Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 30, 2011


Index for Today's Briefing
  • SUDAN
    • U.S. Concerned on Continued Bombings in Southern Kordofan / Ceasefire
  • LIBYA
    • Qadhafi Family / Travel Ban Restrictions Under UNSCR 1970 / Notification from Algerian Government to UNSC
    • Algerian Foreign Minister's Call to the U.S. Ambassador to Algeria
    • Qadhafi's ICC Indictment
    • Megrahi / Justice Department
    • NATO Engagement
    • Libyan Frozen Assets / 1.5 Billion
  • SYRIA
    • Additional Sanctions on Senior Syrian Officials
    • Ambassador Ford's Work in Syria
    • U.S. Allies and Partners
    • Iran
    • Chemical Weapons
  • PAKISTAN
    • Journalists Rights
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Marking the Anniversary of 9-11 / Guidelines for U.S. Embassies Abroad
    • Wikileaks / U.S. Condemns Any Illegal Disclosure of Classified Information
    • State Department Opposes Legislation on Cutting U.S. Funding to the UN
  • IRAQ
    • Withdrawal of U.S. Combats Troops by the end of the Year
    • U.S. Condemns Acts of Violence in Iraq
  • NEPAL
    • Working with New Prime Minister
  • UKRAINE
    • Concerns About Rule of Law Related to Tymoshenko Case
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Right Path is to Come Back to the Negotiating Table
    • U.S. Regularly Engages Both Governments to Maintain Security in the West Bank
  • JAPAN
    • Respect for the Japanese Political Process


TRANSCRIPT:

1:00 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: Afternoon, everybody. Again, I apologize for being late. We should’ve given you guys a little warning of that today.

I’ve got one issue on Sudan at the top, and then we’ll go to your questions. The United States is deeply concerned about reports of continued Sudanese air force bombings of civilian areas in Southern Kordofan, despite President Bashir’s announcement of a unilateral two-week ceasefire last Tuesday. The United States calls upon the Government of Sudan to adhere to its commitments, and encourages the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to declare a two-week ceasefire in Southern Kordofan. We further call on both sides to allow unfettered humanitarian access to affected populations in the state.

Now let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Can I ask, on Libya – I’m just curious. Does the U.S. have an interest in the fate or whereabouts of members of Qadhafi’s family who are not wanted or suspected of crimes?

MS. NULAND: Well, we have said that we believe that members of Qadhafi’s family should be held accountable. That remains our position.

QUESTION: Well, surely you know why I’m asking this question.

MS. NULAND: I think you’re asking because these four individuals who’ve now crossed into Algeria are not subject to the ICC warrant.

QUESTION: Into Algiers, right. You have – do you have – do you care? Do you care if they’re there?

MS. NULAND: Again, this is a matter for the Libyan people.

QUESTION: Well, I understand. But does the United States have an interest?

MS. NULAND: Well, we care in terms of the fact that under UN Security Council Resolution 1970, the Qadhafi family was subject to a travel ban. So they have now traveled. The Government of Algeria has sent a letter to the UN. We are reviewing that letter now in New York. But clearly, there has to be an international community decision in response with regard to the travel ban restrictions that 1970 imposes.

QUESTION: That letter explains why, their reasoning? Was that your understanding of it?

MS. NULAND: We haven’t – I haven’t seen the letter. It’s up in New York. Our understanding is that this is – that under 1970, if a country takes steps beyond the UN Security Council resolution, it has 48 hours to explain itself to Security Council members, and this is what that letter endeavors to do. With regard to our response to it, I think it’s too early to tell.

QUESTION: Do you know if there’s been any contact between the U.S. and members of President Bouteflika’s government about –

MS. NULAND: Yeah. The foreign minister yesterday did call the ambassador to confirm that these Qadhafi family members were in Algeria.

QUESTION: Called your – called the U.S. ambassador in Algeria?

MS. NULAND: Correct. Correct.

QUESTION: Are you – why would he call the U.S. ambassador?

MS. NULAND: I assume to confirm, and I assume to make --

QUESTION: But was there a – did the ambassador call the foreign ministry to –

MS. NULAND: My understanding is it was an Algerian Government initiative to call us, notify us that the press reporting was accurate, and to make clear that they would be coming forward to the UN with a letter.

QUESTION: On this point, a spokesman for the TNC, Mahmoud Shammam today said that Algeria’s act is tantamount to an act of war. Do you concur? Those are pretty harsh words.

MS. NULAND: As I’ve said, there are concerns that this isn’t in keeping with the travel ban restrictions under UN Security Council 1970. So we need to review the Algerian Government explanation. So does the TNC. And we need to see where we go from there.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that the fact that the Algerians have received four members of the family Qadhafi does not bode well for the future relations between Algeria and the future government of Libya?

MS. NULAND: Well, the TNC, as you know, has said that it wants to have peaceful, good neighborly relations throughout the region. Obviously, the Algerian Government and the TNC are going to have to work through this particular issue and we’re going to have to work through it in New York as well.

QUESTION: Madam, TNC and the Libyan people have called for an extradition. Will U.S. support in any way extradite this Qadhafi family back to Libya?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think I’ve said what I can on this, which is that the Algerian Government has notified the UN Security Council that it has these people, as it needs to under UN Security Council Resolution 1970, and we need to look in New York at what the next steps might be.

QUESTION: Well, just to make sure we understand, legally, what could they say that would justify what they’ve done? I’m not saying to – for you to justify it, but what could they – how could they justify breaking what appears to be this resolution on travel, banning travel?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think, Jill, you’re asking me to put myself in Algerian heads. Probably best to ask them. And again, whatever they have said is being reviewed in New York, and I haven’t seen it.

QUESTION: Would it be prudent to sort of warn the Algerians against accepting Qadhafi himself, Muammar Qadhafi himself?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think they, like the rest of the international community, know that he is under an ICC indictment. These four people were not. And they have complied with what they needed to do under 1970, which is to notify the UN and begin a review process.

Please, Lach.

QUESTION: Yeah. Switching, within Libya, have you – or has the Secretary received a letter from Senator Menendez urging the Secretary to press the Megrahi family for access to Megrahi?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one. I have not heard of such a letter, but let me take it, Lach, just to be sure.

QUESTION: Do you have a position on it? Would you, as a government, like to interview Megrahi, if it is possible, or at least assess the state of his health?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you probably know, and I think the Justice Department spoke to this yesterday after our briefing, the U.S. indictment of al-Megrahi and Lamin Fhimah for the bombing of Pan Am 103 remains pending in U.S. District Court, District of Columbia. The investigation of the bombing continues. It remains open. District of Colombia. The investigation of the bombing continues. It remains open. The Justice Department has made no decisions. I would refer you to them with regard to where they think this case might go.

QUESTION: But in support of their investigation, you wouldn’t like to have access to Megrahi?

MS. NULAND: Again, you’re asking me questions better addressed to Justice as they go forward with this.

QUESTION: On Syria?

MS. NULAND: Nothing else on Libya?

QUESTION: Here. I’ve got a Libyan question.

MS. NULAND: Libya. Yeah.

QUESTION: Minister Jibril yesterday said he thinks NATO may be pulling out too quickly, and he said he wants NATO to be helping out with logistics and military assistance, even after the fighting stops. I wonder what the U.S. view of that is.

MS. NULAND: Well, let me start by saying that the United States believes that NATO needs to stay engaged until the civilian protection mission is complete. And as NATO itself said today, that’s not today. That fighting continues in and around Sirte and places south of Tripoli, and NAO is – continues to be involved in trying to defend civilians and will continue to do so.

When peace is complete in Libya, NATO has said – and the United States supports this – that it sees itself going into a supporting role within the international community, that were the international community, were the Libyans themselves to ask for a different supporting role for NATO of some kind, that NATO would look at that. But clearly, this mission would end and you would be looking at a different mission based on a Libyan request, and it’s too early to know where that might go, and we have to first finish the job of Operation Unified Protector.

Please. Anything else on Libya? No?

QUESTION: Syria.

MS. NULAND: Okay. Libya in the back. Thanks.

QUESTION: As the procedure to unfreeze some of the Qadhafi regime’s assets moves forward, I was wondering if there’s going to have to be a role for Congress in those negotiations or whether that’s something that the State Department, Department of Justice, and various agencies are going to be handling primarily.

MS. NULAND: With regard to the 1.5 billion that the Security Council – that the Sanctions Committee has approved releasing, that process goes forward. Congress was briefed and notified as we went through the process with the UN. There’s no specific action for the Congress in terms of getting that piece done.

QUESTION: And on further releases as well? It would probably be through the same sort of – like high-level, diplomatic negotiations rather than involving any congressional authorization on where that money goes?

MS. NULAND: Well again, our first choice, with regard to the rest of the frozen assets, is to work within the UN system with the Libyans on an appropriate unwinding of the sanctions, UNSCRs, as we see the situation unfold in Libya. So it’s too early to see exactly what the TNC is going to want there and to work forward. Some of that work, I think, we’ll hear from the TNC with regard to its druthers – first, when Ban Ki-moon briefs the Security Council later today on Libya, but also when the TNC addresses the Contact Group in Paris on Thursday, and then we’ll go from there. But work does go on in New York on where we ought to go on Libya.

QUESTION: Speaking of that 1.5 billion, where is it now? Is it actually in their hands or is the Secretary going to Paris with one of those giant checks that we give to Jibril? (Laughter.) Where is it?

MS. NULAND: Like the Price is Right, a big check. Well, first just to remind, of the 1.5 billion, it goes back to the Libyan people in three tranches. None of those tranches goes as a check or a bag of cash. The first tranche, the humanitarian support provided to UN agencies, goes from the U.S. to the UN agencies.

QUESTION: So has that happened?

MS. NULAND: I need to check. I think it was on its way to happening yesterday. With regard to the second tranche, which is to pay the fuel vendor, again, the money goes from the U.S. to the fuel vendor. You’re going to ask me whether it’s gone yet. I will find out for you. And the third tranche goes into the transitional financial mechanism for the Libyans to bring their bills to – their appropriate bills for food, medicine, et cetera. I do believe the third piece has happened, but let us get an update for you on exactly where the cash is.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: There is this discussion going on that over the weekend unnamed British officials said that the Libyan future – West owns the Libyan future. Also, the head of – I believe, former CIA head said same thing. So this discussion about how much Libya owes West or whether the West owns – what’s your response to that? How would you argue with this argument? Do you think Libyans owes their future to West because of the help they received?

MS. NULAND: I mean, I’m not – I don’t know what comments you’re specifically referring to. The international community came forward to support the Libyan opposition, needs to stay in a supporting role as free Libyans lead their way forward to a democratic future. Libya is a rich country. You see the TNC already working with the international community to ensure that bills accrued through the United Nations, bills accrued in the past for fuel and other supplies on the humanitarian side, are paid with Libya’s money. That’s obviously everybody’s preference going forward if it’s possible.

Jill, did you have something else on Libya?

QUESTION: Well, thank you. On the ICC, I think you mentioned that Algeria knows he’s under ICC indictment. But isn’t it correct that Algeria is not a signatory to that?

MS. NULAND: That doesn’t change the fact that many others in the international community are, and there would be quite an outcry, I think.

QUESTION: But couldn’t they just legally use that as a loophole?

MS. NULAND: Any country can use any loophole it chooses. Our view, as you know, is that Qadhafi should be brought to justice, and that it’s up to the Libyan people how that happens.

QUESTION: That means that if he just happens to show up at JFK, you’re going to turn him over even though you’re not a signatory to the Rome Treaty as well?

MS. NULAND: Based on what we know at the moment, it strikes me as extremely unlikely he’s going to show up at JFK.

Kim.

QUESTION: A question about the new sanctions imposed on Syrian officials –

MS. NULAND: Before we leave, anything else on Libya before we go to Kim’s Syria?

Go ahead, Kim.

QUESTION: The Treasury Department announced new sanctions on three Syrian officials – Walid al-Mualem, the foreign minister, Bouthaina Shaaban, the presidential advisor, and the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon. I was wondering if you could tell us more about why those three, what impact you think it could have.

MS. NULAND: Thank you for that. Yes. We did just designate three more senior Syrian officials. This is the third round of U.S. national sanctions against the Asad regime. Ali Abdel Karim Ali, who is the Syrian foreign minister, maintained very close ties to Syrian intelligence.

QUESTION: No. He’s the ambassador to Lebanon, I think.

QUESTION: Mualem is the foreign minister.

MS. NULAND: Sorry. Yeah. My stuff is messed up here. Okay. So just with regard to the three, let’s start with – obviously it had to do with the positions that they hold and the Syrian Government has to do with the role that they play in propagating and advancing the reign of terror that Asad is exacting on his own people. So first, with regard to Ali Abdel Karim Ali, our concern was the close ties that he’s maintained with Syrian intelligence throughout his diplomatic career. With regard to Walid al-Mualem, he’s continued to beat this drum of international conspiracy and has attempted to cover up the regime’s horrific activities by making claims that terrorists or others were responsible. And Bouthaina Shaaban has served as the public mouthpiece for the repression of the regime. With regard to Ambassador Karim Ali, let me simply say that the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon, we believe that his activities in Lebanon were not compatible with his diplomatic status.

QUESTION: Do you – I mean, you’ve constantly made the point that having Ambassador Ford in Damascus is useful because he is able to be an interlocutor with senior members of the Syrian Government, and yet now you’re expanding the sanctions to cover more and more of these senior government members, including the foreign minister. Is t here any concern that having the foreign minister himself under U.S. sanction is going to poison the lines of communication between Ambassador Ford and the foreign ministry?

MS. NULAND: The Syrian Government knows where we stand. The Syrian foreign minister and Ambassador Ford have met in the past. We continue to be willing to meet with him, but we are not willing to facilitate his travel or other – to the United States or other international activities, and we want to make clear that we are holding him and these other two personally responsible for propagating and advancing the regime’s violence and that that has not changed.

QUESTION: So this designation does not preclude meetings between Mualem – between Ambassador Ford and the foreign minister?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think so because that’s within the scope of our diplomatic activity. But let me just take the question because I don’t –

QUESTION: On a scale of one to ten, what do you think the chances are that Foreign Minister Mualem would now be willing to meet with Ambassador Ford?

MS. NULAND: If he wants to have a clear understanding of the U.S. view, including why we sanctioned him personally today –

QUESTION: Have frozen his assets and –

MS. NULAND: -- Ambassador Ford is available there –

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: -- to explain it.

QUESTION: On this point –

QUESTION: When was the last time they met or spoke, Ambassador Ford and --

MS. NULAND: They met a week ago – two weeks ago Thursday, something like that. I don’t know if they’ve spoken since.

QUESTION: Did –

QUESTION: Hold on. If Mualem wants to represent his country --

QUESTION: Are you --

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) at the General Assembly in a month, does this now preclude it? I mean, we do have treaty obligations, but now here’s a different situation with this – him as an individual.

MS. NULAND: My understanding, but we’re going to just confirm for you, is that under our obligations as UN host, it would not preclude him from going to the UN in the same way that Iranian head Ahmadinejad is not precluded from going to the UN.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a follow-up on Ambassador Ford?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: Are you concerned at all about his safety? There’s been some reporting that he’s been harassed and ridiculed on Syrian television. Are you concerned at all about that?

MS. NULAND: I think you’re referring to this YouTube video that’s going around. Just to clarify that incident for all of you, Ambassador Ford was invited by some lawyers who were having a sit-in at the Syrian bar association to come and witness their protest. Ambassador Ford was not the only member of the international diplomatic community invited to do that. Some of the EU ambassadors were also invited and attended. Ambassador Ford went, he stood quietly outside, he was not involved in any disruptive activity, but some pro-government thugs came and tried to interrupt his bearing of witness and then put it on YouTube as a cynical effort to portray him as an agiteur, when in fact, they should have been paying attention to their own lawyers protesting peacefully at the bar association. We continue to believe that he is doing very, very important work there, and the fact that he was asked by the Syrian opposition to come and bear witness to their peaceful protest speaks to his influence and the importance to the opposition of having outside support. I think this effort to put it up on YouTube is going to backfire, because it just allows more public understanding of what the lawyers were trying to say to their own government.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that point --

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Lach.

QUESTION: -- the video showed one of the protestors, or maybe the pro-Syrian thug that you referred to, go up to the ambassador and try to cover him in a poster. Does that indicate he might be in – under – in danger of any kind?

MS. NULAND: I think if you watch the video to the end, or if they’d shown it to the end, the ambassador’s guard force was able to handle the incident, and it ended peacefully, and he left the scene. So from that perspective, it was a feeble attempt to divert the world’s attention from what’s really going on in Syria with the Syrian people.

QUESTION: You were aware of this incident last week, I believe?

MS. NULAND: Which incident?

QUESTION: The harassment of the ambassador.

MS. NULAND: You’re talking about this particular case?

QUESTION: Right.

MS. NULAND: We were.

QUESTION: And you didn’t see – worth mention or condemning the Syrian authorities last week?

MS. NULAND: Again, what we’re more interested in is making sure that the world knows that there is a strong Syrian opposition that wants to live a different way and is demanding its rights to influence its government and take its country in a democratic direction.

QUESTION: In light of the sanctions imposed on the foreign minister, has there been any change in the way the State Department would conduct itself with the Syrian Embassy in town?

MS. NULAND: Well, the new designations were issued about an hour ago, so again, you know where we stand here, that we believe that the strongest channels that we have to the Syrian Government are in Syria. We don’t have the same kind of confidence in how our message from here might be conveyed back to Damascus.

QUESTION: Okay. But does that in any way influence how you deal with the Syrian ambassador?

MS. NULAND: No.

QUESTION: What kind of activities you were referring to the Syrian ambassador in Lebanon?

MS. NULAND: Beyond saying that we don’t think that his activities were compatible with his status, that he has strong ties to Syrian intelligence, I don't think I want to go any further than that, except to say that we have been concerned and we’ve conveyed these concerns to the Lebanese Government about harassment of Syrians in Lebanon and the disappearance of some of them.

QUESTION: What kind of – just on that, and also on the other sanctions, what exactly is the United States’ reason to – if you’re going to call a diplomat out for activities incompatible with their status, it’s generally done on your – for diplomats who are working on U.S. soil, where you’re able to make that determination and you have some jurisdiction. I wasn’t aware that you could make that – you had jurisdiction to make such a determination on foreign soil. Is it more the – his links to the intelligence community, to Syrian intelligence, that you’re (inaudible) --

MS. NULAND: Well, it’s certainly within our right, under our sovereign authority, to sanction individuals in foreign governments, as we do --

QUESTION: It sure is. But you don’t run around hitting North Korean diplomats with sanctions because they’re doing stuff that’s incompatible with their diplomatic function in Thailand or in --

MS. NULAND: Again, we had particular concerns about the role this individual plays in the Syrian regime’s reign of terror, and we have particular concerns about the treatment of Syrians in Lebanon and the fact that so many of them have disappeared.

QUESTION: And then on – for the foreign minister sanctions, basically, you’re saying that because he’s a propaganda mouthpiece he’s deserving of these sanctions because he continues to beat the drum of international conspiracy? I mean, that seems like a basic freedom of speech issue. He can say whatever he wants, right? Anytime you think that a foreign minister is not telling the truth or lying, you’re going to hit him with sanctions?

MS. NULAND: This is a guy who we consider has been spreading untruth about the opposition in Syria, untruth about the security situation, untruth about the regime’s activity, and as such has been misleading in his role as foreign minister.

QUESTION: So spreading untruths is now a – is now a reason for U.S. – the U.S. to impose sanctions on someone?

MS. NULAND: This is part of our ongoing effort to lead the international community in tightening both the political and economic noose on the Asad regime. We believe that other countries should follow suit on the sanctions that we have already put forward, including the economic sanctions. This is a guy who is part of the campaign of violence. We sanctioned his – we sanctioned his boss, Asad, and now we are sanctioning him.

QUESTION: Right. Okay. Well, if he’s part of the campaign of violence, that’s one thing. But I’m not – but you didn’t say that, and that doesn't – that isn’t what Treasury says. I mean, you’re basically saying that you’re imposing sanctions on this guy because he’s lying and you don’t like what he’s lying about.

MS. NULAND: We’re imposing --

QUESTION: By that measure, you could impose sanctions on virtually anyone anywhere.

MS. NULAND: We’re imposing sanctions on him because he’s part of the propaganda machine of the Syrian regime which is supporting and defending their violent actions by making false claims about who’s at fault here and leading to misrepresentation in the international community of what’s really going on in Syria. And we need to take a stand on that.

QUESTION: Given your assessment of this foreign minister, basically calling him a liar, I don’t understand what conceivable use it would be to have Ambassador Ford meet with him. Has he suggested it’s still possible? Why not have Ambassador Ford say we’re no longer going to deal with this guy, period?

MS. NULAND: Again, this is a new set of sanctions, so let’s see where we go from here on how they will precisely be implemented. But this is – we clearly felt it was important to call this guy out, to sanction him as we’ve sanctioned his boss. And we will continue to look at individuals within the Asad regime who we consider to be part of the problem, supportive of the ongoing violence, and part of the misleading of the international community as to what’s really going on in Syria.

QUESTION: Where do you see this part in these diplomatic actions against the Syrian regime? We saw a couple days ago that the Arab League issued a very strong statement. We see today that the foreign minister is being sanctioned. Is it headed towards cutoff of diplomatic relations or a lowering of the diplomatic relations in Syria?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think you’re asking me the same question you’ve asked before, which goes to the question of Ambassador Ford, and I’ll give you the same answer that I’ve given you before, which is that Ambassador Ford is doing important work, as is our Embassy there, to support the opposition in its demands for change, to make clear that we think that Asad needs to go, and that a transition needs to begin.

QUESTION: So what other activities Ambassador Ford is doing? For instance, has he been in touch with the Syrian artist, Ali Ferzat, who is laying in a hospital? Has he – what kind of activities is he doing today, for instance?

MS. NULAND: For security reasons and to protect those that he works and speaks with, we don’t name names in terms of his contacts. I will simply say to you that he maintains on a daily basis, as does his staff, a broad cross-section of contacts across Syria in the opposition and those in the regime and in the military and elsewhere who also have questions about what Asad is up to so that he can give us a full report and so that he can represent accurately to the people of Syria our support for their democratic cause.

QUESTION: It does appear, though, that you are intentionally antagonizing the Syrian Government to the potential risk of Ambassador Ford.

MS. NULAND: It is the Syrian Government that is responsible for the violence, and we have to take steps to tighten the noose on them.

QUESTION: But Ambassador Ford is also accredited to the Syrian Government. He’s not accredited to the Syrian opposition. So if you’ve basically – you’re going after the Syrian Government, not just the top leadership but the people that the ambassador would meet with presumably on a regular basis, does that not leave you concerned that he will no longer be welcome?

MS. NULAND: The Syrian foreign minister and the others sanctioned on this list are key members of the regime’s inner circle and part of this campaign of violence that is ongoing. With regard to posture of Ford and the foreign minister in the future, I can’t speak to that. But simply to say that we felt it was important and we will continue to look for other opportunities to tighten the political and economic noose, and this is just the latest step in that regard.

Kim.

QUESTION: I understand this is the latest step in tightening the noose on the Syrian regime, but what would have much more impact is European sanctions on the oil sector. Unless I’ve missed something, we’re still waiting for that to happen. And I was wondering, what sort of discussions are you having with your allies in Europe to push them to take action?

MS. NULAND: Our understanding is that we are moving closer to a final decision by the European Union. They announced yesterday, I believe, that they had come to agreement in principle on oil and gas sanctions. They have a goodly amount of technical work to work through, but we do believe that that process is going forward.

QUESTION: In same context, Turkey, you have been praising Turkey, their cooperation on Syria. Do you see any developments in Turkey in terms of putting any sanctions? How’s your communication with Turkey so far on this particular subject?

MS. NULAND: Well, Turkey will have to make its own sovereign decisions what to do going forward. You saw President Gul’s very strong statements a couple of days ago that Turkey’s patience has worn out. We are calling on all of our allies and partners to look carefully at what we have already done and to match what we have done in political and economic terms to tighten the noose.

QUESTION: Syrian opposition group has founded a new body in Ankara, a new council. What is your assessment on that?

MS. NULAND: We’re following the reports and we’re following the activities outside of Syria. We meet also with these members of the Syrian opposition outside of Syria. Fred Hof, our special advisor, has sat with them. And we are encouraging those outside of Syria and those inside of Syria to continue to work together.

QUESTION: And one question – one more question. Iranian Government has softened their support to Syrian regime in terms of these crackdown issues. They criticized the Syrian Government, not listening to the people, demands of the people, legitimate demands of the Syrian people. What is your assessment?

MS. NULAND: Well, Secretary Clinton said a couple of weeks ago that Iran was fast becoming the only friend that Asad had left. I’d note that even that friend is beginning to abandon the Asad regime.

Jill.

QUESTION: Just a quick one on Syria.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: A concern about the chemical weapons that he has – any update on that?

MS. NULAND: Just to say that the mere presence of chemical weapons of any kind in Syria undermines peace and security in the Middle East. We have long called on the Syrian Government to give up its chemical weapons arsenal and to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which it has not yet done. That said, we do believe that Syria’s chemical stockpile remains under government control and that there is no change in the lockdown status of those weapons. Syria has a stockpile of nerve agent and some mustard gas, and we will continue to work closely with likeminded countries to ensure that there is no proliferation of that material as well.

QUESTION: Just a clarification. You commented on the U.S. ambassador to Syria after the incident was put on the YouTube. Have there been any other incidents which we don’t know of?

MS. NULAND: I don't know what you know of and what you don’t know of. (Laughter.) So why don’t we leave it there.

Please, Goyal.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MS. NULAND: Anything else on Syria before we leave Syria? Okay. Go ahead, Goyal.

QUESTION: Madam, as far as the freedom of the press and security in Pakistan is concerned, a number of journalists are under attacks and – because they are doing their jobs and – but the Pakistani Government doesn’t want them to investigate or do their reportings. Now, last week, another Pakistani journalist was killed in Balochistan of Pakistan, Munir Shakar, and which has been condemned by the UNESCO general director. So where do we stand as far as freedom of press is concerned, covering – doing their jobs in Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: Goyal, I can’t speak to this particular incident. You know that around the world the U.S. believes in freedom of press and freedom for journalists. We have ongoing dialogue with countries around the world, including Pakistan, on the necessity of protecting journalists’ rights.

Please.

QUESTION: Another subject? I’d like to talk to you about a New York Times report this morning about guidelines that apparently have been issued on how to commemorate 9/11. These have been issued apparently worldwide through U.S. mission. Just wondering why issue these guidelines now? What’s the Administration hoping to achieve by putting this out as the way to mark the anniversary?

MS. NULAND: This is not unusual, that we issue instructions to embassies around the world. We did it on the second anniversary of 9/11, we did it on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, primarily to ensure that embassies are marking the event, that they are having joint events in their host country to stand together against terrorism and ensure that the day is marked appropriately internationally.

QUESTION: Well, the guidelines, at least as reported by The Times talk about the hope that this can be made – sort of conveyed as a positive and forward-looking assessment. What – how – why is that the appropriate way to go about it now?

MS. NULAND: Since September 11th, we’ve built an enormous global coalition against terror. We work with a hundred-plus countries around the world to combat terror. There’s been an enormous amount of progress across two administrations. So I think the intent here is to ensure that we are making the point that we need to remain vigilant together, but we also are making progress. And continuing to make progress together is the best way to protect free people from this deadly scourge.

QUESTION: These ALDACs go out a lot around holidays.

MS. NULAND: They do.

QUESTION: And what’s most interesting about them, I think, are specific instructions about who to invite or who to exclude from these things. This was particularly the case two or three July 4ths ago when the order was to invite Iranian diplomats to attend July 4th parties at embassies abroad. That, of course, ended up being rescinded. But I’m wondering if there are any – in this current – are there any recommendations or specifications as to who should be invited or who should be excluded from 9/11 commemorations at embassies abroad? Or is it basically open, that they suggest it should be all-inclusive?

MS. NULAND: I think I’m not going to go through the details of our private diplomatic correspondence with our embassies, except to say that we --

QUESTION: Then perhaps you shouldn’t give them to The New York Times.

MS. NULAND: We did not give them to the The New York Times.

QUESTION: Not you, specifically.

MS. NULAND: That said, I would say that in general, the instruction has been to be inclusive within the countries where we serve. I can’t speak to specific foreign government representatives, but in countries where we have embassies, we want to see our embassies inviting a broad cross-section of their contacts in that country of interest, from the – from civil society, from the press, et cetera.

QUESTION: So there hasn’t been any word – word has not gone out to exclude representatives from countries that are, say, deemed to be state sponsors of terrorism?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that. I’ll take it and see if we have anything further.

QUESTION: Like in Khartoum, in Syria, in Cuba, in – I guess there isn’t anyone in North Korea. That would be evident.

MS. NULAND: Let me see if we have any more to say on the specifics, Matt, for you.

Jill.

QUESTION: Okay. It’s another subject.

MS. NULAND: Mm-mm. Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: WikiLeaks – a new cache has come out. Apparently, it is quite large. There are reports that, due to some sort of a password breach, they’re out there on the internet un-redacted. And we remember the last time this happened, you were warning people around the world who might be included in those to be careful, or the implications of this.

Number one, how – do you have some general reaction? And are you now warning people in those documents to beware?

MS. NULAND: Well, it won’t surprise you that I’m not going to comment today on the authenticity of the documents released by WikiLeaks. But I would say, in the category of general comments, that the United States strongly condemns any illegal disclosure of classified information. In addition to damaging our diplomatic efforts, it puts individuals’ security at risk, threatens our national security, and undermines our effort to work with countries to solve shared problems.

We remain concerned about these illegal disclosures and about concerns and risks to individuals. We continue to carefully monitor what becomes public and to take steps to mitigate the damage to national security, and to assist those who may be harmed by these illegal disclosures, to the extent that we can.

QUESTION: So at this point, you have not necessarily helped anyone who might be in danger? You’re just monitoring?

MS. NULAND: I would say that we have, over time, taken steps to help individuals. I’m not prepared to go into the details, for the safety of those individuals.

QUESTION: On the – on Iraq, the Iraqi prime minister has said today that all American troops will be leaving by the end of the year as scheduled and there will be no military bases in Iraq after that date. Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any reaction to that specific report. Our position hasn’t changed. In keeping with the President’s commitment, our plan is to withdraw our combat troops by the end of the year. Were there to be a specific Iraqi request, we would be open to considering it, but to date, there has not been a formal Iraqi request.

QUESTION: Any update on the discussions with the Iraqi regarding the presence of the --

MS. NULAND: Not that we’re ready to share here.

QUESTION: On that same topic, it is alleged that negotiations basically arrived at a memo of understanding between the Pentagon and the ministry of defense in Iraq shepherded by the State Department about rotation of troops under the pretext of training and so on. Could you comment on that?

MS. NULAND: I have nothing for you on that.

QUESTION: Reuters released some pictures belonging to Turkish military bases in northern Iraq yesterday. Do you have any expectation from Turkish military after the post-American troops in Iraq to maintain the security in the region?

MS. NULAND: Well, that’s obviously an issue, I think, for Turkey and Iraq to work through, as neighbors. You know our standard position here, which is that we want these neighbors to have an open dialogue, and we have worked hard to help them to have a better and stronger dialogue.

QUESTION: Is there any possibility for a trilateral agreement between Iraq, U.S., and Turkish sides?

MS. NULAND: I think at the moment, we are focused on our own process of meeting the President’s commitment and standing ready if, on the Iraqi side, there is any interest on any residual security presence.

QUESTION: Europe?

QUESTION: On Iraq still. This month, August, has been one of the bloodiest Augusts, and Augusts are normally very bloody in Iraq. So does that change the thinking in the United States on once they leave, the violence will break loose and go out of hand and political forces that have been sort of in the waiting to jump on each other’s throats will have a go at it with the absence of American troops? Is that the thinking?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me first say that we strongly condemn these acts of violence by terrorists in Iraq, and we offer our condolences to the families and the friends of the victims. We continue to have confidence in the people of Iraq, that they will remain steadfast against violence and continue on the path towards greater stability and prosperity. These attacks only strengthen our determination to help Iraq succeed. We regularly express our concerns about terrorist activities with Iraqi civilians, with military leaders. Prime Minister Maliki himself has publicly said that he will not tolerate violent activities of these groups, and we are confident that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis have rejected violence and shown a greater determination to continue on the path to stability and prosperity. So we will continue to work with Iraq on these issues.

QUESTION: I have just a quick one on China. Just shortly after the Vice President left China, there’s news now that Beijing is moving ahead with legal efforts which would codify and expand police powers to detain dissidents and other state security suspects in secret and without informing their families. I’m just wondering if you were aware of this and if you had any reaction to it.

MS. NULAND: Let me take that one, Andy. I don’t have anything today on it.

QUESTION: Can we go next door to Nepal?

MS. NULAND: To Nepal, yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you said you looked forward to working with the new prime minister, but his party, the Maoist Party, remains on the terrorism exclusion list. You did answer the question yesterday. So how can you work with him when the party is still considered terrorist?

MS. NULAND: There are a number of governments around the world where individual folks, individual parties in a coalition, have been designated, and we continue to work as best we can there. We have to review each of these on a case-by-case basis, and we have to – and we continue to work on progress as we can to work through the issues that led to the issues that led to the listing in the first place.

QUESTION: You expect it will be difficult to work with this new government?

MS. NULAND: We are hopeful that we will be able to have a good working relationship.

QUESTION: But Madam, are you going to take off of the list the party, or that terrorist group Maoist, which has been put by the State Department as supporting terrorism? Because since now they are part of the government, otherwise, how can Nepal run the government again because for some time they were even without a government or without a constitution or without even prime minister?

MS. NULAND: I think we answered this one in the taken question we put out yesterday, that there are a whole raft of issues that go into designation, and we’re not at a point where we’re prepared to delist at this point.

QUESTION: Europe?

QUESTION: On Palestine.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Europe.

QUESTION: Europe?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have a stand on the ongoing situation in Ukraine? Today Senator McCain along with the conservative – European Conservative Party (inaudible) issued a statement calling on the government to release Tymoshenko on bail at least because of health – for health reasons. What is your take on the whole issue?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think we have any change from where we’ve been, that we have concerns about rule of law in Ukraine with regard to this case, and that we want to ensure that this is not a politically motivated set of circumstances.

QUESTION: On Palestine-Israel?

MS. NULAND: Sorry? Matt, did you –

QUESTION: On Palestine-Israel?

QUESTION: Go ahead and get your non-answer to this question.

MS. NULAND: Iran, did you say?

QUESTION: No, no, I said Palestine-Israel.

MS. NULAND: Palestine-Israel. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Could you clarify – would you confirm or deny allegations made by Palestinian officials that the American consul general told them that aid will be cut off once they go to the United Nations and submit that? Then a spokesman by the consulate said this was not the case. Could you clarify that?

MS. NULAND: We’re not in the business of making threats. What we have said is that members of the Congress are as concerned as the Administration is about the path that the Palestinian Authority is on, and the Palestinians need to think hard about whether there might be consequences to that.

QUESTION: Speaking of members of Congress and this – has the Administration taken a position, or perhaps it hasn’t because it’s too early, on the legislation that Representative Ros-Lehtinen introduced today about the UN, the UN reform bill which would essentially make contributions to the UN voluntary?

MS. NULAND: We have. We oppose this legislation. Cutting by half U.S. funding to the UN would seriously undermine our international standing and dangerously weaken the UN as an instrument to advance U.S. national security goals. The draft legislation comes at a particularly dangerous time, particularly when the UN is now doing more than ever to advance U.S. key interests. We’ve had the toughest sanctions ever on Iran. We’ve had unprecedented UN pressure on North Korea. We’ve had much more international agreement on a strong nonproliferation regime. We have international cooperation through the UN and elsewhere to save lives in Libya. We have had good UN support for the new nation of South Sudan.

And the United States has led a process to revitalize the UN, make it quicker, make it stronger, make it more flexible, to support U.S. vital interests. We believe in UN reform. We just don’t think that this is the right way to go about it. Rather, we would like to work within the UN system and we will continue to try to do so on UN reform.

QUESTION: So this is something you haven’t really given much thought to?

MS. NULAND: Haven’t given much thought to it. You can tell.

QUESTION: What have you done to try to persuade Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen that her idea is foolhardy and pretty much as you – undiplomatic – stupid, as you – you had a diplomatic term for what you just called it. What have you done to tell her this? And obviously – have you done anything, because apparently she’s not convinced if she introduced it today?

MS. NULAND: We have had an ongoing dialogue with the Congress on these issues. We will continue to have a dialogue with the Congress as this goes forward --

QUESTION: But has the --

MS. NULAND: -- to try to explain what we are doing in the UN to make it stronger and about our efforts at UN reform.

QUESTION: Right. But has the case been made about the seriously undermining of U.S. – that case has been made?

MS. NULAND: It has, and we’ll continue to make it.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Could I go back to Palestine-Israel for a second?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So how would you describe your efforts at persuading the Palestinians of not going to the United Nations? Have you made any progress in the last week or two? Are we likely to see something coming up next week sometime as the clock is really ticking away?

MS. NULAND: The clock is ticking. Our efforts continue. David Hale’s efforts continue. The efforts with our Quartet partners continue. I think you saw UN High Representative Cathy Ashton in the region just these last couple of days. So we continue to believe that coming back to the negotiating table is the right way to go, and we are not going to let up on our efforts to get these parties back to the table.

QUESTION: So on a related issue, there was a report in Haaretz today the Israeli army is arming and training settlers in anticipation of Palestinian marches toward the settlement. Could you comment on that?

MS. NULAND: Apart from saying that we have regularly engaged with both Israelis and Palestinian governments to urge them to do everything possible to maintain peace and security in the West Bank and we will continue to do that. We – the right path for both sides is to come back to the negotiating table.

QUESTION: A quick follow on the Middle East? Knesset member Dr. Einat Wilf is in Washington and she was talking with reporters this morning, and what she’s saying is that Israel has a concern as far as upcoming UN vote on Palestine. Also there is Israel’s security from the changes going on in the Middle East. Is she meeting somebody here at the State Department or any comments about Israel’s concern on this upcoming vote?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on whether she’s meeting anybody here. We’ll get something for you, Goyal.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Thanks very much.

QUESTION: Yes, I have a question on Burma. The State Department is sending a musical band to Burma for five days trip to Burma. Normally, you don’t – normally, you send to other countries, but Burma is never on your list. Any particular reason for including them this year? Are you changing your policy or is Burma’s changing policy towards U.S.?

MS. NULAND: Let me get some more for you on that particular group and the thinking behind it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: And last one right here.

QUESTION: On Japan yesterday when we were talking about the new Prime Minister Noda and how many prime ministers have come around in the last few years, there was laughter from the podium. And I don’t know if you’re aware of the reports, but a few different Japanese news media referenced this a bit uncomfortably. It’s kind of become an issue in Japan. So could you clarify the reason for the laughter? I guess the question that is now sitting in some people’s head is: Does the U.S. think that the political instability of Japan, which is its closest ally in Asia – does the U.S. find the instability funny?

MS. NULAND: Absolutely not. We have absolute respect for the Japanese political process. We look forward to working with the new Japanese prime minister.

Just to clarify – and I regret if there was some aligning of moments – after your question, a comment was made over here which caused me to laugh. It had nothing to do with the new Japanese prime minister. I regret it if it looked like there was an aligning of issues there.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:52 p.m.)

DPB # 129

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - August 30, 2011]