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US Secretary of State Clinton on Iran, 31 March 2009
Interview With Andrea Mitchell of NBC Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State March 31, 2009.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you did not personally meet
with the Iranian diplomat here. Ambassador Holbrooke did. That
seemed to be a choreographed message. Your reaction is that their
intervention was positive, what they said here was positive, but
you still have some issues.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that the fact that they came was
a good sign and their intervention was positive. They talked about
some of the common concerns that they have, which all of us share -
the drug trafficking coming out of Afghanistan. It goes right
through Iran. It causes them internal problems, some of the border
security issues. And we're looking forward to working with them in
these groups of nations that are committed to Afghanistan.
And our Special Representative, Ambassador Holbrooke, had a very
brief exchange with the head of the Iranian delegation. They agreed
to stay in touch, and Ambassador Holbrooke will be following
QUESTION: What do you think that they can do to be helpful?
What areas do you want to work with?
SECRETARY CLINTON: In the very beginning, as you remember,
Andrea, right after we went into Afghanistan - there were regular
meetings between our ambassador and their ambassador in Kabul. We
looked for areas of agreement and there were quite a few,
surprisingly. The Iranians saw the Taliban and al-Qaida as a threat
to them, and there were a number of very productive
Similarly in Iraq over the last several years, our Ambassador to
Baghdad has been meeting with their ambassador to Baghdad.
Sometimes, it's just the day-to-day problems that arise, trying to
make sure that nobody is sending an unintended message that really
something happened that neither country knew about or planned, and
some of it is to try to work through problems. Some of it is to
send warnings - we don't appreciate your doing that and we wish you
So it's the whole range of interactions that have occurred on an
ambassadorial level, and we think there is room for more direct
engagement with Iran and going forward.
QUESTION: In the category of things you want them to work
on you've also delivered a letter about Robert Levinson and two
other Americans who have been in Iran. You want information. What
would you like the Iranians to do?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would like them to release the
two women that have been held and not permitted to travel. And I
would like them to respond on a human level to let Robert
Levinson's family know what happened to him. There's been no word.
And his family, his grandchildren are just totally in the dark
about what happened to Robert Levinson.
These are really humanitarian gestures. There's no great
geopolitical or strategic involvement. It's just person-to-person.
This young woman, Roxana Saberi, from North Dakota was working in
Iran. She, from what I'm told, loved Iranian culture. Her father is
an Iranian American. All of a sudden, she gets arrested and is not
able to give her parents or anyone information about when she will
be let go or even why she's being held. And we need to clear out
those kinds of problems between us.
QUESTION: Let me ask you about Russia. President Medvedev
has written an op-ed in The Washington Post. He did a very
forward-leaning interview with the BBC. I understand that a message
was sent and that as a result, a diplomat from the NSC came here to
try to work on a broader agenda with the Russians, which might lead
to something between President Obama and President Medvedev in
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, actually, I think you're talking
about Mike McFall, who was with me in Geneva. He was part of our
negotiating team along with our State Department experts. And he is
going to be in London tomorrow. We wanted him to come here to The
Hague for the meeting. This is my second meeting with Minister
QUESTION: Did you discuss more issues than the initial
response in Geneva, which was rather limited to START? Now it seems
like a whole range of issues between the U.S. and Russia are on the
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that there will be a really good
response to the meeting between our presidents tomorrow. We will be
looking to put out some statements that are quite substantive about
the areas that we have discussed. We have been working with the
Russians on an action plan to do follow-up to the meeting between
our presidents. There's an enormous amount of work that has been
undertaken by the State Department and the White House since my
meeting with Sergey Lavrov.
QUESTION: Is there some flexibility on missile defense? If
other areas - if there's less of a threat, would we not need the
SECRETARY CLINTON: We've made it clear from the beginning
that the idea behind missile defense was to deter and prevent an
attack coming from Iran or another rogue network that would have
these kinds of missiles with deliverable weapons, whether they be
nuclear, chemical, biological or very serious conventional forces.
So we believe that this is an opportunity for the Russians and the
Americans to work together, and we've been discussing that with the
QUESTION: And the presidents may have something more to say
about it tomorrow.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think they'll have a lot more to say.
I think both presidents are looking forward to the meeting. I agree
with you. I thought the interview that President Medvedev did on
BBC was very forward-leaning. A lot of what he said, our President
would say. And so trying to find those areas of agreement and
working to show leadership and trying to narrow the areas of
disagreement and standing our ground when we can't do that, I think
that's the approach we're going to take.
Source: US Department of State, www.state.gov.
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