Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 8, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry's Phone Calls / Brazilian Foreign Minister / Afghan President Karzai
  • MALI
    • Suicide Attack in Gao / Incident in Bamako
    • Security Situation
    • Ambassador Huddleston's Interview
  • NIGERIA
    • Killing of Health Workers
  • EGYPT
    • Recent Violence / Sexual Assaults
  • TUNISIA
    • Ongoing Violence / Exercise Restraint
  • IRAN
    • Sanctions / Imports and Exports
  • SYRIA
    • Tightening International Sanctions / Providing Humanitarian Assistance / Supporting Syrian Opposition Coalition
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Rewards for Justice for Hafiz Saeed


TRANSCRIPT:

The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.

12:52 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. It is Friday. The first week of Secretary Kerry’s tenure almost coming to a close, but we have, as you know, the bilateral visit of Foreign Minister Baird of Canada starting at 2 o’clock and then a joint press conference to follow that. I have a couple of phone call readouts for you at the top, and then we’ll go to what’s on your minds.

The Secretary spoke yesterday to Brazilian Foreign Minister Patriota. They committed themselves to continuing to deepen and broaden our developing relationship. The Secretary gave – offered condolences to the Foreign Minister for the Santa Maria fire. They also went into our expanding economic relationship, noting that we have an upcoming commercial dialogue, we have an upcoming U.S.-Brazil CEO forum, and also a strategic energy dialogue, all important components of our broadening relationship. And then they also discussed the situation in Syria.

This morning, the Secretary spoke to Afghan President Karzai. The Secretary emphasized the United States ongoing strong support for a stable and secure Afghanistan, and he reaffirmed our commitment to reconciliation and the role of the Afghan High Peace Council, underscoring our commitment to support Afghans’ aspirations for free, fair, and inclusive elections in 2014 as well. And they also discussed the progress our negotiators are making in the bilateral security agreement negotiations. And the Secretary closed by underscoring how much he looked forward to working closely with President Karzai as our countries continue to build an enduring partnership through the transition and beyond.

Let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t really have anything that’s worthy of starting the briefing. But just on the phone call, you said that they discussed the progress the negotiators are making. Are they, in fact, making progress?

MS. NULAND: They are making progress. But as you know, these kinds of agreements generally do take some time, so we’re expecting that we’ll have to have a number of further rounds. And as you remember when we started this in late November, we agreed to try to conclude it in a calendar year. So we’ve really only been at this a few months.

QUESTION: Right. So, but are there actually negotiations going on right now?

MS. NULAND: No. The most recent round, I believe it was the third round, concluded on January 31st. I think we talked about that at the time, but --

QUESTION: So, to get technical, there hasn’t been – if there are no negotiations, there can’t really be progress, right?

MS. NULAND: Well, there was some progress in the last round. We haven’t had a further round since then.

QUESTION: So then since the Secretary has been Secretary, there hasn’t been any progress because there’s been no negotiations, correct?

MS. NULAND: Right, but you’re being awfully literal here, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. Okay.

MS. NULAND: It’s between the two countries --

QUESTION: Well, I told you I didn’t have anything worthy of starting the briefing with. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: All right. Let’s --

QUESTION: So I’m done.

MS. NULAND: Let’s move to something more worthy. Anything else in the front row here? Jo.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Mali?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask – we have a couple of questions about Mali. But I wanted to ask particularly about – the country had its first suicide bombing today in the town of Gao at an army checkpoint when an attacker rode up on a motorcycle and detonated an explosive belt. There was only one soldier who was killed, so I suppose in the scale of these things it’s not a massive attack, but I wonder if you could speak whether this speaks to a sort of changing environment in Mali.

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we had not only the suicide attack in Gao, but there was also an incident in the capital earlier today where we had some of the guard to the former president had a clash with the Malian military. All of these incidents speak to the continuing fragility of the security situation in Mali. The importance, and the fact that the Malian army itself is going to need continued and strong support, and the importance of getting the EU training mission in as quickly as we can as well as the AFISMA troops to begin to backfill the French forces and to support the Malian forces.

It also speaks to the vital importance of the political process, the democratic process moving forward. As you know, the Malians have now agreed to try to hold elections in July, assuming that security allows. And we, as an international community, very much have to support them in that effort.

QUESTION: Are Malians still onboard with the idea with an African-led force taking over from the French? I ask because I heard a few reports that maybe they felt it wasn’t going to be necessary now that the Islamist rebels have been chased away into the mountains, and they could actually just take up and continue where they’ve been.

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any reports to that effect. I mean, our understanding is that they have been very welcoming when the AFISMA forces have started to come in behind. From where we are sitting, where the international community is sitting, there is still significant work to be done to make the Malian military strong enough, [ethically] clean enough, capable enough to be able to secure the country on its own.

Please.

QUESTION: Yeah, on Mali. Your former ambassador to Mali between 2002 and 2005, Vicki Huddleston, said today on the French TV that France, along with other European countries, paid millions of dollars in ransoms to try to release hostages in Sahel, in Niger especially, two years ago. One, are you aware of this interview she gave this morning; and two, do you believe that her comments are correct?

MS. NULAND: I am aware of the interview. What I would broadly say is that Ambassador Huddleston’s concern reflects a concern that we share that AQIM and other groups like this do use hostage taking as their main means of financial support. And we continue to encourage all of our partners and allies in the international community to absolutely refuse to cooperate with hostage taking and to have a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of effort, because otherwise we’re just feeding into the coffers of the terrorists.

Said.

QUESTION: Well, hold on a second. That didn’t really answer the question. Do you know that – is what she said – is what she asserted correct?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to the specific incidents that she may or may not have information about. I will say that it is a continuing discussion with our allies and partners about the importance of drying up this particular tactic and technique as a source of funding for terror.

QUESTION: But if you believe that it needs to be dried up, then you do believe that ransoms are being paid?

MS. NULAND: We believe that AQIM is continuing to try to exact ransoms. We believe that they are too often successful in getting ransoms. I’m not going to speak to any particular country, but – yeah.

QUESTION: Okay, but I’m not asking for any particular country.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: But you do believe that ransoms are being paid to AQIM?

MS. NULAND: We are concerned that they are continuing to be able to make money this way, yes.

QUESTION: She specifically mentioned a figure of $89 million between 2004 and 2011, which would seem quite a substantial sum of money if you’ll go to fund them, kind of attacks and – against Western interests.

MS. NULAND: Absolutely. I mean, I can’t speak to the veracity of that particular number. It would take us into intelligence and other things. But as I said, we are concerned that not only in Mali but all over the continent – that groups affiliated with AQ – we’ve seen this as well in other parts of the continent – have been using this particular technique, and we’ve all got to work against it.

QUESTION: Can we stay in Africa?

MS. NULAND: Please. Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: In northern Nigeria, a group of health workers engaged in vaccinations were killed. Is this a spreading of attacks by Islamist groups on health workers, especially given the suspicion that they might not be there for community health but instead may be working as government agents?

MS. NULAND: Well, we condemn the killing of health workers and also those who were injured in Nigeria because they were engaged in lifesaving work, as you know, trying to vaccinate children. Our sympathies go to the victims, to their families, to the children who were denied vaccines as a result of this. Any violence that prevents children from receiving basic lifesaving vaccines is absolutely unacceptable wherever it happens.

That said, Roz, we don’t have any information to link this campaign to incidents that have happened in other parts of the world.

QUESTION: But isn’t it troubling, one, I mean, because everyone seems to have access to satellite television or smart phones or some sort of wireless communication, that the idea has been put out there, and given the difficulty that Abuja has had in trying to put down Boko Haram in these past several years, isn’t this a reason to be concerned even if there is no concrete link established at this point?

MS. NULAND: Absolutely. And it also speaks to the importance of using these same technologies to spread the word about the absolute necessity of vaccinating children and the importance of welcoming any international efforts to support countries in doing that.

QUESTION: Are you able to say what the U.S. is doing to help Nigeria deal with the problem of Boko Haram?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know we’ve spoken about this here before, Roz. We provide – and when the Secretary was in Nigeria, Secretary Clinton, she spoke quite extensively about the security support efforts that we have ongoing with Nigerian security forces, sharing of intelligence when we can. At the time of that visit in the summer, there was a proposal made that we support Nigerian efforts to have an intelligence fusion center. Those efforts to develop that center are also ongoing.

QUESTION: What would you say to those who would suggest that if you think that attacks against health workers like this are horrendous and wrong that you shouldn’t use health workers as spies or to participate in intelligence-gathering operations?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m obviously not going to --

QUESTION: I don’t want you to get into the details, but I’m just saying if you’re going to make the argument that killing health workers is bad, which I think everyone can agree with, why can’t you make the argument that using health workers as intelligence agents or as part of intelligence operations is also a bad thing? Because one seems – it would seem to lead – the fact that it has happened in one case that I’m thinking of, but I’m sure it’s happened in other cases, the suspicion is out there and there may be grounds for it.

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I’m not going to speak to intelligence issues at all. I’m certainly not going to speak to the – what I assume you are speaking to. We’ve spoken to that case directly. I think --

QUESTION: No, no, I’m not asking specifically. I’m just – the general – just the general idea that, I mean – it is – one who is perhaps – people who might defend the killing of health workers, saying they’re spies, I mean, there is precedent for this happening and there’s precedent with the U.S. doing it. So I’m just wondering if you don’t see an inconsistency there.

MS. NULAND: Let me simply say that we reject wholeheartedly this – any efforts to portray our own health workers or UN health workers in this manner, and it is absolutely essential that we all, all of us in the international community who support these programs, to also support the public education necessary to ensure that the programs can be successful. Because we’ve made great strides in public health and in combating some of these worldwide diseases in the last 30 years, and we’ve got to ensure that we continue to move forward and don’t fall backwards.

Said.

QUESTION: Yes. Bethlehem and the West Bank?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday the mayor of Bethlehem, Ms. Vera Baboun, came and had a meeting here with Father Mitri Raheb. She met, I believe, with Mr. David Hale and a number of others. Can you tell us what was the meeting all about? And she was trying to garner support for something called the Bethlehem Development Initiative.

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to read out on that, but let me get with David Hale and we’ll get back to you, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. Does the United States Government consider Bethlehem to be a place of historical significance, much like the Vatican?

MS. NULAND: I think everybody considers Bethlehem to be a place of historic significance. Where are you going with this?

QUESTION: Okay. I’m going – are you aware that Bethlehem has been reduced in area from 33 square kilometers to 7 square kilometers and the wall surrounded from all sides with the encroachment of settlements, water tables depleted, people are not allowed in and out, the economy is collapsing? What are you doing in that – in other words, to help save Bethlehem?

MS. NULAND: You know where we have been on settlements. We’ve been very clear about how we feel about settlements. We’ve also been very clear about our concern that money that is needed to support the Palestinian Authority get to the Palestinian Authority. We’re concerned in general about the economic situation there. So you know how this sits within our general frame.

QUESTION: Can I just ask one more question on this?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Now, they need some quick-fix money kind of a thing. Does the State Department in particular have any allocation of funds that they can provide Bethlehem with that does not have to go through Congress or does not have to go through aid-package regulations on protocols?

MS. NULAND: Well, I can get you a little bit of a separate briefing on our support for the Palestinian Authority, but as you know, all U.S. --

QUESTION: Not the Palestinian Authority. I am talking about --

MS. NULAND: I understand, Said, but --

QUESTION: -- the city of Bethlehem in particular.

MS. NULAND: I understand, but as you know, it is, under our Constitution, the Congress that has to appropriate all budget money.

Nicole.

QUESTION: Did you check in on that question from yesterday about whether the holds have been lifted?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that we have had some success working with Mrs. Granger, but I need to get a full update on exactly where we are.

Nicole.

QUESTION: But --

MS. NULAND: Said, I’d like to go to Nicole if I may. Go ahead, Nicole.

QUESTION: I have just one last (inaudible) – rather quick – if and when Secretary Kerry visits the West Bank and Israel and so on, will he make a visit to Bethlehem?

MS. NULAND: I think we’ve said about six times this week that when we have something to announce on trips, we will.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Nicole.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about Egypt.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: There were clashes ongoing as the briefing began, and I’m just wondering if you have, first, just any comment on the continued violence, and then whether anyone in the Administration has reached out to the government in Egypt about the way the security forces have been responding. There have been a number of deaths and so on. Some people, some critics say it’s been a – there’s been a disproportionate response, and I’m just wondering if that’s come up at all in contact with them.

MS. NULAND: Certainly in Ambassador Patterson’s contacts with the Egyptian Government, she’s been making the same points privately that we have been making publicly all week, that we strongly condemn the recent violence and the attacks that have taken place in Egypt, that we are extremely disturbed by these incidents, including sexual assaults against women. We’re also concerned that the violence is preventing women and others from coming out and expressing their views peacefully, and we have been urging the Government of Egypt to thoroughly, credibly and independently investigate all claims of violence, all claims of wrongdoing, whether they’re by security officials or by demonstrators, and to bring people to justice. Accountability, as I said on Monday, is the best way to prevent recurrence of these kinds of incidents. And we’re also continuing to urge a broad-based dialogue between the government and those stakeholders in the Egyptian system who are not satisfied, who have grievances, to keep the country moving forward.

Please, Lalit.

QUESTION: On Egypt?

MS. NULAND: Still on Egypt, yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. How do you assess the Iranian President’s visit to Egypt?

MS. NULAND: We talked about that a couple of days ago, Michel, and at the time we said that our expectation was that President Morsi and his government would convey a strong message of concern about the behavior that we’ve seen from Iran.

Lalit.

QUESTION: There’s a report which has come from the UN, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, according to which strikes by the U.S. forces in Afghanistan has been responsible for deaths of hundreds of children. Are you aware about this report, and do you see there is some truth in that report?

MS. NULAND: I am aware of the report. The ISAF Headquarters issued a very detailed statement, in fact, taking issue with a number of the elements of that report, and I would refer you to that.

QUESTION: And you agree with the ISAF?

MS. NULAND: Say again?

QUESTION: And you agree with the – whatever ISAF has said?

MS. NULAND: Well, ISAF is in a better position than we are here to go through the specific concerns and accusations that were made because they were made with regard to ISAF forces. So obviously they’ve come to their own conclusion, so I would refer you to those.

QUESTION: Can I just – talking about the page and a half, or the slightly-over-one-page statement that --

MS. NULAND: It was pretty --

QUESTION: I don’t know about very detailed --

MS. NULAND: Okay, somewhat detailed.

QUESTION: -- considering the length of the very detailed report that the UN came out with. So in other words, in answer to the exact same – my question from yesterday, which was exactly the same as that, the answer from the Administration is going to be the ISAF answer?

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: Please. Can you tell me who you are?

QUESTION: What’s that? Farah Stockman with The Boston Globe.

MS. NULAND: There you are. It’s The Boston Globe every day. I apologize, Farah. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: There I am. I --

QUESTION: I defended you.

QUESTION: I braved a blizzard and flew here just to show my commitment. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: It really is Massachusetts time. Yeah.

QUESTION: On Iran.

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: Earlier this week there was a call about Iran, and the second senior Administration official talked of some 20 countries that have enacted parallel moves to the move that was made on Wednesday, to the sanctions move that was made on Wednesday. Can we get a list of those 20 countries that have done parallel moves to sanction Iran in the way that we sanctioned Iran on Wednesday?

MS. NULAND: I will get that for you. I’m going to guess most of them are EU countries.

Yeah, please.

QUESTION: On Tunisia, do you encourage the parties there to form a new government after the assassination of Chokri Belaid?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, Michel, that one came up a couple of days ago as well. We missed you earlier in the week.

QUESTION: Yeah, you did.

MS. NULAND: What we said at the time was it’s obviously up to leaders and the people of Tunisia to decide how to take forward their own democratic process. What we are urging is a broad – again, a broad-based dialogue that allows the grievances to be addressed. But more broadly, we are concerned by ongoing reports of violence, including again today in Tunisia, and we call on all parties to exercise restraint. We condemn the use of violence in all of its forms. As we said earlier in the week, violence has no role in Tunisia’s democratic transition, and it’s only going to lead to more violence. We do support statements that we’ve seen coming from Tunisian political leaders, civil society, members of the citizenry, calling for peaceful responses, calling for dialogue, and we urge all of those same stakeholders to also call for calm.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please, Said.

QUESTION: Do you have confidence in the Tunisian legal system to conduct – or the authorities to conduct an impartial and transparent investigation into the assassination of Chokri Belaid?

MS. NULAND: Obviously, that is the standard that the Tunisian people expect, and that is what the Tunisian Government has pledged and promised.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. NULAND: In all of these transition societies, it is a challenge to ensure that rule of law is on a trajectory that is increasingly meeting the highest democratic standards, but we are also prepared to continue to support the Government of Tunisia in those kinds of things.

QUESTION: But do you take the Government of Tunisia at its word?

MS. NULAND: Again, we are calling on them to conduct a very rigorous and thorough investigation and to bring to justice those who they find responsible, and we will judge it as we see it.

Please, Lalit.

QUESTION: (inaudible) Secretary Kerry’s phone calls, has he spoken to his Pakistani counterpart yet?

MS. NULAND: He has not yet, but we expect that soon.

QUESTION: Iran-U.S., my colleague Arshad had a report out today based on customs figures that showed that while U.S. exports to Iran increased over the last year, from 2011 to 2012, exports of medical supplies – pharmaceuticals, drugs, and related products – fell pretty sharply. And the question is: Is this a sign that the U.S. desire to keep sanctions from hurting ordinary Iranians is not being met? In other words, that your hope to focus the sanctions on other elements is not working as well?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me start by underscoring what was said in the background call when the new sanctions were imposed on Wednesday. We’ve worked very hard over the last year to ensure that the carve-outs that allow continued exports of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, medical devices, are clear, that they’re well understood by exporters, and that they are understood by importers as well. It is not our intention to block those things from going to Iran. Humanitarian exports from the United States to Iran have, as an overall matter, remained relatively steady over the last few years. There has been a little bit of a change in the mix, as you’ve noted, Iran importing more wheat and less on the medical side. But that’s not the result of any policy decision by the United States. It’s a result of import decisions made by the Iranians.

QUESTION: In other words, it isn’t you. If the Iranians had wanted to buy more or the same amount of medical equipment or whatever it is over the past year, they could have?

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: And they – and is it not also a factor of people who are selling the stuff in the United States? I mean, if a company chooses not to sell medical supplies to Iran, you can’t force them to, can you?

MS. NULAND: Of course not. Right. I mean, I don’t have any metrics about whether we have American companies who have made their own corporate decisions not to trade with Iran. Right.

QUESTION: Right. I mean, some companies could decide not to sell --

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: -- or – and other – also Iran could decide not to buy, or not to seek to buy.

MS. NULAND: Right. My point is that we are engaged in constant outreach with both exporters and financial institutions about the sanctions regime to make absolutely clear that humanitarian exports to Iran are not targeted. And our understanding of this is that, as I said, overall the levels have been steady, but it’s been a result of Iranian decisions.

QUESTION: Yeah, but you can’t force them to sell or set the price?

MS. NULAND: Correct. We can’t force people to sell, nor do we. This is a commercial transaction.

QUESTION: To follow up Arshad’s findings, the customs data are just numbers; they don’t offer an explanation of trends or anything. But Arshad’s findings were that banks are getting scared off to finance some of this trade, so that as sanctions hit further Iran banks, the ability for third-country banks who would work with the U.S. to fund some of these exports is not happening because there’s – Iran has become – Iranian banks have become toxic, essentially, and they don’t want to be touched.

MS. NULAND: Well, again, refer you to Treasury, but on February 6th the Department of the Treasury did – their Office of Foreign Asset Controls did reissue public guidance which spells out that – the licenses and the related exemptions that exist for humanitarian trade. And we are making outreach efforts, as I said, both to exporters and to financial institutions so that they understand that this kind of humanitarian effort can go forward even as we seek to reduce Iran’s oil trade, et cetera.

QUESTION: Toria, does the Administration have any thoughts one way or the other on Cyprus upgrading its relationship with the Palestinians, or do you just not care?

MS. NULAND: It’s a Government of Cyprus decision.

QUESTION: Does that mean you don’t care?

MS. NULAND: It’s a Government of Cyprus decision.

QUESTION: Well, I – but --

MS. NULAND: We care about everything around here, Matt. We particularly care.

QUESTION: Well, I know, but I mean when people were starting to visit Gaza, you said that you didn’t think that was a good idea.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: And when – so this is – I don’t think it’s out of bounds to ask whether you think that the Cypriot recognition of a Palestinian state has any impact at all on the situation.

MS. NULAND: In terms of the legal choice, it’s the Government of Cyprus’s decision. We would simply reiterate where we’ve been, that we’re not going to get the settlement we need until these Palestinians and Israelis sit down together.

QUESTION: Can I go to Syria? I have a question which was raised yesterday, which was the revelations in the hearings of Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey that they both supported a plan by Secretary Clinton and General Petraeus to arm the rebels, which was then rebuffed by the White House. I’m not going to ask you for the White House, because obviously that will come from, presumably, your counterpart today.

MS. NULAND: Thank you, then.

QUESTION: But I wanted to ask you about the state of Syrian --

QUESTION: Or not.

QUESTION: -- or maybe not – the state of Syrian policymaking and decision making in this Department. How would you characterize it? Is it always evolving? Does it just follow one straight line? Do you foresee at some point that that will change?

And how do you answer critics who say that had that decision gone ahead in the summer to arm the rebels, we might be in a significantly different place now as regards the conflict in Syria?

MS. NULAND: Well, you’re – as you’re well aware as a regular member of our press corps here, Jo, where we are in our policy toward Syria, the decisions that we made, that we are focused on: tightening international sanctions on the Assad regime, on providing humanitarian assistance to the suffering both inside Syria and in neighboring countries, and on supporting the Syrian Opposition Coalition both in terms of creating greater unity and a better -- and articulating its plan for a transition as well as the technical assistance that it needs and the nonlethal assistance that it needs to be effective.

So that is where we are in our policy. Of course, policy on every issue is continually evaluated, continually updated, but I’m certainly not, from this podium, going to get into internal deliberations of any kind.

Said.

QUESTION: Okay. And what about the question that you might have actually been able to help tip the military balance one way, particularly towards the rebels’ advantage, had the decision gone ahead in the summer?

MS. NULAND: I’m not – I don’t think anybody has a crystal ball to evaluate what may or may not have happened with Policy A or Policy B. Our concern, as we have been saying for a long time, is that any policy choices that we make with regard to Syria stress the – our concern for the human life of Syrians, and that we do what we can to improve their lot and not make it worse.

Said.

QUESTION: Isn’t that the apparent difference between the State Department and the White House in this particular case created sort of constraints or tensions that may have hindered efforts by Ambassador Ford, for instance?

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to comment on internal government policy deliberations of any kind.

QUESTION: But I guess I – maybe I – let me rephrase it: That the effort and work of Ambassador Ford was not hindered in any way because of policy differences.

MS. NULAND: Ambassador Ford’s work reflects the policy guidance that he both helps develop and that he receives from senior leadership of the government, so I’m not quite sure what you’re referring to.

Roz.

QUESTION: Was the massacre in Houla in early June the impetus for the State Department and the CIA and then, ultimately, as we found out, the Defense Department, to raise the question with the White House on whether providing arms was worthwhile?

MS. NULAND: Brilliantly articulated question, as usual, Roz, but I am not going to talk about internal policy deliberations at all.

Lalit.

QUESTION: But it is a valid question, though. I mean, it’s – the fighting had already been going on for more than a year, then suddenly more than a hundred people are brutally slaughtered, video is out, everyone can see the brutality that was carried out by the shabiha. Because this Administration had been reluctant to get involved beyond humanitarian aid, it is worth asking, was this discussion raised in that context?

MS. NULAND: Roz, I’m not going to talk about internal policy deliberations at all.

Lalit.

QUESTION: Well, Toria, you can’t say that the policy evolves and then say that you’re not going to say when – what cause doesn’t – wouldn’t a massacre cause people to raise questions? Doesn’t policy evolve because of things like that? I mean, I just think it’s --

MS. NULAND: If I had a policy evolution to share – when we do evolve our policy, we --

QUESTION: Right, okay. So it didn’t evolve – it did not evolve despite the massacre? That would seem to be a self-evident fact.

MS. NULAND: We have – as we said at the time, as we’ve said since, our choice is to provide nonlethal assistance. That hasn’t changed.

Lalit.

QUESTION: Something else?

QUESTION: Can we stay on Syria for a second?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Some weeks back, you said that recognition will come as more real estate becomes under the control of the opposition. Now it seems that things --

MS. NULAND: I don’t think I ever said that from this podium, Said.

QUESTION: Well, that was the implication, or at least that’s how I understood it, the more that there are issues that are involving recognition that deal with land and how much area they control.

My question to you: It seems that today, things are changing. It’s today, the regime is asserting that its forces have control over Hama, control over major portions of Homs, Halab and other areas, and statements from the regime saying that they are reasserting their control. So what is your assessment of the actual control of the regime on the ground?

MS. NULAND: I’m not prepared today to give you sort of an up-and-down SITREP, frankly, but as a general matter, over the last few months, our assessment has been that the regime continues to be under intense and growing pressure from the opposition. We talked a little bit earlier this week about the fighting that’s going on in Damascus. There are – significant areas of the country have fallen from the regime’s hands. We know that they’re running out of money. We know that they’re strapped for weaponry, that they’re having to depend increasingly heavily on Iran for that kind of thing. But it’s obviously a very fierce fight that’s going on.

Lalit.

QUESTION: I wonder if the State Department has any thoughts on the detailed interview which the Lashkar-e Tayyiba chief, Hafiz Saeed, gave to New York Times yesterday? You know Hafiz Saeed, the – you had put a 10 million, I think, bounty on him for any information that leads to his conviction regarding Mumbai terrorist attack. In that interview, he speaks about how he lives there freely, roams around.

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to dignify the interview with a detailed response, but let me just step back and say that – as we said at the time, that this – the Rewards for Justice proposal was put out, it is not a bounty. What it’s designed to do is to help obtain information leading to his arrest and conviction. So we’re looking for people to come forward, whether they are in Pakistan or anywhere else, with information that can stand up in court, can withstand judicial scrutiny, in U.S. or a foreign court, and help create the conviction. So that’s what this is about.

QUESTION: Isn’t it kind of odd that you wouldn’t want to dignify him or his interview with a comment, and yet you’re willing to pay $10 million for information about it?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re not going to do a back-and-forth with him here.

Please.

QUESTION: I have a North Korea one, if we could move there.

MS. NULAND: Yeah, go ahead. Yeah.

QUESTION: We’re all more or less expecting a North Korea nuclear test or perhaps missile test and all of that, and we can’t know what it’s going to be. In the run-up to this, China seems to be getting, at least in terms of public rhetoric and official media rhetoric, a lot tougher on North Korea. That has caused some people to have a certain amount of hope that it’s going to – China’s going to be more helpful at the UN and other venues when it comes to sort of finally responding to this.

What is – what are the Administration’s expectations of China at this time in terms of dealing with North Korea, given their special relationship with that country?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, at the time that we discussed and then approved UN Security Council Resolution 2087, we had extensive conversations with all of the Six-Party Talks countries, but also with all of the Security Council countries. And we were very gratified to see that all of them, including China, were willing to come forward with tough consequences, and not only consequences with regard to the missile launch that happened then, but a clear signal that if there is further activity in violation of international obligations, that we will have more consequences.

So from that perspective, we have been completely in sync with China, and we have also seen their statements of concern that the new leader in the D.P.R.K. has not yet made the right choice.

Please.

QUESTION: Back – just a follow-up to Lalit’s question. Pakistan Government has been asking the Indian Government for evidence against Hafiz Saeed for a while. Has the Indian Government shared any such evidence with the United States so far?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m going to refer you to the Department of Justice on that one. I think we made clear when we put forward the Rewards for Justice that we’re seeking more information to make the cases, and that’s one of the reasons we put those kinds of things out.

Please.

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the violence today in Khadamiya and Baghdad and all across the country, as a matter of fact, Karbala, and many – and Babil and so many areas?

MS. NULAND: I did not get an update on Iraq today, so let me get that for you and we’ll respond for sure, Said.

Are we all set? We --

QUESTION: I have two very, very brief ones. Yesterday or the day before, you mentioned – and this is related to the Chinese comments about VOA and the immolations --

MS. NULAND: Right. Yeah.

QUESTION: -- that it was going to be raised outside of the BBG context. Do you know if that’s happened?

MS. NULAND: I believe it has with the Embassy here, yeah.

QUESTION: Embassy here? So --

MS. NULAND: Yes. Whether it was raised there, I don’t know. I will check.

QUESTION: Does that mean that --

MS. NULAND: Could have been both.

QUESTION: -- the Ambassador was summoned in --

MS. NULAND: I don’t have a level for you, but I know it was raised.

QUESTION: Okay. And then secondly, do you have anything specific that you want to add to the Embassy’s statement – PNG – about the witch burning incident?

MS. NULAND: No, I missed that. Our embassy in Papua New Guinea put out a witch burning statement. Wow. I will check into that.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS. NULAND: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:31 p.m.)

DPB # 23

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - February 8, 2013]