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Daily Press Briefing
Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
September 23, 2008

INDEX:

UNITED STATES

U.S. Financial Crisis

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

Reports of a Possible Joint Afghanistan-Pakistan-U.S. Strike Force / U.S. to Analyze Proposal
Status of Forces Agreement with Afghanistan / Secretary’s Meeting With President Karzai

BURMA

Prisoner Release / Release of Win Tin Long Overdue, But Positive / Aung San Suu Kyi

CHINA/TIBET

President Bush’s Call to the Dalai Lama
U.S. Encouragement of China to Have Talks with the Dalai Lama

CUBA

U.S. Offers of Assistance to Cuba for Hurricane Relief / Four Previous Offers of Assistance

NORTH KOREA

Six Party Discussions in New York / Chris Hill, Sung Kim in New York

LIBYA

Special Fund for Terrorism Claims


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

11:30 a.m. EDT

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

QUESTION: Well, we don’t have any questions.

MR. WOOD: All right. Let’s go.

QUESTION: Well (inaudible) the economic crisis: Can you dredge up any reaction from foreign governments that you’ve received privately -- go at it, you’re doing a great job, thanks for trying, we don’t see it that way – anything in the way of commentary from some of our best friends and maybe not friends?

MR. WOOD: No, I don’t have anything, Barry, in terms of private comments that other leaders may have made to, you know, the Secretary or the President. But obviously, everybody is seized with the financial crisis and the Congress and the White House are working on this, you know, as we speak and I’ll just let it stay at that.

Charley?

QUESTION: Anything on the suggestion that there should be a joint Afghanistan-Pakistan-U.S. strike force that could operate on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border?

MR. WOOD: Yeah. We’ve seen the report – reports on it. I think we’ve also been informed about it and we are obviously taking a good look at it and see-- and we’re going to analyze it and see where we go from here on it. But I don’t have any further comment on it at this point. We’ll probably have something to say, you know, later on it, once we’ve done a thorough analysis of it

QUESTION: Later today?

MR. WOOD: I wouldn’t count on later today.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. WOOD: Steve?

QUESTION: So what’s your reaction to the release of prisoners in Burma? Apparently, even the longest held prisoner was released today.

MR. WOOD: Yeah. We’ve heard that the Burmese regime has released -- I believe it’s 9,000 prisoners. I don’t have the actual number of political prisoners that are part of that, although I understand that 76-year-old Win Tin, a journalist who’s been a political prisoner for, I think, almost 20 years, was released. And that’s long overdue, but a very positive development. So we continue to call on the Burmese regime to release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi and to move the country down the path toward democracy. It’s something we’ve been calling on for quite some time.

Please.

QUESTION: If I can ask a question about Afghanistan and the Status of Forces Agreement?

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: SOFA, according to the Afghans, hasn’t been changed since 2004. And they’re expected to propose this week that home raids no longer be conducted unilaterally when the women are present -- by the U.S., when women are present, getting tribal leaders more involved and what have you, a greater sharing of intelligence by U.S. authorities with the Afghans. I’m wondering what changes you think need to take place with SOFA. I’m pretty sure President Bush is going to meet with President Karzai this week.

MR. WOOD: Well, I certainly don’t want to get into those kinds of issues right now. Certainly -- I know the Secretary is meeting with President Karzai later. There will be discussions between the two governments on the SOFA, but I really don’t want to get into the specifics of that right now. It wouldn’t be appropriate.

QUESTION: Could you (inaudible) about how this is different or differences between this SOFA agreement and then Iraq’s?

MR. WOOD: I’d rather not do that, if you don’t mind.

Please.

QUESTION: What could you tell us about President Bush making a call to the Dalai Lama this morning?

MR. WOOD: Yeah. My understanding is that the President called the Dalai Lama to inquire about his health. As you probably know, the Dalai Lama recently canceled a couple of overseas trips. I believe he’s been suffering from exhaustion. So the President just wanted to, you know, see how he was doing. But for further details, I’d refer you to the White House.

QUESTION: So to follow up on that, I heard the conversation lasted for about 15 minutes. Do you know whether they have talk about any of the issues from the ongoing dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s representative and the Chinese Government or for that – where the President has expressed what is U.S. policy on that matter?

MR. WOOD: Well, again, I don’t have the substance of that conversation beyond what I’ve said, but I would refer you to the White House to get more details on the rest of the conversation.

Any other questions?

QUESTION: Have you heard anything from Cuba in response to your latest hurricane relief offer?

MR. WOOD: No. We’ve made four previous offers of assistance to the Cuban Government, all of which have been declined. You know, I don’t know what more it is that we can say. We are trying to respond to what we believe is a humanitarian crisis in Cuba and the Cuban Government continues to reject our offers of assistance. And so you’d have to ask the Cuban Government why it continues to do that.

QUESTION: Is there anything new today, from your point of view, on North Korea? Any new reports of – of changes at Yongbyon or any plans for meetings on that subject with senior U.S. officials?

MR. WOOD: There are discussions going on up in New York. The Secretary will be meeting with representatives of the other parties – parties to the Six-Party framework. I don’t have anything new. Chris Hill, of course, I think, spoke to the press at length yesterday. And we continue to view what’s going on on the ground in Yongbyon with serious concern, but I don’t have any further updates from yesterday.

QUESTION: Are they all getting together at once in this – in the, say, five or Six-Party framework, or –

MR. WOOD: I don’t believe so. I certainly wouldn’t rule anything out, but I’d probably refer you to the party up in New York to see if – see what the meeting schedule is.

Right here.

QUESTION: Was there a request rejected from the Iranian President Ahmadinejad to travel to California for some kind of trip? There was a report out of Iran saying – claiming that.

MR. WOOD: That’s the first I’ve heard of that. I haven’t heard of that before, no.

QUESTION: Back to the Six-Party Talks for a moment?

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: I’ve read that Sung Kim traveled up to New York. What sort of discussions will he be participating in?

MR. WOOD: Well, he’ll – he, I believe, is in New York and he will – I think he’s participating in a number of the discussions that Chris Hill is having. He will likely be -- although I don’t know this for a fact; you need to talk to the folks up in New York – that he will probably be involved in some of the conversations that the Secretary will have with other governments in the Six-Party framework. But I don’t have anything beyond that in terms of, you know, what his schedule is.

Charley.

QUESTION: On Libya, any update on the special fund to fulfill terrorism claims?

MR. WOOD: I checked on that yesterday and no money has been delivered into the fund.

Anything else? Please.

QUESTION: To follow up on my question: What has been the State Department policy on the dialogue process between the Dalai Lama’s representative and the Chinese Government?

MR. WOOD: Well, we’ve all along encouraged the Chinese Government to have talks with the Dalai Lama and that policy remains. The Dalai Lama is an important religious figure, and we think it’s important for the Chinese and the Dalai Lama and his representatives to continue to have a dialogue. It’s important to resolve their differences.

QUESTION: I think you said the President spoke to him. You’ve deferred questions -- referred questions to the White House, but since you raise the point that the President knew he was – had some exhaustion and wanted to see how he’s doing, can you say how the President found him in this telephone conversation? Was he – did he seem to be all right?

MR. WOOD: To be honest with you, Barry, I don’t know. I’m not familiar with the substance of the phone call beyond what I – what I mentioned. But the White House might be able to provide you with some more detail.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. WOOD: Okay. Anything else? Okay. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: You’re welcome.

(The briefing was concluded at 11:38 p.m.)

dpb # 158



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