the last one to this effect?

MR. WOOD: Yes.

QUESTION: But almost similar to this, on November 25th, Assistant Secretary Daniel Fried, talking to us on upcoming NATO ministerial meeting, stated, quote, “But nobody in the Balkans is going to be changing their geography anytime soon.” Do you expect, as Department of State, change in the Balkans borders sometime in the future?

MR. WOOD: No, Mr. Lambros, I don’t.

Right here.

QUESTION: Tomorrow in Oslo, about a hundred countries will sign a treaty banning cluster bombs, and I wonder if you could tell us why U.S. is not signing the treaty. And also, how would this treaty affect the U.S. military cooperation with signatories such as Japan?

MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not able to answer the second part of the question at this point. But with regard we will not be signing the cluster munitions treaty, we still believe that these weapons are necessary. And I’ll see if I can get you an update on – whereas, I believe tomorrow is the date – yeah, and I’ll see if I can get you some more information on it.

QUESTION: Why are they necessary?

MR. WOOD: Well, they’re necessary in terms of conducting our warfare. That’s our view. But I can refer you to more specific information – I’d refer you to the Pentagon for more specific information on the utility of those weapons.

Samir.

QUESTION: Do you know if Ambassador Cretz traveled to Libya?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know. His swearing-in ceremony is December 17. I don’t believe – I’ll have to check and see if he’s gone to – I don’t believe he’s there, but I need to check.

QUESTION: Do you have a --

MR. WOOD: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: -- reaction to the Thai court ruling asking the Prime Minister to step down? Will this solve the crisis? And --

MR. WOOD: Well, we certainly hope it will eventually lead to a resolution of the crisis. But it’s – basically, it’s an internal Thai matter that’s being dealt with under, you know, the Thai constitutional court. And I understand that the PAD is going to basically remove its people from the airports by – I think it is 10 a.m. tomorrow. So we’re following the situation very closely, and we’ll have to see how things play out.

Goyal.

QUESTION: Robert, as far as U.S. image is concerned around the globe, of course Secretary of State has done a great job as far as she is concerned. But still, somehow, billions of U.S. dollars still have not played any role, especially in the Muslim countries because they are still anti-U.S. What do you think that new Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is going to bring to this Department? Any change or anything new with policy change, or you think it will be – she will be different in many ways than what you see today?

MR. WOOD: Look, it would be unfair for me to speak to the views of the Secretary of State-designate. I’ll let her do that at an appropriate time.

You know, we’ve been concerned for a long time about the U.S. image in the world. We’ve been trying to do a number of things to improve that image. We still believe that the United States – we’re doing what we can to try to resolve a number of conflicts around the world. We are a force for good in the world. You know, it’s not to say that we don’t have faults. We certainly do. But our will is there to do the right thing, and it doesn’t matter under this administration, the next administration, the one to follow that; the United States will continue to try to resolve a lot of these conflicts around the world and do what we can to alleviate poverty and disease. And – but we do have a public diplomacy challenge, there’s no question, and we’ll continue to try to work on that every day.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. You think this is contributing some kind of – as far as activities in terrorism, or those terrorists are coming from that part of the world because of --

MR. WOOD: Look, there are a number of reasons one could give as to why terrorism emanates from part of the world to another. Terrorism is nothing but the innocent killing of civilians. There can be no justification for that. And so – and we will continue to make that message clear to the rest of the world, along with others who believe as we do, that terrorism has no place in modern society.

QUESTION: On the same issue?

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: Did you make the same connection between the war in Afghanistan and the attack in Mumbai, India?

MR. WOOD: I don’t see any specific connections at this point. However, there is an investigation ongoing and we’ll see where that leads.

Anything else? Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 10:52 a.m.)

dpb # 202



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