Interview With Lara Logan of CBS

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
The Hague, Netherlands
March 31, 2009

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QUESTION: So on the conference today, the Afghan delegation and some of the people that we’ve heard from the Afghan delegation were talking about the fact that President Karzai didn’t stay to have a press conference as had been suggested he was going to do. I noticed that in his speech, he thanked almost everybody, except Ban Ki-moon before he thanked the U.S. He mentioned everybody else’s contribution. And there was no mention particularly of U.S sacrifices. And it just – it seems that the U.S. relationship with President Karzai is at an all time low, and that’s certainly what’s coming across from the Afghans. How do you feel about that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I just don’t feel that at all. I think that every signal we’ve had, both before coming here and here at the conference in the public statements as well as in our private meetings have been very positive. We’ve gotten a lot of reinforcements for the strategic review for the goals. And as we have begun to talk through how we’re going to implement the strategy - a lot of cooperation. I wouldn’t read too much into anything.

QUESTION: Is there a headline out of the conference today? Is there one particular thing that you felt especially gratifying that you’ve achieved?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think the conference itself was a big success. The fact that over 80 countries and organizations came together to pledge support to this new strategy and to ensuring that Afghanistan has a chance to be stable and secure and that we root out al-Qaida and their terrorist allies.

QUESTION: I know it’s probably kind of annoying to have the focus so much on Iran when you’re trying to have a conference about Afghanistan, and that Iran is not the whole issue. But given that there is so much interest in it, you mentioned the letter. There are a lot of questions about it. Did you sign it? Was it on official letterhead? Who delivered it? Was it Ambassador Holbrooke? Was it at the conference?

SECRETARY CLINTON: It was a letter to the Government of Iran. And the content was, as I have described it, seeking both information and assistance about our three American citizens. And it was delivered directly to the head of the Iranian delegation by a member of our extended delegation. And we hope to hear something positive.

QUESTION: Not delivered by Ambassador Holbrooke?


QUESTION: And did you sign it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, it wasn’t signed. It was an aide-mémoire, so it did not have to be signed.

QUESTION: On the subject of Iran, there’s also an American FBI agent that is missing.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Robert Levinson. He was mentioned in the letter – in the aide-mémoire, which I had prepared. We haven’t heard anything about him or from him for two years, I think, now, is the last count. His family is extremely worried and anxious. And on a humanitarian level, I hope that the Iranians will assist us in acquiring information so that we can tell his family what happened and where he is.

QUESTION: On the subject of North Korea, you mentioned that Japan has a right to defend itself from North Korea. A reaction to Japan’s statement is somewhat inappropriate. Are you prepared to condemn the missile launch by North Korea?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, we have said it’s both provocative and in violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718. We have been very clear about that. They can call it a satellite launch. There is no substantive difference between that and a missile launch. It takes a missile to send up either a warhead or a satellite.

We have no doubt that they are violating the letter and spirit of the Security Council resolution. And we hope that there is still time for them to reconsider their statement that they plan to launch it.

QUESTION: But no one says or thinks that they’re going to reconsider doing it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t know. You never know with them. You have no way of predicting their behavior. And at this point, it’s regrettable because obviously they have incurred a very legitimate amount of reaction from South Korea, from Japan. Both China and Russia have tried to intervene. We have certainly been very clear. There will obviously be consequences if they do proceed with this.

QUESTION: On the subject of Russia, you hinted in your remarks that there had been some significant meetings in preparation for the meetings of the two presidents. I’m hearing that on the range of issues that the Obama Administration wants to address with Russia, there has been significant progress, short of an agreement right now, but that this is a major step forward in U.S.-Russian relations. Can you – without upstaging the President – can you tell me something more?

SECRETARY CLINTON: What I can tell you is that I personally have had two very productive meetings with Foreign Minister Lavrov - the second, obviously, here at the conference. And that our respective staff have been working diligently for the last several weeks, since my first meeting in Geneva, to prepare an agreed-upon joint statement that our presidents would issue after their meeting to look at what we intend to do to negotiate arms control, the START agreement - which has to be renewed before the end of the year - and to come up with an action plan on the full range of issues.

Now, there are areas where we are going to be able to agree with the Russians and work cooperatively together. Then there is the area of disagreement and we hope to narrow that, so that’s why we’re working so hard. And we have a real plan. It’s not just have a meeting, sit across the table, you say something, I say something, then we go our way.

We’re really trying to get into the substance of these issues. And everywhere we can agree or narrow the disagreement, we’re going to. And where we disagree, we’re going to stand our ground and try to continue to keep talking.

So I think tomorrow’s meeting should be a very productive one.

QUESTION: Have they come further and faster than you had thought the Russians would?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think on both sides there’s been an openness to resetting the relationship, and there’s been an enormous amount of work that has given real substance to those words.

QUESTION: So this is a major change?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We hope that it will lead to very positive actions. I mean, it is still at the planning stage. But I’m very, very pleased about where we are.