Daily Press Briefing - May 29, 2012

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Expelled Charge d'Affaires Zuheir Jabbour / Massacre in Village of Houla
    • Russian Investigation
    • Kofi Annan Statement / UN Chapter 7 Resolution / UN Monitors
    • Qods Force Training / Shabiha Force / Ethnic Cleansing
    • Nepalese Constitution
    • Magnitsky Case
    • Ambassador McFaul Speech in Moscow
    • Repatriation of U.S. Soldiers' Remains
    • David Hale Continuing Work
    • Secretary Clinton's Discussion with Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh
    • Need for Negotiations
    • Incarceration of Dr. Afridi
    • India's Regional Role
Victoria Nuland
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 29, 2012


12:52 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: And Matt is back. Welcome back.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: I have nothing at the top. Let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Can we start with Syria? I’m just wondering – on Friday, 108 people were massacred, and today, Tuesday – I’m recognizing yesterday was a holiday – but the considered response of the U.S. and its allies is to expel a bunch of Syrian diplomats? I’m wondering: one, how exactly is this going to stop the violence; and two, just specifically as it relates to the U.S. decision, are there any Syrian diplomats left at the Embassy here? And if there are, why do you not make the message even tougher and send them all back home?

MS. NULAND: Well, first, just to confirm the news that you have, Matt, that this morning we called in Syrian Charge d’Affaires Zuheir Jabbour and informed him that he is no longer welcome in the United States and gave him 72 hours to depart. We took this action in response to the massacre in the village of Houla – absolutely indefensible, vile, despicable massacre against innocent children, women, shot at point-blank range by regime thugs, the shabiha, aided and abetted by the Iranians, who were actually bragging about it over the weekend.

We did not take action against the remaining civil servants in the mission, of which there are a handful, primarily because they are simple civil service members of the Syrian Government as compared to the charge, and before him the ambassador, who are personal representatives of Assad and the Makhlouf clan that is running that country.

We obviously are in consultations with our allies and partners. As you know, this decision to kick out the charge was done in coordination with other countries – Australia, Canada, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, and Germany also took the same action today. As you know, the GCC countries had previously expelled ambassadors from their country.

We are consulting in New York. We are consulting with our allies and partners on what more we can do to pressure the regime and we will continue to look at that. I think you know that Kofi Annan’s deputy will make a report in New York tomorrow, and we expect a full range of consultations on Syria in New York tomorrow.

QUESTION: One, do you know, when you say “a handful” that are left at the Embassy here, do you not have a more specific number?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to refer you to them. I don’t have a breakdown of who the diplomats versus –

QUESTION: Okay. And then I don’t understand; why make a distinction? I mean, these people work for the Syrian Government, which is – I mean, are there concerns? Do you have – or do they have fears about returning home? I mean, are you allowing them to – I mean, the Canadians kicked out all the Syrians.

MS. NULAND: A couple of countries kicked out everybody, but those were countries that had teeny, teeny missions. These are, from our perspective, mid- and low-level functionaries as compared to the political appointees and those who bear direct responsibility for representing this regime.

QUESTION: All right. And then just my last – I just want to – just to – the answer – to try and get an answer to the first question that I asked, which was: How is this going to stop the violence?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, this is a political measure. This is a statement of our extreme disapproval and horror at the massacre. We will obviously continue to look at other ways we can pressure the regime economically, politically, diplomatically, and continue to try to tighten the noose. And we will do that in New York and we will do that in capitals over the coming days.

QUESTION: Why not simply close the Embassy, shut them down?

MS. NULAND: Again, those who are left are technical staff. It is – what was important is to send a message to the political level and those who represent the regime and the leadership directly, and that’s what we’ve done.

QUESTION: But wouldn’t that send a message – a further message? It begs the question: Why leave it open? Is there any purpose to leaving that open?

MS. NULAND: Again, this is a handful of technical staff who are left. So that was our decision.

QUESTION: A similar question, though. I mean, if you’ve got this handful of staff left, what is the current state of the diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Damascus? When you withdrew Ambassador Ford, you made the point that the Embassy here was open and this allowed you – and having you to communicate directly with Assad and company. Now that avenue’s presumably been closed. Are there diplomatic relations still extant? And if so, how are they being conducted?

MS. NULAND: Well, you can have diplomatic relations without actually having representation. That’s – we have not made a decision to break relations.


QUESTION: It has been the thinking all along that maintaining – skeletal as it may be – some sort of diplomatic presence for both countries is a good thing in the long run. Do you agree with that?

MS. NULAND: Again, our view is that these are civil servants, these are technical staff, these are the same people who if and when – and there will come a when – the Assad regime goes, and we’re into a transition, that they will have to restart the relationship. So we are not opposed to the low- and mid-level technical staff remaining.

QUESTION: So it is likely that the mission will continue to operate, considering that there are a lot of Syrian Americans that may need –

MS. NULAND: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- the facility to conduct their business, correct?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, the mission has not been closed.


QUESTION: Can you say when you last had contact with the charge, Jabbour, and what kind of conversations you’ve had with them during this period, and how valuable had it been to have such contacts?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we saw him this morning to tell him that he was no longer welcome here. Prior to that our conversations had largely been technical and had to do with, first, before we closed our own mission, relaying through him our concerns about our mission, and then a number of other small technical things. But we had not been doing the political relationship, if you will, through that channel at all for some time.


QUESTION: Are you considering with your partners to expel the ambassador of the UN – the Syrian ambassador from the UN?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, we have not looked at that step. As you know, the UN operates in a different manner than our bilateral relationships.

QUESTION: But can you take the same --

QUESTION: We’re partners, because you just – you took this decision; you are in coordination with your partners?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, we haven’t broached that issue. As you know, it would probably have to be a decision of the General Assembly requiring a – I actually don’t even know what the rules would be for such a thing.


QUESTION: So in Kofi Annan’s conversation with Sergey Lavrov today, Lavrov said that they wanted an objective, impartial probe of what happened. So do you see that there is movement with Russia on its position vis-a-vis more action on Syria through the UN or through other means?

MS. NULAND: Well, let’s start with the fact that we put responsibility for this massacre firmly at the feet of the Assad regime. We are appreciative of the fact that the Russians are willing to have a full investigation, because we think it’s undisputable what that investigation is going to show. It’s going to show that these were regime-sponsored thugs who went into villages, went into homes and killed children at point-blank range and their parents, and that the responsibility goes right back to the Assad regime.

So from that perspective, is this going to be a turning point in Russian thinking? We hope so.


QUESTION: Victoria --

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with Kofi Annan’s statement after he met with President Assad?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think he is doing what he can to try to convince a man who would send thugs into a village to kill women and children to do the right thing here and to stop the violence. He is a man who believes in continuing to talk. That said, from our perspective, the only thing that Assad is going to listen to is pressure.

QUESTION: Victoria, you said something about regime thugs and Iranian thugs were bragging about what they did. Could you tell us a little more about that?

MS. NULAND: Over the weekend we had the deputy head of the Qods Force saying publicly that they were proud of the role that they had played in training and assisting the Syrian forces; and look what this has wrought.


QUESTION: Just on that Russia point, Toria, you were saying you hope it’s a turning point. But it could also be interpreted as they’re kind of temporizing, just putting it off, let’s have an investigation, saying something good but the motive actually is just to put this off. Isn’t that a possibility, too?

MS. NULAND: Well, that’s been a concern all along is continuing to give Assad more and more time not to implement his obligations. That said, we do have UN monitors on the ground. They’re not organized for this kind of an investigation, but they could support an investigation were the UN to get the right kind of people in there.

Regardless, there’s not any doubt in our mind who bears responsibility. We are going to have to talk about this again in New York and we’re going to start that tomorrow.

QUESTION: And just one other thing. I think it was Kofi Annan who used the word – the phrase “tipping point,” that we were at a tipping point. I mean, are we at a tipping point? Is there anything that is going to change this at this point? It seems that we go over this every day.

MS. NULAND: Well, from our perspective, this has been tipping in the wrong direction for a long time. What is interesting in terms of a tipping point inside Syria today is that in recognition of how horrific and how despicable these events were, you have Syrians all over the country out in the street protesting against their own government today. You have massive protests in Damascus and in other cities. So it may well be a tipping point of disgust and horror inside Syria, and our message again would be for any Syrians who are still supporting this regime, still firing on its orders, to look hard at what it is doing.

And again, the fact that Assad has to call in these shabiha thugs, has to hire thugs off the street to go do his dirty bidding, and has to get outside aid from his only friend left, the Iranians, speaks to his desperation. I mean, this is a regime, this is a guy, who has now run through more than half of the reserves of his nation fueling his military machine. And the Syrian people need to look hard – those who are still supporting him – at what it is bringing them.

QUESTION: Do you see any sign that this will be a tipping point as far as the UN Security Council goes?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re going to have that conversation tomorrow when we hear from Kofi’s deputy.

QUESTION: Victoria, do you have any options, I mean real options that can be adopted immediately, or are you just waiting out for the 90-day period to expire?

MS. NULAND: Well, as the Secretary has said for more than a month now, we reserve the right to go back to the UN for a Chapter 7 resolution, to tighten sanctions less in a bilateral way and more in a comprehensive way. Those are the kinds of things that we’re going to have to continue to look at.

QUESTION: Toria, just a couple of --


QUESTION: -- quick things. One, who delivered the – who gave the message to the charge?

MS. NULAND: Assistant Secretary Feltman [1].

QUESTION: Okay. So they’re both leaving (inaudible). Two, you said that – you spoke several times about it. You said Assad had to hire these people, thugs. You said at one point that he went – he called on a man who had sent thugs into a village to massacre people. Do you have – is there some evidence that these people were acting directly on Assad’s orders, or is that just something that you think it wouldn’t have happened unless they had an okay?

MS. NULAND: Well, it’s Assad and his regime who created this shabiha force to begin with. It very much models the Iranian Basiji model, where they hire young guys to indiscriminately wreak vengeance and do this kind of hand-to-hand violence. Whether he actually signed an order or whether he’s simply responsible for creating the force, giving it the kind of free will and impunity that allows this kind of thing to happen, it barely matters.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the last thing is on the – you said aided and abetted by the Iranians. Do you have information that this specific slaughter was aided and abetted by the Iranians? Or when you say that, are you just talking about their – what the Qods Force guys said, which seems to relate to the regular Syrian Army, who may not have played as big a role in this as the irregulars?

MS. NULAND: Again, the Iranians have clearly provided support and training and advice to the Syrian army, but this shabiha thug force mirrors the same force that the Iranians used. The Basiji and the shabiha are the same type of thing, and clearly reflects the tactics and the techniques that the Iranians used for their own suppression of civil rights.

QUESTION: I understand that, but when you – you seem to be making a direct link between Iran and this specific massacre.

MS. NULAND: We just find it interesting that it was on this very weekend that the deputy head of the Qods Force decided to take credit for the advice that they’re giving to Syria.


MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Is there any indication or evidence that this may be a sectarian revenge of some sort, or a sectarian tit for tat?

MS. NULAND: I don’t know what would possibly justify going into homes with guns and shooting children and women in their own homes. There’s nothing that can justify that.

QUESTION: So it is --

MS. NULAND: Obviously, this is taking place in a part of the country that the Assad regime has been trying to ethnically cleanse for some time, in outside of Homs, and they are not being successful. And now they are resorting to even more despicable tactics.


MS. NULAND: Please, on – anything else on Syria?

QUESTION: Just one more question.


QUESTION: You said that Kofi Annan prefers to keep talking, but you think that the pressure is the best way to go. Do you intend to go – to resort to anything outside the United Nation?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we’ve said, we reserve the right to consider all necessary options, but the Secretary has made clear that our next UN step is to pursue a Chapter 7 resolution.

Please, Jill.

QUESTION: Just one last clarification on the Russian part.


QUESTION: The statement by the Lavrov – or let’s say the actions calling for an investigation – is that coordinated with other countries? I mean, this – obviously with the seven countries or so who shut down – who expelled ambassadors, it was coordinated because it happened at the same time. Is the Russian action coordinated?

MS. NULAND: Not to my knowledge.


QUESTION: Toria, were there any observer during the incident in Houla?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have a full picture of that. Our understanding is that there were observers in the area, in the Homs area, who were able to quickly go and bear witness to what had happened. I mean, one of the reasons that we have such a clear understanding of the horror of this event is because the UN was able to get in there very quickly and bear witness. So – but I don’t think that they were on site when the massacre took place, and even so, as you know, they are unarmed. They were not in a position to stop it.

QUESTION: Yes. That’s why I asked this question, because Turkish president has criticized the number of observers in the country, and they – he said maybe it should be a thousand observer in the – I mean, in the area to observe what’s going on in the country. So do you think – I mean, if there weren’t any observer in this incident in the area, do you think that 300 or something like that are enough to observe what’s going on in Syria?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think our position is that we will see what the UN says going forward. They’ve only just gotten to the full strength of 300. It is clear that where observers are able to maintain a permanent presence in particular, we’ve seen Syrians able to exercise their political rights and come out into the street and speak for what they think is right, to begin to organize that kind of thing. But again, if you’re talking about a regime that is bound and determined to fire on its own people, unarmed monitors aren’t going to be able to get between the bullets and the citizens.




QUESTION: Nepal in chaos as far as political situation is concerned, and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, he has dissolved the national legislature because of – they could not get into this new constitution. And hundreds of thousands of people are in the streets demonstrating and protesting. Is there – is he asking any kind of help from the United States in this time?

MS. NULAND: Well, our Embassy and our Ambassador there have very much been observing the process all the way through, and certainly over the course of the weekend and – that we have strongly supported the people of Nepal as they’ve worked towards peacefully trying to resolve the complexities of the current political situation and trying to build on their current progress to get to a constitution.

So our – we continue to call for this process to be peaceful. It has been peaceful so far. That’s what’s important as they continue to talk to each other about a foundational document that’ll meet the needs of all Nepalese.

QUESTION: Now he has announced for a new election in November. Is – U.S. is going to help in any way or they are – are they talking with the U.S. on this election process also?

MS. NULAND: I think the focus, as you know, over the last few days has been trying to break the constitutional impasse. I think we need to see where that process goes before we give any views on next steps.


QUESTION: Yes. You may be aware that during this weekend, five different facilities owned by Pepsi Company in Mexico were burned down, were torched, they were firebombed by alleged members of the drug cartels. News agencies are calling this the worst attack against a U.S. corporation during this crime crackdown. Are you providing any assistance to U.S. corporations regarding security after this incident? Do you condemn the incident? And do you have any more information about the perpetrators?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think I’m going to take the question because my understanding is that we’re still gathering information from our nationals who were on site. So let me take the question.

In general, as you know, private U.S. companies are responsible for their own security, but let me take it in terms of what our response is and what our involvement has been.


QUESTION: A question on Russia, please.


QUESTION: Do you have anything more that you can tell us about the so-called Magnitsky list that would block Russians suspected of being involved in Mr. Magnitsky’s death?

MS. NULAND: Anything further than that we maintain our own sanctions on individuals that we consider responsible for aspects of the Magnitsky case, is that what you’re --

QUESTION: Well, and the suggestion that that list would be made public.

MS. NULAND: I don’t think we have any intention at the moment to make the list public. As you know, we are in discussions with Congress about a new piece of legislation that would potentially replace our targeted sanctions against individuals. And we’re continuing to talk to the Congress about what might be appropriate and what might work best for the human rights goals that we share.

QUESTION: Staying on Russia?


QUESTION: Just – what do you make of this latest spat over Ambassador McFaul?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that Ambassador McFaul gave a speech to a group of high school students – Higher – no, sorry, it was the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, so it must have been a university group – on Friday. And the speech was primarily about the benefits of the reset in U.S.-Russian relations. And in the Q&A period, something that he said seems to have been misunderstood or misinterpreted by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The point that he was trying to make is that in the current environment, we – the U.S. has a strong relationship with Kyrgyzstan. Russia has a strong relationship with Kyrgyzstan. And Kyrgyzstan is playing an important role in support of ISAF operations. And he was contrasting this to times past, in the Soviet era, when we used to compete over this sort of thing. And somehow, the Russian Government seems to have taken that amiss and they are trying to sort it out there in Moscow.


MS. NULAND: But his point was simply that we are actually in a new, more cooperative era, including with regard to Afghanistan.

QUESTION: So he didn’t say that the Russians tried to bribe the Kyrgyz to close Manas?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that there was a misinterpretation of what he said. And --

QUESTION: What did he actually say?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have a transcript of the Q&A section, but the point he was trying to make was in the past, in the Soviet period, we competed over these kinds of parts of the world. And now, we can talk about our relationship in an open and transparent way. That’s the point he was trying to make. I don’t have a transcript of what he actually said.

QUESTION: Okay. Was the point – he was trying to make the point that we – that the U.S. and Russia do not compete over pieces of property or for influence?

MS. NULAND: He was making the point that --

QUESTION: Because --

MS. NULAND: -- with --

QUESTION: -- I think the Georgians would have to have a problem with that.

MS. NULAND: He was making the point that with regard to Kyrgyzstan and the importance of the – Manas – of the facility there, and what it – the international airport and the transit center, that we are very transparent – the U.S. is – with Russia, with regard to the role that that center plays in ISAF operations, and with regard to our relationship with Kyrgyzstan – with regard to the base. And we ask for the same information and the same support from Russia. So it’s no longer this sort of secret competition that you had in the Soviet era.

QUESTION: Okay. But you – the United States does not then believe that the Russians tried to pay off the Kyrgyz to close down the base? Because, I mean, I was – that was pretty much the common understanding at the time that that was going on, that that – at the time that this was an issue, that that’s exactly what was going on. So I’m just wondering, I mean, he didn’t say – is your understanding that he didn’t say that? Or is it your understanding that he might have said it or it might have been misconstrued, but that the U.S. does not believe that the Russians were trying to thwart your having a base there?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to speak to Russian-Kyrgyz relations. The question you asked me was: What was McFaul trying to say in his presentation?

QUESTION: Well, I guess the question is, I mean --

MS. NULAND: And what he was trying to say is that times have changed and we are trying to be transparent about our – the shared importance of keeping the base open.

QUESTION: Does the repeated Russian, sort of, angst over Ambassador McFaul’s comments give you any pause? I mean, do you think he’s still a – an effective representative for the U.S. there, seeing as though every month now he seems to be getting at least public trouble with the foreign minister?

MS. NULAND: Well, the irony of this is that if you were at his presentation – and he hasn’t given too many public lectures – but this particular presentation – and as I say, I don’t have a transcript of the Q&A, but I do know what he used for the presentation – was all about the benefits that the reset in U.S.-Russian relations has brought for Russia, for citizens, for groups across the country and for the United States. So, as one of the architects of the President’s reset policy, he’s in a position not only to really understand the benefits, but also to try to continue to advance them. So it’s in that – from that perspective that we considered him an extremely strong ambassador.

QUESTION: But he doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job communicating those benefits if every time he opens his mouth the Russians have a fit.

MS. NULAND: Again, he is – he speaks plainly, he speaks clearly, he doesn’t mince words, he’s not a professional diplomat, and I think that for the Russian Government, the fact that he speaks clearly when things are going well and he speaks clearly when they’re going less well is something that they’re having to get used to.

QUESTION: Hold on a second. Does that mean that professional diplomats do not speak clearly? (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: I don’t know. You tell me. I’m up here trying to speak clearly on a daily basis. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, it seems to be a great admission – a great – you’re saying that he speaks the truth, unlike professional diplomats. (Laughter.) That seems to be what you say.

MS. NULAND: I’m saying that we are trained sometimes to circumvent --

QUESTION: Dissemble --

MS. NULAND: -- and he just lays it out the way he sees it.

QUESTION: Would you say that --

MS. NULAND: Present company excepted of course.

QUESTION: Would you say that American-Russian relations are where they ought to be? Are they good? Are they bad? Considering that in the last few days there has been some statements made that Russia is a major foe and the former secretary of state having to step in and say no, Russia is not a foe anymore. We have passed the Cold War era. How would you characterize current U.S.-Russian relations?

MS. NULAND: Said, that was an excellent attempt to try to draw me into an American political debate, which I’m not going to be drawn into, though.

QUESTION: No, I’m serious. I mean, this --

MS. NULAND: We’ve been very, very clear that we think that the reset policy has brought clear benefits for both countries: the New START Treaty, the Afghanistan relationship, working together on Iran, working together on North Korea. But at the same time, it gives us the ability and the depth of relationship to also speak about places where we disagree, and we’ve been very clear when we have concerns about the state of democracy, the state of press freedom, the state of human rights, neighborly relations, et cetera with Russia.

Please, in the back.

QUESTION: Two questions.


QUESTION: The first one is about Bangladesh when Secretary Clinton was there. Can you confirm that she discussed the future of the 7th Fleet with Bangladeshi officials? And does the State Department have a position on the future of the – home of the 7th Fleet?

MS. NULAND: That sounds like a question for the Pentagon. I will take it in terms of whether it came up in her consultations, but I don’t believe it did.

QUESTION: And the second question I have is, in light of Memorial Day, there are folks in India and Burma who are talking about The Hump, the Eastern Himalayas and that American families still want to get the remains of their families back, even though the war has been over for 65 years. What is the U.S. doing to help families get the remains of their loved ones back, even though it’s 65 years after the end of World War II?

MS. NULAND: Well, in the context of our warming relationship with Burma and our step-by-step approach to improve relations as they open up, one of the subjects that we have raised with them is resuming search for remains, repatriation, and we have had some preliminary technical talks about how to do that. But I’m going to send you, again, to the Pentagon because they lead on those issues. But it is something that we want to get back in the business of.


QUESTION: Palestinian and Israelis?


QUESTION: Could you give us the status of what Mr. Hale is doing?

MS. NULAND: I think I had mentioned that I thought he was going to travel this week. It now looks like it will be probably another ten days. But he is continuing to work with the Quartet members. He’s continuing to work with the parties on the phone and remaining in touch and trying to build on, as I said, this exchange of letters that the President and prime minister have had.

QUESTION: Are you aware of increased assaults by the settlers on the Palestinian peasants, destroying their crops, and in fact, injuring them, shooting them – one is in a very serious condition. Are you aware of these activities?

MS. NULAND: I didn’t have any new information today, but I think you know where we’ve traditionally been on these issues.

I should say that the Secretary did have a chance to talk to Foreign Minister Judeh today. As you know, the Jordanians have played a regular role and the foreign minister has played a role in trying to facilitate dialogue between the parties. So they were able to touch base there.

QUESTION: Like I asked last week, Mr. Abbas seems to be waiting on some new American ideas, but he also made another statement saying that these new ideas are not forthcoming. The Palestinians would no choice but to pursue their activities at the United Nations. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. NULAND: Just the same comment that we’ve had all the way through, which is going back to the UN is not going to bring peace, security, or a state to the Palestinian people. Only through negotiations are we going to get there, and that’s why we want to get folks back to the table.

QUESTION: Pakistan?


QUESTION: General Zahir ul-Islam, the new ISI chief, supposed to visit the U.S. but he canceled at the last minute. And some speculation in Pakistan is that U.S. is interfering in the affairs of Pakistan as far as conviction of Dr. Afridi. So do you have any idea? And some think tanks are saying here that that means Pakistan knew where Usama bin Ladin was and now they are caught in the fire of – between the U.S. and Pakistan relations. So do you have any comments on this issue now, where two countries stand?

MS. NULAND: We’ve gone so long that Lach has filed and come all the way back. (Laughter.) Either that or he’s really quick. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: The last one.

MS. NULAND: With regard to the decision of the new ISI chief to postpone his trip, I’m going to send you to the Pakistani side for what he might have been thinking there. And with regard to Dr. Afridi, I think the Secretary was extremely clear last week about what we think about this, that he shouldn’t have been locked up or charged in the first place.

QUESTION: And is U.S. still trying to pursue the – or convince the U.S. – I mean Pakistani Government to release Dr. Afridi because of humanitarian or wrongful of conviction or --

MS. NULAND: We’ve been absolutely clear, publicly and privately, that we think it’s wrong he’s locked up, we think it’s wrong that he’s being prosecuted, and that in fact the role that he played did a service not only for the world and the United States but obviously for the security of Pakistan. This was one of the biggest killers out there.

QUESTION: And as far as U.S.-India relations, tomorrow Secretary Panetta will visit India. He’s leaving for India, among other countries. And Secretary Clinton was recently there. Is U.S. looking some kind of alternative as far as a (inaudible) to NATO or Afghanistan or relations between – in that region?

MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to the importance of India, it’s self-evident on many, many fronts, as the Secretary made clear when we were there. And it’s often the pattern that Secretary Clinton and Secretary Panetta do two sides of the relationship in pretty close proximity. They were both in Brazil in a couple of weeks from each other; they were both in India a couple of weeks from each other. So I think, as our colleague behind you pointed out, there are issues that he leads on and issues that we lead on. And it’s important not only in a bilateral context but in terms of the role that India can play in opening up space throughout that neighborhood for better relations and trade and economic activity.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: All right.

QUESTION: I’ve got two --

MS. NULAND: A couple cleanups?

QUESTION: -- very unrelated but very brief. One, Honduras – is there any update on the Honduran investigation and then your own review of the incident that happened, what, two weeks --

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any update on either one. My understanding is it’s going to be a number of weeks on both sides.

QUESTION: All right. And then the WikiLeaks people are saying --

MS. NULAND: I love stories – the questions that start with “the WikiLeaks people are saying.” (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Right. They are pointing out that the Secretary is going to be in Sweden coming up soon.


QUESTION: And that it would be quote/unquote “fanciful” not to imagine that the subject of Mr. Assange is raised by the Secretary with Swedish authorities, considering this is going to be apparently a couple of days after a decision is made on his extradition. I’m wondering, one, if that is correct, if it would – or if – is – do you know if she has any intention to raise his case with Swedish authorities? And if she is, why would she? And then number two, since you have had this position are you aware of her ever bringing his – this case up or even mentioning Mr. Assange’s name in meetings with foreign officials?

MS. NULAND: No and no.

QUESTION: So – okay. So it will not – you can say, no, it’s definitely not going to come up, it’s not on her agenda as even the last or below last, i.e. if there’s time I might – at the end of the meeting, I might raise it? (Laughter.) I’m just trying to get a sense of where – I mean, they seem to think that Mr. Assange is on the top of everyone’s – his name is on the tip of everyone’s tongue and that it would be ridiculous to assume that she doesn’t bring up this case. But I just want to get a sense from you of where he would be on the agenda in a meeting between Secretary Clinton and the Swedes.

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, she does not plan to spend her valuable time in Sweden on that matter.

QUESTION: All right. Even mentioning it?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, it is not in her plans. We’ll have to see what the actual day brings.

QUESTION: All right. And then the second part of your no, or the second no, to your knowledge, while you’ve been in this job, she has not ever raised his name with any foreign official?

MS. NULAND: Affirmatively raised it in terms of --

QUESTION: Yes. In terms of brought up his case specifically, not the Bradley Manning case, not --

MS. NULAND: Right. To my knowledge, she has not.


MS. NULAND: Okay. Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:27 p.m.)

DPB # 97

[1] Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Dibble