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From the Daily Press Briefing of August 22, 2011
MS. NULAND: Good
MS. NULAND: Happy Monday, everybody. Eventful weekend for many of you, for many of us. I hope you all saw the President’s statement yesterday on the situation in Libya, that Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of the tyrant, that the regime is near collapse.
I wanted to tell you that the Secretary has been working the phones all morning on Libya. Secretary Clinton spoke first this morning to our special envoy to the TNC, Chris Stevens, and to Assistant Secretary of State Feltman, who was then in Cairo to get an update, to get some assessments from them on the situation in Libya.
She then phoned Mustafa Abdul Jalil, who is chairman of Libya’s Transitional National Council. They discussed the events of the past days and the current situation in Tripoli, where opposition forces now have control over some 90 percent of the city, but the fighting continues. Secretary Clinton conveyed the U.S.’s strong support for the efforts of the Libyans to bring an end to the Qadhafi regime and to begin a new chapter in Libya’s history. She and Mr. Jalil discussed ways that the international community can assist Libyans with the urgent work of protecting civilians and providing key services as well as the TNC’s efforts to assemble an inclusive new government to protect the rights and aspirations of all citizens, and to foster peaceful reconciliation among all of Libya’s people. The Secretary also expressed the firm support of the United States for the people of Libya on all these fronts as well as our enduring commitment to a secure, stable, democratic, and peaceful Libya.
The Secretary then convened a conference call of key members of the Libya Contact Group to discuss the most effective ways for the international community to coordinate its activities and support the TNC and the Libyan people as we move forward. The agenda covered financial support for the TNC and the Libyan people, continuing efforts to ensure the protection of civilians, reinforcing the TNC’s efforts to pursue an inclusive and broad-based Democratic transition, and preparations for immediate needs for essential services and humanitarian relief. They also agreed in that Contact Group call this morning that their political directors will meet later this week in Istanbul to coordinate next steps.
And with that, let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: So the Secretary made these calls from where?
MS. NULAND: She’s in New York at the moment.
QUESTION: Okay. And she spoke to Stevens, who is still in Benghazi, and then Feltman, who was in Cairo? So that was two separate calls?
MS. NULAND: I believe it was a conference call with both of them.
QUESTION: Okay. So does she plan to make other calls?
MS. NULAND: She plans to participate in ongoing internal government consultations and she’ll make other calls as necessary.
QUESTION: All right. Who was on the call with the Contact Group people, and did they talk about this meeting that the French want to host next week? Will she go?
MS. NULAND: The ministers on the call with her this morning, in no particular order, were French Foreign Minister Juppe, Italian Foreign Minister Frattini, German Foreign Minister Westerwelle, Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, Norwegian Foreign Minister Stoere, Swedish Foreign Minister Bildt, Canadian Foreign Minister Baird, Denmark’s Foreign Minister Espersen, The UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, Qatari’s Prime Minister Al Thani, and UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Burt. They did discuss their own next plans for involvement. I think the plan is to have the political directors meet on Thursday and then to decide thereafter on their own involvement.
QUESTION: Okay. So who – two things: Who is the political director for the U.S. right now?
MS. NULAND: This morning – well, the political director for the U.S. in this case, I think that it’ll be – Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Gordon will go to this particular meeting. As you know, we are awaiting the confirmation of the President’s nominee for --
QUESTION: Shannon was coming – Ambassador Shannon was coming up to undertake the key role. Is that not right?
MS. NULAND: He is going to report for duty this evening, is our understanding. As you know, Assistant Secretary Gordon, along with Assistant Secretary Feltman, has been supporting the Secretary throughout this six months of activity on Libya, so I think it makes sense for him to be our representative at that meeting on Thursday.
QUESTION: And did she actually convene this call, or was it not convened by the French?
MS. NULAND: No, she convened the call. She asked for the call; she convened the call.
QUESTION: Can we go to one of the first points that you made and that has been made in a number of the statements that have been issued by the U.S. Government? And that is this, the call for reconciliation for a government that represents all the Libyan people. How – two questions: One, how afraid are you that we will see unleashed a lot of score settling and violence with the transition from the Qadhafi regime to whatever is going to be the successor power?
MS. NULAND: This has been the subject of quite a bit of thought and work by the Transitional National Council itself. It was the subject of the meeting that Assistant Secretary – meetings that Assistant Secretary Feltman had last week in Benghazi. I think we were quite encouraged by the statement that TNC Chairman Jalil made earlier today or yesterday in which he himself called for calm. He called for reconciliation. He called for a unitary Libya. So these are issues that the TNC has been very focused on. We’ve also been cautiously optimistic by the situation that we’ve seen in the liberated parts of Tripoli so far, but this is certainly something that we are watching, that the TNC is working hard on, because we don’t need any more civilian life lost in Libya.
QUESTION: And then the second thing: You talked about how one of the topics of discussion between the Secretary and the chairman of the TNC, Mustafa Jalil, was ways in which the international community can potentially help, particularly on protecting civilians and providing services. What can the international community do to try to, for example, ensure that there is a credible police presence on the streets in – not just in places like Tripoli or Benghazi, but elsewhere in the country so that there is not a complete vacuum of authority? What exact kinds of things and who might undertake assistance to provide basic services like health, like power, like water, et cetera?
This is not like Iraq of eight years ago when there were almost limitless resources deployed, whether well or poorly. Here, it seems to me the international community has a lot fewer resources at its disposal. Certainly, the United States Government does. And so can you elaborate on how you plan to try to do that, under whose aegis, to try to maintain services and prevent a security vacuum?
MS. NULAND: Thanks for that, Arshad. Well, first of all, I think the international community and the United States have already been helping in the sense that we have seen these transfers of power before. And what we’ve been doing over the past months and weeks is working with the TNC as they work through their own plan for the transition. These issues are very much on their minds – public safety, ensuring essential services, giving the Libyan people continued confidence in a brighter future. So we’ve been working through with them the kinds of things that they might need.
Our sense is that the way this should work is that the Transitional National Council will bring to the international community, through the UN, its desired support requirements from the international community after it assesses what it itself can do. This is – must be and will be a Libyan-led transition. And then the UN will lead a process which the U.S. will very, very much support, of supporting those needs that come forward from the Transitional National Council and from the Libyan people, whether they are in the security basket, whether they are in the humanitarian basket, whether they are in the basket of advice and training and support.
But it’s a little premature right now, while the battle for Tripoli continues, to know exactly how that’s going to take shape. But we’ve been thinking about it, the TNC has been thinking about it for a long time.
QUESTION: Are you open to the possibility, for example, of an international police presence, if that is requested?
MS. NULAND: Let’s start with what the Libyans themselves feel is necessary, what they think they can achieve within their own resources. I think if the Libyan Transitional National Council, representing the Libyan people, came through to the international community requesting support of that kind, there’s a lot of experience around the world in many different places where the international community has provided training, that kind of thing. Let’s wait and see what’s on their wish list.
QUESTION: Another point made in the conference call was financial support.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: So how’s that moving, the whole process to release the billions of dollars in assets? And surely, they’ll – they’re going to need them much more quickly now.
MS. NULAND: Just in the past 24 hours and certainly in the conference call this morning, we are trying to accelerate our ability to get some essential funding to the TNC, particularly for humanitarian needs, particularly for maintenance of essential services. That work is going on in the UN even as we speak. It’s going on in conversations we’re having with our international partners. And we’re also looking internally at what we can do. I can’t give you a precise answer of how much and when, but know that we are focused like a laser on it now.
QUESTION: It’s just humanitarian funds that are – you’re looking at?
MS. NULAND: Well, we want to start with getting the money that the TNC needs to maintain a strong and stable government, to provide for the humanitarian and security needs of its people, then we will go on from there. But that’s obviously the most urgent thing at the moment.
QUESTION: Why did the --
QUESTION: So, Victoria, just to make sure, so no funds yet have been disbursed to the NTC?
MS. NULAND: No new funds have been disbursed in the last 24 hours. We’re working very hard on what we can do as soon as possible.
QUESTION: So when you say new funds, meaning these – we’re still talking about the frozen assets or which --
MS. NULAND: Correct. Yeah. We’re talking about giving Libyans back Libya’s money.
QUESTION: Because this is an important point. Interestingly, some viewers have been asking why can’t the United States use that money to pay for the operation, the military operation, that American taxpayers have paid for. Could you set them straight?
MS. NULAND: Well, this is Libya’s money that was frozen because it had been under the control of the tyrant Qadhafi. As we are able to unfreeze it, we need to work with the Libyan Government, we need to work with the Libyan people on how they would like this money spent. The first priority, I think, that they will have is for the humanitarian needs of their people to ensure no more Libyans suffer at this time, and we’ll go from there.
QUESTION: But one last question about this: It’s 30 billion, correct, that the U.S. froze?
MS. NULAND: Our assessment of the total value of Libyan Government assets frozen is around 30 billion, but what people need to understand is most of this is not liquid. Most of it’s in property and other things like that that the Libyans themselves would need to decide what to do with. It’s a relatively small portion – I think it’s around 10 percent – that’s actual cash. Otherwise, the Libyan Government will have to make some decisions about the non-liquid assets --
QUESTION: Why did not --
MS. NULAND: -- over time.
QUESTION: Why did not the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton include in her conference call the secretary general of the Arab League, I mean, considering that the Arab League early on the step forward that actually allowed for international intervention? She spoke to all these foreign ministers but did not include the secretary general of the Arab League? Is that – was that an oversight or was that --
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that Assistant Secretary Feltman either has just had or is on his way to have a meeting with the Arab League. And we’ve also had outreach through Johnnie Carson to the African Union.
QUESTION: The frozen money for a moment, the frozen assets, just a technical question: Is it the Administration’s position that it must go to the sanctions – the UN sanctions committee in order to be able to release those funds? Or is this something that the U.S. Government can do unilaterally without having recourse to the sanctions committee?
MS. NULAND: We’re working on both tracks at the moment, so stay tuned. We would obviously like to have some ability to get humanitarian relief through the UN sanctions process. That work continues. But we’re also looking at what we can do unilaterally.
QUESTION: But does that mean you haven’t yet figured out whether you can do it unilaterally?
MS. NULAND: I think our preference is to do it through the UN channel, but if that cannot be done expediently, then we will continue to go on and see what we can do unilaterally. But the --
QUESTION: So you do – so you think you do have the ability to do it unilaterally, then? Or you’re just still not sure?
MS. NULAND: There is work ongoing on the various options. We do believe that there is some support we can give to the Libyans through collateralizing and other things. But I don’t want to get ahead of where the experts are going, even today.
QUESTION: A follow-up to my question: The call for reconciliation, would that include Qadhafi? Or does the United States have a position on Qadhafi’s fate one way or another?
MS. NULAND: With regard to Qadhafi or with regard to --
QUESTION: Yes, Qadhafi himself, whether he’s arrested or –
MS. NULAND: With regard to Qadhafi, with regard to his sons, with regard to those members of the regime with blood on their hands, we have said, the Transitional National Council has said that they must be held accountable. The Libyans themselves have some decisions ahead about exactly how they want to do that, but we want to see international standards of justice maintained in the way that they do that. I would also say that that Transitional National Council has said that those members of the regime without blood on their hands they are open to talking to in the weeks and months ahead as they seek to have unity and they seek to have a smooth democratic transition that represents all Libyans.
QUESTION: Do you have a preference on whether Qadhafi and the two other Libyan officials charged with crimes against humanity are charged by the international – or face the International Criminal Court or are tried in Libyan courts?
MS. NULAND: Again, this is going to be a decision that needs to be Libyan led as we go forward. Our focus is on, that they be brought to justice, that accountability be had for their crimes, and that the judicial process meet international standards.
QUESTION: There have been – there have been many conflict reports about the whereabouts of Qadhafi. What’s your understanding right now, where he is or whether he’s alive or that –
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into our intelligence reporting, only to say that, like you, we’ve noticed that he hasn’t been seen in public in quite some time. His last message was a radio message, I think. And there are rumors rampant, as you know, in Tripoli and elsewhere. If he is alive, the best thing he can do for his people is to step down immediately and end this.
QUESTION: And one more question. How was the climate last night and this morning in the State Department? Do you see this change as a vindication of the leading behind – from behind policy or is there any way you can describe the climate within this day here?
MS. NULAND: Well, I certainly regret – I certainly reject the premise of the way you phrased the question. As you know, the President and the Secretary have been very focused on a strong international community response to this Libya crisis, to the support that all of us have given to the Libyan people, to the Transitional National Council as it moves forward using all of the tools at our disposal, maintaining broad contacts with countries in the neighborhood, in the region – GCC, Arab League, NATO, et cetera. So obviously it’s not over till it’s over. But this has been a community of common action, of size and scope that is quite unprecedented in the modern era. That is the way this President, this Secretary believe that diplomacy needs to be done, that that is smart power, but again, we have to finish the job and help the Libyan people have the future that they so want. And we have to finish the job on the ground in Libya and ensure Libya is fully liberated, and then we have to stay with the Libyan people as they work through this transition politically, economically, et cetera.
QUESTION: Toria, speaking of that transition, could you walk us through the steps? I mean, if Qadhafi does go in some fashion, we understand then the NTC creates an interim authority, and then the interim authority in turn works with new constitutions, setting up elections. Could you just kind of walk us through ideally how this is supposed to unfold?
MS. NULAND: The Transitional National Council itself has put forward a roadmap of how it wants to see the democratic transition go forward. It did this already a month ago at the last Contact Group meeting in Istanbul. And you have it right, Jill; the idea would be that the Transitional National Council would broaden, become an interim government that would represent a broad cross section of Libyans from different walks of life, different parts of the country, different political backgrounds, and then that interim government would lead a process of writing a constitution, getting to elections.
QUESTION: And elections, we had heard 6, 8 months. Is there any idea of realistic –
MS. NULAND: I think we have to finish the job and let the TNC get its feet under it, and then we’ll be hearing more from them, I would guess, with regard to their timetable.
QUESTION: So what you said a few minutes ago, does that mean that you don’t think Qadhafi is still in Tripoli or is in Libya at all?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to Qadhafi’s whereabouts. We don’t have any reason to believe that he’s not in Tripoli. But again, he hasn’t been seen, and the right thing for him to do is to show himself and step down, face justice.
QUESTION: Are there any plans to send Chris Stevens to Tripoli or headed that way?
MS. NULAND: We are – for the moment, he’s very busy and active with the TNC in Benghazi. I think we’ll be led by events in Tripoli. We’ll also be led by security conditions in Tripoli. But we are looking at the issues associated with reconstituting the Embassy. But it’s a little bit early for decisions on that.
QUESTION: On Qadhafi’s fate, there has been a lot of calls for refraining from retribution and revenge and so on. Do you also counsel the revolutionaries or the rebels if they catch Qadhafi not to kill him on sight and – but put him on trial?
MS. NULAND: This is what the TNC itself has been saying, that they want him brought to justice. Their position on the human rights situation that they want to preside over is a situation that meets the standards of the international community, and that would mean certainly accountability, but accountability in the courts.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: I’ve got something about – kind of logistical things here.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: At the beginning you said that you were waiting to hear from the TNC through the UN what their wish list is, what they want to know. But you said before that that whatever – that what they – that the U.S. will very, very much support what they bring to the UN. How can you say that you’ll support it if you don’t know what it is yet?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we have to see the list, but we support the international community providing them humanitarian support that they may need, other technical support that they may need. Obviously, we’ve got to see the list --
QUESTION: What kind of – so, yeah. But my suspicion is that you already have an idea of what the elements are on the list and so that’s why you can say that you would support it. So can you tell us what those elements are?
MS. NULAND: As we’ve said, we’ve been working for many weeks. Jeff Feltman has led this process, Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs, very much in concert with Chris Stevens, other members of the international community based in Benghazi, all the Contact Group countries, to walk through the kind of checklist with the TNC that transitional countries always have to work through starting with basic human needs, moving on – and physical security, moving on to --
QUESTION: Okay. So --
MS. NULAND: -- all of the mechanics of a political process, getting the economy going again. So we have been working through – the TNC has been working through and we’ve been supporting that effort, a full list of the kinds of things that may be necessary.
MS. NULAND: But of course, until we have a final --
QUESTION: Well, can you give us an idea of what some of those might be or what some of those are?
MS. NULAND: I think --
QUESTION: I mean, are we talking about a police force? Are we talking about like an army corps of engineers or – I’m not suggesting a military component, but engineers going in to repair infrastructure? What is – what are the things – what are some of the things that are on that checklist that you’ve been walking through the TNC with for the past month, month and a half? And I think it started in Abu Dhabi.
MS. NULAND: Number one, humanitarian support; are the – is there anything needed from the international community to ensure that Libyans are fed and clothed and protected, that any medicines, et cetera, or things that might be needed in the fallout from the battle are provided. Number two, what might be needed in terms of any damage to essential services, getting essential services back up and running. Again, you can walk through a checklist, but until you finish the job and get in and see what the damage might be, you can’t – I don’t think the TNC could finish such a wish list.
QUESTION: Two, you can --
MS. NULAND: Three, with regard to support for a political transition, these guys will be writing a constitution for the first time. They’ll be presiding over elections for the first time. The UN has a lot of experience, the international community has a lot of experience supporting countries in that regard.
Public security; the TNC very much wants Libyans to lead in Libyan public security. I think it’s too early to know whether they – as they evaluate the situation after the military operation is over, whether they will need international support in that regard. But the international community around the world has, in the past, provided everything from training to equipment to some surge support for countries in transition. So I think we need to see what the TNC thinks it’s going to need, and I think it won’t know --
MS. NULAND: -- until it has gotten itself fully in control and has looked around.
QUESTION: All right. And then two less significant things: One, you keep referring it to – as the TNC, the Transitional National Council. Everyone else calls it the National Transitional Council. Are you planning to stay with this? Because it really kind of screws things up when we’re writing --
MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) I’ll --
QUESTION: Or are you going to fall into line with the rest of the – rest of your allies who call it the NTC and not the TNC?
MS. NULAND: I’ll take it under advisement. It may be that they translate from the Arabic differently than we do, but I will note your point upstairs.
QUESTION: All right. And then your – you referred to the leader of Libya as the tyrant Qadhafi. Is this some kind of new formulation that you’re using to – I mean, it sounds kind of cartoonish, like you’re calling him the Dread Pirate Roberts or something like that. Is it intended to make him seem less, I don’t know, powerful?
MS. NULAND: He is less powerful. It’s over for him. This is the word that the President used in his statement last night.
QUESTION: I know. That’s what I’m getting at.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: So was there – it was a conscious choice to start calling him the tyrant Qadhafi?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think that this word ought to be a surprise with regard to this guy and what he’s done to his own people.
QUESTION: Do you think same description can be applied to Asad – Bashir al-Asad as well?
MS. NULAND: We’ve made absolutely clear where we are on Asad. He also needs to go. He has not led a transition, and he continues to brutalize his people.
Are we still on Libya?
QUESTION: I was making a link between Libya and Syria. Do you think the success of this military operation close to toppling Qadhafi can be – or would result in pressure for military support or intervention in Syria?
MS. NULAND: We said last week, we’ll say it again: That is not the preferred option of the Syrian people. They themselves have not taken up arms. They are pursuing their goals through peaceful protests. They are taking the Martin Luther King/Gandhi route to their own future. Regrettably, Asad keeps making promises that he’s going to stop, and over the weekend we had more brutality. So our goal in Syria is to support the Syrian people in getting as quickly as possible to a peaceful transition.
QUESTION: Some of the --
QUESTION: Now in Libya --
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Some of the opposition are saying that the U.S. Administration shares their fear that if you arm the opposition in Syria, unlike in Libya, you’ll most likely get a civil war. You’ll have the Alawites on one side and all the other sects on the other. Do you share their concerns?
MS. NULAND: I don't think anybody thinks that more guns into Syria is going to be the right answer right now. The Syrians themselves don’t want that. So that’s why our focus has been on political and economic pressure.
QUESTION: Finish Libya?
QUESTION: Victoria, you --
MS. NULAND: Still on Libya before we --
QUESTION: Well --
MS. NULAND: Two – I have two more on Libya here.
QUESTION: NATO stated this morning that it is ready to work with TNC. Is the ground troops by NATO – is under any consideration or – and you are – if you are planning to ask any peacekeeping troops from any of your allies right now?
MS. NULAND: My sense is that NATO obviously needs to maintain its vigilance, as it has said, until the situation is stable and peaceful and all of Libya is under the TNC and Libyan people’s control. So that job continues.
With regard to onward future mission for NATO, I don’t think anybody is envisioning boots on the ground, but I think we need to wait and see. NATO has a long tradition of supporting the UN, supporting the European Union, other international organizations in humanitarian relief, other things like that. So let’s just wait and see what’s needed.
Still on Libya, Jill? Yeah, please.
QUESTION: Just one. Mitt Romney says that the – once there’s a new government in place, they should extradite the Lockerbie bomber, Mr. Megrahi. Does the State Department have – at this stage, has it been talking with the NTC about making that demand or request?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, we have not. We have been focused on getting rid of Qadhafi and moving on to a democratic Libya.
QUESTION: Would you support it?
MS. NULAND: I’m not prepared to speak to it from the podium here. I think we need to finish the work at hand.
QUESTION: There was another question that I suspect involved whether or not the U.S. had heard from Qadhafi or one of his aides. You said you didn’t want to deal with intelligence matters. Was that the question, and can you answer whether or not Qadhafi reached out to the U.S. and tried to cut a deal in the past day or so?
MS. NULAND: We’ve not heard from Qadhafi himself. There were – as there have been for a number of days and weeks, there have been lots of feelers from lots of folks claiming to represent Qadhafi, including in the last sort of more desperate ones in the last 48 to 24 hours. But none of them were serious because none of them met the standard that we insist on, that the international community insisted on, which is, to start with, his willingness to step down.
QUESTION: You say they were more desperate (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: More phone calls to more people with more empty promises.
QUESTION: On Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yes. Are we finished with Libya? Yes, good.
QUESTION: You said that the Syrian people have chosen a Gandhi/Martin Luther King kind of peaceful approach. Does that supersede earlier assertion by American diplomats that there were actually some very militant Islamic extremist element that were also firing on the security forces and the Syrian army?
MS. NULAND: I’m not sure what assertions you’re asserting.
QUESTION: Well, there was a statement made on behalf of the U.S. ambassador, something like four weeks ago, saying or alluding to the fact that there are some militant elements that are – were shooting back at the army and the security forces. So what you’re saying, that there’s actually no militancy on the part of the opposition? Is that what you’re saying?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to every village and hamlet in Syria --
QUESTION: Right, right.
MS. NULAND: -- but the overwhelming majority of these protestors have been peaceful. In Damascus, in Hama, in Daraa, in Homs, in Idlib, in Deir al-Zour, in Aleppo and everywhere around these country, these have been peaceful protests, and the violence has been perpetrated by the regime.
QUESTION: On Jordan?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Oh, wait – just stay on Syria? Your comparison – you made it last week and again today, to Gandhi and Martin Luther King – do you think the people who are leading this are aware of what happened, the ultimate end of both of those gentlemen?
MS. NULAND: I think they are certainly aware of the proud legacy in history that they both leave behind for standing up for universal human rights and democratic principles and universal freedoms for all people.
QUESTION: And you believe they’re prepared to die, as those two did?
MS. NULAND: They have been dying for what they stand for.
QUESTION: What is the U.S. reaction to the political reform plans that the King of Jordan announced last week that he was to implement before the end of this year?
MS. NULAND: Thank you for that, Samir. We welcome King Abdullah’s recent announcement of proposed constitutional amendments. We, as you know, fully support the aspirations of the Jordanian people in their effort to pay a larger role in how they’re governed. It’s obviously up to the Jordanian people and their government to take this forward. And as the King himself has said, the key to success in Jordan is going to be implementation of these reforms.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Thanks.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Syria just for a second?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Because President Asad went on television last night and made some more promises about reforms. What do you make of that?
MS. NULAND: More words, no action.
QUESTION: On Syria again, last week you talk about sanctions, oil and gas sanctions, and your conversation with EU European allies. Friday, UK British Foreign Office minister said that oil sanctions may hurt Syrian people instead of Asad regime and they are not going to do anything about it so far. How this message do you think is in line with the U.S. approach to Syria?
MS. NULAND: I think the press mischaracterized what he actually said. What he said was that the EU as a whole is looking hard at how it can implement tougher sanctions, including in the oil and gas sector, and it needs to do so in a way that hurts the regime and doesn’t hurt the people, which is a goal we share, obviously.
QUESTION: So this statement --
MS. NULAND: I think the way the press picked up the statement, sort of cut and spliced it to lead to it to look like what he didn’t intend to say.
QUESTION: Can I just stay on Syria again?
MS. NULAND: Yes, please.
QUESTION: I just want to go back to this Gandhi/Martin Luther King thing. Isn’t one of the concerns that you have and that others have that there isn’t one person, a single unifying person, in the opposition who can act as kind of a magnet or as a distinctive leader for the opposition?
MS. NULAND: It’s fair to say that Syria has been in a political coma for some 40 years, so it’s only been in recent months, as the opposition has started to take root in more and more cities, that political activity is really being –
QUESTION: Fair enough. Have you seen something emerge?
MS. NULAND: -- reborn in a serious way. What we are seeing is not only these coordinating committees for change taking root in more and more cities, we are also seeing them begin to connect better with each other so that we have a pan-Syrian movement in Syria. We’re also seeing more and more kinds of Syrians joining the movement from different walks of life – Alawi, Druze, we have military officers even, trade unionists, old people, young people – and they’re increasingly communicating better together. They themselves have said, looking at the Libyan situation, that they need to come up with as a next step their own roadmap for transition, and some leaders will surely emerge in that process. But I think those of us who have seen these situations before – you’ve seen them yourself before, Matt – you can’t always predict who’s going to emerge as the leader or groups of leaders.
QUESTION: I know. But I’m just saying – but you haven’t seen any particular individuals yet emerge as – I mean, you have seen that in Libya to a certain extent. But you have not seen that Syria yet?
MS. NULAND: Well, the Libyans did, as part of their roadmap for change, come up with this Transitional National Council structure. Our understanding is that the Libyan opposition is itself looking at how it might organize itself –
MS. NULAND: Syrian opposition is looking at how it might organize itself. They’re not there yet. I can tell you, though, that they have taken heart from the statements that we have made, from the actions we have taken, and many other partners and allies around the world have taken, and that is swelling the ranks of their movement and giving them hope to take the next steps, including organizing themselves for a transition.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Could you tell us how the clear and stated position of the United States of America that Asad must go and no amount of reform could rehabilitate him into the community of leaders, how does that impact the current and future operation of Ambassador Ford in Damascus?
MS. NULAND: Said, we’ve talked about this many, many times. This is a country where there is no free press, there is no ability to monitor the activities – either the violent activities of the government or the peaceful activities of the protestors. Ambassador Ford has played an essential role not only in standing with the Syrian people as a symbol of our support for their change, his trip to Hama, his meetings with all of them, his public statements in Syria, he’s also been able to establish contacts with a broad cross-section of Syrians, give them hope, send our message to them that we support them as they work through some of these issues about the transition that they want to see and about their own ability to organize themselves and speak for the Syrian people.
QUESTION: I believe that Ambassador Ford – there was a report this morning – I don’t know where it was, but there was a report that he had left Damascus and gone onto one of his internal excursions –
MS. NULAND: False report.
QUESTION: -- to Hama. Not true? He’s still in Damascus?
MS. NULAND: Still in Damascus.
QUESTION: And didn’t leave?
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. NULAND: Didn’t leave to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Colombia, Latin America. Things are coming to a head with the – a lot of trials and investigations and the intelligence service in Colombia misusing U.S. equipment/training funds, instead of battling the drug traffickers using it to spy on the supreme court and the opposition.
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen these reports. The United States Government has no knowledge of any USG- provided equipment being misused in Colombia. As in all other programs with foreign governments and security institutions around the world, we have safeguards in place in Colombia to prevent abuses.
We take the allegations seriously, however, about misuse of equipment. We’ve repeatedly stated that the alleged wiretapping and surveillance by the Administrative Department of Security is unacceptable. When this issue first came up in 2009, we said that we would sever ties with all those elements of DAS that are allegedly engaged in illegal activities. We called on the prosecutor’s office to conduct a rigorous and thorough and independent investigation in order to determine the extent of the abuse. We have since then redirected our cooperation and support to other law enforcement agencies of Colombia to those we consider more acceptable.
QUESTION: Wouldn’t the recommendation, the action of the U.S. Government of redirecting those funds from the DAS to the national police, imply that there was a concern that these things did take place – the abuse of – the misuse of U.S. funds as well as equipment?
MS. NULAND: This is in keeping with the Santos government’s own efforts to ensure that the system is clean, that abuses can’t happen, and we’ve been supporting that since. And as I said, we – when these issues first arose, we did our own investigation and made some adjustments in the program.
QUESTION: Change topics?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli peace process?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Has the United States Government succeeded in – or given up on this effort to persuade the Palestinians to back away from the United Nations?
MS. NULAND: We have neither succeeded nor given up. The efforts continue.
QUESTION: So where do we stand today?
MS. NULAND: Where we stand is that we are continuing to make the case to the Palestinians in all available channels that we think this is the wrong way to go, that it’s going to make things harder and it’s not going to lead to the outcome that they want, and that the better way to manage affairs is to come back to the negotiating table.
QUESTION: Is the aid that the Palestinians receive from the United States, could it be used as a tool to persuade the Palestinians not to go to the United Nations?
MS. NULAND: We have not chosen to use our humanitarian aid in such a fashion. As you know, it is designed to help the Palestinian people and support their humanitarian needs.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Change of topic?
MS. NULAND: Yes. Please, Arshad.
QUESTION: A senior Iranian official is quoted today as saying that the Iranians are starting to install centrifuges into a bunker near Qom. Any comment?
MS. NULAND: These reports are troubling. Under several United Nations Security Council resolutions, Iran is obligated to suspend its enrichment program. It also is supposed to be cooperating with the IAEA investigation into its nuclear program and show transparency. The Iranian nuclear program offers no plausible reason for its existing enrichment of uranium up to nearly 20 percent, nor ramping up this production, nor moving centrifuges underground. And its failure to comply with its obligations to suspend its enrichment activities up to 3.5 percent at nearly 20 percent have given all of us in the international community reason to doubt its intentions.
QUESTION: Do you expect to have a P-5+1 meeting on Iran at the ministerial level at UNGA, during UNGA?
MS. NULAND: I don't want to get ahead of our scheduling decisions. We’re working through all of those issues now.
QUESTION: On Iran?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: IMF released a report this morning, and was saying that basically Iran’s GDP growth at 3.5 percent within a year and the inflation rate, it decreased from 25 percent to 12 percent. Obviously, they know what they are saying. So my question is: It has been more than a year on – in terms of applying sanctions. How effective are the sanctions do you think at this point, after these figures?
MS. NULAND: Our sanctions are not designed to pinch the Iranian people. They are designed to make it harder for Iran to get the technology that it seeks for a weapons program or to be able to proliferate. So the GDP growth in Iran is not the goal of these sanctions. It’s to get them to stop proliferating, to get them to come back into compliance with their UN Security Council obligations.
QUESTION: Have you gotten any more clarity on the hikers?
MS. NULAND: Not since the statement that the Secretary put out over the weekend expressing concern and regret about the sentence.
QUESTION: There has been an effort by Iran to obtain Argentine nuclear technology through Venezuela. Has that been successful? Does that effort continue?
MS. NULAND: I think you’re asking me to get into intelligence issues that I’m not prepared to get into.
In the back, please.
QUESTION: Yeah. Syria.
MS. NULAND: In --
MS. NULAND: Still on Syria, back on Syria? Yeah.
QUESTION: Does the United States talk to Russians on Syria issue? Because Russia is still in supportive position to Asad’s regime, so is there any contact on this issue?
MS. NULAND: Yes. Our work on Syria continues with Russia, primarily in the United Nations right now. The Secretary has said for some time that countries evaluating their relationship with Syria need to get on the right side of history, and I think that still applies to some of these comments that we’ve seen out of Moscow.