Daily Press Briefing - December 12, 2012
Index for Today's Briefing:
- AFRICA REGION
- OPIC approval of Greenpark and Amethis in Africa
- NORTH KOREA
- North Korean Missile Launch
- China's Influence on North Korea
- CHINA / NORTH KOREA
- China's Influence on North Korea
- U.S. Consultations with China
- Assad Regime Resorting to Increased Lethality, Weaponry
- Political Recognition of the Syrian Opposition Coalition
- Al Nusrah Front /Secretary Burns' Meetings at Friends of Syrian People Meeting
- NATO / Patriot Missiles
- Local Coordinating Councils, Syrian National Council / Services Provided / U.S. Support
- International Opposition Support / U.S. Opposition Support / Nonlethal Assistance
- Tempo of Changes on the Ground in Syria
- Russia Out of Step with International Community Regarding Syria
- Geneva Document of June 2012
- Weapons Used by Assad Against Civilians / Barrel Bombs
- Syrian Opposition Coalition's Membership, Makeup
- U.S. Commitment to Assisting Countries' EU Aspirations
- Macedonia and Neighbors Need for Mutually Acceptable Solution to Disputes
- John McAfee Ordered Released
- UNSC Urgency Regarding Mali Situation
- Improper Action Taken By Junta
- Appointment of Django Sissoko as Prime Minister
- David Hale's meetings in Brussels
- Continuing to work with the Congress Money to Support Palestinian Authority and Palestinian People Importance of Funding the Palestinian Authority
- Untrue Claims that Hamas has a Back Chanel to the U.S. Government / Hamas not a Partner for Peace
- Possibilities for P5+1 Meeting
- Bilateral Engagement with Iran
- Congressman Wolf's Letter Regarding U.S. aid to Tunisia
This video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.
1:04 p.m. EST
MS. NULAND: All right. I first walked in and the whole room was filled. I thought we had about 30 new journalists, but they’re far too fresh-faced and energetic to be representatives of the Fourth Estate. So welcome to our State Department interns back there.
QUESTION: I’ll take that as a personal insult.
MS. NULAND: Exactly, exactly. Let’s rumble. (Laughter.) Happy Wednesday, everyone.
I want to, before we start, just commend the OPIC Board of Directors for approving two major projects in Africa totaling some $400 million. These are actually both pretty cool. This first one is called Greenpark and it includes a $250 million loan to fund a nitrogen fertilizer facility in Nigeria. It is going to use gas captured from a gas field nearby, thereby helping with greenhouse gas emissions, and it’s going to provide a reliable and secure source of low-cost fertilizer and nearly a thousand construction jobs and projects around the area, 500 of them direct and the rest around the country.
The second project is called Amethis and it’s a new investment fund which the – which OPIC is anchoring with a $150 million loan that’s going to provide loans to borrowers in agriculture, infrastructure, energy, and financial services across Africa. This is long-term financing for regional companies that are working on projects that cross borders, adding to the interconnections among African countries, something that has been a priority of the Secretary’s.
Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
MS. NULAND: Really?
QUESTION: I realize you’re probably not going to say much more than what was said last night and/or more ahead of whatever the Security Council decides to do, but I do think that we need to ask exactly what your plan, your intentions, are now in the aftermath of this successful, apparently successful, launch.
Is it the strategy simply to continue to isolate North Korea because, with apologies to Spinal Tap, I suspect that if the question is “How much more isolated can North Korea be?” the answer is “none.” So can you tell us what exactly your plans are with regard to that?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, let me just take the opportunity here to repeat what we’ve said in written statements since this launch, which was highly provocative and a threat to regional security and a direct violation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874. It is highly regrettable that North Korea chose to take this course in flagrant violation of its international obligations. It is only going to serve to further isolate the North Korean regime. It’s not going to do anything to help the poor, suffering North Korean people. It’s only going to further impoverish them.
Just to say that in the hours and days ahead, the United States is going to work very closely with our Six-Party Talks partners and with our UN Security Council partners and other countries in the international community to take appropriate action. You’ll recall, as we said yesterday, as we’ve been saying for some time, that the last time we had a launch, which was in April of this year, we strongly condemned North Korea and made clear that there would be consequences. I think you know that consultations began in the Security Council at 11 o’clock this morning on what those consequences will be and how the UN Security Council will express itself. But we expect that there will be a strong expression there.
QUESTION: Right. You said that actions like this only move to further isolate. Can you explain how North Korea’s launch of this, whatever it was, has made it more isolated right now than it was 24 hours ago?
MS. NULAND: Well, the North Koreans continue to say that they want to come back to the Six-Party Talks. Actions like this make it all the more difficult for us to do that, because they have not only not demonstrated their commitment to their nonproliferation goals, they have gone in the opposite direction and they’ve flagrantly violated UN Security Council resolutions.
So they have, for some time, been saying, and the new government has said it as well, that they want to have talks, they want to get to normalization, and they continue to take actions that take them further from that.
QUESTION: Well, when you’re faced with a situation where they simply just don’t care, how do you further – I don’t understand how you further isolate them. And, I mean, have you reached a point where you think that they just don’t care?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m obviously not going to speak for their motives here, but the international community has to continue to make clear that there won’t be any benefit for North Korea in this, and on the contrary, that there will be consequences. And that’s what we’re consulting with all of our partners on now.
QUESTION: Toria, you just said that the launch and the flagrant violation of their commitments, or obligations, rather, makes it harder for you to get back to Six-Party Talks. How does not having Six-Party Talks, not having talks with the North Koreans about this, advance your goal of getting them to restrain their missile and nuclear programs?
MS. NULAND: Well, there are plenty of countries that do talk to them and make clear that we can’t make an advance with them in the Six-Party context if they’re not willing to demonstrate even the minimum regard for the views of the international community. So this is taking us in the wrong direction. So there are countries like China, like Russia, that have direct contact with them and make these points, and we continue to make the point that they’ve got a choice to make. And as long as they continue to be making the wrong choices, the wrong choices for their own people, the wrong choices for peace and stability, we’re not going to be able to go forward.
QUESTION: And you talked about consequences. Do you mean consequences beyond verbal condemnation, beyond mere words?
QUESTION: Written condemnation.
QUESTION: Written and oral.
MS. NULAND: Again, we have UN Security Council consultations going on now. We are in consultations with our allies, with our Six-Party Talks partners, so I don’t want to prejudge what the results of those will be. But we are committed to making our views clear.
QUESTION: Well, here’s the thing that I don’t get, though. I mean, our story suggests that
what you’re thinking about or what diplomats are talking about at the Council are added designations, putting more people on lists. But these are not – these are hardly the kinds of things that have actually changed North Korea’s calculations for decades, right, and certainly since its second nuclear test after the Administration came into office.
So I guess my question is: What makes you think – since you’re not willing to talk to them in the Six-Party context – and since the past sanctions don’t appear to have done anything to send them in the right direction, what makes you think a few more sanctions, adding a few names to a few lists, is going to change their minds?
MS. NULAND: Well, let me just roll back the clock a year, to when this new leader came into office and to where we were last fall. You’ll recall that, for more than a year now, the United States had been trying to make overtures to North Korea, had been talking about being able to do more to meet the needs of the North Korean people, to try to set the conditions for coming back to the Six-Party Talks. And those overtures were consistently met with a negative response from this regime, first in abrogating the agreement that we had made on the food assistance, then with the launch in April, and now here again with another launch in December.
So it is not as if we haven’t been open to a new course, we haven’t been open to trying to get back to diplomatic solutions with the D.P.R.K. But as the Secretary has said, as the President has said, this new leader has a choice. He can plod a way forward that ends the isolation, that brings relief and a different way of life and progress to his people, or he can further isolate them with steps like this. He can spend his time and his money shooting off missiles, or he can feed his people, but he can’t have both.
QUESTION: One --
QUESTION: Do you believe that this a game-changer technically now, what they have done, that they’ve been able to put something into orbit, apparently?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we’ve been concerned, and the international community as articulated in these two UN Security Council resolutions, have been concerned, that all of this launching is about a weapons program and it’s not about peaceful uses of space. So obviously, we’re concerned every time they put their money and their effort into those kinds of activities rather than ending the isolation of their people. I’m not going to give it a grade, Jill, one way or the other. But again, it doesn’t take us to a place where the North Korean people get any benefit of any kind.
QUESTION: Two questions if I could, Victoria.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: First, you just told us that for a year, the Obama Administration made various overtures to this regime and you said they were consistently rebuffed. First question: What should that tell us about a policy of engagement?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, as we have tried around the world, there are times when leaders are courageous and are prepared to change course in the interest of their people, in the interest of their nation. We’ve seen that in Burma, for example, with the historic reform efforts of Thein Sein, with his new reconciliation with Aung San Suu Kyi, with his opening of his country politically, economically. When countries have been willing to make bold steps for change, they have been matched with reciprocal steps from the United States.
So that’s the path that the President has offered to a number of countries around the world. But as we’ve seen in the case of North Korea, as we’ve seen in the case of Iran to date, it’s their choice whether they take advantage of it. And if they don’t take advantage of it, they will face continuing isolation and pressure.
QUESTION: As we look back on the past four years, what has this Administration to show for itself for its North Korea policy?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, it’s more a question of what the North Koreans have to show for the choices that they have made.
QUESTION: But what creative ideas did you bring?
MS. NULAND: I think the offer was very clear, both at the end of the previous leader’s tenure in North Korea and at the start of the current leader’s tenure, that we were willing to match steps for steps. We put concrete ideas on the table. Again, the idea was that they could make a choice that we would encourage a more positive, more responsible choice that would aid regional peace and security. They have not taken advantage of that. That is a choice that they have made to their detriment, and they will face increasing pressure, as they have since – as they have made those choices.
QUESTION: Just on the subject of overtures, there was a report in the Israeli press overnight about the Administration planning to try to restart talks with Iran and giving it a four-to-five-month window.
QUESTION: Well, wait a second. You want to go to Iran?
QUESTION: Staying on North --
MS. NULAND: Let’s just make sure we’re finished here with D.P.R.K.
MS. NULAND: We’ll come back.
QUESTION: Sorry. Okay.
MS. NULAND: Anything more on North Korea?
QUESTION: A top Chinese official was in Pyongyang before this launch, meeting with top officials, and then North Korea goes ahead and launches this rocket. Have there been any direct discussions between the U.S. and China about whether this leader had any sense that this launch indeed was going to take place?
MS. NULAND: We’ve – whether Kim --
QUESTION: Did he come out of that meeting thinking they are going to go ahead and launch this rocket even though China apparently did bring that message to the meeting?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m obviously not going to put you in the room with – in our private diplomatic discussions with our Six-Party Talks partners. What I will say is that we’ve been working for weeks and weeks with our Six-Party Talks partners, both bilaterally and collectively, to send the message to the D.P.R.K., just as we have been doing publicly, to send it privately, that this is a mistake. This is a mistake, if in fact this new leader means what he says about wanting to open his country, wanting to have economic reform, wanting to have better trade relations with neighbors.
The Chinese, as they always do, endeavor to use their influence. We know how difficult this is – this will be, but we will continue to stay in close contact with them to try to get the message forward that this is going to have consequences.
QUESTION: And has there been any attempt to make your displeasure known through the New York channel?
MS. NULAND: Let me just say, Roz, you know the channels that are available to us. We use all of them.
QUESTION: Just one thing: Have you actually talked to the Chinese since the reports of the – since the missile launch was reported?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Thanks for that, Arshad. As the first reports were coming in, we began consultation again with all of our partners at the level of Glyn Davies, at the level of Under Secretary Sherman. All of our ambassadors were engaged. We engaged ambassadors here. Those consultations have continued, both on a bilateral basis and multilaterally, and we expect they will continue across the Administration over the coming days as we also work in New York as well.
QUESTION: Nothing by the Secretary as yet?
MS. NULAND: I think you know that the Secretary’s been really very ill. I mean, very – this stomach virus is a pretty vicious one, so not yet.
QUESTION: Okay. I don’t --
QUESTION: Hold on. Hold on. Just --
QUESTION: How do I know that --
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: -- that she’s still sick? I mean, I --
QUESTION: No, no, no no. No.
MS. NULAND: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: I’m just a little concerned – really? very, very ill? Do you have any idea what kind of headlines you’re going to cause with that?
MS. NULAND: Sorry. She’s got – (laughter).
QUESTION: Let’s get – let’s just say that --
MS. NULAND: She’s got a very uncomfortable stomach virus.
QUESTION: Which is --
MS. NULAND: Any of you who have ever had a stomach virus know that that is not comfortable.
QUESTION: Yeah, but it is not life-threatening or not --
MS. NULAND: It is not. It is not. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: All right.
MS. NULAND: It is not. It is not. It is not.
QUESTION: Because --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) able to pick up the phone and talk to people, right?
MS. NULAND: Arshad, she is – has not been working, she’s been trying to recover.
QUESTION: Okay. Great.
MS. NULAND: And I think it’s in all of our interests for her to get over her stomach virus.
QUESTION: Well, it appears especially you, because she – you just seemed to announce that she’s, like, wildly ill here --
MS. NULAND: Okay. All right. All right.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, look, one other thing: If she has not reached out yet, and I understand that, you said that you’ve done so multilaterally. Have there been sort of Six-Party minus one conference calls, or has it been more in ones and twos, as it were?
MS. NULAND: Well, there’s certainly been, in every configuration, bilateral consultations. We’ve had trilateral consultations with the Japanese and the Koreans. They have had consultations with the Chinese. In terms of all of us working together, I think that’s happening, both in New York and in Washington, and out in the field today.
QUESTION: Okay. Then what --
QUESTION: Can I ask about the --
QUESTION: Can I ask one more on this?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: With regard to the Chinese, I mean, you said that the Chinese have sought to use their – you talked about trading relationships, and you talked about how the Chinese have sought to use their influence. In your conversations with the Chinese since the launch, have you asked them to squeeze their trade with North Korea as a way of manifesting the international community’s unhappiness with the latest launch?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I’m not going to put you in the room in our bilateral diplomatic consultations with the Chinese except to say that, as we always do, we have asked them to use all of the tools of their influence in trying to get this country to change course.
QUESTION: And did they give you any sense that they would do so?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m going to let them speak for themselves on this.
QUESTION: But a thought just following on to that point: Do you have any reason to doubt that, in the days and weeks before the launch, the Chinese were not encouraging or trying to use their influence with the North Koreans to get them not to do this? I mean, you’ve seen the statements from the Chinese, which are negative --
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: -- maybe not as strong as others, but they are negative --
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: -- and presumably, you’re happy with those statements. But do you have any reason to believe that in the run-up in the – prior to the launch they did not do whatever the – what they could do to stop this from happening?
MS. NULAND: Well, there were so many negatives in your sentence, I’m not sure which way to come back, but let me put it this way.
QUESTION: Well, do you have any reason to doubt that the Chinese are not really on board – are not on board with you, or were not on board with you, in the run-up to the launch to try to get the Chinese to – I mean the North Koreans to stop?
MS. NULAND: No. We’ve had productive consultations with the Chinese about the dangers here.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, so you don’t doubt that the Chinese were seeking to use their influence in the run-up to get them to stop, correct?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve had very good consultations with the Chinese.
QUESTION: Okay. Given that, then, what – how do you assess the state of China’s influence with North Korea, considering – since it seems that not only are the North Koreans not listening to you, the South Koreans, the Japanese, and the rest of the world, they’re also not listening to the Chinese?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, as I said in response to Arshad’s question, I think we are all in the process of consulting now on what they’ve done, why they’ve done it, what our influence is, and what the consequences are --
QUESTION: No, no. I understand that, but in the – since they did not – their influence was not such that it could’ve stopped this, and since you say that you don’t have any reason to doubt that they were trying to get them to stop it, and it hasn’t worked in the past – it didn’t work in April, it didn’t work with the nuclear tests, it didn’t work with anything else – I’m just wondering why you still think the Chinese have any significant influence with the North Koreans at all.
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I’m not going to be giving grades to individual countries. We’ve all got a responsibility to use the influence that we can to try to prevail on these guys to change course. We have to keep doing what we can, and we’re going to be talking about how we do that in the days ahead.
QUESTION: Can I try a different way? I mean, despite the fact that this is one of the most heavily sanctioned countries in the world, and you have punitive measures, you’ve criticized, you’ve condemned, they still seem to be having success and advancing their technology at an alarming rate. So to what extent does the Administration need to kind of rethink its policy towards North Korea and find some other ways of trying to either (A) deter their possible damage to U.S. and your allies’ national security interests or change their behavior )?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think that is one of the subjects of our consultation, not only the immediate consequences that they should feel in terms of what happens in the UN Security Council, but about how we assess this decision and how we ought to work together going forward to get them to change their views.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Speaking of missiles, what about the reports --
MS. NULAND: We’ll come to --
QUESTION: -- of SCUD missiles that they were being used by the regime forces to – against the opposition. Do you have confirmation?
MS. NULAND: We talked about this a little bit yesterday, Jill. I think that I was able to confirm yesterday what we had said to you on background in our conference call that as the regime becomes more and more desperate, we see it resorting to increased lethality and more vicious weapons moving forward. And we have in recent days seen missiles deployed. I’m not going to comment, because it’s going to take me into intelligence, in terms of precise kinds of missiles. I would also say that we’re seeing use of another egregious weapon, this kind of barrel bomb, which is an incendiary bomb that contains flammable materials. It’s sort of a napalm-like thing, and it’s completely indiscriminate in terms of civilians, so very, very concerning and indicative of the regime’s desperation and the regime’s brutality.
QUESTION: Do you know – any details about --
QUESTION: When did they start using that?
MS. NULAND: With regard to these kinds of barrel bombs, we’ve seen them in the last week or so.
QUESTION: On the SCUDs --
QUESTION: How --
QUESTION: -- are they being --
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any more details for you.
QUESTION: On the SCUDs, you’re saying they’re being deployed, or have they been used?
MS. NULAND: I was not in a position to confirm types of missiles, simply to say that we’re seeing missiles employed now.
QUESTION: But you don’t have information that they have actually used the SCUDs against the opposition.
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not in a position to talk about the types of missiles that we’re seeing other than to confirm that there are missiles now being deployed.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) kind of bombs, why not the kind of missiles?
QUESTION: Why are you able to talk about barrel bombs?
MS. NULAND: I just – it goes to how we know what we know. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Can I ask a question about President Obama’s interview with ABC News --
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- in which he announced that the United States is going to recognize formally the Syrian opposition? In light of these reports about these new and more vicious weapons, do we believe that this announcement could have further inflamed the Syrian Government and perhaps worsened conditions on the ground for the Syrian opposition in some way?
MS. NULAND: I’m not quite sure how you can end up in a more vicious round of brutality than what we see coming from President Asad already. I mean, obviously we’ve spoken about our concerns about him becoming even more desperate and resorting to chemical weapons, but we have said all along that in the absence of any moves by the regime to end this, in the absence of any commitment to any kind of a transition, we’re going to continue to support the opposition as we can, and we’re going to continue to take steps to strengthen them. That’s what we’ve done here with this political recognition of the Syrian Opposition Council as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
As the President said last night, this reflects our positive view of the progress that the Syrian Opposition Council has made in establishing organizational structures, in making connections with the political opposition on the ground. And it also will give us the opportunity to better direct the nonlethal assistance that we are providing so that it can get directly to political leaders on the ground in the local coordinating councils, particularly in those areas of Syria that have now been liberated from regime control, and where these local coordinating councils are taking on functions of having to provide basic services, et cetera. So we want to strengthen a political opposition that’s committed to a democratic transition.
QUESTION: One quick follow-up. What do you say to those whose analysis of the situation is that significant swaths of the opposition, as we call it, are actually located outside of Syria, in a way analogous to the Ahmed Chalabi of Iraq days, and that those who are fighting and dying on the ground by and large are the Islamists? Is that a fair assessment of things?
MS. NULAND: It is not, in our view. One of the concerns that we had about the previous opposition structure, the Syrian National Council, was that it was made up primarily of long-term exiles who didn’t have connections on the ground. The Syrian Opposition Council, which we worked very hard to support in its formation and in its breadth and depth, is a different animal in a number of respects. It is broader in terms of the kinds of Syrians that it represents. Its leadership is composed of a number of folks who are very recently departed from Syria, but it also has, as I said, direct connections and inroads with political leaders in towns across Syria, trying to work with them to not only support people directly and better administer the situation on the ground in liberated areas, but also to begin preparing for a real political transition that brings us a different Syria, that brings us a democratic Syria, brings us a Syria that’s welcoming to all forces.
So this is what we are working on even as we also seek to make clear that both the – that the opposition also has to take steps to isolate extremists in their midst and those who might have a different agenda.
MS. NULAND: Sorry. Roz.
QUESTION: I know I brought this point up yesterday about some in the opposition not being happy with the designation of the al-Nusrah Front. The gentleman who is now the putative leader of the SOC is saying that not only is this a real diversion at a time when they’re trying to make progress against their – against the regime, but that long-term it may make the process of establishing a new government difficult, because their view is that those in al-Nusrah are not coming from outside, that they’re Syrian fighters who have come back from Iraq and that they would have earned a place at the table. What’s this building’s reaction to that?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, Deputy Secretary Burns is in Marrakesh representing the Secretary at the Friends of the Syrian People meeting that is concluding now. He had a chance to sit down with President al-Khatib and about nine or 10 members of the Syrian Opposition Council. This issue, as you can imagine, came up along with a number of others. And it was an opportunity for Deputy Secretary Burns to make the points that we’ve been making publicly and to talk it through with President al-Khatib, and particularly to make the point that it is vitally important that Syria’s future leaders work hard to differentiate between those members of the opposition who truly seek a democratic and inclusive Syria and those who have an extremist agenda and want to take Syria backwards, want to hijack this revolution for their own purposes.
And one of the points that Deputy Secretary Burns made, and he made it publicly in his press conference in Marrakesh, which I commend to you – we’ll have a transcript out shortly – was that – just look at how al-Qaida in Iraq behaved in Iraq. And we’ve made the point that these guys are directly affiliated. They sought to impose their will. They sought to take the swaths of Iraq that they were trying to control backwards in terms of democratic rights, in terms of the rights of women, in terms of justice, dignity for all of the people there. And they sought to wreck and tear the social fabric of the country. So we want the Syrian Opposition to be vigilant and to promote democratic values and isolate those who don’t have Syria’s best interests at heart.
QUESTION: How does the U.S. Government, then, help the opposition in that part of the work? I mean, obviously, if they’re primarily focused on trying to topple the Assad regime, how do they have the capacity, and perhaps more important, how do they have the money to actually work on building these institutions and trying to ferret out those people who might be working at cross-purposes with them? I mean, it’s a lot to be asking people who can’t even get weapons from Washington to try to continue their revolution.
MS. NULAND: Well, it’s obviously a matter of vigilance, and it’s a matter of zero tolerance both on the political side and on the fighting side in Syria to know who is who, to ensure that in those parts of the country where local councils are able to begin to exercise governance that they are doing so in a manner that is consistent with the democratic future that we all want Syria to have and that Syrians are expecting, and that fighters are vigilant to those with an agenda that it does not have the best interest of Syria at heart, and to take a lesson from what some of these groups tried to do in Iraq and be careful.
QUESTION: Victoria, what are the interpretations --
MS. NULAND: Just to remind that this is a NATO decision.
QUESTION: Right. Well, NATO made the – NATO granted the decision, right? So it’s just --
MS. NULAND: NATO --
QUESTION: -- formalizing the U.S., I thought.
MS. NULAND: NATO approved in principle the deployment of Patriots and then left it to national military authorities and NATO military authorities to work with Turkey to decide precisely how many, where they would come from, how they’d be postured. And those – that work is still ongoing, but we’ve made clear that the U.S. will contribute. My understanding is that there has not been a formal decision on all of those things, but we’ll let you know when there is.
QUESTION: Do you know the timeframe of when they could start to be installed?
MS. NULAND: My understanding – and again, I would send you to NATO for more detail – but once the precise plan is established, then there is a couple of weeks there where you have to get the pieces in place and get it installed and interoperable, et cetera.
Said’s been patient. Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Well, let me just underscore again that this is a political step. This is not a legal step, this is a political step which not only allows us to give the SOC a political lift and to make it clear that they are the primary group that we will be working with, but it also allows us, as I said, to try to better channel the nonlethal assistance that we provide to the political groups that they are working with on the ground in Syria. And particularly we’re interested now in using our nonlethal assistance not only for communications and for health, et cetera, but also to help with providing of essential services in those towns that have been liberated. So that’s what we’re going to be working on.
QUESTION: So for the time being, the status quo of the Embassy remains as such, as is?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, there is not any – there’s no plan at this time for the SOC to try to take over that building, as far as I know.
QUESTION: Toria, what are the essential services that you hope to now provide?
MS. NULAND: Well again, we’re going to be working with the Syrian Opposition Council, and they’re working with the local councils. But in our consultations and in some of the training programs that we’ve been doing for these local coordinating council members that we’ve talked about a little bit here, they’re talking about having to provide public order, preliminary sorts of police forces in those places where regime police have disappeared or are untrustworthy. They’re having to collect the trash. They’re having to keep schools open. They’re having to keep lights on. So these are some of the basics to get things started, but they’re also playing a key role, as you know, in humanitarian work and winterization and rebuilding, et cetera.
QUESTION: The thing I’m trying to understand is, I mean, you’ve said for months and months that you’ve provided nonlethal assistance primarily for communications and humanitarian assistance. What I’m trying to figure out is whether, as a result of the political though not legal recognition yesterday, whether there will now be any material change in that kind of nonlethal assistance to extend toward other things such as funding, say, police training. I mean, is this – this is a shift then that you’re now looking at doing things like police training that you weren’t doing before?
MS. NULAND: Again, we are just at the development stage now with the SOC and with the local coordinating councils about how precisely we’re going to support these efforts. But we are looking to try to support the ability of political leaders, and particularly political leaders who are committed to democratic principles, in delivering services to people in the areas that have now been liberated. So yes, all these categories are things that we’re looking at. As this develops, we’ll have more to say to you.
QUESTION: But this is not – although the SOC is kind of a new entity that you’re working with, I mean, you’ve been talking about trying to provide these type of services and LCC, I mean, since way before that. It’s several months already, isn’t it?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve been doing training, as you know, for local coordinating council members who’ve been able to come out for training in how to be sort of mayors of small towns, that kind of thing. But now we would like to be responsive to their needs, their material needs to actually provide for their people. And again, this is something we’re developing. We’ll have more to say about it as it moves forward.
QUESTION: Forgive me if I’m mistaken, but have you ever talked about police training, funding police training?
MS. NULAND: Again, we are at the --
MS. NULAND: We’ve talked about the challenges that some of these local coordinating councils are facing in terms of public order, et cetera, and now we have an avenue, a channel, a way to develop some of the programming that might help them more.
QUESTION: I know you’ve touched a little bit about it on this today and yesterday, but I want to go back to Jabhat al-Nusrah because a lot of the Syrian rebels say that Jabhat al-Nusrah, regardless of their ties to al-Qaida or other radical groups, are some of the best rebel fighters, and they are the ones making or helping to make a lot of the gains. If you – now that you’ve blacklisted them, is there a danger that the rebels’ gains and advance may be undermined? And if the idea is to marginalize the radicals, what are you or your allies going to do to help beef up the moderates, if you want to call them that?
MS. NULAND: You’re talking about on the fighting side?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we do not provide lethal assistance.
QUESTION: Sure. Which is why I said “and your allies.”
MS. NULAND: And we do – as I said yesterday, there were two audiences for this move, the Syrian audience, but also those of our partners who have made choices other than ours in terms of the way they are supporting the opposition, and to encourage them to follow suit and be quite vigilant about how they support the opposition and to also ensure that none of their support is going to al-Nusrah because it doesn’t help to strengthen them. You want to strengthen folks who have a more democratic Syria in mind. So again, we’re looking for the international community to differentiate, we’re looking for Syrians to differentiate.
QUESTION: How does --
QUESTION: Sorry, can I just follow up? So is it, in essence, a way of giving a green light to others to increase their material support for, just for the sake of calling them something, the more moderate elements in the rebellion?
MS. NULAND: This is not about the U.S. making decisions for other partners. We’ve, for many months, made clear that we’ve made one set of decisions about the support we will provide. Other partners have made their own decisions about how to support the opposition. But we’ve also said that all of us need to know who’s who, and we need to work together to map who the opposition is both on the fighting side and on the political side. So in the context of that process, we’ve become increasingly concerned about inroads that al-Nusrah is making. We’ve been talking to our partners about that, and this is just the next step. It’s a more public step in making clear how we feel about these things.
QUESTION: So what are you specifically saying? Are you specifically saying that you don’t think your allies should be providing arms to these rebels? Because I mean, isn’t it – you’ve said in the past – I don’t know if it was you, but certainly the Administration has acknowledged that it’s involved in helping vet where these weapons are going. And U.S. officials in the region are sitting at coordination meetings with some of these allies in terms of who’s getting what and what’s going in. So I mean, you certainly know if not everything a great deal about the weapons that are going into the battlefield.
MS. NULAND: Without agreeing with your premise or all that you’ve stipulated here, let me simply say that we don’t think anybody ought to be supporting anybody bearing the al-Nusrah label.
QUESTION: Victoria, just to understand you correctly, but your position on organizations or militant groups such as al-Qaida and al-Qaida type is principled; you stand against it 100 percent and you do not – you will counsel against the support and aiding and abetting of these type by any of your allies, correct?
MS. NULAND: Correct. Thank you, Said.
QUESTION: Can I ask you for your assessment of the situation on the ground now, and do you believe that this recognition by the United States will help embolden the rebels and maybe give them – spur their fight a bit more? Some analysts have been saying that they see Damascus could fall by Christmas, which would seem a little bit unrealistic. I just wondered if you could comment on that.
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m certainly not going to crystal-ball that. We’ve talked quite a bit over the last couple of weeks about the accelerating tempo on the ground, about the fierce fighting in Damascus. It was certainly our intention with this political recognition of the Syrian Opposition Council to give a boost to those working for a political transition in Syria, those planning a future that is democratic, that is pluralistic, that is unified. And in that context, let me also commend to you the very eloquent statement that President al-Khatib made in Marrakech to the Alawi population calling on them to break with Asad, calling on them to join the Syrian Opposition Council, to join in the forging of a new Syria, which was a very, very important message, we think.
QUESTION: When you refer to him as President al-Khatib, are you referring to him as president as --
MS. NULAND: President of the Syrian Opposition Council. That’s his title for the council.
QUESTION: Not president of Syria?
MS. NULAND: Of course not.
QUESTION: No. And just – (laughter) – and are there any plans for him to come to visit the United States, as yet?
MS. NULAND: Yes, thank you for that. Deputy Secretary Burns did mention this in his press conference. He did invite al-Khatib and other representatives from the Syrian Opposition Council to come to Washington as soon as it’s convenient for them, and that’ll also obviously give the Secretary a chance to meet them.
QUESTION: What’s your reaction toward the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s saying the recognition violates the principles of the Geneva Declaration?
MS. NULAND: Well, we would reject that completely. In fact, we would see it going the opposite way. And again, it just speaks to the fact that Russia is out of step with the vast majority of the international community. At this Friends of the Syrian People meeting, we had some 114 countries, 18 international organizations. I think you’re going to see very strong support for the Syrian Opposition Council in the final document of that meeting when it comes out. It certainly shouldn’t have been any surprise to the Russians that we were going to make an advance in terms of our recognition. The Secretary was clear about this, as was Deputy Secretary Burns.
One of the problems when the Geneva document was drafted back in June was that we didn’t have what we all considered a broad and credible address for the opposition that could work to implement some of the tenets of the Geneva document, particularly could work on forging a transitional governing structure. So the point that we make back to the Russians is now we have such an entity and we have to strengthen it if we want to see the kind of transition that the Geneva document called for.
QUESTION: Can I have – just a couple very brief things. One, I’m glad to hear that someone in the Administration finally admit that the Geneva agreement wasn’t perfect. Because at the time it was reached, it was the greatest thing since sliced bread and there was nothing wrong with it.
MS. NULAND: I don’t think anybody used the “P” word, Matt.
QUESTION: Okay. And second thing is that if I can say that, then you can use crystal ball as a verb, which I don’t think is – anyway. Third --
MS. NULAND: Did I – crystal ball as a verb?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have a crystal --
QUESTION: You told Jo you were not going to crystal-ball that.
MS. NULAND: That’s not good. My old grammar teachers are going to be calling me up.
QUESTION: Yeah. And then I just want to go back to the weapons thing for a second. The difference between – you said, “deploy the missiles” – but you don’t want to say what kind, and then these barrel rockets is that the barrel rockets, you’re prepared --
QUESTION: No. Barrel bombs.
QUESTION: Bombs, sorry. Barrel bombs. They have actually been used, you were saying.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: These are like cluster munitions types?
MS. NULAND: I have a little bit more on exactly how they work.
QUESTION: And whether they’re used at all.
MS. NULAND: So – yeah, I don’t have it here, but essentially they are this sort of barrel with incendiary material inside or nails or other vicious things that are sort of indiscriminately launched either from the air or from launchers at targets without any concern about civilians.
QUESTION: You said they were using napalm-like materials --
QUESTION: Yeah. You said napalm-like materials.
MS. NULAND: Incendiary bombs which contain flammable material that is – that can be like napalm.
QUESTION: Because – okay. Well, is napalm considered --?
QUESTION: But is it actually napalm?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think we have any way to evaluate that, but --
QUESTION: Is napalm considered a chemical weapon? Napalm is not considered a chemical weapon, right?
MS. NULAND: Say again?
QUESTION: Napalm or napalm-like material is not considered a chemical weapon, is it?
MS. NULAND: No.
QUESTION: All right. But those you say have been used in the last weeks?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: And then the – and you don’t want to get into exactly what kind of missiles they are because that would go to sources and methods; is that what you said?
MS. NULAND: Goes to intelligence.
QUESTION: But to the sources and methods of the intelligence, which is what you said?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you really think the Syrians don’t know you have satellites over there? I mean, you’ve been putting out satellites on the embassy Facebook page.
MS. NULAND: I’m going to send you to intelligence agencies for how we talk about what we talk about.
QUESTION: Whereabouts have they been using the barrel bombs? Do you have information about exactly where --?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any (inaudible) here.
QUESTION: Could you clarify something for us? You just said “credible” about the coalition. The President yesterday said he was satisfied that they do represent all Syrians. How did you come up with that? I mean, what are the evidence that actually the coalition does represent all Syrians and that they are a credible opposition that does represent the good will of all Syrians?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, if you look at the membership, it’s a whole lot broader than we’ve seen before both in terms of geographic representation, in terms of the various groups that we’re looking to see represented; there are far more folks with – who’ve either recently left or who are coming back and forth; the contacts inside are much stronger. They’ve also, as the President said, as Bill Burns said today, taken a number of steps since they were formed to organize themselves to provide the kind of structure that the local coordinating councils need inside Syria and that we need in the international community to be able to work with them.
One such manifestation is that they’ve got this assistance coordinating committee that we’ll be working with on some of these things that we were talking about in terms of getting support to local coordinating councils.
So they are – you’ll recall after the Doha meeting, we called on them to continue to broaden and deepen and make contacts inside, and we called on them to continue to make progress in terms of their organization. And the move that we made reflects the progress that they’ve made over the last few weeks, even since Doha.
QUESTION: Can I follow up just on the weapons? Are you opposed to European countries providing weapons to the Syrian rebels? Some of them are thinking about it.
MS. NULAND: Again, our view is that countries have to make their own decision on their posture going forward. We’ve made our position clear.
QUESTION: Hi. I have a rest-of-the-world question, if that’s okay.
MS. NULAND: Are we finished with Syria, team? I think it’s been like half an hour.
Go ahead, Nicole.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering why you haven’t offered legal recognition. Why just political? What more do you need to see to give them legal recognition?
MS. NULAND: We can give you a separate brief on some of these things, but when you – legal recognition goes to the question of physical control of territory, among other things. So you’ll recall in the Libyan case, and we talked about this a little bit earlier in the week, our ability to recognize came in incremental steps. There were political steps; and then ultimately, as the regime lost control of the country, there were legal steps. So this is the stage that we’re at, at the moment.
Okay. Moving on, sir.
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry, say again.
QUESTION: The European Council yesterday, they were discussing enlargement for the Balkan countries. And for the fourth time in a row, they have failed to make a decision to open negotiations with Macedonia; there was Greek opposition on the issue. And of course, there’s a lot of disappointment in Macedonia. It was expected that this time it will be – some decision can be made.
And also for the first time, a new EU country, Bulgaria, has announced that it will also ask for some kind of concessions from Macedonia to open the EU negotiations. They have not made clear what they want, but it will likely be some kind of a nationalist issue, such as a view of history or a view of ethnic identity.
So please, your comments on this, on negotiations on Bulgaria vetoing Macedonia.
MS. NULAND: Well certainly, the United States remains committed to assisting all those countries who have European aspirations, those who want to join the NATO alliance, those who want to join the European Union. And obviously, we’re not members of the European Union, so it’s up to the European Union to make decisions on membership.
With regard to the Macedonian situation specifically, we believe that Macedonia and its neighbors need to continue to search for a dignified, practical, and mutually acceptable solution to the current disputes as quickly as possible so that these doors can be opened.
Please, behind. Mr. Lee.
QUESTION: Sorry. I’m sorry. Can I go back to --?
MS. NULAND: We’re not going back to DPRK, are we? We did about half an hour, didn’t we?
QUESTION: Sort of. Can I – I have to ask this question. That’s why I came here today.
MS. NULAND: At your service, as usual.
QUESTION: Following the apparent success of the launch, rocket launch last night, do you think North Korea has ICBM technology, or at least do you think it came closer to ICBM? What’s your assessment?
MS. NULAND: I’m not prepared to make that kind of an evaluation. You saw what our Northern Command had to say, that they had clearly launched a missile, that they had clearly put something into the air. But we don’t have any evaluation of it beyond that at this stage. Perhaps in coming days, we will.
QUESTION: Well, wait a second. You don’t have any more evaluation that you’re prepared to make public or you’re --
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: Because that NORAD statement, frankly, they say like, 5,000 times more about Santa Claus than they did about this. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: Does NORAD opine on Santa Claus?
QUESTION: Yes, they do.
MS. NULAND: I’ll have to check out their website.
QUESTION: Can I ask --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Here’s what I can say on Mr. McAfee: We are working to confirm reports that he’s been ordered released by a judge in Guatemala. Obviously, the Guatemalans will have more to say on this. We, meanwhile, from our Embassy in Guatemala, continue to provide all appropriate consular services to him. This includes regular visits to check on his welfare and monitoring his case in the Guatemalan courts.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yesterday we talked a bit about this, and you said that you believed that you’d worked through some of the issues with the French and that you expected some action in the UN Security Council sometime this week on Mali. I believe that Ambassador Rice was a little bit scathing about the French-African Union plan. She called it crap, so I believe, according to reports. I just wonder what is – I don’t want you to comment on what Ambassador Rice may or may not have said. I wonder what is the problem for the Americans with the plan that is on the table so far for intervention in Mali. And how do you see it – how would you like to see it amended and how do you see this being resolved?
MS. NULAND: Well, let me say that I’ll make some general comments, but in terms of the precise status of the discussion on drafts, et cetera, I’m going to send you up to USUN because they’re in the middle of it now with partners, including the French.
But let me start by saying all of us on the Security Council, U.S. and France notably included, share a sense of urgency about this. We share the same goal of the UN Security Council supporting the bringing of more security to northern Mali. We agree that it’s urgent. We need to ensure that the way that we do this is actually going to have the results that we desire. So we need to have a draft that is going to hold up and is going to produce on the ground in Mali. And we’re very much in consultations with our partners. We’re working it through with the French now, as allies do. And I’m going to send you to USUN for more detail.
QUESTION: What are the main weaknesses or holes that you see? What doesn’t stand up as yet?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we want to ensure that once we get to UN Security Council action, that we’re going to end up with a force that can do what it’s mandated to do, can really provide security on the ground, can meet the needs, can help Malian forces go north, that there is a concept of operation that makes sense and can be effective, that they can perform the training role, et cetera. So these things have to be worked through carefully.
QUESTION: Can I ask two things on it? One, does the Administration think that the French proposal is crap?
MS. NULAND: That – I believe, but you can talk to USUN – I think that’s an apocryphal report.
QUESTION: So, no? The answer is no, you don’t think it’s crap --
MS. NULAND: No. We --
QUESTION: -- or bad, or anything else, any other word? You don’t think it’s a bad idea?
MS. NULAND: Essentially, where we are is that there are some Council members who think – who want to do this in one bite. We think we should do this in two bites. That’s what we’re trying to work through.
QUESTION: And the two bites is – the first bit is the training and then the second bite is the actual getting people up into the north where they can actually do something. Is that correct?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can you explain to me how that demonstrates your sense of urgency? This thing isn’t going to – I mean, they’re not going to get up there under your idea. They’re not going to get up there for another six to eight months, maybe even a year. How does that show urgency?
MS. NULAND: You’re making assertions about how this would go that I don’t think are proven out by the state of the consultations right now. We want to make sure --
QUESTION: So sooner --
MS. NULAND: We want to make sure that we get this right and really provide the support, but I’m not going to get into the details of what’s in different drafts, okay?
QUESTION: All right. Can I just go further north? This is another --
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: -- very deep one. Have you seen this --
MS. NULAND: Anything else on Mali?
QUESTION: Yes, please. Since we talked yesterday, they have a new prime minister. Does that appointment satisfy your concerns about military involvement?
MS. NULAND: Well, let me say you know that yesterday, obviously, we condemned the improper action taken by the junta in forcing Prime Minister Diarra to resign. We called on the transitional president to either reinstate him or appoint somebody new. He’s now appointed Django Sissoko, who is somebody that we know and we respect, and we want to see him now form a government that can provide political leadership going towards an election in the spring or as soon as we can get there. Obviously, we continue to have concerns about what Sanogo is up to, and we think that he and his forces need to be marginalized so that we can have real security both in Bamako and moving north.
QUESTION: North Korea?
MS. NULAND: I think we’re done with North Korea. I don’t think that there’s anything else we can do here, but go ahead.
QUESTION: Just one question. Yeah, according to the analysis by the South Korean Government, this missile can reach a part of the U.S. mainland. So how – this is a big change for the United States. How serious does U.S. Government take this fact?
MS. NULAND: I think that was the same question that Mr. Lee asked with different words. Again, I’m not prepared to make any technical evaluations of what happened or its implications beyond what Northern Command has already said. And we may have more to say in coming days, but I don’t have anything further to say in terms of evaluating implications right now.
QUESTION: A quick one on Israel?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Has Israel, indeed, asked to buy $647 million worth of warheads and bombs to replenish its arsenal?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on that one way or the other. Have you inquired at the Pentagon?
QUESTION: Not yet.
MS. NULAND: Okay.
QUESTION: Another one, same sort of topic?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Sort of topic?
QUESTION: Well, it’s not about bombs. The Quartet meeting in Brussels.
QUESTION: Well, that’s pretty much a bomb, isn’t it?
QUESTION: The Quartet meeting, ha, ha.
MS. NULAND: Feisty today.
QUESTION: Pardon me?
MS. NULAND: Nothing. Continue. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: What did you say?
MS. NULAND: Nothing.
QUESTION: The mike caught it, I think.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Look, when are you going to have a statement on this? Or is it going to be put out by them, is it going to be put out by the EU, is it going to be put out here?
MS. NULAND: Probably tomorrow we’ll have something for you.
QUESTION: Victoria, what about the money that is being withheld? The Palestinian sources, they say that they are on the verge of collapse and total bankruptcy. Have you done anything to sort of persuade Congress to release the money?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’re continuing to work with Congress, we’re continuing to make our views known about this, that we think this money is important. We think it supports important work by the Palestinian Authority and to support the needs of the Palestinian people and it should move.
QUESTION: Are you also urging Israel not to hold up their tax revenue?
MS. NULAND: We are making clear to the Government of Israel that we think funding of the Palestinian Authority is necessary, and that it should work with the PA to address the issues that they have, and that all sides need to take steps to reduce tensions, to build trust, to produce the kind of climate that’s going to get us back to direct talks.
QUESTION: On the reduction of tensions and easing situations, does raiding Palestinian NGOs in the West Bank come under that heading?
MS. NULAND: Are you talking about a specific incident, Matt? I’m not sure I have --
QUESTION: Yeah. I’m talking about the Israelis raiding several Palestinian – the offices of several – or the office, an umbrella office, for several Palestinian NGOs in the West Bank.
MS. NULAND: Why don’t you give me more details afterwards, and we’ll see what we have.
MS. NULAND: Still on this topic, because --
QUESTION: No. But I think Nicole had something that she wanted to ask about an hour ago about Israel – Iran?
QUESTION: Is it okay?
There have been some bizarre claims out there that Hamas has a back channel to the U.S. Government or that the U.S. Government is dealing with ex-officials to have some kind of a back channel to Hamas. I want to say here that these assertions are completely untrue. There is no such back channel. And our position on Hamas has not changed. And recent remarks by Hamas leaders during Khaled Meshaal’s visit to Gaza reinforce the fact that Hamas is not a partner for peace. And unless Hamas unambiguously accepts the Quartet principles for peace, it cannot be a partner in any negotiations.
Go ahead, Nicole. What was on your mind?
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask about these Israeli reports that the Administration is looking to pursue direct talks with Iran over the next four or five months and is doing so without asking Israel’s permission.
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen those Israeli reports. What I can tell you is that the European Union has just made clear that earlier today, EU Deputy Secretary General Helga Schmid, who is Cathy Ashton’s deputy, had a phone call with the Iranian deputy negotiator Dr. Bagheri in order to discuss the way ahead, including possible dates and venues for another P-5 plus Iran meeting. So we continue to make clear to the Iranian side that in that structure, the door remains open to talks if they are serious.
QUESTION: Hold on. That would be P-5+1, plus Iran, right?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: The Germans are still invited, yeah?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: Secondly --
MS. NULAND: Did I miss a one? Yeah. Plus one, plus Iran.
QUESTION: -- in the premise of the question, there was the idea that if – that you would have unilateral talks with the Iranians without the Israelis’ permission. I’m wondering that – if it is agreed that you would have direct talks with Iran in the context of the P-5+1, does the Administration think that it needs to get Israel’s permission to do that?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, just to repeat here what you’ve just said, Matt, we have said all along that in the context --
QUESTION: I understand.
MS. NULAND: -- of P-5+1 Iran talks, we’d be prepared to meet bilaterally with Iran. The Israelis are well aware that that is our view and that is the way we would pursue it. So it’s not a matter of permission or not permission. They are our ally and partner, and we consult with them regularly, and we’re completely transparent in terms of how we’re trying to proceed here.
QUESTION: Yeah. But you don’t need – but you wouldn’t ask for their permission, would you? Even if it was outside the P-5+1 context, do you think – does this Administration need to ask Israel for permission to have – to talk with any other country in the world, including Iran?
MS. NULAND: Again, Israel is our ally. Israel has an existential interest in the way this goes forward. We are very transparent with Israel on how this goes forward. So I don’t even think that scenario would arise one way or the other.
QUESTION: Well, can you just say that the Administration – that this country doesn’t ask permission from Israel to have talks with any countries --
MS. NULAND: I would say that this country doesn’t ask permission from any other country to act. Okay?
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. All right. Can I go back on just one – this is – these are very brief, two things. One – or three things, actually – one, in Tunisia --
MS. NULAND: I thought you were onto Tunisia there.
QUESTION: I was trying to – yeah, Tunisia. Have you seen this letter or is this – Frank Wolf, Congressman Wolf, sent a letter to the Secretary, I believe yesterday, saying that – expressing his opinion that all aid to Tunisia should be either suspended or cut off because they will – they did not grant or have not granted access to the FBI to the suspect in the Benghazi bombing. Are you aware of this letter? And whether you are or not, are you aware that cutting off aid or suspending aid to Tunisia is under consideration?
MS. NULAND: We’re aware of the letter. We plan to answer the letter. We are working hard and well with the Tunisians on issues having to do with events in Libya, and we will continue to do so. And I think we’ll make that clear in our response to the congressman.
QUESTION: Okay. Second, did you get answer to whether the Administration has a position on the ACLU going to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights about Jose Padilla?
MS. NULAND: Did we not come back to Matt on that one?
STAFF: It’ll be ready this afternoon.
MS. NULAND: All right. I am told it will be ready for you this afternoon, Matt.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any kind of a preview? Are you welcoming it or are you telling the commission to mind its own business?
MS. NULAND: Why don’t we wait until we have that fully cooked, and we’ll get it for you as fully cooked.
QUESTION: All right. And then the very last one is – and I’m asking this on behalf of James Rosen from Fox News, who had to leave earlier, and that is --
MS. NULAND: Are they giving you a double salary there, Matt? Are you just – (laughter) --
QUESTION: No. But I --
QUESTION: Do you see yourself (inaudible)?
QUESTION: Not really. Do you have any comment on the death --
MS. NULAND: Do you think he has a TV future? What do you think? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the death today of Ravi Shankar?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one. I am – I don’t have anything prepared on that.
QUESTION: Nothing prepared?
MS. NULAND: Nope. I’m going to take that one, Matt. Okay.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Anything else? Nope.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Thanks, everybody.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:10 p.m.)
DPB # 211