Daily Press Briefing - May 11, 2011
Index for Today's Briefing:
- Secretary's Trip to Nuuk, Greenland / Seventh Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council / Interior Secretary Salazar
- Badruddin Haqqani / Global Terrorist Designation / Assets / Haqqani Network
- Peace Corps / Congressional Testimony / Sexual Assault Victims / Country Team Member / Diplomatic Security
- Iran's Nuclear Program / Letter to EU High Representative Catherine Ashton / Negotiations / P5+1 / Consulting with Partners
- Detained Hikers / Swiss Protecting Power / Seeking Additional Information / Consular Access
- Al Jazeera Correspondent / Seeking Additional Information / Deportation, Iran and Syria / No Privacy Act Waiver
- Legislation / Assistance / Legitimate Concerns / Senator Kerry Travel
- Wives of Usama Bin Ladin
- Mumbai Attacks / Counterterrorism Cooperation
- Violent Actions / Window is Narrowing / Legitimate Aspirations of Its People / Sanctions / United Nations / Denouncing Violence / Consulting with Countries in Region / Ambassador Ford / Options / Monitoring Events
- UN Secretary General Call, Ceasefire, Terms
- Mahmoud Jibril
- Frank and Candid Exchange / Issues of Global Importance / Usama bin Ladin / Al Qaida
- Prime Minister Maliki, U.S. Military Presence / Iraqi Leadership Decision / Close Consultations
Daily Press Briefing
1:47 p.m. EDT
MR. TONER: Welcome to the State Department. Just very briefly from the top, as you know, the Secretary is en route to Nuuk, Greenland, where she’ll attend the Seventh Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council. And this is worth noting that this is the first time the U.S. delegation to a ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council has been led by the Secretary of State. Also reflecting the importance of the Arctic to the United States, it’s worth noting Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar is also attending the ministerial. Obviously, this is indicative of the importance that we place on the Arctic Council as the preeminent intergovernmental forum for cooperation in the Arctic, and we’re committed to strengthening it to meet the challenges of the future.
QUESTION: This is the first time in – what? – seven years, seven meetings?
MR. TONER: I believe this is the seventh ministerial meeting. I think I said that --
QUESTION: And this is the first time that the U.S. has deigned to send a minister to a ministerial meeting, and that shows how important it is?
MR. TONER: Well, Matt --
QUESTION: The short answer should be yes. When was the last one?
MR. TONER: We are – the last ministerial was --
QUESTION: Was it this Administration?
MR. TONER: It was – hold on, I have the list here, when the last ministerial was. It was in – there was a deputy ministers meeting in Copenhagen, not a ministers meeting. That was on May 27th of last year. And then in 2009, there was a ministerial meeting in Norway.
QUESTION: Which – who attended?
MR. TONER: I don't know. But in any case – look, Matt, we are very committed to this organization and we are --
MR. TONER: All right. Any other questions today?
QUESTION: Not on that.
QUESTION: Yeah. Can we go back to the --
MR. TONER: Sure --
QUESTION: -- the Iranian letter that was sent to the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton? You’ve had a day to look at it, and a spokeswoman for Ashton says that there’s basically nothing new there and they see nothing to justify a new meeting with the Iranians. Is that the U.S. position as well?
MR. TONER: I think we’ve – as we said yesterday, we are – we’re only interested in serious negotiations that talk about Iran’s nuclear program. We have been looking at the letter and, obviously, consulting with our P-5+1 partners on this. But we’ve also been very candid in saying that unless there’s a reason to meet, we shouldn’t meet.
QUESTION: So I mean, just so it’s clear --
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, she does speak for you, right? Because – or for the P-5+1?
MR. TONER: She does speak for the P-5+1. And again – but I would just say that we’re consulting with our partners on next steps or a way forward.
QUESTION: Mark --
QUESTION: So you have no opinion on it? When the Europeans say that they don’t think this is the right time for a meeting, you don’t seem to have --
MR. TONER: I think I just said – I’m sorry if I was unclear. I think I just said that we are, obviously, still looking at the letter and considering it. But we support High Representative Ashton’s comments that this is a – that we’re only – we’re most – we’re interested only in serious negotiations here and that Iran needs to address its nuclear program. That’s the --
QUESTION: Have you heard from the Swiss --
MR. TONER: -- bottom line.
QUESTION: -- about the reason why the trial was – the resumption of the trial was postponed?
MR. TONER: We don’t, actually, Matt. We’re trying to seek more details on that. They weren’t brought – as we understand it, they weren’t brought to the courthouse today for the trial that was expected, as you note, to occur today. And the Iranian Government hasn’t provided us an explanation for why not. So we have reached out through our Swiss protecting power to seek additional information.
QUESTION: Do you know why one of your deputy assistant secretaries of state would have told senators in a hearing this morning on the Hill that you’re hopeful that the postponement or the non-resumption is a good omen?
MR. TONER: Well, I would just say that we are hopeful that the Iranian Government will recognize the fact that these individuals have been held now for nearly two years, they have not been charged formally, and that they should be released on humanitarian grounds, and that we’re hopeful that that message has gotten through.
QUESTION: But you don’t know why he would say that you’re hopeful that this is a good – or why this might be a good omen?
MR. TONER: I think we’re waiting, Matt, to get more information from our Swiss protecting power.
QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that their release is imminent?
MR. TONER: No. We don’t, frankly. We’re obviously always hopeful that they’ll be released, and again, it’s been far too long that they’ve been held. But we’re reaching out through the Swiss to get more information.
QUESTION: Did you get any clarity on the question from yesterday --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) currently has been --
QUESTION: Can I stay on this one for a second?
MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead, and then we’ll go back to you.
QUESTION: Did you get any clarity on the question yesterday about whether there had been a subsequent request from the Swiss to visit them since the October visit?
MR. TONER: They’ve been asking for regular consular access, and I noted yesterday that the last visit was October 26th in 2010. And obviously, we’re – we are concerned about their health, given the prolonged detention, which is another reason why we think they should be released.
QUESTION: Can you just say whether any of those requests have just gone unanswered or outright rejected, or how – what’s your characterization of --
MR. TONER: I mean, I can tell you that they’ve not been granted regular consular access to Josh and --
MR. TONER: -- and Shane. Thank you. But we continue to seek that access, but I can’t tell you what the Iranian reason has been.
QUESTION: Can we stay on Iran?
MR. TONER: Sure. Actually, this gentleman – yeah.
QUESTION: Sir, do you know another American apparently is in Iranian custody? I refer to Dorothy Parvaz, the Al Jazeera correspondent who is an American citizen. And apparently, the Syrians transferred her from their detention to Iranian detention. And I’m just wondering if you could give the Department’s analysis of that situation, and also whether the U.S. Government has asked Syria why they did this. And what efforts are being made on her behalf?
MR. TONER: Well, we do continue to ask and press the Syrian authorities for more information regarding the circumstances of her deportation. But to this point, we’ve just seen the Syrian statement that refers to her deportation to Iran. We’re obviously concerned about her well-being as an American citizen and are working to get more detail. And to that end, we’ve again reached out to our Swiss protecting power. But to this point, we just have really the Syrian statement that she’s been deported to go on. We’re seeking more information, obviously, and again reaching out through the Swiss to verify that she is in Iran and, indeed if she is, if we can get access to her.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) said she went in --
MR. TONER: And also, I believe she has Canadian citizenship as well, so we’re coordinating --
QUESTION: Yes, Iranian and American.
MR. TONER: Yeah. We’re coordinating with the – we’re just – I think at this point, it’s safe to say we’re very concerned and we’re reaching out for more information both in Iran – or to the Iranians as well as to the Syrians to find out what the circumstances were.
QUESTION: And you cannot confirm the reports that she was traveling on an expired Iranian passport in --
MR. TONER: I want to be careful in what I say because she has not signed a Privacy Act waiver.
QUESTION: Change of topic?
QUESTION: Can we stick with Iran?
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: Actually, how do you know she hasn’t signed a Privacy Act waiver? Has anyone from the American – has any American official ever --
MR. TONER: I’ve forgotten this is your particular --
MR. TONER: -- soap box here.
QUESTION: And when exactly would she have had the opportunity to sign one?
MR. TONER: Well, that’s a fair point. We were not given access to her in Damascus. But barring that access, she has not signed a Privacy Act waiver, so I can’t give details. I – but I’m not sure how pertinent it is to --
QUESTION: Do you have --
MR. TONER: But again, Matt, I’m not sure how pertinent it is to what I just said, which is that we don’t know where she is right now.
QUESTION: I know. Exactly. You’re hiding behind a Privacy Act waiver when you don’t have any details.
MR. TONER: Not really. I don’t think I – I’ve been pretty forth --
QUESTION: Do you have any details that you could give that you otherwise --
MR. TONER: She asked about her – she asked about her citizenship. She is an American citizen. We’ve confirmed that. But I don’t want to get into details of what other citizenship she may have. I think that’s within the Privacy Act purview.
QUESTION: Mark, this morning, you put out an executive order against Haqqani Network leader, and I just had two questions on that. One is U.S. officials have earlier talked about the possible ties between the Haqqani Network and the ISI, so is there any plan also to put further pressure on ISI to sever these ties with the Haqqani Network?
And secondly, India too has a 50 Most Wanted List. It includes Dawood Ibrahim and Hafiz Saeed, who are currently supposed to be in Pakistan. Does the State Department have any plan on also going after them and designating them as terrorists?
MR. TONER: Well, thank you for noting that today we did announce a designation of Badruddin Haqqani as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224. In addition to this domestic listing, or U.S.-specific listing, he was also listed at the United Nations 1267 Sanctions Committee. And this, of course, requires member-states to implement an assets freeze, a travel ban, and an arms embargo against him.
Specifically, our executive order would address any assets that he holds under U.S. jurisdiction – it would freeze them, essentially – and also prohibit any U.S. citizens to engage with him in any of these transactions. So again, this is part of a broader effort, international effort, to cut off his ties, cut off his business dealings, cut off his access to funding, et cetera.
But speaking to your second – what was your first question again? Was it in terms of ISI?
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, U.S. officials have talked openly in the past about possible links between the ISI and Haqqani Network, so when you come out with an order like this, does the U.S. also now plan to put further pressure on the ISI to sever these supposed ties with Haqqani Network? That’s part one.
MR. TONER: Well, again, these are concerns, as you said, that have been talked about publicly before. Our effort is focused on trying to put pressure on the Haqqani Network to limit their access to funding, financing, to limit their business dealings, and to limit their areas where they can seek refuge, in order to put pressure on an organization that is a serious threat both to Afghanistan as well as to coalition forces there.
QUESTION: Mark --
QUESTION: And what of the ISI? I mean --
MR. TONER: It’s --
QUESTION: So the second part, please. There’s also 50 Most Wanted List in India which includes Dawood Ibrahim and Hafiz Saeed. Does the State Department have any plans or is it looking into also designating these individuals under any special executive order?
MR. TONER: You said – I’m sorry, what were the names again?
QUESTION: Hafiz Saeed?
MR. TONER: Okay. We have, obviously, as you know, designated key leaders of the Haqqani network – Sirajuddin, Nasiruddin, and Khalil Haqqani – as these specially designated global terrorists. Other options obviously remain on the table, but those are who we’ve done to date.
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: First --
MR. TONER: And then – no, wait, do you want to stay on Pakistan?
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.
MR. TONER: We should stay on Pakistan --
MR. TONER: -- and then we’ll get to you, Rosalind.
QUESTION: Can I ask –
MR. TONER: Tejinder, go ahead.
QUESTION: You have just listed three Haqqani leaders. Are you planning to designate the Haqqani network?
MR. TONER: At this point, there is –
QUESTION: How can they work without the network?
MR. TONER: Well, again, at this point, there’s no plans to designate the Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organization. As you know, we don’t generally talk about that process.
QUESTION: So do you mean to say that the U.S. doesn’t – is allowing Haqqani network to work while stopping their leaders so that they can train their leaders?
MR. TONER: Tejinder, again, what I just said was – is that we don’t talk about the process to name organizations to the – as foreign terrorist organizations for obvious reasons. They would – we would signal to them how to – that they could take their – withdraw assets from overseas organizations, et cetera. So I really can’t talk about that process. Again, it’s safe to say that we view the Haqqani network as a serious threat to security in the region.
Yeah. Go ahead, Lalit.
QUESTION: Admiral Mullen, recently during his trip to Pakistan and India --
MR. TONER: You said Admiral Mullen?
QUESTION: Yeah. In an interview to the DAWN newspaper, he clearly said that Haqqani network has – ISI is supporting the Haqqani network. Now that you have designated three of the top commanders of the Haqqani network as global terrorists, do you plan to – is there any legal thing within the U.S. to take action against ISI because it is having links and supporting those commanders in the network?
MR. TONER: Again, our actions are focused on targeting the key individuals within the Haqqani network and, again, isolating them, limiting their access to financing and – et cetera.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. TONER: Sure, Goyal. No, let’s finish with – Goyal.
QUESTION: Yeah, just on – thank you.
MR. TONER: Sorry, Jill.
QUESTION: When we talk about the Haqqani network and also ISI links and all that, now I should go back as far as this death of Usama bin Ladin and his capture and –
MR. TONER: That’s only a week and a half ago.
QUESTION: Musharraf and now – and that time, General Kayani was the chief of ISI, and General Musharraf and both were involved as far as these activities against India and Haqqani network and also al-Qaida and concerned. My question is here, that according to the sources, this mansion was built by General Musharraf, and even President Bush had mentioned in his book that he was misled by General Musharraf. What I’m asking is: Where do we go from here as far as ISI link and Pakistani military links and all that? It’s – everything is one link.
MR. TONER: Right. Goyal, I think where we go from here has been clearly stated by the President, by the Secretary of State, and by other U.S. Government officials, which is that there are obvious questions raised by where bin Ladin was located and found and discovered, and we have raised those concerns with the Pakistani Government and we expect responses to those concerns.
QUESTION: To follow up quickly, what message do you have really for India as far as those wanted terrorists for 2611, I mean, in the – for the Mumbai attacks and all this?
MR. TONER: Mumbai attacks, yeah. In terms of – I mean, we’re committed with – to counterterrorism cooperation with India. Are you speaking about Pakistan or – I’m sorry, I’m – what’s my – what’s the actual question?
QUESTION: What message do you have for India as far as wanted terrorists who attacked the Mumbai and other –
MR. TONER: Our message is --
QUESTION: -- also parliament and other --
MR. TONER: Right. Our message is that we sympathize with India, which has also been the victims of terrorism, and we are committed to bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice, and we call on other countries to do the same.
QUESTION: Yeah, but Mark, simply –
MR. TONER: Goyal, let’s go to some other question. We can come back to it.
QUESTION: Syria – sorry, I’ll just --
MR. TONER: Is this another Pakistan question?
MR. TONER: Yeah, okay.
QUESTION: So Mark, two U.S. lawmakers have now introduced bills to freeze aid to Pakistan, given – in the light of all the events of last week. What is the State Department’s stand on this?
MR. TONER: The State Department’s stand remains that obviously, we can’t talk about pending legislation, but we have been closely consulting with Congress since the events of a week and a half ago, almost more than a week and – almost two weeks ago, and we hear their concerns. They are legitimate concerns, given the circumstances of where bin Ladin was found. And – but we believe, and we’ve also been making this point, that our counterterrorism cooperation and our assistance to Pakistan is in the long-term national security interests of the United States as well as in the long-term interest of building a – or interest of building a stronger, more prosperous, and more democratic Pakistan.
QUESTION: Legitimate concerns, and how does one deal with these legitimate concerns?
MR. TONER: How does one deal with them? Well, we – I think we go to the Pakistanis, which we’ve done, and we say these are our concerns and you need to address them in a clear and coherent way.
QUESTION: Did you say --
QUESTION: Last question, I’ll just be done.
MR. TONER: What did I say?
QUESTION: When you say it’s good for Pakistan and good for the United States, maybe you could stop a lot of questions in this room if you also said the U.S. believes that U.S.-Pakistan cooperation is also good for India.
MR. TONER: Sure. (Laughter.) It’s good for the region.
QUESTION: I have one last –
MR. TONER: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Senator Kennedy is heading to the region, Pakistan, later on. He has announced that.
MR. TONER: Senator Kerry, right.
QUESTION: Kerry, I’m sorry. Senator Kerry, yes. And what kind of consultation have you had with him? What are you expecting him to do? Is he going to send something from the Secretary? Is someone from the State Department going to be traveling with him? What is –
MR. TONER: No one from the –
QUESTION: -- the plan for --
MR. TONER: Right. Obviously, he’s the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and traveling in that capacity. We’ve obviously, as we always do with Senator Kerry, have been in close consultation with him, but he’s traveling there in his role as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee head, and –
QUESTION: Well, it goes to the point –
MR. TONER: -- nobody’s traveling with him.
QUESTION: -- which is there’s a lot of talk up on Capitol Hill –
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: -- that they want to cut off money. Is this –
MR. TONER: Again, I – you’ll have to – I mean, I’ll refer you to Senator Kerry about his – what his priorities or agenda are for his trip, but I can only guess that they’ll be talking about the future of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.
QUESTION: Do you plan to debrief him?
QUESTION: Is he going at the behest of the Secretary?
MR. TONER: No, this is his travel on – as the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And obviously –
QUESTION: He can travel as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee –
MR. TONER: No. In answer to your question, no.
QUESTION: -- but still do so at the request of the Administration –
MR. TONER: No.
QUESTION: -- or – so he’s not carrying any message from the Administration?
MR. TONER: We obviously consult closely with him, but he’s going there as the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he’s fully capable. This is someone with a very long history with Pakistan, who understands the relationship very well, and is obviously fully up to speed on some of those concerns.
QUESTION: The last question on --
QUESTION: The last time he went there was in connection with the Davis case.
MR. TONER: It was.
QUESTION: And he was going on behest – at the behest of the Administration.
MR. TONER: And I said – I think I said no in this case.
QUESTION: So there is a difference between this trip and the last trip, not just in terms of the circumstances surrounding it, but also you have not asked him to go?
MR. TONER: We have not asked him to go.
QUESTION: Last question, I’ll just wind this up.
QUESTION: Have you replied to the – have you got a reply to the access for the wives of Usama?
MR. TONER: I think I said what I’m going to say on that yesterday, which is that we continue to cooperate on – with the Pakistani Government. We’re encouraged by that cooperation on access to information. Obviously, it will include access to these individuals.
QUESTION: The last --
MR. TONER: I don’t really want to get into it beyond that. This is – these are intelligence matters, so I don’t want to delve too deeply.
QUESTION: Mark, on Syria, you already --
MR. TONER: Sorry, I know you’re --
QUESTION: We know the situation that’s going on right now. Yesterday, you said that the information you were getting is that they were extending this crackdown to areas that actually are peaceful, so in other words, it’s getting worse. Is it time – we ask this question every day, but we really need to know – is it time for the United States to say that Asad has lost his legitimacy, and call for him to step down?
MR. TONER: Well, Jill, you’re right in saying that they continue to extend their violent actions against peaceful demonstrators. Obviously, today, there was reports that they’ve been – began shelling homes again with tanks, direct fire from tanks. We’re obviously looking to confirm those reports. But whether they’re accurate or not, we can say that these repressive measures, namely the ongoing campaign of arbitrary arrests, the denial of medical care to wounded persons, inhumane conditions of detainees are barbaric measures that amount to collective punishment of innocent civilians.
As I think I said yesterday to a question Matt raised, the Syrian Government needs to realize that its approach is not in the best interests of Syria and the window is narrowing for the Syrian Government to shift focus from its outright repression and towards meeting the legitimate aspirations of its people.
QUESTION: If it’s barbaric, if it’s barbaric, then, again, why are you pulling your punches? Why is the United States not calling on --
MR. TONER: Jill, I don’t think we’re --
QUESTION: What’s the value in this?
MR. TONER: -- pulling our punches in any way. We’ve issued sanctions against some of the individuals we believe are responsible for these operations, and the operational aspects of this crackdown. We’ve taken it to the UN, the UN has acted, and the UN Human Rights Council has opened an investigation into human rights abuses there. There is – there are many within the international community, including the EU, who have also issued sanctions against Syria that are concerned about what’s happening there. So I – again, it’s important to say that we’ve been absolutely coherent and crystal clear in denouncing the violence that the Syrian Government has been carrying out against its people.
QUESTION: Are there any countries that are cautioning the U.S. against a further condemnation or punishment of Syria, and if so, why?
MR. TONER: Look, we continue to consult both with countries in the region as well as our partners in the EU and elsewhere. There is a high level of concern about what’s happening in Syria among many of our partners and allies, and we’re looking for the best way to address it. We’ve issued sanctions. We’ve – we have UN action. We’ve said we’re going to hold them accountable for these human rights abuses. We’ve publicly been denouncing the actions of the government. We’ve been conveying our concerns on a consistent basis privately to Ambassador Ford in Damascus. So we continue to seek ways to address this.
QUESTION: You have President Asad’s cousin telling reporters we’re not going to go out without a fight, we will fight to the death to hold on to control of Syria. There is this ongoing repression that we’re watching out playing in real time. Why is this situation different from the situation that was in Libya which has led to this ongoing NATO air campaign?
MR. TONER: Well, Rosalind, I again – I don’t want to get into comparing and implying that there’s some kind of cookie-cutter approach to each of these situations.
QUESTION: But the (inaudible) --
MR. TONER: I understand.
QUESTION: -- is playing out in very similar ways.
MR. TONER: Again, all of these situations are unique. That said, there is clearly a level of violence taking place in Syria that has – increasingly has the international community’s attention and has raised concern among the international community, including the United States. We have taken steps to address some of these concerns through sanctions. We’ve raised them consistently with the Syrian Government. We’re going to continue to do that, and other options remain on the table. And I think I said earlier there’s a window here and that window is narrowing.
Yeah. Go ahead, Kirit.
QUESTION: I just wanted to actually ask you about that part that you just repeated, that you said that the window is narrowing. What exactly do you mean by that? Are you referring to domestic pressures in – within Syria or are you referring to some potential action by the U.S. and the international community?
MR. TONER: I think I’ll leave it with where I said it – with what I said, which is that there’s a window here for the Syrian Government to address those concerns, and that’s closing rapidly. We also – what we said yesterday, and I reiterate today, is that this kind of repression doesn’t bolster Syria’s security; it only strengthens the opposition’s resolve. And so you talked about some of these domestic pressures; that’s not going to go away by continuing to crack down on these individuals.
QUESTION: Can you shed any light on that? I mean, you said, I think, at least three times now – I mean, what are you referring to when you talk about a window?
MR. TONER: Well --
QUESTION: And what sort of timeline are you talking about here?
MR. TONER: I’m not going to get into timelines. We’ve said – we’ve issued sanctions. There’s the option for more sanctions. There’s other – there’s a lot of options out there that remain open, and we’re going to continue to monitor these events very, very closely.
QUESTION: Why should we leave that as the international community is starting to coalesce around some sort of forceful response?
MR. TONER: I think it’s safe to say the international community is increasingly concerned about the situation in Syria. We continue to consult with our partners and allies on ways forward.
QUESTION: But the concern isn’t stopping the reported shelling, it isn’t stopping the crackdown on protests.
MR. TONER: I’m very much aware, Rosalind, of – and we are here, obviously, as I said, monitoring the situation closely of these barbaric actions on behalf of the Syrian Government.
QUESTION: Buthaina Shaaban – she is the advisor to President Asad – was quoted in The New York Times yesterday saying that the statements coming from Washington are not so bad. How do you respond to that? (Laughter.)
MR. TONER: Let me just say we don’t throw the word “barbaric” around here very often. Look, as I said, there are – you raise that article, and I think she talked about their focus on – of the Syrian Government. I would just say that we believe their focus should be on meeting the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and not on how many – how much violence or how many deaths it would take to force them into submission.
MR. TONER: I’m not going to talk about the helicopter.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: No, no, hold on.
QUESTION: Just one question about Usama’s son.
MR. TONER: Sure. Let’s let – and then I’ll get the – Matt, I’ll get back right – yeah.
QUESTION: One of Usama bin Ladin’s sons – there were reports in the British media that this 22-year-old son is possibly missing and might not have been killed in the attack.
MR. TONER: Yeah. I mean, I’m aware of those – these reports. I don’t have any information.
Go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the criticism that was leveled at the Peace Corps this morning in testimony on the Hill?
MR. TONER: I do.
QUESTION: Is it really lengthy? Because if it is, you can just give it to me later.
MR. TONER: (Laughter.) It’s --
QUESTION: No, you can read it.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) other people.
MR. TONER: It’s not.
MR. TONER: It’s not very lengthy, Matt. But it’s --
QUESTION: Well, then why (inaudible) you ask?
MR. TONER: It’s important. Obviously, we’re all aware of the article this morning as well as the – some of the testimony today.
QUESTION: I don’t know about an article. I’m talking about the testimony.
MR. TONER: Yeah, and the testimony today on the Hill. It’s important to stress that the victims of sexual assault deserve nothing but our compassion and support. I believe the Peace Corps has apologized for any additional pain that the agency may have inflicted on these individuals. The Peace Corps of today, obviously, takes the issue of sexual assault prevention and response seriously and are dedicated to providing victim-centered care. And under Director Williams’ leadership, the agencies also implement a number of measures to expand their ability and commitment to prevent and respond to sexual assaults.
QUESTION: Can you explain what DS’s role in all this is?
MR. TONER: Well, I think on the level of the country team, obviously, the Peace Corps is a member of the country team at any mission where it’s – it has an active program, and therefore, the security and welfare of volunteers are discussed at the country team meeting and are part of that under the direction of the chief of mission, the ambassador. And so the regional security officer, who is Diplomatic Security, would obviously be involved in the security of volunteers, whatever security situation they may face. Obviously, given the nature of Peace Corps volunteers’ work, often villages that are isolated and they live in the community among families often, that – there’s obvious challenges there to their security.
QUESTION: Two quick ones. Coming back to Arshad’s question about the Iranian letter, does the ongoing review have a delay connected to it? Because according to the Russians, who built a reactor, Bushehr, that reactor is now operational.
MR. TONER: Does the ongoing delay – once again, your --
QUESTION: In your commenting on this letter --
MR. TONER: I’m just saying we have – we got the letter yesterday. Arshad said we should – that should be plenty of time, but we’re looking at the letter.
MR. TONER: (Laughter.) Sorry, Arshad. I’m putting words in your mouth. That’s unfair. That never happens to me. (Laughter.) I was paraphrasing.
In any case, look, we’re looking at the letter. Obviously, High Representative Ashton has made clear that the P-5+1 is interested in serious negotiations that address Iran’s nuclear program, and that’s really our bottom line.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the secretary general’s call for a ceasefire in Libya that came out in the last hour or so?
MR. TONER: Yeah. I mean, I think he’s saying – he’s calling for what exactly we’ve been calling for, which is that the terms of any viable ceasefire should be an end in all attacks on and abuse of civilians; the withdrawal of all Qadhafi regime forces from areas they forcibly occupied; the restoration of utilities such as water, gas, and electricity to these areas; and the unimpeded flow of humanitarian assistance to all locations in Libya. The Secretary has cited these same terms, and repeatedly
QUESTION: When is the Jibril meeting with Steinberg? Is that today?
MR. TONER: Jibril is on Friday, and then he’ll also meet with officials from USAID as well as, I believe, the Department of Defense and Treasury Department.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Sorry, that’s the Secretary on Friday?
MR. TONER: No, no, that’s – Mahmoud Jibril is in town.
QUESTION: And --
QUESTION: Oh, Steinberg.
MR. TONER: Deputy Secretary.
QUESTION: Just to --
MR. TONER: The Secretary obviously met with Jibril in Rome last week.
QUESTION: Just a quick one on, again, the --
MR. TONER: I’ll get to you, Michel.
QUESTION: -- just-concluded U.S.-China dialogue. Was there any explicit mention about Pakistan, Usama bin Ladin, and --
MR. TONER: I think they even mentioned that in one of these readouts. They did talk about bin Ladin’s --
QUESTION: Can you give us background on that, something --
MR. TONER: Yes.
QUESTION: -- more about than the – just the --
MR. TONER: Well, obviously, it was discussed as a matter of – as an issue of global importance and significance, and also to highlight our ongoing counterterrorism efforts. But beyond that, I don’t have much to offer.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Pakistanis playing the China card, so was that --
MR. TONER: Again, I can’t get into the details of their discussions beyond the fact that they had a frank and candid exchange. They talked about the significance of bin Ladin’s death and, frankly, the benefit of bin Ladin’s death to disrupting al-Qaida.
QUESTION: Mark, on Iraq.
MR. TONER: Sure, I’ll get to you, Matt.
QUESTION: Iraqi prime minister has said that he might ask thousands of U.S. troops to remain in the country next year if the main political party is back. They requested a meeting this month. In the past, Maliki has said that there would be no U.S. troops past this year. How do you view this statement today?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I’m not going to attempt to explain Prime Minister Maliki’s remarks. That’s for him to do. But I would just say that this is an important decision that the Iraqi leadership will be making based upon what it believes are in the best interests of its country – of their country, rather.
QUESTION: Are you in discussion with the Iraqi Government regarding this issue? And when do you expect an answer?
MR. TONER: I think it’s a decision for the Iraqi Government to make. But obviously, bilaterally, we’re always in close consultation with our Iraqi partners.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to Julian Assange winning the gold medal from the Sydney Peace Foundation, an award that has also gone in the past to Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama?
MR. TONER: No.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:22 p.m.)
DPB # 64