Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
December 22, 2009


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • The U.S. delegation to START negotiations, led by A/S Gottemoeller, has returned for a recess; will return to Geneva in mid-January to finalize the new treaty
    • U/S Burns participated in teleconference w/other members of P-5+1 today to discuss future steps regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions
    • The U.S. condemns the senseless attack on the Press Club in Pakistan
    • The number of detainees at Guantanamo stands at 198; down from 242 when President Obama took office; repatriation/resettlement efforts have steadily progressed during the past year
    • The Secretary departed today; stopped at the North Pole for bilateral discussions on several topics/issues, including world peace, human rights, and economic stability
  • IRAN
    • There remain two tracks in the P-5+1's offers to Iran—Engagement and Pressure; the two are not mutually exclusive; there will be consequences for Iran if it does not accept offers by P-5+1 and IAEA
    • U.S. is concerned about crackdowns in Iran that stifle freedom of speech and assembly
    • The death of cleric Montazeri in Iran and resultant protests signal a "fissure" that has formed; Iran needs to satisfy the aspirations of its people
    • No recent update on the status of the three hikers; our Swiss Protecting Power continues to seek meetings w/ them; access has not been granted; Iran claims its citizens jailed throughout the world have "equivalent" status
    • No definite proof exists that Iran is supporting the rebel group fighting the Saudis in Yemen; equipment, training, and advice is being provided to the Saudis by the U.S.
  • RUSSIA
    • Current START treaty expired Dec. 5; as negotiations continue, the U.S. is not concerned that they have taken a long time, since they are being done in good faith and agreements w/Russia do exist
    • The treaty was discussed by U.S. and Russian presidents recently in Copenhagen; the U.S. is confident that a new treaty will be signed after talks resume in mid-January
  • LATIN AMERICA
    • Recent travel to several Latin American nations by A/S Valenzuela proved successful; have asked for clarification of comments made in Argentina
  • BRAZIL
    • Regarding the Sean Goldman case, the U.S. remains in close contact with Goldman family and government ; hope this case is soon resolved and son is returned to the custody of his father, David
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Regarding President Karzai's recent cabinet appointments, the U.S. recognizes several "familiar faces" who will effectively assist Afghanistan in its development; the U.S. remains concerned about the performance of the Afghan government and will closely monitor the leaders' efforts
  • PAKISTAN
    • The status of the detained Americans remains the same; the investigation continues
    • As far as the legitimacy of the Zardari government, this is a judgment to be made by the Pakistani people, following what was deemed a legitimate parliamentary process
  • GUINEA
    • Following an intensive investigation, a UN Commission of Inquiry has completed its report regarding the massacre on Sept. 28; the military junta is to be held responsible for its actions; the U.S. seeks a return to civilian rule


TRANSCRIPT:

1:37 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon. Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State, and happy December 22nd to all of you.

A couple of things before we take your questions. Just to note, since we haven’t chatted in several days because of the weekend and the snow here in Washington, over the weekend the U.S. delegation led by Assistant Secretary Rose Gottemoeller has returned for a recess from the START negotiations in Geneva. The team has gone through an intensive period of negotiations with their Russian counterparts over more than two months. Our goal remains to conclude a solid treaty for the President’s signature as soon as possible, and we expect that the teams will resume their negotiations in Geneva in mid-January.

This morning here at the State Department, Under Secretary of State for Policy[1] Bill Burns participated in a teleconference with his P-5+1 counterparts at the political directors – as part of their regular consultation on developments related to Iran. Their last meeting was in November, so it made sense to touch base before the holidays about the path ahead. As we have said many times, the President has stressed that we and our partners will be assessing Iran’s responsiveness here as we approach the end of the year, and we’ll be talking about future steps in that respect.

I think you saw – might have seen a statement out of our Embassy in Islamabad that we strongly condemn the vicious terrorist attack on the Peshawar Press Club. I’m sure that those of you here in the room understand the importance of freedom of the press, and we feel very strongly that this was a direct attack on that hallmark of Pakistan. And we certainly will continue to support Pakistan as it builds and strengthens its institutions of democracy.

Over the past several days there have been a number of detainees who have left Guantanamo for multiple destinations. But I just want to take note of the fact, as we approach the end of the year, that the number of detainees at Guantanamo has now dipped below 200. I think we’re at 198 today. When the Obama Administration started back in January, there were 242 detainees there. But through a lot of hard work across the interagency, but here the State Department spearheaded by Ambassador Dan Fried, we have worked intensively with a number of countries around the world in terms of repatriations and resettlements, and we just want to pay tribute to Dan and the hard work of his team in working collaboratively with various countries around the world as we continue our efforts to close Guantanamo.

And finally, a few of you have asked about the schedule of the Secretary of State over the next few days. I can tell you this morning the Secretary departed Washington and she stopped at the North Pole for an important bilateral meeting with a well known international figure. During the meeting, in a formal demarche, sung to the tune of Twelve Days of Christmas, the Secretary outlined her aspirations for the new year. They include, and feel free to hum along: open and accountable governments, Middle East negotiations, more civilians in Afghanistan, empowerment of women, fewer nuclear weapons, respect for human rights, resolution of historic grievances, treaties through the United States Senate, Six-Party Talks, dialogue with Iran, enough food for people of the world to eat, climate change legislation, and lastly, a championship for the Boston Red Sox. Okay, that last one’s not on her list, but Harold Koh and I thought it was important that we mention that here.

QUESTION: And it’s gotten that bad, huh? She’s got to go ask Santa for this stuff? (Laughter.) That’s a pretty damming statement.

MR. CROWLEY: Whatever it takes. With that, I’ll be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Can I ask about the conference call?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: What, if anything, was accomplished on this call?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think it was – it was intended just as we described it, touching base here at the end of the year. We’re in this period where we’re taking stock of Iran’s inability, unwillingness to respond to the – our offer of dialogue and the specific offer regarding the research reactor that was put on the table in Geneva and now sits on the table at the IAEA.

So we’re coming up on the end of the year. This kind of period of assessment will continue. But we would expect coming into the new year that we’ll be prepared to take steps on both tracks. As we’ve said many times, the offer of engagement is still there. We have offered Iran an open hand out of mutual interest and respect. And as the Secretary said, they have really failed to respond meaningfully to that gesture.

We continue to see and have concerns about the ongoing efforts by the Government of Iran to suppress freedom of expression and assembly in Iran. But at the same time, there are consequences and implications for Iran’s failure to meaningfully respond to our offer of dialogue and the specific arrangements that we’ve put on the table.

The international community is united in its resolve that Iran must either answer the questions that we have about its nuclear aspirations or face additional pressure that we will be consulting broadly across the international community in the coming days and weeks.

QUESTION: Well, I guess I’m just confused as why you even had this call. I mean, it was no secret that you wanted to have a meeting – the U.S. and all but one of the other members of the P-5+1 wanted to have an in-person meeting last week. The Chinese didn’t want that, and it didn’t happen. So I guess I just don’t understand what the point is. If they all get on the phone and just say, well, here’s where we are, Iran still isn’t responding, they’re still working on their nuclear program, what’s the point of that other than just talking?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we have – I mean, this is an issue that is not about the United States alone. It’s about the international community. We are not the only ones who have concerns about the current trajectory. And so this is part --

QUESTION: I understand that --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, this is what you do --

QUESTION: How did this improve anything? What’s different after the call than before?

MR. CROWLEY: I wasn’t signaling that this is the end of a process. We are in the middle of a process, and we are continuing to assess where we are. And we are continuing and have had a number of consultations in recent days and weeks about steps that are prospectively available to us as we move into 2010, as we pledged, that, as the President said, we will take stock at the end of the year, see what has been accomplished on the track of engagement. But we have always indicated that available to us would be additional steps and – that would increase the pressure on Iran.

And we are at that point where we are consulting broadly within the P-5+1, but beyond that, so that come 2010, should Iran continue in its current posture, that there will be implications and consequences for their failure to take advantage of this opportunity.

QUESTION: How far into 2010 --

QUESTION: Do you want to tell us about any of the next steps --

MR. CROWLEY: Hold on.

QUESTION: -- that are being contemplated? Do you want to tell us about any of the next steps specifically --

MR. CROWLEY: No.

QUESTION: -- that are being contemplated?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we have a range of – I mean, we’ve – there are sanctions that are available that are on Iran right now. We will continue to look at ways both bilaterally and multilaterally that we can add to that mix and increase the cost to Iran of its inability or unwillingness to resolve the concerns the international community has about its nuclear program.

QUESTION: But, I mean, how far into 2010? I mean, you said that you would take stock at the end of the year, but you’re already talking about if Iran continues with its current course into the next year. So I mean, is the end of the year kind of – you know, keeping in mind that you’ll still have this dual track, is the end of the year a kind of deadline and then you’re definitely going ahead with, you know, one of the tracks, which is not engagement because you don’t have any? But, you know, is this – are you going ahead with the sanctions track come the beginning of the year, or are you giving them more time?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, these are not mutually exclusive. The offer of engagement remains available to Iran, but at the same time, we have said that we are prepared to take additional steps. And to Matt’s question, this call today was part of our ongoing consultation to both express what we’re thinking, hear from other countries that play a critical role, particularly within the UN Security Council, about the path forward.

QUESTION: No, I understand that, that you’ll always have this kind of dual track available. But come the beginning of the year, keeping in mind that you always have the option of engagement if that becomes available – come the beginning of the year, are you going to move towards imposing new sanctions against Iran?

MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t put a particular date or deadline on this. This is an ongoing process. In terms of steps that we might take from a national standpoint, there are things that are available to us. Obviously, there are things that are happening on the Hill that will have implications on this. At the same time, we are well on the way to building and strengthening the consensus within the international community that since Iran has failed to follow up on our offer of dialogue in a meaningful way – we had a constructive discussion in Geneva, but since then, Iran has largely prevaricated.

And obviously, going forward, will something dramatically happen on January 4th? No. But there is a point at which we will intensify our discussions around the country, and I would think at some point, we would be in a position to take some action with our partners through the various fora that are available to us.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, could you just – can you just kind of specify or put a finer point on “at some point?” I mean, what is the – are you moving in that direction? And I understand that on January 1st you’re not going to have sanctions to impose, but you keep saying at some point down the road, at some point down the road. You know, is this where it’s moving, I guess, is --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, this is where it’s always been, which is we have a two-track strategy. One track is engagement, one track is pressure. And these have never been mutually exclusive. Even today, we continue to look for ways to strengthen and fully implement the sanctions that are already on Iran. At the same time, we’re looking at additional steps that we could take nationally and internationally should the President make that determination.

QUESTION: Given that this deadline seems to be a little bit soft, do you think in the future you’ll --

MR. CROWLEY: Let me just – Andy, sorry to interrupt you, but what we have always said throughout the year was that at the end of the year we would assess where we are. But that’s not a deadline; it’s a point in a calendar at which the President said, okay, where are we and what are the steps that are available to us. Now going forward, we already are, but we will intensify our dialogue within the --

QUESTION: But don’t we have to reconcile what’s coming from you and then what’s coming out of the White House? Robert Gibbs this morning again used the word “deadline.”

MR. CROWLEY: Okay.

QUESTION: I mean, these are two different messages that need to come together. But going forward --

MR. CROWLEY: I defer to Robert Gibbs.

QUESTION: And in these talks, perhaps maybe in the talks this morning – you talked about a broad unanimity about where we need to go and that – with the second track, should we not get movement on the first track. In the call this morning, was there any movement toward getting specific unanimity on certain steps? Were those discussed? Is that consensus getting stronger, or did it become stronger as a result of this call?

MR. CROWLEY: I think the consensus is there that the current trajectory is of great concern to the United States and great concern to the international community. Clearly, to Matt’s point, we have in the past, I think – currently have perhaps some differences over specific tactics and specific timing. We are going to continue to work with those who will play a role in this and we’ll build towards a point at which we can put some additional steps on the table for consideration. And at that point, whenever that happens, then I think we’ll send a very clear and compelling signal to Iran that there are consequences for their inability to respond to the international community and to answer the questions that were posed to them in Geneva.

QUESTION: P.J., in response to one of Elise’s questions, you said Iran has prevaricated. What exactly have the Iranians lied about?

MR. CROWLEY: They --

QUESTION: Do you have proof that they’re lying about something?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, they – for example, they are not --

QUESTION: The whole point of this was that they – that there isn’t any proof; you don’t know; you’re asking them.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we do know. I mean, no, no – I mean --

QUESTION: You just said – you just accused them --

MR. CROWLEY: They have --

QUESTION: You accused them of lying, and I’m just --

MR. CROWLEY: All right. They have said for a long time that they were in compliance with their international obligations when, in fact, as we’ve seen in – with the revelation of the facility in Qom, that they were not. So that is a perfect example of where intensive effort on our part has opened up a slight window to reveal the fact that they are not in compliance with their international obligations. So – but this is expressly why we think it’s important now for – and the opportunity is still available to Iran to come to the table to work constructively with the international community. And – but because they have been unable or unwilling to do that, we’re also signaling that we’re at that point where there will be clear consequences for their inability to respond and to answer the questions that we’ve raised.

As to a specific timeline as to how this will unfold, that is expressly why we continue our close consultation with our international partners, so that at the point at which we are ready to put proposals on the table, there is consensus not only on what we think is necessary and that the timing is correct to do that.

QUESTION: I have one on the death of the cleric Montezeri over the weekend.

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you think that his death and the – do you think that the protests that have ensued since then are the mark of a kind of reemergence of the opposition in a strong way that we saw after the election? How closely are you watching this? Is there a concern about a crackdown?

MR. CROWLEY: Of course there’s a concern about a crackdown. I mean, this is a continuation of a challenge that has confronted Iran for several months, going back to the election in June. The fact is that there is a fissure inside Iranian society, and the government is pushing by the various means that are available to it, including the use of various security forces, to kind of put this genie back in the bottle. And it is increasingly difficult for them to do that.

Montezeri was a significant figure in Iranian society. He had given voice to the universal rights that we think should be available to all the people of the world, including the people of Iran. He had directly challenged the legitimacy of some of the actions that the Iranian Government has taken, both recently and historically. And we certainly express our condolences about his passing. But again, is it incumbent upon the Government of Iran to satisfy the aspirations of its people.

And there is something happening inside Iranian society. It’s hard to predict how it will unfold. But certainly, the angst that we continue to see within Iranian society is of great concern to us, and we think that ultimately, the Government of Iran has to change its relationship with its own people. And that’s certainly consistent with the universal principles of freedom of association, freedom of expression, open political processes, and so forth.

QUESTION: Can I – if I could ask about START --

QUESTION: Oh, wait, wait. Can we stay on Iran?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Just on the hikers, is there any update on --

MR. CROWLEY: We have --

QUESTION: -- on consular access?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. We – there’s – we have – we continue, through the Swiss protecting power, to request consular access for the hikers. It has not yet been granted.

QUESTION: The prosecutor – or a prosecutor in Iran today appeared to link the case of the hikers with the cases of 11 Iranians who are either detained in U.S. prisons or missing in the ether someplace. Are you aware of any attempt to link the --

QUESTION: It’s not the first time that --

MR. CROWLEY: There have been – we sense that in the Iranian Government there is some kind of equivalency that they offer with regard to the hikers and Iranian citizens who have left Iran. There really is no equivalence at all. The hikers were – are five innocent young people --

QUESTION: There were three.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry, three. Different country. Sorry.

QUESTION: You’re talking about the five Iranians that you have?

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you. The three hikers had crossed an unmarked border. We think they pose no threat to Iran. This was a case that could have been easily resolved so that they could be back home with their families.

On the 11, I would just caution you that just because they’ve left Iran doesn’t mean they’re in any particular location or --

QUESTION: You said that there were five, right?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, in one case I know of, an Iranian citizen was recently convicted of arms dealing in violation of sanctions against Iran. But I mean, this is expressly the reason why we have always thought that it was important to have dialogue with Iran so that we could express our concerns directly to Iran about our citizens who are in their charge. And if they have questions for us, we’ll be happy to take those questions and answer them.

The fact is that the Iranians have a channel available to us. Pakistan serves as its protecting power here in the United States. And as far as I know, lately they have not taken advantage of that channel to ask us specific questions about any particular case. If they --

QUESTION: Have they gotten consular access?

MR. CROWLEY: If they ask them, we’ll be happy to answer them.

QUESTION: Have they had consular access?

MR. CROWLEY: To the individual in New York? I’ll take that question.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, wait – just to follow up on that, I mean, first of all, how many Iranians do you have in custody besides the one that you just said?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m – there are a number of cases I’m aware of where Iranians are in various jails around the world on charges relating to violating arms laws. But like I say --

QUESTION: Well, in U.S. jails.

MR. CROWLEY: -- I’m only aware of one case, and I do not know if they have requested consular access.

QUESTION: On the P-5+1 talks, did that conclude with – what’s the next – when is the next meeting, or it’s going to be back in person, on the phone?

MR. CROWLEY: I think my sense is that we’ve touched base with our counterparts in the P-5+1 process and we’ll pick it up again early in 2010.

QUESTION: Just on START, if you could – this is now the second deadline that’s been missed. You had the 5th and then you’ve been saying you want one before the end of the year. It’s not going to happen. How disappointed are you?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we continue, I think, to faithfully carry out the charge that was given to us by President Obama. The 5th was a point at which the existing treaty expired by agreement between the two countries. We are abiding by the spirit of that agreement as we continue these negotiations. They’re being done in good faith. We had hoped to resolve the complex issues that these treaty negotiations present by the end of the year. I don’t think that we’re particularly concerned, given the complexity of these issues, that it’s taking a longer period of time.

Clearly, over the course of these two months, we have made dramatic progress. There are still issues that we continue to work through, so there’s still more work to be done. But I think we remain confident that given good faith and the ongoing efforts of both sides, that this will get done.

QUESTION: And what’s your current assessment of when you think that might happen?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’ll – I think we expect to pick it up again in mid-January. And taking a break, it gives us a chance to kind of come back and understand what the unresolved issues are and to come back to the table in January with new proposals on both sides.

QUESTION: So you have no goal? I mean, you --

MR. CROWLEY: Well --

QUESTION: This could go on forever as far as you’re concerned as long as you --

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t – well, we – the fact – I mean, the fact that the 5th came and went because we have an understanding with Russia that we are going to continue with the status quo – I mean, we’re not talking about an environment of 20 years ago when we were doing this before. This is a much different environment than we exist in today. We have confidence in the good faith on the Russian side. I think they have confidence in the good faith on our side based on not only the working arrangement that the two teams have developed, but also the ongoing consultations that – and high level that we’ve had, including the meeting between President Obama and President Medvedev in Copenhagen last week.

But we are going to continue to work on this, and there are complex issues. I think we’re confident that we will arrive at a satisfactory conclusion and a new treaty that meets our national interests and meets Russia’s national interests. And – but when it gets done is when we are finally able to overcome the last couple of hurdles that still confront us.

QUESTION: It sounds like there’s no goal. I mean, that’s what I’m trying to get at.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the goal --

QUESTION: I mean, there isn’t a goal as far as timeline. I mean --

MR. CROWLEY: Kirit, remember the goal is to get a treaty not only that we arrive at an understanding between the United States and Russia, but we also have to arrive at a treaty that is clearly in our interest, that we can present to the United States Senate and receive its advice and consent. So we’re not negotiating just to get a treaty – any treaty. We’re negotiating to get a treaty that is in the interest of the United States and, we believe, in the interest of Russia.

So it’s not something you can sweep a wand at and say, “Okay, we’ll just solve this problem.” The issues that we’re working through in terms of numbers and verification and the complex issues regarding these kinds of systems, it does take significant time to work through. It’s very, very complex. But we continue to work on them. We’ve made progress. We think we’re in a pretty good position. But we thought that after a couple of months of very intensive work, it was useful to take a break, and we’ll resume this in early January.

QUESTION: Can I go to a – just next door to Lithuania real quick?

QUESTION: Iran?

MR. CROWLEY: Iran.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you believe that Iran is supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen making border incursions into Saudi Arabia? And has the U.S. been asked for assistance by the Saudis to deal with these incursions?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, obviously, this is something that we want to see resolved as quickly as possible. We remain concerned about the loss of life that’s occurring on both sides. We continue to provide advice, training, and equipment to both Saudi Arabia and Yemen as part of our ongoing security cooperation. We have no direct role in what’s happening along the border. As to what is driving this, it’s hard for us to know, but we clearly will continue to work with both countries and try to have this come to a successful conclusion as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: But you don’t see an Iranian hand in this, do you?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not saying there is or isn’t. I’m not prepared to --

QUESTION: Really? I mean, you haven’t – really?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not – I don’t know.

QUESTION: Could you --

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know.

QUESTION: I mean, could you take the question, though? Because I’m pretty – I was under the understanding that you did not think, despite Saudi claims to the contrary, that there was an Iranian hand.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not saying there is or isn’t. I’m just saying I’m not prepared to talk about that for now.

QUESTION: Is it true that Jordan has gotten involved now on behalf of the Saudis?

MR. CROWLEY: Why don’t you ask – I would ask Jordan that question.

QUESTION: Any update on Latin America after Assistant Secretary Valenzuela recent trip to the (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: All right. What specifically on --

QUESTION: Well, recent trip of Assistant Secretary Valenzuela to the (inaudible) – any update or anything you may have on Venezuela, either the status of the Venezuelan businessman Eligio Cedeño here in the U.S.? Do you have any comments on that?

MR. CROWLEY: I do not. I don’t know.

QUESTION: And what about the trip of Mr. Valenzuela to Argentina? There were some comments – they are not really very friendly from the Argentinian Government.

MR. CROWLEY: I think Arturo Valenzuela returned from a trip to multiple countries in the region over the past few days. I think he thought it was a very successful trip. He had, I think, lengthy public comments while he was in Argentina. There was one passage during those comments that got some significant attention, and we have been in touch with Argentina to clarify his comments since then.

QUESTION: May I ask something else? It is regarding the – some comments Secretary Clinton made last week regarding this country for having relations with Iran. What did she mean by that? She sent like a warning to those countries – Latin America. I don’t know. Could you please clarify the --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, I thought her comments spoke for themselves. We – I think we believe that countries should choose their friends wisely.

QUESTION: Anything on the Dave Goldman case? I mean, any – what --

MR. CROWLEY: That we await the --

QUESTION: You’re awaiting the Supreme Court decision.

MR. CROWLEY: -- Supreme Court decision.

QUESTION: Are consular officials helping him in any way and --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we – I can’t speak about the last couple of days, but we have remained in very, very close contact with the Goldman family.

QUESTION: Can I ask a sort of follow-up on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Because there’s been some concern with the Brazilians about the trade deal in Congress and this being linked to the Goldman case. Can you say if there’s been any – I understand there have been some contacts between the State Department and the Brazilians about that. Could you bring us up to speed, please?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we continue to talk to Brazil about this particular case. Obviously, we have great concerns about the – and identify with the plight of Mr. Goldman, and we think that this should be resolved as quickly as possible and that hopefully there’ll be a judgment that allows Mr. Goldman to be reunited with his son here in the United States.

QUESTION: And the clarification with the Brazilians about the trade deal?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I’m not going to comment about actions that have been taken up on the Hill. Obviously, it does reflect the very significant concern that all Americans and those in government have about seeing this case resolved as quickly as possible. And let’s – I think at this point, the decision by the court is imminent, and we’ll see what the judgment is.

QUESTION: Can I get my Lithuanian question in, please? The Lithuanian parliament has just concluded a review about CIA sites within the country. Do you have any comment on their findings?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll refer to the CIA.

QUESTION: And then I just have a couple more about it. The government says they’ve requested some information from the U.S. Embassy about that. Can you tell us if you’ve provided any (inaudible) on that?

MR. CROWLEY: On this particular issue, we have no comment. But you’re welcome to address your questions to the Central Intelligence Agency.

QUESTION: I have one final question --

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: -- on the matter. The Lithuanian prime minister today wrote on his website that the U.S. use of Lithuania was illegal and that the strategic relationship between the U.S. and Lithuania was no different from how the Soviets treated them. Do you have any comment on his words?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’ll defer to my colleagues at the CIA.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan. The last week, President Hamid Karzai announced his new cabinet ministers. How does it reflect his commitment towards fighting corruption and other issues which the U.S. (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: I think, first of all, as I think Special Representative Holbrooke has said, this is a government that we think broadly we can do business with. There are a number of familiar faces, and we think a number of ministers have been retained who are quite effectively helping to build a stronger Afghan Government and extend its influence to greater sections of the country.

That said, without going through ministry by ministry, we – our judgment is not universal regarding every single minister that he’s announced. We have said to President Karzai, quite specifically, that we remain concerned about the performance of his government and will be both working with him directly, but also judging as we go on the progress that is being made, and we will continue our process of certifying very specific ministries and channeling our assistance through those ministries that we think are being run well and address the concerns that we have for performance and corruption.

QUESTION: So have you communicated your concerns about any ministers or ministries that you --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, these were his decisions to make. We like many of the choices that he’s made. We have concerns about some of the choices that he’s made. We’ll continue to work with the government, and more specifically, in particular, we’ll continue to channel our support through those ministries that we think have the kind of standards of accountability that we think are important.

QUESTION: Another one on Pakistan?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: There’s a report in the Guardian newspaper about the U.S. special forces having conducted special raids inside Pakistan. Do you have any --

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to my colleagues at the Pentagon, but I would question the validity of those reports.

QUESTION: And turning to South Asia --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) detainees in Pakistan?

MR. CROWLEY: Hang on a second. Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- accident?

QUESTION: In South Asia, another country, Nepal, there’s a lot of violence and civilian strike going on inside the country. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t. If we – I’ll look into it. If we have something we can say, I will. We will.

QUESTION: And finally, on Burma, the country – the same questions that I asked last week about it. U.S. national who has been arrested inside Burma – he was on hunger strike. And the latest report says that he has been put into solitary military confinement inside the Yangon prison.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Did we take this question last week?

QUESTION: Do you have anything on that?

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take the question and see what the --

QUESTION: And --

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Pakistan just for a second?

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Just an update on the detain – the Americans detained there?

MR. CROWLEY: The investigation continues. I’ve got – there’s no further update.

QUESTION: There’s not been any new consular visit?

MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge. But there are – I think there is a limit to what we can say due to privacy concerns.

QUESTION: What kind of conversations have taken place with the government of President Zardari about the Supreme Court ruling? And if you could talk about any concerns you have about the stability of the government?

MR. CROWLEY: This is really an internal matter for the Pakistani Government. We continue to work closely with the government of President Zardari. Our concern is to – and we continue to work to try to help build up the capacity of the Government of Pakistan to meet the needs of its own people. We just last week sent up the first report on our civilian assistance programs under Kerry-Lugar-Berman. But as to what is happening with the president and other ministers, this is an internal matter.

QUESTION: But you don’t have any opinion or concerns if the government of President Zardari were to be deemed unconstitutional and, therefore, illegitimate?

MR. CROWLEY: That ultimately is a judgment for the Pakistani people to make. You have an ongoing process between two branches of the Pakistani Government. It’s not for us to try to get in the middle of that. What is important is that the Pakistani Government and its leadership be seen as legitimate in the eyes of the Pakistani people.

There was an election in Pakistan. President Zardari came to office through a legitimate parliamentary process. Prime Minister Gilani was elected by the Pakistani people. If there’s a legal judgment that changes the status of the government, that is really an internal matter for Pakistan.

QUESTION: A question on Guinea.

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There’s – a UN panel has called for the coup leader Dadis and several others to be brought to the International Criminal Court in connection with charges related to the September massacre. Does the U.S. support this? And is the U.S. in touch with the Government of Morocco about what should happen with Mr. Dadis, who’s receiving hospital treatment?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s go through – you touched on a number of issues. There – we understand that there has been a completion of the UN Commission of Inquiry and a report has been completed. I believe it’s going to be formally presented to the UN Security Council at some point soon. I think we would note the fact that there was an intensive investigation conducted as part – in building this report. I think over 700 witnesses were interviewed. We have expressed our concerns about the – about what happened on September 28th. It is our firm belief that the military junta should be held to account for what happened there.

We are – we continue to work closely with ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, and its mediator Blaise – President Compaore. We have been in touch with Moroccan officials regarding Mr. Dadis, and we want to see Guinea transition to a civilian government as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Would the U.S. support any Moroccan moves to give Dadis asylum, basically?

MR. CROWLEY: I think what we want to see is a return to civilian rule and a transition process to a civilian government run by civilians and not the military junta.

Continue: Daily Press Briefing - December 22 [Part 2]


[1]Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - December 22]