The Cable

Briefing Skipper: Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, Viktor Bout,

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department's daily presser so you don't have to. These are the highlights of Tuesday's briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley:

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikloay Mladenov Tuesday to discuss the upcoming Lisbon NATO summit, the Western Balkans, and Afghanistan.
  • The State Department is not pleased with the plans of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit southern Lebanon and throw rocks at Israeli soldiers along the border. "I don't normally recommend travel arrangements for President Ahmadinejad. We certainly would hope that Iran would play a constructive role in the region. Throwing stones, whether they are literal or figurative -- I would not consider constructive," Crowley said. "We did say to Lebanese officials, you know, [Iran] is a country that is actively undermining your government."
  • Crowley rejected remarks by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the Middle East peace talks were only there to serve President Obama's domestic political interests. "The pursuit of peace in the Middle East is in everyone's interest, including Syria's. We're not trying to score points with anyone; we're trying to end a conflict," said Crowley.
  • Crowley wouldn't confirm reports that the U.S. is pushing for a government in Iraq where former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi would become a figurehead president and current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would retain his position. "First of all, we're not picking any winners, you know, in this. We don't have any favorite candidates for any office," said Crowley. "That said, we believe that all four winning blocs, including Iraqiya and State of Law and others, should be able to play a role in the new government."
  • No word if there has been progress in the talk in Sudan over how to conduct the January referendum in Abyei. Special Envoy Scott Gration and Ambassador Princeton Lyman, as well as U.N. Representative Susan Rice are there. "The talks continue today, and they're likely to continue tomorrow. We believe that the parties are engaging frankly on the substance," Crowley said. As for the overall referendum preparations, he said, "The preparations are behind schedule, but we think, through an agreement and rapid action, a successful referendum can still occur on time."
  • Merchant of Death Viktor Bout is still in Thailand fighting extradition to the United States but a court ruling in Bankok Tuesday may signal that the final hurdle has been conquered. "There's a kind of a procedural period of time following today's ruling," Crowley said. "But we look forward to having Viktor Bout in a prison near us very soon."
  • Ambassador Eric Goosby announced that the Obama administration intends to seek $4 billion for the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis for the years 2011 through 2013. "This pledge is a 30-percent increase in the U.S. investment over the preceding three-year period," Crowley said, acknowledging that the money still has to be appropriated. "It is our commitment that we will seek this funding from the Congress in each of these years."
  • Registration opened Tuesday for 2012 diversity visa lottery program, which gives away 50,000 green cards to lucky immigrants from countries with low immigration rates. Anyone can enter from now until November 3, just sign up here. "This is the first year that the entire process is electronic, including notification of selected applicants," Crowley said. So if you are in a country where internet is scarce, you are out of luck.

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