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Daily Press Briefing
Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 24, 2008

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT

Companies Listed as Sanctioned in Federal Register

NORTH KOREA

Question About Possible Visit by North Korean Delegation
Scheduling of Meeting of Heads of Delegation / Chinese to Announce Date
Rescission of North Korea from State Sponsors of Terrorism List
Reports of Defected North Korean Citizen

SOMALIA

Question About Blackwater Involvement / NATO Operations off Coast of Somalia
U.S. Concerned About Piracy
U.S. Wants to See Situation with Ukrainian Registered Ship Resolved

CROATIA

Reports of Croatian Newspaper Editor Killed in Bomb Attack

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

Israelis and Palestinians Working to Reach Solution
Secretary’s Plans to Return to Region

IRAN

Citizenship of Woman Detained in Iranian Prison


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

10:24 a.m. EDT

MR. WOOD: Good morning. Happy Friday to all. I’d like to especially welcome a group of German broadcasters who are here this morning. We look forward to talking with you all after the briefing. So with that, questions?

QUESTION: Here’s something that was in the – I realize was in the Federal Register yesterday. It’s the sanctioning of a series of Chinese, Russian, and Venezuelan companies for allegedly having provided weapons or other sensitive technologies to Iran, North Korea, or Syria.

MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Federal Register entry, unless I misunderstood it, doesn’t specify what – which countries in particular these firms are alleged to have provided such weapons or technologies to, and I wonder if you can shed any light on that.

MR. WOOD: I don’t believe I can, Arshad, but we can look into it and see if we can get you some information on that. But I don’t have anything for you on it.

QUESTION: The other thing, when you’re looking into that --

MR. WOOD: Yeah.

QUESTION: If you could check into – it’s kicked up some protests from Russia, in particular, which I think – let me see if I can find the quote here – essentially, some of the companies sanctioned are protesting against this. And one of them in particular, Rosoboronexport, calls the State Department’s actions unscrupulous competition by the United States. Any comment you have on that would be of interest.

MR. WOOD: Sure, we’ll take a look at it.

QUESTION: And moreover, Lavrov commented on this, and he played it as a tool that the U.S. is using to win leverage on Russia’s help in Iran, and he said that’s not going to work. I mean, is that – is that how the United States sees it?

MR. WOOD: That’s not how we see it, but – I haven’t seen his comments, but --

QUESTION: Can you also list some – well, give us some details on what exactly are the link between these companies and the countries? Because the listing doesn’t specify exactly the material or the alleged destination of --

MR. WOOD: If we can do that, we will. But we’ll --

QUESTION: I mean, you cannot impose sanctions without explaining why.

MR. WOOD: I understand. Well, let us take a look and see what we can get you, and we’ll go from there.

QUESTION: Any kind of context you can give about when is the last time, for example --

MR. WOOD: I’ll give you what I can.

QUESTION: -- there had been some (inaudible) this section.

MR. WOOD: Any other questions?

QUESTION: I’d really like – we’d really like some information apparently – about this, apparently. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: That was a joke.

MR. WOOD: We’re taking the question and we’ll get you – any other questions?

QUESTION: Yeah, on – specifically on the Russian company – I won’t try to match Arshad’s pronunciation -- but it was also listed in 2006. In terms of how that works, is that because it’s still not in compliance? Is this a new set of sanctions?

MR. WOOD: We’ll take a look and see what I can get you, okay?

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. WOOD: Okay. Any other questions? Please.

QUESTION: The North Korean delegation is coming to New York on November 7th, headed by Foreign Ministry official Li Gun. Will there be any State Department officials attending that meeting?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know. It’s the first I’ve heard about it. I assume it’s going to be in connection with follow-up to, you know, the agreement. But I haven’t – I’m not aware of that visit. I’ll look and see what I can find out about that for you.

QUESTION: Yesterday, we asked you a question about a North Korean citizen who apparently defected. Do you have any details on him? He was – he’s in the U.S. now.

MR. WOOD: There’s not much I can say about the issue at this point. But if there is anything, I’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Why you cannot say anything? Because he’s in U.S. or because you don’t know about --

MR. WOOD: Well, no. I’ve heard about the case and we’re looking into it, but I don’t have anything further for you on it.

Please.

QUESTION: We’ve talked before about NATO ramping up its --

QUESTION: Can we stick with North Korea just a minute?

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Again, for devotees of the Federal Register, I see that the Secretary’s rescission of the State Sponsors of Terrorism designation appears in the Federal Register today. And does that mean that the – and this is kind of a technical question that only somebody like Ken Bailes or other North Korea scholars would want to know, but does that mean that the actual removal from the list only took effect today or was it yesterday, which is the date of her notice which was published today?

MR. WOOD: Yeah, I don’t know the exact answer to that, Arshad. I’ll have to --

QUESTION: If you could post that or --

MR. WOOD: Yeah, we’d be happy to do that, absolutely.

QUESTION: With the new NATO operations guarding the coast off of Somalia --

MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Blackwater has said that it’s providing helicopters and some arming of private ships in that region. Is that something that the United States encourages or discourages?

MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not sure what you’re referring to. But obviously, we’re very concerned about piracy that’s taking place off the coast. And there are a number of ships, as you know, from various countries in the region trying to do what we can to prevent this type of piracy from taking place. And we also want to see this situation of the Ukrainian-registered ship resolved. I don’t have an update for you on that, but this is of great concern to the United States and other countries in the region, so –

But with regard to the Blackwater angle, this is the first I’ve heard of that. But look, a lot of countries, institutions, individuals have concerns about what’s going on off the coast. And I don’t have anything more to add to what I’ve said.

QUESTION: I mean, is that – obviously, it’s a kind of private competition to the security issue there.

MR. WOOD: I don’t know that I’d categorize it as that. I mean, I don’t know exactly what role Blackwater is taking at this particular point. But our overall concerns are to try to prevent this piracy from continuing. It’s becoming a growing problem. We’ve been working on this issue and, hopefully, we can make some headway.

Dave.

QUESTION: Robert, a prominent Croatian newspaper editor was killed in a bomb attack on the streets of Zagreb, also a colleague. I just wondered if you had anything.

MR. WOOD: I’ve seen the reports. I can’t actually confirm it. But you know, should that have happened, we obviously strongly condemn this kind of an attack and hope that the authorities will be able to investigate it and bring the culprit, or culprits, to justice.

QUESTION: Just a – I don’t expect you to comment on internal Israeli politics.

MR. WOOD: You’re right. I won’t.

QUESTION: But as you’ve probably seen, the Shas religious party has said that it won’t join a coalition with Tzipi Livni. And this would seem to increase the odds of Israel having to go to an election. And the question is: Is it Secretary Rice’s intent – you know, she said many times that she would leave no stone unturned, she would keeping pushing this right up until the very last moment or at least the end of this year, which was the goal that, you know, was announced at Annapolis. Does she plan to go back to the region by the end of the year? Is she still, you know, working this, given the political uncertainties on the Israeli side? I mean – you know, and if so, who’s she talking to?

MR. WOOD: Well, she is in planning – she is planning to go back to the region at some point before the end of the year, or at least before January 20. I can’t say exactly when she’s planning to do that.

QUESTION: And by the region, you mean Israel and the Palestinian territories, yes?

MR. WOOD: Yes. And she’s obviously very interested in what’s going on. She’s working hard on this issue. She’s made calls. She will engage when necessary. The two parties are engaged, as you know, in very substantive discussions. We’ve tried to refrain from, you know, comment on the substance of their activities, and we’ll continue to do so.

But I’m not going to venture into, you know, Israeli politics. But we’re committed to reaching – helping them reach a peace agreement. Both sides have said that’s what they want to do. We believe it can still be done by the end of the year. And the Secretary and the President are going to continue to push.

QUESTION: Why do you believe it can still be done by the end of the year?

MR. WOOD: Well, because we have confidence in the parties. We talk to the parties. They realize the importance of trying to reach an agreement as soon as possible. It’s something we want to see happen. And we’re just confident that we can do it.

QUESTION: You said the Secretary made some calls. To whom?

MR. WOOD: I said she’s made calls in the past. I don’t know that she’s made any recently, but she’s been in touch with leaders in the region.

QUESTION: Okay. If I can change the subject?

QUESTION: Could you just -- one thing?

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: Would it be possible for you to check on how recently she has reached out, either to senior Israeli or senior Palestinian officials?

MR. WOOD: Yeah, I can check back. I know of – certainly when she was in New York for UNGA she did. She may have done – had some follow-up conversations. But we’ll check and see if there’s something we can get you on that.

QUESTION: Thank you. It would be interesting to see if there’s any post-UNGA.

MR. WOOD: Absolutely.

Yes, Sylvie.

QUESTION: Two days ago, you spoke about this Iranian young woman who has been in prison in Tehran. I wanted to know if she’s Iranian or if she’s Iranian – American-Iranian.

MR. WOOD: Yeah. My understanding is that she’s a dual national. But I don’t have any way of confirming that for you and – but that is certainly the Department’s understanding.

QUESTION: So are you in touch with the Iranian authorities to get her released?

MR. WOOD: Well, we’re trying to, again, gather more information about the case. And you know, if we’re able to provide something, we will. But that’s all I have on her at this moment.

QUESTION: Why is it not possible to confirm? I mean, if she’s a dual – if it is your understanding that she’s a dual national --

MR. WOOD: It’s just an understanding. But I can’s say with absolute, you know, certainty that, you know, she is an American dual national, so --

QUESTION: But if she is an American citizen, we ought to know, right? Because she’d have a passport --

MR. WOOD: Well, I say we’re looking into it to try to get additional information and confirm that information, but I just don’t have that type of information at this point.

QUESTION: You are not certain she’s American?

MR. WOOD: I’m not certain, but it’s our understanding that she’s a dual national.

Viola.

QUESTION: Can you give us an idea of – because you said a couple of days ago – you mentioned this case and that you were looking at it and seeking more information. What has been the delay? Aren’t you supposed to get access within a certain period of time to an American citizen?

MR. WOOD: Well, we’re trying to – we’re looking into the situation to see exactly, first and foremost to try to confirm if, indeed, she is a dual national, carrying American citizenship, and find out the circumstances. And these things sometimes take a little time. But I just don’t have --

QUESTION: And you’re working through the Swiss?

MR. WOOD: We’re working through the Swiss and any other appropriate channels that we – you know, we feel are necessary to try to, you know, ascertain all of the information that we need to have.

Anything else?

MR. WOOD: We got one here--

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Are we getting any closer to a heads of delegation meeting for the six parties on the --

MR. WOOD: No date yet. Waiting for the Chinese to announce a date. But I – my understanding is that it has to do with schedules and just trying to make sure that all of the heads of delegation are able to meet at a particular, you know, time and place on a certain date. But as soon as we hear something, we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: I have one more on the Middle East. Sorry.

MR. WOOD: Okay.

QUESTION: The Quartet meeting that had been mentioned at UNGA about – for the two parties in the talks to brief the Quartet more thoroughly on the details, has that been set?

MR. WOOD: I don’t believe it’s been set yet.

Anything else? Okay. Thank you all.

(The briefing was concluded at 10:56 a.m.)

dpb # 180



Released on October 24, 2008

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