Mark C. Toner
Acting Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 7, 2010


Index for Today's Briefing
  • GERMANY
    • U.S. Appreciates Germany and resettling GITMO Detainees
  • DEPARTMENT
    • State Department Hosting U.S.-China Sub-Dialogue on Africa Today/ Broad-based Discussion on Development, Food Assistance, Economic issues
  • RUSSIA
    • Under Secretary Burns Meeting with Russian Ambassador/ Discussed A Variety of Bilateral Issues
    • Spy Case was Discussed
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • U.S. Goal is to Get Both Parties to Direct Negotiations
  • IRAN
    • Pursuing Two Track Approach/Sanctions in Place
    • Iran Needs to Address Nuclear Program in Transparent Way
  • PAKISTAN
    • Al- Qaida Plot in New York/U.S. Has Significant Counterterrorism Cooperation with Pakistan
  • LEBANON
    • U.S. Calls on Parties to Adhere to 1701/U.S. Supports Efforts of UNIFIL
    • Death of a Grand Ayatollah
  • FRANCE
    • Hijab Ban/Freedom of Religion
    • Manuel Noriega's Conviction
  • THAILAND
    • State of Emergency Extension
  • TURKEY
    • Designation of IH as a Foreign Terrorist Organization/Looking into it/Nothing to Announce
  • GERMANY
    • Italian Extradited in International Bribery Case


TRANSCRIPT:

01:23 p.m. EDT

MR. TONER: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. A couple of things at the top. Today, German Ministry of Interior Thomas de Maiziere announced that Germany is willing to resettle two detainees currently held in Guantanamo Bay. We greatly appreciate Germany’s decision to resettle these two detainees. This humanitarian gesture is a strong signal of Germany’s commitment to assist the United States in closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The list of countries resettling detainees continues to grow and we are encouraged by the assistance of the international community which continues to support this Administration’s closure effort. We’d also like to wish Germany as well as Spain good luck in today’s match.

QUESTION: Can I ask you --

MR. TONER: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: First of all, you’re rooting for both sides –

MR. TONER: We’re rooting for a good match.

QUESTION: All right. You had wanted them to take three. They’re only taking two. Are you disappointed at all?
MR. TONER: Not at all.

QUESTION: You’re just happy to have unloaded another two?

MR. TONER: I wouldn’t phrase it that way at all, Matt. We’re happy to have the support of another country. We appreciate Germany stepping up to the plate to take these two detainees. And we appreciate the efforts of all our friends and partners around the world who are helping us achieve this Administration’s goal of the closure of the Guantanamo Bay facility.

QUESTION: What nationality are they?

MR. TONER: For logistics, for identities, I’ll have to refer you to the German Government. We don’t discuss those here.

We’re also pleased to host today Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhijun and a large delegation for the U.S.-China Sub-Dialogue on Africa today. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Johnnie Carson is leading the U.S. delegation for the dialogue which will focus on political and economic issues including food security, trade, and health programs in Africa. And Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns will deliver closing remarks.

That’s all I have. With that, I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: Can I ask you something about that? I think I noticed on the schedule that Jeff Feltman is also going to be joining that. Is that simply because Africa, for you guys, is split up between Near East –

MR. TONER: That may be the case, Matt. I can look into that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. TONER: It makes sense.

QUESTION: And then speaking of Bill Burns, can you tell us about his meeting this morning with the Russian ambassador?

MR. TONER: Sure. Under Secretary Burns meets regularly with Ambassador Kislyak, and at this morning’s meeting, they reviewed the recent visit by President Medvedev, discussed how to implement the various agreements and as well as other bilateral issues.

QUESTION: What would those other bilateral issues be?

MR. TONER: Well, we have a broad spectrum of issues that we work with.

QUESTION: I think you know what I’m getting at. Let’s not beat around the bush.

MR. TONER: Help me out.

QUESTION: There are numerous reports that there is a deal in the works to swap some of the alleged Russian spies with people convicted in Russia of espionage or other things.

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Did this – did the – did these spy cases come up in the meeting at all?

MR. TONER: Well, again, it wasn’t the main purpose of the meeting, but I believe the case was discussed.

QUESTION: And was it discussed in terms of a possible swap?

MR. TONER: Really, I’d have to refer you to the Justice Department any speculation about a spy swap.

QUESTION: Was the Justice Department at the meeting?

MR. TONER: No, they weren’t.

QUESTION: So you would have to –

MR. TONER: I can say that –

QUESTION: I’m not asking for details –

MR. TONER: Right.

QUESTION: -- but for a little bit more on what part of the case was discussed between this building, the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, and the Russian ambassador, for which you say the Justice Department was not present at.

MR. TONER: Right. Again, it’s a regular meeting that he has with Ambassador Kislyak. The main purpose of the meeting was really to discuss follow-up on the summit that took place here two weeks ago. Did the case – the spy case come up? Likely, it did. Am I going to get into details? No, I’m going to refer you to the Justice Department.

Go ahead, Dmitry.

QUESTION: Did the two governments, the Russian and the U.S. Government, discuss the possible swap or not? Is there any basis to those press reports?

MR. TONER: Again, on that issue, I’m going to refer you to the Justice Department. It’s an ongoing legal investigation – or legal process, frankly.

QUESTION: Apart from the – I mean, aside from the actual investigation, can you deny that there are any negotiations going on between the two governments about a swap?

MR. TONER: I’m just not going to get into any discussion of it. Sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Wasn’t the swap discussed as a course of routine – as a matter of course?

MR. TONER: I –

QUESTION: Was a swap in this case discussed as a matter of routine?

MR. TONER: Again, on any questions involving the spy case, the alleged spies, I’m going to have to refer you to the Justice Department. Any other questions?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. TONER: Go ahead. Did you have a question?

QUESTION: The suggestion yesterday was that the ball now lies in the Palestinian court. Is that the Administration’s way of saying that we are going to lean on the Palestinians to forego proximity talks and go directly into direct talks?

MR. TONER: Well, I think we’ve been pretty clear all along that our goal is to get into direct negotiations. And certainly, that hasn’t changed. It was the impetus behind yesterday’s meeting and it remains the impetus behind the proximity talks and it’s what we’re all working towards.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yesterday in Colorado, Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba of the UAE seemed to endorse using a military option for countering Iran’s military – Iran’s nuclear program. Have you seen those statements and what is your reaction to his statements?

MR. TONER: I have not seen those statements, so I really can’t react to them.

QUESTION: He was asked specifically about whether or not he believes the U.S. should stop the Iranian nuclear program by force and he said, quote, “Absolutely, absolutely.” Do you take those words seriously?

MR. TONER: Again, I haven’t seen the context, I haven’t seen the reports. I could certainly look at them. But again, we’ve been pretty clear all along that we’ve got a two-track approach. We’ve got a significant sanctions regime in place now. But as the P-5+1 said after their meeting last week, the engagement track remains open. So those are our pursuits right now --

QUESTION: Are those sentiments --

MR. TONER: -- involving Iran.

QUESTION: Are you hearing those kinds of sentiments from Iran’s Arab neighbors in the region?

MR. TONER: What I think we’ve got is a broad international consensus recognizing that Iran needs to address its nuclear program in a transparent and credible way. It’s the reason why we’ve got probably the most significant sanctions regime against Iran and a reason why other countries have followed suit with similar sanctions programs. But again, we’re pursuing a two-track approach: the one side is engagement; the other side is pressure.

Andy.

QUESTION: New subject? Department of Justice today has unveiled some new charges related to the subway – New York subway bomb plot in which they’re saying that it was directed by senior al-Qaida figures in Pakistan. I’m wondering, have you communicated with the Pakistan Government about these specific charges? Is there anything that they’re doing that – to try and track down these people who are actually targeting American citizens on American soil?

MR. TONER: Well, we’ve got significant counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan. But as for the specific case, I can take the question, Andy. I may end up referring you to the Justice Department again, but I’ll try to find an answer.

Go ahead, Michel.

QUESTION: Yeah. France is talking about changing the rules of engagement for UN forces in south Lebanon. Do you back France in this regard?

MR. TONER: Mm-hmm. Our understanding is that Security Council members are involved in initial discussions regarding a possible statement dealing with the recent spate of incidents affecting UNIFIL’s freedom of movement in southern Lebanon. We continue to call on all parties in and around Lebanon to adhere to their obligations under the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and we continue to fully support the efforts of UNIFIL and the Lebanese Government to implement those provisions.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you support France in asking for changing the rules of engagement?

MR. TONER: Again, I think it’s a matter under discussion right now, and I’d just say we support – we call on all parties to adhere to their obligations under the terms of 1701.

But – go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Are you finished?

MR. TONER: No, I’m just saying that it’s a matter under discussion, fully support the efforts of UNIFIL and the Lebanese Government to implement those provisions. But I’ll let it be addressed once in the Security Council.

QUESTION: Speaking of France, do you have anything updated to say about the burka ban?

MR. TONER: I think I do, Matt. I’m not sure it’s updated, but it’s our position.

QUESTION: Well --

MR. TONER: I think the President addressed it in Cairo. He said freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That’s why the United States Government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, I missed the word “France” in there.

MR. TONER: (Laughter.) I’d just say we encourage governments to find a solution that addresses public security concerns without restricting freedom of religion, where possible, and that minimizes restrictions otherwise.

QUESTION: Have you been in touch with the French about this?

MR. TONER: I’m not sure.

QUESTION: Also on France --

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- do you have any reaction to Noriega’s conviction and sentence?

MR. TONER: I thought I did, Matt. Hold on. No, let me get back to you on that afterwards.

Go ahead, Dave.

QUESTION: Mark, excuse me if you might have dealt with this yesterday, but the extension of emergency powers in Thailand, do you have anything --

MR. TONER: Oh, right. I have not dealt with it yet, so thanks for asking. We’ve consistently stressed to all parties the importance of the equal application of the law and the need to resolve differences through Thailand’s democratic institutions. But really, it’s a matter for the Thai authorities to decide based on the rule of law.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Last month, a bipartisan group of 87 senators sent a letter to the President regarding his support for Israel. In the letter, they called on him to consider putting the Turkish group, the IH, on the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations after an examination of the intelligence community, the State Department, and the Treasury Department. Is there an investigation ongoing into the IH by the State Department?

MR. TONER: I believe we’re looking at the IHH, but it’s a long process to designate something – an organization a Foreign Terrorist Organization and there’s nothing to announce on that.

Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Do you have anything about these reports in Israel that you guys – the U.S. has concluded some kind of nuclear cooperation agreement with the Israelis?

MR. TONER: I don’t have anything for you, Matt. Sorry.

QUESTION: You don’t have anything for me? How about for anyone else?

MR. TONER: (Laughter.) For anyone else. I don’t know – I don’t have anything on that issue.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: FBI yesterday posted on the – its website a Department of Justice release about completion of extradition of an Italian from Germany about an international bribing case. Now, if you look at the list of companies --

MR. TONER: Is this BAE?

QUESTION: Pardon?

MR. TONER: Did you – I didn’t hear the company or the --

QUESTION: It’s a list of 237 payments that were made over – I got the list. It’s not on the website. There are countries like South Korea, Iran, Kazakhstan, UAE, China, India. Have you been approached by the Department of Justice to reach these governments, specifically India? Because in other countries, they have named the people of the companies whom – who were paid. In the case of India, they have not, just the companies. So they have – you have to reach out to those governments. Have you been --

MR. TONER: I’m afraid I don’t – what’s the context again? I missed that first part. What’s the case? What’s --

QUESTION: The companies – they have brought an Italian who was in Germany under extradition treaty and they are being charged about an international bribery case, thousands of dollars were paid in all these countries for – to the state companies, to the private companies, but in – especially in the case of India, they have named the companies but they have not named any person who – so they --

MR. TONER: And this individual was extradited to the United States?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. TONER: I’m not aware of the case, so --

QUESTION: Because they cannot go – Department of Justice cannot go directly to those governments. You have to go through you, I suppose.

MR. TONER: Right. But as you well know, we don’t discuss extradition requests. This case, it sounds like it’s already --

QUESTION: The extradition is complete. Now you have to talk about --

MR. TONER: Well, I’m not familiar with the case. I can look into it. I’m simply not familiar with it, so reluctant to comment.

Did you have a question? Go ahead, Kim.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, a grand ayatollah in Lebanon, a Shia cleric, Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, died. I was wondering whether the U.S. was sending a delegation for condolences.

MR. TONER: I’d have to check on that.

QUESTION: What is the U.S. position about the Ayatollah at the moment? Is he on any sort of list?

MR. TONER: I’m not aware. I’d have to also check on that. Sorry, Kim. Get back to you on that.

QUESTION: On that China Sub-Dialogue meeting, I’m wondering if you can tell us if anything will be discussed there about Chinese companies processing Sudanese crude, which would, I think, violate U.S sanctions. Is the U.S. Government putting pressure on Chinese companies not to take on Sudanese crude for processing?

MR. TONER: To your second question, I don’t know. I’d have to look into that and get back to you on the – within the broader framework of the discussion. I can’t rule out that it would come up, but I think this is more of a broad-based discussion about development, food assistance, also economic issues. But as to that specific issue, I’d have to really check on it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:38 p.m.)

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