Mark C. Toner
Acting Deputy Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 31, 2010


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Clinton at International Donors' Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti in New York/pledged $1.5 billion for long-term recovery and reconstruction
    • 10 female Afghan diplomats in Washington until April 7th/under auspices of Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program//four-day training program at NFATC in Arlington, VA
    • Shout-out to colleagues at Foreign Press Center/briefing by Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, Robert Blake on Thursday, April 1 at 1:00 p.m.
  • IRAN
    • P5+1 conference call/all six acknowledged call took place/latest in series of ongoing consultations /Secretary and President publicly saying we're in a period of intense diplomatic engagement/working hard on pressure track/don't have consensus yet/have broad support among the P5+1 for dual track approach
  • NORTH KOREA
    • UGS's acknowledgment of North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons/remain steadfastly committed to getting Six Party Talks going again/trying to get them back to the negotiating table/goal remains the denuclearization of Korean Peninsula/Will North Korea leader Kim Jong-il visit Beijing/hope it's an occasion/Chinese can talk to him about Six Party/concerns that we have about their nuclear program and urge that they return to talks
  • SERBIA
    • Serbian parliament apologized over Srebrenica/didn't explicitly use the word "genocide"/U.S.'s take/welcome March 30th Serbian National Assembly resolution/welcome Serbia's commitment/continue its efforts/cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal/capture and extradite Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic/genocide was committed there
  • COLOMBIA
    • FARC released one of their longest held captives/U.S. welcomes release/we continue to call on the FARC to release remaining hostages/support President Uribe's efforts
  • SOUTH AFRICA
    • Eugene Reginald Hopson/classified documents found/he is a State Department employee/confirm that there is an investigation
  • RUSSIA
    • Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin going to Venezuela/reports that he's going to be making deals and also some arms sales/we've voiced our concerns/ any country is entitled to pursue its own bilateral relationship


TRANSCRIPT:

1:17 p.m. EDT

MR. TONER: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. A couple of quick things at the top. As you know, Secretary of State Clinton is at the International Donors’ Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti today in New York. I believe she spoke earlier at the opening and pledged 1.15 billion for Haiti’s long-term recovery and reconstruction, and noted that the money will go mostly towards supporting the Government of Haiti’s plan to strengthen agriculture, energy, health, security, and governance.

Also, just wanted to cite that 10 female Afghan diplomats are in Washington until April 7th, on a visit under the auspices of the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program, and this is in conjunction with the Office of Global Women’s Issues, the Bureau of South Central Asian Affairs, as well as the National Foreign Service Training Center. And their program goal is to assist the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in their efforts to expand and diversify their diplomatic corps and to foster a broader exchange between Afghan and American diplomats.

The visit will include an intensive four-day training program at the Foreign Service training campus in Arlington, Virginia, as well as a series of meetings, roundtables, presentations, and events with counterparts and senior officials at the Department of State and some international NGOs, think tanks, and foreign missions.

And just a shout-out to my colleagues at the Foreign Press Center – there will be a briefing by Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, and that will be on Thursday at 1:00 p.m. And with that, I’ll take your questions.

Charlie. Sorry.

QUESTION: Can you confirm a P-5+1 conference call this morning? And can you give us any details --

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- on what they said?

MR. TONER: I can confirm a call did take place. It just concluded a little while ago. And in terms of readout, I can just say that all six agreed that – acknowledging that a call took place, but also that it’s a latest in a series of ongoing consultations among the Six Parties on the next steps on the dual-track approach towards Iran’s nuclear program. So again, just in the framework of what – there was a call, I believe, last week; another call this week. Both the Secretary and President have both been out there publicly saying that we’re in a period of intense diplomatic engagement on this issue. And this call was within that context.

QUESTION: And the call was with Under Secretary Burns at the political directors level?

MR. TONER: I believe so, yes, Charlie.

QUESTION: And you say they agreed on next steps, or just talked about next steps?

MR. TONER: Consultations on next steps.

QUESTION: Consultations on next steps?

MR. TONER: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And would that include drafting language to circulate in New York?

MR. TONER: Well, I don’t think we’re there yet, but as the President said yesterday, we’re working hard on the pressure track and moving forward with speed and determination.

QUESTION: Mark, on that same subject, the President yesterday said that he believes that they can get the sanctions within weeks.

MR. TONER: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And that did seem perhaps quicker than we were led to expect. What can you report --

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- on the progress?

MR. TONER: Well, I mean, the President’s words obviously stand. And I think he even noted that we don’t have international consensus yet, but we’re working hard to build that. What we do have is broad support among the P-5+1 for a dual-track approach. The President was quite clear yesterday in saying that we’ve tried the engagement track and we’re now moving towards the pressure track. The engagement part of it is not off the table, but we’re moving with deliberation on the pressure track now. And we’re consulting, and the P-5+1 call within that context just shows how serious we are.

QUESTION: And one more --

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- on Iran. There is this report coming out of one media outlet on Mr. Shahram Amiri. Have you followed that at all, this --

MR. TONER: More details? Sorry.

QUESTION: He was – he’s an Iranian nuclear scientist who disappeared last year --

MR. TONER: Right.

QUESTION: -- when he was in Saudi Arabia. And the Iranians have said that – alleged that he was kidnapped, taken by the United States. Now there’s a media report saying it was actually a CIA operation, a coup by the CIA in which they actually got him to come to the United States, defect, and that he is here now.

MR. TONER: No comment on that. Sorry.

QUESTION: No comment?

MR. TONER: No comment.

QUESTION: And why? Is there any information? I know we went over this with P.J. a while ago, but is there anything you can add to it?

MR. TONER: I really can’t discuss any of the details. I just have no comment. I have to stay with that.

QUESTION: No comment? It’s not that you don’t know anything. You just can’t say anything; is that correct?

MR. TONER: Well, it’s both. I don’t know the details. I don’t know anything about it. But also, no comment. We wouldn’t talk about it even if we could.

QUESTION: Can I ask a North Korea?

MR. TONER: Sorry?

QUESTION: North Korea?

MR. TONER: North Korea?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. TONER: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton said yesterday at the joint press briefing with G-8 foreign ministers that North Korea already has nuclear weapons. So isn’t new U.S. Government position to acknowledge North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons?

MR. TONER: On North Korea, I would just say that we remain steadfastly committed to getting the Six-Party Talks going again. North Korea knows what it has to do and we’re trying to get them back to the negotiating table.

QUESTION: Yeah, but how about the fact that they already have nuclear weapons? That’s what she mentioned yesterday.

MR. TONER: We’re still – our goal remains the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. That’s what we’re trying to achieve through the Six-Party process. So we just urge North Korea to get back to the negotiating table.

QUESTION: The Serbian parliament apologized over Srebrenica. Some survivors say it didn’t go quite far enough, didn’t explicitly use the word “genocide.” What’s the U.S. take on it? Is this a positive step or could it have gone a bit further.

MR. TONER: Sure. Hold on. We welcome the March 30th Serbian National Assembly resolution condemning the 1995 Srebrenica massacre as a positive step towards reconciliation, addressing the crimes of the past, fostering regional relations and promoting stability in the region. And as a part of that process, we welcome Serbia’s commitment, as noted in the resolution to continue its efforts to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, including its efforts to capture and extradite to The Hague the remaining fugitives, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic.

QUESTION: Sure. Some were upset that it didn’t explicitly use the word “genocide.” Is that an issue for the U.S.?

MR. TONER: I mean, our policy – we generally agree with the International Court of Justice judgment that genocide was committed there.

Please, in the back. Oh, I’m sorry. There and then-go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, is there any update on the possible U.S.-North Korea bilateral meeting? Is there any update on the –

MR. TONER: A possible U.S.-North Korea bilateral?

QUESTION: Yeah, bilateral meeting.

MR. TONER: I’ve got nothing for you.

QUESTION: And one more thing on North Korea. Today, South Korea Government official mentioned that North Korea leader Kim Jong-il will soon visit Beijing. So do you also sense that Kim Jong-il will visit China soon or do you have any notice from Chinese Government about –

MR. TONER: I, frankly, don’t have any updates on that. I’ve just seen the press reports that you also cite. Again, we hope it’s an occasion, if he does in fact go there, that the Chinese can talk to him about the Six-Party – the concerns that we have about their nuclear program and to urge that they return to talks.

Did you have – Dave.

QUESTION: Yeah, Mark. The Columbian rebel movement, FARC, released one of their longest held captives. Just wondered if you had any reaction to that.

MR. TONER: Sure. The U.S. welcomes the release of the hostages, Josue Calvo and Pablo Emilio Moncayo. We send our best wishes to them and to their families, and we continue to call on the FARC to release all its remaining hostages. And we also support President Uribe’s efforts to secure the safe release of all hostages.

Sure.

QUESTION: In regard to the classified documents found in State Department Foreign Service Officer Reginald Eugene Hopson’s persons, how serious of a security breach was this?

MR. TONER: Well, I’m limited in what I can really say about this story. I can confirm that there is an investigation and that he is a State Department employee and that he’s currently in Washington, D.C. But really, because there is an ongoing investigation, I’m very limited in what I can – in fact, I can’t go much beyond what I just said.

QUESTION: Is there any evidence that he has communicated with any kind of foreign agent or shared document information?

MR. TONER: I just can’t get into any details because it’s an ongoing investigation.

Sure.

QUESTION: The Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, is going to Venezuela to talk with Chavez and also the Bolivian president who’s going to be there as well. There are reports that he’s going to be making deals in the energy sector and also do some arms sales probably. Venezuela has already asked Russia for the S-300 missile defense systems, which Iran is waiting for Russia to deliver to Tehran. Are you concerned about this at all?

MR. TONER: I think we’ve voiced our concerns, if you will, but our opinions about Venezuela’s need for these kinds of defense systems previously from the podium. Beyond that, Venezuela, Bolivia, any country, is entitled to pursue its own bilateral relationship with any other country, clearly. So – but just beyond, kind of, questioning the need for Venezuela to have such a robust defense system, no comment.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Is that it? Great. Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:28 p.m.)

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