Daily Press Briefing - November 24

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Secretary Attended U.S.-India Bilateral at White House / Co-Hosting Luncheon with Vice President Biden
    • Memorandum of Understanding to Enhance Cooperation on Energy Security, Energy Efficiency, Clean Energy and Climate Change
    • Secretary Meeting with Prime Minister Singh on Strategic Dialogue
    • Civil Nuclear Agreement Important, Benefits Both Countries
  • IRAQ
    • Appreciative of Cooperation of United Kingdom / Inquiry is an Internal Matter for UK / U.S. Would Cooperate
    • Providing Technical Assistance to Ensure Free, Fair, Transparent Election / Embassy Monitoring Lead-Up to Elections / Independent Supreme Electoral Tribunal Carrying Out Elections
    • Had Concerns about Decrees Restricting Civil Liberties and Media, Decrees Rescinded
    • Elections an Essential Part of Solution to Crisis / Watching Very Closely to Ensure Elections Are as Free, Transparent, and Open as Possible / Will Consult with International Observers After Elections / Urging Both Sides to Establish Formation of Government of National Unity
  • IRAN
    • Proposal on Table Has Backing of International Community through IAEA, Addresses Needs of Iran / Still Hoping Iran Will Choose to Engage the International Community and Resolve Concerns about Nature of Nuclear Program
    • IAEA Board of Governors Meeting on Thursday / P-5+1 Will Consult on Next Steps
    • U.S. Will Sent Interagency Delegation of Humanitarian Mine Action Experts to Second Review Conference in Colombia / Will Attend as Observer / Largest Financial Supporter of Humanitarian Mine Action / Administration Undertook Policy Review and Land Mine Policy Remains in Effect /
    • Secretary Looks Forward to Implementing President's Decision
    • NATO Conducting Assessment of the International Security Assistance Force / Secretary Looks Forward to Consulting with Allies on International Role in Afghanistan Strategy / NATO Looks Forward to Playing a Role as to How We Go Forward / Up to Allies to Decide on How They Want to Contribute
    • U.S. Fully Committed to Goal of Promoting Well-being of Children and Protecting their Rights / U.S. Joining Consensus on General Assembly Resolution
    • Supporting Resolution Not Indication of Intent to Submit Convention on the Rights of the Child To Congress for Ratification / Interagency Policy Review Looking at Many Human Rights Treaties to Which We Are Not Party
Kelly, Ian
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 24, 2009


2:18 p.m. EST

MR. KELLY: Okay. Good afternoon. We’ll wait for Mr. Burns to make his way up here.

Okay. Well, let me give you a quick rundown on the Secretary’s events. You know she attended the bilateral over at the White House this morning, and she is co-hosting a luncheon upstairs with Vice President Biden. In addition, in about 45 minutes, she will sign a memorandum of understanding to enhance cooperation on energy security, energy efficiency, clean energy and climate change. That’s with the Indian foreign minister. Through this memorandum, both countries will work jointly to accelerate development and deployment of clean energy technologies and to strengthen cooperation on adaptation to climate change, climate science, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from forests and land use.

And then finally, later on this afternoon, she will go over to the Willard Hotel to have a meeting with Prime Minister Singh, where they will discuss progress in our Strategic Dialogue with India, how the United States and India can work together to meet global challenges like terrorism and climate change and other matters of regional and bilateral interest. And with that, I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: Do you have any response to the report in The Nation regarding what it says was a joint operation between the Joint Special Operations Command in Pakistan and Xe Services, nee Blackwater?

MR. KELLY: I do not. I have not seen this article.

QUESTION: So you have no response to that?

MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t know. I’m sorry, you’ve – I just am not aware of this article. We’ll look at it and we’ll see if we can get a response for you.

Yeah, Andy.

QUESTION: I have a question on the prime minister’s visit. The President this morning again reaffirmed that the U.S. is fully committed to implementing the nuclear – civil nuclear deal. But there is this question of the reprocessing agreement, and that doesn’t seem to have been mentioned explicitly during this visit, and it’s a significant holdup. And I was just wondering if you could tell us what is – where are we with the reprocessing deal, why hasn’t the U.S. approved it yet, and what’s the outlook for approval going forward?

MR. KELLY: This is an important agreement and we do look forward to implementing it. I think that to address some of the specific questions you have, though, I think we may need to get back to you in terms of what exactly is holding up the reprocessing part of it. We do support this deal. It – I think it benefits both of our countries. It helps – I mean, India has committed itself to some of the safeguards and standards that are implicit in this kind of civil nuclear agreement. And so we look forward to implementing it, but let me see if I can get you a more --

QUESTION: And when you’re finding that answer, if you could – my understanding, and I could well be wrong, but I’ve been told that this is a State Department decision. So any --

MR. KELLY: Okay.

QUESTION: -- explication you can give on the process of where this approval --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- comes from, that would be great.

MR. KELLY: All right, fair enough. Okay, Andy, we’ll do that.

QUESTION: Do you have any --

MR. KELLY: Robert, yeah.

QUESTION: -- comment on the British launching an inquiry into the cooperation with the U.S. in the Iraq war?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think we’ve seen that – we’ve obviously seen the report of the launch of it. The – we are very appreciative of all of the cooperation that the United Kingdom extended to us in their – and they played a very important role in the south of Iraq. We know that the transition is a difficult matter, but we’ve been working closely with the United Kingdom on this transition.

This is an internal matter for the United Kingdom, and obviously, we’d have to refer you to them on this inquiry.

QUESTION: There’s – is there no sort of diplomatic question about providing witnesses for the British? They want to have American participation? I’m just --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I mean, of course, we would be happy to cooperate insofar as that can be helpful. If they need information and if it’s in our power to provide that kind of information, of course, we’re willing to cooperate. It’s an important democratic process.


QUESTION: Yes. I was wondering the State Department’s position on the upcoming elections in Honduras.

MR. KELLY: The State Department’s position on the upcoming election in Honduras? Well, that hasn’t changed. We are providing technical assistance to help the Hondurans ensure that this is a free, fair, and transparent election. Of course, it’s going to take place in a number of days. We, of course, have an Embassy on the ground, and the Embassy is closely monitoring the lead-up to the elections themselves, which take place on Sunday.

I think it’s important to understand that these elections are being carried out by the independent Supreme Electoral Tribunal. It’s not being conducted by the de facto regime. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal was selected and installed in a transparent, democratic process before the coup. The candidates for the election – I think there were six – were nominated well before the coup. So this whole process has been in train for quite a while. I think one of the six candidates have – he was an independent – has dropped out of the race.

And we support this process. We think it’s important that the people of Honduras have the opportunity to express their votes in a free and transparent way.

QUESTION: So if I can follow up with that, the candidate that did drop out cited human rights abuses, which were also noted in the Amnesty International report, as well as Human Rights Watch. So under that climate which is still ongoing in Honduras right now, you will support the outcome of the elections under that climate?

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, we can’t say until November 29th how this will come out, so we can’t say we’re going to support something – support an outcome which hasn’t happened yet. However, we will say that while we had some concerns about a number of decrees restricting civil liberties and some restrictions on the media were in place, they have now – they have since then been rescinded. And we particularly welcome the news that opposition television Channel 36 is now able to broadcast free of interference. So we did have some concerns, but many of those concerns have been already addressed.


QUESTION: To Brazil --

QUESTION: If I could just --

QUESTION: This is following up on this.

QUESTION: Yeah. And I just want to say one last thing on this.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Go ahead. That’s --

QUESTION: The OAS and the Union of South American Nations has – they’ve pulled out all their observers and they have condemned these elections because of a lot of the things I mentioned, as well as four of the officials who will be part of that cabinet overseeing the elections are former affiliates of the Micheletti government, which means he does have some people who will be overseeing this election in that cabinet.

So what kind of message do you think that’s sending to South and Central America that despite the fact that the OAS and the Union of South American Nations refuse to acknowledge this election, but the United States is supporting it?

MR. KELLY: Well, I – first of all, I’d have to see exactly what the OAS and this other organization has said about the elections. I’m not aware that they have condemned the elections. I mean, we see the running of these elections as a – assuming that they’re run in a fair and transparent way, we see them as an essential part of the solution of this crisis. Now, again, it’s important that these elections be seen as free, fair, and transparent, and are monitored by a credible international monitoring process. And this is exactly what we’re supporting. But we can’t judge the outcome of something that hasn’t happened yet. But the process that we see in place is a process that we are supporting.

Having said that, we’re watching this very closely to ensure that the elections are as free, transparent, and open as possible, and that includes this – the run-up to the elections, this period of time right now. So I just think that we – our position is, is that after the elections take place on November 29, we will make a judgment then. We will consult with the international observers who are in place. And after consulting with them and with our friends and allies in the region, we’ll make our determination.

Yeah, Indira.

QUESTION: Brazil this morning criticized the U.S. for not agreeing to delay the election, and specifically said that they were, quote, “disappointed and frustrated with the United States, they hope the U.S. would change its position, and that the U.S. stance on refusing to delay the Honduran elections would hinder regional ties.” What’s your response to that – the largest country --

MR. KELLY: Well – yeah.

QUESTION: -- in Latin America taking a very strong leadership stand, and saying that the --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- U.S. is alone on this basically with Panama?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I don’t know that we’re alone.

QUESTION: It’s just – I think it’s just the U.S. and Panama.

QUESTION: And Colombia.

QUESTION: And Colombia, she’s saying.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, again, I’ll have – we’ll have to look at what the OAS has said and what other organizations have said and what Brazil has said. But I – and I’ve just stated what our position is, is that –

QUESTION: What’s your specific response to Brazil? Because I submitted that earlier, so I know you guys had that.

MR. KELLY: I don’t have a significant – I don’t have a specific response to a press report. But our position on the elections hasn’t changed. I’ve just laid it out to you. We see it as a – as one way for Honduras to come up with a solution to the crisis. This is one part of it. Another part of it is the – is, of course, the implementation of the rest of the San Jose-Tegucigalpa Accord, and that’s the formation of the government of national unity. We’re still urging both sides to establish that. But I mean, as I said before, we’re not going to judge the outcome of elections that haven’t taken place yet.

Yeah, Andy.

QUESTION: Change of subject to Iran. The Iranian foreign ministry today is saying that they may consider sending low-enriched uranium overseas, but that they would need what they’re calling 100 percent guarantees from the West that they would get fuel in return. And this is being interpreted by some as a softening of their position on the possibility of sending the LEU overseas. I’m just wondering, have you heard of this? Does the U.S. have any position on giving them guarantees of fuel in return for uranium that they send overseas --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and what’s the status of that situation now, as far as you understand it?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I mean, what – I mean, our position is, is that there is a very good and very balanced proposal on the table. This proposal has been agreed to by the United States, by Russia, by France, and has the backing of the international community through the International Atomic Energy Agency. And I’m not sure exactly what they mean by 100 percent guarantees, but this is a very, very good proposal on the table.

And unfortunately, the – Iran has so far refused to accept the proposal and has refused to engage with the P-5+1, because part of the agreement from the agreement in principle from the October 1st meeting was that we would meet again to engage on the nuclear program. So I mean, we feel like this is a good proposal. And it addresses the needs of Iran. It addresses the humanitarian needs that they have, the responsibility they have to their people. But it also addresses the responsibilities that they have to the international community. And that’s helping raise the confidence of the international community in their intentions with their nuclear program.

So we are still hoping that Iran will choose to engage the international community and resolve some of these concerns – very, very deep concerns – of the international community about the nature of their program.

QUESTION: And just a quick follow-up. Is there any more word on scheduling for the next P-5+1 meeting on its own? I know that they were talking after the last meeting --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- that there was going to be one soon.

MR. KELLY: Right. No, they have agreed that they will have one. I think right now, the next important event is Thursday when the Board of Governors from the IAEA will meet and discuss the assessment by the director general on Iran’s nuclear program and make their recommendations. So I think once that takes place, I think the partners in the P-5+1 will consult on what the next steps are, including a possible next meeting.

QUESTION: On North Korea?


QUESTION: Does the United States Government make any decision to relist North Korea as a terrorist country?

MR. KELLY: You mean to put them back on the list as a --


MR. KELLY: -- terrorist country?

QUESTION: Yes, sir.

MR. KELLY: I am not aware of any decisions to put them back on the --

QUESTION: Congress requested President for the relist of the terrorist list.

MR. KELLY: I’m sorry, what did Congress do?

QUESTION: Congress asked to the President final say on that.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on it?

MR. KELLY: No, I’m afraid I don’t have anything on that.


QUESTION: Yesterday, you said you might have something on the land mine treaty conference in --

MR. KELLY: Yes, I do have something on the land mine treaty. Maybe I spoke too soon. Boy, I did have something on the land mine treaty. And I do have something on the land mine treaty. It’s under miscellaneous.

QUESTION: That’s a good place for it.

MR. KELLY: Earlier this year, Colombia’s President Uribe invited President Obama to attend the Second Review Conference of the Ottawa Convention in Cartagena. The U.S. has accepted the invitation and will send an interagency delegation of humanitarian mine action experts from State, DOD, USAID, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to observe the conference, which is next week, I understand.

The U.S. is proud to be the world’s single largest financial supporter of humanitarian mine action. Since 1993, the U.S. has provided more than $1.5 billion worldwide, dedicated to building new partnerships with more than 50 post-conflict countries and supporting efforts by dozens of NGOs to promote stability and set the stage for recovery and development through mine clearance and conventional weapons destruction programs. And we congratulate Colombia for hosting this important conference.


QUESTION: What about the U.S. signing on to the land mine ban?

MR. KELLY: Our – we – this Administration undertook a policy review and we decided that our land mine policy remains in effect.


MR. KELLY: Why? Well --

QUESTION: Well, why do – I think we’re one of only two nations and Somalia is about to sign it, right? I mean --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: So we’re going to be the only nation in the whole world who doesn’t --

MR. KELLY: Well --

QUESTION: -- believe in banning land mines. Why is that?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I’m not sure about that, but we made our policy review and we determined that we would not be able to meet our national defense needs, nor our security commitments to our friends and allies if we sign this convention.

QUESTION: Was that made public by – did you make a statement to that effect? Because I never heard it.

MR. KELLY: I don’t know the answer to that, Robert. It’s possible. We didn’t make a statement on it.

QUESTION: So what are you planning to do at the conference, then, when you --

MR. KELLY: Well, we’re there as an observer. I mean, clearly, we have – as a global provider of security, we have an interest in the discussions there. But we will be there as an observer, obviously, because we haven’t signed the convention, nor do we plan to sign the convention.

QUESTION: So that’s official? The review is finished and we – and the U.S. will not sign the convention?

MR. KELLY: The policy review resulted in a recommendation to maintain the policy towards land mines, towards the convention. That was --

QUESTION: When was that decision made?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have that information, Indira. I’m not sure when it was done.


MR. KELLY: Fairly recently, I think, though.


QUESTION: Another topic, please. Can we turn to Afghanistan?

MR. KELLY: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Amidst all the speculation that a decision has been or soon will be made and an announcement is coming, can you share with us what preparations the Department and the Secretary of State are making to carry that forward? Will the Secretary be participating in congressional hearings, and how will she be reaching out to friends and allies?

MR. KELLY: Well, without reference to any kind of decision that the President will make and without making any kind of implication about when it will take place, of course, the Secretary looks forward to implementing the President’s decision after that decision is made. We have an important component to the Afghan strategy through our – the civilian aspect through the State and USAID development efforts, good governance efforts. And under that rubric, of course, comes support for the Afghan Government in building a more transparent and accountable government, helping them fight the problem of corruption.

I think that you’ve probably seen that NATO is conducting its own assessment of the International Security Assistance Force, the NATO-led ISAF force in Afghanistan. There is a – now, there’s going to be a force generation conference, I think in early December, sometime after the President has made his announcement, and the Secretary looks forward to consulting with our allies on the international role in the Afghanistan strategy.

QUESTION: What about in the domestic realm, though? Will she be going to Capitol Hill?

MR. KELLY: I think nothing is set yet, but I think it’s – that would be an appropriate role for her and for Secretary Gates, because an important part of this, of course, will be to brief Congress on the rollout of the strategy or the rollout of the President’s decision. Congress needs to --

QUESTION: Can you confirm that she’ll testify before Congress next week?

MR. KELLY: No, it is not confirmed that she will testify before Congress next week. I mean, you’ve heard what the President has said, that it’s going to – the announcement will come sometime after Thanksgiving in early December. And I’m sure there will be hearings set up very soon after that.

QUESTION: And will Ambassador Eikenberry be participating in any way?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have any information on that, Charley. I would imagine that he will play a role in this.

QUESTION: And can you say when you expect the President’s announcement to come?

MR. KELLY: No, I can’t, Charley. I’ll refer you to what the White House has said – after Thanksgiving, early December.

QUESTION: And is it – I’m sorry, just one more question on this. Is there anything that you can add to what the President said about his policy will be aimed at finishing the job?

MR. KELLY: Aimed at finishing the job? Well, I think we all want to make sure that the mission is done there, the mission of destroying al-Qaida and of giving the Afghan Government the wherewithal to provide for their own security and provide services of – to their own people and deny terrorists a safe haven.

Yeah, Christophe.

QUESTION: You say the Secretary will consult with your allies after the President’s announcement, so will she ask them to send more troops to Afghanistan?

MR. KELLY: I think that this is something for the countries themselves to work out. I think that the Secretary General of NATO has – I think he – he has approached the allies, and I think that NATO looks forward to playing a role in how we go forward with Afghanistan. But it’s not accurate for us to say that we’re going to make any demands on our allies. That’s up for them to decide how they want to contribute.

QUESTION: Yeah, but she might try and convince them, for instance, without making demands.

MR. KELLY: Well, I – that implies that our – that we would make these kinds of demands on allies, that they wouldn’t make these kind of decisions on their own. I mean, I’m not going to try and prejudge that.


QUESTION: I asked about another treaty yesterday, the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Actually, that’s the treaty the U.S. hasn’t ratified.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: The only country that hasn’t ratified the treaty (inaudible).

MR. KELLY: Right, right.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on that?

MR. KELLY: I do. I do. And then I think this has got to be the last question because we’ve got a camera spray upstairs. I want to give you guys a chance to go if you want.

The U.S. is fully committed to the goal of promoting the well-being of children worldwide and protecting their rights. This resolution by the General Assembly highlights important issues of children’s rights and interests, particularly their ability to express their views in matters that affect them either directly or through a representative, and their ability to participate in decisions that impact their lives. The U.S. is committed to this principle.

And many U.S. states have already put in place offices of child advocates or ombudspersons. These child advocates provide an important vehicle through which children can make sure their voices are heard in crucial matters that affect them, such as child custody, foster care, and juvenile justice. It also underscores key protections for children against exploitation and promotes their health, which are core principles in which the United States believes both domestically and internationally.

The U.S. is joining consensus on this resolution, and we also join consensus on the similar resolution from 1995 to 2001.

QUESTION: You are not joining the treaty?

MR. KELLY: Sorry?

QUESTION: You are not joining the treaty? Have you made a decision whether you are going to ratify the treaty or not, or are you conducting a policy review?

MR. KELLY: You may be asking about a different thing that I just gave you an answer to. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, I’m not asking about a resolution.

MR. KELLY: Oh, okay. We have a --

QUESTION: So, yeah.

MR. KELLY: We have an answer to the resolution. Are you talking about the Convention on the Rights of the Child?

QUESTION: That was the treaty, international treaty.

MR. KELLY: Okay. Well, I got long talking points on something totally different. (Laughter.) Okay. Here’s your answer.

Supporting this resolution is not an indication of intent to submit the Convention on the Rights of the Child for ratification to Congress. Any decision to pursue ratification of the convention will result from an interagency policy review that is looking at many human rights treaties to which we are not party, including the CRC. We support the goals of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and are committed to undertaking a thorough and thoughtful review of it.

So there’s your answer. We’re conducting a policy review of it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Okay. Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:47 p.m.)