Briefing by Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
OPERATOR: Welcome and thank you for standing by. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode, and for the question-and-answer session of today’s conference. At that time, you may press *1 if you’d like to ask a question. I would also like to inform all parties this call is being recorded. If you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time.
I would now like to turn the call over to Mr. P.J. Crowley. Thank you, sir. You may begin.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, thank you very much and good afternoon. I feel here at the State Department that we should have a weather board behind us where you can see the low-pressure system and expected bands of snowfall and so on and so forth. But we thought it was a good idea to check in with everybody in between storms here in Washington, D.C. As we’ve all seen, Washington, D.C. doesn’t necessarily do snow all that well.
But I do wish to commend – I know there are 40-something folks on the phone. We’re happy you checked in, but we’ve got to give gold stars to the magnificent seven that are here, your intrepid leaders who are here in the State Department itself. So, gold stars to all that are here.
I’ll go right to questions here in a second, but just simply want to flag for everybody a statement that the Secretary put out a while ago discussing how sad she was at the passing of Congressman Jack Murtha, someone that she worked very closely with when she was on the Senate Foreign Relations – or Senate Armed Services Committee, and Chairman Murtha, of course, on the House Armed Services Committee.
But with that, we’ll go right to questions. I thought what we’d do here, since we’ve got a combination of a in-house gaggle and an out-house phone call, is that we’ll take a handful of questions here in the room and then turn it over to the operator to field some questions from the phones, and then we’ll just go back and forth as long as there’s interest.
So anyway, first --
QUESTION: Before we get serious about --
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: -- Iran and other things, are her Hill appearances (inaudible) cancelled yet?
MR. CROWLEY: I think her Hill appearances are at least postponed. I think the Congress has decided at least to push them back to Thursday. Beyond that, obviously, we’ll await further weather developments.
QUESTION: And what is she doing today, by the way?
MR. CROWLEY: Today, she is here in Washington, D.C. and is on the – I think she’s had a lunch with Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff at the White House, as well as taking various phone calls with key staff, also doing some budget preparation. For those who are storm watchers, she actually enjoyed a drive yesterday back to Washington from her house in Chappaqua.
QUESTION: She didn’t drive, did she?
MR. CROWLEY: I think fair to say the Diplomatic Service drove her.
QUESTION: Well, can we start off with Iran, then?
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: They were quoting a Pentagon official as saying that the U.S. visa sanctions resolution on Iran, quote-un-quote, “within weeks.” I’m wondering, does that sound --
MR. CROWLEY: A high-level – (laughter) – Pentagon official.
QUESTION: A high-level one. I’m wondering if that sort of jives with your understanding of what the timeline might be where we are. Are the P-5+1 planning on having another telephonic conference following the developments over the past couple of days of enrichments?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, certainly, we have always attached urgency to the – to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and with this step that we thought was unnecessary, since Iran does have clear alternatives that would provide the enriched fuel for the Tehran research reactor and give Iran the ability to have medical isotopes that have a clear humanitarian purpose. So the international community has bent over backwards to try to make available to Iran the benefits of a civilian nuclear program, and we regret that once again, Iran has missed an opportunity to engage constructively and seriously with the international community so that it would clarify its nuclear ambitions.
We have and will continue to consult with our counterparts within the P-5+1 process. I’ve got nothing to project specifically. There was a conference call last Friday and I would expect there will be further consultations in the coming days. But this certainly deepens the international community’s concern about Iran’s nuclear programs. This was an unnecessary step. In fact, by every indication, it is counterproductive to Iran’s specific interest. There are clear alternatives that will provide Iran the fuel to produce medical isotopes. And so we regret that this has taken this step.
While we have a sense of urgency about this, we’re going to be very deliberate in our approach – take this step by step together with our partners. So I wouldn’t project any particular timeline, but clearly, we – this deepens our concern and we’re going to take the appropriate steps, both on the engagement track and on the pressure track – continue to refine our ideas, continue to share them with the P-5+1 and build an appropriate strategy going forward.
QUESTION: Is it your view that China is now isolated with strong statements from Russia just today, I think it was, in reaction to the Iranian drive to enrich to 20 percent?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not sure Iran is isolated, per se.
QUESTION: No --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I wouldn’t say that – China is an integral part of the P-5+1 process. They have signed on to every statement and every step the international community has taken up to this point. Clearly, we have had a difference of viewpoint in terms of what the next steps should be. But with this action by Iran, it clearly strengthens our hand in terms of convincing not only China, but other countries that we need to make sure that we are looking not only at engagement, but also at pressure so that should Iran continue down this path, that there will be a consequence and will be a price to pay for it.
QUESTION: But if they’re not isolated, what are they? I mean, they’re the only ones not talking about sanctions. All the other ones, including the Russians now, are talking about sanctions. So what’s the word (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: And I understand, and we are talking about sanctions as well, and we will continue to make the case to China as we go forward. And we would hope that at the point that we are prepared to formally present the international community’s ideas before the Security Council that China will be there with us.
QUESTION: And where are we in terms of the actual sanctions being proposed and worked out?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we’re still developing our ideas, and I would not project at what point that we would put something on the table. But clearly, we’re moving in that direction.
QUESTION: P.J., just one on the sanctions. You know, there is a theory that sanctions ultimately don’t work for a variety of reasons. I mean, why would it be different this time that sanctions would work?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, there are sanctions that are already in place, and they do have an impact. We believe that the prospect of this pressure track has – can have an economic impact, but also has a very significant political impact.
QUESTION: What’s that mean?
MR. CROWLEY: The Iranian people want to have a different relationship with other countries in the region and with the West and with the United States. And ultimately, the Iranian people, the Iranian Government will have to evaluate what are the costs of the current course that they’re on, and whether whatever perceived value that the nuclear program has, whether it is worth the cost that Iran is paying and will continue to pay.
So we think that this can have impact. We’re looking at ways in which we can put additional pressure on the Iranian Government without increasing the burden on the Iranian people. And we think that there’s room for this pressure track along with the engagement track. And as we refine our ideas, we are clearly looking to make sure that whatever steps we take are effective, have an impact, and send a very strong signal to Iran to change course.
QUESTION: Can you actually definitively say that it’s not the objective of the U.S. Government to create such dissension among the people of Iran that they would overthrow the government? Is that the ultimate reason, one of the reasons for sanctions?
MR. CROWLEY: No. I would say that the purpose of these sanctions is to put pressure on the Iranian government, that the course it’s on is not constructive, and that – to continue to show Iran that the international community is united and determined to prevent Iran from becoming a declared and demonstrated nuclear power.
So this is the approach that we have taken. It’s the approach that has attracted unanimous support from the international community, and now we’re continuing to put together our ideas on how we can make the strongest possible impact and send the strongest possible signal to the Iranian Government.
QUESTION: But it doesn’t seem to have support from China still, which kind of goes back to the problem of isolation. If you don’t want to say they’re isolating, they stood in the way, arguably, of climate change, there’s been this flap over Google. I mean, at what point is the U.S. going to acknowledge the – what seems to be a major problem?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, that’s a different issue.
QUESTION: But it all goes to China-U.S. relations.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, no. First and foremost, let’s talk about the relations between Iran and the international community, and – no one is happy with the course that Iran has taken over the past several months. We’ve bent over backwards to invite Iran into a process where it could engage constructively and find ways in which Iran could clarify its nuclear programs and its intentions and find a way, as with the proposal on the Tehran research reactor, where it could enjoy the benefits of a civilian nuclear program, while reassuring the international community about its nuclear ambitions.
So the fact that it’s taken this step deepens the concern the international community has about the true nature of Iran’s nuclear program. So I think that Iran is increasingly isolated, and to the extent that it now clearly is unwilling to engage constructively. It’s taken this affirmative step. It puts us in a much stronger position in terms of moving ahead on the pressure track.
In terms of the U.S. relationship with China, as we’ve said, this is a – it’s arguably the most important and could be the most complex bilateral relationship in the world today. It is much broader, much deeper, much more stable than it has been at any point in the last 20 or 30 years. Do we have a lot of issues that we discuss regularly with China? We do, whether it’s the role that we play within the Security Council, whether it’s on climate change, whether it’s on the global economic situation, whether it’s on regional security. This is – it underscores the breadth of the relationship, the importance of the relationship, and we will continue to engage China on all of these issues as we have repeatedly over the past year.
So let’s separate the two. I mean, there is some overlap here, but we think at the end of the day, the international community is united in its concern about the risk that Iran poses to the region and more broadly, and we think that we’re in a very strong position to take decisive action.
QUESTION: This vacillation between --
QUESTION: Can we go back to the timing for a second, because we got off the track. You’ve said that you didn’t want to put a timeline on (inaudible), but the way I’ll ask it is: Would you like to see this done in the Security Council by the end of the month since (inaudible) now? Would you go that far that you’d like to see it done (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: We’re not putting any particular timetable on it. What we want is that – effective action, a strong statement, and we think we can get that. But we’ll – we have – when we get to that point, we’ll know it, and we’re still – in the meantime, we’re still doing our consultations within the P-5+1 process.
QUESTION: The vacillation you’ve talked about on the part of the leadership; we’ve had statements by Ahmadinejad, statements by the foreign minister, and various officials back and forth about this answering the international community. You’ve said that it indicates some inability or confusion on their part or dissenting in trying to answer. But could it also be their wanting to simply play the clock out, continue to confuse the international community? How do you interpret what they’re doing?
MR. CROWLEY: They’re working against their own long-term self interest. There are clear alternatives that are available to Iran if their concern is, in fact, being able to continue the operation of the Tehran research reactor, to be able to produce medical isotopes of importance and value to the Iranian people. There are – the proposal put on the table by the international community last fall is one way. We’ve expressed a willingness to work with them for the importation of medical isotopes if that’s their true concern.
So this action was unnecessary, it’s provocative, and it deepens our concern about what Iran’s real intentions are. There have been a number of contradictory statements coming out of the Iranian leadership in recent days and weeks. It’s difficult for us to explain them, but I think we are clear in terms of what we expect Iran to do. We’ve given them ample opportunity to engage constructively. And the fact that they are unwilling to do so puts us in a stronger position when it comes to convincing the international community that it’s time to take additional steps on the pressure front.
QUESTION: P.J., one question on your last (inaudible).
MR. CROWLEY: I do want to make sure that we go to questions from callers.
QUESTION: Based on the offer, as I understand it, you said and apparently, Ambassador Davies said the same thing in Vienna – about an offer to help them with the importation of medical isotopes if that’s, as you say, their real interest – is this an offer that’s separate from the IAEA proposal? Is it something that the U.S. itself is saying that the U.S. will help them to import medical isotopes presumably from a third country? And how would that even work?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think what we were saying is that there are alternatives. The Iranian decision to improve their processing to 20 percent is an unnecessary step. It may be actually a step that today Iran is not capable of actually doing. I mean, there are technical considerations, but our point is if Iran feels it has a specific need, we are willing to engage constructively and try to identify ways in which the international community and potentially the United States can meet that need.
But it is the absence of any movement by Iran over the past four or five months since the TRR proposal was put on the table that we feel demonstrates that the justification of not only continuing on the engagement front, but also aggressively pursuing the pressure front.
QUESTION: But that sounds like a separate proposal from the --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- IAEA proposal. So it is? So you’re, in fact – in fact, making a new offer of --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, what --
QUESTION: -- another way that they could get around --
MR. CROWLEY: What we were – what we’re saying is that – okay, we put forward a good-faith proposal; we thought it was practical; it was doable. But if Iran didn’t want to accept that proposal, there are others that are available. What has to – what really has to happen here is for Iran to sit down, identify what it really feels it needs to do, and work with the international community constructively on potential solutions, and in doing so, start to build confidence that – about its intentions.
But the fact that it’s taken this provocative step and seemingly walked away from the TRR proposal is moving in a different direction deepens our concerns, and we will take the appropriate lesson from that.
QUESTION: Can I ask one on a different subject? Is that okay?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let – do we want to – Operator, you want to go and take a handful of calls from the phone bank and then we’ll come back to the group in the room? Operator?
OPERATOR: Thank you. We will now begin the question-and-answer session. If you would like to ask a question, please press *1 on your phone and make sure your phone is on an unmute status so we may record your name clearly.
We do have a couple questions in queue. Our first question goes from Foster Klug. Go ahead. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hello, can you hear me?
MR. CROWLEY: We can.
QUESTION: Yeah, this is Foster with the AP. Thanks for doing this. I wanted to ask about the Ukraine, if you could comment on the election, and specifically if you have any comments about whether this might be concerning as a shift towards Russia.
And then on North Korea, if you could comment on – their nuclear negotiators are in China. Are there any plans for U.S. officials to meet up with Kim Kye Gwan? Or – there’s some speculation that they might be traveling somewhere else. Do you know of any other places that these guys are traveling specifically? It might be a long shot, but is the U.S. --
MR. CROWLEY: “These guys” meaning North Korea?
QUESTION: Kim Kye Gwan, yeah, yeah. Are they coming to – I mean, it sounds a bit wild, but any plans for them to come to the U.S.? Thanks.
MR. CROWLEY: On the latter point, no and no. Obviously, we absolutely support interaction between North Korean officials and our Six-Party partners. So the fact that Kim Kye Gwan is in Beijing, I think he’ll hear the same message from the Chinese that he’s heard from the United States. We obviously take note of the public statements by North Korea over the past 24 hours. I mean, these are similar to what North Korea said to us back in December when our delegation was in Pyongyang.
So North Korea is saying the right things, that the Six-Party process should resume and that it remains committed to denuclearization, but the right words must be followed by action. Words by themselves are not sufficient. So we expect that that will be the message that the Chinese deliver to Kim Kye Gwan while he’s in Beijing, that North Korea should allow China to schedule the next Six-P – I’m sorry, Six-Party meeting and North Korea should again commit itself to the obligations that it made previously.
On Ukraine, obviously, the United States commends the Ukrainian people on the February 7 second round of presidential elections. International observers have assessed as – in their preliminary conclusions that this was a constructive and positive election. There was a clear choice among candidates in a calm atmosphere that was followed freely by the media in Ukraine. We welcomed the high turnout. And we think that this reflects another step in the consolidation of Ukraine’s democracy.
QUESTION: What about the bit about whether this is a shift towards Russia?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know that we see it that way. But let’s first await the formal outcome and then we will be able to judge what Ukraine’s future policies will be.
QUESTION: I just wanted one there about – you didn’t really mention – no, you did not even allude to Yanukovych, who apparently won this election. And why is that? I mean, why don’t you mention his name–
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s wait. I didn’t mention Tymoshenko’s name, either. So let’s wait until the results are official, and then we will have more to say.
Okay. Next? Next caller?
OPERATOR: Thank you. The next call comes from Sam Kim. Go ahead, your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thanks for having this. I also have a question on North Korea. You just mentioned that State Department supports this interaction between North Korea and the negotiator and other Six-Party partners. But do you think these diplomatic activities between China and North Korea are positive to the resumption of the Six-Party talks?
MR. CROWLEY: We would hope so. I mean, China is the chair of the Six-Party process, so it has a leadership role to play, one which we have long valued. We think that China and the United States, you know, see the current situation in – with respect to North Korea very similarly.
And you know, we would hope that the North Korean delegation will receive a very firm message, you know, similar to the one that we provided back in December, and that, you know, North Korea will heed its advice.
QUESTION: I have one more question on North Korea. Do you have any update on the second U.S. citizen detained in North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: No update.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: But clearly, we obviously welcome the return to the United States over the weekend of Robert Park, and we hope to find out more about the second U.S. citizen as quickly as we can.
QUESTION: Are we still seeking consular access to him?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, we are.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Josh Rogin. Go ahead, your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. And my question is on the French announcement that they will sell the Mistral class amphibious assault ship to Russia. This will be the first major arms sale to Russia from a NATO country, and objections have been raised in Georgia and the Baltic States and others.
What is the State Department’s comments on this sale? And have there been any contacts between the State Department and the French over this recently?
MR. CROWLEY: Josh, that’s a fair question. I am not aware of any specific contact. Obviously, I think the Secretary of Defense has had something to say about this in the last 24 hours. Obviously, it is something that we will consult with the French on, and other countries in the region.
QUESTION: Okay. And as a quick follow-up, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have connected this issue to their ongoing negotiations with the State Department over their Iran sanctions legislation. In other words, they are saying that if France continues with this sale, Congress might not go along with the country exemption under the sanctions that the State Department is seeking. Could I have your comment on that issue?
MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t blend the two together. We are working with Congress regarding the prospective Iran sanctions legislation. It underscores the seriousness by which not only the Executive Branch, but the Legislative Branch views current developments with respect to Iran.
But one of the issues we will be talking to Congress about is to make sure that the President receives sufficient flexibility to be able to work with other countries effectively for our shared goal of finding ways to put appropriate pressure on Iran to change course.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: How is that working along or coming – what would be your ideal date for them to reach an agreement and send it to the President?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think we have any timetable on the sanctions legislation, either.
QUESTION: Could you give us any details of how you’re working with Congress.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the Secretary is about to go up on the Hill. It wouldn’t surprise me in her four hearings this month that this issue comes up.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Kim Ghattas. Go ahead, your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, P.J. Thanks for doing this. I had two questions. First of all, on Iran and the offer to help Iran procure itself medical isotopes from a third-country source, is this – I am unclear whether this is something new. Or has this been put on the table before? And if it is new, is this a goodwill gesture that is also meant to test Iran’s intentions?
And then, a second question on comments coming out of Moscow. Russia’s top military officer is saying that the U.S. missile defense plans are a threat to Russian national security. Do you see this as part of the continued back-and-forth that you have with the Russians on the issue of missile defense, in general, or are they reacting very specifically to the revamped plan and the announcement that you were deploying missiles in Romania?
MR. CROWLEY: On the first issue, look. The – Iran, I think, has concerns – we don’t see them as valid, but at least they might have concerns – they don’t trust the international community. They don’t trust the United States. And we have put forward what we think is a realistic, good faith proposal for the international community to provide for Iran’s legitimate needs for very specific purposes.
If Iran didn’t trust the proposal that we put on the table last fall – and one has to always note that the initial Iranian reaction by its negotiating team in Geneva was positive, and then the subsequent reaction from leadership back in Tehran was negative. But I think all we are saying is that, “Look, if you want the international community to sit down and constructively look at various alternatives so that you can have the benefits of a civilian nuclear program, we are willing to explore those alternatives, and in doing so, perhaps build some confidence that might lead to more constructive engagement on broader issues.”
It is the unwillingness of Iran to do any meaningful follow-up to the one negotiating session that we had in Geneva that deepens our concern about what Iran’s true intentions are.
So this just shows that the United States, the international community have bent over backwards. We have remained extremely flexible. We are trying to find a way to address Iran’s legitimate needs, but in doing so, to continue to address the legitimate proliferation concerns that the international community has.
We remain ready to work with Iran on this issue. But in the absence of constructive engagement by Iran, that is expressly why the President, the Secretary of State, and others have said that we are now paying significant attention to that second track, because Iran is unwilling to come to the table and try to work through these issues.
On the issue of Russia, we have been very forthcoming and transparent regarding our plans for missile defense in Europe, and in particular, this new phased, adaptive approach. Our missile defense architecture in Europe is in no way aimed at Russia, but rather at the emerging ballistic missile threat from Iran.
We have had extensive discussions with Russia for months and years on this issue. And, in fact, we have, on multiple occasions, offered to Iran the opportunity to –
QUESTION: To Russia?
MR. CROWLEY: – more closely on missile defense. I’m sorry, Russia.
QUESTION: That would be interesting.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, yes. So we will obviously continue to talk to Russia about whatever concerns it has. But we have been very clear that our missile plans for Europe are in no way directed at Russia.
QUESTION: If I may, just a quick follow-up. Did you discuss the specifics of Romania with them? Did they know that this was coming?
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say that we – I think we have had discussions with Russia on our revised plans. It wouldn’t surprise me if, since last week, we’ve clarified what this step means and does not mean.
I can’t say that we necessarily had a specific conversation prior to the announcement last week, but we have outlined with the Russians what we are going to do broadly. So I don’t think that this came as a total surprise. Missile defense was one of the issues that the Secretary talked with Foreign Minister Lavrov with last week when they were together in London.
QUESTION: Can you say something to Haiti?
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There have been a number of reports that the detained Americans have directed complaints toward the State Department, that they feel that they are not being adequately cared for, that they lack important medicine for diabetes and other complaints, and they are not being (inaudible).
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s take those two issues separately. We have had regular consular access and meetings with the 10 American citizens. I believe we have facilitated getting medicine to, or other needs to, our citizens. We are doing exactly what we would do with detained Americans anywhere in the world.
As to their legal representation, it’s hard to comment on kind of the back-and-forth among the lawyers. The choice of legal representation is one that the American citizens themselves make. In our consular sessions with them, we’ve apprised them of available legal representation, but the choice of who will represent them and what their strategy is, these are private decisions; these are not part of the conversations that we have with them. We are monitoring the course of their legal process, and – to make sure that we think it’s in accord with Haitian law. And we will continue to do that.
QUESTION: I know you have been asked, and some State Department officials have responded, in regard to the whole issue of whether they might be allowed to come back to the United States and face some kind of legal proceedings here. Is there any update on that?
MR. CROWLEY: No change. This is a Haitian legal process. The matters right now involve whether these individuals have broken Haitian law. We have talked to Haitian officials in general terms about the – about their ability to conduct this procedure. If they want to explore alternative avenues with us, we will be happy to have that conversation.
QUESTION: And do you know if there are any other Americans, apart from this group of 10, in custody for child abduction-related –
MR. CROWLEY: There are other Americans in custody. I don’t know what their charges are. I don’t know if they are similar to this group or not.
QUESTION: Taken into custody after the earthquake?
MR. CROWLEY: I think there were some that were in custody before the earthquake.
QUESTION: And any number – sorry –
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t –
QUESTION: Some Americans?
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm. I don’t think that the 10 are the only Americans in custody.
QUESTION: And for the same –
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know. I don’t know. These are better questions to ask down in Port-au-Prince than here.
Other questions from callers before we wrap up?
OPERATOR: Yes, we do have quite a bit of questions on the phone. Our next question comes from Kirit Radia. Go ahead, your line is open.
QUESTION: Hey, P.J. It’s Kirit, can you hear me?
MR. CROWLEY: I can. Taking a break from shoveling?
QUESTION: Yes, it’s been a lot of shoveling this weekend.
I had a question for you about Haiti and the distribution of aid down there. Who does the U.S. Government regard as ultimately being in charge of distribution of aid in Haiti right now?
MR. CROWLEY: I am going to enlist Gordon Duguid, who has much more knowledge from on the ground than I do. Gordon?
MR. DUGUID: Yeah, thank you, P.J. Kirit, the United Nations is ultimately in charge of what is a United Nations relief effort, an international relief effort. However, they are advising the Haitian Government on what they see as the capabilities of the international community. The Haitian Government itself is setting priorities, and asking for particular demands from the international community.
Now having said that, you have to then divide up the types of – the different types of aid. Currently, food distribution is being organized and run by the World Food Program. And they have gone to a distribution – a primary distribution of 16 fixed sites, which are located, in consultation with the Government of Haiti, near some of the largest concentrations of internally displaced people. And those 16 sites, however, are not the total of distribution, but they are certainly the main areas of distribution. This is moving on from an earlier distribution system where there were four clusters that were run by the United Nations which centered around – one cluster was for medical needs, one cluster was for food aid, one cluster was for shelter, and so on.
MR. CROWLEY: I think, Kirit – P.J. again – just to expand on that, and what’s crucial about the 16 sites, is the shift in the kinds of goods that are being distributed – rice, other staples – that allow for more sustained feeding of a broader percentage of the population over time.
I think yesterday 15 of these 16 sites were active. I think on Sunday, 14 of the 16 sites were active, and 2 of the sites involved churches, where there were church services going on. But as Gordon said, what this network has allowed us to do is to push out more food that allows people to have sustained feeding for, like, a two-week period of time.
QUESTION: Okay. And then I guess part of that – I do have two follow-ups. Who was in charge of shelter, do you know? My understanding was that was a Haitian initiative, that they were going to take the lead on that one. Is that correct?
MR. DUGUID: Not to my knowledge, that Haitian officials themselves are responsible for the distribution of all of the shelter. The Haitians have certainly identified places where they wish to establish camps for the internally displaced. The shelter distribution is being handled by the UN through NGOs. Also, the United States itself has done, through our – the U.S. military, the distribution of some shelter kits. And I know that the U.S. and France have joined together to help establish one camp near the Presidential Palace.
So, my information may be a couple of days old, Kirit, but again, this is a UN-led effort in conjunction with the Haitian Government. I don’t know that the Haitian Government itself, although it has the strategic capacity to make decisions, actually has the people on the ground to implement many of their strategic –
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, and this – and P.J. again. I mean, this is a crucial intermediate objective for the international effort. And – but you know– obviously, whatever locations are established for shelter, make sure you’ve got the proper conditions, sanitary conditions there, and some of the areas in which shelter will be constructed are waiting for debris removal, which is ongoing there now.
And so, I mean, there are lots of people that are involved in this process. But it will be the Haitian Government that ultimately decides where it wants to establish major sheltering locations, and then will work with the UN and the international community to make sure that the conditions that are established can support the population for an extended period of time.
QUESTION: Got it. And my last question on this was where, in this whole big picture of the UN being in charge and coordinating this, does President Clinton factor in? I know that last Tuesday he was announced as the aid, I guess, coordinator. But there has been some question about his role.
MR. CROWLEY: That is a fair question. I would probably direct that to the UN.
QUESTION: What does the U.S. Government consider to be President Clinton’s role in this whole process?
MR. CROWLEY: I will take that question if we have a particular point of view.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks.
OPERATOR: Thank you. We do have one – another question. Laura Rozen. Go ahead, your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks, P.J. I understand the IAEA has observers at Natanz today. And can you give a sense of what is the understanding of what Iran is doing at Natanz, how technically prepared they were, starting today, to higher-enrich to 20 percent? And related to that –
MR. CROWLEY: Laura, on that one I will defer to the IAEA. They have the inspectors on the ground, and I am sure that they will be reporting to the leadership of the IAEA as to what they have observed.
QUESTION: Okay. And then related, you know, the Iranian foreign minister met in Munich over the weekend with the IAEA head and several allied foreign ministers. You know, did you all pick up from them, from allied countries, you know, what is the sense of what the gaps are between, I guess, the Western TRR offer and what Iran says it wants? Or, you know, were you getting from them that, you know, it’s just a waste of time, that it’s a bogus, you know, conversation on the Iranian side?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think what we have gotten over the past few days is a lot of mixed signals from Iran. But, unfortunately, what we are seeing with the step that it announced over the last 24 hours, and the steps it’s taken today, is that the gap is unfortunately widening between what we would like to see Iran do and what it’s actually doing.
So, we know what Iran should do. And regrettably, the steps they have taken over the last 24 hours move us farther from our desired end state. But as I said, it puts us in a stronger position to make the argument that while the engagement track remains open and available, we should continue our work to put additional pressure on the Iranian Government so that if they continue on the path that they’re on – unwilling to engage the international community, unwilling to address the concerns that we have about their nuclear ambitions – that there will be a price to pay.
QUESTION: Thanks. Just a quick follow-up. How is this sort of more flexible offer or alternative, you know, isotope offer being conveyed to Iran?
MR. CROWLEY: I think our colleague, Glyn Davies in Vienna, has had those kinds of discussions within the IAEA. But I think our large –
QUESTION: Directly or indirectly?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, our larger point is that we – even today we stand ready to work with Iran, to meet its legitimate needs, and to work to address – but – let me rephrase this.
We stand ready to work with Iran. We stand ready to address its legitimate needs. But we need to see Iran come to the table prepared to address our concerns and the concerns of the international community regarding its nuclear ambitions.
MR. CROWLEY: I think there is still, like, one more?
OPERATOR: Yes, we do have one more from –
MR. CROWLEY: Make this one the last one.
OPERATOR: Okay. Tom Ackerman, your line is open.
QUESTION: Thanks. My question was already addressed.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, with that, we should man the shovels. And best of luck, and we will see you when we see you again. Thanks very much.